Roadtripping is one of America’s favorite ways to explore - and with good reason. There’s something romantic about the idea of hitting the open road with a friend or two, spreading your wings and discovering new adventures. Sometimes a road trip can be a short one, only a day or so (or even just a few hours), and sometimes they can take weeks, or even months. Some road trips have a fixed destination in mind, and for many others, the trip itself is the destination.
Whatever the reason for taking your road trip - there are ways to make sure that it’s the trip of your dreams… and ways to make the entire thing a total nightmare! While road-tripping can be amazing, it can also be incredibly stressful, and it’s all about knowing exactly what you should (and shouldn’t) be doing to make sure that you are having the time of your life.
Whether you are a veteran of a thousand miles, or just planning your first trip out on the road, we’ve got the best advice for you to remember, about what you should never do on a road trip!
25 Don't: Plan Every Little Detail
It can be tempting to plan out every second of your trip - after all, you’ve got some big ideas about how you want things to go, and what you want to see. But one of the best things about a road trip is the freedom to be flexible. Feel free to make some plans, but make sure that you are leaving space to improvise, too.
Leave more time than you think you’ll need, in case you get distracted by something cool, so that you aren’t constantly worried about sticking to a strict itinerary the entire time.
24 Don't: Refuse To Plan Anything
On the flip side, it’s a good idea to do at least a little research into the places that you are planning to go. If you would much rather make it up as you go along, just get a general idea of the kinds of attractions or options available in the area where you are going, so that if you want to take a break you have some ideas of where to go.
You don’t want to miss out on a crazy roadside attraction because you didn’t know it was there, or get stuck in a crummy chain motel because you forgot to research cool places to stay.
23 Don't: Forget to Plan For Pets
Whether you are leaving the pets at home or taking them on the road with you, don’t forget about all the stuff they need. Dogs make amazing road trip buddies, but they can also get uncomfortable in a car faster than people do, and you may need to plan for more frequent stops, or less driving time in a day.
You’ll also have to make sure that if you are planning to head to attractions or eateries along the way, that they have some kind of pet-friendly policy so you aren’t risking leaving Rover in the car alone.
22 Don't: Forget To Check The Weather
Most people imagine speeding down the highway with the sun beating down, the windows open and hair blowing in the breeze… but of course, that can be far from reality, especially if you forget to take a little look at the weather.
Especially when planning longer trips, check a weather map before you set off in the morning to be able to plan what to wear to stay comfy when driving, or to see if you might be able to avoid the edges of that big storm.
21 Don't: Totally Ignore Google Maps
It may be fun to explore without a really clear plan, but forgoing Google Maps entirely isn’t the best idea - and not just because you might get totally lost. Mapping is also helpful for figuring out where the next gas station is (and which is the cheapest nearby), and for making sure that you don’t run into massive traffic jams and get stuck in a standstill when you could be happily winding through the backroads nearby.
You don’t have to map every day’s route (or stick to it if you do), but make sure you have at least some access.
20 Don't: Run Out Of Gas
It’s the worst thing that could happen on a road trip… you are having a great time, everything is going just the way that it’s supposed to… and the car slowly grinds to a halt as you realize that you are actually totally out of gas. There’s nothing to do but start hiking to the nearest gas station, and depending on where you are, that could take all day.
Instead, make sure you do a little planning and keep your tank topped up - and topped up enough to get you through surprise traffic jams, too!
19 Don't: Forget The Snacks
Not bringing something to munch on in the car is a rookie mistake - and one that will leave you hangry, sniping at your road trip buddies, and willing to eat whatever gas station junk food you can find. Instead of having to live on slim jims, choose a range of healthier snacks and your favorite junk and stock up before you leave.
If you are road-tripping in the summer, consider bringing a cooler, too - something to keep water and soda cold, even if you don’t care about the rest of the snack food.
18 Don't: Underestimate Budget
Spending time on the road can be a lot more expensive than you think - and no one wants to run out of money when they are far from home! Don’t forget to budget for all those little things - roadside snacks and food, service fees on hotel rooms and motel rooms, and of course, the price of gas.
There are probably going to be some little surprises too, whether that’s a souvenir, the price of admission to a random roadside attraction, or something else that you didn’t expect.
17 Don't: Be clueless About Your Car
You don’t need to be a total gearhead just to take a road trip, but it helps to have at least a little bit of mechanical awareness, because something is bound to need some level of fixing along the way - and paying for a roadside mechanic can definitely put a dent in your budget. Learn how to change your tires, check your oil, and check your tires as well as having a look at the most common reasons for breakdowns so that you can (maybe) fix it.
16 Don't: Ignore Your Insurance
Make sure that your car insurance is going to cover you, no matter what kind of trip you are taking. That might mean updating it based on where you are going to be parking or where you are planning on going, or making sure that if you are sharing the driving with multiple people, they will all be covered if something goes wrong.
Most of the time, you won’t have to make any changes, but it’s better to take the time and make sure you're covered before a problem happens, not during an emergency.
15 Don't: Put Your Feet On The Dash
It’s an iconic road trip pose - feet on the dash, looking out the windscreen at the road ahead. However, in reality, it’s not a particularly safe way to drive… and it’s not that hygienic, either.
In fact, if you were to get into a traffic accident while your feet are on the dash, research shows that your injury would be significantly more severe… and it’s just not worth it. Not even to get that perfectly Instagrammable road trip shot.
14 Don't: Get Distracted By Selfies
Speaking of the 'gram… road trips are great for taking amazing photos for social media, and having amazing adventures on the road is always going to be something that you want to share with everyone you know. However, don’t risk getting distracted on the road - keep the photoshoots for when the car is stationary, or when you are out exploring on foot.
