Tips on Traveling with Kids

Traveling with kids.  Do you feel tired just hearing that sentence?  :)  If you’ve read my blog for a while you know that Kenny and I travel often with our kids.  Especially to our home town in southern Utah to visit family.  The drive is exactly 6 1/2 hours from our doorstep to our favorite retreat (my moms house) if there is no traffic.  We have made that trip with our kids so many times in the last ten years (and many other trips) that I feel like I’ve learned a lot about how to make traveling with little ones as pleasant as possible.  I’ve had several people ask if I have any tips on traveling with kids and I do!  Here are just a few things that we do to make our road trips go as smooth as possible.

{TIPS ON TRAVELING WITH KIDS}

Tip 1)  Don’t travel with kids if you can at all avoid it.  
Kidding.  
Kind of.   
Tip 1 for real)  If you’re driving to your destination, do a bit of homework ahead of time to make sure that you aren’t going to be on the road during heavy traffic times.  If possible, avoid traveling on Fridays and Sundays if you are driving in areas with heavy traffic.  It’s hard to do, but by leaving really early on a Saturday morning vs. a Friday afternoon can save hours of time on the road.  There is nothing worse than being stuck in traffic with small children!  You don’t want to make an already long trip even longer.  We usually leave early on a Saturday morning and if Kenny has to be back to work Monday, we wake up super early Monday morning to drive home and Kenny goes straight into work.  Often he will take Monday off as a travel day so we don’t have to drive on Sunday in all of the traffic.  
Tip 2) Pack the car the night before and leave early in the morning when kids are in their calmest state.  I mentioned we leave early in the morning to avoid traffic.  We also do this because kids (at least our kids!) travel best in the morning.  We pack the car the night before and as soon as everyone rolls out of bed we hit the road.  The morning hours are always calmer times when everyone is rested and the kids are more content to relax in the car.  Parents often think “let’s leave in the evening so the kids will sleep on the drive…”  This usually backfires.  I know because I’ve done it.  And it usually backfires.  Because kids are so excited about the trip and are out of their normal routine they don’t sleep and instead are overly tired and hyper and much harder to travel with.  

Tip 3)  Allow plenty of time for stops along the way.  You really have to learn to “enjoy the journey” when traveling with little ones.  Knowing you will make more stops and planning that extra time into your trip will make for a more stress free travel day.

Tip 4)  Pack each child his/her own little bag of snacks and fun things to do on the drive.  

I always pack my girls their own bag full of snacks and things to do on the trip.  This way I’m not handing stuff back to the them and they are always excited to see what I’ve put in their bag.  (They also get to pick out a few favorite toys to play with that go in their bags.)   
Because Kole is still little, I keep a small bag next to me of things to occupy him on the drive.  A few of his favorite books, his favorite train, snacks, water, etc.  

This is a fun little book that we took along with us whenever we traveled this summer.  Kole uses it in therapy and he LOVES it.  It’s a simple matching book/game for Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?  It would be so easy to make your own if you have a toddler who enjoys this book.  Just download matching pictures of the animals in the book and attach velcro so your child can match the pictures.   

Kole finds the small animal that matches and places it on the big animal.  He “reads” the book while he does it and it’s the cutest thing.  He’ll say “bear..  what you see!?”  :) 

A homemade matching book like this is perfect for traveling because it keeps little ones busy for a while.  It would be so easy to make a matching book with all sorts of pictures that little ones recognize.  I’d love to make similar books like this for Kole.  If only I didn’t need to sleep!  :)

Here are a few things I load the girls’ bags with:  coloring books, word searches, crayons, clip boards with blank paper so they can write letters or draw pictures….

Sometimes I toss in some homemade flashcards of whatever I’ve been working on with them.  For this trip Addison was working on adding doubles and Ellie was working on her three times tables.  Practicing their math facts isn’t their favorite travel activity, but sometimes I can get them to quiz each other and make it into a fun game.

I also toss in their Boogie Board pads.  Same concept as an etch-a-sketch.  A fun writing tablet that you use a certain pen for and erase with the touch of a button.

