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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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JamiExploring Melbourne & the Historic Great Ocean Road
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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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JamiThe Ultimate Australia Family Vacation Guide
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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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JamiHow to Plan For a Family “Bucket List” Adventure
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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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7 Tips for an Agenda Free Vacation

Have you ever arrived home from a busy vacation, plunked down the luggage and thought, “I need a vacation!”? If so, you are not alone. After all, it makes sense to fit as much fun as possible into limited vacation time. Jam-packed vacations can be fun, but they are often far from restful. A little agenda-free time can give a playful, more relaxing tone to your next get-away.

Here are our top 7 tips for adding some unscheduled time into your next vacation:

1. Plan the Unplanned

boy-and-girl-in-hammockScheduling unscheduled time into your next vacation is important. Why? Because it probably won’t happen otherwise. While planning unplanned time might seem counter-intuitive, hours and days fill up fast. There are must-see sites, to-do lists and of course, that restaurant your friend said was to die for. Time without an agenda is often last on the priority list. Blocking off some free time will ensure that it actually happens and doesn’t get bumped by something ‘more important’. A full unplanned day is ideal, but not necessary if your schedule won’t allow for it. A few hours can be enough to recharge. The important thing is to shift from a ‘must do’ mindset into a more relaxing ‘just let it happen’ one.

2. Go With the Flow

family-exploring-red-rock-canyonOne of the great benefits of agenda-free time is that it allows freedom to enjoy the moment. The ability to do what you want, when you want seems an integral part of a vacation but in reality, over-scheduling can limit opportunities. Free time can give a sense of ‘what’s next’ excitement as you open yourself to unplanned activities and just let the day unfold. Maybe everyone is feeling chill. No problem hit the poolside or beach with a book. Or perhaps adventure is in the air. Via Ferrata anyone? Wait, look! A caricature artist! These pop-up adventures can be the highlight of a vacation. After all, vacations are about taking us out of our routine and into the unexpected.

3. Take Turns Taking the Lead

kids-on-beach-in-kauaiSometimes there may be disagreement on how to spend available free time. OK, almost always, at least in my family. One family member wants to swim. Another wants to eat. I just want to chill. The solution? Rotate leaders and be sure to include the kids. Adjust the leadership time according to how much time you have available. Even an hour per leader spread out over a few days will help everyone feel included. For kids especially, it can be a chance to flex their decision-making and leadership muscles, giving them a sense of empowerment. I remember following my kids around for an hour from pond to pond at a resort. We found frogs and tadpoles and dragonflies and a lot of fun amongst the lily pads. It is one of my favourite memories, and it wouldn’t have happened if the kids weren’t in charge.

4. Agenda Free Doesn’t Mean Adventure Free

Unplanned time doesn’t have to mean adventure free time. Sometimes the very best adventures are the ones that happen either at the spur of the moment or completely by accident. A prime example is when I had my unexpected ‘running of the bulls’ (well, ‘running of the cows’ at least) in Costa Rica. You can’t plan the really crazy stuff! Having time to wander and discover can lead to unforeseen opportunities. Small adventures, like exploring a resort or a park with the kids, can be as much fun as big ones. Being agenda-free allows you to be open to new experiences and to cultivate a spirit of spontaneity. Like those books I loved as a kid, you can go out and choose your own adventure.

5. Wind it Down

woman-soaking-in-finn-lough-hot-tubWhen on vacation, we often want to spend time in peaceful relaxation. But that can mean different things to different people. For some, reading by the pool is pure bliss. For others, a swim or a jog is the key to relaxation. Unscheduled downtime can help accommodate everyone’s rest needs. Reading, activity books, family board games, a walk in the woods, a bike ride or even that rarest of family vacation activities, a nap, are some simple ways to wile away an afternoon. No planning required. Kids get grumpy when they are tired, and let’s be honest, we aren’t much different. Kids and adults alike will benefit from some rest…whatever form it may take!

