There’s been a lot of buzz over the last bit about the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge. It’s been renovated, revamped and a major attraction with the new Kananaskis Nordic Spa as its neighbour. (More about that experience in an upcoming post.) We needed desperately to get away and escape for a few days this Fall and wanted somewhere that we could easily drive to. Our curiosity had been peaked from the advertising, so we decided to give it a try.
Elk Island National Park is one of our little family’s weekend mainstays. It’s the only completely fenced national park in Canada, and is home to both the largest and smallest land mammals in the world: the wood bison and pygmy shrew, respectively. We visit often, especially for the beautiful hiking trails, and while we’re proud of our part in accidentally inventing the sport of “extreme off-road stroller hiking” this past summer when we had to drag our sturdy City Select through a bog, we haven’t been able to get out for as many adventurous dates as we used to. When I came across Evening Paddle Tours, I knew we needed to call up Nana to babysit and make it a date.
In getting ready to fly with my kids when we head to Disneyland in September I reached out to some of my seasoned traveller friends. I am NERVOUS! This is our first time flying with the kids. Hubs and I both discussed not wanting to be those people with kids that are crying, won’t sit still or just generally crazy when we fly. At 8 and 6 I’m hoping it will be easier than when they were smaller but what’s that they say, “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst”
By Christina Pilarski
My first airplane ride was when I was 21-years-old. So, when my boys came I knew that I wanted to prioritize family travel – it was important to me to make those family memories and to give them a glimpse at the world.
Our boys took their first road trip at 7 weeks old. I was pumping in the back of our SUV while they napped; we saw every small town between Calgary and Red Deer but it was all worth it.
Our boys took their first plane ride at 11 months old. It was a long 4 and a half hours down to Mexico but it was all worth it.
My boys are now 15 months – they’ve done about a dozen road trips and 3 trips by plane (that’s 6 airplanes total). I would never describe a trip as easy – but my husband and I say that every trip does get easier. It gets easier because you become more prepared and your kids grow too.
The thing I love about getting them exposed to travel so quickly is that it is now just something we do – and something we will always do. Every trip the kids discover something new about themselves and I feel like I grow as a mom.
So, what’s the most daunting part? Any trip runs the risk of the dreaded over-pack. I look around my home before a trip and think “oh my gosh, what would they do without that thing for a week?!” And, I can tell you, the lesson I’ve learned is that they don’t need it …
I will never forget packing for the first road trip – an overnight in Red Deer and our entire kitchen was full of stuff. The breastfeeding pillow, the cooler and the breast pump, clothes (lots of clothes), bassinets, stuffed animals and blankets, the stroller, the Thule stroller, the baby carriers … the list goes on. When we were unloading in Red Deer the concierge asked if we were staying the week.
Our first trip to Mexico was similar. I tried not to over packed but ended up under packing the essentials and having to make some costly purchases.
So, what do I recommend:
- Diapers – Pack what you need and add 10.
- Wipes – 1 pack a week. Remember these aren’t just for butts on vacation but become a go-to.
- Clothes – If the place you are going has a washing machine don’t over do it. Pack detergent and plan to do a wash or too. This is why I love renting a house on our road trips.
- Cups/Bottles/Cutlery – Bring the bare minimum and bring dish soap and paper towels. Your bathroom sink will become your washing station. I always do a thorough wash after bedtime. Don’t worry about the baby cutlery – our boys are pros at big-boy forks already because of our vacations.
- Blankets – bring their bedtime favorites but remember that wherever you are going they have extra bedding. You can lay sheets down in play areas and use extra blankets for the kids too.
- Beds – call ahead and ask what the situation is. This prepares you and will trigger what you do need to bring.
- Toys – Only a few. The point of the trip is to explore new things. But think of favorites they will want when you are close to home at bedtime. Books, stuffed animals, puzzles, blocks? Make sure these are toys you don’t mind losing, forgetting, or having to abandon.
- Extra shirts for mom and dad – at least one each. You never know what morning you’ll have a little extra breakfast on your sleeve or which afternoon someone will leave you a snotty gift.
Remember to take inventory before/after every trip and take note of what worked and didn’t. Strive to get more efficient each trip and it will make the packing challenge easier and easier.
Christina Pilarski is a mom of twins. Her boys were born in September 2016 and she knows they will only keep getting louder, quicker, smarter, and funner! She runs her own public relations firm, CIPR Communications, and she is the true definition of #momboss. Born and raised in Calgary and now raising her family there too; she loves the outdoors, politics, her two dogs, and her partner (in life and business – Peter!). Website: twobabiesandabusiness.com , Twitter @crontynen , LinkedIn cpilarski, Instagram twobabiesandabusiness,
With all of these amazing adventure feeds, and mountain families popping up on Instagram It’s so easy to get caught up in thinking that we need to travel far to capture these beautiful moments. This is not the case.
There is beauty in your own backyard, and little gems that you haven’t even found yet. Sure, travelling into the mountains is breathtaking and amazing. It’s a treat really. But so is only having to pack enough snacks for an hour, and driving 10 minutes down a dirt road to the prettiest little creek spot.
We do love travelling, and discovering new landscapes, but we also believe that it’s important to explore local, and appreciate the beauty that lays before us.
So don’t put too much pressure on yourself mama. Pack some snacks, drinks, extra socks, and hit up a local creek, river or lake. You might even take a wrong turn and stumble upon something really special.
~ Lindsey Boxma. Instagram.com/ellinds, KEEN Canada Ambassador
By Allison Hopkins
Take a day trip east of Edmonton to explore two unique Alberta treasures; Elk Island National Park and Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village.
Stop at the visitor centre to pick up a map of Elk Island including a list of trails. With three trails under 4 km and a 300m living waters boardwalk the park offers family friendly hiking. Play at the sandy beach and playground of Astonin Lake, swimming is not recommended due to swimmer’s itch. Paddle in Astonin Lake by bringing your own canoe, kayak or paddle board or renting from Astonin Lake Recreation area. Don’t forget to drive down Bison Loop Road and stop to watch the Bison!
- FREE park admission to Elk Island National Park to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary.
- Enjoy an ice cream at the Elk Island Golf Course or a picnic with fire pits at one of the four picnic areas (wood provided).
- Pick up a discovery kit in July and August from the Astonin theatre located next to the playground including a geocache kit, pond discover kit and a backpack kit.
- Check out a park program in July and August including Bison Backstage on Saturdays and Sunday 1 p.m. & 3 p.m. Pre-register at the visitor centre.
- Haskin Canoe rents canoes, kayaks or standup paddlebaords; check webpage for operating hours.
After visiting Elk Island National Park take a short drive to the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village and walk around the open air museum. With thirty-five restored and relocated buildings including churches, a school house, grain elevator and blacksmith shop to explore.
- Kids 6 and under are free admission! Family of four is forty dollars or FREE with Experience Alberta History Annual Pass.
- Bring along rubber boots if it has rained lately as the paths can get muddy.
- Pack a stroller or wagon to help those little feet explore the area.
- Be aware only water is allowed in the village.
- Picnic tables and fire pits (no wood provided) along with a food concession offering Ukrainian food (summer only) are located before the entrance to the village.
- FREE wagon rides Thursday to Monday during summer months.
- Opening day Saturday of the May long weekend.
Check out the webpage for special events like Ukrainian Day and Harvest of the Past Day. As the Ukrainian Village is a seasonal attraction and some services at Elk Island National Park are also seasonal, please always check their websites before heading out!
Allison Hopkins is a tea loving, wannabe blogger, passionate planner of adventures and crappy house cleaner of 2.