our top 10 tips for surviving a road trip with your spouse

Will and I have been on five road trips since we got married almost seven months ago. I’m not talking two hour drives for a day trip, either. I’m talking two cross country moves and three road-freaking-trips.

When we moved out to Arizona in June we had been married for two months. We were blessed enough to have already had a honeymoon, but this four month journey in the desert kind of felt like a second go around. We were about to experience a whole lot of just each other. Not a whole lot of family, friends, or busy lives to distract us. 

We definitely took advantage of our distraction free time. Our first weekend in Arizona, we drove to Utah to visit Will’s family and celebrate his mom’s birthday. We spent almost every weekend in Tucson or at a National Park. Over Labor Day we road tripped to the Grand Canyon. Over Columbus Day we trekked out to San Diego. And by Halloween we moved back home to North Carolina. 

We’ve made some good and bad discoveries about road trips over the past few months and want to share our top ten tips for surviving road trips with your spouse.

Plan the trip together 

Maybe one of you is accustomed to leaving at five am, while the other person thinks nine o’clock is reasonable.  Maybe one of you wants to push and drive fourteen, eighteen, twenty-four hours in a day, while the other person considers six to eight hours a solid day of driving.  

These are all completely normal things, but if you don’t talk about expectations ahead of time, you WILL be shocked when your spouse thinks that driving straight through the night is 100% happening.  

Talk about the foreseeable things during the road trip planning process.  If you can’t plan the entire trip together (because of work, or whatever other reason), at least take some time to sit down and talk it out.  Make sure you understand each other’s expectations up front.  

How many days do you expect to be on the road?  Will you be staying in hotels, with friends and relatives, or camping?  Is stopping for sight seeing an option, or is time more pressing?  

Sit down and talk about these, and other foreseeable things before you leave.

Manage the snack and beverage situation

When I get bored, I like to eat.  Having snacks at my fingertips while on the road is crucial, but also dangerous.  The good news is that you’re in control of yourself, and that you have influence over your partnership.  You and your spouse are literally the people purchasing your snacks for the road.  You can absolutely be prepared.

Will and I go to the grocery store together.  We decide together what we want.  I know I’ll want chocolate.  We’ll both want something salty.  Throwing in healthy options is a positive thing.  We bring some Gatorade in addition to water to make sure we will stay hydrated.  

I consider having snacks for a road trip to be non-negotiable, but I do understand the difference between needing a pick-me-up and needing a meal.  Make sure you have discussed with one another whether or not you’ll be packing your own meals to bring, or if you’ll be stopping along the route.  Will and I like to stop at Subway for healthy, inexpensive options.  I also love throwing a side salad onto fast food meals to get some veggies while on the road. 

Eat the Hostess Donuts

Speaking of eating healthy while on the road, my personal cheat are those tiny little chocolate Hostess donuts you can get at every gas station.  Every morning, I treat myself at the first gas station we stop at with a package of donuts to reward myself for being a good sport about sitting still all day.  

I know I just spouted all this stuff at you about you being the one in control and that you can bring the healthy snack options.  But fo real, these Hostess donuts are an absolute necessity and Will agrees with me completely.  

Create your own custom playlist

If you’re anything like me, you have been creating your own playlists on iTunes and/or Spotify for years.  You hear a song, you think, “That’s my jam!” and you add that piece of gold to your playlist.  

At the start of every road trip I have taken since college, we begin every day with “Circle Of Life” from the Lion King, followed by upbeat songs and Disney princess classics.  Belting it out whether or not you know all the words is a given.

In the weeks leading up to your road trip, throw some songs in a playlist.  Think of songs your spouse loves and put them on there.  The song you danced to at your wedding?  Definitely.  That song from high school you remember all the lyrics to?  Add it!  This is not the time to be sophisticated.  This is absolutely the time for sing alongs, road trip dance parties, and keeping your eyelids propped open by the mere sound of high school’s nostalgic rhythms coming out of your sound system.  

