The do's and don’ts of long-distance road trips

The rules one must keep in mind before setting off for a weekend of fun, far away

By George Kuruvilla

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Published: Fri 20 Oct 2023, 5:40 PM

As the summer sun gradually sets on the far horizon for the year and we welcome more acceptable weather, many of us may be planning a series of weekend road trips to take advantage of what the local landscape offers. Some interests may include visiting historical sites, engaging in water activities like scuba diving, overnight desert camping, and of course, the working person’s favourite i.e., luxury staycations. And while the majority, I presume, have had their driving licenses for years and drive daily, threading the path unfamiliar for long hours to get to these destinations must be treated with a certain degree of preparedness. And so, here’s a list of dos and don’ts that one must keep in mind before setting off for a weekend of fun, far away.

Vehicle selection

The vehicle of choice must be something large enough to accommodate your companions with child seats if necessary. And since cabin quietness and ride comfort become of utmost importance especially as the kilometres climb, a mid-size sedan or SUV like the newly launched Geely Monjaro is the ideal vehicle and preferred over a compact vehicle. If you don’t own one, know that you can always rent one, without breaking the bank.

Popular destinations

It all begins with shortlisting a few destinations. Scaling the gradients of Jebel Jais and Jebel Hafeet are amongst the most common choices. But if you have a penchant for beautiful coastal roads and virgin beaches, then Dibba, Fujairah is also a good option. And so is Salalah, Oman, a perennial favourite for those who enjoy being in the midst of lush greenery, banana plantations, beaches, and waters teeming with sea life.

Route guidance

Wherever you choose to go, do your research and plan your route, preferably in advance. This helps you take into consideration pit stops for rest and relaxation, refuelling stations, and rendezvous points (especially if you are going to be accompanied by those from other parts of the city). It also allows you to scout out those other minor touristy locations that you wouldn’t otherwise visit. Back in the day, we used to purchase printed maps to help find our way, but this task has been made easier thanks to GPS devices by Garmin and navigation apps like Waze that provide you with real-time route guidance.

Vehicle condition and insurance

Prior to venturing out onto the roads, ensure that your vehicle is prim and primed for travel. Inspect your vehicle for possible maintenance issues, such as tyre conditions and pressure, oil levels, brakes, and lights. Also, take a quick look at the vehicle documents. Make sure that motor insurance covers all destinations as some may include Oman only, while others may include all GCC nations. It also helps to save the telephone number to the 24/7 roadside assistance service that may be free as part of your insurance policy or get the number to the paid service provider. Also remember to pack vehicular essentials such as a spare tyre, jack, jumper cables, first aid kit, flashlight, and a basic toolkit.

Safety first

No matter where you go, and with whom you travel always remember to obey traffic rules. Always stick to the speed limit, have your seatbelts fastened, and watch out for road signs that may indicate a detour, a roundabout, a winding road ahead, etc. Also, only use designated rest areas or safe parking lots and avoid stopping on the hard shoulder except in emergencies. And when you’re parked, keep your vehicle locked while you’re out and about, hiking, checking out the local markets, or having a meal from a restaurant. Keep valuables out of sight, preferably in the glovebox or central cubby, and certainly, don’t advertise your belongings. Incidents are rare, but better be safe than sorry.

Never use your phone for texting, calling, or other distractions while driving. Instead, use the hands-free device if necessary. Several cases have been reported where people have been recording social media posts from the driver’s seat, which have resulted in serious injury or loss of lives. Also, whatever it is, don’t ignore warning lights. Whether it’s the ‘Check Engine’ light, ‘ABS’ light, ‘Traction Control’ or even a tyre pressure warning light that comes on, always make sure you have examined the problem promptly or seek a professional’s expertise if necessary. And try not to panic in the case of emergencies. And if the destination is a place unfrequented, share your itinerary with a trusted friend, family member, or neighbour even.

Food and beverage

One of the most important aspects of road travel is binge eating snacks, as most of us would agree. Get the “good stuff” like chocolates and chips but also remember to bring plenty of water to stay hydrated and energized during the journey. Just keep in mind that you don’t want to return to the office or school with the extra pounds of holiday weight you’ve gained over just a weekend. Also, as delicious as homemade grub can be, finger foods may be a more practical option.

Take breaks

Plan to take breaks at regular intervals to stretch your legs. This will reduce driver fatigue and improve general driving concentration. Breaking the journey every 2 to 3 hours is ideal and while busting out a yoga pose like a Virabhadrasana is a good option, taking a short stroll will work just as well. The objective is to get some fresh air and improve blood circulation, both of which will help take the edge off after driving for long hours.

Playlists and entertainment

While jumping into the same vehicle with your friends or family may be exciting with plenty to catch up on, sometimes the conversations can fizzle out and that’s when a good collection of songs will come in handy. It helps to pre-save a playlist on your devices or USB pen drive. Having a vehicle with a rear entertainment system also allows backbenchers to watch their favourite sitcom or nursery rhymes, but since it’s not part of all vehicles, having a tablet like an iPad or Samsung Tab is an equally viable option, if not better.

Keep the environment clean

And it goes without saying that when road-tripping, we must all respect local customs and environments especially if you’re travelling in a different region or country. This includes understanding right-of-way rules, road signs, and local traffic practices. It is also a given that civility in residential neighbourhoods must be always maintained. Don’t announce your presence by revving out your V8 or driving haphazardly no matter how sparse the local traffic may be. And keep it clean wherever you go. Always dispose of bottles, cans, and food wrappers in general waste bins, if you are unable to find the designated recycling bins.

Enjoy the ride

Getting it all organised can be an arduous task, but remember that there is no need to rush, as the aim is to enjoy yourself. Also, road trips are mostly about the journey, not just the destination. Just enjoy the therapeutic act of driving, take in the scenery, and cherish the time spent with your friends and family.

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