Canadian summers are too short! I don’t think anyone will disagree with me on that. After a long winter and a gray, wet spring, we have just a couple short months of heat and sunshine. While there’s typically a whole lot to do at home – from Canada 150 celebrations to street festivals, backyard barbecues, and an endless stream of kids’ birthday parties, baby showers and weddings – if you want to venture out on a road trip, you’re not alone. Summer driving season is a big deal, and despite fears of rising gas prices back in May, driving is still a very affordable option compared with flying for most vacationing Canadians.
Sure, you could get in the car this summer and just drive, like the ill-fated characters in this melancholy tune by Fastball, but just where are you going without ever knowing the way? A plan, even a loose one, is a good thing to have, even if you want to just throw a casual canvas backpack in the trunk and let the road take you wherever it will. Follow these tips before you head out on the highway.
7 tips for a great road trip
- Make a realistic plan, time-wise. If you have small children, for example, don’t expect you’ll make it to Toronto in four hours! There may be many stops (for emergencies and sanity) along the way. The same goes for driving down to the States or cross-country: when making hotel reservations, provide ample time to get there, taking traffic and construction delays into account. Don’t expect to do an epic 14 straight hours to Nashville, if you are the only driver; you could wind up stranding your travelling companions in a rest stop nightmare.
- Perform a thorough vehicle check. If you’re not a CAA member, now is probably a good time to sign up for one of their stellar roadside assistance packages! Take your car to the dealership or to a good mechanic to make sure everything from brakes to power steering is in good working order for a long trip.
- Clean out the car. You’re going to be spending a lot of time in it, so the daily flotsam and jetsam you can just ignore on your daily commute is going to take on epic proportions – especially when you’re adding to the mess daily by eating in the car. Then, bring a plastic bag for garbage and a big manila envelope for travel receipts so you can keep the in-car clutter to a minimum during your travels.
- Take the scenic route. While there are popular Bike Assist apps that provide cyclists with information on scenic trails, it’s harder to find an app that will direct you off the highways and onto more scenic roads. Nevertheless, it’s worth trying to find the back roads, even if you have to download old fashioned paper maps to do it! You can always get back on the highway when you feel the need for speed.
- Consider holiday timing. You don’t want to find yourself stuck on a bridge during rush hour or, worse, trying to cross a border on a US holiday when everyone and their uncle is visiting family. Another issue is that gas prices rise before a long weekend, and hotel availability can become very limited (not to mention more expensive). Book your AirBnB and gas up the car well in advance of key dates to avoid disappointment, or sidestep holiday travel whenever possible.
- Load up the iPad with movies for the kids. While your road trip will almost certainly place you within range of exciting sights and sounds, still bring a piece of home with you in the form of tried-and-true movies, videos, and music that will be sure to entertain the whole family. There’s nothing worse than sitting in traffic (or in a motel room) and having nothing suitable to take the edge off the tedium.
- Be flexible. One of the greatest joys of the road trip is the feeling of freedom that the open road brings. Don’t worry if you don’t make it to every stop on your gruelling itinerary; sometimes, you’ll see things that make you want to linger a bit longer to take it all in. Be aware that plans can change depending on outside factors as well as your own mood – and that’s not a bad thing.
Oh yeah…bring a spare tire and jumper cables…and have a great road trip!
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