There comes a time in every driver’s life when the thought of driving for as long as they possibly can and exploring the world becomes impossible to ignore. Road trips are a unique way to experience a country (or the world for that matter) and they have been responsible for some of the best novels and films of the 20th and 21st Centuries.
But how do you go about organizing one? And how do you ensure that your car is able to handle the demands of near-constant driving? In this article, we will go over some of the most important things to consider.
How a Road Trip Can Change Your Life
Before planning out the perfect road trip it is important to understand why this is such a good idea. Depending on where you travel, you could learn more about another country than any tourist, or get closer to your own. Driving for days at a time can help you to learn more about yourself, or get closer to the person(s) that you are traveling with. There is more freedom on a road trip than in any other form of holiday (other than hiking).
You can go wherever the road takes you and can plan out this route from the comfort of your own home. Mastering the logistics and the organization of a road trip will set you up for life because if you can successfully navigate your first road trip, you can accomplish anything.
But a road trip is not just about attaining practical skills, it is about enjoying the journey. Creating memories that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Take this opportunity and grasp it with both hands, because you will truly regret missing out.
Planning the Logistics of Your Trip
You might be tempted to just jump in your car and let the road take you wherever it goes, but this is a terrible way to plan a road trip. As romantic as it sounds, you’re more than likely going to end up lost or exploring dull towns and unremarkable landscapes. Unless you wish to explore some of your country’s best traffic jams, you’ll want to plan an enjoyable road trip.
Decide how long you can afford to travel for, and pick a destination accordingly, also make sure that you have a rough idea of how many miles you plan on traveling per day. As fun as driving 400 miles in a day may sound on day one, by day four you could be thoroughly sick of the journey.
When you do decide on the route, make sure to put each day’s journey down in a Satellite Navigation System, with a backup on your phone. Also, make sure that you have a road map that you can use too. Find out where local gas stations are and mark them on your map, also break up your journey with places to eat and buy food. Getting hungry at midday and realizing that there isn’t a place to eat for 3 hours is one of life’s more miserable experiences.
You also need to decide on where you are going to be sleeping each night, are you going to be packing tents or staying in motels? In which case you need to make these the destination of each journey. Planning on sleeping in your car? Don’t! It will be uncomfortable, cold, and potentially dangerous.
Road Trips Abroad
So far, we’ve been assuming that you will be doing this road trip in your own country, but if you aren’t then there are a lot of other considerations. Do they drive on the same side of the road? If so you may need to switch your car lights from right-hand to left-hand facing or vice versa. This will prevent you from potentially blinding cars coming the opposite way. Brushing up on different rules of the road (both legal and implied) is also important.
If you are an American traveling in Europe then you’d better get your knowledge of the metric system up to scratch if you want to avoid unintentionally speeding. For example, American drivers who are going through Europe may struggle at first with British roundabouts, and then once they have learned how to use them, will have to completely forget about these rules in countries such as Greece.
Where instead of stopping and giving way to traffic on the roundabout, the cars on the roundabout stop and give way to ones that are entering the roundabout. While on the subject, expect very different attitudes to road rules in different countries – some may be quite laidback while others are very strict. Obviously, it would be best for you to follow all the rules as best you can to avoid any issues.
Preparing Your Car For a Road Trip
The first thing that you should do before anything else is clean the inside of your car out, a disorganized car is going to drive you crazy (pun intended) throughout the journey. Not to mention that any unnecessary weight is going to be reflected in your gas requirements. This is also a good time to consider how much to pack by the way.
Make sure that you pack the following items: tire iron, jack, spare tire, road safety kit, first aid kit, thermal blankets. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use any of these, and they may seem like overkill – but pack them anyway, for peace of mind if nothing else.
Check your tires beforehand, make sure that they are in good condition, you can perform the penny test to check tire tread. This is where you place a penny in the gap between the treads on your tire, have it upside down so that Abe Lincoln’s head is facing down.
If most of his head is covered then your tires are fine, but if it is exposed then you should replace them. Also, check the tires for damage, and then get the tire pressure measured.
Make sure that your battery is fully charged, have the brake pads checked over, and check your wipers. You can also perform an oil change and filter check if you want to be fully prepared.
Rolling With the Punches
It’s great to be fully organized before a trip, but sometimes no matter how well you plan something a problem can occur. How you react to that problem can define the success of your trip. Make sure that you have money budgeted for worst case scenarios, and a fully charged cell phone. These two should help you get out of any situation.
Taking a road trip can be one of the best experiences of your life, something that you will look back on for years to come. Driving long distances is the best way to experience large parts of a country, or multiple countries at once (European road trip).
Having your car serviced by a mechanic before embarking is probably the smartest decision that you can make, but if you have the skills and the time to do it yourself then go for it. Packing light but making sure that the essentials (mentioned above) are present will really help you. Finally, take a camera! That way you can enjoy the memories for the rest of your life.
Contributor: Giles Kirkland
Giles Kirkland is a car mechanic at Oponeo with a great passion for anything automotive. When he’s not busy tinkering with cars, he likes to hit the road on his old Yamaha and explore the countryside. Also, he is keen on blogging and sharing ideas with auto and motorcycle enthusiasts across the globe.