Taking a road trip is practically an American tradition. Everybody piles into the car and you head out for a great adventure. The way you plan your trip can make the difference between a journey that you return from refreshed, or a series of disasters like the Griswold's in National Lampoon's Vacation.
The key is to take care of yourself during the trip. Most of the time people hit the road, their goal is simply to get to the destination as fast as possible. They stay in the car, eat junk food and arrive tired, sore and bloated. That's no way to kick off a vacation. Here's how to do it right.
Start with the route planning. You don't always have to lay out the most direct path. Yes, toll roads and highways will probably get you to your destination quicker, but you might be driving by some really interesting places.
What I like to do is plan a trip that incorporates at least one side trip every four or five hours. For example, I live in Key West. Every once in a while I go to Miami or Fort Lauderdale for a concert. That's a four to five-hour trip each way. When I drove straight through, I arrived tired with stiff muscles.
Then I started looking up the sights that were along the way. Now I leave an hour or so earlier and stop to experience something new. Between Key West and Miami there are fun places like the History of Diving Museum, the Coral Castle and Crane Point. Visiting those places broke up the trip and got everyone out of the car for a little walking around.
Stretching Photo Breaks
Stop at least once every two hours to stretch. Get out of the car and start at the top of your head. Move down your body, stretching the major muscle groups as you go. When you finish, take a minute to enjoy the scenery and snap a few pictures.
Plan stretch breaks during sunrise, sunset and at lookout spots. I've taken them at the 7 Mile Bridge, the Hurricane Monument and in front of "Betsy" the giant spiny lobster in Islamorada. The stretching helped loosen my muscles up, but enjoying the scenery and taking pictures really helped me relax.
Plan Your Snacks
Don't rely on whatever you can get while driving, because it's often a choice between gas station snacks or fast food. Go to the grocery store the day before and get small carrots, cut cumbers, celery and cherry tomatoes. Stock up on fruit too like apples, oranges, grapes, bananas and other fruits you can eat with your fingers. Grab a selection of nuts and protein bars as well. Divide them into single-serving re-sealable bags or small plastic containers and store them in a cooler or lunchbox with ice.
Keep Regular Mealtimes
If you're used to getting up a 7 and eating at 7:30, keep the same schedule on the road. Trying to drive through your regular mealtimes will only make you more hungry when you stop, and you'll be more likely to overeat. Meals on the road should be at the same time as meals at home.
Pack Meals to Start
A meal isn't going to stay fresh for a week, but at least you can pack some for the first day or two. If you're bringing soup, heat it up before you leave and keep it in a thermos. Make sandwiches and seal them up, separating the wet and dry ingredients. Bring sugar-free packets of instant oatmeal for a breakfast that's quick and filling. Make them more fun by pulling into rest stops and having a picnic, checkered tablecloth and all.
Don't stop at fast food places until you've eaten the healthy meals you packed for the trip. Remember that whenever you see a fast food place, there's usually a grocery store nearby. Stop in to replenish your food during a trip as well.
Pack your coffee, tea and other drinks before you leave. A thermos will keep them hot for several hours and you'll get exactly the flavor you're used to. It'll also keep you away from the temptations sold along with coffee.
Keeping things healthy requires a little more planning, but it's worth it. Enjoy the journey along with the destination for a better overall experience.
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