Planning Travel Tips

My Experience Balancing a Road Trip

Early Morning Foggy Roads near Stanthorpe

There is nothing quite like the feeling of getting in the car and heading out on the open road. You might be heading off on an unplanned adventure or following a detailed route. Taking a little time to research and get to know the route you are travelling can make the trip all that much better.

Below I want to take a little look at the few road trips that I have made. There is nothing in them that speaks to a balance between getting there and the destination. In fact, for the most part, my trips have been somewhat unbalanced pushing to cover distance instead of maximising what I would see along the way. Even though there are some positive aspects to these experiences they are in general a what not to do.

My Experiences

I have had a variety of experiences with a few short road trips and mixing up the planned and unplanned nature. The first time I travelled overseas, I rented a car for five days in England and headed off knowing nothing more than my first stop. While on the other hand, I have recently returned from an eight-day road trip to Canberra where we prebooked every overnight stop. In each situation, the advice I will give here is rather appropriate.

Southern England

The first time I travelled overseas included five days driving around the English countryside. When I decided to make this part of my trip I had grand plans of studying maps and having a detailed itinerary.

Which end up being in stark contrast to reality when I arrived in England. I landed in London and collected the rental car. The only plan I had was accommodation booked in Amesbury, and a visit to Stonehenge planned for the morning. Which of course is not the worst of situations to be in, but far from ideal for my nature.

England - Stonehenge

While staying at Amesbury for the night, I looked around for the destination the next day. I booked a hotel in Devizes, but still did not know what I would do between Amesbury and Devizes.

It was not until the next morning when visiting Stonehenge that I found the perfect solution. English Heritage operates Stonehenge like many other historic sites around England. I found that I could become a member and visit many of their sites for free or significantly reduced rates.

Even though my time in England was virtually unplanned, I did have the next day mapped out before going to bed each night. I knew where I was sleeping the next night and options to visit along the way. However, this still left me with some issues over the trip that could have worked out much better with research and planning. Such as I could have focused on a small area and spent less time driving.

While I do not regret these choices, I have learned some lessons for the next time. The most significant lesson is that while I don’t have to plan everything to a finite detail, taking some time to research would be a benefit.

Brisbane To Stanthorpe

The second trip that came to mind with this post was one that I took from Brisbane to Stanthorpe. I had planned the overnight stops in Coffs Harbour and Armidale. Having travelled over half of this route before I did not expect that I would need to plan my stops.

Upper section of Ebor Falls

There is no doubt that along the way I got to see some great locations. You can see for yourself if you wish to read the post here. However, I found that there were essentially two halves to the trip, based on if I had or had not visited the area before.

For the first half of the trip, I seemed to revisit places that I knew I enjoyed. Passing by a couple of great spots that I wanted to visit. I either forgot about them or only found out about them after the fact. Maybe 30 minutes to an hour on Google Maps and I would have had a much better plan. I assumed that having been through the area before I knew enough about it. A false assumption.

The second half of the trip was covering new territory. At which point you would think that I might have taken a look at what was around. But again I took the approach of just seeing what I found. There were one or two places that I found which were interesting. Of course, this led to missing some excellent spots.

Brisbane To Canberra

Somewhat in contrast to my time in England, the recent road trip I took from Brisbane to Canberra had some level of planning. But in the end, it was not quite the right planning.

Before leaving Brisbane, myself and the friends I was travelling with had planned the seven overnight stops. But even with these stops, there was still a lot of driving in between which we had no idea what we passed. There were a number of stops that we wanted to make, but they would only account for maybe four or five stops. When driving the distances, we were facing there should be more like four or five stops a day.

Narrabri - Paul Wild Observatory 4 Radio Telescopes

Along the way, we did manage to find more than enough places to stop. However, there was also quite a few that end up having to be left for another trip. Either due to the time of day we arrived, the time it would take for the visit or any number of other little things. With some planning, this could have potentially played out a little different. But if this is what it takes to learn a lesson, I am happy to learn.

Lesson Learned

There are two lessons that I feel I have learnt from these little road trips that would make future ones better.

1. Do Some Research

Google makes life so easy to research the areas that you are travelling to now and it is only going to get better. So many interesting sites appear on Google Maps. Maybe not everything is marked on the map, but combine the maps with a couple of targetted searches. Soon enough you will have some great information to work with and have a fantastic trip.

There does need to be a little more than just doing the research. I would also suggest having a book or notepad to take some notes. Better still if you plan to navigate with Google Maps, save the spots you want to visit on Google Maps. They will be a lot easier to find when you are setting your next destination.

2. Less Time Driving

The most significant issue that I keep coming up against in my trips is the amount of time driving vs exploring. In England, I spent almost 24 hours driving in five days, while the road trip to Canberra saw 40 hours of driving in eight days. When you are in the car for 5 or more hours driving in a day, it takes away from what you can potentially stop and see.

While at times there can be a necessity to cover certain distances within certain times, it is something I want to avoid. Going to Canberra turned out to be one of these occasions with a fixed travel window and fixed event to attend. However, in the future, I would love to keep the driving to less than two hours on any one day. Taking more time for walking, hiking, sightseeing and exploring.

Time to Start Researching

On that note, I do think that it is the time that I start planning another road trip. Very open to any suggestion in Australia or otherwise would be interesting as well. I can tell you that I will be giving more thought to looking at the map, searching the areas I travel and minimising my daily travel time.

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