Everything in life is somewhere else, and you get there in a car.A Road Trip Plot is a work about characters taking a trip to go from point A to point Z. Along the way, they stop by points B, C, D, et al. while things happen to them at each point. Oftentimes a comedy, but occasionally a drama. The things that happen often teach the characters things they didn't know about themselves. Unsurprisingly, this type of plot opens itself wide to Cliche Storms and Narm, but creators conscious of what kind of story they are telling can defy these and create very original and poignant tales. An important distinction needs to be made between a Road Trip Plot and a Walking the Earth story. If the heroes encounter an adventure at every stop and end up staying at each location for a while to solve some major problem or deal with a big event, it's Walking the Earth, especially if each location can be considered an Adventure Town. If, on the other hand, each location is merely a brief stop along the way, and the story is more about the journey than the specific locations, then it's a Road Trip Plot. Not all Road Trip Plots involve use of a vehicle, but it's often what one associates with the genre: a family or group of friends traveling in a car—or a van, or on horseback, maybe even on a boat—from one place to another, with stuff happening at each location. Films with a Road Trip Plot are called "road movies" and are a distinct cinematic genre. Because of the vastness of the continental United States, its extensive road network and deep-seated car culture, most Road Trip Plots take place there. Live action television programs (As well as other episodic works) often have Road Trip Episodes in which the characters take a trip. Due to the episodic nature of TV—Status Quo Is God—these episodes are typically one-off affairs made to give the characters something new to do. Road trip episodes can be broken down into several types. Type 1 is The Family Car, the most common, in which the characters pile in a car and go someplace. In subtype 1a the characters complete the trip and come back, with the (Boring Return Journey) possibly omitted , while in subtype 1b the trip is never completed for some reason. Type 2 is Public Transportation, in which the characters themselves aren't in control of the vehicle, and may include a bus, a plane, or even a spaceship. This type can easily be derailed by a "Stuck at the Airport" Plot. Type 3, the Alternate Transport, is rarer, and involves characters who are always traveling taking some different mode of transport. Imagine the characters from a show in the Star Trek universe leaving their starship and taking a bus or a shuttle. Compare Blake Snyder's description of this plot, under the title Golden Fleece. Also compare The Quest, along with Booker's version of the archetypes behind it. Contrast with Going to See the Elephant, where the destination starts the plot. See also Buses Are for Freaks, a trope that may overlap with this if the characters are taking the bus somewhere. See also Wanderlust Song, the Music equivalent of this trope.
— E.B. White, One Man's Meat
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Anime And Manga
- Asterix and the Banquet is about Astérix and Obelix on a "Tour de Gaule", collecting speciality food from various cities throughout France in a bid for freedom from the Romans, who are enclosing their village from the rest of the world with a stockade.
- The "Hard-Travelling Heroes" arc in Green Lantern/Green Arrow, where Hal and Ollie travel across the US so Hal can reconnect with ordinary humans and the problems they face.
- Likewise with the "Superman: Grounded" arc of Superman.
- Calvin and 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.
- Lampshaded in MST3K: Operation: Return To Earth when Gypsy asks why they can't just take a plane from Montana to Minnesota Crow replies then the story wouldn't be a road movie.
Film - Animated
- Disney's Bolt has the title character trying to travel back from New York City to Los Angeles, with a notable stop in Vegas.
- Finding Nemo is a story about a fish swimming in the ocean, so there aren't any roads. But otherwise it fits this trope exactly, as Marlin travels across the ocean to find Nemo, meeting many colorful sea creatures along the way.
- A Goofy Movie is about Goofy (yes, the Disney character) taking his son Max on a father-son trip, while Max attempts to take a trip to a concert he wishes to attend. After Goofy discovers what he's been up to, they end up doing both.
- Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip. The premise of the film being the the Chipmunks three are rushing to Miami to stop Dave from proposing to his new girlfriend and dumping them, based on a misunderstanding.
