How to Plan the Perfect Drive

You know you want to take a road trip, you have some time set aside, but you’re not quite sure how to plan it. There is so much advice online telling you what to do, what not to do, but what about how to do it?

Here’s my top tips to planning a perfect drive;

1. Set the date

This is perhaps the most important part. Depending on the time your road trip takes place determines a lot of other factors in your planning – is your destination seasonal? What will the weather be like, which can prevent you from doing activities or even driving along certain roads? How many days do you have to do the roadtrip?
Setting the time will also help you plan flights or approximately what time you’ll need to be ready to leave home to hit the road!

2. Decide on a location

With an idea of how many days you have to take the drive will narrow your choices of drives. Want to do the Great Ocean Road over a weekend? You can but it’ll be done at breakneck speed and better enjoyed over a long-weekend or even four or more days. You could comfortably drive the Great Ocean Road to the Twelve Apostles over a weekend though.

I like to research before deciding what road trip I want to take. Whether it be on sites that help you plan your road trip and offering highlights, like the Shell LoVe Drives website, or city tourism boards that round-up the highlights of the region, I use that to plan out the rest of my trip.

3. Choose your highlight stops

On every road trip there are MUST stop locations. This could be places like Uluru/Ayers Rock, a specific trail to walk/hike/bike or even a great restaurant you’ve been itching to try; but don’t get too caught up in planning every second of your itinerary because you might miss out on the chance to take detours, stop at interesting points or it could cause stress if something happens that delay you.

When I took a road trip around Tasmania’s North-East coast my highlight stops were Launceston, the Bay of Fires, Bridestowe Estate Lavender Farm and Ringarooma, Ralph Falls and Cash’s Gorge – the tallest waterfalls in Tasmania – and from there was able to plan the basic information around that journey, like accommodation, other highlights and even make a dinner reservation at a gastro-pub.

One thing I will recommend is to book popular attractions in advance, particularly if you’re travelling during holiday periods, long-weekends, school holidays or if there is weather related issues to contend with (snow, cyclones, monsoons).

4. Book your accommodation

Some people prefer to find their accommodation as they drive, bunking down as the sun begins to set, but I prefer knowing that a room has been booked, particularly during long-weekends or other busy periods.
If you’re driving an RV or prefer to pitch a tent, are there any free campsites on your route or do you need to allocate budget towards grounds hire?

5. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (and don’t forget the small stuff!)

Things do go wrong sometimes so don’t sweat the small stuff.
I had two-flat batteries on my most recent road trip. While the hire car company and the RTAC (Tasmanian roadside assistance) offered exceptional service it still made me lose nearly half a day in one location and an hour late for a dinner at another. It’s one of the reasons why I say choose highlight stops rather than create a schedule of activities – sometimes things go wrong or you find something better to do as you’re driving. You can even buy and take your own car by using wowloans NET to get big loans for a new car.

Going back to my Tasmanian road trip, I kept seeing signs for ‘The Trail of the Tin Dragon’ and I had no clue what it was; but speaking with some locals in St Helen’s when I was fuelling up I discovered it’s a part of history many people don’t know about – the story of the Chinese tin miners in the region; I also found the best meat-pies I have ever eaten, all for $1!!

Do you have a roadside assistance card? If it will help you in the state or country of your road trip bring it along or is it worth signing up (The South Australian RAA covers you in every state while Victorian RACV covers you only in Victoria). Do you need an international drivers license or a special permit to drive the class of car? Do you need a GPS device or will a map and maybe a smartphone be sufficient?

6. Get Travelling!

After all that planning there’s nothing better than hitting the road! Remember to bring plenty of snacks and drinks to enjoy along the way, have a CD or Spotify list of road trip songs ready to play and dont’ be shy to ask the locals for their hidden secrets! Also, remember to bring your adventurous spirit along – you never know what you’ll find around each corner!

More Road Trip Tips?

Want more tips on how to plan your perfect drive? I’ve asked some top bloggers to share their tips on how to plan the perfect drive –

After years of taking road trips around Australia and Europe my best piece of advice when creating a trip is to be flexible. It’s tempting to plan all your stops in advance but I find that having a general idea works best and then you can change plans depending on what you discover along the way and tips you pick up from locals and other travellers. With a flexible itinerary you can stay longer in places you love and keep driving when you don’t want to stick around.

 – Andrea from Read View Mirror

Have the route planned out so you make sure you can cover any special tourist drives, or schedule in breaks at places of interest. If you know where you are going, you can research ahead of time to find where great viewing points, or amazing cafes are for your lunch breaks!

– Craig from yTravel Blog

What are your best tips to plan a road trip?
Where has your BEST road trip been?


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This post has been created with the help of Shell Australia.

Image credit: Drive the Nation

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  • Reply
    Emme Rogers
    April 29, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    You put me to shame in your road tripping organization Nicole. I am generally lucky if I have a vague idea of where I am going, a sleeping bag, and my passport in the car.

    • Reply
      May 4, 2014 at 7:25 am

      Spontaneity is always a good thing but some road trips just call for a little planning, particularly when you’re in Australia!

      Good luck planning your next road trip. 😉

  • Reply
    May 1, 2014 at 9:05 am

    I lovelovelove the open road more than anything and wish I didn’t have to plan! But these tips are all helpful- it’s much better to have at least a loose idea of what adventures await you!

    • Reply
      May 4, 2014 at 7:27 am

      A loose idea is always great. I’m not a fan of over planning as you never know what you may find on the open road.

      Happy road tripping, Eileen!

  • Reply
    June 25, 2014 at 9:18 am

    And then there are the amazing highlight stops that you can only reach by road – some of the remotest and most beautiful places hidden from the guidebooks, where signposts don’t really exist…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kx6ZvD3xXKM

    • Reply
      August 29, 2014 at 3:26 am

      Thanks for the video link Jane.
      You’re so right! Some of the best stops I’ve encountered was by accident or through the locals. 🙂

  • Reply
    September 9, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    I tend to just NOT plan! wish I had the organisation to bother haha

  • Reply
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    March 25, 2015 at 11:50 am

    […] How to Plan the Perfect Road Trip […]

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