Road trip tips and essentials

By Kelly Fisher

With the holiday season in full swing and a lot more people travelling domestically by car due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions, I thought that now would be a good time to share some road tripping advice for anyone heading out on the roads this season. 

Have your vehicle checked:
First and foremost, get your vehicle checked before you head out on a great adventure. Check your tyres, your wipers, your brakes, air-con and – equally as important – your spare wheel. Make sure it’s there firstly, and that it’s in good working shape. Also, check to see that you have all the parts that you need should a tyre change be required.

Be prepared for an emergency:
Anything can happen on the long road. Make sure that you are prepared for any situation – pack a mini first-aid kit with the bare essentials such as plasters in all sizes, bandages, sterile gauze dressings, safety pins, disposable sterile gloves, tweezers, cotton wool and antiseptics such as Savlon or Dettol. Important in this COVID-19 world is hand sanitiser – have one in every compartment of your car if you can. As part of being prepared for any emergency, keep a list of important numbers written down on a page in your purse or wallet – close relatives, emergency services, COVID-19 testing centres etc. You may find yourself out of cell range in a town with only a public phone. You never know!

Make sure you know the size of your fuel tank:
This might seem like an odd one, but when you have a small fuel tank and the stops between fuel stations are far and few between, you might catch yourself out of fuel, out of luck and out of patience on the side of the road. Plan your route ahead of time and work out where the fuel stops are so that you know which ones you need to stop at to make sure that your tank is always topped up.

Keep those devices charged:
On the long road, you really want to keep your phones charged as much as possible. You never know when you will need it and it’s going to be really tough if you find that your battery is flat at the time that you need it most. Invest in a power bank or a car charger to help this along.

Keep a real (updated) map in the car:
In those instances when Google maps can’t find the satellite or your phone dies, it will be time to resort to an old-school map. Make sure you have the latest version too because the roads are ever-changing! You can also ensure that you have offline maps available on your phone. If you accidentally go out of your map and it cancels the navigation and you are in a no signal zone, you’re out of luck and you won’t be able to load it again unless you saved an offline version. The road is long and sometimes the distance between signals is long as well.

Have entertainment covered:
This is very important on a long drive, especially if you have kids in the car with you. Be sure to have music that entertains everyone (dear parents, you may need to sit through Disney songs) and the odd road trip game comes in handy! When it comes to music, if you listen on a streaming service, be sure to download your playlists. When you lose signal, streaming your favourite iTunes playlist is not possible and you may be stuck with listening to your favourite five Christmas songs that you downloaded at the end of last year.

Keep the driver’s energy levels up:
If the driver is looking a bit fatigued, it’s time to stop and have a break or swap drivers. Give them the chance to rest and re-energise before they do another stretch. It’s dangerous to carry on in that state. And be sure to keep snacks and drinks in the car that’s good for a quick energy boost.

If you’re approaching a big garage stop and you have no idea when the next one is, use that stop:
This is based on a lesson learnt the hard way. On a road trip, we passed by the Bloemfontein stop thinking that the next one couldn’t be too far away. Boy, were we wrong. As a result, we had to use a rather gross, dirty and dark bathroom in a small little town. So, make use of every stop you get!

Keep cash on you at all times:
I don’t like travelling with hard cash on us and in these times, I do prefer cashless payments to be safe. However, on a road trip and especially through small towns you might find that you need small change for something. A prime example is to pay for the bathrooms at some of the smaller stops. It’s always R2 and it’s not in change – you need a R2 coin to get in. Sometimes it could be to pay for parking or just for something small in a shop. So, keep some cash and change in the car.

Have fun:
At the end of the day, have fun. It’s about family time and creating memories. Snap some photos, yes, but also don’t be afraid to forget about phones and cameras and just enjoy the time spent together as a family. Make the most out of every stop, make every minute count and turn it all into one big adventure.



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