top of page

Canada with Babies: A Recap of our Trip to Banff and Toronto

Updated: Jun 5

Our recent trip to Canada was one for the books, filled with laughter, adventure, and breathtaking views. From exploring the charming city of Banff and hiking the trails alongside Lake Louise to strolling the neighborhoods of downtown Toronto; we experienced just a small portion of the beauty and culture of this amazing country. In this blog post, we'll recap all the details of our unforgettable trip and share our favorite moments, must-see attractions, and family-friendly activities. Whether you're planning a trip to Canada or simply looking for some travel inspiration, join us as we relive our journey through the Great White North.


Want to check out a specific portion of the trip? Skip ahead here...

First Stop: Toronto - just for one night


Alright everyone was a bit perplexed by this one haha but our family actually planned the trip to Toronto first. We booked 8 days and while we absolutely could have spent all 8 days discovering all that Toronto had to offer, we also wanted to see another city in Canada. And for this we just went all in on a bucket list destination.



Toronto is a huge city with a lot of cars and traffic. Because of this we decided to just stay right by the airport for our long layover instead of venturing into the heart of downtown. The hotel itself was brand new and it showed in a good way. In fact I am not even sure it was open yet when we first booked.


The rooms were spacious, very clean, and had all of the amenities needed for a quick stay in and out. Additionally the cost was slightly lower than surrounding hotels because of how new it was and it offered a free airport shuttle so no need for a taxi or rental car to get there.


We opted to rest and take it easy for the first night. We stayed in and ordered food to the hotel for dinner.


Sleeping Arrangements: For this trip, we booked hotels that all had crib options. None of them could confirm two cribs however to we opted to bring one as well so both kids slept in a crib or pack and play with their own slumberpod (TRAVELINGWITHBABIES20 for $20 off). This will likely be the toddler's last experience in the pack and play. Luckily when flying with AirCanada we could always check two baby items per child for free. We chose to check one stroller, one bag for both car seats, and the pack and play! Most US based airlines don't do this.


TIP: If you are staying in a hotel that offers an airport shuttle, there is actually a phone in the airport right by the exit door for Airport Shuttle Pickups that you can call for your shuttle so no need to use your own phone in case you don’t have a phone with data or calling capabilities.


Departure:

We flew Air Canada from Toronto to Calgary. Toronto Airport is huge and seemed like a nightmare from an organizational standpoint. Both of our experiences flying out of YYZ were a mess. I definitely suggest getting to the airport with plenty of time before your flight in case you run into delays and such. Unfortunately when we made it through airport security we learned that we had a 3 hour delay (which ultimately turned into 4).


TIP: When traveling with a baby and running into a long delay, I highly suggest trying to find a day pass into one of the lounges. Many times the pass is free for children under 2. There you’ll be able to relax in a (sometimes) less crowded and (definitely) a more comfortable and cleaner environment. -- If your day is long, by the time you take advantage of the more comfortable chairs, drinks, and food it can really make a huge difference in your ability to withstand the delay. We paid about $60/person or $120 total for me and my husband. We had multiple meals and snacks, unlimited soda and water, and a few alcoholic beverages. If we had purchased the same thing to keep our family of 4 fed and hydrated down in the terminal, I am confident it wouldn't have been too far off in price.


After the 4 hour flight delay, we flew another 4 hours and then drove the hour and a half to Banff. The kids were exhausted by the end of the delay and flight so luckily they slept for the entire drive to town.


Additionally, if you have liquids that are not in the designated 1L liquids plastic bag, make sure to put them into that little plastic baggy before going through security instead of your own carrying bag. There will be tables where you can reorganize your bags before you go through where you can grab some more of these bags if you need them.


You can find Canada's transit liquid allowance policies here.


Now for the next stop...


BANFF

Table of Contents, Banff:


As mentioned above, in addition to our trip to Toronto, we went all in for the bucket list destination that is Banff. With the other circumstances of life, we just weren’t sure when our next opportunity would be so we went for it.


Arrival:

The closest large airport to Banff is Calgary International Airport. Calgary has plenty of direct flights from both within Canada, the US, and more. There are direct flights into YYC from many US cities including Seattle, LA, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis, New York, Atlanta, and more.


You can easily book a shuttle or rent a car at the airport to make your way to Banff, which is just a scenic 90-minute drive away. And trust me, the stunning views along the way are well worth it!


