|Nothing like being stuck on the open road.|
So here are my top rules of the road for tackling long trips:
- Pack the day before. Long trips are usually more successful with just a little preparation before hitting the road. This preparation includes packing any clothes, cell phones, toothbrushes, etc. It also includes food, so...
- Stock up before hitting the road. Fill your gas tank and hit the grocery store (where prices are cheaper than gas stations) for any snacks or drinks to help handle the long haul. If you want something healthy snacks, try packing a small cooler with veggies and fruit.
- Bring good music. If you prefer to drive in complete silence, then that's great: Ignore this rule. However, music really helps me pass the time and, believe it or not, some sections of the country have little to offer as far as radio stations are concerned.
- Have a means of finding alternate routes. Maps are helpful, but I've used my Droid Incredible a few times in the past year to help me navigate around horrible traffic, including an Interstate that was completely shut down for a wreck. Most welcome centers when you cross state lines offer complimentary road maps.
- Always be aware of the weather. Especially if you have a little leeway in when you can make the trip, be sure to check that you won't be driving through several lines of thunderstorms or a blizzard or something. Once again, I love my smart phone for storm situations. Earlier this year, I ran into some bad thunderstorms and wasn't sure what to expect. My Weather Channel app showed on radar that if I waited about 20 minutes, the nasty stuff would pass. So I stopped, refueled, ate some dinner, and then got back on the road.
- Fill up at 1/4 tank. Unless you know you're going to get several more chances to refuel, I recommend hitting gas stations whenever the tank gets to around 25% full. Usually, you'll still be good for a long time with a quarter tank, but I've had some nerve-wracking moments in the past in which the leap from one exit to the next was way longer than I would've expected. That said, if you stop for food or the restroom with half a tank left, do yourself a favor and top off the tank--just in case you get "in the zone" between that stop and the next.
- Everyone uses the restroom at every stop. Whether I'm traveling alone or with the entire Brew crew (four boys, one baby girl, my wife and I), everyone uses the restroom at every stop. Each stop can add 10+ minutes to the overall trip, so I try my hardest to make the most of each one. Related to saving time...
- Drive 5-10 mph over the limit. I don't advocate breaking the law (and anything over the posted speed limit could result in a speeding ticket), but this is the range I usually drive. The only times I've been pulled over for speeding have been when I break that 10-mile threshold--so this is my own personal calculated risk to save time. On a 500-mile trip, driving at an average speed of 70 mph comes out to 7:08 of pure driving time. Meanwhile, an average speed of 80 mph comes out to 6:15. So an extra 10 mph (on average) can save nearly an hour on the overall trip. Just remember: You can be ticketed for driving even one mph over the posted speed limit--so follow my example at your own risk.
- Give plenty of space. Worst trip ever (and only about 100 miles): I was the passenger in a car with a college roommate who gave about two feet of separation between his front bumper and the rear bumper of whichever car was in front of him as it rained heavily the whole trip. It would've just taken one small error on his part or the cars up front to kill or seriously injure us all. Please, please, please--whether the weather is stormy or sunny--give space between bumpers.
- Break up trip into segments. This rule is just one that helps me break long trips into manageable segments. After all, there's the physical endurance of a long trip, but there's also a psychological endurance--and segmented driving helps me overcome that.
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