With international travel grounded to many regions around the world and domestic plane travel simply too hectic for many people, travelers are opting for road trips during the holiday season and beyond for a less stressful way to travel.
That being said, road trips themselves can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety if not done right.
Recent surveys have shown that 70% of Americans are planning to take a road trip this holiday season instead of flying, and the story is similar in other countries around the world.
Despite fuel prices being quite high, people are ditching wings in favor of four rubber tires as air travel becomes more of a hassle thanks to the pandemic.
They say life is about the journey and not the destination, and that definitely rings true with road tripping. But a poorly planned road trip filled with boredom and preventable hiccups can easily ruin your road trip holiday.
With many of us planning longer road trips this holiday season and well into 2022, I thought I’d offer some tips on how you can survive the journey whether traveling solo or with family and friends.
8 Travel Tips to Survive a Long Road Trip
If you like the idea of books but simply find reading too much effort, you may want to give audiobooks a go on your next road trip. Listening to a great book is a great way to pass the time during a long drive, especially if you are going it solo.
You of course want to stick with a genre you enjoy whether it’s an autobiography, mystery, or sci-fi. More importantly, however, may be the narrator since an annoying voice or someone you can’t really understand clearly can turn even a good book into a unpleasant listening experience.
While some audiobooks make use of a single narrator, others feature a larger cast of character that play out more like theatre with added sound effects to really set the scene. Some of the best audiobooks feature the voice of notable celebrities, some of which may be reading you their memoir.
Choose an appropriate length of audiobook that will allow you to finish or at least get you hooked during your road trip so you’ll be enticed to finish it later.
Be sure to listen to excerpts to get a feel for the book before you commit and maybe use the opportunity to choose a classic title which you’ve always wanted to read but maybe found a bit too difficult to tackle in written form.
While you can definitely learn a great deal from audiobooks, the go-to for many road trippers looking to learn something while on the road are podcasts. There are endless educational podcasts both for adults, children, and the family as a whole.
There are podcasts that cover subjects like astronomy, physics, history, psychology, nature, and more. National Geographic has a number of very fascinating podcasts which feature stories from their great mix of photographers and explorers.
Listening to podcasts is a great way to keep kids entertained while at the same time teaching them something and limiting their screen time. They have been shown to also assist kids with developing better auditory comprehension, listening, and emotional skills.
In addition to educational podcasts, there are also many top universities which offer up hundreds of free audio courses that act much like a podcast.
Alternatively, you could start learning a new language on your road trip with the use of audio teaching aids, whether you always wanted to pick up a bit of French, Spanish, or Italian.
Of course, there are simply funny podcasts you can add in if you want a break and a laugh from all the learning every once in awhile.
Document your Travels
We’re often so busy or tired while traveling to remember to document our experiences. Passengers on road trips though can use the drive time to reflect on the prior day’s experiences by writing a travel journal or organizing, editing, and labeling digital photos taken.
You can also make use of easy-to-use video makers to combine your various MP4 clips into a quality single video. It’s often much easier to put together great videos when all the clips you shot are still fresh in your mind and can be located easily.
When writing a travel journal, be sure to include not only the things you saw and did, but really attempt to describe your experiences. Jot down details like smells, sounds, and emotions you felt to really create a vivid picture that will allow you and others to recall the trip with greater clarity at a later date.
You may also want to consider starting a travel blog, using your drive time (if you’re a passenger that is) to write up post drafts. You could also work on writing a travel book or guide.
Be sure to write down the names of places you pass through, along with various landmarks, so that you may research them later to add a bit of history and interesting facts for your readers.
And while documenting your travels on a road trip while in the car is more easily done by passengers, you can still make it work while in the driver’s seat by utilizing a voice recorder to record your travel experiences and then later transcribe them into a written diary or digital record of your experiences.
Connect with your Travel Companions
We often live such hectic daily lives that we can easily overlook having important discussions with our family and friends.
Being stuck in a small vehicle with others during a long drive can be used as a way to tackle important issues that haven’t yet been dealt with or to inquire if there is anything that is bothering anyone in your family.
You can talk with your kids about goals they have for themselves, work through past problems, or give them advice. Driving in a car for hours at a time allows you the opportunity to remove other distractions that may usually be present so you can hopefully have more meaningful conversations.
And remember that connecting with your family or friends doesn’t always have to be a serious affair. You can have fun with word games or start a friendly and respectful debate about something to get each other thinking about certain topics and to gain insight on how each other views the world and various issues.
If you are taking a solo road trip, maybe use this time to connect with yourself. Going back to podcasts, there are many which focus on things like self-help and dealing with various personal issues.
There are podcasts that focus on spirituality, health, wellness, navigating relationships, coping with pregnancy, and other issues you may be dealing with.
