Twirls and Travels » a blog about exploring with kids

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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.

Almost-As-Easy Hikes

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.

A-Bit-Harder Hikes

  1. 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.
  2.  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?


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  • July 12, 2017 - 2:08 pm

    Kylie - This is a great post! You’ve sold me on the Ptarmigan hike when we’re in the area next weekend. We love Peter Lougheed – how cute is that little interpretive centre?! When we stayed at Canyon Campground last year there was a little hike that left from the campground but it was closed for renos.. I can’t remember the name of it but really hope it opens up again soon! Do you happen to know which one I’m talking about?ReplyCancel

    • July 12, 2017 - 11:17 pm

      Kelsy - Hi Kylie!

      Your thinking of the Canyon Interpretive Loop. It’s still closed so we haven’t had the chance to try it. I believe it was damaged when they worked on the dam. Hopefully it’s back up next summer- it’s another good short one for the littles! Thanks for being here 🙂ReplyCancel

  • July 13, 2017 - 3:02 am

    Teann - Thank you so much for this awesome post! We are headed there for August long and staying at Delta! This helps so much to see everything we can discover!ReplyCancel

  • July 18, 2017 - 10:57 pm

    Jodi - We love PLPP too…just finished our first family backpacking trip to Point & Forks (one night at each) with our 9 & 10 y/o kids, I would recommend it for sure. I had no idea that Ptarmigan would be so friendly for kids-it’s on our list for next time! Great blog, thank you!! 😀ReplyCancel

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-

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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).
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

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  • June 16, 2017 - 2:08 pm

    Tabitha Studer - Thank you! This was very helpful! I love your insta feed! We have a Violet too! With four kids we’ve been feeling like vacationing is now off the table – but you’re suggestions here have my wheels turning and I think we can make some changes to make it a reality again! Safe travels! XxooxReplyCancel

    • July 11, 2017 - 7:32 pm

      Kelsy - Thanks Tabitha! I think leaving your home town for any type of road trip or vacation with kids is a huge win. It’s more work with more kids, but still worth it!ReplyCancel

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!



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  • May 17, 2017 - 10:44 pm

    Tim Dea - Hi Kelsey,

    We’re so glad you and your girls came out to enjoy Snow Valley Aerial Park. It looks like everyone had a great time. You rightly pointed out that there was no food available at that time. The Rainbow Valley Chalet, where you check in, has some candy bars and pop, but no ‘real’ food. We will, however, be having a concession on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, weather permitting. BBQ items (veggie and beef burgers, smokies, etc), as well as salads, fruit packs, chips and various drinks. The menu should be up on the website today or tomorrow. Thank you again for coming out – your photos are awesome.

    Tim Dea, Marketing & Communications Mgr
    Snow ValleyReplyCancel

We may have found a new favourite winter getaway. Nestled in the heart of Kananaskis,  Delta Hotels by Marriot Kananaskis Lodge is the perfect place to bring a young family.  It’s less then hour from Calgary, doesn’t have the crowds we dread,  and it’s only minutes to Nakiska Ski Resort, all making it an ideal location for a weekend away.

It’s a resort that appeals to young families for so many reasons. Some of our favourite parts of the weekend included-

  • Open fire and a complimentary s’more station outside in the lightly falling snow (magical!)
  • A large indoor playground with a full playhouse, lego, giant floor “iPad” with interactive games, play kitchens, chalk wall, craft room and movie screen for their special family movie nights.
  • Complimentary Hot Chocolate in the lobby, served in to-go cups that you can enjoy as you walk around the trails surrounding the resort.
  • Skating on the pond outside in the middle of the resort. There’s even skate rentals available on site.
  • A inside-outside hot tub and a wooden sauna outside the pool doors. The indoor pool was the largest we’ve seen at a hotel- lots of room for multiple families and heated enough that parents will actually get in 🙂
  • The kids buffet in the main resturant, Forte.  Actually, I think the set-up is genius. Adults order off a menu while kids can help themselves to never ending kid-friendly food (including crowd favourites and lots of healthy options).  No long wait for food =no whining. They even had multiple included desserts. And bonus, kids under 6 eat free at the Delta.
  • The service throughout the resort was extremely good. Probably the best part of our trip. The server took the time to learn the girls names at dinner, the house-keeping made “towel art” and left a friendly welcome note, and  the check in staff were friendly and  helpful. Even the pool attendant brought us out towels with a smile. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a hotel feel like home.

delta-kananaskis-reviewdelta-kananaskis-with-kidsThe resort itself is minutes away from Nakiska Ski Resort. For Tim, that little bonus was priceless. Usually we are up early making the trek to the ski hill- but here it’s less then 5 minutes to the lift.  The hill is perfect for young families- there were so many green runs my daughters could do.  There’s even a tube park with friendly lifties ready to give you a “super spin” or a push down the hill.  Maeve loved the tube park- I think she was excited for a activity she could do that required no balance and lots of high speeds down the hill. Overall, we were really impressed with Nakiska and will definitely ski it more often now that we’ve tried it out. And if you’re not a skier, definitely try out the Tube Park, it’s so much fun (and the magic carpet lift is perfect those of us who get exhausted going up and down the toboggan hill with kids).


