Ten Ways to Make Your Road Trip Less Stressful

The Great American Road Trip should be fun, not so stressful that it’s headache-inducing. Here are 10 ways to make it the trip of a lifetime.

Road trips remain a great American past time — according to the American Express Spending and Saving Tracker about 47 percent of Americans plan to take road trips this year. All that traffic (plus your family crammed into a car together for 8-plus hours) can mean a stressful experience – and stress is one of the leading headache triggers.

So we’ve got 10 suggestions for planning a fun road trip:

Get your kids in on the plan. Family trip? During the planning process, get the kids involved. Deciding the important roadside attractions that are worth a stop or picking the dinner spots may keep them more engaged in the trip — and hopefully less so in their gadgets.

Snack smart. Part of the fun of road trips is indulging in the local food, which most likely includes a few guilty pleasures. But some of those eats might be migraine triggers for some people. For example, the nitrates found in hot dogs may trigger migraines, and the pickles piled high on your burger or sandwich can be high in tyramine, a compound in food that may trigger migraines. Find out more about diet and headaches.

Give everyone a job. There are far more roles in the car than just driver and passengerAssign one person to navigate, another to surf their smartphone for cool stops along the way (don’t have the driver do this, of course!), a third to be in charge of snack distribution, and a fourth to tweet or take photos from the trip. Encouraging the kids to keep a travel scrapbook—collecting ticket stubs, postcards, and pamphlets—is also a great way to keep them in the moment.

Go beyond the book. Guidebooks are great, but focusing on them exclusively may cause you to miss out on smaller attractions or local just-for-the-weekend events. Search Twitter for mentions of the towns you’re passing through; you may find a festival or parade that’ll help break up the journey.

Drink up. Salty snacks might be a road trip staple, but be careful of dehydration. You know the laundry list of reasons why you should be drinking more water — it helps flush out toxins, maintain the balance of body fluids, and so on. But if you’re a migraine sufferer, you could be more sensitive to dehydration. Make sure to regularly grab water on breaks and have easily accessible water bottles in the car. Lean more about how much water to drink to avoid dehydration headaches.

Figure out your travel rhythm. Some people like getting up at the crack of dawn and driving until noon. Others want to drive in fits and starts, depending on their mood at the moment. Figuring out what seems to work best for your group and adapting your travel schedule to that — rather than feeling like you have to drive a certain amount of miles at a time — can help reduce vacation stress.

Keep a flexible schedule. Sure, you definitely have things to see. But sometimes, skipping an attraction in favor of hanging out at the hotel or spending the afternoon at a local lake can be just as fun and memorable. Try dividing your travel itinerary into two lists: Three or four must-see highlights and then other options that’d be interesting if convenient.

Bend over backwards. Don’t just rest at a rest stop. Finding a strip of grass and doing some simple stretches or yoga poses can help reduce stress and alleviate tension.

Pack twice. Keep your luggage in the trunk, but have a small bag of essentials—sunscreen, a bathing suit, deodorant, snacks, a fresh T-shirt—with you in the car. That way, you don’t have to rifle through your luggage if, say, you see a perfect swimming spot en route.

Prep for your pet. If your furry friend is coming along for the ride, make sure he or she is microchipped; that way, Fido can be found quickly if he takes a wrong turn while you’re away from home. If your pet is not used to the car, take him for a few test runs, ending at a fun park or hiking trail so he realizes that the car can take him cool places — not just to the vet.

Stress is one of the leading causes of headaches for many people. See our complete list of articles on Excedrin.com about stress for more information.

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