You might imagine the winter season as off-peak for travel and you would want to go into hibernation until spring or summer before you can start travelling again. Hold on to that thought! I have compiled 5 reasons why I believe you should still go on that road trip even in the winter season. I have also included 26 best road trip tips that I have used for many years.
South Africa is blessed with nine amazing provinces and an abundance of winter activities to be enjoyed. Don’t let the winter chill make you “chill” at home, let it make you look “cool” on the road while exploring our beautiful country.
1. BUDGET FRIENDLY, MORE VALUE
Most establishments and tour activity operators offer great discounts and this makes traveling in winter possible for travellers who could not afford to during the peak season. You also have the opportunity to visit destinations that were beyond your budget during the peak season. Click here to check out the list I have compiled.
2. OPPORTUNITY TO TRAVEL AS A FAMILY
Great discounted rates mean it’s affordable to travel together as a family. Some establishments would even offer you a room upgrade. Discounts range between 20% – 50% if you book directly with the establishment. Others offer an extra night free of charge. Hunt and take advantage of these specials. Click here to check out the list I have completed to help you get started.
3. POPULAR TOURIST ATTRACTIONS HAVE FEWER CROWDS
Most popular tourist attractions have fewer crowds during the off-peak season and if you have always wanted to shoot beautiful pictures without other people photo-bombing your pictures, then this is the perfect time to visit. You can take your time and easily walk around to fully enjoy the area.
4. SPECIAL TABLE AT POPULAR RESTAURANTS AND PERSONALISED SERVICE
The winter season is the perfect time to get a table at that popular restaurant that is typically booked months in advance.
5. MORE FUN OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES
Most tour activity operators make sure their doors stay open during the winter season by offering their services at great discounted rates. This gives you the opportunity to add more activities to your itinerary or enjoy activities you could not afford during the peak season.
26 BEST ROAD TRIP TIPS
South Africa has many amazing long-distance holiday destinations however if you are not well prepared for the long-distance journey, it can turn out to be a nightmare and this can ruin your entire road trip experience. I have compiled a list of 26 best road trip tips that have made my road trips enjoyable and memorable without any major problems, and I hope they will help you enjoy your road trips too.
1. SERVICE YOUR VEHICLE BEFORE YOU TRAVEL AND PLAN AHEAD
Long-distance driving takes a toll on the mechanical parts of your vehicle, so making sure your vehicle is properly serviced will give you peace of mind on the road and ensure your journey is relaxed and enjoyable. Plan your route properly before you leave, use Google Maps or GPS to decide which roads you are going to travel on and ensure that they are in good condition, check fuel station locations on the way, and where you can safely rest on the road.
2. INSPECT YOUR CAR
Even if your car has been serviced, it’s always a great idea to inspect few things a day or two before you embark on your road trip. Check the pressure on all the tyres including a spare wheel, make sure you have a working car jack and triangle. If your vehicle is not due for service yet, make sure you check coolant, oil levels, belts, hoses, spark plugs, and cables. It’s always best to have a mechanic at your nearest dealership do a more thorough check. Dunlop Tyres SA dealers offer free tyre inspections, use their service too.
3. FILL UP YOUR TANK
The last thing you want to think about while driving is fuel or wonder when the next fuel station will appear. Always fill up your vehicle’s tank before you leave your home and fill it up again as soon as you hit a quarter of a tank. Never assume every town you will pass through will have fuel or fuel pumps will be working when you arrive.
4. HAVE A GOOD NIGHT SLEEP A NIGHT BEFORE
Make sure you get enough sleep a night before you leave. This is the best way to feel more alert and stay awake while driving.
5. AVOID TRAVELING DURING PEAK HOURS OR PEAK DAYS
Avoid travelling during peak hours or a day before a holiday. Your journey will be more enjoyable because the roads will be quieter and safe. If you are going to pass through big towns during the week, avoid mornings and afternoons.
6. GET A DRIVING PARTNER
If possible, get a friend, partner, or family member to help you drive on long-distance trips. This will also allow you to watch each other or keep each other company while driving. However if you are driving alone or you are the only one who can drive, play your favourite music. Never use cruise control if you’re driving alone at night, having to concentrate on maintaining your speed and changing gears will help you stay awake.
7. HAVE ENOUGH CASH WITH YOU
If you are travelling to small villages or towns, make sure you have enough cash because most of the stores in small towns either don’t have card machines or they are most likely to be out of order or struggle with reception.
8. HAVE FUN ON THE ROAD
Look for spots where you can park for about an hour to play, dance, chat, eat, take pictures, or do whatever makes you happy and relaxed.
