Canada Road Trip Series: Tips for Success

It can be so difficult deciding what to take on a road trip. Especially, if, like us, you have a small car.

There were a few things that really helped us with this trip.

Smartphone Apps + Websites for Long Car Journeys

Gasbuddy

Gasbuddy has an app and a website, so if you have internet access you will be able to figure out when to stop for fuel. Buying gas on our journey would have been far more expensive if we hadn’t found this app. Fuel prices vary from street-to-street in Canada and knowing where the nearest, cheapest fuel was really helped us stick to budget. It can be annoying when you fill up, only to find it .20c less per litre 10 km down the road!

TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor potentially prevented food poisoning and bedbugs during our trip. It was far from perfect, as consumer reviews can sometimes be skewed; everyone has different standards. One persons ‘too expensive for what you get’ meal is another persons ‘ahh, bliss, I was desperate for this type of meal/environment etc’. Still, if you’re able to read between the lines and you’re working within a budget, this is a brilliant app/website to visit. There are reviews on hotels, B&Bs, restaurants and even take out chains across Canada.

Audible

We signed up for the trial version and downloaded a few audio books. On a 9 day, 6 hours of driving per day, road trip, conversation and attention can dry up. It was nice to have a little distraction on occasion. If we did more driving, we’d definitely sign up for the membership too. I’d recommend any Terry Pratchett novel and Tina Fey’s BossyPants. Best stories ever for ridiculously long road trips.

Packing

Clothes

Let’s face it. You’re probably not going to do much laundry on a 9 day road trip. Maaaybe if it was longer, you would. Maaaybe you will. Anyway, bring enough clothes so that you have layered outfits for 3-4 days. You want to make sure that you have a raincoat, sandals, walking shoes. You do not need jewellery and you do not need fancy make up. Be simple. It saves space and time.

Bedding

This probably sounds weird, but bring a pillow, and a throw (if there’s room). We did this because I really like my own pillow and we couldn’t be sure that the hotel standards would be suitable. We have stayed in quite a few fancy schmancy hotels (can you say the Fairmont?) in the middle of winter, only to discover that they had no spare blankets and no hot water bottles because of this, the throw was a must. Plus, it makes snuggly car sleeping possible (more on this later!).

Food and ‘Stuff’

We bought 2 books each. My camera and 2 lenses. And a whole heap of other ‘stuff’ (this is because we were waiting 2 months before moving into our new house, and wouldn’t have access to any of our stuff in Ontario), including military gear and dress uniforms. There was a lot! But, we also brought an icebox with us and bought fruit and water at road side stops. We bought bread, plastic cutlery and jam for emergency sandwiches and snacks.

Planning for Large Road Trips

If it’s more than just you, decide whether the trip is an A-B journey or a road trip where the destination signifies the end of a mini adventure. Once you and your driving buddy are on the same page, it really will make for a smoother journey. We decided to take our time, to take an alternate route and how many days would be spent in each province. The Canadian had travelled through Canada before, so he had some insight into speed restrictions (Ontario) and any other issues that could impede our journey plans.

Are we there yet?

We had a rough idea of how many nights would be spent in each province. Our goal was to spend more time in Ontario than in SK or MB (we’d already visited those places), so, by the end of each evening, we would sit down and review the map, we’d pull out the TripAdvisor and try to find a good hotel and goal. We would book the hotel the night before and then we knew where we had to be at the end of the day. After that, we would see if there were any ‘must see’ places along the way, if not, then we would just drive with a vague, flexible plan of where we would eat at lunch time and maybe dinner.

Sleeping

Yes, road trips are long. They can be boring. And, at some point you get tired. We heard of many stories of non-stop driving for 72 hours etc. This, for us, was not right. We like our sleep! We’re also poor drivers when we’re tired. We decided that we would, for the most part, keep each other company during the drive. Especially, if we were driving through the night on dark country roads. In the mornings, we allowed the other to sleep in the car, if needed, but at night, the extra attention from the passenger was helpful.

I loved our trip but there are so many things I would do differently next time. I’d ensure that there were more snacks and that I was more mindful of time. I’d plan dinner and meals more firmly. There’s only so many times you can eat burgers in dodgy looking take outs. But overall it was a great experience.

What are your suggestions for keeping your sanity during a road trip?

I’ve broken our Canada road trip into a series of blog posts, which can be found here:
How to Find Great Photo Opportunities on Road Trips
What are your tips for making a mundane trip into an adventure? Do you have any road trip hints and tips for smooth travel?
In 2012, I travelled across 3 Canadian provinces and completed my first major ‘road trip’. Road trips are a new concept to me, so my excitement was intense. Follow the Road Trip Journey and discover places to visit and enjoy in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario, as well as hints and tips on the best way to make a road trip romantic, enjoy each others company and find great photo opportunities

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