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Travel Tips to Prepare for a Road Trip

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Some Road Trips are very crowded, some are very empty. The better prepared you are, the better the trip will be.

Some Road Trips are very crowded, some are very empty. The better prepared you are, the better the trip will be.

I want to continue my series on preparing for a road trip before we move on to other things. Before we do let me remind you of the first 7 tips and then we’ll look at the next three.

  1. Break the Trip up Into Stages for Planning Purposes.
  2. Use maps, books and the internet to plan and find all the interesting things along your route.
  3. Be Realistic With Your Time.
  4. Figure a budget and stick to it as best you can.
  5. Balance is critical; Go prepared, but don’t take too much.
  6. Make your best educated guess on the weather, but go ready for the worst.
  7. Carry a second form of transportation if you have it.

The simplest, easiest method of mounting screens I’ve found.

Tip Number Eight: Be ready for bugs.

Some places where you go will not have a problem with insects, but many will. Alaska is famous for its hordes of huge mosquitoes and having lived there for many years I knew it was a well-deserved reputation. In certain places and at certain times, they can be horrible. But Alaska isn’t the only place with that problem. They were equally bad where we were at in Montana and I’ve had the same experience in Colorado. In the Sierras, one year I was overwhelmed with meat bees. Fortunately they didn’t sting, but boy were they annoying. On the east coast, many states also have many flying insects and Florida in particular has a reputation for horrendous bug problems. So, even if you never go to Alaska, you need to research the area you are going to and find methods of staying safe and sane them. Here is a link to my earlier article about mosquito nets and Permethrin:  Here are my recommendations for mosquitoes:
Mosquito netting on the windows. I did a post describing how Judy made hers and I strongly recommend her system because it is so easy and cheap anyone can do it without any tools except a pair of scissors. Essentially, you cut them to fit around the window, wrap a layer of duct tape around the perimeter so it won’t scratch or come unravel. Then you use magnets to attach it to the outside of the door. These are the magnets that I bought from Amazon that I highly recommend! They’ll hold very strongly right through the doubled layer of duct tape and mosquito netting.  Ceramic Magnet 1 7/8 x 7/8 x 3/8″ 50-Counts I don’t recommend the rare-earth magnets. I think these are much better and cheaper.
Permethrin: As I told you in an earlier post I treated my clothes with Permiethrin which is an insecticide that you apply to your clothes and after it dries it keeps insects from landing on your clothes for 6 weeks.  If they can’t land on your clothes, they can’t bit you through them. I was very pleased with it and it worked well to protect me from bites through my clothes, especially my socks. Here is a link to Amazon of what i bought: Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent Trigger Spray
But of course they will still bight your bare skin so for that you need a topical repellant.

  • Topical Repellant: We all know that anything with Deet works extremely well to keep mosquitoes away and the higher the percentage the better it works and the longer it lasts.  However, I’m not a fan of Deet because it stinks and leaves a terrible residue, worse, if you get it in your yes it really hurts. However, it works so well I’ll use it in an emergency. Fortunately, there are other choices now. Judy had some Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus and it was not unpleasant to wear and also seemed to work pretty good so I recommend it.
  • Candles and area sprays: I’ve never tried these but I do know people who swear by Citronella candles so you may want to give them a try.
  • Head-nets and net shirts: I didn’t think where we were at was bad enough to warrant these extreme measures so we didn’t take them, I now wish we had. But I spent 6 weeks in the Arctic when I was a young man and it’s indescribable how we all wore head-nets much of the time. So be aware they are an excellent option in certain circumstances like the Florida Everglades for example. Here is a link to a cheap bug jacket: Coghlan’s Bug Jacket
  • Electric fly-swatter: I know these look like silly kid’s toys but I was desperate so I bought one. It works great!! It makes it so easy to kill bugs while they are flying and it never fails to kill them. If one has landed already, hold it close to it so it lifts off and flies into it. ZAP and he’s gone. They give a very nice little spark when they kill and if you leave it turned on, the mosquito will actually start to smoke. Very satisfying!Find it on Amazon here: 2 Pack Electric Bug Fly Mosquito Zapper

These are the clothes I sprayed with Permethrin.

Lesson Number Nine: Plan around Bad Traffic at Major Cities and Holidays.

