Last week, we flew back to Alberta for a week-long visit that involved planes, trains and automobiles. I spent the week beforehand planning how to pack our bags to avoid extra fees on the plane, trying to figure out how to keep the girls busy on the plane and train, and writing and scheduling blog posts for the week. After all my worry, the trip actually went very smoothly!
Our neighbour drove us to the airport on Saturday evening—right around bedtime, so Jade fell asleep in the truck and slept through check-in to wake up at security. I’d forgotten about the water bottle I’d packed for her, so the security guy had to physically go through the girls’ carry-on bags, but he was very friendly about it. Then Jade put on her penguin backpack and strutted through the airport to the gate, earning smiles from everyone we passed.
At the gate, we piled our stuff onto a chair to wait for our plane. I grabbed coffees for my husband and I (anticipating the flight plus drive to my mom’s) and then sat by the window with Jade and Sunshine, watching planes arrive and depart. Jade pretended she was flying and again earned smiles (and a few pictures, I think) from those around her.
She was so excited to board the plane! When it was our turn, we could barely keep her in line. Then, penguin on her back, she ran down the ramp, followed my husband to her seat, climbed in, put her seatbelt on all by herself, and was ready for take-off.
I’d been worried about how Air Canada would seat a family of five on a plane, anticipating the usual four-seat wide plane that we’ve flown before. This plane was six seats across and they gave us five seats together in the middle; the girls decided to sit on the right with another lady, and my husband and I sat with Jade (who got the window seat).
The girls did their colouring and Jade happily watched silent movies (we hadn’t brought any headphones) for the duration of the flight. The hour and a half between Vancouver and Edmonton was just long enough that they had fun and didn’t get bored. I’ve read so many horror stories of toddlers who screamed for whole flights, exhausting their parents and earning the hatred of everyone else on the plane, that I was super happy all the girls were happy and our flight went so well.
In Edmonton, I ran with Jade through the airport to pick up our rental vehicle while my husband took the other girls to get their car seats. Then we had to figure out how to get into our fancy 2015 Mazda, install car seats, and learn how to drive it. We got to Mom’s around 1 am and piled into bed.
On Sunday, we went to my husband’s godson’s confirmation. On Monday, we visited with Sunshine’s godfather and, for lack of anything else to do, headed to West Edmonton Mall. In the evening, I was able to catch up with my college girlfriends and make a certain announcement. On Tuesday, we drove south to visit with my grandparents (which was hard, as my grandma is in the later stages of dementia) and my husband’s parents. On Wednesday we were back again to see my mom. On Thursday, we visited with Sunshine’s godfather.
Visiting West Edmonton Mall with my own kids was a bit strange. I grew up near there, but we rarely went to the Mall. I didn’t go to the waterpark until I was in university and I’ve never been to the amusement park. We took the girls to see the new Cinderella movie (which was fantastic, by the way) and I was so disappointed that they had taken the dragon out of the movie theatre. I knew his fire-breathing was quite expensive, but he was a landmark there. Not anymore.
The girls thought the Santa Maria was very cool. We stood at the top railing to watch the sea lion show, which they loved. I took several pictures and videos which later helped entertain Jade. She especially liked seeing the male sea lion dive off the high board. We wandered through a couple shops that had sales on for Mother’s Day, then stopped at Cinzeo (an old family tradition) and headed home.
On Friday, the big excitement came: boarding the train for Vancouver. We had to get up at 5:00 to be at the train station for just past 6:00, only to find that the train was going to leave an hour late. My husband ran for coffees while the girls entertained themselves with the Via Rail kids’ pack and I took advantage of the last stop for internet access to check in on my blog and social media accounts.
Finally, we were on the train and chugging out of Edmonton. It was fun for me to see a different side of familiar scenery as we rolled through the small towns I knew growing up. Then we went for breakfast, toured the train (which we think was twenty-five cars long, but the girls counting could be off by a car or two), and settled into the skyline car to do LEGO and stickers while watching the scenery.
My husband has been wanting to ride the train for quite a while. Having to fly to Edmonton to get there in time for the confirmation gave him the perfect excuse to catch the train home again. He watched train sales and researched deals until finally booking our tickets. I told him that if we were going to be traveling for 24-hours, I needed a bed (I don’t do very well on little sleep), so he booked two berths for the girls and I and then rode in economy class himself to save us money (he can sleep anywhere).
As a family vacation, the train was a blast. The Via Rail staff were AWESOME; super friendly and helpful. Jade learned to do high-fives on this trip because all the waiters and stewards gave the girls high fives and huge smiles when they saw us coming or going. The girls and I ran up and down the train about three times on Friday and once again on Saturday morning, so I think everyone on the train knew who we were. In fact, if I left one of the girls with my husband and took only two with me for the walk down the train, someone was bound to notice that I was “missing one!”
We had amazing weather for the entire day and saw so much wildlife from the train. I spotted four bears, while we were sitting in the front of the front skyline car, but you had to be quick to see them because they ran as soon as the train got to them. The engineer saw six and radioed the stewards, who came running up to tell us, but usually by the time he got up the stairs, we were past the bear or the bear was out of sight. I only got pictures of two bears. We saw the top of Mount Robson too, with only a few clouds hanging around in the sky.
On Saturday morning, we rolled through the valley into Vancouver. Our good neighbour came to pick us up at the train station again and we were home by mid-morning. To unpack, have naps, and recuperate from a week away!
Check out my video for more highlights of our trip (I managed to condense our 24-hour ride into two minutes!):