Jami

Jami

I’m a Family Travel Writer based out of beautiful Vancouver, BC. Our family adventures take take us all over BC, Alberta and the Pacific Northwest. You'll regularly see us hiking, biking, snowboarding, wakeboarding, and camping our way around the province. Our passion is recreation and our mission is to explore and protect this beautiful earth of ours.

Exploring Melbourne & the Historic Great Ocean Road

This past week, after years and years of anticipation, our family finally boarded a plane and set off on our dream adventure to Australia! I cannot even begin to express how long we’ve been looking forward to this, and how excited I am to share our adventures with you here.

Our first stop was the beautiful city of Melbourne. Caped around the Port Phillip Bay in Victoria, Melbourne is an eclectic city bustling with amazing people, sights, restaurants, shops, street art and so much more. And with its proximity to some of Australia’s most incredible natural wonders, it was the perfect jumping-off point for our dream adventure.

With the kiddos in tow, we wanted to ensure that we paced ourselves on this trip, and so we began with something quite rare in my travel world – unplanned days! Thankfully, there was no shortage of wonderful things to see and do while in Melbourne, and after adjusting our internal clocks, we took advantage of some amazing adventures.

LEGOLAND Adventure Centre

legoland-in-melbourne-australiaSince we have a ton of outdoor adventures planned for this trip, we couldn’t resist having a little indoor family fun to kickstart our holiday. And Melbourne’s LEGOLAND Adventure Centre was the perfect place to start.

The kids absolutely loved it here! Located in the Chadstone Shopping Centre, this amazing place is deceptively large and full of all sorts of fun things to do and see. First up, we did a little “sightseeing” in LEGOLAND’s Miniland, which boast replicas of some of Melbourne’s most iconic structures – all built from a whopping 1.5 million LEGO bricks. Inspired by the incredible LEGO creations, we decided it was time to start building our own and promptly got to work at LEGOLAND’S infamous “Earthquake Tables”, which shake at random intervals to test the structural integrity of your creations. From there we took a tour of the Underwater Quest ocean-themed display, built our own LEGO racers and sent them speeding down the racetrack, and took a ride on the centre’s Kingdom Quest adventure, where we worked together as a family to save the captured princess!

underwater-lego-structureWhile we had only scratched the surface of what LEGOLAND had to offer, we decided as a family that we had our fill of LEGO fun for the day, and so we bid farewell to the incredibly entertaining stop.

Traveller Tip: Getting to LEGOLAND/Chadstone can run you upwards of $40 in an UBER. Save this money for your adventures by taking a ride on the free Chadstone shuttle, which runs from various locations around Melbourne. We grabbed the shuttle from SEA LIFE Melbourne, where we also took advantage of a combo pass, purchasing a LEGOLAND Ticket with a SEA LIFE Ticket for 30% Off!

See the full timetable and reserve your seats here.

Chadstone – The Fashion Capital

inside-of-chadstone-mall-melbourneAfter our LEGOLAND adventure, it was time to explore the rest of Chadstone Shopping Centre. Known locally as “Chaddy”, this mega shopping centre is billed as the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. And with 130,000 square metres of shopping space, 530 stores, and over 20 million annual visitors, I can absolutely believe it!

While it opened in 1960, it’s clear that Chadstone undergoes constant renovation and upkeep, as it felt incredibly modern. My daughter was immediately in her element, hopping from store to store while the rest of us tried to keep up. Quite honestly, she could have spent the entire trip to Melbourne here and never have gotten bored!

But of course, with limited resources – namely time (and of course money!), we had to eventually say goodbye to Chaddy and make our way back into the city.

Exploring Downtown Melbourne

woman-in-front-of-melbourne-muralsAfter regrouping back at the hotel, the family was ready to explore downtown Melbourne. We started our evening with a fun stroll around the city to explore its vast network of street art. Inspired by New York City graffiti, Melbourne youth began taking their art to the streets in the 1970s.

alley-full-of-muralsSince then, the city’s iconic laneways (alleys) have become a blank canvas for some of the world’s most acclaimed street artists. Talking with locals, it seems that the city has a bit of a, well, complicated relationship with street art – with some officials celebrating and other denouncing the art form. However, our family for one was in awe exploring all of these amazing pieces as we took our evening stroll.

downtown-melbourne-australiaContinuing on from the street murals, we set our eyes on another form of famous Melbourne art: the architecture. The city has an incredible mix of new and old side by side. It’s really quite amazing to see how they’ve been able to insert modern structures alongside historic ones that date back well into the 1800s. And by the look of all the tower cranes across the skyline, it seems as if there is no sign of slowing down! In fact, Melbourne has one of the highest populations of tower cranes in the entire world – a sign of the massive growth the city has been experiencing in recent years. Quite incredible!

Great Ocean Road

great-ocean-road-australiaAfter a few more wonderful days exploring Melbourne, it was time to say goodbye and hit the iconic Great Ocean Road. Great Ocean Road is a 243 km stretch of highway that runs from the cities of Torquay to Allansford, along the southeastern coast of Australia. It is actually the world’s largest war memorial, constructed by returning World War I soldiers between 1919 and 1932, and dedicated to those that lost their lives in battle. I honestly cannot think of a more beautiful tribute to life than the views experienced on this incredible stretch of road.