Transportation:

If you don't want to rent a car, there are several shuttle bus options from Calgary to Banff. This can be a good option if you have older children, as there are plenty of public transportation options once you're in town. However, if you're traveling with babies, it's important to remain flexible. We decided to rent a large SUV for our trip, since we tend to pack a lot when traveling with our two little ones for over a week. Having a car also gave us the freedom to explore the surrounding areas at our own pace and on our own schedule.


Ultimately, the decision to rent a car or take public transportation depends on your family's needs and preferences. If you prefer the convenience and flexibility of having a car, renting a vehicle may be the best option. However, if you're looking to save money and don't mind taking shuttle buses, public transportation can be a great way to get around Banff and the surrounding areas.


Nestled in the heart of the main hotel strip, the Banff High Country Inn is a welcoming and cozy retreat with a friendly and accommodating staff. Though the rooms aren't the most modern, they are equipped with all the amenities you need for a comfortable stay, including a bathtub, microwave, refrigerator, and terrace. The location is perfect, just a short stroll away from Banff's charming downtown area, making it an excellent home base for exploring the stunning mountains, sparkling lakes, and other local attractions. Overall, this hotel is a great option for families seeking a comfortable and convenient stay in Banff.


TIP: If you're looking to save money, staying in the nearby town of Canmore can be a great option. Canmore tends to be less crowded, quieter, and generally less expensive on everything from accommodation to restaurants and activities. We ended up deciding on Banff over Canmore because of the walkability and the long history as a mountain town. We were drawn to its unique character and charm with a rich history, heritage sites, and cultural offerings all within walking distance.


What We Did:
  • Walk/Drive Around Vermillion Lakes - This was an easy and stroller friendly walk around the lakes however, the reason it was stroller friendly is because you are on the road. You will be sharing that road with cars, bikes, and other moving vehicles as there was no designated walking path. Logistically, we had our toddler in the stroller and the younger baby in a carrier. I wasn’t always the most comfortable walking along and sharing the road with cars even when they were driving slow, especially when my toddler just wanted to get out of the stroller and explore. We took a few stops at the view points, with incredible views of the lakes and surrounding mountains, but I felt like we didn’t stay out there very long. If I had to do it over I would probably plan to just drive or bike around the lakes, stop to get out at the various viewpoints but not walk around with the babies.

  • Banff Gondola - This was probably the most recommended place to go with the babies. It was single stroller friendly, we just rolled the baby right onto the ski lift and it took us up to the top of Sulphur Mountain. There was a lot to do up at the top including multiple lookout points, an interactive exhibit perfect for kids of all ages, and a few restaurant options. If you plan to go in the morning during the “family experience” then keep in mind the restaurants don’t open until 11 am.

  • Bow River in Banff & Walk Around Downtown - Strolling through downtown Banff is like stepping into a picture-perfect mountain town. The streets are lined with charming boutiques, cafes, and restaurants, each with their own unique character and charm. The surrounding mountains provide a breathtaking backdrop, and the crisp mountain air is invigorating. The pedestrian-friendly streets are bustling with locals and tourists alike, and the town's friendly and welcoming atmosphere is infectious. If you're traveling with a toddler, don’t miss Central Park. It is a lovely place to rest for the afternoon or have a picnic at any time of the day. There is a free public restroom with changing tables, water bottle refill station, and bathroom stalls WITH toilet paper. Behind the restrooms is a nice playground (mainly for older kids) but my *almost* two year old did enjoy going up and down the slide with a little help from dad.

  • Lake Louise - This iconic lake was a must do on our list and the views were incredible. There was however some logistical information that I feel is important to know when going. Get there early: We arrived around 9 am (springtime when the lake was still frozen over) and that was perfect for us. Still plenty of space in the parking lots (lower lot is where the lake entrance is) but space is DEFINITELY limited. By 10:30, the lots were basically full. If you are traveling in the summer, get there even earlier! Many accounts across the internet says the lots are usually full by 8am. If you bring a stroller, make sure its durable: There is a wide and stroller friendly path alongside Lake Louise. We chose this route as opposed to carrying both our babies. We aren’t avid hikers at this point in our lives so this made the most sense for us. And while it was stroller friendly there can still be some rough terrain depending on the season. Our jogging single stroller did very well but I can’t imagine having to push a heavy stroller wagon or a small travel stroller with delicate wheels.

