Summertime calls for beach days, outdoor adventures and excursions to visit friends, so chances are you’re going to spend some time road-tripping this season. And as much fun as it can be to load up the car and belt out some tunes with your crew as you hit the road, I also know that all that downtime can leave you feeling a little stir crazy or even sluggish and fatigued. The last thing you want is to reach your destination drained of energy. Here’s how I hack a healthy road trip.
First, some practical advice, because safety is your first priority. Before any trip, head to a gas station staffed with a mechanic who can take a look at your car to make sure everything’s running smoothly. I always do this for peace of mind — the last thing I want is to discover my oil is low or I’ve run out of wiper fluid in the middle of nowhere. (Go ahead and pass through the car wash while you’re at it — might as well start fresh.)
And here’s where I’m an (old-fashioned) stickler: Bring a physical copy of the directions to your destination. Smartphone GPS apps are incredibly helpful — but only when your phone has both battery life and service, two things that can prove elusive on the road. Pack a charger or two in the glovebox.
Before the big day, get a good night’s sleep. If you start your drive exhausted, it’s all downhill from there. Particularly if you’re the driver, you need to rest up so you can stay sharp and keep yourself and your passengers safe.
Depending on how long you’ll be on the road, figure out how many opportunities you’ll have to get out of the car and stretch, move around a little bit (you could even do my 11-minute outdoor workout) and use the facilities. If you tend to get muscle cramps, grab a potassium-rich breakfast before you hit the road. One dilemma I always face is how much water to drink the night before and while driving — too little, and I’m dehydrated, but too much, and I’m constantly scouting for the next rest stop. The lesser evil is to stay hydrated and pull over every hour or so, if that’s what it takes. Every time you stop, you can shake it out, jog in place a little to keep your blood flowing and stretch out any sore spots.
Be aware of your posture while you ride and drive, too, keeping your hips in alignment in the seat and sitting up straight. I know it’s tempting to slouch down in the driver’s seat on long highway stretches, but it’s a recipe for later back pain.
And then there’s the question of snacks, since we all love to pass junk food around the car on a long ride. I’ve been known to stick the peanut M&M’S in the cart, grab some powdered donuts at the check out counter or toss a Snickers bar in my bag at the last minute, but it’s usually to my own detriment. Instead of springing for sticky, sugary snacks that will sap your energy and leave your teeth feeling gross after a few hours, pack some refreshing fruits or veggies you can reach for when hunger strikes. My favorites are celery, carrot sticks and apples — all easy to eat on the go.
No road trip ever goes according to plan, and that’s part of the fun. Be prepared for a little bickering to break out over the music selection or for someone to pack a smelly snack (hard-boiled eggs, smoked salmon, I’ve seen it all) — but also stay open to detours, unplanned pitstops and taking the long way there. Because that’s where the adventure lies.