When it comes to traveling, nothing compares to a road trip. It’s among the best ways to see the country, putting you in touch with all sorts of people and the unusual sights that fill the interstates and local roads of the nation.
But even the most anticipated trips can turn into nightmares if you commit one of the deadly sins of road trips.
So we’re here to help as we explore what you need to know when planning a road trip – and the vital things to avoid.
Let’s hop on the road!
How To Prepare For A Road Trip
Preparing for a road trip can range from tossing a few snacks and an overnight bag in the car to an extensive process with hotel reservations, planned tours or excursions, and more. For road trips of any significant length, it may be a good idea to have your vehicle checked out in advance, if possible.
This can help eliminate any unknown problems that could derail your adventures mid-trip. It’s also a good idea to ensure you fill up your tank before hitting the road to avoid making a stop too quickly.
How To Plan A Road Trip Route
Your first decision should be an obvious one – where are you going to go? You could start with a destination in mind or work backward based on how much time you want to dedicate to the journey. Of course, remember that you’ll need to get back home, so build in time for this too.
From here, get a sense of the general course between your starting point and destination. Popular GPS and mapping services will likely route you on the shortest or fastest way, often a large interstate or highway. This is perfectly fine for some, especially if time is tighter.
However, some road trippers will want to take a longer but more scenic route, making stops along the way. You may even choose to link several destinations together in a multi-stop road trip.
Once you’ve got your desired destination or destinations in mind, you can work on the finer points of your route. For example, consider the distance and time you’ll need to drive each day relative to the time you’ll have to see attractions or enjoy your destination. Other considerations may include tolls, roads with stoplights or other traffic control, or scenic views along the route.
The 7 Deadly Sins Of Road Trips
We all look for different things in our road trips, but there are a few we should all hope to avoid. Here are seven of the most common to avoid.
1. Not Taking Regular Breaks
Few people truly enjoy the part of the road trip where they’re cooped up in the car, at least for long periods. However, it’s worth taking the extra time for some stops to stretch your legs, relax, grab a bite to eat, and explore.
After all, many road-trippers are as interested in the journey as the destination, and exploring roadside stops is part of the fun! Plus, you’ll be fresher when you get back on the road, helping ensure a safe drive to your final destination.
2. Not Planning Route Ahead Of Time
Part of the allure of road trips is indeed hitting the open road to see what’s out there, but this may not work as well in practice. Sure, you may come across a fantastic roadside stand or restaurant or by accident.
But you may miss more great ones than you notice, especially if you’re on the interstate. Not planning your route well ahead can also have more practical downsides, like leaving you stuck with a long drive after a busy, tiring day or forcing you to double back.
3. Driving At Night
It may be tempting to sneak in some extra miles after the sun goes down. But driving at night is a bad idea for numerous reasons. Decreased visibility means you’ll have to work harder to avoid an accident when you may already be tired after a long day.
Plus, you’ll also miss out on some of the real perks of road-tripping. It’ll be too dark to see the scenery, and most roadside stops and attractions may already be closed.
Pro Tip: If you’re going to drive at night, make sure to use these 5 Ways to Stay Awake on Long Drives.
4. Driving While Tired
This goes hand in hand with driving at night, but it doesn’t have to be dark for you to feel a little sleepy. For obvious reasons, getting behind the wheel for long distances is a horrible idea when you’re not fully alert.
Along with the safety issues, you simply won’t enjoy it as much, either. If necessary, switch drivers or find a rest stop and take a short nap before continuing.
5. Waiting Too Long To Get Fuel
You never know when the next gas station is coming up, especially in some more remote parts of the country. Some stretches might not have gas for 50 or more miles, which could mean serious trouble if you run out in the middle.
Even if you make it to the next station, you’ll likely add a bit of unnecessary stress to what’s supposed to be a fun adventure. There’s no reason not to take an extra few minutes to top off the tank when it falls below a half or quarter full.
6. Eating Salty, Smelly, Sticky Foods
Everyone likes road trip snacks but make your choices carefully to avoid this sin. Salty foods will make you thirsty, eventually leading to more bathroom breaks down the road. Smelly foods may linger long after you’ve finished, to the potential displeasure of any passengers.
You should also avoid sticky foods to keep the steering wheel and other surfaces from getting gross and covered in food. Your best choices are healthy snacks like fruit, nuts, hard cheeses, and similar items, along with plenty of water to stay hydrated.
7. Not Traveling With Some Cash
We get it – the world is going increasingly cashless these days. But just because you prefer to use a card most of the time, it’s vital to always have some cash handy just in case. You may run across a cash-only shop or stand or find yourself needing some tip money for a mechanic or tow truck in a pinch.
There’s no telling what situations may pop up where you’ll need a few bucks, so storing a twenty-dollar bill or two in your glove compartment is a worthwhile investment in avoiding big problems.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind these 5 Ways You Can Ruin Your Road Trip before you hit the highway.
What Are Essential Items To Pack For A Sin-Free Road Trip?
Everyone will have their own definitions of the must-haves for a road trip, but there are a few items we should all bring. You should always have the tools for minor vehicle repairs (like changing a flat) on hand, as well as a small first-aid kit. Most experienced road trippers wouldn’t travel without a car cell phone charger these days, with our phones used for everything from music to navigation.
It’s generally a good idea to bring a few snacks and drinks for your enjoyment in case you end up stuck for any reason. For these same reasons, a blanket is an excellent item to have as well. Finally, many travelers will bring a paper map of part or all of their route if they don’t have cell service along the way. As you take more road trips, you’ll determine any essentials of your own that you’d like to add.
Don’t Ruin Your Next Road Trip With These Sins
Pulling off a successful road trip isn’t rocket science – but there are some things you should definitely avoid to have the best time. Most come down to being prepared for the road ahead, whether it’s how long or the time of day you drive, when you stop for gas, or other issues. Remember these pieces of advice, and you’ll have many miles of enjoyable road trip adventures ahead.
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