With a lot of kids (and associated grandkids) spread all over the country Christmas can be a time of traveling for us and this Christmas has been no different.
At the start of December we headed south from Hervey Bay in Qld to Newcastle in New South Wales – a distance of around 1200km – to see a bunch of them and here are some takeaways for you from that trip.
We always have an early night the night before we travel and leave early for long trips so we were in the car – a 2000 model Honda CR-V by 3am and heading for … the office. Hey you can’t head out on a long trip without a cup of coffee so we always leave the coffee machine on the night before and fill up our travel mugs before we leave.
Driving at night
If you’ve never driven at night on country roads …including the highways … then expect things to be very dark. Now that probably sounds dumb but I have encountered lots of people who have never driven at night on country roads before and some of them have been almost terrified by just how dark it can be.
So if the thought of driving in total darkness makes you feel uncomfortable then perhaps only travel in daylight.
Avoid peak hours
If you have to travel through a major city on your trip then try not to arrive during peak hour. We hit the outskirts of Brisbane at 6.30am and the traffic was down to a crawl even at that hour.
It was frustrating and you just don’t need it when you’re on a long trip. Fortunately there was just the two of us … I’m sure it would have been much worse if there had been small children in the back.
Drive to arrive
On the trip down to Newcastle and back home a few days later we encountered lots of different road conditions. There was heavy rain, fog, tailgaters, delays due to roadworks and plenty of slow drivers and you will encounter the same conditions.
Through it all we stayed patient and drove to the conditions. In the heavy rain and fog we slowed down. At the roadworks we smiled and waved to the traffic controllers … they have a miserable job and they get plenty of abuse from idiots so we let them know that we understand their signals and we’re nice to them.
With the tailgaters and slow drivers … well we just put up with them and pass the slow drivers when it’s save and let the tailgaters get past every chance we can.
Be sure to take plenty of breaks or change drivers regularly. We drove for 15 hours, changing drivers every two hours and each time we stopped to change drivers we got out of the car for anything up to 30 minutes at a time.
Make sure you carry plenty of drinking water in the car and make sure that everyone in the car drinks plenty of it. Yes I know that toilet breaks with little kids can be a nuisance but dehydration can be a whole lot worse.
Expect plenty of roadworks on your travels. If you’ve never traveled on the Pacific Highway before it will be a real experience for once you’re north of Newcastle or south of the Queensland border you’re going to experience plenty of delays due to roadworks.
There are traffic controllers … traffic lights … and long stretches of open road where the speed limit is down to 80km/h, 60km/h and even 40km/h in some places. Stick to the speed limits and don’t become impatient andyou will survive the drive.
Highways aren’t always highways
If you’ve never driven outside of the city before then don’t be fooled by the term ‘highway’. The Pacific Highway … the road we traveled in both directions can be a wonderful multi-lane highway with a speed limit of 110km/h.
It can also be a narrow, winding little two lane road through the centre of small towns where the speed limit can be as low as 40km/h and cars are pulling in and out of parking spots on each side.
I know, they can be dull and boring but stick to them because if you don’t then you’ll meet lots of nice policemen or have your photo taken by numerous speed cameras. There are lots of both between Brisbane and Newcastle.
Allow plenty of time
If you simply must arrive at your destination by a certain time then give yourself plenty of time for the journey. We did the same trip early last year and it took us 13 hours. This time it took us an extra two hours thanks to the traffic jams in Brisbane and all the roadworks we encountered along the way.
We weren’t on any sort of deadline so it didn’t bother us much but if you simply must arrive by a certain time and you’re traveling a long distance then give yourself a couple of extra hours for the trip just in case.
We had a great time and we’re off again after Christmas to head across into north-west New South Wales. If you take a few necessary precautions and drive to arrive then you’ll have a great time on your next trip too.