Going on a road trip? Here are the biggest mistakes to avoid plus the best tips for a road trip that will help you have an amazing time.
It’s road trip season and I can say that I am super excited to get back on the road. There is just something so cool and adventurous about packing up your car, your map, some road trip essentials, a killer playlist, and hit the road.
With you being in total control of what you do from where you go, where you stop, to how loud or soft your music plays, it’s truly fulfilling to go on a long road trip especially if the route is scenic.
But with all the freedom and exciting comes some challenges. And with that excitement, you might end up making a few mistakes on the road.
I know I’ve made my own share of road trip mistakes and I’ve learned from them. From that, I know now exactly what to do to avoid them and how to prepare and I am glad to pass on the tips to you.
So in this post, I will be sharing with you some of the biggest mistakes to avoid plus the best road trip tips for a perfect adventure.
Whether you’re going on a road trip in Africa for amazing safaris, road tripping through Europe for impressive architecture, or around the USA for the most beautiful natural wonders, this post will give you all the tips for a long road trip.
So pull up a chair and let’s dive in!
Big mistakes to avoid when planning a road trip
1. Not thoroughly inspecting your car
The greatest mistake you’ll ever make before going on a road trip is forgetting to inspect your car. Check every little detail to see that everything is in order. If there is anything wrong, fix it before you go.
If you don’t know much about the technical /mechanical stuff and where to look, ask for help from a more experienced person. This will reduce challenges and accidents while on the road.
And if you’re just renting the car, this will help you know exactly how the car should be returned. It will also help you avoid ”non-existent” charges should the renter say that you damaged something yet you found it that way.
2. Not checking the road conditions
This is honestly one of the best tips for a road trip you’ll ever hear. The condition of the road you’ll drive on can make or break your trip.
If the road is sand and muddy, you’re likely to have a hard time driving through it especially if you don’t have a suitable car.
Doing research about the road condition will help you know the kind of car you can take – whether it is a four-wheeler or a 2 wheeler.
For example, if I had not researched the conditions of the roads in Botswana, I’d have suffered so much while road tripping through it as you need a 4 wheel drive to go anywhere. So before you even do anything, go research the road conditions of your destination.
Related post: Important things to do before any trip
3. Driving at night in unfamiliar places
When you go on a road trip especially in unfamiliar places, make sure that you don’t drive at night. Plan your time well to make sure that you’re at your final destination for that day before night falls.
This is even worse if you’re driving in a place with a number of animals which means that you could put yourself and the animals in danger.
It’s also a bit hard to find accommodation in the night in case you didn’t sort it out beforehand.
4. Not checking the traffic rules of your destination
One of the best tips for road trips is to make research about the traffic rules of the place you plan to drive in.
This will help you get familiar with the road rules and perhaps also save you from getting fined should you break any of them.
Also, you should note that different countries have different traffic rules. Some countries use the left-hand traffic flow, others use the right hand, and all the traffic rules back at your home may not apply.
5. Forgetting to check if you need an international driver’s licence
If your road trip is an international one, make sure that you check to see if that country requires foreign drivers to have an international driver’s license or your local one will be enough.
And if you need one, make sure that you work on the paperwork and get it before you leave.
6. Not creating a rough itinerary
I know road trips are all about being free and doing everything you want along the way but it will be a mistake not to have an itinerary or at least a rough one that shows your road trip plans.
Plan your route well, know where you’ll make stops and when, the activities you’ll do along the way and where you’ll stay for the night.
Planning accordingly will give you a rough idea of how long you’ll need to drive for and the money you might need.
Creating an itinerary will also keep you organised and not have to rush through everything.
Related post: 12 Simple steps to planning a trip
7. Following the itinerary religiously
Though I said that you should have an itinerary to follow while on a road trip, this doesn’t mean that you have to religiously follow it without going off course.
If you see a nice attraction on the way that you had not included in your itinerary or incredible landscapes worth taking photos of, don’t hesitate to stop and see or take photos of them.
Don’t over stick to the itinerary that you end up missing out on the beauty along the way. Have an itinerary but also leave room to be spontaneous as that’s the best part about road trips.
8. Forgetting to take a spare tire
This is honestly the worst mistake you could ever make while going on a road trip. All drivers know that getting a flat tire is always possible.
Having a flat tire without a spare tire can leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere and trust me, no one wants to go through that.
So to avoid that, make sure that you have one and if you just rented the car, ask where the spare tire is kept.
9. Not learning how to change the said spare tire
It’s not enough to just carry a spare tire, learn how to change it as well should you get a flat tire along the way.
If you don’t want to learn, at least make sure that the person you’re road tripping with knows how to change it.
