As time goes on I get more and more questions about how I manage handling long road trips. Generally speaking, I can drive 12-15 hours and be ready to do whatever I need to when I arrive. For example, this January, I'll be driving to the Chicago Auto Show. Driving out one day, driving back two days later, for a total of 3 days gone. Because of the inquiries, I've put together a small guide to handling a long road trip.
Rule #1. Know your limits. If you cannot work a full 8 hour shift, don't plan an 8 hour drive. Generally I don't recommend a longer one day drive than one would be able to handle behind a desk, cash register, etc... If you aren't used to working long shifts, I'd say plan on driving as long as you typically work plus or minus an hour or so. Arriving at your destination exhausted only takes away from what you can do on your trip.
Rule #2. Know where you're going. While I don't heavily research my trips ahead of time (you never know what you're going to find on the way) a general idea of how to get to your final destination is always a good thing. Looking over maps on Google Maps or on Mapquest will give you a good idea of how to get to the hotel/resort/restaurant, or whatever you're planning on ending up at for the day. This rule became very important very quickly on my recent trip to Toronto which leads me to rule 3.
Rule #3. Update the maps on your nav system. Make sure your GPS unit has the maps for your destination loaded before you head out. As soon as I crossed the Canadian border, my GPS unit told me Navigation to my final destination was ending. It accepted my final destination when I left but didn't know how to get there. Needless to say, if I hadn't followed Rule #2, I would have been hopelessly lost.
Rule #4. Don't be afraid to try new things. Not every restaurant is worth going back to. Not every roadside attraction is worth spending the money on. However, if you never stop at the gem you passed you'll never know. I'll never forget one day I stopped for lunch at a diner that looked superb from the outside. When I got in, the sheer volume of the army of cockroaches astounded me. Needless to say I didn't stick around to wait for my food. I ended up heading two doors down to a biker bar that did not look so appealing and ended up having some of the best value road food I've ever had. I am not going to name either restaurant as the last time I passed through both had since closed.
Rule #5. Don't forget to stop and smell the roses. If you see a nice view, or a cool building. Stop, take pictures, walk around a bit. Not only will it keep you refreshed but it will also make you look forward to your next trip even more!