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Family Road Trip Survival Guide for the Summer Holidays

  • ‘Four Vagabonds’ – Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and John Burroughs – give birth to the Great American road trip 100 years ago
  • Ford SA offers tips for motorists embarking on a road trip this festive season
  • A little bit of planning and preparation goes a long way to ensure a safer, more enjoyable travel experience for all family members

PRETORIA, South Africa, 03 December 2019 – Every summer between 1914 and 1924, for about two weeks, a group of friends who called themselves the Four Vagabonds would hit the open road with their Model Ts and, travelled to some of the United States’ most scenic areas.

However, these people weren’t your average Americans. They were none other than Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and John Burroughs. And the motorcade of up to 50 vehicles, which transported the celebrity Vagabonds, sometimes their wives, household staff, and all the equipment they could possibly need for a comfortable holiday anywhere on the road, was captured by Ford Motor Company photographers.

These high profile ‘glamping’ adventures undertaken by pre-eminent members of society fired public imagination. And the phenomenon of road tripping as an affordable way for most families to satisfy their desire to see the world soon spread even to South Africa.

With almost 750,000km of roads criss-crossing the country – the tenth largest road network globally according to the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL), and by far the largest on the continent – it’s no wonder road tripping has become such a popular way for generations of South Africans to vacation.

Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa believes that the four pioneers would whole-heartedly approve of the following tips for modern motorists wanting to get the most out of their own trips today.


As a naturalist and nature essayist, active in the US conservation movement, John Burroughs would advise you to use the excellent opportunity of a road trip to discover and explore places of natural beauty, as a chance to learn and actually experience more about the geological and cultural history of places you haven’t been before. Simply places that every single South African has to visit at some point in their life.

Whilst planning your route, look up the tourist attractions you'll be passing along the way, and incorporate the most appealing ones into your itinerary. Many of the newly constructed hotels of yesteryear are still in business as historic B&B tourism destinations today, and breaking up long trips into smaller chunks – with one or two overnight stays en route to your destination, interspersed with some sightseeing – not only reduces driving fatigue and back seat boredom, but makes for a much more enjoyable and memorable holiday. Make sure you reserve your overnight accommodation in advance, especially during peak travel periods like Easter!


As the founder of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, one of the first global makers of automobile tyres, Harvey Firestone would advise you to have your car’s wheel balancing and alignment checked before heading off, to ensure a smooth and safe trip, and not to forget to check the condition of your spare tyre too. Punctures happen to the best of us, usually at the worst of times. Just remember, spares aren’t designed for long distances or high speeds, so once you have replaced a punctured tyre with the spare, you need to visit a tyre technician to fix or replace the original one as soon as possible.


A world renowned inventor whose name is synonymous with the electric light bulb, Thomas Edison was also the self-appointed navigator on the Vagabonds’ adventures, with nothing but a compass and a handful of atlases to guide the motorcade! A real adventurer!

His advice to the modern day road tripper would be to familiarise yourself with all the marvellous tech features of your car, and take full advantage of navigation apps like Google Maps and Waze, accessed either on your smartphone or your car’s built-in infotainment system, like Ford’s cutting edge SYNC 3 *. For parents travelling with small kids, a visual display showing estimated travel and arrival time could even be the silver bullet you’ve been searching for to silence the age-old “Are we there yet?” chorus from the back seat.


And last but certainly not least, captain of industry, business magnate, and founder of the Ford Motor Company himself, Henry Ford would advise you to make sure your car is in tip-top shape before hitting the open road. Be sure to take it in for a thorough inspection at your local dealership, where they will check all the necessary parts for damage and replace them if necessary, so your car can perform at maximum efficiency.

Also visit the AA’s website for a list of Toll Fees and Toll Plaza Locations, as well as a current Road Conditions Report, which gives you a heads up on any road works that may be taking place, which could result in detours or delays to your journey. (Source, quickpic)

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