Planning the Perfect Road Trip
Long trips in the car can be tiring and stressful. Being cooped up in such a small space can make you uncomfortable, and if other people are in there with you, tempers might get frayed. But getting in the car and driving off down the motorway is also a great way to get around, whether it’s to visit family, see old friends, get to business meetings, or set off on a holiday adventure.
To help you get the ultimate road trip experience we’ve surveyed 1,000 Republic of Ireland residents to find out their views on what to do on the road. From their responses, we have constructed a guide to planning the perfect road trip.
How far should you travel?
When planning road trips, it’s important to balance destination with time spent in the car. The average maximum time survey respondents said they’d be happy to spend in the car is 11.6 hours. This time also includes breaks on the road and any ferry trips involved in the journey.
Although this time does vary slightly depending on the purpose of the trip, with people willing to travel further for a holiday and less for a business meeting, 11 to 12 hours is a good maximum length of trip to consider. In this time, it is possible to reach most destinations in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, as well as many in the UK.
If you are travelling for this length of time, make sure you take enough breaks. The AA recommends that non-professional drivers spend no more than 8 hours actually driving each day, so only push yourself to the 11-hour mark if your trip involves some substantial stops, or a ferry journey, which will give you a break from driving.
When to take breaks while driving
According to the AA, you should aim to stop at least every two hours when on the road, especially if you’re not used to driving long distances. Driving without breaks can lead to driver fatigue, which in turn, can cause road accidents.
Despite this, many Irish drivers don’t take breaks within the recommended two-hour window. The average driver takes breaks every two hours and five minutes. One-quarter (35%) take breaks less frequently, only stopping once every three hours or less.
To stay alert on the roads, build regular stops into your journey. Plan these in advance so you know where to expect service stations, restaurants, or other locations you can use for a quick stop-off. Leave at least 15 minutes for each of your breaks to see a significant effect from them.
What to do during breaks from driving?
The activities you choose to undertake during your road trip breaks can also affect how refreshed and alert you are when you resume your drive. When we asked what people usually did when stopped on road trips the top answers were:
- Go to the bathroom (88%)
- Eat (77%)
- Drink caffeinated beverages (70%)
- Fill up the petrol tank (58%)
- Drink non-caffeinated beverages (31%)
Not many drivers are choosing the best road trip break activities to keep them alert while driving. Over two-thirds (70%) reach for caffeinated beverages to perk themselves up on the road, but other options could also be effective when it comes to combating fatigue. Just 29% of people say they go for a walk when stopped off on the road, despite a breath of fresh air being handy for blowing away the cobwebs. Less than one in ten (8%) will take a nap to alleviate tiredness on a drive.
If you’re feeling sleepy or groggy while driving, don’t just keep reaching for the caffeine every time you stop. It can be effective to have a 20-minute power nap instead. Pull up somewhere safe, such as a service station car park, and get a bit of shut-eye. When you wake up, grab a bite to eat or have a quick stroll around to get rid of any drowsiness and then head back out on the road. Bear in mind that many service station car parks have two-hour restrictions, so set an alarm to avoid getting caught out.
On the road again
Once you’ve got your breaks and route planned out, consider giving some thought to what you’ll do in the car. Even with regular stops, long car journeys can be tedious for you and your passengers, so have a think about how to keep everybody happy.
If you’re travelling for 11 hours, the last thing you want is to be stuck with someone you’d struggle to talk to. If you’re planning a trip with a big group, divide people intro cars based on existing friendships, relationships, and interests.
Asked to pick their preferred companion for a road trip, Irish drivers voted overwhelmingly in favour of their partners. Over half of people (53%) said their spouse was the best person to have with them on the road. In contrast, the second most popular option, friend, received just 13% of the vote. One in ten people (10%) said they’d prefer their own company to anyone else’s on a long drive. This might indicate that for longer trips, a journey with just you and your partner would be best.
Even with regular stops on the way, road trip snacks are an important part of your journey. Make sure you’ve got all the favourites in before you set off. We divided snack types into three categories (crisps, chocolate and sweets, and others) and asked people to pick their favourites. The results are as follows:
- Crisps: Taytos (21%)
- Chocolate: Cadbury (33%)
- Other: Sandwiches (36%)
What to listen to on a road trip can cause squabbles between passengers and drivers. For long distance, it may be worth putting together a playlist on Spotify that includes songs for all tastes. The most popular music types for long road journeys are:
- Pop music: 18%
- Rock music: 13%
- Country music: 6%
- Classical music: 4%
- Hip hop and R’n’B: 4%
A good compromise on this point could be switching over to the radio if you can guarantee strong enough signal. One in five (21%) selected music radio as their preferred listening choice on a road trip, while 14% picked talk radio.
On a long road trip, it’s often helpful to have some sort of guide to help keep you on the correct route. With the advent of sat-navs and handy phone apps, there are more options than ever to show you the way. The current most popular navigation methods in the Republic of Ireland are:
- Phone apps (47%)
- Following road signs (14%)
- Using a built-in sat-nav (13%)
- Using an external sat-nav (12%)
- Using a road map (5%)
If you’re confident you know where you’re going or have a competent navigator, relying on road signs and maps can be a great way to get where you need to go. Having a phone app or sat-nav on the go as well, however, can offer you a little extra confidence driving somewhere unfamiliar.
If your car journey goes sour it can give a bad feeling to your entire trip. Plan ahead to help guarantee you and your passengers enjoy a great start and finish to your adventure. Following our guidance can help create a stress-free journey. Before setting out on a road trip, always make sure you have all the necessary documentation and insurance, in case anything should go awry. To set yourself at ease, if you’re undertaking a road trip with a hire car, get yourself covered with car hire excess insurance.