Am I nuts to spend eighteen hours in a week in the car with my kids?

by DaniGirl on March 22, 2007 · 36 comments

in Away we go, Life, the Universe and Everything

Family vacations. Are they not two of the most laden words in the English language? So much joy, so much stress, so much fodder for the boys’ future therapists.

The window for successful family vacations is really rather small. For the first couple of years, it’s too hard to travel because of the pack’n’play and the stroller and the several pounds of receiving blankets. And yet we’re probably not very far from the days that they don’t want to be seen in public with us. So we’ll make the most of these prime years to torture the boys build happy family memories.

Last year, we had great fun with our Quebec City adventure. I’ve been idly considering for a few months now on what we could do that would be similar to that: within a day or so drive, engaging enough for a stay of two or three days, and with something interesting to do on the way home. And not Toronto, or London, or Windsor. I spent way too much of my free time on the 401 over the past 20 years, and that’s my only caveat. No southern Ontario. Not this time.

And then, out of the blue, I had an epiphany. Or maybe it was gas. But regardless of whether it was the chili dog repeating or a moment of genuine insight, I suddenly decided I wanted to go to Maine. Bar Harbour Maine, in fact.

Why Maine? I’ve always wanted to go there. I’ve been reading Stephen King since I was nine years old. I’m fascinated with the idea of Maine, and I’ve heard of Bar Harbour, and that was enough to get me started.

So I google mapped it, and while it’s not as far away as Alert, it’s not exactly close. It’s a straight line, which is strikes me as a good start. It’s a nine hour drive, which is a lot for one day with three and five year olds in the car, but I don’t mind breaking it into two days.

Sherbrooke Quebec is about half way, and the Granby Zoo is not too far from there. So we could do Ottawa to Sherbrooke one day (maybe even with another pit stop to see our favourite Montreal people?), then on to Bar Harbour the next day. Stay there for two days, and then back the way we came. Hey, that sounds like a plan. That could work!

So, Maine. Any thoughts? I have to admit, I’m mildly intimidated that the map shows a whole lot of nothing between Sherbrooke and Bar Harbour. And since everything I know about Maine I read in Stephen King books, I really have no idea what the geography is, except for lots of forests where Bad Things happen. Does one have to spend an inordinate amount of time driving through miles of said forests, or is it more like upstate New York where there are gorgeous little towns everywhere?

The only *other* thing I know about Maine is that it has great outlet stores. If you draw a straight line from Ottawa to Bar Harbour, how far off that line do you have to travel to get to the outlet stores? And to a Target? I’ve never been to a Target. It’s on my lifetime “to do” list.

I’m not 100% sold on Maine yet, either. Nor on Bar Harbour in particular, since I just kind of pulled the idea out of thin air. Got any other good ideas for family vacations somewhere within an eight to ten hour drive of Ottawa? Lake Placid was another idle thought. Not as cool as Maine, but a little bit closer.

Tell me, bloggy friends. What should we do for our summer vacation?


{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

1 BeachMama March 22, 2007 at 1:29 pm

Having never been to Bar Harbour, I can’t say whether it would be fun or not. But for nine hours in the car you could be sitting on the beach in Delaware, shopping at the outlets a mere 5 minute drive from the ocean and putting the kids on rides all evening long.
We have been taking J since he was 11 months old and we always do the trip in one shot. We also added an extra three hours one year by going to Virginia Beach. We try to travel into the evening, which ensures sleep time and less boredom. We have gone three years in a row and have had nothing but success (unless you count last years tropical storm, as long as you stay away from the last week of August you are as good as gold).
Have fun deciding!

2 BeachMama March 22, 2007 at 1:29 pm

Having never been to Bar Harbour, I can’t say whether it would be fun or not. But for nine hours in the car you could be sitting on the beach in Delaware, shopping at the outlets a mere 5 minute drive from the ocean and putting the kids on rides all evening long.
We have been taking J since he was 11 months old and we always do the trip in one shot. We also added an extra three hours one year by going to Virginia Beach. We try to travel into the evening, which ensures sleep time and less boredom. We have gone three years in a row and have had nothing but success (unless you count last years tropical storm, as long as you stay away from the last week of August you are as good as gold).
Have fun deciding!

