10 Travel Tips for a memorable road trip

I have always said that the best way to explore destinations is to take a road trip. A road trip is not just about getting to a place but is a journey where companions discover & bond with each other, where adventures and detours lead to memories and where you discover the undiscovered. Having traveled with the road trip experts, made me realize this even more for till then I had taken these aspects for granted. With the last two epic multi-stop trips – the Indo-Nepal road trip & the Ladakh Trip, there were so many little incidents that brought forth the importance of being well-prepared for a road trip – for only if you are, you are bound to enjoy everything that comes along your way!

A well-planned road trip can lead to memories for life
A well-planned road trip can lead to memories for life                                                                        Photo Credits: Deepak Ananth

With my numerous travels, there are a few things I realized that seemed obvious to me but were not so to many others. This struck me, even more, when we were out on our latest road trip to Ladakh. This, of course, became a cue to put it all out in this post for anyone who is planning a long road trip, especially in hardened terrains or a cross border trip. While my travel tips for a road trip are not exhaustive, I do believe that these 10 are extremely essential for a memorable one.

1) Planning your road trip route

First, of course, is your destination and then, you figure out how to reach there. The most obvious source is the Google maps that give you the distance and the drive time on the various routes to reach the place. However, the one extra thing that I have always found that I needed to do was to do further research on the route in terms of –

  • Road Conditions – can your current vehicle handle it? Or do you need to hire another?
  • Places that I can stop along the way – you never know if you stumble upon a hidden destination
  • Food stops along the way – everyone including the car needs to fuel up.
Streams that you will have to cross enroute to Pangong Lake - make sure you have a good 4x4 vehicle
Streams that you will have to cross enroute to Pangong Lake – make sure you have a good 4×4 vehicle

I often, found that I needed to go through multiple information sources to get an idea on all these points. However, that is worth your while as you need to plan an entire route from start to finish assuming a lack of internet connectivity when on the go.  With this research in place, you will be all set to battle any kind of terrain.

2) Packing for the road trip

It is a natural tendency to go all out and carry every possible thing when you know you are going to be partially living out of your car. In my opinion, this may not be such a good idea as you will have to keep loading and unloading your luggage, every single day when you make a halt for the night. Heavy suitcases can be cumbersome as I quickly realized from my Nepal road trip. For the Ladakh trip, we were asked to stick to backpacks and rightly so, for I realized how much easier it was with the frequent loading and unloading.

Packing for a road trip
Packing for a road trip

Besides the personal belongings, keep aside space for plenty of water and some food that you may need along the way. Adding to this, are possible containers for spare fuel that you might have to carry and the essential tool kits that your beasts (vehicles) may require. The essential tool kits must contain all your tyre changing tools, an emergency cone, engine coolants, torch or flash light for the nights etc. While it is nice to be optimistic that you may not need all these, it is even better to be prepared nonetheless. We discovered this on the Ladakh trip along the Zojila pass and the Changthang route when our Bolero encountered a flat tyre.

3) Starting early

Avoid night time drives on a road trip
Avoid night time drives on a road trip

I have always been an advocate of driving in the daylight. I personally, find night driving quite a challenge with the glaring lights of other vehicles hurting my eyes. Besides this, if you are on the no-road, stream filled terrains as Ladakh, you better be seeing where you are going. Starting early also, helps you buffer in time that you might lose owing to your detours, pit stops and sometimes, emergency situations.  It also, helps you pace your drive so that you are not speeding with unnecessary risks.

4) Keeping cash handy

Toll booths and smaller food places along the way are yet to be connected with technology. This is where you need your cash handy for not everyone accepts a card or an electronic transfer. This was evident as we drove through the roads of Ladakh and Nepal.

Toll gate Jammu
Towards Jammu – our first Night halt on the Ladakh Road trip

Again, it is the prior research  that saved the day for we realized that certain Indian denominations were better accepted in Nepal as against the new 500 Rs notes. Thanks to this tip, we were able to fill our bellies at the road side restaurants instead of starving all the way up to Kathmandu.

5) Essential paperwork

Ensure all your car papers – vehicle insurance, car registration documents and emission certificates are updated and in place when you start your road trip. In addition to the same, you will also, need to factor in additional documents that might be required if you are taking a cross border road trip or a restricted area one. For Nepal, we needed all of the above as well as an ID proof of the driver to get us border permits. For Ladakh, we required Inner Line Permits for we were traveling very close to the Indian borders.

A prior research as I suggested in the first travel tip, will throw enough light on what will be required on a trip.

6) Pitstops & Detours

What is a road trip without any detours? Planned stops are always a pleasure like how discovering Sonamarg was enroute to Kargil. Or how I discovered Kumbhalgarh enroute to Udaipur. These kinds of pit stops put smaller destinations on your map which otherwise, we tend to ignore – all in the bid to get to the main destination quickly. Pre-plan them as much as possible.  You can choose these places by the theme that interests you and the distances that you need to take for those detours.

