2019 Camping Season is Upon Us. Time for New Adventures
All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
So with 2019 upon us, the Profil came out of storage and got de-winterized, some post-winter love, and prepped for our new camping season.
Stemwinder Provincial Park. May long weekend. An amazing backdrop of the Similkameen River, our site had a lovely 20 foot drop off that had us worried about Jacob all weekend – lol. We celebrated Maddy’s 6th birthday and promptly took off for our 2019 camping season. A beautiful park east of Princeton, it lacked a few things we would look for in a family campground – a playground or beach, open fields, or safe running areas for the kids. The Similkameen River runs on the south side of the park, and the Crowsnest Highway immediately to the north. While an amazing park, it is definitely suited to adult couples looking for adventure (kayaking, hiking), or those with older kids who can run and adventure without fear of being swept away.
Tip: for those RVing at Stemwinder, there is no suitable water connection here, get your freshwater filled at Manning Provincial Park about 45 minutes to the west or find somewhere with good potable water in Princeton.
We quickly realized one thing, with Jacob now 21 months, he was ready and wanting to rip and roar to his own adventure, and utilize his growing desire for independence. While working, we found him in our feet, climbing up and down, in and out, and generally just impeding us in any way that he could. While not having many kid-friendly amenities, I would still give this campground a solid 8 out of 10 for overall activities, location, views, ease-of-access, and privacy.
Alice Lake Provincial Park – What can I say here, I’ve loved this campground and provincial park since my teen days as a cadet. Many fond memories of adventure expeditions here and it is as amazing as the first time I rolled in as a teen. Alice Lake has serviced campsites, many of them, which makes RVing much more convenient. It is also one of few provincial campgrounds in the coastal region with electrical hookups. A great network of hiking trails, a (summertime) warm lake suitable for swimming, along with a network of mountain biking trails and easy access to area attractions make for a great base for adventure seekers. The Chief, Sea-to-Sky gondola, Whistler, and many more attractions make this campground a cheap alternative to expensive hotels.
This campground has something for all ages! A nice adventure playground, to expansive campsites, the kids were able to run, climb, and play, without constant supervision – yes, even Jacob! We truly felt that there were few to no neighbours around us. The older kids were climbing up the backside of the campsite, with toddlers in tow as well. Electrical hookup meant we could utilize our microwave to heat up the evening milk quickly, and while not needed this time, could have made use of the fans and heater without fearing of killing our 12V battery.
Overall, I would give this campground a solid 10 out of 10, it continues to wow and impress after many years. An abundance of nearby, world-class attractions, kid-friendly amenities, space, privacy, convenience of on-site sani-dump, available electrical hookup, and location proximity make it a great choice for those looking for coastal family adventures!
Location: Fort Langley Selling Feature: FVRD owned campground and rates reflect this Price per night: $61 + GST, plus site lock fee of $25 Hookups: Full service with 30amp power
Booking and Getting There
Fort Camping is conveniently located at Brae Island Regional Park, a quaint community about an hour east of Vancouver. We booked this site back in early-January for our Canada Day weekend trip. At the time of booking, about 75% of the sites were already occupied. The site is easy to navigate with list and map view for easy reference.
For us, it involved a ferry reservation, so even though we were booked to arrive June 30th, we opted to avoid an evening setup at 9:30pm, instead, we booked ourselves on the 8am sailing going from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen ferry terminal. From there, it is an approximately 50-minute drive to Fort Camping taking Highway 17 and connecting in at Hwy 1.
A word of caution as driving through Fort Langley can be busy, with lots of pedestrian traffic on the narrow town roads, keep to the posted limit or slower and watch for wanderers. And for those who need to arrive via ferry, it is highly suggested to have a ferry reservation for your over height vehicle.
The campground sits on Brae Island, and at times during the spring melt can be closed due to flooding risk. There are 156 sites available. The sites vary from pull-thru to back in sites, inner and outer ring, 30 and 50 amp, full-service to tenting. There are also 5 glamping sites for those more inclined to be on a bed while camping but don’t have a camper. You do have to bring your own bedding but they’re pretty neat accommodations. Most sites are open and exposed with minimal privacy. Because this is a public campground, there are limits in place during the summer months on how long people can be there for. There are some folks that set up their sites for the mid-term and get pretty comfortable there. With the location though, can you blame them?
A work of caution for the biting-bug adverse camper, Fort Camping has mosquitoes, and they can sometimes have A LOT of mosquitoes. Bring the spray and citronella lamps.
Checking In and Setting Up
The staff upon checking in were friendly and attentive. On checking in, we got a map with the best route to our site, along with a brochure of activities for the Canada Day long weekend. We had two side-by-side sites booked to be next to friends. The sites themselves are open and flat. The hookups are conveniently located along the side of the site midway down. Our 30-amp hookup had no problems as confirmed by my Camco Dogbone Circuit Analyzer with surge protection. The sites are flat and have plenty of space to back into, and they are angled for easy back-in on the one-way roads.
To secure our side-by-side sites, we paid an additional $25 plus GST lock fee. This guaranteed us our chosen locations.
Things to Do – On and Offsite
Fort Camping thrives at family-friendly camping. There is a nice playground, lots of child-friendly activities, ice cream sold on site, and they rent these cool little peddle cars that the kids greatly enjoyed, and for a pretty reasonable price too! For the Canada Day long weekend, there were extra activities planned, including a giant inflatable slide that the kids spent a good hour at two days in a row, and was no extra charge. There used to be a pool but that was filled in a few years ago. There are trails located around that are part of the regional park, these are nice easy hikes and bike rides to do with the kids. There are normally an abundance of mosquitoes here too so you’ve been duly warned.
There is a small general store with the usual RV parts/items and this is where ice cream along with other snack and drink items are sold. Nearby, the small community of Fort Langley is easy walk/bike access and gives you the feeling of having left the hustle of Vancouver and into the small towns that, well, anywhere else in BC is more known for. Fort Langley National Historic Site is also within a 10-minute bike ride. For a small fee, you can travel back in time complete with era-specific actors and walking through homes and workshops from the gold-rush and fur-trade era.
