January – that time of year when we take time to look back, plan ahead and maybe even change some of our well-worn travel habits. Whether planning a trip to explore the Sea of Cortez or swoon over a pair of deeply-in-love relatives in the Grand Canyon, 2019 holds a lot of promise for many of the Family Fun Canada travel family.
While many travelling moms might be resolving to eat fewer cookies, save more money or go on that dream trip they’ve been saving for, January 2019 seems like a great time to reflect on trips taken, trips ahead and ‘teachable’ moments on these trips.
In December, I decided to tap into the wisdom of a few of our Family Fun Canada travel scribes and ask them to reflect on 2018’s hotspots and to share some of their best family ‘aha moments’. From Saskatoon to Guelph, Halifax to Calgary, there are some great family travel tips and lessons below that range from sweet to smart.
Melody Wren – Guelph, Ontario
Best of 2018 – As a travel writer, I had many trips in 2018 including being a small expedition through the Hawaiian islands that was amazing. However, my favourite trip with the family wasn’t far away from where I live; it was a wonderful week spent at a lakefront cottage in Bobcaygeon, Ontario. It was a favourite because the focus was on the lake and playing in, near or on it, all of us living in swimsuits all day long. I bought puddle jumpers for the two grandchildren (aged 5 and 2) which gave them both the confidence to play non stop in the water. We rented paddle boards, fished, kayaked and swam. My five-year-old grand-daughter woke me up about 5:30 every morning asking, “are you awake, Nana?” We would tiptoe into the living room and read books together for several hours, letting her parents sleep as long as possible. Even though it was early, that was a very special time that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Aha! Family travel tip – The biggest learning of 2018 was to let go of my expectations. Dealing with small children we have to be uber-flexible at all times. I start doing crafts with the kids and have preconceived outcomes in mind, but have to let go of my ideas and just let the creativity flow through the kids and let them have fun with it.
Where to in 2019? We are travelling on a small expedition ship through the Sea of Cortes, snorkelling, paddleboarding, kayaking, and the activity I am most looking forward to is snorkelling with whale sharks.
Jen Mallia – Edmonton, Alberta
Best of 2018 – I would have to say one of my favourite trips with kids was this summer with my boys to Kamloops and Sun Peaks. I had never been to either spot, and they were both filled with fun stuff for us to explore together.
Aha! Family travel tip – travelling without a spouse can be tough, but there are lots of workarounds like pairing up with another mom and their kid a la spring break trip to Kananaskis or connecting with super helpful tour companies in Kamloops. My husband was unable to join us when we went to Kamloops which posed some challenges namely, parenting alone is exhausting when you have the luxury of usually relying on a partner. Also I don’t drive much so that presented some “opportunities for creativity”. Luckily there were great tour companies in the Kamloops/Sun Peaks area to pick up my slack and got us around.
Where to in 2019? We are looking at Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon for my cousin’s wedding this spring which my kids are looking forward to with an almost worrisome fervour. Don’t tell my kids but we are also considering Southern California theme parks, and I am turning 40 in September, so I really want to do some wellness trips to come to grips with my not-super-graceful ageing process.
Andrea Miller – Halifax, Nova Scotia
Best of 2018 – My favourite trip of 2018 was to Jamaica. Usually, when we go to the islands it’s for a week or less, but we stayed in Jamaica for two weeks, so we really got to take our time exploring. One of my favourite memories of Jamaica was the jerk chicken lunch at Bluefield’s Bay Villas which was marinated and grilled over pimento wood by James, a seasoned local chef. And I loved that my husband and I could have some adult time while we were feasting because the kids were being taken care of by our own private nanny whose services were included with our stay.
Aha! Family travel tip – What I’ve learned travelling as a family with very small children is that I need to think very carefully about the layout of the Airbnb’s we rent. We rented an architecturally stunning place in Huatulco, Mexico, but it was one danger after another for the kids so that we couldn’t relax. There were way too many stairs and landings without railings.
Adele Paul – Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Best of 2018 – This year I really learned to embrace ‘easy’ family travel. In the early years of our kid’s lives, we struggled to maintain the more adventurous travel endeavours of our early 20’s. I was stuck on the notion of wanting to have experiences ‘off the beaten path’, and wanting to expose my children to some of the more transformative aspects of travel. As the years passed, convenience and the need for sleep eroded these intentions, and my husband and I found ourselves with more modest travel goals–keeping close to home–and found we saved money and enjoyed ourselves more in the process. Travel in these early years was still enjoyable, but, as everything is with little ones in tow, it was a LOT of work.
This year in 2018, we rented a cabin at Lake Diefenbaker near our home in Saskatchewan – a cabin with air-conditioning and comfortable beds for all. We were sitting on our beach chairs, chewing spits, and I was 30 pages deep in my latest beach read when…. I had an ‘aha moment.
