Ingredients for a Perfect Day Trip

I’ve just gotten back from a glorious day spent exploring Ontario’s Huron coast, thanks to a spontaneous whim that struck me at breakfast. Actually, it wasn’t the whim that got us on the road so much as it was my obliging husband who agreed to indulge my whim. We whipped up the dishes, packed the car, stuck the kids in their seats, and hit the road for an unknown adventure, all before 9:30 a.m. While driving south, I had plenty of time to mull over what makes a spontaneous day trip a true success. I’ve come up with the following criteria:

1. Weather

You simply must have good weather. I associate a summer ‘day trip’ with scenery and outdoor activities, so it would be pointless to head out in the rain. Today was sunny, hot, and gloriously August-like. (Imagine that! The past weeks have felt more like October.) We drove with the windows down, air whipping my hair, sun beating down, Sam Roberts playing…

2. Destination

Despite the unplanned nature of spontaneity, I still think it’s important to have a destination in mind. Whether you arrive or not, that’s beside the point, but having a general direction in which to head makes driving feel purposeful. Today I chose Bayfield as our final point. It’s an old town with a stunning historical main street and major port. Jason had never been there and I’ve wanted to go back for years, so it made sense to go in that direction.

Bayfield reminds me a lot of Niagara-on-the-Lake with its high-end shops, elegant customers, and beautifully manicured homes.
Bayfield reminds me a lot of Niagara-on-the-Lake with its high-end shops, elegant customers, and beautifully manicured homes.

3. Curiosity

An inquisitive, open mind is an absolute necessity. There must a willingness to deviate from the main road at the slightest indication of something interesting along the way. This is why the final destination must not be held too strongly; after all, the purpose of a spontaneous day trip is the journey itself and whatever interesting discoveries it brings along the way. In my case, that meant detouring off the highway into Point Clark to check out the famous lighthouse. Sadly it was under construction so we couldn’t climb it, but it was still spectacular on its little jut of land surrounded by Huron’s trademark turquoise water and dangerous shoals.

An old lamp in the window at the Point Clark lighthouse
An old lamp in the window at the Point Clark lighthouse

4. Optimism

Being grumpy doesn’t work. A family must be in perfect harmony to enjoy a day of exploring and poking around together. That’s why I had to address Jason’s only two triggers for grumpiness before we left. He needs a steady supply of food all day long and time to work out. I solved that by packing a big box of food and promising him two hours to go to the gym in the evening. Voila, endless optimism!

Eating lunch no. 1 on the courthouse steps in Goderich
Eating lunch no. 1 on the courthouse steps in Goderich

5. Time

It’s important not to be bound to the clock. Except for the kids’ 7 pm bedtime and Jason’s evening workout, we had an entire day empty of obligations. Time could be pushed and pulled according to our desire, which we did. Less time was spent in Goderich and more in Bayfield, and once the kids found a fabulous park and splash pad where they wanted to play, we settled in for a good long play, much longer than I’d usually stay at a park.

6. Good Food

I’ve already mentioned the food bin in our trunk that Jason raided continually throughout the day, but food can really make or break my experiences. I am utterly dictated by my stomach. There are a few things I like to have on a summer day trip – a good cup of coffee, an ice cream in the mid-afternoon, and something decadently salty or greasy. I got all three today, which is absolutely perfect.

This was the very cool menu at the Pink Flamingo Bakery & Cafe
This was the very cool menu at the Pink Flamingo Bakery & Cafe
This is a happy mother with her iced coffee.
This is a happy mother with her iced coffee.

You might also like:
A Glorious Long Weekend
The Best Kind of Weekend
I’ve missed you, city girl

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3 thoughts on “Ingredients for a Perfect Day Trip

  1. I love Bayfield. A long time friend from university owns a cottage there by the beach. Been there several times. Always enjoyable. Goderich and Bayfield were both more yuppiefied than I realized. Also a number of Americans have homes there.

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