5 Travel Tips for a Road trip through Canada and the US

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Whether it be a road trip through Canada, a drive down to Florida, or a huge loop crossing both, these tips will make your life simpler and cheaper!

1. Cash

Have some cash on hand – for a few reasons. During a road trip, some stops are bound to be in small towns that are far from bigger cities. In these areas card transactions can’t be guaranteed – especially for small amounts such as coffee. Whether it be for a bathroom break, to fill up your car or your hungry stomach, you don’t want to be stuck counting your change to pay your bill. You might also be looking for some cash to pay a toll (which at times can be unmanned and require you to have the exact change). Also, in the US, some states have lower rates for gas when you pay cash – so having a few bills on hand can save on your fuel budget.

2. Gas

Use google maps to find out your cheaper gas stops, and try to stay at around half a tank. Especially in provinces and states where gas stations have a tendency of being far from one another and closed during the night (looking at you, Ontario). Those that are more secluded also tend to be pricey, and if you wait for your gas tank to be empty you’ll have no choice but to pay the higher price. Instead, simply look up “petrol station” in google maps and most of them will come up with their price underneath. It will also help you map out your stops and make sure you can be efficient, avoiding having to go off the highway to gas up (unless you’d like to visit a local town, which is always fun!) Of course, specific applications exist for this purpose – they will offer you more stations and be more precise, but if you’re trying to save your storage space for your photos, then google maps is a good way around downloading yet another app!

3. Loyalty Cards

Get member cards for gas stations (Petro-Points, CAA, AirMiles, Esso Extra), apps for coupons or loyalty cards at restaurants you might stop at (McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, Tim Hortons), and loyalty cards for grocery stores (Safeway, Save On Foods, Publix). Even better if they double up (ex. AirMiles that can be used at gas stations and grocery stores) It can add up to a lot for a long journey!

4. Credit Cards

Credit Cards and the tricky US-CDN exchange rate. As a Canadian, it’s useful to check your credit cards fees and rate policy when it comes to making purchases in the US. Some banks have a foreign transaction fee on US purchases, or their exchange rate is significantly above the market rate – and it’s good to know that ahead of time before you rack up a fee or higher rate for each transaction. Some other options are getting a US Credit Card with your bank here in Canada, or a Cross-Border card. This would allow you to add up your purchases in US dollars and pay them back as you would with your Canadian credit card, but at the market rate.

5. Tires

Winter Tires vs All Season Tires vs Summer Tires- this one is a bit trickier but worth looking into, especially if your road trip will be in the early spring or end of summer. Tire laws are different across Canada and the US. Some provinces allow all-season tires but require you to have chains in your trunk as of October (though rarely enforced, it is good to be aware of the requirement). Some States that are at higher altitudes (for example, Colorado), will get snow even in the summer, where you might have to expect slower speeds if you’re using summer tires. It’s important to take note of the weather and tire laws to make sure yours will work for the different provinces and states you’re planning on visiting. It also helps you plan better equipment to have on hand. If you’re doing a road trip in late September in the Rockies, you might have to bring a smaller snow brush to help get on the road faster in the morning.

If you’re planning a multi-day road trip, make sure to check out our article featuring some time and cost saving tips for long days on the road!