Keeping Yourself Entertained on Long Solo Drives

Having driven on road trips over 7 hours long, there’s a few things I did before the drive to lessen my anxiety, and things I did during the drive to keep myself sane and entertained on the seemingly endless road. These two go hand-in-hand together because you want to make sure you’re only thinking about the road and whatever’s coming out of your speakers.

Put everything in your car the night before

This saves you so much time in the morning! When I head on a long trip, I know my luggage must be in my trunk the night before to save me the bad mood from having another thing to do in the morning. I’m saving myself the time of putting one or two things in my car, which decreases the number of things to remember before leaving. If you depart at an earlier time in the day (I usually end up leaving my house at 5 AM,) this is especially important to do because waking up that early is going to be the biggest challenge, you might as well give yourself once extra snooze. Bonus points if you fill your gas tank all the way up the night before too! Remember, you want to be thinking about the road, not whether or not you forgot to pack your pants.

Always start your drive with breakfast and coffee

I never miss out on this part of my road trip—if I don’t start the day with an iced coffee and a little breakfast food, I am going to start the day wrong. Starting it off with nutrients and an extra bottle of water helps get me through to my next destination. The caffeine and nutrients help you wake up and stay alert—remember that being sleepy delays your reaction times, something you’re going to need while driving. It’s also the last thing I do before finally embarking on my trip, so it’s satisfying to have that feeling of checking off the last box on the list. I recommend stopping at a drive-thru place like Starbucks or Dunkin’ when you do this so it can be a 2-in-1 deal. This way, you won’t feel rushed to finish your breakfast before leaving your house and introduce another avenue a bad mood could set in from.

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A woman drinking something while driving and pumping her fist in the air
^^You drinking a Nitro Cold Brew on your trip because you listened to me ^^

Don’t Set Your GPS to your last destination

If you’re driving to somewhere 8 hours away, don’t set your GPS to that location. Nothing is more exhausting and emotionally draining on a drive like constantly checking your GPS only to groan at the sight of “6 Hours, 54 minutes left.” Instead, set your GPS to the first rest area you’ll be stopping at to refill gas. For me, that’s about every two and a half hours of driving, and beats seeing an unending time down clock. Another mini-self hack is telling myself that it’s 30 minutes less than what the estimate says, because I consider my drive “complete,” when I’m in the nearby area of where I need to be. Hack your way of thinking whenever you can, and life will be easier in general.

Seriously, how long have we been driving?

Have a podcast playlist ready

We all know the feeling of finding that perfect song; the one that’s been on repeat for as long as you can remember. For some reason, long drives increase the speed with which you’ll grow resentful of your once favorite song after it’s been on repeat for 30 minutes straight. At some point, you do have to stop talking about Bruno.

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When I’ve grown weary of listening to my same favorite songs, I’ll switch over to the playlist of podcasts I haven’t listened to yet. Podcasts differ from music in that you’ll be listening to 1 or more people discuss their chosen topic of the hour. YOU HAVE to do this before you start your drive. When you’re driving, you can’t use your phone to search every single podcast episode because you have to focus on the road.

Podcasts are always original content. You can’t trust any random podcast you picked out at the rest stop to be the one for you, you need to pick podcasts you’re willing to listen to for the entire drive. I love podcasts, but I’m really specific about which podcasts I listen to. A lot of podcasts include an excessive amount of banter between the hosts, and don’t get me wrong, I love banter, but sometimes I want to get to the facts of the story and not spend 15 minutes listening to two people talk about their trip to target that morning.

There’s also another thing to consider: sometimes, a highly rated podcast is made by someone who’s voice you just cannot stand. Don’t get stuck with a list of podcasts you didn’t vet beforehand, and now you’re stuck listening to the same old songs again. 

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Set up your music playlist by city and mood

The first time I drove through Miami, it was after I had already been driving for 6 hours. It was nighttime, and then it started pouring rain and thundering. I knew what I had to do. I changed my Spotify to play Pitbull. I knew that if I was under the protection of Mr. 305 Worldwide during this drive, I would survive unscathed. This was correct that evening, and has been correct every other voyage through Miami. 

If you know yourself well enough, you can try to guess what mood you’ll be in during certain aspects of the trip. I know that I tend to get tired in the last hour or so, so this is where I usually play more upbeat music to feel energized and celebrate that I’m almost done. In high traffic areas, like Miami, I need the courage of thinking Pitbull can actually keep me safe through the power of music. During long stretches where I just need to keep going straight and nothing eventful is happening, that’s when I’ll listen to podcasts. Know yourself ahead of time, and be prepared for any situation!

A woman dancing in her car

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Pick a “buddy” car

After you’ve been driving for a few hours, you might notice the same car has been driving with you for miles. You’ve been driving at the same speeds, you take the same exits, and even when it seems like you’ve lost track of each other you see them near you once again.

Driving for an extended period can invoke anxiety in certain drivers and selecting a buddy car will help relax you. It feels like you’re not doing it alone anymore. Soon, the saddest part of the trip becomes taking your final exit to the end of your journey and losing your driving buddy forever, but you both go with the knowledge your faces the same perils on these journey together.

Check Maintenance before you go

I cannot stress this enough; this is not something you want to ignore. Your need to make sure your car can handle the long voyage before you head off. Always have your gas tank at least halfway full so you never worry about running out of gas. Always make sure your oil doesn’t need to be changed and that it can handle the voyage. Most importantly, CHECK YOUR TIRES.

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It was an uneventful Sunday, a day normally reserved for enjoying yourself before the week ramps up again on Monday. I saw a raven at the first stop I made; its aura was ominous. Indeed, the raven proved itself to be an omen as my back tire exploded. In the middle of nowhere. Off the highway in Florida.

I wish I could tell you that was the worst part of it. No, after my panic about how we were on the side of the road, I got to panic about my spare tire. At first, I didn’t know I even had a spare tire or anything to change a tire with. If it wasn’t for my boyfriend, I probably still wouldn’t know it’s under a fake floor in my trunk. It was late at night and the spare wasn’t going to make it far, but there was a motel 10 miles away, how lucky! Oh my, I should’ve tried to see if I could’ve made that tire go an extra few miles. 

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Here was how I reviewed the motel online the next day:

Title: If Hotel California was sung by Marilyn Manson. Or Charles Manson.

Pros: I had somewhere to sleep when I was stranded in the middle of nowhere, and was happy I at least had a room and didn’t have to sleep in my car. For the price, my only expectation was to survive the night, which I did. The sheets were surprisingly clean. The door has three locks and is hard to open even with the key, so that does help you feel a little safer inside. The TV had good cable options. Even though I hated it, I was grateful to have a place to sleep with nice AC and I didn’t break the bank. Only my perception of reality.

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Cons: Some of the windows were cardboard. There were holes in the carpet, and a huge vomit stain by the bathroom. I was afraid to touch anything because I knew if you turned a black light on in this room you would be blinded immediately. Area feels hugely unsafe. It reminded me of the Hotel Cecil on Skid Row, except in the middle of nowhere off the highway in Florida. I peeked through my curtains every time I woke up to make sure my car was still there. Time seemed to pass slowly here, like I was in a different dimension and I began to question if I had actually died on the road and gone to The Bad Place. It was a genuinely chilling and surreal experience.

So yeah, check your tires before a long drive. This is not the kind of entertainment you want. 

The evil twin girls from The Shining movie inside a hotel hallway
I honestly can’t tell if that trip would’ve been better or worse if I saw these two there instead of…everything else that I saw.