Road Trip Mistakes I’ve Made That You Should Avoid
Over the past few months, I’ve been road-traveling across Western Canada – from Vancouver to the Badlands (Drumheller, in particular) from Banff to Jasper and then back down via Glacier and Whistler – and while this long list of destinations involves the most exciting aspect of life on the road, the reality that van life Instagrammers fail to show is that it tends to be kind of a chore. Sometimes tedious, stressful at others, with a lot of distance between the things you actually took on the road to see in the first place, you learn as you go along how to mitigate the more aggravating aspects of what comes back more or less to live in your car for weeks or months.
It takes experience to learn how to handle the long miles on asphalt, the nighttime search for places to rest, and the endless array of hands-on tasks you’ll have to manage as you go. Here we will discuss a few such strategies. Over the past three years, I’ve ridden nearly 40,000 miles across the United States, Mexico, and Canada, and here are some driving mistakes I’ll never make again.
1. Pack too much
When packing your bags for the first time, it seems like a good idea to pack all the comforts, conveniences, and “just in case” possibilities that you can. But in the end, you’ll find that you’re only using a fraction of all the crap you now have to rummage through every time you need to find something. Finding a can opener turns into fifteen minutes of rummaging through a box of fancy camping cookware that you’ll be too mobile to deploy.
Load up your vehicle a few days before your trip with all the sane, silly things you think you need but absolutely won’t need, then cut 40% or more. Really Marie Kondo all that junk. This will only waste time, space and energy efficiency.
2. Not taking a break
Once I get my momentum, I hate letting it stop. This is especially the case when I have a long distance to cover, such as when trying to shoot ten hours a day. At the start of such a marathon it makes sense, but it only comes to mind when it’s too late – half a day later, once your eyes and nerves are raw and that you barely pay attention to the road. more – that was a mistake.
Taking the occasional break not only gives you much-needed rest, but also lets you experience the landscape you’re cruising through. It’s worth the hour lost or so during the day.
My goal for these long rides is to stop at least once every two hours and try to make at least one longer stop where I walk around or do something active. A short hike is an ideal option.
3. But also taking too many breaks
On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that you correct too much and stop so often that you never get where you’re going. This is of particular concern when trying to see a large region in a relatively short amount of time.
Sometimes you need to cover ground first. Before your trip, take a minute to choose essential experiences along your itinerary and plan milestones that need to be completed on certain dates. Fly by the seat of your pants between these fixed points, but when their time on the calendar arrives, make sure you’re there.
4. Don’t head straight for popular iOverlander spots
The iOverlander app is a great way to find camping opportunities on the fly. Mainly used by the van-life crowd, it tells you where to find wild and established campsites along your route. Some have sketchy information and a single review, while others have lots of photos and dozens of reviews.
Don’t waste your time on the most popular sites. They’re usually popular for a reason, like a good view, but that popularity means you’ll probably end up camping next to a bunch of other vehicles, or finding no space at all. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bounced down a long gravel road only to find the amazing site I’m looking for is full of rambunctious campers.
A better strategy is to risk places with decent but fewer and less ecstatic reviews. Each time I couldn’t stay at one of the hotspots, I discovered a site with no photos and only one lukewarm review only to find I had a glorious piece of nature all to myself.
5. Forgetting to download songs
These days, most people listen to music through streaming services, which, while super convenient, becomes impossible as soon as you drop out of phone service. That’s when you realize that, for some reason, the only albums you’ve downloaded are the ones you least like to listen to.
Spend time downloading your favorite albums before hitting the road. I’m not just talking about a few. Get a wide range of artists so you have plenty to listen to on the long drive between here and there.