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Health Information | 06/01/2021

Stay Healthy on Your Summer Road Trip

By  Atrius Health
New England is home to some of the country’s best hikes, beaches, landmarks, and historical tours, all within driving distance. As you begin to ramp up your summer travels with a road trip, here are some tips to help your family embark on a healthy and enjoyable journey.

What to Pack

Packing for a road trip can seem daunting, but creating a packing list ahead of time can help you stay organized and stress-free. Consider these essential items when packing to help your trip run smoothly:

First aid kit
: First aid kits are essential in case of an emergency. Many complete first aid kits on the market come with all medications and supplies you might need while traveling. You can also make your own first aid kit by buying band-aids, gauze, alcohol pads, over-the-counter pain medications and antihistamines, and an instant ice pack.

Toolkit: Similar to a first aid kit, a toolkit is important to have in your car in case of an emergency. A complete toolkit should have a quality flashlight, extra batteries, pliers, screwdrivers, a wrench, a pair of vise-grips, a set of wire cutters, a pocketknife, and a small hammer. Your car toolkit should also include jumper cables, a tow strap, flares or safety triangles, a fire extinguisher, and a spare tire or tire repair kit.

Healthy snacks: Healthy snacks keep energy levels up during long car rides. To keep family members happy and satisfied, consider packing a cooler of snacks with protein such as beef jerky, hard-boiled eggs, string cheese, granola bars, and nuts. Carrots, grapes, and celery sticks with hummus are also easy-to-eat alternatives while in the car. However, especially when traveling with small children, make sure to pack snacks that will not be a choking hazard and have an adult passenger closely monitor snack time while on the go. Cutting fruits and vegetables into small pieces that are easy to swallow is a great way to ensure safe eating. If you run out of snacks, there are many healthy convenience store options that you can pick up during your trip. When searching for healthy options on the go, look for snacks that are low in sugar or sodium, and consider purchasing high-protein items like yogurt to ensure you stay full for longer.

Water: Remember to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated during car rides. Not only will this help you to feel your best as you travel, but it also ensures that you will be ready for your intended activities once you reach your destination. Staying hydrated is critical during warmer months, especially when planning to spend time outdoors. If you’re feeling tempted to pick up a sweet drink or soda, sparkling or flavored waters are good alternatives that contain less sugar and keep hydration levels up.

Traveling with Children

Creative activities are key to keeping children occupied during long car rides. In addition to toys and activity books geared towards children –  sensory toys, fidget spinners, reusable stickers, and coloring books – you can also create homemade kits to entertain your young passengers. Head to your local arts & crafts store and pick up a variety of supplies, including Velcro, pipe cleaners, colored pencils, and other mess-free materials, then create personalized kits for each child that they can pick from throughout the trip. You can also play interactive games with children during your road trip, asking them to point out different signs, landmarks, or car models and colors. Involving your kids in the journey as much as possible will keep spirits high and create a fun distraction.

During Your Trip

You’ve gathered the essentials and packed your car, but now it’s time for the most crucial part – the car ride. Long car rides can be tedious, but there are several things you can do to stay healthy and keep busy during your road trip:

Take breaks & stretch: Road trips require hours of sitting and can leave you feeling sore and stiff. Stretch breaks can help you get through your trip pain-free. When you stop for a break, try these simple stretches:
  • Lower back: From a standing position, reach down and touch your toes. Hang in this position for 10-30 seconds and roll up slowly. Read more tips for alleviating back pain during road trips.
  • Chest: Stand with one arm stretched out against the frame of your car door and twist your torso gently in the opposite direction until you feel a stretch across your chest muscles. Hold this position for a few seconds and repeat on the other arm.
  • Neck: Reach over your head and grab your ear with one arm. Gently pull your ear towards the opposite shoulder until you feel a slight stretch. Hold this position for a few seconds while keeping both shoulders level, then repeat on the other side.
  • Hips and shoulders: Using your car for balance, hold one foot behind you in your hand and lift it as high as you can. As you lift your foot, allow your torso to lean forward until you feel a stretch through your shoulder, chest, hip flexor, and quadriceps. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
When performing these stretches, do so with your fitness levels and abilities in mind. Pushing your body too far during a stretch or workout can end up causing more damage and result in more pain than before, which is not ideal for long car rides.

Stopping for breaks during road trips also allows the driver to refuel and refocus. Driving while tired is dangerous, as it makes drivers less attentive, slows reaction time, and affects decision-making abilities. Yawning or blinking frequently, difficulty remembering the past few miles driven, missing your exit, drifting from your lane, and hitting a rumble strip are all signs of drowsy driving and should indicate that the driver needs to pull over for a break.

Wear sunscreen: Although you may think that you’re safe from the sun in your car, it is possible to get sun damage during a long drive. Harmful UVA rays can pass through car windows or glass, so it’s important to protect yourself during road trips. There are many different options when it comes to sunscreen, so choose the one that best suits you and your family.

Cellphones and Driving Don’t Mix: Although it’s tempting to check your phone or send text updates while driving, it’s extremely dangerous and illegal in most states. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 8% of fatal car crashes involve distracted drivers. Always pull over before using your phone while driving to protect yourself and others. Additionally, ask a trusted passenger to handle navigation, music, and other responsibilities that may take your attention off the road.

Summer road trips can be special times that result in life-long memories. No matter how long your drive is, consider these tips to reach your destination healthy and happy.
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About The Author

Atrius Health

Atrius Health, an innovative healthcare leader, delivers an effective system of connected care for adult and pediatric patients at more than 30 medical practice locations in eastern Massachusetts. By establishing a solid foundation of shared decision making, understanding and trust with each of its patients, Atrius Health enhances their health and enriches their lives.

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