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5 Tips for Staying Awake on Road Trips

One of the best things about being an intrepid solo traveler is that I can pretty much fall asleep anywhere - which makes it my nemesis when I have to drive long distances.

It started when I was a kid, I'm sure. During the long, never-ending two or three hour drives to my grandparent's cabin, what was there to do but sleep? That habit spilled over to when my parents rented a motor home for all of us to go to Iowa - what better way to pass the time than to just close my eyes, rest my head back, and let my jaw drop open and regale everyone in the car with cute-kid-snoring noises?

The habit of falling asleep in a moving vehicle doesn't serve me well in adulthood, to say the least. So I've arrived at my own list of must-do's when I'm driving long distances solo.

1. Vary your listening material - and I don't mean spontaneously surfing for radio stations. Part A - You need to go into a road trip with a listening plan. Pick upbeat music that you love, make whatever version of a mix tape suits your current needs be it CD or mp3 playlist, and make sure that it's ready to go. Radio stations can be frustrating - the last thing you need when you're driving across the country is any ounce of frustration. Part B - download or rent audiobooks. When your mind is engaged with something you enjoy, you're more apt to stay alert.

2. When you're listening to your favorite music, sing. Again, this gets to the whole engaged mind portion, and also does something equally critical - it gets your body involved in the process. Rather than watching mile marker signs, you're fetching lyrics from some forgotten corner of your brain, and you're moving a little. Take a turn at chair dancing every once in a while to keep your body engaged.

3. Eat finger foods and drink water. This activity also stimulates your brain and body through movement. You feel busy. You feel like there's something you're doing. Water is important over sugary drinks because of hydration and sugar crashes, so be cognizant of that. Save room for the meals though because you'll want to...

4. Make planned stops. Decide what your threshold is for alert driving, and plan to stop, whether it's at a rest area or a restaurant or a historical marker. Unless you're driving on a strict timeline, skip drive-thrus, get out of your car and walk into the establishment. You need to move your body, too.

5. Plan for quick phone calls to check in with a friend or family member, just to say hi or do something silly like answer Trivial Pursuit questions. If you know if 55 minutes, someone will be waiting for your call or they'll be calling you, you're engaging your brain in a time marker that's far shorter than the 8 hours of driving in front of you.

Safe travels.

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