How to Stay Healthy on a Cross-Country Road Trip

If you were following me on Snapchat over the holidays, you know that I (once again) drove from Houston to New England to spend the holidays with my family. Both Brooks and I are from there – our parents actually live just about an hour apart in CT and MA, so it’s perfect – and with the big chunk of time off I get at work it only makes sense to pack up the pups and do the big drive. Otherwise, we’d have to board the dogs and come back quickly to spend some of the season away from family, or board the dogs for freaking ever and spend a bunch of money. Plus, Brooks went to Clemson and after doing the drive from SC to CT a bunch of times solo has a strange love of driving for long periods of time. So alas, we drive.

At this point, we’ve got a solid system down that makes the trek super doable, and honestly I do enjoy it. I’m going to do this list-style, because there are all sorts of things in different categories that make the driving work out well and they’re all equally helpful.

  • Drury Inn – The Drury Inn is a regional hotel chain that makes me so happy. If you arrive before 7:00pm, they have a complimentary happy hour that includes food and drinks, they have free breakfast, they don’t make you pay for your dogs, and prices are very reasonable. It rocks.
  • Suites – Getting a suite is often less additional money (we’re talking $10 or less) than you’d think. The difference between a suite and a standard room is that the bed is sectioned off into a room with a door that closes, so one person can take the time to wind down with some TV or reading or whatever while the other person immediately passes out upon laying their head on the pillow. I won’t say who’s who.
  • Free Breakfast (and how to choose it) – I know you all like free stuff as much as I do, ESPECIALLY when “stuff” = food. Hotel breakfasts can be a treacharous situation at times, though, and if you don’t choose carefully you may end up hungry before your first shift of driving is over and be forced to choose between bad and worse at a middle-of-nowhere gas station. The issue with breakfast is that it’s often just carbs on carbs on carbs, often with a high percentage of those carbs being straight sugar, with the remainder still processed junk. Be sure to include some protein in your breakfast, avoid sugary foods as much as possible, add a fruit, and take advantage of those little baby peanut butters. The protein and healthy fats will keep you full. Good sources of protein to choose at hotels are Greek yogurt (avoid the regular ones, they’re always flavored and too small to provide much protein but still have tons and tons of sugar – not helping too much), milk, eggs, peanut butter, and ham if available. Bacon and sausage are going to have a lot of fat, which for someone like me who has sensitive cholesterol is definitely not a good thing. Also, that processed fatty crap makes my stomach feel awful. My nomal choice (which you may have seen on instagram) is scrambled eggs with pepper and salsa if the salsa looks good, with a side of oats or whole grain toast and a piece of fruit. Plus coffee (because duh, coffee) and enough water to hydrate but not so much that I need to pee every 30 minutes like normal.

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  • Whole Foods Whole Foods is taking over America!! I can pretty much guarantee you that if you’re driving in this country for an entire day you WILL pass a Whole Foods. The salad bar and hot bar are always the same price, so filling up a container with tons of vegetables and lean protein is always always going to be your best option for good food on the road. Screw trying to find the “best possible choice” at a fast food restaurant – it’s not going to be half as nutritious or tasty as what you’ll find in the prepared foods at Whole Foods. There were a few days when we loaded up at breakfast and didn’t really eat again until we hit a Whole Foods for an early dinner. Of course, I teetered on hanger for these instances but you know me – I had a few good snacks on hand.

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  • Stopping for a Run – Putting off exercise until you arrive at your way point for the evening is a surefire way to not do it, and (let’s be real) you’re nearly guaranteed to be disappointed by the hotel gym. A quick stop for a run is a huge mental boost to break up the hours of driving. Even just 20 or 30 minutes of movement outside of the car makes a huge difference with how my body feels, and makes my brain happier about the full day in the car. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to check out new scenery. This year we stopped in Chattanooga on the way up and I took a rest day for our big day of driving on the way back. You could even go big and combine the Whole Foods stop with a jog.

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  • A Prairie Home Companion – Does this make me old? WE LOVE A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION. If you’ve never listened, it’s an NPR radio show that is very entertaining. It used to be hosted by Garrison Keillor, a genius storyteller from Minnesota. He has now retired and handed the reins to Chris Thile of Nickel Creek and the Punch Brothers, and the show has taken a decidedly musical turn but still includes lots of storytelling and has added a stand up comedian guest segment. Listening to A Prairie Home Companion is one of those pursuits that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside and gives you faith in the goodness of humanity. You should try it.
  • Limited Snacks, Packed Ahead – Like I said, there were days when we skipped a traditional lunch all together. I don’t necessarily recommend this, as I do find that it encourages people to eat more of the crappy foods that are so easy to find on the road. BUT if you think ahead and pack things that you actually want to eat – veggies and hummus, apples, oranges, nuts, maybe some crunchy chickpea snacks or Enlighten broad beans – this can certainly help. You won’t be expending much energy, so true hunger should be decreased. If having these foods available can hold you over to the veggie-filled feast that awaits at Whole Foods, then it can work for you!
  • But Also Something Special – While it’s good to intentionally pack snacks with a high nutrient density and low calorie density, getting a “treat” along the way is always a special thing. Consider limiting it to one treat per day, and make it something that is truly special for you. For me, it’s chips. I don’t know why, I never even consider eating chips in regular life, but when we’re on road trips I get enamored with all the crazy flavors – especially when they have limited edition ones out. A small bag of chips feels indulgent in a good way, and isn’t enough to make me feel gross. Maybe for you it’s a Kit Kat or a Cheetos. Keep the quantity small, and only do it if it’s actually going to make you happy. *mindful eating*

This is what works for me, and I have to say the 26ish hour trip gets much less painful each time. I hope that some of these tips will help you to find road trip happiness on your next trek across this awesome country! Let me know if you apply any of the info, and I’d love to hear if you have any other tricks to help you through.

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