Everybody at least once in their lifetimes dreams of going on an amazing journey cross-country by car. We see it all the time in movies and television shows: the laughs, the amazing landmarks, and the unique experience of hitting the road for days on end. Going on a road trip is one of the best decisions you can make, especially if you're young. It can save you money, ensure you don't need to deal with the restrictions of airport security, and allows for complete flexibility.
Even though most road trips go generally well, problems can easily arise. No matter how much preparation goes into a long journey, you should always expect the unexpected. One way to completely ruin the vibe is by not being ready for common situations. Now, this doesn't mean you need to prepare for literally everything and keep bear repellant in your glovebox, but it does mean you that you want to read up on the most common mishaps.
Luckily, we have you covered. Before you leave town with your travel buddies make sure you read up on some of the most common road trip mishaps (and what you can do about them!).
20 20. Problem: No Cell Reception When You Need It Most
In a world where we are constantly turning to our smartphones for most everyday tasks, it might not even cross your mind that you could one day find yourself without it. Depending on where your trip is taking you, there is a chance you might end up in a zone with terrible service and no way to access your GPS or web browser.
Unfortunately, this can be tough to completely avoid, but there are things you can do to ensure that you are well prepared for a situation such as this one. (Nobody wants to be stuck in the middle of nowhere not knowing where to go or when they’ll even receive just a bar of service).
19 19. Solution: Plan Ahead and Inform Others of the Possibility of Reception Issues
The best way to prepare for a situation such as this one is to download everything you will need first. Google Maps allows its users to download routes offline so you’re never stuck without driving directions. If you plan on using an online music player such as Spotify during your travels, try to download music offline ahead of time or even bring CD’s (they haven’t died just yet!).
In terms of being able to make and receive calls/texts, inform your close family and friends before you head out that you may end up in a region with poor service.
18 18. Problem: You Run Into a Common Car Problem
Imagine driving down the highway with your best friends and jamming to your favorite music when all of a sudden you feel your car start to shake or your AC suddenly stops working.
These moments can be devastating during a road trip. Thankfully, some of the most common problems also have easy solutions as long as you have the proper tools with you.
Even if just one person in your party knows how to change a flat tire, that’s a lot better than nobody!
17 17. Solution: Bring Emergency Tools With You and Research Nearby Mechanics
Before you back out of the driveway you’re going to want to make certain you have the essentials with you. It doesn’t matter if you’re driving a 1998 Honda Civic or a brand new 2018 Toyota Camry, you need to be ready for anything. Make sure your trunk contains jumper cables, a spare tire, a jack & lug wrench, and a multi-tool.
If you know the exact route you’re taking, research nearby mechanics and their hours. This will save you the hassle of having to pull out the phone to quickly search up Yelp and Google reviews. The sooner you can get out of the situation, the better.
16 16. Problem: You Leave Your Starting City at Rush Hour
Picture this: you and your friends pull out onto the main roads and turn onto the highway. You have your music blaring through the speakers and everyone is excited to begin the journey. All seems great until you’re suddenly taking your speed from 60 mph all the way down to...zero. It can be easy to get so wrapped up in your trip that you forget that a Tuesday morning is still a Tuesday morning. Next thing you know, the rest of the passengers are groaning and urging the driver to find an alternate route, bummer!
15 15. Solution: Try Not to Leave During Peak Traffic Times.
This may seem like a simple solution but it is a situation that not many people associate with road trips. In your head, you’re excited to be escaping the usual 9-5, but most of the other drivers on the road are heading into the office the same day you’re crossing the state (or country!). The best time to leave for a road trip is early in the morning before most commuters hit the road. If it’s not possible, try to head out around 10 am or later.
If you find yourself needing to leave during rush hour for whatever reason, make sure to warn everyone ahead of time to avoid any complaints (although we can’t guarantee they won’t happen. I mean, who enjoys traffic?)
14 14. Problem: You Run Out of Gas
Ah yes, a very generic road trip scenario but with good reason: it does happen.
The further your journey, the more likely you may find yourself driving long stretches with no gas stations in sight.
On some highways where exits are spread out, you may end up missing your exit and need to drive 30 more miles before you can even think about turning around. Adding in a near-empty gas tank to the equation? Yeah, let’s try to avoid this all together.
13 13. Solution: Add Gas Stops to Your Route Using Google Maps
Before packing up the trunk and throwing on the radio, double check your routes to ensure you will be able to make the necessary stops along the way. Luckily Google Maps has a handy feature where you can easily add stops to your route. Take a look to figure out which gas stations would benefit your trip the most to ensure you never get stuck with an empty tank.
Want to ensure you get the best price per gallon? Download an app like GasBuddy which will give you the most recent prices for every gas station near you.
12 12. Problem: You or One of Your Passengers Gets Car Sick
Sometimes you may not even know you could get car sick until you travel long distances. Sitting in a packed car with other passengers while cruising on long stretches of road can easily make you feel nauseous, a feeling that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
Experiencing car sickness is tough for every party involved since it can really put a damper on the energy that was previously present in the vehicle. If you or another passenger experience car sickness during a road trip, thankfully there are some easy solutions that will calm the stomach down.
11 11. Solution: Take Small Breaks and Keep Medicine On Hand
Thankfully there are a lot of tips for easing the feeling of motion sickness. Make sure that the passenger is seated in the front seat of the car and that they try to stay as still as possible. If needed, take breaks periodically so the individual can get some fresh air and calm their stomach.
There are also some over-the-counter medications that can be purchased prior to the trip to ensure a more comfortable travel experience. According to WebMD, some of the most common medications for nausea include cyclizine and dimenhydrinate. If the person involved is aware that they may experience motion sickness, suggest that they bring along Hyoscine to help prevent sickness from settling in.
