The dramatic story of a B.C. couple who made a tragic wrong turn on their trip to Las Vegas offers a startling reminder of the need for road travellers to make plans and preparations before heading out on the road. The British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA) recommends all road travellers make and follow a plan, and take a few other precautions that will help ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
• Chart your path electronically and on paper. In addition to a GPS (Global Positioning System) device, use up-to-date maps or travel guides which can be marked up with your travel notes. Carrying printed maps will also ensure you have access to road details at all times. Make sure all adult travellers know the route ahead of time. Plan where you’ll stop or stay overnight and calculate the amount of time it will take to reach each destination.
• Research your route. Check ahead for road conditions and roadwork schedules, and scan for radio stations offering local travel info. Figure out where gas stations, campgrounds and other accommodations are located along your route, then mark them on a printed map. Anyone can access BCAA’s online Triptik®, a trip planning guide, free-of-charge to print out a customized map which includes details such as hotel and gas station locations along with planned construction and detours along your route.
• Leave an itinerary with someone you trust. Provide family members or friends with a copy of your itinerary and/or marked-up map. Share details about your schedule such as planned arrival times, where you plan to stop and how long you’ll stay. Notify someone whenever your plans change.
• Schedule regular phone calls. Set up specific call times with friends or family so they know where you’re located at all times. Try to anticipate areas where cell phone service may be unavailable. If you miss two or more scheduled calls, someone will know something may have gone wrong and can notify the authorities about your itinerary.
• Carry travel medical insurance. If you’re travelling anywhere outside B.C., ensure you carry adequate medical insurance for yourself and all family members in case of emergencies.
Prepare your vehicle:
• Give your vehicle a thorough tune-up. Get your vehicle inspected by a licensed auto repair technician at least two weeks prior to your trip to allow time for repairs. Get the following items checked: wiper blades, all fluids, tire pressure and tread, hoses and belts, brakes, and air conditioning.
• Check your spare tire. Ensure your spare tire is in good condition and properly inflated. Make sure you carry proper tools required to change a tire such as a tire iron that fits your vehicle’s lug nuts, a car jack and WD-40 to help loosen rusted or tightly wound lug nuts.
• Understand your GPS device. Make sure your GPS unit works properly and is accurately calibrated. Ensure you understand how to use your GPS device by reading the manual thoroughly or contacting the GPS manufacturer or retailer to receive some training.
What to pack:
• Well-stocked first-aid kit. Include bandages, gauze, pain reliever, allergy medication, antiseptic, and any other medication your family may need.
• A few light tools. Some simple tools can be used for minor vehicle repairs and can also get you out of a jam. Carry a small variety of tools such as: a roll of duct tape, screwdrivers, a hammer, an adjustable wrench, pliers, baling wire, a flashlight, a can of WD-40, and a rag.
• Emergency items. Road flares, a jug of drinking water and an emergency blanket are handy in case you have to wait a long period of time for help.
• Fully charged cell phone and car charger. Remember to pull over to a safe place to use your phone, or have a passenger place the call.
• Emergency food. Carry high energy, non-perishable, no-preparation foods that can sustain you for a long period of time.
• Be prepared for winter weather. If you’re travelling through the mountains you may experience winter weather conditions, despite it being spring or summer time. Carry warm clothes and boots in the cab of your vehicle or in a place that’s easy to access.
For more road trip planning tips, online maps and travel books, visit bcaa.com/roadtrip. BCAA Members can also visit any BCAA location to speak with a Membership Specialist and have a BCAA Triptik® prepared and printed.