Ask LH: How Can I Make A Long Journey Suck Less?

Ask LH: How Can I Make A Long Journey Suck Less?

Dear Lifehacker, I’m about to hit the road to visit my family over the Christmas break. It’s a really long trip, and since I won’t be driving, I’d like to make the most of the time without going crazy from boredom. I could play video games or rip some movies, but that gets tedious after a few hours. I want something that works my brain a little more. Do you have any tips or ideas? Thanks, Backseat Boredom

Title photo made using Andrey Yurlov (Shutterstock) and Sweet November Studio (Shutterstock).

Dear Backseat Boredom,

A long trip is an opportunity to catch up on sleep, do some reading, watch some movies or listen to music, or play some new mobile games. Those are all good ways to pass the time, but they’re not the only choices. Here are some suggestions that can transform boring journeys and educate you at the same time.

Catch Up On Podcasts


If you’ve been meaning to check out some new podcasts (or you already have a backlog to catch up with), a long trip is the ideal time to do it. Choose podcasts that will teach you something new or give you a different perspective on life. We’d suggest TED Talks, TWiT podcasts, 5by5 podcasts or Revision3 shows as places to start. Photo by Mingo Hagen. [clear]

Educate Yourself


Download some online courses and set up a mini-curriculum of “classes” to take on your journey. A selection of video classes and some downloadable exercises will improve your knowledge and help the time pass. Interleave these with other activities to avoid information overload.

If you want structured learning, head over to Lifehacker U for a selection of university classes we’ve hand-picked. (Choose one that doesn’t have fixed attendance requirements.)

You can also take a less formal approach, picking a topic and reading it up on the road. You may not be able to break out an Arduino or a Raspberry Pi while you’re riding in the backseat of someone’s car, but you can download some articles to help you get started (such as our guide to getting started with the Arduino or some of our favourite Raspberry Pi hacks and tutorials.) Then you can walk away from your trip ready to get hands-on with the real thing. Photo by Shiny Things.

Write A Short Story Or Start A Blog


We’ve mentioned before that being a model Internet citizen means contributing your own ideas and thoughts to the world. If you have time to kill, why not fire up your favourite text editor and start writing down all of those ideas for that blog you’ve been meaning to start? You could even write the first few posts just so you’ll have something to put up when you build it. Photo by James Whatley.

Similarly, if you’ve been meaning to write a short story or a novel but never got around to it, now is a great time to make up for lost ground. You don’t need access to a computer: brainstorming and outlining on pen and paper work just as well (and you can keep going on a plane during take-off and landing).

Learn A New Language

Learning a new language opens up new possibilities and changes your worldview. A short trip won’t make you fluent, but you can learn some basic vocabulary. You can pick up a language-learning podcast from Open Culture or just learn the basics and start practising.

Teach Yourself To Meditate


A long trip can be a good time to plug in your headphones, listen to some ambient music or nature sounds, and teach yourself to relax and meditate. We’ve discussed how meditation can improve your memory, focus and productivity, and it can also help relieve stress and improve your health. Check out our guide to meditation for the rest of us for tips. At least on a long trip you won’t be able to say you’re too busy to meditate. If you need guidance on the go, there’s an app that can help. Photo by

Those options should be enough to get you started. If readers have additional suggestions, we’d love to hear them in the comments. Enjoy your journey!

Cheers Lifehacker

Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact tab on the right. The Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker


  • You say you are going on a long road trip, but not driving. Assuming this means you are going by car (and assuming you don’t have one of Google’s self-driving cars) I guess that means you will have at least one other person travelling with you?

    Pass the time with conversation.

    Some of the best conversations I have ever had have been during a long car journey. I makes the trip go faster, and you can really have some ‘deep and meaningfuls’ along the way.

  • +1 for podcasts, especially when you’re driving somewhere on your own. I learnt this years ago, and makes the time behind the wheel fly by.

    I dont mind the naked scientists podcast (UK).

  • Audio books! You can borrow them from the library. We often travel to the south west WA from Perth and the long trips are made bearable by listening to a good voice read a great story. Terry Pratchett stories are great as they appeal to the kids too, but we often listen to Clive Cussler stories (very formulaic and probably not worth reading, but harmless and entertaining to listen to). The mark of a good audio book is when you get to where you’re going and don’t get out of the car until the end of the current chapter.

  • Audiobooks. Audiobooks. Audiobooks.

    And Podcasts. Those are good too.

    With an hour-each-way daily driving commute I could not do it without Audiobooks and Podcasts. Exactly as grod says… the sign of a good audiobook is also when you’re at work and you can’t wait to get back into traffic that arvo to find out what happens next.

    I would go so far as to say that for long distance line-haul truckies the use of Audiobooks should be made compulsory/mandatory/tax deductible or even free by govt rebate.

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