10 10. Problem: Arguments Over Music (Yes, They Can Happen!)
This may seem like a small problem, but on a road trip, music choice absolutely matters. You’re going to be stuck in a vehicle with people for hours/days that may have different tastes in music. Sometimes you could find yourself with a group of friends that bond over the same genre, but these chances are slim.
The last thing you want is to have two friends argue over if Kendrick Lamar is better than Drake.
To avoid any conflict, some rules may need to be put in place before hitting the road.
9 9. Solution: Take Turns
Normally on small trips, it makes sense to let the driver choose the music. This may work for the first hour or two, but during a long road trip, it absolutely will not go over well. Instead, an easy solution is to give each passenger in the car 30 minutes to an hour of complete musical freedom. Before the trip even begins, you can also try to have everyone collaborate on one giant Spotify playlist or CD. That way, everyone will have a chance to listen to what they like.
Better yet, decide to turn off the music at certain points on the trip. Opt for long conversations and other entertainment to keep everyone sane during the long stretches of road.
8 8. Problem: Unpredictable Weather
Unfortunately, mother nature really doesn’t care that you’re heading on a road trip. Because of this, it’s essential that you’re aware of the possible hazards you may face out on the open road. Every region deals with different inclement weather, so make sure you know exactly what you may expect. Weather can be extremely inconvenient but also dangerous.
Of course, you can only cross your fingers that mother nature decides to take a vacation at the same time you take yours, but often this isn’t the case.
7 7. Solution: Know Your Regions and Plan for Tornados, Snow Storms, Hurricanes, and Everything in Between.
If you’re traveling across states in a particular region, it’s wise to research the area first to get an idea of what could cross your path. For example, if you’re traveling to the Midwest during the spring and summer, be well aware that you may end up hearing tornado warnings on the radio. It’s also wise to try and avoid the east coast during the winter months since this region is known for unexpected blizzards.
If you must travel to a particular region that may have some harsh weather, prepare ahead of time. If it’s winter make sure your car is stocked with emergency blankets, a snow shovel, and a scraper. In a situation where you’re faced with a tornado or hurricane, pull over to the side of the road and seek help if necessary.
6 6. Problem: You Forgot the Water and Snacks
Unless you want to constantly stop at the nearby convenience stores and pizza shops because everyone is hungry, packing a bag or cooler full of beverages and snacks is always a good call. You'll not only have a satisfied group of friends, but you'll also save money in the long run.
It can be extremely easy to spend $20 just from a quick stop for fries and drinks at Burger King if you have a full car! Plus it can be a simple way to save your calories for a more filling dinner once you stop for the night. Try to save both your money and sanity by keeping the car stocked.
5 5. Solution: Pack a Cooler Ahead of Time
Try to head to the market the night before your trip starts and stock up on essentials. Better yet, have the whole road trip crew come along so everyone can pick out exactly what they want. Some great ideas for car snacks include mixed nuts, granola bars (not the crunchy kind!), single serve popcorn, and beef jerky. These types of snacks will save you the hassle of having to vacuum out the car once the road trip is finished.
For beverages, try to ensure that everyone brings a refillable water bottle to cut down on plastic. It's also wise to have a few plastic bottles in the back just in case of an emergency or you're unable to stop to refill your bottle. Some other beverages that work well include Crystal Light single serve packets, bottled iced tea, and seltzer. Just don't forget the ice!
4 4. Problem: You Get a Ticket
It really doesn't matter who was driving the car when it happens, getting a ticket is an instant mood killer. Even if it's just a small speeding ticket or even just a warning, it will absolutely make the atmosphere awkward for the rest of the journey (or at least until your jam comes on the radio).
If you're driving in an unknown state or country for the first time, it becomes even more important to be aware of the rules of the road. Not knowing the speed limits and parking laws make it much more likely that you'll be dealing with the flashing blue lights and loud sirens.
3 3. Solution: Know the Rules of the Road, Especially in a New Area
According to CNN, average speed limits completely vary by state. For example. in Nevada the average limit is 70mph but in New York, it's 58mph. Once you're on the highway really pay attention to the speed limit signs as they are constantly changing. Even going 15mph in certain zones can lead you to a costly ticket!
When in major cities, be on the lookout for every single sign that might be a tow zone or no parking sign. Unfortunately, it's very easy nowadays to get a parking ticket, even if your car was only there for ten minutes. Busy areas frequently have parking enforcement officers searching the streets for illegally parked vehicles: don't be one of them.
2 2. Problem: You Get Stuck at the Border Without Certain Documents
Depending on the specific route you decide to take, you may be crossing over country borders which means you absolutely must be prepared. If not, you could find yourself spending hours being questioned by border officers. If you or anyone else in your party are without the necessary identification, you won't be allowed through.
Sometimes deciding to cross the border is actually a last minute decision. Let's say you and your friends are near Niagra Falls in New York but decide that you'd rather view the falls from the Canadian side. Something such as this can only be done if everyone in your vehicle is prepared to do so.
1 1. Solution: Have All Essential Documents With You
It may seem like a no-brainer, but you should always carry your passport and ID with you (even if you have no initial plans to cross into another country). It never hurts to keep important documents in your car as you never know when you might need them.
If crossing a border, make sure everyone in the car hands over their ID and passports to the driver before you reach the officers. This will ensure that the process goes by as quickly as possible. Also, make sure you're certain of what items you can and cannot bring with you across the border.
References: CNN, WebMD, Mental Floss, TripAdvisor.