How to stay alert and travel efficiently by car for long distances

Some suggestions and tips to help you have the energy, stamina and mental focus when driving long distances (Between 1000-2000 miles) and do it efficiently. Of course, if your primary focus is to get from Point A to Point B with the quickest route, it’s imperative you use the U.S. Interstate Highway System.

Keep the temperature of the car cool, especially when you may start to get a little drowsy. Rolling down the window may be useful from time to time.

Cruise control (CC) enables you to stretch your feet or move your legs around. If you’re not alert or weather conditions are not favorable or you’re not comfortable, don’t use CC.

Eat very little. Especially, earlier in the morning or during the first part of the trip. If you can, don’t eat for the first 3-4 hours of the early morning. Your focus is on safety and speed so a 7 course or a fancy meal can wait until after your long trip.

Stretching exercises at the rest stop or when filling your gas tank can help get the blood to flow throughout the body. This could include squats, stretching from side to side and reaches.

Breathing exercises. 4/16/8 seconds. Inhale 4 seconds, Hold 16 seconds and Exhale 8 seconds. Do these approximately 6 to 10 consecutive times helps to oxygenate your blood and keep you alert. If not possible, do it a few times in a row and wait about 10 minutes and give it another try.

Sometimes, I’ll tap the dashboard repeatedly or tap on my leg to help in heavy traffic. It helps release tension. This might be annoying to passengers although it keeps me relaxed, relieves stress and helps me stay focused.

Remember, a yawn is not necessarily a bad thing. You may be tired or you may just be bored or you’re trying to add oxygen to your body.

Be patient. Bad weather or traffic may only be temporary. There’s always an option to take a break at a rest stop if you’re tired, or if weather, traffic becomes too much and you just need a break.

Deep breaths (to release tension) from time to time when confronting heavy traffic or inclimate weather helps keep you relaxed and focused.

Books on tape, podcasts on a portable MP3 player may help. Informative podcasts can keep your mind occupied from time to time. Integrate music in to the mix helps from time to time helps too. You’ll have to experiment with integrating podcasts and music during your travels. Sometimes, silence is the best approach.

When I get hungry driving, I sometimes snack or eat pretzel rods. However, my goal is not to eat them too fast; again, the long drive is a marathon and not a spring. Usually, I try not to eat more than one every 5 miles. It’s a reward I give myself for driving another 5 miles. It’s merely a game to help me stay engaged and helps pass away the time.

I try to always use my directional, lights and other car accessories to keep my mind in the game. In addition, my goal is to pay attention to the Car Instrument Panel to keep my head in the game. I’m certainly not flying an airplane but it’s serious business so I try to stay mentally focused as much as possible.

Coffee or another caffeine substance. Diet Mountain Dew may help for some time. However, remember, the more you drink, it increases the stops you have to make. Not a long-term solution but this may work in a pinch.

If your seat is adjustable, you can adjust it up and back or side to side. Just a slight adjustment in your seat may provide additional comfort.

I like the idea of using my left directional or keep my directional on when I’m in the passing lane when passing on a two lane Interstate system. I read somewhere (maybe France) that some motorists will keep their left directional on as they pass on the left. That way, those who are following in the same lane know they are merely passing and will only temporarily be in the left lane during their passing process.

Sometimes, Altoids or other hard candy will provide a little pick up if I don’t want to eat a lot of solid food. In addition, licorce comes in handy and so do jolly ranchers.

Limit rest stops, if you must stop down the road due to a passenger needing to use a restroom, feel free to eat a sandwich or drink some liquids a 15-45 minutes before stopping. You might as well make it worthwhile.

Leave early. Early bird gets the worm. When I leave for a long trip, ‘ll leave at 4 am or so. I will put on a few hundred miles before the sun rises in the fall or winter. Some folks traveling are comfortable leaving at 2 am. If you can get in 4-6 hours prior to daylight, 2 am may be useful-especially if you’re traveling well over 1000 miles. By leaving very early, you can have 400 miles under your belt before breakfast and your first stop.

Kevin Schwarm

I have over 25 years of professional experience in business, information technology (IT), and customer service. Industry experience in retail, medical insurance, higher education, non-profit, financial services, and property and casualty insurance. Customer focused professional interested in providing value (save time, money and aggravation) by evaluating and analyzing information, services and products with a unique perspective.