For the most part, the cast of a TV series is normally depicted in their home environment. It's usually their house or apartment, maybe the office. But, for this episode, they need to be someplace distant. Thus, they need to go on a Road Trip. The trip itself is important and is normally part of the plot.
Can and often does overlap with the Vacation Episode
. Sometimes overlaps with Bottle Episode
The Road Trip Episode
has a feature length counterpart: the Road Movie
. The Road Movie is not a Road Trip Episode unless that one movie is part of a tightly networked series of films and is the only one that features a Road Trip.
Road Trips come in 3 main flavors:
Type 1: The Family Car
The most common type.
The group piles into a family sized vehicle and one of them is the driver, usually the owner. The vehicle in question need not be an actual car. Acceptable alternatives include boats, and horse-drawn carriages or wagons.
- Type 1a: The trip is a round-trip and is completed. The return trip need not be mentioned or seen.
- Type 1b: For whatever reason, they never arrive at the intended destination.
Type 2: Public Transportation
Only slightly less common than a Type 1.
The group travels to someplace truly distant. Trans-continental and trans-oceanic trips are common here. In a proper sci-fi setting, interstellar trips
are possible. The family car is usually only depicted as getting the group to
the terminal. At the terminal, the group boards a train, a bus, an airplane, a ship or maybe even a starship
. Nobody in the regular group is depicted as being in control of the trip.
Type 3: The Alternate Transport
A rather rare type.
The regular group is Always
depicted as traveling. (Think Star Trek
.) The mode isn't terribly important here. What is
important is that they have left the main transport and taken off in a smaller alternate for whatever reason. Might or might not involve a sub-plot.
Episodic works featuring Road Trip Episodes:
- Calvin & Hobbes: The Series has a Type 1a in "The Insane Road Trip".
- The WWE fanfic Grapefruits series of stories are crack-fics that combine 1a and 2. They deal with teams of superstars traveling to far-off locations in order to procure alcohol and porn magazines for Vince McMahon, and the wild and crazy adventures they have along the way.
Live Action TV
- Garfield and Jon (and sometimes Odie) go on Type 1a road trips occasionally.
- They've also gone on Type 2 ones.
- Due to a blockade, Marcus and Dr. Franklin leave Babylon 5 and embark on a Type 2 on board a slow freighter to Mars in order to meet with La Résistance.
- The original Battlestar Galactica sent crew members on Type 3 trips in a great many episodes. The reimagined series was a little more restrained about it.
- An episode of The Drew Carey Show has the main cast piling into the Buzz Beer van and travelling to New York in an attempt to sell the beer outside a baseball game.
- Gold Rush: Each season opens with a type 1a trip that delivers the miners to their gold mine in the slowly thawing far north.
- A few low-grade secondary type 1a trips are undertaken during the course of the mining seasons in order to obtain more mining resources. (Loans, materials, machines and equipment)
- I Love Lucy had a several-episode arc where Ricky got cast in a Hollywood movie, so Lucy, Ricky, Ethel, and Fred drive a Type 1a cross-country to get there, stopping in (in subsequent episodes) Ohio, Tennessee, Albuquerque (Ethel's hometown), before finally getting to Hollywood, where they meet (through several more episodes) tons of Celebrity Cameos.
- JAG played with this one. Because Harmon Rabb is a trained fighter pilot, he flies to Cuba in one episode. He almost blows the actual mission.
- Another episode has Harm and Mac, on their first mission together, driving into the desert to find the people who stole the US Constitution. Both are a bit cagey, as Harm can't help but notice that Mac looks just like a former lover of his who was murdered, and because Mac knows that the man who stole the Constitution is a family friend of hers.
- Yet another episode has Harm, Mac, and Budd driving a rental car to the site of their next case, due to there not being enough money in the budget to buy them plane tickets. On the way, they end up at a Quantum Leap convention, complete with Donald Bellisario addressing a group of fans.
