Back in the early 90’s, when I was a kid, my family and I took an epic 7 week summer road trip from Toronto to California and back. There were five of us in a Ford Taurus Sedan with no trailer or extra luggage bin…. I am the youngest of three, so I was stuck in that awkward middle seat between my sisters for the entire trip. My parents occasionally took pity on me and let me sit in the middle seat in the front. Occasionally. Imagine, a family of five, no cell phones, no navigation, no iPads, no portable DVD players in ONE sedan for SEVEN weeks. It was a long trip and we definitely got on each others nerves BUT we made more memories than I can even begin to tell you about. We drove through the Prairies to B.C, down to Washington and Oregon, along the California coast to Nevada, explored the Grand Canyon and headed back north through the badlands of South Dakota.
I am forever grateful to my parents for planning such an amazing trip for us. This was also before the internet and hotels were booked by calling with your telephone and actually speaking to a human being. What a crazy concept. My parents tell me that every single hotel was booked before we even left. They had the entire trip mapped out and planned to the T. I’m sure it took months to plan.
Now that I have children of my own, we’ve taken many road trips, including back and forth to the cottage all the time. At this point I consider myself kind of an expert. I just returned home from a 4-day trip to Montreal with my three kids (solo parenting) and over all it was amazing!
Here are my top tips for a successful road trip:
The week before. Organize your car activities. Go to the dollar store or superstore and pick up some new activities and toys. You wont regret it. New colouring books, crayons or pencil crayons (no markers,) stickers, maze books, kids magazines, Melissa and Doug pads, books, mess free colouring books from Crayola. For babies, maybe a new play cell phone or remote control (small enough to pack but lots of fun to push the buttons.)
The day before. The Car. Get the car ready. Gas, car wash, washer fluid, etc. So you will be 100% ready to hit the highway the next morning. The Food. Purchase the car food for yourself and the kids. Granola bars, crackers, fruit and veggies, raisins, little cookies, sandwiches, baby food packages. I know this is terribly bad for the environment, but if you can, use ziploc bags so you don’t have to store and wash containers for the whole trip.
The night before. Pack lunches and snack bag. Stopping for lunch could cause long delays. Or your kids may be napping when you’re hungry. (Never wake a sleeping child in the car.) Have your lunch ready to eat while you drive or stop and eat at the rest stop. It’s still quicker and healthier than waiting in line for fast food. And the faster you get to your destination the better. Don’t forget water bottles for all. Pack the car. No one likes standing around while someone packs the car. Get it done the night before after the kids go to bed. I organize the back seats the night before as well.
Timing. Choosing when to leave is key. Early is always better. Less traffic getting out of the city and kids are usually happier in the morning. Having said this, try to leave at least a few hours before your child’s nap time. This way they can play, eat and then sleep. Also, if you can leave on a Saturday morning it’s great – no weekday traffic.
Packing the back seat. Make sure each kid has there own toys/ games etc. If they are close in age, just get two of everything so they don’t fight. As mentioned above, pack the backseat the night before, so everything is ready and exciting when they get into the car. Make sure each child has a blanket and one stuffed animal for nap time. We have an activity tray (from Skip Hop) for them so they can colour and eat on it comfortably.
The morning of. Pack anything remaining that wasn’t packed the night before. Like the snack bag etc. Also, I’m old school, my kids don’t have DVD players or iPads, but if you do – make sure they are loaded and ready to go. Did you know that you can download shows and movies from Netflix onto your iPad and watch them later when you’re not in wifi.?? Mind blown.
Stops. If you need to stop to rest or change drivers or a bathroom break – always try to stop at the EnRoute’s (truck stops) they are a lot faster than pulling over in a small town and driving around trying to find somewhere and then having to find your way back to the highway.
Have Fun. Turn up the music, sing, dance, laugh and enjoy! Ps. Don’t forget to look out the window, you may just discover something new.
Happy Road Tripin’