Thinking about Scotiabank’s Around The World With $20k Contest is bringing to mind our most life-altering trip. I can’t believe it’s been over a year since our drive 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 family travel. The world (or at the very least, the Eastern Seaboard) is now our oyster, and we are no longer dependent 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, all which made our two 21+ hour journeys not the dreaded slogs we feared they could be.
So now we’re not afraid of hitting the open road with our kids in tow, and we’re looking forward to planning our summer adventures together. In the meantime, I’d love to share some learnings to inspire you to hit the road with your family in tow…
Road Trip Tips for Road Trippers…
1) Drive through the night
The first leg of our journey started at night, and our kids actually slept for almost 12 of our first 18-hour leg. We left home around 9pm in the evening, and 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 also made a pact that if either of us was just too tired, we’d stop at the nearest hotel to rest, without question. We agreed that getting there safely took priority to getting there quickly, but 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 are more seasoned road trippers than us – and that was to 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, and what you anticipate being a quickie 5-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
Since I was to be the key navigator and wing-person, I knew I had to be well-versed with where everything was in the car and how I could access it if needed. And for our basic drink and snack needs I had everything within my reach – 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 my feet at the ready.
4) Fresh and healthy snacks are worth the effort
When we travel I usually keep my kids munching with less-than-nutritional salty snacks that they view as treats and I use sometimes as “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. And since sit-down meals take up a lot of time, especially with kids, I was hoping to keep those to a minimum during our trip 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
We calculated roughly how many movies and/or shows we’d need during our kids’ awake time during the drives. Since we left after their bedtimes, they weren’t allowed to watch anything for the start of our drive, and 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, and apps and games could only be played if the other was sleeping. For myself I usually rely on free WiFi to check email on my phone, but no such luxury was available during our drive. I purchased a travel plan for my phone, only turned on data to check and load new messages (and then turned it right off again) and printed out the maps and guides that I also had saved on my iPad, *just in case* I had a technological failure. Luckily none happened but I was prepared!
We figured we saved thousands by driving to Florida instead of flying. It was the holidays, it was last minute, and we would have had to rent a car once we arrived. The great irony is that if we had used a credit card with a points program like the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card, we would have earned up to 4 times the travel reward points on things like gas and groceries, so we could have actually earned while we travelled, and put those points towards a future family vacation. Even better would be to win $20,000 to put towards a dream trip – Scotiabank’s Around The World In $20k Contest can help you do just that!
**This post is supported by the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card, but all opinions remain my own.**