Confucius said that roads were made for journeys, not destinations… The freedom, the open space, sense of adventure and romance stir my nomadic soul, but I’ll spare you the roadkill poetry. Road travel has always been a popular mode of tourism and it’s relevant again, ticking many boxes on the modern traveller’s list of requirements. Take your road tripping day dreamers on an immersive adventure they’ll be recounting for years to come.
What inspires the great road trip
There’s the love of the drive, love of the open road, love of exploration (on one’s own terms); feeling small, plotting a path in the urban unknown or under a giant sky, dwarfed by expansive, natural landscapes. As it paves the way to unique locations spared by tourists, the road can provide access to seclusion and disconnect from tech.
There’s nostalgia for childhood road trips with the family and young adults on shoestring budget road trips trying to ‘find’ themselves.
Pop culture dishes up its share of inspiration with iconic movies like Planes, Trains & Automobiles, The Motorcycle Diaries, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Y Tu Mamá También; and Thelma & Louise tearing up the road.
Jack Kerouac books have inspired generations of readers to dream of the open road to self-discovery. His novel, On the Road, was adapted to film in 2012, inspiring a new millennial audience. Movies and literature insert romance into the road and those movies we saw as kids fill us with nostalgia for a time we’re driven to relive.
Social media pushes it into higher gear with travellers – Millennials in particular – sharing fashionable (again) Polaroid, retro-styled pics of their road trips. They’ll do photographic portraits of moments frozen in time for next level experiments on Instagram with different ways to evoke travel envy among their followers.
There are plenty of blogs on the subject, turning regular travellers into influencers and advocates of the next big road trip. They’ll tell a superficial I-was-there selfie-based story or share new discoveries along a less-travelled route in a destination whose mainstream charms no longer appeal. Consider getting your own done to inspire clients with tales of romance and adventure from the road.
A private vehicle offers privacy, freedom of movement, independence, flexibility and relative control over how to spend one’s time. Arrange a rental pick-up in one location and drop-off elsewhere, or do multiple rentals in different locations. For travellers who despise living out of a suitcase and lugging shopping around, it’s easier to load everything up as they go, especially if they drive motor homes, RVs, and such.
They can be spontaneous and discover sites that motivate for a future return trip.
Mitigate the negatives by counterbalancing the carbon monoxide expelled during travel with sustainable, eco-friendly activities and accommodations. Many destinations are improving the quality and reach of their road systems, so that access to those hidden gems isn’t limited to 4×4 vehicles. Better road surfaces on previously hard-to-reach locations make them more fun to search for and find.
..driving is probably the best way of getting to Ayers Rock…you’ll see first hand that the outback is not just flat, boring & dusty
Travel Outback Australia
Road trippers can choose to spend more time doing what they like and skip what they don’t.
A road trip can be any duration, depending on how much time they have or how much they want to do.
They can stop wherever and as often as they like.
As for affordability, road trips are very cost-effective for groups and families travelling together. According to AAA, ever-increasing gas prices haven’t deterred American road trippers.
Millennials cited lower vacation costs as their No.1 reason for taking road trips
MMGY Global (2017-18 Portrait of American Travelers study)
It’s faster to fly and convenient if you have little time, but flying is expensive, restrictive and schedule-bound. Travellers still need to budget for day tours, pick up/drop off services, and local transportation.
Portrait of a modern road tripper
The road loves all traveller demographics and pocket sizes. Budgets for the road can cater to backpackers, campers, and luxury travellers. A SKIFT study revealed the 3 biggest demographics: families; empty nesters; Generation X couples without children. Slowly joining this group, having identified mobile accommodation as an affordable option, are budget-conscious millennials.
Millennials now comprise 37% of RV vacationers
Travellers are realising the cost of the road isn’t prohibitive. Add up rental fees, insurance to cover the length of a trip, fuel required to cover a certain amount of distance, split the total among the travel party, and the per person per day cost looks a lot more manageable. Transfer costs are absorbed and in the case of RVs, caravans or camper vans, so are accommodation costs, even if you combine mobile and fixed options for your client, and even if they request a guide/driver.
Countries with a good domestic and regional road tripping tradition add to the statistics pointing to a growing, lucrative trend. Americans and Europeans have always been avid road trippers, crossing states and relaxed borders into neighbouring countries; Australians inside their own country too.
