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For decades, musicians and writers have waxed poetic about the open road; Willie Nelson’s song "On the Road Again" and Jack Kerouac’s classic "On the Road" have extolled the virtues of hitting the road.
There’s nothing quite like a classic road trip – a dog-eared map impossible to re-fold correctly, the rush of wind flowing through rolled-down windows and endless possibilities for adventure.
But, before you hop in the car and set your sights on destinations unknown, we have some tips to help you plan the ultimate journey -- wherever the road may take you!
PRE-TRIP: What to do before you leave
[caption id="attachment_296614" width="620"]Richard Riley, Ayers Rock (Uluru) via Flickr CC BY 2.0[/caption]
Use the buddy system. Travel with family or friends. Determine who will share the responsibilities of driving, who will navigate and who will plan the meals, rest stops and accommodations.
Decisions, decisions. Determine where you want to go and plot the farthest point. There are plenty of popular road trips in Australia. One of the most famous being the Stuart Highway from Adelaide to Darwin. Regardless where you are heading, you should determine how long it will reasonably take to get there. Don’t plan for more than eight hours of driving per day. Once you know how long it will take, add an extra day or two in case of unforeseen delays.
Budget. Once you have chosen the destination, calculate the following costs to ensure you stay within budget:
Meals and snacks
Plan but don’t over plan. Traffic jams and unforeseen detours are inevitable. Luckily, apps like Waze update traffic and road conditions in real time. Poor weather and traffic accidents can also put the brakes on your trip.
Schedule wisely. It’s no fun driving in rush hour traffic. Plan the start of your day before or after rush hour and plan to be finished driving before the evening rush.
Tune up the car. Be sure to check that your car is in tip-top shape. Consider a professional inspection if you aren’t handy.
Consider renting a car. If you are going more than 1,500 kilometres or your car is older, you might consider renting a car. You won’t have to worry about the maintenance, and it may be equipped with GPS and roadside assistance.
Don’t get stranded. Consider signing up for a roadside assistance and/or rescue program.
Don’t over pack. Stick to one bag per person so that all your gear fits in the boot – leaving you plenty of room to stretch out in the car and stash treasures found along the way.
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GET PACKING: What to pack
[caption id="attachment_296623" width="620"]Samantha Marx, We ended up not traveling with friends, and so the car was packed to capacity! via Flickr CC BY 2.0[/caption]
Prevent having to constantly pull over by keeping these items at hand:
Satellite radio. With satellite radio, you get to enjoy music and talk radio (almost) without interruption.
Map it. It’s best to have an old-school paper road map or atlas as a backup should your phone or GPS die or break.
Esky. Pack a hard-sided cooler with snacks and water. Freeze the water bottles and they can double as ice packs. Water is the best drink to pack because if it spills on you or the car, it’s easy to clean up.
Cleaning supplies. Keep the car and yourself clean with pre-moistened wipes for your hands, bleach wipes for quickly cleaning the interior of the car, paper towels or napkins and small plastic bags for trash.
More essentials. Don’t forget these tiny but important items.
Telephone car charger
USB cigarette lighter adapter for charging electronics
License and registration
Car insurance paperwork
Spare car key (put this in someone’s pocket in case you accidentally lock the keys in the car)
OTC medications like aspirin and Pepto-Bismol
Cash for places that don't accept credit cards
Things to pack in the boot:
Basic tools like a tire iron, lug wrench, jack, fire extinguisher and emergency triangles
Survival kit with the solar blanket, flashlight with fresh batteries and an extra set of batteries, bottled water and extra energy bars. If you are driving in the winter, also include an ice scraper, snow brush, hand warmers, gloves and hats.
A few days’ supply of clothes and toiletries packed in soft-sided bags like backpacks and duffel bags, which take up less space than bulky hard-sided or wheelie luggage.
Comfy shoes like runners and loafers. Don’t wear thongs or shoes that slip off easily when driving.
Laundry hamper or organisation crate to keep clothes, toys, beach gear and other travel goods organised.
HIT THE ROAD: Tips for driving the open roadEnsure smooth traveling by incorporating these driving tips:
Use bypass routes to avoid construction.
Avoid driving during rush hour which is typically between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Stop to take walks and naps. Plan stops in the afternoon and, if driving at night, in the middle of the night when drivers tend to feel most sleepy.
Avoid fatigue or zoning out by channel surfing on the radio. Mix it up with music and talk radio. If you can, switch driving responsibilities with others in the car.
