5 Tips For Surviving A Family Road Trip

Car, Dispatches from the Road, Family & Kid Travel, Featured, South Africa — By on March 3, 2010 at 7:38 pm
family road trip

source: ourordinarylife.com

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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  • That sounds like an absolutely fantastic trip you’ve made. Awesome advices too. We love to stop in rural places, so our trips often tend to take much longer time than planned! *giggles*

  • Shannon OD says:

    Number two was essential for me as well as I traveled RTW with my cousin – we each had certain circumstances that made us break down (high temps for my cousin and food for me) and so we constantly had to apply the “don’t take things personally” rule of thumb to stay friends and keep things sane! 🙂 What a great opp that you had to travel with your family like that! 🙂

  • Sheri says:

    These are great tips. It’s hard to stay positive sometimes and travel brings out the best and the worst in people. I’m really envious of the trip to Africa, it sounds amazing and like a really good way to practice travel skills!

  • TKGO says:

    Road trips can be trying, but they really are such an amazing way to see a country. A couple of years ago I spent two weeks traversing Great Britain with me family and I packed into compact-size rental car. It was totally crazy at times (those roundabouts!) but it was one of our most memorable vacations, just because of all the little moments we had in the car.

    And #3 is really the best advice for any trip, especially road trips. There is such a thing as over-planning, and the beauty of driving is that you can take any detours and pit stops that strike your fancy.


  • Bronwyn says:

    In 2007, 5 friends and 2 kids hit the long road for my birthday.Cape Town to Grahamstown and back. We didnt have much fun on the way up as we needed to be in Grahamstown. but coming back was great. we took our time getting back to Cape Town. Stopping off in smaller towns and just soaking up the scenery.

    I also learnt some good lessons.

    1)Make sure you can always trust the driving skills of the designated drivers.

    2) have a general idea of what you want to do.

    3) Dont over plan – a serious problem with me as i love to know where i’m going to sleep waaaayyyy before the time. (read control freak)

    4)choose when you go. Going over long weekends is convenient for those working but traffic in the towns where the main road is National roads is nightmarish.

    I loved it so much that in 2011 I’m planning another one. Can’t wait!!!

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  • Very nice article! Vacation rental is really much more convenient than the hotel and cheaper!