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Opinions of Friday, 28 August 2015

Columnist: Kofi Akpabli

Your family on the road

Before the entire family leaves the house for the road trip which might take a couple of days another important task is booking.

This process implies that you are sure of where you are going, when you are setting off, what means you are using, which types of lodging you would be staying in, how long you would be gone for and what activities you’d be indulging in.

A comprehensive booking also means that you have examined the various services, products and routes available and have settled on options that best suit your families’ circumstances. Of course, the booking process involves committing specific budgets to the trip.

When it comes to transportation, you need to get advanced tickets if you are going by public bus. In Ghana, the STC has established itself as the king of the road as far as cross-country journeys are concerned. Others such as VIP and OA are quite reliable.

It is important to know the take-off schedules and pick the departure slot that suits your family. If the family has to leave their residence at dawn to be able to catch the bus at 6 am, it implies that the first bus might not be the friendliest for you.

For routes such as Kumasi, Aflao and Cape Coast-Takoradi, there are dozens of buses that are leaving on the hour. Connecting these ones doesn’t really require advanced booking. Whichever mode you use, families should ensure that luggage get comfortable space. Bags with breakables must be pointed out to each member of the family and, especially the bus conductors.

The sitting arrangement should be such that members of the family are seated together as much as possible. An advantage here is that positions can easily be switched among members who need more leg room, for instance. Huddling together in one section of the bus also facilitates sharing of snacks, information and fun games.

If it’s a rather large family making the trip, (from seven onwards) a headcount is required at crucial stages of the journey; eg, at boarding and disembarkation points. No family wants to leave home and arrive at a destination with one person less.

In contrast to the above, if the family is trekking out on their own vehicle then certain measures and safeguards must be taken. Our good columnist, The Mirror Driver would have better tips but let’s suggest that a thorough servicing ahead of trip is advised.

Basically, check out your vehicle to ensure your vehicle is reliable and ready to go. Of special importance is a check of the tires, coolant and engine oil. Depending on of destination distant, filling the fuel tank wouldn’t be a bad idea. The idea here is that a ‘one-gallon’ attitude does not do a road trip.

These safeguards can be confirmed or demanded even if the family is using a rented car. The advantage of using a rented or self-owned vehicle is that it allows for convenient scheduling. More importantly, any number of stops can be made. For a road trip, this is very important as some attractions are just by the road and require un-scheduled stops.

One mode of travel which we have to consider here is air transport. In Ghana, air traffic for domestic destinations is increasing though it drops occasionally on account of tariff hikes.

If a family decides to travel by air, that would be fine. And for first time-flyers, that would add to an enriching experience. Families must, however, be ready for the cost. A round trip to the farthest destination
Accra-Tamale costs around 750 cedis for adults and 500 cedis for children.

In addition to the novelty, the advantage here is that the travel party arrives at the destination fresh and on quick time. What is missed out, however, is the sights and sounds which a road trip offers.

For example between Accra and Tamale by road one is exposed to so many landscapes attractions such as close encounters with rivers, mountains, farmlands, human settlements and roadside events. If air travel is a considered option, a smart idea is to go by road and return by air or vice versa.

At this stage, a word of caution with regards to preparing children for their first flight is in order, I believe. While it is good to surprise toddlers (like I have done with mine before) it also is important to adequately prepare them. The flight process, taxi-ing, taking-off, cruising, descending and landing must all be explained to the kid.

The child’s own hand luggage must be carefully packed for the plane to include a toy or two, work or drawing book with crayons, and plenty of snacks.

Also in this pack should be a plastic carrier bag, for vomit, etc. as well as extra clothing. Most importantly, check in early so as to arrange for kids to sit near you. Don’t forget that during take-offs and landing, babies should be fed so they are engaged while toddlers should be made to chew gum.