Tuesday, July 26, 2016

10 Tips for Cross Country Roadtrips

I got back on Saturday from a cross country road trip - Portland, OR to Boston, MA with a friend and her dog.  It was my first time doing anything like that (both the driving and the friend vaca!).  Previously, my longest road trip had been 8 hours in one day, which was an hour shorter than our shortest day. I loved getting to see more of the country, and loved having the flexibility of the car, and learned a lot, which I'll hopefully use for my next trip!

1 // Plan ahead, kind of

One of the things that worked really well on my trip was that we scheduled hotels etc about 18-24 hours out.  That way, we could take the previous day into account (long day, short day, any mechanical problems etc), but still have a solid plan for the next day. I would struggle with not knowing where we were sleeping that night, and I'm pretty sure I would have poodled on the last hour or so of driving if we didn't have a stop place already booked.

2 // Eat healthy

This was my biggest regret from the trip.  I was completely sedentary for 5 straight days, and ate crap (fast food, packaged snacks etc) for the first 2 days. I felt awful.  The next day, I nearly cried with joy when we stopped at a gas station that solid fruits and veggies and ended up making a bag of baby carrots dinner. While I'm all for some treats, you'll be miserable if you spend the entire road trip inhaling sugar and chemicals.

3 // Pack carefully

Not clothes necessarily - yoga pants, the whole time, but in the car.  I had a tote bag at my feet in the passenger seat with water, snacks, chargers, a scarf, my book etc, plus my pajamas and toiletry bag.  That meant that, no matter what, I could reach pretty much anything I could need without needing to root around in the bag or disturb the driver. Key for making it 11+ hours.

4 // Have lots of things to listen to

I preloaded podcasts (Savage Love, Revisionist History, Pop Rocket, This American Life etc), made tons of playlists that were available offline and had a few audiobooks queud up.  It was key that we had options - that way, we didn't get too bored. I also loved that both of us had preloaded things, so we were able to swap favorites, introduce some new options and keep it interesting.

5 // Be flexible

My absolute favorite part of the trip was when we decided to get off the interstate and go through Badland National Park. It was gorgeous, and such a nice break from I-90. Having my friend be willing to indulge my bison hunt (success!) and need to photograph every.single.scenic.overlook. And I just got over the fact that her dog needed to be walked and managed and stopped caring that it added time on.  Our trip was a success because both of us were willing to bend.

6 // Have non-negotiables

This may sound counter-intuitive, but have things that we both needed, we were able to frame our trip way more easily. I was not willing to drive late at night, wasn't willing to sleep on a crap bed and didn't want to miss the sights along the way. My friend wasn't willing (obviously) to stay at a dog-friendly hotel, hates hotels without walkable restaurants and wanted to go a certain route. Those frameworks were essential in our planning.

7 // Start early

To a certain extent, this is personality based, as both my friend and I are early risers, but it was amazing for us to get up and on the road before 7, so that even on our longest days, we were in the next hotel by 9 pm, which meant we could decompress and get a good nights sleep.  I suppose if you're better late at night, do the opposite, but I found starting and ending early to be pretty awesome.

8 // Do something fun every day

I regretted not doing this the first day - if there's nothing to break the day up, it's pretty awful.  What the something fun is will differ pretty dramatically, depening on what you like, but find something.  We stopped at this amazing drugstore/general store/cafe/etc one day, Badlands were another, a mini hike another, etc.  They were the best parts of the trip and made it feel like a vacation, rather than an exceptionally long commute.

9 // Get some solo time

Considering we spent between 10 and 14 hours in the car together every day, having alone time at the beginning or end of the day was essential. Typically, we would sort of alternate getting ready, and each of us would nap in the car when the other was driving. Roadtrips can be tough for introverts, but making that a priority for myself really helped.

10 // Have an opinion

The first few days in the car, I really struggled with my friend, because every time I asked what she wanted to listen to or eat, she'd reply "I don't care" or "doesn't matter to me!", which was really hard.  It's not fair to make the other person choose everything - I had decision fatigue by like hour 4.  Have an opinion and make decisions, don't rely on whomever is travelling with you.

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