Monday 18 July 2022

Our Canadian Rockies Trip 2022 Tips and Tricks

After 2 years of not being able to travel outside of Ontario, we were able to finally took off and visit the Canadian Rockies for my advanced birthday celebration and Alexus graduation plus the honors / academic achievement. I am going to share here all the tips and tricks for a smooth, relaxed and value  for -money travel for a family of 5 - 
This is what we've accomplished, our Canadian Rockies Trip details

Time: 10 days - June 30 to July 10, 2022

Scope:  Lake Louise, Lake Moraine (hiked Rock Pile), Takakkaw Falls (and other Yoho National Park viewpoints, Johnston Canyon, Golden, BC (Skybridge /Adventure Package),  Kicking Horse Whitewater Rafting Exciter Level 2, Banff (Canoeing, Gondola / Sulphur Mountain and other viewpoints), Canmore, Drumheller, Royal Tyrrell Museum, Calgary Stampede Parade and Rodeo Show

Out of Scope: Columbia Icefields Parkway and Jasper National Park (as the parkway closed due to an accident on the highway) we missed getting on the Skywalk, riding the big Red Bus to go to the Glaciers, Athabasca Falls, Maligne Canyon, Pyramid Lake, Maligne Lake and other mountains to climb like Edith Cavell etc.

Cost: I will share high, average and low cost options so you can plan better.  

Like our Disneyworld Trip in Orlando in 2018, we followed the Project Management Principles to focus on the 3 major constraints - Time, Scope and Cost and be successful in our trip.

Tip no 1.  - Book flights early and buy your tickets for activities online.  Cost of budget airlines are cheaper on sale months.  Note that everything in a budget airline will cost - Carry-on bags (choose to check in and max the luggage space, bring backpacks for each passenger),  do not use counter service that is +$25  (buy seats, pay for luggage and check-in online), bring food or eat before flights.  The lines to buy activity tickets onsite are longer especially during peak season.  We skipped many lines and enjoyed the attractions immediately than those who opted to line up.  Our companions do not like waiting so that will also change the mood of the party if you hear complaints from impatient teenagers. 

Tickets to attractions that you can buy online ahead of time:
1. Discovery Pass - each time you go and park to a national park like YOHO, JASPER, BANFF, Johnston Canyon, Lake Louise, Lake Moraine, Emerald, Peyto, you will have to pay $20 per car.  Buy the annual pass of $145/family if you plan to go to all of these parks and other national parks in Canada, also valid for a year.
2. White Water Rafting Exciter Level 2 - Wild Water Adventures
3. Banff Gondola, Golden Skybridge / Adventure Package, Columbia Icefields Adventure Skywalk / Glacier 
4. Park and Ride tickets to visit Lake Louise and Lake Moraine -

Note that in the crazy days at Pearson Airport nowadays, all airlines were either delayed or cancelled regardless if you are budget airline or not.

Tip no. 2  HOTEL Find a location that suits whatever activity your family plan to do or likes to do.  We stayed in a variety of locations to be close to the attractions and maximize the travel time. Canmore is 20 minutes to Banff, Banff is 30 minutes to Lake Louise and Lake Louise is 3 hours to Jasper via Columbia Icefields Parkway,  30 minutes to Yoho National Park, 1 hour to Golden, BC.  Do the math and find out the duration of your travel to and from the locations mentioned.  We stayed at Lake Louise during the dates we planned for the visit to the 2 lakes, Yoho, Golden and Columbia, then moved on to Banff for the attractions near Banff, then Canmore to get closer to Calgary, then stayed in Calgary near the airport for the Stampede and Drumheller days.

High Cost but very nice locations :  Fairmont Lake Louise (when I inquired the rate at the time we are going -> $1,800 / night phew!  Lake Moraine Lodge is another - very serene location.  Moose Hotel and Suites along Banff.

Average to Midrange - the hotels along Banff Avenue, walking distance to everything.  Lake Louise Inn or the Post Hotel in Lake Louise. Holiday Inn Express in Canmore

Low / Budget - Hostel International at Lake Louise - this is where we stayed for the first 3 nights, first timers using a hostel, we liked it.  very clean, 24 hours check in, with clean kitchen and utensils, with restaurant if you don't like cooking.  Try the HI in Banff or try camping at the campgrounds near Lake Minnewanka, OTenTiks are inviting but too difficult to book.  There is a shuttle bus from Banff going to the campsite.  There is another campsite in Tunnel Mountain near Banff.  There are Airbnbs and townhouses available but you have to book early and trust that the rental will proceed because we experience cancellation at the last minute.  I do not trust Airbnbs now.  Canmore Airbnbs are newer and bigger but consider the additional travel time.

