A Road Trip Survival Guide

 

The time has come, my friends! Road trip season is now upon us – whether you are in the northern OR southern hemisphere! Spring and Autumn are the best times of year to roll down those windows, crank up the tunes and drive away with the wind in your hair.

 

Bear Tooth Highway, Wyoming

Bear Tooth Highway, Wyoming

 

 

Whether it is a few days cruising up the coast in Australia with friends, navigating Iceland on my own in a rental car or driving 4000 miles through the USA, I always get excited about a road trip.

 

One of the best things about a road trip is that you will inevitably discover little towns and sights that you may never have even known existed had you caught a bus / plane / train. To take this idea even further, you could also plan a really long walk, like the one I took across Spain. I’m just saying…

 

Here are a few road trip survival tips that I have picked up along the way:

 

 

highway 101 Pacific Northwest coast

Highway 101, Pacific Northwest Coast – USA

 

 

Don’t Use a Google Maps Printout as Your Only Navigation Tool.

 

Okay, I admit that this is how my friend and I found our way through a large part of our road trip in the USA and we (mostly) managed just fine. I don’t recommend it though. We were on a budget so a GPS was out of our league and we were too tight to invest in maps. We had lots of time so were happy to just ‘wing it’.

 

Again, I don’t advise this.  Don’t risk getting stranded in the middle of nowhere and potentially reliving a scene out of Stephen King’s Misery…get a good map, or better still, a GPS!

 

 

Lion's Head Glenn Highway Alaska

Lion’s Head along Glenn Highway, Alaska

 

 

Love the Open Road

 

Make sure you actually like driving. And that your travel companion does too. Sharing the driving makes everyone’s life easier.

If you are driving on your own, you need to be more organised and will probably cover less ground than you would if you were sharing the driving.

 

 

Ring Road Iceland

The ‘Ring Road’ more or less circumnavigates Iceland

 

 

What’s Your Budget?

 

When you look into car rental for your road trip be sure to factor in the cost of fuel. Depending on the country you are driving through, this can sometimes work out to be more per day than the cost of the car.

 

Timing

 

Leave plenty of time for spontaneous stops and exploration along the way.

Have a game-plan, but don’t be afraid to deviate from this plan…some of the most interesting travel experiences tend to occur when you do this.

 

 

Starbucks California

You’ve gotta love drive-through coffee places on a road trip!

 

 

Roadhouse Food Is The Same Everywhere

 

Well, the concept is the same.  It’s greasy, lacking in nutritional goodness….and unless you are super prepared, it’s often all there is.

Those DIY microwaveable hot dogs / pies / mystery-meat hot rolls won’t seem so bad when there is nothing else in sight for hours. (I didn’t say they won’t still seem bad, just less so!) Take some snacks.

 

 

Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Point Reyes National Seashore, California

 

 

Safety First

 

Keep your fuel tank as full as possible. There’s nothing worse than running out in the middle of nowhere. Nothing!

If driving in national parks, remember to watch out for wildlife, especially if you are driving in low light. Our road trip through Yellowstone National Park was full of unexpected encounters with bison on the road.

Be prepared for changeable weather and to change your plans if it’s too dangerous to drive.

 

 

Bison in Yellowstone National Park

King of the Road: traffic jam in Yellowstone National Park

 

 

Bison in Yellowstone National Park

Bison in Yellowstone National Park

 

 

The Driver is the Boss

 

Driving takes a lot of concentration. If the driver wants a different radio channel / needs a coffee / wants you to sing with them to keep them awake….just do it :)

And if your navigation skills take a nose-dive and you direct your driver down the wrong freeway exit and this causes them to drive on a 10-lane freeway and through the heart of San Francisco, when the plan was to bypass it completely….buy them lots of wine and chocolate later.

Not that this ever happened to me…

 

 

 Worthington Glacier, Valdez, Alaska

Driving towards the Worthington Glacier, near Valdez, Alaska

 

 

Road trips are one of the best travel experiences for independent travelers and they give you the flexibility to stop and start as you please.

But they are way more fun if everything runs smoothly. The trick to road trip survival? Bring your sense of humour, some great driving music and a good map!

 

 

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