Summer on the Road

A guide to having entertaining and relaxing road trips
By Erica Tasto

The road trip is a universal ideal that has become glorified by American pop culture. From literature to music to movies, the journey boasts feelings of freedom, spontaneity, and discovery.

Although a road trip may conjure up images of wind in your hair and a wide-open road, the reality isn’t always as simple. Maybe your car is packed six-deep on your way to visit an old friend, you and your significant other rest elbows on the shared center console en route to a romantic destination, or your whole family is ready to create lasting summer memories via SUV.

Whatever the situation might be, the reality is that many road trips are filled with restless limbs, idle chatter, and tired minds. Too often, electronic gadgets become our sole focus—ear buds blocking out noise, video screens demanding our attention—and we miss out on the opportunity to interact and bond with our fellow travelers. Road trips are ripe with potential—if we can simply choose to unplug. Here’s how to keep both your legs and your conversation from cramping.

 

ROCK WHAT YOU’VE GOT

Vacationing on a budget? No problem. Try these DIY ideas for fun on the run that won’t drain your bank account.

Magnetic Boards: With computer printouts of game pieces, magnetic strips, and a little glue, you can recreate your favorite board games and use a cookie sheet as the playing surface. The magnets stick to the cookie sheet to make the games travel friendly. Try Connect Four, Monopoly, or Chutes and Ladders. You could also attach magnets to paper-doll cutouts and clothes for children to play “dress-up” with their magnetic dolls. Magnetic boards are interactive, a great way to occupy kids, and you won’t have to worry about game pieces getting lost when you hit bumps in the road.

Easy Recipes: Pack your own snacks and avoid the gas station munchies. Look in your pantry and make your own trail mix—mix together granola, dried fruit, seeds, and nuts. Make your own protein bars so when you gas up the car you can fuel up your body, too. Pack fruit and veggies in a reusable container. Make tasty, filling smoothies before you hit the road. This at-home preparation will both better your health and save you money—which you can then put toward unique local eateries when you spot them, like a small-town diner, ice cream shop, or outdoor market.

Incentives: Give everyone something to look forward to at each rest stop. Hand out snacks, take photos, or switch seats. Let someone else pick the music, choose a new game to play, or decide on a new discussion topic. If you’re traveling around the holidays, let each child open up one small stocking stuffer. Furthermore, plan to stop at sites other than the designated highway rest stops: think scenic overlooks, historic sites, or famous landmarks. Print a map of the trip for kids and mark rest stops along the way so they can follow along and get excited for the next resting place.

 

PLAY GAMES

Whether you’re going nowhere fast or have a planned-out mapped-out route, amp up the fun factor with these games:

Storytelling: Pick a topic related to the journey—Disneyland, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas—then make up a story one sentence at a time. Take turns creating the next sentence in the story. You could even get into character! Pretend you’re all from the past, or foreign spies, or even each other—imagination is your only limit. For a more personal approach, take turns sharing funny memories from the past; or, if you’re traveling with family, use the time to learn more about your own family history.

Guess Who: Choose to impersonate someone famous, a family member, or someone else that everyone in the car would know. Ask questions until you figure out each person’s new identity, then remain in character until the next rest stop. You might end up in the car with Donald Trump, your grandmother, or your high school principal, which could make things pretty interesting.

Fortunately-Unfortunately: Someone makes a negative statement—“Unfortunately, we have run out of gas”—and someone else counters that with a positive statement—“Fortunately, we have a full gas can in the trunk.” You can be serious or silly, and this game can even help teach kids critical thinking and problem solving skills.

Riddles and Rules: First, think of a traveling scenario—camping trip, bache­lorette party, cruise, etc. One person then thinks of a rule and makes a related statement about what they are bringing on the trip; others try to figure out the rule by asking if they can bring certain items along. So if the scenario is a cruise, and the rule is “words that have two syllables,” you might say, “I’m going on a cruise, and I’m bringing sunscreen.” The next person might ask, “Can I bring a bathing suit?” to which you would respond, “No.” But if someone asks, “Can I bring a beach ball?” you would respond, “Yes.” Depending on how complicated your rules are, this game builds creativity and analytical skills.

 

STRETCH AND REST FOR STRESS RELIEF

Traveling is exhausting, so ensure you get enough sleep the night before you depart. Also remember to periodically pull over, get out of the car, and stretch your limbs—muscles naturally tighten after long phases of inactivity. Pay special attention to the following areas:

Hip Flexors: Sitting for a long time means your hips are bent, or flexed, which shortens the muscles on the front of the hip and lengthens the muscles on the back of the hip. Over time, muscle imbalances occur: shortened muscles, e.g. your hip flexors, become tight as lengthened muscles, e.g. your glutes, become weak.

Lower Back: Likewise, stressed out hamstrings and hip flexors can contribute to poor posture. When tense muscles pull on the spine and pelvis, we experience back stiffness or low back pain.

Neck and Shoulders: Whether you’re the driver or a passenger, constantly keeping your arms in the same position stresses those upper body muscles. Your shoulders begin to feel weighted, and your head may droop or pull forward.

Stretching helps to balance the body from head to toe. If you aren’t driving, do simple stretches in the car between rest stops: arm shrugs, shoulder rolls, head turns, etc. Flex and release your butt muscles. Do seated calf raises. When you do stop to get out of the vehicle, everyone can do leg swings, full arm circles and horizontal “flys,” full leg extensions, and arm raises and torso bends to elongate the spine. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, bring along yoga mats for some coordinated activities, or stop near hiking trails and go for a short walk. However you choose to do it, stretching these tightened muscles will help you avoid short-term discomfort and long-term damage. Plus, it’s a great excuse to get out, see the scenery, and snap some photos.

 

PB&J SMOOTHIE

This delicious drink is basically a liquified sandwich—all the great lunchtime taste without the crumbs. Packed with protein, calcium, antioxidants, and vitamins to keep your mind and body satisfied. Before you hit the road, combine all ingredients in a blender and blend from low to high until smooth.

1 ½ cups vanilla almond milk

2 tablespoons organic peanut butter

1 cup frozen berries (this is your “jelly”—I like raspberries!)

1 frozen banana

4-6 ice cubes

For an extra boost, add 1 scoop protein powder

 

QUICK PICKS

No time to make your own food and drinks? No problem. You can still choose healthy over harmful. Just grab these favorite finds and go!

Organic energy drinks from LITTLE MIRACLES offer a refreshing alter­native to beverages full of artificial flavors and sweeteners. Each uses the power of ginseng and acai to jumpstart your body. Try all four flavors: Green Tea & Pomegranate, White Tea & Cherry, Black Tea & Peach, and Lemongrass Tea, Orange Juice & Ginger. Tastes like juice and provides a natural source of energy. // drinklittlemiracles.com

Heart-healthy oatmeal squares from CORAZONAS FOODS are infused with cholesterol-lowering plant sterols and present healthier options than items from the gas station bakery. Try the two new flavors, Chocolate Coconut Macaroon and Orange Cranberry—each square contains 15 grams of whole grain oats, 6 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fiber. Soft and chewy just like a fresh cookie. // corazonas.com

Body-boosting whole food bars from AMAZING GRASS are coated in organic dark chocolate and made with a vast variety of organic superfoods. Ingredients such as maca, acai, and almonds work to keep you energized, support your immune system, and provide essential nutrients. A better choice than candy bars, and sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. // amazinggrass.com