Road trips can be a ton of fun if you go with the right people and do it in the right circumstances. Flying nowadays can be a real drag, and it’s natural to not want to deal with long security lines and airlines that charge you $50 extra to carry on anything bigger than a purse. A road trip can give you a lot more freedom in that regard. You can leave when you want to, and you can drive all night if you have enough people in the car who are awake. If you want to stop and look at a random tourist trap, then that’s totally within your rights as well. That being said, there are still some road trip mistakes you want to avoid.

Don’t make it a free-for-all

You don’t want to make so many rules that it feels like a high school band trip rather than a fun road trip with people you care about, but you don’t want to go the other direction and just have it be a free-for-all. You shouldn’t leave in the morning without a halfway decent idea of where you’re going to be stopping for the night. It doesn’t have to be too rigid if you don’t want it to be, but look at your map and figure out the earliest possible place to stop for the night as well as the latest possible place to stop. That way you have a place to stop if you’re feeling tired early, but you also have a last stopping point that prevents you from pushing yourself too hard.

It’s also good to remember that you’re driving a car, not a party bus. Let’s say you’re driving through the Northeast United States and end up stopping in north-Central New Jersey for the night. Your friends may want to go to a liquor store in Woodbridge to stock up on beer, which is fine, but remind them that you have to check out of the hotel by noon, and ideally sooner than that. It’s fine if they want to have a few drinks in their room, but they shouldn’t be hungover the next day. If one friend can’t take the scheduled driving shift because he or she got plastered the night before, then that’s not fair to the other people who have acted responsibly.

Don’t be surprised by the car

Trying to figure out which car to take can be tricky. If there are five or six people going, then it might be wise to take your cousin Brad’s minivan. If you’re concerned about reducing your carbon footprint while you drive cross-country, then maybe you should take your friend Janna’s biodiesel-powered truck. But once the choice has been made, you should educate yourself on every possible need that might arise during the trip. If you’re going in a hybrid car, make sure there are enough power sources along the route. If the air conditioner is prone to blowing hot air, then that’s something to figure out before driving across the American Southwest in August. Some car trouble isn’t foreseeable, but there’s a lot that is if you just do your research and plan ahead. Thinking about what you’d do know will be incredibly helpful later.

 

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