We live for family vacations.
Beach holidays, cabins, trips to the mountains, we just love to adventure together.
I’ve always loved road trips and having kids hasn’t stopped that.
Last summer we went on a road trip.
A 1,545 kilometer road trip from Guelph, Ontario to Gaspe, Quebec.
With our kids.
And guess what? We’re doing it again this year!
Road trips can sound frightening, especially when you’re travelling with kids but they really don’t have to be.
Travelling can get pricey when you’ve got a family of four to pay for. Driving is a great way to reduce your travel costs but still have tons of fun.
The key to a successful road trip with kids is to plan ahead.
When it was just the two of us we would get on the road when we were ready and keep on driving each taking turns sleeping while the other drove. Now that children come along for the drive we can’t really do that. We have to stop somewhere to sleep and plan for more pit stops.
The most important part of a road trip with kids is snacks. Lots of them! I tend to stick to non-perishables because I don’t have to worry about ice or refrigerating anything. Crackers, cookies, apples, popcorn and pretzels all work well. For day one I will pack up a cooler with sandwiches and cut up veggies so that I know we are going to eat healthy meals. The food that’s offered at the off highway stops tends to be greasy and unhealthy and will just leave you feeling sick. After day one we stick to non-perishables. I will pack up little snack baggies with popcorn and toss some surprise M&M’s in for a treat and dole those out whenever the munchies hit. The less messy the snacks the better. You don’t want to spend every pit stop cleaning stuff off the back seat of your car.
My kids are great in the car but there is no way they are going to spend 15 plus hours staring out the car window. I have to make sure I have lots of things ready to entertain them. Colouring and activity books, stickers, action figures and paper dolls have all worked well for us. Audio books are fantastic and you can get them at your local library. We always bring at least a half dozen audio books with us on our long road trips. This year we may try listening to Harry Potter. Audio books and music can entertain for hours. And don’t discount technology. Load some movies up on a tablet or invest in a portable DVD player for the long car rides and it will help in those moments when they start to itch to get out of the car.
If you’re doing a fairly long drive you might want to consider pre-booking a hotel for the night. You don’t want to have to spend hours searching for a hotel that has available rooms when you’re all tired, dirty and have to go pee. Even in what may seem like off seasons sometimes little towns have festivals and events happening that end up taking all their available rooms. Pre-booking a hotel for the night takes just a little planning and will provide peace of mind when the day is turning into night and you just want to get some rest before the next leg of your journey.
The most important thing to remember when road tripping with little ones is to make it about the journey not the destination. Stop at local playgrounds and let your kids run off some steam. So it puts you 15 minutes behind schedule? I guarantee the kids will remember the park they got to play in. Stop at unique tourist attractions, take a few minutes to walk the beach, have lunch in a local family diner. Focus on all the neat things you get to see along the way. My kids can’t wait for this year’s road trip because they want to stop for a lobster club at the same restaurant we stopped at last time. In fits of giggles they remember when we stopped at the beach and they were so wet and sandy we had to pull the suitcases out of the trunk for a change of clothes. When I think back I remember not wanting to stop. I remember that we were just a couple hours from our final destination and I just wanted to get there. But we stopped and they played and it’s one of their fondest memories of the trip.
I love road tripping. I love driving with the windows down and the music up. I love settling in nice and cozy in the car and listening to stories being read to me. I love eating at local diners and seeing the sites in tiny towns that we might otherwise never get to visit.
But most of all I love sharing all these things with my kids.