For August Long weekend we went on a incredible road trip to Kelowna, British Columbia. The trip from Edmonton was about 10 hours driving time- we read on a travel forum that the Friday of the long weekend would mean the roads would be heavily backed up. This meant leaving Edmonton on the Thursday night, staying in Calgary and leaving before 6:00 am Friday morning. I had to agree with the consensus on the travel forum- leaving Calgary before 6am meant no construction, no stand stills on the highway, and smooth sailing (tip- leave as early as possible to avoid construction as we heard horror stories from people who left later in the day).
I’m going to share our favourite stops, eats, activities and things to do with kids between Calgary and Kelowna. It’s a wonderful road trip that can easily be done with kids- and the beaches alone are worth the drive!
Revelstoke is a great place to get out and stretch your legs along the way. It’s close to being half way between Calgary and Kelowna, so it’s the perfect place to grab lunch. There’s a ton to do here and the town even merited an over night stop on the way home.
Revelstoke Mountain Resort- We stopped in at Revelstoke to ride the Mountain Coaster. I would consider this a NOT TO BE MISSED roadside attraction (capital letters, so you know I’m not joking!). I haven’t had that much fun on a “ride” in a long, long time. I couldn’t stop laughing. It exceeded all expectations and both my girls loved it. There were also euro-bungees my kids begged to do while waiting. We gave in, since they had been so good in the car, and decided to do them while we waited for our turn (the coaster is ticketed with a simple numbered system). You can also eat lunch or just walk around the shops till your number block is called. Don’t be scared of long wait times- you actually don’t spend much time in any lines- it’s a great system. The current wait time is also listed on their website, making it simple.
(It was the best day with the worst pictures! The girls loved the gondola ride up to the top of the roller coaster too and their excitement was contagious. Also they do take pictures of you as you fly down the hill, probably should have bought one of those!)
Giant Cedars Boardwalk. If coaster aren’t your thing and you’d still like to get out and stretch your legs, definitely stop at the Giant Cedars Boardwalk. It’s right off the highway east of Revelstoke and well marked with signs. It’s less then a 1km walk and took us around 15 minutes. The walk was beautiful and although there were not always barriers along the boardwalk, it was safe and easy for kids. The light pouring down through the huge old trees was stunning.
The Enchanted Forest was a place I hadn’t stopped at since I was Violet’s age, but I was happy to see it still kept all it’s charm. The girls loved running from storybook house to house, seeing the woodland creatures and trying to guess each nursery rhyme. It was really nostalgic for me and we made some really good memories walking through the forest enjoying the sites. Attached to the Enchanted Forest is the Sky Trek Adventure Park and elevated playground. We really wanted to go, but time didn’t allow for a visit. But if you can, make some time to check out the giant bungee swing, forest jungle gym and different ropes course. There’s a giant swing for all ages- we could hear people laughing/screaming while they were on it as we walked through the park. It looked incredible- and from what I’ve heard, the ropes course is quite hard and the forest playground is very fun for little ones.
Three Valley Gap and Ghost Town. We ended up staying over night at The Three Valley Gap Chateau on our way home from Kelowna. I’ve always wanted to stay there- it’s a stunning old building and the lake views are incredible. I’m going to recommend it as a great overnight stop- as long as you don’t mind “80’s vintage” or “rustic charm”. Keep in mind there’s no A/C (it was 32c while we were there) and the rooms are very basic. But, the beach was awesome with cheap SUP and kayak rentals, a great playground and very reasonably priced Helicopter tours for families. The hotel itself had loads of family activities- giant chess boards, ping pong, billiards, a large games room, a Titanic themed indoor pool and nice surrounding gardens. At $150 a night the hotel was priced similarly to hotels right in the town of Revelstoke, but it had that charm that no chain hotel can provide. Attached to the hotel is the Ghost Town. Hotel guests get 50% off the already reasonable admission and it’s (strangely) just a little token you pop into machine to open the gate to the Town. The Ghost town is a pretty amazing large display of old buildings and artifacts. My kids love museums so they enjoyed running from building to building and guessing what they were used for. Only thing was the (super) creepy mannequins in each house and well, Maeve was having none of that. The round house had several passenger trains to explore (including a “haunted” one that I’ll admit to being to chicken to go into). The amount of things to see was incredible for a small little ghost town. There was also some pretty awesome(included) mini golf and train rides for kids. I’d say it’s definitely worth a stop and is awesome “bang for your buck”.
