Taking a road trip is a great way to cover a lot of ground, save money on airfare and give you flexibility to explore whenever and whatever you want. Of course, there are also drawbacks; such as unhealthy on-the-road food choices, restless leg syndrome and sitting for way too long. Since I recently just spent more than 30 hours in a van driving around California, here are some fresh tips for having a great road trip.
1. Listen to audio books. This was one of the best things we could have done. It made the time on the road go faster, kept my brain engaged and even contributed to great conversation in the car. One of the best parts was that they were free through my local library. I just downloaded the app OverDrive and checked them out through the library. One book we listened to was called Modern Romance; written AND read by Aziz Ansari. A fantastic in-the-car book! I looked up some recommendations from others for great audio books, and I was surprised how many authors read their own books. If you have a favorite comedian, and they’ve written a book lately, chances are they read it too. So it will sort of be like hearing 8 hours of stand-up!
2. Listen to scenery-appropriate music. Choosing music that goes with the background adds an entirely new sensory dimension to the experience. I like all kinds of music, but listening to K$sha seems real inappropriate when driving through Yosemite Valley. We downloaded Ken Burns National Parks soundtrack on Spotify and listened to that while driving through Yosemite. That music was actually hand selected for the documentary ABOUT Yosemite. So, it couldn’t be more appropriate! I’ve done the same thing driving through other parts of the world. We downloaded a local Celtic band from Nova Scotia while we drove around Cape Breton Island. When the music even has lyrics about the places you’re in, it really becomes meaningful.
3. Plan meals out in advance. Long-distance driving means you’re at the mercy of whatever terrible fast food places are on the exits. You know, like Carl’s Jr or Roy Rogers. If you’re eating at restaurants, see which larger cities will be en-route before waiting until you’re starving and forced to say, “None of this looks good. I guess I’ll have a number #7. Can I also have a side of Pepcid AC and Imodium?” Another option is to plan on cooking some meals. For example, we knew we would be arriving at a beach around lunchtime, so we planned to cook when we arrived. We had cooking equipment with us since we were camping, but you can always bring some with you. We always bring a set of silverware, no matter where we’re traveling. We also made sandwiches during breakfast, and ate those in the car at lunch. There are many options, and the key is just to plan in advance. You just don’t want to get stuck having to eat Jack in the Box. (And if you’re thinking, psshhhffff, Jack in the Box is delicious! I know you’re a robot, because no human has ever said that.)
4. Plan for stops to break up the monotony of long drives. I’ve written about this before: Finding places to stop on your roadtrip. I feel strongly about having ways to make the driving not so terribly long. If I know in two hours I’ll get to stretch my feet and go for a walk in a park, it helps me mentally. If I know that I found a cool coffee shop for a good pick-me-up, it keeps me going. And the beauty of smartphones is that you can even take a look en-route on what’s coming up. You can also just read signs. This trip, we saw a sign for a national park on an exit, and thought, why not? We weren’t planning on it, but it was beautiful and a great detour.
5. Have appropriate expectations. This is probably a “no-brainer” but expectations can make or break a trip. There will be traffic and detours. There will be bad weather that makes people drive strangely. There will be things closed. You might have car trouble. We even had to deal with a leaky tire in the middle of no where on this trip. Just be prepared for things to not “go as planned.” Doesn’t mean you’ll always be happy about it, but it does mean you might not be so taken-off-guard if something changes or goes wrong.
6. Have a snack bag. Back on the food again. Seriously, though, sitting in a car for a long time somehow makes you starving. We stocked up on snacks like nuts, crackers and seeds and had them up in the front. We also got big things of water and consistently refilled our water bottles so we could stay hydrated. (It makes everyone less irritable, that’s for sure!)
How about you? How do you make road trips better?