When I last updated this post, it was near the beginning of the first wave of the current pandemic. For reference, these were some of my thoughts on road trips back on April 3, 2020:
- I can’t be the only one who thinks that when this COVID-19 crisis is over that road trips are going to be more popular right? I predict that people will eventually get back to flying, but may be slow to do so. In the meantime, I think that road trips do satisfy some of the travel bug. Furthermore, it has been over 4 years since I last wrote my thoughts about road trips. So I think that it is due for an update.
I cannot believe that it has been almost 2 years since I wrote that post. We are currently deep into Canadian winter, but it also means that we are approaching spring time. It is never too early to start planning a trip for the spring.
Last year, I was fortunate enough to sneak in a road trip to New Brunswick when the province was open to tourism in August 2021. About a week after leaving the province, they closed it right back up (what timing!). Even though people are slowly getting more comfortable with flying again, I still expect that road trips within Canada to be popular this year, including for myself.
Which brings us to today’s post regarding my thoughts on road trips, the Pandemic Edition! For the purpose of this post, when I refer to a car, it also encompasses other vehicles such as a van or trailer (as oppose to bus, plane or train).
Control and flexibility
A car allows a lot of control and flexibility. How often do we travel somewhere, only to need to rent a car anyway?
Whether we are using our own or renting a car, having a car allows us to control our own schedule for getting around. Yes, it may take longer to travel a far distance (compared to taking the plane), but some of the time spent waiting in transit to change modes of transportation is offset by having a car.
- For example, flying from Toronto to Vancouver is definitely much quicker than driving. But driving door to door from Montreal to Toronto, instead of taking the plane (door to door) is not as big of a difference, especially if the person needs to rent a car in Toronto anyway.
Having a car also gives us the control to change our mind or make necessary travel adjustments on a moment’s notice.
Outdoors and hidden gems
Having a vehicle makes it easier to visit more places outdoors. There are many remote places, lookout points and other hidden gems that are only accessible by car. A big reason to take road trips is to visit those places that we cannot otherwise get to by plane or train.
An alternative is to take a tour bus, which is not ideal in today’s Pandemic Edition of road trips!
Some people rather travel light, like just a carry-on to fly around the world. But when you have kids, diapers, strollers, playpen, car seat, bicycle, etc. having trunk and car space makes all the difference.
On the one hand, why would we want to travel with kids when we have so much packing to do? It goes completely against travelling light. On the other hand, why would we not want to get the kids out of the house? I’m sure those of you who have children can relate!
Personally I made it into a game to figure out how to maximise all the space in a car. I learned to appreciate my car so much more during the pandemic. It is now stocked with emergency supplies and rations to make it feel homier and resourceful.
Just remember not to leave valuables in the car. When you leave your car, it is unguarded, compared to leaving it in a safe in a hotel room. The best solution is not to pack any valuables to begin with. Otherwise, you will need to carry them around with you whenever you leave the car.
My old neighbour said it best, they had a very old and ugly car so that no one wants to break in or steal it anyway.
Or think about it this way, since we are talking about a Canada only road trip, there are only so many valuables that we need. Canadian ATMs are more widely available to withdraw cash without fees. We are mostly using our Canadian credit cards in Canada to earn rewards anyway. We do not need our passport. So there are not many other necessary valuables to leave in the car anyway!
Watch out of high gas prices
It is no secret that gas prices are at an all-time high these days. Best to have a strong credit card and loyalty program bonus promotion strategy when filling up gas.
In addition to using GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas station in the vicinity, there are co-branded partnerships that frequently offer multiplier or redemption bonuses. Some of the valuable partnerships include:
- Esso and PC Optimum
- Petro-Canada and RBC
- Shell and Air Miles
- Ultramar, Pioneer and Chevron, with CIBC and Journie Rewards
I personally fill up at different brand of gas stations depending on what promotions are available at that point in time. I rather maximise the various bonuses with more programs, as it keeps my portfolio diversified too.
So why did I mention that this is a pandemic edition? I thought I’d share some unconventional ideas that I’ve heard or read about road trips throughout the past 2 years that really caught my eye.
Disclaimer, these ideas listed below mostly existed prior to the pandemic, but now became more mainstream. Also, these ideas may seem outrageous to some, so they are not intended to be taken seriously. So let your imaginations run wild!
Remember when the country was so locked down that we were told not to leave our homes unless it is for an “essential” trip. There was even talk of randomly pulling cars over to find out why they are out of their home.
The goal of the lock downs was to reduce human to human exposure. When reading the comment section on the news reports, as well as discussion with people, some ideas related to mental health jumped out at me.
What about wanting to take a joy ride in our own car just to relax? The person or household is/are completely isolated in their personal car. How is that different than self-isolating at home?
I remember taking the car out for a drive to keep the battery active (i.e. there were times when we left our car inactive for too long and the battery was drained). We drove the car just to see what’s happening around town. We called it a
“mini sightseeing road trip”!
Save on accommodation
Taking a cross country road trip became a popular topic of discussion. The conversation was taken up another level, because cross country would mean a lot of hotel, bed and breakfast or Airbnb stays. Instead of risking exposure at a place of accommodation, if there are enough drivers in the car, we can drive long distances overnight.
The idea is to maximise our daylight time by not having to drive as much then. When it came time to drive father away, save money on accommodation by rotating drivers overnight, while everyone else gets to sleep.
I personally have done this before. It works better when you have a larger car with more leg room and more people in the car who work together as a team.
Otherwise, seems like Airbnb at cottages worked out well during the pandemic, because there was minimal to no human exposure at those locations anyway.
Van life became a popular trend in 2020 and 2021. It is basically being on a permanent road trip. Some people sold their homes or stopped paying rent and spent that money to buy a van that can act as a vehicle and a home at the same time. This lifestyle had lots of benefits, such as not having to pay to upkeep a home (i.e. no bills, no mortgage or rent to pay). Instead, this gave people the flexibility to be mobile.
What about you? Are you planning a road trip this year? Please let us know your thoughts on road trips in the comment section below!