Biggest Mistakes People Make on a US Road Trip
1. Severely underestimating distances
Both domestic and foreign travellers forget that cities and attractions aren’t always close, even if it looks that way on a map.
Driving through Texas can take up to 15 hours; the Grand Canyon and Los Angeles are 8 hours apart; roads and highways aren’t usually straight, especially around mountains and beaches.
When planning a longer road journey, study a map to see how far things are apart. Allow extra time because “beating” Google Maps forecasts is unlikely.
2. Underestimating road construction and delays
President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1956 Federal Aid Highway Act established much of the US interstate highway system. This 35-year investment was crucial, but many US freeways are decaying. When fewer vehicles were on the road, states maintained them.
It’s practically difficult to road trip in the U.S. without encountering construction slow-downs and bottlenecks (particularly in the summer) and automobile crashes that can set you back hours.
Add congestion and rush-hour traffic (particularly around major cities), and a 5-hour travel “should” take 6-7 hours. Many travelers who enter US with esta application might have to follow this too.
3. Planning too much driving
This means you should avoid road trips with too much driving.
What’s “too much” is subjective, but you generally shouldn’t drive 8+ hours a day or at night (especially in more sparsely-populated areas where wildlife becomes a real hazard after dark).
When planning a road trip, I attempt to keep my average driving time each day between 3 and 4 hours, with maybe one or two longer days if necessary. Those over 25 will thank you.
4. Trying to cover too much in not enough time
Why do individuals overestimate distances and overdrive? It’s easy to cover too much in too little time. It’s impossible to see the entire U.S. in two weeks (or two months).
I, too, am a “cram it all in” traveller. To make a road trip manageable, I focus on one region, state, or theme.
5. Only focusing on the coasts or major cities
When choosing a subject or region, remember that the U.S. is more than its coasts and main cities. Cities are nice, but they’re better for weekend excursions than road trips.
Be aware that many people have probably thought about visiting Utah’s national parks in the summer or New England’s fall foliage.
6. Ignoring state parks
In recent years, I’ve seen more US national park road excursions. We have some amazing national parks, and more people than ever desire to get outside.
National parks might grow congested during high tourist seasons, but state and regional parks are just as beautiful (but not nearly as crowded).