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tips for a healthy road trip

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Starting bright-and-early tomorrow morning (well, depending on how late tonight’s IU game goes) Babyface and I will be off on the open road on our way to the beach. When I’ve mentioned that we a road-tripping it to Florida to people, they’ve all had the same reaction—total disgust. Seems like most folks aren’t fans of being in a car for two days, but Babyface and I love it! We really enjoy the extended time together to talk about life, listen to music and see the country. Plus, saving a few hundred bucks on airfare isn’t so bad either.

Thanks to having half of our family in Canada and international airfare being astronomical, we’ve gotten really good at roadtripping. I’ve come a long way from the time I woke up at 5am and decided to make the 17-hour drive in one day by myself to visit Babyface when we were dating. We’ve created an awesome system complete with loose itineraries, planned stops and most importantly, good food. Gas station hot dogs need not apply. I figured before we headed south, I’d share a few of my favorite tips for staying healthy on a road trip. Happy driving!

1. Plan it out.

Before each of our road trips, I like to plan out approximate stops and times. Not only does it ensure we can switch drivers, get gas, stretch our legs, and hit the restroom at frequent intervals in locations that we know are going to have the amenities we need, but it also gives us easy, digestible chunks of driving time. We normally do 3-4 hours of driving between stops. And knowing exactly when and where you are stopping helps you to plan out meals. Even though we are hundreds of miles away, I already know which rest stop we’ll be eating lunch at tomorrow.

2. Bring your own food.

I’m not above grabbing a bag of Twizzlers from a gas station, but the majority of your road trip food should be brought from home if you want to stay healthy. Pack a cooler with your favorite healthy snacks and keep it close to the front seat. Make sure to pack good boredom snacking choices, too. You know when you are 6+ hours into a road trip and the novelty has worn off, you’ve gone through ever song on your iPod and you are sick of staring at billboards? Lots of folks turn to snacking on Cheetos or cookies, but for boredom eating, pack low-calorie options like celery sticks, baby carrots and sliced bell peppers. I can munch on those all day and barely even make a blip on my calorie radar.

I also like to pack some fun treats that I usually don’t eat. We have a pack of Newman’s Oreos that I’m excited to dive into! There is something romantic about the idea of junk food on a road trip. Embrace it! Just do it with awareness and responsibility.

Lots of people remember to bring snacks, but often people skip the main meals and head to fast food. On-the-road meals are as easy as tossing a loaf of whole grain bread and your favorite meats or cheese in the cooler. Sandwiches are easy to assemble on a picnic table or even in the trunk of a car. Bonus: if the place you are going has a fridge, the sandwich fixings will definitely get used during your stay.

3. Keep drinking.

It might seem like a good idea to avoid water so you can avoid frequent pit stops, but that line of thinking can land you feeling terrible just a few hours into the trip. To keep away early dehydration symptoms (thirst, headaches, and fatigue), sip water constantly through your trip. I like to ration out a single water bottle and sip on it during each segment of our trip. Taking small sips seems to help keep the bathroom trips limited.

If you are one of those people who must drink soft drinks or coffee on the road, sipping water is doubly important! Caffeine works as a diuretic and actually causes you to hit up the restroom even more frequently than if you would have stuck to water.

4. Get out and move.

So often, when people have to stop on a road trip, the just do what needs to be done and immediately hop back into the car. It can be tempting to get back on the road again, but I find that taking 5 or 10 minutes to stretch, walk around or just stand up really helps energize my body and mind.

Do you like to road trip?

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

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17 Responses
  1. I did a raw veggie/vegan cross-USA road trip earlier this year. Hilarious! Nori sheets, a cooler, hotel/motels with a fridge in towns with supermarkets, a last minute trip to an organic supermarket before we left LA (yeah, it helps…) and then another stop in St Louis… it worked pretty well and was a lot of fun to plan. I know there’s a vegan truck driver – Dave Conrardy – and others are out there. It’s a challenge, and maybe not every time, but why the heck not, eh?


  2. Ashley

    Road trips are awesome! My husband and I drive up and down the East coast at least twice per year to visit family. We love the (mostly) controlled cost of driving yourself, esp. when the cost to drive there and back is the same as ONE plane ticket! Plus it’s fun to watch the scenery fly by and count down the states. Hope you had a great trip!

  3. lauramich

    Yep, we’ve saved both money and heartburn by packing lunches for our roadtrips—or, for return trips, making a stop by a grocery store to procure lunch-making ingredients.

