Recently, I wrote about an idea called “The Car Cruise” — a road trip that covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Since spring and summer holidays are rapidly approaching, I wanted to finally share some of these trips we’ve taken. Although it might seem daunting to travel long distances with children in a car, I promise it’s not that bad! All it takes is some proper planning, making sure to not overdo it and factoring in some fun activities like visiting local parks, museums, playgrounds or simply getting a special treat after a long journey. And truly, the same principles apply for those traveling solo or as a couple.
Perhaps one of our most grand drives to date came to be around two summers ago when my husband had a work trip in Calgary. I had been waiting for a reason to drive to Alaska for my annual visit home and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Driving the infamous Alcan highway is definitely a rite of passage for all Alaskans and I was the only one in my family that hadn’t done it. Here was my chance, even if I’d have to do over half of the trip on my own with 3 kids!
As I looked at the map, I realized we’d be passing a bunch of national parks between Las Vegas and Calgary and it seemed silly to not see them. So, I decided that our stopping points would be Salt Lake City, the Grand Tetons/Jackson Hole, Yellowstone and Glacier National Park. Then we’d spend a few days touring around Calgary and Banff (while my husband worked) before heading up to Fairbanks, Alaska with him via Grand Prairie, Muncho Lake and Haines Junction. All in all, we would be driving a little over 3500 miles.
I imagine most people would plan a trip like this many months if not a year away, but that wasn’t an option for us. First things first, I ordered The Milepost, the most famous Alcan guide book that graces many a coffee table in Alaskan households. Then I started booking our accommodations, as the trip was less than two months away (eek!) and many of the best hotels were already fully booked. To make the most of time, we would have only one night in each place (except for Calgary) and we’d focus on visiting one or two sites before moving on to our next destination. This was a bit tricky given that Yellowstone and Glacier are enormous parks, but the point of the car cruise is to get a taste of each place. We can always return for a longer visit later!
As for packing, we each brought a week’s worth of clothing, with the intention of doing laundry once we got to Calgary. I tried to keep things as streamlined as possible since we’d have to haul everything in and out of different places daily. I also filled reusable shopping bags with food and drink provisions. This included an electric kettle, reusable plates, cutlery, cups, mugs, dish soap, granola, oatmeal, granola bars, coffee, tea, bread, bagels, boxed milks, wine and lots of other snacks. The idea was that we’d make our own breakfast daily, make some lunches (sometimes by visiting a grocery to get fresh fruits, salumi and cheese) and mostly plan to eat out for dinner. Dining out for every meal can be very costly and not so great for our waistlines, so I try to keep it to a minimum whenever we travel.
Finally, I had to figure out what we were going to drive. My husband wasn’t keen on the idea of putting so much mileage or wear + tear on any of our vehicles, as the road can also be notoriously rough. So, I looked into all sorts of options: from renting a car or motorhome to buying a car for someone in Alaska that I could drive up to them. However, I quickly found out it’s surprisingly difficult to find rental companies that allow you to drive through Canada to Alaska. Motorhome were out because they were incredibly expensive and honestly, I wasn’t that excited about driving something so big and slow. In the end, we decided to sell our Volvo XC-90 at the end of the trip and fly home. It was a bit of a risk, but thankfully it sold pretty quickly since there aren’t that many Volvos in Alaska. Although I would’ve loved to take the alternate route back and drive the Cassiar Highway home, it would’ve been a much longer and more intense journey. It guess it just means that I’ll have to do the drive again someday!
Next up — Day 1: Las Vegas to Salt Lake City