Summer is well and truly upon us! This is the best time to enjoy sun, sand and surf or a weekend rural retreat in wine country. Australia’s vast, diverse and sprawling landscape makes it perfect to explore by car, so who’s up for a road trip? If you’re ready to pack up the car and hit the open road, here are a few dos and don’ts to bear in mind.
Do: Choose Your Backseat Driver(s) Carefully
You will be crowded into a confined space for what could seem like hours on end, so pick your fellow road trippers carefully. Types to avoid are:
- Chatterboxes (self-explanatory)
- ‘Exclaimers’ (who will positively be screeching “ooh, look at the view!” or “ahh, smell the fresh air!” right into your ear every five seconds)
- Anyone with a small bladder
- Over-planners and under-planners
- People who compulsively fidget
- Loud snorers
- Newlyweds (it’s bound to be PDA central)
- Amateur photographers and serial social media pests (please, please not another selfie)
In fact, if you’re road-tripping, you are your own best company. Leave your wife/husband/significant other/children/friends at home and go it alone. If you’re wedded (conceptually or actually) to other people joining in your road-tripping fun, choose interesting, relaxed people who can go with the flow. If they have remote survival or first aid skills, that’s a definite bonus.
Do: Stock Up On (Junk) Food
It’s not a road trip without a stop (or two) for a bag of chips and an iced-coffee. If you don’t want to bust your budget on servo stops, stock up on food before you go. Forget healthy, nutritious snacks like bananas and carrot sticks – when it’s a road trip, packet chips and lollies are the way to go. Whatever your snack of choice, having food in the car is a must; it saves stopping to satiate passengers’ stomachs, helping you get to your destination sooner. Stocking up at your local supermarket before you leave, instead of along the way, will also keep your trip budget healthy, leaving you more money to spend at your destination.
Oh, and don’t forget to take water, and lots of it. It’s summer, it’s hot, and if you get stuck somewhere while your on-board happy snapper takes their 97th photo of roadside shrubbery, at least you can leave them there with enough water to survive until the next unsuspecting good Samaritan drives past.
Do: Beware Of Small Children
Pretty much a no-brainer. Avoid taking children on a road trip at all costs – that is unless you are a) trying to drive your fellow passengers towards a nervous breakdown, or b) attempting to replace the new car smell with a pungent ‘not sure what’s rotting where’ odour. You can love your car or love your kids, but it’s pretty impossible to love both. Children on a road trip will trash your car, mushing food into the seats and spilling beverages and bodily fluids. Leave them with their grandparents, or better yet any friends who are contemplating a family – you can chuckle at their unsuspecting smiles as you reverse down their driveway. If you absolutely must take your children with you, because, well, you love them and all that malarkey, reach out for technology to rescue your sanity – invest in headphones, individual tablets, and a few pre-downloaded movies and games. It won’t silence the choruses of “are we there yet?” entirely, but they’ll be distracted and subdued by singing princesses and talking robots.
Don’t: Pass A Pit Stop
Regardless of your choice of car companions, never ever pass up a pit stop. If the car is stopping, make a beeline for the restroom, whether you think you need it or not. Skipping a pit stop is always a rookie mistake. Ten kilometres out from the service station, that all-too-familiar feeling will descend and you’ll cringe in discomfort as you count down a suitable length of time to recommend another stop. Passing up a pit stop may also lead to awkward ‘relieving’ visits amidst low bush on the side of the road. It’s always a good idea to pack a roll of toilet paper and some of those doggy ablution bags from the local park. We’re not going to spell it out for you, but you get the idea.
Do: Prepare A Playlist
Sometimes silence is not golden, like three hours into a ten hour drive when you’ve run out of radio reception and the monotony of the passing landscape is punctuated by the grating buzz of static. Prepare a playlist and rock out to your favourite tunes. The best playlists contain a smattering of humiliating sing-alongs that everyone in the car pretends to hate, yet knows the words to by heart.
Don’t: Ignore That Flashing Light
Gee, that light that’s flashing on your dash panel is annoying, which is why you’ve covered it with a sticky note scrawled with something like “remember Mum’s birthday”. But there’s a line between happily ignorant and just plain foolish. Check the oil, check the washer fluid, double-check your spare tyre and your tyre pressure, all before you set off. A serviced car is a happy car, and happy cars don’t break down somewhere on the Great Ocean Road.
Don’t: Leave Home Without Roadside assistance
Be honest. Have you ever actually changed a tyre? On the side of the highway with a car full of road-weary travellers or weepy children? Do you know what to do if steam starts billowing out from under your bonnet? Will you have the energy to even try? Always have Roadside Assistance by your side. That way, if your road-based adventure proves too much for your ‘trusty’ vehicular companion, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your roadside assistance cover will help you and your stranded passengers get back on the road with minor disruption to your itinerary.