How to Prep for Long-Distance Travel

Whether I’m cross country road tripping or jetting around the world, preparing for a long-distance trip always seems to be a process. It’s one that I haphazardly avoided for years, but have come to appreciate greatly, because few things top feeling put together at four a.m. and coming home to a clean house. Last month I shared a few of my road trip essentials that made Richard and my’s visit to Pittsburgh a bit more comfortable. This month I’m traveling over 12 hours by car to see my grandfather in Wisconsin. Needless to say, that’s going to be some long-distance trip. Here’s a few things I’ve learned about surviving (and enjoying!) long-distance travel:

1. Snacks are important.

Let’s just say no one wants be locked in a car/plane with me when I’m feeling hangry. Not to mention, eating along the way can be both expensive and risky. Fast food isn’t my deal, so I have to make sure I’ve packed adequate snacks in case we can’t find a decent restaurant. Some of my favorites include hard boiled eggs and nuts, because they can be easily prepared the night before. It’s also so important to pack a cooler if you’re traveling by car, especially if it’s summertime. ‘Cause who likes warm water? No one.

2. Entertainment is a necessity.

One of my biggest issues with long-distance travel is that it has the potential to be boring. There’s nothing worse than looking at the clock, thinking it’s been an hour and realizing it’s only been 20 minutes. I always make sure to pack a variety of motion-friendly activities to pass the time like colored pencils (yes, I am actually a 5-year-old), magazines, books and movies. I also keep my work close by, since it’s a great time to get through it and avoid wasting valuable vacation time later on.

3. If you think you’re getting sick, do something about it.

What’s worse than being sick? Traveling while sick. If you’re feeling crummy the night before, take over the counter precautions ahead of time. You’ll not only feel more comfortable, but will spare your travel mates from having to take care of you.

4. Staying awake just to be more tired the next day isn’t a good idea.

I’ve had a lot of friends recommend staying up all night, just so I could sleep in the car the next morning. While this works for some people, I’d much rather feel refreshed and prepared for the day ahead of me. This helps me to be “on” when I get to my destination, instead of feeling like I need to take a nap as soon as I get to the hotel.

5. Prepare ahead of time.

This is hands down the most important factor for me when it comes to long-distance travel. Packing and laying out my morning clothes ahead of time hasn’t always been a habit, but it sure makes life easier. I also like to make sure at least my bedroom is clean and organized for when I come home. All of these steps help to pump me up prior to departure, and ensure the least amount of stress possible when I return home.

Here’s a look at my typical week leading up to a trip, which also serves as a good checklist if you’re traveling soon!

One Week Before: 

  • Double check that I’ve canceled any appointments/meetings that may have been scheduled before the trip was booked
  • Start looking at the weather forecast for travel destination
  • Scope out my closet. Do I have appropriate clothing? What clothing/cosmetic items am I lacking that I’ll want during my stay?
  • Shop for travel sized cosmetics, or funnel my own products into three ounce, carryon-approved bottles — I don’t typically do the whole checking luggage thing, and in the rare occasion I do, it’s not worth taking up valuable space with full-sized products (unless I’m traveling for an extended period of time)
  • Shop for nonperishable snacks (I’m a trail mix girl all the way)

Three Days Before: 

  • Shop for perishable snacks, like fruit
  • PACK (both clothing/toiletries/cosmetics & entertainment items) — I used to pack the night before a trip, but I found that I’d often forget something. Packing three days ahead of time allows me to rethink and figure out what I’m missing.
  • Start picking up the house (Do I need to go through the mail? Finish the laundry? No one wants to come home to five loads of laundry, trust me…)
  • DVR any shows I might miss while away

Night Before:

  • Double check suitcases for potential forgotten items
  • Pack phone and computer chargers
  • Set out clothes for the morning — this makes a huuuuge difference if you have to wake up early and helps avoid that midday embarrassment from sinking in the next day when you ultimately regret the 4 a.m. decision to wear an oversized sweatshirt and short shorts. Pick something comfortable, yet cute. I usually opt for my coziest jeans or leggings and a fun tee. Your 4 a.m. self may curse this advice, but you won’t regret feeling put together and vacay ready when you arrive at your destination the next day.
  • Pack the car — not a necessity, but it’s one less thing you have to do in the morning
  • Make sure the gas tank is full if you’re traveling by car
  • Relax — I like to make myself a cup of camomile tea (+ sugar + honey + milk) and maybe even draw a bath to unwind. And if you think you’ll have trouble falling asleep before you’re regular bedtime, try reading a book. The saying’s overdone, but putting away the electronics really does work.
  • Set an alarm for the morning — build in time to snooze if you know you’ll be tempted
  • Plan breakfast — hard boiled eggs are great because they can be completely prepped the night before, or I’ll opt for some simple granola that can easily be eaten in the car.

Morning Of: 

  • Repack makeup and hair tools if they were used to get ready
  • Make bed — so important! It really is nice to come home to a clean room and a made bed. Even if you don’t care whether the bed is made or not, it automatically makes the room look more put together, ultimately fending off any unwanted feelings of stress when you come home.
  • If road tripping: pack cooler full of drinks and snacks
  • If flying: double check flight status before leaving and grab my neck pillow on the way out

Any other tips on prepping for long-distance travel? How do you stay entertained once you’re en route?  

Thanks for reading!