It's almost Australia day, and for some of us that means long weekend adventures. Maybe you're even even going to be hitting the open road. Road trips are fun, but they're even better when you're organised and safe. Here are our tips for prepping your car for a road warrior holiday.
Safety first, kids!
The last thing you want is for something to go wrong on the open road. It's dangerous and will put a massive dampener on your holiday.
Make sure you do the following before you leave:
- Get it serviced: It costs money but will potentially save you a fortune in the long run (not to mention the aggravation of breaking down unexpectedly.)
- Check the battery: make sure it's strong and the terminals are clean
- Check your tyres: make sure they have enough tread and pressure. You can use the tyre placard that comes with your car and in the owner's manual. Alternatively, ask your local tyre shop. Also make sure that and they're free of significant wear, marks and even objects like nails.
- Check that the fluids are topped up: engine oil, water, transmission, coolants, brakes, power steering
- Clean your windscreen
- Familiarise yourself with your cruise control: The open road is the perfect time to use it
- Make sure all your lights work
- Join a roadside assistance service such as NRMA, RACQ, or RACV. If you're driving a 4WD or large SUV, it's worth investigating temporarily paying a higher premium to ensure you're covered for additional towing allowances.
- Ensure your registration and insurance are up to date
- Pack safe -- make sure that you don't block your vision or have loose items moving around. Got a wagon or 4WD? Consider using a cargo net to secure your load. Don't just rely on the plastic divider to stop items flying forward.
- Get a good night sleep
Now that the car is safe, it's probably best to try and keep it, and yourself that way. Be sure to keep the following on hand in case of emergency.
- Spare Tyre: don't forget to check its tread and pressure
- Tyre changing kit
- Jumper cables
- Water: both for the car and drinking
- Food: preferably long life.
- First aid kit
- LED flares
- Pillows and blankets
- Thick cloth
- Spare socks and underwear: my mum has always insisted on this and she's right.
But if you're looking for an alternative, try Waze -- a navigation app where you can also share info with other drivers about accidents, mobile speed cameras, traffic conditions, etc. Not sure which to go with? We have a handy comparison here.
If you're not following any particular path, or if you're meeting up with people along the way, you may want to try Glympse. It allows you to share your real time location and ETA with whoever you want through email, text or social media.
It also has calendar integration if you want a group of people to have eyes on you. This is a great app for those of us with paranoid mothers back home.
If you prefer to to not stare at your phone whilst driving, you can also opt for a separate GPS or navigation unit. Alternatively, use your natural sense of direction and physical navigation cues to find your way.
Part of the fun of road trips is finding weird little places to eat at along the way. But it's equally important to have food in the car.
Chips and lollies are pretty standard fair, but if you want to go for some healthier options that travel well, you might like to try:
- Energy bars
- Dried Fruit
And let's not forget that it's the 21st century. There's no reason that you can't throw in a little modern comfort, especially when it comes to the road trip liquid of the gods, coffee.
If you're planning to go off road or somewhere remote, and don't want to compromise your caffeine quality, be sure to pop a Handspresso in the car.
This handheld, portable coffee maker can take both pod and freshly ground beans. This is one for the coffee snob in all of us.
While you're at it -- why put up with warm drinks when you can deck out your car with a mini fridge that plugs right into your car's USB port or power outlet? Alternatively, kick it old school with an eskie and some ice.
Road tripping with multiple people means that you're going to need some charging power. Although newer cars often have at least one USB Port near the radio controls and two or more in the centre console -- these still may not quite cut it.
For multiple device charging, get yourself a USB hub that can connect straight into your car's power outlet or USB port.
If you need to charge items with proper plugs, such as laptops or the aforementioned mini fridge, a power inverter is a more heavy duty option and works the same way.
While you're at it, think about investing in pocket WiFi. It's perfect for internet junkies who don't want to burn all their phone data -- you never know when you might need it. Think of it as an extra safety precaution.
Sweet tunes are essential for any respectable road trip.
If you don't want to kick it old school with a sleeve full of CDs, you have a few digital options.
Spotify is the most obvious choice, with its myriad of user made playlists -- plenty of which have been designed for road tripping. You can of course also construct your own epic jam mix.
Google Play Music is another great contender. Not only is it free to listen option comparable to Spotify and Pandora, its paid service is really competitive. It's library is roughly the same sized, your subscription gives you access to YouTube Red (No more ads on regular videos and access to original YouTube content) and you make audio only playlists from YouTube Videos.
Apple Music is another popular option and gives you access to Beats 1 -- a proper radio station curated by Zane Lowe. Sadly, it doesn't offer a free tier service so unless you're big on accessing Taylor Swift's catalogue the legit way, you may want to pass.
Not everyone is a huge fan of music. Personally, I'm a big fan of listening to podcasts in the car and on my daily commute. They're perfect for long drives and you can find something for just about everyone.
- Comedy -- Welcome To Night Vale, Harmontown, Slumber Party With Alie and Georgia, My Dad Wrote A Porno, The Dead Authors Podcast
- Crime -- Serial, Bowraville, My Favorite Murder, Stranglers
- Tech -- Static (we do love a bit of shameless self promotion), Reply All, The Smoking Tire
- Gaming -- Giant Bombcast, Dragon Friends, 28 Plays Later
- Pop Culture -- You Must Remember This, Pop Culture Happy Hour, Slate's Culture Gabfest
- Generally Cool And Smart Things -- Stuff You Should Know, StarTalk (with Neil Degrasse Tyson), Stuff You Missed in History Class, Radiolab, Call Your Girlfriend, Here's The Thing with Alec Baldwin
There's an app for pretty much everything now, and the same applies to road trips. Here are a few that you might want to download before you put the key in the ignition.
Google Trips is a solid place to start. It can do everything from organise your reservations to offer personalised recommendations based on your Google history. It also works offline, so it won't chew up your data -- just download everything (including maps and guides) before you leave.
If aren't sure where each road trip day will take you, search for accommodation on the go with AirBNB or Hotel Tonight. Alternatively, if you are more trusting and prefer free accommodation, try Couchsurfing.
Lastly, Tinder. Hey, you never know.
Thinking of going four wheel driving? Check out Gizmodo's series on 4WD: