Tag Archives: Canada

Dubai Marina in the United Arab Emirates

5 Unusual Spring Break Ideas for College Students (and Their Parents)

Hi everyone, it’s Wendy’s son Doug here.  A reader asked where to take her 21-year-old for college spring break:

“Hi. This question is for Doug:  I’m thinking about a trip with my 21-year-old son for college spring break in March. Like you, he and I (I’m the Mom) have traveled together all his life. We are looking for your best ideas/suggestions. We’ve traveled to most of Europe. I’m primarily concerned that we only have a week. Can we see Dubai during that short time?  I enjoyed your trip reports and would appreciate your suggestions. Thanks, Rosalind”

I’m happy to help, and Dubai (pictured above) is a fantastic idea for spring break!  In fact, it’s one of my top five suggestions, based on my own experiences.  As a college sophomore, I can tell you that these suggestions are well suited to college students—and kids of all ages. These are destinations where you can get the combination of relaxation and adventure that you want for spring break, plus cultural exploration too.


Abu Dhabi Qasr al Sarab dune bashing

This was us dune bashing in Abu Dhabi’s Empty Quarter.  Photo: Timothy Baker

You can easily experience both Dubai and Abu Dhabi in one week!  You can go dune bashing (above is our thrilling 4×4 ride in Abu Dhabi), sandboarding, snowboarding (there’s an indoor ski slope), and still have enough time for the beach. You can drive a test Ferrari, take a hot lap in a Formula 1 car, or ride the world’s fastest roller coaster. Dubai is so technologically advanced that it lets you see and experience what the future will be like, which any college student wants to do. It’s also a big airline hub, so there are nonstop flights from many U.S. cities.


Two people scuba diving

That’s me earning my scuba-diving certification in Belize. Photo: Timothy Baker

One week is more than enough time to get your scuba diving license in Belize. (That’s me above, following the instructor, during my certification course there.)  On the barrier reef, you can snorkel with stingrays, dive with sharks, adventure into a cave filled top to bottom with lobsters, and explore the Blue Hole. On Ambergris Caye, you can bike or drive a golf cart around the island, and at night you can go to beach bars and sip your favorite drink while sitting in a pool or eat in restaurants with your toes in the sand. You can read about our family trip to Belize here.


Two kids on a boat in Panama.

That’s me and my older brother, Charlie, on a boat in the Panama Canal. Photo: Timothy Baker

Panama is known for its biodiversity. You can hike and zipline through the jungle, see the incredible wildlife by boating down the Panama Canal, one of the world’s most impressive engineering feats (my brother and I are doing that above), visit the Biomuseo designed by Frank Gehry, explore the Old Town, or hit the beach. It’s on East Coast time, so there’s no jet lag to cope with when classes start again, and there are nonstop flights from many U.S. cities.


Doug watching Charlie riding Olympics bobsled in Whistler, Canada.

When I was in Whistler, I was too small to ride the Olympics bobsled, but I watched Charlie do it. He says it went so fast it felt like a blur. Photo: Timothy Baker

Whistler is a place for thrill seekers and extreme sports lovers. Some of the best skiing and snowboarding to be had are in these world-class mountains less than a two-hour drive from Vancouver. You can also go snowmobiling, ziplining, and bungee jumping in winter. My older brother, Charlie, got to zoom down the 2010 Whistler Winter Olympics bobsled course (I was too small), and he says it happened so fast that it felt like a blur—which is how the world’s fastest roller coaster in Abu Dhabi felt too—but it was still amazing.


family picture at dades gorges Morocco

Here, I’m with Mom and Charlie in Morocco’s Dadès Gorges during spring break when I was 12.

You can go sandboarding and ride camels in the Sahara, hike in the mountains, and still have time to go surfing in Essouaira and enjoy a hammam. With its incredible architecture, markets, and cities, Morocco provides many experiences that are Instagram worthy, especially the rainbow of spices they put on their food. And it’s just across the Atlantic Ocean. You can read more about our spring break in Morocco here.

The reviews below from other travelers attest to how well these places work for everyone in the family. Happy spring break!


Dubai and Abu Dhabi: “We visited Museum of the Future, went to the ‘top of the Burj Khalifa,’ had a helicopter ride, and went on a private sunset palm cruise…”

Diane Thormodsgard

Diane Thormodsgard with her husband and grandsons on a private sunset cruise in Dubai.

“My husband and I took our grandsons (ages 14 and 13) to the U.A.E. for 10 days. Nicholas designed an itinerary that suited all of us perfectly. We started in Dubai with a stay at Atlantis the Palm, including exclusive Imperial Club access, after being met with VIP service at the airport. The boys enjoyed Aquaventure and the pool. We also had a Dubai historical tour, visited Museum of the Future, went to the ‘top of the Burj Khalifa,’ had a helicopter ride, and went on a private sunset palm cruise with a crew of four that provided excellent service.

After leaving Dubai, we ventured to Al Maha, a luxury desert resort. What a great experience in the desert with private pools at each suite (boys had their own Bedouin suite), a desert jeep ride, camel rides, beautiful sunset, early morning falconry presentation for the grandparents, and excellent food. Our only regret is we wished we would have spent more than one night there so we could have enjoyed other activities like archery, more time in the pool and watching the many gazelles and rare Arabian Oryx on the property. As the boys said, ‘this is really cool!’

The next stop was Abu Dhabi, where we stayed at the WB Hotel by Hilton, which is conveniently located near many of the theme parks. After touring Abu Dhabi, which included a tour of the Grand Mosque, we finished our trip with visits to Warner Bros. World, Ferrari World and the recently opened Sea World. The new Sea World is absolutely incredible. Ferrari World was the highlight, however, with an individual Ferrari car ride on nearby roads with a professional driver for each grandson. The trip was a nice mix of history, amazing architecture, and entertainment. We were definitely able to experience a ‘trip of our lifetime’ for our grandsons and us!” —Diane Thormodsgard

Read more reviews of Dubai and Abu Dhabi trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Belize: “Relaxing on, and snorkeling off of, idyllic islands…”

empty white sand beach with a few green trees and light turquoise water in Belize

A white sand beach in Belize. Photo: Shutterstock

“In a matter of days, Patricia organized a world-class 12-day trip for our family to Belize, with features that kept our three kids (ages 17, 17 and 20) engaged and happy, including climbing Mayan ruins, riding horses, lounging at the pool, and snorkeling. Lots of snorkeling. Christmas Day was spent relaxing on, and snorkeling off of, idyllic islands near the village of Placencia.

New Year’s Eve was spent on a ‘catch and cook’ adventure off the coast of Ambergris Caye with dive master and boat captain extraordinaire Carlos Cordova. We fished for bait, dove for conch and lobster, and went fishing. Then we cooked our catches on the beach. The highlight was ceviche made with fresh conch, lobster and fish. We particularly enjoyed the accommodations at Hidden Valley Wilderness Ranch and Naia Resort & Spa in Placencia. We couldn’t have asked for a better family trip.” —Robyn Smyers

Read more reviews of Belize trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Panama: “It still retains the charm of cloud forests without the commercialization of Costa Rica’s Monteverde…”

Old hanging bridge in a rainforest.

Old hanging bridge in the jungle of Panama. Photo: Shutterstock

“My husband, 21-year old son, and I had a fabulous time in Panama, organized by Pierre. We stayed in the old part of Panama City—very charming and beautifully decorated for the holidays. Seeing the Panama Canal was the highlight of the trip for us—an absolute must-do for anyone visiting. We also visited Monkey Island (taking a boat next to big ships in the Canal was awesome) and the sloth sanctuary.

We visited Boquete in the mountains for three nights and absolutely loved it. It still retains the charm of cloud forests without the commercialization of Costa Rica’s Monteverde. Highlights there included an adventurous 4×4 jeep ride to the top of Baru Volcano for sunrise and to see both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, a fun cooking experience with the chef of Ngädri restaurant, hanging bridges, and a tour of a coffee plantation.

We celebrated New Year’s in Panama City at one of the rooftop restaurants with great music and an excellent multi-course dinner and Champagne. Very memorable. All three of us really enjoyed Panama and look forward to going back again.” —Tina Hunt

Read more reviews of Panama trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.



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Newfoundland scenery

Extraordinary Getaways in the U.S. and Canada

When you can’t plan far in advance and don’t want to travel too far from home, here are options for a wide variety of extraordinary trips in the United States and Canada. If you’re not sure which Trusted Travel Expert is the best fit for your particular trip goals, feel free to Ask Wendy.

“Our teenagers are still talking about our Southern California trip…”

The Gill family WOW Moment.

The Gill family’s WOW Moment.

“Our teenagers are still talking about our Southern California trip, especially the paragliding adventure over the beaches and golf course at Torrey Pines and our beach barbeque at Crystal Cove State Park while watching the sunset with our toes in the sand.  Sheri was very helpful in recommending and organizing hotel stays at both the new hipster Pendry Hotel in San Diego and the luxurious Pelican Hill Resort outside of Newport Beach.  We initially had a little misunderstanding with the resort regarding our room location, but after a short conversation with Sheri, we were quickly upgraded to a room with a much better view (thanks, Sheri). This type of personalized service is the reason we plan most of our trips using Wendy Perrin’s trusted travel experts.  Since this was our third qualifying trip, Wendy surprised us with a WOW Moment—a day of adventure on charming Coronado Island. Our guide for the day picked us up at our hotel for a short ferry ride over to the historic island, where we spent the day riding electric bikes around the quaint residential areas, and then we kayaked out into the Bay. Thanks, Wendy and Sheri, for a very memorable day for all of us! ” —Janette Gill

Utah: “The sunset at the rim of Bryce Canyon displaying blazing shades of yellow, orange, and pink…”

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. Photo: Mark Campbell

“Our trip to the national parks and monuments of Utah was a breathtaking adventure, thanks to Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert.  We experienced moments in time that were transformative: The Navajo guide who sang to us in his native language while we were sitting within a grotto at Monument Valley; the slot canyon tour that resulted in absolutely amazing photos, thanks to another native Navajo guide who helped us with our Nikon camera settings, thus maximizing the camera’s capacity to capture vivid colors within the stunningly colorful canyons; the sunset at the rim of Bryce Canyon displaying blazing shades of yellow, orange, and pink; the drive at the base of the canyons at Capitol Reef that could have so easily been missed, had she not pointed this out to us; lastly, the hot-air balloon ride at the Amangiri.  I still cannot believe we experienced all that we did.” —Linda Johnsey

Atlantic Canada: “There were breathtaking panoramic views, rugged coastlines, fascinating history, photogenic lighthouses…”

Gros Morne Western Brook Pond fjord, Newfoundland

Gros Morne Western Brook Pond fjord, Newfoundland. Photo: Maxxim Vacations

Jill arranged a wonderful itinerary for our four-week road trip through Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland. There were breathtaking panoramic views, rugged coastlines, fascinating history, colorful houses, photogenic lighthouses, quaint ports, interesting art, gourmet food offerings, a lot of friendly people, and outstanding activities such as a private tour of Green Gables where you would have believed that Anne herself was taking us through Marilla’s home, a lighthouse picnic in Ferryland with million-dollar views whichever way you looked, a private boat tour exploring the rugged Atlantic coastline between the sea stacks, a sailing boat on the inland sea at Baddeck, and a guided hike to two amazing areas of Gros Morne National Park. It certainly is an advantage to get a local person to arrange an itinerary such as we have enjoyed and organize special accommodations and activities that you would not find if you did not have that local knowledge. It was also a real treat to meet Jill while we were there; it added an extra-special personalized moment for us.” —Paul and Karen Fehlberg

Alaska: “We caught ten 15-pound salmon in Talkeetna (and we had never fished before)…”

A Kodiak brown bear, Alaska

A Kodiak brown bear, in Alaska. Photo: Entree Destinations

“This was our third trip to Alaska—and it was a ‘WOW’ trip for us, thanks to Judith. We flew to the remote village of Anaktuvuk in Gates of the Arctic National Park, caught ten 15-pound salmon in Talkeetna (and we had never fished before), saw bears at Brooks Falls, saw sandhill cranes at Creamers Field, hiked around Byers Lake, got a private tour of the Morris Thompson native heritage center, reached ‘The End of the Road’ in Denali National Park…. Everything was just a delight!  And without Judith’s knowledge as to where to stay, what flying companies to work with, what fishing licenses were needed, and the many details and connections that were necessary for this trip, I could not have put it together without being frazzled and worried about making sure things worked as intended. This was a delightful, stress-free trip.  Judith and her team even arranged the weather for us to get a ‘clear’ view of Denali.” —Marsha Friedli

Wyoming: “She found us the perfect cabin in the Tetons…”

kayaking in jackson lake grand teton national park

Grand Teton National Park is full of outdoor activities in the summer, including kayaking on Jackson Lake. Photo: Billie Cohen

“We—my wife and I and our six-year-old twins—were searching for a memorable 10-day Thanksgiving trip in the mountains anywhere in the West that had the best chance of snow. After advising us as to the pros and cons of every mountain area from Colorado to British Columbia, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert steered us toward Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She found us the perfect cabin in the Tetons for half of the time and then obtained a truly phenomenal suite for us at the Four Seasons. We booked excursions in the refuge to see bison, hundreds of elk, and bighorn sheep, and we were directed to great hills to sled on and wonderful hiking areas. It was a five-star experience.” —Garrett Bandy

Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia: ” The looks on our daughters’ faces were priceless…”

fisherman in a river with a helicopter parked nearby in the mountains of British Columbia Canada

