As part of our collaboration on this post, Canadian Tire has made a generous donation to the Canadian Cancer Society on behalf of this blog.
"You were in a little bed, which we tossed on the back seat of the car. Then we drove home from the hospital with our new baby."
That was how my father described my first trip home during the winter of 1971.
Safety and comfort were non-issues.
Growing up in Montreal with first cousins in Toronto, road trips down highway 401 were an adventure to "look forward to" a half-dozen times a year.
I have two older brothers and a younger sister. Our car back then, a red GMC Hornet, had front and rear bench seats. My sister, who was - and still is - much smaller than me, sat sandwiched between my parents in front; I negotiated that weird hump between my feet as I was compacted between my brothers in the back.
Each of my older siblings nestled their heads against their pillows which were propped against the windows, my head kept getting jerked and shrugged off their shoulders as I tried to drift to sleep.
Entertainment was a book - which made me car sick when I tried to read it - snacks were peaches and nectarines - which became increasingly bruised as the rough suspension negotiated Canada's busiest stretch of highway.
These trips decades ago made me very empathetic towards my own children during long trips, as well as made me very aware how many gadgets and tools are now available for new and expectant parents heading out on the road.
Even a simple trip to a local Canadian Tire store can go a long way toward being prepared for many foreseen (and unexpected!) speed bumps during your trip. Here are some tips and tricks to help smooth out those pot holes:
- Seasonal Maintenance: When I bring my car into a garage before a long road trip (by the way, according to a national survey on road trip and car cleaning behaviour conducted on behalf of Canadian Tire, almost half of Canadians (47%) state a maintenance check is not their first priority when planning a lengthy drive. Trust me: GET THE CHECK-UP!), I make a point of telling the person at the counter I am headed on a long, hot, road trip. It is bad enough watching your temperature gauge rise, or dealing with shoddy tire pressure when you are alone on the road. The stress becomes exponential when you have little kids in the car (or in the womb). Get the oil check, the inspection, and the tune up.
- Plan Possible Rest Stops: With the brand new "On Route" rest stations scattered along the highway, mapping out pit stops is a cinch. Their locations can be found on this map.
We all begin our road trips with pre-conceived ideas of where we will grab a coffee, fill up, and stop for lunch. However, especially with infants, nothing goes exactly as planned. Look ahead and be aware of how far away you might be from somewhere to grab some water or milk, and find a diaper change station.
- GPS is Your Friend: Especially when heading to a new town, don't hesitate to pre-program your GPS and have it within easy reach. It might be wise, if you have a co-pilot, to sit down with your travel partner and be sure you are both familiar with the device. Pulling into a strange area after sunset and fumbling for the controls or searching for street names, while the baby reminds your how exhausted he or she is,is no fun.
- Prepare Snacks (and autonomous snack containers!) For the Little Ones: There are a variety of inexpensive snack boxes, sippy cups, and other containers available (yes, you can pick those up at Canadian Tire while your car is being tuned up!). Many of these are now manufactured BPA-Free, and ergonomically designed, so that, other than the mess created by all tiny offspring, your little one can work on serving themselves while you enjoy your "quiet time" ;-).
- Car Seat Safety: Most parents are well aware of the importance of an up-to-date, properly installed car seat. Don't be shy to a local expert for help with installation. Driving at 100 km/h is no time to notice the seat is wiggling as much as the little person in it!
I love long drives. This summer, my family and I are headed to Sandbanks Provincial Park, as well as a trip east to the Maritimes. Driving takes my mind off work, lowers my stress level, and is a great way for all of us to reconnect as a family. Being prepared helps ensure those worries so prevalent at home and at the office don't catch up to you on the highway.