The best family road trip is the one you always take. And when the open road calls, we go. Planes are fun and get you to your destination quickly, but the best way to travel is on ground level where you see things from an entirely different perspective.
A few years back we surprised the kids with a road trip of a lifetime. We would spend 19 days travelling from our home in Calgary, Alberta to California and back again through British Columbia. We were travelling in December for Christmas. Not exactly an ideal time to travel on the roads of the Canadian Rockies but that didn’t deter us from going. We set off on the morning of December 19 and hit the open road with a then 15, 6 and 5 year old. It was one of the most memorable trips ever.
Road trip planning 101
When we first set out planning our family road trip we knew it had to be a surprise for the kids. We did not want them to know anything until the day of so we made a plan. First, we purchased a road map. An actual piece of paper that you could draw on and fold and get irritated at when you couldn’t figure out how to read it. This was an adventure after all!
Second, we packed the car the night before, woke the kids up nice and early and took them out for breakfast. We did get a few stares into the trunk but we flat out lied and told them they were going to their grandmas for a week for Christmas break. At least the two little ones fell for it.
Road trip routes
Surprisingly enough the roads were clear as we left Calgary despite it being December. We were also fortunate to have clear roads as we headed south all the way into Idaho and beyond.
Our plan was to leave Calgary and head straight south into Idaho for the first leg of the trip. This would be the second border crossing with the kids and we knew spending 10-12 hours in a car every day would require some forethought. Along with maps, the kids got new headphones, a few favorite DVD’s, colouring books with new pencils and snacks galore.
During our first stretch of highway we rolled into Idaho Falls just after 8pm. Stopped for a quick bite to eat and headed to our hotel for the night.
Hotel living isn’t glamorous but when you’re in the midst of the best road trip you simply adjust and make do. In fact, the best part about living in hotel rooms was the pools and free continental breakfasts. When you’re travelling over 5000 kilometers, getting free food with three kids is always a bonus! Although there was a time limit on our trip with a final destination of Anaheim, planning stops was crucial. From Idaho we ventured south along I15 with a pit stop in Salt Lake City for lunch.
Another idea we had as we planned our family road trip was to stop at as many triple D restaurants as we could. Back in the day before Netflix exploded on the scene we had cable. And on that cable we binge watched a show called Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. It was spectacular to watch so we made sure we stopped at some along the way.
road trip sight-seeing
No family road trip is complete without off the beaten path stops. One of the best tools we used when planning our trip was roadtrippers.com. This has got to be the best site for planning your road trips. Highly recommend and will be using it again in the future!
all road trips must come to an end
Our final destination was Anaheim, California where we spent a full week exploring. You can read all about that here. As we wrapped up our week long trip in California we soon found ourselves heading back North into Oregon and then back into Canada.
The trek back home was a long one as we got stranded in British Columbia for an extra two days because of a snow storm. Lucky for us, we were staying with friends so it ended up being a lovely visit. As road trips go, this by far was one of the best ones we’ve taken. We look forward to hitting the road again as the best road trips are meant to be spent with those closest to your heart. ❤️