I really actually do like road trips. Let’s backtrack – I really actually do like road trips if I’m traveling with people I can otherwise tolerate for several hours on end. You have all this time to sit back, relax, watch the world fly by and get out of the daily grind. You can have long, deep discussions about random topics, play games to pass the time, or listen to music and sing along at top volume without having to worry about the neighbors
thinking realizing that you are a crazy person.
The problem with road trips is that sometimes they last longer than expected. There can be unexpected traffic, bad weather, a wrong turn, or you can find yourself in a vast expanse of nothingness with an extreme need for food or urge to pee. The unexpected is what usually fouls your mood and turns the trip from a fun escape from the norm into a marathon of monotonous dread.
Here are a few things you can do to anticipate the unexpected so that it doesn’t affect your mood as much.
- Don’t use the ETA feature on your GPS. Head out with the mindset that you’ll get there when the journey is over, and no sooner. I’ve gone on so many trips where I’ve just sat in traffic staring at the ETA as it got later and later, and all it ever did was make me more and more agitated. If you’re familiar with the route, turn off the GPS altogether, otherwise just set it to display your direction or speed instead.
- Don’t leave at rush hour if at all possible. There’s nothing worse than getting stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a highway, plus there are usually a higher number of accidents when that many people are on the road. If you are doing a major holiday road trip, like for Thanksgiving, consider taking a nap right after work and then leaving later in the evening. You’ll still get there in time for Turkey Day. Or if you don’t live in a normally congested area but know that at a certain point on your route you will pass by one, consider what time you will be getting to that area – and try to avoid the morning and evening city rush hours.
- Pack lots of food and drinks! I find that you can eat a lot healthier (and tastier) food on road trips if you just bring it with you. If you don’t usually make a habit of eating fast food (or at least try to pretend like you don’t), why eat two burger-and-fries meals back to back just because you are on the road? The last thing you need while driving is to feel drowsy, and fast food tends to make me want to just lie back and snooze. Instead, pack travel-friendly meals that have lots of flavor and texture options so you won’t get tricked by your stomach into buying travel-mart hotdogs. It will save lots of time too since you will only need to stop for filling up the tank (and emptying your other tank). I try to keep an insulated bag or cooler of food, water and coffee within arms reach. We do limit how much liquid we gulp down though – stay hydrated, but don’t overdo it or you’ll be stopping at every other rest stop along the way.
- Get an audiobook. If you aren’t the deep, long conversation type but need to be entertained to make the trip less monotonous, I highly recommend getting an audiobook for the journey. Try to pick a genre and writing style that everyone in the vehicle will be able to appreciate, otherwise this plan could backfire. You’ll be surprised how hour after hour melts away as you get engrossed into the storyline.
- Get your car tuned up before hitting the road. This tip is especially important if you have an older car, or if you are planning on driving when the conditions could get icy/snowy. About a week or so before your trip (earlier if you have a foreign car whose parts are harder to come by), just take your car in to your usual mechanic and let them know you are going on a long trip. He/she will let you know if it’s safe to make the journey. You should also make sure you have an emergency kit that includes things like coolant, oil, a jack, a spare tire, and jumper cables. This could potentially prevent a call to AAA from the side of a deserted back road!
- Don’t be afraid to go off course. If you aren’t in a big hurry to get where you’re going, enjoy the ride! On our trip back from Canada this past weekend, we realized that we would be “wasting” an absolutely beautiful sunny day being confined to the car. We talked about how great it would be to be able to just head to the beach instead of driving the day away. So when we crossed over a gorgeous river, we were both on the same page – time to stop and get our feet wet. We found a back road that took us to the waterfront, scuttled down a wooded slope, gingerly crossed over an old abandoned wooden footbridge we found, took off our shoes and stepped in. It was glorious! That fifteen minute break was a welcome addition to our journey, even if we ended up getting home just that much later.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you reach your destination safely and in high spirits, ready to enjoy your vacation (or get back home). And if you let it, sometimes the journey can end up being the best part.