Tip no. 3 FOOD Prepare meals and packed lunches especially if the activities call for energy like Hiking, walking, Rafting and there might not be any food places in your destination, better be prepared than starved.  Stopover at Walmart near YYC then buy essentials - bread, cold cuts, eggs, bananas, apples for your packed lunches.  Buy water, oil if you are cooking also dishwashing soap and laundry soap.  I brought my French Press to brew my own and save on coffee :)

Foodies must try (High):  Sky Bistro at top of Sulphur Mountain for a date nite, Chuck's Steak in Banff,  Balkan (Greek), The Elk or Bison meat Burger at Eddie's Burger in Banff, the Ramen Arashi ( Place at Sundance Mall in Banff  (the line up is still long at 2:00 pm, must be good). Fire and Rain, for Jasper I heard, Something Else is something to try. Golden - Reposados tacos in a unique setting and the Korean resto,. We ate at the Old Spaghetti Factory, the menu is the same as other locations, same as BP and other resto / chains in Banff.

Low-cost:  Food stalls in malls at Banff - Cascade Mall (Popeyes, Subway, there is also a Chinese and Bento place), you can order from Domino's Pizza to deliver at your Hotel, it was raining one night and we did this.


Tip no. 4 - SAVE TIME by planning on your activities per day - no spaghetti diagram - that means going back and forth, go one direction.  Which activities are close to each other?  We did Golden and Whitewater Rafting in one day, the 2 Lakes in one day, all Banff attractions at the same time.  Estimate the travel time and TRY TO LEAVE EARLY, you can do so much when you start early, when the others are still sleeping LOL.  We left for the Lake Louise very early and arrived there at 5:40 am and guess what? the area is packed, the boardwalk where you can take nice photos are full of people posing!  After savoring the moment, move on to the next.  We would have not been able to enter Lake Moraine in our rental car if we arrived there after 8:00 am.  We were one of the few who arrived at the Lake Moraine parking lot at 7:00 am and made it.  ARRIVE EARLY and accomplish more, less hassle finding a parking spot, less people, more time to enjoy the view.  Summer is when all the people decide to visit the Canadian Rockies so be out when they are still in lol.  Yes, our kids complained for waking up early but when we are back to our hotels by 3:00 pm to nap, relax or enjoy the WIFI to connect with friends, our vacation is really considered a vacation, no stress just lounging and enjoying the cool weather and each other's company.

Tip No. 5 - CLOTHES  Pack light and do laundry there.  Bring winter clothing - single digit in the morning and in the evening, some hotels don't have aircons and they open the windows so expect the cold lol.  Check the weather.

Tip No. 6 - ACTIVITIES Whitewater Rafting is a must, Golden Skybridge and the Adventure package will make your heart flutter - Treetop trekking aka Canyon Edge, Ziplining, Axe-throwing. Hiking is expected, so be prepared and be fit - savor the mountain air and enjoy the view. You can see how great and creative our God is coming up with all those different lake colors.  Different lake, different color - visit and take note of the color of Lake Louise, Lake Moraine, Peyto Lake just to name a few. 

When you go in July be sure to watch the Calgary Stampede Parade.  The downtown roads will be closed by 7:30 am so be sure to hit the road early and park close the Calgary Tower because that's where the parade starts. The early bird Parking fee is only $13, if its beyond 9:00 am it's $25.  Watch the Rodeo Show and wear Cowboy outfits just to feel the vibes.  Buy Western hats at a western store (high) or at Dollarama (low) along Stephen's Avenue.  After leaving Banff and before Calgary, try the Skyline Luge or Downhill Karting at the Olympic Park.  It's a must-try for kids and adults.


Tip No 7. -  Download the Gypsy guide app  - the tours are amazing, we learned a lot while driving and viewing the mountains.  The guide also give tips on where to stop and what to look for.  I thought we will be bored during the long drive to Drumheller but the guide was very entertaining, we learned a lot about dinosaurs even before arriving at Royal Tyrrell Museum to see the fossils and bones.
Car Rental - choose the one with gas-inclusive, bring your own GPS because that is a add-on.  Book online early.

Tip No 8 - Shop in Calgary - the outlet Mall is Crossiron Mills and it's on the way back from Drumheller the Tax is only 5%. buy a new luggage or throw away old clothing lol.

All these tips are for saving Money, Time and Energy. We tried and experienced it so I hope this helps.

It's already my birthday now Ciao!

Friday 7 January 2022

Faith over Fear

Covid-19 happened and for the past 2 years, the normal suddenly become something else. We were not spared from this pandemic. To those who are asking - Yes, we have been infected and here are my thoughts for the past few days.  I am sharing this with you and  I hope somehow it will help you with responding to difficult situations.

