Who doesn’t love road trips? You may have your first big road trip coming up, or perhaps you have dozens under your seatbelt already and still want more. Whether they’re short 1,500-mile jaunts or amazing 3,000-mile voyages, you’ll want to avoid the following five road trip mistakes for sure.
Flat Tires and Other Car Issues
This is an obvious one but a big one, so it has to go up top. Let’s address it and move on. Don’t begin a road trip before you’ve had a tune-up (oil change, fluids, new wipers, etc.).
Something like new wipers may not seem like a big deal. But add some pouring rain and unfamiliar surroundings, and you could be in trouble. Being able to see where you’re going is a big deal.
As for your tires, you’ll need to check three things:
1. Are your tires getting down to the wear bars? If so, replace them before you leave. You’re going to put a lot of miles on them – putting it off could land you in an accident because of tire failure or loss of control.
2. Are your tires properly inflated? Overinflated tires make for a bumpy ride and are more prone to damage. Underinflated tires waste fuel, and more importantly, they’re at risk of tire failure. Inflate tires to your vehicle’s recommended pressure.
3. Is your vehicle’s alignment correct? So, you took the above advice and got a new set of tires. Hopefully, you got the wheel alignment too. Misaligned wheels can make your tires wear down quickly and unevenly. Even if your tires aren’t new, an alignment can help them last longer.
Overreliance on Google Maps, GPS, Etc.
Once upon a time, road trips entailed giant accordion-folded maps and over-sized atlases. In a way, it was pretty amazing – just by not knowing 100% where you’re going, you could discover cool little towns, beautiful scenery, and more.
Using navigation devices or apps on road trips does two things:
1. You lose any sense of exploration. GPS dictates your path. You’re not discovering somewhere new anymore – you’re following instructions to get from point A to point B. Now, it doesn’t hurt to check every now and then to see if there’s traffic or construction issues. But once you’ve done that, don’t use turn-by-turn directions. It’s okay to go a different way or even get a little lost. That’s part of the fun.
2. You now have a set time duration — a deadline you’re racing against. Perhaps you’ve entered your destination, and GPS says you’ll arrive at your destination in 5 hours. You may start thinking of what you’ll do at your destination in 5 hours, and you’ll look more at that time estimate going down with every mile instead of enjoying the ride. Watching the clock makes the whole trip feel longer. You won’t want to stop to see a silly tourist trap, stretch your legs, or even use the restroom because you don’t want your expected arrival to get even later.
This point follows the Google Maps tip nicely. When you use GPS, you’re usually getting the fastest, most direct path to wherever you’re going, which means uninspiring interstates alongside big rigs instead of beautiful scenery.
Often the speed limits on the smaller highways are just as high as on interstates except for when you go through towns. Going through those little towns you never see from the interstate could turn out to be one of your favorite things about road trips!
U.S. highways and state highways are much less monotonous than interstates. Besides giving you an opportunity to see more of the world, going this way also helps you avoid fatigue and tunnel vision.
Speeding or Driving Through the Night
While you may feel like it gives you bragging rights to speed through several states in a matter of hours or overnight, there are so many things wrong with driving this fast.
When you’re driving fast, you’re just burning through gas, and that gets expensive. Plus, it’s not so good for the environment.
Not only will a speeding ticket ruin your good mood, but it’ll tarnish your driving record as well. For some, it could even affect work if a job requires a clean driving record.
Driving fast for too long can wear you down mentally and make you anxious. Besides, it’s not exactly safe. If you’re not quite to your destination and don’t know whether to stop on the way or power through, it’s always best to take a rest. If you keep driving into the night, you’ll not only be fighting drowsiness and reduced visibility, but it can also affect your health. Instead, go to bed early, wake up early, and you’ll get where you’re going with the whole rest of the day left.
Food (More Specifically, Food that Ruins Your Health, Budget, or Both)
If you think sitting in a car for several hours can wear on you, try it bloated, dehydrated, and with hands covered in cheese dust because you’re still hungry after eating nothing but fast food! Because that’s what can happen if you don’t plan ahead when it comes to food on the road.
Consider bringing a cooler for sandwiches and things. You don’t even have to make them ahead of time – just swing by a grocery store every other day. Buy fresh fruit too. You have no idea how gratifying fruit can be until you’ve spent a few days subsisting on fast food and junk food.
If you’ve got the time and budget to eat out somewhere, you could even use an app like Foursquare or TripAdvisor to help you find good restaurants to try along the way. Most of these apps will let you know how pricey the place is, so they can help keep costs down.
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