But after 2 weeks on the road , driving and stopping through 9 cities and 5 states, having survived while having fun at that–these are just some of the things we did to keep safe, and more importantly, stay sane!
1.) PLOT YOUR ROUTE IN DETAIL, AND AHEAD OF TIME
|GOOGLE MAPS IS A GENIUS|
This is just an extremely rough draft of our long drive. So you can see we did a sort of big inverted “C” on the Northwest USA. Write down the cities and places you want to see, then plot them on the map (Place number 1 being Point A, Place 2 is Point B and so forth). After that , you will see the indicative shape of your path. If it’s not geographically logistical, you can interchange your cities until a reasonable route appears. One thing to remember is do not limit your road map research to googlemaps. As impressive as it is (it can sometimes tell you where to find pandora charms), but it won’t know if certain roads are passable or are closed, etc. We consulted each State’s website to look for road advisory.
This will also help you determine / anticipate driving times in between places. We stuck to a maximum of 7 hours drive in one stretch (each drives 4-5 hours, then change). As soon as the drive time reached 7 hours , we did an imperative overnight in the nearest city.
Most important of all, give your itinerary to friends/relatives who won’t be travelling with you. Just in case you go missing it will be easier to track your whereabouts.
2.) TRY TO DRIVE ONLY DURING THE DAYTIME
We made a schedule of what time we should leave each city/town so we could get decent estimated times of arrival in the next city. Doing a road trip like this, you can’t just “wing it” as we had reservations booked and we wanted to maximise our time.
Driving during the daytime is generally safer, and you also get to appreciate the views and unexpected obstacles such as these:
If you still haven’t reached your destination by your scheduled ETA and it’s already getting dark, just book the nearest accommodation. Thankfully this didn’t happen to us. But I watched a documentary on the Kim family whose road trip ended in tragedy –and this is because they pushed through to drive during nighttime.
I became quite paranoid after reading and watching that, I was adamant that we only drive when the sun is up.
3.) BOOK A QUALITY VEHICLE
This is not the time to scrimp. How much is your safety and comfort worth? We booked an SUV and this Subaru had really served us very well. No dramas or breakdowns. It was fairly comfortable and housed all our luggage too.
Be aware of the types of roads you will be going through. Also book the car well in advance. Apart from the industry discount I normally get, I also got an earlybird discount on top of that because I booked this car 6 months prior to the trip. Be aware that driving cars one-way as we did (picked up in Seattle, and dropped off in Los Angeles), will incur a one-way fee.
Do a research on the road rules of every state. While most states in the US accepted foreign drivers’ license, states like Wyoming requires an international drivers license.
4.) TRY NOT TO EAT MEALS INSIDE THE CAR
|YOU SON OF A BACONATOR YOU!|
While it may be really tempting to save time and do a drive through with the numerous burger joints in the US, we always stopped when needing/wanting to eat. Eating while driving on unfamiliar roads can be distracting. Not to mention it will make you feel sluggish (especially with the types of food in the US), sleepy and lazy. Not very good when driving! Let’s not get all preachy with “bad vs good” food here. I’m advising HOW to eat, not what to eat. We’re all aware enough what’s good or bad for us. Everything in moderation.
5.) PACK A GOOD BOOK
This tip is not exclusive to driving but travelling in general. This book was my companion throughout the 6 weeks I was away..4 continents and I finished it in time. In relation to driving, this helped me stay awake when I wasn’t driving. We did take turns driving so the other can rest/sleep. But I won’t really suggest sleeping if there’s just 2 of you. Especially driving on long highways and interstate, it’s important that the non-driving person looked out for exits, keeping to speed limits etc.
The GPS is not adequate, as you’d need all the assistance you can get when driving in unfamiliar roads.
I don’t normally read in moving vehicles but on very long endless highways, reading doesn’t give me motion sickness.
6.) PROPER PROTECTION PLEASE
I love being under the sun but on long drives, and driving only during the daytime, it’s important to wear sunscreen (SPF of 30 and above) and the proper sunglasses. With sunglasses, I preferred the wayfarer types as they are very light. You wouldn’t want an indentation on your nose after 4 hours of driving!
7.) GPS AND GOOD MUSIC WILL BE YOUR FRIEND
|His and Hers Samsung phones. While one plays as GPS, the other provides music|
Before we left my husband installed Navigon US Maps on our phones. This entire 21 day road trip was led by GPS on our Samsung Galaxy smartphones. They are not bad at all. And because we have different tastes in music too, while one phone plays the role of GPS, the other provided music.
As for music, I strongly oppose listening to “relaxing” music–The above song is obviously my husband’s pick, he being the more mellow soul. While easy chill out music is nice–will that really help you stay awake and be upbeat? NO.
The music I played were Linkin Park, Foster the People, R&B, Dance, etc. But this is up to you, whatever helps you drive better I guess!
That’s it with the “guide”. These are from our personal experience. Im sure there are other tips that veteran road trippers have that I missed. Overall I’m happy with the road trip – no dramas, no car breakdowns , no safety issue.
This last photo is not really about driving per se but part of our 2-3 week road trip. Our best friend has been the local public laundromat in every hotel/motel we stopped at!
Do you like road trips? If you do, what are your own road trip guides?