7 Ideas to Make Your Commute Suck Less

I drive 20 miles in rush hour traffic to work and back every day. I have a good job at a good company and I live where I want to live around friends and a great neighborhood. But connecting the two is torture every day. Here are six ways I’ve found to make the drive less terrible.

Audio Books

The newest and best idea I have tried to make the commute more tolerable, and almost enjoyable, is audiobooks.

I like reading, but I don’t have enough time to read as much as I would like. But I have almost two hours in the car every day where I don’t have much to do. But “reading” has turned into a great driving activity.

I started trying Audible with my phone plugged into the car stereo, but Audible was expensive for what I got. So I did something I hadn’t done in years, I went to the library. They have a great selection of books on CD and books to download and it is 100% free.

Trying New Routes

Going the same way every day gets monotonous, so I like to mix things up depending on traffic, what time I leave, and my mood.

There is clearly one fastest way home, but if I don’t have any plans and I’m feeling sick of US 36, I might try one of a few alternate routes. Sure, they might add an extra 5-10 minutes onto my drive, but to avoid the daily headache of my usual drive, it is worth it every once in a while.

Catch Up With Out of Town Friends

Talking on the phone can be a distraction, but if you can do it safely the car is the best time to catch up with out of town friends, parents, siblings, and other people you don’t see regularly.

I have good friends around the country that I would like to see more often, but I always have an extra 45 minutes or so on the way home from work to say hi. Just make sure you don’t call a friend in an earlier time zone that might still be at work.

Carpool

Where I live and work carpooling isn’t a viable option, but it is for a lot of people that drive in solo each day.

In addition to having company for your ride, you also save gas money and the environment by taking extra cars off the road.

Take Public Transportation

For a few years, I lived near a park and ride and worked within a block of a light rail station, so I took the train in every day. I had a discounted, pre-tax pass through my employer and spent the time on the train reading books, writing blog posts, listening to music, and keeping myself busy and entertained with my netbook.

Depending on your city, you may even be able to save money by taking public transit instead of your car. You can save gas, wear and tear, and sometimes insurance costs by driving less.

Eat Breakfast

Save a few minutes in the morning by taking your breakfast to go and eating it in the car. Just make sure you still drive safely and don’t get into the fattening habit of picking up fast food drive through breakfasts regularly.

Take Audio Notes for Projects

As a serial entrepreneur and blogger, I am always coming up with ideas and to-dos while sitting in traffic. Using an audio notepad or talk-to-text, I can add to my list or even dictate blog posts for later. Again make sure to drive safely while using an electronic device in the car, but you can get a lot done in that time.

Your Best Commute Busters

Aside from working at home, what are your best ideas to avoid the torture of the long drive in to work? Please share your tips and ideas in the comments.

Image by epSos.de / flickr

Comments

  1. says

    I HATE the drive to work. It isn’t very long, but I still don’t like it. Luckily I have found an awesome morning talk show that always makes my day.

    • Eric says

      I used to do the radio talk shows, but my favorite guy is no longer on the air and with so much time in the car, I needed something to mix it up a bit.

  2. says

    Thanks for the post, Eric. I have a 20 mile commute too, and I’m a big fan of the audiobooks idea. I’ve only tried it a couple of times but I love it. Having an audiobook loaded on my phone requires being prepared though.

    Normally I’ll listen to a podcast of ESPN radio or NPR’s Marketplace show, it feels more productive than just listening to music (though not as relaxing).

    • Eric says

      I tried doing Podcasts, but have not found a great app for managing them on my phone without paying. (One of the few Android weaknesses I have found)

    • Eric says

      My car was the last year before they added bluetooth to the Corolla, but I do have an iPod and headphone auxiliary jack that I had installed. I used to do lots of podcasts, but audiobooks have become my go-to listening for the commute.

  3. says

    I had a 2.5 hr daily commute for a number of years, and Audible.com really helped. At ~20/mo, you get 2 books. Most books are 15-25 hrs, but many are 35+ hrs, and there are a lot of series to be had. At 2 hrs daily commute, you’re looking at wanting 40 hrs of book time a month. After a while, you can even reread some of your favorites, which opens up the 12-15 hr books (~400 pages).

    I’ve also found audio books great while doing manual labor (mowing the lawn) or solitary outdoors activities (hiking, disc golf).

    • Eric says

      That sounds pretty rough Adam. I go crazy with my commute, I don’t know if I could bear a longer one.

      Audible is now $23 per month for the 2 book a month plan, but I didn’t want to part with $276 per year for audio books. I was excited when I saw my local library offered free audio book downloads for local residents.

  4. says

    I’ve had a commute of over 40 miles each way before, and I couldn’t stand it. To pass time, I tried to (safely) talk and catch with friends and parents. On a few occasion, I listed to audio books and it worked out well. Sometimes, on the way back, I would take the time to decompress from the day.

    • Eric says

      That’s a mega commute! About double what I do every day. I hope it wasn’t a heavy traffic drive, that would make it even more horrible!

      I totally get decompressing from the day. The second I get home, I’m greeted (jumped on) by the dogs and start doing my evening stuff. Clearing my mind before I get home makes it much nicer.

  5. says

    I like the audio books idea and the eat breakfast. I have one of the gen 1 kindles that can do text to speech and it is AWESOME!!! I can download free classic books and listen to them just like an audio book. Folks can probably find the old ones on ebay for cheap if interested.

    • Eric says

      I have downloaded books to my iPod and phone, but my Kindle is a newer one that doesn’t do speech to text. If you have an old one, that is a sweet idea.

  6. says

    I am so glad I haven’t had a commute in over 10 years, at most 10 minutes to cycle to work but that was it. I spend lots of times in airports though and always come prepared with a podcast or some computer work. I would try to commute by bus or train even if that took a bit longer just to get things done in the meanwhile.

    • Eric says

      So jealous! I wish I could bike to work in 10 minutes. 20 miles uphill the whole way there makes it too much for me. And I work too far from the bus/train route to make it practical. I wish we had Europe style public transit here.

  7. says

    I moved closer to work. I used to have a commute that was almost an hour each way, now it is down to 15 minutes. It feels like there are more hours in the day. I tried many of the above tactics, but the cost of moving closer was worth every penny to me.

    But when I didn’t have a choice, the phone calls and radio were my preferred methods.

    • Eric says

      I thought about moving closer to work, but I work out in a far reaching suburb and live near downtown. I would give up everything that I enjoy to live by the office and my quality of live would plummet.