Road Trips Gone Wrong

  • The Great Wide Open Disaster

    Road trips always seem like a good idea initially. Save money on airfare, pass through some little known parts of the world and feel the freedom of doing 70 on a long, scenic road. Yet somehow, something always seems to go wrong. Photo Credit: chantoozie
    Common Road Trip Mistakes
  • Common Road Trip Mistakes

    Part of the joy of a good vacation is experiencing the unexpected. That said, there are plenty of ways to prepare for a road trip to ensure that the unexpected is more often than not a good thing. Fodor’s recommends several essentials to keep in mind, including buying a GPS for your car or paying a few dollars more to get one with your rental, and making sure not to drive “like an idiot.” Those are definitely some important rules, but we’d like to propose a few new rules for road trips based on real stories of what can go wrong when you don’t abide by them. Photo Credit: Phineas H
    Rule #1: Don't Go Off Road
  • Rule #1: Don't Go Off Road

    Jim Dailakis was traveling with some friends through Australia when someone suggested they travel through the outback along a shortcut called the Gunbarrel Highway. Even if you’ve never been to Australia, the name itself should give you an adequate sense of dread. Plus, there’s a song by Midnight Oil (a popular Australian band) named after this road, featuring lines like “We burnt all the cars that laid down and died / We burnt all the trees to keep us alive / Sat round the fire, sang like a choir / With the ashes of civilization in our eyes.” The dirt road moves through desolate areas where you can’t find a gas station for miles. To make matters worse, Gunbarrel Highway also floods easily. “There we were in our Hertz Ford station wagon and all of a sudden we're confronted with this, I guess you could say, mini flood,” Dailakis said. As they approached the worst of it, they noticed a sign on the road that read, “DO NOT ENTER: CROCODILES PRESENT!” By this point, they were committed to continue driving along the road, so one person remained in the driver’s seat, while the rest got out to help push the car through the possibly crocodile-infested waters. Photo Credit: Stig Nygaard
    Rule #2: Not All Strangers Are Bad (Just Some)
  • Rule #2: Not All Strangers Are Bad (Just Some)

    Betty (from was driving through Texas alone in her Honda Civic on her way from Atlanta when she noticed a “creepy looking guy in a beat-up car following me.” Each time she changed lanes, he did the same, and when she stopped at a rest stop, he did too. “He had long dirty hair and a tank top that revealed more than any person would want to see,” she said. Not surprisingly, she grew nervous and came up with a plan to shake the man. “I decided to stop for gas. Of course, he stopped for gas and was leering at me,” she said. “I pretended to start pumping gas but I didn't actually. I waited till I knew he was truly pumping gas then jumped back in my car and sped away. I knew he would have to take the time to pay.” She was successful in ditching him, but soon after she had to go to the bathroom and made a rest stop. She rushed to make sure the man wouldn’t catch up with her but a few minutes after leaving the rest stop, she realized she had left her purse in the bathroom. “What I didn't know is that a nice elderly couple found my purse and took it with them,” she said. The couple used her airline ID to get in touch with the proper officials and return the purse to her. “It proved to me that you really can rely on the kindness of strangers!” That is, the strangers who don’t stalk you. Photo Credit: Whatshername?
    Rule #3: Watch Out for Low-Lying Underpasses
  • Rule #3: Watch Out for Low-Lying Underpasses

    Chris Gray described a terrible road trip experience he had for USA Today. Gray had always dreamed of going on exotic vacations to other countries, but his father insisted they travel in the U.S. instead. On one trip, his father rented a 26-foot Winnebago for the family, but didn’t take into account that some bridges have lower underpasses than others. The dreaded incident happened somewhere on a Boston highway. Gray’s mother shouted that they would not be able to fit the car under the bridge a few moments before they went through. “I remember only the sickening crunch as our carefully packed storage bin smashed into the concrete, the impact ripping it from the top,” Gray wrote. "It landed with a thud in the middle of the road.” They continued on the rest of their trip in spite of the accident, lugging along some very dented supplies. Photo Credit: miemo
    Rule #4: Don't Feed the Bears (Seriously)
  • Rule #4: Don't Feed the Bears (Seriously)

    USA Today also has a story that illustrates the dangers of getting too friendly with bears. Lee H. Scott was driving through Yellowstone with his family back in 1961 when his father decided to feed a bear through the car window. The bear ungratefully responded by ripping off one of the side mirrors. “With a screaming wife and a car full of frightened kids, my father stopped the car, got out and retrieved the mirror, leaving the door wide open,” he wrote. “My sister is still deathly frightened of bears.” Photo Credit: Beverly & Pack
    Rule #5: When You Need to Pee, Nothing Else Matters
  • Rule #5: When You Need to Pee, Nothing Else Matters

