We — me and my wife — love road trips. Nowadays, its an addiction to us. A few years ago, we went on our first cross country road trip. Before our journey, we watched a lot of youtube videos and read a lot on the internet. We thought we know everything about a road trip and started our first cross country trip. But later, we realized that there are so many things that we did not know. In this article, we will summarize all the mistakes we made and hope that you will learn something from it before you start your next epic road trip.
Driving Too Much Each Day.
Our first road trip was from New York City to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. It was a total of 2,200 miles of journey one way. We planned to drive 700 miles on the first day and 500 miles each remaining day to reach Yellowstone. On the first day of our road trip, we realized we made a huge mistake.
Theoretically, the first 700 miles was supposed to take 10 hours at 70 mph high way speed (cross country interstate has a speed limit of 80 mph, 70 is a safe speed for everyone). But that journey took us 14 hours. It’s because we did not factor in the food and bathroom break time. There was no way we could change our plan as we already have booked campgrounds and hotels along the way. On the remaining days, it took us 11 hours to travel 500 miles.
We could not stop and see any attractions along the way. Each day we would reach our reserved campground or hotel at night, and we would leave early in the next morning to keep our schedule from falling apart.
We found that 360 to 400 miles are the best distance to travel in a single day on a road trip.
Not Checking Historical Weather In Advance.
The USA is vast. At the same time, someplace is scorching hot, and someplace is below freezing. On our first road trip, we forgot that and paid a heavy toll one night at the Bighorn National Forest.
Here’s the story. When we started our journey, NYC and every other place were hot. So we only took summer clothes. But things changed when we reached Bighorn. Due to high elevation, the night was freezing, and we could not sleep in our tent that night. We tried but could not sleep inside our car too. The next day we went to Walmart and bought two sleeping bags rated for 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Then we drove to our canyon village campground in Yellowstone. That park was also freezing at night due to high elevation. But we did not face any more problems because we already bought everything necessary for cold weather.
So our suggestion is that do some google weather search for the locations you intend to visit. Historical weather would give you an idea about the temperatures at night and pack your camping stuff according to that weather.
Here is another example. On our last road trip, we visited numerous national parks. Two of them were Death Valley and Yosemite. Death valley was scorching hot, almost unbearable. On the other hand, the Tioga pass inside the Yosemite was closed due to snow.
Not Having Offline Maps.
On our first road trip, I downloaded offline maps for only Yellowstone. It never came into my mind that I also needed to download offline maps for each campground area we were planning to stay. One campground in South Dakota was in a remote location, and there was no cell signal. On the next morning, the google maps did not work due to no data connection, and we were having a hard time finding our way.
So, we recommend downloading offline google maps for each location you are planning to stay and visit. It will save you a lot of trouble on your road trip.
Trusting Maps Too Much.
Numerous times we found that google maps do not show the correct route, especially inside forests, national parks, or in the backcountry roads.
In one road trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, Google Maps lead us to a narrow closed road. It was a very frightening experience. One time the google maps lead us to a permanently closed gate of a campground. We were lucky that we were driving a Camry in both cases. If it was an RV, I guarantee that there was no way you could turn back from those dead-end roads.
So, here is our suggestion. Use google maps extensively on your journey, but always keep in mind that google maps could be wrong and use your best judgment while following google maps.
Not Carrying a Propane Stove.
On our first road trip, we only carried a woodburning stove. But that was a huge mistake.
Woodburning stove creates a lot of mess. It’s hard to start a fire; fire produces a lot of smoke; the heat is not controllable, creates a lot of soot, and you have to wait until your wood stove cools down to pack it up. On the other hand, the propane stove does not have any of those issues mentioned above.
Not Keeping Everything Organized.
On a road trip, we carry a lot of things — tents, tarp, sleeping bag, food, toiletries, kitchen items, clothing, and many other things. On our first trip, we did not think of keeping everything organized. In our early two days, everything got too messy inside our car and trunk. So, later we bought several plastic boxes from Walmart to store all our items systematically. It made the rest of the journey less messy and more enjoyable.
Reserving Campground Inside State Parks.
If you intend to stay only a single night during your road trip, never reserve campground inside a state park. Every state park has an entrance fee, and sometimes it is higher for out of state visitor. In some places, the campground fee combined with the state park entrance fee will be more than $50 per night. With this amount of money, you can stay at a motel. On our first road trip, it was shocking to us because no one warned us about this.
Not Buying an Annual Park Pass.
Every national park and other federal recreational sites have an entrance fee ranging from $20 to $30. If you plan to visit three or more parks in a year, then definitely buy the “America the Beautiful Annual Pass.” It only costs $80, but it allows you unlimited entrance to every national park and federal recreational sites for one year. In our opinion, It is a substantial money-saving investment.
Not Keeping Enough Food.
Before you start your journey, make a solid plan of what and where you will eat on the road. Moreover, keep enough dry food and water inside your vehicle. There are places where the nearest town could be 100 miles away from your campground. For example, in Yellowstone. There are also towns where everything closes at 8 to 9 PM. If you are a little bit late, it would be hard to find a place to eat, such as Moab, Utah. So, always keep food reserve inside your vehicle.
Everyone’s situation is different. We did a car camping, but maybe you are on an RV road trip. Either way, we hope that the mistakes we pointed out above would help you make a better decision on your next epic journey. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. We will try our best to help you.