3 Dal March 22, 2007 at 1:30 pm

It’s so worth the drive! I’ve heard really good things about Maine 🙂 And I went to Target for the first time last month and loved it, so another good reason for you to go!
Dal
xox

4 Dal March 22, 2007 at 1:30 pm

It’s so worth the drive! I’ve heard really good things about Maine 🙂 And I went to Target for the first time last month and loved it, so another good reason for you to go!
Dal
xox

5 Marla March 22, 2007 at 1:59 pm

When I was a kid, we spent many vacations in Lake Placid. Funny you should mention it – at an Estate Sale last week, I found a vintage brochure for this place: http://www.northpoleny.com/index.cfm
It’s nearby – and it was one of my favourite childhood memories from my trips there. I still remember petting the reindeer (where does Josie get it from?) and when I dug out and looked at my photos of it, it was DELIGHTFULLY rinky dink. I’m SO glad it’s still around, and I want to take Josie there!
There’s also this: http://www.lazymeadow.com/hthome.htm
Oh wait…this is about your vacation…not mine!

6 Marla March 22, 2007 at 1:59 pm

When I was a kid, we spent many vacations in Lake Placid. Funny you should mention it – at an Estate Sale last week, I found a vintage brochure for this place: http://www.northpoleny.com/index.cfm
It’s nearby – and it was one of my favourite childhood memories from my trips there. I still remember petting the reindeer (where does Josie get it from?) and when I dug out and looked at my photos of it, it was DELIGHTFULLY rinky dink. I’m SO glad it’s still around, and I want to take Josie there!
There’s also this: http://www.lazymeadow.com/hthome.htm
Oh wait…this is about your vacation…not mine!

7 Barb March 22, 2007 at 2:28 pm

Dare I suggest…..nah…
It would be fun though…and only 6 hours..
Barb

8 Barb March 22, 2007 at 2:28 pm

Dare I suggest…..nah…
It would be fun though…and only 6 hours..
Barb

9 cait March 22, 2007 at 2:42 pm

I know what you mean about Target, I’m dying to go to one too, and their online store doesn’t ship to Canada.
Also, no matter where you go, I would recommend story CDs from the public library. A good long story (or six) will get you through any drive with impatient boys…I use them for road trips with my boyfriend!
If it’s still around, I would recommend “Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good very bad day”. It was a road trip favorite with my family.

10 cait March 22, 2007 at 2:42 pm

I know what you mean about Target, I’m dying to go to one too, and their online store doesn’t ship to Canada.
Also, no matter where you go, I would recommend story CDs from the public library. A good long story (or six) will get you through any drive with impatient boys…I use them for road trips with my boyfriend!
If it’s still around, I would recommend “Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good very bad day”. It was a road trip favorite with my family.

11 Madeleine March 22, 2007 at 3:03 pm

Phantom is the Bar Harbour expert — you can find her photos and stories about hikes in her archives.
The outlets AFAIK are all in Kittery, on the Mass/New Hampshire border. (223 miles. Eep.) But maybe there are more I don’t know about.
Target is in Bangor, 53 miles away (quoth the web-map widget) and presumably on your route to and fro.

12 Madeleine March 22, 2007 at 3:03 pm

Phantom is the Bar Harbour expert — you can find her photos and stories about hikes in her archives.
The outlets AFAIK are all in Kittery, on the Mass/New Hampshire border. (223 miles. Eep.) But maybe there are more I don’t know about.
Target is in Bangor, 53 miles away (quoth the web-map widget) and presumably on your route to and fro.

13 Sayre March 22, 2007 at 3:11 pm

I’ve never been to Maine, but would love to go sometime. I have been to Target repeatedly though. Very easy to spend LOTS of money there, so make sure you set yourself a limit or you might be hitchhiking home.

14 Sayre March 22, 2007 at 3:11 pm

I’ve never been to Maine, but would love to go sometime. I have been to Target repeatedly though. Very easy to spend LOTS of money there, so make sure you set yourself a limit or you might be hitchhiking home.