12-apostles-australiaOur day one journey took us all the way from Melbourne to Mount Gambier, which allowed us to cover the entire stretch of Great Ocean Road. Along the way, we made several stops to check out some of the most iconic pieces of Australian scenery. First up was the 12 Apostles, which is a collection of beautiful limestone stacks erupting out of the ocean right alongside the Victoria coastline. Contrary to its name, 12 Apostles is actually a collection of seven rock formations. Originally this number was eight, but unfortunately one collapsed in July of 2005.

12-apostles-melbourne-australiaIt’s hard to describe the breathtaking beauty of these structures. All I can say is that they truly are remarkable. So much more beautiful than I ever could have imagined!

loch-ard-gorge-melbourneAfter getting our fill and plenty of photos, we continued west for just a few kilometres for our next stop at Loch Ard Gorge. While I had expected 12 Apostles to be the most impressive sight on this stretch, the Loch Ard Gorge was almost more breathtaking.

girl-looking-at-loch-ard-gorgeNamed after the ship Loch Ard, which ran aground in 1878 and was the tragic ending for all but two passengers, standing on top of this gorge feels like you’re looking out onto the end of the earth…because truly you are. In addition to the sights from atop the gorge, there is a small but beautiful beach nestled inside the walls, and accessible via a set of nearby stairs. The kids had a blast running around the beach, and even with it being the middle of winter down here in the Southern Hemisphere, the moderate climate meant they could even dip their toes in the water!

With two of Australia’s most iconic sights in our rearview, we continued on, and eventually found ourselves in the Southern Australia town of Mount Gambier.

Traveller Tip: While we thoroughly enjoyed the journey, I will suggest that those travelling with young ones consider breaking up this stretch into at least 2 days. With our stops, it took us a full 9 hours to travel from Melbourne to Mount Gambier. Thankfully our children are pretty seasoned travellers, but in retrospect, it would have been nice to have split this up into two days and taken our time.

Next Up

map-of-australiaHaving arrived in Mount Gambier, we’ve got some resting to do, as many adventures await us in the days ahead. Most exciting? A trip to Kangaroo Island – one of the most amazing wildlife treasures in all of Australia!

I cannot wait to share pictures and stories from our next leg of our adventure. So, stay tuned for Week Two of our amazing Australian Family Adventure!

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The Ultimate Australia Family Vacation Guide

It was 2006 and Jason and I were about to get married when we decided to take an early honeymoon and head to Australia for three weeks. I’ll never forget standing on the sandy shores of Hamilton Island watching the sunset and saying to him, “someday we will bring our children to this magical island”. And next week, that 13-year dream comes true!

Getting There

Air Canada recently announced direct flights from Vancouver to Melbourne shortening the trip down to 14 hours! (Rather than the 18 hours plus layover experience we’ve had in the past). With an evening departure of 11:20 pm, we are hoping to sleep at least 8 of those 14 hours making for a relatively short flight (considering we’re travelling to the other side of the world!).

Week One – Melbourne & Great Ocean Road & Kangaroo Island

Melbourne

downtown-view-of-melbourneWhile I typically like to hit the ground running, my goal with this adventure is to take care of the little people on my trip, and so I’ve planned for three unscheduled days in Melbourne. This will allow us to adjust to the jet lag and then take in the local sights and scenes as our kidlets are ready for it. It’ll also give us ample time to stock up on groceries and do some food prep, as well as not feel rushed when doing things like our car rental.

Great Ocean Road

12-apostles-on-great-ocean-road-australiaThe Sea to Sky of Australia, the Great Ocean Road, winds 244 kilometres along the ocean between Torquay and Allansford. I am very excited about this iconic drive as it will have something for every member of our family. My husband will soak up the history of the road, as it is the worlds largest war memorial. It was built by returning soldiers between 1919 and 1932 and dedicated to soldiers killed during World War I. My children will love all the stops, from surfer’s paradise beaches to hikes, to little towns with lots of great shops to explore. I am most excited to see the 12 apostles, a set of limestone rock formations that I’m sure will be draped all over Instagram once I capture them!

Check out our Melbourne and Great Ocean Road experience here!

Kangaroo Island

close-up-view-of-kangarooWe were invited by Sealink to explore Kangaroo Island. The name in itself led to an easy “YES PLEASE!” and after a bit of investigation, we were every more excited. Located south of Adelaide and accessible by a 45-minute ferry ride to Penneshaw, this island is the size of Puerto Rico and over a third of it is protected in nature reserves. This means that we can expect to spend a lot of time hanging out with the locals including sea lions, koalas, and of course, kangaroos!

Week 2 – Sydney & Gold Coast

opera-house-in-sydney-harbourA trip to Australia wouldn’t be complete without taking the kids to the beautiful harbour city of Sydney. We’re looking forward to a few unscheduled days where the kids can choose between harbour tours, meeting up with a penpal at the Sydney Zoo, or watching the sunset over the Sydney Harbour Bridge during an evening cruise.

Week 3 – Byron Bay

lighthouse-in-byron-bay-australiaA basecamp for eco-adventures, we’ve decided to stay in the little surf town of Byron Bay for a week. We’re looking forward to spending the day exploring some of the local national parks and spending the afternoons at the beach, watching the surfers or maybe even trying it ourselves. The kids are excited for their glamping experience where we will be bedding down in a yurt at Discovery Bay.

Week 4 – Hamilton Island

whitsundays-beach-in-australiaCircling back to the inspiration that started this all, we are excited to surprise the children with a trip to Hamilton Island. A tiny island in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef, this experience will allow us to wind down and finish up our holidays while exploring places like the Whitsunday Islands, paddle boarding in Catseye Beach, and hanging out in the infinity pools. We hope to have a family sunset reunion and capture some photos of our little family and our extraordinary life.

