No matter if you are traveling with children, alone, or just with your furry friend – Road Trips can either be Hell on Earth; or a vacation in and of themselves. So after driving all over the Western United States for most of my life, here are a few Travel Hacks for Road Trips I highly recommend following when planning your own Road Trip at home or abroad.
This is a fantastic app for your road trip, and can also be accessed online to help plan your vacation on the road. I first found and utilized this when taking a Road Trip from Dallas Texas to Nauvoo Illinois. I was going to be traveling through a bunch of open fields. After planning out my route I explored all the spots along the road that had a good rating and found this gem in the middle of nowhere! It is in the Spinach Capital of the United States. A statue of the spinach-eating machine himself has his own little garden and fountain. This also happens to be across from the Police Station, so you have ample entertainment for all!
This app and website are a fantastic way to make those 12 hour drives a little more bearable on the road. From a medical standpoint, it also gives you an excuse to get out of the car every few hours to walk around. People who sit and travel long distances can have swollen legs and blood clots at times as well if they do not walk around sufficiently.
How to stay awake while driving
Get enough rest the night before
Doing this will help you be more alert on the road and less prone to falling asleep at the wheel.
IF YOU ARE TIRED AND START TO LOSE CONCENTRATION THAT IS THE FIRST SIGN YOU ARE AT RISK FOR FALLING ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL.
Pull into a gas station and take a power nap.
I have done this a few times in the past, where I pull into a busy gas station and take a 15-20 min nap. This always helps me feel more refreshed.
Avoid sugary foods or high carbohydrate content as your snack.
When you eat high carbohydrate and high sugar content foods, it starts a vicious cycle of fatigue. Why? Well, you eat that doughnut or candy, your body sees it as too much sugar, so it releases insulin and then drops your blood sugar again. Then you become very sleepy or hungry again, starting the cycle over. I try to avoid sugary foods whenever driving for this reason.
When I get warm I tend to fall asleep much easier. It is more comfortable to be warm, but I would rather have cold toes and arms before risking crashing my car and killing someone else.
This is my favorite way to stay awake. Imagine this like the old radios back in the day that would tell the cowboy stories to the children. The children would be so enthralled by the battles and day to day explanations because they didn’t have TV, this was their entertainment.
Audiobooks typically have quality actors and actresses that are able to do multiple accents, voices, and inflections to keep the listener engaged. Yes, some of the audiobooks are entirely too boring and drab to listen to on the road, but there are many that are not.
I personally have signed up for Amazon’s Audible Book subscription for $14.95 per month. I am an affiliate with them, but I have never been more grateful for the positive entertainment value it provides and now listen to them on the way to and from work all the time.
This is something my flatmate is really into. She has several Podcasts that she listens to on a daily basis to and from work. I think this could also work for road trips as well, you may just need to download the podcasts to your mobile device prior to starting your trip.
What are some of your favorite podcasts?
If all else fails, just start swigging Caffeine. Think of all those boring meetings from work you have survived on the sweet nectar of the Gods.
Travel with a friend:
Switching off while driving is really important while on the long road trips and stretches of the road.
Stretches and Facial exercises:
This is an odd one, but I start stretching my legs, toes, fingers, neck, back arms etc…. It keeps your heart rate slightly more elevated than at baseline, thus increasing blood flow to your brain and keeping you refreshed.
Facial exercises also help to keep me awake at the wheel. I open and close my mouth as hard as a can, wiggle my jaw side to side, see how many animal sounds I can make with my tongue etc….
Check road conditions and weather conditions
With the age of the internet came the ability to check your road conditions prior to starting your journey. There have been several instances that I wish I would have, and others where I didn’t and wish I would have.
There was one instance where I didn’t want to leave my parents house to drive back to Las Vegas and did not look at road conditions. I ended up leaving the house when it first started to snow, and by the time I hit Cedar City Utah, I was in a complete blizzard. Traveling at 25 mph on the freeway because of road conditions, and was nearly hit by a snow plow.
Organizing the car
This is paramount for safety while driving. The less distracted you are on the road, the better off and safer you will be.
I will put all the luggage in the very back of the car, the cooler in the middle of the back seat where it is easy for your friend to reach if needed. If you are traveling alone, set up your ‘snack bag’ where you can easily reach it.
Make sure you have Sunglasses to help with Glare.
If you are driving at night, turn down the dashboard lights. This will help your eyes not feel as tired from trying to adjust to the brightness of the dashboard vs the road.
Have your music or audible book playing before you put the car in drive.