Heli-fishing in British Columbia, Canada. Photo: Entree Destinations

Marc arranged a private heli-fishing tour in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest. We were first a little hesitant due to the cost, but now we can honestly say that this was by far the highlight of our trip to BC!  Our heli-adventure began with a very scenic ride out to an isolated stream where we fished for pink salmon under the watchful eyes of bald eagles that were nesting in the trees above. The looks on our daughters’ faces were priceless as a mama black bear and her cub ventured to the other side of the stream for a drink. Next we flew past majestic waterfalls to a glacier where we ate a delicious, gourmet picnic lunch followed by a short hike around the fields of flowers and streams. Our adventure continued as the helicopter landed on a very small sandbar on the side of a rushing river to fish for coho salmon followed by another scenic ride back to our resort. It’s these little touches from Marc and his relationships with his service providers that made our vacation to Canada go from good to GREAT…hotel room upgrades, restaurant recommendations and reservations, a personalized foodie tour of Granville Island Market with a personal chef, a candy bar and birthday celebrations for our girls, and a delicious cheese/fruit tray for my husband and I.” —Janette Gill

California Road Trip: “A wonderful road trip on the Pacific Coast Highway from Mendocino down to San Diego…”

Bixby Bridge on the Big Sur coast of California

Bixby Bridge, on the Big Sur coast of California. Photo: Visit California/Myles McGuinness

“Wendy recommended a Trusted Travel Expert who helped us plan a wonderful road trip on the Pacific Coast Highway from Mendocino down to San Diego. He suggested a number of curated visits that were amazing. We especially liked a fabulous canoe trip down the Big River in Mendocino, a bike and wine tour through Sonoma, and a guided tour through Point Lobos (one of the most beautiful spots on earth). He knew the best rooms to stay in—we had some unbelievable views of the ocean from our hotels. It was one of our best trips ever—a definite WOW!” —Cathe and Bob Spear

Maui and Lanai: “We were unsure which Hawaiian islands we wanted to visit…”

Four Seasons Maui balcony

Four Seasons Maui. Photo: Four Seasons

“We were unsure which Hawaiian islands we wanted to visit, but Dani asked our family (four adults) so many questions about what we expected and how we wanted to spend our time, and was so well-informed, that we ended up with a fantastic vacation. We decided on the Four Seasons resorts on the islands of Maui and Lanai, which turned out to be perfect choices. Dani arranged all of our activities: surf lessons, paddleboard lessons, skeet shooting, archery. We had dinner reservations ready and were able to just enjoy our days. A highlight was our WOW Moment, biking down Haleakala through sun and clouds. Just a pleasure! Dani also maximized our time by advising us to take the ferry to Lanai, but to fly from Lanai to Maui instead of using the ferry again. Great advice!” —Nancy Stone

Prince Edward Island: “We had an unbelievable meal that lasted the entire evening…”

chef cooking over fire at Inn at Bay Fortune Prince Edward Island Canada

Inn at Bay Fortune, Prince Edward Island.

Jill planned a fabulous trip for us in the Canadian Maritimes that included an evening of Nova Scotia wines and local specialties at Le Caveau (you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten Brant Lake Wagyu beef), staying at Glenora Distillery on Cape Breton Island, and dinner overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at Panorama at the Cabot Links golf course. The pièce de résistance was our WOW Moment at The Inn at Bay Fortune on Prince Edward Island, where we had an unbelievable meal that lasted the entire evening. A farmer regaled us with stories about his farm and some of what we would be eating, we had a feast of oysters, and everything was cooked over an open flame! Little did we know there would be another WOW Moment the next morning, when we met the chef carving up a 322-pound tuna in the kitchen. ” —Sonja & Brian Haggert

The Olympic Peninsula to Vancouver and Victoria: “Scenic drives, hikes inside national parks, ferry rides…”

A beautiful sunset on the ocean among the rocks, Cape flattery trail , Olympic Peninsula, Washington state

Cape flattery trail, Olympic Peninsula, Washington state. Photo: Shutterstock

“For our trip from the Olympic Peninsula to Vancouver and Victoria, Sheri planned all the logistics, telling us which ferries to take, what time to visit a national park, what to do only on a sunny day rather than a cloudy one, which hikes to take in light of the ages of our kids, restaurants that we would enjoy, traffic advice, museums to visit, and more. She helped us find a great vacation home in the Olympic Peninsula that we would never have found on our own. We were initially reluctant to hire a travel agent who charged for her time, but we are so glad we did because she was worth every penny. Much of the detailed itinerary planning she does wouldn’t yield a commission for her—for example, planning scenic drives, hikes inside national parks, ferry rides—so I understand why she bills for her time the way she does and would highly recommend her.” —Sally Vaugh

Oahu and Maui: “There are many beaches to stop at, and you can see which is the right one for you…”

Hawaii - Kaneohe Bay, Oahu

Aerial view of Kualoa Point at Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, Hawaii. Photo: Shutterstock

Dani did a five-star job planning our Hawaii trip; her recommendations were awesome. If you go to Oahu, head to the North Shore to catch the real vibe of Hawaii. Take the Kamehameha Highway; there are many beaches to stop at, and you can see which is the right one for you. At Pearl Harbor, don’t miss the USS Bowfin Submarine tour and the USS Battleship Missouri. Maui is so much more than the west side of the island. Be sure to explore upcountry, and take the Road to Hana. Make dinner reservations at Merriman’s—in the Kapalua area of the North Shore—for 30 minutes before sunset. But get there earlier so you can sit outside and watch the day end while overlooking Kapalua Bay! As for Lanai, it’s very laid back and a restful place to chill, but be sure to take the 4 x 4 drive to The Garden of the Gods and beyond to Polihua Beach. The journey is the destination! Shipwreck Beach is interesting too: Where else can you walk out to a WW2 ship run aground on the shoals?”  —Joe Linnehan

Disney World: “…carefully planning the order of parks we would visit to make best use of open hours and Disney Magic Hours…”

Fireworks at Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

Fireworks at Disney World, Orlando, Florida. Photo: Disney

“My husband, two grandsons, and I just returned from Disney World, where we had a fabulous trip, largely due to Michelle. She worked with me on a detailed itinerary, carefully planning the order of parks we would visit to make best use of open hours and Disney Magic Hours (which we took full advantage of). She suggested that we stay at Disney’s Beach Club Resort because she said it had the best pool for our grandsons. With its pirate ship, slides and other water-park features, she was absolutely right. Michelle got reservations for a fun sit-down dinner each day, giving us a chance to take a breather and eat some interesting and healthy food. Each restaurant was convenient to where we were spending the day; I could see the wisdom of all her choices as we went through the week. One dinner even included VIP seating at Hollywood Studios’ excellent light show. On the day we qualified to sign up for our Fast Pass choices, Michelle selected the attractions that were most popular and geared to our grandsons’ ages and interests. She also ordered our Disney wrist bands that were linked to our hotel room, parks, Photo Pass, and credit card. I didn’t even have to carry a purse when we went out for the day. She made it possible for us to focus on memories instead of logistics. That’s a big reason why our grandsons announced to their parents when we returned that it was the most fun trip they had ever been on.” —Christine Stoll

