Enjoy your road trip

6 Secrets to Less Stressful Car Travel

by Rich Finzer


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Okay, who's up for a more relaxing road trip and vacation? Are you tired of spending endless hours fighting heavy interstate traffic with drivers all too content to tailgate but too cowardly to pass? Are you fed up with crowded roadside eateries where your brave little band waits forever for some chow? Would you like time to relax or take a swim before retiring? Well, fellow road warriors, take heart because help is on the way.

I've just returned from an 11-day, 3500 mile business trip where I drove an average 700+ miles on travel days. While on the road, I enjoyed almost instant service at roadside restaurants, plenty of time for a swim/soak before bedtime, and felt quite relaxed while driving what I call "golden miles." Here's how you can too.

Leave early: When driving long distances, I like to awaken by 3:30 AM and hit the bricks pronto. There's significantly less traffic, temperatures are still cool (meaning no need to run the A/C), most truckers are still asleep, and road crews haven't begun working yet. By eight in the morning, I've usually pounded out a cool 300 miles. If travelling with little ones, tuck them in the backseat and most likely they'll quickly fall back asleep.

Plan ahead: If my drive calls for a midway motel stay, I book my reservations in advance. That way, I already have a place to sleep and I know precisely how many miles I need to drive to reach it. If you plan well in advance, you may be able to leverage discounts through auto club, AARP, coupon deals, or off-season rates. The fact that you're travelling is no excuse for not trying to stretch some additional dollars. Too many times to count, I've seen harried fathers trying to find accommodations late in the evening only to be told there are no available rooms. Little ones are overtired, mom is contemplating divorce, and poor dad has to drive to the next major interstate exit and try again. Don't be that guy.

Leverage rest stops: In addition to the essentials, check to see if rest area tourist/visitor desks have coupon books for discounts at restaurants along your route. As an example, many family dining places offer discounts for eating during off-hours or give "kids eat free" deals if you buy two adult meals.

Travel "out of synch": By this I mean stop for lunch about 11:00 and avoid the hungry hordes arriving promptly at noon. The food will taste about the same, but you won't be waiting as long to be served. Now, aren't you glad you picked up those coupons at the rest area?

Not an auto club member? Compare roadside assistance plans.

Don't trust Google Maps: Google Maps is a terrific feature, but it isn't fool proof. During my most recent junket (to check out Florida real estate), one property was listed on an incorrect street. Had I "trusted" Google, I'd have ended up in some stranger's yard that was clearly marked "No Trespassing." Yikes! Much better advice is to purchase a locally drawn, current street map.

Drive to your goal and stop: If you've planned ahead, reserved rooms and left very early, chances are you'll arrive/check in during daylight hours. Gas up the car, and then take a swim or a soak in the whirlpool; after all, you're entitled. You need and deserve some down time and relaxation. You are ahead of the curve, can get a decent night's rest, and will arrive at your destination ready to enjoy the vacation you've earned.


Rich Finzer resides in upstate New York. During his 44 years as a writer, he has published nearly 1,200 newspaper, magazine and Internet articles. His award winning book, Maple on Tap is available from his publisher; Acres USA. His two novels, Taking the Tracks and Julie & Me, are available from Amazon Kindle.

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