9 Road Trip Tips For a Safe and Comfortable Drive

Family riding in car with woman's hand out the window

When you’re planning a road trip, make sure you account for these road trips tips so you can get to your destination safely and comfortably.

You need to plan in advance for your road trip and we’re not just talking about packing. “Highway hypnosis” is quite common when travelers haven’t prepared for the endurance demands of an extended haul. In fact, more than 60 percent of drivers say they’ve gotten behind the wheel while drowsy, according to a survey by mattress retailer Sleepy’s.

With that statistic in mind, you should take steps to prepare for long drives before you get behind the wheel—and to stay alert and energized throughout your trip. These tips for long drives will help you down the road.

1. Get plenty of sleep before your drive

Think about exhaustion before you begin your journey, not after. Get at least seven hours of sleep for two consecutive nights before the road trip to build up your energy reserves. It’s best to start in the morning after a good night’s sleep, not after a long, tiring day of work (unless you plan to stop). Take regular breaks along the way to stay fresh and alert, stopping roughly every 100 miles or two hours. “Also, try to avoid driving between 1 and 3 p.m., when the body’s temperature is lower and people are naturally drowsy,” says The Sleep Doctor, Dr. Michael Breus.

2. Bring healthy road trip snacks

Carrying along a variety of vitamin-packed, healthy foods will allow you to get by on smaller snacks throughout the long drive, while skipping the fast-food stops. “To stay alert, carrots and almonds are my favorite,” says blogger and travel expert Gretchen Breuner author of The RoadScholarz: Lessons from the Scenic Route.

3. Stay hydrated

Keep the water supply well-stocked for maximum energy. “A possible downside of this, of course, is that you’ll need to make more bathroom stops,” says Breuner, who traveled to 19 states with her family in an RV in three months. To learn more about what to bring on a road trip, check out this list of essential items and tools to keep in your car.

4. Plan your rest stops

One of the most crucial tips for road trips is to get out of your car and stretch your legs every two hours or so, our experts suggest. Plan these stops into your long drive, whether they fall at mealtimes or can be timed to let you view interesting places.

5. Chew gum

The repetitive process increases circulation and alertness. “You don’t need the sugary kind to get the desired effect,” says Breus, who is a fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and author of Good Night: The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health.

6. Use energizing scents

During long distance driving, Breus also recommends keeping a source of peppermint scent nearby. When you feel you need a boost, take a sniff. “It’s a pleasant, all-natural pick-me-up that has been shown to reduce fatigue and increase alertness,” he says.

7. Sit up straight

Make sure your seat is adjusted properly for your body, tilted for maximum blood flow. If you feel a driving “trance” coming on, sit up. “Take a deep breath and scan your body for tension,” says yoga teacher and wellness specialist Elaine Masters, author of Drivetime Yoga: Yoga Benefits in the Convenience of Your Car. “If your right hip is feeling sore, for example, lean to the other side.”

8. Keep passengers entertained

Long drives—especially with kids—can often lead to bickering. That kind of aggravation leads to driver fatigue. So make sure children are entertained with books, puzzles and other time-killing diversions. On the flip side, road trip games such as “find the license plate” are great for keeping everyone engaged with one another.

9. Listen to audio books

Audio books help keep the brain active, without creating a dangerous distraction. Breus recommends listening to humorous books or even comedy CDs. “Laughing,” he says, “will keep you awake.”

These tips for long drives can help keep you and your car protected on the road. For more defensive driving tips, check out these 9 safe driving habits.

In addition to safe driving habits, your insurance policy is key to protecting you while driving. Learn more about Nationwide’s auto insurance coverage, including our 24/7 Roadside Assistance option.