What I Learned From Traveling 5,000 Miles This Summer

10 Things I learned From traveling All Summer

Because you learn from experience and boy do I have some experience now.

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My family doesn't normally do long vacations. We used to be avid cruisers but had to stop when my grandparents got a little older. Don't get me wrong, I love all of our smaller vacations but I was tickled pink when we planned not one but TWO giant trips. One to the west coast where we drove up the California coast and ending in Seattle and a trip from our house in Northern Virginia to Coco Beach, Florida. Along the way, I picked up some frequent traveling tricks.

1. Get a food bag.

Pancakes, anyone?

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Most hotels include free breakfast. Take advantage of the free food by taking travel-friendly snacks like whole fruit, cereal, nuts and dried fruit (look by the oatmeal), granola, and yogurt. Keep all of your snacks in a tote bag. This will help if you end up in a random area with no food.

The best money saving tip is to eat a big breakfast in the morning, eat hotel snacks during the day, and eat out for late lunch or dinner. You will save tons of money and you won't feel hungry throughout the day! Win, Win!

2. Make Ziplocks your travel best friend.

You don't understand how much I love them.

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Originally, I believed zip locks to be just a tool for leftovers. Now I know they're an essential travel need.

Need something to carry all your free cereal and nuts?

Ziplocks!

Dirty shoes or wet bathing suit?

Ziplocks!

Need help organizing a suitcase?

Ziplocks!

Need to monitor your liquids before a flight?

ZIPLOCKS!!!

Ziplocks are an essential tool for any traveler. Bring a few boxes with or purchase them while on the road and sit back and wonder how you ever lived without them.

3. Sign up for ALL of the rewards programs.

So. much. free. stuff

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My mom is a member of three national chains of hotel's rewards programs. Because of this, we get tons of free stuff. We can get everything from snacks and drinks, room upgrades, and heavily discounted prices.

Still not convinced? We got a deluxe room in a major city for $45 instead of $165 because of using our loyalty points.

It's totally worth signing up! You will reap the benefits.

4. Pick your co-pilot wisely.

Your co-pilot is an important tool!

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Your front seat passenger isn't there just to pick songs off your bumping playlists. Pick a co-pilot who will stay awake and keep you awake. Make sure they're looking out for people or animals on the road, and make sure they're giving you all of your directions. While road trips and vacations are fun, you need to make sure your co-pilot will help you along the way.

Make sure you can talk to them about possibly taking over driving if you feel tired or exhausted. Safety is key!

5. Make some killer playlists.

headbangers needed.

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Music is essential to any good trip. But I find it not just wanted, but needed when driving through long stretches of winding roads to keep you awake and focused. Create a high tempo playlist for fun or long drives and calm playlists for more serene moments.

Also, keep in mind if you have a music streaming app like Spotify, download your playlists before you go. The playlists can't play if you're offline if you don't download them!

Apps like Amazon prime video and Netflix will let you download movies before you go on a long plane ride, very helpful if you need something to do on a long plane ride.

6. Route your GPS before it's too late.

What do you mean I don't have service?

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We learned the hard way by driving through a national park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains that T-Mobile doesn't have great service on mountain ranges. That would be fine if we knew where we were going! We eventually found a store with wifi that let us route back into cell reception.

Route your GPS BEFORE you leave the cell reception range. It will continue to route you even if you aren't in range. While it might run your battery down a little, it's better than being full out lost. An even better idea? Print your directions out at your hotel's business center like the good ol' days.

7. Utilize pit stops when you get the chance.

You need to pee now???

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It's a classic tale, that of which you don't need to go to the bathroom when there are tons of places to go but feel like you are going to burst when you're in the middle of nowhere.

Take advantage of roadside rest stops where you can also pick up free maps of the state which you will inevitably need when you forget to reroute your GPS before you leave cellphone range. (ALWAYS take the map!)

The same goes for food. When traveling to national parks or other sprawling spaces of land, the number of food options will be slim. You can either eat your free hotel snacks, find food when you can and eat it later, or starve until you finally find someplace. The choice is up to you!

8. If you find reasonable gas prices, fill up there!

Gas is HOW MUCH?

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While driving up the west coast, we realized quickly that if you see affordable gas, fill up there. Even if you have half a tank.

Fill up while you have the chance to because chances are it will be .50 cents more just one more town over. If you're in a location that doesn't have a pipeline access, gas is going to be expensive so look for discounts always.

Also just a note, I learned the hard way that a lot of states require pump attendants aka you can't pump your own gas. As a skeptical DIY pumper, I felt weird handing a stranger my card. Apparently, it's the law in some states!

