Let’s chat about unique road trip hacks! Recently I went on a very long road trip: from the West Coast of the USA, more specifically Whidbey Island, all the way to the East Coast. That was about 3200 miles (5150 km). I was a bit pressed on time, so I drove the whole distance in 6 days. Beforehand I was nervous. I’m not a friend of long drives at all. I read all there was to read about tips and tricks for road trips. Along the way, and with the help of our wonderful GWT community, I came up with 10 unique road trip hacks that you need to know about, whether you are just driving a shorter distance, stay in hotels at night, or are car camping.
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10 Best and Unique Road Trip Hacks you need to know
1. Use cruise control
This one seems obvious. However, if you, like me, don’t like your car being smart enough to basically drive itself, you may never have tried this out. Using cruise control allows you to keep a constant speed, which limits the amount of fuel your car uses by reducing acceleration and deceleration. It also prevents you from speeding, and those tickets can be quite pricey!
Sounds great, right? Well, it is. It takes some getting used to, but if you use cruise control, it will allow your legs to be quite relaxed, you can stretch them occasionally, and all you have to do is steer the car. I’m lucky enough to have adaptive cruise control in my car. This means that the car will keep a certain distance from the car in front of it, and you don’t even have to break or accelerate. This is also a great safety feature. If you can get used to using cruise control, it will allow you to drive longer distances and arrive at your destination a lot less tired. Before you go, make sure your car is up to date on car maintenance, so your cruise control won’t die along the way.
2. Take care of your eyes
Here’s one of the unique road trip hacks that took me by surprise. Eye strain is a real thing and can be a problem if you are planning to drive long distances. It usually occurs when you stare at your screens for too long, but driving long distances can also fatigue the eye muscles. I made this trip in January, and there was a lot of snow on the ground in some places. One day it was cloudy, and around 10 am I got incredibly tired. I couldn’t figure out why, because I’d had a good night’s sleep, and at least 3 cups of coffee. Finally I pulled out my sunglasses and put them on, and within in a few minutes I started to feel better. Even though the sun wasn’t out, the snow made my surroundings so bright that it strained my eyes.
Tips to avoid eye strain: wear sunglasses if you notice your eyes starting to get tired, even if the sun isn’t out, but make sure it’s safe to do so. i.e. you can still properly make out your surroundings. Make sure to choose no-glare or polarized lenses. These will allow more light to enter the eye and minimize glare coming from the road or other cars. Focus on an object in the distance that’s not moving for a few seconds at a time to give your eye muscles a break from constantly scanning the road.
3. Drive only during daylight hours
The obvious reason is that it’s much easier to see when it’s light out, which leads to less fatigue. You follow your body’s natural rhythm, which makes it a lot easier to stay awake and alert. It’s also more fun! You can take in the beautiful landscape around you, and if you see a great place to stop and explore, it’s much more likely to be open or accessible during the day.
4. Chew gum to stay alert
Here’s another one of these not-so-obvious unique road trip hacks! Chewing gum increases blood flow to your brain, which will wake you right up when you are tired or bored. because let’s face it: driving long distances can be a real bore. Your reaction time while chewing gum can be up to 10% faster, which in turn adds to your safety while driving.
There are a few fancy options out there, for example caffeine gum. Both contain caffeine and more and are especially designed to keep you alert and awake. However, some good old peppermint gum will do the trick just as well. Choose the peppermint flavor over more fruity ones. It is known that the smell of peppermint adds to mental clarity and uplifts your mood. Add gum to your list of road
5. Get fresh air
You may think that this isn’t exactly one of these very unique road trip hacks, because everyone knows that fresh air unclouds your brain. But did you know that cranking up the air in your car doesn’t have the desired effect? The air-conditioned and heater in your car tend to recycle the air inside the car rather than bring in fresh air. It is more effective because it can cool down or heat up much faster than it can when outside air is brought in. Make sure you stop frequently and take some deep, cleansing breaths, or crack open your window from time to time to let some outside air in.
6. Eat small frequent meals
You may not think that one of our unique road trip hacks relates to food. Because, who doesn’t like to try new foods when traveling? That’s some of the appeal of going to new places, after all. But beware! After lunch grogginess is real! If you eat a big meal, especially one that’s loaded with carbohydrates, you can count on being tired afterwards. That’s because a lot of blood flows into your small intestines to help with the digestion, and is not available to keep your brain alert and awake. Therefore it’s much better to eat smaller meals, but you can certainly indulge in a ginormous salad with some protein and not feel sluggish afterwards!
7. Always have snacks and water available
We already talked about the importance of eating small meals rather than having a large feast. Make sure you are stocked up on snacks when driving long distances. One reason you may feel tired is a lack of food. A drop in blood sugar can make you feel tired or, worse if you aren’t alone in the car, hangry. Healthy snacks like protein bars and nuts are preferable, but it’s okay to indulge in sweets occasionally, too.
Water is life! Dehydration can make you feel tired. Don’t just sip away that coffee and sodas. Make sure you get plenty of water as well. While a lot of water will certainly interfere with your driving rhythm because you need to stop more often to find a bathroom, consider that a good opportunity to take advantage of number 5 of the unique road trip hacks and get some fresh air.
8. Buy a back scratcher
This may sound odd, but I’m sure you have felt an itch in some hard to reach place on your back before! Imagine how annoying this would be when you are driving by yourself, with nobody there to help you out? Therefore, buy a back scratcher! But it’s also very useful for something else: using it as a claw to grab things that fall on the floor. The last thing you want to do is bend down and pick it up. You will lose focus, be unable to look at the road, and potentially cause an accident. The back scratcher as part of your safety equipment is one of our most important unique road trip hacks.
9. Call a friend
Most likely you have heard advice such as putting together a fabulous playlist or listen to podcasts or audiobooks to keep you engaged while driving. But you could also use this time to catch up with a friend. We are so busy in our daily lives that often there isn’t enough time to chat with all our loved ones on a regular basis. Use your long road trip to call a friend. For safety’s sake, only do this if you have a way to connect your phone to your car stereo, or you are using a cell phone headset.
Sometimes all the best unique road trip hacks can’t help. If you are really really tired pull over for a catnap. Even if you really want to get some place, safety must come first. Bring a neck pillow along for added comfort.
Ready to hit the road!
Now that you have learned all about these 10 unique road trip hacks and important safety tips for long road trips, you are ready to hit the road! Click here if you want to learn about ways to have a sustainable road trip. Have fun, be safe, and tell us all about the places you visit in the Girls Who Travel Facebook group!
Are you a road trip enthusiast? Check out the best road trips in each region of the US!
Jenny grew up in Germany. All she ever wanted out of life was to leave and have adventures. Jenny always traveled as much as the budget would allow, and when she met her husband traveling became a full-time thing. You can follow Jenny on her blog and Facebook.