Kid-friendly Trip Ideas

The Great Road Trip: 5 fantastic, family-friendly trips

Are the kids are out of school and bickering already? Here are some excellent, longer BC road trips, Washington State road trips and Oregon road trips, along with links to Google maps, so you can customize each one.

I tried to choose points en route that are really worth a stop for families, and create circles, so you’re always seeing something new. I suggest always spending a few nights in one destination along the drive — it’s too easy to get burnt out on the road otherwise.

1. Waterpark Fun on Google Maps

Starting Location: Vancouver or Seattle
Distance: 767 miles / 1,215 kilometres (15 hours drive time)
Days: 8
Route: If starting in Seattle, drive a little over three hours to the always-sunny Lake Chelan for the Slidewaters waterpark. Stay for two nights. Next, drive an hour up to Osoyoos, BC, home to one of BC’s warmest lakes. Spend one night. Drive to Lake Okanagan, BC for two nights near the Vernon Atlantis Waterslides. Spend two nights in Kelowna, Vernon or Penticton. Then head down for the long drive (4+ hours! Pack lots of movies!) to Cultus Lake WaterPark or Harrison Hot Springs for one night. Spend a night in Vancouver, BC and take the kids to the Variety Kids Waterpark at Stanley Park. Drive home!

2. Spectacular City Escape on Google Maps

Starting Location: Victoria, Vancouver or Seattle.
Distance: 340 miles / 513 kilometres (some by ferry) (9 hours + ferry)
Days: 6

Route: Take the ferry from Vancouver, BC to Swartz Bay, then drive to Victoria. Spend two nights in Victoria. From Victoria, take the Black Ball ferry to Port Angeles. Swing by the historic seaside town of Port Townsend and spend one night. Head to Seattle for two nights, then return home. This route can be reconfigured a number of ways, but it’s rare to drive for more than two hours in any direction – except between Seattle and Vancouver. A great choice for those with younger children, because some of the time is spent on child-friendly ferries.

3. Salish Sea Islands on Google Maps

Starting Location: Seattle, Victoria or Vancouver
Distance: 461 miles /742 kilometres (about 15 hours drive time plus ferry)
Days: 10

This meandering trip creates a necklace of Salish Sea island jewels. Starting from Seattle or Vancouver, take the Washington State Ferry from Anacortes to the San Juan Islands. Spend one night. Continue on by ferry to Victoria for two nights. Next, take the ferry to the gentle farmlands of Salt Spring Island. Spend one night. Continue up to Nanaimo. Spend two nights to prep yourself for the next big haul to Comox BC, then taking the hour-long ferry across to Powell River. From here, you’ll hopscotch to Vancouver via ferry along Hwy 1. Choose three more nights to stay from the child-friendly Sunshine Coast accommodation options. With very young children, halve this trip and return to Vancouver via Nanaimo.

4. Golden Circle Route on Google Maps

Starting Location: Portland
Distance: 575 miles / 925 km (about 12 hours travel time, but traffic can impact)
Days: 8

Drive from Portland to Cannon Beach, Oregon, a family-friendly favorite. Spend two nights, then pack snacks (and your mental energy) for the long, gorgeous drive along The People’s Coast down to Newport, Oregon — be sure to stop at the Tillamook Cheese Factory for lunch and a quick visit. Spend two nights in Newport, visiting the aquarium and hanging out on the beach. Then get ready for a big change in scenery — you’ll drive almost three hours east along Hwy 20, through the forests and into family-friendly Bend. Spend two nights. Then head north to Mt. Hood, spending one night at the historic Timberline Lodge. Return to Portland! You can shave time and distance off this trip by halving it — and driving back up I-5 to Portland.

5. Olympic Glory road trip on Google Maps

Starting Location: Seattle or Victoria
Distance: 361 (Seattle)- 581 km (9 h)
Days: 4-6

For this trip, you’ll need to pack a raincoat — and garlic! Leaving from Seattle or Victoria, drive (or ferry) to Crescent Lake, Washington to stay in the Lake Crescent Lodge. Spend one night. From here, swing by the Hoh Rain Forest, then drive to one of the Olympic Park’s campgrounds. You can reserve a spot at Kalaloch, take your chances at the first-come, first-served campgrounds or stay in a Forks, Washington hotel if you’re living with a vampire fan. Spend one night in any destination. Then, drive to Lake Quinault Lodge to spend one more night before driving home. If “home” is in Victoria, spend two extra nights in Seattle, fortify yourself, then drive home via Port Angeles or Anacortes.

Lora Shinn writes about family travel, Pacific NW travel, grown-up travel...and travel in general. Her travel-related articles and essays have appeared in Family Fun, Parenting, AFAR, National Geographic Traveler, AAA magazines and Redbook, among others.