I go on several road trips in our car to nearby places. I have traveled 3000 kms on one road trip which was the longest road trip for me. And while I have been on these road trips, there have been several occasion when I have wished I had known ahead of the trip what all to come prepared for or bring with. Mind you while on the road it is never possible to predict what emergency you might encounter. In fact, not always will the arrangements you make before you start prevent the emergency situation but at least if you come prepared there is a 80% chance you will be able to handle the situations that do crop up on the way and you can be sure that your fun and adventure are not curtailed by fear of the unknown events.
So, without much ado I give to you the list, my checklist, after many road trips, some impromptu, on a whim trips too.
Things to Remember before you start on a Road Trip:
- The Car : This is your ride and it is important that you are aware of condition of your vehicle. A well maintained car means less headache before the trip. By well maintained, I mean a car which is taken care off. Sending the car for routine service is important but more importantly ensuring that the car is kept in best shape all year round. Getting the wheel alignment, tyres, break oil, Engine, AC unit , Coolant checked is important. The service people will do that for you but as the owner of the car, you should know how to run some basic checks before you start the road trip. This becomes important when you go an impromptu trip and also while on the road. Make sure your headlights and tail lights are in order, along with your windscreen wiper, without these you will have a tough time negotiating the Indian highway. Ensure the spare Tyre is in good shape and has adequate air pressure. The car comes with a kit for handling your flat Tyre in case you get one. Make sure you check it before you head out. In case you do end up using the spare Tyre, get the flat Tyre repaired as soon as possible because you may need it. On one of my trips I saw another driver use a hand held air pressure checking device along with a foot operated air pump for his tyres. I am yet to invest in one. But in case you are confident with handling such a device you can invest in it. I am strictly against keeping spare fuel. As per current regulations petrol pumps do not allow you to take fuel in canister.
- The Destination: First you decide on the destination, that’s the easy part, the difficult part is planning the route and navigation. If this is your first road trip my suggestion would be to take it slow. No need to try and drive 12 hours or overnight. Focus on doing a certain number of kms per day during day light and accordingly plot your stopover and stay. By stopover I mean to suggest pit stops which are very important to keep you from getting fatigued, to relax your muscle, and believe me you will need it for your leg muscles will strain. Even if you are not on a long drive of say more than 300 kms, eventually you will stay overnight somewhere, so plan that stay accordingly. It is a good idea to check online for resources, for example there a re many blog entries by people having done a similar road trip, that may provide you with some inputs. Now that you have zeroed in on the destination and you have the kms chart in front of you and a approximate idea of how long you will be driving let’s get to the part about Navigation.
- Route & Navigation : In this day of Google Maps everyone is reliant upon technology, but when you are in India where 4G network is sketchy in the City, imagine what can happen when you are out on the highway passing through several states. My point is do not depend on just one thing, especially an internet dependent technology. Does it mean you have to buy a map and trace the route on it? No, I only mean to have a offline source of your route and not remain dependent on Google Maps. Google maps has a option of saving a route offline which means even if your internet is not working your Phone GPS will still guide you. Initially when we started our road trips, we used to take prints of the entire route from Google Maps. Along with the description and directions you can easily take prints of the bifurcated sections of the route which gives you better details. While you are plotting your route, please remember to do it before hand, what Google Maps does is it pics up your current location and gives you a route from there, best not to do that, because we have been taken on a wild goose hunt by the map. Also remember the Google maps is designed to pic the fastest route , even if it is faster by 3 mins and 5 kms extra. Don’t go blindly by what the map says, that is why it is important to plot the route before you set out.
- Fuel and other consumables: If you have internet, you can figure out stops for rest rooms, eateries and fuel stations but on a longer trip it is always better to do a little research before hand. This means calculating how much fuel you will burn on your trip and around what point on the journey do you need to refuel. Mark these important pit stops on the map. These will come in handy. In consumables I would club everything from Drinking water, Dry food items, medicines etc. Let me break these down for you in case you think these are easily available and can skip them. Drinking adequate water while on the drive is scary because you worry about finding Rest Rooms on the way. It is true in India the availability of clean toilets are an issue. But remember to stay hydrated. Carrying at least 2 bottles of drinking water from home, this will have you covered in case you don’t get any places to buy water, also the packaged water you get in some locations may be locally packed and very dicey in nature. Apart from this, it does make sense to save on cash. I would also suggest keeping a separate bottle of water for washing. This is meant for your dirty windscreen or your self. You never know when you need it. Keep some dry food items like sliced dry fruit cake, biscuits, a few fruits like apple & guava, some chocolate this is to keep your energy high and snack in between rest stops. A small first aid kit should always be there in your car glove box apart from this carry your regular medicines, in case you use some, for other medical emergencies, carry a basic supply of cold, fever, stomach upset medicines.
- Miscellaneous: These are the stuff which no one tells you about and which I have come to realize do come in handy. A USB full of great songs, a small concealed knife to be used for both helping you cut fruit and a weapon, a box of dry tissues, some wet wipes. Remember to pack your car charger, a drained phone is of no use. Bring with you some old newspaper. Why you ask? Because a road trip shouldn’t be only about being on the road, you may want to take a break from the driving and find a meadow and sit down to spent time with nature. Remember while you are planning your trip to remember to keep the driving to exploring ratio balanced. You don’t want to end up only taking the highways and being completely drained by the end of the trip. Take a detour, explore a field, sit at a roadside dhaba and drink some tea. When packing luggage remember to keep a separate bag which contains a change of clothes and a scarf, you can keep this in the back seat while the heavier luggage can be in the boot. Keeping a small cushion handy makes sense, this can be used to support your back while driving and in case you wanna take a nap in the back seat.
The above list is not all inclusive there maybe several things which you may require to add according to your requirement. But the most important non materialistic things to carry on your road trip is your confidence, intelligence, common sense and sense of adventure. So, what are you waiting for, plan that road trip and go for it, don’t forget to enjoy the views and click pictures.