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Travel Season: Road trips are the way to see the land

I’ve only been on an airplane once, but I’ve been on many road trips. Since I could remember, from the time I was little, I always went on road trips. The vast majority, well okay all of them, were in the U.S., and I have never complained (or that I can remember) of how boring they were. My parents always had something for me to do – reading or coloring. We didn’t have in-car DVD players back then, so it was old school preoccupation.

Now that I’m an adult, I still love going on road trips. They may not be far from where I live, but they’re absolutely wonderful. I love the flat land – it goes on for miles and it makes you wonder what could be at the end of that flat land. The rolling hills as you get into the Mideast; the foliage starting to turn from green to the various colors in the fall, and the types of animals you see.

Here is some great travel advice for your next trip.

  1. Be prepared. Know where you’re going before hand, and think of all types of scenarios. Have all your maps ready, and your travel roads marked. Also think of detours – it can happen. What roads are available in case of a detour and is it well-traveled by others, or somewhere in the middle of nowhere? GPS is recommended and a paper map (make sure you pull over to read your map).
  2. Safety first! Buy or make your own emergency first aid kid. Most kitted up kits are under $20 at places such as Wal-Mart. Stock up on the usual – band aids, alcohol wipes, etc. But also include things in case of a bad emergency – road flares, ponchos, reflectors, tin cans for candles, etc.
  3. Car Preparedness. Before embarking on a road trip, get your car serviced. I do this every year to make sure everything is in tip-top shape: tires, the hardware of the car (undercarriage), fluids (change and top up everything!, cables, engine, brakes, etc. Trust me, be prepared. Also make a car care kit – buy a plastic crate that can be found either in the hardware section or the laundry basket section of your local store (in Wal-Mart, it’s in the housewares section). In the car care kit should be the following – motor oil (both winter and summer oil), windshield washer fluid, antifreeze/coolant, 4L jugs of water (at least two – for the radiator if it overheats), funnels for the fluids (have at least two – one for oils, and one for windshield fluid), and a flashlight. Also include a blanket and some type of warm clothes – temperatures can change instantly and you don’t want to be caught off guard. Something like socks, pants, and dry shoes. It also helps to have CAA/AAA.
  4. Snack essentials. Stopping for something to eat can really cost you in the long run. Before you leave, check with the country you are traveling to. There are some food importing restrictions (such as some fruit, vegetables, and meat) for different places. Snacks such as granola bars, sandwiches, cookies, muffins and bottled water are great essentials.
  5. Travel documents. Travel documents are now required for land and water border crossing – passport or either a province/state travel ID card. Your birth certificate and photo ID will not allow you entry to the United States. Get these in advanced, if you don’t already have them… you never know if something might come up while your travel documents are being processed. For approved travel documents in to the United States: Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative website.
  6. Travel Insurance: If you don’t have this included in your health insurance plan, you must go out and buy travel insurance for the time you’ll be away. Trust me, you need it.
  7. A list is a must: We’ve all forgotten something important at least once in our life, so coming up with a list is always a good thing to do. Things such as clothing, medication, toiletries is something that should be on the list. Include your camera and extra batteries too!
  8. Local places to visit, not touristy: Sure doing touristy things is always good, but find out where the locals like to go especially when it comes to dining or quirky shops. Your hotel concierge should be able to help you out, and they can even make reservations for you.
  9. Research your hotels: Hotwire.com is a great hotel finding website if you want to save money. You can find four star hotels for two or three star prices. The only downside – you won’t know what hotel you’re staying at until after you book. Paying is also upfront. If you don’t use Hotwire or other hotel travel websites, I strongly suggest researching your hotels. There are many great websites out there where people can comment on their stay at hotels – just Google the hotel you want to say at, and the results come up! Also… if you contact the hotel directly (if possible) versus the 1800 booking line, you can usually snag a better deal. People can be brutally honest, so pay attention to those comment sites!

Doing all of the above might seem a lot, but in the long run it will save you from any headaches that might pop up. Also… don’t forget to turn off the coffee maker and the lights. And the stove.

Coming up: What to pack in your suitcase.

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