How do you stay awake on a long drive?

By: Nicholas A. TonelliCC BY 2.0
I'm about to embark on a weekend-long road trip. I'll be driving, by myself, for 12 hours both there and back.

I've made the trip before and it sucked, but at least my radio/CD player worked. Now it's busted, and I'm worried about getting tired on the road.

Anyone have any tips on how to keep myself awake without a passenger or tunes? -Cassie

This is a toughie. I'm all about cranking the tunes and singing my guts out on long drives. When I get tired of singing, there's always audio books. But… driving sans radio? Ouch.

I'd recommend driving with the windows down. I also like to have something to munch on while I road trip. Sour Patch Kids for a sugar rush, or I pull over at the next fast food chain and grab the largest french fries they have. And coffee coffee coffee!

But, of course, the number one tip is to always be safe. Pull over and sleep if you feel too tired to go on. Even a cat nap can help a LOT.

Now it's your turn, Homies. How do you make sure to stay awake without a radio on long drives?

  1. This is a tough one for me, since my FIL almost caused a major incident on the freeway about 1 1/2 years ago when he fell asleep behind the wheel. His car didn't make it, fortunately he did and I'm even more grateful he didn't hit anyone.

    Here in the Netherlands our government advices anyone to have (at least) 15 minutes break before driving again after two hours behind the wheel. I do feel a twelve-hour drive is very long, so I would suggest taking at least two hours of break after driving 6 hours. And perhaps you can listen to an ipod with just one earbud in or maybe borrow portable speakers from someone?

    11 agree
    • I would echo this advice, as it's also the official advice here (UK) – you should take a break every two hours.

      Stop somewhere, get a coffee, stretch your legs – this should prevent you from getting too tired.

      If it's possible (it might not be, since you said this was a weekend trip?), it would be even better to drive 6 hours each on two separate days, and stay in a hotel overnight.

      Remember – your safety is *much* more important than getting somewhere quickly or cheaply. Be safe. x

      6 agree
      • I'm in the US and would like to agree with the two people above. Stop, get out of the car and move around whenever you start to feel tired/listless/bored/or anything….

        When I first started driving, I had trouble with my eyes. Even though I wasn't tired mentally or physically, my eyes were tired. I found that if I just pulled over whenever I noticed it, and walked a few laps around my car, I felt much better.

        I also keep munchies so that I'm always moving in the car. Chewing gum, working sunflower seeds, or just moving my hand around from the bag of chips or candies to my mouth kept me moving, and helped me stay alert. (also kept me awake in late night classes/study sessions).

        For me – movement is key. However you achieve it is great – but MOVE!!

        10 agree
        • This is how I ended up as a smoker–long car trips every weekend with mononucleosis and a need to stay awake. Lots of caffeine and cigarettes, to keep me moving and alert. Do not recommend the smoking!!

          0 agree
    • Depending on where you live (notably several states in the US) driving with earbuds in or headphones on is illegal, and you may be pulled over.
      I would instead use some cheap speakers, and use a car plug versus worrying about changing batteries.

      12 agree
      • Yes, there are lots of places where you can get a cheap tiny "stereo" to plug into your ipod, they take 1 double A battery and cost under $10. This is what I used to do in my cassette-playing car (I had only two cassettes), and it lasted for a really long time actually.

        4 agree
      • We've done the power inverter/computer speakers/iPod set up in our cars for both short and long trips for years. Too poor to have real cars or real stereos. Works very well.

        1 agrees
    • "have (at least) 15 minutes break before driving again after two hours behind the wheel"

      For me, there's the temptation when I stop for a break to do things that'll make me even more tired – like eat or take a not-long-enough-to-refresh-me nap. I just read a tip in a recent issue of Runner's World that I'm going to implement on my next road trip (whenever that is). Wear exercise clothes and shoes while driving. When you stop for breaks, do a quick little run. If you're not a runner, do some push-ups or lift a few water bottles as weights. I find after vigorous exercise I'm more energized and alert.

      7 agree
  2. If you have an iPod and a cup holder bring a glass cup with you. Set the iPod in the glass, set the glass in the cup holder, bada-boom – music and podcasts!

    If not, can you bring a buddy along? One thing that keeps me sane is knowing I have someone to talk to and keep alive.

    8 agree
  3. Do you have a smart phone? If so, you can load it up with songs or get an app like Spotify and Pandora and play it through the phone's speakers. It's not the greatest sound quality, but it's better than nothing! Just be sure to bring a car charger.

    3 agree
  4. When I was young I had a car that didn't have a working radio. This was before the days of iPods, so I put a big ol' boom box in the passenger's seat so I could listen to the radio in the car. If you have an mp3 player you could always buy a set of cheap speakers that allow you to hear it better.

    I used to get sleepy during my morning commute all the time. I found that singing loudly helped keep me awake, making me focus and keeping me from getting highway hypnosis.

    11 agree
    • Our first van had no stereo. We used a boombox between the two front seats and it worked for us.

      4 agree
    • I also did this with my first car… I bought a cheap boom box at a thrift store for $10, and bought $10 worth of batteries (though you could use an adaptor too) and put the antannae up… BAM radio. (And much cheaper than an Ipod if you don't have one!)

