How to prepare a Self-Drive Holiday - Guide for the first timers - - Singapore Wacky Digital Underground Outpost

How to prepare a Self-Drive Holiday - Guide for the first timers

Have you been on a self-drive holiday?
It was almost 5 years ago since our last organised tour. In recent years, most of our holidays were self-planned. Occasionally,  if the situation allows, we would even head for self-drive holiday. Till date, we had been to a half a dozen self-drive holidays in Australia, New Zealand and the USA.

Here are some highlights of our holidays

The benefits of Self Drive Holidays are worth the trip. You get to plan your own customised itinerary, explore attractions off the beaten track, enjoy at your own pace and discover a lot more than you would on a tour. With that said, we would choose a self-drive holiday over a tour anytime.

When we first started, driving in an unfamiliar place was daunting. What if we got lost or something happened on the road?

 I remember during our first trip to New Zealand, we had to rely on paper maps to get around. There was once we were lost in the countryside and had to backtrack to our original location to get our bearings. With the advance in technology, it is much easier to plan a self-drive holiday.

When you plan a Self Drive Holiday, these are 10 things you would need to look out for.

1 License

Most countries accept local licenses. There is no need to convert your license to an International one unless the country requires it. As long your license is in English, you are good to go for travel in Australia, New Zealand and the USA. Do check with individual countries on the need for individual license

2 Plan ahead

Always plan your route before you head out. Some might say why not just rely on GPS and be done with it?

Planning ahead helps you get familiar with the route. It helps you estimate how much time you need as well as making stops along the way. When you are on unfamiliar ground, it is always better to adopt the scout's motto - Be Prepare!

3 Use Google Map to plan your route.

Unlike the old days where I had to rely on paper maps, Google Maps is a reliable source of information on routes, traffic and attractions. In fact, the first thing I would do when I am planning for a self-drive trip is to bring up Google Map and plan my route. With the route planned, I would use it to search for attractions along the way to visit.

4 Plan Pit stops

On that note on attractions, it would be wise to plan for pit stops. For Singaporeans, driving beyond 1 hour per trip is a rarity. As such, you do not know how fatigue might hit you on the road. On a 6 hours drive, it is almost impossible to last the distance without a stop. The recommended time to stop is about 1.5 hours to 2 hours between each stop.

The shortest distance from point A to B would usually be the most boring one. Plan to take a detour or the longer routes so you can visit points of interest. Pass by small towns and see how the locals live. After all, a self-drive trip is all about adventure right?

5 Take a GPS

You might want to save money on a GPS and choose to rely on your phone Google Map instead. In countries where the phone coverage is good, this is not an issue. However, if you are travelling to more remote areas, a GPS unit would prove to be a lifesaver. Trust me, you do not want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere for your trip.

Rent a car with GPS or get a GPS unit on its own.  If you want to save money, you could even purchase the GPS unit before the trip. The next alternative you can make it is to download the maps offline on Google Map. Otherwise, get a physical map if you can find one.

6 Rent the right car

If you are going off-road, don't get a convertible. Sure, it may feel romantic, but it would not suit your need. Our favourite all-occasion cars is the SUV. It might be a petrol guzzler, but it will prove its use especially on the off-beaten track.

7 Get full insurance for peace of mind

Honestly, the cost of insurance can be as high as the car rental itself. Nonetheless, with full insurance coverage, you do not need to worry about accidents or scratches made to the car ( especially if you are going off-road). With full insurance. there will not be any 'surprise' charges at the end of the trip.

8 Check for tolls 

Some cities may have toll roads. Different countries have different ways these tolls should be paid. When possible, get a rental car that is able to let you pay for these tolls in the package.

9 Check the parking situation

The cost of driving is not the main cost when renting a car. The cost of parking would be another thing to consider if you should drive or take public transport. For example in San Francisco, parking overnight can cost as high as US$ 70. Including your day parking and rental, a car rental can rake up to US$200 to $300 per day. At that rate, it might be better to opt for public transportation.

In addition, get familiar with the parking signs in the country you are heading to. In some countries, parking may not be as straightforward as finding a car lot to park. You need to check if there are any restrictions from the signs at curbside.

10 Travelling with young kids -  Car Seats

If you are travelling with young kids ( age 7 and below), you might require car seats. Unlike Singapore, the rules can be quite strict. Do plan to rent. You might also choose to head down to the local department store and get one on the cheap. If you are planning for a longer vacation, it might be cheaper to do this.

Are you ready for the next road trip?

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