How to Prepare for a Long Road Trip

Preparing for a road trip doesn’t just mean typing your destination into Google Maps and choosing between a couple possible itineraries. There are lots of things that you and your copilots can do to ensure that the voyage goes smoothly and everyone arrives at the destination safely.

It is important to plan for your trip in advance. That means that the driver needs to be prepared. Most people have heard of “highway hypnosis,” the way that the long straight lines of the road can lull tired drivers asleep. And most drivers admit to having hit the road while feeling drowsy.

Keeping that in mind, it’s necessary to go into a long drive prepared and alert, and to take precautions to make sure that you stay that way over the course of the trip. Here are a few tips to ensure that you’re ready for your next road trip.

Start with a Clean Car, and Keep It That Way

You may not feel like deep cleaning your vehicle before getting on the road, but remember that you’re going to be stuck there for an extended period of time. It will be worth the time it takes to throw out the empty bottles, used napkins, and, why not, vacuum out the interior of your car before departure. And once you’re in transit, take the extra minute to dispose of any accumulated garbage at any rest stop you make – time spent in a clean car will be more agreeable than time spent in a filthy one.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep Before Hitting the Road

Preparation for a road trip doesn’t start the day of, it starts days ahead of time. Try to get a good night of sleep the night before departure – you know that doctors recommend eight hours – and if possible, the night before that as well.

Leaving in the morning, when you’re refreshed, is much preferable to starting in the evening after a long day of work. And once you’re on the road, make rest stops regularly to stretch your legs, use the bathroom, and stay alert. A good rule of thumb is to stop every 100 miles or so, or if you prefer to think in terms of time, once every 2 hours.

Make a Flexible Plan

If there’s one thing you can count on when driving long distances, it’s an unforeseen delay or two. Road work never ends, and will be especially common during summer, meaning reduced numbers of lanes, slow downs and back ups.

That’s why it is best not to be too meticulous when it comes to trip planning – things will almost never work out exactly as you planned. If possible, avoid making motel reservations that are set in stone, lest you find yourself driving tired late at night, trying to avoid a cancellation fee.

Not to suggest that you shouldn’t plan at all, a strategy that might leave you sleeping in your back seat at a rest stop. It’s always a good idea to identify potential places to stay ahead of time, and confirm once you’re fairly certain that you’ll be able to make it to your reservation.

Fun On the Move

Worried about bored passengers constantly asking, “Are we there yet?” One good way to avoid this scenario is with games that will keep the mind occupied, especially with kids. Here are a few simple favorites:

21 Questions – One person thinks of something – an object, place, historical figure, etc. – and the other people are allowed 21 yes or no questions to figure out what it is. The person who guesses correctly wins, and if no one guesses correctly within 21 questions, the person who chose the object of interest is victorious.

Various Alphabet Games – This is a good one for kids. Starting with the letter A and proceeding in the correct order, players race to find all the letters of the alphabet outside of the car. To make things a little bit more difficult, require contestants to find words that start with the each letter.

“The Movie Game” – Decide on an order that people will act in. The first person names an actor or actress, and the next person must name a movie they were in. The following person must then name another actor or actress who was in that movie, and so on and so forth.

The “Six Degrees of Separation” variant requires players to connect one actor or actress to another through other actors that they have acted with in other movies, in six or less moves. For example, Sean Connery to Eddie Murphy: Sean Connery was in Indian Jones with Harrison Ford, who was in Star Wars with Carrie Fisher, who was in Blues Brothers with Dan Aykroyd, who was in Trading Places with Eddie Murphy.

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How to Stay Comfortable

Spending hours on end in the driver’s seat is a surefire way to provoke physical aches and pains, especially as the years pass by. Even passengers will be constrained by the confines of the car, which will likely leave them uncomfortable as well, especially if it’s a compact vehicle. Here are a few ideas on how to diminish the discomfort:

Choose comfortable shoes that aren’t too difficult to remove if necessary – you may want to let your dogs breathe! Plus, taking off their shoes will make it easier for the copilot to put their feet up on the dash (if mom allows it).

Wear loose fitting and comfortable clothing. You’re not going to prom, and you might not want your waist constricted after hitting the drive through.
Figure out your preferred driving conditions. Some people prefer driving at night, others driving during the day. Some can stay in the driver’s seat for hours on end, while others need more frequent breaks. Identify what works best for you, and if you have the benefit of a copilot or two, you can play to each other’s strengths.

Pack pillows and blankets. Time will pass more quickly for sleeping passengers, and having the kids knocked out in the back may provide some much appreciated peace and quiet. Blankets can provide warmth during winter and block out sunlight in the summer, and cushions can help with uncomfortable seats.

Get an early start – the earlier you start, the earlier you finish. This helps ensure that the driver is alert (coffee can be used as an aid if necessary) and will encourage young passengers to sleep for the first few hours. Plus, you’ll be more likely to have a little bit of time for activity at your destination before bedtime.

Take advantage of breaks. You may be reluctant to give up time that you could be on the road, but well used breaks will make the trip more pleasurable. Even if you don’t have to go to the bathroom, get out of the car, stretch your legs, move around a little bit. Your back will thank you later, and it will be easier to endure long stretches sitting down.

Now hit the road, Jack!

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