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Off on a road trip? You need a plan Stan!
From scenic coastal cruising to dusty outback adventures, a road trip is one of the coolest ways to experience the smorgasbord of adventures and the vastness of the wide-open spaces that make up our fine country. But whether you’re biking, fourbee-ing or driving it, a bit of planning certainly doesn’t go astray.
First up, where to go? Where you’re headed of course depends on how much time you’ve got on your hands, but it’s also worth considering how far you want to travel each day. You’ll need to factor in distance and speed limits, plan pit stops for both food and fuel, and you should also allow heaps of time for exploring. Discovering a never-surfed-before beach, a country town loaded with vintage finds or a best-burger-eva bistro could mean you’ll be spending extra time in certain locations, so make sure you’re a little flexible with your plans.
Research possible stops along the way and don’t forget to allow for off-road conditions, possible closures because of flooding or road works and seasonality constraints (like yuck weather, school holiday crowds etc.). If you’re driving to rural or remote areas, have an emergency kit on board (more on that below), make sure you know how far a full tank will take you (and where petrol stations are along the way), and advise family and friends of your basic itinerary so they know where you are (most of the time).
You don’t have to be anal about every wee stop, but you should have a basic idea of where you’re going, how you’re getting there and when you’ll be pulling up stumps for the day (because sleeping in a car is SO not fun). Planning your route via a Sat Nav or on mobile-friendly Google Maps is a good idea, but remember that net coverage won’t be available everywhere. Keep a backup referdex in the boot or invest in a decent paper map – you’ll be surprised how much fun it is plotting your adventures the old fashioned way.
Apps are also great planning tools to pre-load onto your phone or tablet and can give you access to everything from touristy info and accommodation options to where to eat, where to get fuel and where to do fun stuff like bushwalking, surfing or even star gazing.
And if you’re travelling with a group of friends (rather than just your bae or BFF), designate who will do how much of the driving, have a kitty that will cover shared costs like petrol and make sure you know what everyone’s wish list is to minimise those “are we there yet?” moments.
Again you don’t have to be uber-fussy about everything, but it’s a good idea to pre-book tours and touristy activities (especially if they’re super-popular), and have a rough idea of where you’re going to be snoozing each night so you can lock in accommodation options if you’re travelling in peak periods. There’s nothing worse than driving around a strange town after a long day on the road begging for a bed.
A no-brainer, but make sure your car will survive the trip. Have you had it recently serviced (for everything)? Are your non-bald tyres as pumped as your travelling companions (and do you have a spare on-board)? Do your wheels have cruise control (and do you know how to use it)? Do your window wipers, indicators and lights work properly (including your hazards)? And is your license, insurance and rego up to date (and in a reachable spot in case you get pulled over)?
For comfort and safety’s sake, also give your car a good clean before you go. Wax it if you can (to protect it from road grime), make sure your windows have good visibility and clean out the garbage tip that is your back seat. Nobody needs to have visual confirmation of your shopping/fast food/slurpee addiction.
Make sure you pack for safety. Don’t fill up the back with bulky stuff that will obstruct your views (ever tried to see through a mattress?), secure any loose items you might have up top and don’t have anything hanging out of your vehicle that could be considered a safety hazard (and that includes your mad mate).
Have a car emergency kit handy with things like a spare car key, jumper leads, a petrol can, engine coolant, a torch and an umbrella. And have a personal one as well with a First Aid kit, warm blanket, some non-perishable snacks and heaps of fresh bottled water.
Creating travel memories is a lot easier these days than having to lug around a clunky DSLR. There are heaps of apps out there that can do everything from creating the perfect selfie jawline and editing out unwanted photo bombers to adding filters and effects to a spur-of-the-moment landscape shot. And don’t forget to watermark them afterwards so that the digital universe knows they’re yours.
If you’re on the road for long periods, you may need a little more stimulation than just taking shots of pretty scenery. Create an epic soundtrack of sweet tunes before you go, and if you’re keen to dodge the old school CD option, consider downloading apps like Spotify, Pandora or Apple Music.
Prefer a bit of chitter chat with your tripping? Tune into a podcast or two, where you can stimulate your ears with commentary on everything from science, comedy and music to cooking, technology and politics.
Or why not create your own old fashioned fun? I Spy and 20 Questions are time-worn favourites, but you can also do stuff like count how many times you see the word ‘chicken’ on a billboard or ramp it up with a stint of Truth, Dare, Double Dare or Never Have I Ever. If all else fails, just take photos of your mates while they’re asleep. Then FB ‘em.
And some boring but important stuff to finish on. Remember going for your Learners? Remember the stuff you had to study? Try and heed a bit of it while you’re on the road. To refresh you, here’s a summary – yes, it’s illegal not to wear a seatbelt, no, you can’t use your mobile while driving (including texting and web browsing), yes, you can overtake if it’s safe to do so (but only when there’s a broken line), and no, you can’t drive with a blood alcohol level over 0.05 (or 0 if you’re on your P’s).
And remember, if things DO go pear shaped and you need help with a flat, a fuel top up or a jump-start, gotU is your one stop go-to for roadside assistance*. (So don’t forget to download the app before you go).
Has a flat turned your epic trip into an epic fail? Then we’ve gotU. Just pay as you go … as you need it!