Surviving the Balik Kampung Odyssey

Image by The Star Online

Image by The Star Online

If you’re one of two million drivers journeying back to their hometowns this festive season, you will probably be bracing yourself for the long drive, fervently praying to traffic gods for a smooth drive with no hiccups.

While we are powerless in controlling the sheer volume of vehicles on the roads, here are some tips to better prepare you for the drive, and to help make your trip as stress-free as possible!

Do a car maintenance check

If your car is due for a service, it’s a great time to get it done now for safety and peace of mind. If not, perform a basic car maintenance check routine a few days before you’re due to leave:

  • Check tyre pressure and tread depth

  • Check that your spare tyre and jack are in working order

  • Check all fluids - brake fluids, engine oil, coolant, antifreeze additives, windshield washer fluid reservoir, and steering column (if required)

  • Test car battery

Stock up on sleep

While ensuring that your vehicle is in tip-top road condition, don’t neglect the other equally important element - its driver. Be mindful about getting enough sleep for at least 2-3 consecutive nights before your long drive to build up your mental alertness and energy reserves.

Planning your trip

With the high volume of traffic during this season, PLUS has advised motorists to follow its Travel Time Advisory (TTA) in scheduling their balik kampung and balik kota travels between now to June 10.

Plan your route to avoid driving between 12AM-6AM when you would normally be sleeping, and be mindful of reduced alertness during the 1PM-3PM window. According to ‘The Sleep Doctor’, Dr. Michael Breus, your body’s temperature is lower at this time and people are naturally drowsy.

Eating for fuel

If you aren’t fasting during your drive, carrying a variety of nutrient-dense, healthy nibbles is a good way to curb roadside fast food stops. Packing easy to eat, dry snacks (like carrot sticks or nuts) that are minimally distracting to eat can help you stay alert if you struggle with driving long distance. Be wary of high-carb meals or eating big meals before or mid-journey as that will also contribute to midday sleepiness. Chewing gum is great in a pinch!

Also, fatigue can be a sign of dehydration - your blood volume lowers, which decreases blood flow to your brain, and your heart has to pump harder. Stay hydrated!


Make sure your seat position, height and angle are adjusted to suit your body for the best driving position. Every now and then, take a deep breath and scan your body for tension to ensure you are comfortable and relaxed.

Using scents

If you feel you need a boost, having a whiff of essential oils is a good way to perk up. Citrus scents like lemon, mandarin or grapefruit are invigorating, and has the added benefit of reducing car sickness. Peppermint oil can also help with drowsiness, but if you have children in the car, avoid using that.

Listen to engaging material

Listening to books, podcasts or even comedy shows in audio format is a fun way to keep your mind active and engaged. Laughing is a sure way to keep you awake, and a great alternative to music!