10. Forgetting your car insurance
Roads are not safe (well nothing is) but it doesn’t mean that we should stay closed inside our bedrooms. But even so, the best thing we can do is to take precaution on the road. Other than following the road traffic rules, you’ll need to buy insurance for your car.
Accidents can happen at any time, so make sure that you protect yourself. However, don’t just have car insurance, know what it covers exactly and how you can be compensated in case of an accident.
11. Also, forgetting your personal travel insurance
Don’t just care for your car only but also yourself. Travel insurance is a huge part of staying safe while traveling.
I like World Nomads as it covers a number of activities in over 130 countries but Safety wings is also a good option especially if you’re traveling for a long period.
Related post: Mistakes to avoid while traveling
12. Not figuring out your accommodation before hand
One of the other important long drive tips is to plan your accommodation ahead. Know the type of accommodation you’ll use, whether it is camping, sleeping in your car, hotels, hostels, or anything else.
Don’t just assume that you’ll be able to find a hotel/hostel room when you reach the town you’re staying in for the night. You’ll be shocked to not find any and that might mean the start of a bad road trip or even spend the night seated in your car.
So what you should do is to book your accommodation way before you reach your destination so that you’re guaranteed a place to sleep at for the night. I always book all my accommodation with Booking.com.
13. Forgetting entertainment
Long road trips are fun but they can also be incredibly boring especially if you have nothing to do. As you plan to go for one, pack up enough entertainment that will keep you entertained and engaged.
Road trip entertainment can range from a killer playlist, board games, fun questions to ask yourselves, and a number of other things that can keep you awake and not bored.
On top of that, you can check out these fun road trip games that will take away the boredom that comes with long drives across the country.
14. Driving off road
One of the mistakes road-trippers make is to drive off-road. I know some people get excited when they see something they might want to see yet it’s not easily accessible by road.
This is not only punishable by law in some places but can also be dangerous for both you and the environment.
15. Not checking the weather conditions
As you plan to go on a road trip, make the weather forecast your friend. Knowing what to expect at what time of the year will prevent you from driving into a storm or a really dangerous Tornado.
Other than driving into deadly weather conditions, understanding the weather conditions will help you know the kinds of clothes pack. It would be a shame to carry only light clothes yet the weather needs heavy and warm jackets.
Related post: Big mistakes to avoid while backpacking
16. Taking on more driving than you can handle
When planning for stops especially where you plan to spend a night, don’t underestimate the amount of driving that might be required.
Perhaps driving for 10 hours is not the most ideal thing to do as you will be worn out by the end of the day yet a road trip is supposed to be enjoyable.
So as you plan your driving duration in the day, factor in the time spent on the wheels as you don’t want to be glued to it all day long instead of enjoying the places along the way.
17. Not filling up your fuel tank often
One of the important long distance road trip tips is to always fuel your car every chance you get.
For starters, fill it up right before you hit the road. And if you’re route is in the countryside which is likely to have a few fuel stations, make sure that you refill it when you come across one.
The worst can be running out of fuel yet the next fuel station is miles away from your current position. In the same manner, to make sure that you never run out of fuel, carry this fuel jerrycan that you should refill as well before your trip.
18. Leaving behind some of the road trip essentials
As you plan your road trip, make sure that you don’t forget any road trip essentials. The excitement of exploring new destinations with your car can make you forget some important items.
So to make sure that I don’t forget anything important, I always write a road trip packing list with everything I’ll need, and below are some of those road trip essentials.
- Car road emergency kit: You never know when you’ll need to use it.
- Car shade: To keep your car cool when it’s parked under the sun.
- A hands-free phone mount: To keep using your phone without holding it.
- Portable Bluetooth speaker: Take your entertainment to the next level.
- Toilet paper: For those moments you’ll need to stop for the toilet.
- First Aid kit: For any kind of first medical attention.
- Travel pillow: Stay comfortable even while on the road.
- Daypack: Perfect to keep in your essential stuff as you explore the area.
- Collapsible water bottle: Stay hydrated the entire time.
- Swiss army knife: A multi-purpose tool you should always have.
These are by no means the only items you should carry on a road trip. But if you want to know all the essentials you’ll need, check out my road trip packing list.
19. Forgetting maps/ Navigation
The major mistake you’ll make while planning a road trip is leaving behind maps. Though these days maps are always on our phones, it’s not enough to rely on just that.
On top of the maps apps (like google maps, I recommend maps.me since it works offline), make sure that you take a traditional paper map of your route should anything happen to your phone.
Related post: Best travel apps that work offline
20. Not carrying enough food and water
One of the most important tips for long road trips is to carry enough water and food. Though you might find stores where you’re driving, I don’t advise you to rely on this as you might end up starving if you don’t get any.
