In case you hadn’t noticed, I am a fan of road trips. There’s something almost romantic about the idea of flying in to a random city, renting a car and exploring the surrounding area. For years, El Hombre and I have found that our departing and returning cities are never the same – and if they are, you better be sure our rental car is still going to have some miles on it.
The way I look at it is, I may not have time to deep dive in to one specific place, but I can always come back if someplace intrigues me enough. We’ve found that Austin, New York, Boston and San Francisco are all cities on that list. As is Spain and Italy.
But over the years, we have also fallen in to a few patterns with our road trips that make them more successful, and I wanted to share these with you:
- Start off big: Meaning, we like to start off in the biggest city on our leg, and then wind down in to the smaller cities. Why? Big cities are cool, but they also can be frantic. If you are just starting your vacation, you are likely more apt to acclimate to the fast pace and then slow down as you go. This is probably the one thing we would have changed about our last trip to Spain. We landed in Malaga, explored several smaller areas and then ended up in Seville. When we got to Seville it was almost a shock because it was so much faster-paced than everywhere else.
- Don’t be afraid to veer off the beaten path or stop along the way: One of the beauties of a road trip is not being tied to the fastest route. Sure, you might get to your next destination a few hours faster, but you also may miss the beauty of rolling countryside. Put it on mute and ignore it. I can’t tell you how many local artisans, general stores and restaurants I’ve stumbled across just by hopping off the highway.
- Pack Snacks: This is even more important if you are pregnant like me, but we always try to pack a few snacks. You never know when you hit a long stretch of road with no stops, or gridlocked traffic. Growing up, my mom would pack sandwiches and fruit. Or she would buy fruit off a local farm stand and peel it for us in the car. Our snacks tend to be water, gatorade, fruit, popcorn, trail mix and sometimes chocolate. After all, no one wants to be hangry on vacation.
- Pick a playlist: My husband is grandfathered in to this ridiculous unlimited data plan so we typically fire up his Spotify and Pandora for our trips. One of the habits we’ve fallen in to is alternating music with comedy. NEVER underestimate the power of comedy when you are stuck in traffic or horrific weather. If we hit a spot where he can’t pick up data, or we just get tired of what we’re listening to, we switch to local radio instead. Usually starting with NPR and then searching for rock music.
- Accept that not everything will go to plan: It’s inevitable. Bad weather happens. Getting lost happens. That road you wanted to explore will be shut down. All these things have happened to us.
On our last trip we didn’t get a lot of stops in on our first day because of rain and tornado warnings. On another trip, we intended to stop in New Hampshire, but it was raining and so foggy we could barely see the road. When we were in Spain, they shut down our main road for construction and we had to get by with a paper map and GPS on our phones (very interesting without data) because the car GPS didn’t register the construction. It’s all part of the adventure and you can’t let it stress you out. You are, after all, on vacation.
Do you have any road trip tips I missed? Feel free to share in the comments!