Common Road Trip Mistakes to Avoid

What do you think of when you think of road trips?

The idea of them used to stress me out. But now, with all that we’ve given up with the pandemic, road trips and car rides are something I look forward to! I’ll take any opportunity to drive somewhere to see something new – and actually enjoy the journey!

I used to be the type to want to get to A to B as quickly as possible. Now I’ve learned to slow down and enjoy the journey. That’s all part of the fun, right? Gas station snacks, roadside meals at a scenic spot, listening to music cruising down the road with the windows down…that’s where the memories are made!

All you really need is a reliable vehicle, great music, and a flexible plan. But even the most amazing road trip plan can go awry. Here are some common road trip mistakes to avoid to make your trip go as smoothly as possible!

road trip mistakes to avoid

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Not preparing your vehicle for the journey

As someone who works in the automotive industry, I can’t stress enough the importance of making sure your vehicle is tuned up before leaving! We’ve had so many customers show up on their road trips for simple things that could’ve been avoided. 

Check your oil life and consider having a multi-point vehicle inspection done, where any minor problems are found before they become major ones. Have your fluid levels checked, tires checked and properly inflated, your brakes checked, and your battery tested. 

P.s. do you know how to change a spare tire? Does your vehicle even come with one? Many don’t anymore, so if yours doesn’t have a spare consider buying one – and the appropriate tools like a lug wrench and a jack (and your owners manual) – especially if your road trips involve long distances between service stations or driving on rougher roads. You don’t want to be stranded with hundreds of kilometers to the next shop, or stuck with an expensive tow bill. There are numerous tutorials on YouTube on how to change a tire! 

Photo by Thomas Bennie on Unsplash

Planning everything a little too much

I’ve found some of the best plans are ones you don’t plan. Detours and unexpected stops are where some of the best memories are made!

Following a timeline too closely takes away from any fun. See a cool roadside café you want to check out? Or some place with a beautiful view? Allow yourself some breathing room and freedom to stop and explore at any moment!

That being said, you will want to plan accordingly for any pandemic restrictions, like restaurants being open, accommodation availability, attraction hours, etc.

Road tripping with kids? Keep them busy with these 35+ awesome road trip activities!

Not downloading apps or entertainment before you leave

To avoid excess data use, download maps and any road trip apps before you head off. You can download your route from Google Maps in advance so you don’t have to rely on data. Adjust your data settings on your phone to turn off any of your phone apps, like social media, music, and photo uploads from updating unnecessarily.

Download your music from Spotify, or invest in a satellite radio subscription if your vehicle is equipped! I have SiriusXM and love it – there are over 300 channels to pick from! 

Other useful road trip apps include GasBuddy for finding gas stations (and comparing prices) and Waze for traffic updates!

If you have kids, be sure to overpack enough entertainment for them: movies on tablets, colour books, toys, etc. No doubt they’ll test your patience if they’re bored ( I was one of those kids 😂) and having enough activities will keep everyone happy.

Photo by Jose Llamas on Unsplash

Looking for that perfect road trip gift?
Get inspired with these great road trip gift ideas!

Not bringing the proper accessories for your electronics

Pack a phone cable (or two!) and consider also getting a battery backup for your phone. If you’re out on the open road, this is your lifeline! 

If you’re travelling with a few accessories, you may want to look at getting a port adapter to hook up a few devices at once. That way if there’s more than just you in the car, your passengers can charge their devices at the same time.

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If your vehicle isn’t equipped with navigation or Apple CarPlay, you may want to get a phone mount for your dash so you don’t have to fumble around looking for directions.

The iOttie Easy One Touch is a highly reviewed option – just pick whether you’d prefer a dash mount or vent mount! 

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P.s. Believe it or not, people still use paper maps! You can always bring a backup just in case.

