15 Long Distance Driving Tips You Can’t Hit the Road Without

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Are you heading out on your first long-distance driving trip? Or maybe it’s your fifth adventure? 

Whether you’re a beginner or you’ve got the sensibility of a long-haul trucker, these 14 long-distance driving tips are going to change how you see miles logged on the road.

These tips will help you prepare for that long drive. They include long-distance driving safety, hacks for making the trip easier, and tips for having some fun along the way. 

With these long-distance driving tips, you’ll come to love the open road. 

1. Have a Snack Attack Game Plan

Getting a quick snack gets a little tricky when you hit the road. 

While it’s fun to sample all the regional roadside snacks truck stops can provide, having some of your favorites on hand is vital for your long drive. This ensures you have fuel when you aren’t near a gas station. 

Bring along a cooler with some pre-planned road trip snacks to make sure you’ve always got something at the ready. We love this cooler from Igloo

Make sure you get a good mix of healthy and refreshing food and food that you just like to eat. 

Foods high in fiber and protein will keep you full and give you energy and make sure that you stay feeling fresh even when stuck in the car for hours. In contrast, the fun food is there for, well, fun. After all, this is a road trip, and snacking on junk food is a time-honored tradition.

Pro Tip: Plan for a few grocery store stops along the route to reload on perishable snacks.

2. Bring a Roadside Safety Kit

We couldn’t go too far without talking about the biggest safety tip out there for long drives: the emergency roadside kit.

You never know when you may get unexpectedly stuck on a roadside. And you’ll be happy you left your house prepared.  

An emergency kit should include everything from food and water to blankets for keeping warm if you’re stuck overnight. 

Here’s a breakdown of what to pack in your essential roadside safety kit.

  • Jumper cables
  • Basic vehicle tool kit
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Reflective triangles to make your vehicle more visible
  • First aid kit
  • Non-perishable foods and enough water bottles for each passenger for two days
  • Reflective vest
  • Fire extinguisher

Odds are you’re only ever going to need the jumper cables, but each of these items falls into the category of things you will wish you had if you ever need them.

We love this emergency kit for our van and always have enough water and food with us for a few days. 

3. Take Breaks Every 2 Hours

To help you stay alert while on the road, get out of the car every two hours. We know that you are probably in a hurry to get to your destination and want to minimize your stops, but a quick stop every couple hours will help you get there safely. 

When planning your long road trip, plan for a quick 10-15 minute stop every two hours. These stops can be to fill up on gas, eat lunch, or stretch your legs. 

Here are a few ideas of things to do on your stops:

  • Stop at a road side attraction like the largest corn stalk in Iowa. Use Roadtrippers to attractions
  • Pull over into a rest area. These are great for a bathroom break and to stretch the legs
  • Bring a football or frisbee to get the heart pumping a bit
  • Find a park for a picnic lunch

4. Plan for 8-Hours of Driving a Day

After doing a bit of research for our first big road trip, we had no idea how many hours a day we should plan to drive

Turns out for safety reasons, one person should plan on driving no more than 8-hours a day. This 8-hours is driving time and does not include the time spent taking breaks.

Can you drive more than 8-hours a day? Sure. But to help make sure you are in your tip-top driving condition try to limit your driving time to no more than 8-hours. 

More Road Trip Planning Tips:
When is the Best Time to Leave for a Long Road Trip
15 Money-Saving Tips For Your Next Road Trip
How to Plan a Road Trip with Google Maps: A Step-by-Step Tutorial

Best Tools for Finding Attractions Along Your Route

5. Check the Weather Often

One of the quickest ways to slow up your drive is by hitting unexpected weather.

Before you head out on your road trip adventure, check the weather of the areas you will be driving through. That way if the forecast shows inclement weather you have the option of choosing a different route. Also, be sure to recheck it a few times during your drive to make sure nothing has changed.  

Looking at the weather for all of the areas you plan to drive through can be a pain in the butt. Luckily there are road trip weather apps you can download to help you see what’s ahead. 

6. Avoid Driving at Night

For most of us, driving at night is harder than driving during daylight. 

When you drive during the day, you have the daylight to keep you alert. But at night your body is used to relaxing and sleeping, so staying up to drive is no easy task.

Driving in the dark after a full day of driving already, can be a difficult unsafe task. But there are times there aren’t enough daylight hours for you to make it from point A to point B. 

Therefore, if you do need to drive more hours than there is daylight in a day, you can plan to drive in the dark first thing in the morning. That way you can get a few hours of dark driving in each day but are doing so when you have the most energy. 

7. Know Where You Can Find Some Quick Rest

Don’t let anyone ever tell you that driving isn’t hard work. Whether you’re the pilot or co-pilot, logging hours on a long-distance road trip is more than enough to put even seasoned road trippers to sleep. 

Therefore, you need to know where to catch some quick Z’s while on the road during the day and night.