Use Walkie-Talkies

Are you and your spouse going to be driving in different cars?  Walkie-talkies are absolutely, 100% necessary.  Let’s think about it—the likelihood of you being more than a mile apart from one another is slim to none while you’re on the road, talking on your hand held phone is illegal in most states, and in the event that your car is not equipped with blu-tooth (like mine), communicating while driving can get tricky.

Not with walkie-talkies!  Head down to Walmart and pick up a pair.  Bring some extra batteries on the road and viola!  You can talk about a rad podcast you just listened to, exclaim over some huge bird you just saw, or share navigation tips with just the push of a button.

Will and I have code names.  He’s Captain American and I’m Raptor One.  

Listen to podcasts

Speaking of podcasts, remember when you were a kid and you would be driving somewhere and all your parents wanted to listen to was some boring radio show or news broadcast?  I would be sitting in the back being like, “Why can’t we just listen to music instead of this boring stuff?”

When Will and I moved across the country, we both took separate cars, so we could listen to whatever we wanted to.  I could sing as loud and as long as I wanted and he could listen to as many political podcasts as his heart desired.  Once we started road tripping together in the same car, it changed things.

The good news is that we are a team and a partnership.  We’re also BFFs so we occasionally share interests.  We attempt to be considerate of each other and listen to things that interest both of us.  

On the move out to Arizona we both fell in love with podcasts, and the great news is that podcasts are completely free for you to listen to.  You can listen to what you want, when you want, and there are thousands of shows to pick from.  You can even download them when you’re connected to wifi and listen to them later, so you don’t use your data.  See?  Free.

My favorite podcasts lately are the SHE podcast, ONE Extraordinary Marriage, and Elevation with Steven Furtick.  I saved up several shows for our move back to North Carolina and had a blast.

Listen to each other’s needs while on the road

We all have bladders and stomachs.  We all get dehydrated or car sick.  We all have expectations for how our day is going to go.  

My point is, you’re both different and come from different driving experiences from before your relationship.  Don’t allow your need to get where you’re going steamroll your relationship.  When you’re on the road, listen to each other’s needs and allow your partner to be human.  Chances are, arriving later than planned will not endanger or hurt someone.  They may just… alter your plans.  That’s it.  

I can easily go for four or five hours without stopping while on the road, unless the car needs gas.  Will, on the other hand, needs to get out of the car every couple hours to simply stretch his legs.  When we moved to Arizona two months after getting married, this actually really annoyed me.  I didn’t understand why we could never drive for longer than three hours without stopping.  It wasn’t until months later that Will shared how restless his legs and body would get, and that’s something I can completely understand!

The reality is, stopping for ten to fifteen minutes at a gas station will not ruin the trip.  In fact, it might enhance and benefit the experience for your spouse.  Accept the humanity of your spouse and if it’s something that annoys you, realize that they can’t control it either.  It’s just a need that they have, and that is 100% okay.  Show them some love and grace.

Be willing to drive

I grew up in a family where my dad drives basically everywhere.  It is very rare that my mom will hop behind the wheel when both of my parents are in the same car, even while on a road trip.  (Side note—there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, OR if your family was completely different.  I’m just saying, this is my family.)

Will and I are very similar, but this is still an expectation I revisit occasionally in our relationship.  I try to thank him often for when he drives for us, especially if he drove a long way or at the end of a tiring day.  I’ll ask if he’s okay to drive, not as a sign of disrespect, but because if he needs me to drive instead, I would love to serve him in that way.

If in your relationship, one of you tends to drive more than the other, maybe discuss that expectation before you leave for your road trip.  Ask if your spouse wants to drive the most, or if they would like to split it more equally.  Even if you don’t talk about it ahead of time and your spouse asks you to drive while you’re in the middle of your trip, be okay and willing to step up and help.  

