20 tips for surviving a summer road trip, courtesy of touring musicians

Road trips are made for summer. Summer is made for road trips. I’m a musician with several tours under my belt so, yeah, you guessed it, I love road trips and summer. But braving the heat while living in an automobile isn’t very cool if you aren’t prepared. Before you pack your vehicle so tight you can’t open the backseat doors without spilling pillows and sun block all over the scorching rest stop parking lot, make sure you have your summer road trip bases covered.

Summer’s biggest pitfalls aren’t mysterious. Mostly there’s the heat and the sun, which can be two separate problems to combat. Precisely how to conquer the road while dodging the wrath of summer is a practice best perfected by experience, so here are some tips birthed from experience, not in any intentional order.

1. Plan your route wisely.
Where you’re going matters. As you might suspect, planning a summer road trip that will take you through the South is dangerous territory. With that said, I’ve done it, plenty of people have, but be mindful of the regional summer climate when planning your summer trip. Give yourself more time for rest than you think you need. The heat has a way of corroding away a traveler’s soul. If you think you can manage full-day drives during the summer, that’s fine, but make sure your schedule is flexible.

%Gallery-121060%2. Prepare your vehicle.
It’s absolutely essential that you make sure your vehicle is adequately prepared for a summer road trip before embarking on one. If your air conditioner is broken, get it fixed. If the car’s interior material is the kind that easily gets sticky and hot, bring thin sheets to cover the seats with. And oh yeah, those windshield sun blockers? Definitely a bright idea. Aol Autos has a good round-up detailing how to prepare your car for a summer road trip here.

3. Pack the right stuff.
What you pack will prove to be important during a summer road trip. During any road trip, no matter the season, what you bring along with you more or less accounts for your home for the trip. When road tripping, your vehicle is your home. Remember that. Aside from the regular to-bring items (first aid kit, anyone?) a few essentials to remember when packing for a summer trip are:

Sun block
Sun hat
Bug repellent
A cooler
Swim suit
Beach Towel
Sun glasses
Light clothing
Aloe
Water bottle
Umbrella

But the real question to ask yourself is: what helps you feel comfortable in the summer? If having an on-the-go folding beach chair around has been handy for you in the past, go ahead and slide it into your trunk if there’s space.

Dean Herrera, guitarist for metal band, The Human Abstract, is especially behind including a swim suit on the pack list.

“Always have some swim suit ready to go. You never know when you might drive by an unexpected river or lake that would be perfect for a quick dip”, said Herrera when I asked him for his own summer road trip tips.

4. Avoid afternoon driving.
Tolerating the heat, especially in the South, can be a challenge. Avoid driving in the height of the afternoon if you have a chance. People siesta for a reason in warm places! You should take this tip via tradition to heart. Drive at night, dawn, or dusk for the most pleasant temperature and traffic-free experience. Not only will you be more comfortable, but you’ll probably save a little on gas money while you’re at it (it takes less gas to cool your car when the outside temperature drops).

5. Stay clean.
It’s easy to become a stinky sweaty mess when traveling during the summer. Deodorant is important, but it won’t ward off all of the nasty scents of summer road tripping. I used to always have my shampoo, conditioner, and a jug of water around so I could quickly wash my hair in a parking lot if necessary. But public showers do exist.

Truck stop showers are typically very clean”, says Anthony Shustak. “Don’t be afraid to use them if you need… just be sure you’ve got some sandals”. Anthony Shustak is a touring veteran who has traveled with acts like Meg and Dia and LIGHTS as an engineer, tour manager, and general-good-guy-to-have-around.

6. Protect your engine.
“If your van or car is on its way to overheating and you don’t want to or can’t, stop, blast the heater and open the windows. It helps keep your engine slightly cooler”, says Herrera who, at this point, has probably circled around the United States in a van enough times to equally circle to world a few times.

7. Stay rested.
“Sleep!”, says Shustak. “Coffee only does so much. So, before you get to the point on that 14 hour drive when you’re on your fourth cup of coffee in six hours and your arms are shaking, pull the car over and take a nap! Even if it’s just half an hour”.

