Map your route: Why old-fashioned road trips are becoming trendy again

2018-06-07 18:00
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A motorist stops to take photos of a herd of anima

Old-fashioned road trips are trendy again, and while in South Africa they continue to be the mainstay of the affordable holiday break, in the US there has been a particular resurgence.

According to US surveys of websites, newspapers, magazines and even books - the humble road trip appears to be the next big thing. 

And of course they're actually a long-standing tradition steeped in nostalgia and pop culture, from the 1950s Beat Generation literary classic "On the Road" to the 1983 comedy movie "National Lampoon's Vacation."

On Instagram, the hashtag #roadtrip shows up 37 million times.

In some ways, the comeback of this 20th century-style vacation is surprising in an era when "time has become far more precious than money, a priceless commodity not to be squandered lumbering along down endless miles of highway," writes Richard Ratay in his upcoming book, "Don't Make Me Pull Over!: An Informal History of the Family Road Trip".

In other words, why spend 18 hours driving over 1 931 kilometres when you could get there in two hours by plane?

SEE: #SARoadTrips: The hidden magic of the Northern Cape

Well for one, flying is expensive.

The more people taking the trip, the cheaper it is to pile everyone in a car - instead of buying airfare for a family of four.

Flying is also unpleasant. Getting to the airport, allowing time for security, dealing with delays and baggage can easily turn a two-hour flight into a trip that sucks up most of your day and all of your soul. For some travellers, it's more appealing to get up early, hit the road and spend all day driving. At least you can bring more than one bag without paying extra. And you can stop where you want, when you want.

 A motorist stops to take photos of a herd of big horn sheep grazing along US Highway 93, in Boulder City, 48 kilometres from the Las Vegas Strip. (Photo: Julie Jacobson, AP)

So will you next Summer break be a road trip? Here is some insight into why it might be, along with resources to plan your own road trip.

MUST-SEE: Time to take that road trip? These guides will help

Where to go? 

A colossal 960-page book published in May called "The Road Trip Book: 1001 Drives of a Lifetime," edited by Darryl Sleath, describes road trips all over the globe, from South Africa's Chapman's Peak Drive to California's Pacific Coast Highway, to the Pamir Highway from Afghanistan to Kyrgzystan.

Many of the trips are accompanied by digital route outlines that can be explored with Google Maps.

 In this July 1971 photo, a car travels on one of the major roads leading from Tehran across the Elburz Mountains to the Caspian Sea for a vacation in Iran. (Photo: Horst Faas, AP)

ALSO SEE: Jozi breaks: A Free State road trip

Chevrolet worked with a data scientist, Randy Olson, to calculate the most efficient road trip route around the US, with one family-friendly stop in each of the 48 contiguous states. It would take 214 hours (around nine days) of non-stop driving to complete the over 20 921 kilometre route.

 A car is silhouetted against the setting sun as it travels along Interstate 70 in Kansas City. (Photo: Charlie Riedel, AP)

The itinerary ranges from Disneyland in Anaheim, California, to national parks like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, to the Gateway Arch in St Louis, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Lake Champlain in Vermont and the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.

Here's an interactive map of the route.  

 Road trips have experienced a resurgence across t

HAVE YOU SEEN? Six ways to have a memorable road trip

Pitstops for the win

According to MMGY Global's 2017-18 data, road trips represented 39% of vacations taken by American travellers in 2016, up from 22% in 2015.

The top reason cited for taking road trips: the ability to make stops along the way. Other reasons (besides lower costs and avoiding air travel) include the ease of taking pets along and the ability to make plans last-minute.

Millennials on the move

One surprise finding: The resurgence in road trips is "led by millennials," said Steve Cohen, senior vice president, travel insights, MMGY Global. "When we look at the total number of road trips, there were more taken by millennials than any other generation." And even though they're young, nostalgia plays a role. Millennials are remembering trips they took "when they were kids, which wasn't that long ago," Cohen said.

ALSO SEE: Your ultimate Overberg road trip guide

The price of petrol matters less than you might expect. A recent AAA survey concluded that even though petrol costs more now than at any time since 2014, that's not keeping people home. AAA also said road trips were the most popular option for family vacations in their survey.

TRAVEL PLANNING: How to apply for an International Driver’s Permit

  Motorists guide their vehicles northbound on Interstate 25 to mark the start of the Memorial Day weekend near Firestone. (Photo: David Zalubowski, AP)

Another report, this one from Ford, called "The New American Road Trip(pers): How 'Digital Nomads' and Technology Blur Work and Play," found 50% of those surveyed said road trips are more appealing than other forms of travel like air, cruise and trains because you can be "more spontaneous" when you're driving.

 Vehicles travel along Interstate 70 near Odessa. (Photo: Charlie Riedel, AP)

SEE: Gateway to Durban: The ultimate road trip planner, a travel industry analysis website, just completed a three-part series on the future of road trips, stating they are "statistically on the rise due to both economic and cultural factors."

New technology like mobile mapping services, the ability to research and book lodging and tours as you go, and options for working remotely have also made it easier for people to hop in their cars and head out.

Road trips in South Africa

With a relatively well-developed national road infrastructure, South African cities are well-linked to one another making an epic road trip across the country not only possible but affordable and feeding into many of the factors surveyed above.  

Depending on where you are starting your journey there are a number of different routes to take that will have you seeing some of the finest scenery and unique little spots that this beautiful country has to offer. 

KZN to Gauteng and vice versa 

If you're looking to do a KZN to Gauteng, or vice versa, trip then you're in luck. Initially, the N3 might seem like nothing but a road that seperates you from your final destination but part of the reason road-trips are so enjoyable is the ability to stop and enjoy the unique little sites along the way.

Some great diversions along the way include the quaint little town of Clarens that you can stop by and explore. A mere three hours from Jo'burg, the charming little town of Clarens is a great place to take in the sights. Alternatively, stay the night and enjoy locally brewed craft beer before heading off to your next stop. 

 Clarens, Free State (Photo: iStock)

 Small town charm in Clarens. (Photo: iStock)

This is a key point along the scenic Highlands route, which includes the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, and links the towns of Harrismith, Bethlehem and Fouriesburg, all along the Lesotho Highlands, the Malutis and the Drakensberg. 

 The road to travel with the Maluti mountains in sight. (Photo: iStock) 

The Drakensberg is another excellent place to stop along your epic South African road trip. The highest mountain range in South Africa is a verdant, majestic range of mountains that adventure-seekers and outdoor enthusiasts will delight in exploring.

 The majestic Drakensberg. (Photo: iStock)

East coast road-tripping  

Driving along the east coast of South Africa is a beautiful, fun way to see the diversity and variety of landscapes and unique little towns in this great country.

The Garden Route is well established as offering world-class road-tripping experiences with its lush, verdant natural splendour. For something slightly different, take the route less frequented by travellers - the Sunshine Coast.

Running through the Eastern Cape along the coastline between Port Elizabeth and East London, you will have the opportunity to stop over and explore a number of small towns including Kenton on Sea, Port Alfred, Alexandria, Colchester and Bathurst. With some of the best and least-known beaches in the country, there are endless opportunities to enjoy the country and explore.

 Eastern Cape coastlines. (Photo: iStock) 

 Enjoy the beauty of the Sunshine Coast (Photo: iStock)

Carry on with your journey to KwaZulu-Natal and you'll see how the landscape progressively changes as you go along the coast.

Seeking a small town vibe in KwaZulu-Natal? Look no further than the Midlands with charming little towns to stop over at along your journey including Howick and Underberg. These artsy small towns make will really open your eyes to the diversity and variety of life and lifestyles in South Africa.