On the flip side, if you normally do all the driving, but expect to want to share that responsibility on the road trip, lovingly bring the idea up ahead of time.  Make sure your spouse knows how they can serve you.  Also, don’t be afraid to ask!  If you’re too tired to drive, it is absolutely okay to ask your partner to step up!

Pray over your journey

I actually think that this is the most important thing.  Just like praying in everyday life, over tough situations and illnesses, or over a newly purchased home, praying over your trip should be something you do every time.  Set the intention now, whether it’s before you leave the house or as soon as you sit in the car.  

I try to pray over everything.  Over our own personal and bodily safety, over our own alertness and health, over the safety of our vehicles and their mechanics, and that we will be surrounded by alert and competent drivers.  In everything, God’s plan is highest and His will be done.

Don’t total your car

We did this, when we were driving from Arizona to North Carolina.  On our first day of driving I got rear ended in a tiny town in New Mexico.  

We had been planning on taking a more northern route home, to see friends and family and to frolic in the fall foliage of the mountains.  Instead we ended up staying in New Mexico for about twenty-four more hours while we sorted everything out with insurance on a Friday before the weekend.  The car being a total loss was in our favor because did not have to figure out how to repair it and transport it back home.

Obviously, not being at fault in this situation, there was nothing I could have done to prevent it.  It just happened.  I can replay the scenario countless times, realizing had we not tried to stop for dinner, had we not pulled into that parking lot, had we not done A, B, C, D then this would not have happened and our lives would be very different.  Luckily I trust in someone bigger and greater than myself and I know that God’s Got This.  

I will blog more about the accident later.  This blog post is not about that.  It is about this: always keep proof of insurance in your car.  Always have good insurance that will take care of you in the case of an accident because I don’t care who you are, it WILL happen to you one of these days.  Be on your spouse’s team.  Even if they are at fault, they probably weren’t planning on getting in a car accident, especially when you are 2,000 miles from home.  Recognize that you only have control over certain things.  Explain your situation to the insurance people.  Get people on your team.  They will move mountains for you if you treat them with respect and understanding.  You have been through something tough and if you treat them right, they will do what they can to make this situation a little easier.

But if at all possible, avoid this situation.  It is way too complicated when you are far away from home.

To all of you, I wish you safe and fun road trips with your spouse!  They can absolutely be great experiences, especially if you make the most of them.  

Have more tips for your fellow travelers?  Leave it in the comments below!  If you enjoyed this post, give it a like and don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already.

Until next time,
Jamie out.

San Diego, Zoos, and Dolphins

Being out in Arizona has been an absolute blast.  We have been able to explore so many different places!  Over Columbus Day weekend we had the opportunity to visit Will’s brother and his family in San Diego for a few days.

San Diego 2018

Friday

We left pretty early in the morning, making sure to get in a good breakfast, and of course running into more of our dinosaur friends on the road.  If there’s one thing I’m going to miss about the desert, it’s how many dinosaurs there are hanging around.

Lunch was, obviously, a very satisfying stop at In-N-Out.  I’m already internally crying about the east coast not having my animal style burger fix.

We got to the Shugart house in late afternoon and had a fantastic evening catching up with John, Kristina, and our nieces.  The boys burned things, we ate Mexican food, and our hearts were happy.

San Diego 2018

Saturday

We indulged in the traditional Shugart breakfast the following morning.  I love my cheesy eggs, fancy bacon, and delicious waffles, but this girl canNOT get enough potatoes.   They’re so good!  Will is also hardcore into potatoes for breakfast so our marriage was basically a match made in heaven.

San Diego 2018

SeaWorld

Some of you may not know this, but I actually used to live in San Diego.  For almost five years I called southern California home and I lived right across the bay from SeaWorld San Diego for some time.  I could almost see their evening fireworks display every night during the summer from my back patio.  

Despite being so close, I never visited while I lived there, so taking the opportunity while we were in town was top of the list.  Having now visited, I highly recommend going to SeaWorld if you have the opportunity.  It is the best aquarium you have ever been to on steroids.

