Family Car Summer Road Trip

“You look exhausted,” my best friend said to my wife as we walked across a park to join them for dinner.

“I am,” she sighed. “These kids are chipping away at my soul.”

And so summed up the first week of our summer vacation road trip.

While the first half of the summer had been spent with our two boys in day camps, or away at a lake with their grandparents, the second half would be reserved for our family vacation. This year that trip has been a 2 week road trip that has seen us switch beds at least 7 times as we drove the scenic route from our home in Calgary to my parents’ place in Vancouver and back.


A summer vacation road trip looked good – on paper. Each day’s start and end point was about a 4 hour drive. I carefully plotted out stops along the way to visit the biggest truck in the world, beaches, interesting lakes, ferry rides, tours, viewpoints, and more. The kids wouldn’t be cooped up in the car for the entire time, we plotted 6 hours to complete those 4 hour trips.

I sought out our library’s digital app and loaded their iPads with their favourite movies and apps. We scooped up reading books, activity books, and even packed away some LEGO in small cases for them to play with in the back seat.

I loaded the cooler with drinks and snacks and sandwich gear. I did it by the book. All the things you want to do to avoid meltdowns on road trips, I had done. I plotted short routes with lots of stops, had in-flight entertainment, and food. 

I should win Vacation Dad of The Year.

Kids In The Back Seat Road Trip

But it failed me. The trip was killing us.

The first week of vacation was a constant go-go-go. It was the hottest week of the summer, I was loading and unloading all of our gear each day, we were constantly on the move from one hotel to the next and the kids were getting restless. I had planned too much.

Our summer vacation was ruining our summer vacation. The kids were starting to whine. Each time we got out of the car, only to be loaded back in to it for more driving, they balked. Our 4 yr old would do the “are we there yet?” game minutes after we got back on the road.

“No, we’ll be there in 2 hours,” we’d reply. “2 hours! That’s a long time!” Minutes later he’d ask again.

Being on the road was wearing on the boys. They wouldn’t listen. They’d bother each other, wander off from us, whine about the day’s activities. No matter how well I planned the road trip with breaks, and activities, and entertainment, it brought all of us to our knees.

“2 weeks is too much,” my wife sighed to me on day 8. “I’m exhausted. I need a vacation to recover from my vacation.”

So we took one.

North Lake, BC

As I write this we are in week 2 of our vacation, and things have changed. We spent 3 nights with my parents, touring our old hometown and visiting friends. We are now holed up in a cabin on a glassy lake with a long dock and no internet connection. We are unplugging, unwinding, and relaxing.

This is the kind of summer vacation my summer vacation needed.

I’ve got a road trip to Arches National Park on my bucket list, a trip that would see at least 40 hours spent in a car to get there and back. I’m going to be leaving it on the list for a few more years yet, I think.

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