Road trip season is upon us and while we understand why you’re considering faking a flat tire to avoid the imminent whining from the back seat— we challenge you to put aside your fears and create lifelong memories along the ribbons of roads that cross North America. CTV Morning Live invited me on set to chat about these trip tips, and—while organizing for the segment—the nostalgia swept over me and I wanted to share some of my personal family road trip tips with you.
Summer means long family road trips, and also the onset of ‘Are we there yet?’ and ‘I’m HUNGRY!’. Parents can hardly get the car packed and still have time to come up with healthy road trip snack ideas for kids, but we’ve come up with a few cool ideas that gan get you out of a rut. Well, hopefully not a real rut. Maybe driving safety tips will be next…
It seemed like flying over the beautiful islands between Vancouver and Victoria on a fabulously sunny spring day would be the thing that really launched this adventure on a high note—that is, until I saw a tiny deer grazing on the grass of a residential home in Oak Bay. Even though I was here to test drive a vehicle, I had a hunch that this journey had a little magic in it’s back pocket, but the big surprise was that the cool activities I was scheduled for at the spectacular resort I would be visiting, totally did not overshadow the experience of driving the new 2016 Chevy Malibu.
Take a moment to consider this sobering thought – whether you’re driving around the corner or heading out on a road trip, accidents can happen at any time.
Results from safety checks across Canada reveal that between 30-80% of child car and booster seats inspected are installed incorrectly. Is yours one of them?
Fact: Car crashes are a leading cause of death and hospitalizations for Canadian children under the age of 14.
From using the wrong car seat at the wrong age, to relying on Dr. Google for instructions on proper car seat installation, parents are unknowingly making potentially deadly travel safety decisions.
Certified Car Seat Installation Technician and Parenting Expert Maureen Dennis is here to explain 5 Ways to Keep Your Kids Safe in a Car Seat:
1. Wrong Seat at the Wrong Age. A common mistake made by parents is not using the correct seat for the child’s height, weight, and developmental stage. This can usually be seen when parents move their child to the next stage too quickly (rushing to get them into a booster seat to accommodate a new baby when they still fit in their harnessed forward-facing seat, for example).
Solution: Know the guidelines of when to make a car seat adjustment and know your child’s height and weight.
2. Car seat not securely installed. Another error often made is when attaching the car seat inside the car. In many cases, the seat is too loosely installed and not tightly secured to the vehicle.
Solution: Your car seat should not move more than 2.5 cm (or 1 inch) in any direction at the base of the seat, right at the seat belt or UAS path.
3. Harness on the child is too loose. How tight is too tight? A common mistake is leaving the harness too loose and not having your child secured properly.
Solution: Conduct the “pinch test”. You should not be able to pinch any of the harness webbing at the child’s shoulder.
4. Placing the chest clip. Another common mistake found is where parents place the chest clip.
Solution: The chest clip should always be at the armpit level – not too low, such as down near their belly button, or up too close- near the neck.
5. Improper placement. Even if the car seat is installed and securely fastened, there are still errors that can occur which may harm your child.
Solution: Make sure that seats in a rear-facing position are at a 45 degree angle to support the baby’s head and neck. All forward-facing seats require a tether strap that hooks to a tether anchor in your car, so make sure you don’t forget that step.
Car seat safety cannot be taken lightly. It is important to install your car seat properly and securely in order for it to do its job in the event of a collision or crash. According to a report from the Canadian Paediatric Society, child seats, when used correctly, reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71% and the risk of serious injury by 67%. Using a booster seat instead of just a seat belt alone is a reduction of 59% in injury risk.
I had the incredible opportunity to meet Olympic Gold-medallist Cassie Campbell-Pascall in Calgary with my son Ford. Chevrolet Canada sponsors a hockey helmet program, giving helmets to kids involved in organized hockey. We discussed signs and symptoms of concussions and also had the opportunity to join Cassie on the ice for some fun drills. (Shooting rubber chickens into the net is hugely satisfying!)
What I realized through the experience of listening to Cassie is that sport should be fun. If kids aren’t having fun, they won’t love sport. And if kids don’t feel safe while engaging in sport, they won’t have fun. Pretty simple, but I know several parents who need to realize this in order for sport to be a beautiful part of life.
As Cassie Campbell-Pascall sees it, “we need to understand our role, not just within hockey, but in minor sports in general. We need to ask our coaches “what are goals for the team for this year?” Is it about having fun? Is it about teaching our kids about respect and responsibility and hard work and teamwork and discipline and competition and all those things? Or is it about just winning? It’s really really fun to win, but do you remember how many games you won last year? Do you remember the tournaments you went to though, and the fun times you went to with your teammates? That’s what we remember.”
