Have a Great Family Vacation Even If You’re on a Tight Budget

By David Janeson

If you’re on a tight budget, you might think taking a family vacation is out of the question. But, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, if you plan it right, you and your family can look forward to a memorable vacation that doesn’t cost a fortune.

Start Saving Now

Open a savings account dedicated to your family vacation. Your contributions don’t have to be large. You’ll be amazed at how quickly putting away a tiny bit of money each week adds up.

Look Close to Home

Disneyland may be out of your budget range. But, there are countless treasures near you. For example, Gull Harbour, with affordable accommodations and a load of recreational activities, is just two hours from Winnipeg.

Ask your friends and co-workers if they know of any little-known places near where you live. Conduct internet searches to find vacation possibilities you’ve never heard of.

Many family-owned vacation resorts and facilities offer incredible deals to families. They also tend to be less crowded and go beyond the norm when it comes to serving their guests.

Go OffSeason or During the Week

The time you choose to go makes a huge difference in the money you’ll spend. Prime vacation times are summer and holidays. That makes sense because that’s when everyone has time off from school and work.

If at all possible, plan your vacation for offseason or weekday stays instead of those prime travel times. Flexibility is key.

Try Camping

Purchasing camping equipment will cost you, that’s true. But, you can often find budget family camping packages on special or used tents and camp stoves sold in online marketplaces. Once you have the equipment, your adventure options are wide-open.


“Quick tip: If you purchase a used tent, assemble it in your backyard to test for leaks and practice setting it up before you take it on your trip.” — David Janeson


Many parks have campgrounds with affordable rates. Depending on the park, your adventure could include biking, fishing, swimming and hiking on any numbers of scenic trails.

Choose a Different Type of Vacation

Driving to a place and hanging out isn’t the only kind of family vacation there is. Some of the alternatives are not only affordable but provide a unique experience for the entire family.

Factory tours may not sound like the most fun type of vacation experience, but how does a chocolate factory tour sound? That’s something you can sink your teeth into. Many factories offer tours, and some let you sample the goods as well.

Learning vacations, such as learning to make crafts, riding a horse or digging for fossils, are increasingly popular. Learning vacations are budget-friendly and give you and the kids hands-on experiences you won’t forget.

Another type of vacation possibility is the volunteer vacation. A volunteer vacation is not only a great way to spend time with your family, but it also teaches children the joy that comes from helping others.

Getting away from the stresses of everyday life is important even if you can’t afford to take a two-week trip to Disneyland. Some of the best places to recharge, regroup and have fun with your family are right outside your back door.


David Janeson owns Gull Harbour Marina, a seasonal lakeside resort on beautiful Hecla Island, Manitoba.

Getting Behind the Wheel: 6 Essentials for a Stress-Free Family Road Trip

By David Janeson

If the thought of spending hours in the car with your kids fills you with dread, take a deep breath. With a little preparation, you and the kids can spend hours in the car together without driving each other crazy.

Whether it’s a lengthy drive to your destination or a road trip is your goal, use these tips to turn those hours in the car into a fun memory you’ll always remember.

Pack With Fun and Care in Mind

One of the best ways to keep kids occupied is to pack a bag specifically for each child that they can access as you travel. Let them participate in choosing which toys, books or other items they want to bring. Some items won’t travel well, and you’ll likely have to suggest different items or veto one or two, but overall, make sure their bag has a variety of objects for play and comfort.

Play Old Style Road Trip Games

Playing classic car games is a great way to include the entire family. “I Spy” is probably the oldest road trip game there is. Other fun family games include “Spot the License Plate” and the “Alphabet Game.”

Of course, many vehicles come with backseat entertainment centers and kids often have tablets that provide other ways to entertain. But, nothing beats the classics if you’re looking for a way to get the whole family involved.

Games Made for Travel

Look for travel versions of your child’s favorite activities. For example, Crayola makes  a variety of activity and coloring book sets designed specifically for road travel. Board games, such as travel bingo, also provide hours of fun.

