TheSite.org's top tips for planning the perfect road trip.
Hiring a car
The three essentials for a road trip are: driving license, cash and credit cards. To hire a car/van etc. you'll need not only a license (preferably yours) but also a damage deposit. Most rentals won't accept cash and maxed-out credit cards aren't much good either as the deposit is often as much as one-tenth of the vehicles value. It has to be a driver who covers the cost for this too, not a passenger.
Choosing your vehicle
A road trip by definition means driving all day, every day for hundreds of miles, and you will kill each other if you're rammed in. Pay a little more so you can spread out. The space means you're less likely to have someone's radioactive socks rammed under your nose (never a pleasant experience) and you'll have room for all those new clothes and tacky souvenirs you're bound to pick up.
Planning your journey
Get a good map and avoid rush hour. It's no fun sitting in six lanes of traffic as you try to crawl out of a city at the start of your journey. Do check all the things you should but never do at home too (stuff like tyres, oil and water). If you're not technical make them show you at the rental garage.
Half the fun of a road trip is also stopping where you feel like it so don't book hotels in advance. Stop where you feel like it and if the hotel/guesthouse has an empty car park make sure you barter hard for a better rate - they're probably empty.
Marking your vehicle
This sounds ridiculous but give your car an identifying mark. Hopefully not a four foot scratch as you're backing out of the rental garage but something like a ribbon on top of the aerial. That way, you won't spend 25 minutes trying to open someone else's van after every trip to a mall/national park/hotel/supermarket.
This is a big, big problem as dirty clothing, sweaty bodies and Cheesie Wotsits build up. If you're sensible buy a couple of air fresheners and try and keep hazardous substances like Coca-Cola and Monster Munch in your mouths rather than on the upholstery. Having said that it's all part of the road trip 'experience', and there's nothing quite so joyful as finding a hairy M&M down the back of your seat for breakfast.
Be safe: Be very wary about hitchers and try and stop every four hours to switch drivers. You might think you're OK and can go on but it's best to take no chances, especially if you're driving through the night. Always have someone in the front passenger seat too, riding shotgun. It makes it more interesting for the driver and they can also point out little things you might be doing wrong too, like, er, driving on the wrong side of the road.
Three places in the world you really wouldn't want to take a road trip:
- Bombay: India has highest per capita vehicle death rate of any country in the world, with its capital city dodgem-car central.
- The Isle of Man: At 13 miles wide and 33 miles long your options for long drives are a wee bit limited. More half-day trip than road trip.
- Mexico City: The most dangerous city in the world for violent car crime. If you fancy a car-jacking (usually by releasing a starving rat into your car) or just a good old 'traffic light' robbery, this is the place for you. In the last five years violent car crime has risen 100% and the government has even turning to Los Chomos, vigilante traffic police, to try to help. It hasn't worked.
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