Have you ever wondered how to have the best road trip experience? The best road trip experiences are usually the ones in which you hire or buy a reliable vehicle. One of the first things people often say when they haven’t had a great road trip is: “we broke down.” My first road trip experience was in New Zealand, we hired a motorhome for just over a week (which had everything – kitchen, bathroom and a bedroom area), and was one of the easiest, stress-free and fun holiday’s – which made me look forward to more road trip adventures.
Today we are exploring Australian destinations in our vintage VW Kombi (it is our project, where I have enjoyed completing restorations on the interior of the Kombi. It is also the impetus behind the creation of many of my articles), my husband spends many hours a day working on the Kombi, which he really enjoys (it’s a puzzle to me, to see him rolling around under the vehicle caked in grease, sweating in 40-degree heat). While we haven’t had a break down on the road yet, there will come a time and unlike my thoughts, my husband will enjoy the challenge to fix the vehicle and get us on the road again.
In previous vehicles, such as a vintage Land-Rover Series 111, when we had a breakdown, it was an opportunity for me to take photos and write notes, or have a picnic in or outside of the car (I would stock the car well), while my husband was yet again fixing the car, and I could do nothing to help. I learnt over time to relax during these breakdown moments, and utilise my time.
So unless you know a fair bit about repairing a vehicle, my advice is to hire one and have an easy stress-free holiday! And if you are thinking of buying; hiring the vehicle you’d like to buy will certainly give you an understanding of the whole on-road experience and leave you with great memories. Hire vehicles are unlikely to break down, giving you time to visit places and explore, and to really enjoy the journey. Here are our tips on how to have the best road trip experience.
1. Utilise Guides, Before you Book
Utilise guides about the places you want to go to – often we think once we arrive at a destination and begin exploring, it will all just be there. There are often many interesting markets, events and festivals – in and around particular towns, that you may not have heard about. So check out what might be on in the destinations you plan to visit. Complete individual searches on the things you’re interested in, for example, guided walks or tours, music events, festivals, or markets etc, before you book your holiday (if you can coincide your dates). This will make your road trip holiday much more fun!
2. What to Drive or Where to Stay?
Would you like to travel in a car, 4WD, caravan, motorhome, or a campervan? Do you require ultra comfort or can you forsake a few minor luxuries to take part in some outdoor adventures? Which are you more comfortable with automatic or manual transmission? Once you’ve decided on a vehicle, your next step will be to choose the appropriate places you’d like to stay; a hotel, a holiday resort, a friend’s house, or a camping spot to suit your needs, etc (maybe you can combine some of these).
For me, I believe one of the best road trip experiences are ones where you can jump into your RV and have everything with you the whole time! And if you’d like to have an RV experience, it’s then a matter of deciding on where you’d like to camp. Do you prefer quieter places, out in the middle of nowhere? Or do you need a site with power, which also has a cafe or shop on site – places to buy food? If so, you would need to check with the campsites to see if they have what suits your needs?
3. Pack Light but Pack Well
Once you’ve booked your reliable vehicle and organised your holiday spot or destinations that you will travel to, the next most important part is the packing. On a recent camping trip, while walking along the beach back to our camper my husband cut his foot, we had just left the place where we had dinner -The Boat House Hotel, who were more than willing to help with the supply of bandages to stop the bleeding (I did feel rather bad in this situation, I took off my nice shoes when my husband offered me his crocs – and I wore them instead, due to the rock embedded sand). While we were lucky we weren’t in the middle of nowhere, a first aid kit was the last thing we thought about, needless to say, it was the first thing we put in our camper for the next trip.
Essential Items Checklist:
Water: Take plenty of water – especially if you plan on bushwalking or having a picnic somewhere.
Food: Even if you think you have enough food, throw in small packets of food. For campers, dried food like ready-made pasta meal packets, which only requires hot water are ideal – if you have a stove or a portable one.
First Aid Kit: A small first aid kit can also be carried in a backpack when outdoors, such as on hiking or bushwalking trips. Generally, a first aid kit is not often needed, except for band-aids or bandages. But it’s a good idea to have access to a first aid kit and (in Australian) information on bites and stings, especially if you’re exploring the outdoors.
Map or GPS: Sometimes it’s handy to have both, should the GPS not work in particular areas; or a printout of directions from Google maps.
Hat and Sunscreen: Or wear a long sleeve shirt and hat.
Insect Repellent: I usually look for the ones without DEET. My favourite is a product called ‘Ouch’ insect repellant from Anaconda, made from natural oils – it has so far been effective, and it smells nice.
Phone Charger: And a portable battery pack – these are great when you don’t have access to power. Certainly worth investing $50 on portable battery charger, which will provide you with two charges.
Appropriate Clothes: Appropriate for the climate you’re travelling in. But in general, I also like to pack one pair of lightweight items for the opposite weather, that you think you won’t need, such as in winter – a T-shirt and one pair of shorts, in summer – one lightweight warm jacket and one pair of pants (or tights, which won’t take up much room). It’s a nice backup.
For those of us who like to explore new places; even with no plans to go swimming, I often throw in a pair of swimmers, there have been times when the last place I thought I’d be near is a pool. I certainly recommend a lightweight travel towel, and not only to use after swimming, but the towel has come in handy when we’ve thrown it into a small backpack during a hiking trip – where it has also become an easy travel picnic blanket.