The Sea Lions were great.  You could buy fish to feed them and the birds would always swoop in to try and steal them.

San Diego 2018

I have always seen pictures and videos of these cool underwater walkways at aquariums but have never been in one before!  It was so cool!  Even though I am usually terrified of sharks, it was just so awesome that I wasn’t afraid at all.  

We saw several types of sharks just sitting still on the bottom.  I didn’t know they could do that!  Apparently certain species of sharks can keep water moving through their gills by a pumping motion of their pharynx, so they don’t have to keep moving.

San Diego 2018 San Diego 2018

After we saw the sharks, we went to the Dolphin Encounter show.

San Diego 2018

I’m not super into splash zones or walking around in sopping wet clothes, so Will was a champ and let me hide behind him when the dolphins soaked us.  Besides that it was an excellent show.  It was fun to see the relationship between the dolphins and trainers.  There was even a big whale that took part in the show, and its personality was so cute.  It reminded me of a giant golden retriever.

San Diego 2018

Next up we rode some rides.  The one on the left is the first rollercoaster Will and I have been on together!  I had plenty of anxiety leading up to it while we were waiting in line because we didn’t put our phones in the available lockers.  Anyone else with anxiety get super stressed about the small things sometimes?  Will saved the day with his pockets, and despite lots of screaming on my part, it was a seriously excellent rollercoaster.  

I bowed out on the Atlantis ride, though, because I was a little cold and didn’t feel like getting wet again.  

San Diego 2018

I hung out with my niece as everyone else took turns riding.  We made sure to stand outside the splash zone while we watched everyone come down, and then went to look at the fishies and sting rays for a while.

San Diego 2018

My five year old niece took the photo on the right.  She’ll be a photographer in no time.

San Diego 2018

As the afternoon turned into evening, and the unnaturally chilly San Diego day seeped into our bones, we stopped by a Starbucks for coffees and hot chocolates to warm up while we waiting in line for our next adventure.

Confession time: Will’s fave from Starbucks is the caramel frappe.  He claims this is the best one he had ever had.  Way to go, SeaWorld Starbucks.

San Diego 2018

Their Orca show has, apparently, changed a lot.  It is now primarily an educational show where they teach you all about the different kinds of Killer Whales and absolutely no one gets in the water with them.

San Diego 2018

After the show, we went down below to watch the Orcas swim for a little while.  

Will and I have taken to getting magnets for every state we have been through, or for significant places we have visited.  We also like getting Christmas ornaments, but in SeaWorld we opted for the Orca fridge magnet.  They are seriously majestic animals.

San Diego 2018

I can’t pick a favorite thing we did in SeaWorld because it was all really good.  I definitely recommend a visit the next time you’re in San Diego.

When we left the park, we grabbed some dinner and then went back to John and Kristina’s.

San Diego 2018

Sunday

On Sunday morning we went to church, where they had coffee and donuts available beforehand.  That’s my kind of church!  

Afterwards, we went out for brunch to Broken Yolk with the Shugarts and Kristina’s family.  You can never have too much breakfast food.

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San Diego Zoo

Okay, if you think me never going to SeaWorld while I lived in San Diego is bad, listen to this.  Will had never been to a zoo before.  In his life.  Ever.  

When we heard that we knew that we absolutely needed to visit one of the best zoos in the world—the San Diego Zoo.

And don’t worry—I definitely changed into good walking shoes before we went in the park.

San Diego 2018 San Diego 2018

It was so COOL to get to share that moment with Will.  His first time seeing rhinos, giraffes, elephants, lions, gorillas, etc.  He even broke out his phone to take his own pictures and video, which does not happen very often, folks.

San Diego 2018 San Diego 2018

The gorilla was so cute!  A woman played a gorilla video on her phone and it just sat there and watched the whole thing.  

