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100 Excellent Lifehacks for Your Long Commute

April 20th, 2010

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Let's face it, there are few people who truly look forward to a long commute. After all, it takes a big chunk out of your day that you could be using to do something else like relaxing at home, getting a little extra sleep or getting work done. A long commute doesn't have to be an entirely bad thing, however. These tips and tricks will help you cut down on costs, make the most of your time driving, and lower the stress that commuting can sometimes create. Take a minute to read through this list, and you might just find something that can make your daily commute a little less painful, if not actually enjoyable.

General Driving

Millions of people commute to work everyday on congested highway and roads. These tips offer some general tips on making your drive faster, safer and generally more pleasant.

  1. Don't bother changing lanes. Studies have shown that while another lane might seem like a faster option, it generally won't make much of a difference and could put you at a greater risk of accidents. So, pick a lane and stick to it until you need to exit.
  2. Look ahead down the road. Don't just look at the bumper of the car in front of you when you're driving. Safety guidelines suggest you should always be looking at least 12 seconds ahead of you when driving.
  3. Get mounts for all your important gadgets. Using your phone or other electronics in your car can be dangerous if done improperly. To make it safer, get mounts that allow you to see your gadgets without having to dig around for them, so you can change songs, track your GPS and answer calls more safely.
  4. Stay organized. Keeping your car clutter free will ensure that it's a nice place to spend a few hours every day, and it will help you find what you need, when you need it whether for work or to keep you occupied while driving.
  5. Keep your car well maintained. Whether your commute is 30 minutes or 2 hours, the fact is that you're putting a lot of wear and tear on your car. Help make sure it stays safe and reliable by taking it in for regular oil changes and basic maintenance. You'll thank yourself for it later.
  6. Learn alternate routes. While you might have a favorite way to take to work, knowing how to take an alternate route can be a lifesaver if there is an accident, inclement weather or just a huge traffic jam. Try mapping out a backup plan and keeping it in your car.
  7. Use the restroom before you leave. There are few things worse than being stuck in a traffic jam and desperately needing to use the restroom. Be safe instead of sorry and make a beeline for the bathroom before you go.
  8. Consider a motorcycle. While there are, of course, a wide range of additional safety concerns that come along with riding a motorcycle, some states allow them to cut between traffic, seriously reducing commuting times.
  9. Choose your car wisely. If you're in the market for a new vehicle, make sure you choose something that will work well for your commute not just something that looks cool. Forbes has put together a list of the most comfortable and fuel efficient models to consider.
  10. Have respect for others on the road. You might be right that another driver is acting rudely, but getting upset about it only puts your safety at risk. Have respect for others and be polite, and you'll have a much more enjoyable commute.
  11. Value safety over time. While of course you want to arrive at work on time, in the long run, being a few minutes late isn't worth risking your life. Keep that in mind on your way to work.
  12. Consider a move. If your commute is causing you health problems, stress, financial trouble or otherwise hurting your personal life, then it might be time to consider a move. You may have to give up space or ideal location, but you'll get your life back in return.

Driving Safety

Above all else, your safety when commuting should be paramount. Here are tips to help keep your commute safe.

