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The Eco Trek

10 tips for the perfect road trip

It’s up to you to choose where to go, when to go and what kind of budget you’ll have. Our 17 travel tips cover all kinds of road trips, in all kinds of countries – consider this your road trip 101.

1. Google Maps

A great place to start. Enter your start and final destination, and get an idea of timing. Adjust the route and see where you can go and how long it’ll take you (you can also see if you’re just a few hours shy of somewhere you might not have originally thought of, but would love to visit). Make sure you’ve got your basic route worked out, your A to B, but don’t have every single mile written in stone. You’ve got to have room for the unexpected turns, the snap decisions and the ‘I wonder what’s down here?’ moments.

2. What car?

What kind of car you need depends on your destination, trip type and how many people you will be. Think about how likely you are to need 4-wheel drive, high clearance or a convertible, and book accordingly. Make sure that you book in advance, choose unlimited mileage (unless you’re absolutely positive about the length of your trip), and insure yourself!

If your trip is going to be a long one, a couple of months or more, you might want to think about buying a used car and selling it on when you’re done. Make sure you get it checked over before signing anything though – the last thing you need is a break down in the middle of nowhere!

3. Music

Few things go together as well as music and the open road. There’s going to be plenty of time for tunes, so make sure you’ve downloaded some playlists to your smartphone (and don’t forget the USB cable). That said, it’s wise to check out local radio as well to hear the kind of music you probably wouldn’t listen to back home, probably won’t think you’ll like, but probably come to love.

4. Roads less traveled

Highways might be fast, but you’ll miss a lot. If possible (given time and terrain), take the road less traveled. You’ll see so much more, meet the locals and venture down paths you’d never even have seen. On a similar note: take that detour!  See a sign for an odd sounding ghost town or weird tourist attraction? Follow it! Now’s your chance. Spontaneity rules on road trips.

6. Eat local and stay local

Give the local grub a go – even if you have no idea what it is. After all, it might be the only chance you get. The same goes for accommodation: it might be tempting to stay at the shiny new resort, but why not stay at the unique B&B/kitsch motel/mom and pop place down the road?

7. Cool bag

Who knows when you’ll next be able to grab a bite to eat? Pack a cool bag – or splash out on an electric car cool box – and store drinks and snacks in case you get hungry (or in case you get a little lost …).

8. Camp (even in your car)

Depending on your budget – and on your wheels – you might consider camping instead of hotels or motels. It’s cheap, easy and a great way to meet people. If you’ve got a large car or van, you can even sleep in your vehicle at some campsites, RV campsites, and in some petrol stations and Walmart stores.

9. Travel mate

Road trips can make or break a friendship. Sure, they make you laugh, but imagine being stuck in a car with them for six hours straight, when the GPS breaks and they can’t read a map … If that all sounds fine, think tastes: are they as interested in local history as you, or are they more interested in finding the nearest bar?

Make sure you find the right travel mate to match your temperament, can do something well that you can’t do at all (e.g. read maps, speak a local language), and one who can handle you when you’re at your best – and worst.

10. Buy a GPS

Don’t hire one. The daily charges will soon run up to much, much more than it would cost to buy one – and you can use your own over and over again, at home and abroad.

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