Travel Series: Preparing for a road trip

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You’ve picked a destination and now you’re ready to go. You’ve saved up money, found the perfect accommodations and now you’re counting down the days until you leave. Panic has set in because you have so much to do and you’re not sure where to start! First thing, calm down. Second, I’ve got you covered. This post is to help you think of all the things you need to do before you set off on your travels, some very important things, that could prevent surprises from popping up.

1. Service your vehicle.
It does not matter if you have a brand new car or not because you still need to service your car. Package prices vary and it is best to call your dealership. Typically ranging from $30-75 (depending on what will be done), road trip services will get your car inspected from bumper to bumper. A technician will check for the following things: engine fluid levels and conditions (engine oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, break fluid, coolant/anti-freeze level [including inspecting your radiator] and washer fluid); battery function, tire pressure and condition (looking for pesky puncture from nails and the wear of the tires), inspection of the undercarriage, axles, breaks (condition and wear), ball joints, struts, etc. You can never be too careful when it comes to road trips. You don’t want to be left stranded in the middle of nowhere because something surprised you along the way.

2. Learn how your vehicle works.
The one thing my dad made sure of when I became a licensed driver was how a car works. He knew I wasn’t going to become a mechanic, but he made darn sure that his daughter would know how her car worked in case of an emergency. I’m not talking about rocket science here, I’m talking about what to do in case of an emergency. Do you know how to top off the engine oil levels? Do you know how to check the oil levels? Can you add coolant/anti-freeze? Do you know when it is best to check your transmission fluid levels? Do you know how to change a flat tire and where your spare is located? If you live in Manitoba, CAA Manitoba hosts car care clinics geared for women throughout the year. I suggest that you sign up for it when the opportunity presents itself. Also take the time to familiarize yourself with the vehicle’s user guide. It has valuable information and tips on basic maintenance on your vehicle (including your maintenance schedule, types of engine oil for the climate you live in, etc).

3. Purchase Roadside Assistance
When you purchase a new vehicle (sometimes used if it is purchased at a dealership) you will receive roadside assistance for a limited time period (typically one or two years). The car salesman should go over how the program works, what number to contact in case of a vehicle emergency, etc. When I purchased my first car my parents made sure that I had roadside assistance (it was the only assistance available since I bought my first car second-hand). You have no idea how many times I have had to use it with that car and I am so glad that I purchase the membership each year. Depending on the level of membership you purchase it is still worthwhile to have. I’ve been towed many times on multiple occasions after my first car broke down and it has not cost me an additional cent. They’ll come and fill flat tires, boost your car battery and replace it (depending on your service package and their services), get you into your locked car and so much more. It’s a yearly expense that you should be taking on. No if, and or buts about it. It works just as well in the US if you should run into a problem, and, can get you discounts at hotels, shopping centres and stores. I’ve saved 10% at Payless Shoes, 7% at Napa (car parts store), and many hotel stay discounts. It’s just not for cars! Plus, some travel membership businesses that you hold a roadside assistance card with can help you plan future trips!

4. Purchase travel insurance.
Sometimes your personal health insurance won’t cover out-of-Province/State medical expenses or only a portion. My health insurance company only covers up to $50K in medical bills so I always get the additional travel insurance coverage from CAA Manitoba. Travel Insurance fees (what you pay) goes according to your lifestyle (age and smoker/non-smoker). It is generally inexpensive to purchase and covers more than what you pay for your personal health insurance. With the extra travel insurance I am covered for an additional $1 million dollars in medical bills. Previously working for a vehicle insurance company I know how expensive it can be if you are involved in an automobile accident… very expensive, especially in the US. But it’s not just automobile accidents you should be worried about – medical emergencies can happen at any time and any where. Don’t leave home without it!

5. Contact your bank and credit card companies.
Alerting both your bank and any credit card companies you have cards with is always important. Not only will it allow you to use your cards without being flagged by the security department, it will also help them monitor your account in case they’re stolen while on vacation. It’s a smart thing to do. You do not want to be on vacation only to find out you cards have been stolen and someone has made exorbitant purchases on them. How rude! Not only will they provide the note on your file the card lenders can also let you know of any perks you may have with the type of card you hold – trip cancellation protection due to an emergency, discounts on car rentals (including in the case of an automobile accident) and car rental insurance, discounts on hotel fees, and in some cases, roadside assistance. You can also set up a password with the security department for when you travelĀ  in the event you must contact them. This way they know it is you and not the thief who took your cards.

6. Tell a family member you’re traveling.
This can be your parents, siblings, friends, etc. I always give my mom and dad information on my car, including licence plate number, passport information, where I’m going and who I’m going with. This is covering all your bases in the event of an emergency. If a huge emergency occurs while you’re away and they need to contact local authorities, they have your vehicle and travel information. Putting an emergency contact in your contacts list of your phone is also something you should do.

Now that you’ve covered the most important bases there is one thing (of a few) that is left to do - make your travel lists! There is nothing more horrific than being thousands of miles away from home and you forgot something. I hate that feeling. It’s the worst! To some it may be a little OCD but would you rather have all of the stuff you intended to pack come with you or would you rather freak out over forgetting something? Stay tuned for the next travel series post where I will discuss the importance of travel lists and what you should include.

What important things do you do before leaving on trip? Do you have any tips you would like to share? Leave a comment below.