Summer is here and everyone seems to be bursting at the seams, eager to get to their cottages as soon as the clock strikes 5 p.m. on Friday. The sun may be shining, but the traffic that comes with a weekend drive to cottage country is anything but ideal. Before taking on your big cottage drive this summer, here are some tips to help make sure everyone arrives just as excited and stress-free as when they left.
Give yourself time
Of course you don’t want to miss out on a beautiful afternoon, so getting up early might be worthwhile so that you’re not stressed out about getting there if you have to make a few stops. If you leave a little earlier, you could even make a plan to stop at some of the incredible bakeries, farmers’ markets, and chip trucks that you don’t get to visit the rest of the year.
Before a long drive, make sure that the clothes and sunglasses that you’re wearing are casual and comfortable—and will remain that way for long periods of time. The only irritant you want while driving is your seatbelt.
Pack easy snacks
It would be nice to say “pack healthy snacks,” but lots of families with children say that they throw food rules out the window on long drives to ensure a smooth trip. You can pack whatever kind of snacks you’d like, as long as they are easy to eat and store. Avoid salty snacks (they just make you thirsty) and anything that will leave messy fingerprints or crumbs behind. Mason jars make great reusable containers for storing all kinds of chopped-up snacks. Throw a couple of bottles of water in the freezer the night before you leave and you’ll have cold drinks for the duration of the ride.
Take a different perspective
If you work a nine-to-five job, chances are you’re going to hit heavy traffic. While it’s understandable to get frustrated by a surprise traffic jam, there’s no excuse when you know the road is going to be crammed. For a stress-free ride, it’s best to accept your gridlocked fate and change your outlook. This down-time can be a great way to connect with friends and family members, whether it’s through belting out show tunes or having open, honest conversations.
Stretch and exercise on the road
To avoid the aches and pains that can appear after a long session in the driver’s seat, it’s a good idea to stretch your legs and get out of the car every once in a while. If you have a toddler or young child, the frequent bathroom breaks will probably suffice, but make sure there is at least one point where everyone gets out of the car and stands up. For the more fitness-oriented crowds, there are some in-car workouts that drivers and passengers can do while completely seated and buckled-in.
Play a game
Games designed for the car should be non-competitive, because long drives can be stressful and may already have your passengers wound up. The alphabet license plate game, “Punch Buggy,” and “I Spy” are classics, and counting animals or identifying cars have long been go-tos. With a little imagination, a word game like “Would you rather?” where players are asked “Would you rather this or that ?”could lead to endless laughter.
Pack ahead of time
Whether you’re leaving at the crack of dawn or jetting off after work, packing ahead of time always has its benefits. Short of a few toiletries and groceries that need to stay refrigerated, why can’t everything you need be in the car hours, if not a full day, before you leave? Another good idea is to fill the car with gas ahead of time. This will lead to less running around pre-drive and less stress about your take-off time.
Make it educational
If you’re travelling with more than one person or want to teach your kids about our home and native land, do some quick research on the history of towns, monuments, and landmarks along your route and treat it as if you are going on a guided tour. You could include nature and wildlife of the area and make it more fun by throwing in a couple of spots that specialize in delicious treats (you should probably stop and grab a sample for the sake of first-hand research). At the end, you’ll know everything there is to know about cottage country and all of the worthwhile spots between your home and cottage.
Bend the rules
If you are someone who likes to monitor TV, tablet or device time, the cottage drive may be the place to let it all go. Parents of young kids say that tablets and movies are specifically helpful for a smooth ride and you can load them up with whatever level of content you want. This goes for adults as well; if you aren’t driving, don’t be afraid to bury yourself in a good book, film or TV series—it’s going to be a long ride!