Getting to Banff

What  a week it has been! I’d hoped to write some while traveling on our most recent trip, but by the time the day’s adventures were done, I just didn’t have it in me. Perhaps it’s because I’m not as young and energetic as I once was, or perhaps it was something to do with traveling with a toddler… Either way, it was a lot of fun for all of us!

Since it looks like most of my readers are from the US, I’ll hazard a guess that most of you probably aren’t aware that 2017 is the 150th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada, click here to learn more. One of the things that Canada is doing in celebration of this anniversary is granting free passes to all of the National Parks. While park admission costs have never really kept us from going to any given park, the opportunity to save CAD$136 off our trip cost was certainly a plus. And it’s going on through the end of the year, so you’ve still got time!

If you’re an outdoorsy person and you have an Instagram account, I’d just about guarantee that you’ve seen photos from some of Canada’s National Parks. Perhaps one of the best known is Banff National Park, situated in the Rocky Mountains of Western Alberta. There is so much to see and do in the parks that you need to either have a fair amount of time or have a good grasp on what you hope to see in the time you have. This trip was full of firsts for us, so we were fairly conservative in what we knew we wanted to do. Until a few days before our departure the weather was looking pretty good, clear skies and highs in the mid-70’s, (or low to mid-20’s C, more on this later). Unfortunately, the forecast didn’t hold for the whole week. Luckily though, it did hold through Monday and despite the cooler temperatures, rain and low hanging clouds later in the week, we were able to see some truly amazing places.

As I said, this trip included several firsts for us. Among them was air travel with our daughter who recently turned three. While she has always been fascinated seeing airplanes fly overhead, we were nervous about how well she would do on the two flights each way, one an hour and a half, and the other a bit over three hours. I’ve flown on planes with kids that did really well and kids that have been quite a handful for their parents, and I was hopeful that our sweet little one would do well. True to form, she was so excited to ride on the shuttle from the parking lot and did quite well going through security too. Then we got on the plane, and her excitement continued with only one slight bit of hesitation on takeoff. She was so well behaved and we were so relieved. The next fun bit came when we arrived in Toronto for our connection to Calgary.

This was the first trip where we’d have to go through customs and since we had a three hour layover, this didn’t seem like a big deal. I’d tried to do my research on the airport layout so I’d know where to go at every step of the process and I’m sure it’s a security thing, but most airport maps seem to be really vague… which was rather annoying for someone like me with a visual memory. Alas, getting through customs was fairly simple; scan your passport, complete the questions about declarations and hope that whatever you’re wearing (including the fatigue on your face) that day doesn’t make you look suspicious enough to prompt additional screening. Once we were through customs it was off to the gate, which interestingly enough, had changed, because our flight had been changed and I only knew about this because of a text I received just before we boarded our previous flight. I was a little annoyed at the late notice, but optimistic because our new flight would get us into Calgary earlier. But there was a catch, since they’d changed our flight, we were no longer all sitting together and there wasn’t really much that could be done since the flight was sold out. Add to that that our original flight was already delayed an hour beyond its original departure, which I was none to keen to wait for, our options were slim. So, instead of taking some time and sitting down for a relaxed dinner during our layover, I grabbed something from Smash Burger (another first, and not bad either) and no sooner than we’d scarfed it all down, we were boarding. This flight was longer and would certainly test the patience of both my daughter and myself as we tried to stay focused on getting to Calgary, where we’d stay the night. Long story short, after two hours, she finally conceded that she needed a rest (something we both agreed on) and slept the rest of the way, much to my relief. After getting our bags and getting the rental car, we were all tired and hungry. So, following a Boston Pizza delivery, the hardest part of our journey was done!

The next morning we were off to Banff! Although it did take a moment to get my GPS and the car’s speedometer switched over to kilometers (why the car wasn’t already in km/h, I do not know), something I highly recommend if you’re going any distance. Our rental had a digital speedometer, so the switch was pretty easy, and necessary since it only displayed one unit type at a time. I work with metric (SI) units all the time at work, but not usually for speed or temperatures outside of 19-21C, so it took a little adjusting when it came to the weather forecasts, but overall, it just makes me wish the US would finally adopt the SI in public facing measures.

The trip up to Banff itself is pretty pleasant, as you take the Trans-Canada Highway West. We already had our parks pass, so we zipped on past the gate and headed up to see what we could see. At this point we hadn’t seen much except the city and some farm land, but don’t worry, I’ve dropped a few teaser shots below. There will be more, you’ll just have to stay tuned. The Trans-Canada Highway only runs about half way through Banff before you pick up the Icefields Parkway, North of Lake Louise. And yes, we’ve got some fun stuff to share from there was well!

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