So stock up enough food, snacks, and drinks that will take you for a few days. Also, check on maps or online for places where you can buy food so that you plan your meals well.
For water, I’d advise you to carry a refillable water storage jug like this one. It carries1.3 gallons so chances of running out of drinking water easily will be very minimal.
21. Not taking a cooler
A cooler is one of the essentials items you should pack for a road trip to keep your drinks cold and to store your food well, so forgetting it will be a big mistake.
Depending on the size of your car and the number of days your road trip will last, buy a cooler that suits your needs. As for me, I like this Coleman cooler.
Related post: Mistakes to avoid while camping
22. Not having cash with you
Though the world is changing with so many transactions possible with just a card, it will be a big mistake not to carry some cash with you.
Even when the area you’re road tripping in heavily relies on cards, you never know when you’ll meet road tolls which you have to pay for by cash.
So as you make your road trip budget, throw in some cash for such cases.
23. Forgetting to inform someone about your route
The number one security road trip tip is to inform someone about your route and when you’ll return home.
Letting someone know about your route and where you might be crashing every now and then won’t only just keep them at peace but also act as an evacuation procedure should anything happen to you.
And if you don’t go back home at the intended time, those people are very likely to start a search which wouldn’t happen if you told no one.
24. Going with the wrong person
Have you ever been in a car with a person (people) and all you do is look at each other (that’s even better) or just stare at the road awkwardly? Now if it’s a long road trip, you’re in for the worst road trip of your life- maybe.
As you plan to go on a road trip, make sure that you fully connect with the person/people you’re going with, you have somethings in common, can crack a conversation or else you’re in for a treat- and I don’t mean a good one but rather the LONGEST road trip of your life.
25. Staying in the car the entire time
Even though it’s called a road trip where you’re bound to be driving in the car for an extended amount of time, it doesn’t mean that you should be cooked up in your car the entire time.
The point is to drive to places, get out of the car, and enjoy some of the attractions on the way. There are way too many beautiful places to admire to spend a lot of time just seated in the car.
Related post: Best camping tips for new campers
26. Not creating a rough budget
It’s so easy to get caught up with spending money “unnecessarily” while on a road trip. Whether it is buying souvenirs along the way (selling souvenirs on the roadside is super common in Africa), or gifting yourself with a luxury hotel for comfort because your body is fatigued from driving, you can end up spending a lot more than you can imagine.
So before you leave for the road trip, come up with a rough budget of how much you’ll spend on various things like accommodation, attractions, food, etc so that you don’t spend away all your money.
However, having a budget doesn’t mean that you won’t (or shouldn’t) spend a little more than what you had planned initially but it will keep you in check about your spending discipline.
27. Forgetting to thoroughly research your route
I know I’ve talked about research a lot in this post but that goes to show you how important researching your route is.
Find out everything you can about that particular destination. Pinterest, Google, and Facebook pages are some of the resources you can use to get more information about your route.
One of the things to majorly look out for when doing research is “the ideal stops along that route”.
Generally, ideal stops would be probably small towns with budget accommodation if you’re traveling on a budget, stores, or supermarkets to stock up your food and a few things to do while you wait to hit the road again.
Also research about attractions that are a muct visit on that route, what to expect and the general overview.
28. Letting your trip get ruined if something goes wrong
Last but not least, don’t let your road trip get ruined if something goes wrong.
First, you need to understand that some things are bound to go wrong regardless of how much you planned or prepared yourself. When you understand this, you’ll appreciate that this is part of the adventure.
I know this first hand as me and my friends almost got stranded in the middle of the night when our car broke down while on a road trip in Uganda (thank God we were able to fix it after 4 hours) but that didn’t stop us from enjoying our road trip the next day.
I learned the hard way that you should not drive in the night in an unfamiliar place and that anything can go wrong at any time.
So when things go wrong, you’re allowed to feel bad for a few minutes but later on, instead of hating everything and everyone, try to find a solution, dust yourself up and continue having fun – well unless its a major issue and you need to put your trip on a halt – otherwise, just learn from that mistake and continue enjoying your road trip adventure.
There you have it road trippers, those were some of the best tips for a road trip plus mistakes to avoid for a perfect adventure and I know that you will have an amazing road trip if you follow them.
Do you know of any other road trip advice or mistakes you might have made that I’ve not included in this post? Leave them in the comment section and help us not fall for it.
More travel tips to inspire your travels
- Beach packing list
- Tips for a perfect beach vacation
- Hiking tips for beginners
- Packing list for camping
- Backpacking hacks every backpacker should know
- Best travel tips for first-time travelers
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