1. Check that your vehicle is in prime condition
If you rent a vehicle, try to sign up for a roadside assistance programme just in case. The rental companies will usually have them available for a fee per day. Before you drive off, check the tyres, fuel gauge, wipers, windows and doors. Once you drive off, also check to ensure that the brakes are working. If the vehicle is your own, send it to the mechanic before you embark on your road trip. A healthy vehicle is less likely to break down.
2. Craft a plan, but leave space for spontaneous exploration
Most road trippers have a time limit. Usually, you would plan the locations where you will sleep every night in advance, and the general route you would take. Along that route there will definitely be photo stops, toilet visits and lunch breaks. Don’t be afraid to wander off the highway when you spot well-marked tourist signs directing you to a tourist attraction or a scenic lookout.
3. Expect the unexpected
No matter how much one plans, you should also expect the unexpected. Instead of getting frustrated at roadwork or bridges under repair, try to go with the flow. There’s no point stressing over something you cannot control or plan for, and by keeping calm, it’ll make for a better trip for everyone.
4. Don’t drive when you’re tired
This is imperative. The driver needs to sleep at least eight hours the night before a long drive to avoid potential disasters. When travelling in a group, try to have two drivers so both can take turns to drive. If you’re going solo and feeling exhausted, pull over for a toilet or food break, take a power nap in a safe place, or stretch your legs while enjoying the landscape at a scenic stop.
5. Keep both a GPS and a map handy
If you’re part of the millennial generation, you’ll probably choose the GPS over a cumbersome paper map, simply because it is easier to use and even narrates the directions. But you’ll also realise how handy a map is when your GPS malfunctions. Or download iPhone or Android navigation apps such as Google Maps and Waze for updated traffic information – but note that these require a data plan. Otherwise, the Here app has maps in over 100 countries, and once the maps are downloaded, they can be navigated offline to get from point A to point B.
6. Divide and conquer
Some people are good at navigating, while others don’t even know which way is north. Others are good at planning meal stops and searching for decent eateries, while others don’t care what they are eating as long as it’s edible. By knowing who does what well, you’ll be able to split the labour to get things done efficiently. This doesn’t apply during solo travel, where the freedom to do what, when and where is entirely yours.
7. Carry cash for tolls
In many countries, expect to pay tolls for driving on expressways via toll gates. Tolls can add up, particularly on a long journey so it pays to do your research before you go. Secondary roads usually do not require such payment, but it may be a longer route. Also try to stock up on coins and small change required for the tolls as you wouldn’t want to be fumbling around with a queue of cars behind you.
8. Keep in contact with the outside world
Text someone, be it a good friend or your parents, to ensure they know where you are, even if it’s just a general idea. In the rare event that something bad happens, your family and friends will have an easier time locating you.
– TEXT BY RACHEL AJ LEE
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.