Thursday, 18 October 2012

Holiday Plan #1 - Canada

As part of our Permanent Residency visa process, we must activate our visas before May 31st 2013, although we don't have to actually move by then. We're going to activate them by going on holiday to Canada over Christmas and New Year - we're now constrained by Lara's school holidays. After much agonising over different itineries and timings, and whether to use a travel agent or not, we've decided to book it all ourselves, and we're flying out on Christmas Day! Besides having the cheapest flights around that period, we also hope the aeroplanes themselves will be less busy, given the plan includes a 10-hour flight and a 5 year old and a 9-month old (by then) might kick up a fuss en-route.
The schedule is an morning flight from Manchester to Amsterdam (avoiding Santa's sleigh if he's late heading back to the North Pole), a 90 minute break there, then a 10-hour flight to Vancouver, where we will have to complete the immigration / visa activation process during a 2 hour 20 minute stopover, then a 1 hr 15min flight to Calgary. We've booked a hotel near the airport for two nights, so we should arrive there about 8pm on Christmas Day night, in time to watch the Canadian equivalent of the Only Fools and Horses Christmas Special, before spending Boxing Day splashing around in the hotel's water park (indoor!).
We've not yet decided exactly how we'll handle the whole travelling-on-Christmas-Morning-instead-of-opening-presents thing with Lara. We think the only way to do it is to bring Christmas Day forward by 24 hours, after making special arrangements with Father Christmas. We can still have the whole turkey dinner thing on Christmas Eve, and Lara can open her big presents then, and I dare say there might be a little one left over for her to open on Christmas Morning, probably 2 minutes before our taxi arrives to take us to the airport. I hope the KLM staff will be all Christmassy, it might make for a more enjoyable flight for Lara. I expect the in-flight meal will be turkey.  I'm sure the Queen's Speech must be broadcast to the Commonwealth, and I'll have to catch a re-run of it, as 8pm in Calgary will be 3am Boxing Day at home.

View Canada Holiday in a larger map
After Calgary we drive to Canmore, pausing to have a look around Cochrane on the way. Both of these places are towns we're considering to live in once we make "the move".
We're going to stay for three nights in Canmore; we'll drive up to Banff for a day, and spend the rest of the time trying to get a "feel" for the town.

It'll be 30th December when we leave there, and we head to a lodge hotel pretty much in the middle of nowhere for the next three nights - the Delta Lodge Hotel in Kananaskis. This was the first hotel we found when we started thinking about a Canadian holiday, as it has a really good, family-orientated New Year's package, with a slap-up dinner on New Year's Eve and a brunch on New Year's Day. They arrange lots of things to do for the kids, and it's right next to the ski park developed for the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988, if we feel like hitting the slopes for a few hours. We can only do that one at a time though, so the other one looks after the kids, so we're not planning on doing much skiing, if any. There is sledging, ice skating, snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing (with the kids in a pull-along trailer behind Olga - well, she's the expert!) to try out as well. This is the lodge in Winter:

 Though this photo gives a better impression of it's seclusion:

We leave there on the 2nd January and drive back to Calgary, hopefully to do some shopping. We'll stay one night in another hotel near the airport, then we fly home on Thursday 3rd, from Calgary to Amsterdam then Manchester, arriving back at lunchtime on Friday 4th. This gives Lara the weekend to recover from any jetlag before starting back at school on the Monday.