When thinking about a road trip, it’s tempting to get lost in the spontaneity and just want to jump in your car and hit the road – freedom! But, you’ll do yourself and whoever you’re travelling with a whole lot of favours by planning ahead. Here are five helpful tips for a smooth road trip.
1. Really plan out your journeys
It should go without saying that you need to plan your routes. Use Google Maps and make sure your sat nav is fully charged and set up before you hit the road. It’s also wise to have a physical map or atlas in case of any technical mishaps. Create an itinerary so you know where to stop for fuel, rests, food, drinks, and any sightseeing or walks. It’s also a good idea to buy any event tickets in advance. When creating your itinerary, do plenty of research to know more about the areas you’re travelling to, and if there’s any tolls to pay. Keep cash and loose change on you just in case you need it for any parking or shops where they don’t take cards, or if you need to use a payphone.
2. Road worthiness
Here’s a good acronym: FORCES. Before any long road trip, it’s seriously recommended to do some checks on your vehicle to make sure it’s ready for the ride, and FORCES help you remember what to run through.
F is for fuel: Pretty simple this one, make sure you have enough fuel for the trip or until your next fuel stop at least!
O is for oil: Your oil should meet at least halfway between the min and max lines on your oil stick. Also make sure to use the right oil for your vehicle
R is for rubber: Rubber is to remind you to check all things related to your tyres/brakes and wipers – all your rubber, basically. So, check your brake fluid, tyre pressure, and tyre tread to make sure you’re meeting the legal requirements for the road. Min tread is 1.6mm, and in winter, it’s advised to be 3mm. You can use the border of a 20p coin as reference, as that’s 2mm. Just insert the coin in the grooves; if you can see the border, the tread is not deep enough. Check the rubber of the wiper blades for any wear, cracks or splits
C is for coolant: This works as an antifreeze as well. Make sure you’ve got the coolant filled to the max level, and only check when the engine is cool to avoid scalding. Make sure you use the correct additive and refer to your vehicle’s handbook
E is for electrics: Make sure to check your electrics, and ensure all your lights are working. That’s side lights, dipped beams, main beams, indicators, fog lights, rear brake lights, hazard lights, reversing lights, number plate lights etc. Check your battery to make sure terminals are clean and tight (clean off any corrosion with hot water and apply petroleum jelly).
S is for screenwash: Top up your screenwash if required and fill with water if the mix is not already diluted. Check you’re using the right additive to the conditions you’re driving in first. If you’re driving in winter you’ll need antifreeze. An empty screen wash tank is also illegal
3. Check technology
As already mentioned, make sure your sat nav is up and running with no issues, and bring a backup cable just in case. If you have more USB connections, remember the cables, so you can charge phones and gadgets on the journey. Bring backup power banks to cover your backs. Set up bluetooth and connect your phone for hands-free communication with your phone safely positioned in a car phone holder. Get your road trip playlists ready, and download your favourite podcasts so you have all your entertainment ready for the road trip.
4. Efficient packing for the road trip
No one should go hungry on the journey. Don’t forget drinks, snacks or sweets, and put them at the front for easier access. If you’re going camping (check out the best camping hacks), make sure you pack the tent, pegs, mallets etc. last for an easier set-up, especially if the weather turns when you get to the campsite. Use bungee cords to store any bags upright to the backseat, e.g. any grocery bags, and use them to tie things neatly together or for carrying rolled-up mats. They can also be used to strap things down on motorcycles or on roof racks. Bungee cords are also brilliant for kids on a road trip because you can hang and slide your children’s favourite toys on them. There really are so many helpful uses for bungee cords.
5. Prepare for all weathers
As well as planning out your routes and visits, don’t forget the weather, which can be unpredictable at times. Consider getting car sunshades, and don’t forget your sunglasses. Stock up on sun cream for both your trip there and back and your actual holiday. In your vehicle checks, you should make sure your tyres and wipers etc. are in good condition and roadworthy.