by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer

Five tips to make your summer driving adventure tolerable and memorable

Road trips were a way of life when I was growing up. The old, unairconditioned Mazda sedan was our main mode of transportation. Whether we were headed to Grandma’s house or a national park, we always drove.

Today, road trips are my job, and I have been taking several every month for more than a decade. Some road trips are a few hours, and other times, the drive takes all day. I have defined my life by road trips, and I’ve learned a thing or two along the way.

One year, my husband and I decided to drive to Arizona from Colorado for Christmas. Part of our motivation was to avoid the airport during the holidays, and the other was to drive Route 66. I called it our “Epic Christmas Road Trip,” and it was long but unforgettable.

I got my first glimpse of Route 66, Tucson and other random places I’d only read about, including Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. We even stumbled into the town where they filmed one of my all-time favorite shows, “Longmire.” The town is Las Vegas, New Mexico, and it’s only about an hour and a half south of the Colorado border.

As the summer season gets underway and families, couples and friends head out on driving vacations, here are a few tips to make this summer’s road trip the best one ever.

View from Wolf Creek Pass in southern Colorado.
Route 66 in New Mexico.
1. Check your car
This may seem like an obvious tip, but I have been stuck on I-70 a number of times having just run out of window-washing fluid in a snowstorm.

Making sure your car is in tiptop shape before heading out on the open road will save you a potential headache. Does your car need an oil change? How is the tire pressure? Do you have a safety kit? How about a medical emergency kit that contains first-aid essentials?
Being sure your car is prepared for travel isn’t fun or sexy, but it is necessary.

2. Pack snacks
Hangry is defined as “being bad-
tempered or irritable as a result of hunger,” and it doesn’t just happen to kids. While your children are going to be highly susceptible to bouts of hangriness on car trips, parents need snacks too.

I am extremely prone to becoming hangry, and so is Ryan. In fact, if we do start fighting on the road, it’s usually because we’ve skipped a meal.

Keeping snacks like nuts and beef jerky in the car is a good idea, as is traveling with filled water bottles. Not only is staying hydrated smart, especially in Colorado, but science has proven that hydration can help you from getting overly hungry. Staying hydrated on a road trip is a win/win.

Water is an essential road trip safety item, too, and should always be on your road trip packing list.

3. Audible when you’re done talking
When you’ve tired of talking to your traveling partners, or when the kids are done playing the license plate game, Audible comes to the rescue.

You may remember books on CD or even books on tape. The back of my car used to be covered with CDs that represented just one book, and they’d always be out of order. Today, we listen to Audible all the time, and not just on road trips. I listen while on my daily walk, while folding clothes, while cleaning the kitchen, etc. You get the picture. Podcasts are my newest addiction, and a good one can make car time super fun.

For us, road trips wouldn’t be the same without Audible, and in fact, we listened to the entire “Game of Thrones” book series while driving around Colorado. These are 40-hour books, and it took us about a year.

I also recommend SiriusXM Radio, which allows us to catch live football games or laugh along with comedy stations. There are stations dedicated to just about every subject in the world, so you’re sure to find something to fill the time.

Oddly, I can remember what I was listening to on certain routes. For instance, when I travel over Monarch Pass, I always remember the time I listened to a book about Dr. Livingstone.

4. Take a new way home
Anyone who knows me knows I am not a particularly chill person. I like calendars and schedules, but perhaps this is exactly why I like road trips – I am forced to sit down for a while.

When Ryan suggested we take a new route home from Durango a few years ago, I balked at first. The new way was longer, but since we’d taken U.S. Hwy. 285 a number of times already that year, we opted for a change of scenery. This new route would take us through Alamosa and Walsenburg, then we’d take I-25 the rest of the way north.

Taking the long way home was the best decision we made that month. We stopped for lunch and a beer in Alamosa, a town we had yet to discover. We were treated to a gorgeous view of Blanca Peak, part of the Sangre de Cristo Range, and traveled over a peaceful La Veta Pass. I saw dozens of American flags someone had planted along I-25, and although I never found out why the flags were there, it was a beautiful and patriotic sight.

5. Take your time
It’s important to leave a little extra time in your road trip schedule to stop and smell the flowers, or if you are traveling in the Rocky Mountains, a little time to stop and take some photos. Arriving at your destination early allows for more time to explore there, but you might miss an adventure along the way.

I strongly encourage stopping occasionally to get out of the car. A short walk or long hike is a great way to stretch your legs. Whatever the reason, giving yourself extra time for these little luxuries will make your trip better.T.S.

Eliot once wrote, “The journey not the arrival matters.” He’s right – just be prepared.

Sunset over the Sangre de Cristo Range.