When we decided to cross the border even after the non-essential travel advise, we knew the risks and we just prayed for God’s protection especially from the Covid-19 new variant Omicron.  Then a few days before we were supposed to return to Canada, we all got infected with Covid-19 despite being vaxxed and following the protocols. You are probably wondering how I reacted to the news received that we were Covid positive.  Surprisingly, I was calm.  I could have allowed the enemy to rob me of God’s peace and joy and replace it with fear, anxiety, anger, complains and questions as to why even with constant prayers, we still got sick.  But one thing I learned or still learning to do when my brain begins to have anxious thoughts trying to gain a foothold in my mind, I shift my focus.  Whatever I’m facing, whatever uncertainty, whatever problems threatening my well-being and my loved ones, I remind myself that I am not alone, that I don’t have to have everything figured out, that Someone will help me and lead me – I focus on being still and know and believe that God is God.  I have my protector, my provider, my friend and my Savior Jesus Christ.  This is the truth that I go back to.  Situations sometimes painful, arise for a reason. These situations reveal some truth that deep inside, you will realize that you have GOD to seek, to pray, to pour out your cares to and in doing so, you are assured that He is there. He will guide you, give you the right people and resources to solve your problems.  As I pray and read His words, it is comforting to know that the powerful and loving God wants to be close to me.  When bad things happen, I call on Him, depend on Him, surrender to Him and let Him be God – the One in control.  I feel His comfort and His love, the bible stories of faith and miracles remind me that it can also happen to me and yes, to you as well.  He will provide answers, He will lead us to where He wants us to go.  He will reveal to us that even if the situation is too big for us, He is bigger.  Our God can do immeasurably more than what we ask or imagine. Believe - have faith not fear.  He promised us that He will never leave us nor forsake us even in these Covid times.  He will heal and restore us.  Even if we reach the moment of facing death, we know we will be in His hands and in His Kingdom.  No matter what happens, God loves us and wants us to come to Him.  Let us come and cling to God. We believe that we will all be healed, in Jesus’ powerful name. Amen.

Wednesday 2 September 2020

Our Dadilo's and Mama's True Legacy

Now that they are both gone and went with the Lord, I remember many things about them, all the wisdom and advice I've heard and the good practices I've seen. One of the most impactful memories I stored in my heart is their huge faith in God. I can vividly recall when we prayed on one Christmas Eve because we didn't have any food or gifts at that time and they claimed that that will be the last time we celebrate Christmas with nothing because God will provide, which eventually happened; we were blessed and prospered the year after that and year after year. Another is their belief and hope for a better tomorrow. It was from them that I always hear "tomorrow is an opportunity to get better, strive harder, exceed, excel, be a better version of yourself." It was from them that I heard, "stop complaining, the pain will be gone tomorrow." It was from them that I always look forward to something better, more rewarding, results of hard work. Dad said, that is not good enough. "HINDI PWEDE ANG PWEDE NA!" The standards keep on getting higher kaya when when we reap the rewards, it was always sweet victory. Mahirap pero sulit. Ganun ako pinalaki. Not dependent, not complacent, not mediocre. Ako lang ata sa aming magkakapatid ang maagang naexpose sa hirap kaya ganun na lang din ako naging ka-ambisyosa. Imagine, ang bata bata ko pa, ang dami ko nang ginagawang chores mula 8 years old, mamalengke, mag igib ng tubig, magtanim ng kangkong, kamatis, mag alaga ng baboy, manguha ng kohol, maglaba at mamalantsa ng lampin, maghugas ng plato sa dilim hahaha. Ang hirap na masaya kasi kapag natapos ko lang ang mga yun chaka ako nakakapaglaro, so dapat mabilis kumilos para me reward, maglaro sa bukid. Ang saya saya! Mahirap pero rewarding. Daddy and Mama trained me to be independent, to strive more, accomplish more to have a better life. Work, play, study - cycle repeats. By the end of my elementary days, I knew the hardships paid off. But that didn't stop me from striving, setting the standards higher. It went on until high school, college, working part time while schooling. By this time, my high standards were established and mama and dadilo wanted it re applied with my siblings. I hoped and prayed that whatever they saw in us, they will continue. We started on the right path we all worked part time while in school, we finished and got our degrees and worked. Eventually, we started our own families, had our own children.

