Now here’s something I may not have mentioned on my blog before. I am a girl, I’m 5ft4 inches tall AND I hold a UK class 2 truck license. Think the size of a bin lorry (garbage truck), fire engine, a coach with no passengers, anything that’s rigid, up to 4 axels. I may not have taken up truck driving, but I was a delivery driver for 3 years. I was on the road, 6 days a week, averaging around 10 hours a day during the week. I picked up things that made my life on the road easier and now I’m going to share some of my best road trip tips with you!
Disclosure: Please note some of the links in this post are affiliate links
I once met a coach driver that was staying in the cabin next to me while visiting the Grand Canyon. This was his best piece of advice for a road trip:
“Drink loads, especially at night. You’ll never fall asleep at the wheel if you’re busting for the toilet”
Wise words. So very true. Mine aren’t quite that extreme!
Have everything you may need during the journey in reach
My van was like my office and just like a desk, I had everything that I could possibly need all within arms reach. When you’re driving long distance, different times of day/weather may require the use of different items. If the sun comes out, do you have sunglasses where you can reach them? If it starts getting dark and you need glasses for night time driving, are they handy?
I had tissues in a handy place.
I had lip balm in a cup holder.
I had drink bottles and coffee cups.
Containers of mints.
I even had a make shift contraption where if the sun dropped into that annoying gap just below the sun visor, I had a piece of cardboard ready to extend it so I could see comfortably for a little bit longer!
The more things are in a reachable place, the more time you’ll have your eyes and concentration on the road! You don’t want to be sifting through bags to find things!
Have a drink bottle/cup that can be opened with one hand
There are plenty of options on the market for this. Especially in America, there are aisles and aisles of drink bottles and reusable coffee cups on the shelves. My coffee cup was a flask that had a push button opening, this cut out on the potential for hot spills! My drinks bottle had a sports cap that I could pull up with my teeth.
Screw tops are a pain, you don’t want to be trying to hold a steering wheel while trying to undo a lid or try and get it back on without spilling anything!
This leads on to…buy sweets/candy that AREN’T individually wrapped!
Again, EYES ON THE ROAD PEOPLE! My go to sweets for driving were TicTacs. I had a giant pot that held the equivalent of 4 of the little packs and this just sat in a cup hole! I could flick up the lid of the pot with one hand and just pour a couple in my mouth.
Although it’s important to drink, you don’t want to drink too much otherwise you’ll be stopping constantly for the toilet (unless you are my Grand Canyon bus driver friend and are trying not to fall asleep!) so I found having mints helped my mouth from getting dry!
Sat Nav (GPS) units are great, however make sure you have a secondary source in case the first fails
I love my Sat Nav. I have a Garmin Nuvi GPS Navigator System in the USA and I had exactly the same British version in the UK. For the most part it works brilliantly but sometimes odd addresses, especially ones out in the sticks, can be problematic.
Smart phones can often be pretty helpful with Google Maps, unless you aren’t on US Cellular in which case good luck trying to get a signal for Google Maps to actually work! To get round this, I would carry a paper road map book with me.
Even when I drove Route 66, we found having a paper guide book was more useful than a Sat Nav. Same for Route 1 in California. GPS will want to send you the fastest way, it doesn’t care that you want to follow a certain, slower, scenic route!
I also find it’s a good idea to screen grab or memorise the rough location of your final destination. A Sat Nav may lead you to the front door of the building, but it may not lead you to the car park entrance!
Always make sure you have plenty of fuel
The last thing you want on a road trip is to breakdown in the middle of nowhere because you’ve ran out of fuel. While on road trips such as Route 66 or in Australia, when you are driving through the Outback or a dessert, there would even be signs warning you that the next fuel station was X miles away. As a rule of thumb, I never let my car/vehicle drop below 1/4 tank of fuel…EVER, even in my day to day life!
Make sure you have plenty of water
Again, just like the fuel, same goes for drinking water for yourself. During my Western Australia road trip, we bought GIANT bottles of water that we would then pour into smaller bottles. We then put these in our camper van fridge to keep cool.
Cool bags or cool boxes can be helpful if you don’t have the luxury of a fridge! A lot of places will sell bags of ice that you can fill a box up with to keep the contents inside cold!
Car chargers with multiple ports are useful
For longer road trips, I’ve travelled with car chargers that have a port for my SatNav and then a couple of USB ports to be able to trickle charge a couple of different devices at once, such as a phone or an mp3 player! I even used it to charge up my video camera once!
Make sure you have enough music so you won’t be driven (no pun intended) insane!
If you’ve ever had the radio on when you’re driving a long distance, the chances are you’ll reach a point where the reception dips in and out to the point where you lose the station altogether. For this reason, I don’t even bother with the radio if I’m travelling further afield.
If you hire a car nowadays there’s a chance that they’ll have bluetooth connectivity or at least a jack port to be able to plug an MP3 player into the stereo. Jack to jack leads are ridiculously cheap and how I tend to play music when I’m on the road for a long time.
If not, rather than take albums or CD (anyone still use them?!) that you’ll need to change after listening to the same 12 songs on repeat for 3 hours, why not make a compilation CD? It’s really easy to make them in iTunes, I think my maximum was 110 songs on one CD. This is what I’d use at work, just so I wouldn’t have to worry about taking my MP3 player to work with me every day!
If you HAVE to use the phone, use a ‘hands free kit’ or bluetooth stereo phone connection
One of my pet HATES in America, is the amount of people I see driving around texting on their phones. If it really can’t wait, use a hands free kit (although I know some places are trying to ban these now). When I first started my driving job, I had a little kit that would attach to my sun visor and my phone would connect to it whenever I was in reach.
Some drivers preferred the bluetooth ear pieces.
One lady had a built in ‘Parrot’ system.
Eventually I was given a new van that had bluetooth connectivity through the stereo. Whenever my phone rung, the contact would be displayed on the screen and I just had to press a button on the ‘radio’ to answer it. Loads of cars come with features like this nowadays.
Sony Ericsson Bluetooth Car Speakerphone – $21.23
(This was the one I used, it was really easy to connect with my iPhone)
Knowing how to change a tyre is helpful too…
All cars have a spare tyre, even if it’s one of those silly little bicycle tyres that tell you not to drive more than 50mph with it on. It’s handy to learn to know how to change one. It could get you out of a sticky situation, should you get a flat while on the road.
My Dad taught me how to change a tyre and I did in fact have to put my knowledge into practise when someone stole a tyre off my van during the night and left it on bricks. I kid you not. It took me nearly an hour and I was completely black by the time I finished, but I managed to get myself into work, all by myself without the tyre flying off , so that in my eyes was a win on my part!
What are some of your road trip tips?! I’d love to know some of your travel hacks!
Disclosure: Please note some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking. It comes at no extra cost to you but it helps me with the running of this site! As always, opinions are my own.