Film - Live-Action
- Badlands is a super-dark take on this trope, as young lovers Kit and Holly go on a cross-country murder spree after he kills her father.
- Ballad of a Soldier is about a Russian soldier making a difficult journey home on leave during the darkest days of World War II, and all the people he meets and experiences he has on the way.
- Barefoot has the protagonists driving from New Orleans to Los Angeles.
- Carol takes place on the road for the latter half of the film.
- Parts of Carry On Camping is based around this, depending on what character story the movie chooses to follow. One subplot follows a simpleton who spends most of the runtime looking for a place to stay after his tent is blown away in a landmine accident, whilst a Henpecked Husband travels around the countryside with his absent-minded wife as he is attacked by nature, as well as two sexually-frustrated thirty-somethings driving around England looking for a nudist camp with their prudish girlfriends.
- Dogma is about a trip/chase from Illinois to New Jersey. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is about their shenanigans on the way from New Jersey to Los Angeles.
- Due Date is about two strangers being forced to travel together to the hospital where one's wife is giving birth. Turns out this was invoked by the other, who stole his wallet so he'd have to travel with him.
- Dumb and Dumber, Harry and Lloyd travel from Rhode Island to Colorado on a dog shaped van.
- Easy Rider centers around the main characters' road trip to New Orleans. It isn't a comedy.
- The Go-Getter When his mother dies, a teenager takes a road-trip in a stolen car to find his long-lost brother.
- Interstate 60 features a surreal road trip on a mythical interstate, where the main character tries to find "the answer to his life."
- The Trope Maker, as far as the "road movie" sub-genre is concerned, is It Happened One Night. Claudette Colbert is a spoiled heiress who wants to escape her father's detectives and make her way from Florida to New York to get married. Clark Gable is the newspaper reporter who aids her in exchange for the scoop on her story. Naturally, romance ensues.
- Knockin' on Heaven's Door: Two terminally ill guys with just a couple of days left to live get to know each other and refuse to just sit in a hospital and await their fate. They steal a car and go on a last road trip to see the ocean for the first and last time in their lives. The thing is, the car was used by gangsters to deliver a substantial amount of money to a kingpin.
- Little Miss Sunshine is about a family who travels across state lines and has various misadventures along the way, while trying to get to a beauty pageant in time for their daughter to participate.
- Mad Max: Fury Road naturally, since it has 'road' in the title. The titular Max stumbles across a woman freeing the wives of the Bad Future's tyrant - and the majority of the story is them journeying across the desert in search of an Arcadia called 'The Green Place'. As it's also an action movie, there's quite a lot of Car Fu.
- Midnight Special drops you right into the middle of a father on the run with his empowered son - as they travel across Texas trying to escape both the FBI and a religious cult trying to worship the boy as The Messiah.
- Monsters is primarily a road movie, where a journalist helps his boss's daughter get back home from Mexico. The Mexico in this location just so happens to be after an alien invasion.
- The Muppet Movie, in which Kermit sets off from the swamplands of the American South on his way to Hollywood to become rich and famous, picking up all of his Muppet friends along the way.
- My Favorite Blonde features a sexy British spy and the bumbling American comedian she gets entangled with (Madeleine Carroll and Bob Hope) traveling from New York to Los Angeles by train, bus, stolen plane, and stolen car, chased by Nazis the whole way.
- My Name Is Emily is a rare Irish example. The eponymous Emily is a depressed teenager who, after her Disappeared Dad fails to send her an annual birthday card, convinces a school friend to drive across the country to break him out of his mental hospital. Overlaps with the Road Trip Romance of course.
- National Lampoon's Vacation, in which Chevy Chase takes his family on a disastrous road trip from Chicago to Southern California to visit Wally World, a Captain Ersatz of Disneyland that's closed for maintence. The sequel, National Lampoon's European Vacation, is basically the same plot, but with the Griswolds in Europe instead. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and Vegas Vacation avert this trope, however, as their Christmas vacation is not really a vacation at all, and they fly directly to Vegas in the other.
