Planning a Road Trip

We are heading to the time that we take our usual long holiday with a road trip. In fact, a road trip would seem the only possible/affordable travel option we have at the moment with travel restrictions and unforeseeable lockdowns. In this article, Vijini and I thought of sharing our experience in planning and being on a road trip. We will use our previous Canberra to Adelaide coastal road trip as the example. You can read about that here.

Road trip article from Canberra to Adelaide

Now back on to the track! Let’s talk about the things that you need for an enjoyable road trip.

Do you have a suitable vehicle?

This would be the very first question. Well, for this my answer would be a YES without asking any questions. However, you need to make sure you have done your part with your vehicle i.e. timely service and repairs. You need your vehicle to be reliable across varying terrains. Safety is always the first priority. Hence make sure you do a proper servicing before you hit the roads.

We have been riding a Prius C (yeah thats right) and recently a Subaru Forester on long road trips. Both of them did really well without a single hitch. As you might note, one is an SUV and the other is an economical hybrid car. Both of them had their own pros and cons.

Economical Car/Hybrid

This would seem to an ideal road trip car given its unmatched mileage. In our Prius, we could easily do 800km on a full tank (36L of E10 fuel, vehicle spec is 1000km per 36 but in towns its quite less). Which made us cost only around A$ 300 for the road trip from Canberra to Adelaide. Most importantly we could sleep in the car with AC on for hours when we were tired driving. However, the car could not carry much luggage and did not do so well on harsh roads. It drove, but it did not sound like it enjoyed being on those roads.

SUV with AWD/4WD

We took our road trip from Canberra to Gold Coast on our SUV (Sorry we haven’t completed writing the article). We picked few harsh unsealed roads and we didn’t feel anything. The car had no complaints and it was a sweet ride. However, I was a little worried to have AC running in sleep stops. The cost of the journey was nearly 4 times that of the Prius. But we had many more memories on and off the roads. So I’d call it a balance.

Stockton sand dunes and beach

You could always rent a car. In that case, go for a one with sleepers. That way you could not only have a relaxed journey but also save a lot of money on unexpected motel stays. I have no experience in doing that, so no advise from me. 🙂

Laying out the plan

Although a road trip is suppose to be quite stochastic, it would be wise to have a plan. In our case, we make the plan under several criteria. First we need to have a time frame that includes the number of days we plan to stay at each place. If the time frame is not a necessity or you do not have a specific return to home date, skip this. 🙂

Our road trip plan from Canberra to Adelaide

The road plan

The road plan is the abstract path that we plan to take from start to destination. It is good to have one, because cars need gas. Gassing the car would need proper pumps that operate on the days that you travel.

In our case, we once lost our way and had a stressful time finding a pumping station. It was Christmas and I had to drive a lot to find a self operated pump with card payments. In Australian outbacks, you’d be extremely lucky to have reception so you could pay with cards. Bottomline, having a rough drive plan is wise. Deviations can then be done with more awareness.

Road plan

You are not likely to have the same road trip twice. Hence, plan in a way you’ll see the must sees and visit the must have gone places. No regrets!

Fuel plan

Cars need regular fuelling in a road trip. Therefore, make sure you get a chance to re-fuel before you go below 20-30% of the tank. This makes the drive smooth and less stressing. Being without fuel, under burning sun, in an outback area is the last thing you need to be. You know your car the best, so after every 70% of a full tanks ride, gas it up!

Fuel stations can easily be found on Google maps with their operating hours

Rest plan

In our trips, we usually take a break in about every 2-3hours if the complete ride is more than 5 hours. First of all, you need a rest. Your car might need one too. Other than this, you need to sleep at night. It is wise to avoid driving at night as animals can come to roads (Especially here in Australia, kangaroos like to jump in front of cars in dawn and dusk. They can weigh around 40kg and damage the car beyond driving.).

I usually go for an AirBnB at a Super Host’s place or book a hotel/motel via booking.com. That is the simplest way to book a decent place. You can do same day bookings depending on availability. However, I like to take camping if that is a possibility with weather. It is indeed cheap and often comes with gorgeous sceneries and moments worth living for.

