The open road awaits

Road trips are as much about the journey as they are about the destination. The further we travel down the long stretch of highway, the more it clears our minds and sets us free of the trivial worries of our domestic life. Road trips are just simply good for the soul and this country calls out for them.

Although you want to embrace the unexpected and spontaneous, itís a good idea to have a loose plan in the back pocket. Here're a few things to keep in mind before you hit the road.

Set course

Set your route and stops along the way. Have an idea of when you'll reach your destination. Check your GPS and map to see where the stops are for sight seeing. It's always good to have an old traditional map in case your GPS lets you down.

If we're talking long road trips, which may have you driving for days, plan when you'll be passing towns and sleeping. Drive no more than 10 hours a day and book accommodation in advance, as you don't want to roll up to a town in the evening and find every camping site/motel with no vacancies for weary travellers. This can easily happen during summer school holidays.


Start with a check list before piling everything in the back or on the roof. This will hopefully stop you from taking more than you need, especially if you're travelling with kids.

Pack the big items first like suitcases and boxes and get as many things into each one to save room. Then fill in the gaps between with other essentials. With wagons or SUVs, dont pack so high that it blocks your rear vision.

Keep things like shoes, coats, blankets, toys and snacks in easy reach, so you're not pulling out everything to find them. For a long road trip here are some essential you should make room for:

  • First aid kit
  • Torch
  • Map
  • USB mobile device charge
  • Lighters
  • Duct tape
  • Tyre pressure gauge
  • Jumper cables
  • Water
  • Toilet paper
  • Snacks
  • Emergency numbers

You're good to go. Make sure your car is

There are plenty of other memorable moments youíd enjoy looking back on, rather than having your car break-down by the side of the road between towns. So you need to make sure your car is up for the trip.

If you have any doubts about the reliability of parts of your car or find yourself nearing a due service, do yourself a big favour and book it in with your mechanic. Also, make sure your roadside assistance membership is up to date.

Here are the car essentials you need to check before hitting the long open road.

  • Fluid levels: Check brake, coolant, engine oil, clutch, transmission, power steering and water. You donít want to run dry of any of these vital fluids.
  • Coolant hoses: Ensure your hoses are in good condition and secure, with no coolant leaking. Check where they're joined and make sure they're tight and the rubber not brittle. If youíre heading into the outback, pack a spare radiator hose.
  • Belts: Check the tension on your belts and look for tears or loosening of belts. Itís not a bad thing to carry a spare fan belt so if it needs to be replaced, youíre not relying on a garage to have one for the make of your car.
  • Tyre pressure: Ensure your tyres including the spare are inflated to the vehicle manufacturerís specification for your journey. An under or over-inflated tyre can affect comfort, control and fuel economy. Read more about tyre pressure.
  • Lights: Check all your lights - headlights, high - beam, reverse, indicators and brake lights.
  • Spare keys: Itís not a bad idea to take the spare keys along. Youíll pat yourself on the back if ever you lose the original set.

Tyres are a biggie

One of the most important things to check before rolling out of the driveway is the condition of your tyres. Look for any cracks, tears or bulges in the sidewalls. Make sure you have sufficient tread on all tyres (including your spare) by looking for the tread indication bars found at regular intervals around the tyre.

If the tread pattern is equal to the tread bar, it means you only have the legal minimum of 1.6mm of tread left. When you consider most new tyres start with about 8-9mm of tread, itís probably a good idea to have them replaced. Especially when you consider the safety of all in the car depend on your tyres.

If thereís any question about the roadworthiness of your tyres, please consult an expert at your local Bridgestone store

Give yourself a break

Remember to give yourself a break at least every two to three hours or whenever you feel like it. If your driving along one of our long, straight stretches of highways, just be aware of mental fatigue. It can be easy to lose focus and concentration. If youíre feeling in any way that driving is becoming too much of a task, then give yourself a break.

Whatís your all time long road trip? Had any memorable mishaps along the way? Weíd like to hear them. Tell us in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook.


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