10 Tips for Thriving on a Long Road Trip With Loved Ones

June 25, 2020

Caravan Sonnet
Happy Thursday friends! I hope that this finds you doing well this week!

A couple of weeks ago I addressed a travel topic here on the blog that was difficult to write about but I have been so overwhelmed by the response from y'all. If you missed the post, it was about surviving and thriving on a long road trip with difficult people. You can find it HERE. Vulnerably in the post I shared about an incredibly difficult trip that I was on a couple of years ago that was extremely difficult. I shared deeply from my heart about how this was a wounding experience for the last couple of years that only my family and closest friends knew about.

After carefully and selectively sharing those 11 tips, I heard from nearly a thousand of you in the span of 72 hours about the trips that you have had that have been similar experiences. I am so thankful that it was helpful to each of you and continue to appreciate your heartfelt and kind emails regarding this sensitive subject. I hope that those tips and with time each of you find healing for that experience.

At the same time though I also received so many requests for writing tips for thriving with awesome people on long road trips and I was immediately excited to write about this topic! I have experienced so many amazing road trips with friends and family members that I hope that this post inspires you to have the best road trip possible. This post is going to center around the relationship aspect of traveling together on long road trips. If you are looking for general practical tips for road trips (packing, saving money, rewards, fun surprises on trips, etc. check out this post HERE!)

I am using references from last years Alaskan Road trip that I did with my sister Emily and a dear friend, Sue. They were incredible to travel with and it was one of my favorite road trips ever!

So all of that to say ... here are 10 Tips for Thriving on a Long Road Trip with Loved Ones!
Caravan Sonnet
(1) Relax and Enjoy the Moment
One of the things that was beautiful was the incredible "girls trip" that this time was in the midst of the amazing beauty that surrounded us. Our conversations, our adventure in discovering this "wild and free" land that I had fallen in love with in 2018, and the opportunity to embrace and be fully in the moment with those who were relaxed and enjoying the moments too was priceless. If experiencing Alaska in 2018 had been difficult but lovely, the adventure in 2019 brought my heart so full due to the people that were with me. It was such an incredible road trip as we relaxed and were in the moment.
Caravan Sonnet
(2) Discuss Finances Ahead of Time
One thing that always helps is to talk about finances ahead of time and who is going to pay for what. I think that this just takes away any stress as it is best to be on the same page so that there is no surprises about money. In doing so, everyone clearly knows what they are to be paying and then there are no awkward discussions or tension on the trip.
Caravan Sonnet
(3) Bring Humor to the Unexpected
One of the things that I love about traveling is the opportunity to spend a focused amount of time on those that you are with. One of my favorite things about this is the humor that can come out on trips like this which it definitely did on this trip! There were so many times where Emily or Sue could have complained about something but instead they would start laughing or joking around as you can see in this picture above. This picture was near the end of the (longer than expected to us) whale watching tour where many people had gotten sick and we were getting some "smells" from the bathroom. Instead of complaining these two sweet people started laughing about how we needed masks (a bit ironic here in 2020) and tried to cover their mouths with their shirts. We all just started laughing so hard and what could have been a situation that was difficult they immediately had me and others laughing.

That kind of attitude was seen in dozens of ways throughout the trip and it made the time pass so quickly because we were laughing so much. Its a beautiful reminder to find things to laugh about each and every day. 
Caravan Sonnet
(4) Embrace "Easy Going" Vacation Mode
One of the best things about being on vacation and traveling is the opportunity to embrace a completely different time schedule without the commitments that often accompany us in our normal lives. In doing this it makes everything enjoyable and relaxed and just adds a "lightness" to a long road trip.

I immediately noticed the importance of this at the very beginning of our trip. Despite a long day of travel the day before (especially for Emily whose flight was severely delayed), we were up bright and early the next day to start our adventure. We were driving over to Whittier (through the Whittier Tunnel) that day and we chose to just get up, go eat a relaxed and yummy breakfast at Snow City Cafe (a favorite y'all!) and then start driving over to Whittier along the beautiful Seward Highway. It was a gorgeous day and along the way we stopped at Beluga Point, snapped some pictures, and just took our time getting to Whittier. It was the perfect "first day" in Alaska (we loved our time in that charming town) and it was the perfect start to our vacation.

We continued that same relaxed vibe the entire day as we checked into the beautiful Seward Windsong Lodge, ate a delicious (and largest meal- hahaha) at the Resurrection Roadhouse Restaurant where we sat and talked for a couple of hours, and then took a walk along the beautiful property. It was the perfect way to start the vacation and if you are going on a long road trip it is always great to have days like this included in. On each of the road trips that I organize I try to alternate days like this with longer days of driving to break things up and really enjoy the experience.