Neither Judy nor I like to fight crowds or terrible traffic so we studied both the map to find major cities and the calender to find the major holidays. Once we knew when we wanted to avoid being on the road, we laid out our plans.
Holidays: Because we were traveling in the summer, we ran into two Holidays, Memorial Day in June and the 4th of July. We knew the traffic can be miserable then so we decided to sit tight before the traditional travel times. For Memorial Day we hunkered down at the RV Park we were staying at with our friend Scott at The Grand Tetons NP. For the 4th of July we sat tight in our camp at Palmer, Alaska. We made sure we had everything we needed and stayed put until the crowds went home.
Major Cities: If you’ve done much cross-country driving you know that some big cities are easy to get through, but that most are very fast-moving and confusing.  In some cities getting stuck in a bad traffic jam or getting lost is almost inevitable. The only major city we had to go through was Salt lake City and we both knew from bad experience it’s traffic could be very, very difficult to get through. So we made a plan and kept to it. We wanted to get across the metro area by noon on a Sunday morning. Sunday morning nearly always  has the least traffic of any day or time of the week. Because Salt Lake is such a Mormon town, we thought there would be even less traffic than normal. We were right!  We zipped right through with light traffic and no problems.

Lesson Number Ten: Plan for mobile cooking.

Like I said earlier, driving to Alaska is a LONG trip, for some people it will be over 10,000 miles, and when you are looking at those distances you simply must put in some long driving days where you are banging out the miles. Part of making time on the road is spending the minimum amount of time cooking. We did several things that made it easier:
Peanut Butter: As long as you like it and aren’t allergic, nothing beats a jar of peanut butter! It’s delicious, cheap, easy to prepare, doesn’t need refrigeration, best of all, it’s healthy (watch it’s calories though). You can make a sandwich, spread it on flour tortillas, eat it with crackers, or just scoop it out of the jar and gobble it down! Since we had the fridge, we carried along a natural jam with minimum sugar added. Yummy!
We brought along my Dometic 12 volt fridge. That way, when we did cook we could cook extras and refrigerate the left-overs. Or we could go to fast food and buy and refrigerate the extras. We both like Little Caesar’s pizza, so we bought one of those for $5 and had 4 meals out of it by putting the leftovers in the cooler. That allowed us to just grab something out of the fridge and eat it while we drove or when we stopped for a rest break. A healthier choice is Subway sandwiches. They are everywhere in America Mand pretty common across Canada. If you buy a foot long for $5 and save half for later, that is two pretty cheap, fast and healthy meals. You could use an ice chest if you don’t have a 12 volt fridge.
Eat sandwiches. They are fast, cheap and easy with little clean-up. If you are careful, they can even be pretty healthy. We made up a big batch of tuna salad before we left and ate tuna sandwiches for the first few days we were on the road. We also brought along some commercial lunch meats for quick sandwiches. For a little more variety, we also made fried-egg sandwiches and grilled cheese. With a fridge you can make BLTs (I buy the pre-cooked bacon so there is no messy cooking) which is healthy and fast.
Breakfast bars, Ensure, crackers and nuts for munchies. Both Judy and I are fans of breakfast bars so we kept an assortment of them that we enjoyed for a quick and somewhat healthy munchies. Judy likes to fortify her diet with Ensure so we carried a case of it along with us. Of course we took chips—you just have to have chips on a road trip!–but we wanted to keep them to a minimum so we took healthy crackers and nuts (trail mix, almonds, pecans, walnuts and mixed nuts) along as the main munchies type food.
Fresh fruits and vegetables or perfect but harder to take on a Road Trip. The van gets hot or they get knocked around and bruised in the tiny space. We had a tiny fridge so it had very little room for fresh fruits and vegetables. We were in a hurry so we didn’t go into stores often and when we did any fresh produce was extremely expensive. In some places and times you can easily find farmers markets and produce stands along the road. When available, they are ideal!  They weren’t available to us so we ended up eating canned fruits, applesauce and vegetables quite a bit and sometimes that’s a compromise you have to make on the road. No doubt, it’s a better choice than chips and candy bars!
Take a Roadpro 12 volt oven along. This is the single best cooking tool you can have along for a road trip! Since you are already driving a lot each day you have an unlimited amount of 12 volt power to cook with. When I first saw it I thought the Roadpro was just a toy and wouldn’t cook anything and if it did it would soon break. Not true! After using the same one for 5 years I can’t recommend it enough! If you have the time, you can do real cooking in the oven (make eggs, meat loaf, home-made soup or stew). You can bake in it (cookies, brownies, cornbread, pop-up biscuits); warm up frozen meals (burritos, pizza, lasagna, meals); or warm up canned foods (stew, chili, soup). Two thing we did pretty often on the Alaska trip is frozen burritos (or breakfast burritos) and chili dogs. Throw in your favorite can of chili, two hot dogs, and thirty minutes later you have a real treat for a Road trip lunch. Best of all, there are no dishes! Most of the time we simply lined ours with aluminum foil, but for some messy meals (chili dogs for example) we used a foil loaf pan. Either way, clean-up is as easy as throwing it away. Highly recommended! You can get them at almost all truck stops or here from Amazon: RoadPro 12-Volt Portable Stove,
In my next post we’ll finish up on my Road Trip tips.


