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TIPS to make a bad road trip a little less awful

2:54 PM, Feb 14, 2014   |    comments
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KUSA - You have a great trip planned-a beautiful day of skiing, or a weekend getaway to the mountains. There is only one problem-the drive.

Thousands of cars will be squeezing onto I-70 this holiday weekend, all with the same goal: get to the mountains and back home again without strangling everyone in the car.

Heavy traffic on I-70 is expected this long weekend. This could lead to a similar traffic situation as last Sunday when thousands of people found themselves in their cars for eight to 10 hours on the eastbound corridor of I-70 from Vail to Denver.

9News Psychologist Max Wachtel offers 10 tips to deal with the frustration that can quickly develop when you are stuck in mountain traffic.

1: Prepare mentally: You know it is going to be awful, so brace yourself for it. You would be surprised how helpful this one step can be. Don't try wishful thinking-maybe this time will be different! It won't be different. If you leave during peak times, you will be sitting in traffic for a long time. Embrace it and prepare to be upset.

2: Recognize it is no one's fault: Everyone is in the same boat. Don't think of the other cars as your enemy. There will always be the errant driver whose tires are bald or who is driving too quickly.

3: Don't give in to the rage: You might want to scream. You might want to punch the steering wheel. You might want to yell at the other drivers. Although tempting, it won't help. It will, however, increase the tension inside your car. Your family and friends will feel very uncomfortable, and your anger will probably increase as a result.

4: Have plenty of snacks: Hunger makes everything worse. If you are going to be stuck in your car for hours on end, at least be full.

5: Bring activities for your kids: movies, music, books and toys. These can all help cut the tension and pass the time. You are going to be a lot more frustrated if your little ones are freaking out in the back seat. Playing family games like I Spy helps too.

6: Don't attack each other: Chances are you like the people who are in the car with you. When you are frustrated, it is easy to start fighting with one another, but this only makes a bad car trip worse. Before you snap, take a deep breath and make the conscious decision to remain nice. It is also important to quickly and assertively shut down attacks coming from other passengers.

7: Remain physically calm: Anger has a huge physiological component, and the calmer you can keep your body, the better the trip will be. Try the 5-7-10 breathing technique to relax. Count to five while you breathe in, then hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale while counting to ten. Repeat this pattern two or three times. It takes a lot of concentration to use this technique, and you will be amazed at how well it can work.

8: Be a nice driver: If someone is merging from another lane, let him. If a driver is trying to exit, slow down for the driver to take the exit slowly. Being nice will actually make you feel a little better about yourself, and believe it or not, it actually speeds up traffic a bit.

9: Stay focused on the positive: You are doing this because it is fun. Remind yourself of that. Frequently.

10: Have something fun planned for the end of the car trip: Order a pizza. Watch a movie. Spend time with friends. The trip will be more bearable if you have something fun on which you can focus.

Wachtel says there is nothing you can do to make an extended mountain car trip a completely enjoyable experience. But, there are ways to make it less awful. A good phrase to keep in mind is, "This is bad, but we can handle it." And, preparing in advance makes "handling it" a whole lot easier.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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