Hello, class, and welcome to Vacationing 101. Since I was a young boy, I’ve been driving down to the Florida Panhandle to vacation with my mother’s side of the family. Nowadays, most people just take the plane and make things simple, but not my family! No, we pack up our car and drive the 16-hour drive it is from my house to Perdido Key, Florida, and that’s what we did last Thursday, which inspired me to write about this. So, for all of you out there who take long road trips (and even short ones!), here are some tips and tricks to become a pro!
Section 1: Entertainment
This is probably the most important aspect of the trip because it gives you something to do. Phones, MP3 Players, handheld video game systems, etc… all of these are important items to bring with so you can kill time easily. Being a gamer, it’s very easy for me to kill a couple hours playing a video game. Books are also great, but only if you can read in the car without feeling sick (unlike me).
And that leads me to the second point of this section: power supply. My family uses an inverter that allows us to utilize the car’s battery to charge our devices. This is great for long trips where your service for your phone may drop a couple times and kill your battery or when your MP3 Player is running low on power. They’re relatively cheap, so the investment is definitely worth it. It is absolutely essential for the next part of this section: computers and roaming Internet.
If you’re someone who enjoys to write or have some games on your laptop, then by all means, bring it. However, it’s not that useful if you’re not big on writing or using it to listen to music instead of your MP3 Player or play games, so why else would you bring it? For the Internet, of course! You see, if you root your phone, pay for a wi-fi hotspot service, or have an Internet card, you can enjoy the pleasure of driving along the highway whilst on Facebook and YouTube, watching videos and liking statuses for no reason other than to like them. It’s a great way to kill time – probably one of the best ways since you can spend hours and hours on the Internet. Just make sure your computer and your phone (if you’re using your phone as a hot spot) are plugged in so they don’t run out of battery too quickly.
Section 2: Drinks, Snacks, and You
When it comes to long trips, you’re bound to get hungry and thirsty when you’re on the highway and nowhere near a place to stop for food. When that time comes, it’s good to be prepared; pack non-perishable foods such as granola bars and trail mixes. It’s also good to bring a small cooler filled with some water and other beverages you might want. I wouldn’t pack perishable foods in the cooler because even if you stick a a ton of ice in it, that ice is going to melt and become warm and your perishable food will perish. And try not to pack too much food and drink – unless you’re not planning on stopping for food, of course.
Section 3: Stopping
Everyone has to stop after a few hours in the car to stretch, go to the bathroom, eat, etc…but how much is too much? Well, that depends entirely on when you leave, how much food and drink you’ve packed, and where you’re headed.
As a general rule for long road trips, plan to stop for gas if your car doesn’t have the greatest MPG. You can plan times to eat meals (if you haven’t packed any), stretch, and go to the bathroom around when you think you’ll need gas, which will save time if you’re in a hurry. If you’re making great time, it’s not a bad idea to make separate stops and enjoy some time to eat. And always make sure you have an idea of rest stops along your route so you can stop in case of an emergency. If you’ve packed food and drink for eating meals instead of simply snacking, you don’t really need to plan to eat and focus on when to get gas and go to the bathroom.
Also, I recommend stopping at some of the more scenic rest stops: they’re a great way to keep a road trip interesting!
If you’re taking a short road trip, a lot of this doesn’t really apply because, well, you’ll be at your destination in a few hours, anyway. Of course, if you leave mid-morning, you can stop for a small lunch once it hits noon or 1, and there are always times when you have to stop for something.
Section 4: Sleeping
This is a big one for longer road trips, but the dynamics of it change a little depending on when you leave. If you leave super-early in the morning like me (I left at 4:30 AM for this year’s trip), get some coffee if you’re driving first and switch off every few hours so everyone who has to drive gets some kind of sleep. If you’re the only one driving, get a 5-hour energy or something so you’re not dead by noon. If you leave later in the day and drive through the night, definitely stock up on more than just caffeine, no matter what – you and the others who are driving are going to need it to get through the night.
To actually fall asleep for a reasonable amount of time is somewhat of a challenge. Listening to some soft music is nice, but the crucial part to falling asleep is to become immune to the many sounds and the shaking that comes with driving on the highway. You also have to find a good position that won’t kill your neck, arm, or back when you wake up. This is not easy for some, and very easy for others. For me, it’s a skill I’ve developed over the years of going on this trip. I consider myself a pro. The only tip I have for you is syrup. Every time I eat syrup I get a good 2-3 hours of restful sleep because of the sugar crash that comes with syrup.
Section 5: Packing
Packing. The one thing people love and hate to do. Packing for a road trip is hard because you don’t want to pack too much and you don’t want to pack too little for the actual part where you’re not driving. For clothes, I suggest packing an outfit for every day and a few for going out, and that’s it. No more, no less. If you want to bring some electronics, pack a small backpack for that with all of your little gadgets, books, etc… so you can keep it nearby. Don’t pack too much food and drink, either. It’s important that you have enough room to fit all of your stuff, so once you find that perfect balance and fit everything in, you’re golden.
That’s it for today, class. There’ll be a quiz next Monday before we go over what to do when you finally arrive!