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The first trip Alex and I took together was to North Carolina. We left at 3 in the morning – because we decided on the trip at 2:30 AM. As someone who loves plans and schedules, it was a new experience – heading randomly to a new place on a whim, no plan in mind other than getting there and enjoying ourselves.
6 years later we still take pretty random road trips. While these days we tend to plan out the date better, the where and when we leave are still often last minute road trips. From leaving for Austin while 8 weeks pregnant (not recommended, the morning sickness!!) to doing it again with two kids to the last minute decision to do Disney, we love to take long, unplanned road trips.
Having done it a few times by now, I feel like I’ve learned quite a bit about last minute road trips – from how to do with without losing your mind to how it make an 18-hour car ride surprisingly enjoyable. Today, I am sharing all of my secret tips to taking last minute road trips!
How to Take Last Minute Road Trips
Perfect your road trip outfit.
I genuinely think that the key to an enjoyable long road trip is the perfect outfit. There is nothing worse than driving for any length of time in an uncomfortable outfit. You’ll be squirming, readjusting, and cursing the evil person who designed those torture devices they call ‘pants’ the whole trip. Choosing a road trip outfit is relatively simple – comfortable, lightweight, and durable. I usually go the legging or yoga pants and a looser t-shirt for general drives or a maxi skirt and a tank if we’re going somewhere warm. Also make sure that you have a sweatshirt, a change of comfy clothes, and a top for warmer weather on hand and accessible before you leave. There is nothing worse than digging through your suitcase on the shoulder of a highway looking for your hoodie when your husband is cranking up the A/C too high. Not that that’s ever happened to me or anything.
Learn to pack quickly and lightly.
This may just be the result of having a minimalist husband, but learning to pack in a short amount of time and without a million bags is huge – it will relieve you of so much of your travel stress! Make sure you pack a pillow for the car ride as well as all of your necessary chargers but remember that worst case scenario, you can grab an extra shirt while you’re away. I tend to pack our entire family into one giant laundry basket – it’s easy to see everything, big enough for the whole family, and gives me a limit of what I can pack. If it’s just for the weekend, I like to pack everything into my giant diaper bag – that way I can take everything out when we arrive and use the bag for outings.
A killer playlist.
I was taught at a young age that a great playlist can make the difference between a successful road trip and a total pain. Even if you have a radio station you adore, chances are you’ll lose connection at some point during your trip and you’ll be stuck surfing static. The key to a great road trip playlist is to actually create TWO playlists. One is chill, relaxed music you love. Think love songs, acoustic versions of your favorite – that kind of stuff. This is for when it’s background music or you just want to chill out. The second is your no-skip jam out playlist – full of all of your favorite songs that put a pep in your step, make you happy, make you want to dance. You know the songs – the kind that you blast when your windows are down on a nice day or that you have a kitchen dance party to. This playlist is for when you need to get pumped up – when you first leave and you’re super excited, when you need a little extra push and are questioning your sanity, or when you’re starting to feel drowsy.***
[RELATED: 70+ Kid-Friendly Songs You Won’t Hate ]
Research on the way.
Even if you for whatever reason know exactly what you’re going to do, see, and eat when you get to your destination, you still have to research where to stay, stops along the way, and where the next turn is. The passenger’s job is to be the navigator – supply directions (via Google Maps, obvi), find clean bathrooms, and the best coffee stops. While driving, research the are you are hoping to stop – what fun things will be going on around then? Check out blogs to find can’t miss things and peruse Yelp to find the food only locals know about. If you’re going somewhere touristy, check out what sites like Travel Channel or Serious Eats have to say.
Be willing for plans to shift and change.
The reality is, even if you planned out a vacation well in advance, plans change. Weather shifts, events get canceled, you decide halfway there that the drive is too long – it happens. While it’s important to be flexible when traveling, period, it’s even more important when taking last minute road trips. Being open to change can open up opportunities to experience awesome things and make for memorable trips.
A partner who loves to drive.
Okay, so this is kind of a joke but also not – part of the reason that Alex and I work together as a couple is because he loves to drive and I love to sit in cars. It definitely helps to make road trips easier to have someone who loves to drive.
The Best Road Trip Snacks.
A stash of great snacks can be the tipping point of a great last minute road trip. This can be especially true if you or your co-captain get hangry. (me) Make sure you stop to grab your favorite road trip snacks before you get on the road – something salty, something sweet, something you can munch on, and some tasty drinks – bonus points for caffeine. If you grab snacks before you go, you’ll spend so much less money than you will at the rest stops along the way that are ridiculously overpriced, meaning more money for tchotchkes and good food.
***Note: Although we are kind of nutzo crazy and have driven through the night more than a few times, make sure you always drive safely. Driving while extremely tired is actually even more dangerous than driving drunk. (as confirmed by Mythbusters here) Please do not drive when you’re exhausted – take breaks, switch drivers, etc etc.
Okay so tell me – do you like taking road trips? What’s your favorite summer destination? What was your favorite road trip to date? Let me know in the comments!
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