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Road trips, what can I say, I LOVE a good road trip. There’s something to be said about loading up the car, running through a checklist one last time, and just hitting the road. It can get a bit more complicated when you’re trying to figure out what to bring and what to leave behind. I’ve done a few road trips in my life, some more memorable than others. My last big one definitely stands out as a doozy. My 13 hour drive to Arizona with my two girls ended up taking 21 hours and included 3 car breakdowns requiring the need to rent a car half way through the drive, a car accident in Los Angeles requiring a new rental car (not my fault, thank goodness!) before finally reaching our destination. I promise, nobody will ever forget THAT trip.
An interesting side note, people have VERY different definitions for road trips, ranging from several hours to several days. Not only that, but people have pretty strong reactions about sitting in a car for a long period of time – they either love it or hate it. Now, six hour drives from one point to another, not my favorite thing to do and that’s just a really long drive. But, taking a trip over several days, taking your time to see different landmarks in various stopping points, that’s my idea of a road trip!
I will admit, sitting for such a long period of time can become uncomfortable. Not only have that, but bathroom breaks are a requirement as one can only held their bladder for so long. Finding decent rest stops can definitely make things easier. If you have kids with you, there’s another challenge to embrace – keeping them entertained. Portable electronics alleviate a lot of these issues, thank goodness. And then, there’s food! Do you hit fast food? Pack your own food? What’s best for long road trips?
Just like flying, or really any kind of travel, there are things you can do to make things run smoother.
What to Bring In the Car
There are tips and tricks to make travel by car more comfortable. Sometimes it’s the little things that can make things more enjoyable. Planning ahead and preparing a bit before you leave can pay off in dividends as you are mid trip.
The kinds of coolers out there is impressive. You can find traditional ice chests in a variety of sizes or you can go with a collapsible cooler, again, in multiple sizes. Here are some to consider, depending on your needs:
Soft Case: Here is a large option, something to hold everything Insulated Car Console Organizer By Lebogner – X-Large Vacation Trunk Cooler Box For Hot Or Cold Food While Traveling, Collapsible Travel Or Shopping Carry Basket, Outdoor Picnic Bag For Camping
Hard Case: A more traditional cooler for the car but it has a twist. This plugs in to your car, allowing you to not have to use ice. This give you more room for cold items and less mess because you are free of water from melted ice.Igloo 00040374 Iceless Thermoelectric Cooler, 40 quart, Silver
There are also small options out there too if you’re super tight on space. AMEIQ Seat Back Organizer for Car, Cooler with Cell Phone iPad and Tissue Holder, Backseat Watertight Insulated Lunch Bag, Travel Picnic Storage Container (Deluxe-Rectangle)
Be careful about letting anyone having free reign on water intake. You might be making way too many bathroom stops, but reusable bottles can save money and reduce garbage waste. I recommend ones that keep things cool all day are best. I have a Hydroflask that I picked up at Costco in a 2 pack. This thing goes everywhere with me. If you can’t find them at your local box store (Costco, Sams or BJ’s), here’s a similar one:Hydro Flask 32 oz Double Wall Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Leak Proof Sports Water Bottle, Wide Mouth with BPA Free Flex Cap, Mint. They REALLY do keep water cold all day!
- Bring a garbage bag for each day of the road trip
- Pack a gallon bag with napkins, plastic utensils and straws.
- Hand Sanitizer should be your best friend! I have a small one in the pocket of each door!
- Travel pillow – Even if you’re tight on space, these can make the world of difference at times. For whatever reason, I’m not a big fan of the neck pillows, but this one, this is great! Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow for Camping, Backpacking, Airplanes and Road Trips, Cardinal, Medium: 14” x 18”
- Bring a fun bag for kids – no matter the ages, if tablets die, they need other options. I start stocking up weeks to months before – travel games, cards, cool activity books, etc including new box of pens, pencils and colored pencils. Everyone loves new.
- A roll of paper towels goes along. Messes happen.
- Toilet Paper – Again, you never know when you might need to make an emergency stop. Sometimes, things happen all of a sudden.
- A gallon bag with a few of every size baggy for unknown storage issues that inevitably arise.
- Booklights for night travel will be much friendlier to the driver not having bright overhead glare bothering them. CeSunlight Rechargeable LED Book Light, Hands Free, Best for Bed Reading or Read in Car, Flexible Arm, 4 super Bright LED Bulbs, 4-level Light Control
- Active Toys – NOT just for kids! A frisbee, gloves and a ball, something to get you moving during breaks at a rest stop.
- First Aid kit – bandages and pain medication are a definite for travel. I have this one in one of my cars now. First Aid Only All-Purpose First Aid Essentials Kit, 299 Pieces, Fabric Case
- Jumper Cables and Car first aid kit. There are several to choose from on the market, but this 64 piece one from AAA is pretty comprehensive AAA 64 Piece Premium Traveler Road Kit. It’s great because it includes a first aid kit, duct tape, a couple of batteries, flashlight and more.
- Headphones/batteries/chargers – Make sure electronics can be charged and if anything you’re bringing anything that takes batteries, have extras!
- Waze – This is a go to app for anytime you’re on the road and is definitely not exclusive to road trips. Keep up to date about traffic conditions and any accidents or other issues you might encounter on the road.
- Gas Buddy – Another relatively well known app that can tell you where to find the cheapest gas.
- Road Trippers – Okay, fair warning. I haven’t used this one yet, but I have downloaded and set it up on my phone for our next trip. This app grabbed my attention because Road Trippers can tell me what sight seeing options there are nearby that I might not have otherwise noticed. This is also a good app to actually plan out the trip.
- ParkMe – Another app we have use locally, ParkMe is an app that can locate parking garages along with the parking fees for each garage.
- TV Food Maps – I LOVE finding restaurants that have been highlighted on Diners Drive-Ins and Dives, and other Food Network shows. This app will tell you where they are, which is fantastic! We try to pick one or two to hit along our trip….feeding five of us gets way too pricey otherwise.
What Food to Bring
When traveling by car versus a plane, you have so many more options when it comes to food. There are many reasons why it might not be in your best interest to pop into a drive thru for each meal. To save on some costs and calories, bring along food to eat on the road. You have flexibility here too, you can drive straight through meal times, opting for easy to eat on the go options, or you can hit a rest stop, stretch your legs, enjoy more of picnic type lunch and then hit the road again after a small break. Whatever you choose, there are PLENTY of options to help avoid fast food or gas station snack aisles.
- Yogurt in tubes – no mess, healthier options now available than the standard high sugar kids options.
- String cheese – nice little protein snack.
- Applesauce in pouches – heck, there are other options besides just applesauce these days.
- Pre sliced vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers. Easy and healthy.
- Individual hummus for dipping those above mentioned vegetables. Great for crackers or pretzels too
- Best Fruit: apples, grapes, melon pre-cut into bite sized pieces.
- Make your own lunchables – cut up lunch meat, add crackers and cut up cheese into smaller pieces. Easy to assemble, easy to eat and cheaper than what you buy at the store.
- Homemade muffins – making these at home, you can add all sorts of healthy stuff (provide recipes)
- Pre-cooked chicken to throw on to sandwiches or put on to salads.
Road trips can be and should be memorable adventures that take us to knew places and experience new things. There will always be things that happen out of our control (my 21 hour drive to Arizona) but if we plan a bit ahead, we can make parts of the trip more of a breeze.
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