Heed These Tips Before Taking That Florida Road Trip:
If you just can’t wait for spring weather to arrive and are sick of the cold, snow, ice and multiple layers you have to put on during the winter months, perhaps it’s time to consider a trip down south to the sunshine state. A Florida Road Trip might be exactly what you are looking for this upcoming March break. Many families are choosing to drive to Florida versus flying to save money, enjoy the adventure of a family road trip, experience all the fun things along the way, pack up the car with endless supplies and goodies and not be charged for extra baggage! Here is a list everything you need to know before you embark on your family Florida Road Trip!
1. Car Safety Checks
This might seem obvious but not everyone knows you aren’t supposed to take your car in for servicing immediately before you leave. It’s best to have your car checked a few weeks before your trip so if something isn’t done properly you can find out before you cross the border! Things to consider: oil change, brakes, winter tires and anything else that is recommended to keep your car well maintained while on the road for a lengthy trip. (Spare tire, extra gas, washer fluid, shovel if it’s snowing!)
2. GPS And Maps
Whether you prefer old-fashioned paper maps and guidebooks or a brand new GPS, make sure you have something! Many families still use maps and their GPS acts as back up or a smart phone equipped with GPS. There are great phone apps to program gas station stops, hotels and even coffee shops! It’s definitely beneficial to plan ahead and either study the paper map or program the GPS prior to leaving. There are also books available detailing the exact routes and pros and cons of each.
3. Pick A Route
Know where you are going! You may not want to take the most direct route depending on how much time you have. The West Virginia route through the mountains is considered ideal however be prepared for, well, mountains. If you don’t like mountains think about driving through Detroit. Consider the weather and the age of your children and if you want to stop at certain out of the way cities to tour around. Speak to family and friends with kids the same age and see what routes worked for them. Some families decide to detour in Philadelphia, Washington, or Memphis, while others tour the Florida state before reaching their final destination. Hotels are cheaper just outside city limits versus right downtown and if you are driving though a city it’s best to do it at night to avoid getting stuck in rush hour.
Many families stay two nights in a hotel on the way down to Florida and one night on the way back to Toronto. If you know what city or town you want to stop in it’s helpful to book your hotel in advance and if you are traveling with babies or toddlers don’t forget to order a crib or bedrail!
4. Consider Weather And Pack Accordingly
Check the weather forecast before you leave and be prepared for the next 24 hours, or more. A light jacket should do the trick when you want to get out of the car and stretch or sightsee. Warm winter clothing takes up space but it still may be too cold for no jacket at all. Try not to use anything from your bigger luggage on the drive down, keep it neatly packed in the truck. Pack a separate
travel bag for yourself and kiddies for the amount of days it will take you to get to Florida; same goes for the drive back home. A pillow and blanket for each child is also very important. Of course if you are driving with a baby you will need all your baby gear easily accessible.
5. Visit The Dollar Store
Dollar stores are ideal for Florida road trips! Stock up on workbooks, coloring books, stickers, washable crayons and markers, sketchbooks, mini toys and games – you get the idea. Many parents keep a pile of activities in between the kids in the back seat that they can use at their leisure. The dollar store also sells tons of snacks and treats. And never underestimate the power of “The Secret Bag”. This is a bag filled with treats and games that the kids have never played with or seen. They are excellent for surprises along the way and a new toy will keep your kids entertained for (hopefully) a longer amount of time.
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6. Snacks, Snacks and more Snacks
Who doesn’t like eating? A cooler is a great idea, and if you don’t have a lot of space even a small one is better than nothing. Pack your cooler with containers of fruit, veggies, and sandwiches. If you or your kids have food intolerances or allergies you will want to be prepared with food for a long drive, don’t expect a roadside diner to have what you want. Rumour has it there are not a lot of healthy options along the highway and consist mostly of fast food joints. Consider all your meals on the way down and have protein bars as backs ups. For kids it’s also great to have a ‘secret’ bag of treats for extreme situations (“Are we there yet?”). Bring water for kids and a thermos of coffee for the grownups, just in case you can’t find a Tim Horton’s and need a caffeine fix.
7. Exercise Stops
Some families stop every two hours and some only stop for lunch and dinner. Take into consideration the age of your kids and the time of day. But brief exercise at stops is essential. One mom told me that at every stop, for example when they fill up on gas, she finds some green space regardless how small, and gets her kids to jump, race, hop, play tag, any kind of exercise for at least 20 minutes. She calls it an exercise challenge! This is a great idea for parents too! Nothing wrong with throwing some yoga moves in there while you’re at it.
This isn’t your parent’s road trip! There are many choices for electronics these days. Some families prefer an assortment of rotating car music so everyone gets a chance to choose (And sing together!), but others prefer their own music or kid’s books on tape that they can listen to individually. If this is the case then headphones are in order to plug into a smart phone, laptop or tablet. While many families have built in DVD players, the sun may cause a glare making it difficult to watch or perhaps you don’t want your kids glued to electronics. A great idea a mom told me is “No screens till the sun goes down”.
9. Car Word Games For The Whole Family
My childhood car trips involved games like “I Spy”, “20 Questions” and trying to guess when we reached a mile. Here are some others; alphabet game but choose a funny category, finding things along the way in a certain color, animal game, name game, going on a trip game (Player one says I am going on a trip and going to pack an object beginning with the letter “A”, second player says first item and adds a second item with the letter “B”), reading license plate game (Make up what the letters in license plates stand for) and various memory games. After a few of these your kids have probably earned themselves some screen time and a treat!
10. All About the Parents
Do something for yourself and other adults in the car. If you love coffee plan ahead and find an independent coffee shop to stop at, or pack your own favourite treat to enjoy. If you are taking turns driving with another parent have your own music (and headphones) or even a cool eye mask to relax when it’s not your turn at the wheel. Don’t forget to wear comfortable clothing and shoes for the drive. And just think of the glass of wine you will have once you get to Florida and the kids are happily asleep in their beds.
Overall, think of your Florida Road Trip as a journey and part of your vacation rather than just a mode of transpiration to get to your final destination. Try to make it as fun as possible so the kids will want to do it next year too! Remember, it’s an adventure!
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