Music is always fun for a long trip so we make sure to bring the kids’ favorite songs along.  This Wicked CD has been a staple in our car for a while now.  :)

I always pack the girls a few snacks of their own and just tell them when they can eat them along the way.  Wet wipes are a staple for dirty hands or spills and the black case holds our DVD’s – the ultimate survival tool for a successful long trip!  We are so grateful for our DVD player in the van.  We usually try to go as long as we can without a movie and then toss one on when the kids start getting restless and are tired of doing other things.  They aren’t a necessity but boy do they make traveling with kids (especially our two year old!) much easier.

Tip 5)  Don’t swear at the other cars on the road because your kids will hear and they won’t forget and they will remind you over and over that you said a bad word.  (This tip was brought to you by Kenny.  Thanks to my girls he is working on his road rage.)  

:)
Happy Traveling!

A mini getaway

We’re back.  Kenny and I.  From a mini getaway – sans kids.  Yes.  You heard me right!  When we received a letter about Kenny’s 10 year Law School Anniversary celebration we were so excited.  We have such fond memories of our three years in Charlottesville, Virginia and love traveling back to reminisce, re-live the good old days, and most importantly to eat at our favorite bagel bakery and to say y’all every chance we get.  My mom flew into San Diego to watch my kids for the weekend (an angel straight from heaven!) and Kenny and I fled without looking back.

We had the best time.  From the minute we were in the car alone riding to the airport.    It was magical.  We had long conversations with no interruptions.  No passing back crackers or a binkie.  No intercepting an almost fight about who is going to play with which barbie first.  We held hands.  We laughed at each others’ stupid jokes.  We were a couple again.  Young and in love.  Well sorta young, and mostly just in love with the fact that we were about to spend three days together with no kids, no responsibilities, and no kids.  Did I mention no kids?

:)

We woke up each morning and went on our favorite walk.  The Thomas Jefferson Parkway trail right next to our old apartment.  Also right next to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

This picture is from our walk in the Fall.  It’s our favorite place to visit when we make a trip to Virginia.  We used to walk this trail every weekend together and talk about our plans.  Our someday family.  All of our dreams for the future.  It felt surreal walking our trail now, 10 years later, after so many of those dreams have come true.  Made me feel incredibly grateful and incredibly old all at the same time.  :)

Our walk ends with this bridge which takes you to Monticello.  They were just starting to build it when we left Charlottesville in 2002.  Isn’t it beautiful?  Just like the rest of Virginia.  I think Virginia is one of the most beautiful places in the world.  
It isn’t a trip to Charlottesville without eating at our favorite bagel bakery.  Bodo’s has the best turkey bagel sandwich ever.  EVER.  And y’all know I’m a turkey snob.  (Did you catch that y’all?  Rollin’ right off the tongue).  We may have eaten here a time or ten two over the weekend.  This place never disappoints.  

The law school grounds were simply breathtaking.  Just like I remembered them.  
Almost as breathtaking as they are in the Fall.  
We loved touring the school and catching up with all of Kenny’s friends.  
Kenny was fortunate to go to law school with a group of amazing people (several are friends for life).  They have all gone on to do incredible things with their degrees.  
I felt smart just taking their picture.  :)  

Kenny’s main partner in crime.  I used to come home from working round the clock to hear about my husband’s day which usually included more time spent playing Xbox with Will than actually studying law.  These two were always up to no good and it’s a real treat to listen to them re-live some of their moments together.  Good times indeed.

(Virginia trip – Fall 2009)
Unfortunately this was a fast trip and there wasn’t enough time with all of the reunion stuff going on for me to visit my Virginia friends.  Bummer!  Just means we have to go back again soon.  
(Did you hear that mom?  Should we get another trip on the calendar?)  
The kids had a ball while Kenny and I were gone.  Couldn’t wait to tell me about how grandma let them eat two donuts in one day, didn’t make them wash their hair until the day I was coming back, and most importantly, how grandma bought them new razor scooters at Target.  
Oh my.
It’s always quite the party when grandma’s in charge.  
My mom was a saint — really.  Aside from the donuts and the no hair washing and the totally spoiling my kids part, she read with the girls and helped them get a jump start on next weeks’ homework, sat in on a therapy session with Kole, re-stocked my pantry/fridge with groceries, and had my laundry done and my house perfectly clean when I got home.  Not an easy feat with my crew around!  I was so happy I cried.  Then I cried again when she left.  She cried too.  I think it was a combination of not getting to see me more, knowing she’ll miss the kids, and just sheer exhaustion.  Mostly just sheer exhaustion.  
I’ve been a bit out of sorts today.  I blamed it on the time change but really that’s not it at all.  I’m having “post vacation/mom isn’t taking care of everything anymore” let down.  It hasn’t been pretty.  I got nothing done today.  Kole was clingy to me and I was clingy right back.  We will both feel better tomorrow.  
It was such a great trip.  Visiting Virginia always is.  

