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.
1. Car Preparation
Ensure your car is serviceable before you depart. This means that your car should be within its servicing period, and the oil and filter should have been changed recently. All of the water reservoirs should also be full. Check your tyres to ensure they will remain within their wear limits during your trip and purchase and install new tyres if required.
If you will be driving a long distance also consider getting your wheels aligned before you go as this will save on tyre wear later on. If you drive on any unsealed roads while you travel you should also plan to get the wheels aligned again after you return (lesson learnt from our road trip last year – we did not do this step and had to replace all four relatively new tyres within 12 months).
If you will be hiring a vehicle have a close look at the quality of vehicle that they offer and support they will provide.
2. Route Plan
The biggest killers on the road are fatigue and alcohol. Before you depart you should quickly research a rough plan of your route including the driving times and distances. If you will be stopping to sightsee en route you should plan a maximum of four hours of driving in a day. If you have a long distance driving day you should plan to have a non-driving day afterwards to recover. Make sure you don’t drink alcohol and drive.
Allow an extra day or two so you can be flexible if you decide to stay longer in a place or decide to break a longer drive into two shorter driving days, or if something unexpected occurs. Also do some initial research into sightseeing options along the way so you know where you are interested to visit and can build these into your plan.
Online tools such as Google Maps enable you to quickly put together a route plan.
If you are using a GPS ensure you have the latest map update before you depart. It is also worthwhile to purchase a large hardcopy map to enable a bigger picture view of your trip.
4. What Ifs
Ensure you plan for ‘What Ifs’ while you are on your road trip.
- What will you do if your car breaks down? Have you got suitable roadside assistance for your destination? Will your vehicle hire company provide roadside assistance?
- What will you do if you have a car accident? Do you have suitable car insurance or travel insurance for your destination? Have you purchased insurance which will reduce your hire car excess?
- If you have a problem in a remote area how will you communicate? Will you have mobile phone coverage on your planned route, or is it a major road with a lot of traffic who should be able to help you?
- Have you got a current first aid kit in your car and do you know how to use it?
- Should you pack some additional bottled water and food in case of break down or traffic stoppages, particularly if you are travelling in remote areas and the weather will be hot?
- If you will be travelling in a very cold environment do you have appropriate safety gear?
Long boring roads require entertainment. If you have children in the car consider if you have a DVD player or other handheld electronic games which the children can use in the car. Ensure you can recharge or power the equipment using the car engine and battery, which may require the purchase of additional equipment. Consider how many items you will want to plug in at once and purchase additional equipment such as double adapters etc.
Think about whether you like to listen to music as you travel. Ensure you have the equipment to play your own music through your car radio. Pre-purchase some new music prior to departure to enjoy along the way.
Also be prepared to play some car games with children so they do actually look out the window sometimes!