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9 Ways to Make Sure You Get the Most Out of a National Parks Road Trip

A National Parks road trip has a lot of moving parts and can become stressful if you're not careful. Follow these tips to make sure you're getting the most out of your trip.

This post is sponsored by Aveeno, but as always, all my opinions are my own and I would never promote anything I don’t freaking love. 

If you’ve been following along on Instagram and IG stories, you probably already know that I’ve spent the better part of the last month exploring the best of the beautiful American West on a National Parks road trip, visiting 8 in total through 5 states.

This trip was originally conceptualized by my friend Lauren and I, partly because she needed a way to get her car cross country and partly because I needed a trip after several months of traumatic family events (if you don’t know what I’m talking about you can read more here), that would re-inspire me to travel and also reconnect me with nature, which I believe has some of the most healing properties of all. In short, I needed a moment for me, desperately, urgently — and that’s exactly what I got.

A National Parks road trip has a lot of moving parts and can become stressful if you're not careful. Follow these tips to make sure you're getting the most out of your trip.
Partnering with Aveeno® for the Moment for Me Campaign 

I love Aveeno’s current campaign, encouraging women to take a “moment for me” each day to recharge so they look and feel their best, which is why I’m partnering with them on this initiative. Because if I’ve learned anything over the past 6 months, it’s that self-care — mentally, physically, and emotionally — is much more than important. It’s necessary for our survival. ESPECIALLY when you’re going through any type of major transition, life event or loss. 

If “me time” is something you need a bit more of, I highly recommend a road trip of any kind. Road trips allow you to enjoy both the journey AND the destination. They allow you more flexibility in your itinerary so that you can see and do what feels right for you at any given moment.

How to Get More “Me Time” on Any Road Trip 

It’s likely that any road trip you plan involves being with another person 24/7 — and it’s also likely that you’ll have a pretty packed schedule if you’re working within a set vacation timeframe. To combat the stress and overwhelm of these factors, I’ve put together some packing essentials and tips that will help you save time and reduce stress on your road trip, so that you can enjoy your “me time” more, and get the most out of your trip.

A National Parks road trip has a lot of moving parts and can become stressful if you're not careful. Follow these tips to make sure you're getting the most out of your trip.

Tip #1: Stock up on Sunscreen Like Aveeno’s Protect + Hydrate 

There’s no getting around it — on a National Parks road trip, you will be out in the sun a LOT. Even when you’re driving in your car, the sun won’t have mercy just because you’re behind a pane of glass. If you get burned and have to stay out of the sun for days on end, you’ll risk missing out on the amazing activities our parks have to offer. I recommend packing a small day bag and keeping your sunscreen in it at all times so that you never forget it, and never have to cut a day short because of sun exposure.

Tip #2: Audio Books with Audible

If you’re on the introverted side like me, the thought of talking to someone during endless hours of driving time might send you into a panic mode. It can be utterly exhausting, and sometimes you just need a bit of solitude to rest up and recharge for a busy itinerary ahead. Downloading Audible was the best thing we did on our trip to make the driving time go by with lightning speed. We listened to three books total, my favorite being Into the Wild, which was the perfect story to complement our trip through the American West.

Tip #3: Wake Up Early (ie. before 7 AM)

“The early bird gets the worm” has never been truer than on a summer trip through the National Parks. Some of the parks can become something akin to Disneyland by 11 AM, and we preferred to avoid this at all costs so that we could enjoy these beautiful wonders with as few tourists (literally) cramping our style as possible. Lesson learned: get out before 7 AM and you’re likely to have a much more enjoyable and peaceful experience.

Tip #4: Bring a Dual USB Charger

Taking photos, navigating directions, communicating with your travel buddies, calling in case of emergencies — all things you need a charged up device for. Instead of having to swap turns charging up in the car, get a dual USB car charger so that you’re both juicing up simultaneously. Service is less than sub par along many of these National Park routes, which means your battery will die faster than normal searching for service. Ending up in a bad situation with no tool of communication can take time away from the fun activities that should be on your itinerary, so come prepared with a dual USB and you’ll be good to go.

Tip #5: Pack a Go-To Snack Like Rx Bars

These bars are my favorite because they’re the only ones I’ve found that are delicious AND also keep me full for hours. They also saved us tons of time on our trip as we could just pop one of these to tide us over before a big hike or drive instead of having to stop for a full meal three times a day. Win win!

A National Parks road trip has a lot of moving parts and can become stressful if you're not careful. Follow these tips to make sure you're getting the most out of your trip.

Tip #6: Invest in a Camping Case Organizer

We witnessed all too many fellow campers throwing their supplies all around their car with no rhyme or reason — and this is a recipe for mass chaos. Organization is key on road trips since you’ll be setting up/tearing down camp constantly and need essential items in order to stay warm and safe. Plus, with a whole car at your disposal, it’s way too easy to turn your vehicle into a scene from Hoarders. Our camping organizer was the best thing we bought as we could keep all our camping essentials tucked in one place and easily transport it into and out of the bear boxes when we were in bear territory.

Tip #7: Take 10 Minutes to Journal Every Day

There’s a lot that can go wrong on road trips, and some days we felt like we were living in our own personal sitcom. Make sure to record the memories down in a journal each day so you don’t forget the good times and the bad. I also find journaling to be a great way of releasing any anxiety and stress,which is especially important during a road trip so you don’t take your negative emotions out on your travel buddies. I love this journal by Wayfaren.

Tip #8: Utilize Packing Cubes

I use packing cubes to keep organized so that I know exactly where an item is before I start searching for it, and this is especially important on road trips where disorganization can come easily and swiftly. I recommend buying a variety of sized cubes and separating by underwear, dresses, shirts, exercise wear, etc. This will prevent you from wasting time digging through your bag and simultaneously ruining all semblance of organization in your car.

Tip #9: Bring Along National Geographic Maps

Even if you have the best mobile carrier out there (if you figure out which one that is, do tell me), you’ll still lose service at points along the way. This is where National Geographic’s amazing National Parks maps come into play. They’re extremely helpful in locating park landmarks and navigating your way around when modern technology inevitably fails you. We bought ours at REI, but you can also find them online here.

 

ENTER AVEENO’S MOMENT FOR ME CONTEST:

Know someone who could use a little more “me time”? Enter Aveeno’s contest and nominate them for the chance to win a wellness retreat for both of you plus a year’s supply of Aveeno products! Enter HERE.

RELATED: 8 U.S. National Parks You Need to Visit in Your Lifetime 

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A National Parks road trip has a lot of moving parts and can become stressful if you're not careful. Follow these tips to make sure you're getting the most out of your trip.

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