8. Tune in and tune out.
Shustak has some advice on which electronics matter. “Have a fully stocked mp3 player, a camera at the ready, and turn your phone off for a day or two–or at least limit yourself to one or two “message checks” per day. Your e-mails will miraculously still be there when you wake up the next day”, he suggests.

9. Embrace the road less taken.
“Make sure to go off the beaten path, advises Shustak. “Don’t be scared of the locals. Ask questions… especially when it comes to finding out the best places to eat.

10. Get some alone time.
You’re much more likely to want to strangle your travel companion, be it your spouse, colleague, or Craigslist rideshare partner, while crammed up together in a hot car for hours upon hours each day. Make sure to take breaks from your road buddy as frequently as possible, even if just for 15 minutes.

11. Know your territory.
And know what comes with that territory. Read up and know the dangers of the area at hand. If the bear population is high, for instance, be sure to be mindful of where you place your food and trash while parked.

12. Stay hydrated.
Keep yourself hydrated with cold beverages while driving. Think about it this way: every cool drink you down is another step up and toward a cooler temperature–particularly important if your car has an irreparable broken air conditioner (which is incredibly inconvenient if you live in Austin, FIRST HAND KNOWLEDGE).

13. Use an umbrella.
Protect yourself from the sun’s rays, especially mid-day. If you hate lathering on sun block and don’t see the point in covering your body with it when you’ll be in the car most of the day, just use your umbrella when you stop for a walk to stretch your legs. It’s much easier than worrying about the lotion.

14. Pack light.
Shustak’s packing tip is all about how much you pack.

“Mainly, for me, it comes down to packing lightly and efficiently. If you are on a trip longer than a month in duration, pack for 10-14 days and use your opportunities to do laundry during any downtime”, says Shustak, who undoubtedly knows the value of staying with a washer/dryer-owning friend on the road.

15. Eat healthy.
An easy way to make sure you feel like crap while traveling is to eat crap. I realize old habits die hard, but some fresh fruits and vegetables just might be your answer to staying happy and healthy on the road.

16. Entertain yourself.
Cruising across states is fun and the landscape views are great. But you’ll eventually get sick of looking out of the window and when you do, you’ll need a way to entertain yourself. Be sure there’s no shortage on entertainment options. Books, notebooks, sketchbooks, jewelry-making supplies, knitting tools, dvds for your computer, video games, iPod and headphones… you know what you like, so pack accordingly.

17. Bring camping supplies.
Sometimes you need to stop in towns where you don’t have any friends you can stay with and your money needs to go toward gas, not hotels. It’s no big deal, just camp! If you can squeeze at least a tent and a sleeping bag in your vehicle, do it. Having the ability to sleep comfortably anywhere when you need to stop will enhance your overall road trip experience this summer.

18. Have your contacts saved.
Phones get stolen, broken, and lost. Make sure you have a list of your contacts, especially your emergency contacts, saved elsewhere. I suggest online, on your computer, and in a notebook.

19. Keep someone in the loop.
I was a little annoyed summer of 2007 when the folks who care about me back home called Wyoming hospitals to see if I’d been in an accident after not hearing from me for days. Truth be told, I was just camping in Yellowstone without phone reception and I should have kept someone in the loop. But at least these folks, my parents, were in the loop enough to know which area of the country I was in. Make sure you’re keeping someone you trust up to date on where you are and where you plan on going.

20. Bring an actual atlas.
“Have an up-to-date road atlas”, says Shustak. “Surprise, surprise… the GPS and/or Google Maps are not always accurate”.

Have some tips I missed? Let us all know in the comments.

Winter in Alaska: Paws for Adventure dog mushing tour through Fairbanks (video)

In the spirit of journeying during periods less traveled, I’ve embarked to Alaska this winter. Follow the adventures here, and prepare to have your preconceived notions destroyed along the way.



Video footage from my one hour Paws for Adventure dog sled tour in Fairbanks, AK

The more time I spent in Alaska during the winter, the more I asked myself why this wasn’t considered a tourist season. A week or so ago, Fairbanks was gifted with an atypical dumping of fresh powder, making the conditions more than perfect for a day of dog mushing. Following the races down at Fur Rondy, I headed up north to Fairbanks for a slightly different kind of dog race: one that began and ended at a homestead. Paws For Adventure is an Alaskan outfit that uses their stable of dogs strictly for casual runs — nothing competitive whatsoever. These pups were downright adorable, and I was able to sit down (with owner Leslie Goodwin) in a sled behind ten beautiful dogs. They hauled us along like champs, and they were thrilled to be doing it. I couldn’t help but make a few rounds praising them all afterwards, and even now, it’s one of the highlights of my trip to The Last Frontier. If you’re looking for a truly Alaskan adventure to partake in whilst in Fairbanks, look no further. Have a peek at the video above to get a gist of what to expect.

