Archive for the ‘Travels with Kids’ Category

IMG_5974Sunday morning as the sun rose over the Victoria International Airport, I stood at the end of the runway, waving and sobbing, praying and cheering as Alaska Air flight 2385 sped down the runway, carrying the most precious of cargos any plane has ever carried.

Never has a moment stretched my heart more than the moment the plane blended with the blue sky and I realized I was still on the ground.

Poor Miss C didn’t know what to do with her sniffling mum. “Your mum’s just a big crybaby,” I told her.  “These are happy sad excited tears.”

Like a true daughter, she laughed. “Do you want to see my video?”

“Sure,” I said, pressing play to replay the Mama Bear moment.

“Awesome,” Miss C’s voice chirped. The camera focused on the chain link fence and then at the maroon and white turboprop. “This is the plane that Daddy, Miss Q, and Miss S are on. Bye-bye plane,” she sang as the plane’s engine drowned out my unapologetic blubber.IMG_5982

This was the trip of a lifetime for three-fifths of my family. Four days as Honda’s guest at the Hilton Waikoloa Resort, joining my uncle (Wheelbase Media) to help test-drive the new 2018 Honda Odyssey, all expenses paid, mini excursions… it was as if they’d won a Show Case Show Down on the Price Is Right.

When I told Miss S the car she was going to drive around in most likely had a TV for the back seat she grinned from ear to ear. “I’m going to say I loved the TV, because kids love TV,” she exclaimed.

Even though the thought of my kids plugged into electronics while lush Hawaiian scenery zipped by seemed so very wrong, the opportunity to drive in a car that had such space aged technology wasn’t going to come around any time soon for our poor deprived children.

Unfortunately, the ideal age for this family trip was set at seven and older, and with the cost of plane tickets being what they are, Miss C and I stayed behind to keep the home fires lit.

But don’t cry for me Canada, this trip was made for my husband who has an odd love for Hawaiian shirts, yet has never actually set foot on Hawaiian sand. He loves the shirts so much that Thursday you can find him sporting a Hawaiian shirt for what he has dubbed ‘Hawaiian Thursdays’.  In fact, Hawaiian shirts have become so synonymous with my husband that when office mates have gone to Hawaii, they have returned with gifts of authentic Hawaiian shirts for him to include in his wardrobe.

As for Miss Q and Miss S, I was over the moon excited for them. Never mind getting to test passenger a minivan that’s never been released to the public, or staying in a resort with dolphins and canal boats, the fact they would get to run into an ocean that wouldn’t instantly lower their body temperature was worth every minute of travel.

We had two weeks to prep for the trip. It was the easiest packing I’ve ever done. I bought an underwater camera, and made sure Miss Q and Miss C’s bathing suits and rashguards fit, but other than that, I left what went into the suitcase to my husband. All I cared about was they took pictures. Lots of pictures. My husband reassured me by saying he wouldn’t.

Team Dad and Daughters made it from Victoria to Seattle and then Seattle to Kona safe and sound. Miss Q found the plane trip long and Miss S said the take off was creepy but overall reviews were positive and no one got lost. Kona was close to 30 degrees when they deplaned which was a shock to their Pacific Northwest skin.

IMG_1017Meanwhile back in Victoria, Miss C and I went for pedicures. Oddly, though she’s never had one before, it was the only thing she wanted to do while her sisters were away. “I liked it when they massaged my feet,” Miss C said, making plans for a weekly return trip.  Hopefully she doesn’t get too used to this single-child kind of life.



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After waking at dawn and packing the car.

After eating breakfast in the ferry line-up and driving onto the nine.

After an hour-and-a-half crossing and a two-hour drive.

After eating lunch in Chilliwack, and filling up with gas, my husband asked a question no parent on an Easter road trip wants to hear: Did that black bag get packed?

Did that black bag get packed…

Did he mean the black bag that contained all our clothes? Or the black bag that held all the Easter Bunny treats?

