Labour Day weekend signals the end of summer, and with cooler temperatures, fewer cars on the road and leaves turning, there’s never been a better time to get behind the wheel. When the people at Chevrolet asked me if I’d like to test-drive the new Cruze last month, I jumped at the chance, despite the fact that I’d never driven more than 20 kilometres in Canada, since moving here from the UK in 2008. My two sisters were the only ones brave (or stupid?) enough to hop in, so off we went to Montreal. A few scrapes, heated discussions and six days later, miraculously, we returned in one piece. Before you hit the highway and take in fall from the comfort of your car, check out these top tips we picked up along the way:
1. Elect a DN (Designated Navigator)
Trust me, map reading and even just following Sat-Nav directions can be too much to contend with when you’re concentrating on staying on the right side of the road (it is right, right?) or if you’re making tracks after a day’s work. Enlist the help of a passenger to assist you and you’ll not only involve them, but the relief of arriving at the destination will be mutual. Decide on the navigator before you get in the car. (Rock, paper, scissors is a reliable method.)
2. Leave early
This might sound simple, but leaving early means you’re likely to miss any rush-hour traffic around major cities, but it also gives you a buffer. So if you decide you can’t go any further without refuelling at Wendy’s, it won’t put you behind schedule and increase pressure. And if the weather turns, you can pull over and have an in-car dance party or game of cards until you feel comfortable driving again.
3. Have a DJ
When it comes to avoiding boredom-induced fights, having a DJ really helps. Hand over the iPods and make requests — a fast beat to wake you up or a song you can sing your heart out to. Lip-synching and headbanging can be as energizing as they are hilarious!
4. Pack (good) snacks and canteens
It seems like as soon as you hit the highway, supermarkets are nonexistent. And trust me, sampling everything on the Tim Horton’s menu can leave even a girl who’s not averse to a McDonald’s or two craving crunchy broccoli and carrot sticks. (The closest I found was an exorbitantly priced pre-sliced apple in a plastic bag.) Trail mix and granola bars are good to stash in the dash for easy reach, bananas are handy because you don’t have to wash them, and the same goes for oranges, which also stay fresh for a long time. Don’t forget your flask, either, as bottled water adds up and service stations often have water fountains for refills.
5. Lighten up
I mean this in two senses: Do not, as one of my sisters did, pack your entire wardrobe just because you can. You still have to get that case in and out of the car without getting a hernia. Secondly, road trips never go 100 percent according to plan so try to make sure everyone you’re travelling with understands that the journey is the destination and it’s up to you all to make your own fun!