      0 agree
  5. I absolutely agree with the idea of ipod/smartphone + some sort of speakers if you can hook up a car charger. I also tend to talk out loud when I'm on long trips (6 hours each way is bad enough for me). I talk to myself, I talk to the other cars (not road rage, just chatting), I talk to people on the side of the road, whatever. It keeps me engaged with what's going on, even if I look crazy.

    10 agree
  6. I've been known to slap myself in the face really hard if I find myself getting tired on roadtrips… I don't know if I'd actually recommend it though…

    I had a set of little computer speakers and I bought one of those adapters that plugs into the lighter and then you can plug standard electronics into it that I used for a while. Just make sure to turn your car on, then plug it in. I've blown some fuses! Then I could just plug my ipod into the speakers. At one point I had the speakers duct taped to my dashboard. Classy, but better for surround sound!

    3 agree
    • ha! I've also slapped myself hard in the face to stay awake…ouch! but effective!

      2 agree
  7. I know the player is busted, but a smart phone with only one ear bud in (or preferably a portable plug-in speaker) and:

    Books on Tape!

    Seriously, 9 hour drive to and from college 3 x a year… Good readers are a lot of fun (James Marsters is a amazing at reading: the Dresden Files and the Vampire Empire. David Tennant even has several books he has performed).

    A book on tape (CD/Audible account played through Smart Phone) is good enough to keep your mind active, but not distracting, like actual, physical reading.

    5 agree
    • Even one ear bud is illegal in a lot of places, at least in the US. If you're going to do that, do your research!

      3 agree
      • This is a year old, so you should double check, but it shows the laws in all the states (I always just use one, even if two are legal for safety reasons).

        http://img.gawkerassets.com/post/17/2012/04/infograpgic_final_2.jpg

        And yes, audiobooks have been a lifesaver for me on many long drives. I've found it occupies my mind enough to keep me awake without distracting me from driving (although occasionally after a strenuous section of road/traffic/weather I've noticed I'll have to rewind because my brain will ignore it if attention is needed elsewhere).

        0 agree
  8. Have plenty of snacks. I like licorice, m&ms, chips. Anything that comes in little pieces and is munchy. A trip I used in college but can easily be adapted to road tripping is to chew gum.
    I also like to play the alphabet game (where you find the letters on billboards or licsense plates in orders A, B, C…) when I'm going to be in the car by myself for a long time. It occupies a second track in your mind and keeps the boredom from getting to you.
    Every time to stop spend at least 5-10 minutes standing up/moving around. Take a bathroom break, go for a mini walk, do some yoga, something.
    Have fun and good luck

    3 agree
  9. Depending on where you're driving this time of year, I recommend keeping the temperature slightly cooler than you'd like. I find that if I start to get comfortably warm, I feel more like dozing off. Keeping it slightly cool helps me stay alert. I've even rolled the windows down in the winter, after I ran the heat too much.

    17 agree
    • I was going to suggest exactly this because I do the same thing, but I just learned that my boyfriend gets sleepy when it's cool. Go figure.

      2 agree
      • I'm like your boyfriend. Cold makes my brain think it is curl-up-sleepy time. So does warm though. I'm pretty sure my brain just likes sleepy time ;)

        1 agrees
  10. My favorite long-car-ride snack is baby carrots. They are sweet and crunchy and don't make you feel as guilty about eating the whole bag.

    9 agree
    • This is especially good since sugary stuff can also make you sleepy (after the sugar rush). Also, I think crunchy is always good. ;-)

      1 agrees
  11. Music and stops.

    I have an MP3 player which I either have in one ear or connected to the radio via a 3.5in jack cable. ipod/walkman/mp3 player

    Stops to go to the loo, walk round, food etc.

    0 agree
  12. At least once a year, my kids and I road trip from Texas to Virginia. It's about 20 hours, which we do in 2 days. My trick, being the only driver, is to stop whenever I or the kids want or need to. Sometimes that means stopping for gas and then at a rest area 30 minutes later, then for food shortly after that. Takes longer, but we're much happier and safer at the end of the trip. Most of the time, just getting out of the car for even 2-3 minutes is sufficient to wake me up enough to keep driving. Apart from that, I agree with the mp3 suggestions, if you have a way to do it. Have fun!

    3 agree
    • I once drove straight through from North Carolina to Texas (about 18 hours) with two friends. We took turns driving, navigating and sleeping, which helped, but we also stopped A LOT. We didn't exactly plan to, but we wanted to stop at every state's welcome center to get a picture with the sign. Then, sometimes we'd have to stop thirty minutes later for gas, and in another hour for bathroom or snacks, and then we'd be in another state… you get the idea. It certainly helped to keep it from feeling too long.

      1 agrees
  13. I make up games to go with each station and keep score along the way. For example, if I'm on the country station then I give myself a point every time they say dirt road, America, mention any sort of alcohol, dogs, memories, Jesus, breaking up, etc. You can make up different rules for different genres but I live in the south and sometimes when traveling all I can find is country stations so that's why I picked that one.

    I also find that listening to heavy metal keeps me awake when I'm starting to really get tired and turning on Duran Duran is never a bad idea.