- Little House on the Prairie: The Ingalls family went on at least one Type 1a road trip, while the dad (Charles) went on multiple trips.
- The Love Boat: In an interesting twist on the trope, the job of the regular cast was to facilitate type 2 trips for the guest stars.
- NCIS: Members of the NCIS crew are on a Type 2 international flight when a body is discovered.
- One episode of the British comedy One Foot in the Grave had Victor and Margaret stuck inside their car in a traffic jam for the entire episode for a Type 1b.
- Red Dwarf: Several Type 3s using the Starbug.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: Several different crew members took shuttles to get someplace the Enterprise wasn't going.
- That '70s Show: The gang traveled out of town so the boys could check out a college.
- Adventures in Odyssey has two mini-arcs involving road trips. One is Connie and Joanne going to Washington D.C., and another is Eugene and Bernard.
- Daria: "The Road Worrier" sees Daria and Jane take a road trip with Trent and Jesse to go to Alternapulooza. It ends up being a Type 1b, but Daria and Trent do get some "quality time."
- Family Guy seems to have gone on more than one with their "Road To..." episodes.
- The Flintstones: have gone on a variety of different Road Trips.
- One Futurama episode, Bendin in the Wind where they follow Beck in a VW bus is a Type 1a.
- The Phineas and Ferb episode aptly titled "Road Trip" is kind of a subversion of Type 1a: The entire episode takes place while the family is coming home from a road trip.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Over a Barrel may count as a Type 2, with the Mane Six and Spike taking a trip by train to Appleloosa. Pinkie Apple Pie definitely counts as Type 1a, with Pinkie Pie tagging along on a trip with the Apple family to see a distant relative who might hold the key as to whether or not Pinkie really is a distant cousin of Applejack.
- The Simpsons episode where Bart and some of his friends take Type 1 in order to visit a world fair that turns out to have closed years ago.
- There's an episode when Homer takes Bart on a road trip to a motivational camp across the country due to incident in school and was on a "no fly list" in the airlines.
- A series of SpongeBob SquarePants episodes have this trope.
- One of the subplots in Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Summer Vacation has Hamton's family take a Type 1a to Happy World Land, with Plucky tagging along. They take the monorail around one time, then go home.
- 101 Dalmatians: The Series had the three-part series finale "Dalmatian Vacation".
- In one episode of Chowder, a simple delivery turned into one of these, much to Chowder's joy. Unfortunately, they were delivering explosive fruit.
- The third Danny Phantom Made-for-TV Movie doubled as this when the titular hero and his friends had to travel cross-country to obtain three magic gems.
- The Adventure Time episode "Thanks for the Crabapples, Guiseppe", where Ice King and some of his fellow wizards hop on a van and take a trip to Butt Mountain.
- El Goonish Shives "Hammerchlorians" arc dedicates several pages to a Type 1a road trip.
- An early Freefall arc had the crew of the Savage Chicken embarking on a Type 1a to an abandoned colony ship. It was technically a salvage mission, but Sam and Helix both called it a road trip.
- page 271 of Final Fantasy VII: The Sevening has everyone pile into The Buggy and do stereotypical road trip things like suggest travel games, ask "are we there yet?" incessantly, sing "99 bottles of beer on the wall", and get carsick.
- Zeus' Godly Goodtime uses this as backdrop for Zeus and Kratos to spend some father-son time together. Too bad the surprise-destination Zeus planned ends up being Nintendo Land...
- Chakona Space: Plenty of interstellar type 2 and 3 trips.
- Homestar Runner: In the Strong Bad Email "road trip", Strong Bad and the Cheat attempt to go on a Type 1a road trip, but end up getting locked in the car with no way to start it for the duration of the episode, turning it into a Type 1b.
Strong Bad: And that was our road trip. Or, more accurately our car trip, since we didn't go on any roads. Or, even more accurately, our car, since we didn't go on any trips either.