The annual family road trip is a tradition engrained in the American dream. But the romance fades pretty quickly as you edge into the third hour on the freeway. Here are some guidelines for making a lengthy road trip more bearable, and maybe even fun.
Plan it Right – Make sure that you are leaving with plenty of time to reach your destination. You want to allow for lots of bathroom snack, breaks and refueling runs. You will be less likely to stop to stretch or switch drivers if you are crunched for time.
Sleep on it – The best tool in your road trip toolbox is a good night’s sleep. You should be well-rested before embarking on your journey, and this goes for resting along the way, too. Consider planning your hotel stays in advance so that you have a room waiting for you at the end of an 8-hour drive.
Share the load – If you have another driver in the car, put them to good use. A couple of hours behind the wheel can cause muscle fatigue, especially if you don’t have cruise control. Make a plan to switch the driver at a certain city so that you aren’t insisting you’re still ‘good to go’. Stick to the plan and let each driver have a chance to stretch out and relax before the next shift.
Pit Stops are Your Friend – Don’t get obsessed with ‘making good time’. The best time is the one you have on the journey, and there is nothing more important than staying alert and focused on road. Stop every hour or two; at least to stretch or grab a snack. You may be surprised at the new places you find along the way.
Snacking on the Road – While we wouldn’t advise eating a hearty meal behind the wheel, it is a good idea to have something to nibble on. Healthy snacks like trail carrots, mix and bananas are easy to eat on-the-go, and provide the kind of nutrients you need. Avoid anything that will send you on a sugar crash; it’s not worth the initial high.
Put the Kids on Auto Pilot: While road games are fun, a really long drive can make for cranky kids. Make sure you’ve got plenty of activities and books onboard so that each child has some personal time to themselves. Interacting with the same people for 400 miles can be grating, even for a kindergartener. Along this vein, a portable DVD player and personal gaming devices can be a life saver, and don’t forget the headphones.
Stack the Jukebox – Listening to your favorite songs can make the ride seem a lot shorter. Try tuning your iPod or satellite radio in to some talk programs or comedy. You can even download audio books onto your music player and listen to a book that you’ve never had time to read.
Avoid soda and energy drinks that are loaded down with lots of sugar, though avoid Sugary Drinks – Bring water and juices. Drinking plenty of water will not only keep you hydrated and healthy, it will also make you stop more often for bathroom breaks… another opportunity to stretch those muscles!