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Road trip tips for chicks
There’s nothing quite like taking to the open road by yourself, with no distractions and the possibility of a Birkin-sized bag full of memory-making adventures ahead of you.
But if you’re a chick and you’re travelling solo, in true Girl Guide fashion, it’s good to be prepared.
Plan, plan, plan
A bit anal, yes, but planning a bit of an itinerary is quite frankly, a no brainer. Have a rough idea how long the journey will take, where you plan to stop for rest, refreshment and sleep (if you’re going long haul), and try and use main roads and highways rather than bumpy, backwater tracks if you’re nervous about going it alone.
It’s a good idea to always tell people where you’re going as well. Let the folks know (prepare for the freak out), advise a work colleague and make sure your girlfriends are primed and ready for heaps of social media interaction to keep you occupied while you’re on your own (obviously texting or selfie-ing while you’re actually driving – or even handling a phone when in control of a car – is just dumb and also illegal).
Keep emergency numbers like your car insurance provider handy and have an old-fashioned street directory on hand as well in case your phone dies or your GPS isn’t working.
Before you get in your car (and at any point on the journey as well), check the back seats for unwelcome passengers (sounds dramatic but it does happen), and make sure that before you set off you have plenty of cash, a fully charged mobile, a charger and a backup credit card in case you run into trouble.
Prep your vehicle
Is your car servicing up to scratch? It should be. Get your mechanic to check your tyres (including the spare), your oil and water levels, and things like the radiator, brakes, and hoses – these are the things that can turn an enjoyable road trip adventure into a nightmare. And get your air con re-gassed if you can – driving in some parts of Australia in summertime is just not fun if all you’ve got is far-too-hot window-down air.
It’s also wise to have a bit of an emergency maintenance kit onboard. Radiator coolant, a bottle of oil, an empty petrol can and a pair of jumper cables could be lifesavers if you’re stuck roadside without any hope of immediate assistance. And have a ‘comfort kit’ packed as well. Include things like bottled water, packaged snacks (‘cause roadhouse food doesn’t often cut it), and practical items like a torch, a hat, a First Aid kit, an umbrella and some warm clothing (you’ll be surprised how cold at night it can get in some apparently ‘warm’ parts of Australia).
Get your phone sorted
Depending on your provider, many frequently travelled locations will still have reception at some point, however carrying some spare change for public phone box calls (what? They still exist?) is also wise. If you’re headed out into the middle of nowhere, you could also consider a satphone (a mysterious phone beast that works via satellite technology), or if you’re really a nervous Nellie, a SPOT navigator, which is purse-size portable.
Mobiles are also a great source of amusement (think social media, podcasts and music streaming services like Pandora) for lonely travellers, but don’t be an idiot. You can’t talk, text or selfie while you’re driving. Full stop. Well, you can, but you’re seriously endangering your life and the lives of other drivers and if you’re caught, can cop a hefty fine or even lose your licence. Get a phone cradle, fix it to your dashboard and keep your hands off it.
On the road again
Once you’re on the road, get into the habit of locking all of your doors, keep your valuables out of sight and never leave your handbag on the front seat. If you stop somewhere and open your windows, keep the gap to a minimum as car jackers are seriously not just the stuff of American news programs. ALWAYS lock your car when paying for petrol, and re-lock it straight away when you return. Women have a habit of fussing about with receipts and handbag contents, which gives bag snatchers the perfect opportunity to strike if you’re not paying attention.
If you’re outback driving it, beware of animals on the road as well – cattle, emus (yes!) and of course, roos, which are renowned for running headlong into headlights (and they can cause serious damage).
Driving solo can be tiring, so you’ll need to make sure your perkiness is kept intact with frequent stops. It’s recommended you take a 15-minute break (for a loo stop, nutrition top-up or to soak up the atmosphere with a few selfie shots) at least every two hours.
If you’re travelling long distances, you should also pre-plan where you intend to set up camp for the night. If you’re overnighting it in a motel it’s best to pre-book a bed (especially in peak periods like school holidays), or if roughing it at a campsite (swags are a great quick setup option here), do some research on where the busier spots are. Campgrounds filled with families and grey nomads are a safe bet.
Need a plan B if you’re stuck at sundown with no other options? Although not the most comfy of sleeping locations, bedding down in the car will still allow you to get a few hours of safe, sheltered shut-eye. Snuggle up with the sleeping bag you stowed in the boot, lock the doors and if you need a little more privacy, a sarong or two lodged in the windows can double up as decent curtains.
Never, ever pick up a hitchhiker if you’re travelling alone, and if a fellow motorist is in trouble and tries to flag you down (by flashing headlights etc.), don’t stop. Make your way to a safe spot like a police or petrol station, where you can let someone know you’ve spotted someone who needs help.
If a car is tailing you, make your way to a busy location, and if a driver approaches your car, keep the doors locked, and wind down your window just a little so that you can hear what they have to say. They may actually have a valid reason for stopping you. If you’re approached by a police officer, particularly in an unmarked car, stay put and ask for identification – you are well in your rights to do so.
If you break down
As long as you’ve got mobile coverage, help is just a phone call away. And if you’re in one of gotU’s hundreds of service areas*, things are looking even better, because we offer on-demand, 24/7 roadside assistance services that will have you up and running before you know it. But, Australia is a BIG country, and we can’t cover it all. Our service may not be available in remote and regional areas. Always check ahead.
Nervous about breaking down on your solo chick trip? Then we’ve gotU. Just pay as you go … as you need it!
* gotU is not available in every location. Please check our website for more details. Service may be unavailable in remote or regional areas.