    1 agrees
  14. Those 5 Hour Energy drinks really do work. I take a sip when needed, I don't down the whole thing. I don't like coffee, and I don't like most caffinated sodas, so this is my option for caffine.

    I agree with putting the iPod in a cup. My step-daughter puts her in a bowl in the bathroom when she showers, and it works as a great magnifier. Good luck!

    4 agree
  15. My dad would always get a huge bag of carrot sticks for long drives, and he'd keep them in a cooler so they were super chilled when he needed them. He said the natural sugars were better than candy for a sugar rush and it was hard to be sleepy with all that crunching, ha ha. I haven't needed the advice so much since I'm usually a passenger but I hope it helps!

    5 agree
    • Another portable healthy snack is grapes. The initial sugar rush from candy helps, but then you crash. I also do better with "slow release" sugar from fruits, etc. And no apple cores or banana peels to deal with.

      I would also park at the end of the parking lot at rest stops and jog/skip/do jumping jacks. Anything to get your heart rate up!

      3 agree
      • Grapes can also be frozen before the trip starts, and so you can use them instead of ice to keep a cooler cold – plus they are a great snack!

        3 agree
  16. If you can pull over every so often and do some jumping jacks and stretch that will help keep you alert. Also use your phone alarm to take 20-30 minute power naps in a safe pull off area. Be safe.

    2 agree
  17. ah, i have done many 12+ hour long driving days…

    i always have snacks, and specifically sugary snacks. its bad, i know, but the sugar will give you a jolt. dont eat full meals that day, just munch on your snacks. i like chocolate covered pretzels, trail mix, apples, and chips.

    then, have your phone available and someone to call. even with music, i would start to doze off sometimes, and i just needed someone to talk to me and give me some more energy. to me that works better then music anyway.

    yes, keep yourself cool.

    and yes, of course, coffee.

    BUT i would wait until you actually get tired before you do any of this stuff, doing that has also helped me. if you start driving at 5 am, once you eat you will probably be ok until about 1. so then you get tired? eat some sugar and crank your AC. that'll sustain you for a little while longer. then, get sleepy again? get some coffee. again? call up your friend. hopefully by then you will have made it.

    4 agree
    • I like having people to call, but I really like having people call me at different intervals. If you have a few friends who are willing to call you at a specific point along your trip, it gives you something to look forward to. Plus, if you set your ringer extra loud, when someone calls you it'll give you a surprise jolt (sometimes I will set my default ringer to something especially obnoxious during my trip to maximize that effect). When asking people to check in with me, I tend to remember to keep my phone charged better and am better able to keep myself awake longer… because I don't want to worry them by not answering! This is also a good safety precaution. Either promise someone you will call them at specific intervals (for me this is too easy to forget & I have to set a cellphone alarm to remind me when it's time to call) or ask a few people to call you (for me this is more fun).

      3 agree
      • I drive home 17 hours every year for Christmas. I do the trip there in one, long haul and the trip back in two, shorter jumps. I set up a schedule of people agree to call me/be available for me to call at different times of the day on the trip there, and I make sure someone is always available after dark (the hardest time for me). Just make sure your phone is well charged!

        1 agrees
  18. I echo the phone / MP3 player comments. Audio books, podcasts of all the NPR weekend shows, and singing at the top of my lungs have kept me alive on many a cross country trip. Pull off and take a nap any time you feel sleepy – NEVER fight sleep, instead pull off immediately and nap! Also, when you do stop, try to walk around for at least 15 minutes, even if it means looking like a crazy person circling the parking lot.

    1 agrees
  19. 1. Get out & run around the car like a crazy person. Or rest stop. Or parking lot. Getting your heartrate up and doing something goofy will give you a burst of energy.
    2. Sometimes I like to turn the radio off and just think about something, whether it's writing a story, planning a vacation or solving a problem. Maybe take a list of thinking points to keep yourself busy.
    3. Depending on your route, phone a friend. I'm from out west and when you can see for miles, there's little traffic and it's hundreds of miles of open road, I think a 15 min chat can really wake a person up.
    4. Be a tourist. Stop at gawking spots, towns with weird names and roadside attractions and take pictures. Sometimes I like traveling alone because nobody knows all the corny places I stopped. Plan some in advance. It's easier to stay awake an hour at a time than twelve.
    5. Use one earbud & listen to music anyway. Not too much different than using a hands-free device for talking on the phone.

    1 agrees
  20. 1. Find some way to get music. The above suggestions are good ones.
    2. Some people find that audiobooks help them; I find that they put me to sleep. Fair warning about them.
    3. If you drink caffeine, try to wean yourself from it before the trip so it'll work better on the trip.
    4. Nap. Whenever you feel tired, pull to a parking lot (not too empty!) and take a nap until you wake up. You can also try for 15 minute naps, but I don't know how well that would work in a longer drive–I usually only do those for my former hour commute.
    5. Schedule phone calls! If you have people you know you can call, then you can be distracted by conversation. I have friends who would just talk me through my long, late commute drives.
    6. Keep the temperature colder than you'd like it–there's nothing that will keep you awake like shivering.

