Banff / Jasper Itinerary - with Toddler!

Jan 12th, 2009, 06:09 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2009
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Banff / Jasper Itinerary - with Toddler!

Hi, I would welcome any help on our plans for this March. My husband and I are familar with Calgary/Banff having been there before but this year will be visiting for the first time with our two year old (from the UK).

We land in Calgary 18 March and plan to head up to Banff, where we will stay for 7 nights. Given the little boy is with us we have 'splashed out' on the Banff Springs and hope all is okay given the mixed reviews I have read.

We then intend to drive over the Icefields Parkway to Jasper, where we stay at the Jasper Park Lodge for 6 nights, before heading back to Banff for one night en route to Calgary airport for our return flight to the UK. We chose to do it this way to avoid too long a journey between Jasper and Calgary with our son.

My concerns lie mainly with Jasper:

1. In March, it is likely to be 'safe' for us to drive the Icefields Parkway ourselves with the toddler? We have booked a 4x4 but being from the UK are not too used to such long distances and the weather. In the event that the weather is bad, is the TransCanada Highway an alternative route?

2. Is there likely to be enough to do in Jasper with a child for 5 days. We are planning a few trips, such as dogsledding, Viarail train trip and possibly Edmonton Mall, but I am aware that there is not as much to do as in Banff.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
amandastead is offline  
Jan 13th, 2009, 08:33 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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the icefield parkway is safe to drive with or without a kid. it has been closed a few days this week due to bad road conditions but for the most part, it is open 90% of the time. the transcanada highway does not go near jasper. if the parkway is closed then it is a very long way around - through calgary, up to edmonton and then west to jasper.
you say 5 days in jasper but then mention a via rail trip - to where? then you mention west edmonton mall. edmonton is a good 4 hour drive from jasper if the roads are good. were you thinking this was a day trip?
ltt is offline  
Jan 14th, 2009, 12:44 AM
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Be careful that driving a 4X4 doesn't make you "over-confident". They are good for getting unstuck, but when road conditions are bad, you see an awful lot of them in the ditch because their drivers often think 4X4 means they don't have to slow down for slippery conditions. Most rentals don't come equipped with snow tires so slowing down if the road is snowy or icy is a must!

Don't worry, ltt, by the VIA trip, I assume it is probably the day tour offered through some of the tour companies in Jasper - you ride the train west into BC, then get picked up by a van and brought back to Jasper. That way you get to enjoy a few hours on the train, and some amazing scenery (Mt. Robson, highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.)

However, Amanda, just to clarify - about West Edm Mall... are you aware it is a four hour drive (one way) from Jasper - and mostly a boring drive, at that. I assume your plan is to drive to Calgary via Banff (the overnight stop) - West Edm Mall only makes sense if it's a stop on the way driving the long way to Calgary (via Edm) - it's too far for a day trip, especially with a toddler in tow.

The only part of your itinerary that *could* be problematic (remote possibility) is getting back to Calgary to get your flight. Luckily, you have allowed a day's grace there (the overnight in Banff). If highway 93 is closed, you would have time to drive the long way round (via Edmonton) to get to Calgary for your flight. I don't think adverse road conditions on 93 are as big a risk at the end of March as now though... but I can't tell the future. I do know that the absolute worst winter driving I ever experienced was between Blue River, BC and Jasper during the last week of March one year, in a raging snowstorm.

Are you planning on doing any skiing or snowboarding (there is a day care facility on the hill) in Jasper? Six nights is a long time to spend in Jasper unless you are doing some outdoor winter activities. By the end of March, outdoor skating (and hanging around the bonfire) at JPL will be done. It's too early yet for hiking, but getting too late in the season for snowshoeing (unless you are going up to Maligne Lake or somewhere else a bit higher).

JPL has a lovely outdoor (heated) pool, but it is not toddler friendly (the shallow area will be over your little guy's head). However, the town aquatic centre is a great facility - it has a "kiddie pool" as well as the regular pool, a water slide, steam room and hot tub.
krp329 is offline  
Jan 14th, 2009, 06:53 AM
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Thanks ltt and krp329.

