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Best Road Trip Tips for your Vacation This Year

Guest blog by: Charles Krome

So, you’ve already got the perfect place to stay for your upcoming vacation, right down to a wallet-friendly rental rate. Well, you’ve still got to decide how to get there, and flying isn’t for everyone. There’s no worse way to start—or end—a trip than with long lines and routine delays at the airport. And there’s no better alternative than driving. Not only does it put you in charge of when to go and where to stop along the way, it also provides you with some unique opportunities you can’t enjoy up in the air.

But while driving can give you more control over your vacation, it also requires a little more responsibility. Getting to your rental destination safely and economically is now up to you. And we’ve got some ways to help.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep for a Good Start

Doctors at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, recommend that adults sleep 7 to 9 hours every night. They also note that even though folks may feel fine after fewer hours of sleep when they first wake up, their ability to concentrate suffers as time goes on. That could be a serious problem if you’ve got a long day’s worth of driving ahead of you. With that in mind, be sure to get a good night’s sleep before you hit the road, particularly if your regular sleeping habits usually involve shorter amounts of rest.

Plot Your Course in Advance

Technology has taken a lot of the guesswork out of the navigation process, thanks to both built-in nav systems and portable GPS units. As a result, one or the other definitely should be on board for any road trip. However, you don’t want to be that person who follows those automated directions into a nearby lake, or who ends up in a surprise traffic jam during road-construction season. That’s why it’s also important to plot out your trip ahead of time, allowing you to familiarize yourself with the route, look for possible roadside attractions, and take notice of scheduled roadwork.

Learn the Laws of the Land

The thing about today’s mobile technologies is that many are based on smartphones, and different states have different laws about how those can be used by drivers. For that matter, there may be any number of differences in local traffic laws between your home state and those you may be driving through. Now, no one expects you to prepare for another driving test before you begin your trip, but you can check out other state’s traffic laws online, and you can visit the Governors Highway Safety Association website for a rundown of state-by-state cellphone laws.

Know the Warning Signs of Drowsy Driving

Once you’re on your way, it’s vital to stay alert: Data from the U.S National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that, on average, drowsy driving is responsible for “almost 886 fatal crashes, an estimated 37,000 injury crashes, and an estimated 45,000 property-damage-only crashes” each year in this country. To avoid being part of the statistics, pay attention to signs you’re getting too tired to drive, such as constant yawning or blinking, having trouble holding your head up, drifting out of your lane and missing your exit. Then, do something about it (read on for tips).

Rely on Teamwork

This summer, some of the world’s top drivers will gather in France for the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, but not even the professionals tackle an event like that themselves. They do it in teams–something all travelers should consider when there’s more than one licensed driver in the group. Sharing the driving duties keeps everyone fresh and at the top of their game. That said, younger drivers, especially those in their teens, are notorious for not getting enough sleep each night. So be extra sure that they’re well rested and well prepared for highway driving before turning over the wheel.

Make Regularly Scheduled Pit Stops

If you find yourself getting sleepy as you drive, and you’re without a co-driver, there’s really no perfect solution beyond getting to sleep. In fact, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) advises drivers to pull over for a nap at a rest stop if necessary, although drinking coffee or cola—or something with caffeine—can provide a short-term wakeup. The optimum approach to “maximize the effect,” per the AASM, is having a quick nap right after the caffeine. And remember that you don’t have to go straight through to your final destination. One of the biggest benefits of driving on vacation is that you can stop and enjoy other attractions on the way. Why not take advantage of that?

Go Easy on the Gas

Gas mileage and fuel costs are common concerns during long road trips, with drivers looking to increase the former and reduce the latter. Look to the experts at FuelEconomy.gov for advice. Driving aggressively, for example, by constantly speeding up and braking, can lower highway fuel efficiency by 33 percent according to the site. Indeed, that’s where your car’s cruise control can come into play. Such systems are generally better at maintaining a stable speed than humans, and the latest ones can automatically reduce a vehicle’s velocity when slowed or stopped traffic is up ahead.

With the proper emphasis on safety and efficiency during your road trip, you’ll arrive at your vacation rental ready to focus on what’s important: having fun.

About the Author:
With a hometown of Detroit and last name Krome, Charles was perhaps bound to be a car enthusiast. He fuels his passion for cars by writing for CARFAX and taking long Sunday drives.