15 Kathleen March 22, 2007 at 3:44 pm

Bar Harbour is lovely. I came by way of ferry from Nova Scotia as my mom and I made a great tour of it, so can’t recommend routes, and my info is all out of date, as I was there for a wedding about 8 years ago. (Let’s see, couple’s been divorced now about 3 years, and his marriages all lasted 5-6 years…) I remember one close friend drove down easily in an evening (OK, alone) from Montreal.
However, I enjoyed the place, there’s a lovely hike-able mountain (Hill if you’re from BC or AB)nearby. Kids your boys’ ages made it up when we went. I recall outlets abounding in nearby towns, including of course, ROCKPORT! The shoes, the shoes…
Those of us still in the “my god how do we pack all this crap in one car, and what will we do with the dog?” phase need to hear about your vacation plans, so keep posting.
K

16 Kathleen March 22, 2007 at 3:44 pm

Bar Harbour is lovely. I came by way of ferry from Nova Scotia as my mom and I made a great tour of it, so can’t recommend routes, and my info is all out of date, as I was there for a wedding about 8 years ago. (Let’s see, couple’s been divorced now about 3 years, and his marriages all lasted 5-6 years…) I remember one close friend drove down easily in an evening (OK, alone) from Montreal.
However, I enjoyed the place, there’s a lovely hike-able mountain (Hill if you’re from BC or AB)nearby. Kids your boys’ ages made it up when we went. I recall outlets abounding in nearby towns, including of course, ROCKPORT! The shoes, the shoes…
Those of us still in the “my god how do we pack all this crap in one car, and what will we do with the dog?” phase need to hear about your vacation plans, so keep posting.
K

17 Kathleen March 22, 2007 at 3:49 pm

Oh, and you’ll have to practice the pronounciation:
BAH HAAAHBAH
And look out for Belted Galloway Cattle. Seriously. http://www.aldermere.org/about/index.html
has pictures, including pretty arial shots of the surrounding countryside.

18 Kathleen March 22, 2007 at 3:49 pm

Oh, and you’ll have to practice the pronounciation:
BAH HAAAHBAH
And look out for Belted Galloway Cattle. Seriously. http://www.aldermere.org/about/index.html
has pictures, including pretty arial shots of the surrounding countryside.

19 snackmommy March 22, 2007 at 3:51 pm

Would you believe my very favourite comfy/lounging/watching TV gear includes a Bar Harbour sweatshirt? My parents have been there (twice?). They just got home from Arizona today, but I will pick their brains asap, and email you any details.
As an aside, we are going to Minneapolis this summer which is a 7 hr drive, with a 5 yr old and a 18 month old…..I know the fear of which you speak.

20 snackmommy March 22, 2007 at 3:51 pm

Would you believe my very favourite comfy/lounging/watching TV gear includes a Bar Harbour sweatshirt? My parents have been there (twice?). They just got home from Arizona today, but I will pick their brains asap, and email you any details.
As an aside, we are going to Minneapolis this summer which is a 7 hr drive, with a 5 yr old and a 18 month old…..I know the fear of which you speak.

21 nancy March 22, 2007 at 3:53 pm

Never been to Maine. Always wanted to go.
Long car trip – this is what a friend of mine did when they drove to Myrtle Beach. She’d packed a goodie bag, with a new little ‘trinket’ or treat for each kid. She WRAPS them (like a present) and every 90 mins-2 hours they get a new one. The kids loved it, sounds way too organized to me. When I quizzed her on her elaborateness, she said she was so impressed at just how excited the kids were to unwrap fishie crackers or an Oreo. She also had a few dollor store tricks.
Don’t forget the etch-a-sketch!!
Oh, and we were also just discussing that we are due for a trip to Granby Zoo this summer – so we are most definitely IN.
My people will contact your people.

