How to Keep Your Sanity on a Solo Road Trip

I have high standards for road trips.  For one thing, I will only call something a road trip if it would be extremely uncomfortable to go both there and back again in one day.  Five hours?  That’s an afternoon drive.  I tend to reserve the title “road trip” for car journeys at least seven hours long.  This is completely arbitrary and totally dependent upon the fact that I went to college seven hours from my hometown.  However, now that I live thirteen hours from my hometown and have made that trip alone three times, I like to think I’m an expert.  Here are some tips for making solo road trips bearable: 

    1. Don’t Go Solo.  I know, I know.  The whole point of this list is that you’re driving alone.  But if there is any way to bring a friend with you, do it.  Don’t be a martyr.  Having someone else in the car means entertainment, but more importantly, it means you can nap while they drive.
    2. Wear Comfortable Clothes.  You’re alone.  You’re mostly going to be stopping at gas stations where everyone looks their worst.  So wear both sweatshirts and sweatpants.  Leave off makeup and pile your hair on top of your head.  Wear slippers, even.  You’re going to be sitting still for hours and hours–be as comfortable as possible.
    3. Stock up on Podcasts.  I’ve recently gotten into podcasts, and they are a fantastic way to kill an hour or so on the road.  I’ve been really into YouTubers turned Podcasters Grace Helbig (“Not Too Deep”) and Rhett and Link (“Earbiscuits”).  If that’s not your style, check out Stuff’s post on the 15 Best Podcasts of 2014.
    4. But Mostly Audiobooks.  Podcasts only last an hour, so for a really intense road trip, you’re going to need something longer.  Thankfully, there are audiobooks, which often last up to 14 hours!  If you get a really good story, this can make the time fly by.  I like to listen to books I’ve already read, which allows me to keep my primary focus on the road.  Best road trip audiobooks:  The Hunger Games series by Susanne Collins.  They never get old, and they are always riveting.
    5. Create Caffeine Games.  Obviously you’re going to need a lot of caffeine to make it through the day.  Why not keep your brain occupied by trying to find diverse ways to caffeinate yourself?  Start with homemade coffee in a thermos, then stop for soda, or gas station energy drinks, or drive through Starbucks.  Don’t let yourself do the same drink twice!
    6. Eat in the Car.  I once traveled with a friend who insisted on stopping to eat inside fast food restaurants.  And I mean, I guess this allows for some peace and the ability to zone out, but what a waste!  All I could do was count how many minutes we were wasting by sitting a building rather than in my car.  This is, actually, one of the benefits of traveling solo.  You can do what you want!  And I always want to drive through (never Arby’s, those lines are too long) and eat while I’m driving.  Combining activities makes me feel incredibly productive.
    7. Call Those Friends You’ve Been Ignoring.  I always choose to text people over calling them.  But sometimes it’s nice to catch up with friends or family via a verbal conversation.  I’ll never do it during real life, but stuck in a car for hours?  Phone calls start to look appealing.
    8. Create a “Middle School” Playlist.  Singing in the car is a no brainer.  But around hour two, I start to get tired of whatever band I’m currently loving.  It’s during times such as these that you need to break out your “Middle School” playlist, full of all your old favorites–those songs you haven’t thought about in a decade but know every lyric once it’s playing.  My playlist has a lot of N*SYNC, Smashmouth, and Counting Crows.
    9. Take Back Roads. This is not great advice if time is of the essence.  When you’re in a hurry, interstates are your best bet.  But if you find yourself taking the same long road trip every few months, why not change things up and find a back road or two?  You’ll be amazed at how having actual scenery will keep you interested and entertained.
    10. Take Multiple Days.  Know your limits.  If you can’t do fourteen hours in one day, split it up and book a hotel.  Staying at a hotel alone is its own kind of fun.

How do you survive long car trips?  Do you have a travel tip that I missed?  Comment and let me know!

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4 thoughts on “How to Keep Your Sanity on a Solo Road Trip

  1. Personally, I prefer bringing someone else along, letting the other person drive, then waking up to find the other person panicking because they are getting pulled over by the police.

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    1. I have no idea to what you are referring.

      But really, that WAS terrifying, and I am grateful for your sleepy nonchalance in the face of my bizarre anxiety that I would be arrested for speeding in someone else’s car.

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  2. I’m snickering because I remember solo road trips when I should have done tip #2 because I did too much of tip #6. And the time that I was supposed to have a rider, but she couldn’t go at the last minute. I was caught in a snowstorm and every time I slid, I thought, “Hope (my friend) would have grabbed my arm and I would have ended up down the mountain. So glad she isn’t here” while my family was saying, “So glad she has a friend with her!” Solo road trips make you stronger, but I do love a friend to share the wows.

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