Travel, Travel Tips

Everything You Need to Survive An International Road Trip

A purple, yellow and pink sunset in the desert. Photo by Deni Verklan for the post Everything You Need to Survive an International Road Trip, The Full-Time Tourist, 2016 ©

To say that I am a seasoned road tripper would be a slight understatement. I’ve done quite a few over-the-border summer road trips since I was about one year old. Through years of mastering the art of bumpy-car board games, pillow forts and having to turn the motorhome’s heat on whenever there was a hill (despite the 30C outdoor temperature), I’ve learned a few tricks.

As I’m kicking off the summer with a road trip to New York City- yes, for the second time this month- here are some tips I’ve learned over the years for a successful international road trip!

Always, always, always bring your passport

 Your passport is the single most important item to bring on an over-the-border road trip. Anything else you can buy. Pack it the day before and double check that you have all the necessary passports before leaving the house. It may seem like an obvious item to remember, but packing and preparing to go on a trip can be stressful, which means forgetting things is a possibility.

There was one summer where my family drove about 8 hours from Edmonton to Cranbrook, B.C. before we realized that we didn’t have our passports. So a 20-something hour road trip from Edmonton to Hood River, Oregon turned into a 30-something hour trip. It’s as horrible (and smelly) as it sounds.

Never underestimate a pair of fuzzy socks and a scarf

 I always find that during long road trips, I get a bit chilly if I’m not in control of the thermostat. During long haul trips, I will usually pack a blanket to keep warm, but during the summer, a blanket can be excessive. For that reason, I recommend packing a scarf that you can wrap around your shoulders or around your legs if you’re cold. And if you suffer from perpetually cold feet, like me, I always make sure that I have a pair of fuzzy socks within reach to keep my toes warm.

Embrace the rest stop 

At some point during a road trip, a stop at the gas station is necessary for the washroom, to grab some snacks or to fill up the tank. I have a habit of being too absorbed in my book or mid-nap whenever I hit a rest stop and this leads to regret later on in the trip. This is mostly because my long legs disagree with my love for curling up in small spaces. So thank your small-bladder friend for the frequent rest stops and give your legs and back a little stretch before hopping back in the car.

Don’t forget your auxiliary cord

Most new-ish vehicles have the option to plug in an auxiliary cord to the vehicle’s sound system and it is a lifesaver. Not only can you blast your favourite tunes, you can also have Siri or Google Maps tell you that you’re still going the right way or to take the next exit and reroute. It makes map reading a lot less stressful for you and your friends.

Download some apps

Move over tech-free roadtrips, this is one exception you need to make. The GasBuddy App helps you find the cheapest nearby gas stations to you in Canada and the U.S. It’ll also help you budget for your trip before you go if you use the Trip Cost Calculator tool. And best of all, it’s free in the Apple store and for Android users! Another important app to have downloaded is Google Maps, which will not only help you route your trip, but will also give you the option to download an offline map.

Bye bye produce and booze!

If you’re heading from Canada to the United States, the U.S. border is very strict about what produce you can bring into the country. No citrus, no apples, no tomatoes- essentially nothing with seeds. The exception is if it has an American produce sticker or if it’s cut-up. Of course, the border patrol will have the final word on what can cross the border. Another stipulation is alcohol. The drinking age in Canada is much lower than in the United States, so if you’re under 21 years of age, keep your alcohol at home to make that border crossing easier.

If you’re heading from the U.S. to Canada, the border crossing is much less intense. Just don’t bring your guns. Easy peasy.

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A purple, yellow and pink sunset in the desert. Photo by Deni Verklan for the post Everything You Need to Survive an International Road Trip, The Full-Time Tourist, 2016 ©

What are your tips for an international road trip?

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