Follow Along

Have you ever wanted to take your family to Australia? Follow along on our adventures down under on Instagram Stories and IG, Facebook, and Twitter!

Need inspiration for other Ultimate Family Bucket List Adventures? Here’s some articles to help you with your vacation planning!

Is this a sponsored post?: No, for more information on how to plan your bucket list family vacation, click here!

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How to Plan For a Family “Bucket List” Adventure

Most families have them. Those destinations that you “someday” want to take the kids to. A Hawaiian Beach, a Disney Cruise, or a multi-generational trip through Europe. However, with a hefty price tag and logistics upon logistics, family bucket list trips often stay on the back burner until long after the kids have graduated.

Here’s how to turn your “Someday” into “Let’s Start Packing!”

10 Ways to Plan for a Family Bucket List Trip

Invest in Your Dreams FIRST.

Investing in our dreams first meant that we had to force ourselves to save for our bucket list adventures, otherwise the money would find it’s way out of our account quickly. For us, we set up an auto withdraw of $200 on the first of the month that then moved over to our trip account. Because it was automatic and at the first of the month it quickly became a habit.

This upcoming trip to Australia has been in this works for 4 years. YES… 4 years!

A Little Planning Goes a Long Way

kids-doing-xplorers-program-in-cape-spear-national-park“Finding” $200 at first wasn’t easy but with surprisingly less effort we were able to make the adjustment to our budget quickly. We cut costs by not eating out as much, started grocery ordering so that we had to plan out our weekly meals, moved to a “cheap and easy” meal of the week (such as grilled cheese and tomato soup), and when we need new clothes I always head to a consignment store first to see what I can stock up on before I head to the big box stores. We also do regular “spending freezes” where we pick a week or two where we don’t spend anything extra. It’s amazing how having to wait even two weeks forces you to rethink that purchase, see if you can borrow something, or simply go without. Game changer!

Put your Credit Card to Work

From hotel bookings to flights, to car rentals, and more, credit card points are a great way to earn free and or discounted travel opportunities. We all know this, however, I recommend digging deep into your credit card provider and finding out ALL of the benefits your card offers as there are often many additional partnerships and discounts to be had when you do some extra research!

Luxury Living

family-relaxing-on-beach-kauaiWaking up with the sunset rising over a sandy beach is the things Instagram dreams are made of. While we’d love to stay in 5-star resorts on every adventure, there’s also a lot of magic that happens in campsites and shared accommodation stays. Therefore on all of our adventures, we like to have a combination of super simple affordable accommodations so that we can save up and have luxury experiences sprinkled throughout our trips.

Family Commitment to Purchasing Experiences Over Things

As a family, we talk a lot about what we choose to invest in… family shopping spree or a weekend in Whistler and recently my son asked, “What if we didn’t go on more trips, could we have more things?” Heartbreaking I explained that yes we could… but it went into a long conversation about how we value our experiences and time together over material items.

12 Months to go

Book and Pay for Hotels Now

outside-of-microtel-ladysmithEvery month for the past 12 months I have booked and paid for one or two nights of our accommodations on our trip, which means that when we travel all of our accommodations will have been paid for. This has allowed us to slowly pay for our accommodations over the past year (when we’re really excited to be counting down to the big adventure) and also allow us to slowly start to research the trip without being overwhelmed by the process.

Birthday and Christmas Cash

zip-lining-family“What can I get the kids?” Cash! The kids were thrilled to receive less material items and instead of their own spending money for the trip. This also helped with the building excitement on the adventure as they planned out some of the adventures and items they wanted to purchase. As parents we also asked our parents for money too instead of gifts, helping to cover some of our costs while away and take some pressure off the bank account.

3 Months to go

girl-at-wya-point-resort-campground

Rent Out your Home

Whether you want to go as formal as Airbnb or just want to find a friend to housesit or rent out your home, having your home taken care of and also earning a bit of cash while you’re gone is a great way to save money (and be at peace!) while you’re away.

Go on Savings Mode

Knowing that a trip is coming up our family goes on a budget freeze and saves like crazy! Unless it’s on the “need” list, it doesn’t get purchased and everything else can wait until we’re back from our adventure. (Often by then it’s not so necessary anymore!)

1 Month to go

Don’t Stock Up for Your Trip!

How many times have you heard of people stocking up on new clothes or items for their trip? Don’t do it! Instead, pack as few items as possible! For our family, we know our kids will want a hoodie and I’ll want some tank tops and my husband a shirt. So instead of packing those items along, we leave them at home and then buy souvenirs when we see something we really like.

Are you thinking of planning a family bucket list vacation? Here are some articles to inspire your planning.

Is this a sponsored post?: No, we just want to share with our followers that family bucket list vacations can be a reality.

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10 Photos To Inspire You To Visit North Arm Farms

Nestled in the base of the Pemberton Valley and staring up at the towering Mt. Currie, North Arm Farm is a unique family farm experience for Whistler and Pemberton families to explore. Whether you plan to come for a quick morning brunch or spend the day wandering through the fields collecting berries, visiting the local farm animals, or letting the kids play on the “real” tractors, there are more things to check out then time will allow at North Arm Farm. My children loved the HUGE tractor tire swing and I envisioned late campfires in the adjacent family size firepit.