Leaving home without a cooler packed with (healthy) snacks

Part of the fun of a road trip is the snacks! For some reason extended periods of time in the car warrant all the fun food like gas station snacks and fast food! 😂 While candy and chips are fun, you’ll also want to pack some healthier options like protein bars, trail mix, sandwiches, and fruit and veggies. You’ll also want enough water (and other liquids!) for your journey. 

Igloo coolers are known to keep ice frozen for up to 4-5 days (!!!) and make for the ideal road trip cooler box, especially during the summer!

Igloo Heavy-Duty 25 Qt BMX Ice Chest Cooler with Cool Riser Technology
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Going on an RV road trip? Learn from these 27 mistakes made and lessons learned!

Not allowing time for breaks

I used to be the type to want to get to point A to point B as quickly as possible, and then wondered why I was so miserable and felt off once we arrived! Driving straight through will obviously get you there the quickest, but stopping along the way will do wonders to clear your head, wake up a bit, and stretch your legs. 

Fight the fatigue by stopping to get some fresh air every once in a while, or to use the washroom, grab a coffee, get gas etc. Allow time to rest between long stretches – especially if you’re driving straight through the night!

If you’re planning to stop and rest overnight, consider stopping at a truck stop (they’re not just for truckers!) as opposed to a rest area. Truck stops will have lighting and amenities if you need them.

Remember to slow down and enjoy the journey! Here are the best slow travel quotes to inspire you.

Leaving valuables visible

Whether its stopping overnight, to get gas, or for sightseeing, you won’t always be in your car. Make sure your valuables are out of sight, like jewelry, money, and any electronics.

I’ve had a few friends have their vehicle broken into on vacation – not exactly the memories you want to make!

Not bringing an emergency kit

Emergency kits don’t just apply to ones for you! It’s also a good idea to pack some basic car care items too – like an inexpensive tire pressure gauge (if your tires aren’t equipped with pressure monitors), jumper cables, flares, and a flashlight. This might all seem excessive but they’re a minimal expense for peace of mind!

Be prepared with a DIY car emergency kit!

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You’ll also want to pack things like food that doesn’t spoil quickly – like energy bars, and extra water.

Tip: if you aren’t sure what tire pressure your tires are supposed to be at, check the label on the door jam of the driver door – they’ll be listed there! Low tires can lead to blowouts, as well as uneven tire wear.

Hitting the road without getting your home organized

Before you head out the door, make sure your home is prepared for travel, too!

If you’re leaving for an extended period of time, consider things like your mail, garbage, plant care, and pet care. Consider asking a neighbour friend to keep an eye on your house, and leave a copy of your plans with someone trusted.

If your budget allows, installing a home security system will give you an added peace of mind. There are numerous great security system options for Canadians. You can even get your own video doorbell to monitor from your phone while you’re on the road.

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Pro tip: be sure to empty your fridge before you leave. I’ve come back to some pretty unpleasant surprises after being away. 😂 

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  1. Erin
    July 9, 2021 / 8:25 pm

    Great tips! I constantly have to remind visitors in Savannah to lock their doors. It’s ridiculous how many cars are broken into in the Historic District! Definitely not an ideal way to spend a vacation.

  2. July 9, 2021 / 10:12 pm

    Totally agreed about the importance of checking your car before you leave! We got a flat tire on a road trip a couple years ago, but fortunately had a spare (and knew how to change it!).

  3. July 10, 2021 / 12:31 am

    All useful tips for a road trip. I mostly learnt the hard way….Thanks for sharing!

  4. July 10, 2021 / 10:18 am

    These are great tips and I can honestly say I’ve made some of these mistakes! I especially loved your point about bringing accessories for the electronics – I’ve definitely forgotten! Great tips.

  5. January 21, 2022 / 11:00 pm

    Thanks for pointing out that we should prepare our vehicles before going on a road trip to ensure safety. My husband and I will be going on a road trip next weekend to relax and unwind so this is helpful. We are also hoping to find towing services on Friday that we can call in case we need roadside assistance during our trip.

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