You guessed it: he was asking about the latter.  The black bag that I had pointed to and whispered, “This bag has to go too.” The black bag that I had hidden so well, he’d completely forgot about it while packing the car.  The black bag that was now 190.7 km away from where it should be.

“What’s so funny?” the eagle-eared girls in the backseat asked.

“Just a little adult joke,” I replied, shaking my head.  The speedometer climbed to 100kmh as we merged east towards the coastal mountains.

Of course, one can get chocolate anywhere. It wasn’t like Osoyoos, home of my husband’s childhood was void of this product.  During Easter the town is flush with festivities that include two egg hunts hours apart: one at the school field, the other in the Home Hardware.  We could live without the bag, if it weren’t for the two, maybe three, believers in the back seat.

In order to keep the magic alive, I ended up buying replacement chocolate during a side-trip to Penticton. Not going to lie, it broke my heart a little, thinking of the carefully chosen chocolate bunnies sitting in a dark bag in a corner of our computer room back home.

Perhaps the sting was greater because this was the year I’d branched out. In a surprise twist, even to me, I’d turned to toys as the piece d’ resistance, the plastic grand finale. There were three Littlest Pet Shop animals and three Troll Doll eggs amongst the delectable edibles.

Guess now they’ll make great stocking stuffers.

But the missing bag and subsequent $80 spent on two rounds of chocolate ended up being a humorous footnote on what was a glorious long weekend.

The girls savoured every moment with their grandparents.  They baked, sewed and waded up to their shoulders in icy Lake Osoyoos.  They made plans, surely not encouraged by said grandparents, to come back in the summer.

At least we’ll have chocolate driving snacks for our next road trip.


View of Osoyoos from Anarchist Mountain (looking west).

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danI’m hard pressed to say who was the perfect age for our trip. Everyone found moments of inspiration and places of great content.

Our girls were pushed out of their rather sanitized existence, and urged, guided and, er, forced to try everything.

They rose to the challenge; falling in love with rides they never thought they’d like, and finding inner strength for ones they couldn’t wait to get off of.

One such ride was Splash Mountain.

Miss S declared Splash Mountain her favourite, before riding it. Annnnd the minute the log moved, she crumbled.

This is how, in yet another priceless mothering moment, I found myself reaching forward, hugging my shrieking six-year-old with all my might, as our log teetered on the edge of the 50ft drop.

You do not want to be leaning forward as your log nose-dives into the brambles. You do not want to choose between somersaulting out of said log, or letting go of your petrified child.

Fortunately, the photographic evidence taken 1/3 of the way down our plunge reveals I chose both: one arm around Miss S, one arm bracing the plastic log. Fewf.

Miss Q and Miss C, on the other hand, loved Splash Mountain.

It is interesting to note that Splash Mountain, with all the warnings of the 50ft drop, has no seatbelts; but The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, a 60 second, one-level meander, and I do mean meander, through Pooh’s daydream has a safety bar.

Thankfully, Miss C had either an uncle or father to act as her seatbelt on her multiple voyages with Briar Rabbit, but still.

Incidentally, Pooh’s ride was one of Miss C and Miss S’ favourites. Mad props to Grandma, who took one for the team, agreeing over, and over, and over again to ride with them.

Mini cheer for Uncle G who also indulged my daughters’ multiple requests for him to be their responsible plus one.

Team building continued at It’s A Small World. Let’s be honest: once through is great, cheerful, joyous and, yes, I’ll say it: pleasant. Two, three, four times?Its

I lost count of how many times Miss S and Miss C rode the 20-minute ride, but Grandma was definitely a good sport.

Historical side note: my mum and her family went on the ride when it debut in the New York World’s Fair in 1964 at the UNICEF pavilion under the name: Children of the World.

In the no rhyme or reason category, a ride Miss S enjoyed, but her sisters did not, was the Haunted Mansion. She ain’t afraid of no ghosts… unless they’re in our basement.

aAutopia was our pint-sized Danica Patricks’ absolute favourite. Even though she was a hair too short to work both the gas and the wheel, it was the only ride Miss S wanted to do on our last day.