Whistler and the Discovery Islands, British Columbia: “So remote, with beautiful scenery and gourmet food…”

aerial view of Sonora Resort in the Discovery Islands, British Columbia

Sonora Resort in the Discovery Islands, British Columbia. Photo: Tim Baker

“My husband and I and our two teenage daughters wanted to go to British Columbia, but to avoid any really crowded areas. Marc suggested we spend a few days in Whistler, then a few days on Sonora Island, and end in Vancouver. He set us up for fun activities in Whistler—RZR cars, white-water rafting, zip lining—and we were treated to a WOW Moment: A photographer gave us a personal tour of several waterfalls, giving us photography tips along the way and taking family photos; although I am the photography buff in the family, he was able to engage the whole family and everyone really enjoyed the experience (thank you, Wendy!). We then took a seaplane to Sonora Resort, which the entire family agreed was heavenly. So remote, with beautiful scenery and gourmet food. On our eco-adventure tour we were lucky enough to be in the middle of a pod of about 100 dolphins. The food at Sonora Resort was so delicious that on the first night at dinner our daughter said, ‘Thank you for bringing me here.’ Finally, in Vancouver, Marc suggested the Fairmont Pacific Rim for us, which also was in a fabulous location. Since we are foodies, he planned a food tour at Granville Island, where there are so many booths that it was helpful to have an expert direct us; the tour allowed us to sample more items in small quantities than we could have done on our own. Although I was very involved with the details of our trip, I didn’t have to figure out where to go or how to get there or worry about logistics during my vacation. That made it a true vacation for me.” —Nancy Wolf

Oregon: “She got us into the cellar of a family-owned winery…”

View of Cannon Beach and Indian beach in Ecola State park Oregon

View of Cannon Beach and Indian beach in Ecola State park Oregon. Photo: Shutterstock

“Wow, do not hesitate to hire Sheri when planning your trip to Oregon. Highlights: She snagged a 7 pm dinner reservation with a view at a restaurant that was booked solid three months out; she got us into the cellar of a family-owned winery in the Willamette Valley where the owner popped off the cork of the barrel and asked us to listen to the crackling sound of wine fermenting; she arranged for tide pooling at Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach. All of the resorts were spot-on, and her restaurant suggestions for dinner were culinary delights—especially the chef’s tasting menu with wine at Castagna in Portland. Her detailed planning service is worth every penny.” —Linda Johnsey

Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland: “Excursions which we never could have arranged by ourselves and about which my three grandchildren never stop talking…”

Newfoundland scenery

Newfoundland scenery. Photo: Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

“For our three-generation family trip to Atlantic Canada—Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland—Jill arranged excursions which we never could have arranged by ourselves and about which my three grandchildren never stop talking. These included a boat trip where we dug for clams, pulled up lobster traps, gathered fresh mussels and oysters, and had a wonderful lobster boil on a secluded beach. Another boat excursion was to islands dark with puffins, murres, razor bills, cormorants and other birds, and a boat tour of coastal resettled communities during which we saw whales.  We also had a songfest in a private home with guitar and accordion. And we (and some say this was the best) hiked along the shore with Lori, a chef, who pointed out plants which were edible and then used them to make a sumptuous lunch. The vistas of inland lakes, pine forests, and ocean fronts were magnificent. This was a visit of a lifetime.” —Richard Goldin

Washington, D.C.: “We were able to get special access to the Supreme Court…”

The Supreme Court building exterior in Washington, D.C

The Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Photo: Shutterstock

Emily’s team did a great job helping us with our Washington, D.C., trip. I was completely befuddled by the plethora of options—and even though I booked just one tour with them, they gave me very solid advice in plotting my itinerary. As it turns out, we were able to get special access to the Supreme Court that day. They were also nice enough to switch our tour to the British Museum for an upcoming London trip. That guide did a fantastic job: He made our high-school daughter look shockingly knowledgeable when she was able to answer questions about ancient Mesopotamia a few months later.” —Susan Hughes

Alaska: “The only backcountry lodge permitted to conduct guided hikes within the Park…”

Denali National Park, Alaska

Denali National Park, Alaska. Photo: Michael DeYoung/Alaska Tourism

“There are travel agents, and then there are travel experts. When going to Alaska, you can buy a nice package deal off of a travel agent, get a cruise, take some side tours and perhaps an extension to Anchorage, Katmai, Talkeetna, Denali or Fairbanks. You will see great places, but you will be part of a crowd. We wanted to see how an Alaska travel expert could customize a trip to meet our desires. Our main objective was to see one of the wildest areas of North America—the backcountry of Denali National Park and Preserve. There are very few travel-agent packages that take you this deep. So Wendy put us in contact with Judith. A travel expert like Judith will book you in a place that is off the grid, 92 miles inside Denali, in the only backcountry lodge permitted to conduct guided hikes within the Park and Preserve. Despite the location, this lodge is a first-class operation. She will also connect you with a behind-the-scenes tour with a native Alaskan and a first-rate guide for birding in Talkeetna. We usually do our own driving, but Judith convinced us to try the Alaska Railroad GoldStar Service between Fairbanks, Denali Park, Talkeetna and Anchorage. Good move, with wonderful travel on each leg of the trip. The views from the train were spectacular, and meeting other train travelers was a fascinating experience. Warning: Alaska is expensive. But Judith will provide a first-class experience of a lifetime. Only about 30% of the people visiting Denali get to see ‘The Great One.’ Judith gave us an excellent shot of seeing the highest mountain in North America. We succeeded and now are part of the lucky 30%.” —Henry Sosinski

Maui and The Big Island, Hawaii: “She even managed to snag us an upgrade to a suite…”

Four Seasons Hualalai pool Hawaii

Four Seasons Hualalai, Hawaii. Photo: Four Seasons

“We used Danis help to put together our trip to Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii.  It was a great trip packed with hiking, a sunrise visit to the top of Mt. Haleakalā and a subsequent bike ride down, surfing lessons in Lahaina, and a helicopter tour of the Big Island, including the active volcano.  Dani was in constant contact with us throughout, which was greatly appreciated, as we had questions about various things while we were there.  We had mentioned this trip was a celebration of our wedding anniversary, and at both of our hotels there was chilled champagne and sweet treats, courtesy of Dani.  She even managed to snag us an upgrade to a suite at the Four Seasons Hualalai, which was a pleasant surprise.” —Joseph McBrine

Gros Morne Western Brook Pond fjord, Newfoundland

8 Gorgeous Canadian National Parks For Your To Do List

Canada is one of the smartest summer vacation ideas for U.S. travelers. It’s close, it’s affordable, it’s not too hot, it’s blissfully uncrowded … and it’s got more than 40 beautiful national parks and reserves. Which are the best ones to focus a trip on?  We asked that very question of our Trusted Travel Experts for Canada. Here are eight parks for your To Do list.

By Land and Sea: Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve british columbia

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, British Columbia. Photo courtesy Destination BC.

Encompassing forest, beach, ocean, and more than 100 islets along British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, it’s the miles-long stretches of sand and the numerous hikes through the lush rainforest that make Pacific Rim a favorite of Trusted Travel Expert Sheri Doyle. You can get a taste of both environments on short loop hikes from the main parking lot; Sheri also recommends the Nuu-chah-nulth Trail from the Visitors’ Center to Florencia Beach, which gives you some insight into local history as well.

Peaks Aplenty: Jasper National Park

Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies

Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies. Photo: Travel Alberta

Snuggled in the Canadian Rockies, Jasper isn’t undiscovered, but to Sheri it always feels far less busy than the adjacent—and more widely known—Banff National Park. Hiking and wildlife are the draws here; Sheri’s favorite short jaunt is the Path of the Glacier trail to a gorgeous glacial lake in the Mount Edith Cavell area of Jasper.

