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Traveling with Kids? 10 Tips You Should Know Before You Drive (PLUS Enter to Win!)

Posted by Claire | Thursday March 29, 201220 comments

I received free samples from Procter and Gamble in preparation of writing this piece. This post reflects my personal opinion and was not influenced by the sponsors.

Roadtripping is not only an economical way to travel; it also presents a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in your vacation in a way that an exclusive upscale resort could never offer (i.e. knee deep in crushed Cheetos and other detritus liberally sprinkled with apple juice droplets).

We hit the road often with our three children, pushing our trusty minivan to within an inch of its extended-warrantee life.  Along the way, we learned some useful tips to curb rascally behaviour and keep our van less… landfill-like.

#1 –Janitorial supplies
Stash bottles of hand sanitizer in every zone of your vehicle along with wet wipes and barf bags filched from your last trip by airplane.  Keep a goodly supply of plastic shopping bags to stay one step ahead of the trash that will begin to accumulate even before you back out of the driveway.

#2 – In-flight snacks
Don’t bring home cooking into your car. It will not get eaten – trust me.  Allow your snacking rules to relax a little during travel.  The little rugrats don’t like being cooped up for hours, so you should ease up.  I buy a small quantity of empty snack options and ration them out alternately with the better snack choices.

#3 – Meals on the road
The only person in this world who wants to make better time on the road than my husband… is me.  We don’t stop at sit-down restaurants, but if we hit the Golden Arches at every exit, we’ll pay for every McDouble in backseat gas blooms.  We try to make at least half of our stops at a Subway or Quiznos for a larger healthy fast food menu.

#4 – Car fresheners
Speaking of backseat gas blooms, an inevitable part of rocketing across the country in a squat silver canister for 8-10 hours solid is the stinky mélange of bodily functions, gas station coffee, and leftover food.  Don’t forget to pack a car freshener that is up to the task.  We’re using a Febreze Car Vent clip, which doesn’t just mask the unpleasant odours, it eliminates them for up to 30 days (on low, under ambient conditions).  I cannot stress enough how important that is.

#5 – Subscribe to CAA/AAA
It’s more than your piece of mind in the event of a breakdown; CAA/AAA membership scores you discounts at everything from hotels and restaurants to admission fees.  We have paid for our membership many times over and have yet to use it for an actual car emergency.

#6 – Buy a GPS with Lifetime Maps
Now is not the time to cheap out with the most economical GPS model.  I bought my mister a GPS with lifetime map upgrade for Christmas that allows us to refresh the latest road maps in North America four times per year.  I’ll never again have the smug satisfaction of asking my hubby if we’re lost.

#7 – Prepare for the worst
Pack warm blankets, flashlights, batteries, an umbrella, First Aid kit, and a small stash of non-perishable food regardless of what time of year you are traveling.  Even with your CAA/AAA membership, it can take a while for a repair truck or emergency vehicle to reach you and it’s best to be prepared.

#8 – Stop at a hotel with a pool
You might not want to spend the extra money but you really, really should.  Those kids have been pretty well behaved (all things considered) and you want them to get their energy out in the pool instead of upstairs in the room when you want to sleep.  This is especially true if you have to travel more than 1 day to get to your destination.

#9 – Be flexible in your scheduling
Try to schedule your hard driving time early in the morning (starting no later than 6 a.m.) and late into the evening.  Assume that you will lose a lot of time during midday and be prepared to roll with the punches.  One year we stopped off at a rest stop that had huge bushes of berries growing along a pretty little creek.  We passed a pleasant hour wading in the creek and collecting berries – definitely worth the time spent.

#10 – Learn to love Redbox
If you have a DVD player in your vehicle, congratulations on selling out like the rest of us and saving your sanity!  Movies from home get old really quickly, and because you can return kiosk movies to any location, it’s a convenient fix to “Are we there yet?” 

Do you have any roadtripping tips and tricks to share?  Post a comment below, and don’t forget to enter our contest for your chance to win a $100 gas gift card plus a CAR Vent Clip from Febreze!

* No purchase necessary. Limit of one entry per person. Open only to residents of Canada (excluding Quebec), must be age of majority. Contest closes April 29, 2012. Skill testing question required. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Total approximate retail value of Febreze Car prize pack is $102.99 CDN. See full rules.
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on April 02, 2012  kitntrip  737 said:

On a road trip from Edmonton to Banff, then Banff to Jasper, I learned the hard way there is practically zero rest stops. This might sound gross but really saved my 3 yr old. Bring or keep an empty bottle to use for little boys who need to pee but refuse or it's too cold to pee outside.

on March 30, 2012  mamaluv  STAFF said:

@shuey - sadly, I am EXTREMELY familiar with Red Green ;)

on March 30, 2012  LadyChick234234  3,701 said:


on March 30, 2012  MizzRobin  13,788 said:

These are some great suggestions! I will have to pass this article along to friends to read!

on March 30, 2012  shuey  2,784 said:

Thanks Mamaluv~ when my kids were little I called duct tape "the mother's handy girl tool" lol
Similar to Red Green if you are familar with him

on March 30, 2012  mamaluv  STAFF said:

@Shuey - while I realize your comment was made jokingly (and probably in reference to naughty behaviour ;)), it's actually a great tip! Many mishaps can happen on the road and duct tape is the MacGyver product (i.e. can fix almost anything). Great idea!

on March 30, 2012  shuey  2,784 said:

Duct tape~ Always have duct tape on hand when traveling with kids...BAhaaaa~ sorry couldnt help myself

on March 29, 2012  Aliza  13,970 said:

Great tips! Happy travels!

on March 29, 2012  Ali de Bold  STAFF said:

Haha! Great tips! Gas blooms. So funny!!

on March 29, 2012  takoda  28,648 said:

Nope no tips I can think of. I think you covered everything I was going to say. Good job Claire and happy travels to all of you.

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