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7 Mistakes to Avoid on Your Next Road Trip, a Guest Post by Andrew Greene:
A road trip is a time when a huge variety of things can go wrong, and you can’t plan for all of them. However, what any traveler can do is be aware of the risks and take the appropriate steps to mitigate them.
These seven mistakes can put a damper on a potentially fun (or at least bearable) road trip, and some can even get you in real trouble. Keep these seven potential trouble spots in mind when planning a road trip so you can avoid falling victim to them.
- Making your car an attractive target for thieves.
Few things can ruin a road trip quite as fast as a break-in. Out-of-towners are frequent victims of theft, since they tend to carry valuables and often have less situational awareness. Thus, it’s important to avoid making your car a target.
If you’re going out of state, your license plate will already mark your vehicle as a potential target, so be careful about leaving valuables in plain view and always remember to lock the vehicle. Whenever possible, store your valuables somewhere other than the car at night (such as in your hotel). Park in well-lit areas and secured garages whenever possible.
2. Going without sleep.
Sooner or later, your body is going to force you to sleep. You have the choice of whether that’s going to be in a bed, or behind the wheel. If you think that sounds scary, you’re right, because drowsy driving causes 100,000 car crashes every year in the USA.
For many people, if you aren’t going solo on this trip, switching drivers is the best way of making sure that everyone’s fresh and alert when they drive. Switching every two to three hours is a good idea, and it’s generally best to plan on covering a maximum of 10 hours of driving in a day. Don’t rely too much on coffee and energy drinks—the zombie-like state they can produce when you’re already past your limit of exhaustion isn’t much better than driving drowsy.
3. Not pre-checking your vehicle to make sure it’s in proper working order.
A few days or weeks before your road trip, take your car in to your mechanic and make sure it has a clean bill of health. At the minimum, a change of oil and fluids and a check-up on your tires are recommended. Tell your mechanic that you’re going on a road trip, and they’ll know what to look for.
For motorcyclists, make sure all of your essential riding gear is assembled and in good condition, and test your helmet communication system to make sure that it’s working effectively. And if you’re riding in a group, encourage your whole group to get a mechanical check-up as well, since one rider’s breakdown can quickly become everyone’s inconvenience.
The signs are rarely this obvious.
- Forgetting about parking and tolls.
Parking and tolls are two hidden expenses that often sting travelers when they least expect it. Especially when visiting major urban areas, these extra costs can add up, so try to budget for and plan them ahead of time whenever possible.
You can use free apps like Tollsmart to calculate the amount of tolls you’ll need to pay along a given route. Parking apps like Spot Hero have also gained popularity for their convenience and the ability to settle your parking situation ahead of time, although they can be pricey.
5. Going too far out of the way to get cheaper gas.
It might be tempting to pinch pennies by driving a little out of your way for better gas prices, since the gas costs of a road trip certainly add up. But you might be surprised how quickly the disadvantages start to outweigh the savings, since you’re usually driving into unfamiliar areas to get the gas discount. If you’re into math, you can even calculate the precise point at which driving out of the way isn’t worth it, but common sense says to keep it under a mile.
6. Not planning at all.
You want to go into your road trip with a pretty solid idea of the basic goals, outcomes and steps. A good road trip plan will include all of the following:
- Your starting and final destinations
- The major highways you’ll use
- Your approximate schedule
- Major stops along the way
- Approximate costs of gas, tolls, food and other road essentials
Your plan will help you budget effectively and give you a framework for your trip. Try to follow the plan to the best of your ability and think carefully before making a big change mid-trip. However, as we’re about to discuss, it’s also important to account for the fact that plans can and do change sometimes.
- Planning too much.
Although a road trip needs some kind of plan, it doesn’t need to be planned within an inch of its life. Spontaneity and interesting detours can make a road trip fun, and they’re often how road trippers find the most interesting spots that make the best memories. And in the worst-case scenario, a little bit of extra space in your schedule can keep the difficult parts from turning your entire schedule upside down.
Thus, leave some space in your itineraries for a little bit of magic (or disaster) to happen. Of course, the necessities of family and work sometimes mean this isn’t possible, but try to budget your time with a little bit of generosity, and expect the unexpected whenever possible.
Preparedness is the secret sauce that makes road trips go smoothly. The more you prepare and anticipate future needs, the more you’ll be able to avoid the common goof-ups of road trips, and the better time you’ll have out on the road.
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