If you don’t make it to the ski hill,  there’s a ton of exploring around the resort with multiple hiking trails close by.  The weekend we stayed there were several events posted for families to take part in- guided hikes to Troll Falls, nature walks, yoga, free crafting workshops,  a family games night, and a family movie night on a big screen. The staff can also point you in the right direction for snow shoe rentals to use close by and skate rentals to on-site. Overall, you won’t be bored. The scenery is enough to get me out to Kananaskis alone- the location of the resort can’t be beat.  I think a minimum of two nights would be ideal to truly explore the area and take in all that The Delta Lodge at Kananaskis offers.


Look forward to-

Kids under 6 eat for free at the Lodge.  The  promotion doesn’t include room service but kid meals were only $7 delivered, and had huge portions. It was a really fun splurge for the girls to get room service before a long day at the ski hill. They’re still talking about it.

But be Prepared for-

It is no secret that this hotel is undergoing renovations. While we found it didn’t disrupt our stay, the check-in is not in the main lobby and there are areas of the resort off limits.   Be aware that not every room has been renovated and some rooms are still dated.  The hotel should be completed by summer, however check ahead of time to make sure that the renovations aren’t going to distrupt your vacation plans.  I’m excited to see the new pool area which has plans to have a nordic feel (we also hear they will even include watersides and kids water features). I’m looking forward to visiting again this summer and trying out everything the hotel has to offer in the summer.

Our Insider Tips-

This resort can be purchased with Airmiles- it’s a great way to use extra miles and have a mountain getaway for only the $25 in taxes.


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I know a lot of families heading out for spring break this year- whether it be to the beach, the mountains or to Grandma’s house. Around here the countdown to any vacation is exciting. Multiple studies show that the anticipation of a holiday is often as good as the holiday itself.   The anticipation, the daydreaming and the pre-planning all contribute to having an exciting and successful vacation. However,  the last couple of weeks before a trip can be a little bit stressful so here are our tips to help beat the stress and enjoy the countdown.

– Start a countdown chart. My girls and I usually make simple posters with squares they can colour each passing day.  I usually start this between 2 to 3 weeks prior to leaving. This gives them perspective to when we are leaving and keeps their excitement strong. It also works on number recognition, counting backwards and the understanding the passing of time.  Younger kids need a shorter countdown but with more prepping about what’s to come.

-Head on over to Trip Advisor and be prepared for what’s to come. Read the reviews of your hotel and check out the reviews of the attractions you plan to visit. However, take every review with a grain of salt  as most people seem to be either really negative or overly positive. However, I always find some really great tidbits on Trip Advisor and enjoy making note of travellers tips before each vacation. I’ve found fantastic hidden cenotes and really cool restaurants just by checking out TA’s “top” lists.

-Email your hotel or resort about 2-3 weeks prior to arriving.  Most hotel chains don’t receive the booking information from your travel agency until a couple weeks prior to arrival. This is the best time to request room locations (like closer to the beach or pool, a top floor for a better view or the bottom floor for ease with a stroller), any required amenities in the room (cribs, cots, microwaves, birthday banners) or any other questions or concerns you may have. My family has had great luck emailing resorts and local hotels ahead of time. With lots of kind words and gratitude we have been able to receive upgrades, rooms with the best location, extra bedding and welcome baskets in our room.  Nothing is ever guaranteed but it doesn’t hurt to ask!

– Pull out your suitcase no later then 2 weeks prior to leaving. Then start making lists. When you think of something either add it to the suitcase or put it on the list. I leave my packing list on top of the suitcase to keep it handy.  When I randomly think of something I need to pack it will either go directly into the suitcase or onto the list of “things to pack the night before” (like toiletries or things you need on a every day basis).   Keep popping what you can into the suitcase, then actually organize the suitcase a day or two before leaving.  Keeping your luggage out where you can see it might be a bit annoying but it’s incredibly helpful to pop random items as you go.

-Spend a night or two as a family  researching the area you are heading too. Talk about the activities that are available to try in the area and see what type of things your kids might be interested in. We are heading to Lethbridge (!! I know you’re jealous ) for Spring break this year and our list of “must-do’s” is getting incredibly long- and it’s turning out to be very exciting for the girls. With a little bit of research you can find hidden gems for both you and your children to enjoy. Google is your friend- pull up the websites and work together as a team to plan your holiday. Even if your plan is to head to a resort and stay in the resort, go through your hotel’s website and view the different amenities  available- get the kids excited about new things they can try. You’ll be surprised what your kiddo might be willing to experience when they’ve researched it themselves.

– If you’re visiting the same small town year after year try to do something new- try the local museum, a different hike or nature walk,  a new restaurant, or something else that interests your family. Keep the excitement of doing something new as part of the reason why you travel. Helping your kids explore new places will instil a lifelong love of travelling in them.

-Double check all your documents prior to leaving- the names on the tickets  and the expiry of passports in particular.   While prepping for our last trip I noticed that Maeve’s name was spelled wrong on her ticket. I have no idea why I didn’t notice originally but was very glad I caught it more then 2 weeks before our departure and it was a easy fix. Double check hotel reservations and any other documents- we’ve had friends try to check in to a hotel only to find it was booked for the wrong date. Also, if you are not travelling with the other parent of your child, and you are crossing a border, you will need a notarized letter for customs. My husband and I often fly separately (I often book seats on travel points and can’t get all four of us together) and I have been asked every single time for a letter.

– Read through some of these blog posts to help you with packing the carry on bag, travelling with kids through Edmonton’s International Airportflying with kids,  road tripping with kids, and why I think it’s all worth it.



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