You could even pull over to take a few staged shots… trust us, no one is going to know. You’ll probably get better photos that way, anyway, and it’s a whole lot safer.
13 Don't: Forget A Phone Charger
Forgetting snacks is one thing - forgetting a phone charger is going to be far worse! Even if you plan to eschew social media or go ‘off the grid’ a little bit for the length of your trip, it’s still a good idea to keep a working phone as a safety precaution… and that means that phone has to be charged.
Remember to bring a cable that you can plug in while driving, or your regular phone charger along with a (fully charged) external battery. That way, if you break down or get into trouble, help is still just a phone call away.
12 Don't: Stay On The Highways
Highways are the perfect way to get from point a to point b as quickly as possible, but that’s not really the point of a road trip, is it? When the idea is to explore, feel free to take the scenic route, and spend a little time wandering the kinds of roads that take a little longer. They’ll probably be quieter, offer more interesting things to see and do, and most importantly, they’ll provide better views.
Stick to highways for the times you really have to get somewhere, and avoid them if you can on a road trip.
11 Don't: Trespass
As much fun as it can be to spend time taking the road that is (quite literally) less traveled, make sure that you are aware of which areas are free for exploration, and which are the ones that actually belong to someone - someone who might not be thrilled with the idea of a bunch of strangers wandering through their land for the sake of a great road trip experience.
Be respectful of the places that you are exploring, and your great road trip stories won’t include being chased off a farm with a shotgun.
10 Don't: Forget About Staying Entertained At Night
You may have loads of plans for things to do during the day and on the road, but make sure that you aren’t forgetting about the parts of the trip that happen when you are done driving for the day. If all you plan to do is pull up at a motel every night, make sure you bring a book (at the very least).
However, if you can, try and plan your road trip so that you can get into interesting towns earlier in the evening and enjoy a little of the local nightlife. This also means a little less time behind the wheel, which keeps you from driving tired.
9 Don't: Pick Your Travel Buddies Poorly
The most important part of a road trip isn’t the route - it’s the people that you travel with. Make sure that you pick your travel buddies to be people that want the same thing you do from a trip - are they going to want to stop and explore, or are they going to want to get straight to where you are going as fast as possible? Do you agree on music? Are you going to be able to spend hours together with this person on the road, day after day?
8 Don't: Only Eat Fast Food
The easiest and fastest way to eat on the road is to eat fast food… but if that’s all you manage to eat for the entire day, you won’t be feeling great day after day. Treat yourself to a little road trip junk food, but make sure you find a few places to grab something a little bit healthier from time to time as well.
Add a few healthy options to your snacks too, to make sure that you are still feeling good - and looking good in all the great photos that you are going to be taking.
7 Don't: Drive Tired
It sounds like something your mom would say before you leave on a trip, but (as usual), Mom’s got a point. Be careful about getting enough rest - and making sure that you aren’t spending too much of every day driving.
Driving tired (just like driving distracted) can be far more dangerous than you think - and there’s nothing on the road worth risking your life for. Plan to get plenty of sleep, and to take breaks - which gives you more time to stretch your legs and explore, too!
6 Don't: Go too crazy at night (Before Driving In The Morning)
More Mom advice on this one - but it’s always worth saying. We don’t need to tell you not to crack a beer while on the road, but be careful about spending a little too much time in the local pub when you get into a new town, and then planning to leave bright and early the next day. Driving when you still haven’t recovered from the night before is just not smart - so book a second night in the motel, and spend a day relaxing in town instead of trying to get back on the road right away.
5 Don't: Forget A Paper Map
We’ve already covered Google Maps, but if you really want to be prepared, take a paper map in the car as well. This will help you out if you are stuck in an area without cell reception (and yes, they most definitely exist), or if you are out of juice because you didn’t listen to us, and forgot to bring your charger on the trip in the first place.
Plus, it creates a great vintage feeling - and that makes for some more great photos! Grab a roadmap from a gas station - no need to go full 90s and start printing them off MapQuest!
4 Don't: Forget A Breakdown Kit (And Roadside)
Now that you know it’s a good idea to know a little bit about how to fix your car while you are on the road (just the little things!), you’ll need to actually have the tools to do it! There’s no point in knowing how to fix a tire if you don’t have a way to get the flat one off.
As well as a few tools, throw some water and a blanket in there in case you get stuck, and think about getting a roadside assistance membership as well - for those things that you just can’t fix things yourself. It’s often cheaper and faster than calling a towtruck yourself.
3 Don't: Get Too Into Playing DJ
Obviously, music is one of the best bits of a road trip - and you don’t always have to create playlists ahead of time (especially if you want to keep just a little bit of spontaneity!). However, it’s a good idea to find something - even a radio station for a little local color - and stick to it.
Getting too into switching up the music and digging through your playlists for the perfect song can be too distracting to be safe. Even having your passenger in control can cause arguments if you can’t just relax and enjoy what you are listening to.
2 Don't: Refuse To Talk To Locals
If you’ve picked your travel buddy well, you’ll want to spend a lot of time with them, and you’ll never run out of conversation… but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t talk to anyone else! One of the best parts of exploring somewhere new is getting to know the local people, and making some new friends along the way.
Whether you are at a diner or a bar, strike up a conversation with anyone who looks like they might want to chat, and you’ll probably get some great stories and recommendations too.
1 Don't: Worry Too Much About The perfect photo
We may mention those great social media photos a lot - because after all, everyone loves to take great photos to remember a great road trip. But make sure you don’t get so focused on the photos that you forget to actually just enjoy the moment!
When you’ve got a great shot, put your phone away for a few moments and just experience where you are. Try and limit photos to a portion of the time, and you’ll still get great shots, but you’ll get great memories as well.
References: CBS News