Lake Okanagan, Penticton
By Vancouver Camping Mom
Every year, my mom and her husband take a road trip to the Okanagan, and this year they invited us to share in the tradition. The challenge? Juggling three family units, kids of varying ages (from 1 to 7), and opinions on everything from food to activities.
How did we make it work? Here are some of our tips:
We stayed in Penticton and there’s nothing worse than planning a family trip and then staying miles apart. We took mom’s advice on her favourite motel and contacted them a year in advance to reserve the rooms to fit each of our needs. Use tools like http://www.travel-british-columbia.com/lodging/ to find places to stay as a group, look for specific features (a pool and kitchenettes were high on our list), and book early.
Since all of the adults are on messenger, we started a vacation thread. Instead of phoning or texting (or calling rooms), we’d post when we woke up, went for breakfast, or hit the store. This also helped us share things like condiments and pool toys, and coordinate childcare (“your kids are over here!”).
A few group dinners brought us together and maximized our budgets. Check to see if your campground or motel has common areas to eat (picnic tables, BBQ pits) so you don’t all have to crowd in one room or campsite.
Before we left, we made a loose plan and figured out what appliances we wanted to bring. Our units all had kitchens but there’s always room for a gadget or two. If you haven’t used an electric pressure cooker before (ours is an Instant Pot), we highly recommend one – you can do many one-pot meals all in the same appliance (and fast), so it’s perfect for campground kitchens (with power) and cooking in motel/hotel rooms. I also packed my espresso machine, because we like our coffee.
Our menu came together like this:
Most nights we followed up dinner with a walk to the local ice cream shop.
Hopefully this gives you some ideas – if you’re staying far from grocery stores we recommend planning this in advance.
Before the trip, each family put forward activities they “had” to do. You can read about some of the things we got up to here. We didn’t do everything together! My mom and her husband had their heart set on a winery tour, so they took two more adults while the rest of us watched the kids.
Talking through expectations ahead of time can be a lifesaver. And when it comes to kids, an activity (or more) a day keeps the bickering away! We had every configuration from all the kids staying with one set of parents, to a splinter group doing an activity ahead of the rest, to grandparents watching the kids by the pool.
Each family brought up a couple of their favourite games. Ours is called Labyrinth, it’s truly fun for ages 7-99. A tip for parents is to hide games for a few weeks ahead of the trip so they seem new and exciting when pulled out for a quiet moment outside of the sun (or rain).
While it’s great to plan, don’t be afraid to deviate. Did someone find a fish and chip place they’re dying to try? Did it rain on the beach day? Be flexible enough to make sure people enjoy the trip.
PS: Here’s a link to the Instant Pot butter chicken recipe I use. You can sub tofu, margarine and veggie broth for a vegetarian version. I mix all my spices in a jar, and pack these along with coconut milk powder, bouillon cubes, and the tomato paste all in the Instant Pot itself. Then I have everything I need for a tasty meal from scratch, without having to bring the whole pantry.
Do you have a tip that makes group family travel work for you? Post it in the comments below.
Published: September 21, 2017
Morgan was raised on camping by her father and maternal grandparents. A life-long Vancouverite, she is a tourism instructor at BCIT and Royal Roads University and a customer service trainer. Morgan lives in East Vancouver with her family and puts a heavy emphasis on family travel as a way to learn, grow, and reconnect.