Happy New Year!  Is it too late to say that?  If so, too bad because it’s my first opportunity!  I only recently returned home to True North Winter (as in -41 degrees Celsius and an extreme cold warning) from my EPIC 13-day road trip spanning six states, one province and 50 hours of driving (not by me, I read 4 novels while my husband drove – thanks Hon)!  It was quite a Christmas holiday.  My hubby and I had this epic surprise planned for our family for weeks – and almost blew it every.single.day.

Our Christmas Eve (thrifted) board game – soon to see the real thing!

Fortunately, we kept up the ruse right till Christmas morning!

Immediately after learning about the trip, the kids starting packing in their new suitcases from Santa. My 8yo declared himself ready to go at this point. #IamCanadian

This post is all about our travels but never fear, I have some packing words of wisdom that must be shared and will be shared in another post AND of course some chronicles of inter-state thrifting!  (That’s supposed to be dramatic foreshadowing, stay tuned.)  From our home to Anaheim is a 26-hour drive which we spread out over three days in each direction.  For any of you thinking we are cray for driving, let me remind you that the last time we traveled at Christmas and flew, we spent a fortune on flights, slept overnight in the San Francisco airport, and then the rental vehicle was another small fortune.  It was simply out of our budget this time, and anyway, road trips are way more fun!!  We left before noon on Christmas day to start the first 8-hour leg of the trip from Leduc County, Alberta to Great Falls, Montana…

That is the satisfied expression of a mother that successfully carried out an epic surprise and is now en route!
The Alberta prairies are pretty but I wasn’t sad to leave them behind for a couple of weeks!
“Santa strung up Christmas lights in our sweet sweet ride!! Thanks Santa! 🎅🏻 Maybe I’ll give him a kiss underneath the mistletoe later!”

We stopped in Lethbridge for a sad McDonald’s Christmas Day supper then crossed the border into Montana, arrived in Great Falls, settled into our hotel for the night, and got up bright and early to head to the next stop…

Just in case I wasn’t sure where I was… (American flags go big or go home)
The Montana roads were definitely winter roads but the scenery was stunning! I will spare you the 500 mountain photographs and just leave you this one that looked to me like baked meringue! #priorities

It was another long drive to get to Salt Lake with lots of snacks and movies and American candy from the gas stations.  #healthnut

Apropos message awaiting us in our Salt Lake hotel…!
The view from our hotel in Salt Lake. Beautiful mountains!

We drove around a bit and went to a Belgian waffle breakfast joint that was delicious.  I made my kids speak French which was AWESOME.  And then we carried on to Vegas, Baby!

Finally, NO SNOW except in the distance.
Nice to pass through you, Arizona!
The Arizona scenery was stunning! We saw cacti and were hoping for a road runner, but no luck.
As for Vegas, well. We stayed at the Ex Calibur and I have no idea how it ranks to other Vegas hotels but I call it a wannabe castle that can’t hold a candle to Aurora’s.
We walked the strip which was quite something to see in person. Quite something indeed to have people hand you stripper advertisement cards while strolling with your children…
Sure the Bellagio lights were impressive but overall I HATED Vegas and couldn’t get out of there soon enough. I thought it would be glamorous but I can only describe it as smelly and sad. #sorrynotsorry
Pretty lights tho

The last leg of the trip took us straight to Anaheim!!  From the saddest place on earth to the happiest place on earth IMHO.

I’m just a girl, standing in the parking lot of a grocery store that sells wine, in December in a sleeveless dress.  #arrived

We stayed for 7 nights at the Sheraton just off-site of the Disney Parks.  Our hotel room was perfectly adequate (and we even saw the bass player for Aerosmith – our only celeb sighting)!

You BET we went swimming in the outdoor pool!

Disneyland was so magical!!

The weather throughout the week… not so much…

We ended up renting a stroller every day which was a blessing for our tired 6yo and helped haul our bags, snacks and rain gear.
Where limes grow next to the queue lines
Where lanterns hang and princesses roam!
Though I have my very own princess, more or less sparkly depending on the day! (She’s in a $4 thrifted dress BTW)
Where you run into friends from home in the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique! (and make them take a selfie, ‘natch)
I will never tire of this sight.
We took one day to go to Universal Studios which was absolutely packed with huge long lines.
It was INSANE and cold and I was grumpy. After standing in a long line for this giant Simpson’s donut, my daughter promptly dropped it whole, icing side up, at the packed special effects show. You bet I picked it up tout suite and had them eat the top anyway. #motheroftheyear
Butterbeer helped put me in a better mood!  It is every bit as delicious as you imagine it to be!

The line for the Harry Potter ride was as long as 4 hours at different points during the day.  We finally decided to just go for it and wait as long as necessary but then a kind staff member gave us a front-of-line pass!!!!!   #savedtheday  And the ride WAS amazing!!

The grey dreary day was actually perfect for Hogsmeade and Hogwarts. I have been reading the Harry Potter series out loud with my kids over the past 6 years so this was so special to experience!!  Loved it.

After non-stop week-long fun, we packed up and started our trek homeward bound, this time forgoing Vegas and taking a fairly significant detour in order to pass through Arizona and see Monument Valley!

Rainbows chased us for miles! I think that was God affirming our choice!

We wanted to go to the Grand Canyon too but I spent too much time thrifting and it would have been dark it was cloudy and snowy with poor visibility.  Monument Valley however was breathtaking.

Worth every extra mile!

The road home felt longer, naturally.  We stayed in Flagstaff instead of Vegas then headed to Salt Lake City, Great Falls and home, traveling from California to Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Montana and finally Alberta.

Salt Lake City, home of The Peach from Gourmandise bakery – 2 beignets filled with peach cream, doused in peach syrup with marzipan leaves and a candied stem. How will I live without these???
And then it was this for the rest of the drive home.

We stopped in at Cilantro and Chive in Lacombe for our final vacation supper and it was so good!

Bathroom art truth.

Epic.  The whole trip was epic.  I am so thankful for my husband’s excellent driving and my kids’ excellent traveling!  We are beyond blessed and filled with gratitude that we got to create such memorable scenes together.  I’m already dreaming of when we can go back!


  1. Yay I am glad it was so much fun !!! I love road trips, so many things to see and stories to share! Much better than airport horror stories lll.

  2. I also wasn’t impressed with vegas either!! I don’t drink or gamble and I definitely dont like over paying for stuff! Also, hello from Albuquerque, NM