->''"All right, we're here! Let us never speak of the shortcut again."''
-->-- '''Homer''', ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'', "Itchy & Scratchyland"

Typically AnAesop against cheating. All the regular characters are on a RoadTrip or some other [[TheQuest quest]]. One character suggests they take a shortcut: sure, it [[LostWorld may not be on the maps]], but he knows the route like the back of his hand. Besides, it will shave a few hours off the trip, and be all-around more interesting than the [[ScenicRoute boring old interstate]]! Persuaded, the other characters agree to take the shortcut.

If they're lucky, HilarityEnsues. If they aren't, [[MortonsFork Hilarity Ensues]]: all manner of deadly serious horrors beset them as soon as they leave the beaten path. They get lost. The car breaks down. The shortcut takes them to the TownWithADarkSecret or the WackyWaysideTribe.

If the proposed shortcut is described beforehand as "the ScenicRoute", it's pretty much [[RiverOfInsanity doomed from the start]].

A staple of {{Dom Com}}s (where it is usually instigated by the BumblingDad), and stories involving TheQuest. Frequent use of a Long Delay turns the destination of a trip into the story's MacGuffin. The situation will often be exacerbated by a DirectionlessDriver.

See PathOfMostResistance for a similar trope used in video games. For more travel wisdom, see RightUnderTheirNoses. Compare with DeadlyRoadTrip. Contrast RidiculouslyDifficultRoute. For similar situations not involving travel, see LaboriousLaziness.



* Occurred in ''Anime/SpiritedAway'' when the father suggest they take a shortcut through a forest, this results in the family getting TrappedInAnotherWorld.
* ''Manga/JoJosBizarreAdventure''
** The arc ''Steel Ball Run'' gives a very straight (if particularly layered) example in the final stretch of the part, said by [[spoiler:Gyro right before dying at the hands of Valentine (having realized he wouldn't win)]].
--> "I always tried to take the fastest shortcut in this Steel Ball Run, but 'the shortest route was a detour'. 'It was the detour that was our shortest path.'"
** Johnny ends up realizing the message's true meaning in a moment of desperation, having [[spoiler:fallen off his horse: that even though the power of the Golden Rectangle was mainly drawn upon by running with the horse naturally, he could also get it by making it kick him by throwing Gyro's remaining steel ball at it (effectively skipping taking a painful shortcut).]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Every time [[Comicbook/UsagiYojimbo Usagi Miyamoto]] takes "one of Gen's short cuts" he winds up stumbling into a dastardly plot.

[[folder:Fairy Tales]]
* "Literature/LittleRedRidingHood" is probably the UrExample. She was ''told'' to stay on the path, but she just had to go and take a shortcut through the woods... and the rest is vaguely-Freudian history.

[[folder:Film - Animated]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/IceAge'', the group takes a dangerous shortcut that isn't a shortcut at all, just so that Diego can hide the others from his clan.
* ''WesternAnimation/FindingNemo'': On their way to Sydney, Marlin and Dory have to cross a trench. Dory has been told to swim through it, not over it, but Marlin insists that going over it is safer because the trench is full of bones. They go over it, and end up surrounded by jellyfish. Those bones ''sank''.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Hoodwinked}}'':
** After Red Puckett manages to escape from them, the Wolf and Twitchy contemplate their moves and decide they need to get to Granny's before Red gets there. Just by chance, Boingo appears, and having heard where they're going, says [[YouCantMissIt he knows of a shortcut]] that involves going "over the woods and through the river", then realizes how stupid this is, saying "No....you don't want to go through the river, you'll get all wet." The scene cuts to the Wolf and Twitchy treading their way through a flooded cave populated with bats.
--->'''The Wolf:''' We are in a pickle, I blame myself. That bunny was worthless, not to mention he wrote the directions on an ''Easter egg'', which is very hard to read...
** Likewise, Red is put onto a longer land route to get to Granny's not because of a decision to take a shortcut, but because she was pushed out of a cable car cabin and fell several hundred feet.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheLEGONinjagoMovie'': The path to the Ultimate, Ultimate Weapon splits into a fork, with a sign naming each road. One road is "The Right Path", which is "long, arduous, and enlightening"; the other is literally called "Short Cut", and leads through a "possible evil skeleton graveyard". Naturally the ninjas choose the short cut, which leads to [[spoiler:Garmadon and Lloyd getting captured by an angry mob of Garmadon's ex-[[TheDragon Number-Ones]].]]

