If you’ve ever been in a car for hours on end, you know the challenges of long-distance driving. It can be uncomfortable, boring, and if you’re tired, even dangerous. Here’s how to stay safe and comfortable during your next long distance road trip.


Plan your route.

Even if you’re using a GPS, you will want to take a look at a map to know where you are going. That allows you to plan your trip, including where to stop to ensure that you’re not driving too long without a break.

    • Try to take a 15-minute break for every 2 hours of driving.
    • Plan your rest stops, not only for mealtimes, but also consider interesting places to visit to break up the trip.
    • Account for peak travel times. You may make less progress during rush hours, so consider getting off the road during that time.


Prepare your vehicle.

There’s nothing worse than breaking down on the road for something that could have been prevented with regular maintenance. Before your trip, take a good look at your car, and have it serviced at your local mechanic to make sure it’s in good condition for the trip.

    • Check fluid levels (brake, coolant, engine oil), tire pressure, and tread depth.
    • Make sure that your windshield wipers are in good condition and your lights are working.
    • Pack an emergency kit for your car, just in case. This should include safety flares, a flashlight and extra batteries, and a first aid kit.
    • Clean and vacuum your car. Sitting in a clutter-free car makes the trip so much nicer.
    • Childproof your car before the trip. Make sure it’s safe for your youngest passengers.


Make sure you’re well-rested.

Driving when you’re tired can lead to poor decisions and reduced reaction time which can cause accidents. A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that 328,000 crashes each year are caused by drowsy driving. Researchers believe there may be even more than reported. Don’t put yourself or your family at risk.

    • Get enough sleep the night before your trip, and if possible, the night before that as well.
    • Don’t drive when you’re already tired. Avoid planning long drives after work.
    • If you feel tired, pull off the road. You can even take a short nap in your car in a safe place, such as a rest stop.
    • You can also try short-term pick-me-ups, such as caffeine. Chewing gum can work to keep you awake. Or try an energizing scent. The scent of peppermint can help make you temporarily more alert.


Stay hydrated.

You may be reluctant to drink a lot on your trip, for fear of having to stop more often to go to the bathroom. However, it’s important to stay hydrated. Dehydration can make you feel more tired and cause blurry vision.

    • Avoid sugary drinks which can cause dehydration.
    • Avoid coffee or tea, except as the occasional pick-me-up. They also can dehydrate you.
    • Drink water. Pack a cooler and keep it nice and cold so it will feel refreshing.
    • You can add citrus or berries to your water for some healthy flavor.

Prepare and plan food and snacks.

Mealtime and snacks are some of the fun of long-distance road trips. Whether you check out a new restaurant or munch on some home-brought favorites, food can be a highlight. Plan for your meals and snacks ahead of time so that you’re not searching for food when you’re hungry, and so that you make the most of your travel time.

    • Pack sandwiches, put them in a cooler, and then stop for a picnic lunch at a rest stop or park.
    • If you have family along the route, stop for a visit around mealtime. You’ll enjoy some homemade food and family time as a bonus.
    • Research restaurants along your route. You might find some local fare that you otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to try.
    • Choose healthy snacks that keep you full and that aren’t overly messy for the car. These include mixed nuts, trail mix, jerky, granola bars, crackers, carrots, celery, and fresh fruit.
    • Bring wipes and designate a trash bag. If you need the floor space for luggage or legs, try a trash container that hangs on the back of the seat.


Stock your car with entertainment.

Long car rides can be boring, and not only for children. Planning things to do can help make the time pass more quickly. If you’re not the one driving, you may even be able to use the downtime productively.

    • Make a playlist of your favorite songs. Take requests from your (future) passengers and you’ll have everyone engaged.
    • Listen to an audiobook or podcast. You can borrow one from your local library or use a favorite streaming service.
    • Keep the children occupied with books, puzzles, Mad Libs, Rubberneckers or car games that you can play without any materials, such as I Spy or “find the license plate.”
    • Complete a mini-project if you’re not driving, such as organizing your Smartphone screen, deleting photos and emails, brainstorming goals, or practicing a new language.

Finally, make sure you have the proper car insurance. Coverage will give you peace of mind should anything happen on your long distance road trip.

Safe travels.


This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.


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