Nothing says classic summer vacation like hitting the open road with friends or family on a road trip. The summer of 2020 brought this old-school family tradition back into fashion, with folks hitting the highways like never before, eager for COVID-safe travel.
So before packing your bags and gassing up the car, consider some pre-planning to help bring your Primal lifestyle on the road. More than just packing cleaned up snacks, the secret to a successful road trip lies in staying engaged, gathering the right gear, finding ways to keep moving, and making those less than desirable moments float by fast.
Last year I drove cross-country twice, from coast to coast, in my beloved but definitely impractical bright blue VW Beetle. While cruising the open road in my “punch buggy” I learned a few make-or-break tips for long-haul journeys. Keep scrolling for itemized lists of what to pack, what food to look out for, and ingenious accessories that’ll smooth out the inevitable bumps along the road.
Finding nutritious food on the road that you actually want to eat is every Primal traveler’s biggest hangup. Staying satiated is also an important part of an easy, breezy trip (it can be hard to take in that view of Mount Rushmore or sit through another round of “I Spy” when hunger begins to take over). Check out this incredible guide to keeping Keto on the trailhead for even more info on packing and prepping keto-friendly food.
I got the best (and maybe most obvious) tip from a friend before I set out: “if you see a grocery store you like, STOP and stock up.” When I packed up the car, I was certain I had enough quality nibbles to last me the entire 8-day voyage. I polished off those snacks in about two days.
Even if you feel you have enough, if you can find your non-perishable favorites while out and about, filling up on a few more is always a good idea–even if you end up putting them back in your own pantry later. Don’t be afraid to stop and snag roadside produce if it appeals to you! Enjoying fresh fruits and veg while also supporting the community you’re passing through is a win-win.
Homemade pemmican (A little unfamiliar, but it’s an awesome on-the-go snack.)
Keep Your Cool(er)
Investing in a cooler is key, especially if you’re traveling with little ones. You can refill ice at hotel stops or at most gas stations, or stash reusable ice packs in the minibar fridge overnight to keep perishable items cool and fresh while on the road. You can even pre-prep roasted vegetables or cooked meat the night before to enjoy on the road.
Fill your cooler with these:
Cold cuts (watch for sugar and avoid nitrates when possible)
Know Where to Go
Have a few chain restaurant spots in your back pocket you know you can find Primal-approved (or even Primal-ish) meals. Don’t be afraid to ask for modifications to a menu item, too: usually, if you ask kindly and offer to pay for any extras, many places will be accommodating within reason.
If you’ve got room in the cooler, pack your favorite dressing or sauce to make a bland grilled chicken or basic salad a bit more flavorful.
This tip is vital! Especially if you are changing elevations and climates, drinking just a bit more water than usual can make all the difference. Investing in a reusable insulated water bottle (I love the Hydro Flask) keeps your water cool all day long. Even though nothing beats the real thing, hydration mixes can be a useful aid. You can also add cut fruit to your water to make it a bit more exciting.
For my trip, I kept a few reusable bottles in my car, and would refill at hotels or at water fountains at rest stops. Keeping a little extra water in the car is also good for washing hands, rinsing off spills, cleaning roadside produce, washing off dirty hiking boots or taking the salt and chlorine out of bathing suits.
Taking mental and physical breaks during a marathon drive is essential. Around 6pm every day of my 8-day journey, I’d start to get a little loopy–my back hurt, my eyes felt weak, and I’d start to feel out of it. Try these tips for staying nimble behind the wheel.
Soothe tight muscles during a long day of sitting with a few simple stretches every time you stop to use the restroom.
Even if you don’t have to go, stop every few hours to:
Touch your chin to chest, and lightly push down on the top of your head for 8 seconds. Repeat on either side of your shoulders, with your shoulder down.
Touch your toes, and gently nod your head yes and then no. Squeeze your glutes together as you roll up, vertebrae by vertebrae, to release your low back.
