Tips For the Best Solo Road Trip

Rules of the Road:

How to Have the Best Road Trip Experience When You’re all by Yourself

A while back, in an attempt to have a Great American Adventure, I took a road trip from Montana (the state in which I live) to Colorado (the state in which most of my family lives). It was my first ever solo road trip, and I was both terrified and excited at the prospect. Along the way, I learned a lot about the complicated love/hate relationship one develops with solo travel. I also learned a lot about the pitfalls that come from poor planning. If you’re planning on taking a solo road trip, save yourself some stress and learn from my mistakes!

 

1. Track your weather often. I made the mistake of waiting until the day before I left to do this and ended up having to postpone the trip because of a winter storm.

* If you live in a magical place that’s always sunny, this one might not apply to you (and also, I kind of hate you).

 

2. Don’t forget WATER. Snacks are obviously important, but please for the love of God do not forget to bring along water bottles. You’ll thank me halfway along a lonely interstate when the nearest gas station is hours away and the combination of the heater and the three bags of Funyuns have you thoroughly dehydrated.

 

3. Pack snacks that will remain edible after being knocked around in the car. You may think you’re trying to be healthy, but sooner or later you’ll find that bananas are not made for long road trips. I repeat, bananas are not made for long road trips.

 

4. TRACK THE FULLNESS OF YOUR GAS TANK. If you do not pay attention to this, you may find yourself halfway through Wyoming with no gas station in sight. I remain firmly convinced that it was the power of prayer fueling my car for at least thirty miles out there.

 

5. Bring sunglasses. They help keep the sun from blinding you, but they also lend you a stylish flair when you burst into a small-town gas station and buy their entire stock of Baked Lays Originals.

 

6. Don’t forget your entertainment! When you’re a flying solo, there is no passenger or copilot to entertain you through the long hours. Podcasts, carefully curated music playlists, and audiobooks are your friends.

 

7. Please keep your mother/father/aunt/uncle/cousin/bestfriend informed of your location and safety. If you forget this step, you will be attacked by a thousand voicemails and text messages. Also, you know, they’ll be totally worried about you and you’ll feel like a terrible daughter/son/niece/nephew/cousin/bestfriend.

 

8. In order to legally follow the previous piece of advice, bring a Bluetooth/headphone microphone set/fancy car system. Many states have laws prohibiting talking on the phone without a hands-free device (including my own), and even if the state you’re traveling through does not, it’s a good safety practice.

 

9. Plan your time well. The day I left, I was traveling part of the way to stay a night at my cousin’s house and planned on completing the rest of my journey the following morning. I left my house at six in the morning and ended up at my cousin’s hours before she was expecting me. I could have slept in! I could have driven the entire way! I could have stopped at all those Starbucks I passed!

 

10. HAVE FUN! For the first hour or so, I was so focused on getting to my destination on time that I both sped and panicked about the fact that I was speeding. The next hour was spent driving under the speed limit and panicking about that. When I finally let go and allowed myself to sing loudly and obnoxiously to show tunes or laugh out loud at an audiobook, I had the time of my life.

* Bonus tip here: Don’t forget that cruise control exists.

 

11. And finally, let yourself feel the feels you need to feel. I took this trip to get some distance from a hard situation, and road trips are fantastic places to process hard feelings. You can cry (though not too much, because you need to maintain a certain level of visibility), you can laugh, you can scream as loud as you want. You can feel. Let the road trip be your slow ride to healing, and arrive wherever you’re going in a better frame of mind. Arrive at peace.

Someone Else’s Family Vacation

In my humble opinion, the only acceptable answer to “do you want to go to Hawaii?” is a resounding “YES”. Possibly even a “HELLS YEAH” if you’re feeling particularly raucous. In any case, an offer to journey to a tropical island paradise should never be met with anything but enthusiasm – especially if you’re a nanny. Which is why, when my bosses asked me to go with them to Hawaii, I had nothing but enthusiasm for the idea. It ended up being one of the most memorable and incredible experiences of my life, but it was not at all the easybreezycovergirl Hawaiian vacation I was expecting.

Depending on your level of familiarity with the nanny-verse, you may or may not know that some families ask their nanny to accompany them on vacations. Despite my extensive research on the career before throwing myself into it (and by research, I mean watching several Julie Andrews movies), I had no clue that this actually happened in real life. I had no idea that taking a nanny on vacation was a luxury available to anyone other than the one-percenters, but evidently, it is.

When the C’s (my boss-family) first asked me to travel with them, I was thinking we would take a road trip to a theme park or something similarly run-of-the-mill. When they dropped the bomb that Hawaii was their destination of choice, I had to politely excuse myself to scream and do a happy dance. To me, going to Hawaii was about as likely as going to the Moon – something a select few very lucky individuals do, but far beyond the realm of my possibilities. I consider myself lucky if I get to go to the Olive Garden more than once a year. Yet here they were, offering me this chance to see an incredible place with my favorite little dude at my side – a win-win.

In the weeks leading up to our departure, I spent every available moment scouring the Internet for tips on traveling with toddlers and suggestions for nannies vacationing with families. I read every possible article in the hopes that I could somehow prepare myself for something this huge. Let me be blunt here – there’s no possible way to prepare yourself for this. Traveling with a toddler is a challenge in and of itself. The challenge increases exponentially when you add the long flights, the unfamiliar situation, and the politics of working through someone else’s family vacation.

To be honest, I was sort of expecting the trip to be an easy way to enjoy a vacation on someone else’s dime. I was sorely mistaken. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy every minute of it (and I paid for very little – thanks, Mr. and Mrs. C!), but it was by no means easy. Working during someone else’s vacation is such a challenge, no matter how wonderful they are or how well you get along with them. It’s hard to know where you stand in that situation if you’ve never been there before, and none of us ever had.