One good tip is to know how to legally sleep in your car while on a road trip. Depending on your local laws, you can catch some rest at a rest stop. Walmart parking lots are a go-to for sleeping while on the road, but make sure you call Walmart’s manager and ask permission first.

If you’re looking to get some quick and especially affordable rest outside of your car, you’ve got options. More outfitted truck stops offer simple rooms for rent at the lowest rate you can find. 

You can also find roadside motels in more rural communities with bargain rates for their rooms.

8. Take Your Car in For a Tune-up

A long-distance drive puts a large amount of wear onto your car. Nothing puts a downer on a long road trip like blowing a tire 100 miles out. Knowing how to prepare your vehicle for a road trip is a great place to start, but a tune-up is ideal.

A tune-up is going to handle everything from inspecting your tires to making sure that all of your vehicle’s fluids are topped off. These inspections also look for common mechanical failures in the signs of wear that might put a downer on your road trip before you’re able to make it back home. 

Tune-ups get even more critical if you’re expecting to drive in tough conditions like over in the Rocky Mountains or driving during the winter in Northern climates.

9. Have a Plan to Fight Boredom

Even the most exciting road trips have long stretches on the highway. Those rolling hills can get a little monotonous without some activities to keep the mind going. 

One great way to tackle the driving doldrums is to put on a good audiobook for a road trip or try out a new podcast on your journey. If there’s one thing you’ve got while you’re on a long-distance road trip, it’s time.

While you’re out there exploring those highways and byways, why not explore some new books, music, and podcasts as well. Whether you want to revisit that fantasy novel series from high school, or you’ve been looking for an opportunity to spin the wheel on your favorite music app, now’s the perfect time to do some entertainment exploration! 

10. Dress for the Road

Back when cars were first invented, people put on their Sunday finest to take a ride around the block. However, this was long before the road trip idea was around, and we’ve changed how we dress for the road. For long drives, opt for comfort over style when you plan to be driving for more than 2 hours in a row.

When picking your perfect driving outfit, look for a balance between clothes you’re comfortable in while driving and clothes you can run into a truck stop for water and snacks. 

11. Listen to Your Body

Once you’ve been on the road for a while, it can get tempting to push yourself past your limits just to get in a few extra miles. However, taking care of yourself while you’re on the road is not only a good idea for safety; it’s also a great idea when it comes to enjoyment.

Whether you’re starting to feel a cramp settling in because you’ve been sitting for too long or your vision is getting a little fuzzy from staring at nothing but cornfields for hours, it’s always a good idea to listen to your body. You can think about this as your body’s way of telling you that it’s time to stop at a roadside attraction.

Taking a break from the road doesn’t mean taking a break from the fun. There are plenty of ways to pack every minute of your road trip with fun without pushing yourself past your limits. You can pull into a roadside diner, take a stroll through a small rural town, or have some fun taking pictures at a forest preserve or nature park.

12. Take the Scenic Route

You can navigate most of the United States by avoiding highways, toll roads, and other heavily trafficked pads. 

This has two significant benefits for a long-distance road trip. 

One, it makes the drive a little easier by breaking up those long stretches on the highway, and two, it adds some excitement by taking you through parts of the country that few people get to experience.

13. Prepare for Your Long Drive Before You Leave

Heading out on a long-distance road trip for the first time is a daunting challenge. This could be hundreds or thousands of miles on the road while driving through new places. Fortune favors the prepared, and these trips could benefit from a few first-time tips.

  • Have a plan for what happens to your trip should your car breakdown
  • Take out a AAA or another roadside assistance plan for an extra sense of security
  • Make checklists for supplies and check the boxes as you pack things into the car
  • Have an expected itinerary that you can use to check in with a friend or family member

14. Make Your Car Comfortable and Organized

This might surprise you to know, but your car wasn’t built for long-distance comfort. If you want to make your car comfortable for the long haul, you need to make some changes before you hit the road.

Don’t worry. None of this involves busting out the toolbox. 

It comes down to the little things like making sure your car is clean, it smells great, and you have all the necessary road trip accessories

Things like a trash can and a back seat or trunk organizer can be a game-changer when it comes to feeling organized. And blankets and pillows can help you relax when you aren’t the one in the driver’s seat. 

15. Don’t Forget to Explore

Some of the best road trip memories happen when you get off the beaten path and discover something new and unusual. So give yourself the freedom to take the exit for the “World’s Largest Corn Cob”.

If you’ve ever heard the old saying, “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey,” then you know what a road trip is all about. There’s a lot of exciting things to do when you get to your destination, but getting there should be its own adventure. 

You don’t have to stop at every roadside gimmick, but if something catches your eye, there’s no harm in taking a few minutes, or a few hours, to explore something that interests you.

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Picture of Craig and Mel in front of Albie the Campervan

Welcome to The Winding Road Tripper!

We are Melody and Craig: Wisconsinites that love weekend adventures from Milwaukee and long-distance road trips in our campervan, Albie. 

We created The Winding Road Tripper to help you plan your next Midwest or road trip adventure. 

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