Since having kids, we have realized how great road trips are for family vacations and traveling on a budget. We love how every day can be so different and that when you’re driving through towns, the landscape can change so much. Madison is fast approaching four-years-old now and is so observant of her surroundings. She now finds all the changing landscapes and new surroundings exciting and points out the changes along the way, never shying away from asking why, or questioning what something is.
At times, traveling with little ones can be a little stressful or frustrating, but we promise that the benefits definitely outweigh the costs. We have already been able to create so many memories with our two little girls that we wouldn’t trade for anything. All the moments, frustrating or full of joy, make the journey more than worth it and will leave you wanting more.
There are so many reasons Why We Love Road Trips For Family Travel. Here are our reasons:
Speed Up Or Slow Down
Road trips are the easiest way to have “control” over how fast or slow you go. You’ll also end up continually being surprised at the adventures that can be found in the places you least expect. Road trips give you the opportunity to slow down if you see something that tickles your fancy and you decide to stop.
This last September we took a road trip through the Canadian Rockies and were able to take the girls on their first camping trip. We were able to pull over to photograph all the incredible scenery we desired, take part in some amazing excursions like the Athabasca Glacier or cruising Maligne Lake. Since we had a vehicle, we were able to do as we pleased and when we wanted.
While you may have some activities planned at a certain time, most of your activities are easily changeable and you can add and change your plans as you see fit. For the most part, you don’t have to worry about being completely punctual. If you are really enjoying the attraction you’re at, you can stay a little longer, or if you have seen all you desire, you can move on. Driving along the Icefields Parkway during our Canadian Rockies road trip last September, we really enjoyed having that luxury of pulling over when we wanted to take pictures of the stunning landscapes, or to view wildlife. Though we had a few activities planned, as soon as those were done, we were able to use the rest of our time as we wished. We saw so many amazing things that we would have missed had we flown over in an airplane. You’re able to see what others would consider to be “fly over country”, and are able to witness the beauty of it all.
Also, if the kids are going a little crazy being strapped into their car seats during long drives, you’re able to pull over and let the stretch their legs while getting some fresh air, without worrying about the time. Sometimes a little fresh air is all they need to calm down and get ready to continue the venture.
This is especially important when you have a potty training two year old! When we were driving back to LA from San Diego, Madison needed a potty break, and fast, so we got off the highway at the next exit we could. Driving around for somewhere to have a quick snack and use the washroom, we found that we had wandered into the beautiful beach town of San Clemente. Not having a tight schedule allows you to find gems you never would have otherwise discovered, and after Madison’s potty needs were satisfied, we were able to enjoy some beach time surrounded by the beautiful scenery.
Travel Longer & More Often
The beauty of a road trip also means that you will be able to travel longer. With airfare adding up with each kid we have, it is getting more and more expensive to fly if we don’t find a mistake fare or get another good airfare deal. With a road trip, we are able to use what we would have spent on airfare and usually that money will be enough to cover a big chunk, if not the whole trip, allowing us to travel for longer, and travel more often.
When we are somewhere with some fun food to try, we always have to try some of the novelties, but having a car also allows us to stop at the grocery store and buy the ingredients for our meals, saving us a ton of money. And, with how we prefer to eat, it is always easier to stay healthier than when stopping for fast food.
Also, if we are able to use our own family van for the trip, though we may be adding a lot more wear and tear, we are saving the cost of renting a vehicle for however many days we are gone. Renting a vehicle and adding the insurance to it can add a decent amount of money onto a vacation. On one of our last trips to California we were shown how to alter our current car insurance to add a premium road star package to our current vehicle insurance, that was good to also use in the states. This meant that we didn’t have to spend a lot of extra money for insurance for the car rental; this was $50 CDN for the year instead of around $15 US/day if we did insurance when picking up the rental. Having our vehicle also allows us to stay farther away from the city centre and therefore saves some money on accommodations and the high cost of parking at hotels that are within the most popular parts of town.
You See Unexpected Things
I always drive Darcy crazy when I notice neat places to stop and pull over. The funny thing is, he thinks that if I am behind the wheel that we will be able to stop less (when in reality, it makes it easier for me to stop). It’s fun to stop at the tourist-driven places, but we love to also show the kids the quirky and neat things and places we can find from the road-side billboards. Some stops always end up being more entertaining than others, but we always manage to find the fun in our spur-of-the-moment decisions.
On our road trip through Arizona a couple years ago, we saw a sign for Flintstones Bedrock City and I knew we had to stop. It was rather deserted and ghostly, but it was fun to explore all the various aspects of Bedrock, surrounded by your favorite Flintstones characters, albeit a bit creepy. Since we grew up watching the Flintstones as kids, we figured it was worth a look.
Packing What You Want
Road trips also allow you to pack a few more items “just in case” that you would have to leave behind if you were trying to pack for an airplane flight. It’s also nice to not have to fuss over car seats and a crazy amount of luggage in an airport, especially when you have so many littles (soon to be three) under five. Being able to pack that little extra can help you bring along more to entertain the kids, as well as things that will make your life easier as you venture with little kids. It’s also nice to already have the car seat installed, and you don’t have to worry about renting a car seat when you really don’t know what has happened to it, (or what people will admit has happened to it).
Quality Family Time
This is a good reason to take any family vacation, but we love how much quality time you are able to have as a family when you’re on a road trip. Some people may go crazy with kids in a car, but when we are on the open road, we love it. Perhaps it is because the kids haven’t started repeating “Are we there yet?” over and over again (Madison will surely discover that soon), but I’m sure we can find humour in that too when it happens. We are able to connect with each other on a whole other level than when we are busy just rushing from activity to activity within our daily ‘normal’ lives. We love seeing how they react to different activities, especially over time as they grow. The stories our three-and-a-half year old tells now too are so out of this world, that listening to the way she sees things really is fascinating.
Near Or Far?
Road trips also don’t have to be a couple thousand of miles, or more, away. You could also stay more local like we did when we visited the Okanagan in beautiful British Columbia a couple years ago. It was only a few hours away from Vancouver, but the beauty we were surrounded by made it feel like we were farther away than we actually were. We love that you feel like you’re a million miles away from home, when you really may not be that far away.
When you take a road trip with kids, you’ll soon realize that most of your fears of traveling with kids did not actually materialize. Kids can handle and do a lot more than we think they can. We are always impressed with their level of patience and excitement about traveling. A road trip journey as a family is always incredible in our books.
Do you love taking family road trips? Why or why not?