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Road trips can be a lot of fun. They can also create dangerous situations if you leave for a long road trip without the proper planning. Many people think that they will just figure out places to stop for the night, places to eat, and who is going to drive once they have started out on a long car ride, but this can be unwise.
There are many considerations that you should take into consideration before you embark on a long-distance drive. Make sure that you think about all of the items on this list before you climb in the car to head out on your trip, and you will have fun, be safe, and get the most out of the experience!
Driving Long Distances
First of all, long-distance can mean something very different from one person to the next. For some people, driving a couple of hours is a long distance to travel. For others, traveling overnight or over multiple days counts as a long drive.
No matter what distance you are driving, you should always use the following list of considerations to help you to make plans. Having a plan before you leave will make any driving trip more fun, less stressful, and far safer.
1. Rest Up Before You Drive a Long Distance
Driving requires attention and a well-rested brain. If you usually only commute fifteen or twenty minutes and that is the sum of your daily driving, you may not realize how fatiguing driving across the country or even a few towns away can be.
Road conditions can add to the stress of your driving hours and can strain your eyes and your patience. The bright, hot sun can make people sleepy, snow and ice can cause white-knuckle driving that wears you out, or long-straight stretches of road can lull you into a trance-like state.
Never underestimate the physical toll of sitting in the driver’s seat and watching the road. Make sure that you get plenty of sleep before you head out and always pull over and rest, or switch drivers if you are feeling sleepy. Driving tired can be just as dangerous as driving drunk and can be just as fatal.
2. Map Your Long-Distance Route Before Traveling
While navigation is as easy as telling your phone an address these days, there are times that this technological assistance can fail you. If your phone loses signal for too long or runs out of battery, you will lose the navigation guidance that is telling you where to go. What then?
Make sure that you have a map with you at all times. There is still nothing that beats a good map or road atlas if you need to figure out how to get somewhere. While technological advances have made mapping your trip super easy, you might still need to have the reliable paper map in a pinch.
If you are not familiar with the use of a map, take the time to learn how to use one before you leave on your trip. You may not always have someone who remembers how to use a map along for the ride, and there is no reason to get dangerously lost just because you didn’t take the time to learn to use a map before you left on your road trip.
3. Plan Your Fuel Stops Along Your Long Driving Route
Despite the fact that there seem to be gas stations on every corner in your hometown, there are actually wide stretches of the US that have long gaps between towns with services. This can be especially true if you are driving a vehicle that uses diesel.
It is always a good rule of thumb to investigate the opportunities to buy fuel along your planned route before you head out. This is particularly true if you are going to be driving through the middle of the country where there are not as many cities and towns.
Once you are on the road, if your plans change, make sure to pay attention to the gas gauge and watch for road signs which warn of sections of road that will not have services for a set number of miles. While you may be able to limp for miles to a gas station, the chances are that pushing on to the next town when your car is already on empty is taking a big risk that you will become stranded.
Having to walk to a gas station is a chore, and can be dangerous if you are traveling alone. Leaving your car on the side of the road can also open it up to vandalism and theft while you are gone.
4. Don’t Speed
We all know that speeding isn’t okay and that you can get a ticket if you speed. However, sometimes you are not trying to speed, you simply are daydreaming and you miss a speed sign along the way. After all, these roads are not known to you and it is easy to forget to check the signs going by when you switch from a highway to a small town or etc.
Pay attention to speed signs and don’t try to shave time off your drive by going way over the speed limit on the freeway. Even if there is no one around you and you think it’s safe, there are speed limits on every road to keep people safe, and that includes other drivers around you.
5. Don’t Drive Distracted
While listening to a podcast or some music is a fun part of a long road trip, make sure that you have set up your music or other entertainment before you head out so that you don’t feel the urge to pull out your phone and look at it all the time while you are driving.
The same rule of thumb goes for navigation tools and for other items in the car that might distract you. You cannot focus on the road if you are always looking at other screens and gadgets and you could miss the moment that a person walks out in front of you or the brake lights of the cars in front of you.
Driving distracted can result in big tickets, or serious car accidents and is simply not worth it. If you are driving with children whom you think will need extra care, make sure to bring a friend or family member along to care for them if need be. When in doubt, pull over to attend to things going on around you in the car and only go back to driving when you can focus on the road.
6. Bring Water and Some Snacks for Your Long Car Ride
While it might seem like you can just stop for a meal anywhere, there are going to be times along the way that you will not be near gas stations or restaurants for miles. If you are thirsty or feeling yucky because you are hungry, you will not want to suffer for an hour or two until you find a little town.
Make sure to have some bottles of water with you when you leave and pack some easy-to-access and easy-to-eat treats like cereal or protein bars or nuts and dried fruit.
Make sure that you avoid very hot or very cold foods in the car and always have these items where you can reach them without needing to look away from the road. Snack safely and keep your energy up so that you don’t fall asleep or end up getting sick along the way to your destination.
Being hydrated can greatly affect your mental acuity, so make sure that you are not dehydrated if you want to drive safely. Being foggy mentally is a major contributor to car accidents. Staving off low blood sugar and dehydration can make your drive much safer for everyone.