[[folder:Film - Live Action]]
* ''Film/ItsAMadMadMadMadWorld'' was one Long Delay after another. For example, Phil Silvers' character takes a shortcut on a dirt road at the advice of a local kid, only to find that the road goes through a river. He attempts to drive through anyway and loses his car.
* ''Film/TheLifeAquaticWithSteveZissou'': who '''didn't''' see disaster coming when Steve took a shortcut through [[TemptingFate Unprotected Waters]]?
* Pretty much the whole point of ''Film/RatRace'', in which six different people (often with family/sidekicks) try to be the first to get to a town in the next state. HilarityEnsues as increasingly improbable circumstances slow them down - the helicopter pilot discovers her boyfriend cheating on her and runs out of fuel in the ensuing vengeful maneuvers, a "helpful" woman provides shortcut directions to one driver that sends them over the edge of a cliff because they didn't buy a squirrel, and so on. The movie was kinda remake of ''Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World'' anyway, so that's to be expected...
* From ''Film/RoadTrip'' wherein the shortcut leads over a BrokenBridge.
-->Of course it's difficult, it's a short-cut. If it was easy it would just be "the way."
* In ''Film/AnchormanTheLegendOfRonBurgundy'', the four main characters are walking to the suit store via what [[CloudCuckooLander Brick]] claims to be a shortcut and have a run in a rival news team.
-->'''Brian:''' Where the hell is the suit store? We've been walking for forty-five minutes!
-->'''Champ:''' Brick, I thought you said this was a short cut.
-->'''Brick:''' ''(laughing)'' Fantastic!
-->'''Ron:''' Well, is it a short cut, or not?
-->'''Brick:''' ''(laughing)'' OK!
* David Vincent saw Series/TheInvaders after getting lost "looking for a short cut that he never found".

* A children's storybook based upon ''Literature/TheBerenstainBears'' features a Bear Scout troop hiking up a mountain. While the group take the longer way according to their map, Father Bear takes a shortcut -- admittedly, it's a shorter route, but it is beset with [[NeverSayDie nigh-deadly]] hazards.
* ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings'' is the {{Trope Namer|s}} (it's a Hobbit proverb quoted by Pippin). In ''The Fellowship of the Ring'' the hobbits attempted to shorten their walk by cutting across country and ended up miles off course.
** Their short cut was longer than it needed to be in order to avoid going past a nearby village inn. Pippin is heard reminiscing about the quality of their beer, and Frodo is immediately convinced: "That settles it. Short cuts may make delays, but ''inns'' make longer ones."
** This is later averted by Strider, who comments that "my cuts, short or long, don't go wrong." His shortcuts ''are'' faster...but they're not necessarily ''pleasant''. Midgewater Marshes, anyone?
*** Later [[ZigZaggingTrope Zig-Zagged]] when he successfully takes the grandmother of all shortcuts through the [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast Paths of the Dead]]. It's not actually any ''faster'' than the mundane route taken by the Rohirrim, but he comes out the other end with an invincible army of ghosts, so they forgive him.
* In ''Literature/ThePilgrimsProgress'', straying from the path results in either death or a deadly situation.
* In the second ''Literature/WarriorCats'' story arc, a lone cat named Purdy offers to show the traveling Clan cats a way though the city rather than having the cats waste time traveling around it. He claims the whole time that he knows where he's going, but the Clan cats know it's not the quickest route (at one point they realize they've been traveling in the ''wrong'' direction all day; they're supposed to be heading ''toward'' the sunset). It also results in Feathertail nearly getting captured by a Twoleg and Tawnypelt being bitten badly by a rat.
* Not so much a "long delay" as "getting involved in a secret AlienInvasion and being given powers by a dying alien," the ''Literature/{{Animorphs}}'' begin their adventure by taking a shortcut through a construction site one night. In one book Jake makes a DealWithTheDevil (or an alien who works for a devil-esque SufficientlyAdvancedAlien) to ''avoid'' taking the shortcut and [[spoiler: they still get involved in the invasion, only without their morphing powers and most them are killed but Earth is saved in the end]]. This is restored to the main timeline with a ResetButton where the "devil" rescinds the offer before Jake can take it.
** This trope also comes into play, albeit unintentionally, in ''The Unexpected'', one of [[ExtrudedBookProduct the later ghostwritten books]]. Stowing aboard an airplane bound for Sydney to escape the Yeerks, hijinks ensue and Cassie finds herself in the outback. The only problem is, Sydney's on the ''east coast'' of Australia, meaning that plane departing from California had no business being over the outback. Explanations of this anomaly offered after the fact are curious and unsatisfying.
* ''Literature/SardHarker'': Harker, desperate to get back to his ship before it sails, takes a short cut that leads him into a bog and several encounters with rats, stinging creatures, and other vicious wildlife and ultimately strands him miles from where he needs to be, with no chance of catching his ship, and facing a long trek through hostile terrain to get back on track. (Though when he does finally make it to his ship's next port of call, he learns that the ship was sabotaged by the villain and sank with all hands, so the long short cut almost certainly saved his life.)

