Does the idea of spending hours in the car with your family sound like fun? Why not plan a road trip this summer? Since the pandemic, plane ticket prices have soared. Travelling by car has never been so attractive!

This is what Marie Monroe realized. As a mother on parental leave, she planned to visit the French islands during the summer with her partner and two children. But she changed her mind after shopping for plane tickets.

“The price of flights has doubled compared to last year,” she said. “It’s crazy! So, we decided to rent a little house on the US east coast and drive there. We just bought a new and more spacious SUV. We’re going to make the most of it!”

Before you hit the road, make sure you’re as well prepared as Marie Monroe. Here’s a few tips on how to keep your family happy on a road trip while keeping costs down.

Plan your journey

All roads lead to Rome, but some roads are more interesting than others. Here’s how to plan a trip that everyone will enjoy.

  • Find places of interest along your route.
    This allows you to break up the trip with short stops.

  • Try to include a range of crowd-pleasing activities.
    For example, historic sites, nature reserves, amusement parks and cultural centres.

  • Take the scenic route.
    Discover the Trans-Canada Highway between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay. Experience the Sea-to-Sky Highway in British Columbia. Or even head for the Blue Ridge Parkway in the southeastern US.

  • Take a different route home and enjoy new landscapes.

Find the best accommodation

Planning as you go can be fun! However, if you’re travelling with children, book your accommodation in advance. This ensures they have a safe place to sleep.

Camping takes both time and effort, but it’s an unbeatable value. You could spend as little as $40 a night for a family of four in a standard KOA campground. You also save on restaurants by cooking your meals onsite. There are campgrounds close to most large parks across North America. Some are simply parking lots which provide a cheap location to stop for the night. Others have more amenities and can be a fun destination for the whole family.

Have you considered urban camping? You can enjoy a comfortable stay at a campsite in a more urban location with access to transit. Some sites even have a swimming pool, park and game rooms. You’ll also be close to all the local attractions.

If you opt for a hotel or motel, pick a room with a refrigerator and microwave. Or choose a rate that includes breakfast. Then you won’t have to dip into your restaurant budget.

Plan your meals in advance

To save time and money on the road, prepare your lunch the night before and pack your food and drinks in a cooler before you set off. Then you can take a half-hour break in the rest area and continue your journey.

When dining out, visit local restaurants rather than the usual fast-food chains. Check out sites like Roadfood (US only) and find restaurants on your route that offer good food and good value. This is a great way to discover local specialities.

Remember that portion sizes in US restaurants are often enormous. You can save a few dollars by sharing a dish or asking for a container for leftovers. Store them in a cooler and enjoy them for your next meal.

Keep everyone happy on the road

To avoid any conflict, you must plan according to each person’s age and temperament. Here are a few tips to keep everyone happy on a road trip.

  • Change places at rest stops.
    Then everyone will have the opportunity to travel in the front passenger seat.

  • Take turns at the wheel every two or three hours.
    This helps to avoid eye strain, which can be very dangerous.

  • Save room in the car for souvenirs and treats.

  • Stop for a few minutes at every rest area.
    You don’t know how far the next stop is. On some highways, they are hundreds of kilometres apart.

  • Pack snacks for your trip.
    Fill bags or containers with individual portions in advance. Or pack clips, rubber bands and boxes to keep your food fresh and protect your car floor.

Split up your journey safely

Hitting the road before breakfast and stopping before dinner is ideal because everyone will be feeling fresh. Above all, don’t overestimate how many kilometres you can travel in a day. You must take into account:

  • roadwork,
  • traffic jams,
  • border delays,
  • tire punctures,
  • mechanical breakdowns, and
  • missed highway exits.

Make sure you keep an eye out for sudden speed limit changes as you approach a town or city. Rumour has it that some locations use tourist fines as a source of income.

Don’t forget about travel insurance!

Before you set off, take out travel insurance for you and your family. It will cover unforeseen medical expenses and more. Travel insurance is essential if you’re travelling to the US. However, it can also be useful when visiting other provinces since each provincial health insurance plan is different. In short, what is covered in your province is not necessarily the case elsewhere.

Speak to a Sun Life advisor about your travel insurance options.

Find an advisor

Lastly, don’t forget to plan for the unexpected. However, a well-planned road trip can save you a lot of money. It’s also a fun experience and an opportunity to make lasting memories.