For Australians, a road trip is the ideal getaway, and considering the size of our continent, it’s easy to see why: there’s a lot of ground to cover. However, for as eager as we are to hop in our car and start driving, setting off without a destination in mind or prior planning can be chaotic. To ensure a safe and hassle-free trip, it is imperative that you do some prior research, planning and some perform some check-ups on your vehicle.
Check Your Vehicle
Before you pick a destination, make sure the vehicle taking you there is in good shape. Do a routine check-up of your engine: check the fluid levels, tyre pressure, horn, seat-belts and make sure all the lights are working. Most importantly, check the brakes. If you have the time, give your car a wash and a coat of wax to protect it from any dirt and grime.
These check-ups should be done twice: before you plan your trip, and at least a day before you set off. If there is anything not in working order, delay your trip until your vehicle is fixed.
Plan Your Route
There’s more to planning a road trip than just picking a destination and driving off. There are several factors you must consider. First is the distance between you and your destination. Can you do it all in one day, or are rest stops necessary? If so, how many places are available, and how far apart are they?
Next, consider the road conditions: are they sealed or unsealed, highways or country roads, straight or winding and is there roadwork? Ask yourself how much time you’re willing to spend driving and whether your vehicle can handle rougher conditions. If not, find an alternate route.
The seasons and weather can also affect road conditions. Not just because some seasons are more popular for road trips, but also because they affect road closures. For example, in northern Queensland and Western Australia, certain roads are prone to flooding during the wet season (October-April). If you’re driving someplace where the road conditions change depending on the season, find out what road are open and plan accordingly.
If there are specific places you want to visit, write up an itinerary. Even just a simple list of places you want to visit and things you want to do on certain days can help prevent your trip being disorganised. Allocating hours for driving, and hours for sightseeing can help prevent driver fatigue, in turn reducing the chance of an accident.
Pack Your Bags
Like any trip, factor in how long you’ll be away. Consider bringing an extra set of clothing, and if your trip includes camping, make sure you pack enough food and water and bring a little extra as emergency rations.
Don’t forget to pack the essentials for your car, like a set of jumper cables, a can of tyre sealant, a small toolkit, spare lights and any other replacement parts that might be necessary. If you’re travelling somewhere remote, bring a jerrycan of fuel, just in case you’re stranded with no petrol station nearby.
Be Ready for the Unexpected
Prepare to deal with factors beyond your control, such as weather and traffic conditions. Have an alternate route planned in the event a road is congested or closed.
Perhaps a stop on your itinerary is closed for reasons you didn’t foresee. If it’s viable keep driving or stop by your accommodation or set up camp. Find out what’s in the surrounding area and plan an alternative activity.
Be prepared to deal with the worst-case scenario. Should the worst happen during your trip, such as accidents or theft, have your insurance details handy. Print out a copy of your policy for ease of access and keep it somewhere secure.
If you're travelling somewhere remote, where cellular coverage is limited or unavailable, consider carrying a GPS emergency beacon, or even a satellite phone (however, these can be rather pricey).
Consider a GPS tracking device, such as Black Knight for your car and letting your loved one track you remotely. It may just be your saving grace in an emergency situation. Simply give the ones you trust your log-in details (e-mail and password) and let them track your journey or let them playback your road trip.
The Australian continent has a plethora of destinations to pick from and many great roads to get there. Where you do and how you get there is up to you. But, consider the conditions you’ll be facing and whether or not your vehicle is suitable for them. Also, check what time of year is ideal for your trip. Don’t forget to pack some emergency supplies and be prepared to deal with factors beyond your control. Happy trails!