While planning a road trip can feel overwhelming, once you have the essentials laid out, choosing your route and starting the process can be much easier.

The most important parts of planning any trip include:

  • deciding which route to take
  • finding out how to prepare your car for the trip
  • learning how to stay safe while on the road
  • deciding what to pack for the trip.

With so many attractions and locations to see and do around Australia, whether you're heading on your journey over Christmas or going on an adventure on a long weekend, it always helps to plan ahead.

Prep Your Car

Before getting on the road, make sure your car servicing is up to date. Depending on the route you take, there could be a variety of areas that need to be looked at, particularly if you're going to be adventure four-wheel driving.

Have your local mechanic give your vehicle a complete check at least three weeks before departure so there’s time to fix any problems that show up. Checks should include things like:

Basic safety items

  • Seatbelts – check tension and belt buckle operation
  • External Lights – replace bulbs if necessary
  • Handbrake – ensure that it can hold the vehicle on a slope
  • Windscreens and mirrors – check windscreens and mirrors for cracks
  • Windscreen wipers – check wear on wiper blades, replace if necessary
  • Horn – ensure this works
  • Fluids – check engine oil and engine coolant levels
  • Tyres – ensure tyres are at the correct pressures, check treadwear, refresh on how to change a tyre
  • Spare tyre and jack – ensure they are operational, check toolkit

Fluids checklist

  • Engine oil
  • Radiator coolant
  • Brake fluid
  • Power steering fluid
  • Windscreen washer fluid
  • Clutch fluid (manual cars)
  • Gearbox oil
  • Differential fluid

Lights checklist

  • Headlights
  • Indicators/hazard lights
  • Brake lights
  • Reverse lights
  • Park and Fog lights

Other general things to check:

  • Radiator hoses – check for leaks and cracking
  • Engine air filter – check that it is clean
  • Battery – look for corrosion around terminals, refresh on how to change a battery
  • Fan belts – ensure none are loose or squeaking on start-up
  • Unusual engine noises – hard to start, ticking, hissing or clunking
  • Ensure that child seats are fitted correctly

In 2020-21, Budget Direct Roadside Assistance traced 43% of callouts back to flat batteries. [1]

You can drain your battery if you leave your interior lights on or the car door slightly ajar. The battery can also fail if your car hasn’t been used for some time.

You should also make sure you're covered with the right car insurance and roadside assistance before heading off.

See more of our car safety tips and how-to guides

Choose Your Destination

Whether you're taking an adventure along the stunning beaches of the Gold Coast or driving through the bustling city of Sydney or Brisbane, the best part about road-tripping is the variety of destinations and attractions.

Choosing your route and destination can be tricky, but no matter where you pick in Australia, there'll be plenty of adventure in store.

Family Road Trips

Recent data on family road trips found that Australians tend to travel with their families over friends, other relatives or on solo trips. We also found that the most common road trips Australians travelled were under 10 hours. [2]

So if you're looking to visit popular attractions as a family, consider these top road trip routes:

  • Melbourne to Adelaide
  • The Great Ocean Road
  • Canberra to Melbourne

Best Road Trips

As part of the road trip planner, we have to highlight some of the best road trips to explore Australia.

If you're looking to explore a more scenic route in Australia where you can go on gorgeous hikes, explore swimming holes or see local wildlife, then these are some of Australia's best road trips:

  • Brisbane to Cairns
  • Perth to Broome
  • Hobart to Launceston

Road Trip Safety

Be Aware of Driving Dangers

Safety should be a top priority when driving, and being aware of dangerous driving habits will help you avoid any risky behaviours on the road.

Fatigued driving is when you're not able to concentrate on your normal ability while driving. It can come in many forms and may look like a lack of quality sleep, a lot of time spent driving, a lack of stimulation or if you're overworked or drained from social events.

Distracted driving can occur when drivers are preoccupied with a mobile phone, food or drinks, cigarettes or vape pens, applying makeup, styling their hair, changing the music in their car, reading a GPS map or even changing clothes.

Both of these risky driving behaviours can affect your ability to drive safely. In this state, you can create road hazards and cause an accident with other drivers, pedestrians and wildlife.

Pit Stop Planner

On a road trip route that spans more than two hours, you must take regular breaks from driving. It's recommended that drivers stop and rest for at least 15 minutes every two hours to avoid tiredness.

You can use Budget Direct's Pit Stop Planner to create a rest stop plan along your route for your next road trip anywhere in Australia.

