Driving tips for long road trips
Going on a long road trip? Before you go make sure you and your car are prepared. Here are some driving tips for long road trips, better to be safe than sorry.
Before beginning a long drive, always get enough sleep and eat something before you go. Highly caffeinated beverages are not necessarily the best way to stay awake while driving. While initially you will feel more alert, the effects can recede with time, and your attention may wander although you remain awake.
Pull over and take breaks every couple of hours, even if you don’t feel sleepy. Grab a snack, get some fresh air, and stretch your legs by walking around. If you need to, take a quick nap.
If you can, share the driving responsibilities with someone else. This will allow you to keep an eye on each other while driving and also enable you to nap without losing time. If you’re driving alone, turn on the radio or put on some music, and keep your window cracked open. You may also want to refrain from using your cruise control if you’re driving alone at night — having to concentrate on maintaining your speed can help you stay awake.
If you do have to pull over, move your vehicle off the road. Never park on the shoulder or in the breakdown lane for any reason except an emergency.
Search the Web for traffic update sites and listen to radio traffic alerts, especially when approaching major cities. If you don’t have a smartphone, all-news stations on the AM dial are often your best bet.
Not even a GPS unit is infallible, so we recommend bringing a detailed map or road atlas as a backup just in case. A mapping app on your smartphone is another must-have for long road trips.
If you are driving a rental vehicle, familiarize yourself with the car and all of its equipment (horn, brakes, hazard lights). For an amusing but true look at this issue, see The First 10 Minutes of Your Car Rental.
Familiarize yourself with local traffic laws, which vary from state to state and especially overseas. Is it legal to make a right turn at a red light?
Before setting off on a long car trip, be sure your vehicle is in prime condition — that tires are properly inflated, all fluids are at their proper levels and you have a full tank of gas. (For particularly long road trips, you may want to have your mechanic do a more thorough check.)
Consider becoming a member of AAA or signing up for your car insurer’s roadside assistance program. You won’t regret it when your car breaks down on a lonely back road.
Don’t wait until your gas gauge is sitting on E to refuel. On an unfamiliar road, you never know when the next gas station will appear. As soon as you hit a quarter of a tank, start looking for a place to fill up.
When traveling with kids, be sure to stop often — not just for snacks and potty breaks, but also for fun. See a cool playground along the way? Pull over and throw a Frisbee around. You’ll also want to pack toys, books and music for the car — not to mention your motion sickness remedy of choice. For more ideas, see Family Car Travel.
Stock up on snacks and drinks at grocery stores rather than gas stations or convenience stores — you’ll get a wider and healthier selection, as well as better prices. For more advice, see Eating Well and Staying Active.
On longer trips, keep napkins, plasticware and a small cooler handy for meals on the go. You’ll also want some spare change for tolls, as well as a first-aid kit, flashlight, pillow and blanket. Keep a set of jumper cables, a spare tire or donut, and extra fluids for the car (such as windshield wiper fluid) in your trunk.
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