Of the surveyed group [of 1,400 Aussies], 92% were planning at least 1 trip in 2018 with an average of 22 days..
Some are motivated by the desire to transform into a more free version of themselves, uninhibited by daily routine. Some want a break from social obligations or problems in their communities.
If home is the urban sprawl, they’ll yearn for wide open rural spaces, the simpler life, to disconnect and unplug. If home is surrounded by mountains and woods, they’ll yearn for the coast or big city charms.
Other less jaded travellers will hit the road to get friendly with locals and understand them better.
Constructing the road trip experience
With motive and means covered, travel expertise now comes into play, guided by the client’s chosen mode of transport and particular interests in your destination. A road trip can be done by motorbike, bicycle, electric bike, mobile accommodation, regular sedan or 4×4 vehicle, or caravan, with other modes of transport incorporated, like ferries or trains, to complete the experience.
Make it easier for your clients. They don’t want to be stuck in a vehicle with unhappy passengers for hours on end; so understand the dynamic of a group travelling together. There are practical issues to factor into planning, provisions to make, not least of which is access to you during travel.
For the traveller to truly enjoy the freedom of the road, planning is key!
For the adventurous sort, leave some time for leisure and for their own arrangement – they may choose to extend their stay somewhere or take a slight detour. Construct the experience around a destination hub or in a linear or circular route. Will it be a semi-, full- or un-guided road trip? Consider the language constraints in a country whose language your client doesn’t speak. Tap into data analytics and simple Q&A consultation to #KnowThyClient and personalise to taste. Make it a single, double or multi-destinational road trip that takes a turn into rural countryside, off-grid, across savannah, desert, bush, alpine, coastal, riverine, or an urban experience.
A great road trip needs a plan and a checklist:
✅advise popular sites, events, festivals for the time of travel, or off-peak travel times for travellers averse to crowds
✅advise ideal travel time (e.g. busy school holiday period in South America, January to February; less congested in December)
✅advise on terrain conditions, adventurous 4×4 routes, ferry crossing or train times
✅advise on road conditions, new and bad, traffic-clogged roads, as well as new routes opening up
✅advise on local driving habits and general rules of the road
✅advise on filling station etiquette, down to the correct words in the local language for petrol or diesel
✅advise the most scenic, less-trodden routes to travel; the perfect sunrise/sunset viewing points, remote, secluded spaces in and around your plotted routes; hidden gems known but not considered
✅personalise the experience according to client interest or niche
✅consider how much there is to do within the trip duration
✅consider the distance to manage time on the road
✅provide accurate directions and maps with on/offline access
✅advise on ease of access to off-beaten spots and scenic detours
✅book and prepay activities or provide info on your top recommendations
✅provide info on dining options and make allowances for picnics, alfresco and impromptu meals
✅advise on currency, availability of ATM’s or banks en route, and preferred payment methods
✅provide info on recommended accommodation wherever they make their own arrangements
✅arrange local guides or drivers where advisable
✅make yourself available during travel via messaging
✅advise how to pack and avoid weighing down the vehicle
Anticipate medical requirements such as AMS in high altitude destinations, vaccinations and health precautions like protection for high allergy-prone areas/times. Advise on weather-dependent preparation for clothing, sunscreen, eye wear, and ear protection. Advise on dress, taboos, and personal safety; free vs toll roads and fees, permits and entry fees required en route; availability of mechanical assistance, fuel and service stops, and recommended fuel spend; mobile phone, signal, reception and free WIFI.
Where’s the next great road trip?
Your destination! Be it an interest-based or highlights itinerary, research the routes in your destination for the adventures they hold and stitch together your client’s next great road trip. Some locations are better suited to cultural experiences with local interactions, others for culinary interests, etc.
Pop cult followers would agree, the landscape popularised by the LOTR trilogy is made for nature lovers. Let’s drive down South Island together:👇
The information you make available is your traveller’s best road trip guide. Market your routes based on the iconic status of your destination with content that makes the experience accessible. You could get really creative with the format and even construct your own Amazing Race styled itinerary or reference an already well-known route. Present some memorable road tripping experiences just in time for travellers seeking transformation as one year ends and another starts. OP