Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Real Man Travels: 5 Tips for Family Road Trips

A post by Justin K

It’s pretty clear that the crew at RMT enjoys a good road trip. Being the road trip master, I can’t help but offer up a few tips for a successful road trip. A little background here: since relocating to Thunder Bay, my better half and I (along with the kids and dogs that have been added to the family), have road tripped the 1400+ kilometers back to Alliston, Ontario every year, usually twice. The fastest we’ve managed is 14 hours; the slowest, 18 hours with the average time usually clocking in between 15 and 16 hours. So without further delay here are my top five tips for a successful road trip:

Preface: Always make sure you’ve checked and double checked your vehicle, like a real man. Oil, tranny/brake/power steering fluids, coolant levels and tire pressures are a good place to start. Also check your brakes/tires for signs of wear. The last thing anybody needs is to be stranded in the middle of nowhere with a screaming family and broken down vehicle. And, for the love of God, make sure your jack, wheel wrench and spare tire (no not your beer belly) are all ready to go. Also, if you’re road tripping during the winter months like me, a good set of winter tires is essential.

Food/Snacks

If there’s one thing I’ve learned raising my kids it’s that a hungry child is an angry child. Keeping any toddler in a car seat for 15 hours is bound to make them angry at some point during the trip; keeping their favourite snacks in the car will go a long way to alleviate some of their frustrations. I’ve also found that snacking while driving helps keep you awake. Feeling a little tired? Whip out the Sour Patch Kids and munch away.

Olivia enjoying her chocolate chip cookie

Music/Entertainment

Portable DVD players, LeapFrog tablets and old cellphones loaded with games will become your best friend on a long haul road trip. These help keep the kids entertained and if your kids are anything like mine, a good movie on the DVD player can help lull them to sleep. Also, bring headphones for the kids. I don’t know about you, but I’ve hit my Dora the Explorer threshold. If I have to listen to the “I speak Spanish and English too” song one more time, bad things will happen. Which brings me to music. With headphones firmly inserted into your kidlets ears, feel free to pop in/connect your favourite music. If you’re road tripping with other people, don’t be selfish, share the radio. I find that compilation albums work best if you’re still rocking the CD player, or shuffle on a phone/MP3 player if you can. I find that mixing it up helps to keep it fresh. Multiple genres too.

 Gavin napping after wearing himself out with his LeapPad

Stops/Breaks

Have a good idea of your vehicle's fuel range to gauge when you’ll need to fuel up. Use these opportunities to hit the bathrooms and grab a coffee. You’ll likely need to stop more often than your vehicle does, especially if you’re travelling with small children. Limit the amount of water/juice the kids drink to ensure you’re not stopping every 30 minutes. Often times it will be long stretches between bathrooms so, unless your little guy is cool with doing his biz outdoors, plan accordingly. Also, make sure that if you ever get drowsy on the road, pull over, switch drivers (if you can) or do some exercises on the side of the road, seriously. It helps wake you up and keeps you, your family and everybody else on the road safe. Energy drinks can be your friend when doing long trips.

Pack Light

Check out Ed’s packing post for some tips/tricks on packing light. Bring what you need, leave what you don’t. It really is that simple. That said, the more people you bring, the more stuff you’ll have. Travelling with two kids and two dogs (and golf clubs of course) typically results in a packed minivan. Not to mention all the stuff that your family sends you back with.

Layla, our eight week old Rottie, dans un laundry basket

Timing

Have a good idea of how long it will take you to get where you’re going as well as the stops along the way. If I know that my road trip is going to take 15-16 hours, I like to leave early in the morning so that I get to my destination at a reasonable hour. I hate getting to my destination at 10 p.m.. After being in the car all day, everybody’s tired and cranky, and to be very honest, I just like to get where I’m going so I can get out of the car, relax and crack a beer.

Do you have any tips/tricks for successful road trips? Scribe them in the comments section below! We always love to hear from our readers!

About the Author

Justin Kierstead is a content creator for Real Man Travels. He is also the site's northernmost writer and a proud father of 2. If he isn't playing video games he is engineering stuff. Connect with Justin on Twitter or Instagram.

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