While I didn’t always enjoy going on road trips as a kid, I’ve grown to love them as an adult. Now that we live in a place that’s full of amazing parks, mountains, beaches, and historical sites, I’m looking forward to the weather cooling down so I can hit the road again.
Whether heading out for a day trip, or crossing the country, there are some things I’ve learned along the way that make life so much easier, so I thought I’d share!
Road Trip Tips!
1. While your cell phone can be a great asset, don’t rely on it for everything!
If you’re planning a long road trip, I recommend using the Roadtrippers website and app. It’s a great website that can help you plan your trip, including where to stay, where to eat, and sites to see along the way. I used it to plan my cross-country move last year, and it came in handy whenever I was ahead of schedule and wanted to fit in some unplanned sightseeing. I would often coordinate my stops throughout the day so I could visit parks, monuments, and quirky stuff like the Mitchell Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. This made the 4-day trip far less grueling!
While using apps to help you find your way, if you’re going to make a long trip (anything over a day), I suggest printing out your directions. You never know where you’ll get (or lose) a cell phone signal, so it’s a good idea to have that backup in case your phone or car’s GPS stops working.
2. Accept that fast food is going to happen, and make the best choices you can.
If you’re taking a short day trip, you can certainly plan ahead and take healthy snacks with you to get you to your destination. However, on a longer trip, you may just have to live with stopping for the occasional fast food meal.
To balance out the fast food, I made sure the rest of my meals each day were as normal as possible. Since I stayed at hotels each night, I ate my normal breakfast of coffee and oatmeal, or eggs with toast, instead of diving into doughnuts or sugary cereal. Throughout the day, I made sure to drink plenty of water and snacked on granola bars, crackers, and other things I could easily take in the car.
Halfway through my cross-country trip, I treated myself to a nice steak and giant glass of red wine one night – and after a couple days of granola bars, chicken fingers, and Red Bull, it was so needed!
3. Make time to exercise!
Regardless of how long or short your road trip will be, don’t forget to take breaks. Sitting in the car all day can be incredibly draining, and will wreak havoc on your back, hips, legs, and neck!
If you’re at a road stop during a short trip, get out and walk around for a few minutes, and do some light stretching. If you’re on a long trip, find time to work out in the morning, and do some yoga or stretching in the evening.
I find that on long trips, it’s good to find sightseeing locations that require me to do some walking or hiking, like I did at the Mt. Moriah Cemetary in Deadwood, South Dakota. It was the perfect way to start the day, and kept me energized through the rest of the day in the car.
4. Stick to your regular sleeping schedule as much as possible
I know this can be easier said than done, especially if you don’t like sleeping in strange places – but do your best to get to bed and wake up at regular times.
If you’re driving through multiple time zones, sticking to your regular sleep and wake times will help you adjust more easily. For my cross-country trip, I always woke up at 7am, and went to bed at 11pm, regardless of what time zone I was in (and what time my body felt it was).
I know it can be tempting to wake up super early, or drive late into the night, but I find that keeping to regular hours is less taxing. It’s also much safer if you’re traveling alone to avoid driving late at night.
I also highly recommend using a sleeping app, like Sleep Genius, which I’ve been using over the past couple years. It takes a little getting used to, but I’ve used it in my quiet home and loud hotel rooms with great success. If I need a little extra boost, I take melatonin before bed – just make sure to try using it before going on a trip, as it affects people differently!
5. Take twice as much music (maybe more) than you think you’ll need!
I’ve learned this one the hard way over the years! No matter how many CD mixes I make, it’s never enough. This is another area where I’ll say not to entirely rely on your cell phone – especially if you rely on apps like Spotify, which require you to have a cell signal.
If you have a CD player, burn some discs of your favorite music, and when you think you’ve got all the music you’ll want…burn a few more! I guarantee you that, whether your trip is short or long, it’s never a good idea expect your phone to work, or radio stations to come in clearly (especially if you’re driving in remote areas or mountains). Another great idea when traveling with friends is to ask each one to bring their own mixes to share, that way everyone gets to listen to things they like, and you might get hooked on new bands too!