This Post May Change How You Feel About Road Tripping with Your Kids
Somewhere along the Klondike Highway between Yukon and Alaska, we pulled over to take in the beautiful landscape. It was there, on top of a mountain, that we made a commitment to show our children — ages 3, 5 and 9 years old — every province and territory in Canada. At that moment, our family travel goal was born and in the last few years we’ve been exploring our country and driving thousands of kilometres in the process.
While some are convinced that road tripping with kids is a special kind of torture, with over 100,000 road trip kms under our belts (and more to go), we’ve learned that family road trips, especially the long ones, are among our best opportunities to bond as a family.
Family Travel Goal
When was the last time you set a family goal? Although it was the adults in our family who set this goal, as the kids get older they are putting their own mark on what we set out to achieve. We talk about where we’ll go next and what to explore. At first we set our sights on visiting every province and territory, but the kids added capital cities too! Whether it’s visiting every National or Provincial Park, dipping your toes in each of the Great Lakes, or seeing Canadian animals in the wild — family travel goals make for great bonding experiences.
Only One Plug in the Backseat and No Wifi
Our family road trips often involve 10 hour+ driving days and I’m often asked what the kids do all that time. This summer we drove from Ontario to Newfoundland and Labrador travelling over 7,500kms and 1,000 nautical kilometres. With no wifi and one plug in the vehicle for three kids to share, there are many lessons in compromise.
One quick search through Pinterest and you’ll come across tons of ideas for car games. From road trip bingo to scavenger hunts, a simple printout can keep kids (and parents) engaged for many mile markers. Our favourites involve the whole family and can be played throughout the entire trip, especially licence plate scavenger hunt. On our last trip we spotted licence plates from all 10 provinces and 1 territory, as well as a Canada plate and plates from 39 States and 2 international ones. (It was a long car ride!)
Making Decisions on the Fly
Now our kids are older, all our road trips involve interesting pit stops, experiential learning, and more than a few back roads. If the main highway is full of traffic, there is always an alternative route. If you see a sign for an interesting landmark, make the time to check it out. Your kids will love you for making a pit stop. It’s true when they say the journey is the destination and when it comes to road tripping, some of the best bonding and stories come from where you stopped along the way.
With the realities of our busy family, sit down meals at home happen only once or twice a week. But when we road trip we eat every single meal together as a family. Because of this our road trip meals become extra special. We try to visit local restaurants, food trucks, or chip wagons along the route. My absolute favourite is when we stop at farmer’s markets or fruit and vegetable stands to pick up local ingredients for campfire-side meals. When camping along our road trip route, must have menu items include Camping Chicken http://www.yummymummyclub.ca/blogs/maija-moments-canned-soup-mom/20150601/honey-balsamic-chicken-kabobs-recipe, homemade hamburgers, bannock and banana boats (which sometimes count as breakfast).
Stories of the Olden Days
In our family, the driver gets to choose the music, or at least until the rest of the carload stages a revolt. When my husband drives he switches on the 90s station and proceeds to sing, dance and tell stories of when he was younger and would listen to that particular song. Since we were high school sweethearts, he tells a few stories about me too. From the backseat, the kids get a glimpse into what their parents were like when we were younger and since they have no where else to go, there are lots of questions and requests for more stories.
The View from The Backseat
No matter who the important adults are in the front seat, there’s something special that happens on road trips. Sure, there can be disagreements about which route to take or when to stop, but overall my kids have seen their parents hold hands for hours, talk about future dreams, and plan our lives together from the backseat. They’ve seen me talk to my grandmother about family history, my father about the road trips we took when I was younger, and heard me give my younger sister life advice. Watching adults they love bond in a way that can only be done when huddled together on a road trip will stay with kids forever.
Shared Life Experiences
When I emailed our family to let them know we were headed out on our Yukon adventure, my stepmother wrote me back, I’m sure it will give you a whole new picture of being thankful for this beautiful country. I keep this email in a folder in my inbox and when I re-read it I think about how that trip was the beginning of the incredible experiences we’ve shared. I’m so thankful for our Canadian adventures. But mostly, I’m thankful for the opportunity to have spent over 100,000kms bonding as a family – creating memories that will last a lifetime.
Happy Road Tripping!
By: Maija Craig
Maija is a travel, lifestyle and food writer who was recently named one of the Top Mom Food Bloggers in North America and given #2 honours in the budget-friendly recipes category. Maija also loves to road trip with her husband and 3 children ages 7, 8 and 12 years old. Having driven well over 100,000kms together, the Craig family are road tripping experts and are always up for the next adventure. Follow along and be inspired to travel #CanadaWithKids and check out her most recent recipes at www.CannedSoupMom.com.