At this time of year, many people hit the highways for their annual holiday. Getting you and your vehicle road trip ready will make your holiday memorable for all the right reasons.
A week before you leave
- Give your vehicle a good look over.
- Are there any leaks or drips on the ground?
- Look at all four tyres. Look for signs of wear. Make sure there is plenty of tread and the inside and outside edges of the tyres are not worn. A worn tyre is bad news in rush hour traffic, but they can be deadly at high speeds or in the rain.
- Check the brakes. Are they firm and positive or vague and spongy? If in doubt, get a mechanic to check them for you.
- Look under the bonnet. Are the all the fluids up to their marks? Are the battery terminals clean?
- Do your window wipers work correctly? Is the washer fluid bottle full?
- Has the car been serviced recently?
- Are all of the lights working? Brake lights, headlights and side lights.
- When you drive it every day, does it make any noises, squeaks or rattles? Are your shock absorbers okay? Is the steering positive? Small issues every day could become a major issue on a long trip or at high speed.
Make sure you know where the vehicle’s spare tyre is and that it is properly inflated and usable. The correct tyre pressures are probably on a table on the door pillar on the driver’s side door. Drive your car to the nearest service station and check the tyre pressures, including the spare.
- Locate the tyre jack and make sure you have all the bits, so that you can change a tyre on the side of the road, if required.
- Check to make sure you have the car owner’s manual. The owner’s manual contains plenty of useful information from how to tow a trailer to how to change the flat tyre and where the jack is located. If you need to top up the engine oil or other fluids, your owner’s manual has the instructions. If you don’t have the manual any more, download one from the internet and store it on your phone.
Clean the car thoroughly, inside and out. You are going to spend a lot of time in your car on a road trip, so make sure it starts off clean.
- Pack a first aid kit. Nothing fancy, but sticking plasters, cotton wool and antiseptic cream are the necessities to have in your glove box. While you at it, throw in some sun cream and mozzie repellent. And a couple of rags and a torch, just in case.
Before you set off
Get a good night’s sleep before you travel. Don’t attempt a long trip with a hangover or when you’re feeling drowsy.
Make sure you pack your driver’s license, roadside assistance card and insurance details. If you have an in-car phone charger, bring it along. If you’re old-school, pack a map of where you will be travelling. If you have a GPS system, use it. If you intend to use your phone at all, make sure it is in an approved cradle.
Pack your car carefully. Pack heavy stuff at the bottom, in middle and lighter stuff on top. Get as much as you can in to the boot of your car, rather than at your feet or floating around to become a missile in a crash.
An old friend of mine had a minor car crash returning from a surf trip. He had his surf board unsecured in the back of his car. It hit him in the back of the head and a minor incident turned in to three days in hospital.
If you might be driving for several hours, plan your rest stops. There are loads of great places to see less than five minutes off most highways. Use the trip as a chance to explore some great spots along the way. Whatever you do, as the driver make sure you stop and get out of the car for a stretch and rest for at least fifteen minutes every two hours.
If you can, share the driving with someone.
Make sure you pack plenty of CDs, or if you can connect an MP3 player to your car entertainment system, take long your favourite play lists and pod casts. Make sure you’ve got some variety on a long trip, with talking books, discussions, loud music, mellow music, etc.
Pillows and cushions will make passengers much more comfortable on long trips.
Pack some drinks and snacks. If you have a cooler with a freezer pack, pack your drinks and snacks in there. A cold drink at nice rest stop can turn a simple break in to a memorable experience.
Snacks and drinks will also break the boredom for younger travellers and an in-car DVD is nothing short of a miracle. But remember to pack their favourite movies and shows as well! Variety is the best way to keep kids happy, so make sure you have some games ready (I spy, 20 questions, etc.) and perhaps a small toy or game to play with.
If you are travelling with small children, make sure their safety seats are properly attached and not showing any signs of wear. If you stop on the side of the road, your kids will probably want to get out for a rest break as well. Make sure they are fully supervised at all times. A much better option would be to stop near a kid’s playground and let them run off some energy, while you relax.
Give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. Yes, there will always be some road warrior that will tell you he can get from Sydney to Brisbane in less than nine hours. But when he arrives he is tired and has to sleep for another half a day. Why not take your time, use the road trip as part of the holiday, have fun and arrive refreshed and relaxed?