Road Trip 101: Tips for the newly wanderlust

I’m not a full time traveler. Alas, I’m a desk jockey 9 to 5er and my husband has to good of a job to be one of those lucky few who quit their jobs, sell everything they own, by a van and call the road home …  Who knows maybe someday?

But we are a firm believer in “work to live, not live to work” and the mileage on our vehicles proves that. You know you drive a lot when coworkers stop asking you “Got any plans this weekend?” and start asking “So are you staying in the state this weekend?” Yep, we are quite the team, my husband loves to go for LONG drives, I love sightseeing and taking photos and Butters is the ultimate road trip dog, heck even my cat didn’t complain on the 24 hour drive from Idaho to Oklahoma!

So I get asked quite a bit by loved ones and even people we meet out on the road … “How do you kids do it?!”

One word: Practice … lots and lots of practice.

So here’s a few tips I’ve learned along the way (literally) and thought my first post should be directed to those who are just starting out! Enjoy!

Road Trip “Survival” Kit:

  • Water: It sounds basic but most people think I’m not going to drink a lot so I won’t have to pee so often. However, it’s a great way to stay awake and honestly, that’s what rest stops are made for! I would suggest getting a water bottle that’s good at keeping things cool, I personally use a 40 oz. Hydro Flask. They’re a little pricier than your average water bottle but they work incredibly at keeping things cold or warm! My husband and I each have our own 40 oz and Butters has her own 30 oz. Nalgene bottle (yes it’s one of the cool ones that has stickers from everywhere she’s been, come on now). We bring these everywhere we go, even if it’s for a day trip, because the last thing you want to worry about if there’s an emergency is running out of water.
  • Grub: I’m a huge fan of trail mix but not just regular ol’ GORP I love to make my own fun and tasty mixes by shopping in bulk bins from places such as WINCO and creating my own big bag of road trip fuel. Snacks are a great way to help stay awake on those long hauls. We frequent overnight drives to California quite often and we’ve only survived thanks to trail mix and gummi  bears. Yep, splurge you health nuts, splurge! I always pick up a bag of gummies because yes they’re high in sugar but not too bad in calories seeming as how you can easily moderate how many you eat and THEY DON’T MELT! Some other snacks that are frequently in our travel bags are pretzels, fruits, veggies, peanuts and always some sort of energy drink. I know they’re not the greatest for you but when there’s no coffee shop in sight in the middle of barren Nevada a Red Bull looks pretty dang good.
  • Comfy clothes: As a girl this is golden: workout pants or leggings. Why did I not think of this before? Nobody can be comfy in skinny jeans for more than 8 hours so don’t wear them if you don’t have too. I’m a huge fan of workout pants for road trips, they’re comfy for lounging around in the passenger seat, not too constrictive when you’re the driver and best yet they’re the best for exploring! I am normally in sandals or sheepskin boots depending on the season but I’ve learned through the years of traveling with my husband if he’s wearing his walking shoes or hiking boots I better bring mine too. I’ve been burned to many times by spontaneous hiking spots to not bring them! So ride in comfort but be prepared to go exploring at your next stop!
  • Book: I’m not a huge fan of reading in the car, I’d rather be looking at the scenery outside but I do always have travel or tourism books in my car and I would suggest getting a book for your area. Even though we live in Idaho we have tourism books for Idaho in our travel car! It’s a great way to read about the area and find fun places you may have not known were there. You won’t always have reception to Google things…
  • Chargers: Let’s be honest as a society we panic when our beloved cell phones die so make sure to pack a car charger but a tip I’ve learned is to not only put the phone down but to place it on airplane mode. This will help you put the phone down and keep it down, no notifications = no distractions. Look out the window not at the screen.
  • Music? : Honestly, I rarely listen to music while on a road trip. Luckily for us my husband and I are big talkers and we can spend hours in a car talking about a range of subjects. We got engaged while on a road trip, we negotiated while buying our house from the road, we’ve discussed where we want to live on the road, our lives revolve around being on the road. BUT if that’s just not your style I suggest creating a “road trip mix” filled with songs that are somewhat upbeat and fuel your wanderlust spirit … might I suggest “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson?
  • Old school map or Atlas: Again this goes along with the less technology the better and for a great read! I love looking at a big mountain out my window and wondering what it’s called then flipping open my atlas and Tada, there’s my answer! Plus I love the feeling of a map in my hands, don’t you?!
  • Clean Car = Happy Car: A trash bag, towels and wet wipes can become your best friend. I have a bit of an OCD problem, I can’t relax until my house is clean and the same thing goes for my car. So we always have some sort of plastic bag as a makeshift trash can, wet wipes when you just can’t find a bathroom to wash your hands at that time and towels. Yep when you travel with a dog no matter the size, they tend to get dirty.
  • Stop at Rest Stops/ Points of Interest: Hey you see those signs on the road that say historical marker or point of interest, yah use those. It’s a great way to stretch your legs and expand your mind. There’s a lot to be learned about an area just by driving through it … and hint hint most of those places just may have a restroom or grass spot for your furry travelers!
  • Eat Like a Local: We have a strict rule when on the road, fast food at a minimum. I know when you’re driving through the middle of nowhere and you can only find those golden arches still open at 1 a.m. you can’t help it. But if you can try to eat at mom and pop places! A) It supports the local economy instead of some big wig in NYC B) They taste better! and C) you feel like you’ve experienced the place more. I’m  a firm believer in Yelp! it’s a great app to read reviews about places or just throw caution to the wind and give that hole in the wall a try! It just might become your next “must have stop”!
  • Furry traveler goods: Butters is with us on 99.9% of our road trips so she has her own travel bag that is filled with things such as her water bottle and travel bowl, two days worth of food (just in case), her leash, harness, poo bags (YAY!), a quiet chew toy just in case she gets bored such as an elk antler chew and a blanket. Small dogs, especially dachshunds love to cuddle in blankets and I’ll be honest I love to cuddle her too.
  • Last but most certainly not least. Your camera: After all this is a travel photography blog. I always have my camera with me, no matter where I’m going and those random unplanned drives have led me to some of my favorite photos such as the one used on this page. It was just a random Sunday drive that led us to Highway 75 that goes along the Sawtooth Mountains here in Idaho, if I didn’t bring my camera I wouldn’t be able to capture this memory and be able to look back on it and miss the open road during my work week. If you’re like me and have multiple lenses and a tripod I suggest getting a good sturdy bag to carry them in. It’ll make you less worried about damaging them in transport and again I like my car organized.

Well I hope you found this helpful and sparked your desire to pack up the car and hit the road! Feel free to leave any other tips and comments you’ve learned while out exploring so we can learn from each other.

Happy Travels!


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