TTAC How To: Four Must-Haves For The Young Family's First Road Trip

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

Just when I think to myself, Do we really need a minivan?, we plan a week-long road trip to Prince Edward Island. We didn’t need to add mileage to the lease on GCBC’s long-term 2015 Honda Odyssey EX. We had the option of driving a 2017 Ford Escape Titanium EcoBoost 2.0 from the press fleet instead.

But numbers matter. Indeed, the numbers pertaining to the cargo volume available behind the second rows of each vehicle matter greatly. 34.3 cubic feet vs. 93.1 cubic feet: nearly triple the amount of space for our stuff.

Yeah, we’ll take the van.

So for the first time with a three-year-old and a five-week-old — and a five-year-old canine companion — we set off on a properly long drive.

Did we remember everything? Almost. Was the familial tension level elevated by the time we set off? Slightly. But we persevered because of strict adherence to the four-pronged Cain Family Road Trip Code. Opinions regarding road trip preparation may differ, but not in our household.


So cold and clinical. So premeditated and deliberate.


But the assumptions we once held — that we could remember what we needed to remember — have long since flown out the window.

Turn the heat down, don’t forget all of our chargers, remember one kid’s probiotics and rubber boots and the other’s snowsuit, grab toques and gloves and 15 other things. Even with a list, we forgot the dog’s weekly medication and the power cord for my Mac Mini. How much worse would it have been if we hadn’t pre-planned? Forget impulsivity, remember to make a list.


I’m lanky, but I’m not a particularly large fella. Mrs. Cain is downright petite. But we grow big babies.

Big boys are hungry boys. One is still young enough that he simply requires his mother to have eaten plenty in advance. The other enjoys meal-sized snacks.

But who are we kidding: on a road trip, snacks aren’t just for hunger. Snacks are intended to solve problems. Every problem. Bored? Have some peanuts. Sad? Here’s some dehydrated mango. Hyper? Here’s a muffin.

“Are we there yet?”

No, we’re not even close, but here’s a rice cake. You’ve watched enough Bob The Builder, but I bet I distract you with one all dressed Ruffles chip out of the bag from which I’ve been surreptitiously partaking over the last two hours.


If he needs a bathroom now, the bladder won’t become less full by telling him to hold it until the next exit, 10 miles up the road. You’ve got a plan, of course, and it’s a good plan. It’s a noble plan. It’s a plan that, if executed to perfection, will have you at the grandmothers’ in record time. But in order to fulfill every aspect of your plan, you’re going to need to make your occupants unhappy.

The dog is whining. She wants to run around a soccer field she has never seen before. That’s a good chance for the infant to be nursed and the three-year-old to pee behind some trees.

You’re 15 minutes behind schedule now, but they’re happy. And you already know your happiness depends on their happiness, so enjoy the journey and de-prioritize the ETA.


Besides the fact that, by simply elevating two pieces of furniture that were hidden in the floor, we used all three rows of our 2015 Honda Odyssey all last week and will do so again next week, a minivan truly shines as a long-distance five-seater.

Ninety-three cubic feet of cargo capacity is an otherworldly figure, particularly given the expansive nature of the forward cabin. (Mrs. Cain migrates between the front and the middle seat in the second row and has spread across the outboard floor tons of stuff to entertain the little ones.) In addition to plenty of space left over for the 70-pound dog, there’s a Baby Jogger Summit X3 folded with its wheels on, one large suitcase per person, a vast Costco bag full of groceries, a gigantic body pillow, a small crate for the dog’s food and accessories, and a bunch of other items strewn about. And we have not even considered the available height of the cargo area.

Real world highway fuel efficiency of 31 miles per gallon, plenty of power to overtake on New Brunswick’s seemingly never-ending Route 16 towards the Confederation Bridge, vast windows and upright seating positions so the kids can see their surroundings, “good” scores in every IIHS crash test, a five-star NHTSA rating, and enough space to bring everything you could possibly want or need while you’re away. That’s what a minivan can do.

That’s what the 2017 Ford Escape couldn’t have done.

You can make a list, bring some food, and set reasonable goals. But if you’re a young family road-tripping without a minivan, you’re doing it wrong.

[Images: © 2016 Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars]

Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

Timothy Cain
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4 of 33 comments
  • Carlson Fan Carlson Fan on Nov 25, 2016

    "But if you’re a young family road-tripping without a minivan, you’re doing it wrong." I've rented enough minivans while on family vacations to know I'd rather have my Tahoe. A lot nicer to drive and sit in. Plus they don't tow like a 'Hoe!.....LOL

  • Ajla Ajla on Nov 26, 2016

    Any of my swimmers strong enough to slip past three layers of birth control to infiltrate the iron uterus of whatever Eastern European stripper I'm with at the time will be fine riding in a sedan for the weekend visit.

  • Bd2 Probably too late to do anything about it for the launch, but Kia should plan on doing an extensive refresh of the front fascia (the earlier, the better) as the design looks really ungainly.
  • Namesakeone Since I include SUVs and minivans as trucks, I really cannot think of a brand that is truly truckless. MG maybe?
  • Sobhuza Trooper Subaru, they were almost there with the BRAT. --On a lighter note, where the hell is my Cooper Works Mini truck?
  • Mike Evs do suck, though. I mean, they really do.
  • Steve Biro I don’t care what brand but it needs to be a compact two-door with an ICE, traditional parallel hybrid or both. A manual transmission option would be nice but I don’t expect it - especially with a hybrid. Don’t show me an EV.