Many of us have had holidays cancelled. And although our passports are still gathering dust, most of us are still allowed to travel away from home for at least a couple of days. It may have been a couple of weeks, or it may have been a lifetime since your last roadtrip.
My first memory of a road trip was in the early 70’s. Mum and dad loaded us three kids in the back of their Vauxhall Viva. I remember the car, a two door sedan, no seatbelts or headrests in those days! My brother, sister and I fighting for a window seat. The vinyl seat cover would stick to our legs in summer.
My mum would have been busy since the crack of dawn making ham and cheese sandwiches, filling a flask with coffee for the adults, and apple juice, chocolate milk or cordial for the kids.
Once on the move, my dad would smoke his cigar with the inside of the car slowly turning blue as we drove to places strange and wonderful. All within a radius of 150 km from home, as we had to fit our road trip in between morning and evening milking times.
So, some things have stayed the same, some have definitely changed.
1. Your Car
Make sure your car is ready for the journey. Does it need servicing? Are the tires up to spec. Will the car be comfortable for the journey you are planning? Fitting three toddlers on the back seat of a compact car may be great for a short trip.
- Make sure you have the right car for the journey, small vs large, snow chains or off road required?
- As you pack the car, make sure your bags do not obstruct your view, and do not come flying forward if you have to brake in an emergency. Invest in a luggage net if at all possible!
- Regularly check your tire pressure. This should be done when the car is still cold.
- Wash the car windscreen, I wash the windows each time when we fill the car up with fuel. And we take one of those microfibres cloths along to clean windows when needed! I recall having to use a pair of socks after going through a particular bad fly swarm near Esperance!
- Make sure you top up your fuel regularly. It may not be as available as you are used to, we try to never to drop much below 1/2 full.
2. Plan your Journey
This could be as simple or complex as you like. Everybody who knows me is not surprised that I keep a neat spreadsheet with dates, locations, distances, local sights to see or activities to do, and costs.
- In country Australia it is important to hit your lunch spot between 12 and 1 pm, or you will go hungry!
- Try and avoid driving between dusk and dawn, this is when wildlife is hard to spot on the road, and whereas you think you are still ok, your fellow road users are more likely to cause an accident.
- Give yourself enough time to get from A to B, allow time for taking the scenic route.
- We share driving, so stop every two hours to switch drivers. By planning this into our journey, it is usually at a spot for something to eat or a fuel stop.
- Consider staying in one place for two or three nights to give yourself and your fellow travellers time to relax. Remember, this is supposed to be fun!
- Try not to overplan! Some of our best road trips have had a maximum of one “thing/visit/etc” a day, and time to sit back under a tree and just admire the view.
- Right now, call places to check opening times,or check their websites. Especially in the country and NSW national parks a number of places are either closed or have limited capacity due to Covid restrictions.
- Taking into account everybody’s wishes can be hard, when we were travelling as a family we would have a “mum day”, a “dad day” and a “kids day”. Those in charge decided what to do, no complaining allowed!
- Book accomodation at least 1 week in advance, and earlier in more touristy areas and during school holidays, and realise that the options may be limited especially at the moment. So be flexible!
- My favourite apps for planning:
- A paper map, to really look at distances
- Airbnb – accomodation
- Tripadvisor – accomodation, sights and food
- Yelp – food
- Bean hunter – coffee
- Wikicamps – camping spots
- NSW parks – we signed up for an annual pass
- Apple and/or Google maps – for directions while driving
3. Have a Road Trip Routine
My husband likes to get up at the crack of dawn and is ready to go. I am the “don’t talk to me or I’ll bite your head off” person in the morning. How do we do a roadtrip without divorcing every day?
- I make sure my bag is ready to go, keeping just the next days clothes and toiletries out, so Mike can get up in the morning, have his shower and get the car packed. We have a seperate bag with our toiletries which goes in last.
- He is in charge of the “packing the car” routine. He decides where everything goes, this includes the last bag in, and the bag of snacks while we are on the road.
- I book our accomodation, and hence decide the journey. That also means that I keep an eye on the facilities available, which leads to the planning of dining options, maintaining a balance of dining out and dining in.
- I make the shopping list:
- We like having our own breakfast in the morning, simple porridge with some jam or berries.
- We may grab a ready made salad from the supermarket and add some tuna for lunch.
- If there are cooking facilities, we will opt for some steak, chicken or pork with veggies. A ready made lasagna with salad is another easy meal.
- He cooks, everybody who knows me is aware of the fact that this is just not my skill. He has cooked for over 31 years and we are all happy with that!
4. Essentials to Take Along
Our family road trip always came to an abrupt stop at the 10 km mark, when I would turn sickly green and threaten to throw up all over my little brother and sister. My father would halt the car, I would climb out of the back (yes, we always had a two door sedan), and with a bit of fresh air and a drink and a snack I would recover quickly.
Hereby a list of what we have found useful taking with us on multi day road trips, in no particular order, and you may need more, or less:
- Water bottles
- Road snacks (protein balls, fruit, nuts, dates, cereal bars, carrots, chocolate)
- Paper maps
- Noteblock and pen
- Picnic blanket and folding chairs.
- A cooler (on our road trip we travel with a small 12 can cooler, just big enough for some cheese and meats and milk, and one of those freeze gel packs to keep it cold)
- Microwave bowls / mugs. For when you are staying anywhere a quick way to warm up porridge, soups, etc
- Tea bags
- Coffee pods (emergency supply for when there is no barista coffee available, we learned the hard way. Others may choose to bring a caffetiere)
- First Aid pack
- A power board to make sure that we can charge our iPads and phones even when there is only one plug
- Car USB charger
- Travel games – cards, dominoes, scrabble, something everybody can get involved in
- Kindle or books
- Large water container – essential for travelling in Australia!
- Head torch – easier than normal torches if you need to find your way around
- Pocket knife or leatherman, with corkscrew!
- Travel washing line
- Travel plug for in wash basins and sinks
- Bag for rubbish in the car
- Camping gear – small tent, sleeping bags and mats, travel towels, cooking stuff (burner, gas and pan), cutlery, matches, ipoo shovel and toilet paper
- Clothes dependent on the anticipated weather, we always opt for layers, shoes and hats.
- Reusable shopping bags
- Plastic containers for some staples (teabags, coffee pods, nuts, cereals, snacks)
As we anticipate to be on the road for at least a month, we have included my yoga mat, strap and blocks, and Mike’s dumbells. Our son always had a small backpack with his own favourite toys, some colouring books and crayons, etc.
5. Precautions to stay safe during this Pandemic
So what is different from what we like to call road trips in “the before time”?
- Hand sanitiser – we carry small bottles on us, and have a larger bottle in the car.
- Masks – we have a pack of disposable surgical masks, and I made a number of cloth masks that we wash regularly (treat them like underwear, one wear only!)
- We are reducing the number of times we go out for meals, and cook or get delivery meals more often.
- Keep distance, the locals will appreciate you as a stranger keeping your 1 1/2 metre distance.
- Wearing our masks when shopping or in places we can’t keep distance, even if the locals don’t do that!
- We have gloves in the pocket of the car door, for use when we fuel up.
- We carry extra water so we can clean our hands if needed with drinking water.
- Be flexible! Hotspots can pop up at any time, check your accomodation cancellation policies!
- Make sure your car is ready for the trip.
- Create at least a basic plan for your trip.
- Develop a road trip routine, make everybody be part of it.
- Take what you need, don’t overpack, but don’t forget things that make it fun.
- Be Covid safe.