How to not let your trip turn to crap
When a little preparation can go a long way towards trouble-free touring…
Words Grant Hanan and Linda Bloffwitch, images My Aussie Travel Guide
Whenever you hit the open road, it’s only natural to hope nothing will go wrong while touring. But as we all know, things can and do happen. We’ll be the first to admit that we’ve had a few clangers over the years, and we’ve spoken to many others who shared their not-so-pleasant experiences of open-road travel.
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These days, we’d like to think we’re better prepared by having an action plan ready to deploy when needed. Sure you can’t plan for everything, but it’s having that type of mindset when travelling that puts you on the front foot. In the scheme of things, this can mean the difference between being one more caravan statistic, or treating it as just another challenge on the open road. Yes, you could go mad trying to think of every possible scenario that might bring your travel plans to a grinding halt. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to risk and what approach you’ll take to manage it.
For some, a vehicle or caravan/trailer mechanical failure can be classed as an emergency; whereas others will look at such an occurrence as a setback that’s not going to stop you dead in your tracks. So when exactly was the last time you had your set-up serviced? While we’re not here to spell out the bleeding obvious, keeping these items maintained is one sure-fire way of avoiding any trouble while you’re at large.
When you’re on the road, keep a watchful eye and inspect under the bonnet daily. Take a look underneath your vehicle/caravan/trailer for anything out of the ordinary. Pay attention to wheel nuts and tyre pressures when travelling on corrugated roads, and listen for anything unusual.
While we’d never advocate that you travel with a full mechanical workshop, carrying some basic items such as cable ties, spanners, fencing wire, nuts and bolts and duct tape might just be enough to keep you going. Even having all your vehicle’s details in one complete folder (that records information such as VIN and engine number) at your fingertips can be handy, as it often makes it faster for service centres to locate what options and specs apply.
It will also assist service associations to know what to bring with them if you ever require roadside assistance. While you’re at it, record part number details for service parts like oil, fuel and air filters… this helps in ordering parts for a service when in a remote town.
Travelling with others can be loads of fun, but one fundamental point we make before leaving home is to know the health of our travelling partners and whether they have any medical conditions.
Armed with this information means we’re all in a better position to react as a group if something goes awry. Needless to say, we travel with a comprehensive medical kit that covers more than just standard first aid – but of course you need to know how to use it. There’s many providers that offer first aid training; but take it a step further and book into a course that focuses on travelling or even remote-area first aid.
While on the subject of medical information, we keep a copy of our medical details in our vehicle’s glovebox in case of an emergency. Whether we travel with others or by ourselves, we just find the glovebox an easy place to store it. We’ve recorded information such as blood types, any allergies, past bone breakages and any operations we’ve undergone; as well as including important phone numbers of family members, doctors and specialists.
A road accident is by far the one thing that will ruin any travel plans. Whether it’s some slight panel damage or something more serious, it’s the time to kick that action plan into gear. While it’s easy to say ‘remain cool, calm and collected’, everyone reacts differently in the heat of the moment. Having a step-by-step glovebox guide handy (that you can refer to during times like these) will guarantee that you complete all the relevant information and call the right authorities.
So you’re probably getting the idea by now that it’s all about having the right mindset and a plan. This is definitely the case when it comes to security while travelling, and what precautions you’ll take to ensure the safety of both you and your equipment. There are some excellent anti-theft and alarm products on the market, and even camping with others close-by can provide a level of insurance. Don’t leave expensive items in your rig while it’s unattended, and keep a manifest of items kept in your caravan/trailer. Check with your insurance company well before taking off on that next trip, so you understand what your contents policy will and won’t cover. Be prepared to shop around to find a policy that suits your way of travelling.
Having lived in a fire risk area for years, it goes without saying that we have a fire plan; whereas it’s all about having an evacuation plan in the event of a natural disaster when touring. While in most instances apps and radio broadcasts will provide you with alerts, you can’t rely solely on these. By discussing and preparing a plan beforehand, it means we’re more prepared to quickly swing into action and evacuate if a natural disaster strikes; or simply make a mercy dash to get help for someone.
If you find yourself in a spot of bother while travelling, being able to maintain good communications with the outside world is paramount. So we’re all for spending a few extra dollars on a good communication set-up because we see it as cheap insurance for family safety.
While you may think your mobile phone is going to work everywhere, there’s considerably less chance of having any signal the more remote you go. The telco companies provide mobile coverage maps for consumers – so if you know that where you’re travelling will possibly be out of range, you may need another plan.
Travelling with a simple UHF radio can sometimes suffice, whereas a HF radio costs considerably more and has licence requirements but it can link you directly with rescue agencies allowing you to talk through your situation and receive immediate advice. Additionally, with other devices such as satellite phones, warning beacon devices and personal locator beacons, there’s no reason why you can’t stay in contact somehow while you’re on the blacktop or off-road.
We all travel with the approach that we’ll have a good time… as that’s what travelling is all about. But when something goes wrong, the key is how quickly it can be rectified before you’re able to continue.
Take the time and develop your own risk mitigation plan that you’ll implement in the event of an emergency. Hopefully, you will never have to use it; but like any good scout, it’s better to be prepared.