How to make driving more comfortable/fun?
July 9, 2014 11:31 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend drives a lot for work, maybe a couple of hours a day, a few days a week. I'm looking for things that will make his drive more comfortable.

He's an NPR-loving lawyer (often in a suit), driving a newer Volkswagen GTI. Any tips, tricks, or items that can make his drives more tolerable or more fun?
posted by brynna to Travel & Transportation (25 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Massage Seat Cushion, like at the mani/pedi place.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:32 AM on July 9, 2014

If he doesn't yet have one, a Bluetooth stereo or, at the very least, a stereo that can connect to a smart phone via USB.

Game changer. Podcasts, audiobooks, your entire music collection. Your phone rings and the music mutes and now you're on speakerphone through the car stereo. Using your phone GPS? The music volume lowers so you can hear the directions.

I swapped out my stereo last year and it's one of the best things I ever did.

I guess if he has a newer car there's a good chance he already has this, but if not, this is the thing he needs.
posted by bondcliff at 11:34 AM on July 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

New sheepskin seat covers—warm in winter, cool in summer.
A nice caddy for his phone.
Upgrade the stereo if needed to support Bluetooth or at least aux in.
Podcasts or playlists curated to his taste.
Get the car interior detailed on a regular basis.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:35 AM on July 9, 2014

Response by poster: Just to clarify, he does have a USB which connects his phone to the car - he uses it to listen to podcasts, etc. on the road.
posted by brynna at 11:39 AM on July 9, 2014

NPR (as well as everyone and their dog) releases loads of their content as podcasts (except Foreign Dispatch, which has been broken for more than a year now).
They're hands-free, they keep your mind occupied, and there's guaranteed to be something he likes out there.
posted by Kreiger at 11:40 AM on July 9, 2014 minute after the clarification. Sorry.
posted by Kreiger at 11:41 AM on July 9, 2014

You can buy or make a seat belt pad for him. Depending on his height and the design of the car's interior, the seat belt might cut into his neck or press down on his shoulder, which can build up into a big annoyance over time. Maybe more relevant to him, however, is that it can crease his suit in weird ways! If you make a squishy and wide enough seat belt pad, it will keep his shoulder crease-free. (Get at least two so the passenger can have a matching one - as a short passenger I really appreciate them.)
posted by Mizu at 11:53 AM on July 9, 2014

Best answer: Audible subscription for audio books.
Bluetooth speaker for making phone calls (although this is supposed to be as distracting as holding a phone).
I used some sugru to make a holder for my phone for using it as a gps.
Microfiber cloth for cleaning the inside of the windshield when it gets all foggy.
Prescription sunglasses or otherwise nice sunglasses.
A headlamp in case he needs to put on chains or do some other maintenance thing in the dark.
Maybe setting him up with Waze if traffic is an issue.
Lumbar support roll for his back.
posted by carolr at 11:57 AM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I personally love my seatbelt cover (just the fake sheepskin one) because seat belts irritate my sensitive skin. Snacks also help me because I tend to get hungry on my way home.

I'm not sure what else there is to do besides listening to stuff. Perhaps go onto iTunes and subscribe to some new podcasts and/or get a subscription to audible or another audiobook source.

Oh I also have a pair of spare sunglasses too! That's a necessity for driving.

Unfortunately, driving can't be too fun. I have over an hour total commute each day... Uhg
posted by Crystalinne at 12:00 PM on July 9, 2014

I used to drive 8-10 hours a day test driving cars. Audio books, definitely. Cinnamon air freshener is supposed to keep you awake. It's hard to find though.
posted by BoscosMom at 12:05 PM on July 9, 2014

Best answer: What about a gift certificate for getting the car detailed? If you're in it a lot it can get dirty pretty quickly.
posted by radioamy at 12:05 PM on July 9, 2014

Best answer: Lumbar support roll for his back.