Why am I saying this now? What is it for me, for my children, nieces and nephews and the younger generation? True, past is past but we can learn from it. There were so many good learnings from the past that we can use and follow. Maybe it was the thought that I don't want them to experience what I had, I let the children live comfortably. I am having those regrets, I wanted to continue what Mama and Dadilo started in me with my children, my nieces and nephews because I believe and could still hear Dadilo saying "Hindi pa pasado yan, magaling ka, believe that you can do better than that!" It is true, we can continue with their legacy - to be an achiever, not to quit but to work harder, to accomplish more, to find how and become a champion. We are all blessed with skills and talents that we don't want to get wasted. I hope the younger generation - our children will realize this that even if they can afford not to do chores, or be happy with the grades they've achieved, they will do more, be more, be of significant value. I hope my children while imagining me in the middle of rice fields carrying water containers, will realize that Mama, Dadilo and I worked hard to be where we are today, that they will continue the legacy of faith, hope and belief in hard work and growth mindset. Not complacent, mediocre or no drive at all. That is not what God wants us to do. He has great plans for us, plans to give us hope and a future. Only then, we can truly say that we are Mama and Dadilo's offsprings because we are achievers and always aim to be the best versions of ourselves.
To you my beloved: "Are you making Mama and Dadilo proud with what you have or accomplished right now?"

Monday 31 August 2020

There is a time to live and a time to die

We had snow storm before mama died, last Saturday when we went to the beach there was gusty winds on a supposedly hot summer day, yun pala that was a warning. My Dadilo passed away yesterday, he just stopped breathing. Not Covid-19 but he had brain tumors and seizures and was bedridden since my mom died 18 months ago. Up to last week, I try to chat with him every once in a while and tell him stories and make him feel good by telling his jokes again. We had beautiful moments together in his last days even if sometimes his eyebrows would meet because he probably forgot the name I'm mentioning. I prayed with him and read bible verses with him.

Why am saying this? I just wanted to remind everyone that life is short and we all have little time so we make sure we spend that time with our precious loved ones because we never know when we or they are leaving. Leave all the worries or pagkakasamaan ng loob behind and make each day significant for them lalo na sa mga oldies. Kahit na zoom or facetime or tawag basta makita at marinig ka at mga apo nila malaking bagay na yun. Let us live and love as if today will be our last.

Today, i wanted to be reminded and for you to know about hope and God's promise at a time of death. Let us all believe.

 “... If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:2b-3 NIV)

Many believe death is the end of life, but Christians know it is the portal to eternal life. When Christ died on the cross and rose again, he went on ahead to prepare a place for us. I take great comfort in knowing my Daddilo who is a believer in Jesus is with him in a real place called heaven. Instead of mourning because I’ll never see him again, I can look forward to spending eternity with him and mama in the presence of Jesus.

Check out my other post:

Monday 6 April 2020

"Kumain ka na?" (Have you eaten? ) - a post about true nourishment

I was able to see my mom who was in critical condition before she passed away last year.  After the long-haul flight and the terribly slow traffic in Manila, I thought that I will miss the visiting hours. Good thing,  I made it before they are about to close, just 10 minutes.  I have mixed emotions as I finally saw her - excited, happy, sad, anxious, tired, burdensome it was heavy on my heart. When she saw me, she was smiling and asked for pen and paper (she was intubated) she wrote - "Kumain ka na ba?  (Have you eaten?)

I couldn't control the tears falling down my cheeks.  Here she was, very sick and lying on what could become her death bed but all she could still think of was me - her 50 year old daughter not nourished.  You cannot take that away from your mom - the "pangangalaga" (the love and caring of parents - I realized later on that I also ask the same question to my children when I come home late or they arrive from school or somewhere).

She wants to ensure that I'm well and nourished before her own needs. I really feel loved at that moment.  Nobody loves you more like your mom does and that makes me miss her terribly.

Why? What is it with Food?  Food gives us nourishment, strength, keeps us from being sick, makes us grow.  Food gives that comfort, rest and sense of fulfillment. It's like a goal achieved. Do you feel that satisfaction especially when you burp? Most of us, that is when we say - "Salamat sa Diyos"  (Thank you Lord)

I remember my mom and her question because in my devotional today, I read about the last supper when Jesus ate with his disciples. Luke 22:19-20 in the bible says -

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

Jesus' words at the last supper were symbolic of what was about to happen in His death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus was soon to become the true Passover lamb who would be sacrificed for the sins of the people. This would be the last Passover meal in a long history of looking forward to the Messiah.

What is happening today makes the world ravenously hungry for answers. The COVID-19 pandemic cannot be stopped at this point and whether we like to admit it or not, we are hungry, we are longing for some answers, satisfaction, we are weak.  We need not just physical but also spiritual nourishment.  Do you know that you are a child of God and just like my mom and every parent, He wants us His children to be nourished? He thought of you more than His own Son who suffered on the cross.

