When you’re traveling as a family with four kids and meeting friends with three kids of their own, equal parts planning and flexibility are required. We just returned from a whirlwind 48-hour visit to Ottawa. Beyond our accommodations we had a loose itinerary which pretty much got blown to smithereens within an hour of arriving. The trick to enjoying a stress-free mini vacation is not only to plan but to be able to roll with the punches. Here are some tips:
Tip #1: Scope out proper accommodations and shop for deals
First, let me just say that, if you are traveling with several children, booking a two-bedroom suite is the best thing you can do. We stayed two nights at Les Suites, right in the heart of Ottawa. We had a deluxe (read: renovated) two-bedroom suite with 3 queen-sized beds, full kitchen and two full bathrooms. Perfect. Also, having our suite directly across from our friends afforded us some grown-up social time after the kiddos had crashed.
Bonus: We got a sweet summer special with the second night at 50% off!
There are a ton of kid-friendly places to visit in Ottawa, but we decided one must-see was Parliament Hill. Beautiful walking weather and a centrally-located hotel meant we were able to go nearly everywhere on foot. The first afternoon included a visit up to the tippy top of the Peace Tower. Gorgeous birds eye view of the city. The moms returned the morning of our last day with the older girls to take in a tour of Parliament (House of Commons, Senate Room, Library).
Note: The tours, available in English and French, are limited in number and time slot, so get there early.
At some point we figured we would fit in a trip to the Museum of Nature. And maybe the Canadian Mint. Neither materialized, which just means we will have to come back. But, when you’re catering to seven kids aged 5-12, you need to be mindful of temperament and interests. So, being hot and sunny we decided to hit up Saunders Farm. This turned out to be a bit of a miss; truth be told, it looked much more exciting on the website than it really was. Also, my seven-year old had to rescue me from a motherfreaking maze, so there’s that. Plus it was chaotic and pricy. The museum would have been a better choice.
Bonus: Tours of the Parliament Building are free and so is the hotel pool, the kids’ favorite place to spend their downtime.
Staying in a suite with a full kitchen means you can eat in. With a grocery store nearby we were able to make a quick pasta dinner for the kids the first night while the grown-ups opted for yummy Thai take-out. We were also able to stock the fridge with staples for easy breakfasts and quick lunches.
Bonus: LCBO also within walking distance.
Added fun stuff: The moms taking the older girls for some retail therapy at Rideau Centre; group dinner at The Grand at Biward Market, scenic stroll along the Rideau Canal.
So while we didn’t necessarily pack in the culture during this visit to Ottawa, our primary goal was to spend time with our friends, which we accomplished. The fact that we didn’t set expectations made our trip much more relaxed than had we rigidly over-planned every last detail. Sometimes it pays to go with the flow.
What are some of your favorite places to visit in Ottawa?