Expert Tips for the Perfect Road Trip

*Hi there! Super excited to have a guest post~ here on Ampersand. Just like how I love sharing cool new things with you, I love when people share awesome ideas/tips/events with me! Meet my friend Mary–blog enthusiast & fan of Ampersand. 


Mary McDermott is a communications professional in the greater Philadelphia area. When she’s not working or road-tripping, she can be found running, teaching herself to cook or daydreaming about her future dog. She’s one of the funniest people she knows.

With grand arm gestures and the slight wiggle in my torso that a seatbelt allows me, scream-singing Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September,” I sneak a peek at my audience.  

They aren’t enthused or maybe they don’t notice or maybe they are just so incredibly annoyed that that they don’t care. I want someone to roll down their window and join me. Crack a smile. Admit to ourselves that we aren’t going anywhere fast. I wish I wasn’t backlit by the headlights of this truck. It’s so unflattering.

It’s Friday night at 8:47 p.m. I’m on I-84 east stuck in the parking lot that many affectionately call the state of Connecticut.

Over the last six-ish years, I’ve found myself here a hella lot, mostly in the last two and half years. Sometimes literally, yes, stuck on I-84 in Connecticut or more figuratively stuck in traffic on an already long drive. I try not to waste my time getting frustrated. I lost count of how many times I’ve done this 5-7 hour drive a long time ago.

And so, with this wealth of experience to back me up, I give you the briefest version I could of my tips to road-tripping. Caffeine and snacks sold separately.

Prior to the start of your road trip:

Get creative with your packing vessels. Senior year of college when I had my own car to drive home, I began packing in a giant laundry basket. Pack multiple smaller bags into it and easily carry them all at once into your parent’s/close friend’s home. You have way easier access than you do to suitcase compartments once you get there, or along the road if you need to snag something en route. (This method is not recommended for hotels. Or do try it, and let me know how weird you feel.)

Download your podcasts. Avoid using your data plan by downloading podcasts directly to your phone. A few of my personal favorites: How I Built This, S-Town, Ted Talks, Modern Love, Invisibilia, Weird Work, Serial (Season 1), Adulthood Made Easy (no longer making new episodes), and most recently, LadyGang (thanks to F-Perfection Blog).

Download your Spotify playlists. I recently got rid of Spotify Premium and it was a mistake. I’m now on three months free of Apple Music before inevitably returning.

Buy your snacks. It will be way cheaper to buy at a grocery store than it will at a rest stop, I promise. I go for fruit, veggies, popcorn and nuts. Remember, you’re about to sit on your butt for several hours. You’ll arrive feeling so much better if you just put down the sour patch kids.

Learn how to add windshield wiper fluid to your car. If you don’t know how to do this, go open the hood of your car and figure it out now. Otherwise, you’ll end up driving to North Carolina in March not knowing how and having your dad explain it to you on speaker phone at a gas station looking like an idiot.

During your road trip:

Hydrate. I’m guilty of not being the best at this because I have a bladder approximately the size of a seven year old’s and I hate making a lot of stops. Fill up your own water bottle ahead of time so you don’t need to pay $4 for one at a rest stop.

Caffeinate. Probably best if you first followed^^. This is one thing I believe in buying along the way. Iced beverages are colder, hot beverages are hotter.

Find your favorite exits. I drive the same route anywhere between one and three times a month. I have maybe three favorite exits on my list. And I just realized how cool that makes me sound, but I know exactly where the bathroom is (thus don’t feel guilty about asking where it is if I’m not making a purchase, BUT see “hydrate tip”) and I know what kind of food they sell if I’m desperate.

Don’t be that guy. If you’re using a fast food restaurant’s bathroom, make a purchase most of the time. Everyone knows this and sometimes we just don’t want to stand in line.  I feel less guilty if it’s a place I stop at regularly and know I can get them the next time.

Get gas in New Jersey. If you live in the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, or Delaware area, you know why. (Hint: it’s cheaper & they pump it for you)

Extra tip:

Go with a buddy. It’s another one of my tips that I rarely follow simply because it’s rarely an option, but I will say that I’ve had some of the best conversations of my life on long drives with family, friends and coworkers. Happy Road-Trippin!

*Kasia again! Want to guest post on Ampersand? Shoot me an email– 

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