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Posted on: Wednesday, 28 August 2013

10 essential tips for a memorable road trip

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An adventure on the road – suitcase in the boot, maps ready to go, the urge to follow your fancy, and the odd town selected as an overnight stay…

Not everyone can do the Thelma-and-Louise spur of the moment kind of road trip successfully, so here are a few insider pointers to set you in the right direction …


You’ll spend a lot of time in the car if you’re going across the country, and you want to be with people who are not going to have you reaching for Calmettes within a hour of having left your front gate (for those of you travelling with children, I feel another blog coming on). This can be a real bonding time for best friends or family members you really like – think Little Miss Sunshine.


Road Trip



If you’re an explore-the-byways kind of person and your companions want to get there as soon as possible, someone’s going to get a raw deal. Make sure you’re all on the same page about the kind of trip you’re after and the types of things and places you want to do and see along the way.


Ja, ja road trips are all about being impulsive and creative, making time to stop and photograph the roadside cosmos, and I’m the first to agree that an overscheduled road trip is akin to going to the dentist. But a loose plan is essential. Plan roughly which towns you intend stopping at and when, and if you can, book your accommodation ahead. Knowing that you have a place to lay your head means more time on the road and for those side lanes that beg to be driven. Research attractions along the way – you’ll miss them otherwise.


Having said the above about planning, there are some brilliant free apps to make up for lack of planning.

  • The go! Travel South Africa app gives you direct access to all the accommodation available on SA-Venues.com for last minute bookings
  • Wi-Fi Finder allows you to find free and paid for Wi-Fi spots in 144 countries around the world
  • Field Trip is a Google app that highlights historical sites, architecture, entertainment etc. and gives information about them as your drive past
  • Pandora helps you put together playlists for in the car; hopefully you all have the same taste in music


Go! Travel App



Getting off the freeways is a sure way to see parts of the country you’ve never seen before. Back roads also tend to be less inundated, more scenic and run past attractions you didn’t have a clue about. It will take you longer, but it’s worth it.


The wear and tear on a vehicle on road trips can be a lot worse than one initially thinks. If you’re exploring back routes you’ll hit sand roads and potholes, for sure. If none of you wants to take responsibility for getting your car in top gear (in other words recently serviced, with safety checks on the battery, brakes, tyres, windscreen wipers, brake lights, spare tyres etc.) then hire one. If there are enough of you to share the cost, this could work out better all round. And if something goes wrong, you get a replacement vehicle rather than sitting around waiting for repairs (read the small print and make sure about road side help before signing). Either way, pack jumper cables, powerful torches, a first aid kit, flares, a blanket and bottled water, just in case.


Remember that every extra item you pack nabs foot and elbow room at the back of the car. A healthy rule is: what doesn’t fit in the boot doesn’t go on the trip. That way all of your clothes and food cooler bag remain out of the body of the car. In the car should be creature comforts – the odd pillow, audio books for addled brains, a notebook and pen for doodling or making lists, snacks and a bottle of water. And don’t forget the wet wipes or a damp towel in a plastic bag for sticky fingers.


Road Trip



Some people are good at reading maps, others are great with playlists, others still can whip up a meal in minutes. Decide who is doing what ahead of time.


Tempting as it may be to simply take a left and order that Big Mac, you’re simply making some mega corporation richer and robbing the local industry in the process. And you’re putting on a few extra pounds along the way :) Explore the food of the region. Eat local. Eat lekker.


Things go wrong. But road trips are about the journey, or you wouldn’t be going on one. Go with the flow, live in the moment, and maintain your dignity, no matter what happens.


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What suggestions do you have to add to our 10 essential tips for a memorable road trip?

Wanda Coustas


Wanda Coustas has written in one form or another for 10 years, seven of them as a copyblogger. She has travelled the Western Cape extensively and the rest of the country in protracted road trips that have given her both joy and an ongoing relish for experiencing what she writes about first-hand. She is a trained opera singer, poet, eurythmy dancer, philosopher, and bee whisperer.

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3 comments about 10 essential tips for a memorable road trip
  1. August 28th, 2013 at 10:24
    Helen says:

    I LOVE a road trip – a flask full of coffee and a tin of condensed milk, pork sausages, hard boiled eggs and away you go! For long journeys an audio CD of a favourite book can come in handy too!

  2. August 28th, 2013 at 20:11
    Renan Ferrer says:

    Tips are mandatory for every traveler. Surely traveling by car is much better in my opinion. TEN: KEEP YOUR COOL – I liked the last tip! 😉 Thanks for sharing with us! Cheers! Renan Ferrer.

  3. August 30th, 2013 at 05:34
    patricia hardy says:

    This article makes me want to pack up and get on the road!!