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Road trip Family of 5 laughing in minivan at gas station

Source: Tony Anderson / Getty

Thanksgiving is almost here and Americans are making their travel plans to visit family. With many COVID-19 restrictions lifted, the possibilities of where to go and how you get there are almost limitless once again. If you want to get there fast, you take a plane. If you’re an old soul who loves scenery, a train cabin might be in your future. Then there’s the great American tradition of taking road trips. Road trips offer that intimate experience with the land the way a train does while still giving you the control to pull over whenever something catches your attention. In fact, a poll conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Ford found that 73 percent of Americans prefer driving over flying. They just think it’s simpler and more enjoyable.

Of course, there are a few factors that make for that ideal road trip. United Tires conducted a survey to find out what constitutes the perfect road trip. The majority of respondents agreed that the perfect road trip goes on for five days, with a total of 13 hours of driving. It found some other preferences, too, like that people want to pull over every two hours and more than four passengers is a crowd. Details like those can make or break the road trip experience. And there are more like them. Here are road trip mistakes to avoid.


Not Knowing About Gas Deserts

Gas Prices

Source: Luis Sinco / Getty

Road trips are a lot of fun, but depending on the route you take, there is one scary thing you could encounter: gas deserts. These are long stretches of highway where there is nowhere to get gas. Sometimes, there’s nowhere to exit for a long time for anything – not even for a bathroom or food. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with these routes. created a list of some of the longest stretches of no-exit/no-services highways in America. If your trip will take you across any of these, be sure to load up on gas, snacks and water before hitting them.


Failing To Pack a Map

Young couple sitting in the car reading a road map

Source: LeoPatrizi / Getty

Very few people use good old-fashioned paper maps these days. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep one in the car, just in case. The Washington Post reported that human navigation skills are declining as we become more reliant on navigation apps. So looking to the position of the stars or sun might not help you much if your phone dies or you lose service on the road. You can download maps, in case you lose service, but should your phone die, those aren’t useful. Pack a real map.


Skipping Maintenance

Mechanic man pouring engine oil to car engine

Source: naruecha jenthaisong / Getty

If you mostly use your car for city and suburban driving, then you probably wait for that little “check engine light” to go on, or some sort of automatic reminder that says it’s time for service. But if you’re about to put hundreds of miles on your vehicle, you need to be proactive about service. Don’t forget to take your car in for a full check-up before hitting the road. You don’t want to find out the hard way that your tires were wearing thin or that you needed an oil change.


Covering Too Many Miles At Once

Woman sleeping in a car

Source: Hirurg / Getty

If you’re the type who “likes to make good time,” then you might schedule long stretches of drives between stops. This is not only hard on your body but could also be dangerous. The National Safety Council reports that crashes due to drowsy driving cause over 800 fatalities a year. It’s important to pull over every couple of hours to stretch your legs and perk up. Don’t get too ambitious about how many miles you cover in a day. Be sure to get enough rest, and give your eyes a break from the long and winding road.


Forgetting to Research Scenic Routes


Ivan Samkov

The point of a road trip is to see the road a bit – so explore different routes. Don’t simply look into the fastest route. If speed was your priority, you would have taken an airplane. Do some research about your trip and find recommendations on the most scenic routes from drivers who’ve done it before you. Sometimes these can even get you around high-traffic areas of the highway. Road trips are about the journey, so it’s okay to add an hour to the trip if it means seeing unforgettable sites.


Not Knowing the Toll Roads

Toll roads on a road trip

Source: Portland Press Herald / Getty

You’re likely all set up to get through the toll roads in your area, but not across the country. Accidentally finding yourself zipping through toll stations can mean paying large fines. Even if you get in the proper lane to stop and pay, you need to make sure you have cash. Otherwise, you’ll have to remember to log onto the appropriate website to pay online in the coming days. Should you forget, you’ll have to pay a fine. Map out toll roads in advance so they don’t take you by surprise. Or, you can use filters on Waze to find routes that don’t use toll roads.


Failing to Pack Water + Snacks

Mother and kids in car on a road trip

Source: Jupiterimages / Getty

Part of the fun of a road trip is finding those quirky markets, drive-thrus, diners and roadside stands to get local food. You don’t want to overdo it on the in-car snacks and miss out on culinary treasures. That being said, it is important to have backups. You never know when an unexpected traffic jam could mean lunch gets pushed from noon to 3pm and everyone in the car is ravenous. It’s also very important to keep plenty of water in the car. Many conditions, from traffic jams to a flat tire, could put you out of touch with services for hours.


Not Downloading Audio Tracks

Portrait of couple or friends driving in an road trip

Source: FG Trade / Getty

Your road trip companions are good company, but nobody wants to talk for several hours on end. Eventually, you’ll tire of chatting and want something to listen to. Road trips are a great time to listen to an audiobook, a podcast or even a comedy album. But you’ll likely go in and out of no-service areas on long stretches of road. Be sure to download any audio tracks you hope to listen to in advance, so you aren’t dependent on service.


Not Staying Tidy

time to clean toddler’s car safety seat

Source: Catherine McQueen / Getty

A road trip vehicle can become messy quickly. Then it goes from this fun vessel getting you across the country to a moving trashcan everybody is suffering in. Put a small waste bin in the car, so everyone has somewhere to throw out their empty chip bags, used napkins, straws, candy wrappers – you name it. Keep a roll of paper towels in the car to handle spills. Also pack plenty of wet wipes so people can clean their hands after messy car meals. A tidy car is good for morale.

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