Much like the tango, a great road trip takes two people. While it’s the driver’s job to get from A to B, the all-important wingman is tasked with making the experience of the journey as enjoyable as possible. It’s an art and the key is preparation. Here’s a foolproof guide to help you boss the passenger seat.
Good wingmen know their duties start long before the actual journey. Arriving with a ready-made playlist shows you’ve gone that extra mile. Fill it with power ballads for the open road, dance floor bangers for the final quarter, and a few soothing comforters for traffic jams. Just make sure you’ve got the windows wound up as you’re belting out "Livin' On A Prayer" on the M4.
Thankfully, the days of unfolding a map the size of a marquee only to find the road you need has been bulldozed and turned into a Tesco are long gone. All you need in the digital age is a postcode, a smartphone and the ability to draw a figure of eight in the air without elbowing the driver in the nose. Which brings us to…
3. PHONE CHARGER
It’s a terrible feeling watching your battery die with an hour of the journey left. You’re suddenly alone, abandoned by technology, with only a vague idea of the direction you’re supposed to be heading in. Worst of all, you’re a bad wingman and you know it. Make sure this doesn’t happen by always packing an in-car charger.
You can pretend it’s for looking under the bonnet or changing the tyre at night. In reality, you’ll be using it to do ghost impressions when Google Maps takes you down a dark country path.
5. SWEETS & DRINKS
Entire industries have been built on the humble travel sweet. Your job is to be ready with the bag (or tin) whenever that vital sugar rush is needed. Depending on your relationship with the driver, this may involve some actual feeding. Best to check first — likewise with opening cans of energy drinks and unscrewing bottles of water. Make sure you’re on a flat stretch, and it's best to pull over if you’re intent on watering the driver.
6. BABY WIPES
You won’t know how important these are until you try to zoom in on a map that’s covered with the sticky remnants of a fizzy cola bottle.
It’s your job to entertain the driver, so brush up on your skills as a raconteur. It’s important to know your audience — a lift back from a wedding with your father-in-law is not the time to talk about Mad Steve’s stag do in Thailand. Maybe watch a bit of Parkinson on YouTube beforehand to see how the greats do it.
8. SPARE CHANGE
Even in today’s cashless society, there are plenty of travel situations that require a palm full of silver: unexpected toll roads, old-fashioned parking meters, bridges guarded by ogres. As a wingman, petty cash is your department.
For the sake of everybody’s safety, don’t try and assemble a Monopoly board on the dash. You’ll need an itinerary of travel friendly games that’ll keep your mind off the traffic. Get creative. I think we’re all old enough to admit that I Spy is a bit rubbish.