The lovely hanging bridge in Nepal - spotted along our forced detour on the road trip
The lovely hanging bridge in Nepal – spotted along our forced detour on the road trip

Having said that, sometimes, it is all about forced detours as we discovered on the Nepal road trip. When we found the planned route through Narayanghat. Though we did reach there on time, we were told that the road was shut for repairs and we had to re-route through Hetuada. The re-route took us through the non-existent roads of Nepal and showed us sights which we would have otherwise missed in our bid to get to Kathmandu straight.

The important thing here is to make the most of these detours and enjoy them as a part of your road trip experience.

7) Staying connected

Increasingly I realized that I have been relying on Google Maps to navigate me around. However, a few lessons along the last few trips got me to note that not every route Google mentions are motorable and well, sometimes Google maps are not accessible. Remember to always download an offline version of your map. Cross check with the locals on the direction in which you are going. And if you are traveling in a group, stay together.

Staying connected on a road trip
Staying connected on a road trip

We learned the importance of this during our Ladakh trip when we were separated by distance without any network and at one point, one of the cars gave way at the Chang La pass. Thankfully there were two other vehicles along with this vehicle and we were able to sort out the situation.

In another situation, we were back on the highways of Punjab when the vehicles got separated. Thankfully we had enough network to send out a Google pin to the others so that we could all again, converge and set out together. If you are traveling solo, ensure that someone from your friends or family know where you are before you set out and call them up once you have reached your destination.

P.S : Given that there may not be an active network available everywhere during your road trip, you might even want to download your favorite Road trip playlists prior to starting your trip. After all what is a long drive without music.

8) Emergency on the road

Vehicle break downs can happen to the best of us. As can motion sickness and in our case in Ladakh – AMS. The important thing here is to recognize it and take action on it. On the Vehicle break downs, keep information on the mechanics and break down services handy.

For those who need a medical aid, always keep your list of medicines handy in the car. Alternately, keeping numbers of emergency medical services along your route is also, a good idea.

9) Fuel breaks

When setting out for the day, ensure that you have made a note of your fuel situation for the planned distance.  It could also, happen that the particular bunk you have earmarked is out of fuel as we discovered in Tandi during the Ladakh trip. Speak to the locals and get going on the next nearest bunk instead of braving it all the way to the destination. In our case, we had to retrace our way back to Darcha before continuing onward to Manali.

Miles to go and no fuel station in sight
Miles to go and no fuel station in sight

While we talk of the Fuel breaks, remember to also, check the air in your tyres before heading out. If you are headed to a sparsely populated terrain, keep a portable tyre inflator with you.

10) Stays along the way

OYO Rooms in Hunder
OYO Rooms in Hunder

Ideally, we all like to book our stays well in advance. Typically in a road trip, you need a good comfortable room for a nice sleep and any budget room is perfect for this. There are plenty of options to help you with these like OYO rooms. Some of the OYO properties that we discovered along the way on the Ladakh road trip, were way beyond the basic bed and breakfast facility. Take the one in Hunder as an example. Set amidst the hills, built over a stream, this property tempted us to halt our road trip for another day – just so that we could experience more of that natural beauty.

OYO Rooms Hunder
OYO Rooms Hunder

Another property that I loved was the OYO rooms in Manali with my room overlooking the River Beas. It was absolutely scintillating to wake up to the sight and sound of the gushing water.

OYO Rooms Manali
OYO Rooms Manali

Be prepared to take up a stay, sometimes in the most unplanned manner. A case in point being our halt at Ramban during the Ladakh trip, owing to a landslide along the road. We had no option but to book ourselves in the first possible hotel but we were lucky! For we did manage to get a room with a view.

There is no denying that you can never be prepared for everything. However, with these tips, I am sure you can just be prepared to handle anything that comes your way. This is what made these road trips special and enjoyable. Don’t you agree? Pin this up on your board as a ready reckoner for a memorable road trip.

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86 thoughts on “10 Travel Tips for a memorable road trip”

  1. The comment box header reads: “Would love to know what you think”. Here is what I am thinking: How freakin’ awesome are you? Just when I thought that this lady can’t possibly write any better, you go ahead and publish this one. While the best of us would write about mostly spare parts and spanner sets, this post beautifully summarizes all you really need to prep for a road trip. Packing yes! If you remember, my email for Ladakh packing included – please don’t wear heels ๐Ÿ™‚ Never hurts to be extra cautious! Since the post talks about making road trips memorable, you could possibly also look at adding the following to the list (or maybe a new post? ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) Don’t kill me!

    1. You could look at creating a packing checklist from batteries, camera, chargers etc.
    2. Keeping an emergency number saved on the phone as “ICE” (we forgot to mention this one during the trip)
    3. Having a comprehensive accident insurance policy which covers partial disability, total disability etc. which traditional health plans or life insurance plans don’t cover. I know this is not a memorable part of the trip, but just being prepared.
    4. The drive ability of the car is also important for the road trip, so it’s better to feed it good food (read non adulterated fuel) which you mostly and surely get in company owned and company operated bunkers.
    5. Personally for me, road trips have been very memorable when we’ve gone out and interacted with the locals. There’s a lot they have to share and all it takes is a smile to break the ice.

    Wherever Ami goes, we follow! Not just for posts like these, but also because we love you so much!

    • Thank you so much Vineet. There could not have been a higher praise than this one. Loved your additional points, which I shall keep for Part two whenever I write it. ๐Ÿ™‚ There is so much that we have learnt with Deepak and your meticulous planning, for without it, there would not have been any adventure. Looking forward to more #AageSeRight with you guys.

  2. It is a amazing the way you have spelt out all the details of the post be it when to start, what to pack and how much cash to carry etc. Thanks a zillion! I hope your stay in Ramban was good! I have heard mixed reviews about it.

  3. Nice tips.I like the idea of using Google map. Fiding way is more easy, it also make me feel safer. Tks for writting this helpful post!

  4. Ami, this is such an informative piece and you covered a lot of essentials for a road trip. Sometimes people overlook these and learn on the road which becomes disastrous sometimes. I guess that won’t happen after reading this.

  5. Your photos are beautiful. I have always dreamed of taking a road trip but feel overwhelmed at the idea of planning for one. Thank you for this post because it broke it down and made it more manageable.

  6. One has to be extra cautious while driving in hills, it is lot different than normal road trips in plains from city to city. I can fully relate how you must have felt the need of each and every item mentioned here. Good to know the team was well prepared.

  7. Awesome post and great tips for the road. In trips like these, I have seen 2 aspects. Either there is a safety in numbers (like your case when a caravan is looking out for each other) or the drivers keep a look out for known fellow drivers. In Gangtok, we had hired a vehicle to take us to Lachung and the driver would keep checking on fellow drivers from returning vehicles. A great practice, given the terrain and its uncertainty !

    • Yes, talking to locals is important. Always good to cross verify the roads ahead. In our case too, the scouts kept checking with the locals on the road blockades.

  8. So far all the road trips I have taken in my entire life have been full of hassles due to lack of planning.Even though I did enjoy trips holistically . Those hassle moments were more of irritation than memories .If we had follower all these steps particularly the ones pertaining to food and water we would have had a smoother journey

    • You learn with each road trip Harini. And then, of course, we had the road trip experts – Scoutmytrip with us. I reckon you should try planning a trip on their platform. They have pretty useful advice for each route.

  9. This is a wonderful post with great tips about road trips. We particularly make sure to follow the ‘start early’ tip . We bangloreans know the value of an early start ๐Ÿ˜‰ Keeping emergency numbers handy is also very important.

    • Not just Bangalore, I recommend this for every trip just so that you dont have to drive in the dark and you also, account for all the possible emergencies. Thanks for stopping by Neha.

  10. I always over pack on road trips because I can haha. I really need to get into the habit of carrying cash for road trips – a few times I was almost without cash for tolls and lucked out by finding change in the car! Road trips are definitely one of my favourite ways to travel.

  11. Even though I am a man, I always look trips- local or outstation- from the point of view of a woman who is in her 30s, and possibly has a child as well. So here goes.
    How well do you know your co-passengers if you are in a group?
    Are there good, clean toilets on the way? How would you cope with dirty, unclean ones?
    If accompanied with kids, how prepared are you with sudden emergencies like bad tummies, fever etc.
    Is your itinerary travel doctor friendly?

    These questions are meant for woman travelers who are traveling through India.

  12. Your post brings home the point that the best road trips are those that are well-planned, with all fall-back options available to take care of sudden needs and exigencies. Specially if the trip is long! Great points made…

    • Glad you agree on that. I did see this for myself during these last few trips. Always good to be careful and well planned. Thanks for stopping by

  13. These are some brilliant tips, especially for the kind of road trip that you have done. You definitely need to make sure that you have the proper car and that your car has the right tires for the type of road trip you are planning. The tires are very important, you can’t have summer tires if you plan on going at high altitudes where the road might be icy. Also, having an emergency kit with you is always a must. No matter the trip, we should never leave without a medical box.

    • Totally agree and this I saw for myself. The Ladakh one was a lot of off-roading as well. Gave me a lot of lessons on being prepared. And then of course, it always helps if you have the road trip experts with you. Thanks for stopping by Joanna

  14. Preparation is the key for any road trip. If it is a long haul one, many of these parameters become vital. The condition of the vehicle and the tyres assume critical importance. Great tips for a great trip, will stand in good stead for any road trip.

    • Thanks a ton for the lovely comment. I agree with your additions. That is true for any trip – staying hydrated and getting enough rest! Cheers

  15. Just got back from a roadtrip on Himachal and I have to say all your tips are on point. Planning a roadtrip thoroughly is much needed when your are travelling places where there is interent connectivity, it will help in big way during emergencies. Bookmarking the post for future reference, thanks for the helpful tips.

    • It is a pleasure and an honor to get a response from you Sir. Thank you so much for stopping by and reading through this piece. Most of it of course, is due credit to Deepak and Vineet – who are just amazing road trippers.

  16. Hey Ami,

    This is indeed a very great list of road trip tips. Being a frequent road tripper myself I have also prepared a list which i call essential road trip accessories that everyone must have. Would really appreciate if you could take a look at mine and share your valuable thoughts.


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