Our next roadside stop was Sicamous-
We stopped in at D Dutchman Dairy for a sweet treat. Definitely a “must-do” as it’s a true “farm-to-table” experience. You can order your ice cream (real flavours made with real fruits and treats) and can eat it next to the dairy cows. You’re allowed to explore the around farm and there’s even a small farmers market on site. Don’t forget to grab some crazy good chocolate milk on your way out!
The last stop before Kelowna, Vernon-
Log Barn – Perhaps the most eclectic road side stop we visited but a lot of fun for kids. I have no idea exactly what is going on there (dinosaurs! old stuff! bears!) but the kids thought it was crazy and liked it all. We fed the goats (enter the pen at your own risk….no really, they’re very excited little goats. It’s actually a risk, ha!). The food samples were good and the baked goods hit the spot during a long drive. It’s a bit expensive to buy much, but it’s fun to walk around see the random display of characters, dinosaurs and antiques.
Atlantis Waterpark. There’s a outside waterslides park located in Vernon. I haven’t visited these slides since I was 10, but I remember them being awesome. They probably merit a full day, but it would be a great stop on your way to Kelowna.
The Starlight Drive in Theatre– Seriously, an old school Drive-in Theatre! I soooo wanted to make this work with our trip. If you’re staying in the Veron area, definitely go for a show!
We finally made it to Kelowna-
We stayed at Playa Del Sol Rentals through VBRO. It was the perfect location and gave us a great starting point for exploring the city. We could walk to the beach and great resturants right on the water like SmackDab and the Lakeside patio at The Hotel Eldorado. Seriously, don’t miss the patio at The Hotel Eldorado, a definite highlight of our trip. There were also grocery stores close by to stock the condo kitchen. I would definitely recommend the building and location- we would certainly stay there again. Each unit is individually marketed, so I can’t speak for the whole building, but the location in the Mission area is perfect. Right up Lakeside drive from our condo was fruit orchards and vineyards- perfection.
We visited several beaches with the kids favourite being Gyro Park Beach– there’s a zipline into the water and another one across the sand. There’s also a large playground, a concession, rental shop, lots of big trees for shade, soft sand, and a gradual beach incline to make it a winner. We also liked Rotary Beach as it was across the street from our Condo. It wasn’t as busy and had a place to rent paddle boards and other activities, along with lots of picnic tables. The City Park is the most popular of the Kelwona Beaches and has a great splash pad. Unfortintely it was damaged by the flooding this past spring and so spray park was not open. The beach here is also home to the inflatable Wibit which is like a bouncy house/obstacle course in the water. We didn’t get a chance to try it out this trip (4 days were not enough!!) but it’s always good to leave something to try for next time.
Fruit Orchards and Wineries
We stopped to pick Cherries at Sun City Cherries ($2 a lb and a total highlight of the trip for the kids). They also have locally made Gelato that’s worth the stop (you might end up thinking about it for days afterwards).
We also loved Twin Oaks Organic Orchards. This small orchard has been in the same family for decades and the fruit is all grown certified organically. They were so kind and friendl and we ended up chatting with the owners for a long time. We picked some apricots that were better then anything I’ve ever eaten. We also ate peaches right off the tree. Definitely a great place to pick fruit, and a nice bonus that it’s organic. (find them at 559 Barnaby Rd, Kelowna- it’s quite close to Summerhill Winery on Lakeshore Road)
The girls really wanted to see some grapes on the vine and we were able to stop in at several vineyards. If you are into tastings there’s a whole bunch of small vineyards within a short drive along Lakeshore Road- Summerhill, Cedar Creek, Oak Bay & St Hubertus…. they were all within 10 minutes of our condo rental. About 20 minutes up Lakeshore Road there is also Carmelis Goat Cheese Farm. We visited- but farm tours needed to booked weeks in advance and there weren’t goats out and about like we had hoped. Unless you love goat cheese (there were lots of samples for a small fee) it would probably be a miss for us.