If you are interested in reading about any of the experiences that I noted above you can click on the following blog post links:

Whittier, Alaska
The Whittier Tunnel (Anton Anderson Tunnel)
Whittier YouTube Video
Anchorage Travel Guide (from the 2018 Alaskan Road Trip)
Beluga Point, Alaska
Scenic Seward Highway (from the 2018 Alaskan Road Trip)
Seward Windsong Lodge
Resurrection Roadhouse Restaurant
Evening Walk at Seward Windsong Lodge
Caravan Sonnet
(5) Share the Music
I love music and I loved all of the different music that was played on the trip. I am giggling as I write this because at one point we played "The Lion King" while we were driving across the McCarthy Highway and it seemed so perfect. Emily and Sue had amazing music suggestions and the music seemed to "flow" with every part of the trip, highlighting an even better road trip experience. We were in the car for nearly 35 hours so this is saying a lot but I think the music sharing process brought even more laughter and fun to our trip.
Caravan Sonnet
(6) Embrace Flexibility for "Travel Glitches"
If there was ever a trip that could have something go wrong with travel glitches ... this was it. This road trip started things on the first day (before Sue and I flew out to Alaska) and concluded on the last day. The very first night I had issues with my phone and Sue and I had to run around a mall that was closing looking for a Verizon store that we couldn't find, a restaurant whose manager on duty didn't know about the job that I was writing on them (which created an awkwardness), delayed flights, slow travel at times, hotels without plumbing, hotels that didn't have appropriate medicine, flat tires (on the Denali Highway of all places), and even a very scary and serious situation with a hotel that I eventually filed a complaint with the ADA for non-compliance with the disabilities act.

But here is the thing. In any or all of these situations we could have been stressed, grouchy, and frustrated but instead we chose to laugh about it and make the best of things and it changed the entire atmosphere of the trip. At one point Sue said something along the lines of, "we are just going to be flexible" as we hurried to pack up a room to leave within a few minutes so we didn't get a charge fee we hadn't been aware of. Embracing this motto (as did my sister as she slept on so many floors throughout this trip!) was imperative and created an incredible trip with tons of memories that we still laugh about to this day. (#weescapedthecrp)

On even the best of trips "travel glitches" that are little or big can occur and flexibility is key. Embrace this - especially on a long road trip and it will make a world of difference.

If you are interested in reading about any of the experiences that I noted above you can click on the following blog post links:

Caravan Sonnet Blog
(7) Find the Laughter Wherever you Can
Laughter is incredibly important on long road trips. Find it, fight for it, and just choose to laugh. At one point as we attempted to get off Denali Highway as quickly as possible because we were seeing the tire pressure gage dropping more quickly then the number of miles we had left I hit a bump and Emily hit her head really hard on the top of the car. She could have complained, but instead she grabbed a stuffed whale and stuck it on her head and said it was her "head protection". We all couldn't stop laughing about the whole thing. It was just funny and brought so much laughter to a tense and concerning situation.

Some things that we couldn't stop giggling about were things that were "travel surprises". One of these was the Kennicott Glacier. Up until this trip I had no idea that glaciers could be brown. After seeing the beautiful Holgate Glacier earlier in the trip (and the Worthington Glacier on the 2018 trip), I was happily chattering away to Emily and Sue about how beautiful and big the Kennicott Glacier would be. We arrived and then we "looked for it"... it was right there... and brown (see above). Hahaha. For those of us out of the Alaska area it was not what we had in our minds at all.

Another time when we were hiking on the Kennicott Glacier Hike we all giggled about how many people kept passing us and about the possibility of seeing bears... and the fact that we had been told the hike was only about 2 miles (side note: it's not). Again, the laughter was so key and when you are on a long road trip look for it- even if it is in silly things like grabbing "head protection".

If you are interested in reading about any of the experiences that I noted above you can click on the following blog post links:

Kennicott Glacier, Alaska
Holgate Glacier, Alaska
Worthington Glacier Hike
Kennicott Glacier Hike
Caravan Sonnet
(8) Don't be Afraid to Explore Your Own Interests For a Little Bit
A lot of times it feels like you have to do everything together and that is so fun, but on a long road trip sometimes taking a few minutes or a 1/2 hour by yourself is a great thing to do too. It can allow you the opportunity to explore things and have a different view to share about. It can also allow you an opportunity to do things even if your traveling companion doesn't want to. When you are traveling together with awesome people it sometimes just happens naturally or due to circumstances.

Sometimes we each took a walk to call loved ones, or wandered to explore something on a property or just took time to sleep in or do something different. Sue and I had a chance to spend a bit more time at the beautiful Hyatt Place Anchorage-Midtown property due to our flight getting in several hours earlier than Emily's.  At the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge Emily and Sue wandered around the gift shop one morning and explored a bit of the property while I took a shower and napped. Another time at that same property (which was amazing!) Sue and I sat in front of the beautiful huge stone fireplace in the entryway while Emily made a call in the room. Another morning at the Seward Windsong Lodge Emily and I grabbed breakfast while we let Sue catch up on some sleep and brought her back some food. Each of these things weren't "planned" but added to our talks as we drove in the car during the trip about what we each were experiencing and sharing with loved ones back home.

