Road trippin’ with varsity friends

We’ve reached the end of the year. A productive year that needs to be completed on a high note. There’s something about summer, the lure of the open road and the promise of a change of scenery that makes us want to load up the car and just go someplace.

The open road offers some of the most enchanting adventures out there. Iconic and epic, it’s the thing movies, songs and books are written about. Setting forth with your best friends on a great South African road trip is an absolute must, but choosing a destination can be daunting.

Whether you’re starting with a full tank of gas and letting the road be your guide or embarking on a carefully routed cross-country trip, it’s smart to take a few essentials along to make the trip safer and more enjoyable.

Where do you even start? Here are seven things that you mustn’t forget when packing.

Maps

You’ll probably start your trip with a planned route, but be sure to take maps of the areas you’ll be driving through. In case you need to take a detour to avoid traffic or simply want to go exploring. An atlas or a traditional map will do, but you can print custom maps for your journey if you want. A GPS unit is a handy gadget to take along, as well – some travelers say they wouldn’t leave home without one.

Travel apps

If you have an iPhone, Android or any type of smartphone, you’ll find a smorgasbord of travel applications at your fingertips. You’ll have efficient GPS access, as well as apps that help you find everything from great places to eat and clean hotels to stay to other points of interests.  Weather applications keep you up-to-date on where the sun is shining and when storms could hit. So you can make the right decisions about what type of clothing to wear and pack. Plus, you’ll find plenty of games, quizzes and puzzles to keep any back seat drivers occupied.

A road-worthy playlist

Don’t forget to take your favourite tunes along for the ride. An iPod playlist or CD collection works wonders in making the trip more enjoyable. Especially if you’re travelling through an area where radio signals might be sketchy. Be sure to carry along a mix of tunes that cover every mood – from upbeat to introspective – to make the most of your trip.

Snacks and food

Pack plenty of healthy snacks for the trip, such as fruit, pretzels, crackers and nuts, along with a few fun treats. A chocolate or two won’t do any harm. Take sandwiches if you know you’ll be driving for a long stretch in an area with limited dining options (or simply to avoid the temptation of fast food). You could also pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at a roadside park. A trip to the grocery store can help you save money too, because the costs of dining out can really add up. A soft-sided cooler packed with water bottles and a few soft drinks will come in handy throughout your trip. And it won’t take up too much space in your car. Simply refill with ice and drinks at your destination, and you’re good for the return trip.

Toiletries and other essentials

Make sure your car is stocked with some easy-to-reach toiletries. Things such as tissues, paper towels, cleaning wipes, hand sanitiser and a roll of toilet paper. Take any prescription medicines you need as well. Sunglasses are also a road trip must. Don’t forget to apply and reapply sunscreen during your trip to prevent sunburn. It’s also a good idea to include a basic first aid kit with a few essentials, such as antiseptic and bandages for minor cuts, specific creams for insect bites and bandages for unexpected cuts and scrapes.

Comfy clothing

Whether you’ll be driving for several hours or even into the night, be sure to wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Experienced travellers will tell you that a road trip isn’t the time to wear your tightest jeans or anything that restricts or binds. You’ll also find that shoes that are easy to put on and take off are a practical choice. That way, you can wiggle your feet in the car and then slip your footwear back on at a moment’s notice when you stop for a break. Add a sweater or jacket over a t-shirt for instant respectability in public areas.

A camera

Whether you’re headed to the beach or to the mountains, you’ll make lots of memories on the road. You’ll also see things you may not come across every day. Keep a camera handy to capture those moments. Whether it’s the beauty of a sunset over a small lake, farm animals resting or a humorous sign posted near a country store.

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