Monday, June 1, 2020

How to Plan the Perfect Road Trip

COVID-19 has ruined most summer events including travel. I planned to visit Dubai, Japan, Iceland and Russia this year, but like many of you, I’ve spent months indoors trying to stay active as the world recovers.

I’m not complaining. I know traveling is a luxury and not a priority. I am thankful that my family is healthy and I appreciate the sacrifice of frontline workers.

During the pandemic air travel and border crossing is off limits but that does't mean we can’t road trip within our province/state. Being outdoors in the fresh air, enjoying nature, hiking and relaxing is a great way to clear your mind and overcome boredom (as long as you take precautions and keep a safe distance).

To help make your road trip more enjoyable I’ve listed 20 useful tips:

1. Pick a destination and map out the best (most scenic) route. Program stops on the GPS before leaving and have change ready for tolls (if applicable). In rural areas you might lose service so print a map or download an offline map (just in case).

2. When choosing a date, check the weather forecast to help ensure favorable driving conditions.

3. Create a leisurely itinerary that allows for spontaneous stops and adventures along the way.

Road to Belfountain - Caledon Ontario

4. Make sure the drive is manageable so you don’t feel overwhelmed or bored. If you are not used to driving long distances, choose a destination that is relatively close or make sure someone in you party can take over and help navigate. 

5. Get your vehicle serviced to ensure its safety. Have a mechanic check the fluids, tire pressure, brakes etc and pack jumper cables, extra windshield fluid and an emergency roadside kit. It is also helpful if someone in your party knows how to change a tire. Roadside assistance like CAA might not be available in remote areas. Don't forget to charge your phone and bring a car charger or external battery.

Belfountain area - Caledon Ontario

6. Ensure that your car insurance and registration information is up to date and within reach.

7. Clean the car and windshield before leaving.

8. Research things to do along the way – attractions, lookout points and best photography/sunset locations. “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”

9. The driver should get lots of sleep the night before. If you feel yourself nodding off at the wheel, pull into a rest stop immediately.

10. Start early. Whether you’re road-tripping for a day or an entire week, an early start leaves more time for unexpected detours and exploration.

11. If you plan to visit tourist areas or provincial parks, make note of the hours of operation and whether or not you need a park pass. Some provincial parks, trails and scenic locations in Ontario also require you to pre-book a parking spot.

12. If you want to save money or stick to a budget, book in advance, use Groupon and look for free activities.

**Note: due to COVID-19 some parks and attractions may still be closed so call ahead or check their website.

13. Take the scenic route when possible but remain in safe areas. Beware of wildlife and harmful plants. 

14. For longer trips and overnight journeys, do a thorough hotel search, read reviews and book early to guarantee availability upon arrival (especially during busy season). You can also check out campgrounds, Airbnb, bed and breakfasts or cozy cottages.
15. Make a list of essentials to pack so you don’t forget anything: hiking shoes, bikes, special clothing, compass, reservation documents, hand sanitzer/disinfectant wipes, hand soap, water, medication, first aide kit, electronics and chargers, flashlight, camping and or beach gear, toilet paper, bug spray, sunscreen, paper plates and reusable cutlery etc.

**Note: due to COVID-19 some public washrooms including those in restaurants may be closed. Make note of open truck stops along your route and establish restroom options before leaving home (especially if you have not booked a hotel).

16. Pack a cooler with lots of snacks and drinks. Don’t forget to schedule time for meals. It is also helpful to bring a garbage bag for all the wrappers.

**Note: During the pandemic many restaurants are restricted to take-out, delivery and curb-side pick-up. Call ahead to confirm hours of operation. 

La Dolce Vita - Oakville Ontario

17. Be prepared for car sickness and bring medication for nausea. 

**Travel Tip: To prevent motion sickness, avoid reading or looking down at your phone for an extended period of time. 

18. Make a playlist or plan fun car games.

19. Bring pillows and blankets for people who are not driving. Make the car as comfortable as possible. it also helps to wear loose, comfortable clothes since you might be sitting for a long time. 

20. Do not expect a perfect trip. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Life happens.

A few of my favorite road trip destinations in Ontario Canada are:

*Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake – click HERE for travel guide.
*Owen Sound
*Georgian Bay/Bruce Peninsula and Tobermory
*Prince Edward County, Picton and Bay of Quinte - click HERE for travel guide.
*Point Pelee and Pelee Island
*Thousand Islands/Gananoque
*Collingwood and Blue Mountain
*Sauble Beach
*Belfountain Conservation Area Caledon (short road trip just North of the city)
*Algonquin Provincial Park
*Webster's Falls and Albion Falls Hamilton
*Burlington and Oakville Lakeshore
*Toronto Lakeshore and Harbourfront + High Park

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