Thoughts on traveling 4 provinces and 3,420 km in 9 days with 3 kids

Even though we’re home now, I still have a whole bunch of things I want to tell you about our trip to Nova Scotia. Finola hit on one subject I wanted to address with her questions in the comment box yesterday: “Do you recommend all the driving with young kids? Did they enjoy?”

Would I recommend it? Absolutely! In a heartbeat! Did they enjoy it? Mostly I think they endured the driving part. In fact, Tristan suggested on the ferry from Digby to Saint John that “maybe our next vacation could have a little less driving?” But would they tell you that it was worth it? I’m sure they would.

Passenger side clouds

The driving was long. L-O-N-G. The first day we drove just over 800 kms from Ottawa to Grand Falls (aka Grand Sault) in New Brunswick. It was clear and warm, and the driving was so easy that we were filled with optimism and excitement for the rest of the trip. The Best Western in Grand Sault was comfortable and had a great pool for the kids.

I’d intentionally chosen Grand Sault over Edmunston as it was about an hour further down the road, leaving us with a slightly shorter day of driving on the second day. By sheer luck, that turned out to be a great choice because day two of driving? Was horrible. Awful. Really, really bad. It started to rain about 20 minutes into the trip. It poured torrentially for the entire day, 700 + kms of hydroplaning, soaking, white-knuckle driving. Near Fredericton, we accidentally took an off ramp we weren’t supposed to take, and then took the same off ramp back into Fredericton again when trying to get back on the Trans Canada. Then we needed to turn off anyway when the low-fuel light came on and I was about to burst my own tank for need of a bathroom. We turned down a country road in search of a promised gas station that was no-where to be found. That’s when Simon gacked all over himself. It was the lowlight of an otherwise spectacular trip.

We broke the return trip up into three legs, but the next time we go to Nova Scotia (and even before we left, we were already planning for next time, we loved it that much) we will stick with a two-day return trip. The ferry from Digby to Saint John left us unimpressed, and although we had a lovely visit with a friend who completely redeemed Fredericton (more about that in another post) it made the return trip longer than it had to be. And the accommodations the last night in Riviere-du-Loup, Quebec, were another lowlight of the trip. In fact, next time we will probably take the American route home, taking the ferry from Yarmouth to our other favourite vacation destination, Bar Harbor, and making our way home from there.

Peeking in the mirror

I’d been most worried about how Lucas would handle the driving. The big boys are already well-experienced with road trips, as our relatives all seem to live about five hours away and we do the trek a couple of times a year. Eight or nine hours in the car is a lot to ask of a two-and-a-half year old, though. We put a DVD player on the headrest of the seat in front of him and fed him a steady diet of Muppet Show, Max and Ruby and Bob the Builder, but to my surprise and delight it was the books that really kept him engaged. He carefully paged through all the books I had for him, plus his brother’s colouring books and word search books and puzzle books, over and over again. He fussed on and off, but never with much conviction. Unfortunately, he now demands a movie and his soother on even the shortest of car trips to the grocery store, but we can wean him of that one over the summer. In the end, he was a trooper!

Lucas napping

We sedated the big boys with a DS and a game boy, and a separate DVD player that they only used on the very last day of the trip. Simon found that playing the handheld games upset his stomach, so he spent a lot of time either looking out the window or watching Lucas’s DVD player from the seat behind him. Tristan would play the video games for stretches, but then put them away of his own volition.

All electroniced up and no place to go

We did go through almost two full packages of gravol. I cringe at the idea of them consuming that much medication, but both Simon and Lucas seem to have inherited Beloved’s childhood susceptibility to motion sickness, so we gave them each a dose each morning, and any day we’d be spending more than an hour in the car. And Tristan took advantage of a dose on the ferry, during some choppy seas in the Bay of Fundy.

The other part of the actual driving that had worried me was cramming everything into our little Mazda 5. With one back seat folded down, though, and the roof rack, we had more than enough room for everything we needed. We packed two large suitcases and one overnight bag, a booster seat, an air bed and pump, a big bag of extra shoes and hats, and a backpack for each boy, plus two bags full of toys and activities, my camera bag and the lap top easily into the car with room to spare.

The Mazda and me reflected in a milk truck

I’m so proud of how well the boys behaved in the car, and how well they traveled. Lucas only asked a few times, “What are we doing?” and told us he wanted to go home not too many more times than that. I don’t think Tristan uttered a single, “Are we there yet?” and Simon finally learned that asking doesn’t make the trip go any faster. My “magic bag of tricks” full of snacks and books and playdough and crayons and a handful of other small diversions definitely made the trip easier, but I have to give credit to the boys and their inherent good natures. That’s what made the trip easy.

It’s only been a little over a day since we got home, and I’m already looking forward to the next road trip. If we can do 3,420 km in nine days, we can go *anywhere*!!

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

4 thoughts on “Thoughts on traveling 4 provinces and 3,420 km in 9 days with 3 kids”

  1. In the late 70’s we drove from North Bay, ON to Fredericton, NB with a 1 1/2 yr old and a 3 1/2 yr old. We stayed overnight in Riviere-du-Loup. It would seem that even over all this time, not much has changed as far as accommodations go in that area!

  2. We do the drive from Ottawa to Moncton every summer, and split it up over 2 days (with a stop in Rivière du Loup). One summer we tried driving back from Moncton in one day. The boys survived beautifully. We, on the other hand, were entirely cranky.

  3. I’m from Nova Scotia and head home from Ottawa every summer with my husband and 3 boys (aged 3, 6 and 14 this year). We actually drive it all in one day, no stopping – takes about 16 hours. No, it’s not fun, but the boys handle it remarkably well. They usually sleep for a good portion, and watch movies and play video games for the rest. We usually only stop for bathroom breaks, eating in the car to save time. We tried breaking it up once, and the hotel stay was worse than the long drive, I have to say, with all of us trying to get to sleep in the same room. The littlest was at the age where he had just learned to climb out of his crib, and would not settle down for the night in his playpen. We found it just prolonged the unpleasantness. However, this year we’ve decided to leave it open – we will start driving, see how it goes and be open to stopping mid-way, depending on how the kids handle it.

  4. Enjoyed your blog. We are just home from a 2-month, 11000 km camping roadtrip from Ottawa to the BC coast with 3 kids under 6 and a black lab. Fantastic, even though we had our share of struggles, including a trailer breakdown.

    People think we’re nuts, but our kids were fine too. They found long drives, well, long – but mostly just enjoy being with us.

    Would love to hear your recommendations about other road trips. We are planning a short trek to Georgian Bay and Manitoulin in the fall.

    We have camped and road-tripped all over the Maritimes. The Cat from Bar Harbour to Yarmouth was a lot of fun, although expensive. We love the maritimes, ocean is always nearby!

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