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Road trip in Summer, with 4 kids, BC to Ontario, suggestions for itinerary?

Road trip in Summer, with 4 kids, BC to Ontario, suggestions for itinerary?

Feb 9th, 2013, 10:11 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 46
Road trip in Summer, with 4 kids, BC to Ontario, suggestions for itinerary?

I posted this before but didn't get to tag British Columbia so want to re submit as the BC people are very helpful on this forum..!

We are an Australian family with 4 children living in BC for the year and would like to make the most of our Summer break by seeing the great parts of Canada without feeling the urge to lose a kid or two along the way..! Their ages are 6, (girl) 10, 12, 15
(3 boys)

I am trying to plan a road trip itinerary for approx 6-7 weeks and need to find accomodation along the way that sleeps 6 without a huge cost. Or would it more cost effective to hire a trailer?

Very keen to get to Thompson then go on the train to Churchill to hopefully see some polar bears. Ideas/questions for trip so far are:
Rodeo - Calgary (July 5 ...) other things to see here?
Edminton.. on the way back?
What is there to see in Saskatchewan?
How long to drive from Thompson to Niagara falls? What can we see along the way?
Things to see in Winnipeg on the way back?
Would PEI just be way too much to add on..?

Any suggestions on an itinerary, route, time to travel & spend at places would be SO helpful. It feels very overwhelming to plan at the moment..!

Thanks so much.
busywithfour is offline  
Feb 9th, 2013, 11:39 AM
Join Date: Aug 2005
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Losing a kid or two along this sort of trip is not an option although the thought will cross your mind every mile or so. I, in my younger days, did Alberta to MI. on the Trans Canada and had more knots in the end of my rope to hang on to than I could count. That being said if you have a dvd player in your car and a second one for any malcontent, a van to sretch out in and lots of good cheer and possibly a camper trailer as the cost will be high without it.. it will be a super trip.. Mountains and such to Calgary..lots to see ..Calgary Stampede, of course, but bring $$$. Sask. lots of scenic nothing.. wheat, canola and oil fields,,Manitoba..turn north to Riding Mountain Nat. Park, Hit Winnipeg to see the Parliment buildings, Then the polars bears? I have no experience there. The shield country.lots of rock and not much else until the big lake of Gitchi Gooma (Lk. Superior.cold water but very scenic.)Great Lakes and lake country in Ont. beautiful and swimable water.Ottoawa, Toronto..lots to see amd do. Niagra Falls awesome except for the tacky Touisty stuff..May need visas to go across, don't know what the regs are for you guys but not necessary. You might find the trip back is just a repeat and Edmonton is off the Trans. Can. and that would put you on the Yellow Head to BC which although mountains again very scenic.Consider returning through the states if passport regs allow..Ont. through Sarnia/Port Huron..Cross northern MI. Head west..Very different scenery.. Could do interstates or #2.. (2 isn't fast)..Some of your locales are not much to see except that you can say "been there, done that". On USA route you can see Teddy Roosevelt Nat. Park..a small version of Grand Canyon. Glacier Nat, Park in Montana..Rockies again,Columbia River, Volcanic desert in Washington and back home. This trip will take up the whole summer and hopefully tioy all will be the same lovong family you where on the onset. Probably nearly 5,000 miles(not counting maritimes)..not kms. A trip to be remembered for sure.!!!Good luck!!!
amer_can is offline  
Feb 9th, 2013, 12:25 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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Can't help on the polar bears.

Prince Edward Island is more than 1000 miles from Niagara Falls. It's an interesting trip, but a long way to and from.

Canadian maps are deceiving, but Google maps will be your friend.

Are you considering taking part of this trip through the USA? There's a lot to be said for a circle, going one way in Canada and one way in the USA.

RENTING A TRAILER: This might save some money, but it will slow you down, and it will put you at night out in the suburbs instead of in more interesting parts of town.

CALGARY STAMPEDE: You'll remember this forever, but it is expensive, and the rodeo part is more of a show you watch from an arena seat. There are small town rodeos throughout BC and Alberta all summer long, where you get to talk to the cowboys and pat the horses, so this means you have some scheduling flexibility.

Do some research on the likelihood of seeing polar bears in the summer. That's an expensive sidetrip, but again, memorable if the odds are good.