  1. Walt

    More good tips, although I think I would rather do a few dishes than throw more stuff into a landfill. But that’s me. 🙂

    • Bob

      That’s a very good point Walt. I can’t argue at all. I would say that the Roadpro oven is small so you don’t want to give up much space and as an electrical device, I’m reluctant to wash it to much. It’s held up really well, but I baby it.

  2. Al Christensen

    Would the mosquito screens be easier to apply and remove if the magnets were sandwiched in the duct tape?

    • Bob

      Al, that is a very good idea! It might complicate storing them but then again it might not, I’m not sure. Judy stores hers in a tube so I don’t think that would make it harder. It does tie up your magnets for that one thing, but that doesn’t seem like a big deal. The link I included is for a 50 pack so you have a lot to play with.
      Give it a try and tell us how it turns out!

      • judy

        Al, it’s my understanding that those super magnets need to be stored away from computers ect. Mine are stored in the driver door pocket every time so I don’t have to worry about possible close contact w/ phone or computer.
        Yes! having those magnets within the tape would make it much easier….no searching for magnets in the grass when a strong wind takes off the screen unexpectedly either! Great Idea.

        • sassypickins

          I thought I was looking at my own homemade window screen there for a sec! The magnets I got are tiny, only 1/4″ wide. I tested them with duct tape on a sheet of metal at the shop before I bought them. I put them inside white interior/exterior duct tape close to the center fold, about every 6-8″ apart, with the screen material sandwiched between the rest of the tape but not touching the magnet, so there is only the one layer of tape between the magnet and the van. I keep my bag of extra magnets on the inside door post, too. 🙂

          • Bob

            sassypickins, great minds think a like!!

      • tommy helms

        What about putting a strip of metal down the side of the tube? You could stick the magnets there.

        • Bob

          You could do that Tommy. Judy stores hers in a little plastic box and I keep mine in a cardboard box and that seems to work really well for us. I almost always try to find the simplest way and this works great for both of us.

  3. CAE

    Peanut butter , bread and fruit. No fridge or cooking needed and very healthy. Store fruit in hanging cargo net. Sliced bread keeps for a couple of weeks if stored in the shade. Quick and easy and healthy.

    • Bob

      CAE, I agree totally. I do like more variety in my diet so I generally cook a few times a week. But what you are suggesting is a very good choice.

  4. Sameer

    Really good information. Thank you Bob! I am a fan of Citronella Candles. They repel most all flying bugs, including the mosquitoes. A little spray of the Lemon/Eucalyptus and that seems to work. Here is Flag the mosquitoes don’t seem to be that bad.

    • Bob

      Thanks for that report Sameer! I’m in Williams and they don’t seem bad this year at all. In the cool of evening at sunset we get some but it’s not bad. The rain we are going to get may bring some more but hopefully not. By October it should be too cold for them!

  5. Rob

    A great write up with the cooking section being exceptional!

    • Bob

      Thanks Rob!

  6. Al Christensen

    I’ve gotten so into no-cooking eating that after a year I’ve only used half my propane.

    • Bob

      Al, want to write a guest post for me on no-cook eating?

      • Al Christensen

        It’s essentially what you wrote here — sandwiches, peanut butter, crackers, energy bars, lunch meat… plus the occasional precooked food from the deli counter.

        • Bob

          I’d love to hear all about it!

        • jonthebru

          We’d love to hear all about it!

  7. Omar Storm

    Hi Bob,
    Thanks for all the great post. Al Christensen, what do you eat without cooking? I don’t like cooking either, but I always use a stove or microwave to heat food.

  8. Linda Sand

    I vote for Al’s guest post on no cook eating!

    • Bob

      Linda, he seems reluctant. Maybe we can change his mind.

      • Al Christensen

        I just don’t have must to add to what you’ve already written.

