We are not a big, expensive, annual vacation kind of family. We mostly are just a big … family. Over the years we’ve managed to collect enough airmiles to take our kids to Disneyland three times. While those trips were fun, they were always budget-conscious trips … breakfast in our hotel room, pack lunches and snacks to eat during the day. The only meal we allowed ourselves to ‘restaurant’ was supper. The funny thing is, once we got home the kids never really talked about the trip.
The one trip that does still get talked about was done when the last three kids were still at home. It has come to be known as The Epic Road Trip. It wasn’t all that big – but it was an epic amount of fun.
I spent hours and hours and hours doing research on campgrounds – and then made reservations.
I have to admit I don’t like camping. Sleeping on an air mattress that is just plain cold, and somehow not either supportive or cushiony, is not my idea of fun. Having to traipse across the campground in the dark (and cold) in the middle of the night if I need the bathroom also does not turn my crank. But this trip was different.
We took a utility trailer for all our camping (and my racing) gear. That meant we didn’t have to deflate air mattresses every time we moved, nor did we have to fully collapse and pack up the tents. This meant we had lots of room in the van! Kids weren’t stuffed between sleeping bags and tent poles – but our gas economy with pulling a trailer was pretty dismal. It was completely and totally a worthwhile trade-off.
We started in Calgary, headed down through Idaho, then west to the coast to end up on Whidby Island, where I raced in an Olympic-distance triathlon. This was one of the purposes of the trip – to get me to Whidby for the race. From there we headed up to BC to our cabin in Fairmont for a couple of nights, then home again. Aside from the two nights at the cabin, the rest of the trip was camping.
The first campground in Idaho had a little beach and an old dock to jump off of. We had so much fun cannonballing each other! Other campgrounds had great hikes along beautiful rivers, or were close enough to walk to the ocean. Being landlubbers and not understanding tides we nearly got caught on a sandbar as the tide rolled in. Who knew tides rolled in that fast? We spent time watching the tiniest crabs ever in little tidal pools, watching for dolphins (never did see any), and exploring little towns along the coast. Not once did we hear “I’m bored” or “Can we do something else?”
We prepped snacks for the day as soon as breakfast was done – cut up fresh fruit and veggies, sliced cheese, packed crackers, and grabbed granola bars. When people are comfortably full they are happy!
We stopped every two hours for a stretch break and to switch drivers, driving no more than six hours in a day.
We kept the lunch cooler well-stocked. The first hint of ‘I think I’m ready for lunch’ meant we’d pull off the road, open the back of the van, and make submarine sandwiches to order. No one ever had to eat something they didn’t want.
So this 10-day, no frills, budget-minded road trip ended up being the one the kids still talk about nearly 10 years later. That alone makes it epic.