The Road Tripper's Guide
Road Trips: Are They Right for You?
For must of us adventurous spirits, road trips are a quintessential travel experience. It’s hands-down the best way to explore a country with total freedom. On the other hand, it can also be a lot of work and money, which begs the question, “are road trips right for me?” Below, we review some of the pros and cons of road trips to help you decide if it’s right for you!
1. YOU CALL THE SHOTS
Had a long night and feel like sleeping in? No problem! Travelling by car means you don’t have to worry about missing early morning flights or rides; you are your own chauffeur. Driving along a scenic mountain highway and want to stop to snap a pic? Go for it! Bus drivers must keep to a tight schedule, but why should you? It’s important to take it all in while travelling. And hey, if you drank too much coffee over breakfast, you can make as many pee-stops as you want without bothering anyone.
2. YOU CAN TAKE IT ALL WITH YOU
Even if you’re someone who likes to travel light, it doesn’t hurt to have the option to bring more. If you’re driving your own car, pack things like a BBQ, camping gear, and a solid emergency kit. Taking along a few extra things that you won’t fit in your backpack (trust me, I’ve tried) means you’ll spend less money on food, accommodation, and other essentials. It also provides you with a sense of the familiar; a nice comfort when dusk falls and a wave of homesickness washes over you.
3. TAKE AS MUCH (OR AS LITTLE) TIME AS YOU WANT
Ever arrive somewhere and absolutely fall in love with it? Having the freedom of your own vehicle means you can follow any and every whim (as you should when you travel!). Or, maybe you pull into a town and there’s no accommodation available for the night. Well, driving gives you the flexibility to move on to the next town. Have you ever arrived at a destination, only to be sorely disappointed to discover its crawling with tourists and hawkers? No need to linger — start your engine and move on!
4. YOU GET TO SEE THE COUNTRY LIKE A LOCAL
Airplanes take you to airports, buses take you to bus terminals, and trains take you to train stations. But what about everything in between point A and point B? Driving a car gives you the freedom to discover all the nooks and crannies of a region. Sometimes, locals will recommend somewhere that’d be too logistically complicated to visit otherwise. But, with a set of wheels at your disposal, the country really is your oyster!
5. YOU COULD SPEND LESS MONEY
This is especially true if you’re travelling with friends or family. Unlike airplane, train, and bus fares, you can split the cost of gas, rental fees, and any required maintenance or damages. If you’re driving a normal 5-seater vehicle, four people should be your limit. If you’ve got five or more people, consider using a minivan or even renting two separate cars.
1. THERE ARE (MUCH) FASTER WAYS TO TRAVEL
There’s no getting around this one. It’s a double-edged sword: the pro is that you get to see the entire country (whether you want to or not), while the con means trying to stay awake for extended periods of time as miles on miles of asphalt zoom endlessly by. If you’re strapped for time, renting a car lets you go exactly where you want, but ask yourself: how far apart are my destinations and is the effort worth the reward?
2. PARKING CAN BE A HUGE BUMMER
This can be both time-consuming and expensive, especially in more urban environments. You can end up spending a lot on parking meters, parking lots, and even parking tickets (common in places where the signs aren’t in English). Guide books often provide you with an idea of the parking situation in a place you’re visiting, so it doesn’t hurt to do some due diligence ahead of time.
3. YOU’RE RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERYTHING
The upshot of calling the shots: if something happens to the vehicle, you’re responsible for the damages. And that can get pricey. Or maybe you misread the maximum speed signs in (remember the rest of the world is in metric!) and the cop who pulls you over isn’t feeling so generous. That can result in a hefty ticket, as well as demerit points. The freedom of the road comes with the responsibility of being able to drive safely. That means no drinking or intoxicants within at least a few hours of driving (and preferably not at all until you’ve stopped for the day). You must also always aim to get enough rest.
4. THE WEATHER MATTERS
It’s always sunny while flying high in a Boeing 747, but back on land the weather can quickly turn a scenic drive into a perilous journey. While driving in a rainfall or snowstorm is not impossible, it does require some preparation and a good sense of timing. If you anticipate driving in snow (either because of the season or the altitude), make sure your vehicle is equipped with the right set of tires, and maybe opt for an SUV instead of a sedan. Likewise, if rain is forecasted, consider postponing that hair-raising drive along the mountain-cliff until it clears up. Rain and snow aside, fog should also be taken seriously. It can obscure visibility almost entirely, blinding you to upcoming bends or oncoming traffic. Because we can’t control every detail of our trip, just be sure you or one of your travel companions feels comfortable driving in bad weather. And always turn on your headlights!
5. YOU COULD ACTUALLY SPEND MORE MONEY
This is especially true if you’re travelling alone and must pay for all your fuel. You must also anticipate unexpected costs, like toll bridges, ferries, engine oil, windshield wiper fluid, and any mechanical breakdown you may experience. It’s a good idea to set aside some “just in case” money for those unforeseen expenses. On the topic of driving alone, the other issue that may arise is not having anyone to split the driving with, placing you at risk of driving tired.
What’s your verdict? While it’s true that setting out on a road-trip isn’t the easiest way to travel, it’s certainly the most rewarding. Besides, no one ever said that something worth doing is going to be easy. But it can certainly be less hard if you plan ahead, prepare as best you can, and be attentive to yourself and the world around you. As we’ve seen, travelling in a group is safer, and sharing the responsibility gives you a chance to simply unwind in the backseat and take in the views (all the while saving money!). So, if you think the pros outweigh the cons, it’s time to learn exactly what you will need to pack for your next road trip adventure!