When Have Baby Will Travel reader DeAndrea Salvador reached out to share her adventure in Banff with a baby and toddler in tow, I was so pleased to accept. Banff is a place near and dear to my family, and I was curious to see how she would view it as a visitor from south east U.S. My kids were a little older when we did our road trip across Alberta, but our experiences in Banff were similar. I love DeAndrea’s honesty about lying low on your first day somewhere new with kids in tow; you definitely need some time to regroup with kids in tow after a long travel day!
My husband and I have always loved to travel and this stayed true even after we had our first son. My husband travels often for work and we decided that on trips longer than three nights, we would travel as a family. Though it was a little tough on the budget, it paid dividends in having our family grow even closer with these shared travel experiences. But because of this budgetary trade-off, we were fortunate to be able to take over 50 cross-country and international trips with our son before he turned the age of two. With so many experiences under our belt, you can imagine my surprise at how nervous I was when we booked our first plane trip as a family of four after our youngest son was born. But the destination was Banff, Alberta–the saving grace that calmed my hesitation was the hundreds of delightful pictures, which showcased Banff as an ultimate family destination for both Canadians and International tourists alike. I knew signing up for a trip such as this would be the ultimate adventure for our two boys; and I was proven RIGHT!
Banff with a Baby & Toddler: Getting There…
We arrived in Canada at Calgary International Airport, a small airport that was quite hospitable, like most things in Canada. The attendants went out of their way to show us the nearest bathroom for our newly toilet-trained toddler and after a short walk through customs we were on our way. As usual with international trips, do not anticipate receiving your stroller at your gate but rather at baggage claim. (ed. note: Thanks, DeAndrea for pointing this out, we did not have this experience landing in Calgary, but we were flying domestic.) Luckily, I kept our baby carrier on hand and wore my youngest son and allowed our oldest to walk. Unfortunately, Calgary International Airport does not have an American Airlines Admiral’s club, but does have a Starbucks and tons of tasty shops.
From Calgary, there really is no easy way to get to Banff, which is nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains; whether driving or flying, it’ll be a long trip. After leaving the airport it is about a hour and half-long scenic drive to Banff. While you could rent and drive a car, we chose to purchase seats on shuttle bus, The Airporter. Given that all children under the age of 5 get to ride for free, it is actually quite a steal compared to renting a car for a week. Coming from the South Eastern part of the United States, the trip to Banff with two children under the age of three was completely and utterly exhausting. It was certainly nice to ride on a comfortable shuttle and dropped off directly at our hotel door.
Banff with a Baby & Toddler: What to Do…
Our first day in Banff involved watching television and enjoying the gorgeous mountain views from our hotel window. We always use the first day in a new area to allow the children to get settled and allow us a bit of time to rest.
We started the next day revved-up and ready to roll. Banff provides fresh and stunning views that even the tiniest of humans can appreciate. One of our favorite activities was simply walking down Banff Avenue to the public playground: Central Park Playground. While parents can sit on a bench enjoying fresh chocolate or a cup of coffee, the children can climb a faux mountain, slide down slides, and see the crystal clear water of the Bow River.
Banff Gondola is Banff’s most visited attraction. Once you get to the top of Sulphur Mountain you will quickly understand why. It offers gorgeous views of Banff, and from the top of the Gondola you can see the gorgeous peaks and the emerald river that Banff is famous for. The gondola itself is completely enclosed, which allows children to get a good view without risking anyone’s safety.
Tip: Even during summer, be sure to bring a jacket, as it gets quite cold at the top of the mountain. The weather can be quick to change as well. We loved the Banff Gondola so much that we returned at the request of our oldest. The staff is friendly and professional and even made getting stuck on top of the mountain during a hail storm — FUN?!
The Banff Boat Cruise that takes you through Lake Minnewanka is a delight for all ages. The hour long cruise gives views of the mountains that cannot be seen elsewhere. The highlight of the cruise is getting to view Devil’s Gap, which despite its offputting name is probably more like heaven on earth.
The cruise offers parents with great facts about the Lake Minnewanka and Banff. Also, you can take a picture with the Captain before and after the cruise. That is sure to be a favorite keepsake for older children.
The “castle” of Banff is a delight to visit and surely to stay in. While we didn’t spend much time inside, my son loved to look at the “castle” and feel like he was living in a real-life fairytale.
One of the nicest parts of visiting the Canadian Rocky Mountains is getting closer to nature. It is quite easy to run across elk, and many types of indigenous species. We got an extra delight of seeing a Black Bear from our Banff bus tour!
Banff with a Baby & Toddler: Where to Stay…
We stayed at The High Country Inn, a small hotel that offered large suites for families or larger groups. It also has a delicious Swedish restaurant located on its ground floor. It was located conveniently on Banff’s main street, Banff Avenue. It was a short walk to all of the major sites and destinations.
We loved our ten days in Banff with a baby and toddler, and can’t wait to one day venture out deeper into the Canadian Rocky Mountains next time!
DeAndrea Salvador is a young Mom, an avid traveler, an economist, and a nonprofit founder. Her life is a world of craziness, continued growth, horizon-expanding opportunities, and chaotic fun.