On our summer vacation this year we drove from Alabama to Colorado and back with a baby and a 3 year old, and everyone stayed relatively happy, so I think that makes me qualified to list my top tips for traveling with children!
1. Now matter how many times you have said "no" break down and buy the car DVD player before a long trip. It is absolutely a lifesaver! Although you may never want to see Peter Pan ever again by the time you come home, the kids will stay entertained for hours with this! We stored our DVDs in a sun visor CD holder and that worked wonderfully, HOWEVER, make sure it is positioned in such a way that if you take a corner too fast and the DVDs fly out of the holder they will land in the car and not fly out the open window! (This really happened!)
2. Bring a Sherpa. What I mean is, bring an extra adult to carry the extra weight when it comes to the kids. Our sister in law April came with us and she was wonderfully helpful! She not only carried the extra weight while we hiked, she was there to lend a helping hand with anything we needed. One of the reasons that we were able to travel so far each day is that we were able to rotate having one person drive, one person watch the kids and one person sleep.
3. Toys. Lots and lots of toys! Seriously, we bought a small clear Rubbermaid bin and we filled it with toys and kept it in the floor of the car. Then we would rotate the toys often so the kids wouldn't get too bored.
4. Magna Doodle. This provided hours and hours of entertainment for both the 3 year old and the adults. We bought this for the trip and it was worth every penny. She still uses it daily.
5. Use the internet. I spent the better part of one pre-trip day finding fun car activities online and printing them out. www.nickjr.com was a wonderful resource for this. I packed a bag full of activities she had never seen before, some crayons, and some stickers and this also provided hours of fun. If you have any more fool proof car entertainment tips, please share them with me!
This summer we decided to undertake quite a feat and take our first vacation in a really long time. Of course cruises and other conventional vacations that require leaving our children at home are not our style, so instead we embarked on an epic adventure across the country with our two young children and our sister-in-law April in tow. We started our trip late one evening in Birmingham, Alabama and we drove with few stops for almost 24 hours before stopping the next night in Denver, Colorado. I have to admit, we were all completely exhausted, but we knew we had made it a lot farther than we had expected to on the first day and we were so proud of how good the children were the whole time in the car. By the time we reached Denver we all stumbled into the first hotel room we could find and were happy to actually sleep in beds! The next morning we loaded into the car and had a leisurely drive through the mountains to our ultimate destination of Leadville, Colorado. Leadville is the highest incorporated town in the country and truly one of the most breathtaking places I have ever been. We set up camp (yes, of course we tent camped all week!) and headed into town just in time to catch the end of the burrow races and see a little bit of Leadville.
One thing that we were really struck by was how hard it was to breathe at that altitude! Even April who runs marathons was getting winded there (I have to admit that this made me feel much better about myself.)
We spent the whole week just playing outdoors and generally having a great time. I absolutely fell in love with Leadville and I am sure we will go back there at some point in the future. It has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world.
On our way back to Alabama we stopped at Sand Dunes National Park and had some fun playing in the sand and getting dirty. The rest of the trip home was pretty awful since we were missing the excitement that kept us going on the way out. We pushed on and made it home in one day. Again, the kids were wonderful and such little troupers. In fact, I can honestly say that I complained more than they did on the way home!
I can't take credit for this one, Eric actually took it, but I just love it!
This is Erica practicing her bouldering skills at Alabama Outdoors
We had another beautiful weekend here in Alabama, so we took full advantage of it again! Eric had a couple of invites for fun things to do without the kids, but we deemed it family fun weekend instead. I think we all ended up having a great time! Yesterday we went to Alabama Outdoors for me to buy a new pair of hiking boots since I am going to need time to break them in before we go on our big trip this summer. While we were there Eric and Erica both played on the rock wall and it was so fun to watch! After that we went to the zoo and saw all the animals. Last night Eric was cooking a brisket, so after the kids went to bed we sat around on the patio drinking beer that was brewed in our hometown of Athens, Georgia, and listening to a live Jimmy Buffett concert. It was just a great day. Today we went fishing at Oak Mountain with our friends Paul and Sarah and their daughter Caroline, who happens to be Erica's best friend. Now we are just sitting around the house playing with the kids and relaxing. I just can't remember a more relaxing weekend in a very long time. Yes, my laundry still needs folding, and yes, my dishwasher needs unloading, but those things will still be there this week!
Last weekend was absolutely beautiful here, so we packed up and decided to take Lucas on his first camping trip. (Erica is an old pro at camping already and a self-proclaimed camping expert!) We had our Tahoe so loaded down that we had to borrow one of those little platforms that attaches to the trailer hitch just to haul all our stuff there. We would have had more room, but Harley and Parker were taking up most of the storage room in the car. We drove to a primitive campground just outside of Anniston called Pine Glen. It is situated on the Pinhoti Trail near a stream and it proved to be a great place to stay. We played in the dirt and in the icy cold stream. We roasted marshmallows and cooked over an open fire. It got a little cool that night, but the four of us just snuggled closer together and kept each other warm
After breakfast Sunday morning we decided we were ready to head back to civilization. Really what that means is that Eric was itching to go fishing at Camp Lee in Anniston where his brother works. We had a blast all afternoon at the lake and by the end of the day I managed to convince Eric and Matt to go down the zip line so that I could try out my camera on action shots. It was so fun to watch, next time I will absolutely have to bring clothes to go down it in!
We had such a great time in the woods with no phone service and no television that we can hardly wait to go again. So far the forecast for this weekend looks pretty nice too . . .
OK, since I was on my soapbox the other day about how I hate plastic shopping bags, I thought would post a link to this site to show something really useful you can do with your plastic bags. www.yougrowgirl.com/grow/bagit.php This person has started a container garden with plastic bags, and it worked!! What a great way to reuse your bags! I think I am going to try this on my back deck. I will let you know how it turns out! If you have any other good uses for plastic or paper shopping bags, I'm all ears!
Lucas' first rib bone! Look how good he cleaned it, and he doesn't even have teeth! LOL!
As you can see, a great time was had by all at Erica's birthday party. She had both sets of grandparents there, so she was spoiled all day long! We had pizza and cake for lunch at the birthday girl's request, but Eric just couldn't stand having people over to the house and not cooking for them, so he slow cooked a BBQ pork butt and 3 racks of ribs and, as usual, everyone loved them. I swear his BBQ gets better everytime he fixes it, although he is always looking at it with a critical eye. Lucas certainly liked the rib bone he got handed. I'm sure it felt good on his teething gums and compared to a bottle, it tasted REALLY good! He can hardly wait to try them again!