It’s fall, the perfect time of the year to load up the car with your crew and hit the road for an unforgettable family adventure. The allure is undeniable: There’s the beauty of the changing leaves, whether you’re exploring your home province or going further afield. The attractions are less crowded than in the summer, and the weather is more temperate. We know that travelling with kids can be tricky, but we’ve got your back! Here are seven simple road-trip tips—including everything you need to keep safe—to make sure getting there is really half the fun.
Safety first! Before you do anything, check to see that the kids’ car seats are in good condition and properly installed. To put your minds at ease, the experts at Diono, Canada’s safest car seats, have a handy set of videos for simple installation of their car seats. Some key reminders: Whether it’s a rear-facing or forward-facing seat, the chest clip on your child’s harness should always be placed at armpit level. This keeps the harness snugly on your child’s shoulders (rather than drooping off) for maximum safety. For forward-facing models, you should also always use the tether that comes with the seat. The top tether provides additional safety, keeping the head from hitting the seat in front in the event of a collision. Check out more of Diono’s safety tips here.
Before you pack your bags, make sure your vehicle is up to date on any routine maintenance, check your tires, and confirm that your first aid kit is fully stocked. Make sure you tuck in a printed copy of emergency contact info for your doctors, friends and family who need to be notified in case of an emergency.
Diono seats not only offer peace of mind—including top-of-line side-impact protection and steel alloy frames—but they’re also super-comfortable. So if your child has been complaining of not wanting to strap into their seat, fit may be an issue. As the Diono folks say: “The right car seat is the one that fits your vehicle, fits your child, and the one you will use correctly every time you travel.” To make long, sun-drenched drives more comfortable, pop on a pair of Dino sun shades—like the Sun Stopper, a side-window solar mesh panels that minimizes brightness and glare. And if you happen to have a trio of little ones to transport, their Radian rXT model provides great comfort and fit three-across most mid-sized vehicles.
Your GPS will come in handy for getting you from Point A to Point B, but chances are you’ll be making plenty of stops along the way. Do your research and map out your complete route in advance so you’re not scrambling to find a washroom in an unfamiliar location. In addition to rest stops, look for fun and interesting places to stop along the way. Your route may include an unusual attraction, a stop at a fall fair, or an overnight stay at a kid-friendly hotel. You’ll want to leave some wiggle room for the unexpected, of course, but having a detailed plan ahead of time will help keep stress to a minimum when you’re on the road.
Are you hitting the road bright and early, or loading your kids into their car seats after sunset? For or a smoother ride, it may help to try to plan your timing around your child’s usual sleeping and eating schedule. A post-lunch departure may mean your journey begins with your kiddo’s afternoon nap. Or if you’re comfortable driving at night, heading out just before your child’s bedtime may mean cruising down the highway all night while they snooze in the backseat. There are plenty of factors to consider when it comes to timing, but remember that cranky kids and an over-stressed driver are a recipe for disaster, so make sure everyone is well rested and as content as possible before you buckle up. If you’re travelling with an infant, keep a bottle at the ready using the Diono Warm ‘n Go Deluxe, a stretch neoprene sleeve outfitted with a heating element that plugs into any 12V car socket—it warms drinks and even food quickly and evenly and fits into a cup holder, or hangs from a dashboard.
No one wants to deal with a toddler meltdown 20 minutes into a six-hour drive. Keep little ones entertained with a variety of age-appropriate entertainment options, including DIY car games, mess-free colouring books, small toys, a great road trip sing-along playlist, and a tablet loaded with their favourite apps and TV show episodes. Economize space by tucking all of these items into the pockets of a Diono Stow and Go, a nifty and tidy waterproof organizer that straps on to the back of the passenger or driver’s seat, and holds everything your child would want to reach.
No matter how patient your little ones are, they’re bound to get antsy after being cooped up in the car for a while. Aim to stop every two to three hours to let the whole family stretch and get some fresh air. For toddlers and young kids, keep a soccer ball easily accessible for a bit of rest-stop exercise, or find a park where they can run and play.
If you’re trying to keep drive-through visits to a minimum on your road trip, we’ve got lots of healthy snack ideas that are perfect for little foodies (and car-friendly, too!). Try these Chewy Chocolate Quinoa Oat Bars, Homemade Trail Mix, and Strawberry Fruit Leather. For something a little more filling, stash some homemade muffins, and fresh cut fruit and veggies in a cooler.
For more road trip ideas, check out our list of Road Trip Hacks and What to Pack.