hotel lobby winter

Confession: though I frequently write about staycations and the importance of taking mini-breaks, I don’t actually take them all that often myself. Until this past year, that is. Now that I have, I don’t know what was wrong with me. I suppose I didn’t think I’d get much out of it, since I know everything:) I discovered just how wrong I was while in Banff with my daughter before Christmas.

Jody Robbins banff

Staycation in Banff

The trick to a successful staycation is doing something you’ve never done before. Since I live so close to one of Canada’s biggest tourist destinations, it made sense to do as they do. That meant staying at a hotel and taking an actual tour (gasp!).

The Fox guest room

Staying at The Fox in Banff

I’d always wondered what it was like inside The Fox. This hotel on Banff’s main drag did not disappoint. Our loft room was large, with plenty of storage and a sweet little kitchen area. Best is their grotto-like pool. Modelled after the original cave and basin hot springs, it felt like we were floating in a cave on a movie set.

indoor cave hot tub

The roof of The Fox’s pool complex open, allowing guests to take a peek.

Banff at Night

After we sussed out the hotel, we joined Discover Banff Tours for a nighttime hike along Johnston Canyon. If you’re a local, you’ve likely taken out of town visitors to this heavily trafficked spot, but in winter it’s eerily quite.

banff national park winter

Traipsing along the trail under the cover or night is a surreal experience and one best done with your headlamp turned off. It’s amazing how the eye can adapt to darkness and even though the moon kept slipping behind the clouds, it was still bright enough to find your way. What I discovered on this mini-break excursion is that an invigorating winter walk is one of the best ways to explore the night sky.

johnston canyon

Burrowing deeper into the canyon, we made it to the lower falls and settled in for a hot chocolate and cookie break. I didn’t expect Eve to be so into it, but she truly was. There was a bit of grumbling before starting out, as she didn’t want to wear the required strap-on cleats. Naturally, wanted to slide along the icy trail. Kids, I tell ya! Luckily the headlamps we all donned were enough of a draw to keep her quiet. And of course, the imposing canon walls slick with ice were pretty impressive.

Now that I’ve practiced what I preach, I can smugly say mini-breaks are amazing and well worth your time and money. Though it’s not a lot of dough we’re talking about. Since you’re not hopping on a flight and likely driving less than two-hours away, mini breaks are easy on the wallet. I returned home feeling so much lighter.

Now if you truly want to get away from it all, you need to get yourself to a backcountry lodge. Sundance Lodge in Banff National Park comes highly recommended from my outdoor adventure guru Leigh McAdam.

Have you ever taken a true mini-break? Where are some of your favourite spots close to home?