Filed under: Travel Swellness

Travel Swellness: The Car Features You Need for Your Dog’s Safety and Comfort During Road Trips

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May is National Pet Month and the first long weekend is coming up—which, if you’ve got a pet, you’ve got road trips on the brain, I know I do! My cat tends to stay at home (although her big brother used to come to the cottage), but Billie Jean always comes along on road trips (as long as the accommodations allow dogs).

I’ve written about pet safety in the car in the past for the Toronto Star, and it is always top of mind whenever I’ve got Billie Jean with me. And I’m not alone. A recent study conducted by GMC Canada found that 70% of Canadian pet owner’s take vehicle safety seriously, ranking their pet’s safety as very important during travelling.

I’ve had the opportunity to test drive GMC vehicles a few times, and I’ve loved driving them, and I appreciate the pet accessories and tips GMC offers. check out their tips and tricks before setting off on your next road trip with your four-legged pal:

  • Buy safety accessories such as seatbelts and harnesses. Seatbelts/harnesses for your pet, along with hammocks or booster seats will make the road trip safer and more enjoyable for your pup. GMC’s study found that 43% of Canadians are very concerned with their pet’s safety and protecting them during accidents.
  • Make use of the surround view camera/rear cross traffic alert. This safety control in GMC vehicles helps prevent accidents by giving the driver the opportunity to view the car from all aspects. This includes any rear collisions with pets when running from behind.
  • Use OnStar. The In-Vehicle Safety and Security System has the ability to help unlock vehicles in the case that pets are stuck inside and can track them down if a vehicle has been stolen. This is a precautionary and safety measure that helps pet owners travel with their pets in ease. I know I stress whenever I have to leave Billie Jean alone in the car when I stop for a bathroom break; having this feature gives some peace of mind.
  • Subscribe to Sirius XM for your pup. Studies found that classical music helps calm dogs down in stressful environments. Although I’m partial to the 80s and 90s and 00s, and hip hop stations, I think it may be worth checking out channels like Symphony Hall, The Joint and The Bridge for Billie Jean!
  • Take advantage of the cargo space/flat-fold seats. I usually have so much gear when on road trips (it’s impossible to travel light for camping!), I love that I’m never lacking for space in a GMC. Billie Jean gets plenty of room even with all of the sleeping bags, and cooler and camping gear! You don’t want your puppers to be cramped!
  • Pet-friendly seat covers and floor mats. If you’ve got a pet that sheds a fair bit, you’ll want seat covers that resist their fur! GMC has rear bench seat covers are water resistant. The covers also feature thermoplastic rubber that grips the seat, which provides added comfort and safety for your dog.
  • Use that hands-free liftgate. When you’re holding onto your pet’s leash, while also loading tons of gear into the GMC, that jands-free liftgate is the most handy feature ever. No need to put things down and fumble for keys. Just kick your foot below the rear bumper. The GMC study found that 68% of Canadians are looking for easier ways to pack their pets and their belongings in the car without any fuss or extra steps–and well, the hands-free liftgate is your wishes granted!

Now, where is your next road trip with your doggo in tow? I’d love to go back to Meech Lake and Tobermory! But after mosquito season! Billie Jean and I can’t wait to hit the road again!

 

 

Leave a Comment May 12, 2022

Giveaway Swellness: Win a One-Year Subscription to Babbel!

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I’m so excited to be learning a new language with Babbel–last time I took a language course was some beginner Spanish in CEGEP! I chose Italian as I’ve been pretty wistful lately of my trips there to Rome, Parma, Milan and Florence, and it feels good to be preparing for future travels.

There are 14 languages on Babbel to choose from, and it provides conversational practice. The classes are presented in a fun way, so it feels playful! They’ve also Babbel Live, Podcasts, Games, Culture Bites, Short Stories and Videos–a ton of resources to enrich your learning experience!

For one lucky Health & Swellness follower, I’m giving away a year-long subscription to Babbel. You can enter via my Instagram post, and for five extra entries, just comment on this blog post about which language you’d like to learn!

Giveaway ends 11:59PM, March 22, 2022 and is open to Canadian residents. Winner will be announced on my IG Stories on March 23rd.

Buona fortuna! Look, I’m speaking Italian already!

Leave a Comment March 16, 2022

Travel Swellness: 7 Ways to Make Solo Road-Tripping Better

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When driving alone, I can get bored pretty quickly. I think doing the drive from Toronto to Montreal as a passenger on the weekends every two weeks when I first moved to Toronto really made me develop a deep dread for being in a car for hours. So the idea of driving solo several hours alone has always been a bit daunting to me up until recently. Now having done it a couple of times, I have a few tactics to make driving solo for several hours easier:

Pack great road-trip snacks you’re excited to eat. I swear that having snacks to look forward to helps break up the drive into chunks of time. This is no different than a regular day for me; I’m always planning what I’m eating next. Some snacks I tend to pack for road trips: bagels, apples, almonds, sour patch kids, Pringles (the can makes it easy to eat in the car), Peanut M&Ms, and if I’m organized enough to pack a meal, I like making pita wraps because they’re easy to eat on the go. To drink, I bring a Sap Sucker and Bubly, although I do try to somewhat limit my fluids so that I can avoid stopping for a ton of bathroom breaks.

Plan for fun stops along the way. I used to only focus on getting to my final destination as quickly as possible.Now, I try to plan for at least one stop along the way so that I have something to look forward to. It might be at the beginning of the trip (for example, I’ve gone to San Remo Bakery to pick up doughnuts so that I have a sweet treat to look forward to) or a practical errand midway (such as Giant Tiger to pick up the last few cottage essentials–and I’m always checking to see if they’ve got the $6 bike shorts I scored two summers ago). Or sometimes I’ll stop somewhere touristy, such as the Big Apple in Cobourg. Incorporating stops helps to break up the journey; rather than facing a long, boring six-drive to Montreal, it’s only two hours til the Big Apple, and then another one or so til I stop for gas. This method of breaking up the drive into chunks reminds of running 10 and 1s; it’s easier to mentally wrap your head around getting through the next 10 minutes rather than hours of running (when in the thick of marathon training you’ve got those 30k runs as you near race day!). In fact, when I was getting drained completing the mileage for the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee, I planned fun stops during some runs, including meeting my friend in the park to hike. Look how much marathon training has taught me, haha!

Plan your gas stop and bathroom breaks. Like in a marathon, for a road trip you need to plan when to fuel and when you go to the bathroom. I now know that I fill up on gas every three hours of driving or so; with that in mind, I plan my other stops accordingly–it’s all about spacing apart the breaks from driving and giving your legs a stretch and some fresh air (for Billie Jean, too!). When I get gas, I usually pick up a double-double at Timmies, too, cuz I’m a good ol’ Canadian, eh! It’s my little road trip ritual.

Have a playlist planned. I much prefer running with music or a podcast on my AirPods and I need entertainment for my drives as well. I only listen to a handful of podcasts regularly, so if I know I have a road trip coming up, I will save new episodes to listen to in the car. Podcasts really help the time fly by; I drove five hours to Meech Lake in the fall and by the time I’d listened to my favourites (Dave Chang Show, Smartless, Conan O’Brien, Spilled Milk, Fake Doctors Real Friends, and Recipe Club) I’d arrived! I’d take breaks in between podcasts for music. Since I don’t own a lot of music, I’ve very much enjoyed the Sirius XM subscription in the GM Canada cars. I set my favourites before I hit the road so I can easily switch between pop, hip hip, 80s, 90s, and 2000s. If you’re into audiobooks, download a few for your drive, I bet that’d be a great time to have a listen if it’s a format you enjoy (I find my mind wanders off when listening to audiobooks so they’re not my jam for road trips.)

Dress for the drive. You’ll want to be comfortable, obviously. For winter drives, I typically take off my winter coat and wear a sweatsuit or a sweater and leggings. More important than your outfit is your footwear; in the summer, this means wearing footwear other than flimsy flip flops (which can slip on the pedals) and for fall and winter, I opt for sneakers or boots that don’t have an overly chunky sole (too much of platform and I can’t feel the pedal!). Avoid wearng jumpsuits or onesies as your ootd; trust me, you do not want the hassle of getting half undressed at every bathroom pit stop!

Sing! Learn a new language! One of my IG followers suggested learning a new language while driving, and I love that idea! I haven’t tried it yet (although I am learning Italian with the Babbel app), but I do regularly sing in the car. If a boyband comes on or some classic 90s RnB, you’ll find my singing at the top of my lungs behind the wheel. I find singing helps keep you alert for the drive and you end up feeling more energized after you’ve belted out some Mary J Blige. And while I’m not really one to talk on the phone, if you love phone calls, use this time to chat with that friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with.

Driving with confidence. Besides all of these little tactics I use for going on solo road trips,  for me a big part of what makes me comfortable and confident with driving solo is knowing the car I’m driving can handle the conditions and that its features help me drive more safely.

My recent test drive of the 2022 GMC Acadia AWD was perfect for my trip cottage-hopping. While the highways were clear, it was white-out conditions in Gatineau on the day I departed for Wentworth and the roads were slippery for most of my two-hour trek, but all-wheel-drive got me safely to my destination. And let’s hear it for the heated steering wheel and seats; much appreciated in the -21 degree weather (and I think the more comfortable you are, the more focused you are on driving)! Also, because I do not pack light, the ample trunk space (plus I put down the third row of seats to expand it) was put to good use with all of my cottage groceries, luggage and work-from-cottage essentials stashed in there; they didn’t have to be piled up, which would’ve blocked the rear window). The Acadia also had heads-up display is something I always appreciate as it helps me be more aware of my speed (when I get in a zone, I’m a little bit of a lead foot!), and the blind-spot detection light is super helpful for keeping you aware of your surroundings (even though, of course, I always do shoulder check before changing lanes). I will tell you that I never would’ve predicted I’d love GMC, but I do! Although I don’t love parking them (so big!) I do love being the big GMC SUV on the road surrounded by little cars. Maybe that confidence was BCE: Big Car Energy. Does this mean, ahem, size matters?!

(Side note: Just last year, an old SUV I was driving solo one day in the summer went dead right as I was in the middle of making a turn onto a busy downtown street. There I was, in the middle of the intersection with the car completely dead. Talk about panic! It makes me appreciate cars like this smooth driving GMC Acadia all that much more!)

How do you approach your road trips? I’m still learning (and I dream of one day driving to Banff and Jasper to hike with Billie Jean) so would love to know if you have any strategies for road tripping (especially driving solo). And more importantly, what podcasts should I add to my library for my next road trip?? ‘Cause I’ll need way more to listen to if I’m going to tackle longer drives!

 

Leave a Comment February 15, 2022

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