7. Take Breaks During Your Long Drive
Sometimes you are in a good groove driving and you think that you can just push on for a few more hours without any issue. While this may be true, you are cheating your body out of the time that it needs to move around, stretch and stay active on your drive. Sitting for too long in the car can contribute to fatigue, and it can also lead to dangerous situations like blood clots or back injuries.
Make sure that you take breaks every few hours on your trip to walk around the car, relax your eyes, and step away from the road. Being able to move around contributes to mental acuity and it can also help relieve frustration if traffic has been bad or the weather has been less than ideal.
8. Play Word Games in the Car to Stay Alert
If you are traveling with friends, it can be helpful to play some classic word games as you drive. This social interaction makes the drive more fun, helps to pass the time, and keeps you from zoning out as you drive.
Simple games like “I Spy” or the license plate game can keep you on your toes and help you to avoid sleepy driving. These games are also really fun and can ease any tension that might be building between kids in the car, or occupants that are sharing small spaces in the backseat.
9. Plan Sights You Want to See On Your Long-Distance Driving Route
Road trips can get really tedious if all you see is the freeway the whole time. It is really fun to plan to see things along the way as you drive and these stops are good for your body as far as stretching and taking a mental break.
Before you leave, make a list of places that you want to see and plan your route around visiting a few of them. Even stopping to see silly things like “The World’s Biggest Tee-Pee” can be really fun and create a great photo opp.
Use these breaks to walk around, take some deep breaths and take some pictures. You can even use these sightseeing visits as your overnight stops, giving you more time to see additional items or take tours. Many people who are driving across the country will make sure to stop near the Grand Canyon, for example.
10. Make a Budget For a Long Commute
There is no better tool to plan a long road trip than a budget. It can be helpful to alleviate stress through the planning of costs. Part of budgeting should include possible hotel costs, fuel costs, sightseeing fees, and food costs.
Always estimate high just in case your intended hotel doesn’t work out and you need another hundred dollars to cover your room at the only other hotel in town. There are always variables related to travel and you should never budget to precisely the amount that you hope to spend. Budget high and then be pleasantly surprised when you save money along the way.
Budgeting can also help you to sort out what you really want to spend money on as far as sightseeing and other extras. If you have room in the budget for a splurge at the end of the trip, you can choose to go for it! But splurging early and then coming up short in the middle of your trip is often very disheartening, or could lead to a real issue for you financially.
11. Verify That Your Insurance is up to Date
While this might seem like a no-brainer, it can actually be really easy to forget to renew your car insurance. This can cause a major snag if you are pulled over along the way, or if you suddenly need to use your insurance for a car accident or a rental car.
Make sure that your car insurance is set to the right coverage limits and that it is going to be in place for the duration of your trip. There are many uses for car insurance when you are traveling, from rental car insurance extensions to claims made for car break-ins, so you are going to be cheating yourself out of support that could come in handy during your drive if you don’t check on this factor.
12. Moving? You Can Ship Your Car and Avoid Driving a Long Distance
If you are going to be leaving on a long road trip and have multiple cars but not multiple drivers, you can hire someone to take your car to your new home for you!
Choosing an auto transport company to ship your car is an important decision and you want to be sure that you do your research before making it. Get quotes or bids from at least a few companies and make sure that you check on their insurance and their ratings and reviews.
You will also want to make sure that you ask what kind of transport they are going to be doing. Exotic or antique cars should always be hauled in an enclosed car trailer, and large vehicles like vans and trucks may only be able to be hauled on certain kinds of open trucks. You will want to know all of these details before you say yes.
You will likely not follow the same route as your car that is being shipped for you, so make sure that you know how long it will take for your car to arrive. You would not want your car to be delivered before you get to your new home!
13. Be Prepared for Possible Road Conditions
Check out your route before you leave and make sure that you have chains with you if you will need to traverse snow along the way. Even if you think that the roads will be clear for your whole trip, make sure to check the weather frequently.
There is no reason to take unnecessary risks along your route, so checking the weather can save you from driving into dangerous conditions when other routes are open to you. Always have a few other routes in mind if you need to go over some mountains because bad weather can close these routes down and strand you for a few days.
If you are not good at driving in snow or ice, plan accordingly to make your drive safe for everyone around you, as well as you and your passengers.
14. Watch Signs for Wildlife
Many of us don’t pay much attention to the signs on our daily drive that indicate deer or elk crossings etc. This is because we know the area we live in and can assess the conditions of the road based on prior experience.
When you are driving in places that you have never been to before, you will not have this insider information guiding your drive and you should always trust the signs. Large animals crossing the road can be significant hazards for cars and there is no need to get into a bad accident because you assumed that there would not be an elk on the road.
Make sure that you look into the tree line or the brush at the side of the road once in a while as you drive so that you can see deer or other wildlife well before they enter the roadway.
Travel Smart, Travel Safe When Driving Long Distances
Road trips can be very fun and very low stress with a little planning. If you are moving, shipping the car that you are not going to drive out to your new home can also save you a lot of hassle and heartache along the way.
Planning your long road trip in advance will open up the chance to have fun along the way and to create a memorable drive that you will look back on with fondness for years to come.