our summer vacation: banff and glacier national parks

banff national park | the merry gourmet

Plain of Six Glaciers trail, in Banff.

“We love the Tetons and Yellowstone, but Glacier is our favorite national park.”

We heard this sentence, or a variation on it, at least two or three times last summer while we were in the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. I couldn’t imagine loving another park even more than I did either Grand Tetons or Yellowstone. I had fallen hard for both places and for different reasons. How could Glacier be even better?

But the sentiment stayed with me, even after we returned home. So I began my research. Within 2 weeks of arriving home from Jackson Hole, I had booked hotel rooms in the Many Glacier Hotel, on the east side of Glacier National Park, for one year later, in July 2015.

As the months went by, my plans for our summer trip evolved, expanded, and solidified. In my research, I learned that one of the major airports near Glacier was in Calgary, in Alberta, Canada. And not terribly far from Calgary was Banff, in the Canadian Rockies. Hmm.

When we finally boarded our Delta flight in Orlando on July 4th, our first destination was Canada. We would fly into Calgary International Airport, drive to Banff, spend the first four nights in Banff and then drive south, back into the United States, to Glacier National Park in Montana. After four nights in and around Glacier, we would head back home to Florida.

banff national park | the merry gourmet

Moraine Lake, in Banff.

banff national park | the merry gourmet

The trip was amazing and not long enough. As it turns out, four nights in Banff is not any where close to enough time. And four nights in Glacier is also not enough time. Looking back on it, I think we had some great appetizer portions of each, but it left me craving the full tasting menu. And dessert. I needed dessert.

This is the itinerary I planned – and which we mostly stuck to. Sam tried to change up some of my itinerary early on and nearly lost an ear as a result. After that, he went along with what I had planned, and I tried to be more flexible and spontaneous. Neither of us achieved 100% success, but perfection is boring, right?

Day 1: Travel day, to Calgary International Airport. Drive to Banff.
Day 2: Explore Moraine Lake and Lake Louise
Day 3: Drive to the Icefield Centre in Jasper, along the Icefields Parkway. Trip to the Athabasca Glacier on an Ice Explorer.
Day 4: Hike the Plain of Six Glaciers trail, to the tea house.
Day 5: Leave Banff and drive south to Montana and Glacier National Park. Stay at Many Glacier Hotel.
Day 6: Explore the eastern side of Glacier.
Day 7: Leave Many Glacier and drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road, exploring along the way. Check into hotel in Whitefish, Montana.
Day 8: Explore the western side of Glacier.
Day 9: Travel day, back to Florida.

moraine lake, banff | the merry gourmet

Moraine Lake, in Banff

jasper national park | the merry gourmet

Athabasca Glacier, in Jasper National Park.

glacier national park | the merry gourmet

Swiftcurrent Lake, at Many Glacier

Over the next couple of weeks (fingers crossed), I’ll share photos and details of parts of our trip. I’ve just started going through the 650+ photos that I took while on the trip, and I haven’t begun to see what ended up on the kids’ cameras (or Sam’s, for that matter).

We did learn two big lessons from this trip, though, that are important to keep in mind if you’re also thinking of a similar itinerary.

First, renting a car in Canada and returning it in the United States makes for a very expensive (and very limited selection) car rental. We rented a car in Calgary, at the airport, and returned it in Montana, just before our flight home. I did this because I specifically wanted to fly into Calgary rather than into Montana. Calgary is closer to Banff and would give us easy access to both Banff and to Glacier. Also, it was cheaper to fly into Calgary and fly home from Montana. Odd, I know, but that’s the way it worked out. So, I booked airline tickets and didn’t think twice. Only later, when it came time to rent a car did I learn the error of my ways. Whatever money we saved in airline cost was immediately wiped out by the expense of the car rental. Also, the only company we could rent from was Budget, and the only car available for rent was a Chevy Malibu. We did find it entertaining (and only slightly annoying) to have a car that only listed kilometers per hour (and registered the outside temperatures only in degrees Celsius).

glacier national park | the merry gourmet

Glacier National Park

Second, to really get a good feel for Banff or Glacier National Park, do one or do the other, but don’t do both in one trip. I don’t regret anything about our trip, but I do wish I hadn’t felt as rushed as I felt. I set an alarm every day of the vacation because I did not want us to miss a single moment. We were up and out of the hotel early in the morning – until the latter portion of the trip when the kids rebelled against me – and we returned back late in the evening, after a late dinner. We exhausted ourselves completely and thoroughly.

At dinner one night, probably halfway through the trip, I started to announce that we were getting up at 6:00 the next morning so that we could have a quick breakfast before going out exploring. Oliver interrupted me. “Wait, wait wait. Mom. Wait,” he said. He held one arm out, palm facing me in the universal STOP signal. “Vacation is supposed to be about relaxing, okay?”