Pit Stop Planner

Tips for Safe Driving

    1. Put your mobile phone on silent and out of reach before driving.
    2. Get enough sleep before you get behind the wheel.
    3. Limit the number of passengers and pets in your car while driving.
    4. Make sure you, your passengers and your pets are all in appropriate safety restraints.
    5. Take a break every two hours of driving for up to 15 minutes at a time.
    6. Do not exceed the speed limit and drive to the conditions.
    7. Always check your blind spots.
    8. Get more familiar with road signs (especially in rural areas).

    See more of our road safety guides.

Emergency Breakdown Kit

A prepared traveller is a safe traveller. So before you head off, make sure your car is packed with an emergency kit that will help keep you safe.

Your emergency kit may include:

  • Car owners manual
  • Torch with spare batteries
  • Power bank or mobile phone charger
  • A first aid kit – St. Johns sell a personal motoring kit
  • Drinking water
  • Non-perishable snacks
  • Hi-vis safety vest
  • Warning/hazard triangle sign
  • A basic tool kit
  • Toilet paper
  • Work gloves – for dirty jobs
  • Jumper leads
  • Google Maps installed on your phone
  • A blanket and towels
  • Spare rags or microfiber towels
  • Notepad and pen
  • Money – just in case eftpos isn’t available
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Umbrella or raincoat
Car Emergency Kit

Road Trip Packing List

We’d suggest writing down a packing list before your trip so that nothing important is left behind. And don't forget to pack ample entertainment so that those driving hours fly by for your passenger

You can use our travel packing list to create a personalised list of what you want to pack.

Travel Packing List

Your packing list may include:

  • Your driver’s licence
  • A list of important phone numbers
  • Postal addresses and emails
  • A GPS device for digital maps
  • Road maps
  • A book/e-reader
  • A journal/notebook
  • Your mobile phone
  • Charger/s for your electronics
  • Headphones
  • A water bottle
  • Medications
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Insect repellent
  • Playing cards
  • Healthy snacks

Road Trip Games for Kids

There’s nothing worse than hearing the dreaded “Are we there yet?” question on a family road trip.

So to avoid boredom in the back seat, we’ve gathered together some of the best road trip games to keep the kids entertained and busy for the entire drive.

The Name Game

Pick a category such as animals, countries, cities, TV shows, songs or actual names.

If the category is animal, the first player might say pig. The next person has to name another animal starting with the last letter of the previous animal. In this case “G” is the last letter in pig, so the second person might say gorilla.

There can’t be any repeats, so it will get harder and harder as your list gets longer.

20 Questions

One person thinks of something, then tells the others if it’s a person, place or thing.

Then the rest of the players take turns asking up to 20 yes or no questions to narrow down the answer. For instance, is it a plant? Is it man-made? Does it fly?

After 20 questions have been asked, each person in the car is invited to make a guess.

Going on a Trip Memory Game

One person starts with “I’m going on a trip and I’m going to pack…” or “I’m grocery shopping and I need…”.

The second person then repeats what the first person said while adding another item, starting with the next letter of the alphabet.

For example:

Person 1: I’m going on a trip and I’m going to pack… an air mattress.

Person 2: I’m going on a trip and I’m going to pack… an air mattress and butter.

Person 3: I’m going on a trip and I’m going to pack… an air mattress, butter and a canteen.

Scavenger Hunt

Write out a ‘treasure list’ which includes items that you know the kids will see along the way.

For instance, a black cow, a brown horse, a stop sign, a service station or a red car.

Show the kids the list and let them hunt out the items. The game can be a competition or simply a checklist for the kids to keep track of themselves.

Number Plate Bingo

Everyone grabs a pencil and paper and writes down an eight-letter word.

Players keep an eye on the number plates of passing traffic. Whenever players see a letter from their word on the number plates, they can cross that letter off.

The first person to cross off all eight letters from their word is the winner.

There are some variations to this game. One is to base it on the alphabet — all 26 letters are written down and the first person to cross them off wins. The same goes for numbers 1 to 100.

Grow a Story

Each passenger must take turns saying a set number of words. The next player continues the story where the previous one left off.

I Spy With My Little Eye

One person finds an object they can see and then starts the game by saying, “I spy with my little eye something beginning with…” and then states a letter of the alphabet.

The other players then try to guess the object.

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Whether it's Sydney to Melbourne or Darwin to Uluru, there's so much to see and do in Australia. This is why you should consider covering yourself for the unexpected with Budget Direct's Roadside Assistance.

Save 15% on your first year’s membership when you purchase standalone Roadside Assistance online for extra peace of mind during your next Australian road trip.

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