Wednesday, July 01, 2015

the simple five: crowd pleaser

Last year we visited Ottawa during Canada Day, where the nation's capital hosted approximately 10,000+ visitors to celebrate in one location.  With many free events, concerts and museums to see and visit, fighting through an exceptionally large crowd (especially at night during fireworks) can be a daunting task (and at first, slightly overwhelming) especially when you have young children.

As seasoned travellers, we managed to cut through the crowds and enjoy visiting many attractions without melt downs or anxiety (well, at least not too much anxiety!)

The streets of downtown Ottawa on Canada Day.  A sea of red and white!

Here's a few tips to prepare yourself so you can maneuver through the crowds a little easier during the holidays (or any amusement park or popular destination) and make the day with the family more enjoyable.

1)  The early bird gets the worm.
Wake up early.  Yes, it's a holiday and it's your day off, but if at least one parent starts early, the organizing of the day begins, and the family doesn't seem rushed in the morning. Chances are, if everyone wakes up early, you'll beat the breakfast crowd and you'll get to see everything you wanted because you had a head start in the day.

2)  Pack for the day, the night before.
I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but often while travelling, our normal routines are thrown out the window.  Plan a rough schedule the night before (look at the maps, figure out where you'll eat and set out your clothes).  Pack all the blankets and towels in the backpack ready by the door.  Morning "rush" will be eliminated, and again you can start your day early and seamlessly.

3)  Do the "back nine" first.
I always joke about this with my husband.  He's an avid golfer, so when I tell him this, he knows exactly what I want to do.  When you enter an amusement park, museum or attraction during a time when it's very busy, go to the back of the park or exhibit first, then work your way backwards towards the entrance.  This usually works for us, and sometimes there are moments when we go "upstream" through the crowds, but it gives the children a chance to really observe each exhibit without the chaos.

At the National Gallery of Canada.
With free admission on Canada Day,  this is one of the most popular destinations.
(you can see we missed the crowds here too!)

4)  Figure out your meals in advance, especially on holidays.
If we're travelling, I like breakfast packages that are offered with hotels. The hassle of walking around with hungry kids to find a place to eat, makes breakfast packages a no-brainer for me.  Even if one parent goes and grabs muffins from the local bakery or coffee shop to bring back to the hotel room (getting up early helps here) saves time and aggravation. The same logic goes with dinner...there are many apps where you can book restaurants a few weeks in advance.  Especially on statutory holidays, not all restaurants are open, book quickly or there are long wait lines to get a table.  Plan ahead.

5)  Always bring an extra bag.
I know this is a strange concept that most people think is unnecessary, but I can never have enough bags and I like to carry those foldable travel totes that can fold into your purse or backpack. Whether you've made unforeseeable purchases when you've stumbled upon a vendor or market or need a makeshift picnic bench cover if you're stopping to grab a quick bite, foldable travel totes are really handy and take up very little space.  It has saved me countless of trips back to the hotel to "drop stuff off".

Most importantly, go with the flow and enjoy the day. It is almost a guarantee that travel schedules don't always go according to plan, but if you're prepared, it's easier to be flexible and you can make the best of the day.

Happy Canada Day!

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