By now, we have logged six cross-country road trips over the past two tours (two more trips to go this season!) We have driven over 30,000 miles in two different vans all over the country. We can clock up to 18 hours of driving in a day if we need to. We’ve got the “Road Trip” down. Usually, when you think ‘cross-country road trip,’ images of feet hanging out the window and hair blowing over crisp sunglasses float into your vision. The romantic idea of ‘road tripping’ blinds you from the realities of being in a car for entire days on end. The glamour disappears after a few hours, and it’s far, far gone after the third or fifth trip across Kansas. See below how we make long hauls as easy and enjoyable as possible.
Podcast and Audiobook Life Hack
We devour podcasts and audiobooks on long drives. We’re currently on book five of Harry Potter, the narrator is enchanting, HIGHLY recommended. What we didn’t realize until a few trips across the country, is you can sign up with your public library and browse and download their audiobook selection FOR FREE. Our library, Denver Public Library, partners with the Overdrive app to download new titles. The only catch is the most popular titles usually have a waiting list. A few weeks before your big trip, get on the waiting list for the books you’re looking forward to. By the time you get on the road, they will pop up in your library.
Bird food and Human food
Clearly, everyone needs snacks when road tripping. We try to stay away from high sugar, low protein options and opt for what we call “bird food.” Seeds, nuts, and dried fruits are all go-to’s. To get a little fancier, find higher protein snacks like beef jerky or our personal favorite, deli meat cucumber sandwiches. Cut up those cucs and use them as sandwich ends for turkey and ham.
When we need human food, we search “fast-casual” along our route using google maps. They’ve FINALLY updated the app to where you can “search along route” AND they give you the added time of making that stop. Avoid fast food at all costs, this “fast casual” search pulls up those in between restaurants that won’t take precious road time away, but still offer higher quality food. Chipotle is our go to because they are reliable and you can get a relatively healthy meal. Also, margaritas.
Stretch it Out
We are forced to stretch it out because we have a dog, but this tip should be followed by dog parents and non-dog parents alike. Every gas station stop, get out of the car, use the bathroom, walk to the nearest grass (even if it’s a haul) and take a few laps. Your body will thank you at the end of the day. Even just a little bit of movement throughout the day can alieve symptoms of sitting for hours.
This “stretch it out” applies to longer stops as well. We like to stop at State Parks close to the highway and go on a mile or two-mile walk/hike to get the blood moving and break up the hours on the road. Often there is an entry fee for State Parks but think of the four dollars as a deposit in the healthy body bank, and a guarantee of quality trails with accurate distances.
After State Parks, our next choice is weird roadside attractions. These are harder to find than you think, and also are usually farther off the route then you want to drive. It is a delicate balance between the coolness of attraction, and time it takes to get to. Have a conference with your travel mates and figure out where everyone’s priorities lay.
Timing and Navigation
Google Maps doesn’t budget in time for gas stops, bathroom breaks, or seeing the largest ball of yarn twenty minutes off your route. Always, always, add in an extra few hours a day for miscellaneous happenings. We prefer to drive in daylight for safety and views (except in Kansas). Because of that, we hustle in the morning to get on the road, and then have time to decompress in the evenings when we make it to our destination.
We use google maps on a phone held up with a NiteIze Steelie windshield kit for navigation. Allowing the driver to see the directions in a safe place really helps with staying on track and minimizing wrong turns. When we’re out of service or want to go old school, we use the Adventure Road Atlas atlas from National Geographic. To keep phones and other devices charged, we use an inverter. This one has served us well and lasted through the miles.
Boring Safety Things
Throughout the trip check your tire pressure, check your oil, and make sure your vehicle is in good running order. These are the boring things that make a road trip run smoothly. Take the few extra minutes at a gas station to fill up on air and you save yourself hours down the road with a flat. Make sure you have enough windshield wiper fluid for both summer and winter driving. These are things we didn’t think about a few years ago, but now that we are on the road constantly, we know a little bit of effort early can save a lot of trouble in the future. Stay safe out there!
Please comment with any tips or your own, or questions. We love to hear feedback both good and bad. Any other long-distance travelers out there? Let’s meet up and have some company on the road!
There is one way for this tour to be a reality, our sponsors! Sending a thank you shout out to our title sponsor Nite Ize, and all of our other awesome sponsors like Crazy Creek, National Geographic, Sea to Summit, Mountain House, Lowe Alpine, Old Town, Leki, HydraPak, UCO Gear and Wenzel. If you like the gear that keeps us groovin’ click here to enter for a chance to win our Grand Gear Giveaway!