James Doyle's favorite way to spend time with his friends is to get into the car and take a road trip to another city. Recently, the Ph.D. candidate at Brown University drove from Nashville to New Orleans with two of his close college mates. Along the way, the trio visited friends in Heidelberg, Miss. In New Orleans, they spent five days on an extended bar crawl and listened to local bluegrass and jazz.
"It's hard to get quality time with friends, and a road trip forces you to do that," says Doyle, 24. "We laughed and made jokes the whole time, and though we had a destination in mind, it was fun to make some spontaneous stops."
In Pictures: Great Road Trips For Guys
Forget crisscrossing the globe by plane and being hassled by endless security delays. Instead, hop behind the wheel. You'll immediately discover perks that other vacations don't allow.
"A road trip gives travelers a lot of flexibility," says Doug Stalling, a senior editor at Fodor's Travel Publications. "You can go for a day or for a week, and you can veer off route and explore places that interest you. You have total control."
Experts say that road trips are a good way for friends--guys, especially--to bond.
"Women can bond in a lot of ways," says Michael Yampolsky, a travel consultant at a luxury travel consultancy, Battery Travel, in New York City. "But guys don't [have] as many. Road trips are a comfortable setting for them to interact."
Road trippers don't necessarily have to start from their home base. Yampolsky and other luxury travel consultants say their clients often fly to a destination, then drive from there.
One popular trip: Montreal to Quebec
The drive itself takes only three hours, but the cities offer lots to do on either end. If starting in Montreal, visit Olympic Park, where the 1976 Olympics were held. Once you're on the road, stop at Trois Rivieres to golf at the 18-hole Les Vieilles Forges, which overlooks the St. Maurice River. In Quebec City, taking a boat trip down the St. Lawrence River is an ideal way to spend a day. Or rent a boat and go sailing.
For accommodations in Montreal, check out Opus Hotel, a 136-room property that is half art-nouveau classic and half contemporary brick and glass. The interior has exposed concrete ceilings and stainless steel furnishings. In Quebec City, check out the more traditional Chateau Frontenac, built on a bluff overlooking the St. Lawrence River. The 618 rooms can accommodate double beds--important for guys, since travel experts say that men, even those without budget constraints, tend to share rooms on road trips and to request double beds.
For a trip that combines city and country, drive the two-and-a-half hours from Las Vegas to Death Valley
Bunk in a split-level suite at the 4,027-room Venetian in Vegas, and enjoy male-oriented spa treatments at Canyon Ranch Spa. Visit the Poker Room at the Bellagio for some high-stakes gambling, and party at nightclub Studio 54, which has not only four floors of pulsating music but trapeze artists. Chow down on a 32-oz. Kobe beef sirloin at Craftsteak.
Death Valley has exactly one upscale hostelry: the 224-room Furnace Creek Inn & Ranch Resort, so deciding where to stay is easy. Swim in its spring-fed pool or golf the lowest course in the world (214 feet below sea level). In the valley itself, intrepid guys can climb 11,000-foot Telescope Peak. Less intrepid guys can drive most of the way.
See countryside no less stunning in New Zealand on the five-hour jaunt from Christchurch to Queenstown
In Christchurch, the Air Force Museum, which has 28 resorted classic aircraft and other aviation memorabilia, is a worthwhile stop. When you're here, stay at the seven-room Otahuna Lodge. This former grand country estate is situated on 30 acres. On your journey to Queenstown stop in Aoraki to take a helicopter ride over the 12,283-foot tall Mt. Cook. The Wanaka region, halfway between the two cites, offers outdoor adventures such as canoeing down the Wilkin Valley, tandem skydiving over Lake Wanaka or trekking up the 5,000-foot Roy's Peak.
In Queenstown, check into Azur, a property with nine freestanding villas built on a cliff. Each has 800 square feet and offers views of the aptly named Remarkable and Eyre Mountains. The hotel helps arrange local activities such as bungee jumping off Kawaray Bridge. Guys can also climb to the top of Deer Park to take in the mountain ranges and lakes where the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed.
Price-wise, road trips can vary dramatically, depending on the kind of accommodations you stay in, the restaurants you dine at and the activities in which you partake.
A standard room at the Venetian in Las Vegas, for instance, starts at around $400 a night, and a dinner at Craftsteak can easily run $60 a person (without cocktails or wine). Gambling, of course, can run the cost of the trip into the thousands of dollars long before you hit the road.
Stay at a motel, dine at free buffets and limit your gambling to slot machines, and the same trip becomes cheap.
Except for the memories. They're priceless.