Friday, May 16, 2014

8 Road Trip Mistakes to Avoid

It’s exciting to think back to our first road trip almost 5 years ago! We set off across Canada for our first major road trip, and ventured home through the USA. After our first road trip, we were hooked. We’ve spent the past 5 years exploring as much of North America as we could by car. In today’s blog, we wanted to share with you some mistakes to avoid while road tripping:

1. Cramming too much in

We’re notorious for doing this. With only a little amount of time to go exploring, we want to maximize our time and see as much as possible. As a result, every time we come home from a road trip we’re extremely exhausted and tired. Make sure you plan a realistic time schedule to see everything you need to. Add a time buffer in for unforeseen instances and random stops along the way.

When you cram too much into your road trip, you don’t leave room for random detours and longer than expected stops, along with unforeseen instances (ie having a bolt fall out from the frame of your car). Never the less, we still do this anyway. If you can avoid doing so, we recommend you don’t cram too much into your road trip, or you`ll be extremely tired and won`t have as much fun!

2. Driving during rush hour

We generally like to avoid rush hour as much as possible. If you’re smart about your trip planning, you’ll schedule yourself some fun adventures to do during rush hour times. We generally opt to go exploring during the day time, and travel long hauls at night. This saves us hours wasted in traffic. You also become a pro at napping in the car while your friend drives.

Another reason to have that time buffer, for if you hit rush hour traffic.

3. Not knowing your time zones

We recently travelled down to Arizona for vacation, and while there we learned that Arizona doesn’t do daylight savings. We only learned this after arriving an hour early for our Antelope Canyon tour. The hour difference from PST isn’t so bad, but if you’re arriving for attractions or appointments 2 or 3 hours late, that’s not so good. You might end up missing your reservation.

4. Not budgeting enough money

Things happen while road tripping, and it`s important to have a buffer of extra cash or funds with you while road tripping. When we plan out our gas budget, we ball-park gas prices, and then add a buffer for fluctuating prices in different states/provinces, along with extra driving time when we get lost (drive in circles) or detour to different attractions.

This is also important to have a good budget as you'll need spending money, budget for higher food prices, random tolls along the way, or fixing your car.

Learn how to set your road trip budget here.

5. Not doing your travel research

A quick Google search of your upcoming destinations could save you from plenty of headaches down the road. While looking up suggested attractions/things to do in New York, we read a few road trip blogs talking about the different tolls we could expect to come across. We're from the west coast, and not many of our roads are tolled, so it was quite surprising to learn of how many tolls we were going to come across while driving from Boston to Chicago. It's a plastic world, and it's not very often we have small amounts of change on us. As suggested online, be bought a few rolls of quarters and dimes to help pay the tolls while on our road trip.

We also learned that the San Diego Zoo would be closed the week we were in San Diego a few years ago. Things like this are great to know in advance so you don`t waste your time driving there, and can plan to do other things with your time.

You can find our full Road Trip Planner here.

6. Not being smart with your packing

Any road tripper will tell you that space is always an issue while road tripping. There just never seems to be enough of it! I`m a girl, and I have a hard enough time packing as it is. I`ve packed 6 or 7 different shirts for a weekend trip just so I have options to wear. But after 5 years of road tripping, we`ve become smarter about what we bring on our trip with us. A week before we leave, we write out a packing list of all things we think we`ll need for our trip. Planning ahead will help save space in your car, as you may not be as inclined to pack as much random  “crap” with you as you would last minute.

We also road trip quite a bit in our pajamas, so that saves on packing more clothes. Printable packing list.

7. Not having a plan B

While road tripping to Yellowstone on May long weekend a few years back, we didn’t realize that some of their roads would still be closed due to snow. We ended up having to travel further south to go around the closed roads in order to carry on with our road trip adventure. It’s important to have a plan b for things like this, especially if you get a tornado warning, or the roads are flooded in the Midwest like a few years back.

8. Not having a map with you

In this day and age we rely so much on a GPS to get us to our next destination. It’s a great device to have with you, it’s helps when you get lost, and looks up food and gas stations for you. But what happens when you drive through a remote area where there is no GPS signal? It’s important to bring a map with you for instances like this.

We ventured down to the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas a few years ago, but our GPS was having trouble locating where we needed to go. A good old fashion map did the trick for us.

Happy road tripping!

Find our full Road Trip Planner here.


  1. I hear you on the plan b thing. My brother and I got delayed for 2 hours one time do to a tornado in Nebraska. I'm not sure what we'd do differently but it was a pain.

    I'd also say know where your long stretches of travel between stops are. That way you can make sure to know where you absolutely must fill your tank our risk getting stranded

  2. Great comment, Ben. I've also been stuck waiting out a tornado. There is a place between Ontario and Quebec that says there is no gas station for 350 kms, and warns travellers to fill up. We need more of those signs along the way.

  3. I would add my basic road trip rules, which are avoid highways and chains (hotels and restaurants).