10 In travel/ Travel with Kids

Why we travelled Canada first

When I was 10 I went on the trip of a lifetime. It wasn’t just any old family vacation – it was an experience that my parents wanted to give us with the hopes that it would give us an appreciation for our country. To say they were successful is an understatement

Be sure to stick around at the end of the post to check out all of my fellow blogger’s Canadian experiences/crafts/ideas in celebration of Canada 150. 


My Dad has said for as long as I can remember that we should see our own country first. Growing up in Canada this is no small task, but one we have all tried to accomplish. I am missing Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Yukon and North West Territories while my brother and sister made it to Manitoba, but missed Nunavut. Not bad for three kids (now young adults) from a rural community in northern New Brunswick right?!
Looking through travel albums with Little Dude
Iqaluit, NU
Now, as an adult I am so thankful to have seen as much of Canada as I have. I work in a global business and it is so convenient to be able to speak about our country first hand, tell stories, make recommendations, and essentially boast about what a beautiful place we live. I strongly believe, like my Dad, that you really need to see our great country to truly appreciate how huge it is, how culturally different it is from one region to the next and how diverse the landscape is from the mountains to the prairies to the great white north.
Before I get right into the trip there are a few things you need to know in order to fully appreciate why this really was the trip of a lifetime:
  1. Our family was (and still is…) made up of three kids with just shy of 8 years between the oldest child (me) and the youngest (my sister).
  2. We have been a single income family since I was 3
  3. We were not and are not rich (financially that is…)
  4. We did not have a computer or internet at home when my Mom planned out this trip
  5. The whole trip was 5-6 weeks (I’m pretty sure… I mean I was 10, turning 11 during the trip so the exact length is a bit foggy to me. I can tell you it was the better part of the summer, all of Dad’s vacation and then some and nearly a year of planning ahead of time!)
Take a moment to re-read point #4 – welcome back! – my Mom is amazing right?! Without the internet at home I wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to even begin planning a trip like this! I can still remember her hilroy scribbler with all the details hand written, maps attached and people’s phone numbers written in so we could contact family and long lost friends through our trip (not to mention crash in some of their living rooms, haha).
Our Route It would literally take me hours to describe our whole trip to you, so here is the route with some details, but many have been left out.
  • Belledune, NB – home!
  • Grand Falls, NB – first stop

Driving, driving , driving…

  • Sandbanks Provincial Park, ON – we met up with my aunt, uncle and their three kids. Pretty sure we stayed there a night before going to their home in Belleville, ON
  • Belleville, ON – home of Reid’s Dairy, we went every summer for many summers… it’s good!
  • Toronto, ON – we didn’t really visit Toronto, but we flew from Pearson International Airport to Calgary, AB.
  • Calgary, AB – we stayed with relatives of my Dad that he hadn’t seen or spoken to in years. I can remember their house vividly – it has floor to ceiling windows, seemed to be in the middle of nowhere (so it might not have been in Calgary come to think of it) and it had vaulted ceilings throughout the concept living space. Now, you have to appreciate that in 1996 open concept was a pretty new thing, so this house seemed like a magazine house to me.
Ok back on track…

Take a moment to enjoy the fashion of 1996! haha
  • Drumheller, AB – hoodoos, little church, swinging bridge thing and the Royal Tyrell Museum
  • Canmore, AB/Banff, AB – we stopped at all kinds of lakes, canyons and mountains. We stayed in Canmore near the Dairy Queen and happened to take a picture in front of it twice! And, of course, we went up sulphur mountain to enjoy the view of Banff and the Rocky Mountains around us. 
    Top of Sulphur Mountain – Banff, AB
  • Jasper, AB – on the way from Banff to Jasper we stopped at Lake Louise and also at the Columbian Ice Fields. Both sites are absolutely stunning – it is worth the trip just to see these two things at least once in your lifetime. We rented a cottage on a lake and spent time using the canoes and small boats when we weren’t counting elk or mountain goats. 
Columbian Icefields
  • Mountains and Lakes and Canyons (oh my!) – too many to mention them all, but Mount Edith Cavell still stands out in my memory.
  • Mackenzie, BC – at the time my aunt, uncle and their two children lived in Mackenzie. We spent about a week visiting with them and my grandparents who had also travelled from New Brunswick to visit that summer. We spent most of the days boating on the lake near their home and just enjoying being together.

