The distance between Washington DC and Southern Maine can be anywhere from eight hours to 12 hours in a car. After seven years of driving from point a to b, i can say there is no way to predict how long the drive will take you. The variables are too great. Whatever the house deals, you take.

These are my canine companions. Yes, they are Mutt and Jeff, big and small. Even friendly and vicious. Luckily, they are pretty good travelers and are not prone to car sickness.

With this motley crew, how do we manage the trek or any road trips? I have picked up a few driving survival techniques that are critical. Especially when you travel with four-legged friends.

Keep in mind, my techniques may or may not be applied to traveling with children. They also assume you’ve had your car tuned up (aka checked the tire pressure, fluids, etc.) recently.

Pre-road trip, a big success factor is a log walk. It does mean getting up super early, or getting right with it and leaving later than you want. But, it’s good for the dogs, especially older ones like mine. It’s also good for the humans. You get some light exercise and fresh air. Psychologically this could be the difference between keeping or loosing your sanity on the Mass Pike six hours later. My other road tripping success factors include:

1. Stay off I-95. It’s always a cluster. My preferred route: 50-295-895-95-NJ Turnpike-Lincoln Tunnel-West Side Highway-Henry Hudson-Merritt Parkway-91-84-Mass Pike-290-495-95 and to your destination. You can debate the logic of traveling through NYC all you want. If you have never driven from the District to New England, you don’t get it. Anyone who has, knows this route is golden. There are (relatively) fewer cars, better rest stops for dogs (and humans), nice scenery and fewer cars.

2. Pack a bag. Of snacks, of course! Inevitably, you won’t be hungry when you are at an actual “rest stop.” If you are hungry, the other inevitable is that you won’t want the fast food du jour. A snack bag is important if you have a special diet (dairy free, gluten-free) or if you are calorie conscious. My snack bag always includes a few treats -in moderation- so i have something to look forward too. My favorites include:

  • A pre-made sandwich
  • Green apples
  • Combos (my guilty pleasure) or a vegan cookie
  • Turkey slices or chunks for the little ones

3. Water bottles. One for the humans and one for the dogs. Sometimes, they just want a drink. A strategically placed water bottle can help address this so you don’t have to pull over. Instead, have your passenger pour a little into a tiny water bowl. If your dogs can and will drink out of the bottle, let them. It may sound gross but it’s their water bottle. And it’s less messy.

4. EZPass. Who wants to be scrapping around for quarters and dollar bills while in those ridiculously long lines? Even your pets want to zip through the toll lines. Stopping and starting disrupts their sleep and gets them fired up. Mine have even been known to bark at toll collectors. Enough said.

5. Music, books. Sometimes (i’m talking about you, Northern Connecticut), the radio stations are few and far between. It helps to have some good music or an audio book loaded up and ready to go. My current favorite is the podcast the Bugle. It’s very entertaining.

I’m also a firm believer in a quick stop at the New Hampshire State Liquor Store. When you are almost at your destination, it’s motivating to know a bottle of wine is waiting to help you celebrate your arrival.

Cheers to your next road trip!

Author: Judi Kennedy

Wanderlust. A professional aunt, fitness enthusiast, dog owner and avid reader the rest of the time.

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