Last updated on January 5th, 2018
10 Important tips you need for your next Road Trip
I have always been a huge fan of Road Trips. I love the freedom of just getting into a car and setting off to the unknown, well nearly! Depending on your adventurous spirit and how vague you like to keep your plans, a road trip can be a lot of fun and give you some life-long memories.
I have been fortunate enough to have planned and navigated through some pretty amazing road trips so far. You can see these in my About page here. Many of you may share my passion for these kinds of trips. You know that once you complete one road trip, you get hooked and just can’t miss the opportunity to organise the next one. Maybe, you did one road trip and just hated it because things did not turn out as you expected or you had some pretty lousy company? Well, this is one of the reasons I decided to embark on this post and help change your mind.
Here are the 10 important tips you need for your next Road Trip
1. Make a plan
By all means, whether its the old fashioned way of pen and paper, using your favourite app or in your head. Do not, however, tie yourselves in a knot and make all your overnight stops definite. Don’t prepay for all your hotels ahead of time. This is a very easy ‘trap’ to fall into since many hotels are offering discounted rates that have a ‘non-refundable’ policy attached to them. This would defy the very nature of the Road Trip. You need to have the option of flexibility because some places may lure you more than others. Being able to stay an extra night is a wonderful freedom. On the other hand, you may hate a place you booked for 2 nights, (whether it’s a hotel or an actual town). If you haven’t prepaid for your stay, nothing is stopping you from just taking off and moving on.
We used Booking.com heavily on our last road trip. It gave us the choice of booking hotels without having to prepay in advance and found that the flexibility of being able to change plans up to 1 day prior to arrival, (in some cases), was very easy and stress-free.
2. Choosing your travel partner
This may seem obvious, but unless you are married for many years, or in a long-term relationship, you won’t truly know your partner’s/friend’s character until you go on a road trip with them. Take some time to discuss the trip with the people involved prior to departure or the making of definite plans. Find out what interests them and what bores them to tears. Talk about each other’s expectations of this trip. Some of the questions you will need to answer are:
Are they in it for just the ride and won’t be interested in at least half of the things you are into?
Are you all willing to make some compromises so that you get the most out of your trip?
Will they be able to afford this trip?
Will they be able to share some of the driving along the way?
Are they independent enough to make their own plan for the day when you need to just go to that museum they’re not interested in visiting?
I have had good luck with my road trips so far and some wonderful travel partners along the way because we were honest with each other.
3. Car rental advice and insurance
Get a slightly bigger car and not the smallest one possible. You want some comfort and space for long road trips and of course horsepower. On the other hand, you don’t want to attract unnecessary attention with a big flashy car either.
Get full insurance directly at the counter of the actual rental car company. This will probably cost you a little more than you would pay through the car broker.
Doing it this way, however, will account for a stress-free experience since if you run into any trouble, you won’t have to worry about paying first and then trying to claim from your third-party insurance-car broker. Be certain that your insurance, (whatever that may be), covers ‘Road-side rescue’, in case of mechanical failure or even a flat tyre.
4. Checking your rental car
Make sure that you check your car thoroughly before putting the keys in the ignition and driving away. This means walking around the car and noticing scratch marks, bumps, or any discolouration. The agent should mark these and hand you a copy of the car diagram with any faults on it. This way you will avoid any nasty surprises when you hand your car back in. This should be done even when you are fully covered with zero excess.
5. Pacing your driving
For a road trip to be fun, the driver must be able to enjoy it too. You need to remember that you are not doing anybody a favour if you have mapped out never-ending drives. In my experience, any route that is longer than 3 hours can be both exhausting and tedious. Even, if you are en route to some heavenly place.
Arrange for an overnight stay in between to get some rest and continue the following morning. You may end up loving the smaller town in between your longer routes more than you thought. If an overnight rest is not possible, then make sure that you stop for a leisurely lunch somewhere to rest your eyes and do some stretching. Your body will thank you.
6. Being fuel smart
A good money saving tip is to try and fill up your car before you leave for your next destination. Find out your nearest gas station and spot the lowest fuel prices. Even if you only need 1 quarter of fuel for topping up its best to do it in the city you are in. Avoid using ‘Service Stations’ along the highways, as they do tend to have higher fuel prices. The only exception to this rule is if you see a service station that has multiple fuel providers there. Rates will probably be normal due to competition. Remember that the overall cost of fuel can quickly add up and blow your budget to smithereens.
7. Pack some goodies
This is one of the great pleasures of road-trippin’. Prepare some sandwiches, snacks, chocolate or anything that puts a smile on your face. Take these with you and indulge at a roadside picnic area or some scenic lake, stream, mountain lookout point. It’s what will keep you going on long stretches of road. In addition, fill a thermos of your favourite home coffee when you can too. It’s amazing what a piece of chocolate and some strong coffee can do to an otherwise boring highway. You also need to have plenty of water and make a point of drinking regularly. Avoid dehydration and bad, roadside service station food. Aside from overloading your budget unnecessarily, you will also end up kicking away your good nutrition habits.
8. Keep your valuables safe
Avoid leaving your car exposed with gadgets, laptops, cameras or any other valuables unattended. If the boot of your car is full and you need the back passenger seat space as well, ensure that is well camouflaged from prying eyes. It’s best to have these items in a backpack with you at all times. Try parking your car in guarded parking lots. If this is not an option, then choose well-lit areas where other cars are also parked.
9. On-Road entertainment
Music plays a huge part of anyone’s trip. Let alone a long road trip. Through my experiences, I would advise you to prepare a CD with lots of songs in mp3 format. It may seem like an outdated option, but all car rentals will have a CD player. On my last road trip, I had a USB flash drive full of songs, but guess what? None of the cars we rented had that option. So we ended up listening to the radio for most of the time. It can be equally enjoyable to listen to local radio stations as you drive from place to place. You can get a feel for the country’s music that way too. Sometimes, however, you need those road trip classics too.
10. Have your camera ready
if you are big into photos like me, don’t pack that camera away. There were so many times I just pulled the car over to a scenic area, ditch, the edge of a cliff or the emergency shoulder of a highway, to take that picture. You need to keep your camera or other gear handy and within arms’ reach. If you keep packing it away in your camera bag it just won’t happen as spontaneously and you are probably not going to stop and take that beautiful shot – that’s it – you’ve lost your chance forever.
Packing it up
This list can truly become endless. I could talk about how I just used my phone’s GPS and found my way through 3 countries, 11 hotels and 12 stopovers on the recent road trip. This is just Google’s Maps no other GPS devices. How you decide to navigate around clearly depends on your personal preference and how tech savvy you are or not. The above tips will have you covered so you can have a stress free experience. Other gear you should have certainly have with you is a mobile phone car charger – very important.
These 10 Important tips you need for your next Road Trip are what I followed myself on more than one occasions. They helped me have smooth and fun road trip experiences and I hope they will do the same for you. Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun!