Car on NZ open road

Planning a road trip podcast

Going on a road trip is a great way to see a country – you cover a lot of ground and you come across things you’d find on an organised tour. It’s an especially good way to see your own country inexpensively.

To listen, hit play below or find episode 96 in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud:


It’s worth putting a bit of effort into planning, but don’t overdo it. A lot of the fun of road trips is the spontaneity that’s possible – if you plan every minute of every day, the holiday can turn into a chore. First choose a general direction and consider some of the places you might like to stop along the way. With a group of people, each nominate one thing you really want to do, and plan your direction around these few things.

Travelling with a tent in the car opens up a lot of options when it comes to accommodation – you can pull into a holiday park, camp on a friend’s lawn, or camp wild where it’s legal. Plus you always have the option of checking into a hostel or motel if the weather is inclement.

Have some information with you in the car as well – a map is essential, but a map with campsites or hostels marked on it is gold. We usually have a tourist guide to the region we’re touring for some light bedtime reading as well. Tourist hotspots can be booked up if you’re there at the wrong time, so having a few numbers to call before you arrive can save a lot of stress.

Stocking up

Yes, it’s important to have snacks in the car, but think carefully about what you want to eat – avoid the big low that comes after a sugar high by eating sweets in moderation. A bag of local fruit is a good alternative to lollies – just make sure you have a rubbish bag handy for peelings and cores. To avoid arguments, it might be worth creating individual snack bags with equal amounts of different snacks in them – this tip is not just for travelling with kids!

When choosing drinks, think about the sugar and caffeine content. You might want a pick-me-up, but do you want the several extra toilet breaks? Water and juice are usually good options for any trip – keep the coffee for the coffee break.

On the road

Who are you going to travel with? Three or four people is an ideal number in terms of budget – you can split on-road costs and it makes it cheaper for everyone. More than four in a regular car is too much of a squeeze – get a van or take two cars. Also be aware that the more people you have with you, the less you’re likely to see.

Make sure you see what you want to see and leave some space in your itinerary for spontaneous decisions. And most of all, have a good time!

Road trips with kids

Travelling with children can be a fantastic or difficult experience – one Linda and Craig know very little about! So we called in the professional – Nick Bowditch, Australia’s family travel expert.


Preparation is important when travelling with kids. You need to consider how far you can get each day, or even each hour – it might be a shorter distance than you think. Also think about where you can stop; fast food restaurants and schools with playgrounds are little oases. Wear the kids out. But don’t wear them out with driving around a deserted town at 11pm – avoid this eventuality by pre-booking your accommodation.


A few tricks up your sleeve can make life a lot easier. Pack a bunch of simple toys like tennis balls and footballs to wear the kids out with when you stop at parks and playgrounds, and audiobooks or a portable DVD player will give you some peace and quiet on the road – as long as you pack the all-important headphones!

When choosing snacks, low-sugar is good, but also pick the least crumbly snacks you can find, the ones that are less likely to make a mess. Make sure drinks have resealable lids. And pack baby wipes for the inevitable spillage. A stash of plastic bags have a myriad of uses (chuck the used baby wipes in for a start), and stock up on pillows and quilts for a comfortable back-seat experience.

Crowd control

Let the kids sleep but wake them up on purpose every so often rather than surprising sleepy kids when you arrive somewhere. Every time you stop, encourage everyone to take a leak, whether they need to or not. And don’t be afraid to bribe the kids. “If you just stop singing that song/punching your brother/farting for one hour we can stop and get a drink” etc.

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2 Responses to “Planning a road trip podcast”

  1. Nik March 27, 2009 at 12:14 pm #

    Heya Craig,

    First off, a BIG CONGRATULATIONS on winning the Lonely Planet Best Podcast! Great job!!

    I have two more tips for a fun road-trip! 1. prepare a good playlist for your enjoyment, and 2. ask the locals! I found that #2 to be especially true on my recent road trip in NZ. They suggested better roads from what we initially planned, etc and gave us excellent suggestions on worthwhile sights and side-trips!

  2. Craig and Linda March 29, 2009 at 4:10 pm #

    Thanks Nik, much appreciated.

    I don’t believe how little we talked about music. Good music makes for great trips.

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