9. TAKE FREQUENT BREAKS
Driving breaks are necessary for your concentration and will help you stay awake and alert. Your road trip plan should include frequent stops so that you can stretch your legs, hydrate, and relax. Stopping at a filling station is always recommended however if you have to stop next to the road, never park your vehicle on the yellow lane for any reason except an emergency.
10. CHECK WEATHER FOR YOUR DESTINATION
Use a smartphone weather app or Google to check the weather for towns you will be passing through and your final destination. A sudden weather change will likely affect your plans and the type of clothes you should pack.
11. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE VALID EMERGENCY NUMBERS AND YOUR CAR INSURANCE IS UP TO DATE
Accidents and breakdowns happen when we least expect them. Make sure your car insurance premiums are up to date and you have valid emergency numbers.
12. PACK YOUR FIRST AID KIT
Always pack your First Aid Kit, you will never know when you or someone might need it.
13. PACK A VEHICLE EMERGENCY KIT
Whether you drive a new or old vehicle, breakdowns do happen and you need to be prepared when that day comes. If you are going to travel a long distance, make sure you have a set of jumper cables, flashlight, pair of gloves, lighter, extra coolant, spanner set, blanket, pillow, extra bag with snacks, food, and beverages. All these will come in handy should you get stuck and be stranded in the middle of nowhere. Have a look at this car emergency kit. This 24 piece socket set has saved me a few times on the road.
14. WEAR A SEATBELT WHILE DRIVING
Ensure that everyone in the car is buckled up properly. Not only will it keep everyone safe, but it’s also the law to wear a seat belt when you are driving.
15. CHARGE YOUR DEVICES
Ensure that all your devices including smartphones are fully charged before you leave home for your road trip. If you can, pack a power bank (at least 20 000mAh), a car charger (I use a wireless car charger), and extra batteries for your digital camera, drone, GoPro, etc.
16. PROPER DRIVING SAVES FUEL
Stretch your fuel by driving properly. Refrain from making sudden starts and stops or driving at high speeds.
17. INSURE YOUR GEAR
We go on road trips or vacations to have fun and create memories. This means you are bound to bring along your digital camera, GoPro, drone, etc. and there is a high risk of them being damaged or stolen. I highly recommend insuring your valuables with Comma Insure, an insurer that allows you to switch ON your cover when you need it and OFF when you don’t. They are underwritten by Mutual and Federal. You can insure items such as laptops, tablets, cameras, sound and gaming equipment, sporting equipment, electronic wrist devices, bicycles and wheelchairs, GPSs, and camping and caravan equipment.
18. LOCK AND PUT YOUR VALUABLES OUT OF PRYING EYES
Insuring your valuable items does not mean you have to carelessly leave them anywhere where they can be stolen or damaged. Lock all your valuables in the boot.
19. FOLLOW THE GPS
These days vehicle navigation systems and some smartphone apps have handy functions such as showing traffic jams, revealing all the accidents, suggesting alternative routes and showing your estimated time of arrival at your destination.
20. HAVE A MAP BOOKLET
Technology can fail you sometimes. In some areas you might have poor mobile reception so, having a Map Booklet will always come in handy when your mobile phone doesn’t have a signal or your vehicle’s GPS system struggles to find your location.
21. NEVER USE YOUR CELLPHONE TO TEXT OR CALL WHILE DRIVING
This is not rocket science! It’s illegal and dangerous to you and other road users to use your smartphone while driving. If you really have to make or answer a phone call, park on the side of the road or use a hands-free device, connect your phone to your vehicle’s radio or use air pods.
22. PRACTICE WELLNESS
Make sure you pack sunscreen cream or spray, extra facial masks, sanitizer, and any medication you think you might need during your road trip.
23. PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING
Practice social distancing when you arrive at your destination. If you can, book a room that allows you to enter and exit your room without walking through common areas. Avoid going to crowded places, wash your hands regularly, and sanitise.
24. DON’T RUSH – GIVE YOURSELF ENOUGH TRAVEL TIME ON THE ROAD
Never rush the journey and your fun doesn’t have to only start when you arrive at your destination. Take your time and have fun along the way. Most memories are created along the way.
25. BUY ENOUGH SNACKS
You can never have enough snacks for the road. If you can, stock up on snacks and beverages from your local grocery store, you will pay less for more items. My favourite road trip snack is biltong by the way.
26. IT’S NOT COOL TO DRINK AND DRIVE
This goes without saying, never drink alcohol before or during your road trip even a single bottle or glass. While you may not become intoxicated from one drink, you may become sleepy.
Always remember that long-distance driving requires your full attention. Make sure everyone is buckled up properly, obey speed limits, and be considerate to other drivers on the road.
What other road trip tips would you recommend to fellow travellers?