As John Steinbeck famously said ‘people don’t take trips, trips take people’ which is just one of the many reasons why the lure of the open road appeals to so many holiday makers. Taking a road trip is a great way to experience every aspect of your holiday, and making the most of the journey — rather than focusing purely on the destination — means that your adventure starts the very moment you put your foot on the pedal.
As with all types of holiday, a little bit of pre-planning can make a huge difference to the ease and enjoyment of your trip. This handy road-trip checklist will help ensure that your trip goes as smoothly as possible…
When it comes to road trips, the difference between the trip of a lifetime and the holiday from hell depends largely on the condition of your vehicle. Giving your vehicle a bit of TLC before hitting the road can help prevent any nasty surprises.
☐ Check that all vehicle documents are up to date. Ensure that your road tax, insurance and MOT are valid and will not expire while you are away.
☐ Book your vehicle in for a service. Don’t chance it that you will get a last-minute appointment, reputable garages are often booked up in advance.
☐ Roadside assistance. This could turn out to be invaluable if you break down in the middle of nowhere. It is often inexpensive and the cost is far outweighed by the peace of mind it offers.
☐ Consider hiring a car. Especially useful if your car is prone to being unreliable. If you have problems with it at home it is highly likely that it is not going to last the length of your trip.
☐ Prior to leaving, double-check the following:
☐ Tyre pressure
☐ Windscreen wash
☐ Engine oil
Plan your route
Getting lost can sometimes lead to the best road trip adventures, ‘sometimes’ being the operative word. Knowing where you are going and how to get there will eliminate stress and most certainly reduce the chance of navigational disputes!
☐ A recently updated Sat-Nav can be a godsend when travelling through unfamiliar areas.
☐ A trusty map is worth its weight in gold if you lose GPS signal, or if you want an overview of the wider area.
☐ Plan your route via the scenic route. Detouring from the motorways can open up some stunning scenery and views.
☐ Research guest houses, hostels and camp sites along your route in case your plans have to change for any reason.
How much you pack depends on three elements: how long you are going for, the size of your car and the number of passengers. Packing everything you need while maintaining passenger comfort can be a tricky balance to strike, but the right equipment can definitely help.
☐ A roof box will free up space inside the car and is perfect for storing lightweight yet bulky essentials such as sleeping bags, camping chairs and clothing. It is worth noting cars become considerably less aerodynamic when fitted with a roof box, which may negatively affect petrol consumption.
☐ A protective boot liner fitted to the exact dimensions of your car boot will help prevent the car’s interior from being damaged when packing and unpacking bulky luggage. It will also protect the boot from the mud, sand and wet that inevitably gets transferred into the car whilst out and about.
☐ Pack smartly and make sure that your actual bags and cases aren’t adding on unnecessary bulk to your luggage. Handles and wheels can take up valuable space so think about lightweight alternatives, especially if your luggage is staying in the car or going straight from the boot to your accommodation. Consider using laundry bags for clothing. Stackable, clear plastic boxes are also great for organising general belongings, especially when camping.
In case of emergency
It’s always worth preparing for all eventualities so keep a box of emergency essentials tucked away. If possible, include:
☐ Emergency breakdown triangle
☐ Hi-vis vests
☐ Torch (with working batteries)
☐ Spare tyre/puncture kit
☐ Water and snacks reserved for emergency use
Sitting in the same position for hours on end can become uncomfortable, so it is important to make regular stops to visit the loo and stretch your legs. Maximising in-car comfort will help make long stretches of the journey more bearable.
☐ Lightweight blankets can make driving at night cosier for passengers and will reduce the need to crank up the heating — which can cause tiredness due to dry eyes, not to mention burn more fuel.
☐ Supportive neck pillows can help passengers catch forty winks while in transit.
☐ Sharing the drive will undoubtedly ensure that all parties enjoy the journey. Make sure all drivers are insured on the vehicle prior to departing.
☐ Do not underestimate the power of snacks. Stock up on snacks that are easy to munch on the go, plus water bottles to keep you hydrated. Insulated flasks are great for keeping hot drinks warm, and they can be re-filled at service stations throughout the journey.
☐ In-car entertainment such as portable DVD players, tablets, guessing games and a few good playlists will help while away less scenic stretches of the trip, especially if you are travelling with children.
…and hit the road
A bit of smart planning can make a huge difference to the success of your trip and ensure that the journey is every bit as fun as the destination. So get prepared, get packed, get comfortable and get going!