People fly everywhere these days that you might think the classic road trip is a thing of the past. This is not actually the case. While it does seem that the “On the Road” experience of getting a car and just going for the sake of going is in decline, the statistics (and the number of cars all around you) prove that more Australians than ever are taking to the roads for vacations and family visits, albeit apparently for more frequent but shorter trips.
There is a richness to traversing the land an inch at a time that is absent from the experience of climbing into a plane and climbing out at your destination. To get the most of your experience, don’t miss these road trip tips.
1. Clean your car before and during your trip.
Go ahead, leave the napkins and gum wrappers under your seat. Leave the receipts from your last business-related drive in the glove box. Don’t sweat the dog hair in the back bed … but you’ll be sorry. A few days into your trip, when the old gum wrappers are joined by new fast food wrappers, when the glove box starts overflowing with hotel receipts and local maps, when dog hair starts sticking to your luggage and your gear, you’ll rue the day you failed to pull out the Shop-Vac.
As your trip proceeds, take time every couple of days to purge your car of undesirable flotsam and jetsam. Even if you can tolerate some chaos (as I can), the accumulated junk and minor filth will start to drive you mad in the close quarters that define a road trip.
2. Check your vehicle.
About a week before you leave for a long road trip, have your mechanic check your car’s fluid levels, brakes, tires and anything else that could cause problems. Be sure your spare tire is fully inflated and that you have jumper cables and extra wiper fluid on hand.
3. Have a loose plan.
Delays are the one thing that you can count on when driving significant distances. If you overschedule your road trip, you’re almost guaranteed to find yourself slogging the last few miles long after you had intended to be asleep, trying to cancel one hotel reservation so you can pay for another well short of your originally planned destination.
On the other hand, having no plan at all is only recommended for the most hardy souls. On a trip a few years ago, our plan was simply to pull over when we got tired to crash in a hotel; after taking three exits without success, we finally stopped at a place at which the front desk person asked, “Are you staying the whole night?” Ugh.
4. Get off the highways
Unless you have a specific destination and a strict schedule, there is little point in hitting the roads to see the country if you don’t spend some time on the back roads.
However, that being said…
5. Preload your phone with entertainment options.
The days of regional radio offering a musical or informational palette that you can’t find anywhere else are almost all but gone, so tapping into the local vibe via radio is far less satisfying than it used to be. That means you’ll want to make sure your phone is set to keep you entertained over the long hours of driving, whether you’re tapping into your own collection of music, streaming tunes via an app like Spotify or Pandora, or listening to your favorite podcasts.
If you’re road tripping in your own car, you probably already have a phone charger that will plug into the console and keep you powered up. If you’re renting a car for your road trip, be sure you have the right technology to plug into whatever power outlet is available in that vehicle (cigarette charger, USB port, etc.).
6. Tend to division of labor.
Some people are good at navigating; others couldn’t read a map if they tried. Some people are good at planning meals, while others think a big bag of chips counts as a good dinner. Know who does what well, and what really matters to your traveling companions, and you will divvy up tasks in a way that gets things done efficiently and to the satisfaction of all.
7. Join a roadside rescue service.
If you take enough road trips, eventually you will end up stranded on the side of the road. Having that 13-number that immediately ties you in to approved local tow services and mechanics is going to save you a lot of hassle, and also shield you from some of the dangers of the road that none of us wishes to encounter.
8. Eat local and stay local
Give the local grub a go – even if you have no idea what it is. After all, it might be the only chance you get. The same goes for accommodation: check yourself into the local motel, like us here at Kings Park Accommodation and get to know some people who work in the community you are visiting.