How to plan the perfect road trip

Travelling Well | Wendy Hargreaves, Blanche Clarke | Images: Tourism Victoria | Posted on 02 November 2020

Dreaming of a getaway after months in lockdown? Here’s how to nail your next road trip.

After months of lockdown, many Victorians are eager to rediscover the simple pleasures of a road trip, with the chance to do something new and have an adventure. As restrictions ease, thoughts are turning to visiting beach towns, alpine hideaways, rainforests, vineyards, historic villages and relaxing day spas across the state. 

Although it’s tempting to just throw a few essentials in the boot and roar away, those well-versed in the art of road tripping know preparation is the key.  

“Everyone loves the freedom of the road trip,” says veteran motoring writer Paul Gover. “But here’s the thing about road trips – most people commute in their cars for 50 weeks a year, then do an eight-hour drive for holidays. It’s like training for the 100 metres all year and switching to a marathon. It’s important to pace yourself and get your car prepared.” 

Road trip through rainforest

There could be a sudden influx of visitors to popular destinations so be sure to call and book ahead.


How to nail your next road trip


Plan ahead

If you’re feeling desperate to hit the road within days of the restrictions easing, chances are you’re not alone. There could be a sudden influx of visitors to popular destinations, such as Phillip Island and the Great Ocean Road. You don’t want to drive for three hours and then find you can’t get a seat in a cafe or a booking at a hotel.

The new COVID normal will mean you’ll need to call to book accommodation and dining before you leave, as social-distancing restrictions mean venues and accommodation will be allowed fewer guests. Some popular destinations may not have reopened at all, so it’s best to check before you leave.  

When mapping out your trip try route planners to help you decide on the best places for rest stops and meal breaks, or find road-trip destinations in Victorian tourism guides. 

Buying an old-school paper map can also be useful when heading into the bush, where network blackspots can leave you in the lurch. RACV shops have a huge range of maps for sale. Another road-trip hack is to download Google’s map for the region to your device so you can access it offline. 

Check your wheels

Nicholas Platt, RACV’s vehicles senior engineer, says the key to any trip away is preparation. “If your car is due for a service, get this done a couple of weeks before you go away,” he says. “Check all your tyres are inflated properly, including the spare. If there is any damage or they are worn, get them replaced.” 

RACV members save five per cent on vehicle servicing, repairs and parts at RACV Accredited Auto Care Centres.

You can also go through our checklist to make sure the oil, coolant, tyre pressure, hoses, windscreen and other parts of the car are in tip-top condition.

Nicholas says pack what you need for your trip but don’t over-pack. “The heavier a car is the more fuel it uses. Roof racks and boxes also significantly reduce economy,” he says.

Finally, any car can break down so RACV Emergency Roadside Assistance is valuable for peace of mind. RACV Total Care is tailored for long-distance driving, with unlimited callouts and up to $15,000 in benefits, plus cover if you have a caravan and trailer.

Stay focused 

Elvira Lazar, RACV’s senior policy adviser on safety, says drivers should plan rest stops and avoid fatigue on long journeys. 

“It’s important to be well rested, and not to drive during times when you would normally be asleep,” Elvira says. “It’s also good to plan rest stops and take breaks every two hours on long trips.”  

She says drivers should allow plenty of time to enjoy the trip and avoid rushing to their destination, and consider what time of day you’ll be driving. The most dangerous times on the road are dawn and dusk because of lower visibility and an increased likelihood of encountering wildlife. 

If there are children along for the ride, pack a variety of road-trip games and activities to prevent driver distractions. While a road trip gives you the chance to listen to music, audio books and podcasts, avoid anything soporific and choose something lively to help you stay alert. 

Car driving along dirt road
Couple looking over ocean at sunset
Ute pulled over on dirt road

Check your car's oil, coolant, tyre pressure and windscreen water, and if it's been a while between services, book in at your local RACV Accredited Auto Care Centre before you hit the road.


Play safe

Pack your own hand wash and sanitiser, along with disinfectant wipes. Your car’s first aid kit might also include disposable face masks and gloves. 

Keep an eye on the Victorian government’s daily COVID-19 update in case there are any regional outbreaks and for news on restrictions. 

It’s a good idea to let a relative or someone trustworthy know where you’re going and when you expect to return. But don’t brag about the trip on social media while you’re away – burglars love the intel. 

Peckish?

The anticipation of a fabulous meal in regional Victoria can be half the fun of a road trip. But Paul Gover warns against eating big meals during the trip.  

“Whatever you do, don’t eat too much when you’re driving,” he says. “If you have a big meal, all of your blood flow goes to digesting the food rather than to your brain, so you’ll end up needing a nap, just like after Christmas lunch. 

“On road trips, it’s always better to eat little and often. Save the big meal for when you’re staying the night.” 

Most importantly, pack your portable cooler, and make sure you whack in some ice packs to keep your food haul cool. Or invest in a car refrigerator that plugs into your vehicle’s 12-volt outlet. 

Factor in free time on a road trip, so you can pull over and stock up at farm gates, bakeries and wineries that are open along the way.