A handy guide to accessories, apps, and smart tips to make that road trip as smooth as a baby’s you know what.
If you’ve been lucky to have done it, most of your favourite memories will be of road trips. Some of the best films and songs are about spontaneous jaunts, like Dil Chahta Hai and The Motorcycle Diaries.
With several long weekends coming up, it would be criminal to waste them cooped up at home.
Road trips are the perfect quick getaways, but it’s more than the destination. It’s all about travelling to wide open spaces and watching an adventure unfold. It’s about the journey, the fun to be had with friends or family as you chug along the highways of beautiful India.
A good road trip is best experienced impromptu. Just wake up early one morning, jump into the car and head out; let the road take you wherever you want to go. Which, from Mumbai, is usually towards the beautiful beaches of Maharashtra or Goa. If you want something different that requires careful planning, there are several apps you can use to plan your trip.
TripAdvisor is the chief. You can find community information on what you can do at your destination, and where to stay. Tripigator can help you plan and map your drive. And Tripoto has travel stories and incredible collections that will inspire you for your trip. It has experiences and curated travelogues shared by travellers.
Now, planning does not only extend to routes, but there’s also the safety aspect. India is beautiful but it is also dangerous, so you may want to read up. Do note down the SOS numbers for your car. For instance, Ford has a 24/7 breakdown assistance. Plus, you need to know about help in case of an accident, and more. These are one-time planning tips and if you are a frequent road-tripper, you will already have these.
Machine of choice
You’re set if you have your own car or bike. Ensure you’re fuelled up and other issues like oil and fluid levels are high.
If you want to try something different, there are services like ZoomCar, which offer amazing self-drive cars at good per-day prices. It’s perfect if you don’t have wheels and want to go on a trip or if you want a change from your usual vehcile.
Bikers have it good, as services like Wicked Ride allow you to rent premium bikes. So, you can rent yourself a Triumph Tiger Twin or perhaps a comfy Harley Davidson and go touring for a few days.
On the way
With the road under your tyres and the sun, moon, stars and a trusty GPS system as your guide, there’s a lot you can do. But you should not look at your phone while driving. Apps help make the trip a lot better.
Like like Waze and its community-edited maps that help navigation..
In case nature comes a-callin’, there’s GottaGo. It’s an app that tells you where the cleanest loos are around you, and how far away they are. In addition, it’s got listings for hotels, restaurants and — god forbid you should need one — hospitals.
Another useful app is Ixigo Road Trips, with over 30,000 listings of restaurants, good dhabas, petrol and CNG pumps, ATMs, medical and general stores, and a lot more.
Music apps like Saavn and Apple Music can blast all your favourite tunes. Just make sure you sync your music files, since the connection gets spotty as you pass through those numerous ghats. Unless, of course, you and your road-tripping posse like your own sing-along sessions.
If there’s no hurry to get to your destination, use apps like Foursquare to find good places around you and Swarm to check into these places.
Swarm is an app that makes a game out of real places. So by checking in across your road trip at landmarks you find, you can become a ‘mayor’. It notifies your friends about where you are and what you did. Who knows, they could follow the same breadcrumbs of check-ins so they can dethrone you as mayor.
If for some reason you can’t blast your music in the car or if you are travelling alone, load up on Audible, which gives you access to tonnes of Audiobooks. Our recommendation: Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. Light enough to enjoy when driving, and extremely funny so it will keep you awake on those long, grey stretches of road with no scenery.
Staying the night
One of the fun things about road-tripping is that you can leave whenever you want, with no destination in mind. For example, why stop at Goa? Just move on down to Mangalore. Except that, places to stay along the way can be dicey. You don’t want to end up in a shack owned by an axe murderer or, worse, a hotel room filled with bedbugs.
AirBnB has several listings of people who keep their homes on rent. So you will find tonnes of really good cottages, guest houses and homestays along the way. The aforementioned Ixigo road trip does have in-depth listings. You may also want to check out Booking.com. For budget places to stay, services like Oyo Rooms are now available across India so you can book clean places to stay at pretty cheap rates.