Garbage bag, paper towels, and Kleenex should also be nearby where you don’t have to bend over, reach, or stretch to access them.
Check Your Car for Maintenance
Before you pack anything in the car, make sure your spare tire is filled up and in good condition.
Have a small gas can handy, just in case you miss an exit and the next gas station or turn around isn’t for another 50 miles and you are on empty.
Make sure you check your tire pressure after everything is loaded and in the car.
Change your oil, cabin filter, and engine filter before you go. This will help with gas mileage in your car.
Have your local mechanic esure all fluids are topped off, and the washer fluid is the appropriate one for the area you are traveling to.
I once was driving from Las Vegas to Utah in the snow and went to use my windshield wiper fluid and it froze on my windshield. I had to do an ACE Ventura head out the window to drive to the next town to get it fixed. They had to thaw out the windshield wiper lines with a hairdryer and vinegar, then unplug them. This really cut into my total driving time and was a major stressor. So mention to your mechanic if you find you will be driving to different climates and what they suggest for those areas.
Plan for Gas Stops
Don’t push the car to the point the gas light comes on! I always make a rule for myself that should I take a long road trip where I have never been before I never let the tank get down past 1/4 tank. Even a 1/4 tank is pushing it for me, I typically will fill up at 1/2 tank because I know I will be able to drive for several hours to the next gas station.
Get On The Road Again
Road trips can be a fantastic way to make bonds with friends, and see new destinations. It is important to plan, stay safe and stay awake on the road. There are over 100,000 car accidents per year from people falling asleep at the wheel in the United States. Make sure you know your own limits on when you need a break, even if it is just a mental break. There are plenty of unique things you can see on the road, not every place has to be Instagram worthy. The best adventures will always be the locations that make you feel more fulfilled and productive in your daily life, spark your creativity or help you create a more meaningful connection.
Happy Travels, Happy Tales & See You On The Flip Side.
On the way there the air conditioning inside the plane stopped working, we ended up sweating off about 10 lbs on our way there in 96 degree weather. Luckily the flight from Salt Lake City to Grand Junction was a direct 1 hr 30 min flight. We arrived at the airport, and the walk from the gate to the rental car desk literally took about 7 minutes; yes, it was a very small airport.
There were about 4 different rental car companies available & all were located inside the airport.
We then made our way to our hotel, Courtyard by Marriott in Grand Junction. This hotel was the best one in town (at least to me it was.) There are cheaper options like Motel 6 or Travel lodge, but you have to be careful in small towns – cleanliness isn’t always an international standard. If hotels aren’t your thing there are plenty of camping sites available as well.
The hotel was clean, and more importantly, air conditioned! I really appreciated that the hotel staff made the effort to keep the AC running in the room I was staying in, as many hotels in small towns tend to not do this to save on costs. There was a TV, shower, coffee, hairdryer, amazing bed and fluffy pillows, and all the other usual amenities at a higher end hotel you would expect. Breakfast was included in the cost of the hotel and it was actually VERY good. There were plenty of options in the morning for everyone, including vegetarian and healthy options. They also have a bar on the main floor that typically opens around 5pm and has a variety of choices.
Coming in that night, it was actually quite crowded, and seemed to be the meeting place for the business men coming into town (hubba hubba).
Take a walk downtown on Main Street
After we checked in at the Hotel,we decided to stroll down Main Street. There were so many locally owned shops, which was SO NICE! I’m a huge supporter of Mom & Pop shops. There was one store, Willowcreek, that was my favorite. It is a tea shop that has a plethora of homemade teas! They also host a Tea Bar of sorts, where you can walk up and mix up your own concoction of tea to take home with you! How cool is that?!?! The shop smelled so good I could have stayed in there all day smelling things & drinking tea like the Scottish woman I am.
After tickling the nostrils with the delightful smells, we continued wandering down the street with the most amazing art pieces greeting us every few yards.
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I think all of the street art and the subsequent artistically inspired shops were the most surprising thing about Grand Junction. I have been through a lot of small towns in my life, I expected to see sagebrush blowing across empty roads. But the roads were far from empty, especially after the sun went down. Locals come out in force with the most unique bikes and their pets to enjoy the cool evenings and grab a late night treat. With all the bike shops along main street and scattered throughout town, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by the off-road bike this particular lady had. I talked to her for awhile about how she just took this bike up a mountainside during a big rainstorm and was able to slide all the way down the mountain without a problem. She described how she was covered in mud from head to toe and by the end of the trip both her & her husband looked as if they had been mud wrestling. She rides her contraption to work everyday and says she has actually put more miles on this bike than she has her own car! I feel like she would fit in really well in Amsterdam, lol.
