66 Clever Ways to Have a Healthy Road Trip

Stay healthy and stress-free on your next vacation on the road.

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How to Pack Snacks for a Road Trip (1:53)

Are you ready for a road trip? Start your journey with these healthy tips and then round up your family and friends and load up the car for an unforgettable and memorable vacation.

More: Dr. Oz’s Summer Safety Guide

1. Pack Compact Snacks to Avoid Overeating

Reuse a cleaned creamer bottle or fill up a new tackle box with healthy bites like nuts, seeds, berries, dried fruit, and granola. This way, you’ll cut down on multiple snack bags and boxes and won’t over-indulge because you can only have a small handful at a time.

2. De-Grime Car Headlights to Avoid Blurred Visibility

Oxidation on your car’s headlights can cause them to fog up and can be hazardous for you and other drivers. Make sure your car is seen in any weather by scrubbing down the headlights with a damp rag and a small amount of toothpaste.  Wash the toothpaste off with clean water and then dry with a soft paper towel or clean cloth.

3. Navigate Rest Stops Wisely for the Healthiest Options

Skip the hot pretzel stands full of salt and carbs, pass on the cinnamon buns high in sugar and saturated fats, and make healthier snack choices like fresh, cut fruit and pre-made salads. If you’re looking to satisfy a salt craving, try beef jerky that’s high in protein but low in calories.

4. Use Shoe Organizers to Corral Knickknacks

Maintain your sanity and your car windows visible by packing loose, small items like flip-flops, sunscreen bottles, hand towels, and sun hats neatly folded and in their own pockets in a fabric or plastic shoe organizer.

5. Keep Trash Confined in a Cereal Container

Line a cereal container with a plastic bag to use as a makeshift trash bin. The container makes it easy to brush crumbs, toss used napkins, and keep other litter contained on long rides.

6. Secure Your Cell Phone With a Binder Clip

Depending on your smartphone size, a jumbo or large binder clip (at least 2 inches wide) can help prop up your phone so you can use it as a GPS or reference a map before driving. Wrap the metal clips with non-slip black safety tape or wrap string around the metal so it doesn’t scratch your phone. With the handles folded up, add two snug rubber bands around the metal loops. Fasten the clip on your car’s air vent and gently slide your phone through the open space between the clasps.

7. Always Pack a Car Emergency Kit

Whether you’re on the road for a few hours or a few days, make sure your car’s emergency kit is stocked and ready to go. Include essentials such as roadside flares, glow sticks, a can opener, clean work gloves, a flashlight with working batteries, extra batteries, a flat-head screwdriver, jumper cables, rags, pliers, scissors, a tire inflator, wrench, blanket, and paper towels.

8. Organize Your Glove Compartment

Stash important documents like instructions for changing a car tire and your car’s manual in your car’s glove compartment. Other useful items include an atlas, a cell phone car charger, spare plastic bags, and a packet of tissues.

9. Take Photos Before Your Leave

If you’re renting a car, photograph each side of the car before you drive off so you’ll have evidence of the car’s condition in case you run into any future issues. Take photos of any important documents as well like your passport or driver’s license in case the real item gets lost. Have backups on your smartphone or camera and leave photo printouts at home.

10. Clean Car Windows With Flip-Flops

Don’t have a squeegee on hand? Repurpose the soles of flip-flops as a window wiper after it rains.

More: New Uses for Everyday Things: Summer Edition!

11. Conceal Valuables in Empty Bottles

Empty (and washed out) sunscreen bottles can hold more than just liquid. Stash car keys, pocket change, and even your cell phone inside to fool would-be thieves.

12. Keep Food and Drinks Chilled With Smarter Ice Packs

Fill water balloons with water and freeze before using them as ice packs in a cooler. When the ice melts, the water will stay in the balloon, making your cooler easy to clean out. Don’t have balloons? You can freeze wet sponges in re-sealable plastic bags for a similar effect.

13. Relieve Mosquito Bites With Deodorant

Stuck in the car with a mosquito? Shoo it out the window and quell any itchy bites with roll-on deodorant. The aluminum chloride can relieve the pain and suppress any swelling.

14. Prevent Stains With Cupcake Liners

Paper or foil cupcake or muffin tin liners can catch crumbs, dust, stray hair, and drips in cup holders or when poked through the bottom of a wooden ice pop stick.

15. Place Shoes in Shower Caps

Car mats can seem like magnets for dirt and grime. Keep them clean for longer by packing dirty or muddy sneakers and boots in plastic shower caps.

16. Recycle a Shower Caddy

Keep car fluids and oils together in the trunk with an old shower caddy or use a new one to keep everyone’s snacks and meals together in the backseat.

17. Pack Crudités in a Half-Empty Nut Butter Jar

Don’t toss out the last spoonfuls of peanut butter. Add sliced celery sticks and carrots into the container for an easy, portable snack that’s healthy and tasty too.

18. Squeeze in an Exercise Break

When you stop for a bathroom break, take 15 minutes to do quick jumping jacks or take a short jog to help offset all of the sitting you’re doing in the car.