Tip for reading a map or atlas:
Study the legend (the group of icons located in a box on the map or at the front of the atlas) to decipher the maps. Use the atlas to map out scenic routes, avoid long-term construction projects and highlight rest areas.
ON THE ROAD: Expect the unexpected
[caption id="attachment_296626" width="620"]Kevin Dooley, Road trip to Buckeye; Tire Shop #3 via Flickr CC BY 2.0[/caption]
Flat tire. You hope it doesn’t happen, but it is inevitable that at some point, you might get a flat tire.
What to do if the car breaks down:
No matter how prepared you and your car are, sometimes breakdowns occur.
Put on your hazard lights.
If it is safe, place emergency triangles 25 feet behind the car or hang a cloth on the antenna or the side-view mirror.
If it is safe, get everyone out and go behind a guardrail. If the road is heavily trafficked or not safe, stay in the car and keep your seat belt fastened.
Call your roadside assistance company.
Wait for help.
Don’t expect to have phone reception:
Phone reception becomes a little patchy as you drive out of the main towns and in some areas coverage may be non-existent. Opt for Telstra as they have the best rural service.
Try to prevent motion sickness before it happens, but if it does, here is what to do:
Avoid excessive alcohol.
Don’t eat fatty, greasy or spicy foods.
Don’t travel on an empty stomach.
Avoid eating smelly foods in the car.
If you are prone to motion sickness, sit in the front of the car
If you are prone to motion sickness, avoid reading in the car.
Keep your gaze fixed on the horizon or a fixed point.
Look out the window and see the twists and turns in the road before they occur.
Roll down the window.
Consider taking over-the-counter medication like Dramamine.
Wear motion sickness wristbands that apply pressure to trigger points on the wrist. If you don’t have the wristbands, place your thumb on the inner arm 1.5 inches above the crease of the wrist, according to WebMD.
Eat or drink something with ginger.
GAME ON: Classic road trip games
[caption id="attachment_293344" width="525"]Always Shooting, Morning Mist via Flickr CC BY 2.0[/caption]
One of the best ways to beat boredom on the open road is to play games. Rather than playing cards or checkers whose pieces can go flying when traveling over a speed bump or making a quick turn, these interactive games are easy to play, free and fun.
Start a scavenger hunt: Have each passenger make a list of things to spot like grain silos, billboards and wildlife along the way. The first person to spot them all wins.
I Spy: One player looks around and chooses an object other players have to guess. He or she says, “I spy with my little eye something that begins with” and then inserts the first letter of the name of the object. Be sure you don’t choose something that is whizzing by the car.
20 Questions: As the name suggests, one player thinks of something and each person in the car takes turns asking a question to try to determine what the “thing” is. Questions like 'Is it an animal, vegetable or mineral?' and 'Is it edible?' are common beginner questions. If you reach the 20th question and are still stumped, everyone gets one final guess before the 'thing' is revealed.
Name That Tune: Karaoke-style, each player takes turns singing a song and the rest of the players have to guess it. Variations include hitting the ‘seek’ button on the radio and seeing who can guess the name of each song first.
Picnic Game: The first player begins with 'I went on a picnic and I brought' and then inserts an item that begins with the letter A. The next player repeats the sentence and includes what the player before said plus adds an item that begins with the letter B and so on. The key to this memory game is remembering and reciting all 26 items at the end.
ON THE ROAD: Make the most of the journey
[caption id="attachment_293252" width="459"] Dine and dash. (Image: Espen Sundve, Stopping for food via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)[/caption]
Traveling to the destination is just as much as fun as reaching your final stop. Make the most of meals along the way with these tips.
Where to eat:Don't just stick to fast-food joints and run-of-the-mill rest areas.
Check the cooler. Stocking your cooler with snacks and water will reduce the number of pit stops and keep you from eating junk food 24/7. Re-stock as needed at rest stops and grocery stores along the way.
Talk to strangers. Ask locals for advice on where and what to eat.
Ever dreamed of being stranded on a tropical island, surrounded by lush coconut trees, pristine reefs and breathtaking waterfalls?
Or do your island fantasies mostly focus on cocktails, all you can eat buffets and poolside massages?
Are you a self-sufficient survivor or a pampered princess type?
Take our personality quiz to see which Fijian island you should be stranded on (just so you can be prepared, of course).