    On our last trip (also to FL), we also packed four gallons of distilled water, purchased for about 82 cents each (as opposed to the $1.50 or more for liters of premium bottled water). We kept a jug filled with ice and water and refilled our cups as needed. Saved money and waste over buying individual bottles of water, but with the convenience of not having to hope that the gas station in Nowhere, Alabama, had decent free drinking water on tap.

    Hope you’re having a blast!

  4. Shelley

    We love road trips, in theory. Every Christmas season when we have to get from Texas to California, if we drive, we swear we’ll pay the extra and fly forever more; if we fly, we swear it’s too much of a hassle that we’ll spend the extra time and drive ourselves.

    However, all other trips we usually love the “quick” drive of 6-12 hours.

    Our solid road trip tips:
    1) Don’t forget some towels! Used to clean hands when there are no sinks, provide shade when you are on the hot side of the car, keep you warmer when it is cold, can be made into a softer headrest for sleeping. etc. “Hitchhikers..” was right.

    2)Big fan of celery, carrots to snack on. We have a old peanut butter jar that we fill about 1/8-1/4th w/ peanut butter or hummus then put veggie sticks standing up in the jar, put the lid on. Little bit of protein helps satisfy those hunger pains.

    3)We make a mix of golden raisins and unsalted almonds for our own trail mix. Good stuff, that.

    4)Sunscreen! You think you are ok in the car, but you ain’t. Slather it on arms, neck, and face. Reapply!

    5)Books on tape. Go the library and get 3-4 books. Mysteries are amazingly good as car trip entertainment.

    6)When we stop at gas stations/rest stops we get out and dance (often like Charlie Brown characters). We look like we are insane, but it helps get the jimmies out, gets the blood pumping, and feels just silly enough (when are we ever going to see these people again? and now they have a funny story to tell at parties).

  5. Athena

    Have a wonderful trip! I love road trips. Honey and I will be road tripping to Cedar Key, Florida in the next month or so. I can’t wait!

  6. I like to road trip, but when it’s a vacation not a regular occurance. My sister drives from Chicagoland to Windsor almost every other weekend and I don’t know how she can handle all the driving hours. It can get really taxing.

    I have serious respect for truckers.

  7. i love these tips! i, like you, have learned over time to embrace the road trip. especially when done with someone you love – it can be a great time to catch up, goof around, and enjoy the scenery together. plus, i hate flying.

    your tips for snacking are really hitting a chord with me. i always find that i don’t pack enough – i think for fear that i’ll over do it when it comes to the boredom factor. but, your idea for packing things like celery and carrots sticks is great. that boredom snacking thing is inevitable. also packing something exciting and embracing that a road trip means an opportunity to indulge a bit (hopefully in a mindful way) in some food you wouldn’t normally eat.

  8. I’m not a good road tripper. I think part if it is that I’ve never taken a road trip so much as just driven from point a to point b. We didn’t make the drive itself an experience with interesting stops along the way, etc.

    I tend to get really antsy and impatient in the car. I just want to get where I’m going and start my official vacation!

    Have an incredible time in Florida!!

  9. Ali

    Heck yes – I love roadtrips! Here are three other tips that we use all the time to help things go smoothly.

    -Bring reusable mugs and a few teabags. You spare a few paper cups from the landfill, and with your own teabags you can have free, calorie-free flavour at gas stations. Just fill up with the hot water for their tea station!

    -Dress in layers, and keep your extra layers in the backseat rather than in a suitcase in the trunk. There always seems to be the sunny/hot side of the car and the shady/cold side…good to be able to layer on and off accordingly, and it’s a major pain when that sweatshirt you want is in the trunk.

    -Flashlight for map reading in the dark. Ideally you can do it all in daylight hours, but sometimes it’s just not possible. We’ve found it SO useful to put a small flashlight in the passenger side door. That way, when trying to read a map or directions to get to a hotel in the dark, you don’t need to turn on the car light and reduce driver visibility.

    Have a great trip!

  10. I had no idea you were driving down! That’s how I moved to FL…I had such a small car though that we had to make the trip twice! First I drove my Sun fire down, then 3 weeks later we drove back up to PA in Ryan’s old pickup to get the rest of my stuff and we drove back down. We’ve made the trip twice more since then. Definitely fun to have all that time together and to be the ones in control of the trip!

Meet Cassie
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Hello. My name is Cassie, and I’m a healthy home cooking expert.

I'm a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, and I've been developing healthy recipes professionally for over 15 years. Food is my love language, and my kitchen tips and nourishing recipes are my love letter to you!

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