In 2021, the great Aussie roadie is back on the table, and is this year’s ‘must do’ travel experience.

But are you ‘road-trip ready’? Road-tripping is a nostalgic business for Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, who spent many a family holiday cruising the open road in the Falcon and listening to tunes by the Beach Boys and the Big O. That, and the common back seat refrain of: ‘Are we there yet?’ While life has become somewhat more complicated, and the kids are likely to be engrossed in a screen in the back seat for much of the journey, at the heart of it, a road trip is still all about time spent with those we love. And that’s the best type of holiday. 

Here are some tips for how to plan the perfect road trip. Book your stays along the way with Choice Hotels.

How to plan the perfect road trip
Gundagai. Image: Destination NSW

Choose a doable destination

Sitting in a car for hours on end sounds easy enough, but active adults and kids, and those with shorter attention spans may find it tough – even when armed with a screen. It’s important to know the family’s limitations when deciding on your destination or round trip itinerary. How far can you actually drive in a day without sending everyone over the edge? How often will you have to stop along the way? Convene a group meeting and put those topics on the table for discussion. That way, everyone can contribute and have a say.

How to plan the perfect road trip
Go road tripping on the Sunshine Coast Image: Tourism and Events Queensland

Create a schedule 

If it’s just you and a partner, winging it on route to your overnight stop is fine, but with kids involved it’s worth having a schedule in place – and ensuring everyone receives an advance copy. Remember that travelling in the morning is always easier than in the afternoon, so get the long stretches out of the way early. Spell out where you plan to stop and what you will see or do there. Knowing that there’s something special coming up may get your tiny team through those last few torturous kilometres without a meltdown.

How to plan the perfect road trip
Cape Otway, Great Ocean Road. Image: Visit Victoria

Set a budget 

Road trip holidays are generally seen as a cost effective way for families to travel. And that’s true, but there are hidden budget busters lurking. When doing your sums, remember to account for things like the pre-trip car service and fluctuating petrol costs, and myriad general expenses like snacks, coffees, ice-creams, entry to attractions, national park fees, and the list goes on. Eating out all the time gets super expensive, so plan to self-cater where possible. Roadside picnics are fun, as are beachside BBQs and the like. It will take a bit of planning, but you’ll save big bucks. Set yourself a daily spending limit and stick to it.

How to plan the perfect road trip
Sea Cliff Bridge. Image: Destination NSW

Get the car ready

No-one wants to be stuck by the roadside in the middle of nowhere with a carload of tired kids, all because they ‘forgot’ to get a pre-trip service or check the spare. Your vehicle is your ticket from A to B, so make sure it’s in perfect working order prior to the trip. And by the way, do you actually know how to change a tyre? Do you even know where the spare tyre is? Don’t laugh. It’s not something a lot of us think about or get much practice at doing. Know the drill for changing a tyre, and remember that temporary use spare tyres (TUSTs) often have a maximum speed of around 80 kilometres an hour.

How to plan the perfect road trip
Limestone Coast. Image: South Australian Tourism Commission

Over-think it, but under-pack for it 

Do all the planning you want, but when it comes to packing, go in the opposite direction. Most people over-pack for a road trip. Just remember that everything that goes into the car is actually costing you money to cart around. Pack only the essentials, and avoid gimmicky products like eclectic car seat back and neck massagers, seat back travel organisers, and those portable toilet seats that attach to your tow bar (true story, Google it).

How to plan the perfect road trip
Indian Ocean Drive. Image: Tourism Western Australia.

When the big day finally comes…

You’ve pondered, planned, penny-pinched (where possible!), packed and promised much along the way. Now it’s time to set forth on your maiden roadie. Fuel up the day before, get an early night, load up the snacks, cool drinks and pastimes, and get ready to make memories on a classic Aussie road-trip!

Need a place to stay?

Choice Hotels has you well and truly covered in regional Australia, with a fabulous range of accommodation options to suit every budget. Many hotels offer family rooms or adjoining rooms with interconnecting doors, and onsite parking is generally complimentary. You’ll also find that your hosts are full of ideas for things to see and do in the local area. Search online and book direct for a Lowest Price Guarantee.

About the writer

Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has previously had the opportunity to travel the world as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten.

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