5 Surprising Tips for Long Weekend Road Trips

Road-tripping on a long weekend is like seeing a tentpole movie on opening night: big crowds, snaking lineups and occasional outbursts from strangers, but totally worth it in the end. With 96 construction projects approved for Alberta highways this year, preparing for the road ahead is more important than ever.

No matter where you’re going, the Alberta Motor Association (AMA) has five tips to promote a safe, efficient and entertaining road trip. And just like a movie, there are plenty of surprises!

1. Use your phone (responsibly)

Though phones can be deadly distractions while driving, they’re road-trip life-savers when used responsibly. AMA’s hands-free Road Reporter app helps map your trip in advance and provides real-time audio alerts about construction, collisions and road closures. You can also download the Passport 2017 app, which includes great information on attractions across Canada.

2. Prepare but don’t over-plan

When hitting the highway, it’s important to pack an emergency kit and prep your vehicle. Preventive measures include getting a pre-trip inspection at an Approved Auto Repair Service facility, topping up fluids, getting your battery tested, swapping out a dirty air filter, and checking tire pressure. But when it comes to the actual road trip, resist the urge to plan every second. Being flexible about where you stop, what you see, and when you see it will keep things fun, unpredictable and adaptable to everyone’s mood.

3. ‘Cheat’ in traffic

When construction forces a lane closure, fight the urge to immediately merge. When drivers don’t use both lanes fully, it creates a bottleneck that doesn’t maximize road real estate. By contrast, a zipper merge can reduce congestion by as much as 40 per cent! Here’s how it works: both lanes are used to the point of closure (or defined merge area), then drivers alternate into the open lane one at a time. It may feel like cheating to stay in the closing lane longer, but if everyone abides by the process, everyone benefits. (Video demo here)

4. Slow down to speed up

Believe it or not, research shows that in heavier traffic, less aggressive driving will get you to your destination faster. Motorists should maintain a steady speed (ideally the posted limit but lower when it makes sense); avoid unnecessary lane changes; and increase their following distance to allow for adjustments. This will also improve fuel efficiency, prevent costly tickets and promote safety; unsafe speed was a factor in 25.7 per cent of fatal collisions, compared to 8.3 per cent of injury collisions, in Alberta in 2015.

5. Leave your car at home

Some of the best road trips don’t involve a car at all! Seeing Alberta on a bicycle is a whole new way to enjoy our province, and get some exercise at the same time. Best of all, you don’t need a motor to enjoy the comfort of roadside assistance; AMA will come to the rescue with air for flat tires or even a tow if your bike lets you down.