Stay happy on road trips

If a family road trip is on your radar this summer, you’re not alone. With gas prices expected to be relatively cheaper than previous years, this may be the perfect time for you to pack up the kids and hit the open road.

Rob and Bonita Tang are no exception. With the birth of their second child, they realized how expensive air travel would be if they wanted to vacation out of town.

As a child, Rob was no stranger to exploring North America by car, having driven throughout the continental US and many Canadian provinces. 

“I still fondly remember the road trip in 1996 that my parents, sister, and I took from Vancouver to Atlanta,” Rob recalls. “We drove all the way there for the ’96 Summer Olympics, then continued onto Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas before heading back home to Vancouver via Nevada, California, and Washington”.

It was now his and Bonita’s turn to carry out the tradition of a family road trip with their own kids.

“As a car enthusiast, I like driving and the freedom of the road, so I really enjoy long road trips anyway,” Rob said. “When you fly, you get from point A to B quickly, which is great for efficiency but you miss out on the adventure of discovering surprise locations along the way”.

Bonita added, “On an airplane, we would be much more limited in what we could bring there and back because it all has to fit into checked baggage. But when we take our Honda minivan, we can even bring four sets of skis, which would cost a ridiculous amount to bring on-board a flight. Plus we don’t have to worry as much about running out of room when we go out-of-town shopping”.

“Keeping the kids from being bored is one of the keys to a harmonious road trip,” she advises. “Rob and I always try to keep them occupied with low-tech games, such as I-Spy or Checkpoint, which promotes them looking out the windows at their surroundings rather than in their laps”.

However, on their recent two week, 3,500+ kilometre journey down south to San Francisco, Reno and Lake Tahoe, the Odyssey’s rear DVD player proved to be invaluable. Their kids, Andrew and Olivia, enjoyed watching movies together using wireless headphones while their parents relaxed up front.

In a day and age where tablets and smartphones are everywhere, it may seem surprising that auto manufacturers still continue to offer factory rear entertainment systems. Rob is hopeful that they will continue to do so.

“I like the parental controls up front and it is just one less thing to pack or lose,” he explains. “Also, unlike tablets where the kids are always looking down, the built-in system flips down from the roof so the kids are looking up and can still see the surroundings in their peripheral vision”.

Traversing the country by car also requires some advance planning as far as vehicle maintenance. It may be tempting to get some miles on the car then have it serviced after the road trip. However Rob advises this is a mistake.

“The last thing you want ruining your vacation is to be stranded at the side of the road in an unfamiliar town,” he says. “I always have our vehicles serviced at the dealership beforehand for preventative maintenance”.

His line of thinking seems to be right on the money as the Tang’s minivan has been trouble-free even after crisscrossing the US and Canada.

To that end, here are Rob and Bonita’s top tips to keep the kids happy, the parents sane, and to ensure that your next family road trip will prove to be memorable for all the right reasons.

  • Flexibility is king. Pick a destination and book your accommodations in advance, but leave yourself enough time to explore the surrounding areas on-route to your goal destination.
  • Get the whole family involved in planning, especially the kids so they’ll know what to expect and how long it will take.
  • Keep the kids occupied with both low-tech and high-tech activities.
  • Plan your fuel and restroom stops in advance.
  • Get the family vehicle checked out by a trusted mechanic before leaving home.
  • Set aside enough time to pack your bags, load your vehicle, and get a full night’s sleep so you can start your adventure refreshed.


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