We tried twice, once in the early morning, and once at dusk, and both times after waiting 20 and 40 minutes, the ride was closed because a “wild animal was on the tracks.”

Ironically, Disney’s “wild animal” was – wait for it – a Canada goose.

Apparently it’s not Disney’s policy to run them over.

However, because we’d been goosed twice, we were able to walk straight to the front of the line at 10pm.

Watching Miss Q drive off, alone, into the full-moon Saturday night gave me pause, or rather, a reason to step on the gas. This move reignited Miss S’s cackles of glee as she held the wheel and expertly steered after her sister.

Nine more years, Mr. Toad, nine more years.

A side note about Autopia: it stinks. The fumes from the “gas powered by Honda” cars are plentiful, and possibly the reason Disney has tucked a smoking pit next door. Hopefully Honda will soon take a cue from the fact the ride is in Tomorrowland, and splurge for those new-fangled electric cars everyone is talking about.

In four-year-old land, Miss C started her vacation by telling me she did not like Disneyland. “I’m not going to like any of the rides you know.” She punctuated this by crossing her arms and frowning.

Her displeasure with Disney melted like Olaf in summer on the Dumbo ride. She loved that big-eared elephant so much she bought herself a stuffed baby Dumbo and now thinks I’m crazy for thinking she said she didn’t like Disneyland.

Seeing Disney through the eyes of a nine, six and four year old was enough for this mum. In my dreams, the trip was never as grand as what it became.

We couldn’t have created this reality without a massive boost from my mum-in-law, and for that we are eternally grateful.

The chorus of the diamond celebration parade is When can we do this again?

And, my friends, I’m not sure we ever could.


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60Seven miles. This is the minimum distance we walked while in Disneyland and California Adventure. Yes, that says miles.

While most families were getting an early start to the park, leaving at lunch and returning after dinner, this family arrived around 9:30am, and staying long after dusk. No siestas. No meltdowns. No strollers. No wheelchairs. Nothing. Nada.

On our last day my Fitbit tracked 10.6 miles. We came in at 7:00am, Miss C, my husband and his mum left after the parade, while and Miss Q, Miss S and I stayed until 11pm.

Indulge me for a wee moment: we have the most amazing kids ever.

Of course it’s easy when you’re in the happiest place on earth, and everywhere you turn there’s something around every corner for your kids to do, eat or see.

We had five-day passes. This meant we picked which park we wanted to go into and stayed there all day. It worked out really well, and my only regret was not upgrading to an annual pass so we could return tomorrow.

We were in Disneyland on Tuesday, May 17th, Wednesday, May 18th and Saturday, May 21st.

The crowds were light on Tuesday and Wednesday and heavy on Saturday, thanks to the grads, combining with the usual weekend busy. But overall we never felt squashed or deprived.

Like any good mum, before we left, I tried to research all the ins and outs of Disneyland: where to go, what to see, how to be the master of FastPasses. But in the end, I had to stop. All the tips and tricks were hurting my head. There are many, many, many different ways to see Disney. For this mama, figuring it out as we meandered through the park was the only way to go.

Having said that, we used four FastPasses: twice for Splash Mountain, once for Soaring Over California and once for Radiator Springs Racers.

Though I wouldn’t plan days around them, I would say it was a lot of fun passing the line of people who’d been waiting for the same ride for over an hour.

A lot of fun.cc

Revisiting the food situation, we went to Target almost directly after we arrived and bought bottled water, boxes of tea, and some snacks for the week.

It costs $10 one-way to Target by taxi from the Best Western Park Place and though it was nice to have the bottled water, really nice, you can also get free ice water from the snack places in Disneyland, so this trip may have been excessive.  But we had tea, and probably should have bought carrots.

Every day we went into the park my husband’s backpack was filled with five bottles of water, and bagels and cream cheese from the hotel’s continental breakfast. Security didn’t seem to mind his extra cargo; in fact, it was yours truly who kept getting asked to step out of line and stroll through the metal detector.

On our last day, I found the source to the containers of grapes I’d seen people snacking upon: Main Street Starbucks. For $4.99US you could purchase containers of real-live produce.