This 60-acre farm is a working farm that practices organic methodology. They harvest radishes, pumpkins, beans, peas, corn, squash, carrots, beets, sunchokes, burdock, salsify, blueberries, raspberries, and more. This family-run business was started by Jordan and Trish Sturdy in 1995 and they have grown the business for more than 20 years with their two daughters Emma and Thea.

After our unplanned visit to North Arm Farm, we left inspired and the kids were excited to plan their next visit back. Here are 10 of our favourite photos that we hope will inspire you to check out this treasure of a farm in the beautiful Pemberton Region!

boy-feeding-chickens

menu-in-cafe

blueberries-and-raspberries-at-North-Arm-Farm

giant-tire-swing-at-north-arm-farm

boy-picking-berries

boy-on-tractor-at-north-arm-farm

kids-on-playground

boy-giving-a-boy-a-piggyback-ride

bird-eating-bug

mountain-views-at-north-arm-farm

Heading into the Sea to Sky corridor? Here are some great articles about Squamish and Whistler!

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4 Reasons Pregnancy Doesn’t Stop your Travel Adventures

pregnant-womanJust because you’re pregnant it doesn’t mean you can’t have the perfect holiday (or ‘babymoon’, if you prefer). There are still obvious difficulties that need to be taken into account, of course. But, with the right research and planning, there are ways to deal with them. We’ve put together four reasons why being pregnant shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your well-deserved trip away:

  1. Yes, you can still fly!

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) advise that flying when pregnant shouldn’t harm you or your baby. There are, however, some restrictions and precautions to think about before you book your flight.

The safest time to fly is before 37 weeks – after this point you could go into labour at any time. Many airlines don’t allow women to fly after 37 weeks, so always check the policy of each individual airline. It’s also recommended to travel in the second semester of your pregnancy, rather than the first or third, as this is when you will be feeling at your best.

  1. Getting travel insurance isn’t as tricky as you think

Check the fine print of your insurance provider – a standard cover should be fine for you, but always read the terms and conditions just to make sure.

While pregnancy isn’t considered a ‘medical condition’ that you have to disclose, if you have any conditions that are a result of your pregnancy (such as hypertension or gestational diabetes) then you may need to let your insurance provider know.

Key things to check are:

  • Is there a cut-off given the lateness of your pregnancy? Will your insurance stop after 36 or 26 weeks, for example?
  • What medical expenses are covered while you are abroad?
  • What happens if you have to cancel your trip or you need to come home earlier than planned?
  1. Where to go?

It can be tricky to decide what to do for a holiday when you are pregnant, so we’ve given you a few ideas.

Cruises – you may need your GP to clear you as fit, but a cruise is a great way to spend time with family before your baby arrives. You can choose whether you want to relax by the pool or if you want to do the activities.

Coastal breaks – did you know that it’s proven that you sleep better when you’re by the sea? Sea air is full of negative ions, which increases our ability to absorb oxygen, this then leaves you feeling revitalised during the day. Fling open those windows and take in that sea air!

  1. Keeping Active

While you may need to reconsider abseiling or theme parks on your holiday, there are less intensive activities that you consider instead. From swimming, yoga, walking, or running – there are many good options out there. Just make sure that you don’t overstretch yourself; listen to your body, and take it easy. Although it’s always good to be physically active, it’s meant to be a relaxing break, after all!

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Truth Bomb Thursday: How Do I Pay for Travel?

While my Instagram feed may be filled with beautiful images of iconic destinations, one may think that I’m a full-time Travel Writer living the life of luxury. However, while I do travel about 16 weeks a year, I also work full time, PLUS, I’m often juggling many balls in the air trying to balance it all. One of the questions I often get asked is “How do you pay for travel and get to travel so much?” So I’ve broken it down for you in this article:

How Did I Get Here?

Before I dig into HOW all of this happens, let’s pause and answer the question – “how did you become a family Travel Writer?” I dig into it in this article, but basically, I had the opportunity to determine what my dream life would be: a portable business that allowed me to travel and go on lots of adventures with my kids. I then reverse engineered it and in 2014 launched Adventure Awaits – A Digital Agency and Family Travel Company! In 2019 we incorporated and the company keeps growing!

Behind The Scenes

jami-savage-headshot-workingI work…A LOT.

At this very moment, it’s 5 am and I had to set my alarm for 3:45 am so I could be at my desk for a 4 am start. That’s right, you often see the picture-perfect adventure photos, but this is the reality of the work that goes into making it all happen behind the scenes. I run a Digital Media Agency where I help clients grow their businesses with everything from new websites to SEO, Google Business Pages and Social Media Management.  Being in Digital Media allows me to work from anywhere, but with both my Travel Writing and Digital Services taking off I have the best problem, too much work!

I work… every day.

Whether it’s a long weekend or a holiday I need to check in on my clients’ accounts every day. Now, this may be from a campfire or curled up in bed before I start my day, but I work at least an hour a day, every day to keep the business running.

I have a team.

Did you know I have a team of 11 contractors that work with me? From writers to photographers, videographers to content creators… to admin assistants and accountants… I couldn’t do what I do without everyone on my team!

I get sponsored travel.

woman-walking-in-nunavut

Photo Credit: Jason Nugent

As a Family Travel Writer, you’ll see that we get to explore a lot of amazing destinations, and I wanted to break this down on how it works. Basically, DMO’s (Destination Marketing Organizations, such as Destination BC) will invite me to explore their region in exchange for showcasing it back to my followers. Most of the time I am not compensated financially for this work, but rather do it in exchange for the opportunity to take the kids to a new region. When I travel often my flights, accommodations, food, and adventures are all covered, however, it still does cost us money since we’re often a family of four travelling (for example sometimes car rentals aren’t covered which is expensive).

