How to have the perfect road trip

From packing smartly to picking the best podcast

Ronan J. O'Shea
Tuesday 16 January 2018 17:13 GMT
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So you've decided to do a road trip. Sounds simple enough, but just as a good city break entails a bit of planning ahead, when hitting the road there are a few things you should take into account before you go.

Here is a list of things you should do in order to have the perfect road trip.

How much to pack?

Of course, the answer to this question depends on the location of your road trip. If you're going to the Mediterranean in summer, it's likely you won't need to pack a heavy coat. However, if you're location is a little more temperamental, such as the North Coast 500 in Scotland or the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland, you'd be wise to pack heavy layers. While the notion that it rains every day of the year in such places is a myth, the weather can be inclement even at the height of summer.

It's also going to be a good idea to pack a decent pair of shoes or boots. Even if you're not hiking, should you want to get off the beaten path slightly into nature reserves or forest, it's a good idea to pack some hardy footwear.

Oh, and if travelling with children, pack tissues. Runny noses are to road trips what lemons are to limoncello.

Soundwaves

A road trip naturally entails a fair amount of time in the car and while you may be happy to enjoy the company of your travelling companions, there are bound to be lulls in conversation. Whatever you fancy, modern technology leaves means it's easier than ever to listen to more or less anything. A smartphone tooled up with playlists on Spotify can be tailored to the region your driving through, or you can download audiobooks or podcasts.

For the latter, The Blindboy Podcast is both hilarious and calming, with Blindboy Boatclub (lead singer of group The Rubberbandits) talking about every thing from mental health to his run ins with an otter (Family caution: controversial themes and swearing are a constant).

Other great options include 2017's stand out docu-drama S Town. From the makers of Serial, it's a fascinating tale that starts with a supposed murder before exploring systematic poverty in rural Alabama.

And if all that seems a little heavy, you can't go wrong the vast majority of Bruce Springsteen's back catalogue when it comes to a road trip.

Maps or GPS

It might be cheating, but GPS could save you a huge amount of time

There is a school of thought that if you're going on a road trip, you should revert to a simpler time when people relied on maps to get around. Ignore that school of thought.

Unless you're a cartographer, favouring maps over GPS is unlikely to be a good idea, slowing you down drastically in a way that might limit both your enjoyment of the trip and the things you get to do and see.

Manual or Automatic

Like the above, it's a question often asked and a question easily answered; unless you really want to go manual, automatic is your friend.

For starters, you will be driving a new car (probably) in a new place for the first time. Ease the stress that entails by getting an automatic. Many people used to driving manual find the prospect terrifying. However, in 2017 I drove an automatic around the Faroe Islands after not driving at all for six years, and quickly got to grips with it.

Pre-trip prep

The Amalfi Coast is beautiful, but check that attractions and hotels are open if travelling there during winter

While it's not strictly necessary to know the route inside out before you go (and driving around unfamiliar valleys and roads is half the fun), it's a good idea to get some sense of your destination. There may be road closures, certain attractions might only be open at specific times of the year, particularly in parts of the world where weather is a factor.

It's also easy to fall victim to the issue of 'scale' i.e. looking at the map and assuming that places you would like to visit are close together and easily accessed. Before you go, check for road and attraction closures, and try and get a gauge on how long it will take you to drive between points of interest.

Rules of the road

It may sound obvious, but you should read up on the specific road rules of the country you are going to beforehand to get an understanding of speed limits and other important details. Some countries have unique laws. France for example, requires all drivers to carry a hi-vis jacket and cones in case of an accident.

And of course, different countries have different drinking laws. While you won't be drinking while driving, in the UK you would be able to have a small glass of wine or beer on the last leg of a journey. Some places, like much of Australia and the Czech Republic, however, run a zero tolerance policy.

Packed snacks or restaurants

Should you eat in restaurants or pack snacks and sandwiches for each leg of your journey? While it may seem a bit overboard to prepare all your food prior to your trip, it's a good idea to think about how often you want to eat in restaurants and what you can bring with you for the day ahead.

Preparing a few sandwiches in the morning could save you a fortune, and if you're driving in a region which has pleasant views and picnic spots off-road, eating outdoors could prove far more enjoyable than eating out.

Make full use of your time

Rural road trips can entail lengthy journeys between short distances due to meandering roads 

How much time do you want to spend in the car? For some people, the very idea of sitting behind the wheel, listening to music for hours on end is the stuff of fantasy; for others a road trip is a matter of convenience when it comes to enjoying a destination.

Before you go, decide how much time you want to spend in the car versus how much time you want to see attractions. This will vary by country, of course.

Travelling in America often entails lengthy journeys on crowded highways which will limit the amount of places you plan to visit, while driving around Italy's coasts (depending on the time of year) could be a pleasure in itself due to its low crowds and stunning landscapes.

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