A Road Trip Gone Wrong (Part 2): Tips For Surviving the Unexpected

December 30th my husband, 4-year-old son and I began a road trip to return home from Arizona. We expected the drive to take around 15 hours (long, but doable) however, due to some unfortunate circumstances, it ended up taking over 30 hours (and we still weren’t even home!)

You can read more about the specifics of our journey in Part 1 – the short version is that because of snow and ice, we got stuck on I-10 (meaning a dead stop) for a total of 14 hours, almost doubling our total travel time. It was 31 hours from the time we started the trip until we were able to rest in a hotel, and by the time we made it to our actual house, it had been 54 hours and 8 minutes from when we left (thanks to my Dad for keeping track of the time!)

If you ever happen to find yourself stranded on the highway for many hours due to circumstances out of your control (heaven forbid!), I hope the following tips may serve you well.


#1. Take turns – hopefully you are not on the road alone. Take turns driving, sleeping, panicking…

#2. Ration food and liquids – especially liquids!

#3. Make a backup plan (for your sanity) – we had a set time that (if reached) we decided we would stop waiting and try to pull off the road to find a hotel. It was helpful to have a time set to take action so it didn’t feel like we would be stuck sitting on I-10 for an eternity.

#4. Be resourceful – I had a plan for what to do if we absolutely could not wait to go to the bathroom (it involved a gallon Ziplock bag). I had also thought we would be home in time to do laundry, and I literally did not have any more clean underwear. Dean let me borrow a pair of his, and while not perfect, it worked okay. Think outside the box.

#5. Keep perspective – I tried to keep telling myself this was going to make a good story (it did). I tried to remind myself that this situation would not last forever (it didn’t).

#6. Have an attitude like a 4-year-old – I was so worried that my son would be the biggest problem during all this, but he handled it the best out of all of us! He viewed it as an adventure and had total faith that his mom and dad would keep him safe and get him home eventually. He was able to find the fun in our predicament when no one else could.


* ALWAYS go to the bathroom when you have a chance! Never pass on this opportunity!

* Check the weather/road conditions even if you’re 100% sure there’s no chance of ice or snow

* Pack more food than you ever anticipate needing – especially helpful if food places are closed due to holiday hours, time of day (like 3am), or weather

* Have a container (or something) that could be used as a backup potty (in an emergency) – if you have kids, bring pull ups or even a kid’s potty – one of the biggest sources of anxiety was the bathroom issue!

* Don’t give in to sunk cost bias – just because you’ve been sitting on the road for 8 hours doesn’t mean you need to sit there for 7 more. It might be time to try to pull off, turn around and find a hotel for the night.

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