He was right. If we’d chosen to do one national park or the other, we could have done each one more thoroughly and still allowed for some down time. As it was, I did very little reading, no knitting at all, and I barely had time to record each day’s events in my travel journal. None of us slept enough.

Oh, but it was a good vacation. I look forward to sharing more about it in the posts to come.

glacier national park | the merry gourmet

Avalanche Lake, in Glacier

glacier national park | the merry gourmet

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Note: For those of you who, like me, are obsessive about researching and planning vacations, I completely rely on two apps for all of my trip planning. Evernote is my workhorse for keeping ideas, itineraries, snapshots of maps or confirmation numbers, and more. I use TripIt to organize the final trip plans, and it’s the home to all reservation information (flights, car rentals, hotels, etc.).

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21 Responses to “a new york city weekend”

  1. Winnie — March 20, 2011 @ 10:19 pm

    So sorry you lost your camera, but this post and the pictures you do have made me smile…they are so beautiful! Was SO wonderful to meet you and I am so glad you enjoyed your trip 🙂

  2. What lovely photos! It looks as though you had a great trip. I myself am just itching to get back to NYC as I haven’t been since February of 2007! I definitely need to get back there and get tasting some great seafood and sipping on some lovely martinis!

  3. sweetsugarbelle — March 20, 2011 @ 10:34 pm

    This looks like heaven. To me NYC is magical. I dream of a visit. It seems like the most wonderful place on earth.

  4. Liren — March 20, 2011 @ 11:45 pm

    Sigh, your photos are making me nostalgic and reminding me that its time for me to plan a visit home. So glad you had fun, but so sad you lost your camera!

  5. Ethan — March 20, 2011 @ 11:45 pm

    It was a foregone conclusion you’d have a great time! NYC + all the twitter people = amazing!
    Thanks for the pictures (and sorry you lost your camera)

  6. Denise @ Creative Kitchen — March 21, 2011 @ 2:05 am

    So happy for you that you had such a great time in NYC with hubby! Couple getaways are SO important & wow…NYC, I can only imagine!! 😉 Your photographs are beautiful…I feel like I’m there. Great to see springtime, since I live in South Florida. The camera for me would be a huge bummer….but good for you, trying to roll with it.

    Can’t wait to meet you at FBF Orlando in a few weeks. Yes…Twitter is “magic.”

    Denise @ Creative Kitchen

  7. Macaroni Mama — March 21, 2011 @ 7:11 am

    Great photos!

  8. Brian @ A Thought For Food — March 21, 2011 @ 7:43 am

    I am so jealous that everyone got to meet you… looks like you had a wonderful trip filled with good weather and lots of food. Next time, come to Boston 😉

  9. Gail — March 21, 2011 @ 9:05 am

    I’m so glad I got to spend a little time with you during this glorious NY weekend!
    We’re all so lucky to have found each other through twitter. I know my life is my better for it.

  10. Lynda — March 21, 2011 @ 11:08 am

    New York never looked so beautiful – I wish it were closer to San Francisco! What a wonderful opportunity for you and a well deserved vacation.

  11. Barbara | VinoLuciStyle — March 21, 2011 @ 11:32 am

    I guess I need to give NYC another chance. I spent one day there with my daughter and sister a few years ago after a wonderful vacation in Boston. We were tired, it was hot and those two girls decided a trip on the subway to see the Statue of Liberty was on their ‘have to’ list. Next time I’ll follow the beat to my own drummer and check out the city and food places I would love to visit.

    Love the pictures…even if fewer than you would have liked!

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — March 23rd, 2011 @ 12:35 pm

      You definitely need to give it another try, Barb.

  12. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — March 21, 2011 @ 1:31 pm

    So sorry that you lost your camera… But, glad that you had a good trip otherwise! It was so wonderful to see you again!

    Love all of your pictures… They are absolutely beautiful. 🙂

  13. Amy | She Wears Many Hats — March 21, 2011 @ 8:41 pm

    What a fun filled weekend! A tasty one too.

  14. Ken⏐hungry rabbit — March 21, 2011 @ 8:51 pm

    A pleasure to meet you and your hubby over cocktails at Pegu and a delightful dinner with the gang. Promise all of us you will come back soon, real soon.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — March 23rd, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

      I’m going to try my darndest!

  15. tom — March 22, 2011 @ 4:58 pm

    wow what a sweet montage, the pics are some of the clearest I have seen, well done, tom

  16. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — March 23, 2011 @ 9:13 am

    I’ve pored over these pictures and soaked them in. Living vicariously, you know. We should plan this again soon. When I can actually be there! xox

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