The Hidden Gem: Kootenay National Park

Kootenay National Park, Canada. Photo: Parks Canada/C. Siddal

Kootenay National Park, British Columbia. Photo: Parks Canada/C. Siddal

Even less crowded than Jasper, but with mountains no less majestic, is nearby Kootenay. The park’s Radium Hot Springs provide a secondary attraction, and the same-named town, just outside Kootenay’s border, has more affordable hotels than you’ll find in Banff.

The Big Kahuna: Banff National Park

sunshine mountain lake banff national park alberta canada

Hiking on Sunshine Mountain in Banff National Park, Alberta. Photo: Billie Cohen

This is the country’s original national park, set in the dazzlingly picturesque Rocky Mountains. Sure, it can be busy—but Trusted Travel Expert Marc Telio recommends veering off the beaten path and taking the gondola up Sunshine Mountain for a hike far from the crowds. For Mount Norquay’s via ferrata—a series of cables, ladders, and suspension bridges bolted into the side of the mountain—you don’t need any technical know-how, but you will need a healthy dose of confidence.

Picture-Postcard Vistas: Yoho National Park

Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park.

Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park. British Columbia. Photo: Parks Canada/Karin Smith

This British Columbia park’s name comes from the Cree word for awe and wonder. The impression it leaves on contemporary visitors is no less impressive, particularly in late spring at Takakkaw Falls, ones of Canada’s highest and most dramatic waterfalls. Here, Marc loves going for a peaceful paddle on startlingly crystal-clear Emerald Lake.

The World’s Highest Tide: Fundy National Park

beach at low tide in Fundy National Park Canada

Fundy National Park, New Brunswick. Photo: Parks Canada/Dale Wilson

When the tide goes out in New Brunswick’s Fundy National Park, it does so decisively: The difference between high and low tide can be as much as 50 feet—the height of a four-story building. Time it right, and you’ll literally be walking on the ocean floor, among crabs, sea snails, and other crustaceans (plus the shorebirds that stop by for a quick bite to eat).

A River Runs Through It: Nahanni National Park Reserve

Virginia Falls, Nahanni National Park, Canada

Virginia Falls, Nahanni National Park, Northern Territories. Parks Canada/Charles Blyth

Little known to the general populace, this vast and remote reserve in the Northern Territories is world-famous among whitewater rafters and kayakers, who come to paddle the Naha Dehé (the South Nahanni River). It was named among the first class of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Nahanni called “one of the most spectacular wild rivers in North America.” Rapids aren’t the only water feature here: Virginia Falls is almost twice the height of Niagara, and Nahanni’s hot springs provide a natural antidote to the sore muscles you’re sure to acquire while hiking and paddling.

The Geological Wonder: Gros Morne National Park

Fjord Boat Tour on Western Brook Pond, Gros Morne National Park Western, Canada. Photo: Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

Fjord boat tour on Western Brook Pond, Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland. Photo: Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

It’s taken Mother Nature millions of years to create the mountains and fjords that have earned Newfoundland’s Gros Morne its UNESCO World Heritage stripes; what you see on the surface today is actually deep ocean crust and the earth’s mantle, pushed up by the geologic process of continental drift. Western Brook Pond was clearly named with characteristic Canadian understatement: This “pond” is actually a spectacular, glacier-carved fjord that occupies an area of nearly nine square miles, with waterfalls cascading 2,000 feet down its cliffs. If you go to Gros Morne, Trusted Travel Expert Jill Curran recommends getting a taste of Newfoundland humor at Anchors Aweigh, a music-and-comedy show in the town of Rocky Harbour.

bear in Banff national park canada

Bear spottings are not uncommon in parts of Banff National Park. Photo: Travel Alberta

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We Had the Best Family Trip in Whistler and We Never Put on Skis

Even in summertime, there is still snow at the highest elevations. Photo: Tim Baker.
The Inukshuk rock statue on Whistler Mountain was created for the 2010 Winter Olympics. An inukshuk is a collection of rocks that may have been used as a navigation reference point for the Inuit. Photo: Tim Baker.
The family takes the podium outside the Roundhouse Lodge atop Whistler Mountain. This is as close as we’ll ever come to winning an Olympic medal. Photo: Tim Baker.
Mountain bikers from around the world cruise down the mountains. Photo: Tim Baker.
Bikes and bikers fill a gondola up the mountain. Bikers and hikers usually ride up in separate gondolas. Photo: Tim Baker.
Bikers and hikers are kept separate on the mountain too. Photo: Tim Baker.
Doug tries his balance on a teeter-totter in Whistler’s bike-skills park. Photo: Tim Baker.
Doug powers over the bumps at a park along the Fitzsimmons Creek in Whistler. Photo: Tim Baker.
A lull in the action on our Green River rafting trip. Photo: Tim Baker
The view from the summit of our RZR adventure. Photo: Tim Baker.
Blink and you can miss the bobsleigh. If you plan to shoot photos of family and friends riding it, practice on preceding runs. Photo: Tim Baker.
Connecting Blackcomb and Whistler mountains, the Peak 2 Peak gondola set multiple construction records. Photo: Tim Baker
The 20-minute ride travels up to 1,427 feet above the ground. Photo: Tim Baker.
Two of the gondolas have glass-bottom floors. Photo: Tim Baker.
We saw many signs warning about bears, but the only wildlife we saw was this hoary marmot posing for photos at Blackcomb. Photo: Tim Baker.
Charlie speeds through the last corner of the Westcoaster Slide in the Blackcomb Adventure Zone. Photo: Tim Baker.
The boys battle each other in floating circular rafts in the Blackcomb Adventure Zone. Photo: Tim Baker.
Whistler Village has plenty to offer families in summer. Photo: Tim Baker.
Kids at play in Whistler’s Olympic Plaza. Photo: Tim Baker.
The boys are attracted by a hand-operated water pump and race leaves down the sluice. Photo: Tim Baker.
The Whistler farmers’ market takes place Sundays from June through October and on Wednesdays in July and August. There’s plenty of fresh local produce and homemade snacks to fill up on. Photo: Tim Baker.
The mini golf course in front of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, our home base for our trip. Photo: Tim Baker.
From the gondola, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. Photo: Tim Baker.
At our table in The Grill Room at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, Charlie picks the size of his cut of Dry Aged Prime Canadian Rib Eye. Photo: Tim Baker.
Tomato Gin Soup being prepared at our table. The soup was as great as the presentation. Photo: Tim Baker.
Chocolate fondue with fruit and cake for dessert in The Grill Room at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. Photo: Tim Baker.
One of our many “designer” hot chocolates in the Gold Lounge of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. Photo: Tim Baker.
The Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club is nestled into the mountains. Photo: Tim Baker
Even if you are not a golfer, the clubhouse at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler’s golf course is a nice place to enjoy a sunset cocktail or meal. Photo: Tim Baker.
At the Britannia Beach Mining Company, a mining drill is demonstrated inside a tunnel. Photo: Tim Baker.
Inside the ore-processing building of the Britannia Beach Mining Company. Photo: Tim Baker.
Shannon Falls Provincial Park is a perfect place to stop and stretch along the Sea-to-Sky Highway. Photo: Tim Baker.
Tourists have been visiting the 450-foot Capilano Suspension Bridge near Vancouver since 1889. Photo: Tim Baker.
Besides the Bridge, Capilano has many more suspension bridges and displays that explain the flora, fauna, and history of the area. Photo: Tim Baker.