Yes, the Via Rail trip is offered by a local tour company (SunDog Tours). It is a trip to Harvey I believe, being driven back. My little one is just obsessed with trains.

On the West Edmonton Mall thing, they are also offering a day trip to the Mall by coach. We have enquired and already realised that this is going to be too much for the 2 year old and so
we have investigated overnight accomodation at the mall. However this leaves us with the same problem with the weather and distance if we are driving there, so I think we will do local trips and leave the question of the Mall until we get there and see how the weather is. My guess is we will probably think it too far or not be able to get accomodation there at late notice and probably give it a miss.

Thanks again to you both.
amandastead is offline  
Jan 14th, 2009, 04:26 PM
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Re the driving, I think we will conatct the holiday company (inghams). They offer the option of either coach transfers or hire car. We opted for the hire car obviously due to having the toddler (and pram, travel cot etc etc etc) and so we have transport when we get to Banff/Jasper. Maybe it might be possible to change to the coach transfers and hire a car locally (have to find out if this is possible in Banff?). Even so, this still means travelling the Icefields Parkway by coach, albeit I presume with an experienced local driver? What is baffling me though is that the brochure says 'alternative route to be taken in adverse weather conditions' - so they mean via Edmonton? Think I'd better give them a call ....

Thanks again, and for the advice re what to do in Jasper as well, again some more thinking is necessary but great tip re the aquatic centre, thanks.
amandastead is offline  
Jan 15th, 2009, 06:09 AM
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The West Ed Mall would be great if your little guy was four.. they have ice skating, miniature gold, the water park etc...

I was there a few years ago with my kids and my older two loved it but my youngest (who was almost 2) pretty much stayed in his stroller.

I don't think you'd be missing anything (except a lot of driving) if you skipped it!

onemoneygirl is offline  
Jan 15th, 2009, 10:50 AM
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Re>2. Is there likely to be enough to do in Jasper with a child for 5 days<

My concern is that there might not be ehough for his parents to do, unless they are skiers -- downhill or cross-country -- and happy to leave the boy with baby sitters.

A two year old is happy rippingup a newspaper and putting it in the trash can, over and over, but parents get bored much easier.

The day trip on the train is a good idea (don't know anything about the train, but basing my comments on possibilities) but going all the way to Edmonton and back ... well that's more questionable. West Ed Mall is, however,much, much more than just a shopping mall.

I'd spend less time in Jasper and more time in Calgary and take the boy to the zoo.


BAK is offline  
Jan 15th, 2009, 11:13 AM
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Hi again Amanda,

The highway to Edmonton from Jasper is a "whole other ball of wax" compared to highway 93, the Icefields Parkway. Highway 16 to Edmonton, the Trans-Canada/Yellowhead highway, is a major tranport corridor (lots of truck traffic) and is not a high elevation highway like the Icefields Parkway. That said, the high point on highway 16, at Obed, between Hinton and Edson, is the most likely place to run into bad conditions, but that doesn't happen very often and usually improves once you get lower. Also, hwy 16 is a controlled access four lane freeway (2 lanes in each direction) for all of the drive to Edmonton, except for the first 45 minutes from the town of Jasper to the east gate of the national park.

My vehicle does not have snow tires (next one will, for sure) and I regularly drive to Edmonton in winter without too much worry. The highway is almost always bare of snow, other than during a snowstorm. Of course I check conditions and weather first, and would not go during or in the immediate aftermath of a winter storm.

A day in a mall would not be high on my list of holiday activities to do with a two year old. And I do agree with BAK about activities for the adults and needing child care.... there are some things you can do with your child either on foot or carried in a backpack (if you have one), but if he is always with you, you will be limited in what you can do. (For instance, I wouldn't recommend xc/nordic skiing with your child in a pack unless one of you is an strong/expert skier.) However, if occasional activities like the train tour and just "hanging out" and taking life slow and easy, little walks in the snow etc. is what you are looking for, then I think you will have a relaxing time!
krp329 is offline  

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