If there was even a sliver of silver lining to 2020, it’s this: road trips are back, in a BIG way. According to AAA, road trips represented 97% of summer travel last year—and, even though air travel is finally starting to reassert itself, the lure of the highway continues to be strong.
Now, as much as we love spontaneity here at Kelty, the past couple of years have also taught us that the unexpected can and will happen…and sometimes it’s a doggone doozy. So, before we send you out into the wild yonder, we wanted to call out some of the most common road trip mistakes. Here’s what NOT to do on your next highway adventure.
1. Not Pimping Your Ride
Trust us when we say there’s simply no way around this VERY common road trip mistake, especially right now—when backup plans and emergency accommodations are much less reliable than they were in the Before Times. Because…remember when you took your car in for an oil change, and the mechanic made $1,700 worth of “recommendations?” This is the time that all of those naughty little mechanical chickens will come home to roost.
Getting a full tune-up prior to your road trip will ensure that your fluids are topped up, tire pressure is just right—and all of the “soft parts,” like wiper blades, fan belts, brake pads and other wear-out-able things are in tip-top shape. It will also diagnose the kinds of larger issues that are likely to get you stuck in the back of beyond waiting for obscure parts.
GEAR TIP: You know what’s just as awesome as a smooth-running ride? A sweet seat for breaks along the way! Toss a couple of our Mesh Lowdown Chairs in the back of your vehicle—they don’t take up much room, and there’s a killer trade-off when you want some fresh air at the next rest stop.
2. Not Being Prepared
Relatedly, when’s the last time you changed a tire? Is your spare accessible? If your answer to either of these is “uhhhhhh,” you probably want to haul out that spare and watch a few YouTube videos about your specific make and model. We also strongly recommend having some kind of roadside assistance, as well as a well-stocked emergency kit. Maybe you won’t need ‘em, but having both on board will do wonders for your peace of mind on the road.
GEAR TIP: Even if you’re planning to spend your evenings under a roof rather than the stars, it’s never a bad idea to have a Bestie Blanket (or two!) in the car. These awesome multi-taskers are equally at home at an impromptu prairie picnic…or changing a tire.
3. Not Getting Teched Up at Home
If we had a nickel for every time we tried to force our wingmen to listen to a podcast or playlist—only to discover we’d completely forgotten to download it and were out of network— we’d be on a private plane, not in a Subaru. Not only does this mean you’re at the mercy of your bestie’s musicals-and-murder-shows taste, but it can also mean you’re burning through data like a California wildfire.
Take it from the [ahem] experts, who have learned about this road trip mistake the hard way: download your Google Maps, traffic apps, audiobooks, podcasts, playlists and reservations apps AT HOME, in the comfort of your robust wi-fi. You’ll also want to poke around in your travel apps’ settings, to ensure they’re set to minimize data usage while you’re out and about.
4. Not Planning Your Snacks
Listen, we love a truck stop corn dog as much as the next guy. We do. But we also know that (sadly) mankind cannot exist on 7-11 snacks alone. Even if you’re not planning to travel through No Services territory, it’s always smart to pack a cooler with chilled water and a nice balance of healthy stuff and splurge-y treats.
And, while you don’t HAVE to consider your choices the way a backpacker might—selecting nutrient-dense foods that stand up to extreme temperatures and significant manhandling—it certainly wouldn’t hurt. Besides, you’ll be surprised how AMAZING something like a cool, crisp sliced apple and sharp cheddar cheese tastes on the road.
GEAR TIP: Our Folding Cooler not only keeps track of your snacks—it provides extra cup holders for those of you (read: all of you) who are double-fisting caffeine and water.
5. Not Tidying Up as You Go
Weird, but the first rule of cooking is also one of the main rules of road tripping: clean as you go. Things can get messy (and stinky) FAST on road trips, so our experts recommend that every stop also include a quick pass-through for garbage of all kinds. It also doesn’t hurt to have a mobile command center, so you always know exactly where the tissues, wet wipes, hand sani and flashlights are. The ladies in our crew also like to use simple seat-back hooks to hang their totes or day-packs; this keeps them within reach without being underfoot.
GEAR TIP: The Great Outdoors is only as great as you leave it—and that includes highways and byways! If part of your trip takes place on back roads, it might not hurt to take our Trash Pak along. It mounts easily to most cars and is built to withstand sun, rain and wind. If you’ll be on major roads the whole way, great! Use it to separate recyclables to deal with later.
6. Underplanning (or Overplanning)
Road trips can be a delicate balance—you want to think through enough things to avoid road closures and make sure there’s a roof over your head every night, but you also want to leave room for the occasional whim. So it’s great to have a loose plan, while also being open to the unexpected adventures waiting down every unknown road.
We’ve found that a great approach is checking which towns and/or campgrounds along the day’s route have available accommodations, but not necessarily booking them in advance. This way, you’re free to follow your heart! The same goes for restaurants—why would you EVER eat at the Castroville Sonic, when there’s a place called Giant Artichoke serving up the best fried ‘chokes in the world? Did you even know fried ‘chokes were a thing? You do now, and you won’t be sorry you found out.
This is another excellent rationale for making sure all your travel apps are downloaded and in working order before you embark; Hipcamp and Airbnb make it almost impossible to get stranded without a place to stay. And of course, you probably wouldn’t have read this far if you weren’t open to the idea of roughing it—and Kelty’s obviously got you covered there.
GEAR TIP: If you’ve got a roof box, you’d be surprised at how quickly our Tru.Comfort Doublewide sleeping bag can turn your car into a sleeping pod. Having this option takes ALL the stress out of on-the-fly planning, so you can embrace that Roadie Life vibe…100%.
Stay tuned for more roadie life tips, with great gear to help you hit the road in style—and be sure to follow @keltybuilt for all kinds of cool road trip content. See you out there!