How To Prepare For Your Next Cross-Country Road Trip

Even if you haven't enjoyed road trips in the past, I'm convinced anyone can be a road trip person. If you prepare well, pack plenty of options, and commit to be entertained by something other than your iPhone, road trips can actually be really fun. 

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Last week my mom and I finished a cross country road trip from Kansas to California right after I drove from Texas to Kansas. You could say I went the long way, but we had plenty of stops to make. Ten days ago I packed up my life in little Waco, TX and started the trek out to Southern California with all my belongings packed in the back of my SUV. It was a bit of a squeeze, but we definitely had room for the essentials! 

1. Snacks

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Our first stop (besides the gas station, of course), was Trader Joe's. We picked up some Lara bars, Epic bars, yogurt (obsessed with the avocado citrus yogurt from TJ's), apples, bananas, lentil chips, pistachios, sweet potato chips, plenty of water, and lightly salted popcorn. This way if we went through a town that only offered fast food, we could make it by with the food we had in the car. 

When buying snacks for the road, avoid loading up on junk food - it will only make you feel worse! We tried to select a healthy mix of foods that would energize us and tide us over until the next stop. 

2. Music

The night before we left, I downloaded some new music so we wouldn't get bored of our choices in the car. I may have played one album twice, but the rest of the time we had something new!

Some of my favorite jams: Evolve by Imagine Dragons, Beautiful Surrender by Jonathan David and Melissa Helser, Wonder by Hillsong United, and Battles by Rita Springer. 

3. Podcasts

I'm a bit new to the podcast world, but thanks to the recommendations from several friends, we were set with several series. I love Shauna Niequist, so I knew I'd be a big fan of her podcast. It's refreshing, easy to listen to, deep at some points and light at others. She ends with questions about books and food - who doesn't love talking about those things?! 

We also listened to a series called Up and Vanished, and after one episode, we were hooked! The series is about a cold case in Georgia about a girl who went missing over ten years ago. It's fascinating and a bit eerie, but in a good way. 

Other podcasts I like: Awesome with Alison, Stuff You Missed in History Class, Jenna Kutcher's Goal Digger, and Head to Heart by Christa Black Gifford. 

4. Move

When planning this trip, we purposefully picked places to stay where we could get out and do something active. This way we could move our bodies, get some fresh air, and stretch our legs before getting back in the car. Almost every morning of our drive we stayed some place with beautiful walking or running trails - this lifted our moods, gave us energy, and helped us not get stiff and groggy (isn't that the worst feeling in the car?). The best hike, by far, was the Grand Canyon. We hiked down a mile and up a mile and it was the perfect start to a long day in the car!

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Our stops: Denver, Colorado; St. Elmo, Colorado (near Buena Vista); The Grand Canyon, Arizona; Big Bear Lake, California; Pasadena, California. 

5. Family

My mom and I used this trip as an excuse to see lots of family along the way. We live pretty far from most of our family, so we took advantage of our stopping points to see some people we love. In Denver, my grandparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary and in St. Elmo, we stayed at my mom's uncle's Bed & Breakfast in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. It was special to get to see them both. 

6. Connect

This might be one of my favorite things about road trips. Whenever you're in the car with someone for hours on end, there's no time limit or noise issue with the table behind you. It's a free space to connect, catch up, and have genuine conversation. I intentionally thought through the things I wanted to ask my mom and chat about so that I could take advantage of our interrupted time together. Try picking a few conversation topics or coming with some questions in your head before making the drive - you may not get this kind of time again! 

7. Spontaneity

My mom graciously booked all of our stopping points and lodging, but agreed to leave a little room for some fun. One of my favorite last minute decisions from this trip, was our detour through Big Bear Lake. We decided to stay here on a whim after hiking the Grand Canyon because my mom had such fond memories here growing up. I quickly started researching hotel options online (don't worry, I wasn't driving at this point), and found a cheap condo on the lake that looked nice. Upon our arrival, we learned the booking company made a mistake and should have charged us over three times as much as we paid, and the condo was amazing. Two bedrooms, king-sized beds, full size kitchen, fireplace, living room, and access to the lake right off our back porch. It was pretty picture perfect. 

8. Document

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The last tip I'll leave you with is to remember to document your trip! Take pictures of your favorite spots along the way and don't be afraid to pull over to snap a quick picture. We took a short little stop at both the Continental Divide and the Four Corners after coming down the mountains and it was well worth the photos. Do yourself a favor and document you trip so you can savor your memories later! 

Have you ever taken a cross country road trip before? Or are you planning one soon? I'd love to know where you've been or where you're going!