Last week was spent on the road with my mom, driving from the Central Coast of California to the Front Range of Colorado. It’s a road trip I’ve done countless times before, and I swear it never gets easier. It takes about 20 hours one way, so we usually spend the night somewhere in Utah. I’ve come to know where the best bathrooms are, the easiest gas stations, and the most delicious food. But the most important thing I’ve learned from all of these trips is what I need to take care while on the road.
Traveling in general isn’t the easiest thing, but throw chronic illness into the mix, and it can be pretty gnarly. Two full days in the car is brutal on the body. Having interstitial cystitis makes the trip even longer with frequent bathroom breaks. Pelvic pain and long periods of sitting, not the best combination. I absolutely love traveling and exploring new places, so figuring out how to make it work has been super important. While traveling with chronic illness can be pretty discouraging, it’s allowed me to figure out just how to make a road trip bearable, or even fun!
While these tools and tips are inspired by my journey with chronic illness, they’re super useful for everyone. Check them out below then let me know: what is something you MUST have on a road trip?
Road Trip Must-Have’s
If you’re going to be spending any time at all in the car, you have to have something to listen to! Even if you’re road-tripping with great people to chat with, sometimes you just need a change of pace. That’s why I make sure to always have podcasts downloaded and ready to go on my phone! If you haven’t checked out my favorite podcasts post yet, there are definitely some good recommendations there! My favorite types tell stories or teach me something because they keep me mentally engaged, which is great when you need to stay awake.
This one is SO important. If you’re anything like me, you eat when you’re bored. Or trying to stay awake. Or just because eating sounds good. And while I know maybe this isn’t the healthiest way to look at food, I’m a big fan of listening to what my body and brain need. Sometimes, that just happens to be snacks. So I try to keep some on hand at all times while on road trips. Blueberries are probably my favorite thing to keep in the cooler. They’re super easy to store in a cooler and pull out when you just need something to mindlessly snack on. Another go-to for me are healthy bars. Go-Macro Bars and Perfect Bars are my absolute favorites right now. I love the convenience, the ingredients, and the flavors. Plus, they’re pretty filling for bars, so they’ll keep you going for a while!
If you’re willing to do a little prep work before your trip, my Banana Bread Breakfast Cookies make a great on-the-go snack or breakfast! They’re full of healthy fats and protein to keep you energized. They’re also low in sugar so you won’t experience that crash you get from sugary breakfast pastries. If you’re looking for a way to get in some extra adaptogens on-the-go, these cookies make a great vessel! Just mix the powder into the dough and bake like normal! Another easy prep-ahead road trip treat is my Chocolate Chip Sunbutter Power Balls. Similarly full of healthy fats, proteins, and (potentially) adaptogens, they’re a great snack to boost your energy during that midday driving slump.
Do you have a go-to morning drink? My current one is an adaptogen hot chocolate with coconut butter and collagen. At home, I have all of my adaptogens, cacao, and collagen on hand with my amazing Ninja blender. But on the road, it can be a lot harder to make such a drink. So I bought myself a hand-held frother with a handy travel case! That way, I could bring along packets of Four Sigmatic’s Reishi Hot Chocolate, Artisana Coconut Butter, Neocell Collagen, and my GreenLove lion’s mane and shilajit tinctures, and still make my morning drink!
The frother is also great for instant coffee or any other drink you want nice and blended. Pro-tip: for a richer road trip hot chocolate, stop at a coffee shop and order steamed milk of choice. Coconut is my go-to Then mix your adaptogen hot chocolate packet and other add-ins with the frother! If you’re not feeling like paying for the milk, just stop at a gas station or any coffee shop and get hot water. It’s usually free! Use coconut butter to make your drink a little richer and more satiating!
I guess it kind of goes without saying given the previous item, but I ALWAYS travel with a reusable mug. My favorite is the Healthy Human Cruiser because it’s made with non-toxic materials and it works! It keeps my drinks hot (or cold) for hours. It also (for the most part) keeps me from spilling. Best of all, though, carrying a travel mug with you means you don’t have to get your coffee or drinks in a single-use cup. Even just little acts such as not using a single-use plastic coffee cup every morning makes a huge difference. Also, as a bonus, some places give small discounts for bringing your own mug! If you buy coffee every day, that adds up!
Reusable Water Bottle
I feel like this really shouldn’t even be listed in this day and age, but bring your own water bottle. There is no reason to purchase single-use water bottles anymore for road trips. There are so many really fun, effective reusable water bottles that are super affordable out there. You can fill them up for free at literally any gas station and most coffee shops. And staying hydrated is key for staying healthy on a road trip. I’m horrible about this because of my bladder issues, but it really does help everything else function properly. Boosts your immune system, keeps you awake, keeps digestion flowing. All of it. Water is the best. PLUS, a reusable water bottle makes a really cool spot to display all your stickers from your travels. Just saying.
Okay, this one sounds weird but bear with me. I have chronic back pain. My SI joint is all kinds of screwy thanks to IC and years spent on the back of a horse (which I’m not giving up anytime soon). As a result, sitting in the car for long periods of time can seriously hurt. I’m constantly adjusting my seating position and it can get really annoying. Something I discovered on this last trip though is that having the seat warmer on really helped! It just loosened everything up for me and relieved some of that pain, similar to taking a hot bath.
Now, my personal vehicle isn’t fancy enough to have seat warmers. But we were in my mom’s much newer pickup, so I got to enjoy the special feature. Given that having that applied heat really helped my back pain, it makes me think that having a mobile heating pad in my own vehicle isn’t such a bad idea for long trips! If back pain isn’t really an issue for you, then this might just be something to keep in mind for the colder months!
A Good Book
If you’re anything like me, reading in the car is not an option. I get car sick SO easily it’s not even funny. However, having a good book on hand for hotel nights or other down time is so important. Having a book you actually want to read available helps you minimize your screen time and mentally stimulates you. I’m probably the worst person about managing screen time, but I’ve been making a priority to read every night. And it’s made a world of difference on my anxiety levels. It’s important, especially if traveling is stressful for you, to have that escape. It’s a wonderful way to wind down and fall asleep after a long day in the car.