Road Trip Hacks and What to Pack

Heading out on a family road trip? We've got tips on what to hack and what to pack—so that your trip will be completely carefree.


Everyone loves a good road trip, don’t they? Getting in the car and driving somewhere fun, spending the day, a weekend or even a week there and then driving home? That’s how most of us spent our childhoods. Crammed into the back of our dad’s station wagon, playing Crazy Eights or singing loudly about Black Socks while our parents somehow managed to navigate the roads safely (and without kicking even one child out of the car).

These days it seems many parents don’t love road trips the way ours did. Jetting off to a distant land where the beaches are warm and the drinks are ample is more their style…but while we are fans of the Caribbean vacay, we also love the age-old tradition of road trips. So to encourage more Canadian parents to love them too, we’ve gathered a list of things you can easily hack and stuff you should definitely not forget to pack.

So get in the car this weekend, with a destination planned—or not—and drive. Go for the day or the whole weekend. Enjoy the journey as much as (or more than) the destination. Go ahead. We dare you to travel the road less travelled.

What (and How) to Hack:


DIY Road Trip Bingo

Turn a simple cutting board into an awesome travel bingo game with a little help from these instructions and colourful templates.

Shoe organizer over back of seats for games.

No, YOU just became an award-winning photographer this summer on your road trip. Use elastics or tiny bungee cords to strap a smartphone to the passenger side sun visor (facing out the window, obvi) and your photos or vids will come out crystal clear.

dropped-pin4. PUT A PIN IN IT
When stopping for something to eat or to look at something amazing en route or in a strange city, simply drop a pin in your Google Maps App on your mobile device. Then, feel free to wander, worry-free…Siri can always help you find your way back (and it’s way more effective than bread crumbs).

Instead of sipping the bits of melted water out of the bottom of a totally frozen water bottle for hours on end, fill a bottle only half-way overnight. Then fill the rest up with water when you leave on your trip. Voila! Cold water at your fingertips with no slurping (not that there’s anything wrong with slurping).

10 minutes and a trip to the dollar store is all you need to craft this sweet all-in-one tic-tac-toe game.

Make a super simple, really reliable activity tray for the littles out of a cookie sheet. You can give wee ones magnetic fridge toys and you can use it as a lap desk for older ones to do homework or play cards on.


DIY Car Phone Holder

Need something to hold your phone at near-to-eye-level while driving and taking directions from Siri (or whomever lives inside your Android phone)? This amazing MacGyver of a binder clip and a few rubber bands and hair ties is amazing. We’re definitely making one today…just to say we did!

So you don’t get absolutely gouged on gas on your trip (after any hotels it will be your major money burner), use an app like GasBuddy to check prices of gas stations in the area before filling up.

It is quite literally the best, most useful thing in the world. Pack a roll or two in the car. Use it to do just about anything.

To keep the littles quiet and happy, sometimes you have to put away the road trip bingo and turn on the internet so they can play Minecraft or watch Netflix. To do this on a roadtrip you’re going to need WiFi in your vehicle. There are three super simple ways to achieve this.

(1) Set your phone up as a hot spot and run their devices through that

(2) Purchase a Mobile hot spot device (a small router that allows multiple devices to connect to the internet simultaneously)

(3) Plan ahead (or go back in time) and buy a vehicle that comes with WiFi (like the Chevy Spark, which comes with a built in 4G LTE WiFi hotspot that can connect up to seven devices).

bag-with-cutlery12. BYOU/N/S
Pack a bag with napkins, straws and utensils to make eating on-the-go that much easier and less messy.

If you find your headlights are dimmer than you’d like while on your trip you can clean them easily and inexpensively with toothpaste. Apply toothpaste to the plastic lens cover with a cloth and thoroughly rub it in all over the lens. Then rinse off completely with clean water and dry. For further protection going forward, use a furniture polish or car wax with UV protection.

Hook a mesh bungee net (usually used to strap bike helmets to the back seat or fender) to the handles to use as extra storage. You can put anything up there (coats, hats, gloves etc) that you don’t want on you car floor. Most car roofs these days are curved so whatever you’re storing shouldn’t be in the backseat passengers line of site or block the view out of the rear window.

If you get stuck in the mud (which almost always happens in the Spring), use your floor mats as traction. Then toss  them in the trunk and keep going. Easy peasy!