We have returned to Fort Camping pretty much every year since we’ve had a travel trailer. This includes when we lived a mere 15-mintues away in Yorkson Creek. The family-friendly amenities and atmosphere keep us returning year after year. We are consistently happy to be here, including years like this year where there seems to be more mosquito activity. The staff are friendly and so are the other campers. The kids love exploring the Fort and going for bike rides into town for ice cream. We will likely return next year as well and look forward to the many activities and to see what they’ll offer next year.
Have you been to Fort Camping? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Have questions? Please post them and I will do my best to answer.
Selling Feature: Large private sites, on-site boat and fishing gear rentals, proximity to trails
Price per night: $62.40 + GST + $5 per child over 5 beyond 2 guests
Hookups: Full service with 30amp power
Pedder Bay is a convenient short drive from our home. This made is perfect for a quick, short weekend getaway with the trailer. While close to home, its location made us feel like we had completely left the area without breaking the bank on fuel costs. Access is easy from Victoria, coming down Rocky Point Road, turn onto Pedder Bay Drive (there is a rather steep hill when towing just before the turnoff), and coming down Pedder Bay Drive you come across a check in booth with phone over to the office to check in. From there, you just proceed to your site and get setup. Staff interaction can be pretty minimal here.
Check-In and Site Access
The staff at the resort are friendly when you interact though. They are well-informed and educated with regards to the marine conditions and boat rentals. Maneuvering was easy into our large booked site and I was backed in and unhooked in no time. As usual, I plugged in my surge protector plug and it showed the electrical was not a problem. I can’t stress enough and recommended to use some form of surge protection, I use a Camco Dogbone RV Circuit Analyzer as some campgrounds are known to haphazardly install more electrical sites without permit which can cause problems with the sensitive circuits in the trailers. We were in site # 26 which was large and flat. The sites here are shielded from each other with cedar hedges that are tall and mature; this gives you a great sense of privacy.
Activities and Amenities
Pedder Bay is a beautiful RV resort, as the name suggests, it sits on the edge of Pedder Bay. It has on site boat rentals through the Oak Bay Marine Group at a reasonable price on a 2-hour minimum. They don’t take reservations though and are first-come-first serve. The staff are aware of marine conditions and won’t allow rentals when conditions aren’t safe for these small craft to go out. It can be deceiving as Pedder Bay is quite sheltered, but as soon as you leave the bay, you’re at the mercy of converging currents and can get quite rough.
For kids, there isn’t really anything to mention for on site activities. We usually have our own set of toys for the kids to play with. The walk down the dock and hilltop overlooking the bay is quite nice and my daughter loved doing her gymnastics up there. The kids also enjoyed clamoring down the rocks to the water and explore the shore edge. The RV Resort is in close proximity to local trails and activities offsite though.
There is also WiFi available throughout much of the resort, and the speeds were decent as well with a download of 21.2Mbps and upload of 18Mbps. I was able to stream YouTube content in at least 720p with no lag. Our Telus networked cellphones also had full reception here.
The “campground” itself is advertised as an RV Resort. The main roads are paved with gravel sites. This means scooters and solid-tire toys like kids balance bikes can be played with. There were loads of kids and families around as well and the kids quickly make and interact with new friends. There is a general store on site, because of the attached boat and fishing gear rental, this store is quite well stocked, and there is also a licensed café on site too. For those with your own boats, there is a nice boat launch that you can use, I believe there is an additional fee attached and prior to using you have to park and speak with the staff inside the office/general store prior to launching.
There are a variety of sites here, back in, waterfront, pull-thru, etc. Along with a variety of power options, depending on the site, 15 amp, 30 amp, and 50 amp. This resort easily accommodates big rigs.
This was our second time at this RV Resort. It was again nice, with the biggest benefit for us being its proximity to home, but being secluded, we felt like we had left Greater Victoria altogether. We didn’t get to rent a boat and go out this time, but we will definitely be returning in future seasons and if conditions are right, will take a boat out to try our luck fishing as well. For the price, friendly staff, and nicely setup pads, Pedder Bay RV Resort offers good value for money for a full service location, and there are also sometimes last minute sites to book even getting into busier weekends.
Camping Review – Mountainaire Campground – May 20-23, 2022
Location: Nanaimo Regional District Selling Feature: Proximity to Nanaimo River, campground activities Price per night: $56 + GST Hookups: 30 amp electrical and water.
I want to start off this blog with a request for readers to provide me some feedback, I want to make this into a meaningful travel review site for families looking to get out into the world and wanting some feedback from other families who have been there. If you have any suggestions to make this better, please leave it in the comments below. Thanks in advance!
We started out camping season with the traditional May Long weekend at Mountainaire campground in beautiful Nanaimo. Booking was made online about 3 months in advance, by then, most sites had already been taken though and I could only find a partial service site, water and electricity. With our larger grey and black water holding tanks though, a long weekend isn’t a problem and there is free sani-dump for registered guests on site. The three night booking for this came out to $176.40 with taxes.
Access to the campground is fairly straightforward, but its important to note that the access road off of Spruston Rd is a right turn only off of Highway one, and comes up on your rather quickly. If heading northbound, you’ll have to do the quick U-Turn route at the Nanaimo River Road. The campground is gravel roads, so can get dusty, of course this helps encourage drivers to slow it down coming into and around the campground.
The campground itself is quite large, it sits on a 40-acre parcel, the sites are a mix of relatively private and some large double sites with a good mix for those camping with friends and family. Our site didn’t offer much in the way of privacy to the double site next to us, but we were at the end of the road with the rest of the sides protected by trees and bushes and on the awning side of the trailer did feel quite private.
Check-In and Site Access
Staff at check in were friendly, provided us a map and instructions on getting to our site and the WiFi access. Maneuvering was easy into our booked site and I was backed in and unhooked in about 10-minutes. We always use a surge protector plug and it showed the electrical was not a problem. It is always recommended to use some form of surge protection, I use a Camco Dogbone RV Circuit Analyzer as some campgrounds are known to haphazardly install more electrical sites without permit which can cause problems with the sensitive circuits in the trailers. We were in site # 1 which was just up the road from the playground and at 36’ x 45’ was a nice 1,620sq ft.
