Road trips can be a fun and exhilarating experience, and we often forget that the drive itself is something that needs preparation too. By researching about the trip beforehand, such as potential stopping locations, you’ll gain quiet confidence about the journey, and another question you may have is how often you should stop your vehicle for a rest break.
When driving on a road trip, as a general guideline, it’s best to stop for a rest break every 2 hours, for 10-20 minutes, to stretch your legs and regain mental clarity. Also, taking a 45-minute lunch break can help ensure your mental and physical well-being. If you have passengers, you’ll need to consider their needs, which might include stopping more frequently.
Different vehicle types
Below are some things to consider with regard to rest stops when driving different vehicles over long distances.
It’s recommended to stop for a 15-minute break after every 2 hours when driving a car. You’ll also want to think twice about driving more than 8 hours per day, as this is associated with increased driver fatigue, and it’s unlikely you’re going to be enjoying the drive if you exceed this time on the road.
When riding a motorbike, it’s recommended to stop at least every 2 hours. Additional reasons to have a rest stop include stretching your posture out, helping to avoid any cramps when riding, and also to adjust your riding gear.
Also, when compared to cars, fuel tanks can be considerably smaller on bikes, and you may need to stop off more often than every 2 hours to refuel.
Large vehicle types such as camper vans are generally going to require more energy to drive, as they have a larger steering wheel, gear controls, and overall volume. Therefore, it’s recommended to stop for at least 15 minutes every 2 hours. However, if you aren’t used to driving the vehicle over long distances, then you might need to stop more frequently than this.
The number of passengers in the car might change how many rests stops you’ll need to make on your journey.
If you’re considering a road trip and driving alone, then it’s advisable to stop for a break every 2 hours.
Additionally, when driving alone, you can use the following tactics to help you stay mentally aware and focused on the road ahead:
- Turn on the radio.
- Use a GPS with a voiced function to help you stay alert and on track, and to provide reassurance by giving updates on the road ahead, including the location of speed cameras and traffic updates.
- Leave early, and allow more travel time to save you from stress if you’re stuck in traffic.
- Plan your rest stops beforehand, and also keep note of any stopping points you like, so you can use them again upon your trip back home.
If you’re planning on a long road trip, then sharing the driving is a great way to enjoy the ride, as you’ll save energy from constantly driving and get to enjoy the ride from both the passenger’s and driver’s perspective.
Engaging in conversation can be a great way to pass time, and you’ll also want to switch seats at your rest stops, so around every 2 hours.
Small children have more energy than endurance athletes, and as a result, if you have children in the car, then you’re most likely going to need more frequent stops than every 2 hours, to allow them to use the bathroom and release pent-up energy.
Stay mindful of how they’re acting in the car, as, if you avoid this, you can expect a loud and question-filled journey, and as a result, your driving may become unfocused too!
Unfortunately, animals can’t talk, and if you’re traveling on a road trip with them in the car, such as a dog in a cage, then to avoid pet accidents or their discomfort, it’s advised to allow a comfort stop every 2 hours.
Similar to children, providing animals with more frequent rest stops can be a positive thing, allowing them to release energy, stretch their legs and go to the toilet.
Preparation for your road trip
Being prepared for your road trip can help you avoid having to make unnecessary stops along the way and also ensure you’re ready in the case of emergencies. Below are some preparation techniques you can use.
Schedule a car inspection
During a road trip, the last thing you need is to run into car problems while you’re driving, so the week before your trip, get your car checked by a mechanic and fix anything needed.
This might include oil and fluid changes and top-ups, filter replacements, and even tire changes.
Take emergency supplies
A car emergency supply kit can be the difference between getting back on the road safely during the daytime or spending the night huddled in the car on the side of the road.
Emergency supplies may include a car tool kit, spare tire, car escape tool, jumper cables, First aid kit, a sleeping bag, a portable light, extra water, and many more.
The average person burns more than the usual amount of calories when driving, so this means you’re going to need to eat and drink more calories than usual to stay focused on the road ahead.
Remember to pack lots of water to avoid dehydration, and it’s best to avoid salty foods, as these will make you dehydrated. Instead, pack healthy foods that provide sustained release energy, such as fruit & nut bars, bananas, energy bites, and so on.
Additional things to consider
The weather conditions you’re driving in can greatly affect the number of stops needed on your journey. For instance, summer can be sweltering inside the car, meaning you’ll regularly need to keep an eye on your car fluids and also need to ensure your passengers have proper ventilation to avoid an uncomfortable journey.
In the winter, it’s typical for there to be wind, icy roads, and sometimes snow. So do some research beforehand, and if you can predict these conditions before setting off on your road trip, then you can prep your car, which may include checking the tire tread, using different tires such as snow tires, or making sure your heater is working properly.
Also, you can also read up on precautionary measures such as driving particularly slowly on bends, and using second gear to lessen the chances of the tires slipping.
Day driving vs. night driving
For a long drive over the course of a day, it’s safer to drive in the mornings and afternoons than at night, as you’ll be more alert, have better visibility of the road, and more facilities are open for rest stops.
So when going on a road trip, for your best chances of a smooth experience, it’s best to leave early and stop driving before dark.
Signs it’s time to have a rest stop
If you’re feeling any of the below symptoms, then you’re most likely suffering from driver fatigue and need to take a break ASAP. Stay self-aware, and if you notice the following changes in yourself, then stop off at the nearest safe location for a break.
- Feeling tired, yawning, eyes closing, eye strain.
- Reacting slowly to road changes, or experiencing memory loss.
- Experiencing tunnel vision.
- Drifting from your lane.
- Microsleeps (measured in seconds).
Different stopping points
Sometimes, when driving long distances, there won’t be a gas station for over 100 miles (161 km), and in this case, it’s good to be creative with your rest stops.
You might see signs for other places along the route, such as local restaurants and parks, and even if they are a little off-route, this can serve as a great way to break up the day.
Also, if you note down key rest areas you find on the route or potential areas that interest you, they might make the return trip a little more interesting!
As a general rule, on a road trip, it’s advised to take a 10-15 minute rest stop after 2 hours of driving and to drive no more than 8 hours over a 24-hour period. It’s also a good idea to start driving early and have a lunch break of about 45 minutes to refuel your body.
Rest stops will also vary depending on the number of passengers in the car and their requirements, weather conditions, and to account for your personal health when driving.