Some thought we were absolutely crazy when we said we wanted to drive across Canada in a RV for a month.
It could have indeed been the worst idea ever...but it's something I'd always wanted to do.
We wanted to go back to Vancouver for work and to the Okanagan to better close the loop. Instead of flying why not turn this into an adventure!
When the window of opportunity presented itself, we jumped on it!
Many of you messaged me, intrigued and interested to do something similar. So here's a round-up of the planning, itinerary and the adventure itself.
We rented a RV from Canadream for the full month of May. The great thing about traveling early in the season is that you get lower rates everywhere you go and beat the crowds. This was a big win for us all along.
We didn't have to overplan, schedule or pre-book anything; we could just go with the flow (ideal with kids!).
We took the 27-feet MHA model as it had the 2 single beds above the driver's cabin. This turned out to be the best feature has they each had their own space for the month.
Because we wanted to make it to Vancouver first for work reasons, we pretty much drove directly there, with a 36-hour stop in the Rockies. There was still snow and Lake Louise was frozen!
We made it to Vancouver in 6 days which was faster than anticipated. Aside from our stop in the Rockies, we did some big driving days. You could easily break this up by making some stops in the prairies.
We spent 5 days in Vancouver then went to the Okanagan for a week.
Then the plan was to slowly make our way back by driving through the beautiful Kootenay region of BC. It was our first time there so we didn't want to be rushed. Nelson and Fernie were incredible and didn't disappoint.
Overall, it's good to plan a week to go and one to come back.
The balance of keeping things interesting for everyone while also getting lots of kilometers done is a tricky one.
We found that from Ontario to Alberta (where we had little to visit/see) we would organize our long travel days this way:
◦ Phil woke up at 5am and drove until 8am while the kids stayed asleep. This was a game-changer and gave us a huge head start daily. The kids knew that they should stay in their beds until dad stopped for breakfast (I think this isn't totally kosher but with kids, this hack is necessary for long-distance drives).
◦ Quick 30-minute break for breakfast, coffee and to get dressed. Then back on the road!
◦ During the morning drive we would focus on activity books, card games, arts and crafts. I would be sitting in the back with them. We normally would try to do one quick stop to take some fresh air, perhaps discover a fun coffee shop or see one of the oversized roadside attractions (we had fun following this book along).
◦ We would stop for a quick lunch and fresh air in a rest area, not far from the highway, so we could quickly hit the road after. We usually tried to get moving at that point. Some jumping jacks, squats, lunges, push-ups: anything to get the heart pumping and blood moving. If we were lucky, we'd find a spot with a playground so the kids could run a bit!
◦ Both kids would then go in their beds and nap for 1,5 to 2 hours while we drove. This turned out to be our saving grace and a totally unexpected pleasant surprise! Even Sofia ended up napping as she figured there was nothing else better to do!
◦ After nap we would have a snack while singing our favorite songs (hello Encanto!) and often allow them to watch a movie for our last stretch.
◦ We would try to get to the campground by 5 or 6pm so we could have dinner at a decent time. This would allow them to have a real camping experience: bike around the campground, go to the playground and have a campfire!
WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS?
That's the number 1 question I got throughout our trip: "What are the kids doing in there? Are they bored? Fighting? Whining?"
...Yes to all of the above!
But seriously, keeping the kids engaged and occupied was the key to this trip's success.
They say "happy wife, happy life" and I say "happy kids, smooth life"!!
It was exhausting at times because I could rarely sit at the front and just enjoy the view. I was the snack and entertainment master while my hubby was at the wheel! Tag team!
I got the kids each a notebook in which they were invited to start a collage about each city we visited. We would ensure to hit the Information Center and have them select pamphlets that were speaking to them. They would then cut their favorite images and words to create what would be their memory book.
Sofia has a Polaroid so she was adding pictures too. I would highly recommend doing that as it keeps them aware of where they are, which province we're crossing, what it's known for, etc. A wonderful homeschooling opportunity!
In addition to our school books, I had stocked up on fresh activity books, new card games, coloring books and reading books to keep them entertained.
Turned out my daughter wasn’t able to read for too long while we were driving: it was giving her a headache. We focused on card games, arts and crafts and did most of our school work once arrived at the campground.
PREPARATION IS KEY
The most important thing for me was to ensure we had healthy and nutritious food available at all times.
That meant stocking and preparing as we didn't plan to leave the Trans-Canada highway from Ottawa up until the Rockies. For that reason, there was really no health food stores and almost no organic produces or even gluten-free items available in the small shops by the highway.
Here are some items I was so glad to have brought:
This is such an important piece for the kids and the driver. It's a time-saver and game-changer if you can feed your people the right way without having to reach for fast-food or sugary items that will have everyone moody minutes after.
Here were some of our go-to (watch my recap here):
• Smoothie powder by Wise by Nature (this is absolutely brilliant)
• Vegetable and seed crackers
• Parmesan crackers (lots of protein)
• Protein bars (we love the ones from Bulletproof)
• Superfood bars (we love those from EquiLife)
• Fruit and Vegetable green powder (we love Organifi and EquiLife)
• Rice crackers: always a hit, I brought a couple nut and seed butters too.
• Seaweed (with avocado or olive oil - avoid others)
• Dried fruits
• Hemp hearts (the easiest protein source)
• Nut and seed trail mixes
• Nut and coconut mylks
• Hearts of palm + spaghetti version
• Wild sardines
• Banana and protein muffins
• Plantain, cassava and sweet potato chips
2 - Natural remedy for nausea
My daughter was sick one day from a heat stroke in Osoyoos. It unfortunately coincided with a long travel day on the windy highway 3 in BC. The natural items helped her a lot on that day.
We also brought our own 18L filtered water bottle with a pump and added electrolytes to everyone's water bottle to keep everyone well hydrated and reduce nausea.
3- First aid and immune boosting items
We all got a cold in our first week so I was happy to have all my hacks with me so we could blast through it.
You can find most of these items in the Cold & Flu section of my shop page.
I even brought my nebulizer and ozone machine and was so happy we did!
Here are some things I was happy I brought with us. I would highly recommend if you can:
WHERE WE STOPPED
If you're planning a similar journey, here's where we stopped for the night. This is meant to only give you a rough idea of distances.
Note that there are plenty of campground options along the way but we were early in the season and many were closed.
GOING WEST: On the way to BC
*note that most campgrounds open mid-May in Canada. Ontario was still covered in snow when we drove through so most camp sites were closed which is why we ended up doing many Walmarts.
In Vancouver we left the RV in a campground at most cities won't let you stay on the street anywhere.
GOING EAST: On the way to QC
COOL STOPS WORTH MENTIONING
Here are things that we enjoyed doing in some cities, enough that I thought it was worth noting!
Would I do it again? Absolutely.
I also thought it was the perfect amount of time. By the end, we were pros at it and really enjoying ourselves.
I don't think I'd do well with staying at the same campground for a week - that would be a completely different thing. That said, I can understand the appeal with kids. They were so happy with the simple camping life.
I enjoyed the freedom the motorhome gave us as well as the ability to keep the kids engaged and content throughout the trip.
What's next? Maybe the US? I would absolutely love to explore Utah, Montana, Colorado in a motorhome!
Who knows, maybe one day?!!
Hope this inspired you to do a long trip like this one day :)