Tip: Stay Hydrated. When going up into the mountains focus on hydration for EVERYONE. This was one mistake we made. The air is more dry at the higher elevation and we were much more active and in the sun so hydration was something that became really important. And because of that everyone was drinking MORE. The toddler was drinking more water and the baby was wanting more milk.


I unfortunately was so focused on the kids I wasn’t able to focus on my own hydration and found my breast milk supply plummeted during the trip. That coupled with the baby’s thirst, we ended up needing to supplement with formula to make sure he was taken care of. And because I did not plan for this, I only packed a small amount. At that point we were supplementing about 4-8 oz a day. After being in the mountains for a few days, the baby was wanting much more and we ended up needing to purchase more formula in town which was not easy to find nor was it the kind we used at home


Additionally our toddler ended up getting sick and throwing up on our last day of the trip. Could have been a stomach bug or altitude sickness from when we were up at Lake Louise earlier that morning. When this happens it's also vital to keep them hydrated. If you need to, you can find Pedialyte in the pharmacy (not in the baby section).


So don’t make these mistakes and plan accordingly.


Where We Ate:
  • Wild Flour Bakery - Exceptional coffee and the most incredible croissants you’ve ever seen. In addition to the wide selection of baked goods and coffee, they also have savory fairs from the kitchen like breakfast sandwiches.

  • White Bark Cafe - Great coffee and sweet treats in the heart of the hotel strip.

  • Park Distillery - The food and the views (upstairs balcony) here are so good. If you're a drinker this is a good place to try the Park Caesar (Canada’s version of the Bloody Mary but better).

The friendly brewers at 3 Bears Brewery
  • El Patio/Magpie & Stump - Loved the rooftop patio here. Relaxed casual atmosphere. Gets VERY busy on Taco Tuesday. Having just come from Mexico itself the food wasn’t anything special but if you don’t have Mexican food very often I am sure this would be a good place to go for food too.

  • Three Bears Brewery & Restaurant - This was definitely a favorite. Same “group” as Park Distillery and The Bison so there were some similarities on the menu as those two but they had some unique items as well in addition to a kids menu and high chairs. The beers were fantastic, the venue was gorgeous, they had a large unisex bathroom with a changing table so mom or dad could take the baby to be changed.

  • The Bison - We had our date night here. The food and drinks were incredible. If it is nice, request a table on the terrace. No other notes, just love.

All restaurants on this list offer either a kids menu or kid friendly options and high chairs. The few places we used the restrooms did have changing tables, but we didn’t confirm at each location.


Things We Missed Out On:

These are all things that I had either heard good things about or were recommended to us and we didn't have time for or were closed at this time of the season, etc.

Departure:

Because we drove to Banff, we had to leave quite early in the morning to make it to our 11am flight. Calgary is a much smaller airport than Toronto and for domestic flights, I think you would be fine getting there 2 hours before departure. One of the amazing things about Canadian airports is they always have family lines in each portion of the airport. This really helps with the travel process. Additionally, they have puppies in the terminal that they call pre-board pals!!


TORONTO


Table of Contents, Toronto:


Arrival back to Toronto and Transportation to the Hotel:

During the second half of our trip, we planned to take an Uber to our downtown Toronto hotel. Despite ordering an Uber XL, we were surprised to find that the car had captain's chairs instead of a benched middle row, leaving me with no place to sit with our bags taking up the third row.


If you're traveling with little ones, I highly recommend arranging a private taxi service to ensure that you have enough space for your family and your luggage. While we've never had this issue with just one child, we've run into this problem a few times with two babies. Plus, the cost of a private taxi service is usually comparable to ordering an Uber.


Toronto has some of the highest accommodation prices that I have seen in recent memory.


With that in mind the location of the Holiday Inn Express Toronto Downtown is unbeatable for families looking to explore the city. The hotel is situated within walking distance of many of Toronto's top attractions, such as the CN Tower, Ripley's Aquarium, and the Rogers Centre. We loved being able to walk to these attractions and avoid the hassle of driving and parking in the busy city.


The hotel itself was clean, comfortable, and well-equipped for families. The rooms were spacious enough for our family of four, and we appreciated having a fridge and microwave in the room for snacks and meals. The staff were friendly and helpful, and gave us great recommendations for family-friendly activities in the area. One minor downside was that the hotel is located on a busy street, so there was some traffic noise in the rooms, but it wasn't enough to keep us up at night especially since we had the baby's sound machine,


Overall, we would highly recommend the Holiday Inn Express Toronto Downtown to families looking for a comfortable and convenient place to stay in the heart of the city. With its great location and welcoming staff, it's the perfect home base for exploring all that Toronto has to offer.