Definitely some kind of back support. I know you're maybe thinking of more fun or interesting things, but lots of driving puts pressure on the discs and believe me, he doesn't want to trouble any of them.
posted by billiebee at 12:12 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I came in to say an Audible subscription too. There was a point in time where I was alone in the car for a good 6+ hours a week and I got sick to death of the radio. Audible was a godsend!

I asked the HiveMind about this a while ago and got some fantastic answers. I have since listened to many of these recommendations!
posted by chatongriffes at 12:38 PM on July 9, 2014

Seconding the detailing gift.

Related: If his car has regular cloth or otherwise beat up floor mats, a higher-range set can make a big difference.

Also, if he doesn't have them: A small tool set, a nice road emergency kit and a AAA membership are all necessities for someone logging that many miles.
posted by Ufez Jones at 12:40 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

A package of napkins, a package of tissues, and a couple of those spot remover wipes are essentials in my glove compartment, especially when I go on long drives, because I like to eat in my car and I spill a lot. Also, napkins can wipe down windows if they get too steamy during wet weather.
posted by xingcat at 1:08 PM on July 9, 2014

I had Sirius XM satellite radio once in a rental car and it was the greatest.thing.ever. I'd totally splurge for it if I drove a lot.
posted by jabes at 1:17 PM on July 9, 2014

Best answer: My partner has a newer GTI, and I have to say, I think it has some of the most comfortable car seats I've ever sat on, and are really adjustable, so I would think any sort of cover/support cushion would be a downgrade unless he's got specific needs.

-Air compressor that plugs into the AC outlet, in case of of emergencies.
-Car cleaning wipes in case of spills
-Passenger eject button
-You can get an extension cord for the phone adapter so when the phone is charging it doesn't have to sit in the center console, which is pretty useful.
posted by inertia at 1:35 PM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I can personally endorse the Original McKenzie Lumbar Roll. I loooove mine, and it was recommended by my physical therapist. I like the standard, Mr Corpse likes the firm.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:46 PM on July 9, 2014

Best answer: I've got a long commute.

Does he have a smartphone?

I've got a smartphone, a car charger, a car that has an AUX input port, and a headphone patch cable. I hook my phone to the charger and the AUX port and go.

My commute has been very much improved by a subscription to Audible, as recommended above. Audible subscriptions also include a Monday through Friday subscription to your choice of either the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal (This includes holidays, for example, I still had the option to get the paper on July 4, but I didn't). My morning commute is a bit longer than the Times, though I almost always skip the sports section out of complete non-interest. The remainder of my morning commute, as well as all of my evening commute, is spent listening to a book.

When I don't follow this routine, I also have a few podcasts I listen to on occasion, or I listen to music.

A Bluetooth headset might help him get some work done during the long drive, perhaps to call a few clients, though I imagine this might backfire if he needs to take notes on such calls. I have a Bluetooth headset, but I rarely use it as I rarely need to make or answer phone calls while driving (if it's important, they'll leave a message and/or call me back).

My wife got me (as a gift) a Groupon for a car detailing service once; I really appreciated this. Gas cards or gift certificates for oil changes would also be appreciated. (I assume that the two of you don't yet share finances. It's really kind of pointless for me if my wife were to do this, since we share bank accounts and credit cards -- I may as well just buy gas on the credit card, for example. Also, I have a mechanic that I prefer to use for all car maintenance, as opposed to Iffy Lube and such places.)

Waze is also VERY useful; it's a free, community-edited GPS/Navigation app. Other users report traffic, accidents, et cetera, and those who come after get routed around that stuff. Road changes and construction is also community-edited (like Wikipedia). I'd love a windshield mount for my smartphone, particularly since I use Waze a lot, but I don't have one yet.

From what I know of NPR, it tends to be on local radio stations in the 88-91 MHz range that fade out quickly; surely there must be an NPR app, so that NPR-loving lawyers who drive long distances for work can listen without messing with the radio dial so often.

