Holiday Traveling Made Easy

Just back from a trip (by car) to Las Cruces, New Mexico, I realized how much I like long driving trips. Wasn’t so true a few years ago, but I figured out some ways to make the trip more comfortable. I thought I’d share.

clouds1.Bring your own water, in a cooler. Fill two or three of your own drinking bottles at home, then pack a gallon of filtered water to refill the bottles. Less waste, and your drinking bottles are larger then those little skimpy bottles, anyway. A gallon of drinking water is a lot less expensive than eight, 16-oz bottles. And buying water at convenience stores is just that, convenient. It’s expensive.

2. Pack easy-to-eat snacks that are healthy and yummy.  Long drives keep you sitting, and lots of candy and cookies makes you groggy or sugar-rushed. Grapes are easy to carry and eat, as are satsumas (seedless madarin oranges, often sold in small crates). Also good for you and tasty are fancy mixed nuts, pepitas (sunflower seeds already out of the shell), and trail mix. Check the trail mix with the weather, so you aren’t carrying chocolate that melts. Many of the protein bars are packed with sugars, so check the labels before buying those.

organ-mountains313. If you are driving in the desert, keep your gas tank half full. On the East Coast, there are gas stations every few miles. Here in the desert, when I drive past a sign that says, “Next service 118 miles” they mean it. Gas prices vary, and if you fill up half a tank, a gas station that’s more expensive doesn’t make you grind your teeth.

4. In mild weather, pack a lunch and pull over at a rest stop to eat. I started doing this about three months ago, and will never roll through a drive-through window again. Is a lunch hard to pack? Not at all. I buy a bag of pre-washed Romaine lettuce, some sliced turkey, some sliced cheese, and I’m done. Wrap a Romaine leaf (or two) around a slice of turkey and cheese and you have a low-calorie, inexpensive lunch. Add a thermos of coffee or iced tea, and life is good.

5. Many diets tell you not to eat until you are really hungry. I’ve found that my doctor’s suggestion never to let yourself get really hungry works much better. When I’m hungry, I made dumb food choices. Nibbling on almonds keeps me from getting hungry. Yes, they have fat in them, but it’s good fat. I also pack the nuts in a pre-measured bag, so I don’t mindlessly eat a tree worth of nuts.

6. Some easy-to-pack conveniences are wet-wipes, napkins, hand cream, lip balm and  artificial  tears (your eyes get tired staring at the road). I travel with an inexpensive knife, fork and spoon, so I can cut apples and apply peanut butter to celery. The lip balm and small hand cream go in one of the front cup holders to keep them handy.

7. Carry shampoo and conditioner in smaller bottles to easy packing. Put a rubber band around the conditioner, so you can tell which bottle it is without your glasses.

8. Chanel makes a lipstick that actually doesn’t wear off for 8 hours. Nor does it print off on your water bottle. I apply it in the morning, then add sun-block lip gloss to refresh the look all day.

9. Take a hat if you are driving. If the sun visor just misses covering the sun, you can tilt your hat to keep the sun out of your eyes. And on bright sunny, or windy days, it can keep you comfortable.

10. On long drives, I listen to audio books. The library has a big choice (for free)  and I always check out more than I need, in case one of the books isn’t to my liking.

Enjoy your travels and may your trips bring you new friends and unite you with old ones!

—Quinn McDonald is looking forward to new classes taught in new places.

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23 thoughts on “Holiday Traveling Made Easy

  1. The slug line is the lobotomized version; like a bus or train system it’s basically a network of fixed nodes. It works, but it requires riders both riders and vehicles to travel to a node first. By augmenting the system with distributed and networked intelligence, each rider and each vehicle becomes a node with a vector and software matches them up. It’s essentially the same problem solved a billion times a day whenever anybody makes a data connection from a mobile phone.

    • Slug lines have existed in D.C. since before the HOV lanes. It’s social evolution! There are also complex rules about slug lines that are fun to know–the passenger doesn’t choose the radio station, no singing, drinking or eating, and some women drivers will take only a mix of men and women, some women riders won’t be the only woman in a car.

