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Our experiences, tips and info on our adventures. Everything travel related!
Getting passports can be a mammoth pain in the ass, particularly when they’re for kids, so in this post I want to help others avoid the frustration and delays we went through recently… dealing with the Medusa-like, soul-less monstrosity that is Service Canada 🧟♂️
We actually received incorrect advice from more than one employee, adding to the delay and aggravation! We finally received the passports after two months, due to this.
As a blended Canadian family, we needed to renew our kid’s passports (which is basically the same as starting from scratch, unlike when adults renew theirs).
Quick background: My wife got divorced from her kid’s dad in 2015. She is a legal guardian of them, with joint custody. In this situation, my wife was dealing with passports for two kids, aged 13 and 15 (stepchildren to me, therefore I’m not involved).
So, anywho, this scenario is dealing with my wife’s two children. If this is like your scenario, here’s a rundown of the documentation needed. When they say they need all documents, they mean ALL DOCUMENTS! Cover your butt six ways from sunday, amigos. It’ll pay off.
IMPORTANTNOTE – You do NOT need to send the originals, but they will want proof it’s a “true copy”, and the best way to do that is to get the passport office to make copies of these documents for you, and they will stamp it to prove it’s authenticity.
You will need:
👉🏽 A “COROLLARY RELIEF ORDER”
This is a document you’ll get when you are officially divorced, basically a summarized agreement of the entire parenting agreement and divorce judgement as well. Several employees couldn’t spell or say that word, we’d never heard of it even though my wife and I had both gone through divorces!
👉🏽 EVERYTHING ELSE THAT WAS STAMPED BY THE COURT
By that I mean all court documents related to the children and divorce. That means copies of the divorce certificate, copies of birth certificates, on top of all the things listed on the application such as a picture, et cetera.
Well, there you have it, I hope it helps you. As always, I appreciate feedback.
As a side note, previously I went through the joyously hellish experience of getting a passport for my own daughter…that’s when I found out the hard way that as a father who is “just a guardian” without joint custody, you have basically the same rights as a distant uncle…in other words, zip. But that’s another post, and a prime reason to get a good lawyer!
In this post, I hope to provide insight into what our family feels is a great experience for history-appreciating folks looking to do a U.S. road trip, specifically from a western Canadian’s point of view – complete with total, CAD prices. Let’s fire it up and roll out!
Silverwood Theme park
Idaho offers lots of cool stuff to do, and a highlight for us was Silverwood Theme park. It’s in Athol, northern Idaho, about half way between Sandpoint and Couer d’ Alene, 7-ish hours of straight driving from Calgary.
As the biggest theme park in the Northwest, it’s a 2 headed monster…one side called Silverwood, full of scary-fast roller coasters, kiddie rides, and everything in between.
The other side is a mammoth water park called Boulder Beach, with two wave pools, a lazy river (with float-up bar😜), tube rides that hold up to 7 people, and other super fun rides. You get access to both and can come and go as you please, nice touch, and both sides offer activities for all ages.
In my opinion, if it’s one thing Americans do better than anyone, it’s theme parks, and Silverwood is no exception. This part of Idaho boasts fantastic, 30 plus degree Celcius weather and sun pretty much all summer. Perfect for a water park.
They serve Margaritas by the pool if you prefer to sit and hang out listening to the Beach Boys on their 50’s-60’s rock n’ roll playlist. They create this amazing, good-vibration atmosphere that makes you feel you’re in Eisenhower’s America, instead of Trumps’.
Having been there 4 times, We have found you need 2 days for Silverwood/Boulder Beach to do it up right, and they make it a better deal to get 2 day passes online. Like any theme park, there is line ups at Silverwood, but compared to Disney, they are minor!
You’re allowed to bring your own food too, although they have fast food there as well, like quesadillas, burgers, chicken, fries, ice cream, drinks, et cetera. They have food stands in the water park, and the ride side has sit down restaurants as well.
The food prices are actually pretty reasonable, which is nice considering our Canuck dollar’s pathetic state right now. I recommend getting there right when they open to get loungers…but if you do get there later, no big deal, there’s lots of space to sit on the grass. There is lockers there that take coins, bills, or plastic.
