A Road Tripper Is Born… Lessons Learned from Driving to Florida

Driving to Florida from Toronto is how we got our start as a road-tripping family…

I can’t believe how long it’s been since our first family road trip – driving to Florida from Toronto. This trip would never have happened without the sad occasion of a death in the family. But the experience ended on a positive note with a visit to Walt Disney World. Ultimately, it changed the way we view travel. The world (or at the very least, the Eastern Seaboard) is now our oyster. It is so freeing to no longer depend on airlines (and airfares) to make our travel dreams a reality.

We pulled together and planned our journey in less than a week, which was entirely out of necessity. I made some good decisions about what and how to pack, as well as about our route and how to follow it. This made our two 21+ hour journeys not the dreaded slogs we feared they would be.

So now we’re not afraid of hitting the highway with our kids in tow. Since driving to Florida, our other road trips seem easy! We’ve done North Carolina, Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York. And we’re looking forward to planning more road trips together. In the meantime, I’d love to share some learnings to inspire you to hit the road with your kids…

Road Trip Advice Learned by Driving to Florida…

1) Drive through the night

We started our first leg of driving to Florida by night. Our kids actually slept for almost 12 hours of the first 18-hour leg. We left home around 9pm in the evening. My husband was fortified by a nap that afternoon and plenty of coffee. The deal was that I was to sleep in the front passenger seat, and take over when he needed to rest. We made a pact that if either of us was just too tired, we’d stop at the nearest hotel. No question. We agreed that getting there safely took priority to getting there quickly. However, we were happy to be able to do both.

2) Don’t stop if you don’t need to

We received some sage advice from friends who were more seasoned road trippers than us… Just. Keep. Driving. Stops are obviously necessary for fuel but, unless it’s the kids that need the washroom, it’s best to try to carry-on through as much as possible. Stopping can be disruptive with everyone piling out of the car and piling into the gas station/convenience store/fast-food restaurant, etc. What you anticipate being a quickie five-minute break can quickly turn into a 30-minute delay. No matter how hungry you are or how badly you need the bathroom, try not to pull over unless it’s one of the kids that require you to stop.

3) Keep key necessities within reach…

I was the key navigator and wing-person, so I was well-versed with where everything was in the car and how to access it. For our basic drink and snack needs everything was within my reach. It was either at my feet or underneath the kids’ feet. And I had a stash of wipes, medicine, and emergency plastic bags (which we did not need, thankfully!) also at the ready.

4) Fresh and healthy snacks are worth the effort…

When we travel I usually keep my kids munching with less-than-nutritious salty snacks they view as treats and I use sometimes as bribes encouragement. However, for this road trip I packed a cooler with sliced fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as cheese cubes. I was surprised (and delighted!) with the snacks everyone chose and obviously preferred. Sit-down meals take up a lot of time, especially with kids. I was hoping to keep those to a minimum while driving to Florida as well. Packing bagels with peanut butter and cream cheese held us over so we could avoid those big stops for meals.

5) Keep the tech uncomplicated, and to a minimum if possible…

This trip was pre- our kids having their own devices. This was probably a bonus, to be honest. We calculated roughly how many movies and/or shows we’d need during our kids’ awake time during the drives. And since we left after their bedtimes, they weren’t allowed to watch anything for the start of our drive. I’m certain they fell asleep and slept as well as they did because they weren’t stimulated or distracted by the tablet. We agreed that movies and shows would be the main use of the device. Apps and games could only be played if the other was sleeping.

This was also the time of expensive data. I usually relied on free WiFi to check email on my phone. However, no such luxury was available during our drive. I purchased a travel plan for my phone and only turned on data to check and load new messages. Then I turned it right off again. I also printed out the maps and guides that I saved on my iPad, *just in case* I had a technological failure. Luckily none happened but I was prepared!

Saving Money by Driving to Florida…

We figured we saved thousands of dollars by driving to Florida from Toronto instead of flying. It was the holidays, it was last minute, and we would have needed to rent a car once we arrived.

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2 Responses to A Road Tripper Is Born… Lessons Learned from Driving to Florida

  1. Hi Corinne

    wow, Toronto to Florida is a long way. We lived in the DC area for several years and did the Floriday road trip a couple of times. It was a long trip and we stayed in a few pretty average motels along the way. Perhaps we should have taken your advice and driven through the night.

    The kids had got to the age where we could put movies on a laptop for them and get a bit of peace. I remember driving back one time where my wife and I were listening to an audio book (Clive Cussler – kind of thriller/mystery) and the kids had stopped what they were watching and were listening too. Must have been a great story : )


    • Corinne at #

      Love the idea of audiobooks – I always forget about those!

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