When I was 11, we moved to London, Ontario and a short time later, my sister got married and moved to Florida. For many years afterwards, vacations were spent in Florida and I was lucky enough to visit amazing places like Walt Disney World, Sea World, and Busch Gardens regularly. I’ll never forget the first time I got to share a hug with Pooh Bear, to do a little dance in the streets of the Magic Kingdom with Minnie Mouse, to get a little scare in the Haunted Mansion (my all-time favourite Disney ride), to hold a live starfish in my hand, and to pet a dolphin, a rhinoceros, and a beluga.
Since then, I’ve been on even more travel adventures with my daughter and extended family. I still have some of the souvenirs I collected from these trips on display in my home and every time I look at them, I fondly remember those happy memories we built on those trips.
Whether travelling with little kids or big ones, I’ve learned a few tips that have helped us make those road trips as smooth and comfortable as possible.
Here are my top 10 favourite road trip travel tips:
1. Bring along an inflatable travel pillow. The great thing about the inflatable kind is that you can adjust the amount of air in it to serve different purposes: neck pillow, lumbar support, and so on. I actually like to bring two. One I use for my neck and one for my back.
2. You might want to take an eye mask so you can block out light when needed. When it’s my son-in-law’s turn to drive, it’s great to be able to put the mask on and catch a few ZZZs no matter how bright the sun is. Sunglasses are also invaluable for protecting everyone’s eyes from light and glare.
3. Earplugs or noise cancelling headphones can also be helpful in shutting out any unwanted sounds. We also like to create our own playlists – some of uplifting energetic music and others with relaxing, soothing sounds. If you’re traveling with little ones, be sure to include some of their favourites too! I like to bring along ear buds as well so I can listen to my own music or books on CD whenever I want.
4. Food. Having a few little snacks along can be a big help in warding off the grumpies. When we travel by car, we always have a cooler with us and some fresh water in a large cooler jug. We’ve travelled through miles and miles of countryside where apparently everything shuts down at 9 pm and we had no way to get any kind of food or drinks at the time. Our own supply in the vehicle was a lifesaver! This was a great way to economize and eat healthier too. No need to pay $4 for a snack from the hotel vending machine or eat yet one more fast food meal.
5. Spare clothing is another essential if travelling with little ones or those with health conditions. This includes extra diapers or Depends if needed. I also find it refreshing if driving a long distance to be able to put on a fresh pair of socks or t-shirt. You might want to throw a pair of slippers in the car too. They can make you feel really cozy!
6. Dress in layers or bring along a sweater/jacket or a blanket. Even if travelling in your own vehicle, some occupants of the car may like it to be warmer/cooler than others and you’ll want to be able to make it as comfortable as you can for everyone.
7. Devices like e-readers and tablets make it easy to carry a lot of content in one small item– reading material, games, movies and so on – along with you so that you have a variety of entertainment available for kids and adults alike. If you have Netflix, there are some titles that you can download ahead of time and play offline. Be sure to stock up before you leave.
8. Think ahead to any potential issues you might encounter along the way. Wet wipes and paper towels can be a huge help in dealing with spilled drinks or messy foods. Or put some wet cloths in wet bags if you prefer something reusable. Wet bags or Ziplocs can be great for holding wet bathing suits, potentially leaky toiletries, and treasures that the kids might find too.
9. Cameras and mini binoculars are great for allowing the travellers to focus on the sights around them and this will often keep them busy (and provide an enhanced travel experience!) for hours. You can also use index cards to write down or draw pictures of sights you expect to see along the way. These can be used almost as a scavenger hunt of sorts and make the trip a little more interesting.
10. We try to travel in as relaxed a manner as possible. When we need to stop to eat, drink, go to the bathroom, or just stretch our legs, we do. We often bring an inflatable ball or Frisbee along with us so that we have something active to do at rest stops. If possible, let the kids research some of the sights along the way – be flexible and open to slight detours off the beaten path to take in some of these sights if you can. We try not to be so tied into our plans that we can’t easily adjust them as needed in response to changing moods.
Road trips can be a really fun way to get your family to your vacation destination if you plan ahead!
What are your favourite tried and true road trip travel tips?