Total cost for 2 day passes online, for a family of 4 (Two adults, two teens 13 and 15 yrs old) came to $455 CAD (@ $1.35 exchange rate). Parking is $5 USD/car. www.silverwood.com
Ride the Hiawatha Trail
This was an extremely fun bike ride! It’s located just off the I-90, at the Idaho/Montana border. The trail is an abandoned rail bed built in the early 20th century, 17 miles of slightly-downhill (2% grade) bike path that goes down the mountain.
You’ll pass through nine tunnels, the longest being 1.7 miles long! It takes you over trestles, with beautiful scenery as you gradually wind down the mountain. It’s an easy ride, albeit bumpy at times due to gravel .
Your butt will be sore by the end of it, although they offer “comfort ride” bikes for an extra charge. Not sure if they help, I never tried that. You can rent bicycles (complete with headlights for the pitch black tunnels), and helmets. Or bring your own stuff.
They provide either a 5-place hitch mounted bike rack ( with adapter if needed for the smaller hitch tube) or a roof mounted rack for cars, for transporting them the 5 miles from the Lookout Pass ski lodge where you pay and get the bikes/equipment, to Roland Trailhead, where the trail actually starts.
You’ll start at the top, or you can skip the 1.7 mile long Taft Tunnel, but I wouldn’t, it’s a highlight) and when you get to the bottom a shuttle will take you back up to where your car is. Or you can park at the bottom, bike up and down it if you are a competent biker!
I recommend bringing a backpack with water, food, et cetera. Total cost for 2 adults, 2 teens, basic bikes, helmets, shuttle and the passes cost us $288 CAD (@ $1.35 exchange rate). Get there first thing if possible, because they can run out of rental stuff, also it gets busier and hotter as the days goes on.
It took us about 5 hours in total with shuttle, et cetera, stopping lots for pics, food, water, all that jazz. It runs from May 26 to September 23 (2018 dates).
Wallace, Idaho – A sweet little town, with a risky history
After leaving The Hiawatha Trail, we were cruising down I-90 and noticed a fascinating-looking little town nestled between the mountains called Wallace…something drew us to it so we Googled it, and pulled in. What an amazing old town! Population 784.
Known as the Silver capital of the world, brought about by silver mining in the 1880’s. It’s one of many towns that were wiped out repeatedly by fire, which is why so many building are brick.
This is a charming, friendly town! I walked the streets in the evening, taking in the atmosphere and architecture of the homes, and no less than three locals struck up a conversation with me, while they sat on their front porches. Great people. One guy invited me in to check out the original woodwork on his old house, you just don’t see that trust often anymore, it’s nice.
Wallace has a couple hotel/motels, we stayed at the Brooks Inn, it was a decent stay, although no wifi and the inside has been unfortunately modernized…nothing to write home about but a place to sleep. Next time I’d look in to AirBnB/VRBO, or the Stardust Motel.
Here’s two highlights of Wallace:
Sierra Silver Mine Tour
This 130 year old Silver mine is a great tour. I highly recommend it. The people who operate these tours are some of the nicest folks you’ll meet, and they do it because they love their town and the people in it.
The fellow who did our tour was a miner most of his life, and man, did he have stories to tell that will send shivers up your spine.
Bring warm clothes if you get cold easily, it’s a brisk 10 degrees Celcius or so in the mine. It cost us $65 CAD for 2 adults and two kids under 16. Open 7 days a week from May 1st to October 15th. It’s about 1 hour and 15 minutes long. www.silverminetour.org
Oasis Bordello Museum
This was a brothel with one hell of a story to tell. It ran from the early days until 1988, when one day word came the Feds were coming to town, so the girls left in a hurry. The entire upstairs (where the “work” was done) is exactly as it was on that day in 1988, stuck in time…including groceries left on the counter!
Talk about a throwback…you can easily picture what it was like, with men lined up all the way down the stairs and outside the door on a typical evening. Keep in mind, prostitution was illegal in Idaho!
The Madam was a smart cookie though, she donated generously to the town’s schools and other folks, who kept their mouth shut…including the sheriff.
The local miners’ patronage kept it running as a very profitable business all those years. You won’t believe how much the girls worked and how much money that place made!