    Left – Dad water skiing / Right (from top to bottom) my sister and I, my brother and uncle, dad water skiing & Papa and my sister
On the drive back to Alberta I know we did a few cool things like go to “mile 0” on the famous Alaskan Highway; I remember stopping at a Shoppers Drug Mart in Whitecourt and other than that it was more mountains, lakes and canyons – at this point (my dad especially) was starting to feel like Sassy the Cat from Homeward Bound… “so sick of nature he could puke”.

  • Edmonton, AB/Leduc, AB – a highlight of the trip was the water park at the West Edmonton mall. We all loved it! And, how many kids from New Brunswick can say they went to the West Edmonton mall water park to celebrate their 11th birthday?! I was so proud to tell that story (and still am!)
The journey home was a pretty standard voyage home with three kids… hectic for both parents, lots of driving through the night and sleepless days for Dad in order to keep us quiet and stressful for mom trying to keep everyone (and everything) together just a little bit longer.
The Moral of the Story
There are two things I hope you will take from hearing about this trip of a lifetime:
1) Organizing, planning and paying for this trip was a huge sacrifice for my parents. The next time you are considering changing windows on your house I urge you to consider if they really need to be changed or could you spend that money on a trip of a lifetime?! Side Note: my parents talked about changing the windows in their house my entire life… they only did it two years ago.
2) Explore your home! My Dad has been right about most things for as long as I can remember, but he really hit the nail on the head with this one. Seeing Canada first is one thing I will never regret doing and would recommend over and over (and over and over…. you get the idea…) to anyone.
Wishing you all a very Happy Canada Day!
My shoes for that: Men’s Wilmore mid-cut Winter Boot Side Note: It had to be a shoe that my Dad would wear and that would stereotypically represent Canada…I think these pretty much say it all.
Craving more Canada 150 fun? Check out the links below from my fellow East Coast Mom Bloggers to see what they are doing/ what experiences they are sharing in celebration of #ECMCanada150. 

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  • Reply
    Heather Laura Clarke
    June 12, 2017 at 11:49 am

    That is a truly impressive trip!!!

    • Reply
      Jenna MacDonald
      June 14, 2017 at 3:43 pm

      Thanks Heather – It is one we still talk about all the time and have inside family jokes about even now 20 some years later

  • Reply
    Suzi @ confessions of a fitness instructor
    June 12, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    What a wonderful experience for you to have had. I've still not made it very far across Canada, Toronto & Ottawa being the furthest, but I hope to change that someday! Who knows, maybe I will get to take a cross Canada road trip too!

    • Reply
      Jenna MacDonald
      June 14, 2017 at 3:44 pm

      Put western Canada on your travel list! As someone from Atlantic Canada you will love the mountain experience and then appreciate the ocean even more when you return home 🙂

  • Reply
    June 12, 2017 at 11:03 pm

    You know that I took (a quick, but leisurely) trip across the country by train this spring. So reading this story warmed my heart. My boys are about the same age you were when your parents took you and your siblings. I'd love to take my kids next time.

    • Reply
      Jenna MacDonald
      June 14, 2017 at 3:43 pm

      They are a great age to do this kind of a trip – my brother and sister do not remember quite as much as I do, but remember quite a bit when we get talking about the trip. I hope you get a chance to bring your boys next time!

  • Reply
    Cindy Doucet
    June 13, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    We did love every minute of our trip!! Would do it again in a heart beat ❤️

    • Reply
      Jenna MacDonald
      June 14, 2017 at 3:47 pm

      We'll have to do it again when Little Dude is older! #roadtrip

  • Reply
    Heather @ Heathers Hurrah
    June 13, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    Love this so much! Like you, I am fortunate enough to have seen a lot of our great country as well. We drove from Calgary-Nova Scotia 5 times when I was a child, so that was most of what I saw (along the way), as well as multiple summer trips to various parts of BC. Would love to catch a glimpse of the territories someday!!! This is a big priority for my husband and I to do with our children…we are starting this summer going from NS-Toronto with multiple stops along the way. Your post made me so reminiscent of my own adventures with my family!

    • Reply
      Jenna MacDonald
      June 14, 2017 at 3:49 pm

      Your comments gave me goosebumps – I am so happy to hear you had a similar travel experience. Like you, I can't wait to do something similar with our Little Dude! We have a mini-Canadian trip planned for the end of the summer, but to do a big trip like this when he is old enough to remember it would be amazing!

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