Activities and Amenities
Mountainaire offers a host of on and off site activities that are child-friendly. The campground is a short hike from the stunning Nanaimo River. It takes you to a swimming hole called Crystal Bowl. Closer in, the campground has a small general store with basic necessities for those of us who forget small items on their first camping trip of the year, like dish soap, for us. There is a very nice adventure playground, it is a plastic/wood playground that has been well kept and maintained. This is located next to a large field where soccer/Frisbee is being played by families (us too!). The highlight of the long weekend activities was their Saturday evening fireworks. I mean, you don’t expect a lot from a campground fireworks display, but I mean this was amazing, approximately 20-25 minutes long, it honestly was better and more intimate (campground only) then going to Downtown Vancouver for sure. I was thoroughly impressed a campground would spend what was likely thousands for this show so huge kudos to the staff and management.
Mountainaire campground offered good value for money. The campground was well laid out, staff were friendly, sites affordable, and the long weekend fireworks display was simply amazing. The kids enjoyed the playground greatly and would happily run back down there on their own to play. Less then 90 minutes from Victoria, the campground offers easy access from Mid-or-South Island, as well as the Duke Point or Departure Bay BC Ferry terminal. For the price we paid, I’d happily come back for another long weekend, even without the fireworks display, it offered fun and relaxation for the whole family.
Have you been to Mountainaire Campground? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Have questions? Please post them and I will do my best to answer.
Outbound Flight Segment: YYJ-YVR-CUN Return Flight Segment: CUN-YYC-YYJ Aircraft Flown: DHC-8-400, Boeing 737Max8, Boeing 737-800 Total Distance Travelled: 9,358 kilometers (5,815 miles) Price per km: Not calculated as trip was purchased as a vacation package.
So, spring break comes along, and next thing we know we are on our way to Victoria International Airport (IATA Code YYJ) for our first post-pandemic trip. This was our first time flying out of Victoria International Airport, so I’ll talk about that experience briefly. YYJ is a lovely little airport located on the Saanich Peninsula, 25km north of Victoria, near the town of Sidney, BC (sometimes mistaken for Australia). The year before the pandemic, YYJ hit just under 2million passengers, dropping to half a million passengers in 2020 and a marginal increase to 673,000 passengers in 2021. Of note for how the airline industry is recovery, YYJ had 107,000 domestic passenger movements in April 2022 compared to 135,000 passenger movements in April 2019. Its likely that it’ll be 2024 before passenger volumes recover or possibly surpass 2019, but things are looking good.
YYJ has 10 gates, 4 have jet bridges while the rest you load from the tarmac. Personally, ramp/stair on and off boarding to the tarmac is pretty cool and, in this day, and age it’s not often you get to do that at major airports here in Canada. In 2008, YYJ developed a 20-year master plan with plans to increase its capacity.
We boarded our first WestJet flight of the day, a short hop to Vancouver on a WestJet Encore De Havilland Canada Dash 8-Q400. This lane seats 78 passengers in a 2-2 configuration. WestJet Encore states it has 68 economy and 10 premium economy seats, but there is no difference between the two aside from being seated in the first 2.5 rows and getting a bottle of water upon boarding. The flight was 30 minutes delayed due to “heavy traffic” coming into Vancouver International. Funny enough, this is one of Canada’s shortest routes, and our airtime for the flight is only about 20 minutes, so spending more time on the plane on the ground was a little ironic.
We made it to Vancouver without any further issues though and easily transited through to international departures. Now, after 2 years without and travel, I had a couple companion vouchers that were not going to be used, so I exchanged them both for lounge vouchers. This got us into the plaza premium lounge which was quite lovely, and we all enjoyed a nice breakfast and some coffee.
Our flight down to Cancun today was on a Boeing 737 Max 8, the first time being on one, so I was pretty excited! The latest generation 737 has Boeing’s new Sky Interior. The overhead bins are reshaped so you end up with a more airy, open cabin that feels less like you’re riding a pop can to your destination. Of note, the Max 8 is also significantly quieter than the previous “Next Generation” aircraft.
We were seated in economy standard seats, just behind the wings, this is laid out in a standard 3-3 configuration. Standard economy on WestJet’s 737 Max 8 offers 30 inches of pitch and 17 inches width, an industry standard. Economy preferred seats offer about 34 inches of legroom for a nominal charge. There was no buy on board food service at the time, but they did come around several times with snack and drink service, luckily we had brought along lots of snacks, but for a 5 hour flight, I wish we had known there’d be no on board meals to buy ahead of time. The flight continued on uneventfully and we landed in Cancun on time to start our vacation.
For our first pandemic-era flight, we felt totally safe and satisfied with safety measures on board. For the trip, I did purchase N95 masks, including child-sized N95 masks for the extra layer of safety. They’re also more comfortable as the straps don’t go around your ears.
Overall, WestJet service was okay, it wasn’t bad and did certainly didn’t stand out as anything amazing or “wow”. It was a bit annoying to have no buy on board service on a 6-hour flight. I hope that changes soon as the world opens back up. The crew were helpful and friendly though, and as usual, they were great with the kids. We definitely will fly them again in the future, ticket price dependent. We flew with the WestJet World Elite MasterCard which entitled us to free checked baggage.
Join us as we head out on our first trip since COVID began!
Well, I don’t know what to say. It sure has been a long time since I’ve done a blog, and I do apologize for that. In the spring of 2020, who would have thought the world would have spun the way it did have the events that occurred. Politics aside, COVID was a time and opportunity for me and the family to rethink who we are and the direction in which we wanted to go. With that, I announced in my December 2020 blog that we had relocated to Southern Vancouver Island. We have loved the beautiful tranquility of living in a much smaller community in the South Island, but close enough to work in nice-sized Victoria. Moving into Spring 2021, we bought a beautiful home in the Westshore, and it’s within a 15 minute walk to the beach, this has been a complete lifestyle change for us. If you want me to write about our experience of a mid-pandemic move, have a breeze through my last blog in December 2020.
Well now, let’s fast forward to Spring 2022. So much has changed! The world is reopening, travel is starting up again, vaccines are in arms (mostly), and we are slowly beating COVID to an endemic disease. So what exciting things has 2022 brought us! Well, this is technically from 2021, but we’ve been hosting a grade 11 student in our home from Germany who has just been an amazing experience for Alyssa and I, and the kids. As I type this and realize there’s only 4 weeks of school left, I can’t help but think how hard the good-byes will be at the end of June and she heads home to Germany. It has been such an amazing experience for us and the kids, and hopefully Amelie as well, to have her living with us and join our family for the year. The kids will truly miss her when she returns home.
