We’ve always loved a good road trip, but over the last couple of years we’ve done more road tripping than usual and it’s been so, so wonderful. If you follow along over on Instagram or Facebook, you know I’ve been lucky enough to work with Toyota Pacific for the last few years and upgrading to a new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has definitely taken our road trip game to the next level. It’s by far the most reliable, efficient, and safe vehicle I’ve ever owned and it feels SO good knowing that everything is just going to work while we’re on the road. Also, the fact that it’s a hybrid has made road trips significantly more affordable, which is a massive plus given the current cost of fuel. Some of my favourite road trip features? Dynamic radar cruise control (seriously so helpful), rain sensing wipers (the best), lane departure alert (safety!), and the digital rear view mirror (perhaps my most loved feature). Toyota Pacific has generously sponsored this post, as well as an incredible giveaway to help out with your next road trip, so be sure to read all the way to the end for details on how to enter.
We’ve road tripped A LOT with our two kids and I must say – we’ve become pretty darn good at it! After YEARS of road tripping with kids, very often as the solo parent and driver, I’ve learned exactly what needs to happen for happy, low-stress road trips. Here are my best tips for taking road trips with kids…
Clean out the vehicle beforehand – If you want to start your road trip off on the right foot, this is where to start. A clean vehicle with all of the extra stuff taken out makes SUCH a difference for me. The night before we head out on a road trip, I wash and chamois my vehicle, take all of the garbage and extra stuff out, then vacuum the carpets and give everything a wipe down. While I’m out I also stop and top up both fuel and washer fluid if needed. Then when morning comes and you’re ready to head out, you’re actually ready to head out – no stops needed.
Pack lightly – I’m all about thinking ahead and having everything you’ll need, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned through all of the travel we’ve been lucky enough to do is that when it comes to STUFF, less is more. Too much usually just equals chaos in my opinion, and in a vehicle that stuff can very quickly end up sprawled out EVERYWHERE. We always try to bring one suitcase for the family and if we’re going to be gone a while, we only pack clothes for half of the days we’ll be away with the plan of washing them part way through. Each kid gets to bring one small backpack filled with things to occupy them, and that’s it. If it doesn’t fit, it generally doesn’t come.
Prepare an activity kit – Okay, so on top of backpacks filled with their personal belongings, I always keep an organizer filled with car-friendly activities in the backseat. These are generally things that are quiet, low-mess, and reusable or usable for long periods of time. Think sketchbooks with pencils and twistable crayons, sticker activities books, road trip bingo games, magic marker activity books, pen and paper game pads, paint-by-sticker books, and notepads with colourful pens… Nothing with itty bitty pieces or caps that can be lost in the shuffle. Before a road trip I’ll often clean up our organizer and switch out a couple of activities or add something new. Happily engaged kids make for easier road trips.
Bring books – This is a MUST for us being that our kids are such big book lovers. We pack them along in their backpacks and both kids spend a good amount of our road trips reading and flipping through books. Choosing good ones – books that’ll keep their interest for a long while – is something I often help them with. For Gracen, my veracious reader, lengthy novels with storylines that really pique her interest do the trick. For Sam, reference-style books with lots of illustrations that he can flip back and forth in without having to be able to read all of the text are best. If we’re headed to the ocean, we’ll often bring an ocean anatomy book. If we’re headed to the mountains, we might bring a nature anatomy book… Something that will spark conversation and be useful while at our destination too. That being said, any book with lots of detailed illustrations, bits of info, flaps with hidden things underneath, etc. are usually a big hit.
Pack along a meal – So I know that there’s already SO much to do the night before a road trip, but I promise – if you’re able to make time to pack a couple of bento boxes and a few snacks, it’ll make for smooth sailing the next day. I always do our usual snacky lunch and focus on nutritious, easy-to-enjoy-in-a-moving-vehicle foods. All things the kids like – no spoons or forks required. Having a lunch packed and ready to go means that you’re prepared for whenever the kids are hungry and rather than trying to scout out a suitable option somewhere along the highway, you already have what you need and can just pass the bento boxes into the back seat.
Have a front seat basket – Speaking of bento boxes, I always keep a basket in the passenger seat that contains everything we’ll need during the trip. Lunches, my purse, our reusable water bottles, my reusable coffee cup, extra snacks, and anything else we may need. This makes them easily accessible, but tucked out of the way until they’re needed. One thing I try to keep in mind here (and when packing for a road trip in general) is that anything that’s loose in your vehicle has the potential to become a projectile in an accident. I try to keep things light and secured down as much as possible, but water bottles are definitely tricky.
Make time for stops – My number one tip for happy, low-stress road trips with kids… Don’t rush the trip. Plan for it to take a couple of hours longer than it “should”, make peace with that, and then make stops along the way. Let the kids out to stretch their legs. Stop at that beautiful roadside pull out. Visit the cute cafe in the little town you’re passing through. It’s so tempting to try and power through to your destination and make it there as quickly as possible, but for us, all that usually results in is stressed out parents and unhappy kids. Not worth it. Everyone seems to be happier and more chill when there’s no pressure to arrive in record time.
Bring thin blankets – You know those muslin blankets you have stashed away from when your kids were babies? They’re perfect for road trips. I actually learned this tip from my friend Lizzie and we’ve brought them along with us on our travels ever since. They’re super lightweight and fold up small, so they’re easy to pack along, but also, they’re good for allllll of the things. Use them for some extra warmth and coziness in the car, but also as a neck pillow, a sun shade, and a picnic blanket on your stop. They’re very multi-purpose and great to have on hand.
Pack along old phones + headphones – My secret travel weapon. We generally go fairly low tech when road tripping (just my preference – nothing wrong with doing it differently!), but old phones / iPods loaded with the kids’ favourite songs and audio books? LIFE SAVERS. I don’t pull them out until I need to, but in those final hours of a15 hour trip? Or on those days when you just can’t muster up the energy to answer question number 567? They’re the best. The kids love getting to use them and total silence on a long trip, even if it’s just for a short while, can be just what you need.
Well, that’s them!! What would you add? Do you have a tried and true road trip tip that makes travelling with kids easier or more stress-free? I’d love to hear if so!
ALSO – do you have a road trip planned this fall? Because Toyota Pacific has generously offered to fund one lucky winner’s next road trip with a $500 prepaid Visa card to help fuel all the fun! (Doesn’t get much better than having your adventures paid for, does it?!) You can enter for your chance to win here:
Contest closes at 5:00 p.m. PST on September 12, 2022. Retail value: $500.00 CDN. Must be 19+ and reside in BC or the Yukon to enter. Winner will be drawn at random at or around 9 A.M. on Tuesday, September 13, 2022 and will be announced here and via Instagram.
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