One morning for my job with Seward Windsong Lodge, I wanted to take additional pictures of the property then what I had gotten the day before. I woke up extra early and snuck out around 4am. Emily and Sue were still sleeping and I wandered over to where Sue and I had taken a walk the night before to see if I could catch the sunrise (see the picture above). 

Each day we all had some amazing experiences, experienced the beauty of Alaska, and had time to decompress and make phone calls privately with loved ones. Sometimes on long road trips these solitary moments are sweet to do also.

If you are interested in reading about any of the experiences that I noted above you can click on the following blog post links:

Hyatt Place Anchorage-Midtown
Hyatt Place Anchorage-Midtown Video
Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge
Seward Windsong Lodge
A Beautiful Morning Walk in Seward, Alaska
Caravan Sonnet
(9) Limit Social Media
With the way that technology is it is tempting to be on the phone all the time, even when you are traveling. My traveling companions were incredible with being present and not letting this be the main focus. I felt like we all enjoyed sharing on social media (also part of my job) our adventures, we also were totally present with each other.

PS- If you are like me and you are traveling for work, try to go the extra mile and wake up early or go to bed later to post your required job things so that you still are "with" your people. 
Caravan Sonnet
(10) Split Driving
As I have mentioned before on the blog (read HERE), it may not be possible but if it is try to split the driving. This helps everyone get a bit of a break and allows for people to zone out and watch the scenery more closely (or even sleep). This trip was so great how both Emily and Sue pitched in with driving at different times.

There is one particular day that this stands out to me. It was the 3rd full day of our trip and it was going to be our longest day of driving. After an incredible day whale watching the day before we headed out on one of our longest days of driving from Cooper Landing (we stayed at the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge) over to Kennicott/McCarthy, across the beautiful route 1 and the adventuresome McCarthy Highway.

It turned out to be nearly 13 hours of driving and both Sue and Emily took turns driving for a bit so that I could have a break which was incredible. I had rented a car through Alaska 4x4 (click HERE to read a review) and I had agreed that I would be the only one driving the McCarthy Highway. So we drove across the McCarthy Highway and while the distance was only 60 miles (from Chitna to McCarthy) it took us nearly 6 hours on the way in and about 4 and 1/2 on the way out. The road is ... one of a kind. *smiles* You can read about our experience HERE for more explanation but you will want to have someone driving it that is fully alert and this made the fact that there was split driving even more special.

If you are interested in reading about any of the experiences that I noted above you can click on the following blog post links:

Whale Watching/Holgate Glacier
Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge (review from 2018 Alaska Road Trip)
McCarthy Highway
Caravan Sonnet
The hardest part to these incredible road trips is when they come to an end because they have been so wonderful, but the best news is that there is always the opportunity to do another road trip!
Caravan Sonnet
I also want to add this trip had deep and beautiful meaning to how incredible a road trip can be with the right people. It came shortly after the precious loss of my sweet father and I was (and am) deeply grieving. This trip was filled with love and filled with sweet grace for each day as it was my first work trip back after the horrific loss. Emily and Sue were patient, encouraging, relaxed, and made each day a gift. And a special shout out to Sue who enveloped both my sister and I in that horrendous time. This is what I wrote at the end of the incredible summer trip last...
Caravan Sonnet "When I first was planning this trip, I knew that the three of us would have a good time...but I never expected how amazing it would be. 35 hours in the car together, 10,000 miles of travel (between planes, boats, and driving), and tons of laughter and amazing memories has made this trip truly priceless. Thank you so much to "the assistants" 😉 for taking this adventure with me, for the easy going attitude (especially when things always didn't go as planned...aka: hotels without plumbing and no way to get back to the car to leave), the decision to laugh quickly at everything (even weird bug bites that make your hands swell and no opportunity for medicine and head concussions), for the adventure spirit to go to a remote place that many people never venture to, the excitement over the beauty, patience with the intricacies of a travel work trip like this that holds so many different components to it, and being loved ones who make it so sad to see a once-in-a-lifetime trip come to an end. I love you both dearly. Where should we go to next?"

One final tip! Plan a fun itinerary

We all know road trips can be wonderful, but there’s no getting away from the fact that they can also be stressful. By taking all these tips on board, you can organize a fantastic trip with minimal stress and create memories to last a lifetime, but it’s also worth bearing one more pearl of wisdom in mind: plan a fun itinerary! Depending on who is traveling with you, look for attractions to visit, places to stop and adventures that will make the drive worthwhile. From getting Silver Dollar City tickets to stopping off for an afternoon at the beach or taking a hike in a national park, there are plenty of ways to build excitement and anticipation and keep everyone happy even when there’s a lot of ground to cover. 

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