Preparing for a road trip – 12 things for a more enjoyable trip

Preparing for a road trip will make it a lot more enjoyable when you finally hit the road. Going on a road trip does not have to be a stressful event. A little pre-planning can go a long way to making your next road trip an enjoyable experience. I love heading out on the road, exploring and seeing new sights and experiencing new parts of the country.

Crowsnest pass Lundbrick falls in winter with the train bridge, ice and the flowing river over the falls, prepare for a road trip
A well planned road trip works in all seasons

The following are 12 things that I recommend that everyone does before they set out on their next journey. Preparing for a road trip is simple and will help keep things rolling the right way when you are on the road.

1 – Passport??

If you are crossing a border make sure EVERYONE has an UP-TO-DATE passport. It can take months to get one so apply early.

2 –  Vehicle maintenance

Now is the time to make sure that your vehicle’s maintenance is up-to-date. If you’re like most people you will put off having your oil changed till that warning light comes on. Many times when heading out on a trip the light will come on just as you leave. Now is the time to check! See when the next oil change is needed. Maybe do a change early so you can do the entire trip without having to do an oil change. It is also a good time to put in the seasonal oil if your vehicle requires it. It will get you better gas mileage and it will protect your engine while you’re on your trip. Also do preventative maintenance check on your belts, air filters and other fluids.

3 – Check your tires

Tires are something people put off checking until they get a flat or slide off the road. Your tires are an extremely important part of your vehicle. First check to make sure that your tires are not worn. Make sure that they are going to be safe for the weather conditions and the temperatures that you’re going to experience on your trip. Also make sure your tires are properly inflated. They will give you better handling and you will get better gas mileage if they are properly inflated.

4 –  Clean out your vehicle

Preparing for a road trip by cleaning out the debris from your past trips. So many times our vehicles become a collection area for all the things that we used at one time on the road but have never taken them out to put back in the house.  There really is no need to be carrying your winter gloves, ice scraper and skates when you’re going on a summer vacation.  Or like many people your car has become a mobile garbage dump with scraps of food, empty food containers and drink containers littering the floor.  Also by cleaning out your vehicle you will have more room for the things that you need to carry and you will use.

5 –  Check your first aid kit

This is the time to make sure that your first aid kit is up to date and stocked with everything that you may need on the road. If you don’t have a first aid kit I strongly recommend that you stop and pick one up. They don’t have to cost a fortune. As long as they have the basics. Band-Aids, tweezers, Aspirin or Tylenol, and a few gauze pads you are already ahead of the game from what most people carry.

6 –  Top up your medication

You don’t want to hit the road to find out that you are out of a necessary medication. Plus you may not have anywhere to get your prescription filled if you are traveling in remote areas.   Make a note well in advance of what medication that you need to take when you do hit the road. Many times we take something daily and we don’t even think of it because we have done it for so long.

I recommend for at least a month before your trip that you write down whatever you take each day. Sometimes the medication that we take changes over the course of a month so note this. You want to make sure that even the one thing that you only take once a week is also included with the medication that you take with you.  I also strongly recommend taking a list of medications with you in case something should happen so you can give it to a paramedic or a doctor. If crossing a border you may also have to carry the actual prescription. CHECK ahead of time.

7 – Check if you need insurance

Even if you are just going to another province in Canada you may need to get an add on to your insurance. Apply early just in case you need to go in to fill out some forms.

I pay for AMA, road side assistance. I consider it some insurance to my piece of mind. Don’t use it a lot but it is great to have just in case. If I run out of fuel, get locked out or the vehicle breakdowns I have someone to call.

8 –  Make a list of the clothes to pack

Remember even though you may be going on a summer vacation you should take some clothes for cooler weather. Likewise even if the forecast says that it’s going to be beautiful and sunny that you take some clothes for the rain. Make this list several weeks before you leave on your trip and take a look at it at least once a week to make any revisions that you think about.   Many times we don’t have to take all the clothes that we think we need. Many times a shirt can be worn a couple times. A pair of shoes that you may only wear once on a trip can be left at home to save space. If you are going to a special event while on your trip make sure to take the clothes for that.

Kayaking the middle lake of Waterton Lakes National Park looking at the Prince of Wales hotel, preparing for a road trip
Prepare for all weather conditions as the weather may not always be this amazing on your road trip!

9 –  Make reservations for your accommodations, and verify your reservations

I am the type of person that likes to travel with no real plan. But it is difficult to do this at popular places like national parks. Some accommodation is booked up completely months or years in advance. Make sure you have your reservations for places that you’re going if you know that it is going to be busy there. Once you have made your reservations don’t assume they have been made once you book them CHECK either on-line or call. Check a week or two before you leave to verify.

Also check if there are changes to the operation of restaurants or activities at your hotel or resort. If you booked a hotel with a swimming pool and a water slide so that you and the kids can enjoy it, check to make sure that the water slide in swimming pool are operational. It is really depressing when you show up to find out that the water slide and pool are shut down for an upgrade or for maintenance.

10 – Get your camera ready to capture those amazing memories

The majority of people just take pictures and video on their cell phones.  But if your cell phone memory is full that’s a problem. It’s impossible to capture images and the video if the storage is full . A month before you leave download your images from your cell phone and back them up at home.

If you’re using a camera do the same thing. Download all of your images and video to a secure hard drive at home. Then format your camera card when you’re sure all the images are backed up on the external drive. 

If you want to improve your photography take a photography course. Learn how to get better pictures and video from a professional. You can even have someone check over your camera setting and teach you to correctly setup your digital camera so it captures the best images possible.

Preparing for a road trip, photography course, online learning, adult learning
Preparing for a road trip by upping your photography skills

11 – Remember the extras

Many times we are so concerned about taking the necessary things we forget the important extras.  Things like water toys for the kids. Fishing gear and chairs. Snacks for the road and games can easily be forgotten when we’re thinking about more important things to take. You’re going to need things to do in the down times.

12 – Preparing for a road trip – Pack lots of patience

Road trips can be extremely stressful. You can prepare for a road trip all you like but many times things don’t go as planned even after preparing. Schedules get changed or the weather goes bad. Somebody doesn’t feel well. Many things can come up on a trip that can remove the fun.  Remember a road trip is not a race or an endurance test. It is a time to enjoy, a time to see new things, a time to spend with those that you love.

Remember the road trip!

While it may not be part of preparing for the road trip, when you return home from your trip make sure that you print your memories. All those files on your phone or your camera will do no good in remembering your trip if they get lost or deleted.  

So many times I hear from people that they were planning on printing the pictures someday!!! But a computer died and everything was lost, or a cell phone or camera got stolen and the pictures were not backed up. Printing a collection of 4×6, 5×7, some 8X10’s or a wall portrait can be an amazing way to remember a road trip for years to come.