Road tripping is one of the very best ways to travel. It’s flexible, relatively affordable, and fun. You’re in total control of your destination and pace — and let’s not forget the simple exhilaration that you can only find while zipping down the wide-open road.
But even for the most enthusiastic drivers among us, all those miles can really start to add up. And they don’t just take a toll on your vehicle. Sitting in cramped quarters can lead to cricked necks and aching backs; living off gas station food can leave our bodies feeling weak and heavy.
But that doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dream of cruising around our country on the highway! Here are seven simple tips that will help you stay comfortable, energized, and ready to fully enjoy the road trip of a lifetime.
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1. Wear comfortable clothing.
It might sound obvious, but judging by how many people stroll around travel plazas and truckstops in high heels and neckties, it seems like not everyone got the memo. (Unless, perhaps, all of those dressed-up people are on their way to work!)
If you’re planning on sitting in a car for six or eight hours, there’s no need to dress to impress. I mean, who are you going to run into at Dunkin Donuts, the pope? Plus, getting gussied up may well ruin what would otherwise be a perfectly enjoyable journey. If you’re in tight, restrictive, or itchy clothing, every bump in the road is that much worse.
That’s why the very first step to cruising in comfort is dressing the part. Sweat or yoga pants will probably do the trick just fine, and sundresses were made for summer car rides — as long as you don’t have leather seats. Ouch!
2. Bring healthy snacks.
Even though gas station convenience stores are increasingly offering relatively healthy, refrigerated options, they’re hugely overpriced… and not actually as fresh as what you could bring from home. And besides, there are only so many carrot sticks and rubbery hard-boiled eggs a person can stand, and that’s assuming you choose them in the first place. It can be tough to stick to your resolutions while being tempted by the soda, chips, and candy just one aisle over.
Save your wallet and your waistline — and avoid that inevitable mid-afternoon sugar crash — by stocking up on fresh, healthy food for the road before you go. Try fresh-popped popcorn, healthy nuts like almonds and cashews, and fruit. If you bring a cooler, you can snack on yogurt, cold cuts, fresh veggies dipped in hummus… the only limit is your imagination (and belly)!
And, psst: don’t forget to bring your own bottle of water! Otherwise, you risk paying super pumped-up convenience store prices. Bringing your own is also better for Mother Earth. Win-win.
3. Sit up straight!
Although sitting for long periods of time isn’t the best thing for your body no matter how you do it, you’ll compound your discomfort ten-fold if you slouch, slump, or fall asleep with your neck crunched up all weirdly.
Although you’ll inevitably shift around as the trip progresses, the best bet for staying comfortable during an extended seated period is to do just that: sit. With your legs down and your back straight and your arms by your sides or in your lap. If you’re lucky enough to have reclining seats in your vehicle, you might lay it back and try to catch a few Z’s while it’s someone else’s turn to drive — but even then, simply lie on your back if possible, or use a travel pillow to help support your head.
4. Bring home with you.
You know how to make a road trip really comfortable? By bringing a portable kitchen and bathroom with you for the ride. Access to those creature comforts can put a very quick stop to the “Are we there yet?” problem!
Yes, I’m talking about RVing. And if you think you can’t afford to rent an RV, think again.
Although the high prices you see quoted by dealerships may be outside of your budget, there’s an alternative option you might not have considered yet.
A little bit like Airbnb for RVs, RVshare is a thriving peer-to-peer marketplace for RV rentals. It helps match private RV owners with trustworthy renters — like you! — so they can earn extra money when their rigs would otherwise be sitting empty. Since these RVs are owned by actual, regular people (who don’t have to front the overhead cost of running a business), they’re usually available at a fraction of the cost a traditional rental facility might ask. Better yet, since they’re generally family RVs that are well-loved and lived-in, your rental will likely be decked out with all the comforts of home, including accouterments and decor. All you have to do is load up the family and go!
5. Prepare your music ahead of time.
If you’ve ever gone on an extended drive in the great American west, you might be familiar with a very specific and strange kind of fear.
It’s what happens when you press the “seek” button on your radio, and, since you’re out of range of even a single station, it simply loops again and again… until it suddenly explodes into sound when you drive into proximity a few minutes later, after you’ve forgotten you were looking. Cue the heart-pounding (and possibly swerving)!
If you want to avoid this fate — or alternative fates, including listening to the same record or playlist 10 times, burning through your cell phone’s data plan by streaming on Spotify, or even arguing over who has control of the radio in the first place — it’s a good idea to get into the vehicle with a wide range of music prepared and available. This could be your stellar CD collection or a few well-chosen playlist downloaded onto your mobile device. But no matter what, make sure you’ve got something for everyone. There’s nothing like being a captive audience to music you can’t stand. Don’t put your road trip buddies through that torture!
6. Stretch every chance you get.
Even if you’re dead-set on getting where you’re going as quickly as possible, you’ll probably need to stop for gas and bathroom breaks. And when you do, you should get out and stretch — even if you don’t need to go inside the gas station for any reason.
Trust me, your body will thank you when you arrive at your destination. Who wants to wake up on the first day of their vacation feeling sore and stiff?
7. Don’t forget your shades!
Whether you’re driving into the sunrise in the east or the setting sun in the west, or facing down the glare of Florida’s summer or Montana’s snow, sunglasses can be a lifesaver on a road trip. Better yet, they’ll totally hide the fact that you’ve nodded off while it’s your friend’s turn to drive.