  1. Adjust your mirrors. Ideally, before you even start driving, you should adjust your mirrors to ensure maximum visibility.
  2. Try to drive the speed limit. While you might find it a pain in the butt, the speed limit is there for a reason. Obeying it could mean a safer commute and fewer traffic tickets which can be more than worth the few extra minutes speeding buys you.
  3. Listen to your vehicle. If you're hearing sounds that don't sound quite right, chances are pretty good you need to take your car in for maintenance to ensure it stays safe to drive.
  4. Pay attention to driving, not anything else. Accidents, scenery, phones and other distractions can easily draw your focus from driving. Always remember that driving should be your number one priority and stick to it.
  5. Use your common sense. Will driving on the shoulder really get you there faster? Should you change back and forth between lanes rapidly? Obviously you shouldn't do either of these things, and your common sense will generally tell you when to avoid other potentially dangerous situations as well.
  6. Give yourself time so you won't feel rushed. Drivers tend to speed more and drive less safely when they feel rushed. Give yourself extra time in the morning to get to work so you won't feel the need to speed.
  7. Don't be a zombie. Highway hypnosis is a common and potentially deadly situation. Work hard to keep your attention focused on the road, even if it means giving yourself activities like counting cars or looking for scenery.
  8. Always wear your seatbelt. It's not only the law, but it could also help save your life.
  9. Bring along road safety tools. Having tools like a jack, flares, crowbars, tire irons and other tools can ensure that you'll have the tools to deal with any incidents immediately.
  10. Leave early in inclement weather. Whether you're heading to work or heading home, high winds, snow and pouring rain can make driving very dangerous. Leave home early or check with your boss about staying later another day to get some lead time in these situations.
  11. Replace worn out wipers as soon as you can. Not being able to properly see out of your windshield is about as dangerous as it gets when you're driving a car. Always make sure to keep windshield wipers in good working order to avoid this.
  12. Always keep the windshield cleaning fluid full. Cars can get dirty quickly, even just sitting in the parking lot at work, so make sure you always have wiper fluid on hand to keep them clean.

Public Transport

Those who take buses and trains to work will appreciate these tips on saving money and staying safe while traveling.

  1. Be considerate of others. You're more than likely not the only person commuting to work, so keep cell phones, bags, music and anything else from bothering other passengers.
  2. Buy long-term passes. Often, it can be cheaper to get unlimited or bulk fares on public transport. Find out what your community offers.
  3. Arrive early. You don't want to be running to catch your bus or train, so give yourself a good amount of lead time.
  4. Use technology to track services. Many cities now have applications for your phone that allow you to track where buses and trains are and when they should arrive, making for a happier commute for all.
  5. Use the time to read a book. Taking public transport gives you the luxury of being able to read while traveling. Take full advantage of it.
  6. Be aware of your safety. If you enter a situation where you don't feel safe, exit immediately or notify the driver. It's always better to be safe than sorry.
  7. Get some work done. Don't waste your morning just sitting on the train, use it to get a head start on work. It could help make the rest of your day less stressful.
  8. Enjoy the scenery. Provided you aren't taking the subway, you could get to see your city quite a bit by taking the bus or train. Enjoy it.
  9. Plan your entry and exit. If you know the stop closest to your home or work is a crazy one that leaves the bus or train packed, consider traveling to the one prior to get a jump on the crowds.
  10. Sit near the exit. While in the winter it might not be as pleasant, generally it will help you avoid having to crawl over passengers or push your way out the doors.
  11. Protect yourself from dirt and germs. Bring along hand sanitizer and avoid touching too much on the train to keep yourself from getting sick.
  12. Hang on. You don't want to end up falling on your behind, so if you're not sitting on the train or bus, make sure you're holding onto something at all times.
  13. Be cautious on the platform. Ice, snow and even rain can make platforms slippery. Avoid running and always look where you're going to avoid any hazardous situations.
  14. Pay attention. Usually those announcements aren't just for the fun of the transport authorities. Pay attention as they could be telling you something important.
  15. Check out employer discounts. Many employers offer pre-tax discounts for transit passes to encourage employees to take public transportation. Check with yours to see if they do as well.
  16. Catch up on life. Sitting on the train can be a great time to catch up with emails, call friends, finish small tasks and generally get things done.
  17. Do a crossword or Sudoku. Keep your brain active while riding to work or home by picking up a word or number puzzle. In some places you can even get them for free in local newspapers.
  18. Grab the attention of an attractive passenger. If you're single and looking, public transport might be a place to meet someone new. Catch their eye, chat them up or post a missed connection.

Making it Interesting

Commuting can be extremely boring if you don't keep yourself occupied. These tips will help you make the most of your commuting time.