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* ''Series/TheATeam'', "[[Recap/TheATeamS2E18ItsADesertOutThere It's a Desert Out There]]". Lila tells the victims about a "shortcut" that will take an hour off their travel time, and then calls the Scorpions to tell them that somebody's coming. Long story short, the passengers end up delayed, frightened, and minus any cash or other valuables they were carrying.
* Appears and is {{lampshade|Hanging}}d in ''Series/TheTenthKingdom''. There are two roads leading to Wendell's castle, and the pair of unlikely heroes are on foot: they must choose whether to take the long and pretty path or the short and scary path. "Virginia, don't you think there's a chance that it's going ''around'' something? But... but one path has trees, and the other... argh!" They take the scary path. The fact this detour [[BecauseDestinySaysSo turns out to be necessary]] in order for Virginia to obtain the poisoned comb so that she can deal out the suitably [[HoistByHisOwnPetard hoist by her own petard]], KarmicDeath for the BigBad only makes this hew even closer to the trope. ("It's the journey that matters," and TheQuest usually requires that something very important be found or learned while the heroes are caught up in a seemingly random delay or distraction.)
* Metaphorical version: On ''Series/DeadliestCatch'' the ''Time Bandit'' crew tried to de-ice their ship faster by [[IncendiaryExponent blowing huge chunks off with a large firework]]. They did manage to get rid of a ton of ice -- which landed on their coiling machine so now they have to resort to "Neanderthal fishing" and have a guy looping the rope by hand.
* ''Series/MalcolmInTheMiddle'': Reese thinks any different path one takes is a shortcut. Even if they're longer.
* From the ''Series/{{MASH}}'' episode "The Yalu Brick Road'':
-->'''Hawkeye''': I thought you said this was a shortcut!
-->'''BJ''': It is a shortcut! Look how fast we got lost!
* One episode of ''Series/TheMightyBoosh'' has Vince suggesting a shortcut to Howard that leads them both into the middle of nowhere. When Vince explains himself as having tried to follow the long red road on the map, Howard rightly points out that it's actually a raspberry bootlace.
* Inverted in the ''Series/DoctorWho'' serial "Dragonfire"; when Ace boards the TARDIS at the end, she's miserable because she assumes the Doctor is going to take her straight home to Perivale on Earth, a place she loathes. The Doctor, however, has decided she'd make a good companion, and offers to take her home via the 'scenic route' -- which he outright promises is going to be much longer and more dangerous, but infinitely more interesting.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* A major aversion occurs in the Keeper campaign of ''VideoGame/AgeOfWonders''. If you can remember the way through the Underground Path, you can literally walk straight past an entire map of enemies. If you have the [[GameBreaker haste spell]] and click fast, you can complete the entire mission in under 30 seconds.
* Racing games, especially ones that are not serious (''VideoGame/{{Burnout}}, VideoGame/MarioKart'') often include shortcuts that, if not executed properly, will cost the player even more time than the shortcut is intended to bypass.
** In ''Mario Kart's'' case, sometimes the longer "shortcut" will have an item box to compensate people who decide to use the path. The paths are usually less traveled by most racers, making them safer from being hit by most items.
** In the ''VideoGame/MicroMachines'' series of racing games, some of the courses are wide open and shortcut opportunities ''appear'' to be plentiful. Go too far off course or stay off the course for too long, however, and the game will immediately abort your run and place you all the way back at the point where you first left the track.
* In ''VideoGame/BaldursGate II'' you're asked to destroy a beholder cult called the Unseeing Eye, and are informed that the beholder is far too powerful and you have to retrieve an artifact to destroy it. This involves going to an underground city to get half of it, then through a town of undead, then through a lair of beholders, before you finally get the other half. Alternatively, you can just start killing its cultists and kill it when it shows up to stop you, because the point about the Unseeing Eye is that it's a ''blind'' beholder. Which makes it less formidable than the normal beholders you had to kill to get the artifact.
* In ''VideoGame/NeoQuest II'', one NPC in Act II remarks: "You know the saying: the shortest distance between two points is a straight line? Well, the longest distance between two points is a shortcut." Luckily for you, the player characters are not required to take such shortcuts.
* A case of SchmuckBait involving this occurs in ''[[Franchise/MightAndMagic Might & Magic 6]]''. [[spoiler:In the small town in the west part of the Mire of the Damned, someone tells you about a path through the mountains that gets you to the east part (where there's the Circus, an Inn you need to get to, and a road to Freehaven) quicker. However, at one spot on this path, a ''very'' large flock of Harpy Hags (difficult monsters who can ''all'' cast Mass Curse) appears and ambushes you. (Unfortunately, even if you know about this, you ''have'' to come here and trigger the ambush to solve the Obelisk Puzzle and get the most powerful spells in the game.)]]
* ''VideoGame/TheOregonTrail'' series features lots of these, many taken directly from real life.
* ''VideoGame/Titanfall2'': Early in the campaign, BT finds what it believes to be a shortcut through tricky terrain. Naturally, this ends with BT getting captured and Cooper having to fight his way through a massive IMC facility against hundreds of soldiers and powerful autonomous mecha to get BT back. Near the end, BT's readout includes the phrase: "Re-evaluate definition of 'shortcut'", and later the Titan snarks that "I will avoid all shortcuts" when told not to get lost.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* In ''Webcomic/NipAndTuck'', Gus takes a shortcut to win a race he's losing--and ends up right in the middle of a demolition derby [[spoiler: which reduces his truck to so much scrap metal]]. A long delay indeed!
