When it comes to travelling, there is nothing quite like the freedom of a road trip. You can explore the nooks and crannies along your journey, places that you might not discover if you fly to your destination. It also gives you the ability to spend your time as you wish, because you aren’t locked into the rigid timelines of planes, trains, or buses. On a road trip, you’re (literally and figuratively) in the driver’s seat.

But while spontaneity is the golden secret of a road trip, the real key is planning. Being prepared for the unexpected means you can take those extra detours or less-travelled paths. And to help you make the most of your trips this summer, here are 6 tips that can save you time, money, and headaches while you’re on the road.

1. Create a budget

The least-fun, but most valuable thing you can do before hitting the road is to make a budget. To get started, list out all the known costs that you’ll face, including your accommodation (and price out the Options for staying in hotels, campgrounds, or Airbnbs, a daily budget for food, entertainment, gas, and extra spending).

As a way to get more out of every dollar, look into the discounts your membership programs might offer, like how CAA Rewards® gives their Members access to thousands of partner savings across the world.

2. Plan your route

By taking the time to plan your route, not only will you have a good idea of how to book your nightly stays along the journey, you can find those hidden gems along the way. This will help make the drive far less stressful, and gives you the chance to uncover the interesting attractions, restaurants, and stops that make the trip perfectly unique to your interests.

3. Keep your travel documents on hand

There’s nothing worse than the anxiety that comes with digging through your luggage trying to find a specific piece of paper, emptying your glove box searching for your car insurance slip, or scrolling through your inbox trying to find some booking information.

Before you hit the road, make sure you have all of these documents gathered together:

  • Car registration or ownership
  • Car rental confirmation
  • Hotel details, or camping/parking details
  • Credit card
  • Driver’s license
  • Passport (if crossing the border)
  • Your CAA Membership card for roadside assistance

If you prefer to stay on the safe side, you might even want to have two copies of these documents, or keep a dedicated folder on your phone with everything in one place.

4. Get the right insurance

Look, insurance is rarely a fun thing to consider when going away. However, it’s the sort of thing you’ll be happy to have if you need it, and you’ll be relieved you got the right insurance if the unexpected happens. There are two types of insurance to have before your trip: travel insurance and auto insurance.

You’ll want travel insurance because OHIP doesn’t always cover out-of-province medical costs, so if you have an emergency while in a different province, you might have to pay some of the expenses on your own - if you don’t have the right insurance.

You’ll also want to get updated auto insurance. Many Canadians adjusted their policies because they’ve been working from home or driving less over the past couple of years, but you might need to get more complete coverage for your car if you’ll be doing extensive driving on your next trip.

5. Slow and steady packing

There are two types of travellers out there: those who create exhaustive packing lists weeks or months ahead of time, and those who pack frantically the day before they leave. Be part of the first group to take the stress out of your trip preparation.

Start making a list when you plan your trip, with specific items or specialty gear you might need for the different activities you’re going to do. If there are things you won’t use between now and when you leave, put them aside now, and gradually pack up your clothes and essentials as the trip nears. This should also include printing off multiple copies of the documents we listed above, along with snacks, toiletries, and anything else you know you’ll need.

6. Check your car

The sixth and final pre-road trip tip is to give your car a once-over. Getting a tune up and oil change are critical for your car, as the last thing you want to deal with is a broken down car. You should also check for any chips in your windshield and get them fixed, as parking your car in the sun is one of the fastest ways for a chip to grow into a crack, meaning you might have to get your whole windshield replaced.

For added peace of mind, make sure you have roadside assistance like CAA, in case your car does have any issues on the trip. CAA’s Mobile Oil Change and Mobile Chip Repair are available in select Ottawa regions, where they can come to your home when it’s convenient for you, so you can continue packing and check off another task simultaneously.

And of course, the unofficial seventh to-do item is to make sure you have fun on your trip! Travelling can always present unexpected challenges, but by taking the time to be prepared, you can ensure your trip is filled with great memories you’ll look back on for years to come.

Safe travels!