She talks of the experiences the team had at hotels and on trips – bonding, co-operating and growing as human beings. That’s what makes sport transformative.
I was interviewed as part of the evening and it’s obvious that these Olympians touched me deeply. Thanks, Chevrolet for putting safety and fun into sport.
If you ask what the biggest obstacle is for just about any Mom, keeping the car clean will be near the top of her list. We’ve sent people to the moon, can photograph a cheque to deposit it into a bank account and yet no car company had ever made a vehicle with a built-in vacuum. Until now. I have been test driving the Touring version of the 2014 Honda Odyssey and quite possibly may never give it back. I shoved a Christmas Tree in a Honda Odyssey and vacuumed up all the needles.
Roomy and luxurious, the favourite feature of the minivan is a vacuum that extends right from the rear all the way to the front windshield. With a cord that won’t tangle. To truly test the functionality, I got permission from Honda to use the vehicle to carry not one, but two Christmas trees from the lot to my home. Pulling a cord and flipping the seats down was easy, and the 11-foot tree slid into the car with ease. The 12-footer was strapped to the roof with twine. After removing and decorating the stunners, the car was pine scented and fresh, but there were needles everywhere.
The Honda Odyssey Vacuum
I pressed the start button on the vehicle once to put the Odyssey into accessory mode. Pupping the trunk using the smart key, I only had to touch the ‘on’ button and grab the hose from the stowage area. There are 2 attachments and it will run for 8 minutes before it shuts off on its own. Not to worry if your car looks like mine – shutting car off and turning cit back on gives you another eight minutes of Cheerio-sucking bliss.
The Odyssey Cool box
Cool box as in ‘keeps drinks, leftovers or pumped breastmilk nice and chilly. You just press a button to put air conditioning in the box. The great thisg is that unlike other auto manufacturers, Honda does not simply use the vents to cool the box but has a seperate A/C cooling system. So you can be warm while the juiceboxes stay cold.
The Odyssey Back Seat
You know when you try to squeeze three carseats across a back seat and the kids can’t access the seatbelt buckles so you have to get out of the car and buckle everyone in yourself? That doesn’t happen here. You can move the back seats wider apart to make more carseat room. There are window shutters that slide up and down that proved very durable as my kids played with them. ‘Daytime. Nighttime. Daytime. Nighttime.’ What a fun game.
The Miraculous Odyssey A/V System
Have you ever had a toddler and a teen fight over tv selection? Dora or Twilight and NO compromise. This vehicle solve the issue. (Yes, you may want to move into it). The wider drop-down video screen can split into two sides so each can watch their preferred programming. Switch seats after a rest stop? No worries. The flick of a button on the remote will allow you to swap the screen. Cordless headphones can be assigned to either side, and the third row seating boasts hdmi or rca jacks for your secondary source dvd. Or maybe an ipod. Or the Xbox or ps3. Guitar hero anyone?
The touchscreen is new to this Odyssey and when used with the Aha system, makes your life easy. Hondalink is a free app from iTunes or google play. It allows you to stream internet radio. You can pick any station in North America, type of music using hardly any data. You could, for instance, use it two hours per day for a month and use only 1 gig of data on your smartphone. Swipe to play the next song if you don’t like the current one, and set up to 16 stations as favourites..
Voice command functionality allows you to talk to the car. With 2 presses of the voice command button you can say things like:
‘Find nearest gas station’, ‘Passenger temperature 25’, ‘Fan speed 5’ or ‘Rear defrost on’ and the car will do your bidding. No you cannot marry your car.
The clock is set via satellite so you never have to change the time again (or remember to add an hour).
Curious about the Christmas Tree test? Check out my video. Spoiler alert: It will make you want a 2014 Honda Odyssey.
This article was generously sponsored by Honda Canada. All opinions, images and ideas are my own. For more information, visit honda.ca/odyssey.
The boys are getting used to our ‘borrowed cars’ and they even humour me by describing what they like as we drive. The big hit will always be the ‘tracking device’ (GPS) but with the Ford Fusion Hybrid, they added another item to their top 10. The sleek lines of the Fusion made us think that the car would sound like a souped-up sports car when the ignition was engaged. But no. Silence. The only sound was from the back seat. “Mommy, is it going? We’re not going to make it to school! The car doesn’t work!” Like something Q would have designed for James Bond, we could sneak up on the least suspecting person. He he.