    1 agrees
    • Also, if you drink caffeine, don't forget to couple it with water. Caffeine will slowly dehydrate you, and after several hours this makes me feel weirdly hungover and tired if I haven't been drinking enough water. If I liked Gatorade or sports drinks, that would probably also be a good thing to drink with caffeine, because they've got some sugar content to them along with added vitamins… but Gatorade tastes like melted jello to me, so I stick with water. :)

      1 agrees
      • But melted jello is the most delicious cold remedy ever! I heart hot jello.

        0 agree
  21. If this hasn't been said yet: what about a battery operated radio/cd player? It can hang out on your passenger seat. I second having stuff to munch on. I used to make long trips all the time, and sometimes having a bag of candy or munches was a savior. Or if you have a blue tooth/hands free thingie, maybe call some people during the trip to just keep occupied and alert. Good luck!

    0 agree
  22. Here are my votes:
    – Keep cooler than comfortable
    – Music you can sing to because the physical act of singing means you're not just passively listening but actively doing something, thus less likely to fall asleep
    – snacks because again you're physically doing something. Plus eating sort of fires your body back up
    – Drink of choice. I don't drink coffee and don't like energy drinks. So I tend to go with soda and water and tea.
    – Know your own personal awake times. I know that afternoons get sketchy for me. I want to sleep in the afternoon if I'm driving around sunset. I'm worse after dark. So I try hard to get a move on earlier so I won't be driving during the time I'm most likely to be sleepy.

    2 agree
    • That's a very good idea about getting started early to try to avoid "sleepy times" – thanks!

      1 agrees
    • I second getting started early. Most of us are awake 14-16 hours a day anyway, so getting started right after a good night's sleep makes it easier to stay awake for the whole drive. When I was moving across the country, my dad and I usually got 600-700 miles in a day, over the course of 12-14 hours. (That doesn't sound like much, but we stopped for full meals three times a day, twice for gas though one of those might be a meal time, the welcome rest stops for hotel coupons and a stretch, and couldn't go much faster than 60mph because of the extra weight on my car and the bad aerodynamics of the car topper.) We pretty much just stopped whenever he got tired at the end of the day, since he preferred to do all the driving. At least he had me to talk to, though. I know he still dealt with road hypnosis sometimes if I was napping or we were just having a lull in conversation. He also said that listening to my crazy pop music really helped him stay awake, which I thought was funny. We listened to a LOT of Hanson and Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys but I don't think I was supposed to tell anyone that ;)

      0 agree
  23. I would echo the baby carrots and grapes – easy/tidy to eat, and more refreshing than candy. Also, almonds. Drink lots of water/your choice of beverage. Its good for you and forces you to take pee breaks. We have a jam box which is small, rechargeable, has decent sound, is portable and plays from anything that has Bluetooth.

    2 agree
  24. I employ lots of these suggestions!

    I like to stay hydrated with water, which reminds me to stop frequently at rest stops to pee, walk around, and stretch for several minutes. I also often take a cat nap at a rest stop–after I pee and stretch and before I drive off again. (I do another set of walks/stretches after the cat nap to get me feeling loose and limber.) I'm a champ cat napper, but if you're not great at cap napping, set an alarm on your phone for 20 or 30 minutes after you lie down and it'll get you up.

    Obviously make sure you stop someplace safe, well-lit, and populated and lock your doors if you decide to cat nap! I nap in the back seat or else just recline the driver's seat and snooze. Even if you don't sleep, closing your eyes and doing some relaxing deep breathing will feel restful.

    I avoid heavy meals and too much carbo-loading/sugar as it tends to make me sleepy. Grapes and berries are a great, portable snack, as are carrots and celery sticks, as they are all easy to eat while driving. Though of course it's best to eat when you're stopped.

    I like it to be cool so that I don't get warm and snuggly and doze off.

    And I also suggest the portable speakers idea, for music and books-on-tape. Try some energetic and fun upbeat stuff, both in terms of music and books.

    If you worry that you'll get into driver-trance and forget to stop frequently, set a timer or alarm on your phone to go off every two hours to remind you to stop. I find that it's easy to get into a zone when you're making good time and you don't want to stop, but it's definitely better to make too many stops than too few. Safety first.

    Happy trails!

    1 agrees
  25. K, so I talk on the phone on long drives…. I know, I know. But if you put it on speaker and then tuck the phone in your bra strap near your shoulder, its technically "hands free" so that's my recommendation.

    2 agree
  26. I regularly do 9 hour drives, pretty much straight through (I stop once to get lunch and fill up on gas).

    What I do is pretend that I'm vlogging. I really like some vloggers on youtube and I talk to myself as if I was making a vlog about whatever subject I feel like talking about.

    6 agree
    • Ha! That's fantastic. I think next time I'll try practicing my standup comedy routine!

      0 agree
  27. I count wildlife. For example, I had a long distance relationship in college and when I would go visit, I would have to drive through hours of boring rice fields, so I made a game of counting the hawks as I passed through. It kept me pretty engaged, especially when there weren't other cars around.

    1 agrees
    • Yeah, I was going to suggest this too. Or playing the "license plate game" where you try and find all 50. That one's hard!

      0 agree
  28. (First- What everybody else said is a total thumbs up from me. I won't reiterate if I can avoid it)
    PLAN: Try to drive during hours that will work best for you. That might mean being consistent with your natural schedule, or driving exclusively in daylight. Daylight is physiologically the best, though I personally prefer overnight drives to avoid traffic, since that can cut down the length of the drive. (Although I have a fairly high sleep-dep tolerance and usually have a buddy with me)

    KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS. 'nuff said. Frequent breaks, food, rest, etc. etc.

