7 Common Road Trip Problems (and How to Avoid Them)

Dog with its head out the window.

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Road trips can be life-changing experiences, but only if the travelers make thorough plans and account for all potential roadblocks – literally and figuratively. Here are seven common road trip problems and how to avoid them. 

1. Taking the Fastest Route

The fastest route isn’t always the best route on long-distance trips. As cliche as it sounds, road trips are about the journey, not the destination. Adding a couple of hours to take a more scenic route is better than staying on the same highway for hundreds of miles.

Today’s advanced map applications allow travelers to take alternate routes and be more spontaneous on road trips. If your group suddenly wants to take a detour, just plug in the new directions and let the map take you there. Some apps even notify you of nearby attractions and hidden gems as you drive by.

2. Driving Too Much in One Day

Driving over eight hours a day might seem doable on the first day of your road trip, but you won’t be able to maintain that pace for long. It’s more prudent to conserve your energy and sleep when necessary. Failing to do so could negatively impact your immune system.

If you really want to maximize each day’s distance, rotate drivers every two hours and give everyone a chance to rest, eat snacks and entertain themselves. This strategy might add more stops to your trip, but it ensures that the entire group is fresh when you arrive at your destination.

3. Ignoring the Road Ahead

You will inevitably encounter delays during your road trip, whether it’s an accident, construction or a congested urban area. No one likes to sit in stop-and-go traffic, so you must use all the resources available to keep a close eye on the road conditions that lie ahead.

Most map applications will notify you of upcoming accidents and congested areas, even describing the severity of the congestion and how long the estimated delay will be. Each state’s Department of Transportation website also provides frequent updates of traffic conditions on all major roads. Use this information to adjust your route and dodge roadblocks on the fly.

4. Not Preparing for Car Troubles

Car troubles are the ultimate road trip mood-killers. They bring the trip to a standstill and could even force you to cut the journey short. You must prepare for these common car troubles:

  • Dead battery: make sure the battery is fully charged before leaving and bring jumper cables with you.
  • Flat tire: inflate your tires and make sure they have balanced tread wear. Bring a spare tire, jack and lug wrench with you just in case.
  • Engine failure: if your car’s check engine light is on, get an engine tune-up or consider taking another vehicle.

You should also have the contact information for a roadside assistance service to perform on-the-spot maintenance or tow your vehicle in case it breaks down. We hope you never have to call them, but having that resource will give you peace of mind.

5. Overemphasizing Cheap Gas

Don’t stress yourself out trying to find the least expensive gas every time you need to stop for fuel. The time and detours you take to reach the cheapest nearby station will offset the low prices and might even waste money in the trip’s long run. Choose stations close to your main route and don’t focus too much on the price.

However, it does help to know the gas prices in each state. If you’re nearing a state line, check the next state’s gas prices and see if you should refuel before crossing the border. In any case, don’t test the limits of your tank. Start looking for gas stations well before your car’s refuel alert turns on.

6. Making Your Vehicle Vulnerable

Many things can happen if you make a scene and attract attention to your vehicle. Locals won’t appreciate your antics, thieves will see you as an easy target and even the police might be more likely to pull you over. Pack light and follow the rules of the road. Don’t make your vehicle the center of attention, especially as you drive farther away from home.

7. Encountering Bad Weather

The chance of encountering bad weather on the road is high compared to other potential problems we’ve discussed, but many people still panic when the situation arises. If you find yourself in a downpour and start to feel anxious, just turn your four-ways on and pull over. Never attempt to drive in conditions you’re not comfortable in.

You also need to bring rain gear, towels and extra clothes in case you run into similar conditions during one of your stops. Don’t let a little bit of rain ruin your day.

Avoid These Common Road Trip Problems

Many things can go right on a road trip, but then again, many things can go wrong. Make sure you prepare for these common road trip problems to keep the journey going. After a few trips, you will remember these preparations by heart and become a road trip expert!

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