Having been on the road for all of this year, I’ve learned a lot! This year really puts truth to the statement of not knowing how deep the water is (or how well you can swim) until you dive in. I sometimes get asked questions about travel, how to pack or how to prepare. Here are 5 tips that will help ensure your trip is successful.
1. Be Prepared
Having extra items on hand to be prepared in any situation is very helpful. For example, an extra blanket or jacket for unexpected drops in temperature can do wonders. Having camping gear or even a pillow in the car can be helpful. Having an emergency kit that contains flashlights and first aid items is a must (you never know). Also, carry cash and fill up your change compartment in your car with quarters. The change will be good for parking meters, and the cash is always good for vendors that don’t take cards (or should you happen to have your card flagged because it’s being used all around the country…. speaking of which, let your bank and credit card company know you’re traveling).
Also along the lines of being prepared, take water. It’s important to stay hydrated during long drives. I also have a mini cooler that I pack with small snacks. I would restock these every couple of days. Healthy snacks are always best because they will give you the fuel you need for the road, and eliminate the temptation to stop for roadside food.
2. Pack Light
How much stuff do you need, really? Let’s be mindful of the space in your car. Pack meaningfully and pack light. I actually ended up making a donation to Goodwill halfway through my journey because I was lugging around extra items that I didn’t need or wasn’t really using. Items like jackets, sweaters and jeans can be worn more than once before needing to be washed. The only thing I recommend packing double of is underwear!
Also be strategic with what you pack. Have a suitcase or large bag for your longer stays. Have a small bookbag or lighter pack for your overnight destinations. This way, the larger suitcase can stay in the car and only come out when its really needed. The smaller pack will give you easy access to the items you’ll need commonly. It’s good to put your toiletries in this pack, and also an extra bottle of water (and snack bars too).
3. Stop Often
Long drives are no joke! I wouldn’t do them straight through. Driving long distances can be draining as you use a lot of energy to be cautious and pay attention to the road. There are rest stops for a reason, as well as vista points and little towns that bundle restaurants, cafes and gas stations together. Use these to your advantage. When you plan your trip, take into consideration that you’ll be taking time to stop. This way you’re not fighting the clock to make some crazy end destination time. This way you won’t feel guilty for stopping for a few minutes. A 5-10 minute break every 3 hours or so will do wonders. During these breaks, get out of your car and stretch your legs. This will reenergize you for the next stretch of road.
4. Have Good Music
Whether it’s XM satellite radio, your iPod, podcasts, or a book on tape, this is essential. Why? Because radio stations change as you drive, and some of the more rural parts of the country don’t pick up much at all. Drives can seem even longer when done in complete silence. Driving with any kind of music or background noise helps to keep you focused while relaxing the mind.
5. Take the Scenic Route
Again, when you plan your trip, try to set it up in a way where you are not hard pressed for time. Sometimes the quickest route is also the most boring. And by the way, a boring route is the quickest way to make you feel tired, which is no fun if you’re driving. I’ll take a longer route any day if I know it comes with a beautiful scenic view. That’s part of the road trip experience. You should be able to round a bend, drop your jaw, and say “WOOOOOOW” or be completely speechless altogether.