If you’ve ever been on a road trip, you’ve learned the hard way what not to do. To make it easy for anyone planning a road trip, we want to give a list of general dos and don’ts to help you along for your upcoming journey.
1. Keep your camper clean
As you go along your trip, take time every couple of days to purge your car of undesirable flotsam and jetsam. Even if you can tolerate some chaos, the accumulated junk and minor filth will start to drive you mad in the close quarters that define a road trip.
2. Have a loose plan
Delays are the one thing that you can count on when driving significant distances. No matter how much you plan, you should be prepared for delays and other inconveniences. Our tip: Don’t stress about it too much. Just keep an open mind and go with the flow.
3. Don’t research your stops beforehand
Ahh . . . expectation, the grand crippler of many a road tripper’s happiness. On a road trip, your schedule has extra room, so you can afford to enter a new city with no prior knowledge of what you’ll find. Being relatively clueless has benefits. When you don’t know what to expect at a stop, you can’t possibly be let down by what you discover. Leave the door wide open for weird little discoveries, the city’s true gems.
4. Bring a real, actual map and a really big Sharpie.
Google Maps is awesome for driving directions, but it’s infinitely more fun to track your progress on a real, printed-out atlas. Trace your route on the map as you go along. You’ll have fun looking back on your journey once you’ve hit the finish line of your trip.
5. Be warned for tolls.
Toll roads can pop up in the most bizarre of places, and their fares might be higher than you expect. If you are picking up any fines on the way – PAY THEM IMMEDIATELY! All car and campervan rental companies will charge you an admin fee if any fine comes back to them. They can be anywhere between $50 to $150 for each individual fine. This is to cover their paperwork — you will end up paying the admin fee plus the fine will then be sent to you back home by the Australian government, and they won’t forget about it either! FOR TOLLS, Australia sadly doesn’t have the ‘pay cash’ option so you need to register your vehicle online or call the road toll company directly. Most of the campervan rental companies will provide you with the necessary information. Do not take this lightly. It will only take a few minutes to register your vehicle so take the time to do it.
6. Make up your own road games.
Unlock the “are we there yet?” child within and use your pent-up creativity to pass the time. Play a game of “seven questions” instead of 21. Re-cast your favorite movies using you and your trip mates as the actors. Count how many times you see the word “chicken” on a billboard. Get funky with it. Use your imagination and come up with your own entertainment so you don’t get bored while making your way over to the next stop.
7. Ask a local where to eat.
Nine times out of ten, a local will lead you to a tastier, cheaper dinner with better ambiance than a guidebook could ever suggest. Those guidebooks take time to update, so they wouldn’t have all the latest restaurants and cafe listed. Find a local who looks like they know what’s up, and ask the simple question. Locals will be full of suggestions since they would, of course, know the area better.
8. Embrace the gas station.
Some are gourmet. Some, less so. But they’ve got cheap eats, classic candies, bathrooms, and fuel all in one. Stop at gas stations often, and you’re bound to hit some remarkable ones which will positively make your trip.
9. Take pictures!
. . . and not just the Instagram kind. Road trips are prime fodder for beautiful scrapbooks once you get home. Take plenty of photos as you go along your adventure. You’ll be happy you took those snaps when you are sorting out the pictures to upload or put in a scrapbook.
10. Take your time
“I would like to hire a campervan from Melbourne to Cairns — 10 days, please.” Australia is a very big country. It’s bigger than Europe and nearly the same size as the US — so please take your time. Australia has only one highway that goes all around the country, often with only one lane. So, all the traffic will be on the same road! Do your research and don’t try to cut corners by driving at night (There are lots of active wildlife around on Australian roads during night time.) or speeding. You don’t just want to end up spending 75 percent of your time in your van and 25 percent actually enjoying Australia. Our suggestions would be: Sydney to Cairns, 21 days; Perth to Darwin, 21 days; Sydney to Brisbane, 10 days; and Melbourne to Brisbane, 14 days. It might seem like a long time on paper, but really, you would get so much more out of your trip if you just take your time and enjoy each area of Australia without rushing to the next pit stop.
Sometimes when packing for a long haul trip it can feel like you need to bring every last one of your possessions. In reality, you just have to plan what you will wear over the next few days. Bring items you can mix and match so that you don’t have to bring your whole closet with you. Packing too much leaves you with very little space in your van, which can make your trip quite uncomfortable.
Underpacking can be equally as upsetting as overpacking. Whenever and wherever you travel, there are always the same essentials you have to pack and bring with you. And as is often the case, it’s so easy to forget a few essentials, leaving you having to scramble for a pharmacy or store on your travels to pick up what you forgot. This can be a colossal waste of time when you are on a tight schedule. Try making a Permanent Travel List of the things you always have to bring with you. You’ll find that this will save you so much time and grief later on.
3. Forget snacks
No matter how long you are going to drive, someone is bound to get hungry. Having to continually stop to pick up food can get annoying very quickly, so come prepared. Make sure you pack both sweet and salty snacks so you have something for every craving. Another great tip would be to think about the “mess factor” of each snack. Try to keep the mess to a minimum and bring dry snacks like hard candies and crackers.
4. Forget to fill up
Before hitting the highway when you start your road trip, make sure you fill up your tank. You don’t want to go 3 kilometers down the road only to find out that you need to stop for gas.
5. Forget the camera
There will be plenty of moments you will want to remember forever, so make sure you capture them. The night before you leave, check and double check to make sure your camera is already packed in your bag.
6. Drive straight through
Instead of flying down endless miles of highway, try pulling off the road every once in a while and exploring. Driving straight past those areas will make you miss a lot of local sights. If you know what areas you will be driving through beforehand, you can research local attractions and visit them to make it a road trip to remember.
7. Wear the wrong clothes
Your choice of clothing has a huge effect on your comfort during the journey. You won’t be happy on your adventure if you are not comfortable. The main tip would be to not wear restrictive clothing. We’re not saying you have to wear pajamas or big, baggy clothes also. While you don’t have to look like a slob (unless you really want to), make sure you wear clothes that you know you will be comfortable in for more than a few hours. Jogging pants, sweat pants, active wear, and comfortable T-shirts are ideal attire for long-haul road trips.
Did this article get you excited about your next adventure? We have a load of Other Road Trips here, come and explore.
Whether you’re a first-time campervan traveller or a seasoned van lifer, check out our other handy Campervan Travel Tips before you start your Aussie adventure.
Bastian is the Sales & Marketing Manager here at Travellers Autobarn. He holds a Master of Commerce in Marketing and International Business Management, and 20+ years experience in campervan hire, road trips and travel.