Mistakes to Avoid when Taking a Road Trip
We know you are ready to get out and embark on your next vacation. Now that travel restrictions are lifting, the weather is getting warmer, and the days longer, it is time to start planning your next getaway. When it comes to choosing where to go on your next roadtrip, there are many options available to you in North America.
Road trips are our favourite type of vacation because there are many fun stops, good food, amazing scenery, unique roadside attractions, and quaint towns to explore. Over the years, we have picked up a thing or two about planning for the perfect roadtrip vacation. Lessons we have learned through the many mistakes we have made over the years.
So, before you head out on your next road trip, make sure it is as stress-free as possible, by avoiding these common road trip mistakes:
A well-tuned & properly running vehicle is the first thing you need for your road trip. Make sure your car is road-trip worthy by taking it to a trusted mechanic for a full inspection and service. If you aren’t sure if your vehicle is safe enough to make the journey – it is best to rent a car, but make sure to get one with unlimited kilometres.
Not Having CAA/AAA:
Having a roadside assistance service like CAA/AAA can help you in the event of a flat, out of gas, or any other unfortunate vehicle situation. A CAA membership is also suitable for discounts on hotels. Not having a CAA membership that is up to date before you leave is one of the worst road trip mistakes you can make.
Not getting your home in order.
Before you leave – make sure you have taken care of the following:
- Kitchen/food: Use up and clean out the fridge of all perishables that won’t survive while you are gone: such as milk, fruit, vegetables, etc. Empty & clean the coffee maker, and do not leave bread out.
- Garbage: Empty all garbage and clean bins before you leave.
- House Plants: have someone come to water plants for you, use slow-release plant watering systems, or place them outside while you are gone to ensure they get watered.
- Security – ensure all doors and windows are locked. Have someone check in on your house. If you have a smart home system, set it to come on and off at random times in the day to make it appear like someone is home.
- Hide-a-key – remove your hide-a-key or secure it in a new and better location that only one trustworthy person knows of in case of emergency.
- Mail – have a good neighbour collect your mail and parcels to prevent theft and not give robbers the idea that you are away. If you expect a parcel delivery, make sure your neighbour knows.
- Appliances: do not leave wet laundry in machines or dishes in the dishwasher.
In fact, it’s a good idea to run a refresh or disinfectant load before leaving and then leave doors open to air them out.
If you are not taking your pets with you, ensure you have your dogs & cats cared for. Make arrangements for boarding your pets or hiring a pet sitter early to ensure you won’t be scrambling at the last minute.
Are you bringing your dog on the road trip?
Check out our tips for preparing for a dog-friendly roadtrip.
Planning your road trip starts with how long you will be gone & where you plan to go in that time. From there, you need to plan the best route(s) to get you where you are going to make the most of your road trip. Planning the proper routes can help you with time management, but also you will be able to plan some fun activities along the way.
Not budgeting enough time.
What is your desired destination? How long do you think it will take to get there? Do you have enough time in your vacation to make this work? The amount of time you have for vacation + the distance to your destination will dictate the amount of fun you can have on the way or how quickly you have to drive.
Not Planning enough spontaneity time.
Planning to be spontaneous? Seems like a bit of an oxymoron, but don’t forget that travel is about the journey, not just the destination. There are a lot of great places in between points A & B, so don’t forget to get off the highway occasionally, take some back roads, or explore some of the smaller towns and villages along the way. Taking random detours and side treks because a roadsign directed us to an unusual attraction is our favourite part of road trips. Some of the coolest things we have found have been in the most unexpected places.
Driving too far in one day
When you plan your road trip, it’s a shame to only drive as far as you can make it in one day. Take time to enjoy the journey, and not just get to the destination as quickly as possible.
Not stopping for restful breaks.
Stopping for ‘gas & go’ shouldn’t be your only break on a road trip. It is hard on your eyes, joints, & muscles and can lead to stress & fatigue. One of the most common road trip mistakes is not listening to your body. Make time to rest up and stretch your legs along the way, and refresh yourself. Take advantage of stops you have to take, and find places where you can enjoy some scenic views, plan a picnic lunch in a park or along a lake or ocean side, or visit a local food truck or roadside eatery for lunch.
Not taking scenic routes.
Vacations are supposed to be fun and not just a long drive. Don’t make one of the most common road trip mistakes of not taking the scenic route. Get off the highway and enjoy the coastal drives, the scenic country roads, etc. Regardless of where you are headed, there will likely be a picturesque road or two along the way. Except for the prairies, perhaps. There will be plenty of options for gorgeous photos, picnic spots, lighthouses, historic buildings, farms & markets, and roadside attractions. If you are anything like us, stopping for weird and unusual roadside attractions is a must on every road trip.
Not updating your Vehicles GPS (and bringing local maps)
Almost all modern vehicles have a GPS, and if yours doesn’t, your cell phone does. Make sure your GPS is up to date so that newer routes have been included. Don’t forget to download traffic apps like Waze to help you avoid lengthy delays and traffic. Maps and atlases are also a good backup plan.
Not packing snacks & beverages.
Having a good supply of snacks and drinks on hand is necessary for every road trip. Make sure you have a nice selection of snacks and drink options available for everyone in your car to enjoy. Healthy snacks are best to maintain energy, blood sugar, and satiety – but don’t forget the fun treats like candy, gum, etc. You can make many stops along the way to replenish your supply, so don’t overpack too early.
Not keeping the vehicle clean and organized.
A lot of garbage can accumulate when you are on a road trip, from coffee cups, take-out food wrappers, etc. Garbage odours can make the drive uncomfortable, and the trash is a nuisance. Keep small trash bags in the car to collect your trash and dispose of when you stop for gas. Organize your maps, travel books & brochures, printed reservations, etc in a folder to easily find when you need them. Keep your seating area comfortable and odour free.
Not Packing appropriate technology.
Before you head out on your road trip, make sure you have all of your tech & accessories like your cell phone charger cords, extra cords & USB outlets for others in the car, entertainment for passengers (iPads / tablets), & laptops. If you travel with kids – find ways to keep them entertained during the drive.
Not knowing how to fix simple vehicle issues.
Do you know how to change a flat tire, boost a battery, or top up your fluids? Do you have basic auto knowledge in case something happens on the road? Don’t forget the jumper cables, jack, lug wrench, and a jerry can for gas.
If you don’t have this knowledge or abilities – make sure you have your CAA membership up to date.
Not having emergency kits.
Safety should always come first, and a road trip can be fraught with potential issues. To ensure a safe vacation, have two kinds of emergency kits in your car: a vehicle roadside emergency kit, and a human health & wellness kit in case of emergencies.
Not accounting for time changes.
Depending on how far you plan to drive, don’t forget to consider the different time zones you are crossing and the time change in your plans. It is a minor issue, but the time change could affect your schedule if neglected. What’s an hour when you are on vacation?
Not staying at cool accommodations
You might be tempted to stay at only inexpensive and very convenient hotels when you are on a road trip, but you might want to take advantage of the weird, quirky, and uniqueness of hotels in the areas you pass through. On every road trip, we always make a point to try and stay at unique accommodations as often as possible and choose to splurge and stay at places that are just too cool to ignore. We have stayed at many ‘haunted’ hotels, places with unique decor, places where the famous and infamous have stayed, and hotels that are just not typical (wigwam, decommissioned cruise ships, etc).
and the biggest of road trip mistakes you want to avoid…..
Not having enough FUN!
The most important part of any road trip vacation is to have as much fun as possible. Never make the mistake of not having enough fun on a road trip. Make great memories that will last a lifetime.