So in January 2022, Alyssa and I decided to book our first COVID trip, planning 7 days at the all-inclusive Sandos Playacar Resort in Cancun, Mexico! 2 adults and 3 kids were going to fly south-east across the continent and finally enjoy some R&R for the first time in two-and-a-half years. Of course, we booked the trip with trip protection in case we HAD to cancel, but we were intent on doing this trip almost no matter what. Mexico had long ago relaxed its pre-entry requirements, so long as you’re fully vaccinated. Not a problem for us, or most Canadians as the requirement still exists to be fully vaccinated in order to board a plane to, well, anywhere.
The next hurdle we had was staying healthy, or catching COVID long enough before travel that we could be considered clear of isolation to travel. Once in country, the next concern would be “what happens if we contract COVID in Mexico?” Well, that’s where researching proper travel insurance and booking at the right resort comes in.
You see, Sandos, to promote travel, had a COVID plan in place, and for those who tested positive and had to isolate for x days prior to flying home, they would cover your first 2 days of in-room isolation at no cost, including all your nutrition and non-alcoholic fluids. From there, we had COVID-specific travel insurance that would cover accommodations about to $450/day for the family including meals which would take us to the flight home.
However, in mid-March 2022, the Public Health Agency of Canada and CBSA announced that as of April 1, 2022, no pre-entry testing would be required for fully vaccinated travellers and those not eligible to receive it (ie. Those under 5). Well, we were flying home on April 2, 2022. Talk about perfect timing! Not to mention this announcement was quite the surprise, as our much more COVID weary neighbours to the south still require pre-entry testing if you’re flying into the United States.
So how was Mexico during the Omicron-era of COVID? Pretty awesome. For starters, they really take to heart that preventing spread is important to keeping tourism dollars flowing. That being said, masks were required indoors and at the buffet, only to be removed in open air spaces. So going anywhere, masks were close at hand. Staff were diligently watching and informing guests to don their masks in areas where it is still required. Aside from the mask requirement, there were hand cleaning and washing stations available all over the resort, otherwise, it was such a relief to get back to some normalacy.
The resort itself was awe-inspiring in terms of its size, we’ve never stayed at a resort so large! The staff were amazing and for the most part quite attentive. They staff were also great with the kids which is so important to us. The frustrating part of this resort though was its size. Sandos Playacar is long and narrow; the family suites and zones are closer to the check in building. The next zone are the Haciendas, an upgraded suite that come in small blocks of 8 suites, and each block has its own pool and hot tub. Interestingly however, we had considered booking a Hacienda, but the suites are smaller than the family suites, not as ideal when travelling with 5 of us. The Sandos name also allowed us access to Sandos Caracol Eco Resort about a 20-minute taxi away, but we opted to stay within Playacar. Within the resort itself, you could walk anywhere in about 15-minutes, there was also a shuttle that ran every 10-15 minutes, but its capacity was often inadequate and many didn’t understand the idea of allowing those who couldn’t walk the distance or had young kids onto the shuttle first.
Typical of an all-inclusive resort that has upgraded zones, we had to wear a wristband for the week, with a separate one for the kids. What I found really cool about this though was that our keycard was located within the wristband inside a little chip. This meant no stressing about where our keycard was and it went everywhere we were!
The room was comfortable overall. We had a king-sized bed and a twin-over-double bunk for sleeping arrangement. Maddy had top bunk, Amelie below her, and Jacob slept in the king with us. We had a jacuzzi tub in the bathroom which wasn’t used once, and apparently wasn’t used by anyone as we turned it on one day to rinse off a beach toy and brown water emerged for the first 30-seconds or so. The bathroom also had a separated toilet and double sink which allowed us to more efficiently use the bathroom. The mini-fridge was well stocked, we had coffee and a coffee maker as well. These were all restocked as we consumed them. The pillows however were quite thick and rock solid. Housekeeping also had a tendency to replace towels even if we had them hung up, this despite Sandos own message that they would replace only towels left in a pile on the floor to indicate our desire to swap. The amount of towels we had also varied day-to-day. Finally, the WiFi was good when working as well, there were sometimes some difficulties with how connecting to it works, but when connected was fast enough for high-def video streaming.
The food was nothing to scream about, it was far from bad, but didn’t scream amazing either. The nearest place to eat lunch and supper is actually quite far, about a 15 minute-walk away at the main buffet restaurant. For breakfast, one of the specialty restaurants is closer, located on the bottom floor of where you check in. We felt that this breakfast experience wasn’t nearly as good as the main buffet though. Speaking of specialty restaurants, they book up fast, and if you’re there for a week, go to the guest services desk and book your desired restaurant on day 1 for during your stay or you likely won’t get a spot. We had really wanted to try Asiana but could not get a reservation, alas, we did get one at the steakhouse one evening though.
There was definitely no problem getting us through our days. Swimming options galore including a family pool located almost outside our room. This pool was large, never crowded, and offered us a swim up bar. While the resort was steady, it didn’t seem anywhere near capacity for guests, or staff. Waits could be long as there was often only one bartender, but they always did their best to keep up. There were two waterparks available to guests, yes, two! Both were relatively new, one was all the way down by the beach, this main waterpark was quite big and offered the kids a huge variety of slides and apparatus. The second waterpark was right by our family pool, this was much newer and it was nice to have a much quieter option for our kids so close to our room. The kids club was an instant hit with our kids, located roughly mid-resort by the main buffet, it offered drop in fun for the kids, and after the first visit there, the kids kept asking to return.
Next is the mini-golf, this 10, or was it 12-hole mini course was loads of fun. However, we did have to skip a couple holes due to infrastructure not being intact, it definitely would benefit from some TLC from maintenance crews. The beach was pretty decent, one thing we loved about this trip was we were never, not once, struggling to find lounge chairs. The amount of seaweed that washed ashore would make any sushi-lover envious though. The water otherwise was clean and warm and safe for swimming.
