In terms of the van, it has everything you need. However, it’s still just a van, which means space is precious and limited. Get everything in its “home” on day 1 and make sure that item lives in that spot forever and always. Jess and I had a system down from day 1 and I’m super happy and surprised that we kept it SO clean and organized the entire time. There were zero casualties of items flying out a window, falling out of the car or go mysteriously missing. Get your car in order and keep it there!
What are you trying to do on your trip? Spend your time cooking or doing and seeing things? Yeah, that’s what I thought… So why would someone voluntarily choose to make a borderline 5-star meal for lunch is beyond me but let me tell you, you’ll be much happier with an easier meal than a fancy-schmancy one or one that is labor-intensive. Here’s what we ate… Breakfast was 1-2 of the following items:
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Oops. I’d venture to say that most of us kind of forget this road trip tip, right? I know I did. If I saw the road on the map, I generally thought it was a legit road with something more than lose rocks to follow. Uh, no. Not so much! Don’t assume you won’t come across a bunch of gravel roads, particularly if you’re wanting to get a bit adventurous or take some of the less busy roads. If you’re riding a JUCY van like I was, I can confirm, they can handle it. Although, driving on gravel roads when they weren’t expected can be a bit stressful, not to mention it will cut into your time since you’ll be driving much slower than you thought.
Bringing paper maps is not really my thing but I knew I couldn’t always rely on my phone to have service. I can’t stress how clutch it was to have maps downloaded. We had Google maps AND maps.me maps both downloaded and we would still be driving around now, lost forever, without them.
Fill up water bottles and jugs instead. It would have been SO wasteful if we bought 100 jugs of water. Instead, we bought three one-gallon jugs and reused those same three jugs for 17 days. We each had our own reusable water bottle. In the end, we recycled those jugs. It’s very easy to prioritize convenience but try your best on the road trip to not be wasteful. Filling up water was actually very easy. Many of the parks have drinkable water fountains where you can fill up and Walmarts have water fountains you can use. Three jugs was the perfect amount for us to have on board, it didn’t take up too much room and it lasted us a couple of days giving us plenty of time to find the next water fill-up area. Fill up every time you can, it goes without saying that water is NOT something you want to be without at any point and time. Don’t forget to factor in the reality that you’ll use water to boil pasta and make coffee etc. Another road trip tip going off this one is don’t trash everything, make sure to keep a second bag for recyclable stuff. You’ll pass plenty of bins along the way.
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I would TOTALLY be the annoying friend that pushes you out of the car, shoves a bagel and coffee down your throat, and makes you put clothes on so you’re ready to get on the road no later than 9 am. I’m not talking about getting your day started at 6 am. While I think it’s ideal and probably makes for great sunrise pictures and you check off a bunch more things off the list, let’s not get crazy. 6 am is rough. However, being on the road by 8:30-9ish is totally doable. Luckily there was no shoving people out of the car, Jess was on the same page and we got up, got dressed, had our brekkie and coffee and got on the road! There are far too many things to see and do—go to bed earlier and get up and go. You’ll thank yourself when the trip is done. (You can sleep when you’re dead, right?)
Did you actually think you were going to be able to fit those two hikes in AND drive five hours? LOL. You really do need to be realistic with your time. If you get all excited about a bunch of places and you only make it to half, you may be pretty bummed. But instead, if you get excited about the POSSIBILITY of going to about half of the places on your list, then you will be ultimately satisfied with what you got done. Don’t get your hopes up and try cramming in too much so you’re rushing, speeding, driving too late at night, not sleeping enough…etc. It’s OK to pass on a few places, trust this road trip tip when I say your list will only get longer, not shorter, so don’t get flustered when you need to pass things up to gain some more time.
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I know, you’re thinking, DUH, Nina. But seriously, don’t forget music. Radio is almost a non-option unless you enjoy the sweet sounds of static and want to give your index finger a major work out by scanning the channels. Cell service will also be in and out, so while you may be one smart cookie and have Spotify or the like, don’t forget to actually download all those cool playlists to your phone so you can enjoy it offline. Oh, and don’t forget an aux cord either.
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Those small town gas stations may have a charge for using credit cards or worst, they only accept cash! So make sure you have some on you. Also, some state and national parks require cash payments for parking and using facilities. There isn’t always someone on site and you’ll be required to place your cash in an envelope. You’ll need exact change too. I’m all about using my card, but having some cash stashed away was a must.
Going on from my last thought, unfortunately, this may mean you are stuck paying higher prices for gas because you’re in the middle of nowhere-land and they are charging the same prices as the bigger towns PLUS your first born child. Sorry little Billy, I sold you for gas money… Seriously though, small towns are pricier, you may have to pay the price, but you could also top up for just a few bucks just to make it safely to the next big town/city. Either way, inflate the budget here so you don’t get any surprises and make sure you are definitely topping up in the big cities as often as possible.