Getting Around:

Toronto doesn’t have great public transportation, especially for a huge city.


The public transportation system that does exist can be challenging for families, with limited routes and frequent delays. While the city does have a subway system, it's often overcrowded and doesn't reach many of the popular tourist destinations. The lines run east to west in the downtown area but don't stretch much outside of that. The bus and tram system can also be unreliable, with long wait times and inconsistent schedules.


For families looking to explore the city, it's worth considering alternative transportation options, such as walking, biking, or taking a taxi or ride-sharing service. Many of the top attractions are located within walking distance of each other, and Toronto's bike share program (if without baby) offers a convenient and affordable way to get around the city.


What We Did:

After the 5 days in Banff, we needed a bit of a slow pace in Toronto. Which is ironic because its a huge city with so much to do. The kids were tired, we were tired but we still got to see some real highlights!

  • Hockey Hall of Fame - My husband is a big hockey guy being from the Czech Republic and all so we thought this was really cool. The Great Hall that housed the Stanley Cup was incredible.

  • St. Lawrence Market - Such a cool and diverse stop while youre in Toronto. The Market is a historic and vibrant marketplace that's perfect for families who love exploring unique and delicious foods. With over 120 vendors offering fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and specialty items from around the world, you can taste your way through the market and discover new flavors together.

  • Distillery District - Another incredible stop on our tour of Toronto. The Distillery District in Toronto is a charming and pedestrian-friendly village filled with beautifully restored Victorian-era buildings that's sure to enchant both parents and kids alike. From art galleries and unique boutiques to restaurants and sweet treats, the Distillery District is a perfect place to spend an afternoon exploring and taking family photos.

  • CN Tower - The CN Tower in Toronto is a totally Instagram-worthy spot that the whole family will love! Standing at a whopping 553 meters tall, it's one of the tallest buildings in the world and offers amazing views of the city and the lake. With exciting attractions like the glass floor, EdgeWalk, and 360 Restaurant, there's something for everyone to enjoy and make unforgettable memories.

  • Roundhouse Park - After our stop at the CN Tower, we spent the rest of the afternoon in Roundhouse Park before taking the kids back to the hotel for a nap. This was a family-friendly destination that's perfect for little train enthusiasts and casual park goers alike. The park features historic locomotives and train cars, a turntable, and even a miniature train ride, providing plenty of opportunities for kids to learn about the city's railway history and have a blast at the same time. We posted up outside of the Steam Whistle Brewing within the turntable building and enjoyed a lovely afternoon there.

  • Harbourfront - Our final stop before heading out of town was Toronto's Harbourfront. It is a picturesque waterfront area that's perfect for families who love outdoor activities and stunning views. With a variety of attractions and events, such as boat tours, music festivals, and outdoor movies, the Harbourfront is a great place to relax, have fun, and create unforgettable memories together.



Where We Ate:

Admittingly, we weren’t able to go out and try as much because of our schedule. The kids ended up taking their naps these days right in the middle of lunch time so most of the time we either had a late lunch/early dinner or just doordashed something to our hotel. We also tried to save some money by eating the continental breakfast at the hotel instead of going out for that meal. But that is just traveling with babies.


For what its worth, Toronto has some amazing options in terms of dining. And I really wish we were able to try more of it.


Things We Missed Out On:

Departure:

When leaving Toronto for an international flight, it's important to give yourself plenty of time. I recommend allowing at least three hours before your departure time. If you're flying to the United States, you'll go through customs and immigration in Canada, and depending on your final destination, you may have to go through the process again upon arrival in the US.


You should also be sure to utilize the express lane at security if you're traveling with young children. Most airports have a separate line for families with strollers and car seats, which can save you a lot of time and hassle.


Conclusion

From the stunning mountain landscapes of Banff to the bustling cityscape of Toronto, we had the opportunity to explore some of Canada's most iconic destinations and create lasting memories as a family. Whether we were hiking to turquoise lakes, strolling through vibrant neighborhoods, or sampling local cuisines, we discovered that Canada truly has something for everyone. Our trip was a reminder of the joys of travel and the value of taking time to experience new places and cultures with loved ones. We cannot wait to plan our next adventure to Canada to explore even more that this beautiful country has to offer.

 

Disclaimer: Images and links above may provide Traveling with Babies with a small commission for qualifying purchases.

Comments


bottom of page