Confucius said that roads were made for journeys, not destinations.
The freedom, open space, sense of adventure and romance stir the soul, but enough of the roadkill poetry. Road travel has always been a popular mode of tourism and it’s relevant again. Your destination comes built-in with plenty of road tripping adventures to lure the dreamers.
What Inspires the Great Road Trip
There’s the love of the drive, of the open road, exploring the rural or urban unknown (on your own terms); and the humbling sense of being dwarfed into anonymity by expansive landscapes. It often paves the way to unique locations normally spared of mass tourism, and offers access to secluded locations and opportunities to disconnect from the grid.
There’s nostalgia for childhood road trips with the family or as young adults on shoestring budget road trips trying to ‘find’ themselves. Literature has inspired generations of readers to dream of the open road to self-discovery. Jack Kerouac’s novel, On the Road, adapted to film in 2012, inspired a new millennial audience. Movies and music insert romance into the road with pop culture dishing up its share of inspiration in iconic movies like Planes, Trains & Automobiles, The Motorcycle Diaries, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Y Tu Mamá También; and Thelma & Louise tearing up the road.
Social media shifts it into higher gear with Millennials, in particular, sharing fashionable, retro-styled pics of their road trips. They evoke travel envy among their followers with photographic portraits for the gram of memorable moments frozen in time.
There are plenty of blogs on the subject, with regular travellers-turned-influencers endorsing independent road travel and destinations. They tell selfie-based I-was-there stories and share their discoveries along less-travelled routes in destinations whose mainstream charms no longer appeal.
The Call of the Open Road
Top of our self-drive motivations are privacy and freedom of movement. Flexibility is a drawcard too – a road trip can be any duration, depending on how much time the traveller has or how much they want to do. It suits those who love feeling in control of their trip, but it’s important to highlight access to sites, and costs to the environment and pocket. Other road tripping pro’s include:
- having the choice to spend more time doing what appeals and skipping what doesn’t
- being independent and in control of time and space
- stopping wherever and as often as preferred
- simply loading up luggage and shopping on the go, especially when driving motor homes or RVs
- spontaneously discovering sites that motivate for a future return trip
- affordability for groups and families travelling together
Millennials cited lower vacation costs as their No.1 reason for taking road trips
MMGY Global (2017-18 Portrait of American Travelers study)
Travellers are realising the cost of the road isn’t prohibitive. Add up rental fees, insurance to cover the length of a trip, fuel to cover a certain amount of mileage, 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, accommodation costs too. This applies even if you combine mobile and fixed options for your client, and even if they request a guide/driver.
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.
Portrait of a Road Tripper
The road loves all pocket sizes and traveller types, including backpackers, campers, and luxury travellers. Studies have revealed families, empty nesters, and Generation X couples without children as the main actors. Slowly joining this group are budget-conscious millennials.
Countries with a good domestic and regional road tripping tradition point 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 carefree 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 yearn for wide open rural spaces, the simpler life, to disconnect and unplug. If home is surrounded by mountains and woods, they yearn for the coast or big city charms. Other travellers want to connect and get friendly with locals.
Constructing the Self-Drive
With motive and means covered, your destination expertise now comes into play, guided by the client’s chosen mode of transport and particular interests. A road trip can be done by motorbike, bicycle, electric bike, mobile accommodation, regular sedan or 4×4 vehicle, with other modes of transport incorporated, like ferries or trains, to complete the experience.
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? Make it a single, double or multi-destinational trip that takes a turn into rural countryside, off-grid, across savannah, desert, bush, alpine, coastal, or riverine landscapes, or into the urban jungle.
Arrange a rental pick-up in one location and drop-off elsewhere, or do multiple rentals in different locations. Counterbalance carbon monoxide emissions on the road by choosing sustainable, eco-friendly activities and accommodations for your client.
Nobody wants to be stuck in a vehicle for hours with unhappy passengers; so understand the dynamic of a group travelling together. Allocate time to leisure for their own arrangement – they may choose to extend their stay somewhere or take a slight detour.
True freedom of the road comes from thorough planning and guidance – that’s the role you play. Your road tripping checklist may require advice on things like:
✅popular sites, events, festivals during time of travel
✅national school or public holiday times when roads are more congested
✅terrain conditions, adventurous 4×4 routes, ferry crossing or train times
✅road conditions, new and bad, traffic-clogged roads, as well as new routes opening up
✅local driving habits and general rules of the road
✅filling station etiquette, down to the correct words in the local language for petrol or diesel
✅scenic detours, less-trodden routes; ideal sunrise/sunset viewing points; unique activities not often considered
✅personalised experiences according to client interests
✅what’s reasonable to do within the trip duration and time required to manage distances
✅directions with on/offline access to maps
✅booking, prepaying and providing info on activities
✅dining options en route, including picnic spots
✅currency, availability of ATM’s or banks en route, and preferred payment methods
✅accommodation recommendations for client’s own arrangement
✅local guides or arranging drivers
✅packing to avoid weighing down the vehicle
Your expertise can make it easier for them to anticipate medical requirements such as AMS in high altitude destinations, vaccinations and health precautions like protection for high allergy-prone areas/times. You can advise on dress requirements, taboos, and personal safety; toll roads and fees, permits and entries payable en route; availability of mechanical assistance, fuel and service stops, and recommended fuel spend; mobile phone, signal, reception and free WIFI.
Finally, be their emergency safety net by using a messaging app to make yourself available during their trip.
Where’s the Next Great Road Trip?
Your destination! Consider the character and many charms of your destination, and craft relevant experiences with a generous mixture of scenery, activity and chill time. Research available routings – choose among the popular networks and/or customise your own routes – and stitch together an interest-based or highlights itinerary.
We took inspiration from the landscapes of New Zealand and the adventures they promise to create a drool-worthy itinerary. Take a virtual road trip with us through this South Island sampler to see what we mean:
As self-drive trips go, you are your destination’s best road guide. Tap into the nostalgia and showcase your self-drive routes in itineraries that motivate travellers to hit the road. Play around with iconic locations and get creative with the format – why not construct your own Amazing Race-styled itinerary? Incorporate well-known routes and off-track sites. The diversity of your destination will offer up a host of interesting ways to journey from A to B, to C and beyond.