Is a 10 hour drive too long?
10 Mistakes to Avoid on a Road Trip, According to Experts
Evie Carrick is a writer and editor who’s lived in five countries and visited well over 50. She now splits her time between Colorado and Paris, ensuring she doesn’t have to live without skiing or L’As du Fallafel.
Published on August 3, 2020
There’s something liberating about heading out on the open road. You can pull off to look for aliens from a UFO watchtower (yes, it’s a thing), spend the afternoon picnicking at an overlook, or cruise through the night fueled by gas station coffee and snacks. All you need is a reliable car, a killer playlist, and a plan that’s flexible enough to allow for a little wiggle room — because that’s where the fun comes in.
But even the most go-with-the-flow road tripper knows that without some solid pre-trip planning and smart on-the-road know-how, the most amazing road trip can be a bust. To help, we chatted with a few experts who know what you’ll need to do (and not do) in order to make your road trip seamless.
1. Not Taking Your Car in for a Full Tune-up Before Departing
On a long road trip, your car can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. To increase your chances of the former, schedule a full tune-up a week or two before you go. Having a pro check your oil and tire pressure, and make sure your battery, brakes, and engine are working properly, will keep you from being stranded on the side of the road or calling AAA for a tow just a few hours in.
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2 Leaving Without Getting Your Home in Order
Sanna Boman, editor-in-chief at Roadtrippers, told Travel + Leisure by email that she recommends making «a list of the things that need taking care of when you’re gone, including your mail, lawn and garden, and house plants.» If you’re worried about leaving the house empty for multiple days (or weeks), she said, «Installing a home security system before you leave can offer peace of mind.»
3. Forgetting to Download Maps, Entertainment, and Road Trip Apps
If you want to avoid data charges at the end of your trip, you’ll need to download everything over Wi-Fi before you leave. Andrew Moore-Crispin, director of content at Ting Mobile, recommends downloading your maps on Google Maps in advance, so you don’t have to use data (or need it) to navigate. The same goes for Spotify playlists and any shows or movies you’ll need to keep young road trippers entertained. «Apps like Netflix, Spotify, and Facebook all see upticks through extensive usage. Control your data in the app’s setting. You can set how much data the app can use, and you can prevent photos from loading in your feed until you’re on Wi-Fi,» he said.
In addition to recommending their Roadtrippers planning app, Boman suggests road trippers download Waze for real-time traffic updates, GasBuddy for finding gas and comparing prices, and Recreation.gov for managing your campground reservations.
4. Overlooking the Tech Accessories You Need to Stay Online and in Control
Pack your car phone charger (or upgrade to this multi-phone car charger), and make sure to have a place to put your phone, so you can check the directions without fumbling or looking down. This universal magnetic car mount from WizGear hooks into your car’s air vent to keep your phone in view at all times — and it’s less than $10.
5. Leaving Home Without a Cooler of Snacks and Drinks
Chances are, there are plenty of gas stations and fast food joints along the way, but a trip sustained by burgers, fries, candy, and chips will get old fast. Pack a cooler with pre-cut veggies and fruit, nuts, sandwiches, and of course, some healthy snacks. To keep you hydrated and lightly caffeinated on a long day, try Gojai’s caffeinated sparkling water.
6. Not Keeping Things Organized and Clean During the Trip
When you’re living in your car, things can get messy quickly. Bring along wet wipes, paper towels, and hand sanitizer, and stow everything in a seat back organizer (this one has a trash compartment, tissue holder, and a place to stow water bottles or wipes). When packing the car, load things you won’t need until later first, so the items you’ll use throughout the drive are more accessible.
7. Planning Everything so There’s No Room for Spontaneity
One of the best parts of road tripping is having the freedom to stop, explore, and reroute at any moment. «Once you plan out your trip, you can always deviate from your plan, but it’s a good idea to do some research ahead of time to get the most out of your trip,» said Boman. «Road trips are all about the journey — of course, time or budget constraints can dictate the route, but detours and unexpected stops are often the most memorable moments from a trip.»
