Are you the kind of person who loves to plan trips, map routes and book accommodation, even down to the food you’ll eat at every stop and the perfect song to match the landscape. If you consider yourself more spontaneous, the kind of person who routinely says, “I’m easy” when asked to make a decision, then find a friend who actually enjoys these activities (which you find banal at best) then enlist them to plan your road trip for you.
Go off the grid but don’t get lost
I’m the first to tell you that I’m terrible at navigation (the first step is admitting it), so by necessity I’m always across the latest map apps and driver service as soon as it gets shipped over from the startups of Silicon Valley. The latest one that I’m excited about is Waze, a social navigation app that uses data plugged in by people on the road, giving you updates, alerts and the best routes in real time by people actually on the ground. If you’ve ever been prompted by Google Maps to go the wrong way up a one-way street, you’ll understand why Waze is a much better option for stressful new drives.
As handy as apps are, sometimes your phone service won’t be great out in remote areas or national parks, so bring an actual (gasp) paper map.
Have you downloaded the NSW National Parks app? With national parks are at your fingertips, download offline park maps, guides and info; so you’re ready for your next park adventure.
Go off the grid but don’t get bored
Sometimes your friends are less-than-enthralling travel buddies. Three hours into the drive and they might’ve run out of stories to tell you or just rudely fallen asleep around you – while you’re left there, cruising along, bored out of your mind. Since staying awake and operating a moving vehicle are kind of inextricably linked (until self-driving cars are released, anyway), you might need more than a power nap to keep your brain active on those long-haul stretches of Australian landscape.
Our go-tos are podcasts, since the voices keep you company while fixing your attention on something other than the line in the road – and there are millions of podcasts out there, meaning there must be at least a few relevant to your interests. (Doing this usually provokes some interesting conversation amongst friends, too). Sync some episodes of your favourite podcasts, or just download an audiobook by an author you like. If you and your mates like comedy, grab some standup albums and get some solid laughs in. Remember to save everything to your phone in case you lose phone reception.
Go off the grid but don’t forget to sing
This one’s super obvious, but if you haven’t taken the time to prepare you will regret it. Obviously, we’re talking about making the perfect road trip playlist: peppering your favourite rap and dance tracks with the occasional throwback 90s jam and classic rock in that perfect balance of actually cool music. The easiest way to do this is a collaborative playlist your car buddies can add to, to take the pressure off yourself (since you have so much other planning to do). Bring an SLR and film and capture yourself some analog memories.
Reminder: national parks are for the enjoyment of all visitors, including wildlife. Be a considerate camper, keep your campsite tunes and noise to a minimum.
Go off the grid but be comfy
If you’re planning to camp along the way, invest in a decent tent and sleeping bag, plus a pad to go under it: you won’t regret it as most of this stuff will last you years. Don’t skimp on bringing some extra warm things, since most of the year sleeping outside is a chilly experience. Wear comfy clothes and bring cushy shoes plus a hat and a backpack for any walks you might be doing.
Remember biodegradable detergent so you can freshen the things you’ve already worn. On that note, a bit of rope or a portable clothes line will come in handy, as well as some waterproof bags to keep all your precious (or dirty) bits safe. Prepare with these camping safety tips and with our ultimate camping checklist.
Other must-haves: a torch, a spare tyre, some emergency fuel, and a first-aid kit. If you’re planning on driving through the outback, there’s even more prep to consider, so read up before you go.
Go off the grid but eat like a king
Apples, pretzels, crinkle-cut chips, carrot sticks and hummus or any other kind of dip: your choice of car snacks begins and ends with all that lies in the glorious supermarket aisle. The aisle is your oyster, so stock up on healthy and unhealthy snacks (because if you don’t have fun and eat some sweets then what’s the point?)
There is no reason to be boring when it comes to camp cookery. Do a burrito night with some BBQ corn to snack, or grill a fish with some lemon and salt, and tuck in. Just remember to bring heaps of water and some low-GI foods (like nuts) with you wherever you go.
Remember: before you go to check for any park alerts, closures or park fire bans before you go. If a Total Fire ban is in place you mustn’t light a fire in the open.