Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Road Trip

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One of the things my boyfriend and I really like to do in our spare time is take road trips. So far we have driven from Quebec City/Montreal and Ottawa, Salem and Boston (with various Maine sites in between), from Playa del Carmen to Merida in Mexico, and countless places close to home (Cape Breton, Digby, etc). We have covered a lot of miles in a year and a half! And next weekend, we are taking off for New Hampshire for a few days to check out Mount Washington and Conway, with a stopover in Portland on the way home.

We both love to explore and visit places we have never been before, so road trips are the perfect hobby for us. Besides, as I am always fond of saying (sagely), if you can spend 15 hours in a car with someone and not murder each other, I think you are pretty much ready for anything as a couple! Seriously - driving long hours makes you sore, groggy, dehydrated and irritable - even if the other person is your most favourite in the world, there is still bound to be some friction at some point.

But that's what is so exciting about taking to the open road - the thrill of not knowing what is to come and of leaving problems behind you, and the excitement of having a partner along for the ride? There is nothing better. *Besides, travelling by car may take longer but it can also save you hundreds of dollars, which is always awesome when you are a couple on a budget*

Whenever we embark on a new driving adventure, I am always sure to bring a few essentials with me to make the ride more comfortable and to help pass the time more quickly. Perhaps you will find this list useful for YOUR next long-distance drive!

Here are my Top 5 Road Trip Essentials:

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1. GPS:
This may seem like a redundant recommendation, but I think a lot of people don't really realize how useful a GPS can be until you have one. Ok, so the boy's is often tempermental (it has, more than once, sent us to a place that doesn't actually exist) but it has also been a life-saver. When we were driving through the (crazy) streets and freeways of Montreal, Mr. Garmin showed us an aerial of all the lines and indicated which one we had to be in in order to exit at the proper location (how else would we have known that, being somewhere we had never visited before?! And not having to cut across 4 lanes of traffic is ALWAYS a nice thing).

You can also look up the nearest amenities, such as restaurants, gas stations and banks - places that are always needed during a road trip, but are not always easy to find in a place you are not familiar with. At the very least, I would recommend having a smartphone with the 'net so you can Google things (often just as handy as an actual GPS)...and maps as a back-up just in case (technology is great when it works!). Plus, you can program funny voices - how could you NOT have a great time listening to Yoda telling you to "In 4 kms, right turn you must make"?!

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2. Snacks:
Ok, so I understand that there are tons of truck stops and gas station stores along highways and on main town streets that you can pop into and grab a snack when you need it. I also understand how tempting it is to just eat junk all the livelong day while on a road trip (goes along with that feeling of freedom and desire to cast off everyday "rules"). But lets be honest - most of the accessible food one can find while travelling is quite unhealthy. I'm certainly not saying that one should not treat oneself to an occasional chocolate bar or bag of chips along the way* (hey, you ARE on a vacation, after all) but it's really not a good idea to eat those things all day, every day. Not only is it unhealthy but it can also get very expensive (food stuffs in gas station stores are often horribly overpriced).

Pop a cooler in your backseat with some snacks that have at least SOME nutritional value, but are also easy to transport and keep - granola bars, apples, carrot sticks, crackers or rice cakes, and low-fat cookies or biscuits are good options. These are things you can easily grab and eat without making a mess or having to dig out utensils or dishes, and it also means you don't have to stop every time your tummy rumbles. OH and a giant bottle of water is something I never forget to pack.

*I also firmly believe that, when travelling, one should partake in local cuisine (if such a thing exists where you are), but these tips are specifically related to staying fueled while on-the-go, particularly if you are driving through rural areas where there are not many food choices available.


3. iPod
My boyfriend has an older car, which means NO CD PLAYER (I know). But he bought this neat device to hook up my iPod to the car radio - it is basically a cassette tape that you insert into the tape dock, with a cord that plugs into your iPod. VOILA! Thousands of songs to play right through the car speakers. For me, music on a road trip is absolutely essential - not only does it go along with the whole adventure/vacation vibe (when you hear this song, doesn't it just make you want to GET on the road and go?!), but it does wonders to stave off boredom and grumpiness. There's no way you will be able to come up with 15 hours of conversation starters, so having music to break up the din will help keep peace behind the wheel.

Plus, you can try to make each other laugh by singing and hamming in extremely ridiculous ways. Or, hey, wanna ignore each other? Put your earphones in and listen to music on your own! No MP3 player? Make a bunch of mixed CD's!

Is it just me, or does this NOT look comfortable at all? Source

4. Blanket and pillow
Ok, cars are great and all, but they can also be one of the most uncomfortable places, am I right? Non-ergonomically correct seats and hard plastic corners do not make for a comfy bed. Having a pillow can help prevent a permanent 'crick' in your neck and the blanket can add one more layer of comfort, or just keep you warm if the car heater isn't doing the trick or the A/C is giving you a chill. Besides, you never know when you may end up having to sleep in your car (although not recommended or, I'm sure, preferred by most).

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5.  Kleenex, napkins and/or handwipes
I don't know about you, but I'm a messy eater. It is inevitable that almost every time I eat I will drop food either on myself, or around me wherever I happen to be sitting. So you can imagine the havoc I can wreak when eating in a small cramped space like the inside of a car. Spills and crumbs can easily happen if you eat in a moving vehicle so it's a good idea to have a handy wipe in the glove compartment. Kleenex and napkins are good for things like drinks, but handwipes really are the best all-around. They just clean up so much more thoroughly, and bonus if you can get ones with antibacterial properties (sinks with water and soap are not always readily available on a road trip). Also a great to way to get that stickiness off your hands after eating something messy - or even to wipe the sweat from your brow and cool off on a hot day! Or, you know, to wipe...other things (hey, sometimes toilets are not readily available either!).

Hope you enjoyed my tips - now get out there and go for a drive! You never know, you may discover something amazing.

Do you enjoy road trips? What things do you always take with you? Where is your next road trip?

5 comments:

Stephanie said...

I love road trips! We drove from Ontario to Vancouver almost 2 years ago fr our honeymoon / we were moving there anyways. It was some of the most fun we've ever had as a couple. Even just sitting in silence while we cruised down the trans canada hwy was all we needed. Recently we went to the Annapolis Valley and in a few weeks we'll be driving to Cape Breton. It's not about the destination, it's about the journey!

Sarah said...

Great tips! We follow all of those on our 15 hour trips back home :)

Kim Humes said...

Stephanie: You drove from Ontario to Vancouver?! Wow that's a long way. But how fun! I'd love to drive all the way to the West Coast one of these days. For now we have to be satisfied with going places within a day or two drive from Halifax (tight budget)
Sarah: Our road trip to Ottawa was for your wedding! hah. We had a great time. Man, that was a long drive coming home though :S

Spencer said...

You can't beat a good road trip. Personally I like touring the backroads and going off the beaten track a little. It is amazing what you can find.

Kim Humes said...

Spencer: I totally agree - I like checking out the 'off-the-beaten-path' places anytime I travel. If you stick to just the main touristy places you can often miss the best sites - the locals know best! Go where they go lol

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