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Road trip tips for families

Drive instead of fly? Our road trip tips for families help make hitting the road with kids more doable.
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Corinne McDermott, April 23, 2013 4:57:48 PM

When you’re considering taking a road trip but you will have small humans in the back seat, chances are your journey will mostly be about travelling from Point A to Point B as quickly and painlessly as possible. Getting there will likely not be half the fun, but driving instead of flying can often save you a lot of money,  and some crazy folk even prefer it! Another bonus of hitting the road is keeping the side-eye glances within your family, seeing as flying with a baby can cause such drama these days.

But as with everything family travel, you’ll need to get your ducks in a row before you hit the ground running, and once my bad cliches are out of your way you can get started with these five tips:

Research Your Trip:
Make your list, and check it twice – don’t just rely on online map generators (although Google Maps, TripIt, and CAA’s TripTik are good ones). You need to really investigate possible routes that may not be the quickest, but could be the most interesting since you’ll need to make more stops now than pre-kids. There are some great and helpful apps that can help you along the way, and GPS as a separate unit is definitely worth the investment. Familiarize yourself with these apps in advance, so you’re not frustrated trying to figure them out while all the lovely scenery is whizzing by!

Repair Your Car:
How much would it suck to have your car – packed full-to-the-brim with stuff and kids - stuck on the side of the highway thanks to car troubles that could have been prevented with proper maintenance? In the weeks leading up to your trip, give your car a solid pre-trip check – and have it serviced, with fluid levels checked and tires balanced. The day before you leave, double-check the tire pressure and make sure your membership with a roadside assistance provider is up to date.

Within Reach:
What good are your carefully prepared and healthy snack packs, travel games, or plastic bags (vomit catchers *touch wood*) if you can’t safely reach them from your seat? Nobody wants to be scrambling when a spill inevitably happens. Prepare a bag specifically for addressing these needs while en route and make sure A) you know exactly where it is in the car and B) you can reach it without unbuckling your seat belt. Wherever you go, always make sure you have wipes and hand sanitizer nearby. And a roll of toilet paper for those questionable gas station washrooms you may, unfortunately, have to use.

Rest Up And Rest Stops:
In order to maximize vacation time and minimize time spent in the car, many opt to drive around the clock – present company included. This sounds good on paper, but make sure that everyone in your party is rested – not just the driver! Pulling the kids out of their beds and plunking them in their car seats sounds like an ideal way to gain some ground while they’re sleeping, but make sure you’re ok with a back-up plan if that doesn’t pan out. If you’ll be driving in shifts, make sure you can actually sleep in the car if you’re on the second shift. On our drives to Florida from Toronto and back, ear plugs and a sleeping mask helped me rest during my husband’s driving shifts. We also made a pact that if either of us was too tired to continue, we would stop and get a hotel room. No debate.

Road rage and rude gestures 20 minutes into your 20 hour drive is not the way you want to start your vacation. Yes – please don’t forget that it’s a vacation.Take a deep breath and laugh at the little things. Will you have to stop for a diaper change or an emergency potty break immediately after you drive by a rest stop? Yes. Will there be whining? At least a little. Do people drive like jerks? Definitely. But the jerk that just cut you off is likely not going to be spending quality time with their family anytime soon, and you already are. It’s important to look at the bumps in the road as fun – they create the best memories anyway.

Corinne McDermott is the founder of Have Baby Will Travel.

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