More, later ....
BAK is offline  
Feb 9th, 2013, 12:36 PM
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Bak.. You and I are certainly on the same page except for the trailer.Cost on this trip will be very dear!!. I hope, Busywithfour, you are able to see the rest of our wonderful country.
amer_can is offline  
Feb 9th, 2013, 01:21 PM
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Wow, thanks so much for all your help and advice. Didn't think about a USA jaunt on the way back but it sounds good to me. And we had to fork out to get 6 x 5 year US B2 visas to get here to Canada for the year so might as well use them.. I might look into the cost of renting a trailer (we call them caravans in Aus)then..
Good point BAK about the rodeo, might be more authentic to find smaller ones here in BC or in Alberta. We are going to Disneyland for part of Spring break, so that might be enough commercialism for me.
busywithfour is offline  
Feb 9th, 2013, 01:53 PM
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hi there, if you are getting to calgary, i'd suggest as you head east to go via drumheller to see the dinosaurs and surrounding landscape and excavations. it was one of the highlights of my last cross country drive.

we also took a ferry across what i believe may be the opening to georgian bay that was beautiful.
as we approached cottage country west of toronto. if weather is good, the ride out to toronto islands on the ferry for a day @ the beach is fun
AndrewDavid is offline  
Feb 9th, 2013, 06:27 PM
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yes have heard about the dinosaurs. Thanks for the tip about the ferry.. Too much to do..!
busywithfour is offline  
Feb 9th, 2013, 06:59 PM
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OMG..An Albertan and didn't even think to suggest Drumheller. I think they have a sort of day camp for kids to dig, unless they have cancellled it due to our "improverished" province and the mega deficit...Again depend on tourism webs..
amer_can is offline  
Feb 10th, 2013, 05:03 AM
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Saskatchewan is recruiting a tourism promotion executive. 30 years ago, I would have applied, perhaps.

Moose Jaw Transportation Museum: http://wdm.ca/mj.html learn how the west was opened up. Kids will love this.

Regina. Natural history museum.

And I underline the earlier suggestion of Drumheller Alberta dinosaurs.

Trailers - Caravans; Many years ago family friends set out from Toronto to Vancouver and back, with a station wagon (estate car?) towing a tent trailer.

They stayed with us in Calgary, please to be inside a house, and a few days later I ran into them in my hotel lobby in Vancouver. My recollection is that they had an enjotyable camping trip, but sacrificed theopportunity to see a lot.
BAK is offline  
Feb 10th, 2013, 07:00 AM
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Another thought ...If you or someone you know is a member of AAA (US motor assoc. in Alberta AMA and ?? in BC) get the maps and books that tell you hotels, rest, etc and you will find towns described therein. Bits of history and facts about them as you drive by in case something tweaks your interest. The same for the US northern states if you choose to go that way.
amer_can is offline  
Feb 10th, 2013, 09:29 AM
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You already have some good tips and I'd join in with those stumping for Drumheller. I'm surprised nobody's mentioned stopping off at Lake Louise on your way to Calgary as I remember it distinctly from seeing it as a kid too many years ago and pictures that seem to make it impossibly blue don't begin to do it justice.

As for the trip in general, you're definitely looking at some long stretches of driving where there won't be huge distractions. Calgary to Winnipeg would definitely qualify as would going north of Superior from Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie on the Trans-Canada. I did the drive in '87 and that was one of the longest-seeming stretches to me. However, the train to Agawa Canyon is well worth taking a day off for.


In Google Maps, I roughed-out a general route you could do to include the east coast


And the itinerary could go something like this:

Day 1: Vancouver-Kamloops: (4 hours driving)
Day 2: Kamloops-Calgary (7 hours driving)
Day 3: Calgary
Day 4: Calgary-Swft Current, Saskatchewan (via Drumheller, Alberta) (6 hours driving)
Day 5: Swft Current-Winnipeg, Manitoba (8 hours driving)
Day 6: Winnipeg-Thunder Bay (8 hours driving)
Day 7: Thunder Bay-Sault Ste. Marie, ON (8 hours driving)
Day 8: Sault Ste. Marie (Agawa Canyon train)
Day 9: Sault Ste. Marie-Ottawa (10 hours driving)
Day 10: Ottawa
Day 11: Ottawa-Montreal (2 hours driving)
Day 12: Montreal
Day 13: Montreal
Day 14: Montreal-Quebec City (2 1/2 hours driving)
Day 15: Quebec City
Day 16: Quebec City-Charlottetown (9 1/2 hours driving)
Day 17: Charlottetown and PEI
Day 18: Charlottetown and PEI
Day 19: Charlottetown-Baddeck (5 1/2 hours driving)
Day 20: Baddeck-Ingonish (clockwise on the Cabot Trail) (3 hours driving)
Day 21: Ingonish-Louisbourg (3 hours driving)
Day 22: Louisbourg-Halifax (9 hours driving by scenic route; 5 hours highway)
Day 23: Halifax-Lunenburg (by way of Peggy's Cove) (2 hours driving by scenic route; 1 1/4 hours highway)
Day 24: Lunenburg-St. John (or Digby depending on ferry schedule) (2 1/2 hours driving)
Day 25: St. John(Digby)-Boston, Massachusetts (7 hours driving + border crossing)
Day 26: Boston
Day 27: Boston
Day 28: Boston-Niagara Falls (7 1/2 hours driving)
Day 29: Niagara Falls
Day 30: Niagara area-Toronto (2 1/2 hours driving by scenic route; 1 1/2 hours highway)
Day 31: Toronto
Day 32: Toronto-Blind River (6 hours driving highway)
Day 32 alternate: Toronto-Blind River via Toberymory ferry (7 1/2 hours driving total + 2 hour ferry)
Day 33: Blind River-Green Bay, Wisconsin (7 hours driving + border crossing)
Day 34: Green Bay-Fargo, North Dakota (8 hours driving highway)
Day 35: Fargo-Billings, Montana (8 1/2 hours driving highway)
Day 36: Billings-Spokane, Washington (8 hours driving highway)
Day 37: Spokane-Vancouver, British Columbia (6 1/2 hours driving + border crossing)