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[Images provided by Dana Jo Photography]

My trip was sponsored by Alaska Travel Industry Association, but I was free to report as I saw fit. The opinions expressed in this article are 100% my own.

Winter in Alaska: snowmobiling with Glacier City, cheating death all the while (video)

In the spirit of journeying during periods less traveled, I’ve embarked to Alaska this winter. Follow the adventures here, and prepare to have your preconceived notions destroyed along the way.



A helmet cam view of snowmobiling in Girdwood, Alaska


When it comes to winter sports, you’ve got skiing, snowboarding, ice hockey — you know, the usual. And then, there’s snowmobiling. Or “snowmachining” as it’s known in The Last Frontier. Whatever you call it, there’s no question that it’s a rush of epic proportions, and while you can most certainly do it in the lower 48, doing in the one that borders Canada and and Russia* provides an entirely different perspective. I’ve snowmobiled through Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and in Olney, Montana, and while those were both unique and extraordinary experiences in and of themselves, ripping it up through the Chugach mountains is a can’t-miss episode for daredevils. Read on to find out how Glacier City Snowmobile Tours got my adrenaline pumping, or press play on the video above to catch a helmet-cam view of the entire thing!

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snowmobile in alaska

Girdwood feels a lot further than 45 miles from Alaska’s largest city (yeah, Anchorage), and it’s home to both Alyeska Ski Resort & Hotel as well as Glacier City Snowmobile Tours. These guys are tucked within the Great Alaskan Tourist Trap shop, connected with the Tesoro fuel station. Tough to find, but well worth discovering. You’ll have two main tour options — the 5.5 hour Real Deal Blue Ice Tour (where you’ll spot glaciers) — and the 3.5 hour Gold Mine Tour. Those run you $250 and $200 apiece, respectively, and include fuel, gear, a campfire lunch (complete with Reindeer hot dogs and Russian Hot Tea) and a guide. The “guide” part is what really makes it — we had Matthew Moscoso (shown above), an Alaskan of five years and consummate professional on the sled. He was both comical and informative, and frankly, it makes me wish my US history teacher of yesteryear had a shred of his genes. I also got to ride with Chanc Deschamps-Prescott, an award-winning skier (and Girdwood native) who is but 15 years of age, and has his sights firmly set on entering the next Winter Olympics. I can’t promise that you too will get the sled with a local hero, but hey, crazier things have happened in Alaska.

snowmobile in alaska

I embarked on the Gold Mine Tour, and couldn’t have possibly had more fun. The trails were definitely the most challenging I’d seen in my three major treks out, but that also adds to the thrill and excitement. We were able to stop for plenty of astounding photo opportunities of the surrounding mountains (as you can see in the gallery here), and the lunch really was something special. Delicious, and thought provoking. How often does that happen?

snowmobile in alaska

As with pretty much everything in Alaska, there’s something truly awe-inspiring about doing everyday activities here. Snowmobiling is no different. Glacier City is the only tour outfit that gets to cruise on the trails that we cruised on, so you’re literally surrounded with nothing but nature. It’s you, your group, your sled, and some of the most intense scenery your brain will ever have to digest. I could go on, but I’ll let a bit of helmet cam footage from my journey handle whatever convincing is still required.

[Images provided by Dana Jo Photography]

My trip was sponsored by Alaska Travel Industry Association, but I was free to report as I saw fit. The opinions expressed in this article are 100% my own.

