I am the road trip queen!
Growing up, we would take road trips every summer to visit our family Up North in Pennsylvania and Virginia. In 1999, Mom took Brother and I on a six-week car trip to California to see family in Los Angeles and Pasadena. We saw everything in between here and Cali…everything. (Random fact- I visited every Smithsonian Museum in the US before I was 13… there are 19 of them…Thanks Mom!)
Over the years, I’ve road-tripped all over the Southeast and gotten to see some beautiful sites. This weekend’s road trip was to Jacksonville, FL for the Georgia/Florida game. I was traveling with my friends Chelsea, Aneeth and Caroline. My high school friend Sloane and her roommate Rebecca were gracious enough to let us crash on their couches for the weekend. (Thanks ladies!!)
Below I’ve combined all my years of expert road-tripping to bring you a list of everything you will need to bring and do to prepare for your perfect adventure.
1. FEED YOUR FACE
Make sure to pack drink such as iced coffee (like Starbucks Frappuccino bottles), energy drinks, Vitamin water, or V8 juice. For snacks, grab salty and sweet snacks such as dried fruit, trail mix, yogurt covered pretzels, granola bars, crackers, apple sauce, and M&Ms (because they don’t melt!).
If you have room for a cooler, consider bringing some healthy options such as yogurt or cheese sticks. You will also want to put your ice in ziplock bags and put it on a towel to stop any condensation or leaks.
It’s a good idea to avoid carbonated drinks that could roll around and explode when you open them. You may also want to avoid drinking too much caffeine because it will make you go to the bathroom more often- especially if you don’t have time for many breaks.
The easiest way to keep your food and drinks organized is to put in a basket so they are easy to get too and all in one place. Try to avoid foods that will get squishy (bananas) or crushed (Nature Valley granola bars).
Keep a grocery bag(s) as a trash bag that you can throw out at rest stops. Consider having a separate recycling bag if you’re taking cans, bottles, etc.
2. KEEPING THE PEACE
Talk with your passengers about what types of places would they like to stop to eat. If everyone understands each other’s expectations, there will be less potential fighting when it comes to mealtime.
Speaking of fighting- Resolve any conflicts between passengers before leaving. Nothing is more miserable than being stuck in a car with two people who won’t talk to each other.
I trekked to Jacksonville my freshman year with new friends I met through my roommate. Unknown to me, our driver had gotten in an argument with one of the other girls going down and refused to have anything to do with her. And I mean anything.
“Can we turn the AC down? It’s freezing” …..turns AC on full blast
[Phone rings] “Can we turn the music down? My Dad is calling”…..turns music all the way up.
[When deciding where to eat] “Subway sounds good”….. instantly turns into nearest greasy fast food joint.
Needless to say, it was an awkward weekend…
3. HOW NOT TO GET LOST
Most people have a GPS now-a-days. This is excellent since “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” has proven to us that we actually get dumber with age… Pre-program your destinations before you get in the car to make departure as painless as possible. Besides, who wants to hunt down an address before you’ve even finished your first cup of coffee?
One reason I heart my GPS is it tells me the speed limit on most roads. Most newer models do this. Keep in mind, it may not always be accurate, so pay attention to posted signs too. This is really important if it’s getting towards the end of the month. The 5-O have a quota of tickets they have to write each month, so they set up sped traps in the last two weeks to meet their quotas. Cops love to target out-of-towners because they are less likely to protest a ticket so don’t give them extra incentive to pull you over.
It’s a great idea to have maps of the states you are going through too. You never know when you may have a tech failure or need to plan an alternate route (or Hurricane evacuation if you’re in the Southeast). They give out maps for FREE at welcome centers.
Finally, don’t forget to print off directions if you are headed to an event in your destination city. When we headed to the Georgia/Florida game Saturday, the GPS didn’t recognize “Jaguar Stadium”, but luckily, I was able to use the navigation app on my phone.
Use your friends and family as a resource. Before you leave, ask around to see if they have visited those cities and where you should stop to eat/see while you’re there. We found the best pizza place in Savannah, Vinnie Van Go Go’s on a recommendation from a friend we bumped into on the street in Savannah.
Savannah itself was actually an unplanned stop this weekend. We decided to go into the city for lunch and to walk around a bit. We popped into a hotel and talked with the front desk to find our what was within walking distance that we should see. They we nice enough to give us a highlighted map with some sites to check out. Most hotels are more than willing to give you directions, but keep in mind if you use the concierge, you need to leave a tip!
4. SIT BACK, RELAX, AND ENJOY THE RIDE
This seems counter-intuitive to most roads trips, but don’t take the fastest way there. This often means taking the interstate, which means you miss some of the most beautiful sites and charming towns in America. Consider taking back roads, you never know what you may run across.
One way to get your passengers excited for the trip? Ask each one to make a mix CDs or iPod playlist. If you need to freshen up your own playlists, check iTunes for the latest or top 100 songs or scout out VEVO on YouTube to see what new artists are out this month. My favorites?
Beyoncé’s “End of Time”
Cold Play’s mash-up with Rihanna: “Princess in China”
The most important thing to take with you is a sense of adventure and a willingness to go off the beaten path. You never know what you may find…