  2. Thanks, Quinn–great tips. I second the Greek Yogurt, my favorites being Fage peach or cherry, but I digress. I like to take 4 to 6 hard cooked eggs for my hub and me. I actually peel them at home and put them in a small peanut butter jar. If we’re in the mood for egg salad, it’s no great chore to chop them, add pickles & mayo, & Bob’s your uncle! I try to eat on a schedule–learned courtesy of Weight Watchers (which has helped me to lose 75+ pounds, yay!), so I eat breakfast, without fail, every morning, no matter where I am. We have lunch, home or on the road, at around noon, and dinner around 6, ditto. As for beverages, besides the water and diet ginger ale, I brew up a huge vat of tea, and fill 3-4 bottles with that and put in the cooler, along with a gallon jug of it. One of Weight watchers’ tips was that, if you swapped out just one can of sugar-sweetened soda a day and made no other changes to your diet or your routine, by the end of a year, you’ll have lost 10 pounds. And you know what? It’s true–I tried it. But I also decided after that, that I could do more, which is why WW. And I haven’t looked back. A couple other quick tips: it’s easy to forget your veg on the road. I always make up what I call “finger salads”–not just the usual carrot and celery sticks, but strips of seeded cucumber: spears of zucchinis–yummy raw!– Multi-colored strips of sweet bell peppers; jicama sticks (be sure to have a couple limes in the cooler, jicama with lime is a match made in heaven); and I don’t know about you, but I love spring onions to nibble on. Finally, I always put a few cans of reduced sodium V-8 juice in the cooler. It doesn’t really give you all that much in the way of vegetable nutrition, but it’s refreshing and tasty if you add a squeeze of lemon juice and a dash–or 3!–of Worcestershire sauce. I love the stuff. Take care, and happy trekking!

    • Now I’ll have to take another trip just to follow those ideas! I love jicama, and lime is a great idea, too. I like most root veggies raw–turnips, rutagaba, more than I like them cooked, so that is a really wonderful addition. I don’t eat yogurt with fruit in it (too much sugar), so I could dip those veggies in the yogurt! Double yum!

  3. In addition of tossing in a couple of pre-frozen bottles of water into the cooler–I add a damp washcloth in a baggie. Especially on a hot day, that cool washcloth is very refreshing (I don’t use wet wipes–I can’t use anything with scent and prefer to avoid the chemicals). Your suggestions reminded me how much I enjoy road trips.

  4. Great tips, thanks Quinn! My husband and I do a cross-country road trip every year and we have it down to a science.

    I agree with you and your doctor on #5…if I wait until I’m really hungry, I always make bad food choices. Pre-planning and a little prep work solve that problem. I throw a couple Greek yogurts into the cooler for an additional snack. For #7, I always use a Sharpie to mark on my shampoo and conditioner bottles. I mark all my extra bottles with a large “S” or “C” before storing them for future use, it definitely helps.

    • You have better eyesight than I do! And a lot of showers are dark. That’s why I switched to the rubber band. I also used to use a different color bottle for conditioner, but nowadays, it’s so hard to find anything except clear. But I am loving the cooler idea more and more–and you are a real long-distance traveler.

  5. Road traveling in New Mexico was one of my favorite things about living in the Southwest. I only lived there for 6 months but whenever I could, I would throw the bare necessities in my car and head out from my base in Roswell to Ruidoso, Taos, Santa Fe, the La Luz valley…stopping wherever I wanted to see whatever took my eye, mostly ancient sites and petroglyphs. Another tip: Freeze bottles of water (leave space for the water to expand) and use them as freezer packs in your cooler; as they melt you can drink them ice-cold. I always carried fruit and nuts and cheese, and would make veggie tortilla wraps for my lunch before I started out. And, of course, a bottle of wine and some chocolate, for when I was in the motel room at night, preferably one with a small porch and a chair so I could watch the sky for shooting stars and UFO’s. Saw many shooting stars but no UFO’s, not even in Cloudcroft.

    • Isn’t it perfect? It’s just heave to travel like that. I do the frozen-water thing, I didn’t mention it because a lot of bottles say not to do it–it shortens the bottles’ life. I use stainless steel bottles. Works fine.

  6. Long distance travel is one of my favorite things to do, especially if I am not on a strict schedule. I love your ideas, especially about the travel-easy foods – some I’ve never had before. And the hat substituting for a visor–brilliant! It’s always a good idea, especially traveling in the desert, to be as prepared as possible.

