An adventure on the road – suitcase in the boot, maps ready to go, the urge to follow your fancy, and the odd town selected as an overnight stay…
Not everyone can do the Thelma-and-Louise spur of the moment kind of road trip successfully, so here are a few insider pointers to set you in the right direction …
ONE: CHOOSE YOUR TRAVEL COMPANIONS CAREFULLY
You’ll spend a lot of time in the car if you’re going across the country, and you want to be with people who are not going to have you reaching for Calmettes within a hour of having left your front gate (for those of you travelling with children, I feel another blog coming on). This can be a real bonding time for best friends or family members you really like – think Little Miss Sunshine.
TWO: HAVE THE SAME TYPE OF TRIP IN MIND
If you’re an explore-the-byways kind of person and your companions want to get there as soon as possible, someone’s going to get a raw deal. Make sure you’re all on the same page about the kind of trip you’re after and the types of things and places you want to do and see along the way.
THREE: PLAN AHEAD
Ja, ja road trips are all about being impulsive and creative, making time to stop and photograph the roadside cosmos, and I’m the first to agree that an overscheduled road trip is akin to going to the dentist. But a loose plan is essential. Plan roughly which towns you intend stopping at and when, and if you can,book your accommodation ahead. Knowing that you have a place to lay your head means more time on the road and for those side lanes that beg to be driven. Research attractions along the way – you’ll miss them otherwise.
FOUR: LET’S HEAR IT FOR APPS
Having said the above about planning, there are some brilliant free apps to make up for lack of planning.
- The go! Travel South Africa app gives you direct access to all the accommodation available on SA-Venues.com for last minute bookings
- Wi-Fi Finder allows you to find free and paid for Wi-Fi spots in 144 countries around the world
- Field Trip is a Google app that highlights historical sites, architecture, entertainment etc. and gives information about them as your drive past
- Pandora helps you put together playlists for in the car; hopefully you all have the same taste in music
FIVE: TAKE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED
Getting off the freeways is a sure way to see parts of the country you’ve never seen before. Back roads also tend to be less inundated, more scenic and run past attractions you didn’t have a clue about. It will take you longer, but it’s worth it.
SIX: THE LOW DOWN ON THE CAR
The wear and tear on a vehicle on road trips can be a lot worse than one initially thinks. If you’re exploring back routes you’ll hit sand roads and potholes, for sure. If none of you wants to take responsibility for getting your car in top gear (in other words recently serviced, with safety checks on the battery, brakes, tyres, windscreen wipers, brake lights, spare tyres etc.) then hire one. If there are enough of you to share the cost, this could work out better all round. And if something goes wrong, you get a replacement vehicle rather than sitting around waiting for repairs (read the small print and make sure about road side help before signing). Either way, pack jumper cables, powerful torches, a first aid kit, flares, a blanket and bottled water, just in case.
SEVEN: A FEW WORDS ON PACKING
Remember that every extra item you pack nabs foot and elbow room at the back of the car. A healthy rule is: what doesn’t fit in the boot doesn’t go on the trip. That way all of your clothes and food cooler bag remain out of the body of the car. In the car should be creature comforts – the odd pillow, audio books for addled brains, a notebook and pen for doodling or making lists, snacks and a bottle of water. And don’t forget the wet wipes or a damp towel in a plastic bag for sticky fingers.
EIGHT: DIVISION OF LABOUR
Some people are good at reading maps, others are great with playlists, others still can whip up a meal in minutes. Decide who is doing what ahead of time.
NINE: EAT LOCAL, SKIP THE DRIVE THROUGH
Tempting as it may be to simply take a left and order that Big Mac, you’re simply making some mega corporation richer and robbing the local industry in the process. And you’re putting on a few extra pounds along the way Explore the food of the region. Eat local. Eat lekker.
TEN: KEEP YOUR COOL
Things go wrong. But road trips are about the journey, or you wouldn’t be going on one. Go with the flow, live in the moment, and maintain your dignity, no matter what happens.