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attending the event

Being a parent and an auto enthusiast is a wonderful combination, especially when you see a whiff of that enthusiasm in your little ones. But often, that enthusiasm is not equally shared amongst offspring and significant others.

So if you're planning a family outing to the Canadian International Auto Show (CIAS) in Toronto, similar to the outing we recently did with both children and grandparents at the Montreal auto show, here are some tips we wish someone had given us beforehand.

Have a plan before you go

If you are in the market for a car, and hitting the auto show will involve decision-clinching research, find out where your prospective choices will be on the show floor, and hit those first. There's a tendency to start at one end and wind your way through the entire show. This works great if you're in a group of super-enthusiastic car nuts, but not as well with children and seniors, especially for a show as large as the CIAS.

Use the CIAS website to map out your moves

If your kids are young, you may wish to check out a few cars with them, and then drop them off at the Volkswagen Playcare Centre. Chances are you'll both be happier if they're playing dress up, drawing or watching DVDs, rather than clomping around behind you all day in winter boots. Safety is key at the centre, so folks there may take a family photo and/or provide matching wristbands to ensure no child leaves with the wrong adult.

Eat well beforehand

Food options are often limited at auto shows, or just in a few areas, so you may wish to have a good meal beforehand. Judging from the CIAS show map, there will be more food options this year, including a Muskoka Brewery restaurant near the VW Centre, but ensuring everyone is on the same or at least a similar eating timetable will help avoid hungry kids ripping your arm off in mid-stride.

Plan parking

Given mid-February weather, parking indoors at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre means you can leave your coats in the car. There's a link on the CIAS site that compares downtown parking rates, and keep your eyes and ears peeled for sponsored free parking in some lots, though that won't likely be indoors. If you do park outside, it's worth finding a locker or coat check for your heavy winter gear.

Watch for money-saving coupons

At $23 per adult ticket, (everyone 13 and older) it's worth looking for coupons or deals. The show's official site is 10 per cent discounts on all individual and family passes (usually $45 for two adults and two 7-12 year old children, for $40.50).

Pick up a show guide

It's worth having a hard copy map and list of show features. Our 10-year-old will likely park himself at the Xbox One gaming area, whereas I wouldn't want to miss Auto Exotica – featuring Ferrari, Pagani, Tesla and McLaren. These cars unfortunately tend not to be accessible, like most $100,000-plus cars at the show – unless you ask very, very nicely.

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