9. Learn how to be flexible...

Flexibility is key.

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Sometimes the best parts of your trip are the ones you figured out along the way.

If you have a day that isn't scheduled, check websites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, or local blogs to find activities, things to do, restaurants, and hotels for you to do. There is nothing worse than cutting a fun activity or trip through an amazing little town short because you already booked your hotel reservations in advance.

Do yourself and your travel partners a favor and play it by ear, some places you'll love more than others and you'll feel less stressed if you don't set a rigid schedule.

10. ...but know what is non-negotiable.

I SAID I WANTED TO GO TO SAN FRANCISCO!

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Discuss your non-negotiable stops before you leave on your trip.

My mom really wanted to see all the volcanoes in Washington and I wanted to see Lake Tahoe. Both of us would have been crushed if we made it all the way there and not get to see the spots we really wanted to view.

Balance your must-sees with the "it could go either way" moments, you'll get to visit all of our favorite spots but still get to view some new places too.

Traveling can be overloading if you aren't prepared. Take it from someone who traveled over 5,000 miles this summer all over the country that while being exhausting, traveling is also incredibly rewarding. Follow these tips and enjoy a less stressful trip!

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Top 50 Things You'll Hear A Southern Say

Y'all.
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For those of you who may need a little help understanding the slang of a southern, I made a list of the top 50 phrases and sayings, along with their translations.

1. Bless your heart.

My favorite saying. It is an empathetic phrase that is usually uttered when the speaker believes the recipient to be sweet, but misguided or stupid. It can also be used if the speaker believes the recipient needs to grow up and deal with it, when the speaker says it in a sarcastic tone.

2. Barking up the wrong tree.

Means being misguided or mistaken.

3. Aren't you precious?

Mostly this saying is used in a sarcastic tone in response to someone being offensive.

4. Britches.

Pants or underpants.

An example would be, "Your britches are too short, you can't wear those".

5. Coke.

Regardless if it's Dr. Pepper, Coca-Cola, or another carbonated beverage, it's called Coke here in the South.

6. Fixin' to.

Simply means that you are about to do something.

7. Get the short end of the stick.

This phrase means that you basically got an unfair deal or cheated out of something.

8. Give Me Some Sugar.

Simply means give me a kiss.

9. Hissy Fit.

A hissy fit is a grown-up version of a temper tantrum that is as bad as one that a toddler would throw.

10. Hold Your Horses.

Be patient.

11. Holler.

When you say "holler" you are basically letting the other person know something.

Example: Holler at me when you are ready to get something to eat.

12. If the creek don't rise.

This saying simply means that if nothing bad happens, everything will go as planned.

13. You're as slow as molasses in the wintertime.

This phrase means that you are being EXTRA slow.

14. Muddin'.

Off-road four-wheeler riding with the intentions of getting mud everywhere and possibly losing control.

15. Skat Cat.

A phrase that can be used instead of saying "God bless you" when you sneeze.

16. There's Not A Pot Too Crooked That A Lid Won't Fit.

There is someone for everyone.

17. Pitcher.

We mostly mean a plastic container that holds sweet tea, not the position of a guy on the baseball team.

18. Reckon.

When you say "I reckon", you believe that something is true.

19. Hoot With The Owls, Soar With The Eagles.

This simple phrase means that if you are going to stay up all night, you should be able to get early in the morning.

20. Too Big For Your Britches.

Simply means that you take yourself too seriously.

21. Stompin' Grounds.

Your hometown or where you grew up.

22. Back In The Day.

Back in the day could be a month ago, a year ago, or 20 years ago.

23. You're A Spitting Image Of (Insert Family Member).

Yes, I know I'm a spitting image of my mother. "Spitting image" simply means that you look just like someone.

24. "Darlin, Sugar, Sweetheart"

These words are simply terms of endearment.

25. Buggy.

A buggy is a cart/basket at the grocery store.

Example: Who wants to push the buggy?

26. Quit Crying Or I Will Give You Something To Cry About.

This phrase simply means to quit crying and if you didn't then more than likely you got a spanking,

27. Where You Raised In A Barn?

If you are from the South, you have probably been asked this more than once, especially when you left a door open.

28. Close The Door. You Are Letting All The Good Air Out.

This southern heat is nothing to play with. It simply means to keep the door closed so the air (or heat if its winter) stays inside.

29. You Are Going To Make Me Lose My Religion.

When you say this phrase to someone, it more than likely means that person has done something to irritate you or made you mad. Thank goodness Jesus saves.

