Avoid These Common Mistakes on Your Next Road Trip

The view of the mountains on the road. (Photo by Alessandro Annunziato/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Spring break and summer vacation are just around the corner. If you’re planning on adding to your odometer’s mileage count with a good, old-fashioned road trip, show off your blacktop traveling expertise by avoiding these common mistakes.

1. No entertainment

While spending hours upon hours staring at blacktop, you’ll want to stay entertained. Pack your playlists high, have podcasts ready to stream and bring plenty of games to keep boredom away. Our suggestion: Mad Lib books or a travel version of Apples to Apples. Or, snag a few throwback CDs from your local library. Nothing screams “Road Trip Music” like your favorite N*Sync album from middle school.

2. Nothing to drink or eat

There’s not much worse than being trapped in a car, waiting desperately for the next rest stop to appear, wallowing in the fact that you are absolutely, completely parched. Don’t underestimate the amount of water you’ll chug while driving. To keep better hydrated, pack sports drinks and juices.

3. Fast food only

If you’re driving through California, stopping by an In-N-Out Burger goes without saying, but don’t let the convenience of fast food dominate the rest of your meals. Eat enough greasy burgers, lounge on a backseat for four hours and your taste buds will crave a big, bland stalk of celery. Before leaving, pack a cooler of healthier options to curb your appetite. Our easy-to-eat and travel suggestions: apples, trail mix, yogurts and cheese sticks.

If you like exploring local joints while you travel, try casual dining restaurants. You’ll still get fast service with much better ingredients. Heading near Boston? Try Boston Burger Co. Wanna stay in your car in Kentucky? Check out Parkette Drive In.

4. Death of the cell phone

In case your cell phone dying isn’t already the worst thing in the world, imagine a dark, dead screen while you’re one hundred miles away from the nearest charging station. Keep a car charger with you at all times. Before you leave for your vacay, double check you’ve packed it. Then triple check. Quadruple checks are great too.

5. Traffic jams

Nothing kills a driving trip more than not being able to drive. Keep a list of back roads handy (or MapQuest on your phone) to avoid getting trapped in a pit of congested frustration.

6. Nothing planned

Being hipsters, your friends decided not to plan anything along the way. “We’ll just wing it and see where the road takes us!” This sounds like a great, spontaneous idea, but the problem is most highways run through areas without attractions. After hours cramped together, when your legs are dying for a stretch, you’ll want a list of places worth a quick visit.

Need ideas? Try the Crayola Experience: Crayola Factory or Wild Bill’s Nostalgia which hosts the world’s largest jack-in-the-box.

7. Unable to sleep in the car

Driving is exhausting—think Rip Van Winkle on steroids. Switch drivers often and pack a pillow and blanket to help you snooze in between. As always, staying safe should be a priority so keep buckled in and avoid lying down if you’re going to sleep.

8. Keeping clean

You may not be able to shower often but you can still maintain a squeaky clean scent. Place deodorant nearby, pack a carton of facial cleansing wipes, use dry shampoo and if you aren’t riding barefoot, switch your socks each day… As well as your other undergarments.

9. EVERYTHING packed in the trunk

Want a jacket? A different book? Some lotion or hand sanitizer? Consider keeping a small bag of essentials in the car with you to avoid pulling over and delaying travel.

10. Forgetting a book on CD

Sure, an audio book may do nothing but remind you of watching your great aunt Priscilla on her NordicTrack with Danielle Steele blasting in the background, but trust us on this one. If you need a way to make the hours fly by quickly, you’ll find no better catalyst than arguing with your friends over what really happened to “Amazing Amy” in Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.

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