Five things to do in (and around) Dublin, even in the rainy winter

things to do in dublin

Ah, Dublin. Home to Guinness, a Leprechaun museum, an absurdly tall spire and the famous / infamous Temple Bar quarter. It’s also home to around 300 days of cloudy or rainy weather, which begs the question: why are you fixing to fork out hundreds, possibly thousands more just to visit in the summer? There’s no question that the weather in Europe is far more palatable in the spring and summer months, but it’s also shockingly expensive. A flight to anywhere within the EU jumps up by orders of magnitude as soon as you select June, July or August as your departure date and in the case of Ireland, there’s really no need to hand over extra to an airline when you could be spending those dollars Euros on attractions, pub food and better hotels. I’ve always been a fan of visiting places in the off-season, and Dublin’s no different. Read on to learn of five slightly off-the-wall things to do in (and around) the Irish capital.

%Gallery-117267%Visiting U2’s former recording digs: Windmill Lane Studios

things to do in dublin

A good part of the entire world knows that U2 hails from Ireland, but if you’re a hardcore fan, you owe it to yourself to see where things began. The (now-defunct) Windmill Lane Studios is where the group recorded Joshua Tree, War and Boy, and while the studio itself has now relocated to a different section of Dublin, the prior building still stands as part of the Rock ‘N Stroll history trail. It’s covered in graffiti, and you’ll know you’re near the entrance when you start seeing loads of U2 shout-outs from tourists around the globe. Feel free to pack a Sharpie and leave your token of appreciation (and hometown) behind. Directions to the studio are here — this is one time where you’ll need to read up rather than trusting Google Maps.

A dainty stroll through Powerscourt Gardens and The River Walk

things to do in dublin

What’s a trip to Dublin without a trip out of Dublin? The Powerscourt Estate sits just 45 minutes south, within County Wicklow, and it’s a slice of age-old paradise. The House & Gardens are well worth exploring — it’s some of the most beautiful grounds these eyes have ever seen — and since it’ll tough to return after just a day, I’d recommend an overnight stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Powerscourt. You’ll get free cycles to rent, a free pass to the absolutely stunning River Walk and pampering that you’ve always dreamed of. The only problem? It’ll make your city center digs seem downright plain. Read more on our visit here.

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Pub hop on O’Connell Street and the Temple Bar area

things to do in dublin

If you’re coming to Dublin for the first time, there are two names you really need to know within the city center: O’Connell and Temple. The former is dotted with a massive spire and includes a number of famed pubs and shops, while the Temple Bar area is just across the bridge (look for the giant Heiniken sign, and turn right). There, you’ll find budget accommodations (hostels galore), and more pubs than any lightweight could ever visit in a night. The Auld Dubliner is a personal favorite for grub and drinks, and the live musicians that show up there are tremendously talented. Oh, and make sure you order Guinness. Anything else just wouldn’t be Irish enough.

Venture west to the Cliffs of Moher, The Burren and Bunratty Castle

things to do in dublin

The east coast is gorgeous, but the west? Doubly so. Paddywagon Tours offers a 12 hour day trip to the west of Ireland, hitting County Galway (and the Bay), Corcomroe Abbey (a gorgeous church left in ruins), Poulnabrone Dolmen Portal Tomb (a standing monument from 4,000+ years ago), The Burren (a totally unique and mind-blowing rocky landscape), Doolin (Ireland’s unofficially official Irish music capital), the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher and finally, Bunratty Castle. At around $70 per person (admission to the Cliffs inclued), you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better value when it comes to gawking at the highlights on the opposite side of the Republic. Try to peek the forecast ahead of time and lock down a day with a lesser chance of rain, but even if it pours, take a raincoat and soak it all in — Ireland wouldn’t be as green as it is without nature’s tears, you know!

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Leave the country… by car

things to do in dublin

If you’re brave enough to take the wheel while situated on the passenger’s side of the car (not to mention remembering to keep your motorcar on the left of the road), you can head straight to Northern Ireland via road. And you’ll be there in under two hours. Belfast and the surrounding areas offer some pretty extreme outdoor activities, and while it may be a bit chilly and rainy in the off-season, you’ll be fighting fewer crowds all the while. If you aren’t so adventurous, the lovely lads at Paddywagon offer another day trip to Belfast, and we can personally attest to their adeptness at handling reverse traffic.

[Images provided by Dana Jo Photography]

All of these activities were enjoyed during the height of the off-season in Ireland, and I’d obviously recommend ’em to anyone. Pack a few warm layers and a solid raincoat, and head out with a mind to enjoy yourself no matter what. If you have any other off-season Dublin must-dos, toss ’em into the comments section below!

