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Nervous RV Passenger? How to Calm Your Nerves While Riding Shotgun

| Updated Feb 26, 2024

Passenger anxiety can throw a damper on a roadtrip, for both driver and passenger. Here is how to calm your nerves while riding shotgun in an RV…

Many people understand that driving an RV can be stressful, especially for new drivers. But what about front-seat passengers? 

Many passengers may also find the ride very uncomfortable or anxiety-provoking. 

One of our RV Lifestyle community members, LaNeil, recently posted in our Facebook group. She wrote: 

“Fairly new to RVing, My husband (is) a good driver, but I get so nervous and feel that we are going too fast, and I hate being so tense all the time. Any advice for shotgun riders appreciated.” 

The good news is that many of our members felt the same way and were able to give her some great advice. 

How to Calm Your Nerves While Riding Shotgun in an RV

The following are tips and tricks to help calm down nervous RV passengers. I have broken them into three broad categories: 

  • Control Your Environment
  • Calm Yourself Down
  • Work With the Driver

Passenger anxiety is a common fear that should be addressed, not ignored. Trying to “push through” the anxiety usually only results in tension or an argument.

Control Your Environment

How to Calm Your Nerves While Riding Shotgun in an RV
Control Your Environment.

If you want to calm your nerves when not in charge of driving the RV, then one option is to control your environment. That means you can do something physically different to change what is occurring. 

Learn to Drive the RV Yourself

Many RV lifestyle members and I mean many, suggested that LaNeil learn to drive the RV herself. That way, she can set the speed and feel empowered and control what is happening. 

Many commented that when they learned to drive the RV, it changed how they felt about riding in the RV as a passenger. 

Learning to drive the RV can also help your trip go smoother since there are two able drivers instead of one. That can cut down on other stressful situations, like time management since two people can take turns and drive for more extended periods. 

Donna Murray commented about learning to drive the RV herself, saying, “Understanding how to control it will make the shotgun position easier.” She has made it her goal to understand how to operate every vehicle they have owned. 

Put on Your Blinders

One RV Lifestyle member commented, in jest, that she should put on her blinders. However, this may be a great solution. 

A nervous passenger may not be used to the large window in front of an RV. Perhaps a window shade that doesn’t obscure the driver’s view can help with the vertigo feeling of being so exposed to the open road. 

Even wearing a large hat or visor can serve as blinders while reading or playing on your device in the front seat.

Or, a passenger might opt to sit at a table or sitting area in the middle or rear of the RV. Many come equipped with a seat belt in these areas. And there is the option of closing the blinds and working on activities. 

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Calm Yourself Down

How to Calm Your Nerves While Riding Shotgun in an RV
Many suggested to read a book.

If controlling your physical environment won’t work for you, the next up is to manage your mental environment. You do this by calming yourself down by using several strategies. 

Read a Book

Many commenters suggested that reading a good book is an effective way to keep your mind off of the road. 

Rv lifestyle member Deb Kempf Harvey said they had owned five different RVs, all making her nervous. She said that she reads books and also listens to audiobooks as a way to focus on something else. 

Complete a Game or Puzzle

Another activity that can occupy your mind is engaging in a game or puzzle. Consider trying a crossword, word search, or Sudoku puzzle for your next trip!

Watch a Movie

Another option is to watch a movie on your device. Getting into a good film can take your mind off the road and help calm your nerves. 

You might also consider moving from the front seat into another sitting area to watch the movie. That way, you won’t catch yourself looking up at the road. (Or the driver trying to look at your movie!)

Listen to Calming Music

Do you have a good pair of ear pods? If not, they’re worth the small investment.

Consider putting on calming spa or classical music. Those are also great options to listen to while reading or puzzling! You can put on your favorite jams to help pass the time and calm you down.

If you prefer something more upbeat to distract you, you could try these 13 Best Country Road Trip Songs.

Practice Breathing

How to Calm Your Nerves While Riding Shotgun in an RV

One member, Candy Adams, started a response with one word: “Breathe.” This is also great advice!

It is essential to focus on your breathing and slow it down when feeling stressed. Take slow deep breaths through your nose and exhale out through your mouth. Or try these breathing exercises.

Focusing on your breathing has been shown to calm your nerves since it takes you out of your head and helps you focus on the moment. It also helps ensure that you are getting enough oxygen since shallow, nervous breathing sometimes denies our bodies that important element!

Essential Oils or Medication

I am not necessarily an advocate of this, but many other people use essential oils or medication to help keep them calm. 

Some people claim that essential oils help them maintain a feeling of calm. If this is true for you, it may be good to try.

If you have an anxiety disorder, taking a doctor-prescribed medication may be great if riding in an RV makes you overwhelmingly nervous. Of course, that is between you and your doctor!

Play on Your Device

Another great option to calm your nerves is playing on your device, whether your phone, tablet, or computer. 

Play games, edit photos, or partake in other activities on your device. It will occupy your time and get your mind off of the driver. 

Take Up Knitting

You can also take up a different hobby, such as knitting. Facebook Group member Bethany suggested that activities like knitting can help “occupy your mind.” And I could not agree more! 

Take a Nap

Many commenters suggested that taking a nap is the best way to pass the time. Of course, falling asleep while nervous can be a challenge but there are certain things you can try to help you fall asleep.

Tips to help you nap:

  • Wear comfy clothes
  • Use a neck pillow
  • Use a soft blanket (& maybe turn up the air)
  • Use an eye mask
  • Play classical music
  • Focus on your breathing to clear your mind

Work With the Driver

How to Calm Your Nerves While Riding Shotgun in an RV
Slow down, focus on helping.

While changing your environment and occupying your mind is great, you can also talk to the driver. Is it your spouse, friend, or family member? Most likely, it is someone you care about and who cares about you. 

Talk to whoever is driving and express your concerns. Work together to find a solution to help with your anxiety. 

Slow Down and Take Your Time

More than one person said that now that they are retired, they have the mindset to take the journey slow. Many others also said to slow down since it is safer. Either way, slowing down is excellent advice!

It can help get you to your destination more safely and enjoy the journey getting there a little more. It can also help calm your nerves because you will feel in more control of the vehicle and driving conditions. 

Concentrate on Navigating

One more very common suggestion by our followers is to help with navigation. If you focus your attention on navigating the journey for the driver, you may not feel as helpless in the passenger seat. 

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Mike Wendland

Published on 2022-03-22

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

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