19. Lower the Volume Down

Keep your radio at a reasonable volume to protect your hearing and prevent distractions from driving.

20. Pack Better-For-You Snacks

Sitting in a car can lower your daily calorie burn by 400 calories. Opt for low-calorie snacks like plain popcorn instead of greasy potato chips when you pack your lunch and follow these easy 100-calorie snack ideas.

21. Choose Healthier Fast Food

If fast food is your only option, make sure to follow this handy guide so you can make the most of your order without overdoing it on calories.

22. Write Down Phone Numbers

Jot down the phone numbers for relatives, family friends, your mechanic, cell phone carrier, and car insurance company and keep them in a safe place like the glove compartment. They’ll be useful in case your cell phone gets lost, loses power, or your car breaks down.

23. Wash Your Hands

Be sure to wash your hands each time you stop, especially before eating and after using the restroom.

24. Prepare for Carsickness

Keep an extra change of clothes, baby wipes, towels, and disposable (e.g. plastic grocery bags or paper lunch bags) on hand in case of carsickness. You can also look for motion sickness medicine or wrist bands at your local pharmacy for more serious bouts of illness.

25. Don’t Drive When You’re Tired

Drowsy driving can lead to serious accidents. If you are the driver and you start to feel tired, find a safe place to pull over and rest up. If you’re a passenger, talk to the driver to make sure he or she is awake and alert. Take driving breaks and switch drivers if the road trip is a long one.

26. Keep Water in Cup Holders

Stash water in cup holders and in the trunk to keep everyone in the car well hydrated.

27. Protect Your Eyes

Bring and wear protective eyewear, like sunglasses, to reduce pesky dashboard glare and protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.

28. Wear Sunscreen

Pack and wear sunscreen, even when you plan on being in the car or the weather is cloudy. Though you aren’t directly outside, drivers and passengers can still get harmful UV exposure through car windows.

29. Check all Car Lights

A day before you head out, check all of the lights on the exterior of your vehicle. It’s an easy ticket to avoid.

30. Roll Clothes and Pack in Plastic Bags

Save space in your suitcase, backpack, or car but packing rolled shirts and pants in plastic bags. Before your seal the bags, push out any extra air.

31. Pack Baby Powder

After a long beach day, rub baby powder on your feet and skin to remove any excess sand.

32. Ease a Sunburn With Aspirin

Crush an aspirin into a powder and mix it with water to make a sunburn-relieving paste.

33. Place Plastic Wrap Over Cup Lids and Toiletry Bottles

Prevent leaks and spills with a layer of plastic wrap before you screw bottle caps on tightly or snap on the water bottle lid.

34. Write Down All Addresses

Making multiple stops? Write the addresses for each stop and your final destination down for your GPS and keep it handy so you don’t have to search for it in transit.

35. Pack a Spare Tire

Examine your spare tire or pack a new tire with a jack and lug wrench before you set out on any road trip.

36. Have Your Car Inspected Before Your Trip

Take your car into the shop for a full inspection before a trip. It’s worth the effort, time, and ease of mind so you can relax and truly enjoy your vacation.

37. When in Doubt, Pick Packaged Foods

If you’ve run out of healthy snacks and the only option is the gas station convenience store, the best snacks might be the packaged ones. Prepared cold foods need to be kept at 41°F or colder and hot foods need to be between 135 to 140°F but if the options look dubious, go for packaged nuts and seeds to tide you over till your next meal.

38. Carry Cleaning Products

Traveling can increase your exposure to a variety of bacteria and germs. Keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes on hand for any unexpected, sticky situations.

39. Make Your Own Energy Bars

All you need are five ingredients to make these energizing fruit and nut bars. Keep extra bars chilled in the cooler and reach for them during a traffic jam or in between meals.

40. Before You Travel, Eat Protein

Fuel up before you head out and eat a balanced meal of protein and starches. Avoid refined carbohydrates in pasta and sandwiches which can make you sleepy and undercooked or raw red meat, which can carry the toxoplasma parasite, and even lead to intermittent explosive disorders like road rage.

41. Don’t Forget Fiber

Pack fiber-rich snacks like fruits, nuts, and whole grains to stay satiated and keep your digestive tract healthy on the road.

42. Get a Good Night’s Rest

Before getting behind the wheel, make sure you get ample rest, typically around 7-9 hours of sleep the night before to stay refreshed, alert, and energized.

43. Schedule Breaks

Pull into a rest stop and take a break every 1-2 hours. Get out and stretch your body to boost blood circulation and reduce your risk for blood clots and restock any depleted foods, drinks, and supplies.

44. Try a Roadside Stand

Don’t underestimate your average roadside stand. You might be surprised to learn that some are like mini farmers’ markets – complete with the freshest seasonal produce. Make the stop even more interesting and pick up a new-to-you fruit to try.

45. Pack Extra Toilet Paper

Store an extra roll or pack of toilet paper or tissues in the car for times when the public restrooms aren’t fully stocked.