After any bike ride, there is nothing more perfect than GELATO! Make a stop at the classic ice cream shop, Gelato Junction. They pretty much make their own specialty ice cream right in the store. One of the most famous ice cream flavors in the whole town is right in this shop, called Palisade Peach. Why is this the most famous flavor? Because Palisade city is right around the corner, and in this ice cream you can actually see the small pieces of peach within the Gelato! I have one patient that told me he actually eats 3 boxes of Palisade peaches every 2 months during the summertime. Still not convinced it’s the best in town? Just ask the local wildlife, they go crazy for it 😉
Try out the Grand Junction Off-Road Racing! There are several different events to choose from all throughout the year. To see a full list of Racing and Biking tours check out Epic Rides.
Challenge your road biking abilities by biking the Colorado National Monument from one entrance to another.
There are also OHV, ATV or dirt bike trails readily available throughout the Grand Junction area. You have your choice of over 1.2 million acres to choose from surrounding Grand Junction, all of which are deemed Public Lands.
For some really great summertime mountain biking, head over to the Powderhorn Mountain Resort; you will find plenty to choose from in the way of trails.
Grand Junction has 250 days of sunshine a year! That much sunshine could rival Las Vegas, which means that golfing is an integral part of the town. There are several different golf courses to choose from, and you can literally play year round.
[gallery ids="6578,6589" type="rectangular"] Rockslide Restaurant & Brewery: This restaurant was opened by three friends in 1994 who wanted Grand Junction to experience the magic of a microbrewing company. This festive Restaurant has over 20 years of brewing experience, friendly staff, and is definitely the place to grab a drink after a stressful day at work or wind down after a great day of exploring nearby trails. Don’t forget to take a gander at their Happy Hour while your there. They host some of the best salads, burgers, pizza and of course brew in town 🙂 Check out their Menu to see if it can tickle your interest. MX Resturante on Main Street (located on the Upper floor of the building)
They have several options for all the picky palates out there. I ended up having 3 different tacos and chips and salsa with guacamole. My stomach is very finicky and I was nervous about eating here, but the Lime Shrimp taco & the Chicken tacos with pickled onions were to DIE for. MX Menu is varied and delicious with excellent service ta boot.
If I still haven’t convinced you of the options available for your dining pleasure, take a look at this classic diner, Main Street Cafe! It was closed when we went by. It is located in down town Grand Junction, and looks absolutely ADORABLE!
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Wine country and vineyards
Want to reward your taste buds with an excellent glass of local wine? Try these wineries out! In talking to several locals, it seems vineyards in the area are becoming ever more popular. If you cannot afford a tour of Napa Valley wines in California, this would be an excellent choice. St Kathryn Cellars:known for their lavender wine. Red Fox Winery: specializes in wines, ciders, and fruit wines — Bourbon Barrel Merlot Two Rivers Winery:Two Rivers Merlot Maison la Belle Vie Winery: Vin de Peche is the perfect Palisade dessert Hermosa Vineyards: Gewurztraminer, Reisling, and Cab Franc Rose.
Where to Watch & Listen:
If you have a chance, travel along the riverfront in Grand Junction where they have recently built an Amphitheater, Las Colonias Amphitheater. Here, you will find some excellent booty shaking concerts in this former wrecking yard turned jam session arena. Residents here are quite happy about this amphitheater; they feel it is breathing life back into the city, allowing the culture to change for the better. So make sure to check out Las Colinas Amphitheater concert schedule prior to going, and check out this little piece of Grand Junction history while listening to some great tunes.
Where to Hike!
Because of my work responsibilities while in Grand Junction I was not able to grace the trails of Grand Junction. When I go back, I will definitely be trying some of these trails out, especially this one, the Rattlesnake Arch Trail. Here are the other top 10 rated trails in the Grand Junction area.
Moab is actually only a 1 hr and 15 min drive away from Grand Junction, so for a fun side trip, make sure you rent a car and extend the trip to visit Moab.
In the end, I have to admit that I was completely wrong about this place and cannot wait to go back. I never knew that so many wonderful adventures could exist in such a (comparatively) small town.
So if you like being outdoors, finding unique adventures, meeting new people, appreciate street art, statues and all around fun, make sure to visit Grand Junction Colorado. Like me, you will be pleasantly surprised at how much this city has to offer! I personally cannot wait to go back and explore.