There was also nightly concerts in the outdoor theatre as well, and Sandos put on some pretty amazing show! The first night we got there, a nod to Led Zeppelin was on stage. However, the two we really wanted to see, well, actually, the one Amelie really wanted to see was Shakira and the kids really wanted to see Cocoa. Both were great shows and it was so satisfying to see their faces light up during the performances and dancing and singing along.
A couple evenings that we were there, there was also a night market setup just outside the main buffet. There were also free bikes to sign out and go for a ride through the secure resort area that the Sandos was located in, the main road took you around past many other resorts such as several Riu brands and the Hard Rock Café. Not surprisingly, one of the markets you ride past has the same products and merchants that go into the resort and sell items for easily double the pesos. While the market in the resort area is by no means cheap, it does support local merchants and I do like the feeling and game of haggling what I feel is an okay deal. Yes! I know I’m often still ripped off, but it does support local owners who have otherwise been decimated by COVID lately as well.
All-in-all it was an amazing first post-COVID trip. We relaxed, drank, had fun, and most importantly, the kids had fun and were occupied the whole time. We enjoyed all the foods and desserts we wanted, forgot about work, and enjoyed our first experience in Cancun. The one thing I personally would prefer in Puerto Vallarta is the ability to enjoy and watch the sunset over the ocean. Being in the family zone, we were no where near ocean view so watching a sunrise was out of the question unless I wanted to get up really early and go for a walk. I think overall we’d give Sandos Playacar a 4 star rating. Everything was good, but nothing had a wow factor to it. Alyssa and I agreed we all enjoyed the trip but will likely not return to this resort if we came back to Cancun for a resort trip.
Thank you for reading about our latest trip! Travelled during COVID? Please share your experience in the comments.
Exciting news! Well, for us anyways. As of Nov 15, 2020, we’ve moved over to Vancouver Island! Yes, you read that right!
Alyssa and I both accepted jobs with Island Health. Alyssa is based out of Royal Jubilee Hospital and I’m hitting the streets with Substance Use Outreach and COVID Outreach and Assessment in Duncan. We’ve decided to locate ourselves in Langford for now, and will be starting our hunt for our permanent home in the spring.
Moving during a pandemic really wasn’t that bad! We found amazing movers with a company called BC Moving and Storage based in Victoria. The finalized plan was they’d cross over early in the morning, load our stuff, and park it in their yard for the night. They then offloaded the next morning. Alyssa actually went to the island a week ahead of us, so I had the entire last week with the kids at school/daycare to pack to my hearts content. For the most part, we’ve found what we’ve needed, minus a few things that have disappeared for the time being! Oops!
Overall though, given the ferry/distance involved, it was a stress-free move. For the humans anyways. Sammy had a stress reaction which resulted in some diarrhea, but cleared after a day and he has since settled in very nicely. Maddy settled into her new elementary school really nicely and Jacob is enjoying his new daycare. One benefit to moving during the pandemic, we found childcare much easier then we likely would have if the pandemic hadn’t caused care centres to drop in attendants.
We are loving the island lifestyle so far! Settling into our new roles, and exploring the area. We live 10 minutes from the ocean, minutes from numerous parks, lakes, and trails; and have joined a welcoming and friendly community. We look forward to sharing new adventures from the Island!!
Shuswap Lake Provincial Park and Kekuli Bay Provincial Park
Well here we go again! Off for a week of rest, relaxation,
and adventure. 2 campgrounds to review here: 4 nights at Shuswap Lake
Provincial Park and 3 nights at Kekuli Bay Provincial Park.
First things first, Shuswap Lake Provincial Park. WOW. We
spent a single night at this park last year and it was nowhere near enough
time. We had to return. And return we did! A quick background, Shuswap Lake
Provincial Park sits on the Southwest shore of the massive Shuswap Lake. The
park is 149 acres and was established in 1956. From May to October, all 330
sites are reservable and the park is often at 100% capacity through most of the
A quick look around and you can see why. A beautiful forest
greets you upon entry to the park, and large, decently private sites house you during
your stay. There are a few dozen electrical-serviced sites for RVers, and a
well maintained 2-lane sani-dump upon exiting ($5 for all users). Note, water
taps are not threaded but on the main road that divides the campground, there
are two potable water fill stations for RV’s.
Family friend is an understatement for this park. Multiple
playgrounds, including a massive new adventure playground that opened just
prior to our arrival last year, a kid-friendly BMX track, over a km of
beachfront, boat launch, and nature trails abound.
We had two sites for our mini family reunion. A bit further
a part then expected, I apparently did not do a good map reconnaissance when doing
our bookings. Our choices were limited, despite booking in the opening week for
the window we wanted, all double and electrical sites were already gone (a
testament to the popularity of this park). However, our site afforded great
privacy, and nice proximity to the beach, new adventure playground, and the BMX
We might take safety for granted, but we allow Maddy to often ride on the road we are on by herself, and head over to the playground to meet her cousins. All on her bike. The roads are paved, for little ones still utilizing training wheels, it is scooter, training wheel, etc. friendly. While huge in size with lots of site, it offers lots of privacy with tons of family-friendly amenities, a definite 10 out of 10 and warranting return visits.
Kekuli Bay Provincial Park
After the first half of the week spent in a fair bit of the
wet stuff, we made our way over to Kekuli Bay Provincial Park. This beautiful,
hillside park, sits on the west side of Kalamalka Lake, approximately 10km
south of Vernon. Old stomping grounds for me, as just south of Vernon is the
Vernon Army Cadet Summer Training Centre. While just down the hill from the
Okanagan Highway, it is quiet and you don’t get much noise from it.
This 57 HA park has 73 campsites, all of which are
reservable through the Discover Camping webpage. The campground itself is in 3
main lanes, making up 6 tiers moving uphill from the lake. Essentially, you get
fairly unobstructed views of the lake from most campsites (check out the
photos!). We were able to secure a double site here, and as you can see, they
are large and open, easily accommodating our 22-foot trailer and my brother’s
almost 30-foot long Avenger. We arranged ourselves in an ‘L’ shape to maximize parking
and play area for the kids. The taps have hose bib attachments for easy filling
of potable water tanks.