8. Not Stopping to Stretch Your Legs Often Enough
If you have a final destination in mind, it may be tempting to drive straight through, but if you do, you’ll miss everything that makes a road trip fun. Side trips and highway attractions are a big part of road tripping — you never know when you’ll come across an Airbnb that’s shaped like a giant beagle or pass a beautiful hike that’s right off the road.
«When hitting the road, the biggest mistake that people make is not stopping often enough to stretch their legs and walk. To keep your mind fresh to focus on driving safely, I recommend stopping once an hour to move around and stretch, whether that means getting gas or grabbing a cup of coffee, then enjoying a 30-minute break every four to five hours for a short walk or hike,» said Dr. Suzanne Bartlett-Hackenmiller, an integrative medicine physician and the medical advisor for AllTrails. «According to the Journal of Safety Research, 30 minutes is sufficient to help fight against fatigue during longer trips.»
9. Driving Without the Gear (or Know-how) to Change a Flat Tire
Not every car (or rental car) comes with a spare tire kit. Take the time to make sure you have a fully inflated spare and everything you’d need to put it on — a jack, lug wrench, and the owner’s manual. If you don’t have a spare tire, buy one (and the necessary tools) before taking off. You should also get a little tutorial (either in person or online) on how to change a flat tire should something come up. There’s nothing fun about relying on a Google search when you’re in the middle of nowhere.
10. Leaving Home Without a Road Trip Emergency Kit
Don’t leave home without preparing for some common road trip mishaps. A flashlight with extra batteries, a tire pressure gauge, jumper cables, a car battery charger (or spare battery), extra water, a few energy bars, and some first-aid essentials — pain reliever, bandages, and scissors — will go a long way should something go awry.
11 tips for driving long distances
With the government saying that overseas holidays are unlikely this summer, more people are looking to the UK for their summer getaway.
But whether you’re holidaying in Cornwall, Brighton, Edinburgh or Bath, there’s bound to be a few miles between you and your destination.
Driving long distances is different for everyone. Some love it, others hate it. But no matter how you feel beforehand, there are ways to make the drive less stressful and more enjoyable.
Here are our top tips for driving long distances.
1. Plan ahead
I bet when you drive somewhere familiar you feel relaxed, am I right? That’s because you know where you’re going. How good would it feel if you were just as relaxed driving somewhere you don’t know. Somewhere hundreds of miles away.
Knowing where you’re going sure makes driving less stressful. But it’s not just handy on short journeys. Whether you use a GPS or old school maps, familiarising yourself with the route will ease the stress on long journeys too.
Now we’re not saying you should memorise the entire route — as that’ll take days to learn, and there’s no need if you have a GPS — just the major A roads, motorways and junctions. Even if you are using a GPS, it still helps to know this.
As well as knowing where you’re going, it helps to schedule pitstops too. Places to fill up, eat, rest and chill out for an hour. Again, doing so will reduce stress and make the drive more pleasant.
Driving shouldn’t be stressful, so plan your route!
2. Prepare your car
Would you forget to stretch and hydrate before setting off on a marathon run? No, you wouldn’t. Because if you did, you wouldn’t make it to the finish. Preparing your car for a long journey is just as important, and failing to do so could have the same effect.
While not all the tips on this list are safety-driven, preparing your car is! Not only will it help keep you, your passengers and other people safe, but it will lessen the chances of you breaking down too.
A First Stop vehicle safety inspection will make sure everything is in good condition and reduce the chances of you breaking down. To help you avoid such trouble, it’s worth getting your car booked in for a service before you hit the road.
If your car has recently had a service, you should still check the following things before you set off:
- Fluid levels (AdBlue, brake fluid, coolant, engine oil and screenwash)
- Tyre tread (1.6mm is the legal minimum tyre tread depth limit in the UK)
- Tyre pressure
- Fill up before you set off (fuel is often more expensive at service stations)
3. Pack an emergency kit
Packing an emergency kit might seem a little extreme, but accidents do happen. And being prepared only sets you in good stead to handle the unexpected.