* In [[http://www.goldcoincomics.com/?id=73 this]] ''Webcomic/GoldCoinComics'' strip, a "shortcut" is a mountain/large hill.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* In the ''Literature/BinderOfShame'', this is how the [[http://albruno3.blogspot.com/2010/06/rpgnet-rant-16-great-gamma-world-death.html Great Gamma World Death March]] went OffTheRails.
-->"Let me say this again, you want to take a shortcut through the Desert of Certain Doom? You know the part of the map here with all the radiation and biohazard symbols on it?"
* In an early ''[[LetsPlay/AchievementHunterMinecraftSeries Let's Play Minecraft]]'', Geoff designed a massive water-based racetrack and installed a number of shortcuts to it. When he finally got to try it out, he found out it took ''way'' too long.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* Has occurred several times in ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'' (most often at Homer's instigation). In fact, the page quote is from one such episode in which the family take a shortcut on a trip. They reach their destination ''much'' later than expected with an overall destroyed car sporting a wagon wheel as a spare tire, infested with farm animals, and a US Military Missile embedded into the back.
* A recurring plot element and running joke in the ''WesternAnimation/{{Rupert}} Bear'' cartoon series is that all of Bill's "short cuts" invariably lead to some sort of strange adventure, but never where they wanted to go in the first place. In one episode, the two decided to split up and make a race out of it. Naturally, this time it's Rupert taking the proper route who finds himself in a land of adventure, which implies that it's not the shortcuts that lead to adventure, it's Rupert.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Futurama}}'': Bender is helping a robot fraternity win a boat race and claims to know a shortcut. Ends up [[ZigZaggedTrope Zig-zagging the trope]], as the route is more dangerous but does turn out to be slightly quicker (allowing them to just barely win the race).
-->'''Gearshift:''' Hey, Bender, you sure this is a shortcut?
-->'''Bender:''' Not as sure as I was an hour ago.
* In an episode of ''WesternAnimation/TwoStupidDogs'', the big man's blind and buys the dogs to use them as guide dogs. The little dog's shortcuts eventually lead him to the top of a building under construction.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Stoked}}!'': In ""Reef, Broseph and Emma's Totally Stupid Adventure", Broseph, Reef and Emma go into town for beaver tails (a local pastry), but stay too long and realize they're late for work. They try to take a shortcut through the woods, but end up lost in the woods for the day. HilarityEnsues.
* ''WesternAnimation/WackyRaces'': Dick Dastardly once took a short cut that was blatantly shorter than the road he should have taken and ended up falling victim of a booby trap at a place he trespassed and the Mean Machine had to be practically rebuilt part by part. By the time Muttley finished rebuilding it, the land owner learned Dastardly tricked him to stop the other shortcut users and started shooting him. By the time he reached the finish line, he was in last, as [[FailureIsTheOnlyOption usual]], the Mean Machine had holes all over its body and it fell apart as Dastardly was about to cross the finish line.
* Invoked in an episode of ''WesternAnimation/AdventuresOfTheGummiBears,'' where Cavin is transformed into an ogre in order to infiltrate the ranks of Duke Igthorn's army. After accidentally "capturing" Cubbi, he ends up taking point on the Duke's next invasion, which he tries to sabotage by leading Igthorn and his ogres on a variety of wild goose chases in the guise of "shortcuts."
-->'''Ogre!Cavin:''' [[LampshadeHanging "Me say short, not easy!"]]
* In a ''WesternAnimation/LooneyTunes'' cartoon "Eight-Ball Bunny", Bugs tries to get a small penguin to Antarctica where he belongs. While traveling through Africa, the scene shifts, showing that the pair has been CapturedByCannibals. Bugs turns to the penguin and grumbles, "You and your short cuts..."
* One episode of ''WesternAnimation/BeavisAndButtHead'' has the two miss the bus back home; rather than walk home, Butthead suggests they take a shortcut. The duo end up in a different neighborhood and end up spending an entire day just to get back to their school.
* In ''WesternAnimation/TheSmurfs'' episode "The Trojan Smurf", the Smurfs must carry a big statue of Papa Smurf (which is really a TrojanHorse for Gargamel to infiltrate the Smurf Village) to the village, but cannot get it across the river because the bridge is too small. Brainy suggests a "short cut", which ends up taking the statue down a very steep slope, only to fall into a raging river that ends in a waterfall that Bigmouth is taking a bath at the bottom of, and said ogre mistakes the statue for a talking Papa Smurf doll.
* Gen's bad shortcuts are given a lampshading in the ''WesternAnimation/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles2003'' episode "The Real World part 1", when Leonardo, Usagi, Gen, and Lord Noriyuki find themselves at a cliff, and then are soon attacked by Neko Ninja.
-->'''Leo:''' This is the way to Edo?
-->'''Gen:''' It's a shortcut.
-->'''Usagi:''' Your shortcuts will be the end of us.
* In the ''WesternAnimation/RockosModernLife'' episode "Road Rash" Heffer tells Rocko to take a shortcut on their motorcycle trip. They end up passing numerous landmarks including the Egyptian Pyramids, Stonehenge, a Venetian canal, Moai Statues on Easter Island, the Eiffel Tower, Rocko's house, and the Taj Mahal. Heffer says that must have saved them hours. While they were previously 500 miles from their destination, now they are only 499 miles away. Rocko asks him if he is reading the map right.

