Australia is meant to be explored.
It’s a country offering endless driving experiences; leading to unforgettable locations.
But whether you’re planning a scenic trip along the Great Ocean Road or getting ready to tackle the bluebush-mottled tableland of the Nullarbor Plain, long road trips require adequate preparation if they are meant to be successful.
And while certain trips call for specific supplies, there are some items to pack and actions to take that are essential to every road trip.
We’ve put together the definitive road trip checklist. Everything you’ll need to make it there and back again stress-free and safely.
Inspect Your Vehicle
Car trouble is the last thing a road trip needs. And the best way to avoid it involves proactivity.
Before embarking on your journey, you’ll want to be sure that your vehicle’s been given a thorough inspection and is up-to-date on its regular servicing. Because there’s a lot to be certain of before you take off.
Taking the right precautions now can save you heaps of trouble down the road.
Have a certified, manufacturer trained mechanic go over every nut and bolt to ensure that nothing is loose.
Check that coolant, windscreen, brake and power steering fluid levels are at the appropriate levels. This will help you avoid accidents or unexpected breakdowns.
When it comes to oil, it’s best practice to have your oil changed by a professional prior to setting off on a long trip, as travel puts more stress than normal on the car’s motor.
Just adding more oil yourself won’t do the trick. New oil alone won’t remove the sludge from old oil. Plus, an oil change means replacing the oil filter too. Which will keep dirt and debris from building up in the engine as you go.
The mechanic will also check the air filter.
Your car’s engine requires a steady supply of clean air to perform efficiently. If it’s clogged up it will need replacing.
Tyre pressures need to be accurate. This includes the spare tyre, which often gets forgotten about.
Tyres heat up hotter than usual during long road trips. So you’ll want to ensure that yours have an adequate amount of tread left in order to avoid a blowout.
A mechanic’s inspection will ensure that all signals and lights are working properly. If they’re not, they can determine whether it’s because a bulb needs replacing or a fuse needs changing.
They can double-check your headlight alignment too. Poorly aligned headlights affect visibility at night, especially on unlit outback roads.
Wash Your Car
Depending on where you’re headed, there’s no telling what your car may encounter on the open road. So it’s best to start off as fresh as possible.
Not only is a clean car a happy car, it’s also a safer one.
Clean, streak-free windows give a driver better visibility. So don’t forget to clean your wipers. Or replace them if needed.
Plan Your Route
Most road trips have a destination in mind. But the journey toward it is always negotiable.
And while the freedom of the road is part of any road trip’s appeal, there’s plenty to be said for a bit of planning as well.
Consider the time of year you’ll be travelling. And what weather conditions are likely to be. Extreme weather can cause delays or damage to your vehicle.
Familiarise yourself with rest stops and service stations in the area.
If you’re travelling during the holidays, plan on traffic being heavier than normal and popular attractions more crowded. Accommodation books out quickly during these times of the year. So be sure to secure lodgings well in advance.
GPS & Maps
The GPS has revolutionised travel by car.
It’s empowered the average motorist to journey beyond their threshold. And made driving a safer and more relaxing experience.
But for all the good this technological miracle has achieved, there’s still something to be said for travelling with a good old-fashioned map.
Maps provide a kind of instant, bird’s eye view that a GPS can’t. It helps bring your travels into focus and connect with the road in a way that a GPS can’t attach you.
You’ll be grateful to have them in the event of atmospheric disturbances that can distort your GPS’ signals and affect its performance.
Basic First Aid Kit
No one hopes for accidents or injury. But they can occur. So it’s best to be prepared for treating minor bumps and bruises.
First aid kits can be customised to accommodate particular ailments or conditions. But a good, basic one should contain the following items:
Crepe bandages of varying widths that provide support in the event of a sprain or strain
Non-adherent dressings for covering wounds or burns
Sterile saline tubes or sachets for cleaning minor wounds or flushing debris from the eyes
Triangular bandages to control bleeding, protect injuries or immobilise an injured limb
Stainless steel scissors
Stop itch cream for insect bites or rashes
Shock blankets for managing body temperature
Antiseptic skin swabs
Stainless steel pointed splinter tweezers
Gauze swabs for cleaning wounds
Hypoallergenic skin tape
Disposable face shields for personal protection during mouth to mouth resuscitation
Alcohol swabs for disinfecting
Sterile eye pads
Different size adhesive dressing strips (like BAND-AIDs)
Dressing pads; combine and non-stick
Basic first aid book
Torches & Emergency Gear
If you plan on doing any night driving, it’s important that you pack along one or more reliable torches.
In the event of a flat tyre, or should you need to look under the bonnet after night has fallen, you’ll need something to light the way.
It’s also a way to make yourself visible to other nighttime drivers.
Even if you don’t plan on doing any driving at night, a torch can be handy for locating anything that might fall under or between car seats.
In addition to torches, you should consider carrying:
Multipurpose utility tool
Water & Food
You need to stay hydrated and alert.
So you should always travel with a good supply of bottled drinking water and plenty of healthy snacks.
You’ll want to avoid sugary foods. Combined with being seated for long periods, foods high in refined sugars can make you feel heavy and dull.
Fresh fruit, muesli bars, granola with yoghurt, vegetable sticks, nuts, trail mix or crackers are all great snacks that will keep you energised throughout the journey.
Just soaking up the scenery can be breathtaking when road tripping across Australia.
But at some stage, you’re going to need a little more than outback landscapes to keep yourself and those you’re travelling with motivated.
Be sure and bring along music that everyone will enjoy. There’s nothing worse than being trapped in a car on a long trip; forced to listen to music you hate.
Passengers should bring along books to read. Play road games like I Spy, Number Plate Bingo or 20 Questions.
Parents can prepare a Surprise Travel Bag for kids that includes small toys, colouring books and crayons, comic books or puzzles.
You’ll want to bring along plenty of chargers to keep tablets and smartphones well charged. Road trips are a perfect opportunity to catch up on your favourite podcasts or trial a handful of new apps.