Everyone’s emergency kit will look different. But here are a few things you should include:
- First aid kit
- A roadside safety kit (hi-vis, reflective triangle, foil blanket, jump leads, tow rope, tape, non-slip gloves)
- Spare tyre
- Jerry can
4. Sleep the night before
Few things are more dangerous than driving when you’re tired. So it’s no surprise that getting plenty of sleep the night before makes an appearance here.
When you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more likely to micro nap. This temporary lapse in focus is dangerous when you’re behind the wheel. But it gets worse. Studies show that if you’re awake for 20 hours, you could be as impaired as a driver who is above the legal alcohol limit.
Getting enough sleep relates to being prepared for your trip. If you’re prepared, you’ll get a good night’s sleep and wake up with a clear head.
5. Make sure you pack your driving documents
Make sure you pack all your important driving documents. This includes roadside assistance, driving license, car insurance and your owner’s manual. You never know when you’re going to need them. And the last thing you want is for your trip to be derailed because of something like this.
6. Give yourself plenty of time to get there
Like planning your route, plan what time you’re going to set off too. Whether you use a sat nav or Google Maps, give yourself plenty of time to get there. Factor in the pit stops, toilet breaks and allow for traffic.
The key is to not put unnecessary pressure on yourself ahead of a long journey. It will only make you stressed. And driving when stressed can be dangerous. So plan ahead, give yourself plenty of time to get there and enjoy the drive.
7. Don’t rely solely on cruise control
Cruise control is great for long journeys. But because of the lack of driver involvement, it’s not recommended for a long period. If your car has cruise control, use it in short stints over a long journey.
8. Don’t forget the entertainment
Long drives can be boring, so entertainment is key, especially if you’ve got kids. There are several ways to entertain kids on a long drive, whether it’s a game of I Spy, colouring books or a pack of top trumps.
But for adults it’s a little more difficult. So how about an epic road trip playlist? Gather all your favourite tunes, hit shuffle and sing until your lungs give out. Or for something a little more educational, try an audiobook or podcast.
Remember, if you’re playing music from your phone, you’ll need to download all the tracks beforehand to avoid buffering. Oh, and if your car doesn’t have a USB port, make sure you charge your device.
9. Eat light and stay hydrated
This is where a lot of people make the wrong decision. They stop at a service station and rush to the nearest fast-food restaurant. It’s easily done. But it’s not good for you when you’re driving long distances.
Fast food and heavy meals make you bloated, uncomfortable and tired. When you have a long drive ahead, this is not how you want to be feeling. So instead, grab snacks and healthy foods to eat on the way. I know it’s not as delicious, but you’ll be more focused and less tired. What’s more, snacks keep kids quiet too.
And then make sure you stay hydrated. Dehydration can cause tiredness and fatigue, so it’s a wise move to pack a large bottle of water for your summer road trips.
10. Take a break every 100-150 miles
Regular breaks are a must if you’re driving long distances. From a safety standpoint, they’re key for concentration—and will help you stay focused.
Taking a break will split up the journey too. No one likes sitting in the same spot for hours on end, especially children. Use it as a chance to stretch your legs, recharge and grab a coffee.
And here’s another thing. If you’re clocking up the miles and passing various cities, why not stop somewhere along the way?
We recommend taking a break every 100-150 miles.
11. Share the drive if you can
If you have someone to share the drive with, we strongly recommend that you do. If your drive is longer than 10 hours, then it’s a must unless you’re staying over, as 10 hours is the most anyone should drive in one day.
Off you go!
So that concludes our list of tips for driving long distances. Above anything, you should prepare your car for the journey ahead. If you haven’t had your car serviced in a while, take a trip to your local First Stop garage to get booked in.
The last thing you want is to have to call roadside assistance for something we’ve mentioned in this post.
Road Trip Dilemma: Renting Vs. Driving Your Own Vehicle
You’ve mapped out every minute of your upcoming road trip. You’ve booked rooms, tours , and even jotted down can’t-miss diners and dives.
