A week has passed and I’ve had time to reflect about driving round trip from Edmonton to Montreal with my two kids. It’s the type of trip that you can prepare for but must also be flexible for whatever is thrown your way. I thought I would highlight memorable parts of the road trip, which I nicknamed Canada Quest, as well as lessons I learned and what the trip cost.
You can see tweets from the trip to Montreal and the trip back to Edmonton through two Storifys. However, the tweets don’t really capture everything that happened. Of course, there were long days on the road and not much to tweet about.
However, I will remember special moments of kindness of strangers. My daughter was having nosebleeds on and off while we were driving to Montreal. Our first stop was Saskatoon and I took the kids downtown via city transit for FolkFest. While we were waiting for a bus to head back to our campsite, my daughter’s nose began to bleed. I was helpless because I had nothing with me to stop the bleeding. Luckily, a police car was driving by and I flagged it for help. The officers stopped and gave us gauze to stop the bleeding. A transit manager came by and offered to take us to a locked building so we could use the bathroom so my daughter could clean herself up.
Before I left on our road trip, I knew I was going to be stopping on Manitoulin Island and became acquainted with Christine through Twitter. As we approached the Island, Christine invited the kids and I for a barbecue supper at her house and offered for us to use her land to camp for the night. Her father and his friend, showed the kids how to fish for the first time off the dock. They each caught a fish and were thrilled.
While we were in Toronto and waiting in line for Legoland, the woman in front of us offered us coupons as a discount, resulting in $25 savings. My wallet was very happy.
On the way back to Edmonton, we stopped in Winnipeg because it was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and I had plans to spend the holiday at Temple Shalom. Unfortunately, our timing was off and we missed the end of the service for the first day. I began chatting with one of the congregants outside of the synagogue and told her about our trip. This is where the unfortunate turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
She invited us to her house for a Rosh Hashanah lunch with her family. By the end of the afternoon, she sent us packing with a bag of apples from her backyard tree and snacks. It turns out she is a children’s performer and kindly made balloons for the kids. We exchanged contact information and I hope we stay in touch.
There were also special moments watching the kids enjoy our field trips from the car, including the Amethyst Panorama Mines, having breakfast on a dock, Kakabeka Falls, the Tunnels of Moose Jaw, the Winnipeg water taxi and watching the boats travel through the locks of the Rideau Canal in Ottawa. By the end of the trip, there was a special affection that grew between the two siblings, which I loved seeing.
Prior to the trip, I shopped for activities for the kids to do in the car. In the end, most of this stuff wasn’t used. We loved the audio books, Aliens on Vacation and The Land of Stories, that we borrowed from the Edmonton Public Library. The iPad was mostly monopolized by my seven-year-old son and my daughter enjoyed creating a journal of her memories of the trip.
My goal for food on Canada Quest was to only eat out in restaurants once a day and the remaining meals to be purchased from grocery stores. However, when we were tired and really hungry, I gave in and stopped for fast food. By the end of the trip, I could tell the kids were fed up with restaurant food because they refused to order any French fries with their meals. Eating out in unfamiliar towns is tough because you don’t know what you will get for your money. Some were hit and miss but I hit the jackpot at the Patricia Inn Family Restaurant in Dryden, Ontario.
I wasn’t prepared for blackouts of telephone service in northern Ontario. I’m lucky that I didn’t face any road emergencies and I’m not sure what I would have done. So if you are driving in parts of a country or province that has sketchy service, think ahead to have tools you need in case of an emergency.
I budgeted $2,000 for Canada Quest and wanted to prove to myself that it was cheaper driving an adult and two children to Montreal rather than flying. I was right. Here’s what my overall spending breakdown was:
Gas from Edmonton to Montreal via Toronto: $479.81
Accommodation to Montreal: $195.81
Food to Montreal: $147.59
Fun activities on the way to Montreal: $111.15
Gas from Montreal to Edmonton via Ottawa: $436.95
Accommodation to Edmonton: $206.86
Food to Edmonton: $239.23
Fun activities on the way to Edmonton: $125.63
Total costs: $1,942.38
Keep in mind that I saved money my camping in a tent and staying with friends.
Despite all the driving, Canada Quest was totally worth the time, money spent and kilometres racked up on my car. I will always have fond memories of exploring parts of our country with my kids and the time we had to bond as a family.