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Road Trip Planning: 10 Surprises That May Ruin Your Next Summer Journey

07/15/2013 01:33 EDT | Updated 07/15/2013 01:37 EDT
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An open road, endless skies, the wind in your hair, and the sun in your face are just some of the perks that make road trips a popular choice for travellers.

Whether it’s an annual tradition with the family or an impromptu get-away with some friends, there are no shortages of national parks, remote campsites, diverse landscapes, picturesque towns and historic forts worth exploring by car.

But don’t get ahead of yourself.

Though the thought of jumping into the car with your best buds and riding off into the sunset with no destination in mind may sound invigorating, too much spontaneity can spell disaster. Any experienced road tripper knows that an enjoyable, hassle-free road trip requires careful planning and forethought.

So to get you started, The Huffington Post Canada has come up with a list of unexpected predicaments that just might spoil your road trip fun and how you can best prepare to avoid them.

10 Surprises That'll Ruin Your Next Road Trip. Slideshow text follows for mobile readers.

10 Surprises That'll Ruin Your Next Road Trip

1. Uncertainty

First things first, you need to know your destination, how long it will take to reach it and where you will stop along the way. Nothing is more frustrating than driving in circles in an unfamiliar area searching for a place to rest after a full day on the road (especially if you’re travelling with restless kids). So determine your checkpoints beforehand and book your accommodations.

2. Getting Lost

Once you determine your destination and pit stops, you will need to know how to get there. And because technology isn’t always reliable, your cell phone and GPS are going to need backup. Print out directions from online, and mark out the routes you will take on a trusty paper map.

3. Breaking The Bank

Create a budget and stand by it. Research prices in advance and decide how much money you are willing to allocate towards food, accommodation, gas, souvenirs, activities, attractions, and any unexpected expenses you may incur along the way. And hang on to your receipts so you can divvy up expenses at the end of the trip.

4. An Accident Or Illness

Whether you’re travelling to another province or crossing the 49th parallel, you should always purchase medical emergency travel insurance or double check your current policy to ensure you’re covered for the duration of your journey and any extreme sporting activities. And never take off without letting someone at home know where you’re headed, the routes you will take, what stops you will make and your ETA.

5. A Breakdown Or Flat Tire

The key components of your road trip are, of course, your four wheels and engine. It’s important to ensure your vehicle is ready for the voyage by having it fully serviced before you hit the road. Pack an emergency road kit that includes jumper cables, flares, blankets, a spare, a first-aid kit, flashlight, a phone charger, candles and matches. If you don’t have roadside assistance, you may consider joining an automobile club such as the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) who will come to your aid if you find yourself stranded on the shoulder of a road.

6. Running Out Of Gas

Make it a rule to never allow the fuel gauge to dip past half a tank. Unless you've mapped everything ahead of time, you never know when you'll encounter another gas station. Also keep in mind fuel saving tips such as slowing down, being light on the break, avoid idling and keeping those tires inflated.

7. Getting Locked Out Of The Vehicle

In addition to ensuring you have your license, registration, passport, credit card and any other important documents, have an extra copy (or more) of the vehicle key in case you lock it in the car or lose it. Make another passenger responsible for hanging on to it. that way, if one of you forgets the key there’s always a back up.

8. Mother Nature

Be sure to keep an eye on the forecast for the duration of your journey. That way, you're prepared for the conditions you'll be driving in and can make any changes to your itinerary if necessary. Make sure those windshield wipers are working effectively, top off the windshield washer fluid and keep an extra bottle in the back. And because weather in Canada can change in the blink of an eye, always pack clothes and footwear for all conditions regardless of the forecast.

9. Exhaustion

This isn’t exactly an unexpected surprise. In fact, chances are you will develop a case of driver fatigue after hours of driving. It’s always best to have more than one certified driver on the trip, so you can take shifts. If that isn’t possible, there are a few tricks to curb drowsiness until you reach your checkpoint, such as rolling down the window, pumping those upbeat tunes, having a conversation, making lane changes, or stopping to stretch and grab a snack.

10. “Are We There Yet?”

There’s nothing worse than a car full of irritable passengers when you’re trying to concentrate on the road. Keep the peace by making everyone in the crew responsible for planning road games, snacks, activities and attractions to visit along the way that will distract them from the fact they’ve been cramped in car for hours.

Now that you are fully prepared for your road trip, it’s time to cue that ultimate playlist, roll down those windows and hit the road. Safe travels!