Cutting PEI and Nova Scotia off the above route and going from Quebec City to Boston by way of Bangor, Maine would save you about 9 days on the same overall route by eliminating days 17-24.


In either case as you can see, there's an awful lot of driving on consecutive days involved and I would think the doability of this all revolves around how well your kids tolerate extended drives. If you want to include the east coast, I'd make sure to allow your 7-week window to break things up more than what I've shown here. Without the east coast, I would think your 6-week window is eminently doable.

As for itinerary suggestions, I'll add a few ideas as part of another post

UTour is offline  
Feb 10th, 2013, 11:00 AM
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Wow...! Utour and all the others.. I am so gobsmacked at the time and attention to detail that you guys put into suggestions and itinerary for travel. You must truly have a passion for travel and your country and to write it all down for a stranger is humbling. Thank you SO much. It is such a huge task to plan but you are making it much easier. I am a big planner so that the least amount of things can go wrong. Managed to get here after 34 hours of travel from Perth with 4 kids, my husband and my sanity intact so the planning paid off.
I will now take the time to look at a map in more detail at your suggestions and work out/compare the costs of
* Buying a 2nd hand camper trailer & the costs of a sites each night
* Renting a trailer & the site costs as opposed to
* motel/hotel costs for a 6-7 week trip, - not easy to find to accomodate 4 kids. Then add in the cost of eating out A lOT (Ugh..) as motel rooms are not often self contained..

Feeling tired already, lol.
Thanks everyone..
busywithfour is offline  
Feb 10th, 2013, 11:05 AM
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And Utour.. how many hours did it take you to come up with that amazing itinerary..? or have you done it yourself?
Yes. amer_can we are members of BCAA so will see what they can help us with.
Bak,those museums sound great.. thanks!
busywithfour is offline  
Feb 10th, 2013, 05:59 PM
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The Fodor's Forums are a great resource and I'm just trying to give back the help I got 6 years ago with a plethora of questions I had about France and Italy.

As for campers, I won't pretend to be knowledgeable (though that's never stopped me from offering an opinion ). That said however, seeing as this'd be a one-time only use for you I don't know that a reliable camper would necessarily be cost-effective once you factor-in camp site costs, the increased fuel costs and what I would expect would be site availability deciding your itinerary instead of the other way around.

One thing's for sure, if you were to go that route I would take the Cabot Trail off your itinerary as there are some beautiful-but-steep inclines esepcially between Pleasant Bay and Ingonish. I'm sure getting yourself through the Rockies'd be less arduous on that front but personally I think it might create more problems than it solves (especially a camper that can sleep 4-6).

On the hotel/motel front, I would think you'd be looking at 2 rooms per night; either
a) 1 room that sleeps two for the ladies of the family and 1 that sleeps 4 for the guys
b) 2 that sleep 4 with your sons in one room (doubtlessly arguing over who gets to sleep single ) and the other for parents + young daughter.

As for the food cost issue, I don't see much of`a way around it (except maybe buying snacks in bulk and letting the kids take the edge of their (especially at yours sons' ages) insatiable appetites.

The map was actually pretty straight-forward. I also broke it down into Vancouver-Digby and Digby-Vancouver with some routing suggestions if you decide to do that. Google Maps is a tad limited in that regard but it's a good jumping-off point. My experience is with Nova Scotia and Ontario (primarily the Niagara region) so much of that was straight recall (no big deal). Once you've winnowed down your itinerary, I'll see what I can do to help things further.

