With the coming of warm temperatures, I have found myself thinking more about this summer and our travel plans. While I will always enjoy and appreciate a flight to somewhere warm, on the beach with a cold drink in hand, there is also something to be said for the fun of a road trip adventure.
Whether it is just a quick weekend trip, or a longer two-week trip, my husband and I try to schedule a road trip into the plans each year. Over the years we have learned the importance of taking a few proactive steps to ensure the best trip experience.
Here are 5 of my go to tips as you prepare for your next big trip:
- Prepare your Vehicle
Start with the easiest, and most often overlooked, parts of preparing your vehicle for the trip – Cleaning your vehicle! Sure, you can handle the fast food wrappers on the floor of your backseat and your cup holder full of candy bar wrappers now, but that doesn’t last long when you are on the road. You are about to be confined to this space, and when you can’t put your coffee cup in the cup holder before getting back on the road those little annoyances add up fast! Take the time to do a thorough clean up of your vehicle before heading out in search of adventure.
It is also important that you take the time to consider the practical side of preparing for your trip – whether your car is mechanically able to handle it. There is nothing worse than ending up stranded on the side of the road only hours into your trip waiting for a tow truck… trust me, I’ve been there! Take your vehicle to a mechanic to have them give it an inspection, ensuring that they check fluid levels as well as the condition of things like the brakes and tires.
Once you have received the stamp of approval from your mechanic, then there are a few small items on this checklist that are in your hands. Double check to make sure that you have a spare tire, and not only that it is there, but that it is fully inflated and stored with all the tools necessary to change a tire should you need to do so. Check to make sure you have the basic necessities in your trunk to be prepared for the possible minor inconveniences – jumper cables, extra wiper fluid and a first aid kit for example.
Lastly, while this is totally a matter of opinion, I highly suggest looking into a Roadside Service Plan. There are a number of options available. Whether you are more comfortable with CAA, or interested in looking at the options through other providers like Costco or Canadian Tire, take the time to do your research. If, knock on wood, you need their service you will be prepared, and if you don’t then you got additional security in comfort in knowing you were prepared!
- Your Greatest Tool – Your Phone!
With the ever increasing prevalence of smart phones in today’s society, most couples have at least one, if not one each, at their disposal. Where we once had to pack a whole list of items to ensure we were prepared, this one little device has now got us covered!
Make a call to your service provider before you set out on the road. You will want to make sure that you are familiar with the countrywide coverage that they offer and the potential roaming fees that you may be facing. Most carriers have a variety of travel plans that will help you to keep these costs down so that you don’t return from your trip to a killer cell phone bill!
While you may not want to rely entirely on a GPS or map, as there is something to be said for just ‘going with the flow’, having a GPS on hand can be extremely helpful if you get stuck. There are a number of options available and I am sure that many of you have your own opinions on which is the best. Personally, I prefer Waze. It is a free download available for both Android and iPhone users.
Your phone is also going to be an excellent source of entertainment throughout your trip. Rather than surfing the radio waves in hopes of finding a station along the way, stock up on all your favourites on your phone! Most modern vehicles will include the option to use an audio cable or Bluetooth to run your music from your phone through your car stereo. For those that don’t there are a number of adapters available. Depending on the data and roaming involved you may also choose to use a streaming service like Spotify or Pandora. If so, make sure they are installed and ready to go!
Lastly, but definitely not the least important point when it comes to your phone – make sure that you pack a phone charger! If you are going to rely on it, you need to make sure that you have enough battery life to keep you going!
- Have a Loose Plan… But Be Flexible
You don’t want to be fumbling throughout your trip with no idea of what is coming next, or what to expect, but an overly regimented trip adds stress that you don’t need. A great example of this is looking at where you are going to spend your nights. Plan out what city you are going to spend the night in, and even get a list of possible hotels, but don’t settle on one hotel. If you are running late having to cancel/re-book last minute isn’t always easy.
Over-schedule and you will find yourself stressing about timelines instead of just enjoying your trip!
Also remember that delays are inevitable. Whether it is weather related, a slow down due to an accident or unexpected road work – the odds are that you are not going to be 100% on time with any schedule that you may set out. Let yourself be flexible with this, that extra hour or two isn’t going to make or break your trip! There is a beauty in being able to roll with the punches.
- Always Carry Cash
In this plastic heavy world we live in, where everyone relies on debit, credit cards and electronic payments (like apple pay), it is becoming increasingly more common to never carry cash – I know I NEVER have cash on me unless it’s a situation where I have made a point of doing so. The problem with that mentality, and taking a road trip, is that you can find yourself stuck in a situation where you need cash, and being in an unknown area you don’t even know where to find a bank to get some!
As you are travelling you are likely going to find yourself coming across local stores and restaurants that are not equipped for debit and credit. You don’t want to fall in love with something and miss the opportunity over something as little as the store being cash only! Before leaving for your adventure, be sure to hit the bank. Not only do you want a selection of bills on hand and ready, but you should make sure you are also ready for any toll roads you may come across. Load up your center console with change so that you are prepared for anything. Remember – you can always put money back into the bank after if you don’t spend it!
- Pack a Cooler
While you will have plenty of opportunities to stop for food and drinks along the way BUT if you are hoping to also have some quality, healthier options, rather than living off gas station candy bars and fast food burgers then you will need to do a little bit of prep work. As someone who works hard to follow a healthier lifestyle I believe that it is well worth the effort!
I am a Tim Hortons addict, so I will not deny anyone the chance for their regular coffee stops… There will be times, however, when you need a cold drink – especially if you are travelling during the summer months! Pack yourself a cooler with a selection of drink options so that you have them on hand and ready to go. Water and juices will allow you to quench your thirst without dropping the ball on your healthy eating goals.
As for snacks, there are a number of options that are quick, easy, and work perfectly on the go. Trail mix has always been a big ‘go to’ item for me. There are so many different options that you can mix and match, giving you a variety in taste and in nutritional benefits. I like to pack a number of different trail mixes just to give me the option to change it up. Some ideas include pecans, almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, dried edamame, dried cranberries and dark chocolate (a personal weakness). Other great travel friendly snack options include cut vegetables, crackers and hard-boiled eggs (to keep your protein up).
What was your most memorable road trip? What steps did you take preparing for this trip that helped to make it such a success?