I still remember our old family road trips like they were yesterday. I was in the backseat jammed between my older brothers for the agonizing journey to the cabin. We were given a deck of cards and books to while-away the hours. If it was raining, the windows were sealed, and the blue haze only added to the motion sickness as we weaved through the mountains. I hated road trips. And maybe that’s why I tried so hard with our kids to make the journey part of the adventure.
Preparing for a long road trip can take as much effort as preparing for the entire holiday. Here are my hints to help your whole family have an adventure.
Prepack: Pack as much in the vehicle as possible the night before. Have the cooler next to the fridge and the coffee ready to drip. Get up well before the crack of dawn and load the pajama-clad sleeping kids, their favourite blankets and neck pillows in the car. We did this for many years and made it from Calgary to Golden, B.C., before they woke up. That’s three hours of silent bliss on highways void of other travellers.
Treats: Dole out treats such as gaming devices, new car-friendly toys and treats slowly along the way to keep the entertainment going and add suspense.
Entertainment: Bring age-specific books, books on tape, graphic novels, magnetic games and colouring books. Does anything beat a brand-new colouring book and a fresh box of crayons? Colouring outside the lines has proven to be a calming devise.
Maps: Yes, paper maps. Print off the map between Point A and Point B and hand it to the backseat drivers and have them help navigate and track the distance. Ask them a hundred times, “Are we there yet?” On second thought … keep that question to a reasonable amount.
Tablets: Don’t tell my mother I suggested this, but charge up the tablet or computer, load it up with fresh games or movies and bring them along. I’m not suggesting it entertains the kids for hours on end because, yes, my mother is right – Canada is beautiful, and we do need to look out the window. But short bursts of mindless games or time-absorbing movies can save nerves from unravelling. To make sure the device lasts the journey, invest in power cables long enough to reach the backseat and a multiport charger. Consider purchasing a headrest mount or holder to keep the tablet out of the clutter. (Scoshe makes a magnetic one that works great. Scoshe.com or Walmart.ca for $24.97).
Snacks: Engage the age-appropriate kids in preparing road snacks prior to the journey so gas and bathroom breaks are not spent at the candy counter.
Trash: Contain the backseat trash simply. Line a large kitchen cereal container with a pop-up dispenser hole with a plastic bag. Hint – stop at Value Village and buy one for a buck.
Safety: With all that battery power going to phones, tablets and gaming devices, consider an ounce of roadside prevention. Pick up a pocket-size power bank to jump start the car battery. The Eliminator Jump Starter and Power Bank from Canadian Tire (regular price $149.99) can jump-start totally dead batteries in up to 5.0 L gas engines and 2.5 L diesel engines. It’s capable of holding enough juice to boost 20 times before recharging. A full charge only takes three hours and it will hold it for up to a year. It also has a flashlight and charging ports for smartphones and tablets.
Navigation: Save your marriage by either purchasing a dash-mount GPS or mount your phone on the dash and let Google Maps or WAZE guide the driver to your destination. Magellan and Garmin both provide excellent dash-mount devices available everywhere from Best Buy to Walmart.
Gas app: Load Gas Buddy on your phone to find the cheapest gas along the way.
And if things go sideways and no one is having fun, find a roadside attraction or a park and stop. So what if it take 10 hours instead of eight? Getting there in one happy piece is more important.
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