Trunk-wise there was plenty of room for our masses of sporting equipment and groceries, though I still argue that I need a larger vehicle to house it all. My epiphany came when we filled the car before returning it. I drove all week. And I have never saved so much money on gas. In the course of a year I estimate that I could save enough to purchase about 91 pairs of shoes. Now that’s speaking my language.
MPG stats for the Fusion Hybrid:
1. The grate in front is formed like a hexagon and made the car look super-sporty.
2. The ambient lighting inside kept the kids happy without turning on extra lights.
3. The rear-view camera provided lines for guidance
4. The ecoboost engine was perky and environmentally friendly
5. The standard cloth seats in the Fusion Hybrid feature a fabric made with REPREVE— a fibre using 100% recycled materials that could potentially have otherwise ended up in landfills.
6. Regenerative braking recovers more than 90 percent lost energy and sends it back to the battery pack to be stored for later use. It was fun testing my braking ‘score’ every time I stopped.
7. The lane departure warning helped me stay on track.
8. Forward collision warning let us know if there was a vehicle too close in front of my Fusion.
9. Active Park Assist: You can activate available active park assist and it looks for an available parking spot. Ultrasonic sensors measure the distance to the curb and between parked cars. Once a spot that’s big enough is identified, you’re signalled to stop and accept the system’s assistance. All you do is control the shifting, accelerating and braking. A bit freaky at first but very luxurious when you get used to it!
10. Loved the Sync voice-activated technology. The console was easy to navigate and very intuitive.
11. In the electric vehicle (EV), your power is monitored by lights on four quadrants that charge with a plug.
While in Detroit I was again given the opportunity to drive the Fusion Hybrid but as an Electric Vehicle this time (albeit with much more technical knowledge and information about the true environmental benefits of the car.) My partner Andy Lutzky (@rockatalic) from Hardware Geeks and I raced the track and while maneuvering pylons, here’s a video of our thoughts on the car.
It was my tenth wedding anniversary and I was fully surprised as I got whisked off to Los Angeles. The tenth seems to carry more weight than it used to. We were upgraded and treated like royalty everywhere we went and it began with the car rental agency. Noting the special occasion we were given a Ford Mustang convertible. And I happened to have a scarf to tie around my head a la Grace Kelly. (But of course).
The Ford Mustang has always held allure for me. Rugged and manly yet powerful with crisp lines, it produces a visceral reaction. I have to stop writing auto reviews. They always sound racy to me. (But to be fair you should read their slogans). Even as an automatic the car is easy to handle and the turning radius was impressive in tiny LA parking garages. Delivering up to 662 HP (V8 Manual Supercharged), I can’t think of a better vehicle in which to see the southern California coast. No longer intimidated by the sunroof, it was fully automated with 2 manual levers that were easily operated.
I happened to be attending the Ford Trends Conference in Detroit for the 50th anniversary of the Mustang. Unlike the image in my mind of the vehicle of 50 years ago (my close friend was given one by his dad), I was taken with the modern design and extras. Trends discussed at the conference about environmental responsibility, technology and the notion of cars making life easier for their drivers were evident in the vehicle. The SYNC® with MyFord Touch® systems allow you to use the RCA connectors to plug in all kinds of video players such as gaming consoles and iPods. You can even turn your smartphone into a wireless router, so your passengers — big and small — can surf the Web! Hold me back – I’m trying to unplug this summer.
The steering wheel was stitched beautifully through leather and ergonomic to the hands. The square detailing on the dash juxtaposed against the curves of the outside shell made for a ying-yang experience. Our music blared clearly from huge speakers and as we drove through Malibu and Hollywood I played with the dials styled like old-school radio accessories. I may have been singing a bit too.. Capitol Records, are you listening? More a ‘date-night’ vehicle, there were of course carseat latches but you’d be hard-pressed to fit a third person between two carseats. That, of course, isn’t the purpose of this machine. As a date vehicle for fair weather? Perfect.
Get your head out of the gutter Mom. Learning how to drive a stick shift (or manual transmission for the techies) is a perfect skill to add to your bucket list. Not only does the manual shifting of gears give you more power and control, but it could be necessary in an emergency (think James Bond in Die Another Day), renting a hot European driving machine in the South of France, being a DD to a friend in a race car, or driving on icy roads (last but not least). I have owned a couple of manual cars and was fortunate to learn on my Dad’s before I ruined my own clutche(s) (thanks Dad). But I must admit, the control over the car and the jaw-dropping stares by people as I stepped into my car in stilettos and didn’t stall was worth every ounce of effort.
