Health & Wellness Road Trip

7 Ways to Stay Awake on Long Drives

When you hit the road, don’t rely on rumble strips to keep you awake and on target. Use these tips for staying wide-eyed on a long drive.

When you hit the road, don’t rely on rumble strips to keep you alert and on target. Here’s how to stay awake while driving no matter where your next road trip might take you.

Drink Something Caffeinated

Whether you brew your coffee at home or buy it on the road, drink it black if you can tolerate it. The coffee’s bitterness will provide a quick jolt before the caffeine even enters your bloodstream. As a backup, keep something like a 5-Hour Energy drink or NoDoz pills in the glove compartment.

Eat Healthy Snacks

Keep a few snacks within reach, but make sure they’re not just empty calories. Treats with less sugar and more protein tend to distribute energy at a more constant, even pace—rather than a jolt followed by a food coma. Examples include trail mix and protein bars.

Bring a Buddy

A road companion is probably the best thing you can bring with you on a trip. Have your friend DJ or chat with you throughout the ride, but mostly have your pal keep you honest when the sheep want to start jumping overhead. Consider enjoying some audiobooks together as well.

Be Cool

Warm, cozy temperatures are synonymous with the arrival of the Sandman, so keep the vehicle just a few notches below your ideal temperature—though not enough to make it too uncomfortable, of course. Cracking a window open for a burst of fresh air can also help keep you awake.

Do Some Facercise (Facial Exercise)

The original purpose behind facercise is to reduce wrinkles and tone lax facial muscles, but it’s also great for waking up. Here are some techniques to get you started:

  • Hyper-extend your lower jaw, then wiggle it side-to-side
  • Suck in your cheeks
  • Open your mouth very wide, then tightly purse your lips
  • Hyper-open your eyes, then raise your eyebrows
  • Repeat the above or create some facercises of your own

Too silly for you? Consider other small movements such as tapping your fingers on the steering wheel or tightening your thigh muscles.

Get a Vehicle with a Lane-Departure Warning System

For those with extreme road doze, consider investing in a car with a lane-departure warning system, which will notify you when the vehicle drifts out of its lane without a turn-signal indication.

Take a Break

Even if you’re running late and you still have a long stretch of driving ahead of you, make time for a break. When the scenery starts to lull you into a stupor, pull over—at a rest stop, preferably. It’s always better to arrive late than never at all.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2012. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

By Patricia Magaña

Always on the lookout for value-oriented travel, Senior Editor Patricia Magaña has trekked throughout the States, Latin America, and Europe. Follow her on Instagram @PatiTravels.

Since joining the editorial crew in 2005, Magaña has pounced on incredible deals to Amsterdam, Madrid, and San Pedro Sula—each for less than $300. Her favorite travel experiences involve discovering street art while meandering a city, chatting up locals, and day drinking.

Her stories have appeared on USA Today, Huffington Post, Yahoo!, TripAdvisor, AirfareWatchdog, and other publications.

Email Patricia at

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