Roadtrippin’ 101

Travel

Whether you’re headed for the beach or a music festival, someone somewhere deemed summer the perfect opportunity for road trips. Immortalized in films and tv shows as a freeing experience, there’s few things as painful as being shoved in a car with a friend and all of your worldly belongings, hoping traffic isn’t this bad for the rest of your 12-hour journey. Despite my distaste for the realities of road trips, I figured I’d share how I’ve managed to survive them thus far.

Plan accordingly. Factor in bathroom breaks and rush hours into your drive time. If you’re gonna hit a major city at exactly 5 p.m., maybe a bathroom break before the mayhem is appropriate. Or maybe you’re visiting a friend on the first weekend of summer vacation – maybe avoid those roads that head straight to the beach. I also have a rule that if you’re making multiple stops, you never want to drive more than three or four hours a day in a row. Sure, that final day may have to be a horrible six-hour drive, but if you can avoid three days in a row of seven hours in the car, you should.

Dress appropriately. Sure it may be chilly at home, but cars heat up. People are hot and sweaty, and it’s pretty gross when you hop out of the car at Grandma’s house to give her a sweaty hug. Short sleeves and layers are your friend. If you run cold, grab a blanket. Wear shoes that aren’t too smelly and are comfortable. Comfort is important because if you’re anything like me, you will inevitably end up snoozing at one point and it ain’t fun to nap in your tightest jeans. I also recommend socks, even if you’re in sandals, but my toes are always cold so I might be biased.

Snackage is key. Hungry people require more stops on the road, so be prepared. A salty snack and a sugary snack will cover basic cravings. I’d avoid chocolate in case of meltage, anything particularly stinky, and anything too messy like Baked Cheetos or powdered donuts. This isn’t to say you should bring a full twelve-course meal. Instead, these snacks should cover you between gas and dinner stops. Hydration is also important. A bottle of water for each person will cover basic needs. I avoid coffee or anything that’ll spill and leave my car smelling of bad milk, but up to you on that one. I would also leave the straws at home; not for environmental reasons necessarily – just because I drink five times faster with a straw and then have to pee five times more frequently.

Pack an activity bag. My mom instilled the power of an activity bag in me since I was a wee thing. Bring along technology and technology free entertainment. Kids might enjoy a toy or a coloring book, while adults might like a Sudoku puzzle or that magazine you’ve been meaning to read. Knitting needles or a crochet hook for those crafty folks will keep your hands busy. Grab a notebook for keeping track of every state license plate you spot or to do a quick game of hangman in the backseat. Boredom can kill a road trip in thirty minutes, trust me.

Music is crucial. I’ve probably said it before but I don’t trust technology. I’d rather go old school with a few prime CDs than rely on my phone. Plus I’d rather save the charge for directions and finding the closest Dunkin Donuts for my random cravings. I recommend having everyone in the car contribute a CD or two that they enjoy (if people still own CDs like my family) and avoid CDs of contention (in my family, the Beatles and Grateful Dead stay out of road trip playlists). I’m a big fan of Stadium Arcadium by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Sam’s Town from The Killers. Other good ones are Hozier‘s first album, Signs of Light by The Head and the Heart, Lord Huron’s Strange Trails, and anything by Elbow or Passenger. Or make your own mix CDs – really lean into the throwback. Anything you enjoy and can sing along to or jam along to.

Making Plans

Travel

I’m an anxious human being. I get places thirty minutes early, I plan out walking paths and bus routes before, during, and after I’ve left the house, and I love lists. So traveling (especially alone) can sometimes be stress inducing, which is why I’ve got this whole planning thing down to a science.

My first step is a browse through Pinterest, or if all else fails a Google Search. Depending on the length of my trip and whether or not every travel blogger on the planet has visited, I can usually find enough to do. (I’ll also find things that might interest my traveling buddy, but might not be my cup of tea, just in case they aren’t the plan ahead type.)

I’ll also do a search of free walking tours in whatever city I’ll be visiting. (I loved my Sandeman’s walking tours and they’re in a good number of places through out Europe.) They’re a good starting point for where ever you are, allow you to get your bearings in the city, and they tend to point out things to do and eat that you might have otherwise missed in your planning.

The next step is to head over to Google Maps. Because Google Maps can be downloaded or used without data, I prefer it over Apple Maps or any other city specific app. A browse through the interwebs has probably left me when a thousand tabs open on my computer, all waiting for me to decide whether or not to visit. My tabs are searched on Google Maps and their location is saved either as a “Star” or a “Want to Visit”. If I’m feeling real fancy, I’ll make a separate map for the trip. I’ll also make a mental note of which things open early or late (a note I’ll revisit once I’m actually there).

I don’t like to plan out my day(s) until I have arrived, unless necessary. Exhaustion levels, weather, and the chances of finding somewhere new to explore all keep me from being that Type A. I do, however, find myself booking things I know I want to do in advance. This way, I don’t have that nagging feeling in the back of my head that something will sell out between my planning and my actual trip. (Most of the time it’s not a worry, but you never know. Better safe than sorry!)

Side note: I, personally, like printed versions of everything. From plane tickets to admissions tickets to hostel business cards to maps of the city (if I can find them for free), I’d like to have a physical copy. It means that even if my phone dies from taking too many pictures, I’ll have what I need to cope. It also means I’ll have something to stick in my travel journal when I get back home to remember my trip!

Once I’ve booked everything, starred everything in a map, and triple checked what time my bus/train/plane/car leaves, I can worry about packing. For day trips, I always empty out my purse and refill it. If it’s not essential, it’s not coming with. My Waitrose card and the twelve pens that sit at the bottom of my purse are removed. For longer trips, I pack what I think I’ll need a few days in advance, then repack the night before. That way my last minute panic of forgetting my *insert crucial item here* is done while I can still find it, rather than once I’ve already left the house.

The day of my trip, I’ll take an allergy medicine, just in case, make sure I’ve grabbed any last minute items (chargers, headphones, book or kindle, chapstick, etc.), and I can head out the door.