Our road trip camp at Hobart Beach, NSW, Australia

Sometimes, water and food can be a challenge in camping. So it is nice to have some fire food, etc before you enter the campsite.

Food Plan

Us being foodies, we could not resists but have a solid food plan. Though it made us a little chubby over the days, it was worth the efforts. You can have snacks or cooked food. We prepared few food items like pasta, some vegetable (raw eat) and wraps for the road. It’d be great to see them, rather than having to read them!

Moreover, we need proper storage for food and other beverages. For this we used a cooler box that can be easily cooked with some ice in it. It was capable of having the ice without melting for over 2 days. Ice packs work, but I’d rather buy some ice from a petrol station as it works 100% of the times.

Cooler with water bottle, cooler bag and a mini container

Apps and other gear to have

We are not big on photography or videography. We rather enjoy the moments as it is and sometimes completely forget that we need to snap nice views. However, whenever we remember to capture we have our gear ready. We have been using a Nikon D5600, GoPro 7 and a Mavic Air for our photography needs. But I have come to the conclusion that sometimes my phone does the job much better. There’s that, but it’s up to you and completely optional. I know many people who would go around without any camera gear.

I’ll update the list as new things comes to my mind!

However, there are few gear that I’d suggest you carry on with you;

  1. Power bank, car mobile chargers and other chargers and batteries you might need.
  2. Jumper cable for car in case. Make sure you have a recovery kit and a pump if you plan to hit off-road.
  3. Torch with good power so you can find your ways at night or do a tyre change without hassle (Phone flasher does not count in this case). I have two torches, one in pen size and a bigger one.
  4. Extra tubes for your bicycle and a tyre repair kit or fluid (In case you carry your bicycles with you).
  5. Napkins, toilet papers and other sanitisation equipment. (It is 2020 and you never know, anyway the nature calls).
  6. A rubbish collection bag, never dump at will.
  7. A small stove if possible to heat some food or to cook. You never know what might be waiting.
  8. A proper GPS device (Phone is fine as long as it works, some devices can be very low in accuracy).
  9. An extra hard drive when you want to backup your photos to free up your camera.
  10. Camping equipment (tent, mattress/pillows, sleeping bag, tent illuminator light)
  11. Hot water bottle (to make tea, drink or to clean after toilet)
  12. Soap, alcohol wipes, shower gel to be used with a portable shower in case you have one or plan to visit a public shower.
  13. A first aid kit, insect repellent and other allergy medication should you require them by any means.

These are few apps you might want to have;

  1. Maps.me mobile app. There you can have as many offline maps as you like with navigation. Life saver in outbacks.
  2. Campermate, AllTrails, GoogleMaps – Provides you with information including camp sites, public toilets, dump stations, water taps, accommodation, etc. AllTrails will show you good walking trails, hikes and bike paths.
  3. Booking.com, AirBnB – for booking places if needed.
  4. A local navigation app (in AU, Waze) to have a crowdsourced navigation experience. Helpful to stay under speed limits and to avoid constructions.

Concluding Remarks

It is always wise to be prepared to face unfavourable circumstances. However, it has not occurred to use. Although, we lost our ways several times, Australia is a pretty safe place to travel around. One could fear about loosing the way and starving to death. But any other hard from bad guys is not heard of! But be aware of the places you travel.

Always be respectful to other drivers and avoid road rage. Give way to busses, trucks and emergency vehicles. Do not speed under any circumstance. If you’re a bad driver and fines are a thing, you are likely to loose license in a road trip. Fines from several states or districts is no joke. Be aware of different road conventions in different states/districts. Always be vigilant and give way whenever you feel uncomfortable on road. Out of all the roads I have been, Adelaide seem to have complex roads and ways. However, traffic is very decent and very easy to drive. On contrary Sydney happen to have the worst traffic I have seen in Australia. Stay calm and drive. Share the job with your friend or partner. But rest yourself and your car for a safer journey.

Check for local rules that might affect the way you photograph. Some regions might have photography/drone restrictions. Parking might not always be free, hence make sure you do it right. Always agree to do breath tests. Never drive under influence of drugs and alcohol. In fact, it might be worth living it to the full and avoid heavy alcohol use at all.

We hope you liked our writeup on road trips. Have a nice and a safe journey this holidays.

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