Sorry I haven’t written in a while, the last few weeks I have been on my own personal version of Oregon Trail – you know the computer game where nine of your 10 children die of dysentery and the last few of you remaining drown after you finally reach the damn river you have to cross. My version included a Santa Fe XL with heated and cooling seats, a GPS system, one well traveled baby, two dehydrated and caffeinated parents – because we ain’t got time for pee breaks, and of course Canada.
It took us six days but we finally made it to the Atlantic ocean, there were moments (pretty much from the time we left Calgary city limits) that I wasn’t sure I would make it across seven provinces, but with the power of the internet, google review, and a little bit of road rage (a lot in Montreal), it wasn’t that bad. Sure we dealt with fog in a snowstorm, road quality that made me think we were driving over someones Grade Six paper mâché project, some questionable food and a new appreciation on how isolating our vast country can be.
Cillian was a trooper, he handled the car ride way better than I did, which I think we can agree upon is not entirely shocking. Our back seat turned into a make your own adventure, where anything goes when it comes to entertaining a nine month old. My wallet was one of greater hits, and when you are stuck for six days, 12 hours/day in a car with a baby you pick your battles – I don’t usually let our son watch TV, I like to pretend I am better than that, however that British pig Peppa and I had good thing going that last half a hour before we finally reached our hotel for the evening.
A few tips if you decide to take your baby on a forever road trip.
- A playlist, because chances are one of you will be in the front driving and the other one will be in the backseat becoming a seasoned vet in early childhood entertainment. After seeing one province for three days straight you need motivation to keep going. I can understand why our ancestors said f’ it and just set up home in some random spot.
- Do not prebook your hotel rooms. My partner and I have never been one to prebook when traveling but we did have a few friends question our spontaneity and if it was the best idea when you have a baby. While we had a rough idea of our travel route and where we would be staying each evening, it wasn’t a guarantee. We had to go on Cillian’s schedule and had he had an off day, or we had bad weather we weren’t going to push it to get to the next stop. We had no trouble finding a hotel room as we pulled into our final destination for the evening and usually got rates cheaper because the hotel was trying to fill the rooms for the evening. Note, if you are traveling close to the US border make sure the rates you are given are CND, not USD.
- Do not bring a pack and play. Every hotel we stayed at had one we could use if we chose to. The amount of space you are saving by not brining one is valuable extra toy storage.
- Grocery stores and coolers are your best friends. The towns you will be driving through and/or staying the night in – at least in Canada, most likely are not the next undiscovered hipster foodie capital, I am sure they have great places to eat, but you the drive by tourist will not know of them, nor will you really care to look for them after being stuck in a car for 12 hours. Sure maybe you want to take advantage of this road trip and eat all the junk food, I didn’t want to gain back the little baby weight I had lost. Also a lot of these drive in drive out towns are use to one night travellers and therefore know they can charge whatever they want for something like cold, soggy wings.
- If you are traveling across a long distance for moving purposes, make space in your vehicle for sentimental belongings, such as photo albums – I don’t really care if my artistic interpretation of an “antiqued” bookshelf doesn’t make it in the moving van, I will care if that one picture that shows I have a slight genetic resemblance to my son gets lost.
- VACUUM sealed bags!!! Best invention ever for the horrible packer – I don’t know when I might need a cute spring dress and oxford boots for my overnight in northern New Brunswick.
- Thank god for my maternity year off because I have vast collection of house pants, sweatpants and leggings to choose from – for when you are stuck in a car and don’t really care what the trucker at the gas station by the Great Lakes thinks of you.
- We found that when having your kid change their sleeping arrangements as much as ours has, that a consistent sound is important – in our case the sound of rain, he better get use to it considering he coming from the Sahara Desert of Canada to Rain Drops Keep Falling on my Head Halifax.
- Leave no soldier behind, or in our case toys and blankets. Unfortunately when you check-in at your hotel at 8pm and out at 6am, you don’t always triple check that everything you took out of your bag makes it back in. We lost a few good comrades across Canada, Cillian being only nine months didn’t notice, us as parents however had to take a moment knowing that Cillian’s first Lambie was no longer with us.
- Coppers, Ontario’s RCMP and cops are out and about. I have never seen so many monitoring the roads, you would think this would have meant we weren’t going to speed – wrong, and we have the $50 ticket to prove it.
- There is no right time to road trip it across Canada. I mean there is definitely a wrong time, I wouldn’t recommend snowstorm season. We left in early Spring, the roads were quiet and we didn’t have to deal with a bunch of semi-trucks, family rv’s or bikers, we did however have Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall conditions all in one day. If you decide on the Summer road trip, you will have gorgeous scenery, and cooperating weather until the fog like conditions around the Great Lakes – it’s a rite of passage, but you will be running into the semi-trucks, family rv’s and bikers on Ontario’s one lane highway… with few options to pass.
- It may only say eight hours on your GPS to get from point a to b, know that this is wrong, know that you are not special, know that you will need longer and know that if you think otherwise you are exactly like us. An eight hour trip easily turned into 10, think pee stops, gas stops, eating stops, taking a picture to as proof of life to your family and friends stops, and of course letting your baby have a moment or two of freedom stops.
- Congratulate yourself when you make to your destination, still as a family unit, still talking to one another and in one piece.
- Be grateful that you were able to take the time to do something most people won’t in their lifetime, and while we all agreed to take in as much of the sites as we could, there is no way in hell we are doing that trip again unless we absolutely had to – as in we are being paid a lot of money.
The trip we took was (we would recommend all the hotels we stayed in):
- Calgary to Brandon (Lakeview Inns and Suites)
- Brandon to Thunder Bay (Thunder Bay Inn)
- Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie (Quattro Hotel)
- Sault Ste. Marie to Ottawa (stayed with a good friend and her husband, had a great home-cooked meal and a break from hotel life)
- Ottawa to Woodstock (Best Western Plus Woodstock Inn & Suites)
- Woodstock to HALIFAX (Omi & Pops)!!!