Road Trip Planning Tools

Two years ago we took a big trip West. We drove from Ontario, all the way to the coast. We were gone about three weeks, and drove through five provinces and six states. It took a lot of planning, but I honestly love planning trips. It is one of my favourite things to do.

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This summer we are planning another fairly big road trip. This one will be shorter, and cover much less geographic area. We are heading East, and will be gone for about two weeks. We will drive through Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, then take a ferry to Newfoundland. On the way back we might go through Maine, just to change things up.

This time around I have learned a few things and I thought I would detail my steps to planning a big trip.

The first thing is obviously to choose a destination. I don’t really have any strategies for this, since I don’t really know how we’ve chosen where to go for any of our trips. For Belize I think I searched something like ‘best places to see marine life’ and it was on the list. Random.

Anyways, once you know where you going, the next thing to do is check it out on a map (I used Google Maps). This is where I can see if there are any cool places along the way that I would like to build into the trip. I also plot all of the places I want to go to choose the smartest route.

At the same time I start researching the best things to see and do wherever I’m going. I used guide books from the library and internet searches for this. I find the TripAdvisor forums are great for this, because there are often people who provide there itineraries and what they loved or didn’t. Be sure to look off the beaten path as well. Some of the best places we’ve been to definitely weren’t common tourist attractions. We went to a National Park in Saskatchewan and I think we were the only people there, but it was stunning.

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On the same note, don’t be afraid to leave the highway (the literal beaten path). We drove up a twisty, narrow dirt road for about half and hour (and then back down) to get to this place:

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And it’s now one of our favourite places ever.

Before you get your heart set on a particular activity or location make sure to make it to make sure it isn’t too out of the way from your planned route.

Make sure to have lists of places to stay and eat, but also leave some room for flexibility.

Once you have your mapped out route, and a list (with addresses) of things to do, see and eat, the next step is budgeting.

On a road trip it is a lot harder to keep track of expenses, then if you were flying somewhere and staying in the same hotel the whole time.

I use a spreadsheet. Seriously. I have a column for accommodations, food, gas, and activities. A list would work fine too, but I like to be organized. Obviously it is just an educated guess. Having a strict budget would take some of the fun out of it, but at least this way you know the ball park cost. A really helpful website I recently found is Gasbuddy. You type in your car model and year, and then where you are going and it tells you how much it will cost for fuel. This is great if you are going somewhere where you may not know how much gas costs. Like this place, which was the only gas station in the boundaries of what is probably Canada’s most visited National Park, so they just charged whatever they wanted (which was A LOT!).

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So, that’s more or less what I do. It seems to have worked well so far. Kurt wants to drive to Alaska someday. I think that will be a true test of my trip planning abilities!

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March Break

This week we are on a break from school. We spent the first half visiting our family in our hometown. We played board games, watched tv (a rare treat for us), ate junk and just hung out. It was fun. Yesterday we drove back though some pretty terrible weather. That wasn’t so fun.

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Now that the travelling is over and done we have a few days left to rest and hopefully get some jobs around the house done!

A Short Trip to Ottawa

Last weekend we decided to take a little trip to our Nation’s capital. Though it rained and was cold, we managed to have a great time! We went to an antique show, the Byward market (a large indoor/outdoor market), toured Parliament and visited with an old friend. I forgot my camera, so these pictures were taken with my phone.

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Lunch, chili poutine and a chocolate milkshake. I ate the whole thing.

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Parliamentary Library.

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Having some tea with my fellow suffragettes.

It’s so nice to take little weekend trips that don’t require much planning, time or money. It is still fun and relaxing. Sometimes they provide the perfect change of pace we all need.

Food in Belize

As I mentioned before, the food in Belize was a lot of beans and rice, which in my opinion, is great. We did try some different things though. I will try to highlight some of the best things we ate.