But who’s driving? And what? When it comes to driving long distances, not everyone is keen to reach for their keys. Road trips can rack up mileage and routine maintenance—and those are just the known drawbacks of using your personal vehicle . Your national park tour could subject your prized Pontiac to getting charged by a ram or rammed by a Charger.
When you’re weighing driving your own car vs. renting a vehicle for your next road trip, you’ve gotta crunch some numbers — gas mileage, rental car insurance, vehicle depreciation, etc. We’ll walk you through the dollars and cents of it all. ( Oh, one last thing : before you start planning your road trip , be sure to check for any state travel restrictions that may be in pla ce. That way your driving plans don’t have to take an unexpected U-turn.)
Can You Save Money Renting a Car for a Road Trip?
It seems obvious that renting a car for a road trip would be more expensive than just taking the one in your driveway. But sometimes, renting a car could be the cheaper alternative. Consider these factors:
Car Insurance: The cost of rental car insurance can potentially add as much as $30 to your daily rate, depending on which types of insurance you buy. 1 To save money, you can buy our OneTrip Rental Car Protector , which provides primary collision loss/damage insurance coverage up to $50,000, for as little as $11 per calendar day. You get 24-Hour Hotline Assistance as well , so if you have an issue on the road, you can call us anytime .
If you end up damaging the rental car you’re driving, the OneTrip Rental Car Protector can save you a ton. That’s because there’s no deductible to pay if you incur a covered loss. If you use your own insurance coverage, however, you’ll have to pay the deductible—which might be $500, $1,000 or more—and your insurance rates may go up after you file a claim.
Gas Mileage: If your daily driver is a GMC Yukon that gets 17 mpg combined, consider leaving it parked and renting a fuel-sipper for your road trip. Rent a 2019 Prius Eco instead, and you’ll get 56 mpg combined, on average. That means you can go more than three times the distance on a single gallon of gas. 2
Depreciation Costs: A long road trip can inflict costly damage on your car, even if you don’t notice it right away. Every mile results in a certain amount of wear and tear to the engine, the tires and other moving parts. ItStillRuns offers an easy way to calculate wear-and-tear costs by the mile. A typical rate for a large SUV is around 34 cents per mile, which adds up to $680 for a 2,000-mile road trip.
Lease Penalties: Folks who lease their car might also shy away from long trips. You’ll be required to pay a penalty of up to 30 cents per mile for each mile you drive above the contracted amount, which is usually around 12,000 or less per year. 3
If the bottom-line cost of driving your own car vs. a rental vehicle is the number one factor affecting your decision, then you’re going to need to get a pencil, some paper and a calculator.
First, scout rental car deals to know what you’ll potentially pay. Weekly rates are usually the way to go for the best value. Be sure to add in gas costs, rental insurance and any extra fees, too.
Now you’ll need to compute the cost of driving your own car. This includes knowing your total trip mileage, figuring out the average gas price in the areas you’ll be driving through, and also including your own vehicle’s fuel efficiency.
Wait, you know what’s easier than performing all this math? Using this road trip rental car vs. your car calculator.
5 More Reasons You May Want to Rent a Car for a Road Trip
- You love your car too much. If you have a brand spanking new car, you might hesitate to put 5,000 miles on it in a week when you’re still having trouble picking it out in parking lots. This is more of a psychological hurdle, but you probably want your car to look new as long as it has that new-car smell.
- Your car’s not reliable. If you drive a beater – you know, a rust bucket that’s overdue for retirement at the scrapyard – then you already know the answer. It’s barely fit to drive you to the end of the driveway; there’s no way it should be taken on a road trip.
There is no hard and fast rule for determining whether it makes more sense to rent a car or use your own vehicle for a road trip. The best route is to simply consider all the ramifications of using your own ride or paying for someone else’s. That way, the only thing you have to second guess once the road trip kicks off is why you didn’t just fly to Bermuda.
- 5 Upsells to Avoid When Renting a Car
- The Dos and Don’ts of Driving Overseas
- Should I Get Rental Car Insurance