I love a good road trip, that is no secret. I have discussed the elements of a good road trip and we have talked about some of our favorites including an three-day Oregon Coast road trip and an epic road trip through the South. But even if you enjoy a good road trip the way we do, that does not mean every mile is exciting…especially if your road trip begins at home where you may have to cover familiar ground (yet again) to get to somewhere new. There are times the scenery is less than beautiful. There are times monotony settles in. There are times you are stopped because of construction. To combat these less-than-exciting times while driving down the road, I have put together some unique tips for your next road trip to help keep things interesting.
Learn something new
When it comes to navigation, well, we all pretty much stick to our phones these days. I do recommend you keep a map or atlas around for backup. But they are also useful for looking at what is nearby (e.g. mountain ranges, cities and towns, reservoirs and lakes, etc.) and help inform you about the area you are driving through.
If you want to take it to the next level, we have a tip for your next road trip: pack a book about the area. This could be historical or geological or cultural. There are many good options out there.
A few years ago, our friend C gave us a copy of “Idaho for the curious.” We’ve talked about this book before, but it deserves another mention. It is an oldie but a goodie. Although it is not entirely accurate these days, we actually read it for the history. It is or organized by highway. So as you are driving along, you can read about the history of the area you are driving through.
I have no doubt there are similar resources and books for other states, countries and regions. You may have to do some research. Go to the library. Talk to a local. But if you put in a little legwork, as you drive along, it is a delight to learn something new about the history of the area you are driving through.
Note: if the road is windy and you get car sick, reading may have to be put on hold until the road evens out.
Pack a picnic
Snacks are a road trip must have. Do not leave home without your favorite munchies and be sure to bring enough to share.
If you are looking to take your snacking to the next level, I recommend trying out a theme or unique packaging. On a recent road trip, I was tasked with preparing the food. The timing of Friday night’s dinner came just an hour or so after we got on the road. Since we would not be anxious or ready to stop and eat at a restaurant, a “sack lunch” made the most sense. I decided to try something fun and different: I put our meal in picnic baskets and added a gingham handkerchief.
This was not remotely necessary, but it was fun and I enjoyed preparing our Friday night picnic. There are loads of themes you could try. A couple I found include:
- Fish food, which means snacks in the shape of fish (e.g. Goldfish crackers and Swedish Fish) or a tackle box filled with different kinds of candy.
- Weird chip flavors courtesy of Lays and their offerings like fried green tomatoes and crispy taco.
- A collection of snacks and candy that are packaged or colored the same (i.e. all red snacks or all green snacks). You could do a color each day of the road trip.
Just get creative! And maybe use Google.
Consider your beverage options
Hydration is important and you will want to pack some water. I will admit that finding the balance between staying hydrated on a road trip and not having to stop every hour to use a WC is something I have yet to master. But I keep working on it.
Rather than sticking to plain old tap water (or maybe in addition to a reliable water bottle filled with plain old tap water), I recommend choosing a beverage or two that is fun. Maybe something unique or something you would not normally choose to drink. I am currently obsessed with Topo Chico and I find it makes a fun road trip beverage. No, the miles do not feel shorter when I drink it. But it is more fun than plain water.
Warning: stay away from fun alcoholic beverages for obvious reasons. Alcohol and road trips do not mix.
Get local with your podcasts and tunes
While we were driving through the Faroe Islands, R turned on a podcast about fly fishing in the Faroe Islands. It was fascinating and made even more interesting by the fact that we were driving through or near the areas they were talking about in the podcast. Not all podcasts are winners but I think even a mediocre podcast is made more interesting if you are experiencing the location in person at that moment.
When it comes to tunes, I suggest creating a fun playlist. This is actually something I keep meaning to get better at because there are so many possibilities.
You could create a playlist with songs that feature the area you are exploring. Texas and California probably have the most to offer with this kind of playlist. You could put a playlist together with songs from artists who are from the area you are exploring. I know we played a lot of Jason Isbell when we were rolling through Alabama. We particularly liked listening to his “Alabama Pines” song.
You could create a playlist with a theme like favorite soundtracks, Christmas (duh), songs about rain, favorite covers, weirdest covers, etc. You could listen to a new album all the way through. R has some friends who like to make a game of it: one will create the playlist and the other has to guess the theme. Really, the possibilities are endless. But you are going to have to do a little work up front, which is usually where I drop the ball.
Bring something to do
I like to crochet. C knits. On our last road trip, we both brought projects. She was knitting away in the front seat trying to finish a dress for her friend’s new baby and I was working on an Etsy order that involved wooden blocks and glue. Poor R was stuck chauffeuring.
If you have got a craft or two that is easily transportable and okay to work on in a moving vehicle, bring it along. It helps to pass the time when the scenery is familiar or monotonous. Again, if the road in windy, you may have to put the crafting on hold.
Read and reminisce
Reading a book on a road trip is not unique or new. Reading a journal however, now that seems just weird enough to be entertaining. No wants to hear me read about my family drama or my day job. But previous trips? Yeah, those can be fun to read.
I sometimes grab a travel journal or two and read excerpts to R. They are full of memories and it is a lot of fun to reminisce about previous trips as we roll down the road. Since reminiscing is an important part of the travel experience, a road trip gives us a chance to make the most of that third stage.
There you have it, a few unique tips for your next road trip. If you do not enjoy a good road trip to begin with, I am not sure how much these tips will make a difference. But I figure it does not hurt to try. And for those of you that enjoy putting some miles on your car, these unique tips may take your road trip to the next level. Drive safe!