The summer road trip is almost as much of a Canadian motoring institution as rising gas prices on the long weekend. Every year, kids throw off the shackles of school and parents get a break from the work grind (well, most of us, anyway). Packing the family whip full of people and gear before hitting the road for a week or more is a rite of passage in more than a few Canuck households.
It explains, then, why this is a time when one sees an uptick in the number of road trip articles appearing online and in print. Where to go, what to see, and what’s best to drive are all great topics. But what should you pack in your car to prepare for the journey? Summer’s heat can be a bear and, of course, we need to keep the ankle biters entertained.
If you’re hitting the road this summer, be sure to check out our list of road trip essentials and road trip hacks. We promise not to say, “try this one weird trick” more than once. Okay, twice. Buckle up, kids. And don’t make me come back there and separate you and your brother.
Your first stop on your road trip adventure should happen before your road trip even begins. Make an appointment with a professional mechanic you trust and have them inspect your car before hitting the road with your family. From critical components like steering gear and tires to key comfort features like air conditioning, it’s better to sort out any mechanical problems sooner rather than later. Being caught short halfway through the trip is no fun at all.
These bad boys are eminently practical and surprisingly affordable. Look for a unit that can hold more than just a couple cans of pop and try to find one that actually makes ice. Most of them are powered by a 12V power point while some are even small enough to run off a USB port. Sure, they’ll eat up a bit of space in your cargo area but having a place to chill drinks and food will make summer journeys just that much more palatable for everyone.
Charging Cords and Accessories
It’s easy to advocate for a device-free road trip, advising that kids (and adults!) should be paying attention to the scenery instead of their phone. Suggestions routinely made by people who don’t have kids. This is why your author thinks that having a device or two on hand for occasional use on road trips is very important – don’t underestimate the power of Minecraft or a quick video series to quell ‘are we there yet’ cries from passengers of all ages. Making sure there are enough charging cords and accessories on hand can only be described as a sanity-saving move.
There’s an App for That
Going hand-in-hand with the road trip essential we just mentioned are the myriad of apps that are available for the savvy driver and co-pilot. Waze allows people the opportunity to plan their route, knowing what’s ahead in terms of traffic and, erm, other things. GasBuddy is an indispensable tool for reporting current fuel prices across the nation, especially in urban areas where the per litre cost can fluctuate wildly from neighborhood to neighborhood and even street to street. Your author knows this firsthand, once fueling up at a ten cent premium compared to the gas station he found minutes later just down the road. One other app, the suspiciously named Sit Or Squat, reports on the condition of public washrooms. Hey, where else can you find this stuff?
Road Safety Kit
Assembling one of these units can be a literal life saver, should things go completely awry on your trip. Like insurance, you should have it even though one hopes they never need it. Suggestions for what to pack in the safety kit? Distilled water is a must, as are a good first aid kit and a few energy bars. If you have room – don’t forget the enormous amount empty space around your car’s spare tire – toss in a set of jumper cables and some road flares or emergency triangles just in case. Sticking one of those window breakers in your glovebox won’t hurt, either.
You Can Hack It
Here’s where the hackneyed “one weird trick” comes into play. But you know what? They all work. First up – get a couple of those shower organizers, the kind with suction cups on them, so parents can stick them to the rear windows in order to hold kids’ stuff like art supplies. In this same genre, it’s a great idea to pick up a couple of those el-cheapo plastic baskets from the dollar store. They’ll be very handy when it’s time to get take-out meals for all hands at the drive thru. One more practical idea? Try to pack everything you’re taking on the road trip in reverse. No, we don’t mean walking backwards while heaving stuff into the trunk. We’re talking about placing less essential gear – items you won’t need until you get to the destination – at the furthest reaches of the cargo area, leaving purses and other frequently accessed items close to the trunk’s opening.