Road trips. We’ve all either been on one and hated it or are waiting in anticipation (and already planning) for the next one. My wife and I fall into the latter category. Having had the incredible opportunity to travel far and frequently, we’ve been in some mesmerising places but also in some hairy situations.
Road trips are the backbone of the adventurous spirit. The ability to get into a vehicle and head out as far as you can go is something truly awesome,.
This blog post aims to help you plan for the worst by making sure that your head isn’t entirely in the clouds (like ours have often been) and that helps you avoid some of the not so nice realities of road travel.
Being prepared is actually quite easy, and while most of this “expert advice” is just common sense, you’d be surprised how often common sense flies out the window in the anticipation of a holiday. So without further ado…
Spare Tyre & General Checks.
So you’re heading on a road trip and you know you’re going to cover countless kilometres of unadulterated fun. The warm air will blow through your hair, the sun will kiss your skin and the entire thing will be an endless loop of Vanessa Carlton’s’ “A thousand miles.”
If that’s your thing.
One misplaced nail or overly sharp stone could end the dream right in its tracks if you haven’t checked your spare tyre. Check it and check the tread (and pressure) of all your other tyres. Unsure of how to do this? Head down to your nearest petrol station and ask somebody for help. This is such an obvious step and yet you won’t believe the amount of people who overlook it. Myself included. Ahem.
Rental companies & Extra Insurance.
Perhaps you aren’t in your own country – or perhaps you are but are using a rental company’s car to do the trip (which is an excellent idea by the way). My wife and I have done this recently – we took the train from Cape Town to Johannesburg, rented a car and spent a month road tripping down from the Kruger National Park, all along the east coast, and back to Cape Town (it was ridiculously awesome).
We made sure to take out extra glass and tyre insurance because for some reason those items are not covered in the provided standard online car insurance quote. Rental companies can be sneaky so READ the fine print.
Passport copies & International Drivers licences.
If you’re crossing the border, or are in another country to begin with, please make sure that you have certified copies of your passports (as well as the actual passports themselves) and International Driver’s licences ready. You can get these easily at your closest A.A. This may seem obvious but anything can happen so spares are vital.
For extra protection I’ve actually got copies of all our important documents on my phone too.
Fuel & Physical Maps.
Obviously you know where you’re headed but you can’t just fill up, turn the key and go if you’re going somewhere out of your fuel tanks range. I know this because I’ve come a lot closer to running out of fuel (in the middle of nowhere) than is comfortable. You’ll generally find yourself on unplanned “missions” (aka wrong turns) and having an idea of where to top up is helpful. A jerry-can of petrol in the back can be even more helpful.
And while smartphones are generally being used in everyone’s car these days as a GPS they do have their limitations. Like signal, battery and being flung against the window in frustration (because you’ve taken yet another wrong turn).
Physical maps are where it’s at. Keep one handy. They’re also great for letting you know where the next petrol station or town is.
Safety & Spare Batteries.
Turn the music on. Pump it up. Laugh. Stick your head out the window and get out the car at every traffic light to see if you can run around the car before it turns green. But buckle up again when you get back in.
Nothing kills the excitement of a road trip more than having your head shoved through a glass windscreen.
Smart phones are great for updating your status every twenty minutes, for Instagramming the heck out of your Wimpy stops and for music, but sooner or later they’ll run out of power. Usually about the time you really, REALLY need them.
Make double sure you have extra batteries, travel chargers, power banks or all three. If you do need to call someone for help then you don’t want to have to do this with less than 4% battery left. This can be avoided!
Well, unless you happen to have MacGyver in your car with you then this is pretty. much. it. The car splutters, coughs and perhaps even throws in a jerk or two.
You know it as you angle the car to the side of the road and silently pray the momentum carries you off towards the safety of the yellow line.
In this situation you’ll be thankful for those extra batteries, physical maps and bottles of water you kept in the car (read – keep some extra water and food in the car.) You could be here for a while but as long as you’re able to call somebody for help you won’t be stuck here forever.
Keep your spirits high because although this is a horrible situation it can get a lot worse with bad tempers flying around.
Checklist & General, non-emergency, stuff.
Make a check list of all the safety precautions you’ll need to take before you leave and don’t leave until you’ve checked them all off.
Safety precautions are a lot like insurance in that you don’t think you’ll ever need it until you really do.
For some road trip inspiration, check out our blog article which pre-empted our road trip extravaganza from Cape Town to Johannesburg, road tripping all the way from the Kruger National Park through the east coast and back to Cape Town.