Everyone loves a good old fashion road trip. There is something about the open road and a full tank of gas that makes you feel free! However, there are many road trip mistakes that can ruin your trip!
It can seem simple to stock up your car with snacks and fill up at the gas station and hit the road. While road trips don’t require the most planning of all vacations, there are still some things you should know beforehand.
You don’t want to be caught unprepared with a flat tire, getting lost with no GPS, or a messy and unorganized car. No matter how long your road trip is, whether it is a 3-hour trip or a cross country road trip, you should make sure you are prepared!
As far as packing goes, make sure you have all these road trip essentials before you leave for the ultimate experience! You want your road trip to be as stress-free and easy-going as possible, so take some time beforehand to make sure you have the right items, plans, and are taking the right precautions.
This list will go over some road trip mistakes that could cause you a lot of stress on your trip. Keep some of these thoughts in your mind as you go about planning your next road trip!
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Skipping vehicle maintenance
One of the most common road trip mistakes is skipping vehicle maintenance. Before a road trip, you absolutely must make sure your car is ready! You spend time packing for yourself and making sure you are ready to go, so make sure your car gets prepared too!
You won’t want to get 2 hours into your trip only to notice, “oops, I forgot to get that oil change”, or “oh no my tires have low air pressure”
That would not be a great way to start the road trip off! Plus, what if your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere with no cell service!
Before you leave for a road trip, make sure you bring your car to the mechanic and have them give it a glance over. Make sure everything looks good, and maintenance is up to date. You can even tell them you are going on a road trip x amount of miles, and they will know what to look for!
I have personally done this before driving across the country, just to make sure my car would make it. With a couple of quick fixes, my car was good to go!
If your car has too much maintenance or is too old, consider bringing a different car. Maybe a friend has a car you can borrow (or even trade your cars for the week!).
You might also want to consider bringing a rental car. Especially if you are going through lots of mountains and deserts and crazy terrain, your little car might not make it. Rental cars are usually pretty new and are definitely up to date on maintenance. At least you will know the car will be ok- one less thing to worry about on your trip!
Driving too much in 1 day
Another thing to watch out for when taking a road trip is how much you are driving per day. This will differ greatly depending on personal factors, but it is important to recognize how long is too long for you.
If you can drive 10 hours a day, so be it. But, if you get tired after only 5 hours of driving, that’s ok too! The beauty of taking a road trip is that you can go at your own pace.
You can set a schedule with whoever you are road tripping with too. Maybe every 5 hours you switch drivers, or maybe only one person drives per day. Depending on your personal needs, figure out a driving schedule that works best for you!
Also, driving too much in a day might make you miss some exciting things along the way! If you are too concerned about driving as much and as far as you can per day, you could miss beautiful things!
Before you leave, take a look at your route. See if there are any unexpected cool things that you are interested in seeing along the way! Otherwise, you might miss out on them completely! Plus, having little stops to look forward to will make the long drive more tolerable and fun!
I personally am someone who will sleep 10+ hours a day, and still want more sleep. However, I refuse to sleep in during a road trip.
Especially if you are driving many hours in one day, it is probably better to get a head start. Early in the morning, roads are typically more empty, and traffic is light. You can watch the sunrise as you are driving, and enjoy some peace and quiet!
Plus, you can get in a few hours of driving before the rest of the world even wakes up! Getting up and out early will allow you to get to your destination earlier, meaning more time to explore!
You won’t want to spend your entire day driving in the car- you want to get there, and relax! Plus, if you have some stops planned along the way, you want to have time to stop and explore without worrying about running out of time.
The good thing about getting up and out early is even if you are tired, all you have to do is roll out of bed and start driving. You can sip your coffee and listen to some music until you start to wake up again.
Pack up your car the night before, and have everything laid out for you so you can roll out of bed and get going! If you have kids, you can throw some pillows and blankets in the back seat and let them continue sleeping in the car!
Even though you might be tired, you will thank yourself for waking up early. Getting to your destination at dinner time will seem much better then getting in at 10pm!
Not filling up often
One of the worst road trip mistakes you can make is not filling your tank up often enough. I cannot stress this one enough- you DO NOT want to run out of gas on the highway or a backroad somewhere!
You might be busy jamming to music and singing with your friends and miss the exit for the gas station. Oops!