    EAT: Think nutritionally. Chocolate and peanut butter are actually a great combo – caffeine, sugar and protein take turns keeping you up. Rather than eating meals, bring things in small units to munch on all day. That way you don't feel full enough to be sleepy, AND the act of eating itself is a physical action to help you keep conscious. I had a friend who always ate sunflower seeds on long drives.They're high in protein and little and fiddly to help stay awake. Trail mix is called *trail* mix for a reason.

    DRINK: Stay hydrated. "A hydrated scout is a happy scout. A dehydrated scout is a dead scout, and dead scouts have no fun." This is especaially important if you are prone to headaches, since a headache is likely to take you out and make you sleepy.

    TALK: Ttake along a tape recorder (Uh, voice recorder? I dunno what people record on these days.) and make lists for yourself, or work on your novel. Practice songs. Csll somebody. Call several somebodies and catch up. Be aware of phone laws in the states through which you'll be traveling, and maybe get a hands-free setup. Just keep waggin' your jaw.

    AROMATHERAPY: Fill your car with scents that promote wakefulness, or at least avoid "Sleepy" smells. Lavender and Camomile are not your friends in this situation. Peppermint and citrus are usually helpful. You don't have to buy candles or incense, just get peppermint and or orange extract, or grab a lemon and squash or scratch at the skin now and then.

    MORE EXTREME MEASURES: (Many of which I have employed)

    OVERDO IT ON THE AC: Being cold can help, BUT be aware of your tolerance – for some people cold can make things worse. It can cause pain, which can make you more likely to d=get sleepy later in the drive. For me, windows are actually better, since it's gusty as well as cool.

    DON'T PEE. Wait, what? Try to hold it for a long while (Not so long that it hurts or that your kidneys explode) But having to pee does keep you awake, and for the last leg of a drive it can REALLY keep you awake, since there will be urgent and pressing reason to arrive on time.

    GET WET: (tee-hee) Keep a plant mister in the car. Spritz yourself with it if you start to get tired. If you can fill it with ice water, even better. (this can work as a combo with "don't pee") Consider addin a touch of peppermint extract (but be careful not to get it in your eyes.) The scent (And the sting of menthol) will help you stay awake.

    FREAK OUT YOUR MOUTH: Swig hot sauce. (Know your limits!!!) Eat horseradish. Bite a whole lemon. Bite a whole raw onion. You could also try putting a drop of the peppermint extract on your tongue, though I can't vouch for this one, as I haven't tried it.

    PAIN:If it gets REALLY bad, LAST RESORT ONLY, and you just need to stay awake long enough to get off the highway and pull over, pain does work. I bite my fingers and knuckles. I know one friend who would pinch the inner thigh as hard as possible. Another friend bites her tongue or pulls on her ears. Do NOT use these methods unless ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY TO NOT DIE.

    6 agree
    • The not peeing one works well for me. I'm not holding it to get an infection, but I definitely push the limit of comforts to get 5 more miles, and then another 5, and then another exit, and then another clump of grass. I managed to solo road-trip with my kid and push myself an extra hour (because stopping to pee with a sleeping toddler in the back is just annoying…having to wake them up to go inside the rest area…).

      1 agrees
  29. I make a 13.5 hour drive to GA and back to NJ 2x a year. How one drives that long without music or a co-pilot is beyond me. I do my driving with funny audiobooks (Molly Harper's whole catalog and Stephanie Bond's Body Movers series are go to for me). Stopping for meals that are carb-light to counter the snacks in the car and keeping hydrated with H2O are must-dos. Having to stop to pee is good for your blood-flow and energy levels. Last year, the Hubs and I spent several hours laughing over unique/inappropriate children's names for our non-existent offspring. Basically it was any word + last name = stupid laughs. We joke his last name is so plain (Thomas) that lil' Genome Anemone Thomas and Zoot-Suit Cowboy Thomas had to stand out somehow. (or take my last name, the argument is never-ending :])

    1 agrees
  30. Seriously, find a passenger (or more than one) who can share the ride with you. There are plenty of website with that kind of services. They can pay for a portion of the gas and can even drive your car for a while if you want it. My granma uses services like this to visit us (only a 3 hours drive, but still a bit too much for an old lady) and it's perfect.

    0 agree
  31. These are all great suggestions! To add to the listen-to list: Comedians! A lot of comedians have audio versions of their shows available, which are great for long car/plane/train trips – actually, even better in the car so you don't get weird looks when you start laughing so hard you're crying.

    We used to do a lunch break every 3 hours during our frequent 6-hour trips to Iowa as a kid. See if there are any interesting or historical places for lunch along the way or even check out http://www.flavortownusa.com/states to see if any of the awesome DDD places are en route.

    Good luck!

    3 agree
  32. I find that drinking a lot of water helps. I usually bring a Camelbak Groove (with the built-in filter, so you don't have to worry about weird rest stop water that tastes like plastic hosing….or is that just me?) on long car trips (regularly drove 9 hours during college and have done 14 hrs, solo, more than once).