In Australia, T-shirts, shorts (or a summer dress) and thongs work well in summer. But remember to pack easy travel attire you might need for places, such as a nice dinner venue – throw in a nice pair of shoes and an iron-free favourite lightweight outfit. And if you’re thinking of having a stroll along the beach after a lovely meal out, walking barefoot on the sand is usually safe enough, however, a pair of sandals or fancy thongs can serve both purposes.
4. A Checklist and Forgotten Items
Make a checklist of the items you need (as in the above checklist) and want, for example, do you need music? Take headphones or iPod or phone to play music through. Many items are small enough but important for comfort, and just make your experiences a whole lot better. Do you need silence to sleep? Take ear-plugs. Take a favourite magazine or book for when you have an hour or two to yourself, it’s a nice way to have some ‘me time’. All these items are small enough to pack in luggage too.
And remember, if you forget to take something on your trip – become more flexible with unexpected events, try to have an open mind towards these travelling experiences, develop this mind frame before you leave for your trip. This will help alleviate any stresses when things don’t work out the way you were expecting.
If you’ve forgotten something you really need, whether it be bandages for an open wound (which we needed), a charger for the phone or toothpaste (this is a common one), use the moment stay calm, rather than annoyed (or use a sense of humour, you’ll create a fun or more positive atmosphere) and brainstorm some options; ask people around you if they have what you need (as in our case), if you’re on the road wait until you approach a shop – even on a long drive, you will eventually find a small shop somewhere, including at some campgrounds.
And sometimes, you may not be able to find or purchase an item you need, and you’ll have to make do with what you’ve got (we didn’t have bandages for my husband’s foot, nor the first aid kit, however, the venue provided us with clean and brand new chux wipes, which did the job). These experiences can make or break your trip (as we have learnt over time), keeping a positive mind – will be your best vice! And things will work out much better!
5. Have a Rest Stop
Sometimes we can become so busy with our lives, and it becomes a repetitive pattern travelling from A to B. Remember to stop between travelling from one destination to the next. Check out the sites on the way to your destination, some sites really make a road trip worthwhile. Another idea, especially if there are no sites to see; my husband likes to pick a time frame for a stop. For example, choose a time to stop; such as, in a hours’ time and when you’re able to park – stop and stretch your legs, and investigate the area you’re in. It’s an opportunity to explore an unplanned visit to an area, and perhaps discover a new town and maybe one you haven’t heard of before.
6. Connect with Nature
Connecting with nature allows you to unwind, scientific research tells us that being among nature is an important way to help us distress. While meditation and mindfulness is a good baseline practice for stress prevention; if this is something you can’t do or are a little unsure about, connecting with nature is a good step towards it. There are many destinations that offer a variety of scenic views and stunning natural surroundings.
Make time for a stroll to a lookout or a walk through the bushland, there are a myriad of easy and short walks scattered through or around many towns, that allow you to totally connect with nature. If you’re unable to find a walk somewhere, why not try packing a picnic lunch to enjoy somewhere scenic? Being amongst nature, whether it’s a walk, or sitting on a picnic rug on a field or in the bushland somewhere – really is medicine for the soul.
7. Take Part in Ethical Tourism
Ethical tourism, sustainable tourism, ecotourism, and sustainable travel all mean similar things and in particular; being a responsible traveller. While there are many guides out there on this subject, the message is simple: be mindful of your impact on the people and places and environments you are visiting. There are so many ways that can allow you to be a responsible traveller. Check the places you’re going to by searching for information about the culture (being aware of the culture and supporting local communities) and environments in that area.
In Australia, an environment we were exploring once was a waterfall with waterhole to try a little wild swimming, and I was surprised to learn that the sunscreen people were using had a detrimental effect on frogs and their habitats – which were slowly disappearing due to our use of harsh chemicals such as sunscreens. It was an easy fix – wear a long sleeve shirt, instead of sunscreen. An easy fix for the day – but perhaps not for the long term problem, although, significant just the same.
Another important one (there are many) for me is after camping or visiting an area we always make sure there is no rubbish left behind. Decide on something you can do, that will make it a better place for all of us to continue enjoying! It does add to the feeling of ‘the best road trip experience’, you feel good that you’ve been able to appreciate or contribute something back while enjoying your adventures and journey.
All you need to do now, is grab your diary and book your adventure, and enjoy creating an amazing road trip holiday! There’ll be much to see and do, with time for relaxing, if you plan it that way, where you’ll make new and exciting discoveries along the way. Happy road trip! 🙂
A good starting point: If you would like some comprehensive, easy holiday guides and ideas, where you don’t have to do too much research; (and not too much thinking), book your holiday and campervan all on the one site; see our guide – The Best Scenic Drive, for Camper Tourist Drive 33, which also has links to other destinations and events.
We’d love to hear about your road trip experiences too!
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Shelley has published a variety of online articles. With a master’s degree in Special Education, this has allowed her to write in the area of Education, through platforms such as the Huffington Post. Being an outdoor enthusiast, she is currently writing for the Weekender Travel and Kombi Lifestyle. She is keen to share her knowledge and enjoys writing informative articles that help the discerning traveller prepare for road travel and holidays in Australia. Shelley is the founder and editor in chief of Kombi Lifestyle.