There's something bracingly romantic and hey-ho adventurous about taking on a road trip. In real life, the Thelma and Louise recklessness and freedom that's associated with a road trip can only really be accomplished in the geekiest fashion: through planning.
Leave the unknowns to what you discover on the road, but make sure you're 100% buffed up on the things that are under your control.
Know your plan
- There are two ways to approach a road trip: with precise plan or with a vague plan. The plan part - however much that flies in the face of your derring-do attitude towards your road caper - is imperative.
- Everyone in the car should have the same expectation about just how rigid or spontaneous the schedule's going to be.
- In spite of the convenience of GPS and map apps, most experienced road trippers still advise a paper map, which won't run out of power. The AA's range of maps cover a great deal of South African road.
- Map your route and know the distances you have to travel each day.
- Book your overnight stays beforehand or make sure there's a campsite where you're stopping.
- Settle on a daily start time.
- Only drive five to six hours each day.
- Think about the things you'll need to reach easily or often while driving and keep them together: sunscreen, hats, wallets, phones, cameras and a loo roll. Travelzoo.com calls this the Important Stuff bag.
- Mess accrues. Keep a bag to hand for rubbish.
- Keep wet wipes in the door pocket or cubbyhole.
- traveldudes.com suggests that part of your safety plan should include leaving a your trip details with someone back home so that if you don't check in at certain times, they can alert the authorities in the area you were travelling in.
GOOD READ: Bursting romantic road trip illusions
Know your partner
Nothing can bring out that which bedevils a relationship like being together in a confined space for ours on end. Even the most mutually adoring of relationships can fall apart under the strain of different travelling styles.
Your loosey-goosey attitude and any-which-way, map-folding technique could cause your travel companion to blow a non-mechanical gasket. You, on the other hand, might feel that their soldierly adherence to clocking times, sights and kilometres is sucking every last bit of joy out of what you thought would be a walk on the wild side.
Know your travel companion, adjust the length of your trip to the number of years you've known one another and make some ground rules before you head off.
Know your car
A successful road trip is only as good as your vehicle. The car needs an oil change before you leave, but also check: tyre treads, pressure and balancing, lights, belts and hoses, battery and brakes and all fluid levels.
Book your car in for an independent expert assessment of its strengths and failings. If you're not a member of the Automobile Association of South Africa , now's a good time to join. Meanwhile, check out the minor breakdowns can avoid using this list.
Let your driving companion keep an extra set of keys in case yours get lost or locked in the car. If tripping alone, put the extra set on a chain around your neck.
SEE: This is what it takes to set the world record for the longest road trip
Know your food needs
It's best to plan before you leave where and how you're going to eat. You might be tootling along to eat at good restaurants in small towns, in which case you won't want your food bill to burgeon through lots of small, nondescript or less-than-wonderful meals.
Keep a cooler box in an accessible place and stock it with water, yoghurt, fruit, boiled eggs, biltong, dried fruit and nuts, and even sandwiches you might have been able to make along the way. A flask with tea or coffee made every morning before you set off is a lovely thing to look forward to mid-morning with a biscuit or a rusk.
Know your boredom busters
Nothing fires relaxed contemplation like the open road, but you might get tired of the inside of your head - or listless conversation - eventually. You'll need music, audiobooks and road games for the way. Here's a really fantastic list of games to play in the car
Make your memories easy to remember
You only need to have seen a handful of road trip movies to know that road trips are moving narratives which can also produce fantastically comedic moments. So charge your camera battery regularly, but also get a journal and write in it daily.
No one is immune to forgetting many of the "memorable" bon mots, incidents and insights along the way. Another idea: have a special pen for tracking your trip along that paper map you brought along.