6. Go Device Free – Try an Analog Afternoon

This is a tough one. I get a little panicky just thinking about being away from my phone for any length of time. But there is a tangible link between disconnection and discovery. Somehow, being cut off from the digital world allows us to fully engage with the world right in front of us. And being fully immersed in our surroundings allows us to seek and find adventures big and small. Disconnecting can also help keep us agenda-free. No schedule reminders. No sightseeing lists. Just distraction-free interaction with the environment and the people around you. Turn off the phone for a few hours, walk out the door and see what adventures await.

7. Ask Someone ‘In The Know’ then Go

Another idea for an unplanned adventure is to ask a local for some insider information. Of course, you need to be safe about who you ask. Hotel concierges can be a great source of information, and not just for the hot tourist spots. Let them know if you are interested in something off the beaten track and they might have a couple of hidden gems to share. And as a bonus, they will likely have information on safe transportation and where to eat along the way. Asking “We have three hours. What should we do?” is a good place to start. Of course, concierges are not the only sources of local information. Travel information centres and restaurant and hotel staff are other excellent sources of local knowledge. When you have some agenda-free time, local insight can inspire a spontaneous, less touristy adventure.

So the next time you plan a vacation, fit some unplanned time into your schedule, you and your family will appreciate it! Some of our favourite memories were from the spur of the moment, happening now, random adventures!

Looking for some destination inspiration for summer? Here are some locations we visited that are perfect for some agenda free time!

Is this a sponsored post?: No, we just want to pass along the knowledge that we have gained throughout our family vacations to our followers so that they can make the most of their family holiday adventures.

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Scott McQuarrie7 Tips for an Agenda Free Vacation
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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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JamiTruth Bomb Thursday: How Do I Pay for Travel?
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What’SUP After Dark

Imagine yourself out on the water, your stand up paddleboard (SUP) rocking gently beneath your feet. Your paddle slips into the water soundlessly. You pull steadily, rhythmically, and feel the muscles in your back tighten with each stroke. Your toes push into the board, offsetting the force of each pull as you glide forward, leaving a small eddy in your wake. You look ahead, keeping your eyes up to keep your balance more easily. You feel present and fully aware.

Now, imagine that while on your stand up paddleboard, all of this is happening in the dark.

people-on-stand-up-paddleboard-at-night

Photo Credit: Vancouver Water Adventures

Night stand up paddleboarding is a relatively new trend that adds a twist to an already flourishing sport. I tried paddleboarding for the first time two years ago and was immediately hooked. The portability, the peacefulness, the simplicity, and the solitude of SUPing make for a unique experience. But at night? Now that’s another level of unique.

group-night-tour-stand-up-paddleboard

Photo Credit: Vancouver Water Adventures

Vancouver Water Adventures offers their Light the Night paddleboard tours Friday and Saturday nights, starting June 14th. The tours begin and end at Granville Island, itself one of our top seven Vancouver day trips for families. This location offers water access to False Creek and English Bay, and all the sights they offer. The minimum age for night tours is sixteen, and previous paddleboard experience is required (kayak night tours are also available). Tour prices range from $75 for SUPs to $105 for double kayaks (kids must be 10 years of age and with an adult 19+ to rent a double kayak). Special fireworks tours are available on Celebration of Light nights.

kayak-and-stand-up-paddleboard-night-tour-in-vancouver

Photo Credit: Vancouver Water Adventures

Re-imagine yourself out on the water, your board rocking gently beneath your feet. Your paddle slips into the water soundlessly. You look ahead, keeping your eyes up to keep your balance more easily. The lights of the city reflect off the water, distorted by the small wake of your companion just ahead. An ethereal, other-worldly green glow outlines the sleek black lines of your board. It mixes with the reflecting lights and the pinks and blues emanating from the other boards around you, bright and warm against the black of the water. You breathe deeply. For the first time in a long time, perhaps, you feel fully present and fully aware.