We power walked through Africa, the arctic, stopped for some ice cream, and ended at the orangutans, which were my favorites of the day.  Will’s favorite was the gorilla.  

San Diego 2018

After a few hours in the zoo, Will and I took off for a little while so that I could show him all of my old stomping grounds.  We drove up to north county and I showed him a few places I lived, worked, and shopped for groceries, before we headed back south to Pacific Beach.  We drove by my old townhouse and then parked and ran to the beach just in time to watch the last rays of light from the sunset.  It was such a special moment to be able to share with him.  

San Diego 2018

Still feeling all grateful and mushy, we stopped at a restaurant called Fat Fish by the pier to get dinner.  It was super delicious and special.  

San Diego 2018

Monday

We had a great and relaxing morning with the family before we got back on the road.  We stopped a few hours into our drive to spend a some time with the sand dunes.  Will had never seen sand dunes before!  Yet another cool moment to share with him!  They were pretty big, and super white.  It doesn’t take greenery or oceans for something to be beautiful.  

San Diego 2018

We had a fantastic trip and whirlwind weekend with the family.  There is so much to do in San Diego, it actually became overwhelming for me at one point because I realized that there is so much I want to share with Will.  I’m so grateful that we had this time with family and with San Diego before we head back to the east coast.  It did a lot of good for my soul.

Have you ever been to San Diego?  What was your favorite part?  The food is pretty high on my list!  If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and don’t forget to join the family by hitting that subscribe button if you haven’t already.

Until next time,
Jamie out

a very old castle

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Labor Day Weekend Part IV

Let’s be honest, Will and I had a very successful weekend trip.  We visited the site of a volcano, witnessed the sun rising over the Grand Canyon, and hiked almost thirteen miles along its rim.  Come Sunday morning, we were beat and ready to go home.  

We ate breakfast at the hotel, packed up, and then took some quick shots in the wild flowers beside the parking lot because we forgot to take our traditional selfies with our National Parks Passports that weekend.  

Montezuma Castle National Monument

We got on the road pretty early but encountered a detour as we searched for Starbucks and my Pumpkin Spiced Latte fix.  We enjoyed the first part of our drive through Flagstaff as we discussed the future and what life is going to be like once we are back in North Carolina.

What we did not anticipate or plan for was almost being out of gas, but then deciding to push it and drive thirty more miles to get cheaper gas, and then seeing a sign right beside that gas station for a National Monument just six miles down the road.

“Let’s do it!”  We were so excited.  

We decided early on in our trip planning that we didn’t want to go to a National Park because “we might as well since it’s right there.”  If we aren’t feeling it, we aren’t going to go—the passports aren’t an obligation.  But this castle opportunity was just too good to pass up.

Montezuma Castle National Monument
(proud moment as my husband is getting really good at this posing for the camera thing)

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Structures like this capture my heart.  I absolutely love learning about and exploring places where people actually lived.  Old houses, forts, castles—you name it, I would probably love to explore it.  Case and point—Will and I met at an outing where we explored an abandoned school house (read about it here).

Montezuma Castle National Monument Montezuma Castle National Monument

In order to see the castle, you have to go through the Visitor Center, which was ridiculously busy on Labor Day.  We patiently waded through the crowds to stamp our passports and then to read about the history of the 800 year old cliff dwelling and its inhabitants.  The diagram above is a map of the castle floor plans, which the public is not allowed to explore any more.  Back in the day a lot of vandalism occurred and visitors would take pieces of the castle as souvenirs, so in an effort to preserve the history, we can only look at it from afar these days.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Montezuma Castle was named one of the first four National Monuments in 1906 by President Roosevelt.  He called it a place “of the greatest ethnological value and scientific interest.”  The well preserved site has been protected ever since.  Early visitors could actually climb up to the castle using ladders (I’m so jealous), but as of 1951 we can now only gaze at it from paved paths.  