  1. Try a new route. Taking the same way to work every day can get old. Try out a new drive to see new scenery and to shake things up a little bit.
  2. Get an audiobook. Since you can't read a book while driving why not listen to one? You can download them online or even get them for free at your local library.
  3. Learn a language. Alone time in your car is the perfect place to work on your language skills and there are a wide variety of CDs you can buy or podcasts to download to help you to do.
  4. Try a text reader. Using this kind of service, you can have just about anything converted to audio so you can read work documents and much more on the go.
  5. Talk to yourself. It might look strange to other drivers, but sometimes talking to yourself can help you work out ideas and problems better than just thinking about them.
  6. Subscribe to podcasts. These days, there are podcasts out there on just about every topic imaginable. Search through listings to find ones that meet your interests, and bring them with you on the go.
  7. Don't forget music. Even if you decide to forego it, having music on hand is a must when driving. It can help boost your mood, alleviate stress and even make your mind work faster.
  8. Enjoy the time alone. Spending time alone isn't always a bad thing. It can give you time to reflect, think and get your mind straight.
  9. Talk safe. If you do need to talk on your cell phone while driving, make sure that you're doing it safely and legally by using a headset, though you really should try to avoid it altogether if you can.
  10. Check out a lecture. With so many lectures free online there's no reason why you can't listen and learn while driving.

Saving Money and Gas

These hacks will help you to lower the amount of money and gas you use on your commute.

  1. Look in to commuter discounts. If you do commute regularly, you may be able to get discounts on tolls and other expenses. Simply check around in your area for information.
  2. Ask about telecommuting. You could save hundreds of dollars each year by telecommuting one day a week. Ask you boss if it's possible.
  3. Use sites like GasBuddy to seek out the best prices. There's no reason to pay more for gas if there are cheaper options that are convenient to your route.
  4. Make use of cruise control when you can. This will help you maintain a constant speed and will save you gas and wear and tear on your car.
  5. Drive the speed limit. Driving the speed limit isn't just a safety concern but can also reduce the amount of gas you need to get to and from work.
  6. Don't slam on the breaks. Stopping and starting rapidly eats up the gas in your car, so keep speeds moderated when you can.
  7. Keep track of your mileage. You can track what changes in your habits actually have an impact on gas mileage by tracking it carefully each time you fill up.
  8. Carpool. Why pay all the costs of driving yourself when you can split them with someone else?
  9. Get the junk out of your car. Having extra junk in your car makes it heavier and can make it take more gas to get places.
  10. Maintain your momentum. Ideally, you should be able to use your momentum when driving to keep your gas usage at a minimum.

Saving Time

Cut out a few minutes from your commute each day by following these tips.

  1. Check out the traffic before you leave. There are plenty of websites, in addition to news reports, that will let you see what routes to avoid and what shouldn't be too bad.
  2. See if you can shift your driving times. Sometimes leaving an hour earlier or later can make the difference between it taking 30 minutes or two hours to get home.
  3. Have a routine. Having a morning or afternoon routine can speed things up when it comes to getting out the door and in the car.
  4. Take the back roads. Sometimes getting off the highway can actually be a faster way to get to work.
  5. See if alternate modes might be faster. Experiment with taking different ways to work. Who knows, you just might find a route that shaves off serious time from your drive.
  6. Alternate carpooling. On the days you don't have to drive you'll get to enjoy your morning at leisure.
  7. Learn about construction. Don't get caught unaware by road construction. Look through news and road reports to find out when and where it will be happening.
  8. Watch accident reports. Like construction, accidents can seriously extend your drive home. Check to see if there are any major blockages before leaving.
  9. Obey ramp lights. There is a reason that there are lights at highway on-ramps. The few seconds you wait helps to control the flow of traffic and makes the drive faster for everyone in the long run.
  10. Choose the middle lane. Because no one is getting off or on in the middle lane, it is often the most consistent and streamlined lane on the road.
  11. Don't be a tailgater. You might think you're gaining time by speeding, but tailgating can actually cause traffic accidents and traffic jams. Give other drivers room.