- The sequel/reboot, Vacation, is revisiting the premise of the original from the perspective of Rusty and his family.
- Paul is about two bumbling nerds who are on their way to a Sci-fi convention to pitch a comic one of them's written, only to wind up picking up a Grey named Paul who escaped Area 51 and was trying to get to an area where he could contact his people to leave. Hijinks and an accidental kidnapping ensue.
- Paper Moon: Moses and Addie Travel from Gorham, Kansas to Joplin, Missouri, conning people along the way.
- Planes, Trains and Automobiles, which is all about a businessman's frantic efforts to make it from New York to Chicago for Thanksgiving, while all kinds of bad luck and complications get in his way.
- All of the Hope/Crosby On The Road pictures, which always featured Bob and Bing as comic partners getting in various misadventures as they traveled from A to B.
- Rain Man: After the Black Sheep brother finds out that he's been disinherited, with his late father having left all his money to an unknown older brother in an institution, he kidnaps the brother and goes off on a cross-country trip.
- Rubin And Ed comically relates a trip made through Utah to give a man's deceased cat a proper burial.
- Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird has Big Bird travelling to the fictional Ocean View, Illinois, to live with Dodo family, only to find he doesn't really fit in with the family, and flees to return to Sesame Street; at the same time, his friends embark on a journey to try and meet him half way.
- The Sure Thing is a great example from The '80s, combining this with Quest for Sex, as a college student travels from the east coast to California in search of nookie with the eponymous "sure thing".
- Thelma & Louise of course! The two women shoot a rapist and decide to flee the scene of the crime, and travel towards Mexico.
- Tommy Boy follows Tommy and Richard's travels as they attempt to sell brake pads. Complete with singing along with the car radio, hitting a deer, and other events typical of the genre.
- Two-Lane Blacktop is about a cross-country race between two stoic street racers and a mysterious man with a Multiple-Choice Past. Along the way, a girl drifts between the two cars.
- The Way Back is a Based on a True Story account of several prisoners who escaped from a Siberian gulag, and hiked all the way to India.
- Weekend by Jean-Luc Godard is a satirical roadtrip in a World Gone Mad in which everything is Serious Business.
- Who's Singing Over There? describes an eventful bus trip to Belgrade on the eve of the German attack on Yugoslavia during the 2nd World War.
- Wild is a road movie on foot, as Cheryl Strayed goes on an 1100-mile hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, on a voyage of self-discovery.
- Wild Boys of the Road: Three teenagers stuck in The Great Depression go on a harrowing journey from middle America to Chicago and thence to Cleveland and New York, scrounging for food and trying to avoid arrest and/or assault.
- Wild Strawberries is a relatively rare European example. 78-year-old professor Isak must travel from Stockholm to Lund to receive a special award in recognition of fifty years as a medical doctor. He meets many people and sees places along the way that make him think about his life and what to do with the time he has left.
- The Yellow Handkerchief has three lonely strangers hitch-hiking together through post Hurricane Katrina Louisiana, and slowly becoming friends over the course of the trip.
- Zombieland is pretty much a Road Movie set after the Zombie Apocalypse. Initially, Columbus is looking to get to Columbus, Ohio to find his estranged parents (mostly for want of anything else to do) and the girls are going to Pacific Playland. Tallahasee is mostly just in it for the zombie killin' (and the Twinkies). Halfway through, Columbus finds out his parents are very probably dead already, and once the climax at Pacific Playland is over, the end of the movie seems to signal the four of them starting their Walking the Earth.
- Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn may qualify, in that while Huck and Jim didn't go "across" the country, they did journey down the Mississippi River from the North to the South on a crude raft, with plenty of perils (particularly for Jim in the Antebellum South).
- Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon is a nonfiction chronicle of the author travelling around the US in his camper-outfitted van on back roads (highways that were often colored as narrow blue lines on old gas-station maps), visiting many obscure or ideosyncratic small towns, in the 1970s.
