How to plan a worry-free ad­ven­ture

Your guide to avoid­ing car trou­ble, traf­fic snarls and cranky pas­sen­gers


If you’re like many Cana­di­ans you’re al­ready con­tem­plat­ing a sum­mer road trip. The al­lure of the road is ir­re­sistible in our all-too-short “driv­ing sea­son.”

Ex­cite­ment builds as you dream about wide-open roads and new places to visit.

A care­free at­ti­tude is im­por­tant to a road trip’s suc­cess. Yet, head­ing off with­out a plan is a sure way to in­vite headaches later. A lit­tle prepa­ra­tion will make the trip easy, re­move the stress and en­hance your ex­pe­ri­ence.

Be­fore you leave

The week be­fore your trip is a great time to make sure your most im­por­tant road-trip tool — the ve­hi­cle — is ready. Af­ter the rough win­ter we’ve just had, this is es­pe­cially im­por­tant, says Kait­lynn Furse, a pub­lic re­la­tions man­ager for CAA’s South Cen­tral On­tario re­gion. She ad­vises you check the ba­sics, such as tire wear and tire pres­sures, check the spare and jack (if you have them), check the bat­tery, change the oil and top up the wind­shield washer fluid and bring some ex­tra — it’s bug sea­son, af­ter all. Hav­ing the kids help check the head­lights and turn sig­nals can be a fun way to get them in­volved in trip prep and in­crease their safety aware­ness, Furse says.

It’s also time to clean out the car, and en­sure the wind­shield and win­dows are clean.

If you’re go­ing to tow or carry items on your roof, check the trailer and rack for in­tegrity and make sure those trailer lights and brakes work. When you pack, se­curely fas­ten any cargo so you don’t shed items as you go.

It’s also a good idea to keep heavy items packed low in the ve­hi­cle, es­pe­cially in a wagon or SUV where the cargo area is open, to pre­vent them from be­com­ing pro­jec­tiles in the event of an emer­gency stop.

Now is also a good time to en­sure your road­side as­sis­tance is paid up and that you have the app or con­tact info handy. In case of a break­down or emer­gency, you should also take a first-aid kit, as well as the three Fs: flares, flash­light and food (and water). Don’t for­get to keep your phone charged in case of an emer­gency.

Where to?

Now that the car’s ready, it’s time to de­cide where you’re go­ing and how to get there. The route should be planned to meet the needs of all those on the trip — adults, kids and pets. Plan­ning ahead will give you a chance to find pet-friendly ho­tels, parks and at­trac­tions for the kids, and di­ver­sions for your­self.

Furse ad­vises against just set­ting the GPS for your desti­na­tion and head­ing straight there. “It’s one thing to get to a place, but there’s so many great lit­tle towns with things to see along the way,” she says. “Do­ing re­search in ad­vance lets you see if you can do a pit stop and have a pic­nic in a place you may not have oth­er­wise seen.”

Like­wise, us­ing a large-for­mat paper map is an­other fun way to chart a route that can take you down roads the GPS would not. It gives the big pic­ture and shows you places just off the beaten path that may be worth a visit.

Plan fre­quent stops to let pets and kids burn off some en­ergy, and give drivers a rest, as well. The CAA rec­om­mends a 15-minute break ev­ery hour to help the per­son be­hind the wheel stay alert. And re­mem­ber, never leave your kids or pets in the car unat­tended while you take a break.

On the road

While you’re on the road, stay­ing alert and min­i­miz­ing dis­trac­tions are key to a safe trip, says pro­vin­cial Const. Lau­ren Ball of the OPP’s High­way Safety Divi­sion. She notes that one of the best ways to avoid stress- in­duc­ing traf­fic is­sues is to have your co-driver mon­i­tor On­tario 511 or the OPP’s regional Twit­ter feeds for in­for­ma­tion about traf­fic con­ges­tion or road clo­sures.

“You know you’re on va­ca­tion, so en­joy your drive, try not to get stressed out. It’s the stress­ful sit­u­a­tions that lead to the ag­gres­sive driv­ing and speed­ing,” Ball says.

If you have car trou­ble, pull off the road as far as you can, and if you’re in traf­fic, exit through the non­traf­fic side of the car. Furse ad­vises stay­ing clear of the car as much as pos­si­ble while as­sess­ing the sit­u­a­tion. Ball says the time to call 911 is any time you feel un­safe, and if you’re un­sure you can al­ways call the non-emer­gency num­ber *677 (*OPP) for advice.

Chances are, with good prepa­ra­tion and plan­ning, you’ll have a smooth trip.

“We all want to be mak­ing mem­o­ries and hav­ing fun with our fam­i­lies,” Furse says. “Do the prepa­ra­tion and safety work at the begin­ning so it’s smooth sail­ing from there.”


Mak­ing stops along the way dur­ing a road trip al­lows kids to burn off en­ergy and a chance to ex­plore other des­ti­na­tions.

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