ten tips for happier, and less expensive, road trips with the kiddos

Two weeks till schools pile full with kids who might write a paper titled, What I Did Last Summer. Get your road trip on and enjoy the ride! How to save a little and have more fun on your road trip? Here are ten tips from our travelling repertoire:

1. Don’t rent a four star Holiday Inn room for a quick stop. Those mom n’ pop roadside motels were meant for a drive-up sleep. And though you may be giving up aesthetics and pillowtop mattresses, an extra $50 to a $100 in your pocket to cover the basics for a good night’s sleep are yours.

2. Even if there’s a twelve hour day drive and your kids are four hours past their bedtime (true story, ooy), unless you’re transferring a sleeper from a carseat to bed, let them play at a playground or rent a room with a pool to burn off that energy. The pool is worth it.

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3. Rent the room with the breakfast–one morning of toasted WonderBread or waffles for breakfast won’t kill you. Organic, locally grown, gluten free can wait another day. And make sure you take a piece of fruit from the fruit bowl for a snack later. The kids love to serve themselves, sit at a separate table and you can find a hotel newspaper offering and find your own quiet space for fifteen minutes. The hotel staff prepares. They clean up. And you are on your way.

4. Ask for the best price. I think I watched an Oprah show, back in the day, that said you are expected to barter in jewelry shops, car dealerships and hotels. Pay full price? You’re burning the greenbacks. All you have to do is ask. No schmoozing required. “What is your best price?” It works.

5. Don’t pull out the videos until you have to. No need to head to the dollar store for new junk. You’ve probably already got old junk they’re not playing with. But pack a book, a journal, a sampling of their favourite toys (though Lego may never be found again in the Bermuda “Minivan” Triangle) and let them play play play. Give them games to do together. And also insist on quiet times every couple hours. Bring out the videos as a last ditch effort to quell the driving fatigue.

6. Let them pee. Be realistic about stops. We once drove from 0500 (the Alaska ferry dropped us off) until 11 at night. Four kids. One was a toddler. Not recommended. Eight hours driving is a long time to sit in a seat. Frequent pitstops to visit bathrooms, museums, playgrounds and short hikes break up the day. Be merciful! Regular pitstops make it feel like a vacation not a torture chamber.

7. Buy a picnic lunch and head to the park or beach. After a couple days, road food loses its verve. Bring yourself to a grocery store. No matter what you buy in the confines of these four walls, you will still have spent far less than the restaurant mark-up. And instead of sitting, again, in a restaurant, the kids can run happily to the playground after they’ve scarfed down two bites of their sandwich. Win win.

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8. And when you do head to a restaurant, make sure it’s one you want to enjoy and you order a la famille. Didn’t know that the serving size of that hotcakes was portioned for two truck drivers? You won’t have to be concerned when you know that three kids are eating it. You can always order more. Or, amuse yourself with roadside snacks later anyway. If European restaurants can serve food this way, so can we.

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9. Think memories, not quiet and orderly. Cause it’s not gonna happen. Can we repeat the mantra: ‘self-defeating expectations’. Remember, your driving trip vacation means you’re securing yourself into a 9×11 rectangle on wheels (I assume you’re as uncool as me in my mommyvan) for eight hours.


10. Have fun! Like you needed to be told this. But those moments when the tire needs changing eight hours from civilization, you’re bumping around an African hospital ambulance for a three hour drive to the airport, or the plane will be late four hours and you get to wander an International airport with four children at bedtime, those are the memories you’ll happily recall later. (PS true stories;)



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