The view! Wow! We couldn’t ask for a better site. Further up
the hill would afford you even better views, and ditto for most of the single
sites. There are 4 sites with electrical hookups but those are in the overflow
lot at the very bottom of the hill, and you pretty much feel you are just settling
into a Walmart lot. The beach here is nothing special, rocky, with lots of
warning signs for poison ivy, of which we never did spot. The water itself was
about as warm as Shuswap Lake and nice to be in. The playground here is a bit aged
but offers a change from some of the other parks’ usual setup, and an amazing
view of Kal lake for those wanting a nice picnic.
For those leaving the campground in an RV, there is no sani-dump at this park. Heading back towards Vancouver via Hwy 97 offers you many options, but a nice option we found was to make the safer right turn back onto Hwy 97 and backtrack 15 minutes to the Vernon Superstore where they off a FREE sani-dump. This also allows you to top up for the drive at a trailer-friendly fuel station, and groceries/snacks for the trip home. While not offering as many amenities and family activities of Shuswap Lake, Kekuli offers great views, relaxation, and lots of Okanagan sun. A solid 9 out of a 10 and must camp at for the Okanagan, especially if you’re looking to get away from the busier parks like Bear Creek and Okanagan Lake.
Thanks for reading and your support! Remember to like and comment, let us know what you’d like to hear from us! We will be posting an activity blog on ideas to keep the kids busy, and another on camp kitchen, cooking ideas and tricks we’ve picked up along the way.
Located just north of Maple Ridge, Golden Ears Provincial Park is one of the largest; and is the busiest of the provincial parks in British Columbia by number of campers. Alouette lake is HUGE and popular for boating, swimming, paddle boarding, wind surfing, and many other water-based recreational activities. The park is also criss-crossed by an abundance of trails that make for great hiking. Park users hoping to stay the night will find 409 vehicle-accessible campsites of which 350 are reservable. These sites are divided among three campgrounds: Alouette (where we were), Gold Creek, and North Beach.
Alouette is the largest of the three, and as I noted, where we camped. Site A36 was ours. It is important to note there are multiple sites with the same number, and only the letter in the front differentiates specifically where they are. Some people entering and were looking for A16 camp came across C16, then got confused thinking someone had taken their site, before getting lost trying to find A16. The letters correspond to the road that the site sits on, A for Alouette, B for birth, C for cedar, and so on. This is ditto for Gold Creek so pay attention to the letter in front!
With us this weekend was friends and their son, who is also one of Maddy’s classmate. Most sites are large enough to accommodate RVs, and our site was easy to manoeuvre into. Our site was large enough to easily park 2 vehicles, and setup a large 10’x12x tent in front of the trailer. Directly behind our site was a small creek and trails that the kids loved exploring behind. Some felled trees left behind provided some nice gym equipment for the kids to climb and play on, and towering cedars and hemlock provided cover from the light rains that fell on Saturday.
Alouette Lake itself is a huge and beautiful piece of paradise so close to home. Cool but not glacier cold, it is a perfect place to take a dip on a hot summer day. Day users be warned, they sometimes close access if the parking lots become full. The beach at the campground area is between Gold Creek and Alouette campgrounds. It contains a mainly rocky beach, and a roped off swimming area for safety. Be warned, none of the provincial campgrounds have lifeguards on duty so watch your children and weaker swimmers closely. For those looking to get on the lake, and hopefully not into it. The day use area has a rental hut where kayaks and canoes can be rented for hourly, or overnight excursions at Alouette Lake Canoe Rentals.
Furthering family fun is a children’s playground in the Alouette campground, located between Dogwood and Cedar drives. This adventure playground says its for kids 5-12 years old but being nearby we had no concerns with Jacob making his way up and sliding down on his own. We found that the many kids there were respectful with the younger climbers. If you’ve been to other campgrounds, like Alice Lake, you might recognize the climbing structure itself as they are almost identical. It seems the province got a discount on them and the same main structure can be found at several campground playgrounds.
Three negatives we noted during our weekend. First, people seem to drive around the campground with total disregard for safety. The speed limit is 20km/h. 20! People were often zipping around at what appeared to be close to double that. There are kids trying to play and ride their bikes around and these people only care about getting somewhere fast. What’s the rush? Secondly, the site directly across from us in a Cougar half-ton, running your generator at 10pm is against park regulations in EVERY provincial campground, shame on you for the me, me, me attitude you displayed. Finally, on clean up day, the right hand sani-dump stopped working, it was backed right up and not draining. Luckily, we were in line early and for the left side, which worked, albeit barely. The ticket booth also stopped working and was just eating people’s $5 without providing proof of payment. Speaking of which, better have two toonies and a loonie, or 5 x loonies to pay otherwise you’ll also be out of luck. Come on, either have a park staff there to give out change or update to a new drop coin operated sani-dump that will take a variety of coins. For such a major park I’m shocked its not a newer system like we’ve found elsewhere.
I’m going to give this park an overall
score of 7 out of 10. While they have some things to work on, such as their
sani-station, and better enforcement of park regulations; it is an undeniably
beautiful gem close to home. Located just over an hour east of Vancouver, 40
minutes north of our home, Golden Ears Provincial Park is a beautiful
playground nestled in our backyard. Its pristine forests make for amazing
hikes, while its cool and clean lake make for fun water activities or relaxing
“As soon as I saw you, I knew an adventure was about to happen.”
A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh
That quote couldn’t have been more true. Hold on, because this is going to be a long blog, spanning over 22,300 kms of air travel, 2 south-east Asian countries, and 4 children in tow. It was January 2nd, barely into the new year and Alyssa and I were about to board a 15-hr flight with not two, but four (yes, 4), kids in tow. Let’s back up a moment though… Okay, all the way back to Oct 2nd to be exact. We were at the pool watching Maddy’s swim lessons when I got the call from my dad, grandma had passed away. The matriarch of our family was now at peace. Making it back to Vietnam for the funeral wasn’t going to happen, without adequate facilities, even a week was pushing burial limits. So we decided on the 100-day ceremony that would happen. That had us travelling back to Duc Pho, Vietnam, for January 7th, and staying until after the ceremony. Plenty of time to book travel and sort ourselves out right?