    If you're drinking a lot of water & coffee, you're staying awake and you have to pull over fairly regularly to go to the bathroom. It's a nice biological reminder to get up, stretch, refill your beverages, and move along. Plus, it could just be me, but you can't fall asleep if you have to pee!

    Plus, I just talk or sing to myself! I make up stories about things I see, play the alphabet game, count up/down by an odd number (like 7), sing songs without the radio (I have quite the show tune repertoire), try to recount book plots….you're alone and no one outside your car knows your radio doesn't work, so belt out Bohemian Rhapsody and make Freddie Mercury proud!

    1 agrees
  33. Oh! As someone who recently roadtripped from Fayetteville, AK to New Orleans, I have advice! My roadtrips consist of a few essentials:
    1. Bathroom breaks every 2-3 hours. Or power-nap breaks every 6-8 hours (no more than 20 minutes of nap).
    2. Music or books on tape. I agree with the above suggestion of putting your mp3 player into a glass for a cheap speaker system.
    3. Mint gum or strong mint-scented item. Mint helps keep you awake! You could also chew on some peppermint candies.
    4. Carrot sticks, pre-cut apples (dose them with lime or lemon juice to keep you awake and keep them from browning), giant water bottles with flip-up lids, grapes, and brownies. Also a cooler with more lunchtime-related food, like sandwiches, wraps, etc. to eat when you stop
    5. Cold-as-ice car. I find that if I'm uncomfortable, I am way more likely to stay alert while driving.
    6. Pilot/police-scanning technique. My dad (former cop) told me about this one: while you drive, constantly scan all of your mirrors, blind spots, and front view. This not only keeps your mind and eyes alert and away from highway hypnosis, but can alert you to potential problems on the road (like an oncoming car that's weaving).
    7. Talking to yourself, but not people on the phone. I know it might be tempting to fill up empty time by chatting on the phone, but driving while talking on the phone is seriously distracting. Your eyes tend to look in the same spot, and unlike having a passenger talking to you, the person on the phone is completely unaware of your driving conditions.
    8. Coffee/soda, but only in the last leg of your trip. You don't want a caffeine crash 6 hours into your drive.

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  34. I agree with everyone who suggested exercise – anytime you get a bit sleepy, get your heart rate up with some running, jumping jacks, etc. There comes a point when caffeine won't help, and that's when you need to engage your body. In my experience, you can't be half-hearted about this if you want it to work – sprint across the parking lot or around the car, try to beat your own record for number of jumping jacks in a minute but really push yourself.

    Also helpful, keep a cup of ice next to you to munch while you drive. It's hard to sleep if you have to pee!

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  35. For the past year, I've lived 11 hours away from my parents and I definitely had to learn how to cope with the distance!
    -Music becomes a lullaby no matter what after time, so if you have a smart phone, get a car charger and hook that baby up, prop your phone somewhere safe with the volume up, and listen to podcasts! They are seriously the only way I haven't gone crazy on trips home and back yet.
    -Stop every three-five hours (or if you're feeling zombie-like, sooner) to stretch and take a mini walk around, even if it's just around your car. I do leg and back stretches because that's what gets achy for me.
    -If you're getting tired and can't stop to take a power nap in the car at a rest stop, swish cold water around in your mouth every now and again. I swear it works!
    -Keep hydrated with water (avoid sugary drinks which will make you crash unless you're in that final stretch), but at the same time, don't overdo it so that you have to stop every hour to go to the bathroom! :)

    Also, could you buy a small, cheap CD player or iHome dock to put batteries in and sit on the seat next to you?

    I hope that helps! Good luck!

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  36. This sounds counterintuitive I know, buy if you are in need of a power nap, the best thing is to drink coffee/tea/other caffeine laden beverage and then take a 20 -30 minute nap. When you wake up the caffeine will have hit your system and you'll be ready to go.

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    • so true. in fact i'm about to do just this.

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  37. I talk to myself. Whether its commenting on the things I see, telling myself a story, thinking about what i'm going to do, just speaking my thoughts out loud really help me.

    Bring a cooler with a whole bunch of different food shapes and textures- crunchy, soft, cold, sweet, tart, and reach in and grab the food without looking at it. Figure out what it is. It's an easy mental game to keep you aware.

    I also stop a lot. Small towns with funny names, rest stops, whatever. There's no shame in stopping a lot, and getting up and stretching and looking around. There's also no shame in a half way nap. I was driving from Alberta to North Dakota (about 14 hours total), and I stopped after 3, 6 and 9 hours to have a quick nap in my back seat. It made me feel good, and it turned my driving into couple hour breaks ("only got an hour till I get to my desintation of Sleep Town!") instead of one super long trip

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  38. I agree with the past comment about looking up kitchy places to stop along the way. My husband's family lives in Idaho and we do the 12-hour California to Idaho drive a few times a year. After the 8th or 9th time, it gets a bit dull.

    A lot of people have been suggesting ways to play music. This is a bit unorthodox, but one thing I would suggest is music in a foreign language that you have familiarity with. Perhaps one that you studied in high school or college. I find that when I want to pass time in difficult places (like at the dentist or on a long drive), I can keep myself awake and relaxed by listening to Japanese pop music. I can understand a sentence here and there, and trying to figure out what is being said actually keeps my mind active and alert.

