For the second year in a row, our little family has traveled down to Palm Desert in early October to seek out some R&R in the sunshine. Last year we flew down and stayed at a beautiful hotel; this year we decided to be a little more adventurous and drive down to the desert!
The drive from Vancouver to Palm Desert is not a short one- in fact if you drove without stopping at all it would take you about 21 hours. We aren’t robots; we needed to stop for meals, bathroom breaks and leg stretches, therefore it took us about 26 hours each way.
Before we took on this road trip adventure we did a little research on the cities we were going to be passing through and where some good pit stops would be. We also decided that our major plan was to ‘not have a plan!’ Since we were driving down with our son Luca who is 2.5 years old, we knew we needed to be majorly flexible!
Our ‘non-plan’ started with the idea to leave Vancouver at night; our thinking was that if we left close to Luca’s bedtime then hopefully he would snooze through the night and we could get a big chunk of the driving done right off the bat. This was in fact a great idea, and soon after crossing the border into the States, Luca was in dreamland. My hubby and I switched on and off of the driving duties throughout the night which also worked out well. We had brought along a couple of audio books on CD, which kept us awake and interested while driving in the dark. By sunrise we were passing the border into Northern California, which I must say was the most scenic part of the journey and witnessing it as the sun was rising was breathtaking. I was quite happy that I was driving that leg of the journey because it was absolutely stunning! We had a breakfast stop in Northern California and were back on the road by mid morning.
By now you may be wondering how the hubby and I were holding up by driving all night and having broken up sleep in the backseat of a car…well we were holding up just fine! We attribute this to the fact that our little beloved toddler was not the best sleeper for…quite a long time. Hubs and I are very attuned to broken sleep patterns and NOT getting a solid 8 hours (thanks Luca). Although he’s a great sleeper now, this wasn’t the case for his first 1.5 years!
I’ll share now a few road trip essentials for our toddler that we made sure to pack. Firstly, the $8.00 plastic kids potty from IKEA was very handy to have on the road with us (for obvious reasons!) We also picked up a universal car seat tray from ToysRUs. This tray easily snaps onto any car seat and gave Luca a nice flat surface to play with his cars and other toys on; it also held up the IPAD nicely. We brought along some of Luca’s favorite toys and books and his teddy of course, but we also picked up a bag of dollar store small toys to mix things up a bit-variety is key when you are on the road for such a long time!
Back to the drive: so shortly after stopping for a lunch break, we randomly drove past an amazing kid-oasis in the middle of nowhere. My hubby spotted a random Fall County Fair off the freeway and we immediately did a U-turn so we could stretch our legs and let our toddler burn off some energy. This Fair had bouncy castles, a train ride, a petting farm, a few kiddie rides and a pumpkin patch. Needless to say, we spent over two hours exploring the grounds and loving the warm California weather! This pit stop broke up the long drive well and also helped Luca have a nice solid afternoon nap as we drove on.
The rest of the drive down was less eventful; think miles and miles of fruit trees and then miles and miles of barren landscape. Then things got a little nuts as we neared LA. I thought I was a seasoned city driver and could handle crazy traffic and 8 lane highways… well I guess not, because those two hours passing through the area were insane. And let me just tell you, we weren’t even in LA, just on the freeway that bypasses close to LA. I was the passenger during this part of the journey and I almost wanted to close my eyes and not witness all the freeway chaos! It reminded me of that scene in Clueless when Dionne accidently enters onto the freeway… it literally was that chaotic! Thank goodness for my composed hubby and his impeccable driving!
Once we got into the Palm Desert area the vibe just completely calmed. If you’ve ever been in the area before you know that the pace of Palm Desert is mellow! Its quiet and dark and beautiful at night; you’ve never seen stars as bright as in the desert! We arrived at our rental house after 10pm and settled in for the night. Needless to say, all three of us had an amazing sleep that first night in our ‘road trip house,’ as Luca coined it!
We spent the next week completely taking it easy with friends and family at the ‘road trip house’ and thoroughly enjoyed the 30+ degree weather. Highlights of our trip include: sunny mornings with coffee poolside, awesome meals at some great local restaurants, exploring The Living Desert zoo, a trip to The Joshua Tree National park and all in all- an awesome amount of relaxing family time!
Palm Desert has more to offer than just golf and tennis clubs. We find it to be a perfect family getaway; far enough south that you get amazing weather, but close enough to drive to (well, sort of!) We know that we are very lucky that our toddler was the perfect road trip companion- the drive back home to Vancouver went just as smoothly! And although we were very happy with the decision to make the drive down to the desert this year, next year we will have another baby-in-tow; therefore, we’ll probably fly ;) ;)