What I Won’t Do

boy-and-girl-walking-to-beach-with-surf-boardsI won’t fill your feed with ads.

I quickly realized at the beginning that one of the ways for blogs to make money was to monetize. They could do this through sponsored posts, ads integrated into their stories or paid promotions. You’ll notice on my site that I do VERY LITTLE of this. It’s not because I don’t have the opportunity to do so, as I turn down about 9 out of 10 offers I get, it’s because I want YOUR experience on my blog to be a good one. I don’t want to be pushing products at you. It also goes against the whole philosophy of the blog, which is to provide families with transformative travel opportunities specializing in eco-tourism. Therefore if I commercialized my blog and started pushing products that would be contrary to our core messaging which is “Collect moments, not things” while protecting the environment.

I won’t show my kids.

My success could be ten-fold if I showed you pictures of my kid’s faces when we were out on adventures. I literally could have exploded on the scene and monetized beyond anything even imaginable if I showcased their smiles in my business. But I won’t. I can’t. I don’t feel comfortable putting their names and their photos online. While they are an integral part of our journey, I don’t feel right about sharing those images with the world. They are my babies and it’s how I want to protect them. And if they at some point ever want to share them, they will have thousands of images to share. But that’s their story for them to decide, on how and when to share it. Not mine.

I won’t pretend it’s easy.

Running a business that has two very different departments is challenging. There’s SO MUCH WORK that goes on behind the scenes. There are huge learning curves. There are hard clients. Technical glitches. Accounting (snore!). Team management. Early mornings. Late nights. Being an entrepreneur is HARD!

I won’t pretend I can do it alone.

I have a fierce village of family and friends who support me on this crazy adventure called life. From watching my kids when I need to travel to making me dinner when I’m burnt to a crisp, to liking, commenting and sharing on social… I know 100% that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for my amazing village supporting me every step of the way.

So overall I feel like I’m very similar to most moms out there… trying hard to balance it all and provide their kids with the best life possible, all while teaching them the ins and outs of running a business and being self-employed.

It’s been an incredible journey and I couldn’t be more excited about where we’ve come and where we’re going.

Spoiler alert… big announcement coming on Saturday!!!

Want to learn more about me? Here’s some of my other Truth Bomb Thursday articles!

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Lensball – Gaze into the Future of Photography

surfer-reflection-in-lensballPerhaps you have recently seen a photograph in an article or on Instagram with a unique ball effect, like this epic surf shot I snapped during my recent stay at Long Beach Lodge. Within the image, a small, 180-degree view of the overall scene shows up inside of a sphere, giving a reflective quality to the photo. So, how did I do this? Did I use a special software filter? No – the answer is even simpler. I used a lensball.

I was given a lensball as a birthday present from my mom and knew that Tofino was the perfect place for me to try it out.

lensball-on-beach-in-tofinoWhat is a lensball? The name is very descriptive. It is a clear crystal sphere that acts as a secondary wide-angle lens to your camera. You strategically place the ball within the photo’s frame, to add a wide-angle view of the scene into the composition.

lensball-in-surfIn 2017, Lensball, a small company based in the Netherlands, started producing lensballs as an accessory for photographers. Since that time, lensballs have exploded as an affordable, unique tool for serious professional and amateur photographers alike. Made from lens-quality K-9 crystal, the balls provide extremely high-quality image reflection.

child-on-rocks-in-tofinoThe balls are available in two sizes, the 80 millimeters, 650-gram Lensball Pro and the smaller 60 millimeters, 250-gram Lensball Pocket version that is perfect for travel. Each ball comes with a microfibre pouch to keep it safe. Prices range from $40 to $60 on Amazon.

For more examples (283,373 at time of writing), check out #lensball on Instagram. It isn’t every day that a unique photographic tool comes along at a reasonable price point. Oh, and if you happen to be stranded in the wilderness, a lensball doubles as an emergency fire starter – just use it like a magnifying glass in the direct sun. Brilliant!

Is this a sponsored post?: No. I have thoroughly enjoyed taking photos with my lensball and wanted to pass along my thoughts about it.

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Earning Laugh Lines at Long Beach Lodge

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” – Unknown

Some may know them as smile lines. Other, more pessimistic folks may refer to them as wrinkles. Regardless, as I sit here scrolling through the wonderful collage of photos we took throughout our weekend at Long Beach Lodge Resort, I’m suddenly very aware of the laugh lines gracing my face in each and every image.

Chasing my kids in the sand. Playing board games in front of the fireplace. Soaking in the hot tub after a long day exploring. Photo after photo, my face is covered in the same expression: bright eyes, wide smile, and long, beautiful laugh lines.

After a blessed life of many laughs and smiles, I’ve always known my laugh lines were there. But our special getaway to Long Beach Lodge was the first time I’ve really stopped to notice them. And you know what?

I’ve never felt so rich in my entire life…

woman-at-lookout-point-in-tofinoUnfortunately, I imagine many women go to great lengths to cover up or disguise their laugh lines. But I am here to tell you that you should do the opposite. Laugh lines are not something you cover up with a powder or erase with an expensive cream. They are a badge of honour that you wear with pride. A feature that tells the world that you live for those special moments and adventures. That you are constantly brave enough to take that step beyond your comfort zone, and really start living.

