Five Days in a Fiat 500: A Cross-Country Road Trip in a Tic-Tac on Wheels
By Vanessa Palencia
If you’re friends with me on Facebook and Instagram, then chances are you saw glimpses of my cross-country trek a few weeks ago. The pictures you’ve seen emphasized the beautiful scenery on the road and glamorized a cross-country roadtrip, but let me tell you that it wasn’t as glamorous as the pictures portrayed.
We started off the trip rather joyfully singing campfire songs in our head (or maybe that was just me?) and looking forward to eating the infamous Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MREs) that my Marine Vet boyfriend so fondly looked back on. It wasn’t until we made our first stop at a gas station 2 hours away from home (we made it so far, I know…) that we decided we were hungry and whipped the MREs out of our super packed trunk. Nick picked out the beef enchilada, my son decided on the spaghetti with meat sauce, and I picked out the meatloaf and mashed potatoes. It was over 100 degrees outside, so we decided to put the packets on the hood of the car to heat them up because why the eff not?
When they were ready, we each grabbed a spoon and excitedly dug in. I immediately spit it out. The guys seemed happy with their food, but my meatloaf and mashed potatoes tasted like rotten cat food mush. We brought two boxes full of that stuff. I was definitely not looking forward to the next few days, but I didn’t know that that was just the beginning. There was so much more I would learn and so many things I’d have to sacrifice on this road trip. I want to share my trials and tribulations to help other people and make a trip like this much easier. Now, I highly doubt that there will be a family of three and a dog who takes a cross-country road trip in a Fiat, but I figured that if this list proves useless in helping, then it’d provide one hell of an entertaining read, so enjoy and let me know if this did help you at all!
1. Only bring one duffel bag for all of you!
The trunk is the size of a decent cooler, so you need to work with what you’ve got. We expected to be on the road for five days, so we only packed 4 outfits each. Without the guarantee of a laundromat I was miserable.
2. A fiat is basically a human-sized oven.
We had body heat emanating from 2 ½ adults and a dog. With a car that small, it’s bound to get stuffy and sticky quickly. Rolling down the windows didn’t help much either since the states we were rolling through are famous for their heat and humidity in the summer. While we did have AC in the car, it was a hate/love relationship with turning it on because of the effect it had on our gas mileage, bringing us to our next point.
3. Don’t be fooled by its size. It’s a hungry, hungry hippo.
You’d think that because of its size, it’d be great on gas, but you are so very wrong. It’s a gas guzzler! Yes, it only takes about $20 to fill up the tank, but it can only hold 9 gallons worth of gas. On our road trip, we had to fill that sucker up twice a day. TWICE!
4. Be prepared to age faster.
With living beings in the back seat and additional stuff crammed under the seats (the trunk is an ice-box, remember?!), you can’t really recline your seat when you want to get some shut eye, so you end up with a stiff and aching back from that upright position and a pancake butt. Don’t be surprised if the idea of a walking stick starts to sound like an early Christmas present.
5. Possible foot swelling!
You’re on a road trip in a small car probably eating foods high in sodium (restaurant foods and gas station snacks) and not getting much wiggle room, which means your blood won’t be circulating throughout your body the way it should. We camped out in our car during our five-day road trip and at the end of the trip, I woke up with piggish toes that seemed to swallow my flip-flops. I felt like a pregnant woman but without the belly. I also couldn’t feel my feet when I walked. I almost demanded my boyfriend to take me to the nearest ER, but after a water flush and some exercises, they started to go down. I was the only one who suffered balloon feet, so you’ll either turn out okay or end up like me. Who knows?
6. Forget about putting your foot on the dashboard.
Unless you’re five-foot-nothing, you’re going to be extremely uncomfortable putting your legs up on the dashboard. Not to mention, it’s also completely dangerous.
7. You can also forget about the front seat cup holders.
I don’t know who designed the layout for the cup holders in this car, but they didn’t seem to consider how difficult it would be to take out the driver’s drink when the passenger’s cup holder is a few inches higher and occupied. Why can’t the cup holders be equal? Why does the driver’s cup holder have to be lower than the passengers? How dare they demote the driver’s cup holder status!