Adventures of EJ, the travelling toddler: Exploring Ontario & PEI

Before I met my husband, travel was a major part of my life. With settling down and growing up, we don’t get to travel nearly as much as I’d like. Having said that, the experiences and lessons learned through travel are so valuable and something I want EJ to embrace, so we try to make it a priority whenever possible. So, packing one adventure on top of the other this summer, our little EJ is well on his way to becoming one well-travelled little boy.

It feels like summer disappeared slowly and seamlessly, like water flowing downstream. We were busy and didn’t get to see as much of our family or friends as we’d like, but we made so many memories.

From camping trips and overnight visits across Ontario – adventures on Lake Huron to Restoule Lake, all the way to New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, and most recently, Dominican Republic (stay tuned for more on that trip), we took EJ on a load of mini adventures this summer.

Camping (in our tent trailer) at Restoule Lake Provincial Park over Canada Day weekend was fantastic. We were at Bells Point campground and had a spot with a little path (albeit a bit steep for a toddler) right to the water. We didn’t have to drive to the boat launch to put the canoe in the water and it made it so easy to get Emerson and our stuff into the canoe for fishing or canoeing over to the beach. It had rained endlessly for our first two days and although the campground was packed and flooded in some spots, there were so many puddles that just made it so much more fun for us. EJ had his rain suit and rain boots and I’m pretty sure his favourite part was jumping in puddles and eating a s’more for the first time.

EJ S'mores
EJ loving his first s’mores experience.

I am so glad that I brought our Ergo Baby for evening walks and a serious 5k hike to the fire tower (wear hiking boots!). It helped him fall asleep easily if we were on the go, and I counted it as a major workout for me. If you are doing the hike with a little one – make sure you’re not going after a big rain fall, like we did – there are some steep drops and steep climbs that we had to do and it was really challenging in deep mud, carrying a 28lb baby, while wearing the wrong shoes! I almost took a steep tumble down a rocky spot with EJ strapped in sleepily and my beige pumas, with no tread, were heavily covered in muck and mire.

Canoeing with EJ was a dream as well, he kept his life jacket on, was fascinated and calmed by the water, and loved seeing the fish.

A month after our long weekend getaway, my mom and I took EJ to visit my friend and her boys in PEI. We flew to St. John, NB, rented a car and drove to PEI (and all over PEI).

On route, we stopped at the Hopewell Rocks (AKA the flower pots) at Fundy National Park on our way (thanks to the free Parks Canada Discovery Pass for Canada 150!). If you go, I recommend going at low tide and at high tide. We only went at low tide, but what an incredible experience! It was super busy, but seeing the plant life and rocks was incredible.

After a short visit there, we were off to PEI, which we fell in love with. We stayed in a little area called North Rustico for most of the trip, at the lovely Pines Motel & Cottages, which was in the perfect location, recently updated, and had such a lovely property.

EJ PEI - north rustico
EJ checking out North Rustico Harbour with his monster trucks in tow. Look at that gorgeous red sand.

We learned on our first night, while looking to buy milk for Emerson and somewhere to eat, that everything closes early, so make sure you plan to eat early if you’re going! We arrived late on a Sunday and only one of the restaurants took us in for dinner after 8:30 p.m.! We spent our time driving around the island and luckily got two nice beach days in, but that didn’t stop us from exploring the gorgeous beaches and sands of PEI.

We packed a few picnic lunches for the beaches and made most of our breakfasts in our kitchenette.

Brackley Beach, PEI
EJ discovering a crab shell at Brackley Beach, PEI

The beaches we visited (although we only swam at two of them!) were:

Basin Head Provincial Park (singing sands is well worth the trip), Brackley Beach (massive and gorgeous), Cavendish Beach, Cedar Dunes Provincial Park (loads of massive shells worth bringing home, a gorgeous black and white lighthouse with museum, and rocky shores with loads of shells worth keeping), North Rustico Beach.

Where we ate:

  • Captains Cove Cafe is a rustic spot and not what you would expect. The food was oh, so delish, and the staff were so sweet.
  • New Glasgow Lobster Suppers was such a great experience. We went based on a recommendation from my chiropractor who is from New Glasgow and used to work there. They were great with kids and EJ loved the lobster.
  • COWS creamery is a must, of course.
  • The Yellow House in North Rustico Harbour is also a lovely little spot and the sandwiches were super yummy.
  • We had such a delicious lunch at Sims Corner Steakhouse & Grill, where I tried baked oysters for the first time and Oh.Em.Gee.
  • If you’re looking for the best lobster roll or fresh lobsters, check out The Lobster Shack in Souris – a great little place to stop on route.
  • In Charlottetown, my girlfriend and I got to have a moms’ night out and we went to a couple of great little spots for drinks: Fishbones Oyster Bar & Grill and The Gahan House.

All in all, our trip was incredible and exhausting. We had decent weather for most of it, spent a lot of time in the car, and five days in PEI just wasn’t enough for the little one to acclimatize and for us to see it all.

Travelling with littles can always be daunting. I am guilty for ALWAYS packing too much, but I’d rather be over prepared than under prepared. However, after all these trips, I’ve learned a couple of things. So, here are some of my tips for travelling with a baby/toddler:

  • Have travel crib, will travel. Instead of a heavy play pen, I bought the phil&teds Traveller Portacot when EJ was 7 months, before our trip to Panama for a wedding. (Check out my unsolicited thoughts on it here). It is easy to bring, set up, and clean. I always know that he’ll sleep comfortably, wherever we go.
  • Bring home comforts, when possible. Whether it’s a stuffed animal, a blanket, or a monster truck (or five, in EJ’s case), bringing something familiar, like their favourite toy or game can help ease travel woes.
  • Bring other reinforcements. Whether it’s in the form of grandparents, extra games, crayons, or their favourite shows or movie on the iPad, or even a nanny, extra hands or activities can help distract them when you need a short break.
  • The bottle or boob might help in flight. If you can save bottle time or breastfeed during takeoff and landing, it can help ease their anxiety and the pressure in their ears.
  • Calm parents = calm babies. It may sound hokey, but little ones are so sensitive to changes in energy and if we’re anxious, angry, or stressed, it can manifest in the littles. I am totally guilty of this and I’m lucky to be aware of it. Taking deep breaths, smiling lots and playing or joking with your little one might help calm everyone down enough so they don’t scream for the entire trip.
  • Do what you must. Getting a mobile baby or toddler to sit still, in the burping position, for the entire landing/takeoff (and every time the seatbelt sign comes on) is no small feat, I won’t lie that I used a bit of bribery on our last flight. And, we allowed for a bit of screen time to distract him when he was getting wild. It helped that the poor child was exhausted, so he eventually just fell asleep.

Where have you been or where do you want to go with your littles? What are some of your family travel tips?