    We’ve all experienced that dreaded moment when you realize you really have to go the bathroom, except you’re driving down the highway and there’s not a rest stop in sight. But Leta Hamilton had a slightly more twisted version of this experience. She was on a road trip with her two young children and one of her friends. They stopped a grocery store and her friend went to get supplies, while Leta stayed behind to keep an eye on her kids. “She was gone for what seemed like an eternity,” Leta said. “I went from mildly needing to urinate to having to pee so bad my eye balls were turning yellow.” Leta contemplated darting out of the car to go pee in the parking lot, but her urge to urinate was balanced by her fear of leaving her kids alone in a car. Not sure what else to do, Leta reached over to the box of diapers for her kids and proceeded to urinate in not one, but two of the diapers while sitting in the car. “The thing that makes me laugh most about this story is that peeing in my child's diaper in a grocery store parking lot was easier and preferable to waking up my children and taking them into the grocery store to use the bathroom.” Yes, hindsight is 20-20, although I’d like to think that most people would not need to rely on hindsight for this particular situation. Photo Credit: Matti Mattila
    Rule #6: You Never Know Where the Real Danger Lies
  • Rule #6: You Never Know Where the Real Danger Lies

    MainStreet editor and sometimes globetrotter Michael Schreiber learned first-hand that the riskiest places may be much closer to home than you think. He had lived in Israel’s Negev desert for six months during the height of the second Intifada. His family was constantly stressed out by the scary headlines about where he was living, but according to Schreiber, “where I was living, in the middle of the desert, things couldn’t have been quieter.” Then he moved back home early in part to alleviate his family’s concerns and decided to drive cross-country with his sister. It was early September 2001. “On September 11 we were in South Dakota, just outside the Badlands in a dingy motel . We didn’t get our wake-up call, which was annoying, and when I woke I popped out of bed, and turned on the TV just in time to see the first tower fall. I lived in Brooklyn at the time and my then girlfriend, now wife, worked in the Financial District. I couldn’t get in touch with her for about 10 hours (she was among the throngs of ash-covered people walking across the Brooklyn Bridge),” he said. “The irony of the situation was sickening. I left the Middle East ostensibly to get away from terrorism, only to return home just in time to witness one of history’s greatest acts of terrorism occur scarcely two miles from my apartment. And there I was, driving through the Badlands, which eerily reminded me of the Negev.” He remained shell-shocked for the rest of the road trip, but in an eerie way, he was a bit privileged. Schreiber got to witness firsthand how America’s heartland responded to this national crisis, all from the window of his sister’s Toyota Echo. Photo Credit:
    Rule #7: Vet Your Travel Partners in Advance
  • Rule #7: Vet Your Travel Partners in Advance

    Annemarie Dooling was on a road trip with one of her friends, driving from New York City to Orlando, Fla., and back again. “No big deal, people do it a lot, but my travel partner kept feigning ‘arthritis’ and saying she couldn’t drive,” she said. “Every time I would force her to, she’d drive huffing and puffing, sighing, moaning, and then after maybe an hour or two, pull over for awhile and ask me to take over. And while I was driving, chugging coffee, and trying not to kill myself, she would refuse to pull over because we ‘had to get home’ and then she would pass out asleep in the passenger seat.” Annemarie ended up driving almost the entire way, with very few breaks. “I'm not sure HOW I did it, how I'm alive right now or how I stayed awake, but I pass on all future road trips with this friend,” she said. Photo Credit: Polina Sergeeva
    Rule #8: Never Drive With Your Best Friend's Girlfriend
  • Rule #8: Never Drive With Your Best Friend's Girlfriend

    Now, I know what you’re probably thinking, but this is not a story of flirtation and infidelity, but rather torture and more torture. “Never get into a car to go on a 500-mile road trip with the girlfriend of your roommate, when she is a raging socialist,” said Rjon Robins. “If you do… find a way to cut the trip short.” Unfortunately, Rjon did make this mistake and had to endure eight “agonizing hours of having to resist the temptation to point out all the obvious and even not so obvious flaws in logic” that he heard while “cooped up” in the car with this “raging socialist.” However, as bad as the trip was for Rjon, it also proved to be bad in the long run for the girl with him. “They broke up shortly thereafter. I suspect a few of my observations may have had something to do with that blessing,” he said. Photo Credit: rileyroxx
    Rule #9: Pick Your Rest Stops Carefully
  • Rule #9: Pick Your Rest Stops Carefully

    Doreen Orion has experienced her fair share of bizarre road trip moments, enough in fact to pen a memoir about them called Queen of the Road (not a bad name). In one story she shared with us, Orion was traveling with her husband and they decided to stop at a small burrito joint. They were the only ones eating there at the time (a bad sign), and in the middle of their meal they heard shouting. “My back was to the entrance, but before I could turn around, [my husband] looked up to see a hooded bandana’d youth pointing a gun at the now-empty counter,” she wrote. Her husband and the robber locked eyes for a second and then the robber took off, running out the door. They called 911 quickly and soon enough the cops showed up, but her husband realized that he was the only man in the store at that moment and decided it would be best to walk out with his hands up so they didn’t think he was really the robber. In the end, no one was hurt, but man, what a price to pay for a burrito. Photo Credit: aresauburn
    Rule #10: Pick the Right Car
  • Rule #10: Pick the Right Car

