Ahhhh yes, the good old road trip. There’s nothing quite like the buzz of loading into the car, putting on some great music and just driving. While the initial joy does tend to wear off a little after enough time in a confined space together (fight! fight! fight!) when you look back on them, road trip memories are always some of the best. Matt and I take a road trip at the end of every year, driving 6 hours north of Brisbane to our favourite beach spot. If like us, you’re preparing for a roadie this festive season, you need to make sure you properly prepare, for the sake of your mental and physical safety. So, here are my tips on how to properly prepare for a Christmas road trip.
1. Do a total clean-out
Take the time to give your car a thorough clean-out before you start loading it up with all your junk. Give it a good wash on the outside and do a number on the inside too. You’ll want to throw out any and ALL rubbish from inside the car and take out any crap you’ve been hoarding in the poor thing (shoes, bags, general bits and pieces).
2. Prepare for the return of rubbish
No doubt you’ll be snacking your way through your road trip, so be prepared for all the rubbish you just threw out to return! I always pack a few empty grocery bags or rubbish bags in the car, in easy reach of the passenger seat. As you start to get your snack on, you can throw empty packets and drink cans in the bag. I’d also suggest you pack some baby wipes, they’re super cheap and are perfect for getting sticky stuff off hands and wiping up any accidental spills. If you’re going to be in the car for a long time, throw a bottle of air freshener in too because the smell of body funk builds up over time.
3. Get the car checked out
It may feel like a pain in the rear, but it’s really important you get your car serviced before you head out. When you stop and think about it, people you love dearly will be in that car with you, so you want it to be in tip-top shape. So it’s super important you take your car to get checked out by someone reputable you can trust. Tell the mechanic you’re heading out on a road trip, they’ll give it a thorough looking over for you and let you know if you need to do anything like have your wheels balanced, car battery replaced or get new tyres.
4. Create the perfect playlist
This one is important. Take the time to dig through your music and put together an awesome playlist for the trip. Great music makes everything better and road trips are no exception. If you’ve got a few people going with you, get everyone to put together a playlist of 100 awesome songs then take turns playing each other’s music. It’s a great chance to discover new stuff you love. Another great idea is to download a few podcasts or audio books to keep you entertained.
5. Devise a driving schedule
It’s incredibly important to share the driving, so work out a schedule that includes lots of stops to rest and refresh as well as regularly changing drivers. This will help keep the driver alert and fresh. You might want to pre-plan your rest stops to make sure you’re stopping at really beautiful places. Pack a thermos with some tea or coffee in it and stop along a beach or scenic spot for a 20-30-minute break with a nice cup of tea and a biscuit or slice of cake. Stretch your legs, hydrate, rest then hit the road.
6. Play games
When you’re travelling long distances in the car, there’s always the danger the driver could become a little tired and lose focus over time. Aside from taking regular rests and switching up the driving responsibilities, playing trivia games can help you stay alert. Do a little research before you set off and find some fun games you can play in the car (safely) and put together your own general knowledge quiz. It sounds lame, but when you start playing it’s actually really fun. Matt and I play a game we call ‘the memory game,’ where we say a random word, like green, kettle or frog, and the other person has to share the first memory that pops into their mind.
7. Come up with a plan
Have a loose road trip plan prepared, taking note of any trouble spots you’ll want to avoid (like places that get overwhelmed with peak hour traffic, for example). Identify some potential rest spots along the way, things you might want to veer off to see and do, great places to grab food or just stop to check out a great view. Be prepared for the plan to change though, you never know when you’ll see an amazing sign for an obscure attraction in the middle of nowhere and not be able to pass up the opportunity!
8. Have an emergency kit prepared
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Imagine yourself in a situation where the car breaks down, what are you going to need? Make sure you have a first-aid kit and a few basic tools, like a screwdriver, duct tape and zip ties. Makes sure you have a LOT of water and some non-perishable food stashed away. Throw in a blanket or two and make sure you have jumper cables, motor oil and radiator fluid (just in case). Also, make sure you have all the details of your car insurer (policy number, contact number etc) and your roadside assistance (phone number etc) on hand.
9. Snacks on fleek
I ain’t even playing! Snacks are an integral part of any successful road trip. You don’t want to be stopping every couple of minutes for more food because it’s time consuming and expensive. So, make sure you do some snack shopping. You’ll want to pack a good mix of food, like fresh fruit, nuts and LOTS of water as well as some naughty treats like chips, lollies and chocolates too. Never underestimate the value of a good picnic either, you’ll be coming across lots of pretty spots on your drive so don’t be afraid to stock up on picnic ingredients!
10. Walkie talkies may be required
I don’t want to get you too excited here, but you guys, seriously, if you’re travelling in a group spread among a few cars, you may have a very good reason to purchase walkie talkies. Oh. My. God.
11. Get some cash
Make sure you have a bit of cash on you, just in case. You never know when you could get stranded in the middle of absolute nowhere, sans cash, and have no way to access your money, should you need to purchase something. Just one of those small things to do, ‘just in case’.
12. Check the tyres AND the spare
Take a good look at your tyres, get yourself down to the local gas station/servo and get those puppies pumped up properly. Check out your spare tyre, is it in good shape? Do you need to get it fixed? Do you need a new one? Make sure you have ALL the tools you need to change the tyre should disaster strike. Be thorough!
Watch: our ‘Chasing Sunsets on the Road’ video
Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger with a love for storytelling. Phoebe creates practical, fun and engaging written content designed to inspire and energise travel-lovers and dreamers. Follow her and Matt’s adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and through Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.