The downstairs was a bar. You can well imagine it was a rockin’ place back in the day! Now a museum, they do tours every half hour, from 10-5 daily. For us it cost $26 CAD for family of 4, or $5USD/person. Website: zjdarrah.wixsite.com
Known as Montana’s best preserved ghost town! It’s located northeast of Missoula, MT. There is about 11 miles of gravel road to get there, but well worth the trip. It’s named after the ruby colored stone found in the area. Home to over 1,000 people in 1898, due to the gold rush, with miners moving north from tapped-out California and Colorado mines.
Thanks to the wonderful folks who are the non-profit Garnet Preservation Association, the town is being lovingly kept up, as best as they can – buildings in a mining town generally weren’t built to last. Some are recent recreations, they add to the experience. The highlight for us was the Hotel, incredibly well preserved and still has some furnishings, it’s like hauntingly stepping back in time walking through it.
The wonderful Garnet tour guide suggested we head south from Garnet and visit Philipsburg. Located a few minutes off of I-5, southeast of Missoula. Population is estimated at 920.
Ever been to a place that has a positive feel to it, a good vibe, almost a familiarity to it? That is how this place felt. This historically rich town came to be because of the sapphires found nearby in the 1870’s. It’s chock full of cool old buildings, overflowing with history and that lovely old-building-smell. We enjoyed just walking around in the evening, looking at the old houses and stores.
We liked it so much we decided to stay there at the incredibly resurrected Kaiser house, the nice folks who own it did a great job of keeping the old look and feel while having modern amenities. There’s a deck off the street side of the room where you can sit and gaze at the quiet town.
Phillipsberg also boasts a candy store called The Sweet Palace that has to be seen to be believed…we’re talking over 1,000 kinds of candy and chocolate…we walked out of there with a ridiculous amount!
Like Wallace, the town is big enough that there’s restaurants, a microbrewery, hotels, VRBO’s, everything you need.
There’s much more to do in this part of the U.S., I hope this entices you to go out and experience them. We have found the people to be so kind, friendly, helpful, and patriotic…it’s interesting as a Canadian to see how many American flags are flying.
It’s a crazy sight as a Canuck to see quads, dirt bikes, and side-by-sides ripping down the streets in Montana. The weather is pretty consistent and warm in the summer (unlike central Alberta!) and the Interstates are fast and smooth for the most part.
Being able to legally cruise at 130 KMH in some parts of Montana is pretty sweet! Some of the highways are pretty twisty and make for a fun experience, with great scenery.
We found fuel to average .90 cents/litre, still cheaper than up here even factoring in the low dollar ($1.30 CAD for a U.S. buck as of summer 2018).
One other thing we’ve found, is to try and book AirBNB as much as possible, staying this way has always been a great experience and really adds to the trip. Every single home we stayed at was fantastic, unlike some of the hotels, many of which were overpriced and boring.
Did I miss anything? Message me! Thanks for checking this out. Happy trails!
As online business owners, we now have the good fortune to be able to travel lots, which is a passion of ours. This section is about sharing our experience, hoping it’s helpful for you! I make no claim of being a Vegas or travel expert, just an average Joe sharing my honest opinion, having been there 4 times.
1.It’s scary expensive. If you’re Canadian or from any other country where your dollar is at a disadvantage to the USD, and thinking of going, keep this in mind: With our dollar in the tank (as of July 2018), it’s like a 30-ish% tax on everything you buy when you travel down there.
Once we were back home and saw our CC statement, we had to laugh…two 28 ounce Margaritas at the Bellagio pool, with tip, converted to our dollar- $100. Oh but they came in souvenir cups! hahahaha, sob, moan. 😱
This is NOT a destination that you can enjoy on a tight budget, so be prepared! Sure you can walk and see the hotels, but honestly they mostly are the same crap, different pile – stuffed with gambling machines, etc. Although the Luxor is architecturally amazing.
2. Cruise the strip. Ask the cabbie to take you down the strip, from airport to hotel…otherwise they’ll take you via the tunnel. And ask before you get in the cab, they may not love the idea. After seeing movies like Vegas Vacation, you’ll be disappointed you didn’t see it for the first time this way…just don’t get caught in the sunroof!
