After the road trip research was done. Then we got going on our road trip with kids from Tampa to Toronto and back. I was surprised by how smooth the trip went. It’s not like I anticipated awful things. I think I just didn’t know what to expect at all. I’m really glad I didn’t let the dread of a long road trip stop us from taking one. What a fantastic trip I would have missed.
Breaking the trip up a bit made a big difference. We stopped every couple of hours to get out of the truck. Instead of giving the kids activities on-demand, we handed out an activity once or twice an hour and allowed downtime between activities. We talked to each other and made up our own games. I napped when the kids napped while my husband drove (like a machine). Sometimes I put my headphones in and listened to a podcast while the kids entertained themselves.
Here are some specific strategies that really worked for us:
Car Entertainment on Our Road Trip with Kids
- Each kid had a car-seat lap desk that I found on Amazon.
- Reusable Stickers and Mats
- Water Color Books
- Coloring Books and Crayons
- Tape Activity Book
- Roadtrip Bingo
- We also played I Spy, listened to music together, and talked or sat quietly to enjoy the ride.
- We did almost no screen time on the first few days. On the return, we let them watch as many shows as they wanted, which ended up being about an hour and a half each day.
Flexibility on Our Road Trip with Kids
I planned more stops than we needed to make. So, we adjusted our plan for stops and made better time by doing so. It worked.
When we arrived in Pittsburgh, the apartment that we rented was not going to work. We knew this immediately. So, for the first time in 18 reservations, we canceled our Airbnb and hopped on an app to book a hotel last minute downtown.
Have Fun Along the Way on Our Road Trip with Kids
A huge benefit to taking a road trip with the kids is that we got to see so many different places we would never go see otherwise. Instead of zooming through and stopping at gas stations or restaurants for breaks, we purposefully stopped in scenic places to add to our adventure. We went on mini hikes, played on really cool playgrounds, and enjoyed picnics.
In each city where we slept, we made a point of exploring that city either the night we arrived or in the light of the next morning. We walked around outside to see the statues, note the architecture, and embark on our own little treasure hunt.
One of my favorite things we did was search for a patch in every city where we stayed. It was the only keepsake we allowed ourselves to purchase along the road trip.
For those who might be interested, here was our schedule:
Set off from Tampa around 8pm. We had a couple of stops for restroom, gas, and coffee.
Arrive in Savannah around 2am.
Breakfast and walk around in Savannah.
Leave for Charlotte. Lunch and nap in the car.
Arrive in Charlotte in the afternoon. Visit with our awesome hosts.
Go to dinner, ride the train downtown, and explore.
Grab breakfast at a cute, local French café.
Set off in the general direction of Pittsburgh in the morning.
First stop – Pilot Mountain State Park. Take a little hike. Enjoy the fog instead of the view.
Back on the road. See the amazing Appalachian Mountain views.
Stop in West Virginia at Camp Creek State Park & Forest. Use restrooms. Take a little hike along the creek trail.
Back on the road all the way to Pittsburgh, PA.
Cancel our Airbnb when we note that it is not actually kid-friendly.
Check-in to our hotel.
Walk around the free music and art festival happening downtown.
Walk to breakfast. Trek around the downtown and riverfront area to see many cool sites.
Hit the road for Niagara Falls.
Pick-up the BEST buffalo chicken sandwiches in Buffalo, New York.
Go to Niagara. Take a ride on the Maid of the Mist.
Cross the US-Canada border, and continue on toward Toronto. Eat dinner at a very Canadian family restaurant just outside of the city.
Check in to our Airbnb in Toronto in the evening.
Celebrate my 40th Birthday!
More of exploring Toronto!
(The double-decker bus was our favorite.)
Grab breakfast at an awesome market in Toronto and then hit the road for the Canada-US border near Detroit. Before the border, we stopped to play at a playground and eat a picnic.
We stopped for dinner at a burger joint somewhere in Ohio.
Arrived in Louisville after bedtime.
Spent the morning exploring Louisville, including a baseball field, the parks, the Louisville Slugger Museum, and the Louisville History Museum. (note: We didn’t actually go into the museums, we just checked out the FREE stuff. Our kids are thrilled with gift shops.)
We ate the best-fried chicken I’ve ever had and then hit the road for Atlanta, Georgia.
Stopped at a park in Tennessee where the kids ran around and played for a half-hour. It was an awesome playground!
We arrived in Atlanta, Georgia around bedtime.
I went out for drinks with my sister while my husband happily hung at the Airbnb and the kids slept.
Grabbed breakfast, and then met my sister with her kids to play at the playground.
We hit the road for Tampa later in the morning.
Ate snacks in the car for lunch then napped. We made a couple of restroom breaks and arrived back in Tampa around dinner time.