Figuring out flights for 3 families heading out at different times, with different destination layovers, but flying home altogether was a bit more challenging then we thought it would be. We figured out our date to fly home, then went from there. Dad would leave just after Christmas and go straight to Vietnam to visit other friends and family. My sister, she was going to Malaysia after Christmas to spend time with friends on an adults only trip. There was the consideration her kids would stay home from the trip, but I didn’t feel that was appropriate for them considering the momentous reason we were going halfway around the world. We would rendezvous in Da Nang on January 7th.
Alyssa and I, well we settled on a stopover in Hong Kong for 3 nights and finally get to see the iconic city. We discussed it, considered the possible difficulties and challenges, and finally decided that Lexi and Damien would fly with us. So we made the offer, and before we knew it, plane tickets were all booked and we were set for our adventure and ceremony 11,167 kms away.
So fast forward now to December 31, 2018. I was working a night shift, hotels were booked, ground transportation arranged from Da Nang to Duc Pho… but, we still had NO plans for Hong Kong, our first destination. There was Ocean Park, harbour cruises, “the Peak”, DISNEYLAND Hong Kong, and a myriad of food and shopping options for us to check out. On Jan 1, we finally decided what we would do. A gondola ride up to a Buddhist temple, along with a 2-day park pass to Disneyland, as it afforded the kids way more rides and attractions then Ocean Park.
So here was mistake, or, miscalculation? Number 1. Our hotel was in Wanchai, on Hong Kong Island. A beautiful “suburb”. But also one that was 45-minutes from the airport, and a 60-minute trip to Disneyland by subway. The gondola ride up to the temple was also a 70-mins one-way trip by subway. And with 6 people and A LOT of luggage, we had to do 2 taxis to and from the hotel to the airport. The taxi? A whopping 400HKD each, each way. Or, about $400CDN total… Lesson learned? Pick your activities, then book your hotel accordingly. While we were on a tight hotel budget, I didn’t take into account the dollar value, and headache, of getting to it. We could have spent a bit more, closer to our activities, and cut the cost, and headache, of long travel times.
The flight over to Hong Kong went well, surprisingly smooth and well actually. The kids were great, they listened, kept each other busy, and were wanting to help however they could. Jacob slept a good portion of the flight, and was comfortable strapped into his own car seat, in his own seat, for the 15-hr journey. We also got over to the hotel with little mishap. When we got over to the hotel, we found out that “adjacent” rooms, are just side-by-side, but not connected together. My bad, apparently should have booked “adjoining” rooms. Luckily, we had our baby monitor, and put the camera in the room with the 3 older kids to listen in on and see what they were up to, and we could still communicate to them what needed to be done (the wonders of modern technology!).
Day 1 – purely Disneyland. Being a Friday, we figured it would be less busy to spend the full day there. The Hong Kong subway network is amazing, easy to navigate, and very reasonably priced. We had no issues getting oriented and on our way to Disneyland. Being a Friday, the crowds did not disappoint, the longest and average wait for a ride was just 30-minutes! Hong Kong Disneyland was amazing! While much smaller then the California park, it boasted all the main themes and attractions as well as Main Street USA. The kids were also able to go on the vast majority of rides together, and Jacob was able to ride on most of the attractions too!!
Food – Hong Kong has AMAZING food options. The three older kids had no problems eating what we got for them. But of course, Jacob chose the flight over to finally assert his independence in what he ate, and the remainder of the trip was a challenge of just getting whatever protein/nutrition we could into him.
Sleep – Where did everyone go and how did it go? Well, we did some fancy calculations on flight travel time, and when we were landing in Hong Kong, coupled with the time he needed between nap and bedtime to figure out how long he should sleep on the plane. This was really only doable because Jacob is in a predictable pattern from his sleep training last year. We also bought a Phil and Teds Travel Crib (link at the bottom), which weighs an amazing 6 pounds! And packed in our large luggage with ease. Jacob sleep was really no different on this trip then it was at home (a godsend in the end).
Day 2 – First half was spent on the gondola ride. The weather didn’t hold up and we found ourselves in the clouds with limited visibility for much of the trip. Getting to the top though, it was cool and nice. The walk to the temple was amazing, but the first half was just tourist stands and shops trying to get you to buy any overpriced nick knacks you might find appealing. This is also when I realized I had lost my military ID, be panic set in. Until that night, when I found it in my fleece vest pocket (oops!). The second half of the day was back to day 2 of Disneyland, completing the remainder of the park, albeit with much thicker crowds and longer lineups being a Saturday. If you’re wondering, 2 full days is sufficient to see ALL of Hong Kong Disneyland.
Day 3 – This day saw us transition back to the airport, in a death-defying taxi ride at 5am. My instructions to the driver when we got into the taxi, “Hong Kong International please, no rush, we have lots of time”. Thank goodness she was a good driver, going 120 in a 70 zone, and cutting a Google map estimated trip time of 35-minutes down to 20 was absolutely terrifying considering there was no ability to install car seats. Again, smooth flights into Da Nang International as the kids were extremely helpful, and Jacob was accommodating getting onto and off the plane. A huge shout out to Cathay Pacific’s on flight crew who helped in whatever way they could, to make our travel smoother.
Vietnam – Duc Pho and Da Nang
Now the trip down to Duc Pho, not nearly as well planned as we initially thought, but involved a ride on an interesting lie-down motor coach. It included a lot of panic of leaving without our family (dad, sister, cousins), and a complete meltdown from Maddy when she suddenly needed to use the bathroom. 4 and a half hours later, we made it to Duc Pho. We were scheduled for 6 nights there before returning to Da Nang for our final leg. In reality, we realized we only needed to be there 4 nights, as most of the family left right after the ceremony to return to work. Nevertheless, it was an amazing time at our family farm/resort/oasis and a touching tribute to my grandmother. There was also excessive drinking, a major community potluck party, and lots of exploration and time with extended family.
We also had a visit to the family burial site and paid tribute to late family members including my grandfather, uncle who was killed during the Vietnam war, and various other relatives.
Duc Pho return to Da Nang – for our journey back to Da Nang, we had asked for a private coach to take our entire family back northward. This should have been a 16-passenger bus to take us and ALL of our luggage back to Da Nang. Turns out it had passengers on board, and the entire back row had to be used for our luggage… So, I sat on a box for the trips back and prayed we didn’t crash (tour buses drive like rally racers there). They turned our 4 and a half hour journey south into a mere 2 hour journey north. How we made it out alive is a miracle unto itself.