I felt like the Oprah of red jewels as I doled out containers of fruit to outstretched hands. You get grapes, and you get grapes, and you get grapes.

Souvenir wise, the sweatshirts we got the girls pretty much sums up their experiences: Miss C got Elsa, Miss S got Belle and Miss Q got Chewbacca.

All I wanted were silhouettes of the girls from Silhouette Studios on Main Street. Not to sound like a used car salesman, but they were a super deal: $9US for two copies of the portrait. For $23US more you can have them framed in a Disney frame that has 24 hidden Mickey’s in it.

I may have said ‘no’ to the frame, returned to my hotel room, instantly regretted that ‘no’ and sped-walked through the parade crowds to the store to buy the frames at 10pm.

Every time I pass the silhouettes on the wall, I am thankful I had that burst of crazy. They are lovely.

To make them, the girls took turns sitting in a wooden chair and staring at the wall. The woman who did the silhouettes sat in her chair, looked at the girls’ profiles and snip-snip-snip was done. Skeptical Sally might wonder if they actually looked like the girls and I will confirm: we have three different silhouettes that look exactly like our girls.

Have I mentioned we all want to go back?  But, Miss S tells me we need to wait until she turns ten. Not sure why, ten, but we’ve got three years to save.


Mum Travelling Tip:

  • Pack clean Ziplock bags. I don’t know why I tossed them into my suitcase in the first place, but they were very handy for holding bagels.

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JediIt’s a proud day when your youngling signs up for Jedi Academy. Prouder still when she is green lightsaber to red lightsaber with the one and only: Darth Vader.

We used our one-day-only, early entry to the park (7am) to beat the Saturday morning crowds and sign Miss Q up for the Trials of the Temple show in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland.

This free experience was for kids 4 -12, which left at least two disappointed adults in the crowd. Miss S and Miss C were given the option, but chose to cheer from the safety of the audience.Jedi 3

Before showtime, my husband dropped Miss Q off with the Jedi’s, while I staked out our front row seats, hoping the Jedi’s wouldn’t lose my child.

Grandma and Miss C chose to sit under the umbrella covered tables, which was smart, as sitting for 30 minutes on the cement was a toasty experience.

At 10:30 sharp, the Star Wars fanfare began.

Music certainly likes to call the lump to my throat, as that, combined with the rows of future Jedi’s cloaked in brown and green robes parading onto the stage threatened to release the mama tears.

Jedi1Hood on, Miss Q walked in front of us and took her spot as the main actors started their script: Now that the Empire has driven the Jedi to the distant corners of the galaxy, the training must proceed in secret at ancient Jedi temples.

Miss Q received a green light saber. She learned how to block, duck, and strike. They then used the Force to lift the stage. Smoke billowed and the ground rumbled as it rose. It was quite the visual.

Jedi2Suddenly out strode Darth Vader. Like the real Darth Vader. Like he looked as though he’d just walked out of the movie, Darth Vader.

I waited for my little padawan to shrink, but she looked amused.

The Seventh Sister followed Vader out of the lair. She swung her red lightsaber skillfully and menacingly at the audience.

After some conversation, the Seventh Sister took her spot on the cement in front of us, while Vader took centre stage. The Jedi younglings split into two groups and used their new knowledge to fight the villains one at a time.

VaderMiss Q went sneaker to boot with Darth Vader in the centre of the stage. She masterfully blocked his attack. Each time he swung his lightsaber it sounded like, well, a lightsaber. Within 30 seconds the battle between good and evil was over. Good prevailed. Miss Q took her spot off stage.

Regrouping after their individual fights, the Jedi younglings used the force to push Vader and the Seventh Sister back to whence they came.

But the battle wasn’t over as the actor Jedi Knight in training still needed to learn how to calm her mind. Out of a cloud of smoke jumped Kylo Ren who tried to tempt her to the Dark Side.Kylo

Together, the younglings helped her use the Force to push Kylo out of her mind and seal up the den.

