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The Road Tripping Guide to Prepping and Packing

By Allan Britnell

Over its 7,821 km length, the Trans-Canada Highway crosses all 10 provinces, making it the fourth-longest highway in the world. With that as a starting point, it’s no wonder Canadians love road trips. Driving is a rewarding way to explore your home province or places farther afield. Unlike the Point-A to Point-B travel you get on a train or a plane, a road trip gives you the flexibility to make side trips to unique roadside attractions: Who’s up for seeing the world’s largest paperclip in Kipling, Sask.? So, buckle up and start planning an epic summer adventure! 


How to pack your vehicle to keep passengers comfortable and luggage safely stowed

Maximize your space inside the vehicle with a cargo box on long road trips. Before you start, check that you have the right roof rack and know the box’s weight limit. Pack heavy suitcases first, followed by sports equipment. Fill any gaps with blankets or sleeping bags. 

Stow napkins, tissues and hand sanitizer in the centre console or glove box. Check that insurance and ownership docs are also handy. If your car doesn’t have USB chargers, buy an adapter for the auxiliary power outlet. 

Stash colouring books, magazines or novels in seat-back pockets. Pack a tablet with downloaded videos and music playlists. Tuck items like extra shoes and fuzzy socks beneath the front seats. If kids are in car seats, use the space below their feet for extra storage space. 

Heavy items on the bottom; lighter or crushable stuff on top. Avoid stacking items in the back so high that they obstruct your vision in the rear-view mirror. Use a vacuum-seal bag to shrink down bulky things like bedding and pillows. Keep first aid kit, roadside emergency kit and any medication easily accessible. 


Five steps to ensure your vehicle is up to the task

Due for service soon? Get a tune-up before your road trip. If not, check and top up oil and coolant. 

Inspect tires—including the spare—for wear and proper inflation. Ensure lights are functional, including low-beam, high-beam, fog and brake lights. 

Verify that all drivers have up-to-date licences. Store the vehicle’s owner’s manual, ownership and insurance documents in the glove box. You should also check your AMA membership to ensure it’s renewed. Always carry your membership card in your wallet or download the AMA app to keep it handy. 

Adjust the driver’s seat so you can see clearly out of all mirrors. The seat should be at least 25 cm back from the steering wheel to avoid injury if airbags deploy. All headrests should be adjusted so the centre is at ear height for each passenger. And make sure everyone is buckled up and car seats are installed correctly. 

If you’re hauling gear on roof racks or a rooftop storage box, make sure all anchors are secured. Once you hit the road, periodically check all nuts, bolts and tie-down straps as driving may jostle them loose. When hauling a trailer, check tires and brake lights, and properly fasten the hitch and safety chain. 

Check out how to plan your own western road trip.


Every year, more than four million people travel from all around the world to visit Alberta’s Banff National Park.

For Canadians making the trek in the family car, one of the top highlights is the drive itself. The stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway from Calgary to Banff is widely considered one of the most scenic drives on the planet. You’ll be tempted to make pit stops to snap pictures of moose, bears and other fantastic forest creatures—from a safe distance, of course. To protect animals from traffic, the route includes 44 wildlife underpasses and overpasses. Founded in 1885, Banff’s 6,641 sq. km were designated Canada’s first national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. Bunk at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel: AMA members get exclusive rates at all Fairmont properties.

If you’re planning a road trip, remember that AMA Travel offers guaranteed best prices on hotel rooms in North America, so you can save big on your next getaway.