22 nancy March 22, 2007 at 3:53 pm

Never been to Maine. Always wanted to go.
Long car trip – this is what a friend of mine did when they drove to Myrtle Beach. She’d packed a goodie bag, with a new little ‘trinket’ or treat for each kid. She WRAPS them (like a present) and every 90 mins-2 hours they get a new one. The kids loved it, sounds way too organized to me. When I quizzed her on her elaborateness, she said she was so impressed at just how excited the kids were to unwrap fishie crackers or an Oreo. She also had a few dollor store tricks.
Don’t forget the etch-a-sketch!!
Oh, and we were also just discussing that we are due for a trip to Granby Zoo this summer – so we are most definitely IN.
My people will contact your people.

23 Anonymous March 22, 2007 at 4:18 pm

Hi Dani – instead of Sherbrooke, you might want to consider North Hatley. Very close by and quite the quaint little place (near Bishop’s University). Julie

24 Anonymous March 22, 2007 at 4:18 pm

Hi Dani – instead of Sherbrooke, you might want to consider North Hatley. Very close by and quite the quaint little place (near Bishop’s University). Julie

25 Barbara March 22, 2007 at 4:29 pm

Nine hours is not so bad. We do eight and a half hours every Christmas, Easter and at least one other time in the year. On the 401. With only the highway rest stops for entertainment. Now if it were winter, I would tell you to read about our trip at Christmas (http://blog.reidelizabeth.ca/2007/01/06/if-the-weather-is-bad-it-must-be-time-for-a-big-trip/). But you are travelling in warm weather. You won’t want to read that post. But you should think about a laptop with videos if you don’t have something built in. I thought it was unnecessary, until last December ;+)

26 Barbara March 22, 2007 at 4:29 pm

Nine hours is not so bad. We do eight and a half hours every Christmas, Easter and at least one other time in the year. On the 401. With only the highway rest stops for entertainment. Now if it were winter, I would tell you to read about our trip at Christmas (http://blog.reidelizabeth.ca/2007/01/06/if-the-weather-is-bad-it-must-be-time-for-a-big-trip/). But you are travelling in warm weather. You won’t want to read that post. But you should think about a laptop with videos if you don’t have something built in. I thought it was unnecessary, until last December ;+)

27 Loukia March 22, 2007 at 9:46 pm

Ah, Maine! A great place for a family vacation. I have been there twice, and loved it both times. We were in Ogunquit, Maine for the most part. And as an avid Stephen King reader myself, I loved going there and sort of re-living his books, in a way. I had a great time, small, cute city, lots to do with the kids, the beach… the restaurants… and yes, of course, the shopping… the outlet stores were the best there than anywhere else I have been! Have fun!

28 Loukia March 22, 2007 at 9:46 pm

Ah, Maine! A great place for a family vacation. I have been there twice, and loved it both times. We were in Ogunquit, Maine for the most part. And as an avid Stephen King reader myself, I loved going there and sort of re-living his books, in a way. I had a great time, small, cute city, lots to do with the kids, the beach… the restaurants… and yes, of course, the shopping… the outlet stores were the best there than anywhere else I have been! Have fun!

29 Loukia March 22, 2007 at 9:49 pm

Oh, and we’re also going to take or should I say brave – our first family vacation this summer with Christos, who will be almost 2 years old. On a plane. Going to Florida – instead of Bar Harbour, we’re going to BAL Harbour. Yes, my shopping and vacation (re: resort) heaven. I know he will have a great time. If ever you want to go down south with your family, let me know, and I can give you suggestions on what to do. In south Florida. They have a great children’s museum here, although I have not gone, it looks amazing.

30 Loukia March 22, 2007 at 9:49 pm

Oh, and we’re also going to take or should I say brave – our first family vacation this summer with Christos, who will be almost 2 years old. On a plane. Going to Florida – instead of Bar Harbour, we’re going to BAL Harbour. Yes, my shopping and vacation (re: resort) heaven. I know he will have a great time. If ever you want to go down south with your family, let me know, and I can give you suggestions on what to do. In south Florida. They have a great children’s museum here, although I have not gone, it looks amazing.

31 Karen March 23, 2007 at 1:13 am

I know nothing about Bar Harbour or Maine, but I do live in Ottawa and we, as a family of four with two little ones, are planning on going to Boston in mid-May. Not too far a drive, very cool city, lots to do and lots of stuff on the way there too.

