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Travelling sometimes requires very long drives or road trips. A few long drives I’ve been on was in Canada where I went from Toronto in the middle of the country to Cape Breton which is on the east coast. This trip was 1900 km, took about a day and a half to get there, and involved roughly 18 hours of drive time. In this post, I will give you some of my tips for going on long distant drives like this, which should help you travel safely and have a more comfortable journey.

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Pre-trip

Here are some of the things you should do before you start driving and hit the road.

Perform basic checks and maintenance on your car

A very important thing you should do before a long drive is to check your car for basic maintenance. Such as:

  • Your tires have enough tread and air pressure.
  • Your oil levels are sufficient.
  • Your water/windscreen solution is topped up.
  • Check your lights are all working.

Refer to your cars guidebook and local regulation to find out what everything should be.

Prepare your music

Prepare any music you want to listen to, such as downloading music onto your phone if you have a Bluetooth connection, or getting CD’s ready. You can also use a service such as Spotify to download music to your device and then it’ll be available offline when you travel.

Use GPS or download offline maps

Unless you already know your route then download offline maps for your phone, such as on Google Maps, or make sure you have GPS device. Many modern cars now have GPS built in.

Get a good night sleep the day before

You should never drive when you are very tired, so the night before try and get a good nights sleep of around 8 hours. It can sometimes be hard to get to sleep when you know you need to, so consider go to bed an hour earlier than normal to give yourself plenty of time to drift off.

Man Sleeping
Man Sleeping

Check you have a Spare tire

You never know when you may get a puncture. I used to be a driver in London, and every now and then I’d get a puncture and once even had a blowout. Because it could happen at any time, always ensure you have a spare time and the kit to change it, such as lift (jack) and spanner. If you don’t have a spare tire and you get a puncture then you may be stuck for a while at the side of the road waiting for a rescue service, which will also be more costly.

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Check car insurance and road tax is still valid

An easy thing to forget when travelling is that your insurance and road tax is still valid. Although you should stay on top of this, check it’s still valid before you leave if possible. The last thing you want is a silly issue like this while you are away.

Fuel up

Finally fuel up your car before you travel, or make notes of where the closest service station is so you can do it in the morning. Especially if you are travelling in unknown territory as you don’t want to drive too long and run dry.

Gas Station Sign
Gas Station

What to pack

Here are some things you should remember to pack before you go on your drive:

Pack a USB charger

A USB charger for your phone is very important when going on long road trips. This will allow you to keep your phone charged, so your phone is usable when you stop and also in case of emergencies.

You could consider getting a portable charger such as below:

Or you could get a USB charger that slots into the cigarette lighter.

Wet wipes or hand sanitiser

I always like to have wet wipes or hand sanitiser when I’m driving. This helps in case you use a bathroom that doesn’t have any soap or generally feels dirty. It also allows you to clean your hands before eating finger food.

Pack a pillow and blanket if travelling with others

If you’ll be travelling with others then pack a pillow and blanket so that you can have a kip when you’re not driving. This will make time go quicker and if you are going to be driving at some point then you’ll be able to stay a lot fresher.

Wear comfy clothes

So your trip is as comfortable as possible then wear appropriate clothing, such as loose tops, trousers and trainers or similar footwear.

Loose change

If it’s likely you’ll be going along toll roads, then remember loose change/cash for this.

Pack bottled water

Something I’ve done way too many times is leave my house and forgotten to pack water. I have then had to buy water on the road, which has been an unnecessary cost and is often a lot more expensive, especially if buying from service stations.

Driving license and registration

Although very obvious you should always double check you have this. Especially if you are travelling in a foreign country or hiring a car.

Insurance details and emergency numbers

Although hopefully, you will never need them, you’ll be thankful to yourself if your insurance details and emergency numbers are close by should you need them. You could print out a copy of this information and leave it in the glove compartment of your car.

Credit cards or emergency cash

Should you have a problem such as a burst tire or other problem, then it’s a good idea to prepare in advance for this. Such as having a credit card with a balance on or enough cash to hand. In a recent road trip, we had a large foreign object puncture our tire, which resulted in a new tire and cost over $200.

Entertainment

Should you not be driving during your road trip, then pack things such as books, magazines and gadgets which will provide entertainment and help make the ride more comfortable.

For Kids

A few things you should pack for kids include:

  • iPad or similar device with games, movies and other entertainment
  • Food and drink as applicable
  • Spill-proof cup
  • As well as many of the other things required depending on their age, such as nappies, changing facilities etc.

On the road

Finally here are some tips for when on the road:

Take plenty of breaks

When travelling remember to take lots of breaks and don’t push yourself too much. I’d say around 3 hours max is the longest you should drive before having a break. From experience, after more than 3 hours I start feeling a lot more distracted.

Fuel up regularly

When going on a long distant drive try and remember to fuel up regularly. This is more important if you are travelling along roads or in a place that doesn’t have a lot of service stations. If you are travelling along a highway/motorway then you may not have to worry too much, as there’s often plenty of service stations at regular intervals.

Use Cruise Control

A great feature of modern cars is to have cruise control. This will allow you to set your car to a certain speed and then relax and take your pedal off the gas. Cruise control should only be used in safe areas where the speed should stay consistent for long periods, such as highways/motorways. You shouldn’t use cruise control for city driving, or when in traffic, or around construction on highways.

Stop at motels

If you are travelling for a very long time, such as over nine hours, then consider staying at motel. This will be a lot safer than pushing yourself and you’ll also feel a lot better and enjoy the road trip more.

Motels at sunset
Motels at sunset

Travel with others and take shifts

The best way to go on a long distant drive is to travel with other people and to take shifts. This helps keep you fresh and safe. When travelling on my long 18 hour trip from Toronto to Cape Breton there was three of us, and we often took three-hour shifts. We also got quite a few breaks when switching over which allowed us to stretch our legs.

Leave early if necessary to avoid traffic

If you are leaving from a city or large place then, leaving early might be the best way to avoid rush hour traffic. When I have left from Toronto to Cape Breton on the East coast we often left around 5-6am.

Conclusion

I hope this post helps you with any long distant drives and road trips. Do you have any other tips? Please leave a comment below:

For hiring cars you could consider Hertz.

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