Theres no better time to hit the road, thanks to advanced GPS systems, more efficient cars, improved roads and highways, and cheaper fuel (for now!). But there is always the potential for mishaps if you dont plan well. To avoid the highway to hell, here are the top 10 things not to do if you want a fun, seamless journey.
1. Dont pick a boring travel buddy.
You dont want to spend hours with a backseat driver, a loud singer, or a cheapskate. In fact, a recent survey found that 75% of people argue in the car over things like backseat driving and traffic. So having a road-trip partner who is great with directions, enthusiastic, and shares the same road-trip vision as you do can make a trip more memorable and less frustrating. A willingness to accept and persevere through the challenges of a road trip are key in a partner. This includes chipping in on the driving responsibility, navigating so that the driver can stay focused, and being OK with alone time/silence when necessary. It also does not hurt to choose someone fun.
2. Dont underestimate your budget.
Be realistic. Do some research to figure out where to save and where to splurge. And everything should be discussed with your road trip buddies before you depart. But more importantly, make room for unanticipated expenses like an oil change, roadside attractions, tolls, tickets, entrance fees, and other surprises.
3. Dont drive bad car.
Bad road-trip cars are actually a thing now. Road trippers should consider fuel economy, passenger comfort, cargo volume, off-road ability and cruise control. And regardless of destination, safety features like airbags, traction control, vehicle stability, and tire pressure monitor system should be considered for a road trip. The biggest safety tip happens before you drive: get a proper tune-up, check tires, battery, A/C, and oil before you hit the road.
4. Dont put your feet on the dashboard.
Were you raised in a barn? Keep your feet on the floor. Its good manners. More importantly, its a lot safer. In the event of a collision, an airbag can deploy at up to 220 miles per hour and deliver a force of more than 880 pounds to a front-seat passenger. Feet on the dash can result in knees being slammed into the chest or face.
5. Dont drive tired.
Its important that the driver gets optimal shuteye (7 to 9 hours) the night before a long drive to avoid potential accidents. 100,000 crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year, resulting in an estimated 1,550 deaths & 71,000 injuries. And the more sleep deprived you are, the more dangerous it is. In fact, one study found that staying awake for 24 hours is the equivalent of driving impaired with a .10 blood alcohol level, which is actually illegal. If you have long distances to cover, pull over and take a 20 to 30 minute nap. Your body can get the rest it needs in less than an hour.
6. Dont let the passenger play DJ.
According to some studies, listening to music can positively impact mood while driving, which can translate to engaging in safer driving behavior. Whats more, music that has personal meaning to the driver (i.e. that the driver likes listening to) is associated with increased engagement, while unfamiliar and less-liked music can have some negative affects, according to one study. So what does that mean? The driver gets to pick the playlist or radio station.
7. Dont rely on a single GPS.
Plenty of useful iPhone and Android navigation apps are available to download.
8. Dont stay on the highway.
Whats a road trip without random adventure? Going off the beaten path can not only often save you travel time but back roads may offer more scenic routes. Heck, it may even end up being the highlight of your trip. Just remember the road less traveled means fewer petrol bunks, public attractions, and rest stops, so make sure your car is in good working order. You may also want to text a friend the new route just to play it safe.
9. Dont O.D. on fast food.
We get the occasional stop for a burger, but with all that sitting youre doing, eating right will keep you energized and comfortable (who wants to be bloated or tired for hours on end?). Not to mention it will help you avoid gaining weight. Its best to be prepared with easy snacks that are a good combo of protein, carbs, and healthy fats to keep you satisfied. Also, make sure the foods are non-perishable and wont be affected by changes in temperature (in case theyre left sitting in a hot car). Dehydrated fruits (without added sugar) are nice for something sweet. Healthy protein bars loaded with nuts, seeds, oats, and dried fruits but without tons of sugar are a go-to. Its also not a bad idea to stop every few hours and to walk around, do a couple of push ups, or stretch to increase your energy and counteract the ill effects of sitting for so many hours.
10. Dont motel it, if you can avoid it.
If all youre looking for is a bed to crash in at the end of the night, by all means, pick a creepy roadside motel. But considering how much youre saving on petrol, why not stay in a hotel? Some hotels in road-trippy destinations are not that much more costly (especially when youre splitting the price with road trip buddies) and can offer value-added amenities youll appreciate when you arrive. Theyre also a good way to rack up points for loyalty rewards, so plan out your hotel stays rather than blindly driving to random accommodations (and be sure to research all your options before booking).