Deuteronomy 8:2-3 emphasizes to Israel and now to us that the source of spiritual nourishment is more important than the nourishment itself. If we have the right source, the nourishment will be good. Otherwise, the situation is hopeless. Our source of nourishment must, of course, be God

May you find peace and comfort in the presence of God this week.  May you partake in God's nourishment and think about it the next time you are asked - "Have you eaten?"

Friday 16 August 2019

Giving Thanks in Everything

Dadilo is celebrating his birthday today but he is sick, bedridden and in the hospital for quite some time. Mama passed away early this year and I heard an unexpected news that I couldn't accept because I thought it was all set and laid out perfectly for me.  This has impacted the plans I've made for the financial difficulties we've had with Mama's and Dadilo's health conditions. 

1 Thessalonians 5:18 "In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."  I know what Paul is saying, but I am not sure how I can possibly do this.  Maybe if it said, "In good things give thanks."  I'd know exactly why we should obey this command because it makes perfect sense. But when we consider the phrase "in everything", we begin to question whether all -encompassing gratitude is even possible.

Life includes many painful experiences - loss of loved ones, financial downturns, illnesses, natural disasters, accidents, and broken relationships are just some of the possibilities.  How in the world are we supposed to thank God in the midst of all these?

It's in the whole counsel of His Words that we learn to know who He is and what He does. Then we'll understand why we should be grateful and how we can give thanks in everything, even those that don't seem worthy of gratitude at all. We don't have to  look around at our circumstances and think that we are helpless victims of fate or evil. Every event and situation that comes our way has first passed through the hands of the loving heavenly Father. Although we may not understand what He is doing, we can find peace in knowing that He is in control.

Gratitude is not dependent upon good circumstances but is based on our confidence and trust in the Lord and His promises. It's the evidence of submission to Him and dependence upon Him, and the result is peace that transcends comprehension, a relationship with Christ that is steady and unwavering, and a powerful witness that influences those around us.

If you are a child of God through faith in Jesus, He is with you in whatever situation you are facing today.  Although you may not be able to see the good He's working at the moment, can you trust that He is?  The most priceless good He brings comes in eternity; therefore, our greatest gratitude in every situation is for the salvation of our souls.  After we've received His temporal benefits, unimaginable blessings await us in heaven, let's be faithful and thank Him today. God will use your witness of gratitude in everything to touch the lives of those around you who are struggling with hardships, loss or pain.

Thank you Lord for Dadilo's life, for our families and lives filled with blessings, struggles and hope.

Thursday 18 July 2019

Life is what we make it

I am turning 51 today and I am so thankful for the life I'm blessed with. Thank you Lord for my life. One of my birthday wishes is for our family to continue to serve the Lord. This was fulfilled this week as we volunteered for the kid's camp (vacation bible school) at Church on the Queensway.

Only Alexus is participating in the camp and both Aloysius and Kyle are volunteering as audio video tech staff for the kindergartens. I am so proud and thankful.

"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 6:14 "

I have another wish, that my service offering will become truly meaningful if I have asked and have been forgiven by those I have wronged or felt wronged.  To you, you know who you are, I am really sorry. I admit I have said hurtful words in the process of interfering with your causes or have not done what I am supposed to do but have no control over. I can only pray for God's supernatural power to restore our relationships. I hope that you forgive me and that we will continue to live and love as how God intended our lives to be - free from anger, hurt, worry, grudges but only love, kindness, joy, peace, forgiveness.

I pray to God that you will give me that chance to be reconciled with you so we can live our lives in the way God designed and we can both live happily and peacefully. 

Life is too short to be negative. The outcome of our life is the result of how we view and live life - if it's full of anger, hate, regret, envy, complaints then the result will be the same. If it is full of love, hope, faith, kindness, joy, gratefulness then it will produce the same, the cycle continues. Wouldn't it be more productive to live in the latter? God will add and multiply. I hope that one day you will also see life as how I am seeing it now. We never know how much longer we have in this life so we make it worthwhile, make a difference, be an instrument to spreading love - It is what the world needs now. I'm sure when we reach the end of our tunnel, we can smile and anticipate God's telling us "Well done."

My other wish is to share a song to you, something that I heard our Pastor sing and is also very close to my heart :

My life is in You, Lord, my strength is in You, Lord
My hope is in You, Lord, in You, it's in You
My life is in You, Lord, my strength is in You, Lord
My hope is in You, Lord, in You, it's in You.

I will praise You with all of my life
I will praise You with all of my strength
With all of my life, and all of my strength
All of my life is in you.

Happy Birthday to me. Checkout I'm 51.