Road trips: a survival guide

A checklist of travel essentials for that epic drive

The Great Philippine Country Roads

Road trips aren’t joy rides, but they can become rewarding, if not life-changing experiences. So, if you’re going to take that trip, here are essentials to consider:

The Plan

Research and plot your trip and stops thoroughly, but not to the last obsessive-compulsive detail.

Be flexible with your plans. The weather can turn ugly any time, although five-day forecasts from the Internet tend to be reliable. Expect the worst and hope for the best.

Find good company. Travel only with those you trust, have confidence in, and are comfortable with. Thresholds for long travel vary from person to person, from family to family. Patience can run dry faster than your SUV’s fuel.

If it’s your first time to go on a long trip, it’s better to travel in a group or convoy. Decide on a lead driver, as he will determine how fast you should go and which turns and stops to make.

Keep emergency numbers handy.

Long is the road and hard is the way that leads up to light.

The vehicle

Have your vehicle thoroughly checked. Go over the usual maintenance steps, such as oil change, filter replacements, and wheel alignment and rotation.

Ask the mechanic for a straight answer: is your vehicle in good enough condition to travel insanely long distances? How about the battery or tires?

Inflate those tires, including the spare. Check the car tools.

Also ask yourself this: are you willing to subject your beloved vehicle to a long, grueling ride?

Almost got stranded in Candijay, Bohol


Don’t overpack or overload. Bring only the essentials and enough food and water. If you’re traveling along the Maharlika Highway or Pan-Philippine Highway, there should be plenty of stops where you can get supplies and eat along the way.

If you’re using a pickup truck, a tarp cover will protect cargo against heat and rain. Also, keep stuff inside waterproof containers.

Don’t forget chargers for all those gadgets. Also, that Swiss knife should come in handy.

Parking area at viewpoint near the Mayon Volcano Observatory

Fuel consumption

Peg fuel consumption at a conservative 10 kilometers per liter of fuel, and do rough computations based on estimated travel distance back and forth. For example, if you drive 1,000 kilometers from Cebu to Manila, your car will consume roughly 100 liters of fuel one way.

Keep a full tank but you don’t have to “fill ‘er up” in every town.

On cost of fuel: the farther a place is from the Capital or major fuel depots, the more expensive fuel costs per liter.

Boarding the ro-ro ferry at the Cebu City Pier

Roro crossings

The Pan-Philippine Highway or the Maharlika Highway is connected by a series of roll-on roll-off (Roro) ferry routes, so always take into consideration travel time when plotting your trip.

The driver needs to present only the photocopy of the official receipt (OR) and certificate of registration (CR) of the vehicle for boarding on the Roro ferry. Prepare an ID.

Fare: the driver’s fare comes with the vehicle charge. The rest of the passengers each have to pay the fare. Rates vary depending on travel distance and type of vehicle.

Take note of the schedules. Be at the port an hour or two before departure schedule.

While trips are regular, there’s no assurance the vessel will depart on time. Set aside another two hours allowance for delays.

At the Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao

Traveling with kids

If traveling with children, prepare a bagful of barf bags. Long, winding drives take their toll on kids, making them nauseous or road sick.

Bring lots of candy. More kids mean more candy. Somehow, candy alleviates road sickness.

Kids can manage long trips as long as an adult can attend to their needs. When they get tired, they’ll easily fall asleep during long drives.

Keep children pre-occupied. Those tablet games and DVD movies will definitely do the trick.

Bringing a yaya along is optional.

Be mindful of the road especially in the dark. See that sign up ahead?

On the road

1. Keep calm and drive.

2. Psyche yourself before each trip. One way is to think of an eight-hour drive as no different from spending an entire day working at an office desk, plus overtime.

3. Keep pace with the lead driver, who in turn must make sure that no one’s left behind.

4. Take shortcuts only when you’re 100 percent sure of the route.

5. Take as many overnight stops as possible to rejuvinate, especially after eight-hour plus drives.

6. Even if you feel tired, be prepared to push yourself to the limit, such as when you’re driving on the highway in the middle of nowhere.

7. But if you’re drowsy, let someone else take the wheel. If there’s no sub, alert the lead driver right away that you need a power nap, so long as you think safety isn’t compromised.

8. For convoys, always keep communication lines open and agree on basic signals (useful for “pee breaks.”)

9. Backseat drivers are a no-no as they create tension and make the actual driver lose focus. Instead, let someone be your trusted co-navigator, the person who checks and double checks maps to ensure you’re following the correct route.

10. Lastly, enjoy the drive. Stop for landmarks and tourist spots. Once the entire trip is done, every kilometer will be worth it.

Update: In late 2019, transport authorities began strictly implementing the law against riding in the back of pick-up truck or pick-up type vehicles, so please refrain from letting passengers, especially your kids, ride in the cargo provisions of your vehicle especially during road trips.

So are you ready for that long road trip?

(A version of this article was published on SunStar Cebu)

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