[[folder: Real Life]]
* The [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donner_Party Donner Party]], whose decision to take an obscure and untested shortcut (instead of the longer, but more established route) west to California turned a journey that typically took four months into a desperate ordeal that lasted over a year. The winding 'shortcut' led to the Donner Party getting trapped in the Sierra Nevada mountains during the harsh winter months with grossly inadequate supplies. Faced with starvation, they were eventually [[NoPartyLikeADonnerParty forced to resort to cannibalism]] to survive. It wasn't just taking the shortcut. They were supposed to go with a larger group, but they were late, so to catch up, they took a shortcut through the shortcut.
* One of the more hilarious consequences of GPS navigation for cars. Most drivers will tend to stick to the routes they are familiar with, but when they get a GPS some will decide to take its routing instructions because it's supposedly shorter or faster. MurphysLaw will inevitably kick in and they'll find the shorter route will have construction, recent changes to streets (such as switches to 1-way) that aren't reflected in the GPS database and other comedic impedements. Also the number of delays they will face will be directly proportional to how urgently they have to get to their destination. If your GPS has choice systems, you might have cases where there is one route that is shorter in terms of miles traveled, but the travel time is longer (for instance, in the mountains, going on seasonal roads over mountain passes), while the other route, although longer in miles, turns out to be faster in time (because it uses Interstates and roads that are year-round). Your GPS also may or may not take into account the time of day and week - an Interstate might be faster if it's 3 AM and few people are on but a practical parking lot during rush hour.
* If you are a heavy user of public transportation: how many times have you experimented that what in theory was a short cut becomes the opposite courtesy of MurphysLaw?
* Storrow Drive is the major parkway through Boston, making it the fastest and most direct route to most pasts of the city, which makes it attractive for students driving moving trucks into the city each year and delivery drivers the rest of the year. To quote Wikipedia: "There are an abundance of signs giving road clearance height. Despite the signs, a truck or other large vehicle will periodically get wedged under a bridge, which causes traffic to back up for several miles. In one incident a truck full of scissors became stuck and spilled its cargo, causing over 30 cars to get flat tires. There is a 10-foot height limit for the entire parkway. Local media has taken to referring to these kinds of accidents as a truck being 'Storrowed.'"
* Advice given to computer programmers: "When in doubt, use brute force." The advantage of devious tactics is often more than negated by the proliferation of bugs.