4 Simple Ways To Reduce Your Travel Day Stress
Travel day can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. These are a few simple things you can do to reduce stress before you get on the road again.
1. Plan ahead and prepare easy-to-assemble meals
At the end of a stressful travel day, many folks like to go out for dinner. After all who wants to drive for hours, set-up their rig at a new location, then get stuck in the galley cooking dinner. Maybe I’m just using travel days as an excuse to dine out, but I’m not alone, I’ve talked to many other full-timers who do the same thing.
But sometimes we can’t go out or it just isn’t worth the hassle. On the first night of our journey across the country to buy our new motorhome, we camped at Emigrant Springs in Oregon. It’s a historic campground that dates back to the days of the Oregon Trail pioneers, but it’s on the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere. The nearest towns are 30 minutes away.
Since it was already dusk when we set up, the idea of driving that far through the mountains in the dark was not appealing.
On another occasion, on this same trip, we arrived at a campsite in Tennessee about an hour after a freak windstorm had torn through the area devastating locals and travelers alike. There were tree branches and debris on the RVs in the campground. Power lines were down, streetlights were out, and several RVs were on their sides on both sides of the freeway, snarling up traffic in both directions.
It was a mess! But we were determined to go out for dinner, so we spent three hours trying to drive 5 miles. When we finally got to the street on which all the restaurants were located, we discovered that the locals were also going out for dinner, because most of the homes in this community were without power.
The restaurant waiting lines were over an hour long, and by then we were starving. We finally waited about 20 minutes in a DQ drive-through, and I assure you, it wasn’t worth the time or the hassle.
Now, to reduce the stress of travel days, I prepare easy to assemble dinner options and have fresh fruit and bread on hand. I make a salad, boil some eggs, and cook up a few boneless chicken breasts, so when we arrive at a nightly stopover, we can quickly make a chicken or egg salad sandwich or combine a few ingredients for a quick taco salad. Fresh fruit completes any dinner and it can all be prepared and cleaned up in minutes.
2. Shorten the distance for each travel day
When we were weekend warriors there were many travel days that involved 10 or 12 hours behind the wheel. We often couldn’t get off work until 3 or 4 and by then rush-hour traffic had turned every road out of town into a parking lot.
On many occasions, we left Portland, OR in the late afternoon and drove north to the Canadian border and we wouldn’t stop until we reached the last rest stop south of the border. Those were long stressful workdays, followed by long stressful travel nights.
Of course, we were younger, and in some cases, necessity dictated that we drive those long distances, but now I manage travel day stress by shortening the distance I try to cover in any one stretch, which gives me the option to drive a little slower and to take travel breaks to reduce physical and mental fatigue.
We have found RV LIFE Trip Wizard to be very useful in planning out how far we should drive on each leg of the trip. We can set up three different radii for our preferred driving distances to appear on the map. For example, if we want to drive a max of 200 miles in one day, we can set that as the Outer Radius. But if we would rather find a campground that is within 100 miles, we’ll set that as the Inner Radius. This gives us a better idea of what is in the area and about how long it’s going to take to reach these places.
Remember, many of us are driving extremely large RVs. Some are driving trucks pulling monstrous fifth wheels, or we’re driving a larger-than-life Class A motorhome with a dingy. The overall length of these rigs may exceed 60 feet and they can weigh upwards of 30,000 pounds. Driving a rig like this requires our full attention and it can be exhausting. Throw in unknown roads, a little bad weather, and an uncertain destination, and we have a formula for a very stressful day.
Now, I shorten the distance, take my time, arrive at my nightly campsite well before dusk, and I don’t string too many travel days together in a row. We travel for a few days, then stop for a couple of days, until we arrive at a place where we’re comfortable hanging out.
As an example, we had been steadily making our way west from Florida, crossing the southern US when we arrived in Palm Desert for a four-day stopover. We instantly fell in love with the Coachella Valley so we decided to hang out, and what do you know, we stayed for almost three months. Oh, the beauty of this lifestyle!
3. Get chores done before travel day
When we know we have a travel day coming up we try to get all our chores done early. We break down as much of the campsite as possible, get our tow car washed and gassed up, wash the RV windshield, do the laundry, and get the deep cleaning done the day before, so a quick once-over will take care of the inside cleaning on the travel day.
