We all know the beloved road trip is back in a big way. In 2015 I spent a month road tripping through the USA, and in 2016 I road tripped through New Zealand for two weeks, then here in Australia I did Uluru, Sydney to Adelaide via the Aussie Alps, Melbourne to Adelaide via The Grampians, and Adelaide to Torquay via the Otways and back via the Great Ocean Road. And, excluding the time I ran out of petrol that we don’t speak about now, I loved (almost) every minute and mile of it.
And regardless of cheaper than ever flights, we’re seeing more and more people bypass the airport and hit the road for a very different kind of experience. The only problem is, courtesy of technology, many of us fire up Google Maps and the GPS and off we go, which usually takes us the quickest way, and rarely the most awesome way. Siri is lovely, but she’s hardly the most adventurous guide going around.
More and more, I’m using Google Maps for research, and GPS for a safety back up as I go, but going old school with maps and an atlas to plot my own course there. The whole point of a road trip for me is to see things off the beaten path. And those off the beaten path things are rarely on the beaten paths… or highways.
On my last trip, I purposefully took the back roads. As back as possible. I over estimated how long I’d need, allowed plenty of time to stop and check things along the way, and off I went. I turned an eight hour drive into a two day drive, and loved it.
So next time you hit the road, here’s my tips:
- Use technology to plan your trip, but don’t follow it blindly.
- Make sure you check out what other roads you can take, not just the ones suggested by Google Maps or your GPS.
- If you see a minor back road, take it. (Assuming it’s safe and suitable for your vehicle.)
- Give yourself plenty of extra time to get where you’re going to allow for the fact you can’t usually drive as fast on back roads. Remember, what looks like a short, straight line on paper, can be a long, slow, winding road in real life. Don’t be fooled by distance alone.
- Try to plan your trip so you don’t have to drive at night. It kind of defeats the purpose of road tripping when you can’t see the views as you go. Plus, here in Australia at least, the chance of hitting an animal is a lot higher after dusk and before dawn. (Not to mention the fact driving while sleepy is as dangerous as fuck.)
- Always plan ahead and decide whether you really need to get to your next stop that day, or if you can take it easy, stop sooner, get a little extra rest, (or take in some sights!), start a bit earlier the following morning, and still get where you’re going and get everything you want done.
- Last, but not least, drive safe! Stop for a power nap if you’re tired. Getting there a little later is better than not at all.