    Music from other countries sounds different in tempo, intonation and instrumentation. Some countries do not use rhyming, so sentences and the overall tone sounds different too. These subtle changes keep part of my brain working.

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  39. I use most of the same suggestions here: lot of snacks, good music, window partly down.

    Definitely plan in extra time to take real breaks out of the car. If you're on a tight timeline you'll rush yourself and potentially put yourself in harm's way. Give yourself plenty of time so that you can take breaks when you need to and address any crises (storms, car trouble) without it making you rush the tail end of the drive. If you're getting a meal, eat it in the restaurant (or outdoors) instead of hitting up the drive-through. Have little destinations along the way that you can look forward to stopping at, or stop at things that look interesting. Walk laps around the parking lot at the gas station, or browse every single aisle in the convenience store. Find a city park for a quick stroll.

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  40. We did a (much) longer drive in the dead of winter a couple months ago. I am not old enough to drive a rental car (and I'm a late starter, so I'm *really* not supposed to drive them because I'm still technically a "learner" at 22) so my husband drove the whole way. It was supposed to be a 15 hour drive. It ended up being more like 18. We drove until 4am, including through a thick white-out fog for over an hour. We didn't have the option of stopping if we got tired, as the last stretch was farms farms farms, no hotels at all. Dead of winter means you can't really nap in your car on the side of the road, or you'll be in more danger than if you kept driving.
    Of course, now it's June so if you are really getting tired set an alarm on your phone and take a nap.

    He's NOT a coffee drinker, not even occasionally, but we got him some near the end of the trip. It seemed to do its trick pretty well.
    One tip might be, if you normally drink coffee DON'T drink it for maybe 2 weeks before a trip, and the caffeine will hit you harder than if you had been drinking it before the trip ;)

    Buy, borrow, or ? rent (do rental furniture placed have these?) a portable stereo, and make sure you've got extra batteries for it. The dollar store sells batteries and ikea has a fairly reasonably priced pack too. If you don't have enough batteries to last the whole trip, save it until you need it. Bring your fastest songs.

    Eat food that is good at giving you energy: proteins like nuts etc.

    Save all your caffeinated beverages until *After* you start getting a little tired. Maybe bring an in-case-of-emergency actual energy drink to have if you're in the last stretch and getting drowsy.

    Talk to yourself to keep yourself alert. Make lists of things you want to do, or grocery lists, or just name everything you drive by. Create a verbal fanfiction. Whatever. Say words.

    If you're pulling over to get gas and caffeine, pour some water from a bottle into your hands and put it on yourself including your face. If it's late enough there should be a coolness to the air and it will wake you up. You can also do that and then turn the AC way up to chill you. In fact, keep your car cold once you're tired, because that keeps you more awake than warmth.

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  41. I LITERALLY got in the house an hour ago from an 8-hour drive from Toronto. I've done 13 hours by myself before, so long drives are right up my alley (I truly love them).

    I would recommend getting a portable speaker system for your mp3 player of choice. This works on a couple fronts:
    (1)some of them come with remotes so you won't have to futz around and take your eyes off the road
    (2)you still will have something to listen to
    (3)replacing batteries/charging the player will give you built-in breaks where you get to stretch and walk around.

    As for what to listen to? I tend to get very bored with music after about an hour or two. So, I've taken to podcasts for hours and hour when on long trips. I'll download the last several months of The Moth for several hours of listening. NPR has some great podcasts, too, to keep you listening to something interesting.

    I just started downloading the TED radio hour, which can be really nice if you want something to think about while also driving down the road.

    I do recommend taking a break about every 2 hours like everyone else, though. It's nice, at the very least, to make sure you don't get Road Hypnosis which can be SUPER easy to get in some places in the States.

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  42. when you think that the alternative might be falling asleep & killing a whole family of people, just take a nap. nothing bad happens in that case.

    if you are wide awake, sure grab a coffee. but if you get even a little sleepy, pull over to a well lit, safe place, set your alarm on your cell phone & nap for 20 minutes at least. when you wake up, get out, walk around a little & you'll be fine.

    i used to have to do this all the time b/c i had really tiring hours working on computers all day. & by the time i got about 40 min from home, i got soooo tired. 20 min isn't gonna make a big diff if i take it. might make a big diff if don't.

    long story short. not worth it.

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  43. Just tagging something on to the power nap advice.

    1) Keep actual sleeping time under 20 minutes (allow 5 to fall asleep). Otherwise you may wake up in the middle of a REM cycle and feel worse than you did before hand. If you need a proper sleep then set your alarm for 90 minutes later (one REM cycle)

    2) Nap someplace busy. The secluded end of a quiet rest stop seems tempting, but it's a good place for bad guys to rob you. A Walmart or truck stop parking lot are better choices. People are there 24 hours, security cameras are everywhere, and they're generally pretty tolerant of people sleeping there.

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  44. Lots of good suggestions here, but I have one more. 12-hour Sudafed. I never take the stuff, but it will keep you awake and alert on a long drive.

