Traveling with young children has its own set of inherent obstacles. We included the challenge to take an international trip as part of our 12 in 2012 because it's not always the easiest vacation to tackle when traveling with babies and toddlers. We opted to visit Vancouver, British Columbia, because it was a quick two-hour flight from Salt Lake City and there were no language barriers to cross.
We also knew that even though it wasn't that far away, we would still be able to point out cultural differences to our girls and enjoy scenery that is completely unlike what we enjoy at home.
The British Columbia tourism board helped subsidize some of our travel costs for this trip. After the quick and, thankfully, relatively painless flight, we battled our way through customs and began the trek through Vancouver. We would be staying in North Vancouver for one night before heading up to Whistler in the morning.
We did not rent a car for this trip, relying solely on public transportation. Normally, taking public transportation for long periods of time gets to be a bit hairy with little children. But the excitement of the trip ahead of us and being enchanted with this new place had us dazed and content.
The next morning we made our way up to Whistler via a bus tour. Whistler itself is magical. Beautiful vibrant green mountains every direction you look, air so fresh and pure that you breathe at ease. You can hardly turn around without running into a beautiful babbling brook, winding creek or impressive chilly lake.
There was also mountain biking, museums, Olympic remnants and gondola rides.
The girls enjoyed the outdoor concerts and ice-cream trips, but our favorite memory will always be renting bikes and exploring the different lakes and beaches. Toddlertravels, who is more accustomed to the warm lakes of southern Utah, even had a blast swimming in the comparably much cooler lakes with her daddy.
After a couple of days in Whistler, we took the train back to Vancouver where we enjoyed the last few days of our journey. Taking the train was almost a romantic experience, as if from another era, but yet so fresh and exhilarating. Again, the scenery couldn't be beat as it rapidly changed from mountains and lakes to cliffs and sea. The girls did amazing on the train and enjoyed the views, especially in the open-air car. They could be loud and it didn't matter.
Our last few days in Vancouver were spent exploring another culture and enjoying the clean, unique flare of British Columbia’s biggest city. Carting a baby and a preschooler around a large city isn’t an easy task. But the sights, sounds and smells largely made up for any hardships we encountered along the way.
We spent time in Stanley Park, which is Vancouver’s “Central Park,” checking out the aquarium and enjoying a picnic while ToddlerTravels tested out a vast playground. Granville Island was a fun stop for some fresh produce and tempting baked goods while we watched boats pass by and seagulls gobble up our dropped cherries. Our favorite adventure was renting a boat in Horseshoe Bay and exploring the inlet, the islands and gawking at the seals.
I don’t want to give the wrong impression: This trip was far from easy, but there were many moments that will create lasting memories.
Tips for taking kids to an international location:
Taking children on any kind of trip can be a great educational opportunity. Take time before you leave to point to where you are going on a map; talk to them about the country you live in and where you are going.
Customs are a necessary evil when traveling internationally, no matter the means by which you get there. Make sure that your young children have used the bathroom and have a snack before entering the customs line. You could get lucky and only be in line for a few minutes or it could be a long wait.
Make sure to point out cultural differences they may not notice. For example: In Canada they say washroom instead of restroom and they use kilometers and meters. We pointed out the Canadian flag whenever we saw it. It’s a fun way to learn and appreciate others.
Hilarye Fuller lives in Salt Lake City, Utah where she stays at home with her two young daughters and pens the travel blog DottingTheMap. For more information on 12 in 2012 Challenge, and for tips and reviews visit http://www.dottingthemap.com