Note from Wendy: If you need a vacation spot that’s gorgeous, uncrowded, not too hot, and not too far, Canada is a destination you should be seriously considering for this summer. Last summer, my family went to Whistler, and here’s what my husband, Tim wants other families to know about it.

Everyone knows Whistler’s reputation as a winter sports mecca. It hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics—and so far this season has had more than 32 feet of snow, with all 200 trails open. But did you know Whistler is an adventure-packed summer destination too? Wendy and the boys and I had a blast there last summer, and we strongly recommend it to other families. Here are ten reasons why:

1. The Peak 2 Peak Gondola

It’s not a thrill ride per se, but the Peak 2 Peak Gondola is a thrilling ride, to be sure—especially when there’s a light breeze. This gondola connects Whistler and Blackcomb mountains and holds world records for the longest (2.7 miles) and highest (1,427 feet) gondola, with the world’s longest unsupported span: 1.88 miles. The ride takes about 20 minutes. Two of the gondolas—the silver ones—have glass-bottomed floors; while that’s kind of cool, the view down wasn’t much better than the view out of the almost-all-glass gondolas. Be sure to watch the short video in the lodge atop Whistler Mountain on how the lift was constructed and its safety systems. You’ll want to ride this more than once to fully appreciate the engineering.

2. The Olympic Bobsled

The Olympic Bobsleigh at Whistler Sliding Centre has been adapted for summer use: Rubber tires have replaced the bobsled’s rails. You buckle your helmet and strap into the sled for a run that takes less than a minute. It’s sensory overload: You hold on tightly, blink, and it’s already over. One run is not enough. If you do a second run, you might have time to actually look out and enjoy it.

3. The Via Ferrata

We climbed to the top of Whistler Mountain, aided by steel rebar rungs drilled and epoxied into the mountain face. See I Can’t Believe We Did This: Mountain Climbing in Whistler. It was one of the most rewarding adventures we’ve ever had as a family. While often we’re just passengers in our adventures, this climb totally depended on you! We had a great feeling of accomplishment upon reaching the summit. Surprisingly, this 3- to 4-hour Via Ferrata climb is still under the radar. Even locals don’t know about it. You’ll work up an appetite, so I suggest the all-you-can-eat barbeque at the Roundhouse Lodge afterward as a tasty reward for your efforts.

4. The Sasquatch zip-line

If you need to add North America’s longest zip-line (1.6 miles) to your zip-line collection, the Sasquatch is for you. The first step is a true leap of faith, as you’ll be traveling about 60 miles per hour at up to 700 feet above the valley floor. It’s an adrenaline rush, but it’s not our family’s favorite. (This one’s our family’s favorite.) Next time, we’d like to try some of the other ziplines in and around Whistler. Here’s a video of the boys riding the Sasquatch.

Sasquatch from Timothy Baker on Vimeo.

5. RZR driving

Of all our activities, Dads, this one is for you! You race off-road up and down fire breaks on a nearby mountain in a four-seat, four-wheel-drive dirt buggy. Maybe I liked this RZR adventure so much because whenever I drive the kids on roads of similar condition to our favorite hidden lake in California, I’m always pulling a fishing boat, trying to avoid the potholes, ruts, and washboards. In these speedy little RZR buggies, though, you just power over them! Just hit the gas and hold on for dear life. Then back way off the gas because you’ve scared yourself to death. This was freedom and fun! Granted, I had the steering wheel and the kids just sat there holding on to the grab bars, but they loved it too. Full props to our guide, who saw us languishing behind a much slower tandem ahead of us and called base for a new guide just for us. I had a hard time keeping up with the new guide, but it sure was fun trying. Check out this video of our ride:

Wendy RZR from Timothy Baker on Vimeo.

6. Mountain biking

In summertime, instead of brightly outfitted skiers and boarders bombing down Whistler Mountain, you see brightly outfitted mountain bikers. Only trail dust subdues their colorful outfits and skid protectors. Speed is a must; control seems to be optional. We saw wipeouts but, fortunately, we viewed from a safe distance as we rode up and down the mountain on the chairlift. Lifts are designed to carry bikes up the mountain, and shops in town that sell and rent skis in winter cater to all sizes, abilities, and pocketbooks of mountain bikers. We saw groups of bikers from around the world posing for photos with their national flags.

Our resident biker, Doug (who was 11 at the time), wasn’t quite ready for the mountain, but Whistler Village has a free public bike-skills park that is perfect for beginners. We rented a mountain bike from one of the many shops (about $20 for a couple of hours) and rode over. Doug loved it and built up course confidence by handling all the obstacles (the teeter totter, the whoop-dee-doos) at his own speed. When we visit again, he’ll take advantage of one of the many classes available on the mountain.

7. Whitewater rafting

The Whistler area has a variety of whitewater rafting runs, ranging from beginner to advanced. We chose an easy one and had a few thrills and spills. Here’s a little sample:

Whistler Raft from Timothy Baker on Vimeo.

8. Golf

The boys and I played a few holes at the scenic Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club. Designed by Robert Trent Jones II and nestled into the slopes of Blackcomb Mountain, the 6,635-yard course is Audubon Certified. That means that the operators appreciate their stewardship of the land. They’ve reduced water and chemical usage and are managing habitat for the wildlife living on or near the course, including a “hotel” (wooden nest) for bats. You can drink water from the glacier-fed Blackcomb Creek that flows through the course. Even if you don’t play golf, you can enjoy the scenery by having a drink or meal at The Clubhouse. We ate there at sunset.

9. Blackcomb Adventure Zone

Our boys are getting older (they’re now 12 and 13) and now require a little more adrenaline than what was on offer at the family adventure zone in our hotel’s backyard. The pint-sized race cars, Westcoaster Luge, and Kiss The Sky Bungy Trampoline are perfect for the younger set. The Mario & Friends Mini Golf was challenging enough to be enjoyed by all ages. We played several times, early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds.

10. Our home away from home: The Fairmont Chateau Whistler

This is the grand dame of Whistler, and we loved it. The Fairmont Chateau Whistler rises from the valley the way Cinderella’s Castle rises from Disneyland. You can see it from many spots on the mountain, and it looks every bit the place you want to call your home. The staff was friendly and efficient, from the valet who opened our car door when we first arrived to the guy who brought umbrella drinks to us in the hot tub at 10:30 pm.

Our room was mountain-themed without being too heavy-handed or theme-parky.

