Who doesn’t love a good road trip – the open road stretching ahead of you, your favourite people in the car with you, some good tunes, and some tasty snacks? Sounds like my idea of heaven! But it’s been a while for most of us since we were last able to take a leisurely road trip to some far-off destination, so here are a few reminders of important points when planning any long drive.
First of all, make sure to run your car through a simple safety check. You need to be certain that after a while of standing parked up, your car is ready to move you safely. Most vehicle service centres will offer this at a low cost, and they will check important items such as your tyres, your oil, fluids, battery and lights. You should also check that you have a safety triangle, basic medical aid kit, and a correctly pressured spare wheel with its associated tools.
Of course, you will need your driver’s license and any additional drivers who may take the wheel should have theirs easy to reach too. As lockdown regulations change, paperwork such as travel permits may be required, and you should be sure to have a copy of these on hand too!
Don’t forget to have your car washed too before you leave – not only does the fresh smell and clean interior look and smell good, it’s also a good way to make sure that the windows and windscreen are clean so that visibility is good, and gives you a chance to check for cracks and damage to the windscreen wipers. As the trip proceeds, be sure at every opportunity to purge your car of undesirable rubbish. Even if you can tolerate a little mess, the accumulated junk will start to drive you (or maybe your more OCD companions) mad in the close quarters that define a road trip.
It’s also super important to make sure you have planned your route! Seems simple, but so many people do not do this. It creates unnecessary tension if there is a dispute about the route and being prepared means that any unforeseen deviations will stress you out less. Remember too that if you are planning on using an online map service (such as Google Maps), you need to download your route in advance so that if you travel through any areas with no signal you do not lose access to the map.
Of course, depending on your schedule, if you have a bit of flexibility it’s always nice to allow slight deviations from the planned route – to stop in and see a small town or natural wonder that your route may pass by. And if you really are on a road trip to enjoy the open road, try to leave the highway as much as you can – some of my favourite travel memories in South Africa have been when we have done just this!
If you are travelling with youngsters, make sure you have plenty of road trip entertainment lined up for them. We used to mark a piece of paper with “Start” and “Finish” and then mark little notches at significant points during the journey… it helped my folks deal with endless “Are we there yet” questions!
Even if the road trip crew is not made up of kids, plan a little entertainment – even if just in the form of an epic road trip playlist. I think I could write an entire post about road trip music (so I will), but in general you are looking for easy going, middle of the road music that everyone in the car will enjoy. There is nothing worse than a music hog who shares no musical taste with anyone else on the trip! And of course, don’t forget the charger for all of your devices – and a battery pack if the vehicle doesn’t have a USB connection or similar charger.
Remember that the driver needs to be cared for, so ensure that you have some easy to nibble snacks, water and maybe a bottle of Coke for them. The passenger should generally assist with navigation, music, temperature and entertainment for co-passengers.
Pack a few pillows for resting heads against the windows, and don’t forget a jersey for each person in case the air conditioning is a bit chilly for your taste.
Most importantly – road-tripping is a chance to live by the famous words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said “Life is a journey, not a destination”. Sit back, admire the beauty of our country, and just enjoy the experience. Get in touch if I can help plan or inspire your next road trip!