Kuala Lumpur isn’t exactly synonymous with luxury travel or expensive trips, even though it’s a jumping-off point for several high-end resorts on the Indian Ocean and Sea of China. With that in mind though, you can save money for a more exxy excursion by focusing on the myriad of free and cheap options the City of Garden Lights has to offer. It's a good starting off point for an adventure further afield, and by booking your flights with Cheapflights.com.au you'll save even more. Take a look at our favourite cheap and free things to do in Kuala Lumpur.
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Eat at a food court. Any food court
10-20 RM per person
Food court culture is simply the way to eat anywhere in Malaysia, and Kuala Lumpur is no exception. You’ll find that this city is filled with these little dens of tables surrounded by carts specialising in regional favourites. Order a little from a curry cart, a little nasi lemak, and a plate of satay. Then, wash it down with a Tiger beer.
Three of the most locally recommended food courts are Hutong Food Court, Selera Malam, and Sungei Wang. But really just keep an eye out for opportunities anytime you feel peckish. Don’t fear the little breakfast setups found throughout the city. They might look like somebody dragged food out of their kitchen and set up a folding card table (that’s exactly what happened), but it doesn’t mean the food isn’t delicious and perfectly safe.
Climb up to the Batu Cave
This stunning Hindu temple is tucked away in a daylight cave at the top of a punishing set of stairs. It’s free to the public and one of the most-viewed religious sites in the world. Take a cab to Selangor, just ask the driver to take you to “Batu Caves". Be advised that women must cover their legs, and also be careful about carrying food with you as the place is home to a gang of cheeky macaque monkeys that aren't scared of people and will try to confiscate food from you.
Two-thirds of the way up the stairs is an offshoot path to explore a darker cave complex if spelunking is your cup of tea. Also, remember to leave some time to explore the temples and shrines at the base of the mountain.
The story of Malaysia is in large part the story of the ethnic Chinese population that has been present here for hundreds of years. Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown district is what you might expect from a large city with that history. The open-air market lets you shop for everything from unique souvenirs to trendy t-shirts and accessories for your latest gadgets. Food courts range from classic Chinese cuisine to the local Nyonya specialities.
If you have extra time, the nearby Kasturi Walk is a must. This sprawling warren of shops, restaurants and tiny shrines feels like you’ve stepped into the pages of a 1920s adventure novel. It’s definitely worth a couple of hours of your time.
Visit the National Planetarium
12RM adults, 8RM children
For a smaller museum in a country not known for science and industry, this museum is surprisingly great. The planetarium offers educational shows about science and space, and the astronaut exhibit features the space suit and history of Malaysia’s first astronaut.
[caption id="attachment_320774" width="620"] photo credit: @iderchi[/caption]
This is not the headline attraction of Kuala Lumpur, but it is one of its better-kept secrets. Science enthusiasts absolutely must visit, as should any families with children.
Sample the high life at Petronas and Kuala Lumpur Towers
52 or 85 RM
The iconic twin Petronas Towers and the Kuala Lumpur Tower on a nearby hill are the highest points on the Kuala Lumpur skyline. Both offer astonishing birds-eye views of the city.
The KL Tower (52 RM) is actually the more robust, with add-on options for a longer experience. The Petronas Towers are higher in the sky and have an interesting museum at the top, along with a more formal guided tour experience. Either way, the cost is far lower than comparable experiences in any of the western cities like New York or Toronto. We recommend taking one or both early on your first day in town, so you can use the view to get to know the town.
Explore the religious sites
The history of Malaysia is a history of four different religions-- Islam for the local population, Buddhism and Taoism for the Chinese, Hinduism for the newer but robust Indian population, and Christianity from missionaries and expats. All four are represented proudly in the architecture of the nation’s capital. Admission to many religious sites is free (with a donation if you’re of a mind), and you can view the exteriors all you like.
A handful of don’t-misses for fans of religious architecture include:
● The National Mosque of Malaysia
● Thean Hou Temple (Buddhist)
● Chan See Shu Yuen Temple (Buddhist)
● Batu Caves (Hindu -- see above)
● Putra Mosque (Islam)
● Sri Mahamariamman Temple (Hindu)
● Kuan Ti Temple (Buddhist)
● Sri Kandaswamykovil Temple (Hindu)
● Holy Rosary Church (Christian)
Flying into KL is quick and easy out of Sydney and most other major regional airports. You can also fly into Singapore if you manage to find a cheaper ticket on Cheapflights.com.au as trains and regular buses will get you from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur cheaply and comfortably. Either way, start your trip by booking the cheapest fare possible on Cheapflights.com.au. You can even search for the best hotels and car hire prices around. Simple.
