How to Survive All-Day Drives: Tips and Ideas to Make 10+ Hour Drives Easier
Long drives can take you to some pretty awesome places that airplanes can't get you to, and driving is often cheaper than flying. If you have friends or family or see interesting things along the route of your drive, it's easy to stop, visit, and take pictures. What plane lets you do that?
The problem is that sitting in the car for 6, 8, 10 hours or more quickly becomes boring and uncomfortable, especially if you're traveling with kids. My husband and I regularly plan road trips involving 10 to 12 hours of driving, and some of our expertise and experience is gathered here. I hope these tips and ideas for surviving long drives help make your next road trip a success!
Road Trip Meal Ideas
save money, control what you eat
takes time to make
cheap and disposable
creates garbage and crumbs
inexpensive, fast, variety
requires stopping, creates trash
Food and Meal Ideas
When you're driving all day to get somewhere, you want to stay in the car as much as possible to cover the most ground. At the same time, you need to stop driving every once in a while for bathroom breaks and just to move around. So you have 2 options for meals: eat in the car or stop and eat somewhere.
When my husband and I go on long trips, we usually opt to pick up McDonald's and eat 1 meal in the car. We try to leave early enough that we'll arrive at our destination in time for dinner, and we satiate any other hunger in the car with snacks (snack ideas coming up!).
Sometimes, if we need to get out of the car or have eaten a lot of unhealthy foods, we'll stop for a half-hour or so at Subway's or another healthier-than-McDonald's option. If we have family along the route we're taking on our trip, we try to stop and visit them around meal times. That way, we get a break from driving, can visit with family, and get to eat homemade food.
On the other hand, when my parents travel on long road trips (with 6 kids, by the way), my mom makes plenty of sandwiches the day before they leave and packs them in the cooler. They pick a halfway point, usually a picnic area or a visitors center, and everybody gets out for about 30 minutes to stretch and move around and to eat sandwiches, chips, and a soda. Which option you choose depends on how far you have to go and your budget for the trip.
Eating on the Go: Snack Checklist
When you're in the car all day, snacking is essential. It satisfies hunger between meal times and fights boredom when all you can do is sit there. While you may not need or like all the items in the snack checklist I created for my road trips, keep in mind that a variety of snacks will help keep you awake and is generally more interesting, both of which are crucial to fighting boredom.
- Filling snacks: Things that keep you full, like jerky, granola bars, and crackers.
- Sweet/fruity snacks: My husband likes Mike 'n' Ikes. I prefer gummy snacks and licorice.
- Chocolatey snacks: Raisinets and Milk Duds are good examples. Be careful not to let chocolate snacks melt.
- Salty snacks: Things like pretzels and nuts can often double as filling snacks.
- Healthy snacks: If you're trying to watch what you eat, consider taking dried fruit, vegetable chips, or homemade granola bars.
Don't forget drinks! Water bottles frozen the night before you leave will keep water cold and are easy to refill, and a cooler in the trunk can hold soda and sandwiches.
Tip: Take Thirst-Quenching Snacks
When you're on the road all day, you have to control how much you drink so you're not hunting for every rest stop. Which of the following thirst-quenching snacks do you prefer for long drives?
Staying Awake: Entertainment Ideas
One of the hardest parts of driving all day is staying awake and alert. Varied snacks can help, but entertainment makes a big difference in surviving a long drive. Consider the following ideas to perk your interest and help you focus.
- Music: Compile a CD of your favorite songs to keep you interested. Slow songs are definitely not recommended. Choose music that makes you happy, will help you stay awake in the dark, you can sing along to, and most people in the car will enjoy.
- Audiobooks: Borrow books on CD from your library or take some favorites you already own. Books in a series can be excellent for long drives since they maintain interest over a long period of time. On the other hand, vastly different books might help prevent you from getting bored with the same narrating voice and style.
- Conversations and Stories: Plan some conversations to have with your traveling buddies. Road trips can be a great time to talk about looming future decisions, discuss deep topics, or brainstorm ideas. If conversations lull and audiobooks are tiring, have a couple backup stories in mind to tell.
- Games: Thinking and discovery games are especially good entertainment to take if you are traveling with kids or a large group. The ABC game (where you find all the letters in the alphabet in order outside the car) is a popular example.
Popular Books on CD for Long Drives
"Name That Character" Game Idea
This is a game my siblings and I came up with on the long drives from Utah to Yellowstone National Park for summer vacations. Feel free to use the basic idea of the game to create your own family favorite games, like name that movie, book, or song.
Here's how you play:
Someone volunteers to be "It" (or you rock-paper-scissors for it). "It" thinks of a character from a movie, then announces to everyone playing that they have a character in mind.
The players take turns asking "It" yes-or-no questions to help them determine the character's identity. Some example questions might be:
Is the character male?
Is the character an animal?
Is the movie this character is in animated?
Is the character a sidekick?
"It" responds to these questions. Questions are asked and answered until one of the players can name the character. If the chosen character is in the background of the movie or doesn't have a name, the player must name the movie and prove that he/she knows which character "It" chose.
The first player to successfully guess the character is the next "It". If players tire of the game because they cannot determine who the character is, "It" may give them clues, or, if all players agree, "It" may reveal the character.
The Most Important Rule of the Game:
The character must be selected from a movie everyone playing has seen, or is likely to have seen. In families with young kids, for example, this rule might limit available characters to those in Disney and Pixar films.
Best All-Day Driving Entertainment
What's your preferred entertainment while driving?
Getting Comfortable: Tips and Tricks
Discomfort is the main problem you'll encounter on long drives. Drivers must stay in pretty much the same position for the entire drive, and passengers can only shift so much. Use these tips and tricks to make staying in the car for several hours at a time more bearable.
- Wear loose, comfy clothing. The only thing you want restricting your movement is the seat belt.
- Wear shoes you can drive in and easily slip on and off as desired. This helps your feet breathe and increases your positioning by letting you bring one leg up under you or put your feet on the dash.
- Bring blankets and small pillows. Blankets can be used to block hot desert sunlight or maintain warmth during winter or nighttime driving. They can also be folded up and used as an extra cushion on the seat. Small pillows can help you sleep or provide support for your lower back.
- Determine your optimal driving conditions, especially time of day and length of driving time. Then plan accordingly. For example, I hate driving at night because it gives me headaches, and driving in big cities makes me nervous. Therefore, my husband and I create driving shifts on our trips so he drives in those situations.
- Enjoy your breaks. You'll probably want to minimize the number of breaks and the length of time you spend on each break, but that doesn't mean you can't maximize the benefits of getting out of the car. Each time you stop, try to stand as much as possible--you've been sitting down for awhile already. Breaks are a good time to stretch your legs and get your heart pumping a bit, so try walking around or doing jumping jacks.
- Start early. The sooner you get on the road, the sooner you can get off it. Arriving at your destination around dinnertime gives you a few hours to do things before bedtime. Even better, kids will often sleep for the first few hours of the drive.