Aha! Family travel tip – In the exquisite dry heat of the sun, with my toes in the sand, it occurred to me that for the first time in years I was actually relaxed in a beach situation, that a holiday finally felt like a holiday again. This revelation was twofold: I realised that it was okay–better than okay–to choose easy, comfort destinations for our family holidays and also that my kids had probably reached the age where we might rediscover and reconsider our more adventurous travel goals in the near future. Parenting comes with its myriad of lessons, no doubt, but one that surfaces over and over again is just to embrace the phase you’re at. This applies as much in travel as in any other domain.
Where to in 2019? We are going on a family trip to Hawaii and have booked some adventure expeditions, including deep sea fishing and diving. Activities like these have been off our radar for some years, and I have no regrets about that. But, I am confident that we have moved into another phase of our lives regarding travel adventures, and I can’t wait…
Renee Tsang, Calgary, Alberta
Best of 2018 – As a travelling family, we have had the opportunity within Canada to visit family as well as travel to Las Vegas, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and to Orlando to visit Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World in 2018. The road trips within Canada West to Vancouver and East to Winnipeg are always some of my most favourite and enjoyable travel times as we have the opportunity to hang out and just spend time together in the car. But Disney is always one of our favourites, and we never tire of visiting as it’s filled with magic, happiness and joy! We will always return with a little bit of familiarity but there is still something new to experience, and we always try to find new things to check out on our visits, so it’s never the same as before.
Aha! Family travel tip – What I’ve learned through travelling with kids is to release all expectations and learn to go with the flow! All the planning you can do in advance can help, but anything can happen when travelling, and so much of it is entirely out of your hands. You just have to learn to “not care” about all the details, whatever they might be. Hiccups in travel happen. Kids are taken out of their comfort zone, but whatever the challenge may be, you are travelling, creating some unique memories and will have some pretty cool stories to share.
Where to in 2019? The world is our oyster! The beauty of not having any specific travel plans yet is that we have the opportunity to go anywhere we want! We have not decided just yet as we know there are so many places we want to go, but it will be a matter of what opportunities arise, what experiences we want to enjoy this year and how to fit it all in!
Jillian Footz, Edmonton, Alberta
Best of 2018 – Taking my twin daughters to Southern California. In 2012, I discovered a lovely little community up the coast from Los Angeles called Oxnard. They host a fabulous Christmas running race, and have plenty of other holiday fun activities, like a boat parade of lights in the Marina. We stay at a beautiful waterfront resort, with a fantastic park and playground nearby. I have visited four times before this year, and I always knew I wanted to one day take my daughters there, and this year I was able to do just that!
Aha! Family travel tip – our biggest learning for travel in 2018 was that at age four our daughters are much easier to travel with than they ever have been. Before this December (just after their 4th birthday) the last flight we took with them was to Hawaii when they were 13 months old. It was a nightmare! From flight delays to screaming babies on a plane to arriving at our resort at 3:00 a.m. with body clocks that were totally out of whack. Taking that trip was lovely and memorable, but it was so much more work than staying home would have been. Now we are at an age where the girls boarded the plane, and set themselves up with colouring and connect the dots and watching in-flight entertainment. They were so easy that I was able to pull out my laptop and do some work!
Where to in 2019? Selfishly, the 2019 trip I’m most excited about is my annual spring trip to the Spanish Island of Mallorca. I’m part of a cycling group that hosts training camps on the island, and my 8-day trip is not just an excellent chance for me to test my winter training, but it’s a wonderful getaway that’s just for me, and exactly what I need to recharge for life as a work-at-home mom!
Miranda Post, Queen Charlotte, B.C.
Best of 2018 – From my early to late 30s, a gaggle of girlfriends and I would travel to Tofino to go ‘surfing’, ride cruiser bikes, make delicious meals and stay in gorgeous seaside AirBnBs. Then we all got married and started having kids. The trips stopped, but the yearning to get together did not. A bunch of us turned 40 this year, so we decided to start planning early and book a couple of condos in Osoyoos, B.C. for a weekend of wine tasting, eating and hiking. After Osoyoos, I picked up my son from his grandparents and met up with family and friends in Kamloops for a mother-son trip which was equally as awesome. I highly recommend pairing trips like this – it’s a great way to fill two needs: family travel and solo mama travel all in one trip.
Aha! Family travel tip of 2018 – Your kid will not die if you run out of carrot sticks and he doesn’t stick exactly to the routine. When we’re at home, a routine is king in our house. But on vacation, especially when transiting from point A to point B, the routine sometimes flies out the window. Forgive yourself. Your kid will survive, and this is about having fun and creating memories, not that you skipped a nap and are a bad mom.
Where to in 2019? I’m a huge fan of Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park. While I’ve been there a few times without my son, I’m super excited to explore the area with him this winter for some sunshine, hikes and pool play.