Kangaroo Creek Farm-
Located just outside Kelowna, this unique farm is a gem. We had been looking forward to meeting some free-roaming kangaroos all summer long and Kangaroo Creek didn’t disappoint. From holding baby joeys to feeding Emus to petting Capybaras the place was a mecca for little animal lovers like mine. Our advice would be to visit during the 6-8pm time slot and arrive right when it opens to beat the crowds. We had very little wait to hold the babies but heard that the line up can be an hour+ during the day. But seriously, those joeys though.
Other awesome activities we researched but didn’t have the time to visit were-
Scandia Golf and Games. From the highway it looked like some pretty impressive mini golf- just like in the movies! There’s also the typical go carts, batting cages and arcade games.
Myra Canyon Adventure Park or Wildplay Kelowna. There’s ziplines, swings and ropes courses all close to the city. Both courses look impressive in their own ways. There’s also hiking along the Myran Canyon Trestles.
The Kelowna Lavender Farm is definitely on our list for next trip too- I love the smell of Lavender!
We can’t wait for our next visit to Kelowna. We barely scratched the surface of everything there is to do here- we didn’t even make it Summerland or Pentiction. For the short amount of time we were in Kelowna with kids so much of our time was spent at the pool or the beach. It was heaven relaxing by the water- it truly felt like a vacation. I’d love to hear all your ideas and favourite places for our next trip. We will definitely make it back soon and would love to hear from some experts of the area!
Tomorrow is August 1st. We are half way through summer. Half way through having no alarms, staying up too late and drinking way too many slurpees. We’ve been busy, we’ve been having fun and we’ve also been just kicking back and spending lazy days building lego. We usually we write a summer bucket list on the last day of school. Writing bucket lists is much like goal setting for young minds. Getting them involved in the planning and organizing of our list is a fantastic way to encourage your children to have a growth mindeset and dream big. But this year we literally picked the kids up on the last day of classes and we were off to Kananaskis. The list got never got started. But that’s okay because I just read about the “Reverse Bucket List” and it’s a great way to teach gratitude. I would love my girls to be mindful and grateful of everything they have and everything they’re able to experience. So how do you write a Reverse Bucket list? Just ask your kids to list things that brought them joy and happiness so far this summer and all things that they’ve done that they want to say thank-you for. Taking the time to sit down and help them remember everything awesome that summer has brought will do more then you think. Because being grateful = being happy.
So yesterday the girls and I wrote out everything we were SO very grateful to have experience so far this summer.
- Swimming in Hotsprings in Fairmont, BC.
- Making cookies and delivering them to new neighbours.
- Going to the spray park and getting free popsicles from the Truckiscle
- Weekly visits to our local Southwest Farmers Market and the kids getting to choose something new with their “free money” from Sprouts.
- Camping in Kananaksis and hiking up Ptarmigan Cirque.
- Spending a rainy day watching vintage 80’s movies (think Annie, Land Before Time, Adventures in Babysitting) and playing card games.
- Going to an outdoor city pool (we like Fred Breadstock- and bonus they’re all free this year!)
- Making homemade popsicles with fresh Saskatoon berries picked in our local park (this City of Edmonton fruit map says where you can go for free fresh fruit!)
- Going for extra long bike rides in the warm evenings to find new parks.
- Playing at Kinsmen Beach in Invermere– the slides out on the lake are so fun to swim out to and so fun to go down ( the entire Columbia Valley was awesome- I’ll have to write a blog post about all the great things there are to do for families, we had a wonderful weekend away).Swimming in the Legislature fountains and packing a picnic lunch
- Joining the summer reading program at the Library and falling in love with Harry Potter.
- Eating three s’mores in one night around a backyard fire (and making ALL sorts of flavours with help from this epic post) .
- Staying in pyjamas all day and not having to wake up to go to school (this may the thing we are MOST grateful for).