During the prep day, we also do the extra cooking so when travel day arrives we can quickly break down and get on the road early. Starting early also reduces stress because we don’t feel rushed.
4. Finally, watch the weather
My final tip to reduce travel day stress is to carefully watch the weather. We check the road and pass conditions and the wind forecast for the area through which we’ll be traveling. On our trip East to Florida, we had to push hard through Wyoming because there were 60 MPH winds behind us moving East.
All along the highway, we saw signs that read “highway subject to closure due to high winds” and we knew those 60 MPH winds were on our heels. We finally arrived in Nebraska and stopped for three days in a private campground where we rested, de-stressed, and let the winds blow on by.
In summary, we can reduce travel day stress with just a bit of planning, shortening the travel distance, and being aware of road and weather conditions ahead of us. Be prepared for your next travel day by planning out your route on RV LIFE Trip Wizard and with the RV LIFE With GPS.
Peggy Dent is an author, writer, and full-time RVer, traveling around the US and Canada. She’s traveled more than 130,000 miles in a motorhome, over the past 20 years, and is currently writing for the RV industry. You can contact her through her website at www.APenInYourHand.com
Mr, Mustang says
Thank you Peggy, I feel better already. ✌🏻️
Peggy Dent says
Thank you for your kind words.
Kelly Howard says
I’ll have to admit that I stole this, but we use the 330 rule for travel. We stop at 330 miles or 3:30PM, which ever comes first. Not having to set up in the dark (35′ 5th wheel) is a big stress reducer, especially when we end up with a back in spot.
Peggy Dent says
Great advice! Thank you for sharing it.
Thanks for sharing Peggy!
We started shortening our travel days when we went full time. Makes everything more relaxed. Get to stopping point and
can actually enjoy it.
Not So Free says
When traveling, leave after rush hour and plan to be parked before afternoon rush hour near any cities.
Also, being retired I never travel on Friday or Sunday if I can help it.
@Not So Free: Funny … I was going to say that whenever I have to travel through a large city (or cities), I arrange to do so on a Sunday whenever possible. Towing a 20,000# fifth wheel through bumper-to-bumper city traffic is a major pain that is best avoided, and city traffic on a Sunday is usually pretty light. If Sunday isn’t possible, then yes, avoid rush hours if you can.
Peggy Dent says
Great advice thank you for sharing. We try not to travel on Fridays and Sundays as well.
Betty Duffy says
We’ve stopped traveling the interstate on our trips whenever possible. It adds hours, but reduces stress. The view is always much better too. We did however learn that you must plan ahead for such trips since you may not pass a restaurant or Walmart for hours depending on your location.
Peggy Dent says
The interstates can be terrifying but the secondary roads may also create extra stress, because there’s no way for people to pass safely on winding two lane roads with no pull outs. And with a big rig, you can get into some difficult driving situations unless you do extensive research before hand. If we had a smaller rig, I would be right out there on the back roads with you every time. I like the pace, the scenery, and the absence of 18 wheelers. Thank you for taking the time to share your insights.
I have found that leaving early in the morning, around 4am, has been wonderful. Not much traffic, the wife and dogs are still sleepy so they fall asleep again easily. That leaves me and the road pretty much to myself. I also try to avoid getting into a major city during their rush hours. Since I’m unfamiliar with the area anyway, trying to navigate and dealing with angry drivers adds a lot of stress.
I know driving in the dark isn’t for everyone, but I enjoy the isolation and low traffic that accompanies it.
Rick Stephenson says
I agree with everyone’s comments and practice almost all of them. It does really help to stay rested and focused on the road, especially when driving the bigger rigs! I’ve had to have discussions with family members traveling with us who think getting to the destination as quick as possible is the ticket. Of course they aren’t driving! The whole purpose of traveling in a motor home is to enjoy your trip in comfort and not to induce stress to please others. I now map out the everyone else has to agree or come up with better ideas!
We are on the same page as your suggestions. One thing we discovered back when we didn’t have as much time: we had to use the I-5 to get from Baja back to B.C., we discovered that when the Super Bowl was on, the freeways are quieter. Went thru LA once and it was a clear sail – unlike the normal bumper to bumper crawl.
Dave Reyburn says
My wife and I pray together before the start of every travel day. When God is your co-pilot your travel will be less stressful.