It used to be the case that most people drove manual. Not now. Honda has a deep heritage in racing, and I was lucky to attend a manual driving school with professional racers Daniel Morad and Jeff Boyce. Very cool. Honda believes that manual transmission is at the core of the driving experience. and without it, driving has lost some of its ‘fun-ness’. It doesn’t have to be just for getting to a destination with juice boxes being biffed at your head. It’s a better experience with manual because you control more. About the car. Unfortunately Honda has no backseat nanny option . As yet. They do have a vacuum in the new 2014 Odyssey though.
So I ‘raced’ the 2013 Honda Civic around a track – it’s the best selling car in Canada for 15 years. It was responsive, compact and exciting. And then I got to drive with the pro. For the record – I didn’t stall. But I certainly picked up a ton of pointers on how to drive a stick shift.
1. Depress clutch all way to floor so car will start.
2. Adjust seat. (In my case way up and forward).
3. Hands at 9 and 3 to protect from airbag. No longer 10 and 2.
4. Put car in 1st gear. Put right foot under seat. Cars have enough torque to move a bit nowadays without balancing the clutch and gas. (Exception – on a hill use the emergency brake to avoid rolling backward and balance the feet).
5. Once car rolls, lift clutch and give a bit of gas.
6. Clutch needs to be fully up or down. Don’t hover foot over clutch pedal.
7. Put foot on floor or to left of clutch.
8. Advanced: When you downshift blip throttle to eliminate jolt to lower gear.
9. Clutch down then break when stopping.
Here’s a clip of the lovely Laura Heasman from Honda Canada ending in Daniel Morad doing his power lap – WHILE talking as I shot footage. I think I would have stalled.
There’s a joke now about me as I test drive vehicles. Unlike other auto journalists, it takes about an hour for me to take all of the kid stuff out of my own car and transfer it to the tester. Car seats, sporting equipment, groceries, garbage, dried cheerios and dirty coffee mugs make their way into the clean new car as everyone around me chuckles. Luckily whenever I drive an Acura, I feel so much like a princess that I don’t mind the extra work. I drove the Acura ILX Hybrid (MSRP $35,050) and ILX Technology (MSRP$32,350) back to back and was delighted by what I found.
Though they are different to drive (and a tad distracting if you watch the dials as much as I do), hybrids are winning my love at the moment. Typically it’s all about the environment and the time and money you save at the gas pumps, but as an under-appreciated mom, I have other reasons. I feel like I’m in control; of how I use the fuel, how I drive, and the noise level within the car. I also feel good about myself for simply driving a hybrid (and am able to park in hybrid-only parking spots). That’s nice too.
That aside, here’s what I loved about both vehicles:
1. The Valet key is genius. The removable key portion ensures that the valet or a burglar can’t get into trunk if the ‘valet’ option is switched off. For this reason there is no passthru on the trunk on hybrid. (Skiiers beware).
2. Flat tire seal repair kit for the hybrid ensures you have no need to change a tire on the side of road. Perfect safety for women!
3. There’s a hard drive in the vehicle so that when you insert a cd it will copy your music and store it on the hard drive (150 cd capacity).
4. Like in Hondas, there is a flat back floor which gives backseat passengers more room – especially if someone is sitting between two carseats.
5. Pant protector and the double seal on doors ensures that you don’t get oil and grease on your new designer jeans.
6. Seat warmers remember last setting so nobody can play a joke on you by making your backside too hot.. Ditto for the navigation system with voice recognition.
7. The push button start, while leaving the key in your purse is a must for moms.
8. The look is super sporty with a low profile and great viz.
9. Rear windows are nice and low so that the kids can see out (hopefully avoiding some car screaming time).
10. The SMS text message function reads you texts as you drive, and you are also able to respond with a few stock responses such as ‘I’ll text later, I’m driving’. Much fun can be had with passengers in the back seat depending on the propriety of incoming text messages.
11. There is a “feedback” system in the Hybrid that lets a driver know how well they are performing. A big green ball grows larger if you drive sensibly and shrinks if you don’t. So try to limit the shrinkage.
1. I thought the trunk of the hybrid was small, as the battery is behind the back seat (or perhaps I carry around too much junk…)
2. Totally not a drawback with the vehicles but either with my kids or my ineptitude as a Mom. Where does all of the kid-dirt come from? I am SO glad I don’t have to clean the car after a week of driving. What’s with the blue playdoh?
Loved both of these vehicles and for the extra couple of thousand dollars, I’d choose the Acura ILX Hybrid. The savings in fuel, the rear spoiler and the self-love you’ll receive make it a slam dunk.