Road Trip Tips

Another month means another travel tip – this month let’s talk road trips. I find this very fitting as I have just journeyed to the States via car twice in the past month, accumulating over 5000 km! If you follow my socials then you’ll know that we spent the May long weekend in Allegheny National Forest (in Pennsylvania and New York), and have just returned from a beautiful drive to the Blue Ridge Mountains (spread between Virginia and North Carolina). So here are some tips that we learned along the way…
Travel Trip Tuesday
Bring a cooler
A cooler is a great way to save money by purchasing groceries and limiting the number of times you eat out at restaurants. We also find that pulling over for a scenic picnic is much quicker than stopping at a restaurant and ordering a meal. One caveat is that import laws forbid from bringing in our go-to nutritional snacks through the border. Instead, recommend to stock up on vegetable chips, chocolate, and cold refreshing drinks. Then once you make it past border control, stop for groceries and ice and voila you have meals for the next few days. Having a cooler allows to save on time and money and enables to be more efficient to see more attractions and purchase more fridge magnets!
GPS
Buy a GPS
Everyone has a phone with Google maps, though a good quality GPS unit is a godsend for traveling. I’ll admit, at times we used our phones to find the address of the location to type it into the GPS, as the GUI is not as clean as Google Maps and it had difficulty finding desired locations. A GPS screen is much larger than most cell phones (our GPS has a 7” screen), does not have distracting pop-ups of incoming messages, does not burn through your data (which is important to note when traveling abroad) and does not lose signal as frequently as cell phones in the mountains. Our GPS allows changing the notification defaults, such as when you are speeding. Example, it is possible to set the limit to only provide an audible alert when you are 9% over the speed limit. This is helpful if you have a lead foot or if you are traveling in an area where the speed limit is better reported as the speed minimum and you do not want the GPS reminding you every 30 seconds that you are speeding. After using the GPS for the last two trips, I do not know how we traveled without it before. I like knowing what percent of the trip we are at, estimated arrival time, the speed limit on the road and our real-time speed – this helps me with being the Nav-o to make recommendations to speed up or slow down to avoid those marked speed trap cameras.

Play Music
You can only play ‘guess the license plates’ for sooo long (turns out I don’t even know the game I am playing, it’s counting not guessing). After a while, you will need some tunes as caffeine for the mood. So have a pre-set playlist, such as THIS ONE from Spotify. You can rely on the radio (so many rental cars have nowhere to insert a CD anymore), but you may end up with less than ideal stations. Our options were country, religious, or static. At times there was only one station and it seemed like the DJ was juggling plastic bags as he was playing music.
Navigator or Photographer?
Know your Role
Before heading out into the sunset, make sure everyone in the car has been assigned a role and knows what it is. That way there is no confusion with navigation, arguments over who is DJ, snacks captain, or knowing who is going to keep the driver entertained while the rest of the car is napping. The whole part of a road trip is enjoying the journey, so do so without conflicting ideas or expectations of what is to come.
Washroom Break & Photo Op
Pit Breaks Rules
We have an unwritten rule (well until now I guess), that we fill up the gas when the tank is ¼ full (or empty, depends on which way you look at the glass). I digress, the reason we do this is incase we end up going off the beaten path unexpectedly, or go longer than anticipated. It has come in hand a few times when we had no cell service and the GPS was no help in finding the next available gas station. Since we are on the topic of stops, always use the washroom when you can. You never know when the next stop will be. Don’t have to go? I don’t care, force it! Multiple bathroom breaks are annoying and frustrating. It takes so much longer to reach your destination, and you have to re-pass all the traffic you just passed. In our car, if one person goes, we all go, and it reduces the number of breaks.

Emergencies
I know, I know, I constantly preach about packing light. But don’t skimp on the necessary precautions that could save you in unpleasant situations. If you are road tripping always be sure to have a first aid kit, flashlights, a warm jacket, a snack, some cash, a car charger for electronics and lots of water. Not to sound like a negative Nancy, but you really never know.

Do you have any road trips in your near future? Agree with my tips or have your own to contribute? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

Do you want to watch some of our road trips? Check out these new videos on my YouTube channel, Mellie Telly:

Cheers,
Melissa

All roads lead to Rome

This adventurous road trip consisted of stops in Terni, San Gemini, Cortona, Arezzo, Perugia, Chianti, Lucca, Pisa, and ended with a few days in Rome. Despite the miserable weather (I’m talking hail storms, lots of rain, heavy fog and unexpected cold temperatures); it was a beautiful countryside to drive through. It was much hillier than expected, and still had a full supply of radiant fall shades on the trees, with lots of castles scattered throughout. Cortona was a short stop, but it was lovely to wake up and take in the top of the mountain view (while enjoying a breakfast buffet). Tonino’s in Cortona for dinner was a delightful experience. It may have been the best meal in all of Italy so far, and they were very accommodating for Vegetarians! San Gemini was a charming medieval town, which I could see as a great tourist spot to visit in the summer. Pisa of course had the leaning tower, surrounded by many other essential historic buildings to visit such as the Cathedral, Baptistery and a couple Museums. We also happened to witness a perfect sunset with clear skies, which added a nice touch to the quick stop.

The last part of the trip included a weekend in Rome. Luckily we were there on the 1st Sunday of the month, meaning that a long list of popular tourist attractions were all free! Though that does mean you will be spending lots of time in line ups. Our activities included The Vatican (beautiful, and the line actually moved much quicker than anticipated), The Coliseum (Yes, I did have to say “Are you not entertained?! while there), Castle Sant’ Angelo, Trevi Fountain (coins were definitely tossed into this magnificent fountain), The Pantheon, The Roman Forum and more.

As per my usual, we did participate in a free walking tour by http://www.newromefreetour.com/, and I must say it was not only educational, but our guide was quite humorous as well. A fun part, VIP access into an ancient church and the chocolate wall waterfall at Venchi.
IMG_8682I wish I could tell you that I ate the best pasta I’ve ever had, however nothing has topped the Spaghetti Parmigiano from Mangiare Rotterdam. (It was prepared in a cheese wheel after all). Check them out here: https://mangiarerotterdam.com/. If you can prove me wrong with any pasta suggestions let me know for when I return to Italy. There is still so much more to explore there.

Cheers,
Melissa

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