What to do before your next road trip

Do you know what you absolutely must do before your summer road trip?
Don’t look back! (Photo credit: Pan X’iao Zhen)
Disclaimer, I’m a brand ambassador for Allianz Global Assistance (Canada) and receive financial compensation for these posts. As always, all information shared is my own opinion.

Are you taking a road trip anytime soon? In May, we’re thinking of slipping away for a couple of days to take advantage of the long weekend. And in the summer, we’ll probably hit Whitefish, Montana. My requirements are minimal: decent shopping, quirky roadside diners and a clean vehicle to make the journey bearable.

Besides pulling out the shop-vac, there’s a few more things you ought to do to make sure your road trip is roadworthy. Here’s the skinny on what you need to know before heading out.

small town in autumn
Have you ever taken a road trip down the Cowboy Trail? (Photo credit: Town of Black Diamond)

What should I do before taking a road trip?

Remember when I showed up in Newfoundland a few summers ago and couldn’t get my car rental because my driver’s license had expired? I learned the hard way you’ve got to keep your license and car insurance up to date. I recommend taking a picture of both on your phone in case they get lost. (That’s how I was able to board the plane back home.) Here’s a few other road trip essentials to consider before hitting the highway:

  • Inspect your tires. Make sure all are properly inflated, and there’s minimal damage and wear. Because hot roads tend to breakdown tires faster, you’ll want them in tip top shape before hitting the road in summer.
  • Check all fluids. This will help your car to run smoothly, especially in the summer heat. Schedule an oil change if you’re approaching 5,000 km since your last one.
  • Put your AC to the test. Don’t ignore a weak air conditioner. The belt that powers it, also powers other parts of the vehicle. If it’s not working properly, it could overheat your engine.
  • Check your battery. The summer heat can cause battery fluid to evaporate, leading to corrosion. If it’s been a while since you’ve bought your last battery, ask the mechanic to give it a look.

Who wants to do all this work? Not me. That’s why I schedule a maintenance check a few weeks before we’re set to leave. And know this: If you’re road tripping to the US and become  injured or sick, our provincial healthcare may only cover a small amount of your medical expenses, if any at all.

The Canadian government recommends all travellers purchase travellers insurance. Even if you’re travelling within Canada, some provincial health care benefits (like Ontario’s) won’t cover emergency transportation – like an ambulance. That’s not a bill I want to get!

ready for day at the beach
Make sure you’ve packed plenty of activities for the ankle biters.

Car games for kids

If you’re travelling with tots in tow, you know the importance of keeping them occupied. For sure you’ll want to have a few car games for the kids ready to roll. Things like making your own BINGO sheets (don’t forget the prizes!) and there are dozens of licence plate games you can play –  adding the numbers together, matching a city with the letters on the plate, etc…

Car games are a great alternative to doling out electronics – which I don’t recommend kids using for the first leg of the journey. If you’ve already done this, you’re hooped:) But if your kids are young enough not to remember the car routine, try to get in the habit of audio books, colouring or car games instead. Kids get crabby with too much stimulation and devices work so much better if used at the end of the journey, when nobody’s fresh anymore.

To avoid the dreaded, “Are we there yet?” whines, have kids map out and track the journey. Obvs, pre-schoolers can’t do this, but elementary aged children can likely figure out how to work Google Maps and can plan rest stops for your family.

What should I do if I encounter a storm in my vehicle?

We all know Canadian weather is fickle to say the least! It’s important to make like a girl guide and be prepared in case we encounter a freak storm, whether it’s snow or rain. Try to remember to:

  • Slow down. If you’re driving through water, take your time.
  • Keep an eye out for downed power lines. They = danger.
  • Pack an emergency kit. This should include flares, a flashlight, a spare radio, granola bars, drinking water, blanket and first aid equipment. There are a lot of road trip essentials to pack and if you’re travelling in Canada, you don’t want to forget a toque and gloves, no matter the season. 
  • In heavy rain or flooding, make sure to estimate how deep the water is. If you think it’s more than six inches, or you can’t tell, it’s best to avoid the area.
  • Don’t wait out the water in your car. If your car stalls due to water or starts to float, get out, find higher ground and call emergency services.


Are you road tripping over the May long weekend or this summer? If so, let me know where you’re off to and what preparations you make.

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18 thoughts on “What to do before your next road trip”

  1. Sarah Ebner

    Excellent advice – not least to get a maintenance check before you go. I didn’t know all the helpful tips about what to do in storms, so I’ve noted those! I always think it’s useful to take a pic before you rent a car, in case there are any issues when you return it.

  2. Great advice Jody. We love our summer road trips, but sometimes bad weather gets in the way. It’s often best just to pull over and ride out the storm – safety first!

  3. These are very useful tips. I’ve been on a few road trips myself I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve put together, In particular, checking the condition of your car such as the tyre pressure and the battery, is crucial. And your advice about avoiding wet area that’s higher than 6 inches or when the depth is unknown is helpful too. It would be a disaster and also dangerous to get stuck during stormy weather. I think car games are also great to avoid tiredness and they make the trip more fun!

  4. I always take a photo of a rental car. Also bring a pack of chewing gum. It will fix your leaky gas tank. Trust me. It lasted for almost a 1000 km on a road trip years ago.

  5. Elaine Masters

    I always learn from trip tips even though I’ve been traveling for longer than I care to remember. Didn’t know about the AC belt! I do get things looked at but I’m not sure that’s been part of the package. I also do a thorough tire check.

  6. Linda (LD Holland)

    We will be road tripping this month around British Columbia this month. So I checked this list for some tips. Summer storms are a big issue so packing an emergency kit is a good idea. With all the flooding happening all over Canada this year. Flooding advice is more relevant than ever.

  7. Great tips for road trips. Getting a maintenance check is paramount. Making sure your license is up to date is key as well. The one thing I absolutely pack as well is music or books to listen to. That helps break the journey up. Timely tips before the road trip season begins!

  8. Great tips for a road journey. It is almost like your home is on the move. So better be prepared and more if one is traveling with kids.
    Very helpful post.

  9. These all are surely wonderful tips and we agree with each one you have mentioned here, especially getting your vehicle completely inspected before hitting the roads and carrying an emergency kit with you always.

  10. All good tips for a safe road trip — and good to note there are many ways to keep the kids entertained without resorting to giving them electronics. We certainly had our share of family road trips!

  11. Medha Verma

    Reading your post makes me realise how I should be taking my car rental more seriously than I do! I hardly ever check the tires of the car, or the fluids, A/c or battery! I do, however, keep a scanned copy of my license and ensure that it’s not expired. And of course, make sure I take the relevant insurance required for the vehicle. I’d hate to be stuck in a storm some day, and I can’t imagine what I’d do!

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