Make Stops and Recharge

Plan to make frequent stops. In fact, plan on taking twice as much time on a road trip with kids than you would without them.


“Stops not only give everyone a chance to use the facilities, but they also provide a much-needed reprieve from being cooped up in a car.” — David Janeson


Take a short walk, stretch your legs and let the kids expend some energy. You’ll be surprised at how much better everyone feels once they pile back in the car for the next leg of the journey.

Pack Snacks and Essentials

Discovering new places to eat is part of the fun when it comes to traveling down the highways and byways. Travel can wreak havoc on stomachs, though, so make sure you bring healthy snacks, such as fruit, along to counter whatever else you and the kids eat.

Pack a travel bag with the essentials, such as cleaning wipes, trash bags, facial wipes, motion sickness medications and other items to clean up spills and take care of anyone who gets sick.

Have Fun

A family road trip can be one of the best experiences you can have with your children. Sure, not everything will go as planned. But, with a little preparation, you can create lasting memories the entire family will cherish.


David Janeson owns Gull Harbour Marina, a seasonal lakeside resort on beautiful Hecla Island, Manitoba.


Planning a Getaway? 6 Kid-Friendly Activities to Do in Manitoba This Summer

By David Janeson

It’s never too early to begin planning your summer getaway. Here’s a look at six kid-friendly excursions and activities that won’t break your budget this summer, and what you need to know to make them successful.

1. Experience Upper Fort Garry

The confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers is arguably the most significant historical site in Manitoba, at least during the 150 years since the Canadian Confederation’s official founding. Here sits Upper Fort Garry Heritage Park, where residents of a wild frontier region made the fateful choice to join Canada. Learn about their choice, and the complex sociopolitical forces that drove them to make it.

2. Discover Your Inner Kid at the Manitoba Children’s Museum

Need a break from the sun and humidity? Duck inside and discover your inner kid at the Manitoba Children’s Museum, one of Canada’s foremost all-ages museums.

“No matter how old your kids are, they’ll find something to enjoy amid the constantly changing exhibitions and permanent collections here.” — David Janeson


Budget at least four hours of your time, as you never know what you’ll get up to here.

3. Spend a Weekend Exploring Riding Mountain

Rising hundreds of meters above the surrounding prairies, Riding Mountain National Park is an accessible wilderness just a few hours from Winnipeg proper. You could easily spend a week wandering the more than 400 kilometers of well-maintained hiking and multi-use trails here, but a couple days of camping works just fine too. One of the highlights is the Manitoba Escarpment, a popular mountain biking destination.

4. Lose Yourself in Assiniboine Park

Back in Winnipeg, Assiniboine Park is the crown jewel of the city’s much-touted park system. Spend a day picnicking on its expansive lawns, exploring its wooded recesses, and admiring the handiwork of world-class artists at Leo Mol Sculpture Garden. The 80-acre zoo is a must-visit, too.

5. Step Back in Time on Hecla Island

Head up to our corner of Manitoba and step back in time. Hecla is just two hours north of Winnipeg by road, but it might as well be on a different planet. Don’t miss Hecla Village, a well-preserved ode to the hardy Icelanders who made their homes here a century ago.

6. Visit the Old Country, Without the Price Tag

Keep the Icelandic theme going through August with a visit to Gimli, home of the annual Manitoba Icelandic Festival. This is Canada’s largest celebration of Icelandic heritage and culture, and it’s fitting that it takes place in the province that’s home to more than one in three Canadians of Icelandic descent.

Book Early, Book Often

Most of the activities listed here lie within a few hours’ drive of Winnipeg, well within reach on a long weekend. Some won’t take more than a day of your time. And nothing here is likely to break your family’s bank, though of course your household budget will dictate what you are and aren’t able to accomplish.

Bottom line: you can easily fit all the activities on this list, and more, into your summer getaway plans. Avoid disappointment, and guarantee space at the proverbial inn, by booking as soon as you’re able to get the time off. Summer will be here before you know it.


David Janeson owns Gull Harbour Marina, a seasonal lakeside resort on beautiful Hecla Island, Manitoba.