Travel Tips: How to Survive a Long Haul Road Trip

Travel Tips: How to Survive a Long Haul Road Trip

I am a huge fan of road trips! Maybe it’s because my first even international trip involved my step dad, my mom, and me touring a few European countries in our car. Maybe it’s because I enjoy driving around, discovering new places, and visiting new favorites. Maybe it’s because that way I can easily travel with my dog. No matter why I love it so much, it’s how I got to most places. Over the years, these are a few long trips I went on:

  • Driving from Bucharest to Athens. Greece – shy of 1200 kilometers
  • Driving from Bucharest to Oludeniz, Turkey – a little over 1400 kilometers – then spending three weeks there and enjoying a few shorter road trips to visit Fethiye or lounge on a small, secluded beach.
  • Started off in Ploiesti (Romania), drove to Arad for an overnight stop, then to Trier in Germany. Spent a couple of weeks there with my friends, drove around, went for a Heidelberg day trip. Drove to the Netherlands to visit a friend. Drove to the UK (Cambridgeshire) to hang out with another friend. We both went on a road trip to Scotland (Dumfries), and then slowly made our way back to Trier, and finally back to Romania for her wedding. About 6000 kilometers total. This took me about a month.
  • A couple of years later, drove from Bucharest to Munich for an author event, then headed to Essex in the UK to hang out with friends (one of which is a fellow author). The next stop was Birmingham for another book singing event. I then stopped in Trier to see my friends, and returned home. 3 weeks total.
  • Hundreds of shorter road trips
Road trip with my Dog, Ares

Road trip with my Dog, Ares

Yeah, it’s kind of obvious I love road trips now, isn’t it? 😀 I’ve learned a lot of things about what a long haul road trip entails. Especially since for most of these, I was the only driver. Here are some of the trips and tricks I’ve learned over the years to make sure I can survive them.

Plan Ahead for Your Road Trip

The best part about road trips is that you can easily go wherever you want. That said, you still have to have a basic itinerary planned. This will help you decide where you stop for the night, what things you intend to see, and budget your road trip. What you need to take into account is food, fees to drive in the countries you’ve chosen (Hungary and Austria require a vignette for example), fees to visit museums and other sights, fuel, the many coffee breaks during long drives, accommodation, souvenirs, money to have some fun (dinners, drinks, lunches, clubs).

In order to mix the needed planning with the freedom of a road trip, I plan for the stops I know I must make, and for the places I know I will definitely visit, and then add some extra money and time for whatever comes up along the way.

Don’t Skip the Down Time!

I can’t stress this point enough. It’s something I’ve learned the hard way, after pulling crazy things like driving for over 20 hours in a day (with minimal stops along the way). Split longer legs of your trip into smaller chunks and try to keep it at maximum 10 hours of driving a day. I’d say 8 hours are far better, but sometimes that doesn’t work. Make sure you get enough sleep along the way, or that you get some downtime.

I say downtime because, in my case, sleeping well on the first night in a new place is always a struggle. If that’s the case, resting and relaxing is even more important.

Pit Stop at a Gas Station Outside Athens, Greece

Pit Stop at a Gas Station Outside Athens, Greece

During your drive, make sure to stop every two hours. Have a drink–my drug of choice is coffee, relax, stretch your legs, maybe look around and take in the sights. Enjoying every moment is important, as long road trips are not easy on the travelers, especially not on the driver.

Pro Tip: If like me you tend to skip on stops and push yourself a bit too hard, this is what I do. I make sure I drink a lot – water, coffee, soda. This is bound to force you into a pit stop every two hours or so.

Be Prepared for Anything

I am an optimist. I never start off anything obsessing over how things could or would go wrong. That said, I believe in being prepared, just in case. So, when I know a road trip is about to happen, this is my action plan.

  • Make sure I have my car checked before going
  • Make sure my car insurance is updated to cover me abroad
  • Check my own insurance (medical, travel)
  • Have my dog checked if he’s travelling with me. Most countries require a vet check right before the trip.
  • Research driving at the destination – is my driver’s licence enough, any rules I need to know, etc. Make sure I know to convert my speed into miles 😀
  • Who do I go to when things go wrong: mechanic, road assistance, car accident lawyers, 24 hour vet, consulates and embassies (in case my papers get stolen or I lose them), nearest friend to every destination, etc.
Road trip, Greece

In Greece, enjoying the view on a quick stop

Keep it Fun: Focus on Enjoying Your Long Haul Road Trip

The point of all these hacks is to make sure  you enjoy your long haul road trip. Making sure you’re “surviving it,” meaning you’re healthy, happy, and stress-free is all about enjoyment. We travel for fun, to enrich our minds and knowledge, to meet new wonderful people, to discover cultures and history and wonders of the world. If that’s not enough, relax with a bit of shopping. Getting souvenirs for friends is always fun. If you’re shopping for yourself or for a travel-loving buddy, check out this awesome article from Look What’s Cool. It does not need to be an exhausting, daunting proposition. So, make sure you’re prepared, that you have a clear idea of where you’re heading and have enough resources for everything you’ve planned, stay safe, keep yourself rested and healthy, and enjoy the ride!