Victory. All of the Jedi younglings received a pin for their efforts and were released back to their adults.

Pin or no pin, Miss Q was pretty pleased with the entire experience.

Sorry, Vader, it appears the Force is strong with this one.

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Before we left Victoria, I made reservations for lunch at Ariel’s Grotto in California Adventure. Like everything on this trip, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was Ariel’s Grotto was the only spot in both theme parks where one could meet Ariel, and dine with her princess friends.

It sounded like an amazing experience for our girls, so I ignored the $$$ symbols beside the restaurant reviews and booked it Dan-o.

Food seemed to be the hardest thing to conquer our entire trip. Our hotel’s continental breakfast was efficient, and allowed us to take bagels and cream cheese into the theme parks for our girls to snack on, but eight days of choosing from the same eggs pressed into circles, cereal and baked goods wore thin.

In the theme parks themselves, the food was decent, but other than Mickey and Miss S’ approved meal: a bag of goldfish crackers, a bag of carrots, a bag of apple slices, a banana, one yoghurt drink and a container of milk for $5.99US, our vegetable intake was few and far between.

The only tip I’d read about Ariel’s Grotto was everyone attending the restaurant had to line-up and meet Ariel before going to their seats. So when our pager went off, I told my husband take everyone to the spiral staircase while I checked in. This little action put us ahead of about ten families, and apparently didn’t matter as it was assigned seating, but still: small victories.

To be honest, I expected Ariel to be in full tail sitting on a rock, so when I saw her with sea legs, in her blue gown in front of a curtain, it felt like a missed opportunity for Disney, but the girls didn’t care. They happily made small talk, smiled for the photographer and followed our host to our table; where they were given paper crowns, jewel stickers and the requisite crayons.

With such a bounty of children’s activities bestowed upon us, we were tricked into thinking this was a leisurely lunch, and were puzzled when the waiter approached our table three times in the span of five minutes to take our order.

It quickly became clear our waiter was just trying to help us help ourselves, as we were the only table without the first course when the squire announced Belle’s arrival. Yes, we were on the experience’s timeline, not ours.

Miss S didn’t care about the food, she was in princess heaven watching her favourite princess swirl to the front, curtsy, then dance with the squire.  As Belle twirled off to greet her luncheon guests, we quickly scanned our menus and placed our orders.

It is worth mentioning that no prices were listed, but when in Grotto…right?

The food was delicious: three courses of yum that included our first real servings of vegetables in five days. I had salad, beef, mashed potatoes, and gave Uncle G my asparagus: my taste buds were in heaven.

Miss S became our table’s head princess greeter. Between bites of her plain noodles, she leapt to hug each princess as they checked in.

Prince Charming – er – Uncle G worked his magic with the ladies in costume, kindly volunteering his services to act as the buffer between them and Miss C. By the time the fourth princess, Tiana, came out, Miss C had joined Miss S in a cautious princess heaven.

Miss Q reminded me of Prince John from Robin Hood with her crooked crown and sideways applause as if to say: amuse me princesses.

Desert was a three-plate sampler. For the kids: blue Jello, a cookie and chocolate dipped strawberry. For the adults: s’mores, crème brulee, and a chocolate dipped strawberry.

Then the bill arrived.

All I could do was laugh, after my minor heart attack.

If I had known in advance that it was $40 a plate for the adults and $24 a plate for the kids? Oh heck, we probably would have still given the girls the experience, but like the wand, paying $328.51US ($433.63 Canadian) was a major sticker shock. However, there were seven people eating, we were on vacation, and the girls enjoyed themselves.

What more could you ask for?

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CACalifornia Adventure was so empty, on Thursday, May 19th, that we were seven (Uncle G was now with us) of maybe thirty people strolling Buena Vista Street. The park was our apple, and we had only a vague idea of what the “must sees” were.

Our first stop was Elsa and Anna’s Royal Welcome. It’s the only place where you can meet the royal duo, and Miss C was ready.

