Having lived my entire life in sparsly populated areas of the USA I can count myself as somewhat of an expert on how to stay alert on road trips. Living in the wide open spaces can be great or not so great depending on how you view things. I view it as great.
From my experiences the most important thing is to make sure you have had a really good rest the night before you leave. I know that rest isn’t always easy, especially when you’re thinking about what needs to be done before you leave. My advice is to make sure everything that needs doing is done before you go to bed. If you have animals to be taken care of either take them to the caretaker or if someone is going to come to your house to take care of them, make sure they know where the food is, make sure there is enough food for the length of time you’re going to be gone. Fill water bowls with fresh water. What you are doing is making sure you have NOTHING on your mind to keep you awake and worrying.
The morning of your trip: Don’t panic and put a bunch of pressure on yourself or your family. Rise early enough to leave yourself plenty of time to get stuff together and in the vehicle. Have a cup of coffee or tea to help you wake up. Have a bite to eat or pack a light breakfast to be eaten on the road. My favorite light breakfast is a cup of coffee and toast with peanut butter. It gives me a great jump start for my day.
When you’re in the car and on the road make sure you take frequent breaks. Our breaks come every 100 miles of travel. A break means you stop the car, get out and walk around. This gets the blood moving through your body to help prevent blood clots we can get from sitting to long. We usually stop at whatever towns are 100 miles apart. We always take a bathroom break in that town. If your child is telling you they don’t have to go potty, insist that they do. My experiences with children are that as soon as we get back on the road they have to go potty. So I insist they go even if they don’t feel like it. Also we will buy a light snack at the convenience store. Usually a granola bar and some milk or chocolate milk. Vegetable or tomato juice are wondereful, also. I’m not a big fan of having candy on the road. The kids are usually hyper enough already. Yogurt is another great snack.
Another way of staying alert is to stay hydrated. Make sure you drink enough liquid.
When I travel and I’m the driver I always chew gum. For some reason it keeps me awake. My husband eats sunflower seeds to keep himself awake. I don’t know why it works, it just does.
Listen to catchy tunes, either on the radio or with cd’s or tapes. Having songs to listen to and sing with helps you stay awake. You can even move around in the car. Like exercising sitting down.
Listen to books on tape or on cd. Many of my friends and relatives do this when they are travelling. It allows you to get caught up on your “reading”, so much so that you may miss your exit because you’re totally wound up in the story!
I have a theory that most of us get sleepy on trips because there isn’t enough fresh air entering the vehicle. It is similar to being in an airplane and having to breathe recycled air. Also who knows where the car exhaust is ending up. Is it outside or is some of it drifting inside the vehicle and making us sleepy. So, fresh air is essential. When we are taking our 100 mile breaks we open the windows just as we are coming into the town and let the stale air out and new air in. Hey, if we can be a nation of germo-phobes we can make sure the air inside our cars is fresh.
Be sure the clothing you’re wearing isn’t constricting. You want to be comfortable and able to move around.
If you really want to stay alert, just get the kids fighting in the back seat, I can guarantee you’ll stay alert trying to keep them from fighting!