If you're lucky enough to be able to ride your bike to work, you'll want to check out these ideas to make your trip a safe one.

  1. Pack extra clothes. Getting sweaty or unexpected rain can make it unpleasant to work in your biking clothes. Always bring a change or keep one in your desk, just in case.
  2. Ask your work about incentives. Many businesses now have incentives for employees who choose to bike, so ask your HR department if it could apply to you.
  3. Plan your route ahead of time. Knowing how you plan to get to work can save time in the long run.
  4. Check the weather. You probably don't want to bike to work in driving rain or several inches of snow, so always check the weather before leaving.
  5. Find bike-friendly maps. Many cities have bike lanes, and using Google's bike maps you can map the best way to bike anywhere.
  6. Be prepared for rain. Unless you live in a desert, you should always prepare for rain. Get tire splash guards and bring along the appropriate gear.
  7. Stop making excuses. Do you want to bike to work but can't seem to do it? Try giving it a test run on a day off so you can stop making excuses and just do it.
  8. Prep your bike. Don't just jump on your bike and go. Always check tire pressure, seat adjustments and other maintenance issues before leaving.
  9. Dress appropriately. You're probably going to have some difficulty biking to work in a suit or dress. Always dress appropriately and change later.
  10. Lock up your bike safely. Help protect your investment and your means of conveyance by getting a heavy duty u-lock and locking your bike up to a sturdy object in a safe place.
  11. Outfit your bike for safe riding. Make sure your bike has the appropriate lights, tires and other features you'll need for the conditions you'll be riding in.
  12. Wear a helmet. Helmets might look dorky, but they greatly increase your chance of avoiding serious injury in a crash.
  13. Bring spare parts and tools along. Blown tires and loose chains do happen. Brings a small tool set with you so you'll be prepared.
  14. Know how to ride a bike. You might think you know how to ride a bike, but as this site will show you, you could probably use a few pointers about how to ride safely and efficiently.
  15. Remember that you have to follow the same rules as motorists. Just because you're on a bike doesn't mean you can disregard signals and rules. Act like any other vehicle, and you'll be much safer.
  16. Ride with others. Riding with another commuter will increase your visibility and make you safer.
  17. Signal and be predictable. Don't weave between cars or turn without signaling. It could get you seriously injured and won't make drivers happy.

Mindful travel

Don't let the stress of the commute eat away at you. Use these tips to relax and put your mind at ease while traveling.

  1. Kill the road rage. Most people who've ever commuted know how easy it is to get frustrated with those around you on the road. Yet this anger could put your life and the lives of others at risk and really earns you nothing in the end. When you feel yourself getting angry, take a deep breath and let go instead.
  2. Realize you don't own the road. Have you ever gotten protective of the lane you're driving in on the road and were reluctant to let others merge? It's not exactly logical when you think about it. Learn to share the road with others, and you'll find your drive much more enjoyable.
  3. Make eye contact with other travelers. Some studies have suggested that it can actually be beneficial to make eye contact when on the road. Other drivers will be more likely to let you pass or merge when eye contact has been made.
  4. Think meditative thoughts. While you obviously can't close your eyes, you can still think peaceful and meditative thoughts while driving, making you happier when you get to work or home.
  5. Mentally review your day. If you've got a full day, go over what you need to do in your head on your ride to work. It can help you create a plan of attack and make you more productive when you arrive.
  6. Exercise your brain. Why let your mind idle while you're driving? Work it out with some simple brain exercises instead.
  7. Reflect on your blessings. Your daily commute can be a great time to meditate on all the good things in your life, not only helping you feel more grateful but reducing your stress as well.
  8. Enjoy the journey. Sometimes just getting in the car or on your bike can be nice, so enjoy the trip.
  9. Relax. If you feel yourself getting stressed on your commute, figure out a few techniques that you can use to relax. It could reduce your risk of illness and simply make your day better.
  10. Focus on the moment. If it's a beautiful day, you're heading home to a nice evening, or any other reason, simply focus on the moment and try to make it the best it can be.

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