In my case, each laugh line represents a conscious choice to invest in quality time and amazing adventures with my family. In a world that lives in a perpetual state of “busy,” laugh lines are a true mark of prioritization. A sign that you have deliberately made time for the people and experiences in your life that matter the most.

In essence, laugh lines are the truest sign of wealth one can have.

What exactly creates a laugh line? It’s probably not what you think. Take our Long Beach Lodge trip, for example. As I continue to look back on our adventure, I’m realizing more and more that the essence of what made it so special was not so much where we went or what we saw, but the little moments that came in-between:

The anticipation levels noticeably rising in the car as we approached our destination.

The moment we first opened the door on arrival and saw our home away from home for the next few days.

The adrenaline of running towards the beach after catching the first glimpse of cresting waves.

The look in my son’s eyes as he got up on a surfboard for the very first time. A look that only comes from conquering a new skill, and a look that immediately told me that I have created a built-in “adventure buddy” for life.

The joy of letting the kids set the adventure schedule, and seeing them run and laugh, dive in the surf, play hangman in the sand, forget about TV and their electronic devices, and express true love for each other and their family.

Taking a family hike on a rustic boardwalk that led us to the most incredible point. The shared silence, admiration, and awe as we collectively took in a panoramic view of the mighty Pacific waves crashing into the shoreline, and the realization that our entire family was creating a shared memory in that exact moment.

The moment I reconnected with my husband after the kids went to bed, taking an extended soak in the hot tub while talking about the incredible journeys we’ve shared, and the many great ones to come.

And finally, after a day spent doing nothing more than playing and running around the beach, having my daughter look at me and say: “…today was one of the best days of my life.”

Laugh lines are forged in these special moments.

It’s not about any one thing. It’s not about fancy accommodations or expensive excursions. No matter how rich you may be, laugh lines are the one thing that cannot be bought. They must be earned.

But it will take effort.

Laugh lines come from taking deliberate action. From blocking off the precious time on your calendar, so that no matter how busy life may get, you are never too busy to skip out on these experiences. To build these bonds with your family. To have your moments.

Of all the incredible firsts I experienced in Tofino at the Long Beach Lodge, I am most excited about my first real encounter with my laugh lines. Because now I know that the true measure of success in my life is just a photograph away.  All I need to do is look for the lines…

Learn more about our Tofino adventures in these articles!

Is this a sponsored post?: While our stay at the Long Beach Resort was sponsored, all our thoughts, views and ideas are our own.

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Long Beach Lodge: The Best Family-Friendly Resort in Tofino

Nestled on the Pacific Rim of Vancouver Island, Tofino has long been known as one of Canada’s premier year-round resort destinations. And having just spent an amazing long weekend there with my family, it’s clear as to how this sleepy town got such a reputation…it truly does have something for everyone! However, for all there is to do and see, one of the most incredible parts of our adventure was where we stayed: Long Beach Lodge Resort.

Location, Location, Location

cox-bay-beach-at-long-beach-resortLocated just 5 minutes outside the hustle and bustle of downtown Tofino, Long Beach Lodge Resort sits on the edge of Cox Bay Beach. Known as one of the most picturesque beaches in all of Canada, Cox Bay is truly a marvel. Its crescent shape is perpetually shaded in the whites and blues of lapping waves, which are just large enough for surfing, but still gentle enough for a family swim. Coupled with some of the most incredible sunsets you’ll ever and see, and it’s clear why Long Beach Lodge chose this exact location to build their incredible resort.

The Resort

looking-at-long-beach-lodge-resort-at-sunset-from-beachNow when I say incredible resort, I truly do mean it. Long Beach Lodge is a full amenities destination that’s great for couples, trips with friends, and families young and old. And with a variety of hotel room options, as well as a selection of large private cottages, there is a lodging style for every type of group.

In addition to world-class lodging, Long Beach Lodge Resort has an incredible list of activities and amenities right on the resort grounds. From the 24-7 beach access and the surf club to the Great Room Restaurant and Lounge located right off the lobby, there is no shortage of amazing things to do and see (and eat!) during your visit.

The Cottages

cottage-at-long-beach-lodge-resort-in-tofinoDuring our stay, our family elected to stay in one of Long Beach Lodge’s private cottages. And boy were we happy with that decision. Walking into the cottage, we nearly had to pick our jaws up off the floor!

kids-in-private-hot-tub-at-long-beach-lodge-cottageAt 1,000 sq. ft., this spacious two-story cottage boasted everything we needed from a true home away from home. The ground floor master bedroom featured a beautiful bathroom with soaking tub and separate shower. And right outside the master, a large, private hot tub awaited us!

master-bedroom-in-long-beach-lodge-cottageUpstairs, bedroom number two was perfect for the kids, as it had an incredibly comfortable king size bed that lulled them to sleep the second they rested their heads at night.

kitchen-and-living-room-inside-long-beach-lodge-cottageThe living space was highlighted by a large gas fireplace and comfy couches, all of which was near the full kitchen and dining area. From cooking private, healthy family dinners, to playing board games in front of the fire, this cottage was the perfect basecamp for adventure.

Bring the Whole Family

outside-view-of-long-beach-lodge-cottageNeedless to say, the Long Beach Lodge Resort Cottage was the perfect place for our family of four. However as we came to learn, the resort actually features several different furniture layouts for its cottages, including an option for a second bedroom with two double beds instead of a king, meaning a family of six could all sleep very comfortably! Coupled with the fact that Long Beach Lodge is pet-friendly, it’s clear that the resort is the perfect place for all two and four-legged family members.

