When my best-friend from Israel told me in April that she was going to be in New York City over the winter break, I knew I had to find a way to see her. It’s been six years since we’ve last seen each other, and this is the closest we’ll be geographically. The options were 1) I can fly down on my own and stay in a hotel for two days or 2) we can make it a family road trip with stops along the way.
From previous experience, we knew it wouldn’t be easy to take three kids, ages six and under, on a long road trip. But when I found out that I would be receiving a fully equipped 2017 Toyota Sienna for this adventure, the decision was made! Along with snacks, the iPad and a few car-friendly activities, we knew the pre-installed entertainment system would keep our kids happy and occupied for the long drives. John and I were concerned with a safe ride since it was winter and we would be driving through snowy conditions. We loved that the new 2017 Sienna is an all-wheel drive and had winter tires. We felt safe, and the boys were entertained. It was a win-win!
Since we would be away over the holidayS (Christmas & Hanukkah), we had to be super organized and prepared. It also meant the car was jam packed! Besides our clothes for 10 days, skates, hockey equipment, ski equipment and bags upon bags of food, we had all of the kids presents from us and Santa. We honestly couldn’t have made this trip possible without the Toyota Sienna and all the space it offers. We folded down the two back seats and placed most of the snacks in the front aisles. It was full and the boys had to watch where they stepped but it worked!
Our first stop was Ottawa. We stayed right downtown near Byward Market. Our visit was short and we spent most of it with our friends, but we did get a few hours in the morning to explore. We walked around Parliament Hill and explored the pedestrian friendly Byward Market. Great for shopping and eating! We stayed at the Westin Ottawa overlooking Parliament Hill and connected to Rideau Centre Mall.
TREMBLANT & MONTREAL
From Ottawa we headed to Mont Tremblant. This visit deserves a blog post dedicated entirely to our stay there, so stay tuned for that. But I have to say that all three boys (ages 2, 4 and 6) went skiing there and it was amazing! It also helped that the conditions were perfect and it wasn’t crowded.
In Montreal, we stayed at the Westin in the old city. The indoor pool is situated right above the entrance to the hotel which is pretty cool. It was great staying at hotels that had pools as it was a perfect activity on a cold day. While most people tend to stay away from Montreal in the winter since it can get really cold, we really enjoyed our time there.
Besides spending a lot of time walking around and eating in old Montreal, and checking out the Notre Dame Basilica, we also went to Mount Royal! A winter-lovers paradise, this hill offers a variety of winter activities for the entire family. You can rent skates, cross-country skis, and go tobogganing and snowshoeing. There is a warm in-door facility where you can pick up your rentals, lace-up and grab a bite. Make sure to stop by the overlook for a stunning view of the city.
While in Montreal, they had the fire on ice event in the Old Port. After our Hanukkah / Christmas Eve Crepes dinner, we capped our night by watching a spectacular fire show. The kids woke up bright and early (Kyle was up at 4am), excited to open up their gifts… even Santa gave us a visit!
NEW YORK CITY
From Montreal we headed to New York. This was our longest drive yet but the kids did great! I think we only made one stop at a service centre, half way between crossing the border and NYC. In NYC we stayed at the Marriott Marque at Times Square. While typically a great location, I wouldn’t’ recommend it with kids. Times Square, especially over the holidays, gets extremely crowded. We avoided it at all cost when out with the kids. John and I are so used to walking all over NYC but it proved to be a little more difficult with kids.
We headed north to Central Park but by the time we got there the kids were tired (Nate passed out in the stroller) and cold. We spent about 10 minutes playing in the kids park before heading back to the hotel. While we realized that NYC might not be ideal for visiting with kids in the winter, it was nonetheless extremely amazing to be there with my best friend. We spent the whole day together catching up. This, after all, was the reason why we headed out on this road trip in the first place.
KINGSTON & BANCROFT
Traditionally, we spend Christmas up north in cottage country with John’s family. While we weren’t there on Christmas day, we still planned to meet everyone up there for a night. We decided to break up that trip (which would have been almost 9 hours) with a stop-over in Kingston at John’s brother’s place.
While there we went to see Lumina Borealis at Fort Henry. As you walk outside around the fort, winter comes to life in a light and sound show that is breath-taking and interactive. It’s only a 1km walk, but you can easily spend close to 1 hour enjoying the show. There are several fire pits throughout the walk to help you keep warm. It’s a great family-friendly outing but make sure to dress warm as it can be extremely windy up there!
Our last stop was Bancroft, at the family cottage.
Part of the adventure is walking into the cottage from where we park the car since the cottage road isn’t plowed. This isn’t an easy task and often requires us to go back and forth. I loved the light feature on the Sienna which makes the car illuminate all around at night time if you’re standing near it with the keys. At the cottage, the boys got to enjoy quality time with their cousin, aunts, uncles and grandparents and we even managed to skate on the lake twice. It was a perfect last stop on our adventure before heading home to celebrate Hanukkah with my family.
SHOULD YOU GO ON A ROAD TRIP?
All said and done, we booked a total of 2,500KM and spent 27 hours in the car. Some people (my husband and I included) think we were crazy to do this road trip. And we were, and it wasn’t easy, and there were some tears and fights and tantrums. But looking back, I only remember all of the laughs and fun we had. It really was an adventure to remember and the boys still continue to talk about all of their favourite parts and cities. If you’re brave enough, I would recommend doing a road trip with your family at least once! Preparation, organization and a GREAT car is key to make it successful! The entertainment system really made this trip possible. The boys loved watching movies and it made the long drives very manageable.
Disclosure: I received the new 2017 Toyota Sienna to use for our road-trip. We are big fans of Toyota already as we own a 2010 Sienna and every car that I’ve ever owned in my life has always been a Toyota. The opinions in this post are my own.