5 Tips For Surviving A Family Road TripCar, Dispatches from the Road, Family & Kid Travel, Featured, South Africa — By Courtney B on March 3, 2010 at 7:38 pm
By Courtney Brooks
LG International Correspondent (South Africa)
During my last three weeks in South Africa my older brother and sister came to visit for 10 days, and then one of my best friends from college for another 10, overlapping by just a couple of days. My siblings and I did a massive road trip to Mozambique – think about three and a half thousand miles – and back to Cape Town. My sister flew to Cape Town and we drove to Maputo over the course of about two and a half days. My brother flew into Maputo and the three of us drove to Tofo, one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. It is essentially a resort town, but is really a collection of hostels on giant, deserted beaches filled with South African and European young travelers. From there we drove back to Cape Town, stopping in Kruger National Park to do a couple days of safari on the way, and made our way down South Africa’s stunning coast, known as the Garden Route, where we did the world’s highest bungee jump and petted elephants. By the time we got back to Cape Town we were completely exhausted, but luckily had arrived in one of the most beautiful and relaxing cities in the world. Here are my tips on how to survive an epic road trip with your family:
1. Make sure you have time to make stops along the way – If you’re driving the whole time a road trip quickly becomes less fun and more like work. Some of my favorite memories of our trip were stopping in little rural towns along the way for lunch, drinks and quirky little museums and shops. The trip should be as much about the journey as the destination.
2. Accept each others short fallings – I can go for days without sleep but start to lose it if I don’t have food or water for more than a few hours. My sister doesn’t like to drive and needs a decent night of sleep to get through the day. My brother, thankfully, was more easygoing than either of us. The three of us accounted for these things and made sure everyone was getting what they needed. It’s also important that each person gets to pick at least some of the activities. For my brother it was horseback riding, for my sister a safari and for me, snorkeling in Mozambique.
3. Plan ahead, but be flexible – Planning ahead is key, especially in Africa. We calculated routes, booked hostels and scoured the guidebook for activities that would be open over the holidays. But in the end, almost nothing went as planned. Major “highways” in Mozambique turned out to be dirt roads, and we once spent two hours driving on one before finding out it was completely flooded and having to turn around. We arrived days late or early depending on the quality of roads or our own misadventures. We started booking hostels for days when we weren’t planning on being there in case we arrived an entire day late or early and needed somewhere to stay. Fortunately for us Africans are generally very hospitable and took pity on lost and disorganized travelers.
4. Don’t bicker – General rule of thumb: if someone else is driving you crazy, chances are you are making them crazy too. It’s easy to get irritated with family and close friends, especially in such a small space, but try to hold onto your sanity and laugh about the little things. I will always admire my brother and sister for not killing me upon finding out that I had locked the keys in the trunk of the car when we stopped for dinner in Johannesburg. (To my credit, I overcame my claustrophobia enough to crawl around in the trunk looking for an emergency hatch, which I eventually flipped open with my bobby pin. I’m a resourceful gal).
5. If in question, always fill up on gas, withdraw money and stop to take a look around – One of the things I both love and hate about Africa is the inconvenience of just about everything. It makes life more interesting and provides some good laughs, but can also make you a little crazy. You can find yourself driving for hours without ever seeing a gas station and days without seeing an ATM. Some ATMs only accepted Visa and not MasterCard, some were out of money, and some just wouldn’t accept our cards for no apparent reason. So whenever possible buy water and snacks, fill up on gas and get your oil checked and withdraw money.
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