This summer, we’re headed west on a road trip through the U.S. and Canada. As the founders of BudgetYourTrip.com, our true passion lies in travel, but it’s been awhile since we’ve been able to “get out there.” Beginning in June, for three months we’ll hit the road on a family camping trip visiting the big cities, national parks, and everything in between. And yes, we’re taking our 3-year-old daughter with us.
We’ll pack everything into our Subaru, including our daughter, a bunch of camping supplies, and our cameras, and head west along the northern states of the U.S. and come back east through Canada. Naturally, we’ll be finding out how much stuff costs along the way, because, ya know, that’s what we do here at BudgetYourTrip.com.
Camping with a Kid
Taking a 3-year-old camping? Are we crazy? Well, probably. To be honest, we’re not sure how our little one will fare in the car for so long. While our general plan does not include driving for more than 4 or 5 hours at a time, it’s still a long way. If it was just us without her, we’d have no problem taking a very minimalist trip and just pulling over on the side of the road sleeping in the gutter. After all, we backpacked through Africa and Asia with only our shoestrings. But as any parent could tell you, traveling with a child is a completely different experience, and so we’re planning ahead. In fact, this is the most amount of planning we’ve done for a trip in a very long time.
We’ll be taking a large tent that can accommodate not just the three of us, but also everything we might need for our daughter’s comfort (and our own sanity). We’ll have a cot for her, too. And a camping stove along with plenty of food. And we’re taking toys, books, games, and music for those days when she might not want to climb that mountain over there like her parents do. (But she has the cutest little hiking shoes!)
Will she take a nap every day? Will she be happy? We’re going to do everything we can to make sure of it. Ultimately, though, we’re not that worried because we know she loves to travel. Last summer we spent two weeks in Montreal and Quebec City, and she had a blast. Every morning she woke up with an excited look in her eyes and said, “What we do today?” Since it’s now a year later, and she can run and hike and climb and throw pinecones at squirrels, we think she’ll do just fine (as long as there’s strawberries, cheddar cheese, and her favorite CD of kids music, that is).
Our Route through North America
From our home in North Carolina, we’ll drive north to Chicago, our first stop. We’ll be staying at a budget hotel in the city which we’ll use as a base to explore everything that Chicago has to offer as a family. Deep dish pizza? Yes, indeed!
From Chicago we head west towards the Rockies. Our next stop will be the parks around Rapid City, South Dakota, including Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, and Wind Cave. This area is known for its diverse wildlife and interesting landscapes. Here we will camp for several days while we hike and explore the region.
The next stop will be the famous parks in Wyoming: Yellowstone and Grand Teton. While it can be hard to get reservations here, we snagged a campsite in Yellowstone so that we can see the famous geysers of Yellowstone along with the huge tracts of protected wildlife areas. And Grand Teton has some gorgeous mountain views, too.
We’ll then head west through Idaho and into Oregon, where we will turn north. Camping at Mount Rainier and Cascades National Park in Washington State will surely be another highlight of our trip. I’ve heard the beauty of the lakes and mountains in Cascades is quite special.
Then, up into Canada we go! Vancouver will be a nice rest for us as we will stay in a hotel instead of camping. (Laundry, anyone?) Just like our time in Chicago, we’ll take in the sights and sounds of the big city as a family.
From Vancouver we will begin our slow and meandering drive back east through the Canadian Rockies. Next stop: Jasper National Park. And after that, nearby Banff and Lake Louise. This area of Canada is full of huge mountains, pristine lakes with crystal clear waters, a seemingly infinite number of hiking trails, and some of the best campsites in Canada. And did you know that in 2017, the entrance fees to all of Canada’s national parks are free?
We will then shoot south into Glacier National Park in Montana before heading east towards the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. That’s a long drive, so we’ll be stopping along the way. We’re not exactly sure where, yet. But one of the goals of this trip, despite all of our planning, is to be a little bit flexible with our itinerary and destinations along the way.
For more ideas and photos, read this great article for information about a Canadian road trip.
We’ll be posting updates throughout our trip, which will begin in early June. In addition to highlighting the amazing destinations that we’ll be visiting (along with travel costs), we’ll also talk about what it’s like to camp with a child, camp for an extended period of time, and drive across the country with all of that stuff. We’ll also be showcasing some of our packing techniques as we get closer to our departure date. So, check back here often. Also, you can follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, too!
Bryan has visited exactly one more country than his wife, and she won’t let him forget it! Also an avid photographer, he enjoys entrenching himself within the local culture in order to learn more about the people of a place. He is the co-founder of Budget Your Trip and loves a good adventure, an exotic meal, or a passionate conversation about global events.