Helpful Tips for Planning a great Roadtrip with Kids
Updated: Sep 27, 2021
Summer is fast-approaching and so I'm sure that many road trips are being planned, especially during this time when air travel is only slowly opening back up. Road trips are a great way to travel, see new parts of a country that you may not see if taking a flight to the destination and they can create fantastic, lasting memories. But a road trip can quickly 'go south' if you don't plan well for the journey, especially if you're travelling with kids. We've taken quite a few road trips over the years and have learned that planning is key to having a great road trip experience. So here are our top tips for planning a great roadtrip that the whole family will enjoy.
Tip #1: Get a tune-up for your Vehicle
This may seem pretty obvious, but with all of the excitement surrounding the actual destination, I've known people to overlook something like getting a tune-up before heading on the road. And yes, one of those times, that was us! One of our road trips was to Orlando, Florida which is about 24 hours from home. Our minivan was fairly new so we didn't think to get it checked before leaving and this proved to be a big mistake. While driving through Dayton, Ohio on a SUNDAY, I heard a big clunking sound coming from the minivan and I was like, 'oh...no...' We pulled over into a very small plaza where everything was closed except this one mechanic that happened to be doing paperwork on a Sunday but wasn't open for business. He said that he couldn't check our vehicle that day but wanted us to continue on our journey so we actually left our minivan with him, rented a new minivan and kept driving to Orlando! He found out that the problem was a recalled part which the mechanic was kind enough to sort out for us with the car company while we enjoyed our time in Disney. To make a long story short, if it wasn't for this mechanic, our guardian angel for sure, our wonderful Disney vacation would have been totally ruined. That was the first and last time that that ever happened to us and one of those situations we will never forget!
Tip#2: Bring lots of snacks/sandwiches/drinks
There's nothing like being on a long drive with kids with no places to eat in sight and hearing the dreaded complaint, 'we're hungry.' And even if there are places to eat, you don't want to have to stop many times along the way, so I always make sure that we have plenty of snacks to get us through those hangry times. We have one of those coolers that plug into the cigarette lighter and keeps things cool for hours, so I make sandwiches for everyone, freeze box juices (so they stay cold for a long time) and prepare individual snack bags of chips, crackers, cheese, cookies, granola bars and some fruit. We stop for a quick meal a few hours into the drive but at least if you have your own snacks, you don't have to make a pit stop too soon and having your own snack is a great way to cut down on cost.
TIP#3: Pack some Essentials
Anticipate that there are going to be spills, someone might get motion sickness, and there will be lots of garbage in the vehicle so think about what you'll need to make those situations less of an issue. We bring paper towel, napkins, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, nausea pills, shopping bags for garbage, a little first aid kit and pain relievers. And don't forget those paper bags for each passenger, just in case someone gets car sick! This way, you're well prepared for any mishaps on the drive and it will make the journey a lot more pleasant and less stressful if you have all things at hand.
Tip#4: Prepare your Devices and other past time Items
Before you leave on your trip, try to download any games/TV shows/movies on your devices for everyone. Thank goodness for Netflix and the download feature where you can download a ton of TV series or movies to keep everyone occupied for a good while. Make sure that you charge all the devices from home before heading on the road and don't forget to bring all the chargers with you. Also, we bought portable chargers for each one of us so that when we run low, we can plug our devices into them. For our youngest son, I pack an activity bag that includes crayons, markers, colouring books, some lego and a notepad so that he's not playing on the tablet for too long. This also helps to create some variety in what the kids can do on the drive and it will lessen the complaints of being bored.
Tip#5: Get good sleep the Night Before and Know when to Take a Break
I know that this is one hard because you're all excited to get on the road and have that great vacation, but getting enough rest will make everyone more tolerant for any mishaps that may come up along the way. This is especially important for the drivers who need to stay alert for such a long time. The driver shouldn't try to push it too much before taking a break. If you're driving and you start feeling sleepy or fatigued, it's time to switch drivers and take a break. We take turns to drive and no one is driving more than 4-5 hours at a time. If there's only one driver, then you can park the vehicle in a plaza and the driver can take a 20 minute power nap. Sometimes this is all you need to perk you up.
TIP#6: Don't Overpack the Vehicle
We've made this mistake before and it can make for an uncomfortable drive. Sometimes we get excited that we don't have any restrictions in what we can bring, unlike when we fly somewhere, so everything but the kitchen sink gets packed into the minivan. But we soon realize that this is a bad idea when there's not enough room for anyone to stretch their legs out. And this can make for some very cranky passengers. Also, you want to make sure you have enough room for all the things you end up buying while on vacation! So only pack what you really need and leave the rest at home.
TIP#7: Factor in Time for Washroom/Meal/Stretch Breaks in your Schedule
Every three hours is usually a good time to stop and for everyone to get out, use the washroom, pick up a meal to go and stretch. Our stop is usually at a Walmart plaza where we can find a relatively clean washroom, walk the aisles for about 5-10 minutes to stretch our legs and get something to eat around the plaza. These stretch breaks are good for both the driver and the passengers Then we hop back into the minivan ready to get back on the road.
TIP#8: Get off the Beaten Path and Take the Scenic Route
Sometimes the scenic route is longer than the highway route but if you're on a really long trip, it can get boring to just see highway after highway. So even if you plan your drive to go through a few scenic routes, it will make the drive a lot more enjoyable and the time will pass by much quicker.
I hope that these tips will help make that family road trip a little less stressful and a lot more enjoyable!