Looking for other Vancouver adventures? Check out these articles for ideas and inspiration!

Is this a sponsored post?: No, we heard about this sensational adventure and wanted to share it with our followers.

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Scott McQuarrieWhat’SUP After Dark
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Campfire Cookouts in Metro Vancouver

The campfire burns lower, the coals red and white and ready. The mustard, relish, and, most importantly, ketchup, lay waiting beside the bag of buns. The package of all-beef (a none-too-comforting description) hotdogs is open, beside the veggie-dogs that only you will eat. The roasting sticks, the long ones with the wood handles and double prongs, lean against the picnic table, their many years of use evidenced by their blackened tips. The marshmallows are hidden out of sight, for now. You look around, satisfied that everything needed is there. Oh, except the salad – absolutely required, if only to crush the small tinge of guilt you feel about the hotdogs. OK, got it. Now, you are ready. “Kids! Who wants to roast some hotdogs?”

vancouver-campfire-at-derby-reachCampfire cookouts are a great way to pry the kids away from the screen for a while, to get outside and spend some time together with friends or family, and to eat deliciously healthy, or deliciously unhealthy, food. Whatever your motivation, we encourage you to try a campfire cookout. Evenings spent roasting hotdogs and marshmallows and running around with cousins, friends or siblings are childhood memories that can last a lifetime.

There are strict rules preventing open fires within the metro Vancouver area. These rules exist to keep people and public parklands safe and carry heavy penalties if broken. Gas burning portable barbeques designed specifically for cooking are allowed in most parks. But if you want a real campfire, you can legally do so at select Metro Vancouver Regional Parks. Below is a list of legal campfire pit locations in Metro Vancouver where you and your family can enjoy a good old-fashioned campfire cookout! Please read the safe fire practices and booking information from Metro Vancouver at the end of this article and remember that day-use sites are first-come-first-served, but are also available for booking.

Aldergrove Regional Park

aldergrove-regional-park

Photo Credit: Metro Vancouver Regional Parks

Aldergrove Regional Park straddles the Langley/Abbotsford border. This large park is popular for horseback riding and short family-friendly hikes. Aldergrove Bowl, an old gravel pit, has been reclaimed with a picnic area, trails and marshlands. Exploring one of the many trails with the kids is a great activity before starting your cookout. There is a fire ring at the Blacktail Picnic Shelter, in the north-west corner of the park that can be used on a first-come-first-served basis if it is available.

Firepits: 1 day-use (first-come-first-served) fire ring at the Blacktail Picnic Shelter
Municipality: Langley/Abbotsford

Belcarra Regional Park

belcarra-regional-park

Photo Credit: Metro Vancouver Regional Parks

Belcarra Regional Park sits on the eastern shore of Burrard Inlet. This park offers oceanside beaches, a large pier, swimming and fishing at Sasamat Lake, and over 22 kilometres of hiking trails. There is so much to explore here, but we recommend the 5km (return) hike to Admiralty Point before settling into your cookout. There is a first-come-first-served fire ring and two picnic shelters available at the Belcarra Picnic Area unless already reserved.

Firepits: 1 day-use (first-come-first-served) fire ring at the Belcarra Picnic Area
Municipality: Belcarra/Port Moody

Boundary Bay Regional Park

boundary-bay-regional-park

Photo Credit: Metro Vancouver Regional Parks

Boundary Bay Regional Park is your best bet for a beachside campfire cookout. Four fire rings are available at Centennial Beach, near the southern end of the park. For bird watchers, hiking along the 12 Ave Dyke Trail can be rewarding, as this park is known for the thousands of migratory birds that stop to rest here on their route along the Pacific Flyway. Oh, and if your campfire cookout crashes for some reason, there is a beachside café available during the summer months.

