Fill’er up – with fruit.
“Fruit naturally maintains electrolyte flow through your body, which keeps your muscles comfortable,” Griesel says. “Plus, because it is naturally pre-packaged in its skin, you can easily take fruit anywhere, making it the perfect snack for eating on the go.” Want something a little more compact without sacrificing nutrition? Pack some prunes, banana chips, or dried apricots for the road.
Forgo caffeine and soda and drink water.
As tempting as it can be to drink energy-boosting beverages in the car, think twice before you indulge. “It makes for an unpleasant trip when someone is jacked up on caffeine or sugar,” Griesel says. Both can worsen the agitation travelers already feel from being cooped up in the car. “Water is the best thing.”
Stretch your brain.
Families tend to save the game playing for that rainy day on vacation, but why not start playing together on the way to your destination? See who can count the most red cars or flags first, search for the farthest state license plate, or play name that tune. “Mental exercises create distraction and bonding in the car’s close quarters,” Andersen says.
Get out and stretch your body.
Simply getting out of the car and walking around and stretching for a few minutes can do wonders to rejuvenate passengers on a long trip. Plus, it can push you out of the slump that results from eating in the car. To stretch your body and release tension, have the whole family do the following exercises from New Jersey physical therapist Chris Keating:
- Hamstring stretch seated: Straighten your leg and place the heel on the ground in front of you. Keeping your back straight, lean forward at the hips until you feel the stretch on the back of your thigh and lower leg. Hold the stretch without bouncing for 20 to 30 seconds. Switch sides.
- Lunge: Take an exaggerated step (lead foot) directly forward and plant the foot on the ground. Keep the knee directly over the lead foot. Lower the trailing knee until it is one to two inches above the floor. Forcefully push off the floor with the lead leg and return to the starting position. Switch sides.
- Posterior capsule stretch: Take your left hand and pull your right arm across your body. Make sure your right arm is at shoulder height and feel the stretch in the back of your shoulder.
Do your best Darth Vader impression.
When things get tense in the car, it pays to pull over and take a deep breath, especially for the driver, Griesel says. “Close your eyes, take a deep breath in, and when you breathe out, do your best Darth Vader impression. The added vibration has been proven to relax the body better,” she says. “Take 10 of these deep breaths to help you regroup.”
With a little planning and a few creative strategies, you can survive any road trip with your sanity and health intact. Your family can be part of the solution, too. Ask them to suggest road trip activities and other ways to stay active while on the road.