Have a clean patch of grass nearby, or settling in for the night? Try a downward dog, pigeon stretch, or even a child’s pose on your bed before going to sleep. Bring along a tennis ball to roll out muscles at the end of a long day.
When you can’t hit the gym, try these pit stop-approved workouts (or go for a microworkout!) to stay on track on the road.
Open the windows, pull over at a breathtaking vista, stop and literally smell the roses: a little fresh air (not A/C!) is the ultimate refresher for a long day in the driver’s or passenger’s seat. Whenever I’m on the road, I have my own rule: if I’m near a National Park, I have to pull over and enjoy it, even if it’s just for an hour. Taking in the natural beauty around you recharges the batteries.
Don’t pull over and immediately stare into your phone. Rest your eyes, wear sunglasses (and SPF, for that matter!) and stay away from screens at night to keep your peepers in tip-top shape.
No matter how engaging your travel companions are, boredom will inevitably strike, so go prepared with enticing stops, thrilling podcasts, and mindful exercises.
Power of the Podcast and AudioBook
If you have a smartphone, listening to content is easier than it’s ever been. Find a podcast that speaks to your interests and attention span. On days where I felt restless, I turned to Overheard at National Geographic for a gripping, 30-minutes-or-less topic, when I needed a laugh, I’d tune into Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend, and when I wanted to get informed, I’d listen to a 5-minute update from NPR News.
Consider searching for a podcast tied to where you’re traveling to! If you’re a hiker, you might enjoy hearing about the state’s topography, or if you’re a history buff like me, a simple search of a city will provide a local pod with interesting insight.
Go old school with an audiobook. The app Audible offers a free first book: I personally love a biography told in the author’s voice.
If time isn’t a factor as you’re traveling from one destination to another, consider planning a special stop each day. Whether you’re off to try the best pulled pork in Pittsburgh or to take a soul-searching hike in Sedona, having something to look forward to every day can make the longer travel days fly by.
Consider apps like AllTrails to find a hiking spot, the Dyrt to search for a special cabin or campground, or RoadTrippers to find unique spots.
You’ve planned the stops, packed the meals, picked the best pit-stop workouts. Even when everything goes according to plan, it always helps to have a few extra-special hacks in your back pocket.
Make Google Maps Work for You
While you may already use this app, most folks don’t know about this life-saving feature. Once you’ve started your directions, tap the tab at the bottom of your screen and select “search along route.” From there, you can select gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores, or coffee shops (or search for something specific) and find what you need without veering off course.
Get The Right Gear
A car safety kit is a must (along with an AAA subscription!) but I also swear by these car accessories.
I am obsessed with this Foldable Garbage Can. It folds over the gear shift and fills up fast, so the trash never starts to stink, and it’s lined with plastic so it can be rinsed out easily.
You know how a sweaty, cold drink makes a very dirty puddle in your cup holders? These car coasters absorb condensation for a clean-freak-friendly cup holder.
This mini-vacuum is a life-saver if you can’t stand crumbs, sand, or dirt in your car.
I drove into California during the wildfires last year, and this goo cleared out the dust and ash caught in my A/C vents to help me breathe easier. I kept the car cooler longer while traversing the desert with these easy, vinyl shades that stick to the car window and block the sun.
Safe Travels! Wherever your car trip takes you, enjoy the open road this summer!
About the Author
Mimi von Schack is the Senior Copywriter from Primal Kitchen. She communicates all the good stuff that’s going on at Primal Kitchen, like new products, exciting recipes, and a rapidly growing online community.
She graduated with an MA from the University of St Andrews in Scotland in 2014, and as a writer, she’s written copy, advertisements, narrative prose, articles, commercials, presentations, social media posts, and videos.
As a comedian, Mimi has performed all over the US and in the UK, and written jokes for films, video games, comedic iPhone apps, and her award-winning live show. Mimi lives in Los Angeles, California, where she attempts to paddle board in the Pacific Ocean, tell jokes, and make your favorite Keto and Primal recipes plant-based and vegetarian friendly.