The pros and cons of road trips: Are they worth it?
As the home of road trips, we at LazyTrips obviously believe there's no better way to travel than getting behind the wheel for a long, beautiful drive.
That being said, road trips are not for everyone. If you don't love driving, you get carsick often, or you have a tendency to get bored and tired behind the wheel, a road trip may not be the best way for you to get around.
Like everything else in the world, there are advantages and disadvantages of doing a road trip, and you'll need to think about every aspect of the trip including parking, luggage, costs and time in order to decide whether to go on one or not.
When you weigh up all the pros and cons of road trips, there's no doubt in our minds that embarking on a road trip adventure is absolutely worth it. The key is to know what to expect, and to welcome a bit of spontaneity into your life.
If you're having trouble deciding whether or not a road trip is for you, have a read through our pros and cons below to help you make your choice. We'll start with the cons:
Cons of a road trip
Contending with traffic
One of the major downsides of travelling by car is that you are constantly at the mercy of traffic.
Depending on the time of day you set off and where you are driving to, there's a chance you could be stuck in a bottleneck jam for hours on end, which is no fun for anyone.
Luckily, there are some pretty fail-safe ways to avoid traffic, or at least to optimise your route as much as possible.
If you're going on a road trip and are nervous about traffic, download Waze beforehand. This nifty app will alert you to everything from accidents to police cars and obstructions on the road.
Waze will also automatically direct you to the quickest route, taking its cues from real-time traffic alerts on the road contributed by fellow drivers.
Don't have Waze? The Google Maps app - which automatically downloads on many smartphones - is another way to check the traffic status of your route.
Whatever tools you choose to use, you most certainly shouldn't let your fear of traffic stop you from doing an epic road trip.
Parking can be a hassle
OK, so we've covered the fact that driving is a cinch, as long as you know how to tackle it. What about parking?
In all honesty, this is probably the biggest complication of a road trip - especially if you're travelling somewhere in Europe with lots of historic pedestrianised towns along the way.
On the Amalfi Coast, for instance, it can be seriously tricky to find parking spots, especially if you don't speak Italian and aren't sure what to look out for.
Again, the key to overcoming this obstacle is preparedness. Even if there's no street parking available somewhere, there will be a hotel that has a parking garage. You just have to do your research.
If you're booking a trip on LazyTrips, look for the parking (P) symbol next to the hotel name. This tells you whether there's parking at the hotel itself.
You should probably anticipate spending a bit of money on parking in these types of places because unfortunately, that's unavoidable.
For more advice on parking, check out our guides for driving in Italy, Portugal, Spain, and a number of other countries. These will give you all the info you need to be able to park in peace.
You can also look into downloading the JustPark app, which lets you reserve a space ahead of time in more than 45,000 locations.
You have to take on more responsibility
While taking the train or flying on a plane gives you the freedom to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride, it requires a lot more responsibility to do a road trip.
For one, if you're doing the driving, you have to stay awake the whole time. Not only that, but you also need to pay attention to your surroundings, keep an eye out for potential hazards on the road, and keep track of time so you reach your destination as planned.
You should also have a rough idea of how to take care of your car. If you get a flat tyre in the middle of nowhere, for instance, it's invaluable to know how to change it and install your spare by yourself.
Having more responsibilities naturally means that road trips are not mega relaxing forms of transport. If you'd rather not have to think about these kinds of things, it might be worth giving that road trip a pass.
Road trips are expensive
From fuel and toll roads to hotel rooms along the way, the many different costs involved in a road trip really do add up.
And even after you've factored in the obvious elements, there will inevitably be some hidden costs as well that you haven't thought of in advance. Entry fees, parking tickets, food, car issues… these are things that are a little bit more unpredictable.
Nevertheless, choosing to drive to your destination rather than fly means you get to save on all the things that come with flights, including baggage fees, airline taxes, and the tickets themselves.
Plus, there are countless ways you can keep the costs down on a road trip. More on that later!
Bad weather can ruin a day of travel
If you've ever tried to drive through a thunderstorm or a blizzard, you'll know that it's near impossible.
Bad weather can not only hamper your travel plans, but it can also unexpectedly add a day or even two to your road trip - which is not ideal, if you have hotel rooms and activities already booked!
There's nothing you can do about serious weather except wait it out. It's not worth risking your life for the sake of the journey.
Of course, bad weather can wreak havoc on flights and train travel as well, with cancelled flights and trains thing that you simply can't avoid.
If you're planning on doing a road trip in the wintertime, when snow and ice are more likely to occur, make sure you prepare accordingly and kit your car out with all the necessary extras.
For a more detailed guide on how to navigate snowy conditions, check out our blog on driving in Europe in the winter.
Road trips are time consuming
Compared to an easy two-hour flight, road trips take a lot of time.
Not only do you have to spend lots of time travelling on the road, but planning ahead and doing all the proper research needed also takes a while.
From deciding which routes to take to booking hotel rooms, getting your car checked in advance, researching activities to do, and having plenty of playlists and road trip games at the ready, there's a lot that goes into preparing for a long driving holiday.
But here at LazyTrips, we happen to love the planning stage of a road trip, almost as much as the road trip itself.
There's nothing more fun than finding travel inspiration, asking friends for tips, creating wanderlust mood boards on Pinterest, and getting more and more excited as the starting date gets closer and closer.
Of course, if you don't enjoy spending time planning and compiling all the best road trip resources, then there's a chance road trips may not be for you.
It's all a matter of personal preference after all!
If you're still keen to do a road trip but you're not sure where to start, have a read of our guide on how to plan your first road trip for some expert advice.
Pros of a road trip
Flexibility, freedom and spontaneity
Without a doubt, one of the best aspects of a road trip is that you get to explore the world at your own pace.