The highlight of the hotel for the kids was breakfast in the Gold Lounge each morning, thanks to the amazing, artistic hot chocolates with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Each morning the boys’ hot chocolate was decorated differently, as if the staff was having a competition to decorate each mug better than the last. Dinner in The Grill Room was another highlight for the boys. I devoured the dry aged prime Canadian rib eye, carved to order at our table. If there is a must-have, we all loved the Tomato Gin Soup, flambéed tableside. Be ready with your camera.

If there was one time I wished we were there in winter, it was when we were soaking in the giant Jacuzzis on the pool deck looking onto Blackcomb Mountain. I could imagine myself there after a day of skiing, just soaking for hours under the stars. But it was a wonderful summertime antidote for our adventure-weary bones too—an antidote made even sweeter by the late-night cocktail service.

Getting there from Vancouver

We drove the 70 miles from Vancouver on the Sea-to-Sky Highway at a leisurely pace. If I had any regret about the trip, it’s that the drive was too short and I just wanted to keep driving. The roads are easy and the scenery spectacular. We enjoyed trying to pronounce the Indian names for the towns and areas we passed, and we were always intrigued to find out what was around the next mountain.

En route to Whistler we stopped at Shannon Falls Provincial Park, right off the Highway, and the boys had a great time scrambling over rocks around the falls. On the way back we stopped at the Britannia Mine Museum; with a bright yellow 235-ton mine truck in front, it’s pretty hard to miss. The highlight for the kids was riding the train into the mine and seeing (and hearing) the drills and mucking machine being demonstrated. I was awed by the size, scale, and heavy-duty engineering of Mill 3. The fact that we learned so much about mining seemed almost incidental to the visit.

For the grand finale, as we neared Vancouver, we made one last stop at the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which has been a tourist stop since 1889. The 450-foot-long bridge itself is way cool, but the rest of the park was a perfect place to let the kids loose again before heading back to the city.

Planning the Ultimate Itinerary

We got indispensable itinerary help from Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for Western Canada, Marc Telio. If you’re looking for a British Columbia specialist to design a custom-tailored once-in-a-lifetime adventure for you, read Marc’s Insider’s Guide to British Columbia, and reach out to him via this trip request form so you’re marked as a WendyPerrin.com VIP traveler.

Disclosure: Tourism Whistler invited our family to Whistler and arranged for a complimentary stay at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, as well as a rental car. In keeping with WendyPerrin.com standard practice, there was no request for or expectation of coverage on Tourism Whistler’s part, nor was anything promised on ours. You can read the signed agreement between Wendy and Tourism Whistler here.

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Via Ferrata whistler mountain

I Can’t Believe We Did This: Mountain Climbing in Whistler

“In Whistler we’re doing the Via Ferrata,” Wendy announced proudly. Sounds good, I thought. Must be like “doing” Las Ramblas in Barcelona. But with an Italian twist. Never having been to Whistler, I pictured some street lined with cappuccino and gelato shops and small tables for people-watching. “Not exactly,” she said. “Via Ferrata means ‘iron way’ in Italian. You use iron rungs drilled into the rock face to climb a mountain. We’ll be climbing Whistler Mountain.”

Wait. What? Wendy had signed the family up to climb a rock face? The boys would love it, of course—they’d bungee jump from a moving space shuttle if they could. But I had just had total knee replacement surgery six months earlier. And, while I love Wendy, her rock-climbing abilities are minimal. Did we really need to climb Whistler Mountain? A chairlift goes right to the summit. Whose idea was this anyway? “Steve Ogden from Tourism Whistler.”

Please note that if I, and not Steve, had suggested Wendy climb a mountain, my compos mentis would have been called into question and proceedings to institutionalize me started. But Steve from Tourism Whistler had suggested it. And the Via Ferrata is one of the mountain’s best-kept secrets; very few locals have heard of it. So, of course, Wendy was willing to try it. Anything for a story.

Via Ferrata whistler mountain

The group ahead of us (at lower left) is dwarfed by the mountain. Photo: Timothy Baker

And so, on a perfect mountain afternoon, we met our guide, Josh Majorossy, at the Whistler Alpine Guides headquarters a little above Whistler Mountain’s Roundhouse Lodge complex (elevation 6,069 feet). I saw a group returning from the morning climb and, trying to glean a little intel, asked how it was. “Brilliant,” they delivered in a British accent. Okay. But is there anything I should know about it? “It was just brilliant.” Thanks.

Josh was an extremely patient and laid-back fellow—a professional mountain guide who does the climb twice a day and has led hundreds of groups. He assured me that my knee would be fine. He assured Wendy that mountain-climbing novices of only average fitness can do this. “If you can climb a ladder, you can climb the mountain.”

After waiver signing (a popular Whistler tourist activity), we each got kitted up with a hard hat and a harness with two lanyards and carabiners, and we had a brief safety chat. Safety rule #1: One of your lanyards and carabiners must be attached to the safety cable at all times. Rule #2: Yell “Rocks!” if any are dislodged. Rule #3: When someone above you yells “Rocks!,” don’t look up. Rule #4: Only one person at a time can be attached to a segment of safety cable; that way, if you stumble and fall, you won’t take out the people below you.

Earlier in the season, when snow is present, you traverse the snow to the spot where the rungs start. In early August, though—when we did it—you hike down and back up again to the trail. The hike down was a simple walk, but the hike up was actually what mountain climbers call “scrambling.”

Via Ferrata whistler mountain

Carrying a broken ski pole he found, Doug scrambles through a crack in the rock. Photo: Timothy Baker

Scrambling is climbing and clambering over rocks freestyle, with no set trail. The boys were in boy heaven. I was worried because we weren’t to the beginning of the safety cable just yet. If they fell, other rocks would break their fall.

Via Ferrata whistler mountain

Wendy is more at home in the canyons of Manhattan than scrambling up a mountain peak. Photo: Timothy Baker

In the distance, we could see the group ahead of us. So we could see where we were expected to go. Up there? Really?

Via Ferrata whistler mountain

Charlie stops for a little natural refreshment. Photo: Timothy Baker

At the starting point of the climb came our first gut check. There were several aluminum ladders attached via cables to the mountain and going almost straight up.

Via Ferrata whistler mountain

Our first gut check. Josh leads the way up the ladder to the start of the trail. Photo: Timothy Baker

Each of us clipped both our lanyards to the first safety cable. We started the climb, leap-frogging one set of lanyards and carabiners over the other every six feet or so past where the cable was anchored.

Via Ferrata whistler mountain

Doug climbs the first series of rungs. Photo: Timothy Baker

As Dad, I was constantly watching everyone’s lanyards to make sure that the carabiners had properly attached and closed. If one of us were to stumble and fall, we would fall only as far as the next safety-cable anchor.

Via Ferrata whistler mountain

A natural ledge makes a perfect place for Charlie to use panorama mode. Photo: Timothy Baker

On several occasions we witnessed natural rock slides: Steamer-trunk-sized boulders, probably loosened by the weight and thawing of the snow and ice, broke off the mountain peak and slid down the snow chute well away from our vertical trail.