Touring Dallas Cowboys Stadium during Super Bowl XLV Media Day

cowboys stadium

Super Bowl XLV. It was most certainly one for the record books. Well over 100,000 people flowed into Cowboys Stadium in the heart of North Texas to watch two of the NFL’s most storied teams do battle. The Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers put on an amazing spectacle, and I was able to take part in one small way. I made my way into Arlington for Super Bowl Media Day — a frenzied event that saw over 1,000 credentialed media crowd the field for their chance to interview their favorite players and coaches. Two of the league’s most historic teams, both on the field of the newest, most awe-inspiring stadium in the NFL. It was a spectacular scene, and a journey I won’t ever forget. The good news for you is that even though the Super Bowl is over, Cowboys Stadium remains open for business.

How so, you ask? The team has set up a program for tourists, locals and curious fans alike to actually take a tour of the new Cowboys Stadium. Tours are given seven days a week, with two primary options for entry. Of course, a general tour won’t involve speaking to players of the Packers or Steelers, but it will involve a thorough walkthrough of the NFL’s most astounding and technologically advanced venue. Read on to catch a glimpse of what you’ll see should you make the trip down (or up!).

%Gallery-116470%Aside from the fact that players were on the field and more willing than ever to sign an autograph rather than answer yet another question directly related to sports, a normal Cowboys Stadium tour isn’t too different than a Super Bowl Media Day tour. I was granted access to a special side entrance as well as a rear conference room, a look at the technology that powers the stadium (more on that angle here and here) and field-level access to the players, but other than that, my experience would pretty much mimic yours.

cowboys stadium

My first suggestion would be to splurge on the VIP Tour. If you make the trip over to Arlington, it’s worth the $10 per person upcharge to get a legitimate VIP experience. This runs $27.50 for adults (or $20 per person with a group of 20+ people), or $22.50 for children and seniors. The cheaper self-guided tour lacks the insider knowledge that the VIP Tour provides, giving you full access to the Pro Shop, field, locker rooms, Miller Lite Club and the post-game interview room. There are Tour Guides stations in each area to answer your questions, but the VIP Tour goes above and beyond. With that, you’ll begin at the Main club and then tour a private suite, the radio / print media press boxes, the Cotton Bowl offices, the Dr. Pepper Star Bar and the Ford Motor Company Fountain.

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Following those stops, a guide will take you down to the event level where you’ll see all of the stops on the Self-Guided Tours. Afterwards, you’ll end the tour in the Pro Shop where you’ll get a complimentary 6- x 8-inch photo to remember the experience. Like I said, the $10 upcharge seems justified.

cowboys stadium

As for my experience? It was outstanding. The 72- x 160-foot Mitsubishi Electric HD display hanging from the roof is truly a sight that has to be seen to be believed. It’s an expansive place — the roof can be opened up if the weather is nice, and it’s very obvious just how new this place is. Being able to get on the field holds even more meaning now that the Packers and Steelers have christened it with a Super Bowl, and for fans of the NFL (or sports in general), it’s a breathtaking experience. You really can’t judge just how huge the place is until you’re there. I kept wishing that I could actually return for a game after being on the field with legendary players, and there’s no doubt that this tour will get you hooked and hoping to come back for more. There looks to be hardly a bad seat in the house, and from a tech perspective, there’s plenty to appreciate. Over 800 wireless routers are there to provide reliable internet access through games (for those who like to tweet or upload images / videos of the action), and there have been improvements made in wireless cellphone coverage for similar reasons.

cowboys stadium

During my tour, I also learned of things to come from Cowboys CIO Pete Walsh and systems architects from CDW. The organization is hoping to tie a good deal of technology into future events. Things like iPhone apps for ordering food (and potentially having it delivered to your seat based on GPS), real-time statistics and on-demand replays on your phone or tablet. These guys are gunning for “the ultimate fan experience,” and it shows. They’ve got the perfect venue to provide that, and if you’re halfway through a cross-country road trip, why not make a day to tour the NFL’s most technologically advanced stadium? Have a look at my tour in the images throughout to get a feel for what you’d get to see, and then head here to book a time and day that fits your schedule.