What to Pack:


Minecraft Card Game

Want the littles to turn off the iPad for a bit? Get this game. Based on the hit video game, players have the opportunity to mine, craft or reserve to win. Players “mine” Resource Cards then use those cards to “craft” Craft Cards for points, but watch out, TNT and Creeper cards are hiding in the deck for unexpected upsets. Available at Toys ‘R Us, $16.99 (Ages 8+).

Head to the library (or book online and pick them up on your way out of town) and grab a few audio books that will appeal to the whole family. Titles like Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, The Chronicles of Narnia, How to Train Your Dragon and The Lightning Thief are fantastic.

simon18. MINI GAMES
Simon is a road trip fave from our own childhoods, but now it comes in a smaller size! Watch the lights and remember the order so you can repeat every sequence for the win. Play alone or with friends in pass it mode. Available at Toys ‘R Us, $14.99 (Ages 8+). 

Weighing just 1 pound and small enough to fit in any bag or trunk, the Adventure Sportsman First Aid Medical Kit is required equipment on your next adventure. It contains all the necessary supplies to treat the most common injuries, including penetration wounds from bullets or arrows (or forks!), fish hook removal, stabilizing sprains, and stopping severe bleeding…you just never know what the kidlets will get up to and should—as the Brownies say—always be prepared.

Grow and Go

Safety 1st Grow and Go Car Seat

When under 80 pounds (or under 8 years), kids must be in a car seat. The Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Car Seat is built to grow with your child, and features an adaptable design that transforms from a rear-facing car seat to a forward-facing car seat and finally to a belt-positioning booster seat. This is a great solution for a growing family or even as a “spare” for when you’re taking someone else’s kidlet along for the ride.

When kids are around (and some adults), you’re going to need to wipe things and Juicy Bamboo natural cleaning cloths are perfect to keep on hand. Made in Canada, these biodegradable wipes have ingredients like jojoba, sunflower, spearmint and grapefruit oils and organic honey.

Make sure that whatever is in your trunk isn’t on display for passers-by to covet. If your car doesn’t come with a trunk cover, a big blanket will do just fine.


MEC Chilli Cooler

Keep snacks and drinks cool on your car ride with this MEC cooler. MEC labs reports that when kept at a constant 32°C and containing a single ice pack, it maintains an interior temperature below 10°C for 16 hours and below 12°C for 24 hours. Yay!

Pack snacks that don’t require stopping or serious clean-up afterwards. Things like pretzels, cheese and meat cubes, blueberries and popcorn are great. If you want to make something try recipes like Cranberry Energy Bars,  Oat Fig NewtonsRisotto, Spinach and Kale Cakes and Peanut Quinoa Bars.

No books? Yep. Don’t pack books for kids. Pack a kobo (or an iPad with a book-reading app installed) instead and add books that your kids will read on the road. That way you don’t have a zillion books taking up a ton of space. Ingenious!

26. PASSPORTS (just in case!)
Anyone who lives even remotely close to the Canada-USA border knows that taking a roadtrip involves packing passports. You don’t want to be right there, thinking “let’s pop over for lunch or a trip to the Target” and not have the means to cross the border. Take them. Trust us.

playing-cards27. CARDS AGAINST BOREDOM
Bring a pack of cards. Kick it old school and teach those kidlets a thing or two about Crazy 8’s, War, Go Fish or even Rummy. Kids love card games and it’s great for working on their math skills.

Make sure to schedule regular pit stops, not only for bathroom breaks, but for energy breaks as well. Throw a frisbee or ball in the car and have a 20-minute power session with the kids in a park so they can run off their pent up energy. It will make the long road trip a lot quieter, we promise.

Pack something to keep those littles (and yourself) dry. Whether the weather app says it going to turn cloudy or not, an extra waterproof layer is always a good idea. And you can pick up those old-school ponchos at the Dollar Store for a couple bucks. Toss one for each person in the car. If you don’t have one you’ll need one…if you do have them on hand, you’re guaranteed great weather! It’s a win-win.

bathing-suits30. SUITS
Pack bathing suits—even if you’re going somewhere without a body of water available. Just like the passports you never know. Pack them; they take up little to no space and if used, will be a source of unending fun.

Want to have the best hair on the highway or want to tame your child’s locks? These cottage or camping hair tips will come in handy!

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