    Lisa Scalia had just graduated college and decided to take a road trip with three friends visiting her from Australia. Somehow she managed to borrow a white 1965 Cadillac Sedan de Ville from her sister’s English professor. Initially, it seemed like a blessing just to have a car for the trip, but it quickly turned into a curse. “On the morning we set out from L.A., two hours into the trip, all four tires split, and they had to be replaced,” she said. “Later that same day, near the Grand Canyon, we learned the suspension coils were shot, and they had to be replaced. About two weeks further into the road trip, somewhere on the East Coast, we were having trouble braking and had to have the vacuum hose in the braking system replaced. We continued on to Buffalo to Niagra Falls and then Toronto where one afternoon the fan ripped a hole in the radiator. Cha-ching, cha-ching.” The car had to be towed to a repair garage and Lisa and her friends spent several days in limbo. Not knowing what else to do, they decided to sell the car to the garage that was trying to repair it and used the money (about $800) to pay for a trip back home.  “What did I learn? Never set out on a cross-country road trip in a car in questionable condition with a group of people whose extent of car knowledge is that one person knows how to change a tire.” Photo Credit: bettyx1138
    Rule #11: Don't Lose Sight of Your Directions
  • Rule #11: Don't Lose Sight of Your Directions

    Lindsay from Westport, Conn., was visiting a family friend in Atlanta and decided to road trip there with another friend. She was 18 at the time and looking to enjoy herself. “My dad gave me two sets of typed directions to their house,” she said. “We wanted to see what exit we would need, so I handed both copies to my friend but we were also busy flirting with some boys in the next car over and she let both copies fly away.” Bad move. “It was so late and with no phone, we just pulled off some random exit. When I got out of the car, I was told to get back in, get back on the highway and find another gas station – this was not a safe place for us to be.” Photo Credit: ell brown
    Rule #12: Don't Be An Idiot. Just Dont.
  • Rule #12: Don't Be An Idiot. Just Dont.

    Marianne from Providence, R.I., decided to take a road trip to Hilton Head, S.C., with a few friends from college. For some reason, they decided to dress as ridiculously as they could to make the trip more entertaining. “I wore a fake pregnant belly and jean overall shorts, others wore tie-dyed shirts… basically we made a--holes of ourselves at rest stops for hours,” she said. As if that’s not dumb enough, when they got to D.C. (around 11 p.m.) they decided to disrobe and have “naked hour in the car.” Half-way through naked hour, the fan belt on their Ford Explorer snapped and they were forced to pull over. “We had to scramble for our weird clothes and call AAA,” she said. “An hour later a guy picked up the car, looked at us like we were insane and took us to a hotel near a Pep Boys. Luckily the next day the fanbelt was fixed and we made it to Hilton Head.” Photo Credit:
    Rule #13: Don't Let Someone Keep Driving After They've Crashed into Taco Bell
  • Rule #13: Don't Let Someone Keep Driving After They've Crashed into Taco Bell

    My personal favorite road trip experience was one I took while in college, driving with some friends (and a few vague acquaintances) from New York to New Orleans, a 25-hour trip, in the back of a small rental truck. Several people took turns driving, and the ride proved long, but mostly uneventful until one guy named Charlie got behind the wheel after a pit stop at a Taco Bell. We should have known we’d be in for it when he backed into the Taco Bell Welcome sign within the first 30 seconds. But we were all tired enough to let it slide. About an hour later, we were all dozing off when the car started to shake and skid. We jolted up only to find that Charlie had let the car drift onto the shoulder of the highway. He didn’t seem to mind much, but we told him to shift back to the regular lanes. Instead he stopped the car all together, putting it in park, then turned back and asked what was wrong. We heckled him for a few minutes until he turned around ready to drive again. He turned the key. Nothing. He spun around, panicked about why the car wouldn’t start, and we all mirrored that panic, until the other person in the front solved the mystery. “You’re in neutral, Charlie.” Photo Credit: quinn.anya
    Rule #14: Airlines Aren't Much Better
  • Rule #14: Airlines Aren't Much Better

    While some of these road trip stories may make you want to ditch the car for a flight, keep in mind that airlines may be worse. Check out our collection of the worst airline horror stories and you'll be thankful next time you get behind the wheel of your car. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Tell Us Your Stories
  • Tell Us Your Stories

    What’s the worst or strangest thing that has ever happened to you on a road trip? Let us know in the comments section.Photo Credit: daoro
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