15 road trip tips all savvy travellers know

Scenic view of the Illawarra Coastline. Tasman Sea.

The car’s loaded up, your epic playlist is ready to go, and you’re all set to hit the open road.

With restrictions easing at different levels around the country, road tripping is a great way to discover those hidden Aussie gems in your own backyard, and spend some time escaping to the country.

But a prepared road tripper is a happy road tripper, so here are 15 insider tips all savvy travellers should know 😎

1. Pick a spot that needs your help

This is the perfect opportunity to visit a bushfire-affected region or a destination that has been hit hard by the lack of tourism during the coronavirus pandemic. Not only is a road trip a great way to help Aussie communities, but a feel-good trip can make for some of the best road trip memories. Jump onto your favourite social media channel and check out the #spendwiththem or #holidayherethisyear campaigns, they can help you find some spots to visit.

2. Check the travel restrictions

COVID-19 has made all areas of our lives different, and travel is no exception. Before you pack your empty esky and hit the road, be sure to check that your destination of choice is open to visitors. There may be some bushfire or COVID-19-related restrictions still in place, so it doesn’t hurt to triple check before you leave. There’d be nothing sadder than getting to your destination and finding you can’t enter! Check out the state government travel advice site for your destination to keep up-to-date.

3. Pre-portion your snacks

It might seem easy to throw a few big bags of chips and trail mix into the car and be on your way, but that’s a rookie error. By pre-portioning your snacks (think fruit, nuts, chips, popcorn, trail mix) no-one runs the risk of eating all the snacks in the first hour. And when the kids inevitably say “I’m hungry” you’ll be able to help them hit their hunger hard – and in just the right amount. Insider tip for grown-ups: pick snacks that fit in your car cup holders. Things like carrot sticks and lollies are perfect here.

Turkey Jerky Trail Mix

4. Leave no (fur) child behind

The best bit about road trips is that the whole family can come – even the four-legged members 🐶 Suss out some pet-friendly accommodation options and your cat or doggo will appreciate it. Let’s be honest, they’re probably sick of lockdown too!

Two excited dogs smile at the camera in the back of a car.

5. Channel your inner Frost

The great poet Robert Frost once wrote “I took the road less travelled” and you should too! Some of the best adventures come from venturing off the beaten path and exploring quieter regions. No-one wrote a great poem about being stuck in traffic on a highway – just sayin’! 😉

6. Car-friendly games

Think back to your childhood and all those long car trips to Grandma’s place. What made it less boring? Games! I Spy, 20 Questions, Punch Buggy, Would You Rather? and, my personal favourite, I’m Going on a Picnic to really test your memory.

7. Choose comfort first

You’re going to be in the car – a lot. So make sure you choose clothes that are going to feel as comfortable at hour six as they do at hour one. Layering can also be really handy here for those unpredictable weather patterns.

8. Have a plan, but keep an open mind

Fail to plan and you plan to fail, right? True, but it’s always worth keeping things flexible enough so you can follow signs for turnoffs to hidden gems. Come across a Big Thing that wasn’t on the itinerary? No sweat! Make time to take some happy snaps and sample some of the local delicacies. Spotted a bakery that’s absolutely packed and boasts having won the best pies in the country for three years running? Now’s your chance! Get out of the car and get sampling. Sometimes it’s the unplanned moments that are the most memorable.

9. Hire a satellite phone

It’s important to remember that many remote areas have limited phone reception, so hiring a satellite phone is a great idea when it comes to safety and peace of mind. There are a variety of options out there. Make sure you do your research first and find one that’s suitable for you and your road trip needs.

10. Power packs

There’s nothing worse than expecting the kids to be quiet and well-behaved in the back of the car, happily streaming movies or playing games on a tablet, when all of a sudden you hear the dreaded “Muuuuuum, the battery died”. Be the super cool (and prepared!) parent who packed plenty of spare power packs and keep everyone happy and technologically connected.

Charger plug phone at the comfortable vip car

11. Have a spare

Check before leaving home that you have a spare tyre in good nick. You also want to make sure you have a jack and all the right tools to change a flat tyre from the side of the road. You never know when you might need a spare. Insider tip: also check whether you’ve got roadside assistance and if you don’t, organise some. It just might come in handy.

12. Monitor fuel prices

Petrol, gas and diesel prices can vary from town to town, particularly in regional and rural areas. Downloading an app like Fuel Map Australia can help you nab the best deal on the road.

13. Scope out the best grub

We’ve got a pretty diverse palette here in Oz and different regions are famous for different local specialties, whether it’s apples in Tassie, seafood on the coast, wine from Margaret River or just a local bakery boasting the best vanilla slice. Do some research, ask the locals or check out some of our Wotif Uniquely Aussie Award winners for inspiration.

POV of a hand holding a box of Fish and Chips at the beach on a bright sunny day.

14. Trust in paper (maps, that is)

Sure, we’ve all got Google Maps, but pack a paper map or a Melways/Refadex (Google it, kids) for a retro road trip experience. Not only does it feel very unplugged (sorry, Siri!), it’s a potential lifesaver if you lose reception in a rural spot.

15. Pick your season

The one thing sure to dampen a road trip is the wrong type of weather. Plan your trip around the best weather season/s for your destination and/or activities. For Brisbane, Cairns and Darwin, travel between May and November for milder weather. In Sydney, Perth and Melbourne, aim for October to April for warm weather or May to September for a cool getaway (great for admiring pretty autumn/winter foliage).

Heads up! While COVID-19 restrictions are being eased at different levels throughout Australia, we strongly recommend that all travellers seek further information about destinations and attractions before visiting, take extra care and follow all rules to ensure their own health and safety.

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