Our first family vacation in over 5yrs and we (the hubs & I) decide that 6hrs (of driving) in a car with TT and C-McC would be a most excellent idea. It really and truly sounded brilliant when I came up with it but I will be totally honest, I was sharting bricks in the days leading up to our 'adventure'.
Here is what I have learned:
Pack the car the night before and pack plenty. Pack like you're on a trek to the arctic and there aren't stores for thousands of miles... we stuffed the trunk full (I don't think you could have fit a toothpick in there).
Snow pants, skates, extra outfits for C-McC (because he takes great joy in pooping/puking all over his outfits... he's awesome like that), food... etc. Even if you think you might not use it... pack it. What's the worse that could happen, you don't use it? Or you could be like me and seriously underestimate how many diapers your 2.5 year old wears and then have to send your husband out in the evening to find diapers... whereby he finds the world's smallest drug store (apparently it was twice the size of our hotel room) which only has one pack (of any kind) of size 6 diapers.
Start your journey early. Get.up.at.the.crack.of.stupid. We got C-McC up... gave him a good dose of boob. Changed his bum. Woke up TT. Changed his bum and before they could figure out why on earth we were up so early... we were out the door! TT was quiet as a mouse (of course he was also scowling at everything) until we reached pit stop #1.
Pre-plan your route, right down to your stops (and be sure to include alternate stops because heavens knows that your darling children aren't going to necessarily be ready for your chosen pit stops). We google mapped our route (and spoke to a friend that travels it a couple times a year), we checked to see what was offered at our preferred stops and what was close to it (in case we had to stop before or after). We also tried to make our stops 'worth it'. We tried to plan them around a meal time, so that we could get out and stretch our legs for a bit... this undoubtedly added to our arrival time but happy children are definitely worth extending the drive!
Portable DVD players are.amazing. Seriously, if you don't have one. Get one. And if you have one (that you've never used)... use it! Right now! Suddenly, driving is a wonderful thing again! TT totally flaked out. It.was.wonderful.
Snacks. Lots & lots of snacks (and water... because if they spill it... they'll just be wet... not some fruity colour [as well as their seat and the car] and wet). I made up some packs of trail mix, various muffins and packed some grapes. As TT needed I passed them back... he was happy & we were happy!
If you can, find a hotel that has a kitchen. You may not use it to it's full potential (I know I didn't) but it is nice to have a full fridge, and to have space to store your road snacks. The more your hotel room is like home, the better.
Don't over plan your days - we had so much that we wanted to do, TT just wasn't up for it all! Next year, we're planning on one activity per day (i.e. a full afternoon doing one thing) and then the rest as 'free time'.
When your wife suggests that you bring along the 'wire bag' (cell phone charger, Kobo charger... etc), listen to her... sometimes she's just right.
Have fun and take lots of pictures!
We had an amazing time. The weather was perfect for our visit and we are definitely planning a return trip next year... my boys pleasantly surprised me with how wonderful they were. The brief pit stops were welcomed and the rest of the ride was spent napping or quietly chatting... it was a great way to spend some time together as a family!
If you are ever in Ottawa for a family trip and you have a little boy who luuuuuuuuuurves air planes, I strongly suggest you check out Canada Aviation & Space Museum hours and hours of fun! Albert at Bay Suite Hotel is a fabulously, family friendly place to stay.