Example: You are going to make me lose my religion.

30. You Look Like A Chicken With Your Head Cut Off.

This is said when you are running around like a crazy person. It can be said if you are looking for something that you are searching for or if you are just really busy.

31. Y'all.

The southern way to say "you all".

32. You Can't Carry A Tune In A Bucket.

If you've ever been told this, it means that you can't sing.

33. Have Their Feathers Ruffled.

You normally have your "feathers ruffled" when you are pouting.

34. Two Peas In A Pod.

When you and someone else are "two peas in a pod", it means that either you almost always together or that you two are almost identical in the way you think and do things.

35. Well Butter My Butt And Call Me A Biscuit.

This saying can be used when you are surprised or excited.

36. Don't Let The Door Hit Ya Where The Good Lord Split Ya.

When someone say this they typically mean to get out and don't let the door hit you on the way out.

37. You're As Good As Gold.

When you are "as good as gold", it means that you are well-behaved and obedient.

38. It's Raining Cats And Dogs Out There.

This simply means that the rain is really coming down hard. It's not actually raining cats and dogs, people.

39. I'm Full As A Tick.

This phrase means that you ate too much food.

40. I'm Sweating More Than A Sinner In Church.

When someone says this, it means that they are really hot and sweating A LOT.

41. Pot Calling The Kettle Black.

This phrase is used when one person is guilty of the very same thing of which they accuse another person.

42. There's More Than One Way To Skin A Cat.

It means that there is anyways more than one way to fix something.

43. Shut Yo' Mouth.

Means to be quiet or hush up.

44. Whatever Floats Your Boat.

This saying means to do whatever you want to do.

45. Slap Yo' Momma.

This phrase means that something is good.

Example: This BBQ is slap yo' momma good.

46. She's Like A Bull In A China Shop.

When you tell someone this phrase, you are telling them that they are clumsy or careless in the way that they move.

47. Cuttin' A Rug.

Cuttin' a rug is used to describe dancing.

Example: Let's go cut a rug tonight.

48. Clicker.

A clicker is another name for a TV remote.

49. Slow Your Roll.

This also means to be patient.

50. You're A Hot Mess.

When you tell someone that they are a "hot mess", you are simply telling them that they don't have it together.

Cover Image Credit: silhouetteamerica.com

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My Future Is Unpredictable And That's Totally Alright

As I prepare for study abroad in Ecuador, I'm going in with no expectations.

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For six months, I had plans to study abroad in the Dominican Republic during the fall semester of junior year. Filling out what seemed like endless applications and paperwork, searching for travel ideas on Pinterest, and writing a class research paper on the DR's relationship with its neighboring island, Haiti, I was prepared to live and learn about Dominican culture hands-on.

Then on the Thursday before Finals Week last spring, I read my email. My study abroad program in the DR had gotten canceled. In the span of 30 seconds, my future had taken a new course. Less than a week later, I was submitting papers to study abroad in a new country where another adventure awaited: Ecuador.

If there's anything I've learned in the past year, it's that life is unpredictable and we can't control it. The future is unknown. But-

Who wants to know exactly what's going to happen in the next few years? I mean, I believe it's good to have a direction, but you don't have to have the entire journey pinpointed straight to the core. You meet people, you get inspired, you see things, you have experiences. And you go from there. (Though, I totally respect people who have clear ambitions and stick with them their entire lives.)

Where I was a year ago was a completely different path than where I find myself today. Last summer, I worked four different internships/jobs in the span of three months. A year ago, I would never have guessed my following summer unfolding with an immersion trip to India, a solo adventure to Taiwan & Hong Kong, and becoming a certified yoga instructor. A year ago, I hadn't met half of my best friends. A year ago, I hadn't seen poverty in a third-world country. A year ago, I wasn't even sure I wanted to major in Environmental Studies.

Just because I don't know what the future holds doesn't mean I can't set goals. I have a destination, an idea of where I'm headed and where I want to go. While abroad in Ecuador, I want to learn about sustainable development and coffee production as well as enhance my Spanish skills.

As I prepare for study abroad in Ecuador, I'm going in with no expectations. I know the format of the program. I'll be taking classes and living with a host family and then doing an internship at a farm. Otherwise, I have no idea what's going to happen. And that's what I'm looking forward to the most. The spontaneity. The unexpected. As one of my good friends would say whenever he doesn't have formal weekend plans, "I'm improvising." And you know the one rule of improv: Always say yes.

¡Hasta pronto, Ecuador!

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