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It is somewhat a mystery how mainstream travellers often overlook The Philippines as a travel destination. While it is true that the country has struggled with bad press in the past and its location isn't exactly the most convenient (it is slightly removed from its Southeast Asian neighbours Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam) or pleasant (it is on the Pacific’s “Ring of Fire”), good things come to those who are daring enough to discover what this island nation is really all about. From its breathtaking beaches to its fascinating history and exciting capital of Manila, here are six reasons why The Philippines should be on your radar this very moment.
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1. The world’s best beaches
With over 7,500 islands, we guess it’s safe to say that you will never run out of exotic beaches to explore in The Philippines. From secluded white sand beaches and celebrity-approved resorts to 24-hour party islands, there are islands to match every kind of traveller and taste. Do you want to spend your days in peace and quiet? The northern province of Ilocos and Batanes are teeming with stunning and secluded coastlines. Looking to party it up? Take a trip to the white sand beaches of Boracay, which is also known as the “Ibiza of Southeast Asia”. If budget is more on your side, however, we suggest you go big and visit the island of Palawan, which has not only been named as the best island in the world by Condé Nast Traveler, but is also home to the longest navigable river in the world and the very exclusive Amanpulo island resort, where the likes of Robert de Niro, Bill Gates, and Beyoncé have reportedly stayed.
2. And surf resorts, too
If surfing is more your thing, The Philippines also offer countless spots for every level, whether you are a beginner, a grommet, or a pro. Located five hours away from the capital, Manila, are the provinces of La Union and Baler. The former is famous for consistent waves reaching up to 10 feet from May until March, while the latter is known as the birthplace of Philippine surfing (rumour has it that surfing was introduced to the country in the '70s, after a crew member from Francis Ford Coppola’s "Apocalyse Now" gave a surfboard to a local when filming wrapped). Meanwhile, if you are looking for a place that is more off-the-beaten-path, there is Siargao, where you’ll be welcomed by white sand beaches, year-round surf breaks, and friendly surfers from all over the world (even Australia!).
[caption id="attachment_305392" width="620"] iStock.com/tropicalpixsingapore[/caption]
3. Everything is cheap
Your Aussie dollar can certainly go a long way in The Philippines than, say, Singapore or Malaysia. Apart from numerous cheap accommodations available in and outside Manila, one can also get by with just P$1500 per day or approximately $40, and that includes a nice breakfast, lunch and dinner in a restaurant, transportation fares, and maybe even a drink or two to cap off the day. Local beers such as San Miguel and Red Horse are must-tries, not to mention very affordable.
Why don't you check our infographic on the most affordable destinations in Asia Pacific for some more inspiration?
[caption id="attachment_305393" width="620"] iStock.com/TomFullum[/caption]
4. Friendly locals (and they speak English)
Filipinos are among the happiest people in the world, at least according to a recent poll conducted by Gallup. And, as a tourist, you’ll definitely feel the good vibes as friendly locals are always willing to give a smile and a hand to travellers who need help with directions or even recommendations. Another plus? Almost all locals can speak English so you won’t get lost in translation.
5. Colourful history and culture
The Philippine culture is an interesting mix of Spanish, American, and Asian influences. While you’ll discover more about the country’s vibrant past through colonial ruins and museums, a more colourful way to get to know its history is through its festivals. Every third Sunday of January, Cebu hosts an annual Sinulog festival, a dance ritual of pagan origins, which evolved after Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived in The Philippines, and presented the image of the Santo Niño to the then king and queen of the island, Rajah Humabon at Hara Humamay.
[caption id="attachment_305395" width="620"] iStock.com/h3ct02[/caption]
6. “It’s more fun in The Philippines,” as they say
The country's tag line is "It's More Fun in The Philippines," and they are not lying. You'll never be bored if you ever choose to spend your vacation in The Philippines because there are always fun, interesting and crazy (and we mean that in a good way!) things that are happening all the time. Apart from the many music festivals and concerts, you'll also find parties in bars and clubs every day. And, yes, that includes Monday, Thursdays, and Sundays. No rest for the fun-loving Filipinos.
[caption id="attachment_305396" width="620"] iStock.com/DinoGeromella[/caption]
Tempted? Search for flights to Manila now.