The Canada East Eats Blog Series is sponsored, in part, by GM Canada. All content is true, based on Gav’s personal experience.
Travelling over 5000 kilometres in 18 days with kids was definitely the biggest hurdle on our Canadian East Eats trip.
Things that I never have to think about at home were suddenly at the forefront: laundry, clothing, bathroom breaks for girls and boys. All of these combined made travelling quite an experience. For the most part we prepared for and met these challenges head on. By far the biggest challenge though was how to entertain three kids through long car rides, evenings in hotel rooms, and three-hour long ferry crossings.
My kids were real troopers through the whole thing. Other than a couple of incidents where I literally stopped the car and prayed for my sanity, it went really, really great. I’d be lying though if I claimed all the credit.
Saviour #1: The Car
GM Canada was kind enough to sponsor part of our trip and provide us with a GMC Acadia to drive across Eastern Canada. What an absolute dream! The SUV has three rows of seats which was amazing. It meant I could put physical distance between each of my kids. No “his arm is touching me” or “Isabella has the cooties!” I had the vehicle set up in a 2-2-1 formation. This meant that I also had tons of room for our stuff; luggage, food, water, and all the crap we picked up along the way.
The Acadia offers a heads-up speed display right on the windshield and steering wheel controls for the entertainment system. Because of this, I was never distracted from driving when I had to change songs, channels, etc.
There was also a separate control for the rear-entertainment system which my 10-year-old Emily loved. This meant that she could be in charge of what music we listened to, or pop in a set of headsets and listen to music while her younger siblings watched a movie and listened over the speakers.
The SUV had XM satellite radio, which was a god-send. We had it flipping between the various pop stations, and my kids can now sing every top 20 song from the summer of 2011 word for word. They do a mean acapella to Tonight, Tonight by Hot Chelle Rae.
The car was super comfortable with comfortable seating and I really enjoyed the seat cooling system while driving in the hot August sun. Hands free tailgate, built-in navigation, sun and moon roof…lots and lots of fun toys. I was really tempted to keep it and forget to pick up our old minivan.
We set out on our trip with entertainment devices to the max. Fortunately, the Acadia came equipped with a rear power socket and RCA cable ports. I brought along an Xbox360 and hooked it up to the entertainment system and also brought along some handheld PSPgo systems. The kids had their choice of handheld or console gaming.
Interestingly, from a price perspective, Xbox360s retail these days for $199. Add in a couple of additional wireless controllers and you are at just about the same price point as buying three handheld Sony PSPs at $129 a piece. So really, it’s a matter of preference.
The kids really enjoyed using both systems. Both have some really great game offerings for kids in that age range. My son loved Daxter and Patapon2 on the handheld, while the Lego series (Indiana Jones & Pirates of the Carribean) really won the day on the Xbox360.
At the end of the day both were great in keeping the kids occupied during our longer drives. My youngest who does occassionally have trouble with car sickness was way better off looking up on the gaming console than down at the handheld. It was also nice on the console games to see them interact with one another, so there was some social aspect to the whole thing. Obviously firing up a gaming console isn’t practical for driving around day to day in the city – but it was such a great way to entertain the kids on our long city-to-city drives.
I loaded up the car with a lot of activities for the kids to use on our journey. Colouring books and markers, of course, filled some of their time. I also bought a whole bunch of coloured pipe cleaners and once in a while would give them a contest such as: whoever can make me the best lobster out of pipe cleaner can pick what’s for snack today.
For long nights in the hotel I stopped at the dollar store and got a bunch of glow sticks and other glow-in-the-dark stuff which the kids loved (see pics above).
While not technically ‘unplugged,’ Isabella and I also had a great time colouring on my laptop. We’d draw silly pictures and then try and place ourselves in them with the webcam. Check out some examples in the slideshow!
The truth is, my trip couldn’t have worked if my kids hadn’t been fantastic. For the most part they were unbelievable. But clearly, I did have some help along the way…
How do you keep your crew entertained on long road trips?