Australia road trip travel tips and advice: The 20 things you must do on a summer road trip

They say necessity is the mother of invention – though this summer, necessity is going to be the mother of vacations. Because suddenly, our choices are very limited.

No trips to Bali. No escapes to New Zealand. No white Christmases in the northern hemisphere. Instead we're all staying in Australia, and given the relative scarcity of flights and the lingering concerns about taking them, there's going to be one style of holiday that will be extremely popular: road trips.

Done right, road trips are amazing. The scenery. The company. The sausage rolls.

Follow these rules, and you should have a great time.

1. Use a GPS

Scientists have discovered that more than 110 per cent of in-car arguments could be solved with the addition of a GPS. No more disputes over dad's secret shortcut that he kinda-sorta remembers from last time. No more furious glances as paper maps are turned left and right, and upside down in the passenger seat. Just follow the GPS. You have one in your pocket.

2. Figure out how far you actually have to go

Secondary to the GPS rule is the advice to calculate how far you actually have to drive in a day and leave at an appropriate time. Remember, Australia is a big country and the roos come out at dusk.

Plan ahead and use the GPS.

Plan ahead and use the GPS. Photo: Dee Kramer/Destination NSW

3. The driver chooses the music

Though the official, legal laws of road trips are yet to be published, once they are, this will be on there: the driver chooses the music (or the podcast). He or she who volunteers to steer a carload of whingers across the country is at least given the honour of belting out their favourite 80s power ballads while they do so.

4. Anyone in the passenger seat is not allowed to sleep

Oi. You in the passenger seat. Wake up. Pass over some snacks. Help out with directions. Change the music. If you want to sleep, you sit in the back.

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Absolutely no sleeping allowed in the front seats.

Absolutely no sleeping allowed in the front seats. Photo: Alamy

5. Go hard on snacks and entertainment

One of the natural rules of life, up there with "what goes up, must come down", is that you can never have too many snacks for a road trip. Go crazy on Minties and Snakes Alive; stock up on chips and dips; get down to your local South African butcher and buy a metric crapload of biltong. And make sure you've downloaded plenty of music and podcasts – there are some huge 3G dead zones out there.

6. Make sure the driver is sorted

Digging into the snacks? Ensure whoever has the wheel is being hand-fed.

The scenic coastal drive along Sea Cliff Bridge, Clifton.

The scenic coastal drive along Sea Cliff Bridge, Clifton. Photo: DEE KRAMER/Destination NSW

7. Lower your roadside expectations

Do not, under any circumstances, pull up at a servo or a road services centre or even a small country diner in Australia and expect the food and the coffee to be good. With a few notable exceptions that I'm sure are being furiously emailed to me right now, roadside food here is terrible.

8. Eat a sausage roll

That said, there are very few instances in this modern world where it's socially acceptable to buy and eat a dirty, three-day-old sausage roll wrapped in piping-hot plastic. This is one of them. Make the most of it.

9. Go somewhere new

Driving up the scenic driveway to Poachers Pantry, Springrange, NSW.

Driving up the scenic driveway to Poachers Pantry, Springrange, NSW. Photo: Jesse Smith/Destination NSW

Though it's great to revisit old-favourite haunts and reminisce about old times, this is the summer to try a new destination. Spread the love. Thin the crowds. Choose somewhere you've never been, somewhere you've always planned to go, or maybe somewhere you've never even heard of, and give it a try. Particularly if that place was affected by bushfires.

10. Avoid Byron

Crowds at Byron Bay.

Crowds at Byron Bay. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Seriously. Unless you already have a booking, forget Byron Bay. The place is packed.

11. Sort out the bill-splitting rules

If you're travelling with friends, sort out your bill-splitting arrangement early on, before you've even turned the key in the ignition. Who is paying for what, and when. Avoid awkward chats/fights/falling out and never speaking to each other again later on.

12. Stop at all "big things"

The Big Pineapple in Nambour, Queensland.

The Big Pineapple in Nambour, Queensland.

As an Australian, you owe it to yourself and to your country to stop at every single "big thing" – from the most half-arsed Big Avocado to the most spectacular Big Bogan – and take a hilarious photo of yourself in front of it. It's Insta gold, at the very least.

13. Do the speed limit

It's just not worth getting done for speeding in Australia, particularly over the holiday season. The smallest slip in concentration could cost you about 250 sausages rolls. (Or 300, if you don't want sauce.)

14. Eat a vanilla slice from a country bakery

The humble vanilla slice: A road trip must.

The humble vanilla slice: A road trip must. Photo: Jason South

Declare it's the best one you've ever tasted.

15. Follow the local COVID-19 regulations

It doesn't matter than no one in the local area has had so much as a sniffle in the last nine months – people in rural areas are taking COVID-19 regulations seriously. They don't have the virus, and they don't want it. As a visitor the onus is on you to help ensure they're successful.

16. Book ahead

This is not the summer for a spontaneous jaunt wherever the road may take you. It's going to be busy out there – plenty of popular accommodation options are already booked out. If you're planning to hit the road, make sure you have a bed sorted.

17. Punish the late-comers

There's always one: someone who queues too long to buy snacks, or takes forever in the toilet, or just faffs around and forces everyone else in the car to wait at every stop. It's perfectly ok to go park behind a truck and make this late-comer think you've left without them.

18. Eat a Macca's breakfast

Breakfast, anyone?

Breakfast, anyone? Photo: McDonald's

Mostly you'll want to support small local businesses and get your breakfast from cafes or diners. But this is also the time to enjoy a guilt-free bacon-and-egg muffin and hashbrown (road trips come with their own dietary rules), which must be scarfed in the car while driving, spreading oil stains and soggy bits of hashbrown all over the place.

19. Stay in the left lane

Hey, Australian drivers: stay in the left lane. Only move into the right lane when you're overtaking. It's really simple.

20. Carry sanitiser. Hold your nose

Been to a servo toilet lately? It's an experience. Carry your own sanitiser, and try not to think about that scene in Trainspotting.

See also: The 10 best stops: Driving Sydney to Melbourne on the inland route

See also: Five places worth stopping at along the Hume Highway

Are you going on a road trip this summer? What are you secrets to success? Where are you going to go? 

Email: b.groundwater@traveller.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

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