One of my closest held beliefs about road trip planning is that haul trips should be avoided at all costs. What do I mean by a “haul”?
Road Trip Planning Definition: To travel by car to (and from) a vacation destination, driving as many hours per day as possible (typically 7 or more) resulting in painfully stiff limbs and joints, extreme irritability, increased risk of accidents due to exhaustion and inattention to the road, and general misery for all involved.
As I’ve said in all of my articles, a road trip is all about the journey – road trip planning should involve figuring out how to make the trip itself a vacation, not just the destination. Unfortunately, sometimes you just have to go on a haul road trip, and if you do, you’re going to need some help.
Here are some haul road trip planning tips to help you manage this experience the best way possible:
- Pack every kind of painkiller your family uses. You will need them. I’m an Advil girl but to each their own. Never pack a painkiller that will impair your driving/make you sleepy, though, even if you don’t plan on driving – you’ll want to keep the driver company.
- Sunglasses are a must – especially for the driver who may have situations when they’re driving heading into a sunrise or sunset and the glare will be extreme. If possible, break for a meal when the sun is setting or rising in the direction you’re driving.
- When planning a haul road trip, plan on either switching off drivers as much as possible or treat the one person driving like a king or queen. That person will need a lot of babying as not only are they stuck in a car for hours like the rest of you, but they also need to constantly focus on the road.
- The driver(s) must make sure that they get plenty of water and food (healthy choices are better), and limit caffeine to a moderate amount (one to two cups of tea or coffee every four hours). Too much caffeine brings a high followed by a horrible crash – no one wants to feel jittery and tired!
- Get a decent night’s sleep every night, even if it means taking a little longer to get to your destination. This is especially true for the driver(s). This is a vital haul road trip planning tip. Caffeine does not equal sleep. One of my friends, Alicia, thought Viverin was enough during a long haul road trip, only to fall asleep and drive off the road. She was lucky enough not to run into anything when she took that snooze at the wheel. Don’t make the same mistake – you may not be so lucky.
- If you’re driving somewhere hot, consider getting new tires. The hot pavement under your old tires all day pretty much guarantees a blowout. It will definitely put a dent in your road trip plans to be sitting on the side of the road dealing with a flat. Basic road trip planning also requires getting your entire car checked out before you go – at very least get your oil changed and top off all the fluids your car needs.
- Stop every hour to stretch your legs (just for a few minutes! I’m not trying to cut into the time you’re trying to make on this trip). Try to take advantage of rest areas for this – only get off an exit if you have no choice as this will really slow you down. Just moving your legs for a few minutes can make a difference. I like to do lunges and jumping jacks, too, but that’s me. Even taking a quick walk around your car can help. Tie these breaks in with your bathroom breaks and you’ll save time.
- Plan on packing plenty of healthy snacks and sandwiches on your haul road trip. Avoid, if possible, junk food as it’s going to sit in your stomach like a ball of grease. You’ll feel more energetic eating light things like carrot sticks (I like them salted), whole grain crackers, fruit, popcorn, and a low-fat trail mix.
- The person sitting in the seat next to the driver should become the road trip’s “co-pilot” – checking the directions for the driver, helping the driver with anything else they need (like opening a water bottle), and keeping an eye on the road for any hazards. When my husband and I drive together, I always handle the directions as well as letting him know about any crazy drivers I see – you really need to watch out for them (or end up in an accident).
- Everyone on the haul should plan on staying awake (unless they’re small children) and keeping the driver(s) company. It’s hard enough to stay alert and focused on a road trip without hearing everyone around you snoring away. In fact, just looking at someone sleeping when I’m tired makes me want to go to sleep. You’re all in this together – think of yourselves as a team! To keep boredom a bay, play some road trip games to break up the monotony and inject a little fun into your trip.
- If you’re prone to back pain or a tight neck, get a lumbar support cushion (if your car’s seats don’t come equipped with this function). Another good idea is to pack a massage machine – handheld or one that’s shaped like a seat. You will fall in love with that machine every night of your trip!
Road trip planning for a haul road trip is even more important as you’ll need a lot of help to get through it. Being prepared makes it so much more bearable.