Unlike flights, trains, cruises and coaches, there's no one else dictating your travel plans on a road trip. You are your own boss, and you have the freedom to choose timings, destinations and activities, not to mention speed, music and food!
This freedom also allows you to be as spontaneous as you want on the road.
Feel like stopping at a roadside deli for a 99 cent doughnut? Go for it. Want to pull over at that beach to check out the sunset? Be our guest!
You simply don't get that kind of flexibility on a plane, a train, or an organised group tour, where your schedule is planned and set in stone way ahead of time.
There's a reason why road trips have a sort of mythic quality about them, associated with things like free spirits, hippies, adventure, and Jack Kerouac.
Our advice? Jump on the road trip bandwagon to see what all the fuss about.
Getting off the beaten path
Sure, planning a road trip effectively requires plotting a route on a map and making sure you get from one place to another in good time and in one piece.
But there's also lots of room for exploring small towns and destinations on the way, something you just don't get when you're on a plane or a train.
Often the best travel stories come from those off-the-beaten-path adventures you happen to have when you're doing a road trip.
For example, one of our LazyTrips team members did a road trip across America in 2016, and decided impulsively to pull over in a tiny town called Casey, Illinois, because a billboard on the side of the road caught her eye.
It turned out that this small city, which has a population of just 2,700 people, is home to quite a few unique points of interest - including the world's largest wind chime, the world's largest golf tee, and the world's largest rocking chair (it's 56 feet tall and weighs 46,200lbs, in case you were wondering.)
Not only did this pit-stop make for some pretty cool selfies, but it also provided awesome stories to recount when she got home from the trip.
Do yourself a favour. Get off the beaten path once in a while!
You can roll down the window
This may sound like a minor point, but to us it's crucial.
Unlike the stale, recycled air you have to inhale on a plane, when you're in the car you can roll down the window and let the fresh breeze roll in.
If you're driving near the sea, you'll be able to smell the salt in the air. And if you're cruising through a forest, get ready to smell the fresh, earthy scent of pine and wood.
There's a lot to be said for fresh air, which has been shown to improve digestion, strengthen your immune system, clean your lungs and increase the amount of serotonin (the happy hormone) flooding to your brain.
But most of all, fresh air makes you feel alert and alive, which also - coincidentally - is what a road trip tends to do.
So roll down those windows, notice as your mood improves, and bask in the feeling of the wind blowing through your hair. This is what travelling should feel like.
Enjoy beautiful scenery
Another bonus component of travelling by car is that you get to experience all of Planet Earth's beauty right up close.
Whether you're doing a road trip across the mountains, down a coastal road, through historic towns or past fields of wildflowers, there's always some stunning scenery to admire along the way.
If you're the one driving, of course, you'll have to keep your eyes on the road for the most part. But you can always pull over to snap photos of anything truly incredible.
But if you've got a travel buddy in the car who can share the driving responsibilities with you, you get to enjoy watching the world go by from the comfort of the passenger seat.
You can keep costs down
Although fuel and hotel prices do add up, there are ways to keep the costs down on a road trip.
For starters, if you're travelling in a group of four or more, it's inherently cheaper to drive long distance than to fly, since you won't have to buy multiple plane tickets.
It's also cheaper to travel in the off-peak season, as opposed to those busy school holiday months when everything is more expensive.
Another way to save money on the road is by turning your road trip into a part-camping trip by either renting a camper van or bringing along tents and sleeping bags and staying in campsites some nights.
Camping outdoors or in your car is not only cheaper than staying in a hotel, but it also adds an extra element of adventure to your trip.
While you're at it, bring along a portable barbecue and cook your own food when you pull over, so that you don't have to spend money on eating out at restaurants. You can also pack your own coffee maker in order to avoid the temptation of buying a latte every morning!
For more cost-cutting ideas, check out our guide on how to save money on a road trip.
You can pack as much luggage as you want
For reasons that only professional airline workers know (if you are one, please enlighten us!) carrying extra baggage on a plane often comes at an absolutely extortionate fee.
Not so for road trips! When you're driving, especially in your own car, the only luggage limit is the size of your boot (or your trunk, if you're reading this in the US.)
As long as you can stuff everything in and still see clearly through the rear windshield, you're good to go.
This is especially useful if you're travelling somewhere cold, which means you'll probably have to pack lots of warm jackets and layers, or if you're carting along lots of equipment for a skiing or fishing trip.
It's also great to have extra room when you travel just in case you end up picking up lots of fun souvenirs while you're out there. You never know!
When you spend upwards of four hours in a car per day with someone for several days in a row, you can't help but have some pretty interesting conversations.
Whether you're road-tripping with your partner, your friend or your family, you're bound to get to know each other a little better on the course of your road trip.
By seeing new places, meeting new people and sharing experiences on your road trip adventure, you will undoubtedly create some special memories together that you can cherish forever.
That being said, there's always the chance that tensions might build up if you rub each other the wrong way on your road trip (couples, we're talking to you in particular). Before you set off on your road trip, find out how to maintain a cool head by reading our road trip tips for couples.
Road trips are the ultimate adventure
At the end of the day, the main reason we embark on road trips is not to get from point A to B; it's to experience that elusive and invigorating feeling of adventure.
Even if you're travelling somewhere uninspiring, you never really know what to expect on a road trip, which makes it all the more fun.
Keep that in mind, and you're bound to have an amazing time on your road trip.
Road trips are expensive, they're time-consuming and occasionally, they can cause frustration. But most of all, they're hugely exciting and rewarding, and they tend to make you look at the world a little differently.
If you're weighing up whether or not to do a road trip, take our advice and just go for it. You won't regret it.