I’m not really a “professional” road tripper, but I’ve taken my fair share of road journies, and I like to think that I’m pretty good at it by now. I know what to pack, where to place it in the car, and how much to have with me. I know what foods are good to have, and when to make pit stops. I know how to pick out beautiful scenic overlooks, where to stop for the night, and when it’s time to head home. But sometimes, all that knowledge is just not enough. Sometimes, even the most experienced road trippers make mistakes.
A couple weekends ago, I made a lot of mistakes on a relatively short road trip. A few of us guys were heading down to Six Flags New England for a bachelor party weekend. We were all ready to have a lot of fun, but communication during the days leading up to the trip was lacking, so no one really knew for sure what was going to happen. Looking back, it’s pretty evident some of the things we did wrong.
Mistake #1 – Water
I didn’t hydrate myself before leaving, and I didn’t bring any water with me for the trip. Staying hydrated is really important on a road trip. Sure, you’re sitting for hours on end, but your body is still expiring water. We hardly made any pit stops, but when we did finally stop, I grabbed a bottle of water, and downed it in 5 minutes. Also not a good idea. Your body can only absorb the water so fast, so it’s easy to overhydrate and make yourself sick.
Mistake #2 – Food
We didn’t bring any snacks. Again, just because you’re sitting relatively still for several hours doesn’t mean your body can go without nutrition. We left pretty early in the morning, so we weren’t going to be hungry until at least a couple hours into the trip. But when that hunger did hit, it was going to hit hard.
It’s important to bring healthy snacks with you on a road trip, in addition to the old beef jerky and potato chips. All we had were a dozen doughnuts. That’s it. Doughnuts. No fresh fruit, no vegetables, no source of protein. Nada. So our bodies got shocked with sugar, and not much else. That’s a good way to screw up your body, especially if you make the next mistake.
Mistake #3 – Sleep
Sleep–or lack thereof–is a mistake a lot of us make, even when we think of everything else. It’s easy to forget that a road trip is pretty rough on your body, and without enough rest, your body is going to have a tough time recovering. On our trip, we woke at 4:45AM, hit the road, and headed straight to the amusement park, where we would spend the rest of the day shocking our bodies with sugar, fat, and adrenaline.
The night before a big trip is always difficult to sleep through because of the excitement of the trip, so by the next morning, I was already sleep deprived. A good way to help your body settle down before a big trip is to take some melatonin, a natural supplement that aids in sleep and doesn’t leave you groggy in the morning.
Mistake #4 – Preparation
This part was probably our biggest mistake. Like I mentioned above, we had a tough time coordinating plans, but in the end, the best man was able to secure the hotel, the park tickets, and a van to get us down there. While we were all grateful for his efforts and volunteering the vehicle, he unfortunately failed to clean the van, which smelled strongly of the two dogs his parents own, and was covered in dog hair.
When you volunteer a vehicle for a road trip, you need to ensure that the vehicle is road ready, and that you are ready to be the driver. That means cleaning the vehicle, ensuring the engine is in good shape, and taking it easy with the way you normally drive. Some of us drive a little more aggressively than others, and that can make the rest of the passengers uncomfortable.
Road trips require mental preparation, especially if your the trip has a destination. For our trip, I failed to take into account that after 5 hours of travel time, we’d be heading straight into an amusement park, where we’d be walking most of the time, we’d have adrenaline repeatedly pumped through our bodies, and we’d be spending a lot of money. I wasn’t mentally prepared for all that. Then we ate a late dinner, followed by (responsible) drinking and card games. By the time midnight rolled around, I had been awake for 20 hours and was hardly making sense of anything.
Mistake #5 – Packing
Personally, in my harried pre-trip week, I forgot to put together my packing list. For me, this is an essential part of any trip. And I forgot it. And, therefore, I forgot to bring things with me…like my sandals. And a water bottle. Sandals would have been nice after going on a water ride that completely soaked me. And while water bottles weren’t allowed in the park, the road trip would have been a lot more pleasant had I taken some water with me. However, the clothing and miscellaneous items I did bring was weather appropriate, lightweight, and enough to get me through two days of events and travel. I had sunscreen with me, and all the toiletries I’d need. I think most important was that I didn’t over pack. I had just what I needed and a little extra, just in case.
The biggest lesson I learned from my latest road trip was that even I, who has been taking road trips of all lengths and durations for years, can make even basic mistakes. It pays to take the time to plan things out and makes sure everything is accounted for before you hit the road. Needless to say, before my next vagabond adventure, I’ll be setting aside a few hours to make sure that I don’t make those same mistakes. Do that, and you’ll be sure to have a fantastic adventure.