- Spending a day with friends at Lake Wabamun. The beach area was surprisingly nice and it was a perfect hot afternoon for a picnic.
It’s so easy to get caught up in planning a million weekends away from the city or epic camping trips in the mountains- until you sit down with a couple of kids and are humbled by their list of what they’re most grateful for. It’s so nice to remember that their favourite memories aren’t those that take a ton of money, or excessive planning, or even leaving our own backyard. We still have our “big” family vacation left this summer and a few more little road trips planned, but I’m mostly looking forward to the last few days of no routine, warm weather and days spent by the water.
- Take our annual trip out to pick berries and making simple Freezer Jam (this recipe is fool proof and you’ll feel so domesticated!)
- Enjoy one of the free nature nights put on by The City of Edmonton
- Go on a dinosaur dig at Dinosaur Provincial Park (okay, that one is just for me, but the girls will get to hike the hoodoos and play in the visitors centre).
- Spend time camping with cousins at our annual family reunion at the awesome Lake Newell, just east of Calgary.
- Go to our big road trip to Kelowna and swim in the lake, pick fresh fruit from the tree, eat dinner at a vineyard and play in a epic spray park.
- Ride the Mountain Coaster in Revelstoke and reminisce about childhood at The Enchanted Forest.
- Spend a day at Calaway Park in Calgary.
- Float down the river at Red Lodge Park
- Check out the new waterslide park in Lethbridge (a zero entry gigantic pool will make you feel like you’re at a Mexican resort).
- Have a BBQ potluck dinner with friends. Everyone will bring a ice cream topping and we’ll have the most epic sundae bar ever.
- Spend September long weekend camping (and playing in the river) at Pembina Provincial Park
- Have a lemonade stand for the Stollery with Simply Supper on August 27.
- Stay up till 10pm and watch the sunset from the top of a hill
- Have a one-on-one date with each girl before heading back to school. We’ll go out for a special lunch, choose new “inside shoes” together and do something together without any distractions. The school year is so hectic, I cherish every last little minute before sending them off nearly every day.
What are you grateful for this summer? What are you still looking forward too?
The last two years we’ve spent weekends in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Kananaskis, Alberta. Just a short drive off Highway 1, on your way to Canmore, is an incredible protected area that doesn’t have the crowds of Banff, but all the beauty. There’s an incredible family friendly hotel, The Delta Lodge at Kananaskis, along with a huge variety of campsites run by Alberta Parks. We’ve stayed at Bolton Creek Campground and Elkwood Campground- each has gorgeous treed sites and beautiful views- I don’t think you can go wrong. There’s also beautiful first-come first-served sites all throughout the park, including Canyon Campground which borders Lower Kananaskis Lake.
Once you arrive in Kananaskis the main activities are all outdoors- hiking, boating, fishing….. there’s endless options. One of your first stops inside Peter Lougheed Provincial Park should be the Visitor’s Centre which includes an interactive displays and a hands-on interpretive centre, along with free wifi and knowledgable staff. They can outfit you with free local maps and lots of ideas. If you continue down the Park Highway you’ll find the Bolton Creek Trading Post where you can rent kayaks and canoes to use on one of the many lakes in the area. There’s also hard ice cream and a store full of things you may have forgotten. If you are spending the night, make sure you watch one of the interpretive programs at the theatre. We only had time to catch one program, a musical about beavers, and I laughed until I cried. Seriously, so funny and so educational.
Also notable in the area is William Watson Lodge. It’s barrier-free wilderness camping (including sites, cabins, trailers and huts) for those with disabilities and seniors. The sites are paved, the cabins are accessible and the hiking trails around the lodge allow for easy access to the lake- no having to go across gravel or tree roots. Accommodation is available by booking in advance, and they even have on-site equipment rentals so everyone can explore Peter Lougheed park.
Whether you are camping in the area or enjoying the Delta Lodge in the village, one of the main activities in the area is hiking. We are “fair-weather” hikers- meaning we are a family of average athletic ability and enjoy hiking when the sun is shining. We don’t own any special gear or enjoy 12 hour gruelling days. Our daughters are 5 and 7, and while they seem to have a endless amount of energy, we look for hikes that keep their attention and are enjoyable for them to explore.
