Tips & Tricks for the great Canadian family road trip from Michael Palmer

by Guest

Before you head out on the great Canadian family road trip, a few tips might be in order this summer, and Calgarian Michael Palmer–the self-appointed “CEO” of family travel–has you covered.

“With our three young kids, my wife and I travelled coast to coast recently, covering 17,000 kilometres in just over 60 days,” Palmer said. That kind of travelling gives you a lot of insight into what it takes to enjoy the trip, while keeping everyone happy, and he has some very good ideas to get you started.

Part adventurer, part entrepreneur, and full time author, Palmer has teamed up with Canadian Tire to help make this your best road trip ever with your family. Plus, what better country to explore than Canada? With more than 900,000 kilometres of road, there are lots of adventures to plan, with lots of time left this summer.

Here are Palmer’s top suggestions before you head out on your next family road trip:

  1. Do a thorough maintenance check on your vehicle: Taking care of the car means keeping your family safe on the trip. Before hitting the road, I always take our van in for a full maintenance and service check, making sure the brakes, tires oil, oil filters, air filters, batteries and heating and cooling systems in particular are in good working order. I suggest doing this even if you are going to get a campervan hire in New Zealand or anywhere else as you don’t know when the campervan was last maintenanced. I like to also make sure we have an Executive Car Safety Kit and an up-to-date roadside assistance membership just in case.
  2. Go-to Gadgets: Don’t hit the road without some key technology to help you along the way. I’d recommend investing in a good GPS–a cross-Canada trip can take you to many remote places. A portable charger for the car is a must to keep your gadgets running when you need them most. One I like is the Noco Battery Booster; it’s small but mighty! You can charge it up ahead of time and just keep it in the car as you travel, using it to power up your gadgets along the way. In an emergency, you can also use it to jump start your car battery too.
  3. Get organized: When you’re spending so much time together in a packed vehicle, and are constantly packing and unpacking as you travel, I’d recommend taking advantage of smart storage and cleaning solutions. It makes for an easier and more enjoyable ride. I like keeping a tub of disposable car cleaning wipes handy for getting to spills on the go, and this line of handy Glovebox car organization products too.
  4. Keep the kids entertained: To avoid meltdowns, be prepared. We like to pack an ‘entertainment bag’ for each one of our kids. They each pick out what they want to bring and customize it–with items like their favourite magnetic car games, puzzles, decks of cards, tablets or books. We like to limit device screen time for our kids to about 45 minutes a day while on the road; it’s important for them to unplug and enjoy the scenery along the way. That’s part of the fun! One way to do it is get them playing a classic “outside viewing” game. We love “I Spy” or the alphabet game (where the kids have to find objects outside that began with each letter of the alphabet, in order).
  5. Keep healthy snacks stocked up: A van full of hungry kids is a recipe for disaster and tantrums will escalate quickly. I find it helps to have healthy food and drinks in addition to fun snacks so everyone can keep their energy level up and enjoy the ride.
  6. Let kids get involved in the planning: Whether picking the locations, restaurants or activities, letting them in on the planning makes kids feel more connected to the trip and gives them some extra excitement. Treat your family like a team.
  7. Limit driving time to 5-6 hours a day: while it’s tempting to think about pulling a 12 hour marathon drive, I find the kids will naturally go a little nuts after sitting still for so long. And driving 5-6 hours is really more like 7-8 hours with breaks and stops. If possible, I’d also recommend staying in hotels, campgrounds or cabins that have pools or water access for the kids to unleash excess energy at the end of the day.
  8. Take lots of photos and video: it’s the best way to soak in all of your unique experiences while also making sure the memories live on forever. We love to involve the kids too, letting each of them play photographer along the way.

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