The Scenic Route to Nature’s Beauty and Fury (A Family Vacation)

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I haven’t been here for some time. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, plus we were out on vacation. Time, it seems, really did pass by quickly. That or I’ve had a lot of things on my mind that needed sorting before I even attempted to write.

So let’s get back on track. Over on my side of the world, there’s one more month left of the summer break while back home, classes are being canceled due to inclement weather. It’s sweltering over here, the daytime temperatures often going over 95 degrees Fahrenheit (around 35 degrees Celsius). Hot and humid, and there’s no let-up. Back home it’s cold and rainy thanks to the seasonal monsoons and typhoons. We’re all once again reminded of how powerful nature is, and how our lives are affected by it in every way.

Nature. That’s what we experienced last week.

Hubby and I took our kids to visit Niagara Falls. Apart from the usual touristy things, we were hoping to make it an educational break as well. We’re really a rather simple family, cheap even, and we’ve learned to make the most of every opportunity. So it stands to reason that we’d try to hit several birds with one stone. Even when it comes to vacations.

All in all, I am happy to report that our boys rated this trip as excellent. Which makes the hubby and I happy. To know our boys had a great time satisfies our parental desire for affirmation. Besides, family vacations are known to be the site for disasters, and things can go wrong as easily as they can go right. If you have kids, you understand.

But, thankfully, things worked out. Here’s why…

  • We planned carefully. Once we knew we had a break in the hubby’s work schedule, we got to work. Thanks to the oppressive heat these past weeks, we decided to go North to Niagara Falls. After all, Canada equals cool weather, right? And, since most of the activities we wanted to do were on the Canadian side of the Falls, we chose a hotel in Ontario. This worked out well since you have to pay for parking everywhere. From where we stayed, we could walk to both sides of the Falls. So we got our exercise–lots of it!—and saved some money.
  • We worked within our budget, and let our kids know it. Unless you’re one of the few that have no limits on the debit card, you understand where I’m coming from. We searched online {and avoided tourist traps!} then talked to the boys about what the attractions were. We gave them the time and freedom to choose what they really wanted to do. Since we were going to be there for five days, we listed what we could do realistically within that time frame and then shortened the list some more, according to their preferences and our expectations. We were also very clear about which ones they couldn’t go to–like the Horror House and video arcades. That saved us from wasting time arguing and having to deal with sulky faces.
  • We decided on the highlights of the trip, in this case the Discovery Pack and the African Lion Safari, then filled in the rest of the time with less expensive activities. Since we couldn’t do everything they wanted to do, this turned out to be a good way to reach a compromise.
  • We treated the long drive as part of our vacation by taking the scenic route. And having fun in the car. With a little effort, simple games, drawing pads and lots of patience, we avoided antsy boys and the constant “Are we there yet?” refrain.
  • We did all the free stuff we could do, and then some. Viewing the Falls was free, with the gardens thrown in for good measure. The boys understand my love for all things green, and they knew to respect that. Especially since they got to plan most of the trip. And Daddy took them swimming at the hotel indoor pool a lot. Which they loved to do.
  • We mixed things up by bringing food and eating out. Our family loves to eat, period. So we brought our own snacks and drinks. And pre-cooked rice packs. We chose a hotel that offered complimentary full breakfasts. And we made a big production out of choosing which restaurants to go to. Which got the boys all excited as they felt like they were part of the decision process. {It also helped that we spent some time reading reviews on Yelp to give us an idea of good places to take our kids.}
  • We took advantage of coupons, discounts, tour packages. For the day we spent at the American side of the Falls, we bought the Discovery Pack, which included the Maid of the Mist boat ride, entrance to the Cave of the Winds, and tickets to the Adventure Theater, the Aquarium of Niagara and the Discovery Center. Plus unlimited rides on the trolley. This took up the whole day, and the boys were never bored.
  • Finally, we made our expectations clear to our two impressionable sons. It was a family vacation, and as such, we were giving them the freedom to make a lot of choices as to what we would do. But always, they had to honor our family values. In the end, they got to appreciate God’s creation, experience a little bit of history and science, and have fun and build memories. And hopefully, they got to learn good decision making skills that will follow them into the future.

Here’s some photos we took during our trip. Hope you enjoy them. Until next time…

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Niagara. It really is every bit as awe-inspiring as you’ve heard:

 

The Horseshoe Falls. And the Maid of the Mist boat, for an up close and personal experience.

 

The Bridal Veil Falls, right beside the American Falls.

 

 

The view from the American side. That rainbow added to the breathtaking sight.

 

The Rainbow Bride, connecting the U.S.A and Canada.

 

I took this from the Maid of the Mist. Getting closer to the falls, that was one unforgettable experience.

 

Niagara Falls. How great Thou art.

 

Flowers are always welcome in my book.

 

A day at the African Lion Safari. Oh the memories the boys {and their parents} will treasure.

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2 responses »

  1. Niagara! I like the place where you take your family vacation and also the African Lion Safari. I wish also someday that my family will also take a vacation just like yours.

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