One of our best meals was definitely the lunch we made at the communal kitchen at our cabin. We went to the market that morning and bought fresh fruit and then went to the grocer in the village and bought some local cheese and fresh tortillas. It was fantastic.

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Another cool thing we had was a fresh coconut. A man was selling them on the street. He would use a machete and make a hole in the top then stick in a straw. After Kurt had drank the coconut water (I didn’t like it), we had the man break it open and we scraped the stuff out from inside to eat. It was really good.

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And of course our lobster dinner. We didn’t end up having it until our last night there. The lobster was fresh from that day and was absolutely delicious. It was very different from the lobster we’ve had on the East Coast, but I actually liked it better. It seemed meatier, though it was kind of freaky looking.

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We ate well while we were away. For the most part the food was fresh and healthy, though slightly lacking in vegetables. Everything was complexly spiced, yet seemed so simple. Amazing. I really could eat rice, beans and tortillas every day.

Island Iced Tea

On our trip my drink of choice was definitely lime juice (which I’m going to attempt to make soon), but once in a while to change things up I would get an iced tea. It was always delicious. I’ve tried to recreate it as best I can though it’s not exactly the same. I’m not sure if the limes in our stores are the same ones in Central America and I’m also not exactly sure what kind of sugar they use. It’s kind of brown, but didn’t look quite like anything I could find (if anyone knows for sure, please let me know!). I used demerara.

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Anyways, I picked up a bunch of limes from the grocery store. I’m not sure what kind, but they were dirt cheap. I washed them in diluted vinegar and then rinsed them well. I boiled a kettle full of water and steeped two tea bags. I used orange pekoe this time, but I’d love to try making this using different kinds of tea. As the tea steeped I made a simple syrup of half a cup of demerara sugar in about two cups of water. Use as much or little sugar you want depending. on how sweet you want it. Cook it on high, stirring constantly and take it off as soon as the sugar dissolves. I took the teabags out once the colour was to my liking, then poured the sugar water in. I added two sliced limes and ice.

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It doesn’t taste exactly the same, but it is refreshing on a hot day!

Belize- A Quick Overview

We made it back! It was sad to leave, but nice to be home. Especially considering my sunburn. I will do a few posts on our trip focussing on specific things, but for now, I just thought I’d do a quick snapshot.

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The first half of our trip was spent in the jungle, in a little town called Succotz, just outside the Guatemala border. It’s not a super touristy area, so it was great because we really got to see how people live there. We ate a whole lot of beans and rice with corn tortillas.

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We visited three Mayan sites while in this area. They were astounding in their vastness. It was really amazing to learn about this culture and to see how advanced they were. One of the sites was a cave where the Mayan’s made human sacrifices. The formations in the cave were beautiful and it was definitely a challenging experience.

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For the second half of the trip we headed out to the islands. We stayed in a little oceanview cabana on Caye Caulker. It was nice to experience the slow island way of life. We swam, watched for fish from the pier, ate fish and went snorkeling on the reef. Fantastic.

We found Belize to be a great place to travel because the food is great, the scenery is breathtaking and the people are genuinely nice. We never felt unsafe or taken advantage of. Also, they speak English, which helps!

I will try to post more details about our trip once a week.

Health While Travelling

When we were planning our trip one of the first things I looked into was what health concerns we should have when going to Belize. I used a government website to make sure that the information was up to date and accurate. Based on the what I read we decided to get a Hepatitis vaccine. We were previously vaccinated for Hep B, but not A, and that was more than 10 years ago, so we got the Twinrex shot. It hurt like the dickens, but I feel much safer now. And at least all of our other vaccines are up to date.

There are other precautions we will be taking while travelling, such as wearing insect repellent and sunscreen (and reapplying regularly), as well as trying to remember to stay hydrated. I will also be taking probiotics during the trip since my stomach is often an issue.

There is nothing worse than getting sick for getting in the way of enjoying a vacation so it’s important to be prepared, especially if you are a newbie to travelling away from your own continent (intercontinental?) like us.