I love the ethos behind Beth Barness’ fantastic travel blog Vacation Coffee. As working parents, it’s not always possible to go on long sojourns across the globe but that doesn’t mean you can’t travel. Vacation Coffee is brimming with great tips for travel with or without kids, travel inspiration from US National Parks, hikes and road trips; and iterneraries. Oh, and Beth loves to wear a hat. It’s her thing!
Over to you, Beth…
What do you look for in a holiday?
When we travel as a family, we tend to choose active adventures that include hiking, biking and being outdoors. We like to take in the local culture and food, when time permits! We tend to not relax when we are on a vacation – we have limited time off from our jobs and schools so we make the most of our trips (sometimes erring on the side of biting off more than we can chew).
Where did you go?
Vancouver – British Columbia, Canada. We spent 3 nights and 4 full days in Vancouver before moving onto Seattle, Bainbridge Island and Portland on a 9-day road trip (itinerary here).
Why did you choose Vancouver?
My husband and I had been to Vancouver very briefly about 11 years ago when we went on an Alaskan cruise. There was so much to see and do – and it was such a beautiful city – that we always wanted to come back.
My husband and myself, plus our 3 kids – ages 6, 8, 12.
Where did you stay?
My husband usually researches neighborhoods in our destinations to find out where we can be centrally located, with easy access to attractions and dining options. On this trip, we stayed in the downtown area in a high-rise building with a spectacular view of the city
We prefer to book AirBnB accommodations in most big cities instead of hotels. It’s usually cheaper than two hotel rooms and we can have some light groceries – and wine! – on hand. We don’t need to eat every meal in a restaurant, which can get unhealthy, costly, and waste time. We like to eat breakfast in our unit and pack lunches/snacks for day excursions.
Were there plenty of activities for the kids?
Yes, we had a hard time deciding how to fit it all in because there were so many attractions for kids and adults alike! Since our kids are a little bit on the older side, we just need a lot of outdoor activities and room to explore. Vancouver has all of that and more.
Your most memorable moment/s of the trip?
Our collective memorable moment was conquering the Grouse Grind together. Known as “nature’s stair master”, it is a mostly vertical climb of 2,830 steps. The trail is 1.8 miles long with a 2,800 foot elevation gain – the ultimate thigh burner. Conflicting opinions on websites made us doubt if we should attempt it with our youngest – he had just turned 6.
It is a one-way trail and once you commit to the climb, you are in it for the long haul. It was a proud parenting moment: the older kids disappeared ahead of us and the youngest completed the whole route himself with some fierce determination. I was too busy looking down at the craggy terrain and thinking about the pain in my legs to remember to snap any other photos until we got to the top.
Any sights, activities you want to shout about?
Our highlights are listed below.
• Biking the Stanley Park
• Eating and shopping on Granville Island
• Swimming and watching the sunset at English Bay Beach
• Exploring Grouse Mountain and Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Was it good value for money?
Vancouver is known as one of the most expensive cities to live in. As a family of 5, we spent a lot of money on admission to Capilano and Grouse Mountain attractions, but they were both worth it.
Your top tip/s for the area?
• There are numerous free shuttles from the downtown area to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park that are well-marked and easy to navigate. Get there when it opens as it gets crowded very quickly during the summer. From Capilano, you can take the city bus easily up the road another 10 minutes to Grouse Mountain. These two attractions can easily be done in one day. On the way back down, take the city bus from Grouse Mountain back into Vancouver (lines for the free shuttles from Capilano are incredibly long by late afternoon).
• If you know your approximate plans, make a reservation at one of the restaurants on Granville Island ahead of time. When the shops close, restaurants fill up quickly and wait times can be long without a reservation.
• Don’t try to explore the inner trails of Stanley Park by bike with kids unless you know where you’re going. We had a hard time navigating the map and trying to locate the landmarks as we were biking. Stanley Park could definitely take up two days – or two half-days, since there are many other attractions within the park.
• Take advantage of the amazing local cuisine! There is so much to choose from!
Which photo is your favourite and why?
This photo was taken at the top of Grouse Mountain, after our arduous hike. We were exhausted and famished. And look how proud the kids are. The view at the top is incredible, and the weather was perfect.
Would you recommend to a friend?
Definitely! A trip to Victoria (Vancouver Island) is on our list, which would of course include a couple of days in Vancouver first. It would be fun to return in the winter to ski at Grouse Mountain. Or take a day trip to hike and explore Whistler. A future holiday there without kids would focus more on dining and shopping! We will be back.
What are the five holiday essentials you couldn’t live without?
• My phone and a rechargeable battery so I can take a million photos.
• A book to read in the evenings or early mornings.
• My running shoes – some places are best explored on a run.
• Stemless/reusable/shatterproof wine glasses and a corkscrew for impromptu outdoor picnics.
What is your most favourite place in the whole world and why?
My most favorite place in the world is Kailua Beach on Oahu. I grew up in Hawaii and it will always feel like home.