Between working in Admissions and going on road trips of all kinds, I’ve put in quite a bit of time on the road. And while I’m more than happy to hit the road anytime, anywhere, for any length of time, I know there are lots of people who don’t share that level of enthusiasm for living out of a suitcase away from any sense of normalcy. I totally get that. However, I’ve picked up a few tricks of the trade that aren’t all that clever, but aren’t all that difficult to implement, either. Here are a few travel staples that keep me sane mile after mile and might make your next road trip a bit more enjoyable, too!
1. Start strong
I don’t know what it feels like to wake up with a hangover, but I’m going to guess that it feels similar to waking up after driving hundreds of miles and talking to hundreds of people and living on a steady diet of caffeine and more caffeine. That is to say: it doesn’t feel awesome. Travel season requires a unique version of endurance, an endurance that necessitates the healthiest of healthy starts. And even though I would much rather go through the Panera drive-thru on the way to my first visit and get a Pumpkin Pie bagel with Hazelnut Cream Cheese…I know that the only way I’ll emerge from the morning grog and be prepared to tackle the rest of the day is to start with a take-no-prisoners breakfast of champions.
Enter: my favorite invention since the dawn of time, the travel size single serving blender that turns into a to-go cup.
Hamilton Beach, you have my heart.
This thing is definitively the best. It’s more powerful than my full size blender, it’s quiet, it’s reliable and it’s easy to clean and pack away. Every morning, I fill it with a scoop of vanilla Spirutein protein powder, a scoop of chocolate greens powder, 8 oz of peach mango coconut water (I bought a case so I’d always have one on hand), a few ounces of water, and some ice from the hotel ice machine. It’s so good!!! Not only is it faster/easier/cheaper/healthier than anything I could stop and get on the road, it gets the day off to a great start and keeps me going all day long.
(Also essential to my morning routine: spending quality time with the Lord, alternating between running and yoga/stretching days, and doing something that fills my tank – like scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest, watching Mike & Mike, reading a few blog posts, etc – before I hit the road for the day.)
2. Make your own coffee
Admissions Counselors: Do not drink college fair coffee. It’s black death. Hotel stayers, the same goes for hotel coffee. Especially when it’s so easy to make your own! Before I left I bought a bag of good quality coffee (pumpkin spice…like there’s any other option for fall) that I keep in the bag in an airtight container (to stay fresh and not exposed to light). I use hot water from the hotel to brew it fresh every morning in a travel size french press, but you could just as easily brew it in the hotel room coffee maker, too.
3. Get outside
Seeing the outside from the inside of your car does not count. Use your iPhone or GPS to find a local park and spend a few minutes breathing in fresh air. If you don’t have time to go rogue, get creative. Opt to eat outside instead of inside, walk the perimeter of a rest stop, drive with the windows down – do what you have to do! Something about getting outside makes you feel better about life.
4. Bring along something familiar
If it’s something familiar that makes you laugh, even better. Which is why I bring a season of either Gilmore Girls or Friends with me wherever I go. Sometimes I’ll put an episode on when I’m getting ready in the morning or before I go to bed at night. There’s not time for it every day, but it’s always nice to have the option.
5. Try new foods at new places
I love Panera as much as the next girl, and I will be the first to admit that it’s my most frequent on-the-go stop. But I make it a point to always (always!) scope out a local restaurant and try something new there as often as possible. It’s how I got to try chicken and waffles and banana pudding for the first time in NYC, and how I ended up with life-changing butternut squash pasta for lunch in New Hampshire. It’s not always a home run – I relied on the belief that there would be readily available food options near a fair in Queens last week and ended up eating Cheez-its and a Luna bar for dinner in the backseat of my locked car when I found myself in a less than ideal section of town. But more often than not you’ll be glad you strayed from your comfort zone to try something new. (And to be honest…I really didn’t mind the Cheez-it and Luna bar dinner combo! It wasn’t bad at all!)
6. Bring good reading material
Slowing down for 15 minutes to read a chapter of a book – an actual book, not a book on a computer screen – is one of the best ways to get life to back down to normal speed. I’m not hating on Kindles or iPads or any other helpful electronic invention, but if you are traveling for work, you are likely spending enough time starring at a computer screen as it is. Taking a break is good for your eyes and your soul.
(The book pictured above is Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle and oh my word…it’s such a good read. You’ll find yourself laughing out loud every other sentence, which is also vital to long term survival on the road.)
7. Change up your playlist
People…I am so in love with Songza I can hardly stand it. These developers have gone above and beyond to create a playlist for every need at every occasion. Literally. Need a playlist for curing road rage? How about one for waking up smiling? Or my personal favorite: a playlist to make you feel like every day is game day (!!!). They’ve categorized their playlists based on genres, activities, moods, decades, and cultures…and have even gone so far as to provide a concierge – when you open the site or the app, it knows what day and time it is, and suggests playlist based on what you might be doing (driving to work, studying, making dinner, etc).
This is the thing travelers want to do least but need to do most…because if you are going to be sitting all the time and eating food that comes from windows and have your hormones all in a riot from lack of sleep and no schedule and the stress that accompanies following the purple line on the GPS, working out will help you not gain the weight of a small child. However, you wouldn’t think that spending all day driving and talking would be so exhausting, but for whatever reason, it is. And when you pull into your hotel at dark thirty at night and have to leave again at dark thirty the next morning…the prospect of working out at either of those times isn’t all that enticing.
Which is why I love Seven.
It’s a scientifically developed 7-minute workout for maximum impact in minimum time. If you workout regularly, you probably won’t find the workout terribly challenging, but it’s just challenging enough to make you feel the difference. And, there’s always the option of doing it a few times in a row or once in the morning and once at night. I know I feel better about life when I run and do something for flexibility, so I do that in the mornings and do this workout at night. I love it because it eliminates all of my excuses – it’s a free app, I can easily do the workout in a hotel room (no equipment required), and there is no reason why I can’t spend 7 minutes working out before I go to bed. If I wasn’t spending 7 minutes working out, I’d be spending 7 minutes watching SportsCenter or checking my email or eating a late night snack. I have the time. And I know I’m more apt to actually spend it working out when I know that from start to finish (changing clothes to cooling down) I’ll be done in 10 minutes, tops.
9. Take time out to reflect
Whether you journal or blog or take pictures or just think over the day for a few minutes before going to bed, don’t let the days on the road fly by unnoticed and unappreciated. They go by so fast as it is that it’s really easy to let them all blur together as one big memory and forget all the little special things that happen every day. You’ll enjoy the trip so much more if you take a few minutes out to create memories of the journey.
And bonus tip #10, especially if you wear heels (and, while we’re on the subject, how do you people do it for hours on end?!): always keep comfortable clothes and shoes within a reachable distance. Always. The other day I ordered a meal at a restaurant in work clothes and went to the bathroom to change into the comfortable driving clothes I had stuffed into my purse before it came out. Needless to say, the waiter was confused when he came back to the table. It’s like the backwards version of Superman and the phone booth.
Ok guys, your turn to chime in. Any good travel tips to share? Shout them out in the comments!