Via Ferrata whistler mountain

Back on the climb. Photo: Timothy Baker

The rungs themselves are not actually iron. They’re steel rebar inserted into holes drilled into the rock and epoxied in place. (“Via Rebar” just doesn’t sound exotic enough for marketing.) The experience is sometimes like climbing a ladder, but sometimes the rungs are at uneven intervals, or are offset, or both. In several spots there were no rungs at all, as there were natural handgrips and footholds in the rock. Josh challenged us to try not to use the rungs if we could use the natural rock (while still attached to the safety line, of course). The boys took the challenge whenever they could. Wendy did not.

There were a couple of tricky sections (called “technical” by real mountain climbers) where a bit of reach was needed to grab the rungs. On the toughest section, it was a little like a game of Twister. (Left foot blue. Right hand blue.) In that section Wendy needed encouragement from Josh (and his climbing rope).

Via Ferrata whistler mountain

Mountain guide Josh gives Wendy a little physical encouragement. Photo: Timothy Baker

Via Ferrata whistler mountain

If the toes of Doug’s shoes give out, I’m wearing him. Photo: Timothy Baker

Via Ferrata whistler mountain

From below, we could see the early group on the last section of the climb. Photo: Timothy Baker

Via Ferrata whistler mountain

Wendy uses a natural foothold where there weren’t any rungs. Photo: Timothy Baker

We probably took a little more time than most groups because I didn’t want to unnecessarily stress my knee or my wife. The final “push” to the top of the trail—at 7,160 feet—was straight up. As we cleared the top of the trail, it was a little weird to see all the people who had ridden the chairlift up.

Via Ferrata whistler mountain

The summit. The views were our reward. Photo: Timothy Baker

Typically we are them: mere passengers in our adventure travels. This time, though, we had gotten up there the hard way—and it gave us a sense of accomplishment that is rare. We also felt relief that (1) we were coming back with the same number of (un-mangled) kids we’d started with. (2) I didn’t need to be winched off the mountain because of my knee. (3) None of my cameras had smashed into the rocks. This was Alpine Climbing 101 and a great introduction to a sport I will never take up.

In the end, the Via Ferrata turned out to be a wonderful family experience—and probably yielded our 2015 Christmas card photo. Yes, we had sore muscles, but we were able to soothe them that night with umbrella drinks in the Fairmont Chateau Whistler’s hot tubs.

From now on, when we hear of a ski or mountain-bike competition at Whistler, we’ll smile to ourselves and think: We conquered that mountain!

Need to know:

Via Ferrata can be found all over the world.

Bring a wide-angle lens and wear your camera strap so that the camera won’t smash against the rocks.

Bring a light jacket or windbreaker. The weather can get a little chilly at the summit, even when it’s warm down in the valley.

Hiking boots are very useful, but 11-year-old Doug had no problems with a harder soled sport shoe.

Long pants are a good idea. They can handle scrapes better than your skin.

Go at your own pace. Take the afternoon trip so you are not worried about holding up another group. You may want to hire a guide for a private tour.

Bring a bottle of water. If the streams are running, empty out the bottle and refill with that delicious water.

We left our sandals and comfortable shoes at the Alpine Guides hut. Nice to get off our boots and put those on after the climb.

Light gloves are suggested. The safety cable can have a few burrs in it, and you may find yourself grabbing it.

Use the bathroom before you start.

Don’t forget to enjoy the magnificent panoramas.

Snorkeling with salmon in British Columbia, Canada

My Extreme Week in Canada: Photos

I’ve been in British Columbia this past week, being dragged along on every adventure-sport activity you can imagine. My son Doug says he wants to move to Whistler because “everything you could ever want is there.” Of course, that all depends on whether what you want is to climb a mountain peak, speed down an Olympic bobsled run, or scream across the longest zip-line in the U.S. and Canada. Before Whistler, we were in the Discovery Islands, where we soared in helicopters and seaplanes, snorkeled with pink salmon, and fished for chinook.

While I’m not exactly Ms. Extreme Sports, I’ve been enjoying this shot of Canadian adrenaline with my boys. Here’s a look at some of the fun experiences we’ve had this week, along with a few of the mouthwatering B.C. foods we’ve been tasting. I’ll be sharing much more detailed information and advice about all these places and activities soon, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy these Instagram photos from our trip, and let me know in the comments where your next great adventure will take you!

Helicopter ride up the Strait of Georgia to the Discovery Islands and @sonoraresort.

A photo posted by Wendy Perrin (@wendyperrin) on

We made it! Greetings from the top of @whistlerblackcomb. #ExploreBC

A photo posted by Wendy Perrin (@wendyperrin) on

The New Jersey bobsled team never misses an opportunity to practice. @whistlerblackcomb @slidingcentre

A video posted by Wendy Perrin (@wendyperrin) on

#Iwasterrified #thekidswanttodoitagain #ViaFerrata #mountainclimbing @whistlerblackcomb @whistlerguides

A photo posted by Wendy Perrin (@wendyperrin) on

#chocolate #fondue @fairmontwhistlr: #Nirvana

A photo posted by Wendy Perrin (@wendyperrin) on

Answer: Five of them.

A photo posted by Wendy Perrin (@wendyperrin) on

Badlands, Alberta, Canada

In Search of the Extraordinary in British Columbia: Got Recommendations?

This summer I’m taking Tim and the kids to Canada. I know what some of you are thinking. Canada? A big yawn. The frozen north. So bland even its sports award is gray (get it? the Grey Cup). Why Canada when there are so many exotic places in the world?

Well, you can keep your preconceptions about Canada because while you’re scorching in the heat and fighting traffic to the beach, I’ll have all that wide-open space, natural air-conditioning, and dramatic nature to myself—not to mention melting-pot cities, scrumptious food, and an exchange rate that buys me 20% more for my U.S. dollar than it did last summer.

My trip goal is, of course, to find out how not boring Canada can be. I found the exotic, dramatic, and colorful in Newfoundland the summer before last, and this time I’m seeking it at the other end of the country: British Columbia. It’s been a while—ten years since I was last in Vancouver, five since I was last in Victoria—so I’d love suggestions from any of you who’ve been to B.C. lately: How should my family and I make this trip extraordinary? Better yet, give us things to test for you—and if we can squeeze it into our itinerary, we will. Can’t wait to hear your recommendations—and challenges!


The Least Expensive Weeks to See Your Favorite Destinations This Summer

If you haven’t made summer travel plans yet, listen up. TripAdvisor has compared the costs of travel to the ten most popular destinations this summer, and for each place they’ve identified the least expensive week. New York City, for instance, is most affordable over the July 4th holiday. Paris is most affordable the week of August 3-10, London August 17-23, Rome August 24-31—although I, for one, would not want to be in those cities in August, when all the locals have fled. I’d prefer to be on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, where I was last August: It’s the optimal time to swim and snorkel with whale sharks (and the least expensive week for Cancun and Playa del Carmen is August 24-31). Need a cooler, less crowded summer escape? Think Canada—especially British Columbia, the Canadian Rockies, Newfoundland (my August 2013 vacation spot), New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, or Quebec. Your U.S. dollar buys you about 20% more in Canada than it did last year. Other smart August options: Scotland, Norway, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, or a safari in East Africa.

To help you choose, here are our insider’s guides to all these top spots:

Which destination is calling to you this summer?