One thing I would suggest when you're in the Niagara area is taking in some of the War of 1812 sites like Brock's Monument at Queenston Heights or Fort George; I would expect your 10 and 12yo should enjoy the musket and cannon-firing demonstrations)

UTour is offline  
Feb 10th, 2013, 07:41 PM
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Here's a song about a saddle bronc rider, written and sung by Ian Tyson.

Women saddle bronc riders are rare. Ian's a famous folk singer from the 1960-70s, (Perhaps Ian and Sylvia ee known in Australia) but he's also a rancher on what's called "the eastern slope" which is the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, facing east toward Calgary.

Before you leave home (Vancouver?)you should be able to get s pretty good schedule of small town rodeos between Vancouver and the Saskatchewan, and work one into your travel plans.

CIRCLE TRIP: You've got the obvious choice of two routes (and the non-obvious of doing something weird like going to Texas on the way.)

My preference, with or without kids, would be in Broad strokes Vancouver - Banff - Calgary - Drumheller - Moose Jaw - Regina - South east Saskatchewan - Winnipeg - your side trip for polar bears - Thunder Bay - Sault Ste Marie - Espanola - and then down across Manitoulin Island, as already suggested and which includes a ferry trip - Niagara Falls - Toronto - Kingston - Ottawa - Montreal.


Montreal - Boston - Buffalo - Cleveland - Chicago - .... from here, I need to do more thinking. There are fancy mountain resorts, real wilderness, Mount Rushmore with the giant carved sculptures and I need moretimewith a map.

ABOUT RETURNING IN CANADA The alternative would be to retrace your steps to Winnipeg and then head north-west through Saskatoon and Edmonton and then back to Vancouver. You'll lots more interesting things in the USA.
BAK is offline  
Feb 10th, 2013, 08:15 PM
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Thanks Bak, that's very thorough.. will def find a rodeo/ranch to visit. Home is Vernon, so as per Utours itinerary we can knock off the first day of travel from Vancouver. Agree- will do Banff soon after leaving here, then Calgary, Drumheller.. I will look at the towns you mentioned from there.
Have to decide how many weeks we can do this all confined to one car/trailer/motel rooms. Hubby thinks 5 max, I'd rather pace it slower and do 6 or 7 weeks. Can leave July 2 and need to be back by Aug 12 but money might run out well before then. The USA sounds better for return trip and we all have US B2 visas so all good there.
busywithfour is offline  
Feb 10th, 2013, 08:21 PM
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Thanks also Utour, great tips again. You know boys well, they would argue about sleeping solo and would love the canoning firing at War sites..! Am I crazy travelling with energetic children..?!
busywithfour is offline  
Feb 11th, 2013, 05:17 AM
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Re> Am I crazy travelling with energetic children..?!<

No, you're not.

Take them to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum at the Hamilton Airport, between Toronto and Niagara Falls.

BAK is offline  
Feb 11th, 2013, 05:27 AM
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Here's the BC Rodeo schedule for this summer.
BAK is offline  
Feb 11th, 2013, 12:19 PM
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Crazy is such a harsh term. I'd prefer to think of you as being....cheerfully optimistic.

I guess the overall guiding question is what sort of vehicle travelers are your kids? Even with in-car distractions along the way, would they enjoy the trip over the long haul (so to speak)? If it loses its shine after a couple of weeks, you'll have anything up to 3 weeks left to pay for it in frayed nerves. The 3-day stretch of straight driving from Swift Current to Sault Ste. Marie would be the biggest challenge whichever you decide to do.

All-in, you have 42 days to play with.

This route, you're looking at about 36 days and includes Montreal, Quebec City and the east coast. I'd say only do it if your kids are unusually patient and indulgent travelers because there're going to be a number of longish driving days. Also, as I said earlier it's not one I'd recommend if you do go the camper route.

This route keeps Montreal and Quebec City but leaves out PEI and Nova Scotia. I'm guestimating it at around 28 days. If your kids are up to it, you get to enjoy the Québecois culture (not to mention poutine and Montreal smoked meat).

This route eliminates Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. I'm guestimating it at around 21 days.

The more I think about it, the more I think the last one may be your best overall choice considering the ages of your kids. The one thing I can't factor-in is what there might be worthwhile seeing on the way back west between Sault Ste. Marie and Vernon and if this basic routing seems right for you, I'm sure that you could get some great suggestions on the US board as a way to break-up that section of trip so it's more vacation and less a relentless drive to home.

UTour is offline  

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