For most Canadians, summer is synonymous with the road trip. Because this is Canada, our road trips are generally long, measured in days not kilometres. Long road trips can feel like being stuck in a box with your family and the contents of a Canadian Tire store. Then left in the sun to bake. It’s stressful enough for adults, and when you throw kids into the mix, things can get much more difficult.
But there are some things you can do to lessen the tension and strain of travelling with children and you might just make your next Great Canadian Road Trip a pleasant and enjoyable experience. We’ll also include some tips if you’re leaving the car at home and travelling by air.
ON THE ROAD:
- Family planning: Involve your kids in the planning process. It’ll help them feel like they’re a part of the experience. Older kids can play navigator.
- Break it up: Have realistic expectations of how far you can travel. Plan for delays and take extra time to recharge on the road.
- Your attention, please: Pay attention to your kids. Talk to them. Share stories with them. Include them. Show them things. Make the car ride an adventure, instead of a chore.
- Food and drink: Load up on healthy snacks (fruit, veggies and trail mix in resealable bags) for the journey. Bring some peanut butter in a squeeze bottle – you can squeeze it on a cracker for an instant snack without any cutlery. Opt for water instead of sugary drinks and juices. Bring along a small cooler to keep drinks and fruit cold. Stop at U-picks for a little exercise and fresh snacks.
- Presents: Hit the dollar store before you leave and stock up on little presents. Wrap them up and dole them out as needed.
- Bring along a backpack filled with books, paper, pens, crayons, sticker books and more. Each child should get their own.
- For younger kids, bring a training potty (or even diapers) for emergencies.
- Electronics: Bring tablets, DVD players or mobile devices plus lots of movies, music and games. And don’t forget headphones for the kids! A headphone splitter is a good idea too, as two (or more) children can listen to the same device.
- Keep it charged: Bring a voltage inverter to charge electronics from the cigarette lighter while on the road.
- Stop. Often. Look for restaurants with play areas or neighbourhood schools with playgrounds. Getting out of the car and running around is a great way to burn off energy. Maybe have a picnic.
- Keep it clean: Pack wipes and paper towels.
- Keep it comfy: Familiar blankets and pillows are a must-carry.
- Don’t tolerate arguments while driving, pull over and settle the issue.
- First aid kit: Accidents happen!
- Lost and found: Kids should carry your contact info (especially cell phone number) in case you get separated. Walkie talkies are a handy way of keeping in touch if you split off into groups.
IN THE AIR:
- If your child is 2 or more and rides in a booster seat, bring it on the plane for your child to sit in. It’s familiar and they’re less likely to fidget. Plus you’ll need the booster seat at your destination.
- If you’re flying as a family, book one seat in the row ahead. That way one parent can always take a breather.
- Car seat wheels: Companies like Go-Go Babyz sell wheels that attach to car seats – effectively turning it into a stroller.
- For rent: Need a playpen, stroller or car seat at your destination? In most Canadian cities you can rent them. Check online to see if they’re available where you’re going.
- Under pressure: Pressure-regulating earplugs (like Earplanes) slow the rate of air pressure changes when taking off and landing. They come in kids and adult sizes. Pack some gum, too.
Travelling with children doesn’t have to be an arduous experience. With a little planning and patience, everyone can have a good time. After all, isn’t travel all about the journey?