Road Trip Essentials: 5 Ways to Rock the Road

By Lesley Green
A family of four on a road trip camping. They're hiking alongside a lake.

Hitting the road this Canada Day long weekend?

Now that the kids are out of school and there's a long weekend ahead of us, many parents are making plans to take the first road trip of the summer.

A getaway to the cottage, trailer, or just for a day trip to someplace new is on the minds of a lot of people. A recent survey found that 31% of Canadians have plans to not let another summer slip away without some sort of a holiday.

For the survey respondents who said they’re up for a summer trek, 63% will take part in local day trips, 50% would consider a few days away within their home province, and 25% are open to exploring beyond their province – but only within Canada.

As travel restrictions ease up in many parts of the country, this weekend will likely be a busy one on the roads. And a road trip is a great way to travel because you’re in the driver’s seat. You can decide when to stop, where to stop, and for how long. However, road trips sometimes come with bumps that can slow you down if you’re not prepared.

Rock your family road trip and avoid bumps in the road with these road trip essentials.

1. Make sure you’ve got all your car-related documents

Anytime you get behind the wheel, check to ensure you have your driver’s licence, car insurance documents, vehicle ownership, and registration. Also, if you belong to a roadside assistance program, set up their number on your phone for easy access at a potentially stressful time.

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2. Get travel insurance if going to another province

If your travels take you into another province, don’t rely solely on your provincial health care coverage should you fall ill or be injured.

While it is true you will be covered for emergency hospital and physician services, you’ll likely find there are costs related to your emergency that you’ll have to pay. For example, costs for an ambulance, prescription drugs, and a semi-private room are generally not covered. Neither are the costs for renting medical equipment and emergency dental treatment or expenses incurred by a travelling companion while you’re hospitalized.

The good news is that these costs are generally covered with a travel insurance policy, so it’s always a good idea to get coverage even when travelling in Canada.

3. Pack an emergency roadside kit

Emergency car kits aren’t just for the winter. Make sure you’ve got one for your road trip too that includes things like a first-aid kit, flashlights (with extra batteries), snacks and bottled water, as well as a properly inflated spare tire. It should also include toilet paper (when there’s no bathroom in sight), hand sanitizer, extra face masks, a basic toolkit, a tire pressure gauge, a jug of windshield washer fluid, jumper cables, and emergency flares or reflectors.

4. Gas isn't cheap. Factor its cost into your budget

It’s easy to overlook the cost of gas when budgeting for your road trip, but the fact is you’ll end up spending a lot on fuel. Plan ahead so there are no nasty surprises.

Fuel prices vary from province to province (and city to city), and you can see how much gas money you'll have to plan for at Natural Resources Canada (NRC). NRC lists the average retail price for gasoline in all of Canada's major cities and towns. Right now, the average price of regular gasoline in the country is hovering at about $1.35 per litre.

At prices like that, it’s best to drive with fuel efficiency in mind: avoid excessive speeds, accelerate and brake gently, and avoid unnecessary idling.

5. Protect your home

Before you hit the road, remember to protect your home while you’re away by making it look occupied and lived in as it would normally.

If you’ll be gone for more than a few days, ask a family member, close friend, or trusted neighbour to collect your mail, put out your garbage or recycling bin on pickup day, park in your driveway occasionally, and enter your house periodically.

This last one has a couple of perks. Firstly, if there's anyone paying attention, they'll see someone is coming and going. Secondly, if anything goes wrong inside the house (like your water heater leaking), they'll be able to minimize the damage as they’ll have caught it early on.

Depending on how long you’ll be away, having someone check in on your house may be required by your home insurance company. This requirement usually applies if you’ll be gone for more than a couple of weeks. Play it safe and give them a quick call, and they’ll let you know what’s needed, if anything, to keep your policy in force.