Learn tips on how to manage various issues like overcoming phobias, reducing stress and anxiety, or becoming a better version of yourself.
Eat Away the Boredom
Most of us have a tendency to eat when bored, which is why we’ll likely be continuously grabbing for a snack while on the road during a road trip. Boredom eating acts as a sort of coping mechanism which helps to increase our dopamine to make us feel a bit happier during monotonous drives.
The key to boredom eating while on a road trip is having access to healthy foods instead of resorting to takeaway from fast food restaurants or junk food from the fuel service station.
Great road trip snacks include items like fruits and veges, nuts or nut bars, hard boiled eggs, small yogurts, cheese, and sandwiches. Just remember to pack a cooler with ice or ice packs to keep perishables from going off.
There are also portable fridges, some even with freezers, that are capable of being powered by AC, DC or solar, with many 12v fridges having a power cord that allows them to be plugged into mains power.
Stick to visiting grocery stores during your road trip instead of eating out as this will save money and help you to eat healthier. Seek out scenic picnic areas for mealtimes and stick with non-messy foods for snacking in the car.
Look for snack sized portions in the grocery store or create your own by using ziplocs and portioning out snacks yourself. You can go a step further by separating foods into specific labeled tubs like breakfast, lunch, and snacks in order to locate various items more efficiently.
And if you or your family has any dietary restrictions or preferences, be sure to stock-up on various items like gluten-free, diabetic-friendly, or vegan treats which may be more difficult to locate during a road trip.
Comfort is key to enjoying a road trip. Being confined to a car for long periods isn’t the best form of comfort for many, but there are many ways you can improve things.
It starts with choosing loose fitting clothing during drive days that won’t restrict your movements. You want to wear clothes you can relax in but at the same time something you won’t be afraid to wear in public when it comes to making road trip stops.
Easy slip-on, slip-off shoes are great if you want to give your feet some air as a passenger. You may also want to pack some pillows and blankets to get some rest. Sadly the driver is a bit more restricted when it comes to comfort but you can hopefully do regular driver swaps when road tripping with others.
It may not be a bad idea to get some memory foam seat cushions if you tend to have back troubles. You should also pack a bag or tub full of essential items that you may need regular access to while driving such as tissues, water, chargers for your electronics, etc.
Wearing sunscreen is another good idea, as speaking from experience, you can indeed get sunburn in the car, even through the windows.
You may also notice that your skin tends to dry out on long road trips thanks to blowing ac/heating air vents or air rushing in through open windows. Pack some moisturizer for your face and hands as well as some lip balm.
It’s also a good idea to clean your vehicle before your road trip, wiping down the upholstery and doing a thorough vacuum. Add an air freshener to mask any residual odors.
Remove any nonessential items that will just take up space and try not to overpack. Riding with too much clutter can not only make things very uncomfortable for everyone, it could potentially be unsafe if it creates visibility issues.
Choose Your Drive Time and Routes Carefully
Another important tip for enjoying a more relaxing road trip is to plan your route and drive times carefully. You want to avoid driving in peak traffic times, avoid construction, keep clear of unsealed roads if you are in a low-lying non-4WD vehicle, and stay away from flooded roads.
Some people have a more difficult time driving at night whether it be due to vision troubles or becoming sleepy and nodding off, so if this is the case for you, plan your drive time to avoid driving at night.
You may also want to avoid driving early morning and late evening in instances where the rising or setting sun will be shining directly in your eyes which can be dangerous and cause headaches from trying to stay focused and squinting for long periods.
Keep an eye on the local weather to avoid driving in heavy rain or storms. Have a plan B in place in case weather or other circumstances force you to stay put instead of moving on to your next road trip destination.
If camping, be sure to hit the road early in order to give yourself plenty of time to secure a campsite if you haven’t already done so and get your tent setup. It’s much easier setting up camp and cook dinner while it’s still light out.
You’re more apt to enjoy a successful road trip the more you prepare for it ahead of time. Book in a vehicle check to get an oil change, check your fluids and belts, and that your tires have plenty of tread.
Be sure you have a spare tire and have your vehicle manual so you know how to change it. You may also want to consider signing up for a roadside assist program.
Make sure to book all your hotels or campsites ahead of time to ensure you always have a place to spend the night. Map out where all the local fuel stations and emergency services are.
Have some cash on hand in case fuel stations or other shops don’t accept credit cards or for when you need to pay for parking or tolls. Final tips include having plenty of bottled water in case of a breakdown and getting plenty of sleep before each day’s drive.
Remember to do driver swaps or if driving solo to pull over for a rest stop every few hours to stretch and stay fresh. Lastly, make sure to do one last check of your travel gear to ensure you haven’t forgotten anything.
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