The last thing you need after months of planning and preparation is for everything to go wrong! Don’t let these 5 things ruin what could be the road trip of a lifetime…
1. CAR ALARMS
My first tip is aimed at those of you planning on sleeping in your car at some point during your road trip. Either disable your car alarm before you go (at your own risk) or lock your doors from the inside. Let me elaborate…
As a child, were you ever left in the car while the driver went into the shop and after 30 seconds, you heard that dreaded *click* of the doors auto-locking? You knew that if you moved a muscle, the alarm would sound, sending you into a world of humiliation as the whole car park stared in annoyance.
Well imagine this happening to you now. Only rather than a busy car park, it was a completely silent campsite in the dead of night.
If you’ve already read my previous posts about the road trip we took through Scotland last year, you’ll know that this is what happened to Jordan and I during one of the nights we stayed in the Highlands. No matter how many times we unlocked the car and locked it again, tried to stay still, or read the manual over and over trying to figure out how to disable the alarm – the alarm would keep going off. What we later found out was that this will always happen if you use the fob to lock the doors. Instead, you should use the switches on the inside of the car doors to stop it from auto-locking.
Now this may sound like obvious advice to give and believe me, we’ve been laughed at plenty of times (especially by the older generation) who couldn’t believe we didn’t already know. On the other hand, we’ve also come across many people who had no idea this was the case. If you’re one of these people, this tip may just come in handy if you run into a noisy situation.
2. UNKNOWN ROAD SIGNS
Is the country you’re road tripping through not one you’ve driven in before? If so, a very important thing to do before you set off is to learn the country’s road signs and markings.
People sometimes assume that they will be able to figure them out as soon as they see them but this is not always the case. Even though Jordan had spent some time learning those in Austria and Germany, it didn’t stop us nearly rolling the car and getting it stuck. If we had both spent a bit more time learning Austria’s road signs, we would have known that a black and orange pole at the side of the road meant “hidden ditch”. We ended up being stuck there for 3 hours. If we hadn’t paid a farmer to pull us out with his tractor, our only other option would have been to pay over €400 to have a crane lift us out.
We were very lucky that neither the car, nor ourselves were injured but if you’re driving somewhere with roads on the edge of cliffs like Italy or China, knowing the road signs could save your car and your life.
3. LACK OF PLANNING
I wouldn’t recommend planning 100% of your journey since spontaneous trips are way more exciting. However, I would definitely advise having a basic plan to work around.
When we drove to the Isle of Skye, we hadn’t researched the ways that you could cross from the Scottish coast to the island. We had figured that the sat nav would take us to a bridge or a ferry and crossing would be easy. Especially since it’s such a popular tourist destination. However, after two hours of driving, we arrived at a ferry dock and a big sign stating that the next ferry wasn’t due for another week…there was no bridge in sight. This meant we had to pull over, ask a local if he knew of any alternate route and turn what should have been a three hour drive, into a six hour drive.
Delays like this one can really dampen the mood on a road trip. Even more so when it’s a short one like ours was, as you don’t have as much time to explore once you have finally arrived.
The first thing I’d look at planning for your road trip to make things run as smoothly as possible would be a place to stay. Whether that’s researching local laws to see if you can sleep in your car at the roadside, booking hotels or getting an address of a local campsite. This means you won’t be stuck at the end of the day without a place to get that much-needed rest. The other thing to plan would be routes you’re going to take. Make sure you have money for tolls, any details you’d need for border crosses and you know ferry times along with anything else needed for the journey.
Unfortunately, delays do still happen sometimes – even when you feel like you couldn’t have planned the trip any further. In these cases, the main thing to remember is to stay positive so that it doesn’t ruin your trip. If you’re diverted to a much longer route than was planned, think about all of the extra places you get to drive through that you never thought you would. When we were diverted due to a road being closed in Scotland, we got to see Loch Ness when we didn’t think we’d get the chance! If you’re sat in traffic, take it as an opportunity to blast that road trip playlist you’ve been creating for as long as you can remember, or just settle for some good old-fashioned conversation with whoever you’re travelling with and find out things about them that you didn’t know before.
4. NOT BEING CAMERA READY
There aren’t many feelings I hate more than when you come across the most beautiful and unique scene you could ever imagine, but you don’t have your camera ready and that perfect shot disappears forever.
This has happened to me on plenty of occasions. We’ve turned a corner where a lake or mountain has come into view and looks like it has been set up just for me. I rifle through the collection of bags on the back seat trying to find the one that has my camera hidden in it. Take the case off, turn it on, and by this time we’re about two miles past it and it’ll never be seen again. Or in a situation that annoys me even more, I’ll turn my camera on in time, but only fast enough to get blurred photo through the water spots, dirt and dead bugs on the car window with half a lorry conveniently bringing it all together… 😐
Whether you’ve got a passion for photography or you just like taking a good Instagram photo every now and again, always have your camera charged up and keep it on you at all times. Even if you’re just popping into the services to get those Pringles and Red Bull you’ve been craving. Take your camera! You never know what you’re going to see.
In no way whatsoever am I stating that you shouldn’t argue. That helps no one and is pretty unrealistic as sometimes, arguments happen whether you want them to or not. Yes – even on road trips. Whether it’s with the driver for not picking up that hitch-hiker you passed half a mile back (something I’d recommend discussing before you set off). Or if it’s with your friend for sleeping during most of the drive…it happens.
If an argument does break out, I’ve found that for me, the best thing to do is simply take a minute to think about the adventure that you’re on together. I consider how a petty argument like this could ruin everyone’s memories of the road trip and decide whether it’s worth it. This usually starts to calm me down so I do my best to remove the tension. Even if it means sucking it up and saying sorry (which would normally take three days and a lot of chocolate for me to even whisper the word back home).
The last things that you want to come out of a road trip are bad memories, hurt feelings and broken friendships. Be kind, apologise, and forgive easily 🙂