(aka: how to survive a four day road trip with a 3 year old and 1 year old and your spouse. And live to tell the tale)

Our family vacation to Florida was very carefully planned. But I did not spend more time on anything than planning the 'car time' that the drive from Toronto to Florida (and then Florida to Toronto) would provide us with.

There are a lot of good ideas on the internet regarding road tripping with kids but I'll tell you that few of those ideas pertain to kids as young as mine. I will assume this is because no one is stupid enough to spend four full days in the car with little kids. But I am. So here are my tips:

Pack a PLETHORA of {healthy-ish} snacks:

Snacks are a must. But you must pack double the amount you think your family will need. Because boredom eating is not just for us stay-at-home moms, believe me. My one year old will eat double the amount I can when he is bored. 
The key to road trip snacks for young children (and their parents) is to make them portable, easy to grab, and sure-fire crowd pleasers. And healthy. Trust me- you are going to need healthy snacks.
I headed out to our grocery store and got individual (snack sized) packs of baby carrots, sugar snap peas, and celery and dip. I rarely buy these items but it saved me so much time as they were pre-packaged and easily portable. I also added some apples, a few bananas, grapes, cucumber slices (I cut those myself- someone please made those in snack size, ok??) and cheese strings. I think I threw a few drinking boxes in there as well.
I also used a cloth shopping bag for my 'non-perishable' snacks: boxes of crackers, teddy grahams, animal crackers, rice krispie squares, fruit snacks, etc. Anything that was easy to grab and munch on. The front seat of our car looked like a small convenience store, it was so packed with food, but by the time we reached our final destination, we had plowed through 3/4 of the snacks I had packed.

Pack a cooler:
In our trunk, we kept a larger cooler which was packed with the 'essentials' our kids need and love. Homogonized milk for Will, 2% milk for Zach. Peanut butter and whole wheat bread. Juice. Cereal. Pre-sliced apples (yes, seems needless & kinda costly, but having these apples all sliced and ready to eat was a lifesaver).
The key to the cooler was that it was easily accessible when we stopped at rest areas. Instead of paying for a fast food lunch we made peanut butter sandwiches and guzzled juice or milk and munched on crispy apple slices. It saved us so much time and a ton of money!

Stop. A. Lot.:

Listen, we had 24 hours of driving to do with a 3 year old, who is newly potty trained, and a 1 year old who only wants to walk. We took full advantage of the AMAZING road-side rest stops that the US had to offer. Every rest stop on the I-75 was well lit, the bathrooms were relatively clean, and there was always enough grassy space for the kids to run some of their energy out. We had a chance to grab a snack from our well packed cooler. And we got to see how hot it really was outside (FYI- it was HOOOOOTTTTT!).  A 15-20 minute stop was enough to keep the kids going for 2 or 3 hours.

Book a hotel room in advance:
We were not interested in driving for 24 hours straight with the kids. So, we decided to stop just outside of Atlanta, Georgia for a stay overnight. We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, which was FANTASTIC and included a delicious breakfast, which all four of us enjoyed thoroughly. But it was also fully booked. So, when travelling with (little) children, I strongly suggest you book your hotel room in advance.  For the record, Z loved sleeping in a hotel more than anything else we did on the trip. He snuggled in with 4 pillows and we literally dragged him out of bed, crying. He has NEVER loved sleeping like that.  Major tip: Pack an overnight bag for your hotel stay. PJ's, toiletries, clothes for the next day. It will save you MAJOR headaches! 

Pack toys they'll actually play with:
My boys love toy dinosaurs and they love books. That's what I packed for the car ride. Whining or tears? Have a dino. Grizzling's a book. Blankies and Marvin the Martian were staples in the back seat, along with the real life saver...

We have a portable dvd player with two screens that attach to the headrests. This saved our lives. Literally. They watched Madagascar, Ice Age (two different ones), episodes of Sesame Street and Chugginton, The Wiggles, Raffi (oh Raffi, how I love you). Although most of the movies were aimed at Zach, William enjoyed them just as much and was lulled to sleep by the glow of the dvd player more times than I can count.

Push. But not TOO far.:
Be ambitious in how far you want to drive in one day, but don't reach too far. The last few hours of our first day of driving were really difficult. We were arguing and there was crying and missed exits. We had just pushed too far and really should have stopped a bit earlier. Which brings me to my last point...

Make the car ride part of the fun:
My boys had never been in the USA before. We loved talking about each State as we entered it and teaching Z the {few} facts we knew. We loved showing him palm trees for the first time. And drinking sweet tea. And talking about accents. And showing him the mountains of Tennessee.  It was fun (sometimes) and a good learning experience for all of us!


  1. I LOVE this! I cannot wait to take my littles (just a little younger than yours) on a road trip like this! Great tips, all things I totally agree with. Packing lunches for the rest areas, the small over night bag so you don't have to drag everything in; great tips!!
    One other thing I could suggest, along with packing fav toys, picking up a few new small things that they have never played with before. Something brand new to keep their attention always works with my kids!
    Glad it was such a success! Gives me hope for trips like this with my kids :)

    1. You will love a road trip. I had to learn to be chill though- and the pre-planning helps you relax a bit. I did try the "new toy" thing but my kids didn't care one bit. Hahah.

  2. I bought Saige the same Raffi album I listened to as a kid - the only difference is hers is a CD and mine was a record. "there's a spider on my leg on my leg".

    These are GREAT tips and I'm pinning them for future use... thanks Chica!

    1. Don't you just love Raffi? He's so great. He tweeted me once and I practically DIED! Wanna road trip to Toronto? I have room at my house...;)

  3. Will and I are road tripping soon! What about the cooler of food going throguh customs. Aren't you supposed to not have food - what do you think???

    1. They had no issue with the food we impression is that it is only certain fruit or veggies that they don't want. No one said anything to us!

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  5. Wow! You're a superwoman! I'm actually thinking of doing the same this coming March. I have a 4-year old and a 8-month old (he'll be 9 months old going on 10 when we make the trip) so I'm so happy to see I'm not the only crazy mother wanting to drive all the way down to Florida from Toronto. Thanks for your blog! IT really helped me make a decision! :)

    1. You are so welcome! I hope you have a fantastic trip, whenever you decide to take it:)

  6. Quick qurstion: what time did you leave Toronto? I'm thinking about leaving at around 4am so I can drive at least 4 hours with the kids still sleeping. Do you think that's a good idea? thx!

    1. We left in early morning. I think we headed out the door around 4 am- the kids woke up for a bit but they snoozed. We were at the boarder before there was any traffic and zipped right through! It was so fantastic!!! Sleep patterns will be thrown off, but they'll adjust!

    2. Great! That's the time we'll hopefully be leaving the house as well. Thanks Sarah! I'm bookmarking your blog. :)


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