7 tips for the ultimate Canadian road trip
Perhaps it’s because we live in one of the world’s largest countries with an incredible range of vistas. Maybe Canadians have an inherent wanderlust. Or maybe it’s just that COVID-19 has forced us to stick closer to home lately. Whatever the reason, an epic road trip is a rite of passage for many of us.
Whether you long to follow the Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver as you hug the coastline to the resort town of Whistler, or you dream of the magnificent Atlantic views afforded by the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, the wonders this land holds provide the perfect backdrop for the ultimate road trip.
For some, preparing for a road trip is a meticulous affair that maps out precise timelines and schedules. For others, planning involves little more than pointing in one direction, and setting off for whatever may come. However, you choose to travel, here are seven tips that might smooth the road out for you a bit.
1. Service your vehicle before you go.
Hot summer days and long stretches of driving can put a strain on your vehicle, so having a mechanic give your vehicle the once over before starting out makes a lot of sense. Make sure your tire pressure is good, see if your oil is due for a change, and request that critical components such as the cooling system and brakes get a little extra attention.
2. Have roadside assistance.
Mechanical breakdowns can happen even if you take the precautions noted above. It’s wise to have roadside assistance available if you run into trouble – whether that means a battery boost, a flat tire, or a tow to the shop. There are a number of ways to go about this. For example, it may be part of a subscription service that came with your car, or built-in to your car’s warranty. It may be available as a perk of your auto insurance policy. And, if none of these apply, it’s a layer of protection that you can obtain by joining an auto club such as CAA.
3. Bring copies of your important documents.
Losing your ID or other important documents in the middle of a road trip is a hassle, so where possible have physical or digital backup copies that you can keep in a safe place. Be aware that a copy of a controlled document such as your driver’s license is not a legal replacement and will not prevent you from being cited by the police should you be required to produce your license. However, having a copy available will at least ensure you have details such as your license number at hand, to help with arranging a replacement when you contact the issuing authority for your province.
To help keep your credit card details safe, along with passwords to your bank accounts, there are several apps you can choose from that let you store critical information in a secure cloud environment.
You can also enter your card details into the digital wallet on your smartphone. This way, you not only have a digital backup, but you can also leave most of your physical cards at home and simply tap your phone to make payments as you go.
4. Plan your accommodations.
COVID-19 has definitely altered accommodation planning – both limiting the available options during times of lockdown, decreasing the supply, and often increasing the prices of the most in-demand spots when they have been open. At one point, supply and demand were so misaligned that enterprising campers created a secondary market to buy and sell access to provincial campsites!
The best advice is to do as much pre-booking and planning in advance as possible. You may have to look at both conventional hotel options and short-term rental websites such as Airbnb, VRBO and even smaller, independent services to snag the spot you want. Having said that, if you have the courage to give it a try, calling hotels on short notice can sometimes uncover last-minute cancellations and unsold rooms that you can snap up at below-market prices.
5. Don’t forget the maps.
These days, many of us use smartphones to navigate traffic in our own cities. If you plan to use your phone or a GPS unit to guide you to your destination, just make sure you have a reliable power cord and sufficient data on your service plan so there are no surprises. Even so, when you reach the more rural areas of the country, you might be surprised to discover that there are places without any cell coverage. In times like these, you could consider downloading a map onto your smartphone before you hit the road so you can still access it offline.
There’s always merit to a good old-fashioned (up-to-date!) map spread out over the nearest table or car hood. This makes it possible to see where you are in relation to where you want to go with just a glance, and all the options for getting there. You also get a sense of the terrain, bodies of water and any towns you might encounter along the way.
6. Pack a cooler.
A road trip doesn’t have to be an endless series of fast food stops. Packing a cooler and keeping it stocked with water and other drinks not only helps to keep you hydrated during your travels, but including healthy snacks such as fresh fruit, cheese and nuts can help stave off the growlies. And we all know that we tend to make poor dietary decisions when hungry.
7. Roadside attractions.
Canadians have a love affair with the ubiquitous roadside attraction, and no epic Canadian road trip is complete without a photo of at least one such encounter. Often kitschy, but always big and over-the-top, the list of Canadian towns that claim to have the “world’s largest” something or other is staggering. Travelling through New Brunswick and want to see the world’s largest lobster? Then take a little detour into Shediac. Want to see a really big toonie? Then the town of Campbellford, Ontario is the place for you. Read our blog for more off-beat destinations you can find throughout Canada.
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Wherever you choose to go on your next road trip, planning ahead and preparing for the unexpected will help ensure you hit the open road with confidence and bring back wonderful memories. To help you in your travels, consider getting a travel-friendly credit card like the Home Trust Preferred Visa, which offers a number of benefits, including 1% cash back on eligible transactions.
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