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, both the book and the film.
- Generation Kill is effectively described as a combination of this genre with a war movie, as it deals with the members of Marine Recon driving through Iraq during the 2003 invasion.
- The Horse and His Boy, the third book in The Chronicles of Narnianote spends the bulk of its plot on the road. A talking Narnian horse persuades a Calormen slave to help him ride north to free Narnia. Along the way they meet another Narnian horse and her mistress trying to do the same.
- I Am David has a young boy being helped escape from a concentration camp and essentially being directed in a hike all the way from Germany to Denmark on his own. He eventually realises he's being directed to the home of his birth mother.
- Nevada, the plot revolves around the main character's, Maria Griffiths, Road Trip to Nevada.
- The Odyssey, in a way. It's basically about a king and his men on their journey home from war. By sea, of course.
- On the Road. Jack Kerouac's adventures constitute a long succession of road trips.
- The Road, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and film starring Viggo Mortensen about a boy and his father following an abandoned highway After the End.
- The Stand turns into an After the End version of this, as the characters make harrowing journeys to either the rallying place for the protagonists (Boulder, CO) or the rallying place for Satan and his antagonists (Las Vegas, of course).
- Robert Persig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance details a motorcycle journey by him and his son across the western US, along with a journey of philosophical and spiritual discovery.
- The Gaunt's Ghosts novel Honour Guard features the main characters as part of a convoy to retrieve a sacred relic from a distant location.
- In Graham Greene's Monsignor Quixote the title character and his best friend decide to drive from El Toboso to Madrid to buy some purple socks his friend considers mandatory for the Monsignor's new position. Along the way they get into a variety of misadventures and have some fairly heavy philosophical and ideological discussions.
- The entire ninth Diary of a Wimpy Kid book The Long Haul is about the family's (disastrous) summer road trip.
- Why We Took The Car is about a two 14-year old boys' journey in a 'borrowed' car from Berlin to Walachia.
Live Action TV
- 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.
- Frontier Circus: In "Journey From Hannibal", Casey has to pick up an elephant from Hannibal, Missouri and deliver it to the circus in Bismarck, Dakota Territory.
- 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: This series has sent Harm on several road trips.
- 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 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 an air marshal is found murdered.
- 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.
- Stargate-verse: When they aren't spending mere seconds using the Portal Network to gate between planets light-years apart, they eventually use a variety of starships. When there's only a few seconds of travel time, there's no time for plot. When travel takes days or weeks, plot has loads of time to develop.
- 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.
- Wings introduced the infamous Carlton Blanchard in one of these. Blanchard wins a contest where the prize is a trip anywhere. Because of how the description was written note , he uses the prize to visit his brother in the American Southwest and fight him for their father's pocket watch.
- Mr. Bean takes a trip in one episode to a destination we never see him arrive at. He first has to pack for his trip, desecrating most of his belongings in the process so he can get them to fit in his small trunk, taking the first part of his trip by train and then going by plane. The train trip is a disaster when he gets distracted by another passenger's laughter and then throws his ticket out the window. The plane is more so a disaster when he has to deal with a boy and his motion sickness. Of note, both feature films are road trips. Both of the films are also road trips. The first film Bean is about him making a trip to the United States. In the second film, Mr. Bean's Holiday he wins a trip to Paris to attend the Cannes Film Festival.
- Havalina Rail Co.'s album America is a concept album about a road trip across the US, with each song corresponding to a different area traveled through. The back cover of the album has a map depicting the route traveled.
- Garfield and Jon (and sometimes Odie) go on Type 1a road trips occasionally. They've also gone on Type 2 ones.
- Red & Ted's Road Show has its titular protagonists traveling across America, wreaking havoc along the way.
- World Cup Soccer had the player progressing through the cup in different locales in the U.S. (matching those of the 1994 World Cup, which the game was made to promote).
- The much-maligned Vacation America was all about this.
