Your Pre-Road-Trip Checklist

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The modern world offers few surprises. Taking a trip around the world is just a few clicks away– now you can inspect photos, go to the street view on Google Maps and read exhaustive information about locations on Wikipedia. But who can shake off the call to adventure? Every now and then, the road trip itch needs to be scratched, but it requires meticulous preparation. If you decide to jump into your car and take off with a group of friends or family members, here is a pre-road-trip checklist.

How to pack?

If you are going on a road trip for more than two days, you will need two essential items – a bag or a backpack you can carry around and a proper suitcase. The traveling wardrobe goes into your suitcase – two pairs of jeans, a jacket (and a raincoat for possible rain days) and several comfortable shirts (long-sleeved are better than short-sleeved – you can always fold your sleeves).

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As far as underwear and socks go, the number depends on the number of days you will spend on the trip. Put all your toiletries in a single case –a vanity case or a toiletry bag. It is crucial to pack the one made of cloth and nylon so it can take up less space once you put it in the suitcase.

As far as a backpack goes, put all the things you need to keep within arm’s reach inside – your wallet, money, ID, credit card, additional documentation, smartphone/tablet/laptop or all three if you need them.

How to check your vehicle?

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It’s crucial to check your vehicle and tune it up before the trip. First of all, check your car fluids – which include engine oil, brake, power steering and transmission fluids, and coolant. Even the most fastidious drivers forget to check the windshield washer fluid from time to time, so use this as a reminder.

You do not have to be a car expert to know what sort of engine oil you need – when you pop the hood, it should be printed out on the engine. Take a piece of throwaway cloth and use a stick to dip it into the engine oil to check how fresh it is. Smearing the stick across the cloth will show you how dirty the oil is and if it warrants changing. The staining should be minimal and it should not smell burnt. When it comes to reliability, Castrol engine oil is a safe bet.

If the coolant level is low, pour in more antifreeze, and check whether it already comes with a 50/50 water ratio mix. Also, do not forget to check if seat belts, doors and brake lights are in pristine condition. If you come across more than a few minor problems, you should probably go to the local car service shop and get the help of professionals.

How to leave your home?

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You need to secure your household against potential break-ins. Cancel your mail and newspaper deliveries while you are gone or ask the neighbor to collect them for you – a pile of papers invites robbers to your front door. Additionally, ask a neighbor to park in your driveway while you are out of town and put motion detectors on your exterior lights. Secure all doors and windows before you leave, and turn on the house alarm (if you have one). Empty and unplug the freezer and the refrigerator (for long trips) unless someone will be living in your household and taking care of it while you are gone.

How to create a playlist?

Every true road trip has to include a playlist of appropriate songs. Heartland and blue-collar rock, glam and arena rock classics, new age and post-punk revival, as well as (yes, we are going there) country music are just some of the beloved genres of the road. Bruce Springsteen, Journey, Kansas, U2, and the Killers are nearly unavoidable if you are driving along the expansive landscapes. Johnny Cash, John Denver, and Willie Nelson are country favorites that garner a whole new texture around 30 miles per hour.

Road trips are the closest things we have to adventures right now – and just like adventures, they come with a risk of unpredictable situations and even dangers. Go through a checklist of the necessities in order to prepare properly. It will take a little time for preparations before your trip, but better to be safe than sorry.

This article was written by Roxana Oliver, a travel enthusiast and an occasional blogger from Sydney, Australia.

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5 Essential Travel Apps to Make Travel Easier


Mobile Apps

Travel apps are a dime a dozen, but when you find one that you like, you feel like you’ve found the Holy Grail! How did you ever live or travel before without it? Well, you did… but now life is better. When I travel, I prefer to use wi-fi. I stay focused on my trip and my travel experience. Buying data and roaming is costly (of course there are apps for that), so I’ll jump on a wi-fi network when I can and do updates, posts, e-mails etc. Here my 5 favourite travel apps:

1. Hailo

This neat app hails taxis and uses your phone’s GPS to make a cab come to you – and it tells you how soon the cab will be there. My first use of this app was in Dublin, Ireland. I stood in my hotel lobby, used Hailo and had a taxi pick-up in five minutes. You can pay your taxi directly or open an account with a major credit card. Only problem – Hailo is currently in 11 cities: Toronto, Boston, Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., London, Cork Dublin, Barcelona, Madrid and Tokyo. But it’s expanding to more cities all the time and it’s available on iPhone and Android for free.

2. Viber

Viber gives you free texting and long distance phone calls. Have I got your attention now? This is a free app that requires a wi-fi connection for you to get free texts and phone calls. When you use Viber on a 3G network you might incur operator data charges or internet access fees. One catch – you “viber” between others who have Viber. It works very well and I’ve made calls from Jamaica and Ireland and texts from Poland, England and around the world – all for free.

3. WorldMate

The closest thing most of us will ever have to a personal assistant but without the attitude is WorldMate. Simply send your confirmation emails for flights, hotels, hire cars and restaurant bookings to trips@worldmate.com and the app generates a detailed itinerary covering all parts of your trip. If you upgrade to the premium version, WorldMate will generate alerts for delayed flights and/or gate changes. It’s available in iPhone and Android.

4. Wi-Fi Finder

Assuming you’re on wi-fi when you boot up this app, you’ll continue your mission to avoid data roaming charges. The GPS finds nearby public wi-fi (free and paid) spots at over 545,000 locations worldwide. You can also search for wi-fi worldwide before your trip or for your next destination. The offline mode means you can download maps before you go and avoid those data bills. It’s available for free on iPhone, iPad and Android.

5. Private Wi-Fi

The problem with Free Wi-Fi is the potential for being hacked. A few years ago, I jumped on a wi-fi network in Amsterdam and lived with an inordinate amount of spam for six months. My e-mail address was grabbed but it could have been much worse.  This app creates a personal VPN connection so that you don’t get hacked. While it does slow your internet connection down a bit, it’s well worth it for the added protection from wandering hackers. It’s available on iPhone and Android.

Of course, this list is changing and these five apps are just the tip of the iceberg, with plenty of competitors for each listed above. But my review is based on my real experience with each of them (and I was not paid to say that). There are also apps for weather, transit systems, cities, airports, airlines and more, and any of these could be very handy for your next trip or just getting around your own city.

This guest article was published in August 2013 by AsiaRooms.com

Toronto skyline from the rooftop of the Thompson Hotel