3. Clouds, clouds, go away. Second hand smoke is EVERYWHERE. We find that expectation is everything when travelling, and if you aren’t aware of this fact and are sensitive to it like us, it could be a ‘drag’.
4. People watcher’s paradise. Oh yes, you’ll see it all…and that’s not even counting the Fairmont Street. You may want mirrored shades at all times, so people don’t see you stare, lol! You just can’t help it!
5. It’s hotter than Satan’s toaster oven in the summer. If your thighs rub together when you walk, you’re going to want to lube them puppies up, or you’ll get a rash. Especially on the street, all that pavement makes it close to unbearable almost 24 hours/day, at least in June. Goes without saying, but check your weather app before you go. I LOVE heat but 40 plus degrees Celcius is too much, at least being away from an ocean, such as the case at Vegas obviously.
Ironically, you may want to bring warmer clothes if you get cold easy, because of the necessary, blaring AC everywhere! The pool water at the Bellagio must be somehow cooled, because it stays perfect at those temps. On the other hand, don’t assume it’s always warm there…I’ve been there in April and it stayed plus 1 or 2 the whole damn week!
6. It’s not an introvert’s kind of travel destination. I know, shocking, right? I’m in no way criticizing Vegas for this, that’s it’s “thing”…but it’s loud and busy pretty much everywhere except (sometimes) the hotel room. We lucked out and got the 21st floor, it was surprisingly quiet, other than our next door neighbours coming back drunk and in a raging fight at 1 am the one night, me thinks due to gambling by the sound of it (another shocker!)
The constant sound of the machines binging away is enough to make an introvert start eating wallpaper after awhile. We spent a lot of time in the room, which was actually great – living the laptop lifestyle, we brought them and did some “work” during the hottest parts of the day. The power curtains are a suprising, funky touch!
7. Gambler’s paradise, but more than just that. Vegas truly offers world-class shows. Cirque de Soleil is a no brainer, they are pure class (buy tickets online before you leave, ideally – they DO sell out) and Penn & Teller was good too. The biggest stars come here regularly, even have contract gigs here for years at a time. This time we just hung at the fabulous pool area pretty much all day, we never had trouble finding chairs, even in the shade if you go out and save chairs before 10 am.
Speaking of that, here’s a juicy lil’ tip – don’t just leave the hotel towels…leave a shirt, hat, bring personal towels, anything else personal. No, not your iphone 10, unless you have nothing else on you. Haha. We love our Canadian flag towels which we always bring when we travel, they make your chairs easy to find too!
We saw in a couple occasions the staff remove hotel towels on saved chairs for guests who needed them, after hours had gone by and the people were no-shows. And rightly so. Saving chairs for 4 hours is a dick move, bro.
8. The food is pricey, but WOW. One caveat to that: we were underwhelmed by the often-talked-up buffets. We hit The Buffet in the Bellagio this time, but the $100 bill for a couple light weight Vegans just wasn’t worth it for us. The Cafe, however, was fantastic, and reasonably quiet. Guy Fieri’s (does anyone else think that furry little dude resembles the gopher from Caddyshack??) was overpriced, poorly serviced, and the food was… ‘meh’.
9. The Fountains of Bellagio. An astoundingly expensive feat to build and operate. It’s a rare, free exception to the costly-ness of Vegas, and a highlight.
10. You can drink on the street! That alone almost makes it worth going. Speaking of the street, getting around during the busy times is a pain in the ass no matter how you do it – walking, driving, or bus. The “Deuce” public transit bus is cheap, at least, but on a former trip there we used it to go see all the major stuff, and it felt like you spent half your vacation riding a bus. It’s slow, traffic is crazy heavy at times.
Final analysis: I think the Bellagio is a fabulous hotel…the shining star of this trip. We were fortunate to get a room there considering how busy Vegas was. Now that Christy has experienced it, we won’t be back, for the simple reason that we know our style and want more introvert-friendly, low key trips…so if you’re like us, you may be wise to pick a hotel you’ll be happy hanging around at most of the time – to escape the crazyness.
It’s so important to know what you like when you travel. Of course, the only way to know that is to travel, so don’t just take our word on it! We are still learning too! I do believe everyone should see Vegas once, a diamond in the desert.