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There are two kinds of road trip people: commandos and amblers. Commandos like getting to their ultimate destination as quickly as possible and stop only when necessary. Amblers, on the other hand, tend to take longer to get there and stop much more often. Commandos take as straight a path as possible. Amblers will venture off the planned route if they see something interesting. We are commandos. We pride ourselves in making 12+ hour road trips in one day. For us, driving for 4 or more hours between stops is normal. If you are an ambler but would like to be a commando, this article is for you. Here, I will give you some tips to save time on road trips so you can get there quicker.
When deciding what time to leave on your road trip, use strategic planning to save time. What I mean by this is to think about your route and potential traffic you might encounter. If you have two route options that take roughly the same amount of time, choose the one will less traffic. If you will be traveling through a major city two hours into your trip, leave at a time that will allow you to avoid that city’s rush hour traffic. Because we live in a major city, we like to leave on trips around 4-5 am so we can be out of town before rush hour starts. If you find yourself hitting a city at the height of rush hour, try stopping for a sit down meal to let traffic clear out while you eat. This has the added benefit of making your trip less stressful while also saving you time.
Drive at Night
Another way to strategically plan your road trip is to drive at night. This is very useful if you have two or more drivers, and at least one of them can easily sleep in the car. When you drive through the night, you typically encounter less traffic and have a smoother journey than during the daytime. This fact alone can save quite a bit of time on road trips. If you are traveling with kids, this is an even better idea. By driving at night while your children are sleeping, they will be less likely to want to stop. Additionally, most people eat more during the day than at night. So, by driving at night, you can eliminate the stops for food and bathroom breaks because everyone in the car, except for the driver, should be asleep most of the time. My husband loves driving at night. Once everyone in the car is settled and goes to sleep, he turns on his music, finds his zone, and drives for hours without stopping.
One Stop Shop
An easy way to save time on road trips is to minimize the number of times you stop. The best way to do this is to take care of all of your needs in one stop. When you stop for gas, make everyone in the car go to the bathroom and get whatever food and drink you need at the same time. This will prevent stopping every hour or so. If it is time for a meal, find a gas station that is next to a fast-food restaurant so you can hit them both up before getting back on the highway. Travel centers are great for this because they usually include fast food restaurants and gas stations into one building. If you need to stop to eat but your gas tank is not yet on empty, go ahead and top off your gas. This will allow you to drive that much further before the next stop.
One way to eliminate some of the stops you need to make while on a road trip is to pack snacks, drinks, and maybe even a meal or two in the car before leaving home. This way, when someone gets hungry, you can grab some food while still moving. This is a great tip for families traveling with kids because they seem to always be hungry. I usually pack a snack bag for the car that contains a variety of easy, no-mess snacks for the family. I try to include everyone’s favorites. This tip will also save you some money while traveling.
Use the Drive-Thru
When you do have to stop, you want it to be as quick as possible. The less time you spend getting gas or food, the faster you get to your destination. Meals are one of the biggest time sucks there is when traveling. This is where drive-thru restaurants come in handy. Why spend an hour sitting down to a meal when you can run through the drive-thru in a few minutes and keep moving? We almost always use drive-thru’s and eat in the car when we are on road trips. If you can’t stand the thought of multiple meals from a fast food restaurant in one day, then try using the drive-thru for breakfast and lunch and then treat yourself to a sit down meal at dinner. That alone can save you from one to three hours on your trip.
Divide and Conquer
My husband, Chris, and I are big believers in the divide and conquer technique. We use it at home and while traveling. When we are on road trips, we use it to save time whenever we stop. If our son needs to go to the bathroom while we are pulling into a drive-thru, Chris will let us out as he gets in the drive-thru line. I take our son to the bathroom while Chris orders and picks up our food. By the time he has the food in hand, we are done in the bathroom and back in the car. We also use this method whenever we have to stop for the night. When it is time to hit the road again the next morning, one of us will check out of the hotel while the other one loads the car. This little technique saves us lots of time.
This tip can be used by anyone, but it is vital for anyone traveling with younger children. Put slip-on shoes on your children for the road trip. This way, they can take their shoes off in the car. When it is time to stop, you won’t have to waste time putting their shoes back on them. They can just slip them on quickly by themselves before you actually stop. This will help to get you in and out and back on the road even quicker.
If you believe that the fun of travel is in the journey more than the destination, then you probably don’t care how long it takes you to get there. For those of us commandos who want to make the most of our time at our vacation destination, getting there as quickly as possibly is key. So, it is important to save as much time as possible when taking road trips. Above are some of the tips that we use when on the road. I hope you are able to use some of these tips to save time on road trips the next time you are traveling with your family. Happy travels!