Take a moment and imagine the freedom of the open road. Driving 12,000 kilometers across two countries and from summer into winter in a few days. Bonding with friends and family while creating unforgettable memories. The thrill that comes with exploring the world by car. Sounds unreal, right? Not for those with a sense of adventure and the right vehicle.
A group of travel-loving Ford enthusiasts recently took a road trip from the hot and humid jungles of Northern Thailand to the subzero freezing winter of Harbin, one of China’s northernmost cities bordering Russia. The group traveled in a caravan of 17 vehicles, including seven Ford Ranger Raptor and two Ford Everest.
Road trips are the quintessential experience for adventure-seekers wanting to discover and explore the world’s hidden gems by car. With advanced safety and connectivity technologies in today’s vehicles and improved infrastructure around the world, taking an international road trip is easier than ever.
Prepare as much as possible in advance to save a lot of time, money and frustration. Here are seven tips for planning the perfect international road trip.
- Plan, plan, plan and plan some more
While taking a road trip in your own country is fairly straight-forward, once you cross international borders, things become more complicated, so plan ahead. After you have chosen your destination, save time and stress by mapping out your route and stops. Create a budget for the trip and book your hotels in advance – you don’t want to get stranded in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language with no place to stay.
The most difficult part of planning an international road trip are the many processes you must complete to make it happen, including: applying for visas, getting vaccinations (if required), exchanging money and calling your credit card companies to let them know you’ll be traveling. All are small details, but essential for a hassle-free trip.
- Prepare your vehicle for the long journey ahead
Before any long-distance trip, take your vehicle to your local dealership for an inspection and service at least one week prior to leaving. Check the tires (including the spare), battery, brakes, vital fluids and all hoses and belts. This not only helps prevent a possible breakdown, but according to the U.S. Department of Energy, it can improve your vehicle’s fuel efficiency and increase your mileage by up to 40 percent.
- Get to know your vehicle
Sure, you drive every day, but how well do you really know your vehicle? Familiarize yourself with the vehicle’s technology features, especially those you’ll be using throughout the trip. If you’re traveling in particularly harsh climates or terrain, read the owner’s manual and understand your vehicle’s capabilities. Features like the Ford Terrain Management System (TMS) that helps control the engine, transmission and brakes to match the road surface conditions can help you travel through challenging terrain with ease.
- Pack smart
One of the luxuries of traveling by road is being less limited by the amount of baggage you can bring, but it’s best to pack light. For every 40 kilograms loaded into your vehicle, fuel efficiency decreases by one to two percent, so packing smart saves you time and money.
If your trip involves different climates, pack appropriate clothes. When traveling with kids, bring enough snacks and entertainment to avoid the added stress of hungry, bored kids in the backseat. If you take medication, bring enough for the entire trip along with a copy of your doctor’s prescription in case of an emergency.
- Learn the rules of the road
Research the local driving laws and requirements for each country you’ll be visiting as they can be very different from those in your home country. Find out if you’ll need an International Driving Permit and give yourself enough time to apply for it before the trip. Make sure you have the right insurance on your vehicle and bring a copy of the insurance certificate along with the following documents (both original and copies): invoice of purchase and registration.
One of the most challenging aspects of taking road trips in a foreign country is driving on the opposite side of the road and in a different style of traffic than you are used to. If you have never done it before, it can feel disorienting and as if you were learning to drive for the first time, so take it slow and be extra cautious.
- Even the best plans go awry, so be prepared
Understand and accept this now – no matter how much you plan and prepare, things will probably go wrong at some point, and that’s OK. Flat tires, unexpected road closures or accidents can throw your trip off by a day or two, so expect the unexpected.
Put together an emergency kit that includes the following items: jumper cables, flashlight, first aid kit, LED flares, blanket, and bottled water and snacks. As an extra precaution, research all local emergency numbers and keep them with you in case you need roadside or other emergency assistance.
- Have fun and enjoy the ride
While it may be tempting to set an ambitious agenda, leave time for discovery. If you spend 10 hours driving every day, when do you have time to enjoy the journey? The magic of a road trip is randomly discovering a town or attraction that becomes the highlight of your trip. So, give yourself the opportunity to be spontaneous.
You’re about to embark on a true adventure that will lead to memories of a lifetime, so go into it with the open mind of an explorer.
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About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company is a global company based in Dearborn, Michigan. The company designs, manufactures, markets and services a full line of Ford cars, trucks, SUVs, electrified vehicles and Lincoln luxury vehicles, provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company and is pursuing leadership positions in electrification, autonomous vehicles and mobility solutions. Ford employs approximately 199,000 people worldwide. For more information regarding Ford, its products and Ford Motor Credit Company, please visit www.corporate.ford.com.