Plan, to have fun — #suroypilipinas



Since my last article about doing road trips in the Philippines, more and more people come to me, asking more information about driving around the Philippines. Many are excited to do road trips themselves.
It’s impossible to summarize everything into one column, so I’ll divide the discussion into four parts:

Part 1 — Planning a road trip/overland
Part 2 — What vehicle to use? Preparing your vehicle for the drive
Part 3 — What to bring? This includes supplies, medicines, etc.
Part 4 — The drive

For this installment, we’ll talk about the basics on planning a road trip within the Philippines. Before starting on a road trip, we start by setting our goals, knowing the limitations, and other parameters in our adventure.

For the goals, we need to know “what do we set out to achieve?” Is the road trip going to be just a one-off thing? Do we drive out, and drive back to the origin, or do we plan to do multiple drives across the Philippines, over a period of time. What’s the purpose of the road trip? What kind of adventure do we want to have in our road trip?

The usual plan is to drive out to a destination, stay there and enjoy the sites and food, then after, drive back to your point of origin. This usually takes a few days, but there’s a limit to the distance of your drive, because, you’ll need the same amount of time to drive back to your home from your vacation/destination. What I do, however, is something different. I’d drive out to a destination, for example, Dumaguete City. Then fly back to Manila after (leaving the vehicle in Dumaguete, or wherever I end up in). After a week or two, I’d fly back to Dumaguete, then drive out again. This saves me the time and expense, if I had to start from my original point of origin. This is more for drives to the Visayas and Mindanao (if you’re starting from Luzon).

When planning a drive, we have to know how many days we have at our disposal for a road trip. For example, if you have four days to spare for a road trip, and if it takes a day to drive to your destination, that means you’ll also need a day to drive back to your point of origin. You’ll have two days left to maximize in your vacation. I usually use Google maps in planning my drives. It gives me a good idea of how long it takes to drive from one point to the next. I also use it to show other potential routes which I might not have taken before.

I also try to look at not only the destination, but also the routes I take. I’ve done some drives, where after the trip, I realize I missed out a cultural landmark, tourist spot, etc. So before I drive out, I look at the towns and cities I will pass, and check if there are places of interest that I would like to see. Or use the opportunity to reconnect with an old friend who now lives in a town you’ll pass.

If you’re planning to drive to places which necessities the use of a Ro-Ro, it would be best to check vessel schedules. You can also reserve slots on trips, and also prepay, to lessen paperwork needed when loading your vehicle. Take note, there are other fees to be collected at the pier, aside from the charges of the vessel. As I mentioned previously, it’s best to be at the port at least an hour or two before departure. Also, if you can’t find a departure time to your liking from a port, you can google to check if there’s another port nearby where other vessels ply. Most of the shipping companies have websites where you can check their schedules. There are also several travel website which list ferry schedules from a particular port/LGU.

As regards to another limitation, it is essential that we also have to look at our working budget in planning out a road trip. This will determine where you will stay, places where you can eat, etc. The budget includes fuel and necessary transport (Ro-Ro) expenses. You don’t want to be saddled with credit card payments after your trip. One thing many seem to overlook is to set aside a certain amount for unforeseen expenses. Not everything can be paid for by credit cards. It’s better to bring some spare cash, or an ATM card, just in case. Having driven solo for years, I know there’ll always be surprises during your trip.
Again, having an understanding of how you want your adventure to be is essential in enjoying the trip itself.

Next week, I’ll discuss some tips and hacks on how we can prepare our vehicle for the trip.