Less than two weeks since I’ve arrived back home from my trip, and I’ve already found myself at an all-too-familiar place, IAH airport! This time I won’t be alone. Banff National Park has been on my travel bucket list, along with my parents’ and aunt’s, for quite some time now. So naturally, when the opportunity arose and the price was right, we did not hesitate to book our tickets. Mind you, I was still somewhere halfway across the world.
Traveling with my family was a very different experience for me. Over the past four months, I had developed my own style of traveling. I had the airport routine down to a science. Sometimes our travel styles collided, but at the end of the day, we were all there to experience the same thing. We landed in Calgary, Alberta and had a shuttle from our hotel pick us up from the airport. Our first and last nights were spent at the Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton.
There are several Hampton hotels with the same name in the area, so I’ll put the information for the one we stayed at somewhere at the bottom. This place was excellent! The service from everybody, but especially the front desk staff, was outstanding. They had recommendations for places to eat and gave us directions to several Asian markets in the area (per request). It may have just been the perks of being Filipino. Side note, there are A LOT of Filipinos in Calgary. I didn’t know that was a thing, but apparently it is. Anyways, back to the Hampton… free hot breakfast every morning, our last day included a full English breakfast and a DIY waffle station. And of course, free coffee and hot chocolate 24/7 in the lobby.
There were four of us sharing a room. The first night we had 2 queen beds, which was fine, but since we were returning at the end of our trip, we asked to be “upgraded” to one of their 1-bedroom suites with sofa bed. It was no problem and significantly worth asking for! The price for the suite was exactly the same as the regular room but was much more spacious and came with a kitchenette, including a full-size refrigerator. Disclaimer, we did bring our own twin air mattress which aided in our ability to sleep four adults in a 1-bedroom suite comfortably.
On our second day in Calgary, we rented a car and drove approximately 1.5 hours to Banff National Park. We were blessed with beautiful weather (from Texan standards), although the air was a bit smoky due to the nearby wildfires burning in the region. When we arrived at the park, we showed them our national park pass, which allowed us free admission into Banff.
Travel Tip: As this year is the 150th Anniversary for Canada, all the national parks are offering free admission for the entire year. All you need to do is go online before your trip to apply and they will mail you a free park pass.
We spent the next four days and three nights exploring the park at our own pace. It was much different from say, New Zealand, where you were constantly waking up in a new place and usually had a free walk or activity planned for the day, but it was nice. The backdrops were unbelievable and everywhere you looked, there was a picture-perfect scene.
We waited until the first morning to check out Lake Louise, one of the iconic locations in Banff. By 10am, it was already packed with tourists, but it wasn’t impossible to snap a photo and adjust the angle just right to cut out all the other bodies doing the exact same thing.
Along the perimeter of Lake Louise is a nice hiking trail, which we walked all the way around the bend until there was a section of the lake that you could actually walk onto because the water level was so low. After our walk, we headed back into town and had lunch before crashing out in the hotel room.
On the following morning, we went to the second iconic site in Banff, and my favorite spot of the trip, Moraine Lake. The lake, along with Lake Louise, is filled with glacial dust, which gives the water its famous glacial blue color. It is definitely one of the most beautiful sights in the world, and I am so glad to have found one so close to home, albeit 2,000 miles away. When we arrived at Moraine Lake, the initial views of the lake were partially blocked d/t the awkward angle. A random stranger had recommended that we take the short path to the side to bypass the hills for a better view. The path was only about 300 meters and the view that it provided was phenomenal. Definitely worth the trek up the steps for an unobscured view of Moraine Lake, in fact, I even did it a second time.
The little town of Banff reminded me a bit of Wanaka and Queenstown in New Zealand (I love NZ!). It’s just a cute, small town with lots of restaurants and shops lining the main road. The thing that I really loved was behind the town’s buildings, you see beautiful peaks in the distance and there’s a river that runs along the side with a nice trail to follow. There’s loads of outdoors-y type things to do around Banff, from hiking to canoeing, to rock climbing. It’s definitely worth a visit!