If you’ve got a trip planned and need to carry a lot of gear in your car, the following tips will help you keep comfy and safe on the journey. Ford Canada lent me a fully loaded Ford Fusion Hybrid over a weekend during the summer. I drove six hours from Toronto to Blue Mountain and back in one day to visit friends. It was delightful to try out the latest driver assist features, some of which I share below, and to experience the quiet cabin – not only when starting the engine, but while on the highway at full speed. I hope you find these tips handy!
Avoid loose items.
Pack smaller articles in suitcases, bags, bins, or into storage compartments to avoid them coming free and moving about the cabin. This is especially important for water bottles, for example which you don’t want to have rolling into the foot well as it could impede access to the pedals. Another area of concern is the back window ledge. If the vehicle brakes suddenly, any loose items will be projected forward and could cause injury.
Load heavy items on the bottom.
This will preserve the centre of gravity of the vehicle and help it handle smoothly
Keep things visible.
Make sure windows are kept clear so you can see traffic and pedestrians outside. Set your mirrors for maximum view of traffic around you. Use advanced features like the Blind Spot Information System which illuminate an indicator light on your mirrors if a vehicle is in your blind spot.
Keep valuables accessible.
If you are going to be making stops on your trip, you’ll want to keep your valuables and necessities with you. Use computer bags and small suitcases to hold technology, jewelry, medicine and eyeglasses, and anything else critical to your trip. Put these in an easy to access place so you can remove them when you break.
Pack breakables securely.
Pack as if you’re moving to minimize damage. This means placing glass or dishes vertically in a box and padding any empty spaces. If you can avoid shifting, you’ll minimize breakage. Placing liquids in sealed containers or plastic bags may also be advisable to contain potential leaks.
Prep your car for the trip.
Check oil levels, washer fluid and tire pressure. If you’re going on a high mileage trip you may want to have an upcoming service visit attended to before you venture out. Stock your car with an emergency kit, snacks and water.
Ensure you are well-rested.
Have a good night’s sleep before a long road trip. Take breaks as needed for circulation and to boost energy. Watch out for sleep inducing foods and sugar crashes. Caffeine can be used to boost alertness focus, but use it judiciously. Even better might be a 20 minute power nap which leaves you refreshed without jeopardizing your upcoming night’s sleep.
The Lane Keeping feature will nudge you back in the lane if you start to drift. It will also track your driving patterns and warn you if it things you need to take a break. You’ll see the icon in the left above light up if you’re driving out of the lane. It feels like you’re driving with a watchful friend.
Shape your seat.
Today’s car seats come with several adjustments for your comfort. We are used to adjusting the recline of the seat. To be more alert, sit more upright as reclining can make you sleepy. Tilt the seat pan to maximize hip comfort. If your legs are straight out as in a low vehicle, there is more pressure on your hip joints. Cruise control provides welcome relief to tired legs. The new Adaptive Cruise Control makes it even more user friendly – it will sense when there is a vehicle in front and automatically slow the car.
Don’t forget to take advantage of lumbar support settings. Women have curvier spines than men and often need to dial up the level of support.
Keep the car a comfortable temperature.
Cool the car down if you’re getting drowsy to improve alertness. Personal temperature settings are very helpful yet you may also wish to dress in layers if some of you will be in the sun while others are in the shade. Research shows that the most productive temperature is 22 degrees Celsius (72 °F).(1)
Wear shoes suitable for driving.
Shoe trends come and go. Some are driving friendly – like Converse “Chucks”, whereas the latest wedge espadrilles have no place in the driver’s seat. Look for a narrow, flat, flexible-soled shoe that lets you feel the pedals.
Bonus tip – Keep your full attention on driving.
You’re probably familiar with the concept that we only think we can multi-task. In fact instead of multi-tasking, we switch from activity to activity. To keep your attention on the task of driving, be sure to program any maps in advance or stop and do so safely.
If you come across detours that are not addressed by your navigation system, stop and research the route before continuing on. This happened to me on my trip. At night in the dark, I couldn’t find the detour signs so made a short stop at a gas station to tap into the locals’ know-how.
Become very familiar with any voice recognition features and use them only when necessary. It is still recommended to have your full attention on the drive. Even if using a cell phone hands-free, complex conversations can be distracting. In fact, you can get distracted by your own mind if you’re not careful (2). Set your phone to Do Not Disturb and enjoy the ride!
What tips do you have to pack for a road trip?
- The temperature which best supports productivity.
- American Psychology Association – Summary of Research Studies.