Tips to achieve the perfect summer road trip


Credit: Clare Knutson

Clare Knutson

Road trips are the quintessential summer adventure, but they aren’t all just blasting tunes and laughing with your friends as you roll through scenic country. Road trips can turn really miserable in an extremely short amount of time if you aren’t prepared. Yes, it is possible to simply throw your stuff in the trunk and take off, but a little extra planning can make your road trip just a little easier and more comfortable.


Pack light. Just because you are traveling in a car and not a plane doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pack mindfully. The less stuff you bring, the more space you will have in the car. The last thing you want to do at the end of a long day in the car is lug a heavy suitcase up a flight of stairs (you will encounter more stairs than you think) or across a gigantic parking lot. Only bring the essentials. If you think you only might use something, don’t bring it. If it is truly needed, you will most likely be able to purchase it or borrow it from a friend. Packing light not only means you will have less carry, but less to lose and more space in your suitcase if you choose to purchase anything on your trip.


Eye masks, headphones and a blanket are crucial to a successful, uninterrupted night's sleep. Credit: Clare Knutson / The Foothill Dragon Press
Eye masks, headphones and a blanket are crucial to a successful, uninterrupted night’s sleep. Credit: Clare Knutson / The Foothill Dragon Press

Block out light and noise. Early mornings, late nights and limited space are bound to make everyone a little cranky at some point. Bring a pair of headphones or earbuds to block out noise. To block out light, bring an eye mask or a dark jacket with a hood to cover your eyes. These two things will help put you in your own little bubble for a little while and catch a few more hours of shuteye.


Get comfortable. This might seem counterintuitive to the whole “pack light” suggestion, but if you have room, bring a pillow and blanket. If your space is extremely limited, a blanket can be used for its intended purpose or to cushion your head. If you really can’t bring either a pillow or blanket, at least pack some comfortable “car clothes.” Don’t try to sit for eight hours in your designer jeans just to look cute when you arrive at your destination. Chances are, long days are going to end at a hotel or some other rest area in the evening, so no one is going to care how you look anyway. Bring shoes you can easily slip in and out of so you can take your shoes off if you aren’t driving.


Stay hydrated and fed. Yes, being stuck in the car when you need to pee is miserable, but being stuck in the car when you are thirsty is just as bad. Bring a water bottle and take a few sips every once in awhile. Bring a few snacks as well to prevent any kind of hunger related crankiness. Pretzels, dried fruit, trail mix and protein bars are all good snacks to keep on hand as well as a little money just in case you do get desperate and need to stop somewhere.


Avoid car sickness at all costs. If you are prone to motion sickness and even if you aren’t, a few preventative measures are a must have. Chances are you will be driving through some beautiful scenery and you don’t want to miss it, because you are trying to keep down your breakfast. It is far easier to prevent car sickness than to stop it, so if you know you might get a little queasy plan ahead. If your luck turns against you, do not suffer in silence! Let the people you are traveling with know you aren’t feeling well. If you don’t have anything to stop your motion sickness, someone else might or you may be able to stop for a little while. Do not look out the window—the moving scenery will only make it worse. If you are extremely sensitive, offer to drive or sit in the front passenger seat as you will be more likely be able to avoid car sickness in the front of the car.


Sun protection is not just for the beach! Don’t learn the hard way that you can easily get sunburned while sitting in the car. Bring sunglasses and hat to shade your eyes during those inevitable torturous times you will be forced to drive right into the sun. It might seem silly but put on sunscreen before you head out on the morning. Be very careful to apply it to places that burn easily, like your ears. For added protection, wear long sleeves and pants. A light hoodie can come in very handy to shade your face and protect your from those UV rays. Try to avoid getting sunburned while outside of the car as well. Sweaty legs sticking to the car seats is unpleasant, but sunburned legs sticking against those same seats are downright painful.


Don't forget to pack the handy car snacks, water and all the essentials in a backpack to keep it all together! Credit: Clare Knutson / The Foothill Dragon Press
Don’t forget to pack the handy car snacks, water and all the essentials in a backpack to keep it all together! Credit: Clare Knutson / The Foothill Dragon Press

The little things count. Sometimes the small things can make all the difference when traveling. Even great music can get old after a while, so have an audiobook or two to listen to when you get bored. If you have a long hair, bring a ponytail holder to tie it up and out of the way. If you have a favorite t-shirt or hoodie, bring it. Slip a tube of lip balm into your back pocket on your way out of the house. Few bags of your favorite tea can make chilly mornings just a little more enjoyable, as can cozy socks. A car adapter for your phone charger is a great thing to have, and a designated trash bag can help keep the car cleaner.


Keep it all together. Pack a small backpack or bag with things you might need during the car ride and stash it down by your feet. This is a good place to put any medications you might need as well as your jacket, water bottle, headphones, eye mask, snacks and anything else you will want to use during the car ride. It is a good idea to pack some hand sanitizer or a tiny bar of soap in your bag as well, because chances are you will encounter a grungy rest stop bathroom with no soap.


Always remember to stay safe on the road and enjoy your time away from home!  

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