- The SNES version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters, which had stages all over... what is probably supposed to be the United States.
- The Rockwell Pursuit mod for Fallout: New Vegas revolves around a trip from Nevada to a research facility in Vermont.
- The Oregon Trail and its many Spiritual Successors. In particular The Thule Trail, a parody made in Flash, which has a typical modern Road Trip Plot.
- Final Fantasy XV uses this, with protagonist Noctis setting out on a road trip with his True Companions to recover the stolen Power Crystal that keeps their kingdom alive.
- 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.
- Final Fantasy VII: The Sevening: Page 271 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...
- Carry On: Kathy, Freddy and Sandy have been on an epic Type 1 / Type 2 hybrid trip for a while now.
- Chakona Space: Plenty of interstellar type 2 and 3 trips.
- While the first Chris and Scottie's Road Trip (made by the same man behind The Irate Gamer) was a World Tour, the second installment is focused on the US instead.
- 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.
- Find The Alleged Car. Go on road trip with it. Use said Alleged Car for something it never was meant to. Congratulations, you just made an episode of Roadkill!
- A minor plot in Volume 3 of Simple Complications is Ted and Lyle going on a roadtrip. It's mostly just used for one off jokes in between the more serious storyline that took over that volume.
- Tabletop: Invoked in the Dragon Age episode, where the party members joke that they're basically the cast of an '80s road trip movie: Thinly needs to get laid, Keegan is "trying to make up for the football thing", Fonzor is there to make out with chicks, and Gorek just wants to go home.
- 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.
- In an episode of Arthur Arthur and his family are taking a vacation to the beach. Arthur just wants to go to camp all by himself (and with his friends) but his family has to keep reminding him of how fun things can be. Even though things turn out bad at first, it winds up being a perfect 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.
- 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: Several trips happen in the Ponyverse.
- 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.
- 101 Dalmatians: The Series had the three-part series finale "Dalmatian Vacation".
- ''SpongeBob SquarePants had a few vacation-themed episodes during the eighth season. In "A Square Pants Family Vacation" SpongeBob is bringing Patrick along on his family vacation to a water park but the two get lost along the way. In "Waking the Plankton" Plankton and his wife go on a cruise but it is actually party of a plan to steal the Krabby Patty formula. In "Mooncation", SpongeBob tags along with Sandy on her vacation to the Moon. Lastly in "Mr. Krabs Takes a Vacation" SpongeBob tags along with Mr. Krabs & Pearl on a vacation to the Bikini Bottom Mint, much to Pearl's disappointment.
- The Simpsons features an 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 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.
- One of the final episodes of Nickelodeon's Doug has a Type 1 with Doug's family off to see the Painted Gorge, which gets sidetracked by several stops to visit which turn out to be tourist traps, followed by the car getting stuck in the mud and requiring everyone to get out and push it free.
- An episode of The Loud House has Lincoln (and then his sisters) vying to sit in the "sweet spot", the only good seat in the family wagon, for a road trip the following day. The trip turns into type 1b before it even begins, as it gets cancelled when the kids' violent brawl for the seat completely destroys the wagon.
Older Than Radio:
- In 1888, Bertha Benz was convinced that her husband's newly invented motorcar was much more than a technological curiosity but had huge potential to revolutionize transportation. So she took the car that previously had only been used for short engine tests on the factory grounds and went on a road trip to visit her mother with her two sons. Even though they had to deal with various complications like running out of fuel (a pharmacy was able to help) and engine failure, they still made the 100 km trip in a single day. A journey with a horse carriage would have been a trip of at least three days. She also came up with the idea for a multi-speed gearbox, which would allow the car to be driven slowly uphill or quickly across flatter terrain.
- In 1903 Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson bet he could drive from San Francisco to his home in Vermont. After purchasing a 20hp Winton automobile and hiring a mechanic to ride with him, they set off. The journey would take three months. It's regarded as America's First Roadtrip.