46. Download Audiobooks or Playlists for Offline Listening

When you’re traveling through dead zones or mountain passes, offline audiobooks and playlists will keep you awake and entertained. Download them at home before you head out so you can queue them up in the car.

47. Add Seat Belt Padding

You can pack a traditional pillow but if it takes up too much space, simply cut out a long rectangle of plush fabric, like chenille, from an old sweater to use as a seat belt cushion. Fold the rectangle in thirds and stitch the sides together. Leave one end open and add stuffing inside. Finish stitching and wrap the fabric around your seatbelt with hook-and-loop fasteners or removable tape. The padding can easily double as a pillow or neck cushion.

48. Prepare Conversation Starters

If you​'re traveling with young children, cut down on screen time by preparing fun conversation topics in advance. This strategy can also help break the ice if you’re traveling with acquaintances.

49. Watch the Trucks

Truck drivers typically communicate with each other via two-way radios and alert each other of any traffic jams, delays, or slow-downs. Pay attention to the trucks on your route to see if you can maneuver your way through the best route.

50. Ask Locals for Tips

If you have to stop and dine, ask a local for their favorite place to eat. Odds are you’ll end up somewhere with better food than the drive-through window.

51. Ask Delivery Services for Directions

Need to figure out a detour? Made a wrong turn? Pull into a fast-food restaurant or any restaurant that offers delivery to ask for the best directions. The locals who drive and cycle around the area will know which roads to avoid and which roads can take you to your destination faster.

52. Do Neck Stretches to Relieve Tension

When you’re stressed out, it’s time to take a break. Alleviate neck pain and strain by standing up and stretching properly.

53. Stay Hydrated With Infused Water

Not a fan of plain water? Pack your water bottle with infused waters. You can customize it with your favorite fresh fruit and herbs like mint and basil.

54. Check Conditions Before You Go

Just like you would check the status of your flight before you head to the airport, look up the road conditions, traffic situations, and weather forecast for your upcoming drive. If you know your trip will be delayed, you can prepare additional provisions to keep the whole family occupied and satisfied.

55. Eat Chia Seeds

If you’re not in the mood for a big breakfast, you can still eat smart by soaking chia seeds and adding them to a bowl of oatmeal or a smoothie to keep cravings in check and stay full till lunchtime.

56. Check All Car Add-Ons

Set aside some time before traveling to check that all car seats, luggage or bike racks, or any other additional equipment inside and outside your car are securely fastened and in good condition. It’s one more way to ensure your peace of mind throughout the trip.

57. Take Advantage of “Me” Time

Traveling solo? In addition to audiobooks and playlists, sing all the words to your favorite song, or catch up on the latest from your favorite podcasts. These simple tactics can make long drives seem less daunting.

58. Pack Healthier Chips

Satisfy your craving for crunchy chips by making your own and packing spicy kale chips, plantain chips, spinach chips, squash chips, sweet potato chips, or zucchini chips.

59. Stock Your Cooler With Smoothies

Perfect as a meal replacement or as a snack, smoothies are a delicious and healthy part of any diet. Blend up your favorite smoothies and keep them chilled in your car cooler for on-the-go refreshment.

60. Remember Your Medications

Clothes? Check. Wallet and keys? Check. But what about your vitamins and medications? Even if you’re not a regular regimen, bring along any essential and “good-to-have” medications like over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin and ibuprofen, mild laxatives, decongestants, antacids, antihistamines, and antidiarrheal medicines. Carry a wallet card with any vital medical information and a list of emergency contacts.

61. Pack Insect Repellent

Keep mosquitoes and other insects like ticks at bay with spray repellents with DEET or natural alternatives. Follow my bug repellent guide to pick the best options for you and your family.

62. Pack a First-Aid Kit

Whether it’s a small blister or a big gash, be prepared with a fully-stocked first-aid kit in a waterproof pouch or hard plastic container. Keep a reference card, bandages, gauzes, antiseptic, tweezers, scissors, cotton balls and swabs, aloe gel, thermometer, and sanitizing wipes in your basic kit and customize it according to you and your family members’ needs.

63. Take Those Bathroom Breaks

Take frequent restroom stops to avoid causing a urinary tract infection. Unexpected traffic and accidents may change your schedule and plan so go when you can, especially when you’re sipping on a water bottle to stay hydrated.

64. Sit Up Front If You Get Motion Sickness

Get carsick often? You’ll experience the least motion when you sit in the front passenger seat. Sitting in the front also lets you focus on something far away so you can recover more easily.

65. Drive During the Day

Driving between midnight and 7 a.m. can be more hazardous. Even if you’re not a drowsy driver, another driver might be tired and less alert, increasing everyone’s risk on the road. If you can, drive after 7 a.m. to reduce your risk for an accident.

66. Pull Over for a Phone Call

Never text while driving and if you have to make a phone call or pick one up, try to exit or pull over first before answering. Keep your driving as distraction-free as possible to ensure everyone’s safety on the road.

More from Dr. Oz The Good Life Magazine: How Healthy Is Your Car?