We’ve spent many hours on the road, and have a fair bit of advice to anyone looking to head out on a long roadtrip. Here are some of our top tips
At the risk of sounding disgustingly cocksure, we at evo India spend A LOT of time on the road and have plenty of experience on how to plan, and execute a good ol’ road trip. Every single month we have stories in our magazine that, more often than not, involve a fat stint behind the wheel. Sometimes these road trips last a mere two-three days. Sometimes, they stretch to over a week. Occasionally, these road trips are so grand and expansive that we break them up to multiple legs and deploy different teams on each of them. Just last year, we took the Volkswagen Tiguan from our base in Pune on two 5000km road trips to the Himalayas and back. And not too long before that, we drove the Renault Kwid to the four extremities of mainland India, covering a total of 13,000km in the process. So trust us when we say we know a thing or two on how to go about planning your road trip right. Here are a few tips and tricks to make your road trips a lot more fun, while possibly making you a faster and safer driver at the same time.
And by early, we mean really, really early. Like setting off at 5:00am early. Starting before the rest of the city even thinks about waking up saves you a lot of time on the road. The streets that are normally choked up with everyone going about their humdrum routine are empty at this time, and you can get out of the city and on to the highway far quicker. This little trick will save you a lot of time if you stay in a large city with notorious traffic like Mumbai or Bengaluru. I remember from when I stayed in Mumbai — getting from home to the start of the Mumbai-Pune expressway was an affair that took at least an hour and a half if I attempted it at any time after 7:30am. If I tried at 5? Half an hour flat.
Everyone preps for their road trip. But you shouldn’t be doing it the morning you want to set off. That’s like prepping for an exam as walk in to the exam hall — you’re asking for trouble. You don’t want to be tanking up on the morning you are setting off. Neither do you want to be checking your tyres then. You need to prep your car or bike the night before you set off. This includes making sure you have a full tank of fuel, your tyres are set the the right pressure, your windscreen washer fluid is topped up, you’ve got a spare tyre in place, some basic puncture repair tools, all your documents — RC, insurance, PUC and driving license — are in order. It helps with making the most of the early morning start, as this is the time that you can really do big distances quickly. You don’t want to be stopping in these key hours. And in my case, I also sleep better knowing everything is order for the following day.
It isn’t too hard. Empty a can of tuna between some bread. Or even tomatoes and lettuce if you’re a herbivore. Do this the night before, put it in the refrigerator and don’t forget to take it with you on your way out in the morning. Pro tip: Put your keys in and wallet in the refrigerator too, so the question of forgetting doesn’t even arise. Now, a lot of you are anal about eating in the car — I am too, so you might want to stop the car before you unwrap said sandwich. But even if you stop, wolfing down your ready sandwich will be a far quicker affair than waiting for a dhaba to dish out something for you early in the morning. Again, this little trick will help you maximise how much distance you cover before the sun comes up and the roads get more crowded.
As for the bottle of water, the only reason you should be doing that is to reduce the amount of one-time use plastic your road trip creates. Carry a metal or reusable plastic bottle that you can refill along the way, but avoid a glass one — they can be a disaster in the case of an accident.
Okay, you’re done with your sandwich and you’re hungry again. how do you go about picking where to eat? The safest when it comes to hygiene standards are probably fast food joints like McDonald’s and Subway that are peppered across the Indian highway network. But hey, where’s the fun in eating the same darn burger you order to office on the day you forget your dabba? We recommend you do some exploring. The rule of thumb here is to look for a crowded restaurant or dhaba. If you see a bunch of cars or trucks (truckers have a really good nose for good food on the highway) parked up at a dhaba, you can safely assume the food is good. Women and children eating at a restaurant is also a good sign. Ask the staff what is good, and stick to what they recommend.
As much as those fancy sunglasses we wear look good in photos, they actually have two other very important uses — firstly, they hide the fact that we are sometimes looking at the camera and photographer, and not at the road in front of us. And secondly, they reduce fatigue. Polarised sunglasses are recommended as they reduce the amount of glare from other cars, as well as the road and allow you to see things better. This reduces the strain on your eyes and will keep you fresher for longer behind the wheel. Even if you don’t have polarised glares, a good pair of regular sunglasses go a long way in keeping the glare out of your eyes. Don’t be a fool though — take them off in tunnels and once the sun goes down.
A good set of tunes is essential for a long drive. If you’re in company, you might want to create a playlist that appeals to all your passengers. I assure you, your music interspersed with a few songs you are indifferent to is far more enjoyable than your co-passengers laying claim to the tunes for the whole drive. If you’re alone, you can curate one that is is tailored to what you like, including all those Enrique Iglesias tunes that you would be too embarrassed to tell anyone you still listen to. If you’re using a music app like Spotify or Apple Music, you might want to download the songs and make them available for offline listening. There’s nothing more frustrating than the lack of mobile data cutting short your high pitched duet with Enrique. Another pro tip: Check out the Thrill of Driving podcast, I promise you it will be great company on a road trip if you like cars.
The trick to covering ground quickly is keeping your average speeds up. And to keep your average speeds up, you need to minimise how much you stop. Ideally, plan your stops smartly so you can take care of multiple things in a single stop — food, fuel, loo. If you are stopping for a bite, try emptying your bladder as well — it might mean one less stop an hour later. If you are stopping to tank up, it might be a smart idea to grab a quick bite at the food court next door you you can continue non-stop for a few hours. Minimise your stops, and you will find yourself covering ground far quicker than you would expect.
If your drive is more than 1000km, you might want to break it up over two days. And if you are doing so, plan your overnight halt accordingly. One way to save time is by booking a hotel on the highway. That will save you the time spent getting in to the city in the evening, as well as getting out the following morning. However, if you aren’t arriving too late and want to do a little exploration, don’t hesitate. You’re probably a long way from home and there’s nothing like exploring the food of a strange town after dark.
In all our years, and many thousands on kilometres on the road, these are some of the best tricks we’ve learned to keep our road trips enjoyable, safe and brisk. Most importantly though, don’t forget to wear your seatbelts. Even in the back seat!