When we drove across the country, we filled up way more than we needed to. Every time your tank gets to 1/4, start looking for the next gas station. This will give you enough time to find a gas station if you are far away.
Additionally, every time we stopped to use the bathroom, we also filled up. Even if you don’t necessarily need gas yet, you are stopping anyway, so might as well gas up while you are there!
Also, make sure you lookout for signs that tell you the distance until the next rest stop. If the next rest stop isn’t for another 100 miles, check your tank and make sure you have enough to get there!
However, even if you think you have enough gas to make it, there are so many unpredictable factors that could happen. What if there is a sudden traffic jam or an accident and you don’t have enough gas?
It seems obvious to keep your tank full on a road trip, but you’d be surprised how many people forget! Consider using this gas trip calculator to see how much you will need!
If you’ve ever been in a car before, you know the sun feels extra hot for some reason. If you are driving the same direction for hours on end, the sun might be beating down on your arm or leg the entire time.
It would definitely be a trip ruiner if you got sunburned just on your way to your vacation! So, make sure you take precautions to keep your skin safe and healthy!
It might be a good idea to wear pants or longer shorts when driving, to give your legs some extra protection. You can also bring a sweatshirt to lay over your legs or arms if they are in the sun.
I know you’ve all heard this before, but- wear your sunscreen! Sunburns hurt, and the sun is bad for your skin! Especially if you are stuck in the sun for hours, you could really do some damage to your skin.
Additionally, consider getting these car window shades which will help protect you from the sun even more! There isn’t much you can do since you can’t move the sun, but you can at least try to shade yourself!
Not accommodating for your doggo
Forgetting to prepare your dog for a road trip is one of the worst road trip mistakes you can make! You might think all your dog needs is some food and maybe some toys, but they need more than that.
Just like people, dogs need some extra comfort when traveling. You will need to be prepared to stop more often and take more breaks so they can run around.
Your dog might also need some medications provided by your vet to help them with anxiety or car sickness. You will need to rearrange your car so they have enough room. There are so many things many travelers forget to think about!
Luckily, we have this list for taking a cross country road trip with your dog, so you don’t forget anything. Your furry friend will be one happy little pooch!
Not planning entertainment
There is nothing worse than that boredom that hits after the initial excitement of a road trip wears off. Are we there yet??
Make sure you plan some entertainment for your long car ride, especially if you have children! Create some playlists, listen to an audiobook, or play one of these car games.
Research some interesting conversation prompts to learn more about your partner or friends. Listen to a new CD your favorite band just released. See who can sing the best!
The goofier, the better. You especially don’t want the driver to get bored so they stay awake and alert! Having nothing to do will only make the car ride feel like an eternity, which can make you cranky and irritable- no one wants that!
I’m sure we are all somewhat guilty of this, but it is one of the worst road trip mistakes! Going on a road trip is not the time to have a messy, unorganized car.
You don’t want to be searching for that bottle of water you swear you put on the seat. You won’t want bags of opened chips scattered across the floor of your car. Take some time to clean and organize your car before you leave!
These backseat car organizers work like a charm for keeping everything in place, especially if you have kids! You can also get some of these car totes to throw on the back seat to organize and separate all your stuff!
Having everything in place will make the car feel cleaner and more comfortable. Another great tip is to go through your car every time you stop for gas and get rid of any garbage. It really adds up quickly during a road trip and in a small space!
Not checking the weather
When driving long distances, it is inevitable you will hit some unwanted weather somewhere down the line. However, if you are driving through any places with severe weather, you will want to make sure you are up to date!
For example, if you are driving through the mountains, it would be a good idea to check the weather right before you go. Weather can change in an instant, so you will need to be prepared!
You won’t want to get caught in a huge snowstorm, a hurricane, or a tornado! Sometimes you can just wait it out for an hour or two then go on your way. Sometimes, though, you might have to spend a night somewhere unexpected. Hey- its better than getting hurt!
Depending on where you are going, make sure you have items in your car to prepare. For example, bring a shovel and snow brush if it might be snowing. Have a spare tire in your trunk just in case you get a flat along the way.
You can also keep the radio on local stations while your driving so you are aware of any unexpected weather changes coming your way! Plus, it is fun to listen to local channels to see what that town listens to!