3 nights in Duc Pho were purely rest and relaxation. and BOY did we need it after all that travelling. While it was fun, exciting, borderline dangerous, and great to see friends and family, it was nice to truly relax before heading back home. We got to meet my mom’s side of the family for the first time, too! It was great to have the opportunity to meet more of my relatives, a somewhat once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And our hotel, some of the best features? Oceanfront, and has an infinity pool. Need I say more?? Oh, and did Jacob’s diet get any better? Only because we only fed him what we knew he liked. Fortunately, Pho is on that list haha.
Ba Na Hills – Home of the Golden Bridge (see photo). This former French elite class hang out is high in the hills above Da Nang. An hour drive followed by a half hour gondola ride, it is a breathtaking journey that left us feeling like we weren’t in the tropics anymore. A wonderful little theme park is also located at the top, but surprisingly indoors. The architecture is that of late 19th century France, and a Buddhist shrine now sits near the highest point. The Golden Bridge really is just more of a gimmick, but still cool nonetheless, especially if you’re into Lord of the Rings!
Getting around Duc Pho, like many Asian cities, is actually very easy. Taxis are abundant, and if you’re more inclined, their version of Uber, called Grab, is a very easy, quick, and convenient way to fetch a ride to the size of what you need. A quick jaunt on the Grab motorbike day 1 was pretty cool.
Before we knew it, the trip was coming to a close. While it was great to see family, say farewell to my Grandma, and take some time to reconnect as a family. We missed home, oddly enough I was missing work, and there really is no place like home. Our flight home was uneventful, with adults now equaling kids, the journey was smooth and, dare I say, easy?
So in closing, some lessons were learnt on this trip. 1) plan your activities before your accommodations. 2) car seat and seat for your toddler (if you can afford it). It helped keep our sanity. We used a Cosco Scenera Next Convertible carseat borrowed from our friends Ed and Shelby for Jacob (link to below) 3) breathe and relax. Air travel is stressful at the best of times. Your trip started the moment you loaded up the car for the airport. Enjoy the journey so you can enjoy the destination. 4) plan sleeping arrangements. We couldn’t have done this without our travel crib. I was post a link to it below. It was a super lightweight, easy to transport option for ensuring our toddler’s, and thus yours, good night rest. 5) communicate and be flexible! This was one grand adventure, while it wasn’t easy, we enjoyed the memories it created.
<a href="http://<iframe style="width:120px;height:240px;" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" src="//rcm-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=FFFFFF&fc1=000000&lc1=0000FF&t=nguyenclanadv-20&language=en_CA&o=15&p=8&l=as4&m=amazon&f=ifr&ref=as_ss_li_til&asins=B0735QBD2C&linkId=1f55d6f8aa8c8738e2f79f60d6934fb1">Phil and Teds Traveller Crib (Black) on Amazon
If you trust play, you will not have to control your child’s development as much. Play will raise the child in ways you can never imagine.
~ Vince Gowmon
Camping with young children. We started a bit later, when Maddy was about 2 and a half. We ventured to beautiful Green Lake as an experiment and Maddy did amazing. It dropped to a nice +8 at night, a cool and crisp summer temperature, and yet she slept all night giving us peace and tranquility in a shared double sleeping bag. Oddly enough, that was our only camping experience with Maddy until…
…Fast forward to Spring 2018. Alyssa and I decided we wanted to make camping a way of, and a significant part of, our lives. With two young kids we didn’t want to tent. For me, after 14 years in the army now, I’ve roughed it more times then I can count, I wanted to be comfortable and cozy, having the comforts of home with me. Alyssa didn’t want to deal with the stress of tenting with two young kids, one who adores and the other who laments co-sleeping.
In July of 2018, we put Jacob through sleep training. We had struggled for YEARS to get Maddy to sleep through the night, and while she does not, she continues to struggle to get to sleep. For Jacob, he took to it fast. He is a fidgety child, and does not like to co-sleep. For this to work, we had to build him a routine, and that had to be adhered to regardless of where we were and what we were doing.
So, how does camping work with young kids? Its about building a camp routine. Its something we also do in the army, it builds a level of predictability, in a world full of unpredictables, so to say. Having a trailer with a bathroom allowed us to keep to that routine, nightly warm bath, followed by his nightly bottle, followed by his blanket sack, and finally bed, in his own bed, in a warm and comfortable location. Lots of trips last year were in rainfall, a lot of rainfall. The Profil allowed us to isolate from the outside climate after enjoying our campfire, and to have a warm place to lay Jacob down once his night routine was done. This often resulted in us getting ready for bed at 8pm, doing pretty well everything except for brushing our teeth (as we were still going to be outside roasting some marshmallows!!).
Being in close quarters in the trailer also allowed Maddy to be comfortable falling asleep by herself, not to mention she LOVES top bunk entitlement for being the big sister. Speaking of routine, we also kept to Jacob’s daytime routine as much as possible (still do!). This also involves a nap at about 1pm daily. Rain or shine.
MEAL PREP. Know what you’re going to make. You know best what your kids will, and absolutely will not eat. Prepping breakfast sandwiches the night before worked GREAT, especially when trying to get young kids going so you can visit a busy attraction earlier (a must at Lake Louise).
So what didn’t work? Noise. Broken routines. And, a hungry child. Trailers dampen noise, buy by no means do they isolate or eliminate it. What helped us is having a white noise maker to damped or in some cases drown out noise. And for the first while, forget about planning a hike immediately after lunch if that is your child’s routine, unless you’re okay sacrificing the bedtime peace to do it.
Why do we do it? And why am I doing THIS? I want more people to do it. I don’t want people to feel having children in any way impedes what you want to do in life, what you want to see, and I want to help others enhance their children’s lives as camping has done so for ours. In a world where nature seems so distant on the nearest tablet, camping brings nature to our front door. The more they know about it, the more they will care about it. While we are in NO way experts, if there are any questions that can be answered, please leave them in the comments and I will do my best to answer them. If there is anything I can touch on, please leave a comment and I will work on a blog for it. Thanks everyone! Questions about RV’s? I love to research them! Or, ask the friendly, no commission sales team @ BCRV Sales in Chilliwack.