Does he have AAA? If not, membership would make a nice gift (I'm not sure what your price range is). I suggest the Plus membership as it provides up to 100 miles of free towing, whereas a standard membership only provides 3 miles of free towing. (There's an app for that, too -- you can report and request roadside assistance using the app or by making a phone call. The app's a bit better if you're unfamiliar with an area as it transmits your phone's GPS location rather than you having to say, "duhh... I'm on route 165 somewhere and I just passed a windmill.")
posted by tckma at 2:35 PM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

People don't often realize that AAA follows the member, not the car. So even if he's riding as a passenger in someone else's car, and that car breaks down, he can get it towed for free.
posted by tckma at 2:42 PM on July 9, 2014

Following an AskMeFi recommendation several years ago*, I got some silicone windshield wipers, and they're great. Especially for the days when it's just wet enough to make any other wipers make that nasty squeaking noise. These don't, and work perfectly for any amount of rain.

*And thanks, whoever wrote that.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:42 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Stuff in my car:
I have an adapter so I can plug in 3 things to the lighter.
I have a little LED flashlight that plugs into the adapter/lighter. Always charged.
USB battery backup plugged in to adapter/lighter.
Baby wipes.
Sturdy (LLBean) canvas bag with granola bars,chocolate, water, tissues.
A crate for the trunk with flashlight, fix-a-flat, rope, bungee cords, jumper cables, oil, funnel, brake fluid, transmission fluid, coolant, traction mats, fleece blanket, small shovel, whisk broom.
1st aid kit, esp. bandaids.
I drive on back roads in winter, so I have a jar of hard candy, and another jar with tealights and matches. In an emergency like being stuck in a snowbank, a candle in a safe container (the jar) is really comforting. I also have traction mats.

Go out from time to time and clean the inside windows, wipe down the deck under the windshield(it gets dusty), shake out the mats. Take it to be vacuumed.
posted by theora55 at 4:12 PM on July 9, 2014

Get him some really good sunglasses. Or at least, not cheapo Target models. Although they're not prescription, I swear my Smith "Serpico" polarized sunglasses actually help me see better and more clearly.

Having driven across Kansas more times than I care to think about (straight through, excepting the time I got thrown in jail for doing the speed limit and the time I ran out of gas and had to run 9 miles on the interstate to the nearest station), having a clean windshield and polarized glasses banish at least 20% of mind fog.
posted by notsnot at 6:48 PM on July 9, 2014

Car interior pre-heater for those cold winter mornings (or evenings)

VW do a "behind the headrest" suit jacket hanger - look at their optional accessories brochure.

Sort of related - Buy non-iron shirts (which don't crease so much) so he doesn't look like a crumpled mess at the office.

Healthy, long-lasting, easy to open snacks (and water) in the armrest storage.

A Redbull in the glovebox, just in case tiredness strikes. Very effective

A car trash bin, for snack wrappers, chewing gum, receipts etc.

A snazzy thermos sipper cup for that morning coffee

Some sort of briefcase/wallet holder or non-slip pad on the passenger seat so he's not focusing on things slipping off the seat when he's braking/cornering

Spare charged battery/or battery charging pack in the glove box so he's never out of juice.

Warm coat and boots in a grab bag in the trunk.

Perfectly adjust the stereo so the balance and fader is optimized for the driver

Buy a dedicated device (or repurpose an old phone) that remains in the car, automatically downloads the podcasts he likes when in range of your home network and that has a massive microSD card so it holds all the music he could possibly want (arranged into playlists so he doesn't have to fiddle around with electronics while driving)

Strip MP3s from his favorite movies so he can watch his favorite movie in his head while driving. This makes time fly by.

Slightly silly gifts - String-backed driving gloves, a sound effect device to 'bazooka' other road users, a sign that lights up on the back window saying "thanks" or whatever you program in.
posted by guy72277 at 2:39 AM on July 10, 2014

(that's a spare charged phone battery btw)
posted by guy72277 at 6:26 AM on July 10, 2014

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