Check in with the Visitor’s Centre or online if you’d like the bear report prior to leaving- we carry bear spray but you can decide if it’s necessary with the hikes you are trying.
Here’s our hiking recommendations for travelling with kids in Kananaskis-
Easy hikes– (these hikes are mostly flat and more like a scenic walk).
1. Marl Lake Trail Loop- This hike is easily accessible from the Elkwood Campground. We originally rode our bikes to the trail head and found it that there are no bikes allowed on the trail and had to return back again (this was listed on the trail map, whoops). The trail is well maintained and suitable for toddlers and strollers. Trail markers with information about the forming of the mountains, types of forest, and early settlers make it interesting and educational. We walked entire loop (1.5km round the loop or about 3km from the theatre), at a child’s pace and including taking time to read the markers it was about 30 minutes or so – my kids wore Natives, and I wore sandals with no issues. The views along the lake are great and worth the walk. Another similar trail is the Bolton Creek Interpretive Trail Loop- but this loop isn’t really stroller accessible, but still easy for pre-schoolers (3km). Both are a great introduction to “hiking”.
2. Sarrail Falls – Easily accessible from the furthest parking lot at Upper Kananaskis Lake, this short, mostly flat, walk to falls is a great way to get your family moving (1.1 km one way from the parking lot). It’s suitable for all ages and abilities, but the trail can be busy. Having some gorgeous waterfalls at the end is a great payoff for little kids and it can easily be done in 30 minutes. There’s rocks to climb on or plan to have a picnic snack around the falls.
3.1982 Canadian Mount Everest Expedition Interpretive Trail This easy hike from the first Upper Kananaskis Lake Parking lot is a 2.1km loop through the forest to a great outlook of the lake. After you cross the land “bridge” there are places along the shore to throw rocks into the lake before heading into the forest for the loop. While it is not stroller friendly, it is great for older kids who love to climb. The views can’t be beat- from either the main walkway along the lake or at the outlook in the middle of the loop.
1. Ptarmigan Cirque Interpretive Trail– Hands down our favourite trail we’ve done with our kids. Ptarmigan Cirque is pretty much near a perfect hike when you have small child. It’s a steep (ish) trail up to the meadow with the most incredible views (about 2km with incline, 4.5km round trip). This hike is not stroller friendly and good shoes are required, but we saw many toddlers hiking it with their families. There are also numbered trail markers along the pathway- so a little incentive for kids to run get to the next one. The best part though are the views once you’ve reached the clearing. It. Is. Incredible. There are rocks to climb on, marmots to watch, waterfalls to play in, fields of flowers to enjoy, and snow to roll around in (well, that last one was only Violet, however we did have a pretty epic snowball fight). If you can only manage one hike with your children this summer, make it this one. It took us about 2.5 hours, but that included a LOT of playtime in the meadow. And if you’re organized and prepared, print off the interpretive trail guide HERE.
2. Troll Falls. From the Stoney trailhead parking lot, just outside of Kananaskis Village, is a great little 4km hike up to some pretty falls. While there is some minimal elevation gain, there’s a lot of flat areas as well. It’s just far enough you feel like you got a bit of a workout, but it’s not hard or strenuous at all. We did see some strollers on the trail, but I would definitely not classify it as “Stroller Friendly” as there were roots, rocks and narrow parts in last quarter of the walk to the falls . Around the actual falls there’s large rocks and trees for kids to climb on and it’s a great place to have picnic (no picnic tables, outhouses or garbage cans). Budget about 90 minutes for the round trip- and try it again in the winter to see frozen falls.