Dressed in her fanciest Elsa dress, hair braided, Miss C was all chatter as we joined a rather short line-up around 10am. Thankfully the experience is inside an air-conditioned building, as around 11:15 we were finally ushered into the royal home. It was the longest we had to wait for anything in six days of theme parks.

Waiting + anticipation + seeing the princesses live and in person = one overwhelmed four-year-old. Miss C couldn’t bring herself to look at them; she was in such shock and awe. Thus, our picture with the princesses is of me, smiling at the camera, and Miss C’s back, as she buried her face into my shoulder.

Miss S, on the other hand almost burst when, after saying good-bye to Elsa and Anna, we rounded the corner and walked straight into Olaf. How Olaf didn’t melt under her enormous hug is beyond me.

The building also contained Belle’s Library, Turtle Talk with Crush and the Animation Studio.

At Belle’s Library you can take a quiz as to what fairytale character you’re most like. Guess who got Ursula? (Insert dramatic pause while you guess.)

We went to Turtle Talk twice. On our second visit, Crush asked Uncle G who he was with. “My three nieces,” he replied. After some human to animated turtle bonding, Uncle G asked Crush if he ever hung out with the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles. Crush deftly ducked that wrong franchise question, and moved to the next child in the audience.

AnimationWatching my nine-year-old, who loves to draw, take direction from a real-live animator in the Disney Animation Studio, was almost too much. Miss Q and her grandma could have stayed at the studio all day. As it was, they spent a good hour learning how to draw Baymax, Tigger, Winnie the Pooh and my favourite, the Cheshire Cat.

Everywhere we turned in the park, we found something cool or amazing to do or see.  Surprisingly, we all took a giant pass on the Tower of Terror, but Uncle G and Miss C leapt onto the more tame Jumping Jellyfish.  Jumping

Miss C became the resident dare-devil, or test-pilot, depending on your perspective.  Often after she tried something, her sisters, seeing that she landed safely, would then join the line-up.

We walked onto Mickey’s Fun Wheel, in record time, thanks to a park worker randomly handing us a front of the line pass. Let’s just say, Mickey’s Fun Wheel looks a lot smaller from the ground. From the top, everyone looked like ants.

In a ‘take one for the team’ moment, Uncle G said yes to California Screamin’. His nieces enjoyed watching him zoom and hang upside down. I took pictures for my mum in case she needed a few more grey hairs.California

At Bug’s Life, we made the fatal flaw of allowing our children to get soaked in Princess Dot’s Puddle Pad at 4:30 in the afternoon without a change of clothes or running shoes. It was so hot, and they’ll dry out, we thought. So they didn’t? The wind picked up, and the World Of Colour laser light show wasn’t until 9pm. Hooray for Starbucks, with hot chocolate!

The girls’ favourite ride in Bug’s Life was Tuck and Roll’s Drive ‘Em buggies. Like Jumping Jellybeans, the ride felt like it lasted 30 seconds, but it was a good bumper car driving lesson.

California Adventure was where we had our second celebrity sighting of the trip. As we walked off the Monster’s Inc ride, three teenaged girls excitedly asked if they could get a picture. As they weren’t talking to me, and the plaza we stood in was virtually empty, I looked around to see what the big deal was.

Kim Kardashian, her daughter North and niece Penelope were checking out a kiosk under the supervision of a plaid coat Disney employee. The only thing I would note is that after been at a theme park all day, KK looked more put together than this mum.

California Adventure was created to showcase the state of California Adventure. Our west coast blood found immediate kinship with the Pacific Wharf section, and our taste buds, and wallets, were happy for the free samples of sour dough and chocolate. Seriously wish I could live off of only sour dough and chocolate…

Many have asked us which theme park was better: California Adventure or Disneyland. The jury is undecided amongst our travelers. I suspect, though feel slightly stingy saying so, that California Adventure might have been a mouse whisker better for our kids. It was filled with all the Pixar movie characters, had Miss Q’s favourite ride: Grizzly River Run, and there was an overall relaxed vibe you really couldn’t beat.


So I see unique possibilities bubbling in my cauldron. Who doesn’t?

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