A getaway!

So I’ve been out of town the past five days!  On a little trip.  Wondering where?  I’ll give you a clue:
I went to sleep every night to the sound of ambulances and woke up each morning to the sound of construction.  (Sounds heavenly, right?)  


NEW YORK baby!  Our get away to the big apple!  When Kenny told me over the summer that he had partner meetings in October in NYC and asked if I’d want to come, I got excited.  Then when he mentioned that we would be staying on Madison Avenue in a fancy hotel because of those meetings and that I would have to keep myself entertained for one full day, I got really excited.  Keep myself entertained on 5th Avenue in Manhattan?  REALLY!!??  A day all alone to do nothing but shop!  By myself!  On 5th Avenue!  Yeah babe.  I think I can handle that.  And handle that I did!  I spent one full day in the heart of downtown Manhattan.  Shopping and taking in the sights:

But I wasn’t completely alone!  A couple of days before we left on this trip my sister called and told me that she was heading to New York around the same time we were.  Her boss was taking her and some co-workers on a quick trip (totally last minute) and they were staying in Manhattan… on Madison Avenue!  We couldn’t believe it!  Not only would we be in New York at the same time, but we were staying only blocks away from each other!  The night before we flew out, we realized we were flying on the same plane!  We could NOT believe our luck.  We knew we had to meet up.  My sister and I don’t live close to each other and it is so rare that we get to spend time together.  Especially time WITHOUT our kids.  We were totally giddy at the thought of shopping together in New York!

The hotel Kenny and I stayed at was called The Palace (his job comes with some serious perks) and Carly and I couldn’t resist acting like we totally belonged in this setting.  
Our text messages to each other just before we met up:

Car:  I’m coming to you.  Let’s meet at the Palace dahling.
Me:  K – call when you get here.  Or come up to the 16th floor room 1608… dahling.  That’s where I’ll be polishing my silver.  
Car:  Perfect, stay put.  Have Buffy meet me at the door to take my mink.  
She met me at my room and as soon as I put away my silver and Buffy had taken care of Car’s mink, we hit 5th Avenue!

We were deliriously happy to be together – acting like the biggest dorks.  Shopping in one amazing store after another.  It was the best day.  Later that evening when we were both back at our own rooms we texted all night long about our luxurious new life style and I got laughing so hard I almost cried.  No one can make me laugh like my sister can.  Whenever I’m with her my cheeks hurt from smiling and laughing so much.  It was such a great way to kick off my trip and it couldn’t have worked out more perfectly if we had planned it!

After day one of the trip, Kenny had finished his meetings and I was so excited to spend some time with him.  The first thing we did was head to the new 9/11 memorial.  We really wanted to see it while we were there so Kenny got us tickets the week before our trip.

The memorial is two huge pools where the twin towers used to be.  Water is pouring in on all sides and the names of the people who died are engraved all around the pools.  

It was really sad.  I don’t know how else to explain the feelings I had while we were there.  Just an overwhelming sense of sadness.  It was hard to be in the place where everything happened.  To see exactly where the towers stood and to see those never ending fountains in their place.   But I felt fortunate to see the memorial and to honor the people who lost their lives that horrific day.  
After we left the memorial, we did a little sightseeing and were greeted around every corner by protesters. 
New York is crazy right now!  Protesters everywhere!  We tried to steer clear of the madness, but couldn’t resist snapping a few pictures.