- Rawson Lake. If you continue past Sarrail Falls on the Upper Kananaskis Lake Trail, you’ll come to the turn off for Rawson Lake. It’s a 7.8km round trip with 2.7km steady incline. It was moderately hard for my kids- not all from the incline (which was still hard) but more just the length. However, they were SO PROUD when they reached the lake, they declared it worth it. There was snow to play in, incredible views, and trails through the meadow to view many different types of wildflowers. We saw families with children younger then ours hiking the trail, and lots of parents with kids in carriers. If you are looking for a bit of challenge, pack some water and snacks, wear comfy shoes and enjoy the climb. It took us around 4 hours for the round trip.
- Okay, so we’ve only done one harder hike in the area ;). But I only like to blog about things we’ve actually done, so I’m not going to list my other selections quite yet, however there’s essentially limitless hikes in Kananaskis if you’re up for a challenge. As my girls get older (and less likely to whine the entire time) we will attempt more moderate-level hikes. The best resource I’ve found is my friend Tanya and her blog “Rockies Family Adventure” . She hikes incredible trails every weekend with her son and documents them to share- if you are headed to the Rockies with kids to hike, definitely read through her blog first! You can also always pop into the Visitor’s Centre, give them your ability level and hear more hikes that would be perfect for your family (maybe the entire Upper Lake Loop?).
All-in-All, Kananaskis will be a yearly camping trip for us. At about a 4 hour drive from Edmonton, it’s an easy weekend road trip. Every year we’ve found new places to explore within the park and have gone back to old favourites. I remember as a kid watching my brothers kayak the rapids around the Widow Maker and having picnics around Barrier Lake (side note-you can also rent boating and SUP gear in the parking lot at Barrier Lake). We took the girls back to both places last year and they still held the same magic and beauty as I remembered. Definitely add them to your list to explore in Kananaksis. Spending July long weekend in the park these past two years and has also meant spending some of Canada Day in nearby Canmore. Seeing the fireworks with the silhouette of the mountains behind is truly magical. The kids loved eating out at the Grizzly Paw, playing in park and walking the streets of Canmore. It was a great little way to break up our camping trip and a really nice afternoon out, without the expense of actually staying in Canmore. It’s about a 45 minute drive to town (take the Spray Lakes highway if you don’t mind driving on gravel just to mix things up and see lots of wildlife and great views).
Have you been out to Kananaskis? What is your favourite part of the area?
Over on my Instagram there’s two questions I get asked on a regular basis. The first one is “Do you homeschool your kids?”. Nope, we leave that up to the professionals. The second one is “How do you afford to travel so much?”. I’ll try to answer that below.
Everyone has their priorities in life. For us, we love to travel. We also want to raise kids who are world-citizens, who love trying new things, and kids that want to explore. We would love to be travelling every spare minute, but unfortunately (like for most of us) that’s not an option. Instead we opt for exploring our local river valley, day trips around our province, and camping as often as possible. We are always in planning mode and saving for major trips either months or years in advance. Taking these trips, even camping through the summer, requires us to budget and cut back on things that we would sometimes like. However, as exploring is a priority, we never feel like we are missing out.
Here is how we do it-
- You need a budget. And you need to understand your budget. Taking a money management course can help you save literally thousands of dollars a year- just by figuring out where money gets wasted and where unnecessary funds are being spent. I recommend taking a class, like those from from my friend Selina Gray, in order to sit down, go through your finances and actually figure out exactly where your money goes. Spreadsheets and pre-planning isn’t always fun, but a bit of work can bring you to your goals.
- Involve your kids. We let our kids plan our trips and research with us. Then when they ask for something like going out for dinner or a toy they can live without, we can remind them of what are family goals are. Violet, 7, can easily understand and accept the concept of not getting a new bike because she wants to go on a holiday as a family.
- Make a vision board and hang it somewhere you see it everyday. If you see constantly see your goals (pictures of the beach or Europe or the mountains in BC or wherever you want to travel to) you will start making more decisions to lead you towards them. Next to my computer is a picture of our next big trip- whenever I’m tempted to online shop I’m reminded of the bigger goal. And I know that memories made from travel are worth more then the short term joy of a new swimsuit any day.
