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Advice & More September 2017

Six Tips for Surviving a Road Trip

By Susan Elenz

If you are thinking of leaving on a road trip, you need to be prepared for the unexpected. Here are six things you can do to make sure your trip is everything you want it to be.

Last summer, my husband and I went on an epic coast-to-coast road trip. We encountered a few bumps in the road, learned a few lessons and had the time of our lives visiting new and familiar places, and family along the way.

We started our journey in Grand Junction, Colorado, and headed east to Pinehurst and Charleston, South Carolina. To make it more interesting we traveled in a loop, never seeing the same place twice (unless we wanted to).

If you are thinking of leaving on a road trip, you need to be prepared for the unexpected. Here are six things you can do to make sure your trip is everything you want it to be.   

  1. Have a great car.  We own a 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid, which gets great gas mileage and has many safety features such as a built-in phone connection, back up camera, side mirror warning lights and a navigation system. Before the trip, we had everything cleaned and checked out at the dealership, changed the oil and bought new continental tires. If your car is not in the best condition, renting a car is the next best option. This put our mind at ease and we had no issues on the trip.

  2. Consider your health.  Make sure to pack your meds and supplements and pack extra in case you end up staying longer or have problems returning on time. This became apparent the first day of our trip, when my husband realized he’d forgotten to pack his meds. We almost turned around, but instead we called a friend to mail them to us via overnight express. Toward the end of the trip, I realized I hadn’t packed enough meds to account for the extra days we spent on the road. I ended up cutting my meds in half so I didn’t run out completely. I could have also sought out a pharmacy, but packing extra meds would have been the best option.

    Be sure to plan for meals and exercise along the way. If you eat three heavy meals and just sit in the car, you’re bound to gain weight — I did! Plan to eat two light meals out and have healthy snacks on hand from your cooler. Get as much exercise as you can in hotel gyms or pools or plan one meal near a park or walking path where you can get a short walk in. Too much sitting causes the ankles to swell, so move around as much as you can.

  3. Pack for convenience.  In addition to a large bag, I also packed a small carry-on bag with everything in it that I would need for a few days. That way it was easy to get in and out of the car for hotel stays. I replenished the small bag from the larger bag every few days. I never even took the large bag out of the car. On a road trip you have enough room to bring a few comforts from home to make your trip more enjoyable, like beach bags with towels, hats, robes and a small cooler for snacks and picnic supplies.

    One mistake we made was packing too much clothing. We found we only needed about half of what we packed due to the availability of washing machines wherever we were.

  4. Plan a route but be flexible. Bring your atlas or use your phone’s navigation system, but when the opportunity arises, take the scenic byways. We discovered this while trying to avoid construction delays, and were delighted by the many surprises we found on the smaller roads. Stop to see a point of interest or a historical small town — your trip will take longer but the scenery and new experiences are well worth it. We particularly enjoyed driving along the Appalachian Trail and the Music Highway through Virginia and Tennessee, and visiting Boonville in Missouri and touring Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

    You may end up staying an extra day or two in places of interest, like we did in Charleston, Pinehurst, Nashville, Las Vegas, San Diego, Denver and Colorado Springs. It was nice to break up the hotel stays with a few visits with family in the areas we were in. Depending on what activities and people are available, a flexible schedule allows you to enjoy it all.

  5. Use your smartphone and apps.  My husband loves a good deal, so he used several websites and apps on the trip that saved us money. Most hotels want to fill up their rooms and will offer last-minute deals to travelers. Using www.Hotels.com, he found great discounts on hotel rooms and booked them online before we arrived. We were able to get our must-haves, like a clean king-size bed, refrigerator, free breakfast and wi-fi at every stop.

    We were only disappointed once with a sub-par room. Stick with the known destinations and chain hotels. With the app GasBuddy, we were able to find the cheapest gas nearby and directions to it. Your smartphone has a great camera to use when the moment calls for it. We didn’t even bring our camera bag. When we wondered about the weather, it was easy to check the Weather app. Google Maps is another great navigation tool we used occasionally. Keep your phone charged and it’s easy cruising.

  6. Keep a journal. How else would I remember all of this? If you want to be able to remember where you went, what you did and on what day, the best thing to do is write it down. Even a small notepad works for this. Social media posts can also be used to document where you were on what day.

Road trips can be a lot of fun if you plan and prepare — they’re about the journey, not just the destination — and they sure beat dealing with TSA and flight delays on many occasions. On this trip we were gone for 22 days and traveled 4,771 miles, and we’re already planning our next road trip.