7 Last Minute Road Trip Blunders to Avoid

When my parents had only been dating for a few months, my mother made a small complaint to my father.

“You’re not spontaneous enough,” she said. “We never do anything out of the blue.”

The next day, she found herself on an airplane headed from their home state of New Jersey out to coastal California, where they spent a weekend eating seafood and getting acquainted with the Pacific Ocean. (Needless to say, she married him — take heed, guys!)

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Last Minute Vacations

There’s nothing quite like the romance of last minute trips and getaways.

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But last minute travel can come with some complications in tow. What if every place to stay is booked up or crazy expensive? And how will you get there in the first place? It’s no wonder that travelers are usually advised to do lost of planning ahead of time.

If you’re set on spontaneity, however, take heart: It’s totally possible to take a successful last minute vacation without breaking the bank or losing your head. It just takes a little bit of skill and some on-the-fly planning — and, yes, maybe just a touch of luck.

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Here are seven common errors to avoid when making last minute travel plans.

1. Going on an empty stomach.

You might be tempted to pack up the car or RV and hit the road right this second. But if you haven’t had lunch yet, maybe take a moment to grab a bite before you do — or at least pack a few sandwiches! Otherwise, you’ll find yourself shelling out for some substandard eats a few miles down the road.

(Psst: Here are some road trip foods that are easy, healthy, and way better than a floppy drive through burger.)

2. Not preparing a playlist.

I don’t know about you, but for me, one of the best parts of road tripping is belting out the lyrics to some of my favorite tunes.

Don’t get stuck with whatever’s playing on the only radio station whose bands reach you while you’re driving in the middle of nowhere. Download a playlist (or do that suddenly-antiquated thing where you actually burn a CD!) ahead of time to keep on retainer for whenever you decide to take a last-minute trip.

3. Not attempting to figure out where you’re staying, at least for tonight.

You threw some food and clothes into the RV, clambered in, and are off to great places.

But where are you going to camp?

Although it might not seem critical to find accommodations when your bed is along for the ride in the back, you could find yourself stuck in a Walmart parking lot if you don’t try to do at least a little bit of research about where you’re going.

Once you’ve decided on your spur-of-the-moment destination, have your passenger do a little bit of campground hunting on his smart phone. These apps make it super easy to get situated, even when you’re already on the road.

4. Not having a map or enough battery or data in your cellphone.

You wouldn’t jump into your canoe without a paddle — and you shouldn’t get on the road without some tools to make sure you can get where you’re going.

Whether that means a paper map, atlas, or cell phone map is up to you. But no matter what you do, make sure you’ve got the right stuff with you, and enough charge and service left on your cell phone plan to use it as much as you’ll need.

5. Not double-checking your vehicle and equipment.

Picture this: It’s Friday afternoon and you’ve just decided you’re going to spend the weekend at the beach. It’s only a two-hour drive, and you already know of the perfect campground, which you’ve confirmed has an opening for you.

But 45 minutes into the trip, you suddenly discover your rig has a leaky seal. Or a flat tire. Or worse.

Obviously, performing regular maintenance on your vehicle will help minimize the odds of this scenario. But even still, it’s always important to do a thorough walk-around before you take off, just to double check.

6. Not packing enough clothing or the right kind of shoes.

This one’s not critical — you can always replace a forgotten bathing suit or pair of flip flops once you get there. But doing so can add quite a few digits to your trip’s final budget, so you’ll want to avoid it if at all possible.

A good suggestion for those who know they enjoy taking cheap last minute vacations? Have a pre-packed travel bag with essentials ready to go. You might include a few basic outfits and toiletries, and maybe even some nonperishable snacks. It’ll be a small up-front investment, but then you’ll always know you’re ready for the road whenever you hear it call!

7. Not allowing yourself to roll with the punches.

This might be the most important item on this list.

No matter how much last-minute vacation preparation you do, the nature of spontaneous trips means something is likely to go wrong. But it isn’t the set of obstacles and challenges you face that makes or breaks the trip — it’s your reaction to them.

Understand that last minute travel will create some mishaps, and allow yourself to smile and shrug and take it in stride. It’s all part of the adventure!

Travel Deals

If you don’t already have an RV of your own, finding a good deal on a rental vehicle can be one complication that’s hard to avoid at the last minute. Especially during popular travel seasons, like summer, vehicles are often booked well ahead of time.

But finding the best last minute travel deals and family vacation packages is possible — even if you want to take off for your dream destination as soon as possible. As in, this upcoming weekend.

If an RV dealership has a few rigs that aren’t booked and might end up just sitting on the lot empty, they may create special last minute offers and bargains to incentivize their rentals. The best way to learn about these options is to research the dealerships and agencies in your starting area and check their individual websites. You can also call them directly to ask if they might be able to work out a deal that fits in your budget.

Last Minute Booking

Making last minute travel reservations can also be a little bit of a challenge, as some automated online booking systems won’t allow travelers to create a reservation too close to the date the rental begins. You may have to call your rental dealership or agency directly in order to complete the booking process.

Spontaneous Travel

Ready to take on some last minute travel, but looking for ideas on where to go?

Some of the best destinations for RV road trips might be right in your backyard! Look for local state parks in your area, or check with the BLM, or Bureau of Land Management, to see if there are cheap public camping grounds in your neck of the woods. Instead of shelling out for entertainment and activity fees, spend your time exploring the great outdoors… or simply relaxing in the comfort of your camper.

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