        • Bob

          Al, I understand. It’s also very personal, we are all so different not everyone is going to like the foods I eat so my advice may not be of much value to them.

  9. judy

    Yes, Al, everyone laughs at me for eating cold pork n beans out of the can…and cold chili poured into the tortilla chip bag over the last 2 cups of crushed chips. Maybe you have some ideas that are a bit classier than that, eh? Ha!

    • Bob

      That’s my sweetie!

  10. Openspaceman

    I read recently that birds are being cooked instantly flying over solar farms…so maybe I could rig up a little rotisserie above my solar panels and make a little chicken or a hot dog. Just thinkin’ outside the box.

    • Bob

      Openspaceman, anything is possible!

  11. larry

    Bob I store my magnets on the inside my door post so they are handey

    • Bob

      Larry, that’s a good idea! I bought a 50 pack of bigger magnets so they take up some room. I just keep them in the original box they cam in and store them under the passenger seat.
      I highly recommend these magnets, they have worked great for me.

  12. Rob

    On my VW camper I had an envelope (like a pillow case) of bug screen, I slipped it over the front door with the window down, it seemed to work well. Putting the magnets on the bottom would be a big improvement!

    • Al Christensen

      Since I have visors over my windows, the magnetic screen like Judy’s wouldn’t work well, but your “envelope” might do the trick for me. Now, if only it could keep out the rain too.

      • LaVonne Ellis

        Swankie is planning to offer custom-made window screen ‘envelopes’ at RTR. I plan to be first in line. 🙂

        • Al Christensen

          Will they keep rain out? 😉

    • Bob

      /Rob, I’ve seen those before and they work fine. They do go on a little faster than ours do. I wonder if closing the door on them isn’t going to wear out the fabric, but apparently it doesn’t.
      Making them requires more skill than I have. I don’t sew but i can cut mine out with scissors and fold duct tape over the edges.

  13. Diane Roeder

    I have a lightweight blanket that blocks some of the solar gain in a parked car when my dogs are with me. I secure it with small magnets which I have painted with turquoise nail polish to prevent losing them on the ground.

    • Bob

      Diane, that’s a very good idea! I do something like that except I use a white sheet and since I have a van with rain gutters I can clamp them on with spring clamps.
      I’m really glad you found a system that works for you and your best furry friends!

  14. DASA

    Thanks for another great post Bob!
    I can second your advice on the Tennis racket type bug swatters.
    I tried out on a whim the big yellow racket type zapper from Harbor Freight.
    I too thought it was a toy, especially since it was on sale for only $2.99!
    Wow, was I wrong! It is AWESOME! Two D-cell batteries put out a wicked current that can incinerate most blood-sucking bugs on contact. Very satisfying to hear the pop and see the flash of a mosquito that just bit you!
    I now own several, and even bring one along while car camping, awesome for use in the tent. Best Chinese made purchase I’ve ever made.
    BTW: The yellow Harbor freight model is about the size of a real tennis racket, much bigger than the smaller ones I’ve seen at Home Depot and Walmart. Bigger is better when trying to hit flying bugs.

    • Al Christensen

      “Bigger is better when trying to hit flying bugs.”
      Except when you’re in close quarters. Gotta be able to swing without hitting things. 😉

      • DASA

        Ha! Yes Al, I’ve hit quite a few things with my swatter while killing skeeters! Terminating the little disease carrying blood suckers is my first priority. The mosquitoes in my area can carry Dengue fever.

    • Bob

      I don’t know DASA, in the small space of a van I don’t think I would want anything bigger than the standard small ones.

  15. judy

    A gently swooping motion seemed to work well on the AK mosquitoes.

  16. Linda Barton

    I didn’t use tape on my screens. I just sewed the magnets into a hem.That said yours look neater. I guess I will do a lot of cooking as I like hot food. OR I will learn to eat more cold stuff. Time will tell.

    • Bob

      Linda, I’m not much of a seamstress, duct tape is much more up my alley!
      I find it very easy to cook so there was no debate to me. The big question is will you have refrigeration. It’s much more difficult so many people try to do without.

  17. rv parts online

    Low air pressure in your tires can be potentially dangerous on winter roads. Take your car to a mechanic to check your tire pressure and fill your tires if necessary. If you have prior knowledge on checking tire pressure, you can easily do it yourself at a free tire air pump found at your local gas station or car shop.

  18. Drivill

    Great tips, Roadpro 12 volt oven it is an great idea to save extra money in a road trip. thank you so much for sharing with us. please keep it up!

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