The Surf Club

boy-and-girl-walking-to-beach-with-surf-boardsWhile our family is no stranger to the ski-in/ski-out resorts that dot Canada’s Rocky Mountains, Long Beach Lodge was our first ever introduction to surf-in/surf-out.

Located just outside the hotel on Cox Bay Beach, the Surf Club Adventure Centre is the destination for fun for the entire family. Walking into the club, the friendly staff got us suited up and equipped with rental surfboards custom chosen for our size and skill level. From there, it was off to the beach to begin our private surf lesson.

boy-and-girl-surfing-in-tofinoAfter getting a feel for the boards on the sand, we took to the waves and tried our hand at the famed Cox Bay surf. The entire family had a blast! One of the most memorable experiences of our life for sure.

hot-tub-at-long-beach-resort-surf-clubAfter getting our fill of the waves, it was time to come back in. This is where the Surf Club really shines. After so much time in the cool Pacific waters, we were ready to warm up. Thankfully, the Surf Club has a beautiful spa-style bathroom and changing room where we could walk right into a nice hot shower, wetsuit and all. After warming up and ditching the suit, we then were able to walk right over to a private hot tub for a proper post-surf soak. What a treat!

The Great Room Restaurant & Bar

restaurant-long-beach-lodgeFull of massive windows that offer breathtaking ocean views, The Great Room Restaurant & Bar is the ideal location for refuelling after a long day of adventure.

great-room-sitting-areaIn addition to world-class fine dining all evening long, The Great Room offers a wonderful Happy Hour each and every day. Settling into the cozy, Canadian-lodge feel, our entire family was able to enjoy this time together each evening. Mom and Dad took advantage of some ridiculously cheap adult drinks, while our kids got to join in the fun by picking something special off the restaurant’s kid-friendly “mocktail” menu.

board-games-and-drinks-on-tableDrinks in hand, we snagged a couple of board games from the front desk and had our family fun in front of the large fireplace as we watched the sun go down over the horizon.

All Beach, All the Time

sunset-in-tofinoAnother wonderful feature of this resort is it’s private beachfront. With its quiet setting on Cox Bay Beach, Long Beach Lodge offers guests unrestricted access to the waterfront 24 hours a day. Whether it’s for an early morning surf or swim at dawn’s first light, or an evening campfire to watch the sunset with your family, the beach experience here is second to none!

World-Class Hiking

boardwalk-trail-in-tofinoVancouver Island is full of many natural wonders, and Tofino is no exception. Thankfully, Long Beach Lodge has a variety of family-friendly hiking trails and boardwalks that lead right up to the hotel, making family hikes as simple as lacing up your boots.

beach-lookout-in-tofinoThe last night of our trip, our family took a walk out to Pettinger Point. Weaving through a canopy of natural growth, the old wooden boardwalk twisted and turned until it eventually led us out onto the point itself. From there we were given one of the most breathtaking views of the ocean and sunset that we have ever experienced. A must-do when you visit Tofino!

The SandBar Bistro

burger-and-beer-at-sandbar-bistro

Photo Credit: Long Beach Lodge Resort

Our visit was just in time for the season opening of The SandBar Bistro, a beachside retreat offering amazing refreshments all summer long. Whether it’s for a warm post-surf coffee or a snack and ice-cold beer, the SandBar Bistro is the perfect place to relax, enjoy, and unwind without ever having to take your eyes off the ocean.

Extra! Extra!

seating-area-overlooking-beachIt would take me a novel to fully describe all the amazing amenities that Long Beach Lodge has to offer. In addition to everything discussed thus far, there is a seemingly endless list of fun activities offered year-round at the resort. From friendly games of beach volleyball to family movie nights and beach parties, the hotel staff does a wonderful job of making sure that everyone feels at home and has something fun to do every single night during their stay.

Plan Your Visit – Tips and Tricks

father-and-son-playing-on-beach-in-front-of-long-beach-lodge-in-tofinoMy first tip for anyone thinking about visiting Long Beach Lodge is simple: GO! I promise you it will be an amazing trip.

Like all Canadian adventures, the weather is something to be considered when visiting Tofino. While your mind may race to August as being the ideal month to enjoy it here, the locals actually refer to this month as “Fogust” due to the heavy fogs that roll in off the Pacific.

Our May trip was met with incredible weather that reached upwards of 25 degrees with plenty of sun, so don’t be afraid to look at off-season visits. Same goes for storm season. As many returning guests at the resort shared with us, what may be limited in terms of outdoor activities is more than made up for in the incredible sights, sounds and smells brought upon by the natural beauty of the storms.

Our trip to Long Beach Lodge Resort in Tofino was the perfect long weekend for our family to relax, recharge, and most importantly, spend some quality time together. Families shouldn’t be limited to one long trip a year to reconnect. By finding opportunities to travel to someplace special together – even if just for a night or a weekend – you’ll ensure that bonds are always being strengthened, and memories are always being made, year-round. And at the end of the day, isn’t that the whole point of travel?

I certainly think so, and I am happy to add Long Beach Lodge Resort to our family’s list of perfect weekend getaways!

Learn more about our Tofino adventures in these articles!

Is this a sponsored post?: While our stay at the Long Beach Resort was sponsored, all our thoughts, views and ideas are our own.

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Surf’s Up at the Surf Club Adventure Centre

You’ve certainly heard of “ski-in/ski-out”, but have you ever heard of surf-in/surf-out? I hadn’t. That is, until our time at the Long Beach Lodge in Tofino. Tucked right next to the hotel, directly on the shores of the Cox Bay Beach, lies Long Beach Lodge’s Surf Club Adventure Centre – one of the most incredible concepts I have ever seen in vacation adventures.

