Our Pacific Northwest Adventure: Spontaneity At Its Best

If you keep up with our family on social media, you likely know that we just returned home from a 10-day trip to the Pacific Northwest.

One of my favorite things to do after we return home from a trip is answer all the great questions I’ve gotten. Before I dig into all of the travel tips and area guides- it’s fun to download a little bit of our how, what and why!

This particular trip was very different from a lot of our trips. Essentially we did a lot of pre-trip research and planning, but very little scheduling. In other words, we woke up almost every morning of the trip and decided where to go that day.

Going into the trip the only thing we knew for sure was our flight times in and out of Seattle. We had a pretty long “wish list” of destinations, but I could have never imagined how many things we’d be able to fit in. Let’s dive in…

Why visit the Pacific Northwest?

Why not? No- that’s not actually the answer. The main reason is that we’ve set a goal to take our children to all 50 states before they turn 18. Earlier this year we went to Nevada (43) and California (44). Although we weren’t 100% sure if it would be possible, we’d hoped to visit at least 4 new states in 2019.

So, when Brent found out he needed to attend a meeting in Seattle for work- it presented the perfect opportunity for a family trip to add more states.

What did you plan ahead of time?

Almost nothing! We booked our flights in and out of Seattle which gave us a concrete start and finish. Other than that, we left the 9 days in the middle pretty wide open!

The only hotel we booked ahead of time was the one for our first two nights in Seattle (Marriott Seattle Waterfront.) I also scheduled a couple activities for the kids and I to do while Brent attended his meeting.

Why didn’t you schedule the whole trip ahead of time?

According to the internet, November isn’t the most ideal time to visit the Pacific Northwest. Frequently it snows with not much warning, and supposedly it rains a lot. I say “supposedly” because it barely rained for our entire trip. We had amazing weather. WAY better than I could have anticipated when we booked the trip.

Brent and I went into the vacation thinking it would be one of our most relaxing trips ever. We assumed we’d spend quite a bit of time taking it easy at our hotels and doing small bouts of sightseeing in bad weather. However, since our weather was so incredible, we went non-stop!

I could never have planned to do so much!

How did you plan spontaneously?

It wasn’t easy! I’m a Type A girl who typically sets an itinerary for every moment of every day when we travel. I don’t like to miss anything and it helps me to stay on a schedule. So this was really hard for me!

But it made the trip so much better!

Most nights we sat down and discussed a rough idea for the following day. I made a huge list before we left with a ton of places in the Pacific Northwest that we’d like to see. I knew we’d never be able to do the whole list, but it gave us a good starting point as we planned our next stops.

One night in Vancouver we looked at the weather and the next morning looked good. So we planned a bike ride through Stanley Park. But then we woke up to pouring rain. Our waiter at breakfast made a few suggestions and we ended up having the best day despite the initial disappointment.

We also made a point to ask the hotel concierge and any locals that we encountered if they had suggestions. This worked out really well in most cases and we added a few destinations that we wouldn’t have otherwise seen.

Where all did you go in the Pacific Northwest?

Our major stops were: Seattle, Washington; Vancouver, British Columbia; Portland, Oregon; Couer d’Alene, Idaho; and Paradise, Montana. Of course, there were a million little stops along the way! Here’s a rough map of our travels…

What were your favorite parts of the trip?

We all have different answers and because we did so many different things- it is really hard to narrow this list down! Here are a few of the highlights:

Did you do anything in the Pacific Northwest that you didn’t like?

Funny you ask. Yes.

We were not impressed at all with the Hot Springs we visited in Montana. Perhaps our standards are high after visiting Hot Springs, Virginia…but the resort looked and felt like smelly hot swimming pools. The whole thing was concrete, and we were expecting more of a natural looking setting.

This is a great example of the downside of asking others opinions and not doing your own research. (For what it’s worth, my kids LOVED this particular stop. So in the end, I guess that’s all that matters!)

How many states did you visit?

We did a total of 4 states: Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. Plus, 1 province in Canada: British Columbia.

Admittedly, we spent more time than we planned to in Montana (we got REALLY lost…which is a future post all of it’s own.) However, we absolutely need to go back to feel like we’ve really seen the state! We’re looking forward to visiting Glacier National Park and doing the Road to the Sun drive one day soon.

Last time you had a terrible experience with Canada. How did this compare?

It could not have been more different- both crossing the border and our time in Canada! We met the kindest people and had the best time. I am looking forward to sharing more about the crossing and Vancouver in a future post!

Until then you can go back and read about our experiences last time:

Canada: Crossing The Border

Montreal With Kids

Final thoughts (for now) on the Pacific Northwest:

The area absolutely shocked me. I didn’t expect to enjoy it. In my mind, it was going to be grey and rainy. I assumed we’d spend a lot of time inside. Holy cow- I could not have been more wrong!

We put a ton of miles on the rental car, way more than I expected. But we also saw SO much!

The kids loved everything except for watching it snow during our layover in Denver. They were super bummed we couldn’t go outside and play in it. But seriously, that was the ONLY negative for them on the whole trip!

Check back for more posts from this trip coming soon! And, in the meantime please be sure to share this post:

You may also enjoy reading:

Sleep Better When You Travel

Family Camping In A Treehouse

7 Places To See In Every State

*The Pacific Science Center sponsored our visit. All opinions found in this post are uniquely our own. Also, this post may contain affiliate links. By making a purchase after clicking through a link Mom With A Map will receive a small commission.

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