Hacks to Stay Awake While Driving on a Road Trip

Hacks to Stay Awake While Driving on a Road Trip
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

I find my energy levels before a road trip are through the roof as I’m packing up and getting the last things together. But when I finally hit the road, I feel that vigor fade further and further away. Well, that’s a problem because road trips require a lot of energy and focus if you want to get to your destination on time and in one piece. After living in a van for a year, I have a few tips on how to stay awake while driving, and I’m going to share them with you here today. Sound good? Then let’s roll!

Don’t Force It!

Before we get into the tips, let’s cover something important. If you’re driving and begin nodding off, pull over! Falling asleep behind the wheel is dangerous and puts lives at risk. So, never force staying awake. Sometimes you just need a quick power nap to recharge the batteries before getting on with the road trip.

Okay, now that we covered that, let’s check out those tips I was talking about!

Rest before You Leave

The best way to ensure you’ll have the energy to stay up on a road trip is to be fully rested before burning rubber. If you’re leaving early in the morning, do your best to go to bed early the night before. I know that it can be hard to sleep the night before a travel day, so if you need to sleep in and leave a little later, do it! Remember, safety first.

If you’re starting your road trip later in the day, try to take a nap beforehand; or at least lay down for a while. You’ll thank yourself when it’s 2 am, and you still have a few hours left to drive!

Have Music/Podcasts Ready

Don’t get me wrong, I love road trips. If I have the option to fly or drive, you can bet that I’m packing up my car and hitting the road. With that being said, road trips can get a bit boring. And if there’s one thing that makes me sleepy, it’s being bored.

So, I combat boredom with upbeat music and my favorite podcasts. There’s nothing better than jamming and singing along to songs you haven’t heard in ages. It’s one of my methods of how to stay awake while driving without caffeine–I can only drink so many coffees and energy drinks.

Podcasts are another great source of entertainment. I’ve found that when I tune into an interesting topic, I have zero issues keeping my eyes open while driving.

Keep Snacks in Reach

Food is energy. I always have a little space for snacks and drinks within arm’s reach. My personal favorite road-tripping snack is a big ol’ bag of popcorn. It’s a light snack, so you don’t get too full, but it also keeps you busy and your taste buds stimulated. I recommend stocking up on healthy snacks that will you provide clean energy, but I’ve also been known to keep a few chocolate bars on hand for a sugar kick–sue me.

Drink Caffeinated Beverages

Ohh, caffeine! If you need a solution for how to stay awake while driving at night, then look no further! Caffeinated beverages are going to be your best friend while road tripping, let me tell you. There’ve been many times I thought I would have to call it for the night. But then I chugged down an energy drink, and–POW–I was ready to keep driving.

Here’s the deal, I don’t recommend starting your long drive with caffeine. Save it for later when you start to feel that sleepiness kick in. When your eyelids get heavy, let that be your queue to crack open a caffeinated beverage.

Take Stretching Breaks

Sitting for hours on end can get monotonous and lead to tiredness. I make a point to stop about every two hours and stretch my legs. If you’re driving along highways in the middle of nowhere, chances are you’ll come across viewpoints. These are my favorite place to stop because, usually, there are little trails leading to a lookout.

I’ve found that getting up and moving around is a great way to get the blood flowing and stay awake. When you stop, you can also check in on your energy levels and decide whether or not you need to take a quick power nap.

Stop for Food

Remember how I said food is energy? Well, it is. So, stopping for a meal should be a part of your travel itinerary. If you don’t, you’re guaranteed to feel worn out and sluggish, which isn’t ideal for a multi-hour drive. Even if you’re not hungry, I recommend grabbing food to-go if you’ll be driving through a desolate area.

I personally adore going to a new area, pulling into a little diner or whole-in-the-wall restaurant, and chowing down. You never know when you’re going to stumble on a hidden gem off the beaten path.

Ask Passengers to Stay up with You

Of all the tips on how to stay awake while driving long distances, I think having passengers is the best way to do it. If you’re the designated driver, request that at least one person in the car stays up with you during the drive. It’s a lot easier to not fall asleep when you have someone to talk to or jam out to music with. Of course, it’s ideal if multiple people can drive, but this is the next best option!

Look for Signs of Sleepiness

If you have any of the following sleepiness signs while you are on the road, stop the soonest you can and take a nap in your car! It's very important to look for the following signs as specified by experts:

  • Have difficulty focusing or keeping your eyes open.
  • Have trouble keeping your head up.
  • Drift from your lane or hit a rumble strip.
  • Yawn repeatedly.

Final Thoughts

Road trips rule, but as the hours roll by and the sun sinks low, it’s important you are able to stay awake. Preparing yourself before the drive is crucial. Don’t start the trip tired or on an empty stomach; that’s a recipe for disaster. Instead, stock up on food and drinks, download music and podcasts, and map out where you are going to take breaks. It will make the journey much more enjoyable!

Road Trips > Beginner Guide > How to Stay Awake While Driving on a Road Trip

About the Author:

Ryan Hichens

Ryan Hichens is a freelance writer, digital nomad, and sucker for a good time. He’s a native Californian but has spent the last five years backpacking and road-tripping throughout North and South America. Check out his Instagram to follow along with his travels and writing.