We ate lunch one afternoon at Lombardi’s Pizza.  Kenny has wanted to take me to this place for a while now because he has eaten there before.  Lombardi’s was America’s first Pizzeria and is known to have the best pizza around.  It didn’t disappoint!

Taking in a few more sights:

And my husband who is 36 going on 12.  Sorry.  This is a G rated blog so I hesitated posting this picture, but couldn’t resist.  Kenny and I had fun coming up with some great catch phrases to accompany this picture.

Time Square at night!  What a circus this place is!  Kenny called it “an assault to one’s senses” and I couldn’t agree more.  All of the smells and lights and people.  It’s hard to focus on simple tasks like walking because of everything going on around you.

When we randomly passed Minnie and Mickey I had to get a pic.  I haven’t been to Disneyland since I had Kole and have had serious withdrawals.  Although this Micky and Minnie didn’t speak English and were a bit odd.

And the best part of the trip!  The Broadway plays.  Kenny and I LOVE the theatre.  LOVE it.  Remember a few months ago when I asked all of you if we should see Mary Poppins or Lion King?  So many of you raved about both that we decided the decision was made for us.  We’d have to take your great advice and see both plays! 
Marry Poppins was amazing!  I am a huge fan of the Disney (one of my favorite shows growing up) and loved seeing it on Broadway.  It made me so homesick for my girls.  They would have loved it too.  Next time it comes to San Diego we are taking them for sure.  But there is nothing like seeing a play on Broadway.  The set changes, music, costumes, acting – all phenomenal.  At the end Mary Poppins flew right over our heads.  Unreal!  

Lion King was also incredible.  In the opening “Circle of Life” scene when all of the animals started pouring on the stage I started to cry!  I couldn’t help it!  The music and costumes were that amazing.

This little getaway was just what I needed.  Kenny and I were able to spend so much time together.  Alone!  We were able to have complete, uninterrupted conversations.  Uninterrupted!  Complete sentences!   And sleep in!  Even though the construction woke us, we went back to sleep!  Even the plane ride was heavenly.  I read a magazine, organized pics on my laptop, and gazed out the window fully enjoying the fact that I had no one to take care of but myself.  And my kids had a blast with all of their grandparents.  And by the end of the trip I was really missing them.  And now if feels really good to be home again.  With my kids.  Taking care of everyone but myself.

All signs of a really good trip.  :)

Mini va-cay (splash pad)

Back from a mini va-cay today!  The kiddos and I spent last week at our little retreat –

(aka mom’s house) in southern Utah.  We had a great trip.  It was HOT.  So we spent a lot of our time in the house or in the water. 
I hung out a lot with my sister-in-law Dayna – we always have so much fun together.  Here we are at the splash pad with our boys.  They were both SO excited to have their picture taken.  
My mom joined us on her lunch break.  Her lunch break ended up being a little longer than usual since it also involved running home to change her clothes.  (Click the above pics to see them better.  The look on my mom’s face is classic.)

Dayna with Addie and my sweet nephew Drew.  Every picture I took of Ellie was a total blur because she was running through the water so fast.  My girls LOVE the splash pad.  
Kole loves the splash pad too.  He even found a buddy this time.  A twin with matching hat and all.  Which one is my boy?  The one who STILL isn’t walking.  Yup.  That would be my Kole.  The one sitting on his little bottom.  Totally content to watch his twin do a happy we’re the same age and I’m walking dance right in front of him.  
Operation “get Kole walking” has been taking place for months now.  

As you can see, we’re making major progress.  

Major.  Lucky for him, his inability to walk doesn’t seem to slow him down much.  

He climbs like no one’s business…  
and has no problem keeping up with his sisters.  
So even though his younger cousin (and every other baby his age) is running circles around him, we’re not too worried.  Guess he’ll walk when he’s good and ready.  He’s just too cool for walking right now.  
In the meantime, he keeps grandma and the rest of us on our toes.  

Isn’t the tabernacle beautiful!?  I love my home town.  I have to repeat that last sentence to myself over and over when I visit in the summer and trade my usual 75 degree weather in for a nice and toasty 110 degrees.

BUT.

This beautiful carousel is a new fixture next to the splash pad and the girls and I couldn’t wait to try it out.