    I even carry a sleeping bag, basic camping supplies, and clean clothes for a variety of weather conditions. If I need to make an unplanned stop, it doesn’t involve unexpected expenses. I’m lucky that my car has a big enough space for sleeping – not too comfortably, but it’s an experience, for sure.

    And I love to keep a travel log when I am the passenger. Now I use a phone app to record my travel log when I’m driving, too. Makes a great record of the trip.

  7. I like your travel suggestions. I already do a number of those, but not all, so I will add them to my travel schedule. I think you also need to add a travel companion, so you can switch off driving. It makes it so much easier so you aren’t driving when you are tired. Plus you can cover more distance with multiple drivers – at least if that is your purpose.

    • That is ideal. Most of the time I travel to teach classes and I go alone because I am traveling to my class whose members live far away, so I go alone. One time I took my husband along, and that was good for driving.

  8. I saw the 3D printers at the Maker Faire. Can’t say I qualify to “need” one but they are way cool and schools can get one for about $1000 for science classes. What a rush.

    • Prices are dropping fast — there are already at least two for $500: the SoliDoodle (available now) and the Printrbot (soon). The electronics are open source (Arduino), the software is open source, and it turns out that once you have a 3-D printer, you can print many (or all) of the parts to make another one.

      Clearly the next challenge in the 3D printer industry is improving product names…

      • If you google “3D printer video” you’ll get quite a few choices. There are several different approaches to 3D printing, and two main categories: building up a layer at a time, or machining away excess from a solid block of something. The coolest one to watch is a DLP machine (Digital Light Processing), where there’s a pan of some kind of liquid plastic or resin or something, and a laser (I think) process “fixes” the stuff into very thin solid layers. So the thing you’re “printing” slowly rises up out of a lake of liquid goo! Looks like magic. There are also processes that do “sintering”, which is fusing together pellets or powder into a larger solid. Those machines can make usable metal parts. There’s also a version of this process that uses, as its solid material, sugar! Everything it prints is edible. Some people have made do-it-yourself 3D printers using this process, and a commercial system is called “CandyFab”.

        Home machines are usually either the “squirt stuff through a nozzle and it solidifies” variety or the “computer-controlled machine tool” approach (which is admittedly somewhat more pedestrian but probably produces more useful things, generally). Sintering metals and processes that need lasers and electron beams generally aren’t DIY projects and require fairly expensive components and materials.

  9. I used to relatively enjoy driving; now I’ve come to loathe it. It feels like such a waste of time and resources. I also used to quite like cars, and now I’m starting to resent the fact that living where I do, not having a car is not a viable option.

    I’m happier about bus and train travel, but unless you happen to be going exactly where those things stop, things get much more complex. But that’s because trains (at least the way we currently think of them) only travel on fixed rails, and the way buses work (and here I’m mostly talking about long-distance buses) was designed three hundred years ago or more; they’re stage coaches.

    But more than half the people in the country are now walking around with radio-linked GPS devices in their pockets. As data is amassed about where everybody goes, it’ll begin to be possible to efficiently create “buslines” with individual routes for everyone. This could be enhanced “minibuses” AND they could be something very much like carpools, where the person who does own a car can get compensated in some way by following a route downloaded to its GPS, picking up passengers going to places along the way. The route, and the passengers, might be different every time.

    And as you drive along with your new companions, you’ll be able to look out the windows and remember when farmland featured long, straight rows of just one kind of plant, stimulated by tons of nitrogen, instead of visually chaotic, fractal patterns of multicultured diversity. Tractors pulling heavy equipment are ancient ideas, too.

    Is there a 3D printer on your holiday gift list?

    • The idea of 3-D printing is fascinating, but I have enough stuff. Unless I can create a really good vacuum cleaner. As a freelancer, I’d love that traveling system. An early version of that is the 25-year old system Washington, D.C. government workers use–called Slug Lines. People with cars travel to designated parking lots in suburbs–20 or 30 miles away. They swing past a Slug Line, pick up someone going to the parking lot on their way, and three people get in the car. The car is then allowed to use the fast-speed HOV lanes.

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