Well hello! Long time, no blog. October 1st seemed like a good time to finally get my act together and share our trip from last June. 😬 It’s taken me so long to gather my thoughts, upload all of our photos and videos, and… well… get over a very long first trimester full of morning sickness, long enough to write this post.
About a year ago, we decided that in 2018 we would take our first trip as a family out of the country. And Canada seemed like a good start. I’ve had my eye on Banff for years as it seems to always pop up on Pinterest when you search for “beautiful travel destinations.” So in January we bought our tickets and started planning our trip. The only other thing to on top of our bucket list was to have another baby. And of course as life would have it, both happened at the same time. So after getting an instant approval from our fertility doctor, Will, Liam, and my six week pregnant self got on a plane and headed to Canada!
Here is a look into our eight day itinerary. In case anyone ever decides to make the trip for themselves, this is a jam packed, on a budget, toddler friendly way to see Banff and Jasper National Parks.
Day 1 – Travel Day – We flew Charleston- Chicago- Calgary via United Airways, leaving mid-afternoon on a Wednesday and landing in Calgary, Alberta at 10:30pm. I packed bento boxes for the flight to save money and we ate those for dinner on the flight. Liam did great on the flight with his own seat, puzzles, and a constant stream of snacks. We stayed the night at Comfort Inn & Suites Airport South since it had a free shuttle from the airport and it was right next to an Enterprise rental car. Pro Tip: never rent your car directly from the airport. You’ll save lots of money by renting elsewhere.
Day 2 – After free breakfast at the Comfort Inn in Calgary, we walked over to Enterprise to get our rental car. From there we drove the 1.5 hours to Banff. We drove through Banff village for coffee and deli sandwiches to-go and headed straight to Lake Minnewanka for a picnic. We stopped at Two Jack Lake to soak in the view and for a quick photo while Liam snoozed in the back seat of the car. Lake Minnewanka is beautiful but was a little crowded. We walked along the shore path for a bit and finally found a vacant and quiet picnic table to eat, run, play, and skip rocks. After getting back in the car we drove to see Bow Falls and stopped for gelato and views at the “Castle in the Rockies” also known as the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel. Afterwards we headed up Norquay Drive’s winding road to the “green spot” right by the stone wall where we were greeted by some fun wildlife. We headed back down to Banff Village, stopping on Mt Norquay Drive at the big BANFF sign for a photo op. We had dinner at the Old spaghetti Factory in town before checking in for the night at Elkhorn Lodge.
Day 3 – We left our hotel early, eating granola bars and fruit in the car for breakfast, abs headed straight up Bow Valley Parkway to Johnston Canyon. Pro tip: Arrive there by 9am the latest yo ensure a parking spot. We visited both the upper and lower falls and even found the hidden, unmarked path that leads to another waterfall and the beautiful rock! We made it back in town for a late lunch at Eddie Burger Bar (so good!!) and Cow’s Ice Cream for dessert (good but not sure why the hype). Afterwards, we drove around so Liam to get a good car nap while we look for wildlife. We we’re so lucky to find a caribou and our first grizzly bear sighting, both on the Bow Valley Parkway! Day 4 – We checked out of this hotel packed up and headed up to Jasper National Park via the Icefield Parkway (hwy 93). Tip: look out for wildlife! We saw two black bears here. And get gas first before heading out. There are no real places to stop for miles! Our first stop was Bow Glacier Lake and the Num Ti Jah Lodge for hot chocolate. Look for the Crowfoot Glacier behind the lake! Next was my favorite lake of the entire trip: Peyto Lake, a short but steep 10 min hike to the lookout. Tip: continue along the side trail for more views with less tourists in the way. Next stop: the Columbia Icefield Center. We had lunch here (Cafeteria style food. Pricey and nothing to write home about but if you didn’t pack food this is your only option). We decided to save time and money so we did not do the guided tour. And instead we walked out on foot to see the Athabasca Glacier. I felt like we still got our fill this way. We continued on our drive, stopping at some more viewpoints and then parking again when we got to Athabasca Falls, just a short access walk to see some big falls! We finally arrived in Jasper and checked into the Mount Robson hotel with take out Chinese, showers, and sleep.Day 5- It was Canada day! And it rained all day. But this didn’t stop us from exploring Jasper National Park. We had a great free breakfast at the hotel then headed to Maligne Canyon, Medicine Lake, and Maligne Lake. We didn’t do the Spirit Island tours, it was so rainy and kinda expensive but had a nice lunch at the Maligne Lake Lodge. After lunch, we left Jasper, back down the Icefield Parkway, and straight to Lake Louise where we checked in to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Our dinner at the hotel was delicious (first time trying poutine!) with the most beautiful views.
Day 6- woke up and hiked the Lake Louise lakeshore trail right by the hotel and then straight to the Lake Agnes trail, past Mirror Lake, and up to the tea house. Pro tip: bring cash if you want tea! Opps! We spent the rest of the day napping, eating, and enjoying the lake views.
Day 7– Last stop in Banff: Moraine Lake. A quick short walk from the parking lot to see the most teal color lake I’ve ever seen! Parking here is nearly impossible so we left early. We were there by 8 AM and by 9 AM the road was closed to traffic. After another lunch in Banff village, we said goodbye, drove back to Calgary, returned the car at Enterprise and stayed the night at Comfort Inn & Suites Airport North.
Day 8 – Travel Day – Got up super early, free hotel shuttle ride to airport. Flew home.
In addition to all those words up above (that kudos if you got this far), I have also summarized our trip in two separate YouTube videos. Check them out and give it a thumbs up if you like what you see!
That’s a wrap on a wonderful trip to Canada. Feel free to message me or comment below if you have any questions or if there is anything specific I left out that you are interested in!