There’s also camping, staying out under the open sky. Perhaps, on a lovely desolate beach you came upon, or a small forest clearing.
There are several places around Maharashtra or within Karnataka, Goa or Kerala you can find places to pitch that tent. However, be warned that some places are not safe. As a whole, many villagers are kind, and will help out.
However, you should be wary. Also if you are camping, please do so in a proper tent. Better: an SUV that allows you to sleep in the back. Even better: a mobile home. Don’t sleep in your car with the AC turned up high, as that may turn out to be fatal.
Your holiday isn’t over when you reach your destination. You can use ClearTrip’s Activities to see what’s going on around you or Foursquare and Swarm to hone in on your favourite places.
AudioCompass is a brilliant little app that turns your smartphone into a tour guide, complete with audio. By checking your location, the app loads tours around you, places of interests complete with factual histories and more. If there’s no internet, you can preload places before you leave, so you can listen to them offline.
There’s always danger on the road. Whether it’s accidents, getting waylaid by bandits or even smaller emergencies like a flat tyre, busted engine or blown spark plug.
Many car manufacturers are now introducing emergency roadside assistance, which in event of an accident autodials services around you. You just need to make sure your phone is always connected to the car via Bluetooth.
It’s always best to keep the numbers and names of emergency services handy.
Highways like the Maharashtra-Pune Expressway have a phone number celarly displayed on road signs at intervals of a few kilometres.
Apps like GottaGo and Ixigo have locations to the nearest hospitals and emergency rooms which you can rush to in case you need to or happen to see a fellow traveller in peril. Just drive safe.
Every Journey has to come to an end, but going home can be an adventure of its own. Going home the same way you took sounds boring. So why not plan an alternative route?
Like to Goa, you can travel by NH4 superhighway, but you can opt to go home via the legendary National Highway 17, the superstar of many a Mumbai-to-Goa movie. It’s a beautiful route where you can discover some of the best food Maharastra has to offer via Ganpatiphule, Malvan and the other coastal towns.
The road beckons, so pack your bags and hit that asphalt. Just drive safe and may the force be with you.
Wanderlust, a vehicle and a phone full of Apps aren’t enough. Here are some tech goodies that will make your trip better.
Mobile wireliess internet
Consider investing in a 4G roaming unit like the ones from Vodafone, Idea or Airtel. These are little GPS 4G boxes that you can keep on your dashboard or tucked away in a compartment. What they do is connect to the 4G or 3G networks using stronger components than the ones used in your smartphone.
They also hold on to a signal tighter, sending it through a Wi-Fi beam directly to your phone. Great if you want fast Internet without running down the phone battery.
You will need one of these to prop up your phone when you drive.
Fiddling around with your phone while driving will have disastrous results. The holder will keep the phone in line with your dashboard, so you can glance at the map. What it can also be useful for is to keep the kids entertained in the backseat while you enjoy the scenery.
Portalble power banks
Great if you don’t want to stress your car’s battery out, and they’re handy even out of the car. Xiaomi has a 20,000 mAh battery available for around.
Not to be confused with power banks. Power inverters are little plugs with USB ports that go into that lighter socket in your car. So you can charge your phones. There are ones with regular plug points in case you want to power a few more devices like a water heater or portable baby food steriliser. Just make sure you use them only when the car is moving, so the battery keeps charging.
Phones are decent when it comes to GPS, but since connectivity is always patchy, you will experience drop offs and your position icon may suddenly reappear somewhere else. If you frequently go on road trips then you should invest in a MapMyIndia or Garmin GPS device that gives you accurate readings.
The fun of car trips is the music you and your friends take along, but it’s no fun connecting phones to wires and what-not. Invest in a Bluetooth audio hands-free, so all you need to do is pair it with your phones. Make sure you get one that allows multiple connections, so the fun never stops for pairing.