32 Karen March 23, 2007 at 1:13 am

I know nothing about Bar Harbour or Maine, but I do live in Ottawa and we, as a family of four with two little ones, are planning on going to Boston in mid-May. Not too far a drive, very cool city, lots to do and lots of stuff on the way there too.

33 Ingrid March 24, 2007 at 1:10 am

Many happy memories about Maine – my parents dragged all 4 kids there for numerous weeks of camping, for mahny years. I recall it seemed like along drive (but I was 11).
target – yippee! I met a Canadian woman in Florida who used to bring a spare suitcase for her Target purchases. I can totally relate – things are not expensive, and look great.
And yes, Boston is a great city for another vacation maybe. The childrens museum is a lot of fun, and they have a fantastic aquarium.

34 Ingrid March 24, 2007 at 1:10 am

Many happy memories about Maine – my parents dragged all 4 kids there for numerous weeks of camping, for mahny years. I recall it seemed like along drive (but I was 11).
target – yippee! I met a Canadian woman in Florida who used to bring a spare suitcase for her Target purchases. I can totally relate – things are not expensive, and look great.
And yes, Boston is a great city for another vacation maybe. The childrens museum is a lot of fun, and they have a fantastic aquarium.

35 Jim Degerstrom April 10, 2007 at 1:24 am

I’m from Maine and my advice is expect long stretches with nothing but woods. For reference draw a line parallel to the coast running through Bangor, and the top area is sparsely populated. The 3rd of Maine below the line between the coast and Bangor is where 90% of people live.
My oldest sister lives on the coast east of Bar Harbor in Sullivan and the youngest is west of there in Falmouth. My oldest brother has been to Stephen King’s home many times.
In between is Bar Harbor, Cadillac Mountain, and tons of site seeing. Nearby is Bucksport and I suggest a tour of Fort Knox and then across the bridge on the east side of the Penobscot River is a cemetery worth a short stop to see Colonel Buck’s grave.
The large monument may be viewed from the main street, US1, and has an interesting history including the marking of a witch’s leg on the stone. Locals can tell you the legend of the leg.
Next on the list would be Freeport and LL Bean’s famous outdoors store.
Ask the locals for other outlets and they’ll point you to the best.
Finally, find a lobster pound with an outdoor picnic area and on site steamers and have a bushel of clams and some inexpensive lobster. Oh, and MacDonald’s serves lobster roll sandwiches there, too.
Take lotsa photos. The trip should be memorable. My new blog at http://mainestories.blogspot.com is “Growin’ Up in Maine” is just getting started. Coast pictures are months away (or send me some… I invite visitors to tell their stories, too).
Jim

36 Jim Degerstrom April 10, 2007 at 1:24 am

I’m from Maine and my advice is expect long stretches with nothing but woods. For reference draw a line parallel to the coast running through Bangor, and the top area is sparsely populated. The 3rd of Maine below the line between the coast and Bangor is where 90% of people live.
My oldest sister lives on the coast east of Bar Harbor in Sullivan and the youngest is west of there in Falmouth. My oldest brother has been to Stephen King’s home many times.
In between is Bar Harbor, Cadillac Mountain, and tons of site seeing. Nearby is Bucksport and I suggest a tour of Fort Knox and then across the bridge on the east side of the Penobscot River is a cemetery worth a short stop to see Colonel Buck’s grave.
The large monument may be viewed from the main street, US1, and has an interesting history including the marking of a witch’s leg on the stone. Locals can tell you the legend of the leg.
Next on the list would be Freeport and LL Bean’s famous outdoors store.
Ask the locals for other outlets and they’ll point you to the best.
Finally, find a lobster pound with an outdoor picnic area and on site steamers and have a bushel of clams and some inexpensive lobster. Oh, and MacDonald’s serves lobster roll sandwiches there, too.
Take lotsa photos. The trip should be memorable. My new blog at http://mainestories.blogspot.com is “Growin’ Up in Maine” is just getting started. Coast pictures are months away (or send me some… I invite visitors to tell their stories, too).
Jim

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