Shut up and drive:

a handy guide to road-tripping, from campsites to saving dosh and the best travel tunes.


Road-tripping tips, from campsites to playlists

So you’ve decided to hit the wide open road and see what this equally wide brown land has to offer. Or perhaps you’re hanging out on foreign soil and keen to immerse yourself in their local spoils. First things first, you’ll need to decide on your final destinatio­n. Where do you ultimately want to wind up? Once that’s settled, map out a general route that takes in any sites you definitely want to visit (apps like Google Maps or Roadtrippe­rs can help with this). Try not to get too finicky, though – road trips are about fun and adventure, so leave some room for spontaneou­s detours. And don’t forget to work ample breaks into your itinerary – you don’t want to spend the entire time driving. ...................

You’ll also need to consider what type of road trip you’d like to take. Will you be jetting from point A to B in a luxury car and living it up in the finest hotels, or hurtling along in a beat-up Kombi and sleeping at any campsite or quiet spot you find? Part of this will be determined by your budget, but also the kind of holiday that makes you do a happy dance. (A kitsch country motel? Don’t mind if we do!) Other factors include the number of travellers (and how long their legs are), where you’re actually driving, the type of accommodat­ion available and how much luggage you’re carting around. ...................

Speaking of vehicles, have you made sure yours is capable of lasting a lengthy journey? Whether you’re driving a campervan, a motorbike or a regular old hatchback, you’d do well to book it in for a service before you depart. Get the mechanic to check the car’s fluid levels, wipers, brakes and anything else that could potentiall­y cause problems. Make sure your spare tyre is in good condition and you have jumper cables on hand. After all, nothing puts a dampener on a cross-country expedition quite like conking out on the side of a random highway.

Look, here’s the truth: road trips can make or break a friendship. So it’s important to think before you set off in a small, enclosed space with your housemate’s second cousin for an extended period of time. Sure, they may tickle your fancy in short bursts, but can you imagine being stuck beside them for seven straight hours, through traffic jams, unexpected detours and desperate hunts for a toilet? Are their expectatio­ns for this trip the same as your own? Are they likely to crack the shits a few hours in or force you to do all the driving? Choose travel buddies who match your dispositio­n – and bonus points if they’re ace at something you’re not, like navigating or making ripper playlists. ...................

While you’re driving, keep an eye out for servos – those one-stop shops will become your saviours. Fill up the petrol tank, stock up on snacks, stretch your legs, make a quick trip to the loo. The bigger ones might even have a decent café so you can power up with a coffee and that road-trip staple: the sausage roll. (Though you’ll definitely find the best versions in teeny-tiny towns, rather than highway service stations.) Another plus is that they often have free wi-fi available, which is handy if you’ve spent half the day without reception. ...................

Road trips are for exploring the road less travelled; for following fun signs to odd tourist attraction­s or frolicking in flower fields. But don’t forget to stay safe in between all the frivolity. Read up on the road rules of the country you’re traversing (over at, or, for example), follow advice from locals, and let loved ones know where you expect to be each day. If you’re feeling worn out, stop for a rest or power nap. With a few simple safety measures in place, you’ll be free to pretend you’re the main character in a light-hearted, whimsical road-trip movie.

A little bored with staring out the window watching cows and fence posts whiz by? Well, as someone once said (apparently), “Only boring people are bored,” so maybe it’s time you figure out a more fun way to fill your time.

There are road-trip games, of course, like I Spy or a scavenger hunt, where everyone’s on the lookout for a predetermi­ned list of items (a purple car, a misspelt sign, some roadkill or a hay bale, for instance). You could also tell jokes, play hypothetic­als or get to know each other with a personal quiz.

For something a little less interactiv­e, why not pop on a long-form podcast or audiobook? It’s a way to spend time together without having to be ‘switched on’. (Plus, a murder mystery or dreamy tale is all the more atmospheri­c with scenic landscapes flying past.)

And what about a good ol’-fashioned sing-along? Find a driving playlist online or whip up one of your own. It could just be a mish-mash of your favourite tunes to belt out on a sunny day, or perhaps you’d like to theme it a little – here are some top-notch tracks about movement and being on the road:

“No Particular Place to Go” by Chuck Berry • “Holiday Road” by Lindsey Buckingham • “I Drove All Night” by Cyndi Lauper • “Roam” by The B-52s • “Road to Nowhere” by Talking Heads • “Keep the Car Running” by Arcade Fire • “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman • “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC • “The Passenger” by Iggy Pop

Your full packing list will be shaped by how long you’re travelling, where you’re staying, the time of year and who’s along for the ride. There are, however, a few bits and bobs any road-tripper should have on hand (beginning with your driver’s licence!).

Reusable water bottle Buying bottled water is a waste of dosh and also pretty crappy for the environmen­t, so bring along a reusable bottle – the bigger the better – that you can fill up at rest stops.

Cooler bag or esky An important priority is, of course, snacks. Packing an insulated container with yummy things will save you from having to make a pit stop every time someone starts feeling peckish.

Roadside emergency gear Make like a scout and always be prepared with either a DIY or ready-made emergency kit. Some handy additions: jumper cables, a reflective safety vest, a torch, a poncho, a tyre pressure gauge and first-aid supplies.

Electronic doodads Phones and cameras are vital for on-the-road adventures, whether for navigating, capturing memories or finding the best vanilla slice. Make sure you bring along any relevant car chargers and cables, and ideally a hands-free phone mount to keep your mitts off it at all times.

Cotton blanket or towel A few reasons to pack a lightweigh­t blanket or towel: rugging up, spontaneou­s swims, protecting bare legs from piping-hot seats, roadside picnics. A large sheet can also be used to cover bags when you leave the car unattended.

Sun protection If you’ve ever suffered from ‘driver’s arm burn’ or tried steering a vehicle with the sun glaring in your eyes, you’ll know the importance of packing some sunnies and sunscreen on any road trip.

Toiletries Aside from your standard tooth and face-cleaning bits, you’ll do well to pack some emergency hygiene supplies, like tissues, toilet paper, hand sanitiser and wet wipes (for side-of-the-road ‘showers’).

Spare cash Yes, most places take card these days, but it can’t hurt to have a stash of cash on your person – especially if you’re planning to use parking meters or hit up rural op shops and roadside stalls.

Cleaning kit Hanging out in a cramped space for hours on end makes it grubby, that’s a fact. Grab some paper towels, a makeshift bin and antibacter­ial wipes. If you have one handy, a dustbuster is ace for cleaning up stray crumbs or sand.

Pillow At some point, both passengers and drivers are going to want to have a little snooze. A pillow will make it a bit more comfortabl­e, even if your body has morphed into a weird pretzel.

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