The weather is easing away from freezing cold towards pleasantly crisp. The smell of spring time plants is in the air and you start to open your windows to let the wafts of jasmine in. You see the long forecast weather report and for the first time in weeks the temperature is going to be in the 20s consecutively. It might be time for a road trip! However, the car has spent most of its time in the carport for the last few months as you hibernated inside in your slippers. You’ve taken it to the supermarket a couple of times to avoid the rain, but probably nothing long distance. Here’s what you need to do before you hit the road.
A DIY car check-up is a good idea. Ensure that all the fluids your car needs – oil, water, etc. – are topped up. Make sure your tyres aren’t bald, and that you have a spare. Are your lights (all of them) still working? Are your wipers effective if it rains; is your air-conditioning working in case it gets hot? Are your gauges responsive? You can check all of this yourself.
It’s also important that hoses, belts, the battery, brakes and filters are in good working order. If you’re the kind of person who habitually turns the radio up when there is an unidentifiable squeak, it’s a good idea to get a service done with an accredited outlet to get this stuff checked out. Even if you do get your car professionally serviced, make sure that you do another DIY check of the basics on the day you set off.
Another way to ensure that you are covered is to check you have roadside assistance. Roadside assistance is the kind of thing that you might occasionally ponder the usefulness of but feels like the best purchase you’ve ever made if you actually need it. It’s worth making sure you’re covered. Ditto on your car insurance policy; if you’ve ever felt that awful crunch of a bumper, you know it’s an intense relief to have comprehensive insurance.
There are a few other things that are really important to check before you leave your driveway. First, make sure you’ve got a first aid kit, even if it’s stuff you have collected together yourself; band aids, bandages, some antiseptic creams, any medications that you or your road trip mates might need. Then make sure you have extra oil, a full tank of petrol, some water and a blanket. Got it all? You’re nearly good to go- there are still a couple of more plans to make.
What you need to have planned
Plan for boredom on the road (especially if you have kids)
Bring along all the normal things that entertain you, like books and games, but it can be even more fun if you think of new ways to entertain everyone. Play DJ, where everyone gets a turn to play their favourite music through the stereo for an hour. Bring an audiobook of a series you’ve all been meaning to read. Download some free apps and give them a go – just make sure you don’t forget your car charger. Everyone’s mood will be lifted if you haven’t had to answer the question “are we there yet?”
Plan the entertainment for arrival
If you’re a cyclist why not bring your bikes along so that when you get to your destination you can stretch your legs and have some fun? Bike racks might be a good investment if you love going for a ride. If you’re more into long walks, bring along some walking shoes or hiking boots for an adventure. Beach bunnies – don’t forget your bathers if you’re hitting the waves.
If you have kids, don’t trust that just being away from your house will equal fun. Pack some board games and DVDs so you have back-up activities if the weather turns wild. Which brings us to our next point…
Plan for good and bad weather
It’s spring – Spring weather can be glorious, but it can also be unpredictable! Bring raincoats and cardigans, but also bring towels and sunscreen.
Plan what you’re going to eat
If you’re going for a picnic, you should have a packed esky, complete with anything you will need to open a packet or a bottle or mop up spills. But you also need to bring snacks for the trip otherwise the sandwiches are going to get eaten 50 metres from your house. If you’re staying overnight, plan where you’re going to get breakfast or you might end up eating food from a convenience store. Is there a local fish and chip shop at the beach everyone raves about on Urbanspoon? Plan on a stop there.
Plan the journey
This might seem obvious – but you need to bring a map (digital and paper) and decide on the stops. Pick up a guidebook and work out what you want to see. Make sure you plan enough stops so you don’t have bathroom emergencies. Know where you’re going to stay overnight and book ahead.
Don’t stick to your plan so much that you’re not willing to stop when you see an ice-cream van, or when you come over a hill to a beautiful view. Stop and smell the new spring blooms. Go with the flow and stray off the beaten track – isn’t that why you left home in the first place?