I never knew if I was supposed to tend to Bug (the little dude, about 15 months old at the time of the trip) if the C’s were present, or if I should let them take over. Bug was also sleeping in my room, so I didn’t know how to handle it when he got fussy. I always felt guilty when Mrs. C would get up and come grab him after hearing him cry for a little while, despite my attempts to comfort him. When he went to bed, I never knew what my role became – could I go socialize with the C’s and their friends on the lanai? Was it okay for me to accept a glass of wine with everyone else? Could I joke with them? There were so many potentially awkward situations throughout the experience, and finding my place in their family vacation felt exhausting at times.

On top of that, I didn’t have much free time, unless you count Bug’s naps (and even then I couldn’t leave the condo). Most nights the C’s would go out with their friends who had traveled with us, or with their parents who met us there, leaving me alone with Bug. When we did go places, Mrs. C and I shared the job of entertaining Bug and keeping him occupied. I ended up working much longer hours than I do regularly, and I was pretty exhausted when we finally made it home.

The trip was still one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Once I adjusted my expectations and found my place in the picture, I had an amazing time. Sure, I was working, but I was working in Hawaii. Bug still had fits and my job still brought difficulties, but they happened in Hawaii. And best of all, I was able to witness my favorite little dude as he experienced so many things for the first time.

I got to hold his hand while he grabbed his first fistful of sand. He sat on my lap while we watched whales breach right next to the shore. I held him in my arms while the sounds of the gorgeous Pacific Ocean lulled him to sleep on our first night there. I identified each new plant and animal that he excitedly discovered. I filled a box with the plumeria blossoms he brought me every day, a box I will never get rid of (even now as the blossoms are years old and nothing but a pile of dust). Being in Hawaii was incredible, but it was nothing compared to witnessing Bug in Hawaii. For that more than anything else, the trip will always be one of my most cherished memories.

Being a nanny is hard sometimes. We work crazy hours. We face extremely high expectations and standards. We never know if we’re friend or employee, so we never really know where we stand. That being said, there are so many things that make being a nanny worthwhile. The love and connection with each charge in our care, getting to experience incredible new things, and witnessing the kiddos who become our best friends have some of the best days of their lives, to name a few. Being a nanny is hard sometimes, but it’s still the greatest job in the world.

A Peek Inside My Purse

 

Every good traveler is ready to drop everything and head out at a moment’s notice. You never know when Adventure will call, and wouldn’t you hate to have to put her on hold? Whether you stock a go-bag, a compartment in your car, or your regular purse, you need to make like a Boy Scout and always be prepared. Personally, I have an obnoxiously enormous purse (which I affectionately refer to as my Mary Poppins bag) that I take with me EVERYWHERE. To inspire you to prepare your own Emergency Travel Pack, here’s a peek into what I keep in mine:

1. Approximately 72 lipsticks. This one isn’t exactly a travel necessity, but I like to be able to change my look depending on where I go. I love that with a dab of my favorite shade of red, I can go from Nanny to Exotic Traveler in a moment. I probably look exactly the same, but I feel different. That’s what counts. Probably.

2. A handkerchief. You never know where travel may take you. You never know when, or for what, you may need this.

3. A small, hardcover notebook. Sometimes inspiration strikes. I need to be prepared to write it down. Also, I have a really hard time keeping track of grocery lists.

4. A second small notebook. Remember our motto from earlier? Be prepared. Mine is designated specifically for blog ideas. A great story or post idea may come to me as I’m having an adventure, and I need to be ready to jot it down.

5. A sewing kit. Sometimes, your pants may tear mid-adventure. Learn from my past mistake and BE READY FOR THIS.

6. A flask. Because reasons. [I do have to add a disclaimer here and say that 99.99% of the time this flask is empty. It’s like a metaphor, or whatever.]

7. Hand sanitizer. Keep those germs away. Mine sparkles and smells like peppermint.

8. Lotion. The west is a dry, dry place. Your skin will thank you. This also sparkles and smells like peppermint. What can I say? I cannot be controlled at Bath & Body Works. Sue me.

9. Tic-tacs. These are just for fun, and because my Mimi always stocked them in her purse when I was growing up. It’s nice to feel nostalgic sometimes.

10. A wide variety of allergy medications and nasal decongestants. I am very allergy-ridden when I travel (and, to be honest, every other moment of my life).

11. A Reviver. This thing is a miracle. It’s a small, fancy piece of cloth that deodorizes your clothes and hair (and anything else) with one swipe. Smoke, food odor, body odor – it gets rid of everything. You keep it sealed in its little plastic holder and it stays fresh and reusable.

12. A small bag containing a folded-down, reusable tote. This was a gift from my boss a few Christmases ago, and even though it may seem like a boring gift it is SO. DANG. FUNCTIONAL. Mine is a Loqi, and it has a picture of a cat on it. It’s on the shortlist for greatest things I own.

13. A compact mirror. This is nice for fashion emergencies and all that, but to be honest I mostly use mine for spying on the people sitting behind me on airplanes. I say I’m doing this to be aware of my surroundings, but really I just enjoy feeling like a secret agent.

14. A dual-function phone charger. I got this at a gas station years ago, and it is the handiest thing EVER for traveling. At first glance, it looks like a regular car charger, but it also has a little wall plug that flips out from the side. You can plug any USB cord into it, and it is the best thing ever.

15. And finally, my Pinch Minimergency kit. It has about a zillion things inside, and I have been able to come to the rescue of so many people thanks to this little dude. Mine is very sparkly, but you can find a variety of styles and themes on their website.

What do you keep inside your travel bag? Comment below!