- Reassess your mortgage. Talk to a mortgage broker to ensure you are getting the best rate and the best mortgage for you. We have saved thousands of dollars by reevaluating our mortgage on a yearly basis and making sure we are always paying the least amount of interest with a mortgage that fits within our lifestyle. Our Mortgage broker, Sarah, is fantastic and is full of great advice- I’m shocked when I hear that people don’t use a Broker when assessing their mortgage.
- If it’s not on sale we don’t buy it. Meaning I only buy groceries on sale. Period. I plan out weekly meals with the help of the flyer, and stock up on the things we need. My kids already know to ask “Is this on sale Mom?” before they ask if they can have it. Obviously we splurge everyone once in a while on a watermelon in winter or fancy cheese for a Friday night caricature, but our meals are always based on what’s a good price. We also have embraced buying store brand products, having “Meatless Mondays” and cooking from scratch.
- Open up a separate saving account for travel, one you can’t touch from your banking card. Transfer payments into your account, either with a automatic withdrawal system or weekly as you save it. Set your goal as a family and work towards it together (you could even build a chart they can colour as your reach a savings goal). Kids can understand the value of having fun as a family and can understand the process of saving money as a family if you include them in the process.
- Embrace hand me downs, embrace swap pages and second hand finds. I used to buy way too many cute kids clothes but then realized that they just wanted to live in $6 dresses from H&M all summer and leggings all winter anyway. As photographer it’s sometimes hard not having my kids dressed the way I’d like (Shop the Skinny and all their summer camp clothes are killing me right now!!!) but it was something to sacrifice in order to live the life we want. I also shop sales and sometimes buy a season ahead on clearance. However, the best way to save money is to just not spend it, so we’ve embraced a less is more mentality for clothing. (Annnnd I’m still working on this- I recently filled up a whole cart from Zara and then literally unplugged the computer and just walked away. The next day all that money I was going to spend on that cart got transferred to our travel account).
- I’m sure you’ve heard all the basics– start bringing leftovers for lunch, make your own coffee/bring your own water bottle, unplug appliances when not in use and turn off lights, stop smoking, stop drinking, get rid of cable, cut out the banking machine fees, get a part time job, rent out a room or rent out your garage…… but you need to decide what you can take on. Taking on too much can feel like a burden, so start small and work on one thing at a time. And once you take that thing on, save the money monthly in a separate account specifically for travel.
- Get a travel Credit Card. However I don’t recommend a credit card if you aren’t paying it off every month. But if you can, definitely do your research for the best one for you. We try to travel on travel points as much as possible and we put everything on a credit card to get them. The best travel cards we have found are the WestJet MasterCard and the RBC Infinite Avion card. They are both awesome, have high rankings and allow travel with no blackouts. West Jet’s $99 companion fare is worth the credit card alone (plus the points add up fast and can be used towards any flights, anytime!). We often travel exclusively on points because I put all our household bills and every little $2 drink purchase on it- but if you aren’t paying off your credit card every month, the interest you’re playing isn’t worth the free trips.
- Remember that things are just things. And it turns out things generally don’t make us happy. I have a lot of friends who are bloggers and they seem to always always the coolest new purchases . While I like pretty things, I like exploring more. At the end of the day you need to sit down and figure out what your priorities are and what you can cut out in order to achieve your goals.
I know that even with the most careful planning that saving for big trip isn’t always a reality. We’ve been there. The years when I started my business I ate noodles every night and never had a surplus of money at the end of any month to put towards ANY savings. I get it. I’m grateful now we have money we can be saving. But remember with kids, it isn’t always the big trips that matter most. It’s spending time trying new things as a family and being together. So whether you’re saving up for a trip to Europe or saving up for a weekend at a local provincial park, you’re giving your children memories and pushing them outside their comfort zone. That’s what travelling is all about.
The girls and I were lucky enough to get a sneak peek of the brand new Aerial Park at Snow Valley before it opens on Saturday to the public. In one word, it’s incredible. Worth all the hype. The climbing structure is completely safe, offers over hundred different experiences, and might be the best way to get outside and be active with your family this summer.
Basically it’s 4 levels of obstacles adventures for families to experience. You get a pass for 3 hours of climbing time- but it’s a full body workout so be prepared to take some breaks! The activities are graded similar to a ski hill- green, blue, and black (and there’s even a few hidden double black diamonds for the super adventurous).