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  45. I have done a LOT of road tripping in the past. I also used to work for a long-haul cab company that didn't really care how much sleep I got. My best tips for driving would be music blasting, rolling down the windows, and jolly ranchers. I used to go through a lot of areas without radio reception so I would load my cell phone up with music, plug it into the car charger and play music via the cell phone speaker. I would also roll my windows down because having the breeze blowing in your face can be very refreshing. My mom used to always suck on card candies, like jolly ranchers, when we had long road trips as a kid.
    Hope this helps!

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  46. I'll second what a lot of people have said. I just did a 14 hour road trip each way (while 5 months pregnant) by myself and not only was I uncomfortable but staying awake and alert was my primary concern.

    Singing at the top of my lungs and listening to comedy cds kept me sane. Luckily I had to regular stop to pee which also kept me alert. But munching on snacks (especially chips, carrots, and other "loud" foods) kept me focused. Good luck! I can totally feel your pain.

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  47. Because I can't drink coffee (or really anyhitng with caffeine due to a heart condition I've had to make and think of alternative ways to stay awake since I'm often on long drives and the only driver. My mother taught me a method that she uses but it gets a little…. bleh after a while- you slap your leg. I only do this in the most extreme situations and only when I know I've only got maybe another ten-twenty minutes to my destination. Pulling over and doing jumping jacks really helps.
    Make sure that you never leave tired. (that is just ASKING for trouble) If you ARE tired then jumping jacks before you start and frequently along your trip are a good idea. (or if you travel late at night to avoid traffic like I do- sprinting empty parking lots is also good.)

    Butt wiggles and singing/talking to yourself are some of my other tips. By butt wiggles I mean- sing a song and try to flex your cheeks in time to the song (or hum a known tune and try to match the beat) I know it totally sounds silly but it engages your mind and helps you stay active enough that you don't fall asleep.

    Gum helps (I find that blowing bubbles can keep me engaged enough to not fall asleep.)

    If all else fails- a small 15-30min nap can mean the world of difference.

    Remember- don't drive with headphones no matter how tempted you are. That would be extremely dangerous and is illegal for the most part. (only one ear can be covered)

    Good luck on your trip!

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  48. I echo the mp3 player with speakers, which I used to use in my old car when my radio got stolen.

    I like to break up the trip into legs so that when I'm driving, the goal is 3 hours, not 7. If you're a foodie, you can look up sites like FlavortownUSA.com for some of the great eateries on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. For the Great American Road Trip feel, if you check out RoadTrip America.com it can help you find some interesting kitsch on the way. Triple A has a Trip Tik Planner app, too.

    Lastly, if you let your IG / Twitter or FB friends know you're en route, you may score a lunch or dinner date with a new friend (of course, use your Spidey Sense so you don't get creepstered.) That's always something nice to look forward to to break up the monotony.

    Have fun storming the castle and be safe!!

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  49. An energy drink (the least disgusting flavor you can find), sipped slowly over time.

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  50. When we do the drive down south (New Zealand so always starts with a 3 hour ferry crossing) we scheduled breaks, make sure we eat light healthy foods often to keep our energy levels up without massive sugar spikes or carby tiredness and drink a lot of water and coffee. We make sure we have a good mix of really upbeat driving music (can't fall asleep with skrillex blaring at you) keep the car a little cooler than usual and always stop for a 20 min nap if needed. We also play eye spy and 20 questions when we run out of things to talk about lol.

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  51. My car has a radio, but no tape or CD player, so I bought usb powered speakers, and I plug them into my ipod, then I bought a usb adapter that plugs into my car's cigarette lighter, and voila portable sound. I also have a wireless speaker that holds a charge after being charged via usb which is great because then you don't have to deal with cords all the time, just while it charges.

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  52. Ring Pops!

    I have travelled many 15 hour+ trips by my self and this is the best tip I have. Not only are they sugary but they make me smile so it makes the trip a little better.

    PLUS nothing makes me feel like more of a baller then having a huge 'diamond' on my finger :)

    Have a great trip

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  53. Talk radio! Stitcher! Books on tape! Music gets too repetitive and lullaby-ish to me. I listen to a lot of This American Life and Savage Love podcasts. Radiolab. Freakanomics. It's goood.

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  54. 1. Water- even better if you have a water bottle with a straw so you don't have to tilt your head back. Cold water keeps you refreshed, you aren't eating a bunch of food, you can get more pretty much anywhere, and YOU'LL HAVE TO PEE EVERY HOUR! (either a distracting thing in of itself or a good reason to stop the car.) Maybe make a game of it and take pictures of all the ridiculous places you've had to pee on your road trip.
    2. Wint'O'Green Lifesavers- They're one of the few candies that aren't a rip off in gas stations. You get a whole bunch of um for about $3, and you can play games with yourself by making them last until the next town, or only allowing yourself to get a new one on mile markers divisible by 3 or something. Plus, delicious.
    3. Make up songs about your surroundings: "I'm driiiiiiiving, driiiiiiving through Kentuckey!"

    This is all from the person who drove 9 1/2 hrs with only a whale song CD and a busted radio. Yes, I sang along to that whale song.

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  55. I used to drive 3-4 hrs to see my bf and sometimes the radio just wouldn't help out. I would pull over and do 10-20 jumping jacks on the side of the road. I'm sure I got weird looks but it woke me up and helped me keep going.

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