I will always remember January 1, 2009. That was the New Year’s day I found myself on Highway 1 in southern California, with my cousin Ice and my San Francisco housemate Athong. Being the only one who had zero driving skills, I had the privilege of enjoying the scenic view of the Pacific and quaint houses you only saw on storybooks. The picture remains perfect in my mind.
In this age of promo fares, road trips may soon become a lost form of travel. But for those who still prefer the romance of feeling the breeze on their face and holding a map in their hands, I have these 10 helpful tips for land travel. (NOTE: The photos were actually part of our engagement shoot three years and 20 lbs. ago, when we decided, on a spur of the moment, to go with a Road Trip Gone Wrong storyline)
- Have a plan. It’s great to be spontaneous and just go where the fuel takes you.
But if you don’t have unlimited resources and time, the one thing you need to have is a plan. Know your budget, destination, the quickest and alternative routes, traffic condition (so you know which roads to avoid at what time), where to stay and eat, and bus schedules and terminals, if you’re taking public transport.
- Check your car. On the road, the car is your airplane, and nobody wants a crash. Have your vehicle checked thoroughly and make sure you have the right tools in the trunk. And gas up. Don’t think there’s always a gas station somewhere.
- Get enough rest. Well-rested drivers and passengers are less grumpy and more patient. If possible, pick companions who drive so you can take turns. Along the way, if you’re driving and you feel drowsy, pull over (where it’s legal) and take a nap. It’s a road trip not an appointment.
- Stock up on the right stuff. This means food, drinks, garbage bags, toiletries, first-aid kit, bug repellents, flashlight, car phone charger, umbrella, even a travel blanket. The father you go, the more expensive everything becomes. Packed snacks and bottled drinks are the most convenient. Stay hydrated.
- Please have cash. While credit/debit cards are accepted in most establishments in the city, those off-the-beaten paths you so seek may not be as wired. Put your cash in different compartments.
- Keep your valuables with you all the time. Besides money, these include important documents like your driver’s license, car insurance and other IDs.
- Take note of the toilets. Laugh now, but it’s no joke holding your bladder for, say, 30 km. Try and relieve yourself at every stop where there’s a decent restroom.
- Bring a real (paper) map and some good music. These things could just save the day. Even with a swanky apps-loaded phone, you just might find yourself in a country road beyond the reach of technology.
- Make room for unplanned stops. Part of what makes road trips fun is that you can stop. Do you see yourself in that perfect view? Then park and take a picture. This is where the trip becomes as much about the journey as the destination.
- Tell someone. You don’t want your folks reporting a missing person to the police, do you? Keep somebody at home informed of your destination, route and schedule, but be clear that you are on vacation, so they won’t call you to say that the cable guy is back to collect payment.