The secret to a good road trip

Step one: take a GPS. Or just a phone with GPS capability. Or a really good map and someone who knows how to read it.

With this simple step in place you're already on your way to road trip success; you've already cancelled out the source of so many arguments and so many issues. You won't get lost. Life is good.

With summer upon us, with hot weather beaming down and here to stay, it's time to start thinking about the great Australian road trip. It's time to embrace the freedom of pointing your car down the highway and just going, exploring the country, having fun with your family or mates.

Now is the perfect time to hit the open road, whether it's for a round-the-country mega-adventure or just a little daytrip down the coast. Whichever you choose, there are a few things to think about if you want to do road tripping right.

The first of those is to take a GPS. It might seem unspontaneous, and it might seem like you're surrendering to technology, but the time and pain it will save in the form of arguments and dead-end roads makes it easily worth its while.

The next step, and one that's just as important, is to choose your company wisely. Great friends do not necessarily make great road trip companions. You want a crew of people who are relaxed, people who are spontaneous, people who deal with problems with the minimum of fuss, and, most importantly, people who have similar music taste to you.

If you're going to spend a long time in the car, you're going to spend a long time listening to the radio. And the last thing you want is to be subjected to five straight hours of Rihanna if your tastes run more towards Rancid.

Maybe you won't have exactly the same music tastes as your road-tripping buddies, but as long as they're similar you can still experience sonic joy in the car. Before you leave, get everyone to contribute, say, 20 songs to a playlist. Cue that up, set it on shuffle, and your music woes are sorted.   

What car are you driving? The thing about great road trips is that, unless you're a proper car nut, it really doesn't matter. From a Kombi to a convertible, a station wagon to a sedan, the mode of transport is not what's important here – it's the company, and the destination. Sure, I drove a Mustang up Highway 1 in California and it was one of the best experiences I've had, but you could have an equally good time in a Corolla.


Just get something comfortable that's not going to break down on you.

Next up, your plan. It's good to have a rough plan, but you don't want anything that comes in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. The great thing about road trips is the freedom to go wherever you please, whenever you please.

It might be handy to have a few bookings along the way, but give yourself the flexibility to be spontaneous. Feel like checking out that beach? Do it. Feel like pulling into that campsite? Do it. Don't restrict yourself to a concrete itinerary.

Wherever you're going, take snacks. Lots of snacks. Make them Minties and Fantales and Snakes Alive. These are the road trip versions of party pies and sausage rolls: the classics that your mum used to pull out back in the day. It's as good for nostalgia as it is for a sweet tooth.

Learn a few things about basic car maintenance. I have to admit, the first time I set out driving on my own, on a holiday in Scotland, I didn't know how to change a tyre. This resulted in a very sheepish call to the owner of the car – a local Scottish farmer – and some very frightening roadside assistance from an irate version of said farmer.

Learn how to change a tyre, how to check oil and water, and carry the requisite tools to do all of those things while on the road. 

And lastly, while this might be a road trip, it doesn't mean you should try to drive a long way each day. There's no need to spend every hour on the road – give yourself plenty of chances to stop off and enjoy the places you're visiting.

Leave time to swim, to hike, to wander and explore. Have lazy lunches. Wiggle your toes in the sand. And set easy drive-day targets.

Because even with that GPS, you might still get lost.

What are your trips for a successful road trip?