Whether it is crossing the U.S. from east to west, hitting several countries from Spain to Germany, or going from Cairo to Cape Town; road trips are some of the most adventurous trips we can plan since they allow us to see a variety of places in a short amount of time, and go from place to place at our own pace. A road trip can be as easy and relaxing as driving the countryside, visiting a few villages, and stopping now and then to see the scenery, or it can be as adventurous as crossing continents and reaching remote destinations where most tourists don’t even dream of visiting.
I’m adventurous at heart and have done some insane road trips that include driving from London, U.K. to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia in 47 days, so I’ll focus here on a few tips that will help you plan an adventurous road trip that can easily become a journey of a lifetime.
1. Plan your route by mapping points of interest
Plan your route according to the sites you’re interested in seeing. Are there specific dates that you must take into account, like festivals and holidays that you’d like to spend in a particular destination? List all of these and locate them on a map. Then, take a macro look at that map and start tracing a route including all those key points.
At each destination, I also recommend prioritizing your sights and hitting them in order of priority. It often happens that no matter how well we plan things, our time on the road is never enough to do everything we want.
2. Be flexible
While it’s good to have a plan and an idea of what we want to do and see, it is important to be flexible too. I guarantee two things will happen along the way. Some days you won’t have enough time to see everything you had planned, and other days you’ll see things you didn’t even consider in the first place and will want to add them to your trip.
Be open to deviate and add things as you please, to cut your losses when you can’t reach a certain site, and to plan some down time to serve as rest or “flexible” time.
3. Are you visiting more than one country? Do you need visas?
Visas only give you a limited time in the country, so have an idea of how long you’ll need in each country, when should the visa start, and how many entries are required (single/double/multiple). Make sure everyone in the car has the same visas and that they are all valid for the same dates.
4. Your vehicle and travel mates are influential on the level of adventure
Do you want to go off-road and hit places only reachable by crossing rivers and driving gravel roads? Maybe you should hire a 4x4 vehicle. But what if you want to add more adrenaline to your road trip? Want to try the same route with a smaller car? It’s possible a small car might not be able to cross a river, or that it might need to be pushed some up hills or towed after getting stuck in the desert, but isn’t that part of the journey and adventure? Those are the fun stories we share and cherish after the stress of the moment.
Also, how adventurous and flexible are your travel mates? This will influence your trip too.
5. Don’t overdo it
Whether it is due to tiredness, traffic jams, or deviations, sometimes it happens that we can’t reach our destination in time to find a comfortable place to sleep. Instead of risking falling asleep while driving, be open to park at a rest stop, parking, or anywhere safe to grab a few hours of sleep.
6. It is essential to have some form of communication
Have a local or international SIM card or WiFi provider to allow you to stay connected to search information online, route via Google Maps or other apps, call any business for extra information, or make emergency calls.
7. Have some basic repair tools and knowledge
Whether it’s a flat tire, a dead battery, or running out of gas, mishaps happen along the way. Be prepared to deal with them with the proper tools and basic knowledge on how to solve them. Some essential tools include a towrope, wrench, screwdrivers, hammer, and even duct tape, among others.
Learn how to change a tire, how to check the oil levels, how to jump-start a car, and so on.
8. Have your car’s paperwork handy and up to date for all border crossing
Have your car’s ownership documents and any document that states the car belongs to you, is up to date, and insured. Depending on which borders are you crossing and which countries are you visiting, you might be required to buy car insurance at the border or pay a “road tax” (or Vignette) to be able to drive there. Google this information per each country in your itinerary to be ready for each crossing. Also, have in mind that not all car rental companies allow you to cross borders with their vehicles, so make sure yours allows it.
9. Consider the space your gear and bags will occupy in the vehicle
Adventurous road trips tend to require a decent amount of gear like tents, sleeping bags, cooking stove, chairs, food, clothing, cooler, and so on. Be mindful of the space all this equipment will take as more often than not it will be substantial. You don’t want to figure this out at the end and find out that not everything (or everyone) fits in the car.
10. Enjoy the moment
Enjoy every single spot, moment, and experience you get. Did you get lost? Don’t fuss about it! Make it part of your adventure! Were you stuck at the beach? Figure how to get out of it with a sense of adventure and high spirit.
You’re traveling to have fun while discovering more of the world!
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