While surfing in Tofino is quite popular, it’s not always the easiest activity to dive into…especially as a visitor. Typically, if you want to surf the waves here, you have to get in your car and drive to the beach, picking up a rental board and wetsuit along the way. Upon arrival, your family then changes right in the parking lot (glamorous, I know) and heads down to surf. Once done, everyone strips off their soaked wetsuits back by the car, doing their best to keep warm as you towel off the brisk ocean water. Then, cold and tired, you have to drive your rentals back, and finally, return to your hotel to warm up.

As anyone with kids can tell you, this blueprint has disaster written all over it! Cold, tired kids make for cranky kids. And cranky kids tend to miss out on all the little moments that make adventures like learning to surf so special.

That is why the Surf Club Adventure Centre is one of a kind. It strips away all the hassle, and makes learning to surf with your family easy, convenient, and most importantly, fun!

Easiest Way to Surf

boy-and-girl-walking-to-beach-with-surf-boardsAs mentioned, the Surf Club Adventure Centre at Long Beach Lodge mirrors its experience off a ski-in/ski-out concept. Meaning that surfing is as simple as just walking a few short steps to the beach from your hotel room or cottage.

As soon as you walk in, you are greeted by super friendly and knowledgeable staff that gets you ready to go with all the essential rental items. No getting in the car. No stopping on the way to pick up boards or suits. It’s truly the easiest way to get into the sport. And with kids, the easier it is to start, the more likely it is that they’ll have a great time.

Gearing Up to Go

changing-room-at-long-beach-lodge-surf-clubOnce greeted by the Surf Club staff, we proceeded to give them all the information they needed to get us geared up properly. Height, weight, age, experience level, etc. From there, they quickly returned from the back with clean and dry wetsuits for all four of us and set aside a set of surfboards custom chosen for us to ride that day.

To get suited up, our family proceeded to walk into the club’s changing rooms…and quite honestly, we couldn’t believe what we saw. The Surf Club boasts the most incredible, spa-quality facilities. It really was amazing! Everyone had a nice locker to secure their belongings, and plenty of space to comfortably change into their wetsuits (no more parking lot dancing for us!).

It was such a pleasant departure from what we expected and set the tone for a wonderful afternoon.

Learning to Ride

girl-and-boy-learning-to-surf-on-beachIn addition to its great facilities and selection of quality rental gear, The Surf Club offers both private and group lessons as well. Our family had booked a private lesson for the four of us, and so suited up in our wetsuits, we departed for the beach to meet up with our instructors for the day, Tom and Chance.

Spreading out on a plot of pristine sand, we began our lesson on the shore. It was clear from the beginning that not only did our instructors know what they were talking about, but they were so incredibly passionate about teaching others to surf. As many parents may know, there is a vast difference between an instructor who is comfortable teaching kids and one who is not. Our two instructors were fantastic with my children. You could tell they had a ton of experience with a younger audience, turning much of this on-shore lesson into a kid-friendly experience that included games, prizes and more. I cannot thank Tom and Chance enough for all they did to make my kids enjoy this learning experience!

Surf’s Up

boy-and-girl-surfing-in-tofinoAfter getting in plenty of practice with surfing’s “up-down” skill, it was finally time to hit the waves. While mom and dad definitely enjoyed our time out on the water, the best part of the experience for us was watching our kids. They were having SO much fun! With the great lesson on shore, both of them were able to get up and surfing nearly right away. And with that came the hooting, the hollering, and the biggest smiles I have ever seen grace their faces.

Ever since I was a little girl, the ocean has always been a very special place for me. Now, to be here with my family in this beautiful secluded oasis on the Pacific, watching my kids have the time of their lives riding her waves, I couldn’t have been happier or more proud. Such a wonderful experience.

Time to Come In

boy-bringing-in-surf-board-after-surfingAfter getting our fill on the waves, it was eventually time to come in and say goodbye to water for that day. However, it was not yet time to say goodbye to the amazing experience at the Surf Club Adventure Centre. Walking merely steps back from the water to their facility, the staff promptly took our boards to clean and store. From there, we all walked back into those glorious spa-like facilities, wetsuit and all. With large steamy showers that have plenty of room to change, guests are encouraged to walk right in with their suit so they can immediately begin to warm up from the cool Pacific waters. We were then able to leisurely take off the wetsuits and hang them up nearby for the staff to clean once we were gone.

hot-tub-at-long-beach-resort-surf-clubWIth showers done, we had one final treat in store at the Surf Club – a private hot tub! Climbing in, our family got to warm our bones, and share all the memories from our time out on the water that day. It was the perfect cherry on an already amazing sundae!

Our afternoon at the Long Beach Lodge Surf Club Adventure Centre was something we will never forget. From the incredible facilities, the surf-in/surf-out concept, and all they did to make surfing an enjoyable experience for our kids (as well as mom and dad), I really cannot think of a vacation adventure that could top this.

Carving out time during your travels to learn something new is a wonderful gift to give yourself. And for our family, we could not have been more thankful for the gift we received, and the unique experience we had during our afternoon at the Surf Club Adventure Centre.

Learn more about our Tofino adventures in these articles!

Is this a sponsored post?: While our stay at the Long Beach Resort was sponsored, all our thoughts, views and ideas are our own.

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JamiSurf’s Up at the Surf Club Adventure Centre
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