Updated! Leg 2 of our road trip is almost done and I added a few more items below as we learned some more tricks on the road!
My husband and I are about to spend the next 3-4 months on the road, living out of our car. With the first part of our road trip complete, I figured I’d share some of the tips and tricks that worked for us. So far we’ve driven through 10 states on the way from Washington to Alabama, and then spent the next 8 weeks visiting 4 other states on the weekends. Now we’re driving back to Washington, taking some time to sightsee in Texas, California and Nevada. After we get back to Washington, we’re going to be packing up and moving, so life on the road is going to be the norm for us from now through the summer!
Here’s a few random road trip tips- if I can help even one person, I’ll consider it a success! Seeing the country from the car window is a once in a lifetime experience (actually for us, it’ll be our second and third time seeing it) but it never gets old. There’s just so much out there in this great country of ours to see and experience, and we are so lucky to get to do so!
My first tip is my favorite- plan out your route and find some fun things to see along the way by using the Roadside America website. It is your “Guide to Uniquely Odd Tourist Attractions” and it lists all the fun, quirky things you can see along the way. I love it because it gives you a chance to see something you may have never dreamed of (and a chance to get out and stretch your legs!).
You can find things such as Cadillac Ranch, in Amarillo, TX:
Parts of Historic Rt 66:
Giant talking Paul Bunyon and Babe, just outside of the Redwood Forest in California:
World’s Largest Radio Flyer wagon in Spokane, WA:
Huge marine creatures representing souvenir shops in Biloxi, MS:
And the Wigwam Motel, in Holbrook, AZ, home to the town that inspired the town of Radiator Springs in the Disney movie, Cars.
As you can see, the stranger the better!
My next tip comes from my husband– get an Atlas. Yes, they still sell them! We found ours in the magazine/book section of our local grocery store. I know everyone has a GPS, most phones have them, but you might travel through areas with little to no cell reception, and having an atlas can help you. Plus, we found it kind of fun to use. We actually left our GPS at home and used the atlas only- it was great! Bonus- if you have kids, use it as a lesson in geography, map skills, math and more!
It can be hard to keep the car organized, but I love my next tip! I got these two Case Logic 9 Pocket Garage Organizers and a cheap set of bungee cords at the dollar store and attached them to the back of the two front seats. Inside I put anything that we might need access to that could easily get lost in the car: tissues, hand sanitizer, my travel emergency kit (click link to see what’s in it), the extra bungee cords (which I’ll talk about below), baby wipes, paper towels, a bag of plastic utensils (which came in handy more than once!), an umbrella, the water bottle for the dog, and some doggie treats. The second organizer is on the back of the passenger seat and it is full of our snacks (see below).
The set of bungee cords came with 6 cords, and I only used a few to rig up the organizer, so I threw the extra two in one of the pocket. Turned out, they came in handy – a few minutes after getting on the road, my husband turned onto the highway, and our coolers, which were carefully perched on top of the box of dog food came tumbling down – bungee cords to the rescue! I corralled them by attaching the cords to the back of the front seat and to one of the suitcases in the back. They didn’t move for the rest of the trip.
My husband said I went overboard on the snacks, but he didn’t seem to complain when I always had something to tide us over between meals! Our favorites included:
Water (we froze a few bottles each night at our stop so we had cold water all day)
Pringles (I know they’re not the best option, but in their little tubes, they travel extremely well!)
Goldfish (I cleaned out the plastic creamer containers to keep the goldfish from spilling everywhere)
Yogurt (frozen the day before and used as ice in our cooler)
Cookies (after stopping for lunch/dinner, we always needed something sweet)
Fresh cut celery/carrots (in the cooler) and Jiff Individual Peanut Butter Packs (they have many different varieties)
I can’t let the snack section go by without mentioning the Fiber One 90 Calorie Brownies or Coffee Cake Bars. Each bar is only 90 calories and is packed with fiber and protein – they’re like eating dessert! I am not normally one for those low calorie snacks that taste horrible (or anything with artificial sweeteners), but these are seriously delicious. Plus, they saved us on more than one occasion when a breakfast wasn’t readily available – they held us over until we were able to find something.
I also packed pretzels, granola bars, almonds, and our favorite- Cheez Its.
My husband did most of the driving, so to help pass the miles, I brought a few things to help prevent boredom. I can crochet or cross stitch, as they’re both very portable craft projects. On the first leg of our road trip (which was only 5 days) we memorized all the states and capitols. Our road trip back is going to be 18 days, so we are going to start learning the countries and capitols of the world. To do so, I made flashcards, but I know there are apps out there to make virtual flashcards!
All those miles and hours in the car makes for a great time to just talk. During my husbands first deployment, we got into the habit of asking each other the “random question of the day” – just little fun questions to get to know each other better. There are lots of websites with tons of random questions – find some and print them out to bring with you. There are also “would you rather” lists and apps – these can spark some great conversations! Our favorite is Would You Rather.
Last, I packed a Rubix Cube – my husband can solve it in a matter of minutes, and I’m almost to the point of learning how to solve the entire cube. I know those long highway miles will be good for learning those last few steps! Rubix Cube even has an app for teaching you the moves/steps for solving- it makes it so easy to learn! If you are going to buy a cube, I recommend the V-Cube – It is not the “official” cube, but it moves so smoothly to make solving it so much easier! They also have a 2×2 cube as well, which would be perfect for younger children!
We didn’t use this final tip on this trip, but this summer when we move, we’re driving in separate cars, and I know I’ll take advantage of it – get yourself a book on tape! Listening to the same songs over and over on the radio can get old! A book on tape will help change that up and maybe cross one of those books off of your “to read” list. Audible.com has a great selection and even lets you pick your first book for free! Your local library should have some as well, and Cracker Barrel stores have an awesome program where you can “rent” the book from one store and drop it off at the next.
Those are my best tips for now, but seeing as we’re about to head out this week for an 18 day trip back, I’ll be sure to update with anything new I can think of! What are your favorite road trip tips?