So you have decided to drive down to your weekend destination…good idea, if you have prepared well! A well prepared road can be delightful, fun, educational and more fulfilling; while an ill-prepared road trip can be equally frustrating, dangerous, and tiring.
But don’t fret. We are here to help you. In fact based on our numerous road trips across the length and breadth of India, we have come up with top tips to help you prepare your first family road trip. Just remember the key to a beautiful road trip is: plan ahead, but be flexible.
- Know the distance to your destination: Whether you are on a weekend getaway or a longish holiday, find out what is the distance from your home to your destination in kilometers/ miles. That will determine whether you should break journey, make a night halt or carry on. It’s advisable not to drive into the night though.
- Know your vehicle: I’m assuming that you will be driving your personal vehicle. Make sure your car is in good shape. Check the tire pressure, coolant, head and tail lights, wiper blades, spare tyre (or stepney). Don’t wait for the last minute to fill the fuel tank. Get all these done the night before. If you are hiring a car insist the agency provides a fairly new vehicle and an experienced driver.
- Know your kids’ timings: Traveling with kids is really fun if you know their scheme of things. Ideally long drives irritate most kids. So make use of their nap time. I recommend to start off early in the morning so that by the kid(s) are up and about, half of the journey is behind you. Pace your drive in such a way that you don’t have to skip your child’s breakfast or lunch because of dearth of restaurants on the way. Plan in such a way that you will be at Place X at 9 am where there will be options to have a meal.
- Know your fun quotient: You might love to drive on the highway. But believe me, it’s a thin line between having fun and ‘when is it going to end’! So plan your driving time based on what you are comfortable with.
- Know how to pack for a road trip: Unlike traveling by air or train, packing your clothes on a road trip requires a little intelligence. If traveling with kids, keep a small bag of spare clothes, diapers, etc. in case of spills and weather change. Even for adults, if you heading to the cooler climes keep something warm inside the car. Just hang it from the headpiece of the seats. Nothing can be more frustrating than stopping every now and then to open the trunk to take out clothes from the suitcase.
- Know the importance of carrying food and plenty of water: Needless to say avoid carrying food that may spill and create a mess. Try to pack snacks that are satisfying and easy to bring on-the-go. I personally love to carry my breakfast or lunch, stop at a beautiful spot and enjoy my meal. If you would love to do the same, just make sure that your parked vehicle is not creating any inconvenience to others on the highway. Also choose a spot where you can also capture good shots of nature so you don’t have to stop again just to click pictures. Well, as for water, carry as many bottles you can. It is very important to keep yourself hydrated. So drink plenty of water at regular intervals.
- Know your first aid kit: Never leave home on a road trip without your first aid kit. Most people tend to overlook it. If you already have one in your vehicle, double check the expiry dates and replace the outdated ones. An antiseptic cream, Dettol, gauge, bandage, pain killers, cotton roll, medicine for headache, nausea, etc. are must.
- Know the requirements of your devices and gadgets: Unless you know the way to your holiday destination by heart, carry a GPS gadget to guide you. Most smartphones come with these apps. I personally love the Here Map app. It’s available both in Android and IOS, etc. Having said that, there are many places in India where mobile connectivity can be erratic, so I prefer to carry a print of the directions or a map whenever I’m not too sure. Plus, know alternate routes to your destination, just in case you need to take them. Also carry your car mobile charger. Most car audio systems comes with the USB port, so you can charge your mobile here too.
- Know your comfortable speed limit: You are on a vacation, so what’s the hurry? The mantra to a pleasurable road trip is to reach your destination and be back home safe and sound. Whatever people may boast about their vehicle or driving skills, I can, from my own experiences, safely conclude that at high speed you are bound to make more mistakes and these could be fatal. Drive at a safe speed limit and stick to it. Don’t get carried away. Cliché though it might sound, it’s true that ‘speed thrills, but kills’.
- Know how to entertain your family: Don’t take along the music CDs that only you love. Plan entertainment during the road trip in such a way that the entire family can enjoy. Nothing feels better in a road trip than a happy family.
Finally, make your road trip about the journey and enjoy from start to finish. BTW, carry a couple of energy bars along. While driving if you feel tired, munch one and get the energy back to carry on. So, have lovely road trip and don’t forget to share your experiences with us.