Firepits: 4 day-use fire rings at Centennial Beach
Municipality: Delta

Brae Island Regional Park

brae-island-fort-langleyBrae Island Regional Park is situated on an island in the Fraser River. The island is easily accessed by a short bridge from Fort Langley. Pre-booking is required to use the single fire ring located at the events site. Additionally, each of the 156 campsites and lone group camping site have fire rings for use, though booking is required. While the island has a short network of trails, it is the sandy beach located on a slow-moving side-arm of the Fraser River that attracts most visitors. Kayaking and cooling off in the water are popular activities at the beach. A short stroll across the bridge will lead you to all the amenities Fort Langley has to offer.

Firepits: 1 fire ring at the events site (booking required); 156 fire rings in the campground (booking required); 1 fire ring at group campsite (booking required)
Municipality: Township of Langley

Campbell Valley Regional Park

campbell-valley-regional-park

Photo Credit: Metro Vancouver Regional Parks

Campbell Valley Regional Park is located in south Langley and is bisected by the Little Campbell River. With 23 kilometres of hiking, biking, and horse-riding trails, the park offers a great place to get out and explore this unique river valley landscape. Accessed off of 8 Avenue, the Old Orchard picnic area in the south-west corner of the park has a fire ring available on a first-come-first-served basis. For a fun family activity, check out the nearby Campbell Valley Nature House, a beautiful red barn turned education centre and the surrounding Rowlatt Farmstead.

Firepits: 1 day-use fire ring at Old Orchard picnic area; 1 fire ring at Camp Coyote Group Camp (booking required)
Municipality: Township of Langley

Deas Island Regional Park

deas-island-picnic-shelter

Photo Credit: Metro Vancouver Regional Parks

Just north of Highway 99, near the George Massey tunnel, Deas Island Regional Park is another Fraser River island park. A single fire ring is available at the Fisher’s Field picnic shelter. Additionally, a booking required fire ring is available at the Muskrat Meadow Campground. A number of short trails wander throughout the small island. This park offers some unique nature program activities, including Nature Watch by Canoe and Bats of Burrvilla.

Firepits: 1 day-use fire ring at Fisher’s Field; 1 fire ring at Muskrat Meadow Campground (booking required)
Municipality: Delta

Derby Reach Regional Park

derby-reach

Photo Credit: Metro Vancouver Regional Parks

Derby Reach Regional Park, on the banks of the Fraser River, is a favourite riverside camp cookout spot for many families in the Langley area. It offers a large number of firepits, especially during the off-season when the campsites are not fully booked. The Trans Canada Trail and the Canyon to Coast Trail run through the park. A ride along the Edge Farm Trail or, if you want a longer ride, the Fort to Fort Trail or Houston Trail, is a great way to spend some time before dinner.

Firepits: 38 fire rings in the campground (booking required, though they are accessible on a first-come-first-served basis if facilities are not booked); 3 day-use fire rings in the Edge Picnic shelter; 1 day-use fire ring in the main picnic area; 1 fire ring at the Marpole picnic shelter.
Municipality: Township of Langley

Additional Information from Metro Vancouver:

Please follow smart burning guidelines at our fire rings:

  • Use only bundled firewood (don’t burn forest wood, waste wood, garbage or anything else)
  • Stay with the fire at all times
  • Extinguish the fire completely before leaving

Metro Vancouver may close fire pits if there are air quality concerns or if the park is in high or extreme wildfire danger rating. Visitors are encouraged to search “fire rating” at www.metrovancouver.org to check conditions before they arrive to see if the fire pit is open or not.

To book any of the bookable campsites, picnic areas and picnic shelters, visit www.metrovancouver.org and search “Reservable Facilities,” or call 604-432-6352.

Need more ideas to add to your list of things to do with the family this summer? Here are some great articles to keep you and your family busy this summer!

Is this a sponsored post?: No! We love to be able to get outside with our family and friends to have a good old fashioned hot dog roast and wanted to share where other families can do the same!

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Scott McQuarrieCampfire Cookouts in Metro Vancouver
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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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JamiLensball – Gaze into the Future of Photography
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