It’s hard to believe that road trip season is nearly upon us. It may be 37 degrees outside now, but I know that before too long we’ll have the windows down as we cruise the highway in search of fun and adventure. We already have a couple of long drives planned for the summer, including road trips from DC to Atlanta and Montreal.
Last May, my husband, Dirk, and I drove from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara for the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon. Not quite a road trip, but it was a beautiful drive that in just under two hours took us across beautiful parts of the California coast line, including a nice stretch of famed highway 101. While family road trips are fabulous, it was nice to take a mini-road trip with only my husband.
When we arrived in California, we hopped in the Toyota Highlander that was waiting for us at the airport. It was a hybrid, which I love (we’re fans of eco-friendly hybrids and my husband currently drives one), and a great car whether used as a family car or for a single driver.
The car had a lot of great features, like satellite radio (I do love 80s on 8 and 90s on 9) and captain-style chairs in the rear for added kiddie comfort. I also love that the heat or air conditioning in the car can be adjusted from each row. That goes a long way toward keeping the peace in the car and keeping little ones (even adults) from complaining that they’re too hot or too cold.
As a part-time minivan driver at home, I love that the Toyota Highlander is a great alternative to the minivan. I have four kids and while they were not with me when I tested out the Highlander, there would have been plenty of space for them, plus a friend, plus any gear they may have had for sports or school activities. For road trips, we probably would have been tight on luggage space, but if we left two of the kids at home, we would have been fine (kidding).
Here are three of my favorite features of the Toyota Highlander:
1. Three-Zone Climate Control: Like I said, I loved that regardless of the row you sit in, you have your own temperature controls so you can be as warm or as cool as you want to be no matter where you are sitting in the car.
2. Center Stow System: In the second row, you can pull down a console to hold drinks, iPods, snacks or books. When we take trips, I insist that my kids bring something (anything) to entertain themselves, so having an area for them to store their snacks and entertainment is key.
3. DVD Player: Since in-car entertainment is important to me, the DVD player and pull-down 9-inch display is fantastic. Even better, there are wireless headphones so the kids can watch and listen to a TV program or movie without distracting others in the car.
While we tested out the 2013 model, by many accounts, the 2014 model is even more fabulous. The Toyota Highlander got a bit larger and now comfortably seats up to eight people. It’s a lot easier to get into the third row too and as a bonus, there is now one-third more space in the cargo area for luggage and gear. Now, we won’t need to leave anyone at home to carry the kids and the luggage (still kidding).
Disclaimer: Toyota allowed me and my husband to test drive the Highlander during our road trip for purposes of this review. No compensation was received and all opinions are my own.