What is super interesting about the site is 1) why the inhabitants built so high up into the cliff, and 2) why they randomly disappeared and moved on after living there for several hundred years.  Learning about the people who once made this place home is the benefit of spending some time in the Visitor Center before jumping outside to see the structure.

Montezuma Castle National Monument Montezuma Castle National Monument

It was super interesting to see up close.  It made us wonder about older generations who had to climb ladders to get home and what inspired them to build in the cliff face in the first place.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

As you can see, it’s pretty high up from the ground.  At least this would offer protection from elements and predators.  

Montezuma Castle National Monument Montezuma Castle National Monument

To the left of Montezuma Castle is another structure, “Castle A” that was excavated.  Because a lot of artifacts were lost when Montezuma was looted, the second dwelling offered a lot of information and understanding for anthropologists.  

Montezuma Castle National Monument

This diorama was another cool picture into what life would have been like living in a cliff 800 years ago.  Check out their website here for more information and photos.  

Montezuma Castle National Monument

We headed straight home after the castle to get some much needed rest and relaxation before heading back to work that week.

Next up in our adventures—our first camping trip together!  Join the family and hit that subscribe button so you don’t miss the next post.  If you liked those castle photos, give this post a like and let us know in the comments the favorite historical site you’ve ever visited!

Until next time,
Jamie out

Read More:
Labor Day Part I 
Labor Day Part II Labor Day Part III

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Labor Day Part I

Initially, Will and I had completely different plans for our Labor Day weekend.  When they ended up falling through, we were at a little bit of a loss and ended up on a little impromptu road trip up north to Flagstaff, Williams, and the Grand Canyon.  

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Your girl, who is not a planner, pulled through in the clutch and did all of the research about the Grand Canyon, including where to stay, what to hike, and where to stop along the drive.  Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I did a pretty dang good job.

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Sunset Crater Volcano

If you want to read about other National Parks Will and I have visited, click here!  When we had only been dating for about four months, we picked up a couple National Parks Passports at the Blueridge Parkway in North Carolina.  It became our mission to stamp our passports at as many parks as possible over the coming years.  So far, we are killing it in Arizona.  

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Visiting Sunset Crater Volcano was a great look into how volcanos, earth quakes, and volcanic eruptions can drastically change a landscape.  Similar to Mount St Helens in Washington, Sunset Crater once erupted in what would later become Flagstaff, Arizona.  Luckily, the locals at the time appeared to get the gist about what was going to happen and got out of dodge well in advance.  

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

There are several hikes around the volcano to view more of the volcanic rock and ecosystem around the mountain.  Will and I picked a short one miler since we had been driving all day and were eager to get to our hotel.

The Lava Flow Trail is paved and explores the “Bonita Lava Flow,” along with “numerous volcanic features while walking at the base of Sunset Crater Volcano.”  For more information, visit the National Park’s website here.

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

The trail we chose is just a short drive past the Visitor Center, where we learned more about the people who once inhabited this area of Arizona, as well as what the volcano may have looked like back in the day.  

We loved getting to peek at the wide array of volcanic rock and dust that still dominates the landscape surrounding the volcano.  We could see high up on the mountain where old trails still leave scars upon the mountainside.  Hiking and climbing is no longer allowed on the crater site in order to preserve and protect it.

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

We spent an hour or so on the trail, taking in the landscape and learning about the crater, before we hopped in the car and drove an hour to Williams, Arizona.  We checked into our hotel and headed out to spend the evening at the Grand Canyon Brewery for some delicious steaks.  That night we turned in early so that we could get up super early the following morning to watch the sun rise over the Grand Canyon.

Never fear—that blog post is coming soon.  Hoping you all have great weekends and praying for everyone in the Carolinas right now!  Praying over the impact of Hurricane Florence!

Don’t forget to give this post a like if you enjoyed it and don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already!

Until next time,
Jamie out

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Read More:
Labor Day Part II Labor Day Part III