It’s that time again, the end of the month means it’s reflecting time. The month of July was all about adventures so I thought I would use this month’s reflection series about my road trip, specifically how to survive a road trip.
I love road trips, obviously I mean I just did a 12 day road trip across the country for the second time in two years. But while I love them I’ll be frank and tell you that long road trips, the ones that take longer than one day of driving, really could go either way… you could love it and have the best time or… it could go sour. It really teeters on a few key factors that can make or break the trip. I was lucky enough that both my cross country road trips went well and were loads of fun but I also learned a lot from each trip. The lessons I learned from the first trip, made the second one better and affirmed notes that I made along the way.
Below are my five key factors to a successful long road trip. Keep in mind these are my key factors but they may not be important to everyone. For me though, it’s what made these long trips fun and successful.
#1. Plan and be Flexible
Yes I know these two words contradict each other but they go hand in hand. On the trips we walked a beautiful balance of having plans but also being flexible. We knew where we were going to sleep and key things we wanted to see each day, but we kept some aspects of the day up to explore. We planned whether we would eat sandwiches while driving or if we were going to stop on the way, but we were always flexible to where we would eat. The best thing we did was wait until we got to the destinations to figure out food. Most people like to plan every restaurant out but honestly it was fun to get to ask our friends who lived in the cities where we should eat, or sometimes we even just drove around and whichever place struck our fancy we went to. That’s how we ended up at Party Fowl in Nashville which was delicious! We just drove past it, it looked cool so… we went.
Another way to be flexible, and I say this with hesitation, is with your timeline. My first trip we stuck to a strict timeline, we knew how long everything was going to take, how many hours we had to drive and we stuck to it. Granted that trip we drove from Atlanta to San Diego in five days versus nine days in the second trip… It helped us get across the country quickly but sometimes I wished we had the time to stay an extra hour in certain locations. The second trip we knew how long it would take in each location, but there were times when we would say, let’s explore some more and get to the hotel an hour late. Having your timeline planned is important, but being flexible to a little extra time in a spot and loving it will be worth while.
#2: Be Honest and Upfront
This is another no brainer but it has to be said. Hopefully you’re going to go on a long road trip with people you know really well, but you may not know certain things about them. If something bothers you, sitting on it in a car for hours will probably drive you crazy. The best thing to do is be kind, patient but also able to gently let your car-mates know if you’d prefer to listen to some book on tape versus music or that you may need to switch driving because you’re getting tired.
You should also be upfront about key aspects of the trip in advance, specifically budget and expectations. Talk in advance about whether you guys would prefer to pack lunches or get fast food on the way. Are you like me and want to prioritize a specific souvenir? I made sure to tell Elysia ahead of time that I really wanted to get an ornament in the key places we visited. So when we got to locations and I saw the tacky souvenir sign and my eyes started to bug out with a nice glow, she already knew what was coming… now you’d have to ask her if that got annoying after awhile… 🙂
#3. Books on Tape
Yes. Just, yes. I can’t speak for everyone but I learned this after my first trip and it saved us on the second trip, books on tape trump music on long road trips. Here’s why, after awhile you will go through your entire playlist, and then you’ll go through it again. And then… you won’t want to spend time and energy skipping through songs to get to the ones you are okay listening to for the fourth, fifth, sixth… time. Books on tape though you don’t have to skip through, no pesky business of getting tired of the same old song, it’s a story! It’s awesome because it’s changing and keeping you entertained for a longer period of time. We listened to Harry Potter (the first three books) and the entire Serial podcast, which… OH MY GOSH! If you haven’t listened to Serial… do it. Seriously.
#4. Snacks & Food
Okay so snacks are obvious but! depending on how long you are gone for, you’ll need a variety. After day three of goldfish, you’ll want something different. We had a lot of snacks, healthy snacks like nuts and fruit and then others such as teddy grahams, cheese its, etc. It was so much easier to grab a soda or a water from the back cooler and a snack than to stop every time we got hungry or thirsty.
My other piece of advice that is food related is to bring a plastic cooler over a cloth cooler. On both trips we packed deli meat to make sandwiches on the road which was great but we needed to keep it cold. This wasn’t a problem because most gas stations and even McDonalds will sell bags of ice. The problem is that the ice will melt, naturally, and in both car trips our cloth coolers (even with plastic liners) leaked. It just made things a little more complicated because we ended up having to bag all the food and put the coolers in trash bags too just in case. Not the end of the world and it worked okay, but in the future I would go ahead and bring a plastic cooler, maybe even one of those fancy ones with a spout on the bottom to pour out the excess water 🙂
#5. Take Alone Time
This is definitely the most important piece of advice I could provide, hands down. You’re going to be spending a lot of time in the car and a lot of time talking, giggling, and having a blast but there will be times when you want to have some time by yourself. The best thing we did on the trip was take some alone time when we got to hotels. We would take some time to just rest and be quiet, watch TV or whatever we needed to regroup. Driving can be exhausting, even being social can be tiresome sometimes so it’s important to not be afraid to have quiet time. We both agreed that it amazing! Even when in the same room I would put headphones in and watch a movie on my computer while Elysia watched the TV or I would edit images, you may be someone who likes to journal, and you should! It won’t hurt the other person’s feelings, promise! They will be wanting some quiet alone time too, and it will revamp your trip. 🙂