If you’re taking smaller kids to explore the 19 adventures on the ground level the adult chaperone gets in free. These games are perfect for kids between 100-140 centimetres and are located only 3 feet off the ground, with some games inches above the bottom deck. As a free chaperone you’re not going to be able to go up into the higher levels, but you can accompany your child on the bottom level at no charge. While our 5 year old need assistance with the Belay, our 7 year old figured out the system within the first 20 minutes and was off and running. I would also recommend one adult per kid- the first 20 minutes were tricky with them learning the system, and even after that sometimes a kiddo got scared or stuck and I was running around trying assist. While the rules state 1 adult per 3 kids, having Tim there would have made the morning easier and a bit more fun.
Violet, age 7, loved the course, especially once she figured out how to belay on and off (it’s a new, state of the art, click-it belay). The system is so simple, but completely fool proof- there’s no way they can get off the line once they start. I was SO impressed with the safety of the course, and the fact that a 7 year old could do it without any help and I wasn’t worried for her safety at anytime. She loved the entire bottom level- there were some very challenging elements and some simple ones. But seeing her freedom on the course and watching her confidence soar when she completed a new challenge was completely worth it. Violet like the moving beams, the wiggly climbing wall and the skateboard best. I’ll admit there were some that were tricky elements ( engage the core! ha!) for me on the very bottom- it was super fun.
Maeve, age 5, is “averagely” adventurous for her age and panicked on the wiggly balance beams. Finally I just pulled her off the beam and she found out how she would hang if she lost her balance on an obstacle. Even though I explained several times that she couldn’t fall to ground she just didn’t get it. But once I pulled her off and let her just hang there, her confidence grew a ton. So when you take your younger kiddos, show them right away that if there’s nothing to be scared of by giving them a little swing. I think age 4 would be the minimum I would have taken either of my girls- although adventurous three year olds would have fun. And there’s no upper age limitations for kids enjoying the bottom level.
While Violet is quite fearless and wanted to go everywhere, the higher elements require more height to reach from one game to the next or to just hold on to the obstacle. While she was able to experience some of the 2nd level green attractions ( there’s a minimum of 125 cm to access the entire structure, which she just made the cut) and it was evident she needed bit more height to fully enjoy the obstacles, so be mindful of height restrictions before promising your kids they’ll get to the top. “Juniors” (over 125cm to 140cm tall and wanting to try the upper levels) need a paid, harnessed adult accompanying them.
While I loved going with the kids, I would definitely go back with just my husband for a date night. It’s open till 9pm in the summer, so it’s a perfect evening without kids. I don’t think I’d try to go explore the full course during the same 3 hour time block as the littles- if you’re with them you are missing out on actually exploring the top levels. If our kids were older and taller (and braver!) then we’d make a full family date out of it, but until they are, we will visit on our own!
Other things to keep in mind-
-There’s no phones (sorry no epic Instagram shots while climbing!) or any cameras allowed in the tower. In fact, there’s nothing at all allowed in pockets (no one on a lower level wants to be hit with flying debris). There’s also strict rules about footwear and clothing- make sure you double check the website before your visit.
-Bring a picnic to enjoy the river valley after your climbing time. There are slurpees, ice cream, and various treats and snacks available for purchase at main building but pack some food, extend your visit, watch the climbers and enjoy the scenery.
– You can save $3 per person by purchasing your tickets online in advance. You can also book your climbing time and avoid disappointment.
-It isn’t a cheap day out, so make the most of your time spent. A warm day is ideal as you’re working hard up there. If the weather becomes too rainy or too windy the course will be shut down and rain checks can be offered.
-Arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled time. There are waivers to be signed and don’t want to miss a minute of your time that can be spent climbing. Also use the washroom prior to your visit- once you’re on the course it takes time to get all the way back down- not to mention the harnasses don’t go on and off quickly.
Definitely add this aerial park to your summer bucket list. The park opens May 20th but website is open for bookings now!