It was as delightful as we had anticipated.  Heat and all.

Good times. 

So – tomorrow will be a nice reality check.  Unpacking, laundry, groceries, cleaning… the day after a vacation is always a busy one.  But it still feels good to be home.

And back to 75 degrees.  :)

Fun blog and more beach!

Some fun news today!  I’m being featured on I heart Organizing!  If you’re like me and love to organize and haven’t checked out Jen’s blog you are in for a real treat!  I discovered her blog a few months ago and was hooked immediately.  It’s seriously one of the first blogs I check now.  Oh the sleep I lost pouring over her past posts!  So many great organizing and decorating ideas and tips.  I just love it all and am so excited to be mentioned on such an inspiring blog.  Thanks Jen!  It’s so much fun finding other people who share my passion for organization.  And to celebrate my love for organization, tomorrow’s post is a fun new shoe system I created a couple of weeks ago after being inspired by one of Jen’s posts.  YEA!  I’m excited to share it.  :)

But for today I wanted to answer a few questions in yesterday’s comments.  Do you love how I answer questions in my posts instead of in the actual comments?  If you ask a question, do you check back in the comments for the answer?  I would forget, so I assume everyone else would too.  Ha!  Probably not so.  I need to work on answering questions in the comments.  Further my quest to become a real blogger.  Do you also love how I get so sidetracked and can’t stay on the topic at hand?  :)  Back to the questions – several of you asked where we stayed in Maui.  We own a week each year at the Westin Villas in Ka’anapali, Maui.  That is why we vacation in Maui so much.  Yes.  It’s an amazing place to stay and I would totally recommend it for a family vacation!  The villas are huge (like mini houses with full kitchens and washers and dryers) and we love that we have a room seperated from the kiddos.  The timeshare thing was a perfect solution for us because we wanted to make family vacations a priority, but we can sometimes be too practical and were afraid we wouldn’t travel because it’s so expensive, so much work with the kids, etc.  This way we have something set every year.  We can go to Maui, or trade and stay in other amazing places like when went to Cancun with my family two years ago.  We can also use points (part of the timeshare system) and stay in Westin hotels all over the world.  We did that for our ten year anniversary and went to Italy.  You have options!  Optionality is my favorite word.  :)  Anyway, if anyone is interested in learning more I’d be happy to answer questions.  Just send me an e-mail – my link is to the right.

A few more beach pictures…

I have to say one of my favorite things about this last trip was seeing Addison have so much fun at the beach.  Ellie has been a beach girl from day one.  She has always loved the sand and the ocean.  Addison – not so much.  Usually she is afraid of the ocean, doesn’t like getting dirty, too hot, too sandy, sunscreen in her eyes…always something.  She has never loved the beach.  I don’t know what changed since last summer (maybe just an age thing?), but to see her throwing all caution to the wind this trip and truly enjoying the ocean made me so happy!

I too can sometimes be a bit hesitant to swim in the ocean.  Especially here in San Diego because the water is alway so cold.

But the water in Maui is incredible and this trip, I felt like a little kid again!  Swimming and splashing in the waves.

And yes Traci!  Those are Ka’anapali waves!

They are huge!

I seriously got laughing so hard.  I think I had more fun playing in them than my girls did one morning!

Kenny was laughing at how hard I was laughing.  My cute friend Josie who is 7 months pregnant took these pictures and I’m so glad she did.  Even though I look like a total dork, these pictures just make me smile.  Fun memories with my girls.  I seriously think I’ll be washing sand out of our hair for the next three weeks!

Ahhh…yes.  It was an amazing vacation.  And now.  Reality.  My friend Shari commented yesterday “Re-entry is brutal.  Hang in there.”  Man is that ever the truth!  The last few days have been crazy trying to unpack and get back on top of things.  We are still on Maui time going to bed too late and NOT wanting to get up in the morning.  Yesterday I did manage to go grocery shopping.

Got all of my healthy snacks washed and ready to go.  Felt good about that.  On today’s to-do list?

Good times around here.  
Have a great Wednesday and if you have a minute check out Jen’s fun blog!  You’ll just love it.  :)