Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fresh From The Freeway: 5 Tips for the Best Road Trip Ever

These days, Kyle and I can’t afford to do much jet-setting but we still love to travel. Road trips are kind of our specialty and we’ve gone on quite a few in the six years we’ve been together. 
Beat road-trip burn out with some of the tips we’ve learned along the way!
Lunch at a rest area in West Virginia. Madigan made lots of friends!

1. Pack delicious picnics.
Everyone knows that eating on the road can be hard on the wallet and harder on the waistline. Packed with tons of sodium/preservatives, roadside fare can lead to serious bloating and fatigue (awful for all those vacation pictures we want to snap!). All the same, those smooshed ham sandwiches you made before you left look pretty unappetizing after six hours in a hot car and the truck-stop diner beckons. Instead, try packing things in a small cooler with plenty of ice. Tupperware is great for keeping things from getting soggy. Some of our favorite snacks: hard-boiled eggs, fresh fruit (apples and bananas travel well), celery sticks and peanut butter, cheese and salami slices, homemade cookies, and pudding cups. Make picnic lunches an occasion by tucking in a tablecloth, some plastic champagne flutes and sparkling cider, and disposable dishware. Take advantage of the covered picnic areas at most public rest areas.

Madigan with her parking lot breakfast.

2. Plan short, fun stops.
Most trips are all about “getting somewhere” and certainly, most of us don’t want to spend days and days on the highway when the destination promises to be so much more relaxing. But learning to make the journey itself enjoyable is key. When planning your route, look for funny roadside attractions, scenic overlooks and parks, or unusual towns. These stops don’t have to be long – stop and read an historical marker, take a picture with a funny road sign, or buy a fresh snack from a fruit stand. You’ll be stretching your legs and making a memory in fifteen minutes or less!

3. Bring audio books and music playlists.
Who says driving has to be boring? Most public libraries have a large selection of audio books (many of which are now free to download on their websites!). Transfer a couple intriguing mystery novels or a funny autobiography directly to your i-pod or mP3 player (or go it old school with cassettes/cds). Kyle and I love listening to books read aloud and we love to take breaks to predict what will happen next or discuss the author’s point. If audio books make you sleepy, you can also stick to music. Build a fun driving playlist before you leave so  you can keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. Our favorite game: Being the audiophiles we are, we can’t keep up with each other’s enormous music library so we like to play random songs and quiz each other on the artist. It’s fun to learn to recognize a band for its bass line or singer’s breath patterns and we continue to learn a lot about each other’s tastes!

4. Expect the best and plan for the worst.
I’m a timeline person. And the open road is no exception. I’m counting down hours, minutes, mile markers, state lines—anything to help measure the time until we finally get where we’re going! But road trips, like all travel, hit plenty of snags. On a road trip, you can almost always count on at least one of the following things happening: unexpected road work or traffic, a flat tire, bad weather, bathroom breaks (esp. when traveling with kids or pets), getting lost, or sleep-deprivation. Be kind to yourself on a road trip. If you’re too tired to drive, pull off at a rest area (be safe about it!) and take a twenty-minute power nap. Give yourself plenty of time to meet an arrival deadline – overestimate drive time and take plenty of breaks. Pack emergency items like a warm blanket, a good coat, a first aid kit, road flares, a spare tire, cable jumpers, change for toll roads or parking, phone/confirmation numbers for hotel reservations and a car charger for your cell phone.
 5. Enjoy the company.
This applies to group and solo travelers alike. If you’re driving with someone (a partner or spouse, significant other, family member, or friend), take advantage of the hours you’re spending together. Ask questions that prompt conversation: What’s the best road trip you’ve ever been on? If you could drive anywhere, where would you go? What’s something I don’t know about you? (Couples, it’s fun to think of a road trip as a twelve-hour date!) If you’re a lone wolf road trippin’ it, don’t take these hours of uninterrupted time for granted. We spend so much of our time wrapped up in the busyness of life and other people…what a gift to spend some real quality time with yourself – a great time for prayer or mediation. On my solo trips, I also like to put a really girly playlist on and rock out to all the music Kyle hates.
What about you? Share your favorite road trip tip with us below! And stay tuned for new post tomorrow with pictures from the Carolina coast!

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