We Traveled More than 8 Hours In the Car With 2 Kids and Lived to Tell About It

Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go … Whoever wrote that idyllic song probably wasn’t traveling with two kids under the age of three during the holidays. Because just a few months ago, we packed up the car, put the kids in their car seats, and drove the 7+ hours to Nonna and Grandpa’s house for the holidays. And let me tell you, it was anything but idyllic. Babies were screaming, naps were missed, toddlers were crying “I wanna get out!” and that was only in the first hour. But we survived and here are some tips we learned along the way:

Don’t Expect it to be the Same as a Pre-Kid Trip

Before we went on our first road trip with my now toddler, I asked one of my friends if she had any tips. She replied, “Expect it to be awful and throw all your fond road trip memories out the window.” Is that harsh? Yes. But it makes a point. Long trips with two young kids are not easy. They’re not relaxing. But they don’t have to be awful; just manage your epectations and be prepared (see below).

B and I in Vietnam – traveling BEFORE kids

Pack Enough Toys/Activities/Games

Toddlers and infants are not made to sit in one place for eight hours. (But really, who is?) That means an eight hour car trip can be anything but fun for them, which means it’s not fun for you. So bring activities to distract them. Here’s a rule of thumb I like to follow: bring at least one new toy or activity per hour of your car trip. So for a six hour car ride, here are some of the things we bring for the toddler:

  1. Coloring book/paper and washable crayons
  2. Matchbox cars
  3. Paint-with-water activity book – we like the Melissa & Doug Water Wow! books
  4. CDs – we like to go to our local library before a trip and pick out kid-friendly CDs to listen to. Our toddler gets a kick out of picking them out and then choosing them during the car trip.
  5. Books – I like to bring 3-4 and let my toddler pick out 1-2 himself. This one, Let’s Play, is a good one that is interactive. 
  6. Post-it notes – they can stick them places and then you can clean up easily. They can color on them with aforementioned crayons. They can stick them together to make shapes.

For the baby, we brought things like baby books, rattles, blankets, and toys that lit up and made noise.

Bring Snacks

Bring plenty of snacks and food for the trip. In addition to meals, plan easy-to-eat and less-mess snacks for the car or any stops. Bonus points if the snacks are new or not part of your usual repertoire. Some of our favorites include Annie’s fruit snacks, pouches, yogurt covered raisins, Annie’s cheddar bunnies, Barbara’s Puffins cereal, grapes, sliced pear, grilled cheese cut up into fun shapes.

Be Flexible

Don’t go into the car trip with a rigid plan. Will you sit in the front or in the back with the kids? Be prepared to do either. Will you stop exactly two times for one hour each and make it to your final destination in exactly nine hours? Maybe not (what if the baby has a blowout after your 2nd stop?). Will your kids nap at their usual naptime? Possibly. It’s okay (and probably a good idea) to make a plan before you get into the car, but just be prepared to throw it out the window or adapt if needed.  

Plan Stops

If you don’t have a hard timeline (see above tip: be flexible), plan a few fun stops along the way. For an eight-hour car trip, it’s nice to plan one or two stops where our toddler can run around and use up some energy. For us, this has meant finding a park that is not far off the route (bonus points if there’s a playground) and near some kid-friendly restaurants so that we can stop, grab a bite to eat and then run around and play. Yes, this takes time, but it makes the trip much more fun for our toddler.

Leave at Night or Around Naptime

We have only done this once and it was the best. After about one hour of crying and whining, the kids slept for almost the whole ride. Getting them back to bed once we got to our final destination wasn’t easy, but it made for a quiet and hassle-free car ride.

Have a Secret Weapon (or Two)

Sometimes all the toys, snacks and stops are not enough. That’s when it’s time for your secret weapon. For our baby, this can mean a few extra toys that light up or play music. For the toddler, this means toys that aren’t used on a regular basis, such as his toy laptop and my iPad with Sesame Street or other kids’ TV downloaded on it. We don’t always have to bring these out, but they have definitely helped make the trips easier.

Questions for you:

  • What’s the longest you’ve ever traveled in the car with kids?
  • What age do you find easiest to travel with kids?

Note-  this post contains a few affiliate links. And aversion of this post originally appeared on Northeast Ohio Parent Magazine’s website.

First Trip as a Family of Four

We survived our first trip as a family of four! This past weekend, B, FW, LM and I took a long car trip to New Jersey for my cousin’s wedding. (Thus the later than typical posting) The wedding was on a Monday, so we decided to make a long weekend out of it, and hit the road Saturday morning, before coming back to Cleveland on Tuesday.

On the way there, we made plenty of stops to break up the trip and also make sure there was some fun involved. First, we stopped at the Shaker Woods Festival, a woodworking festival in Northeast Ohio. B actually bought some handmade wooden brooms for him and FW.

On the way out to Jersey, we also stopped in Pennsylvania to see Mitch, our friend from college. He and his wife, Becca (we went to their amazing lake wedding a few years ago) now live in PA and have a daughter about FW’s age!

FW and their daughter, Natalie, got to play.

It was a perfect place to stop and a great way to catch up. They made us an amazing dinner (there was bacon in every part of the meal) and I wish we could’ve stayed longer.

The next day, we had plans to meet up with my friend Jane, who lives in Brooklyn. It was a gorgeous day, and we decided to visit the Prospect Park Zoo to help entertain FW, who loves any and all animals.

FW also loved all the interactive exhibits.

Jane is one of my best friends from home, and I am so glad we got to catch up and she got to meet LM.

The next day was the wedding! We had the whole day to ourselves, so we first enjoyed breakfast at the hotel. FW liked the waffles.

After, we decided to drive a ways to get a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty at Liberty Park.

There was also a playground, so FW was able to get out some energy.

Then, it was wedding time! It was a very traditional Jewish wedding, with many unique customs.

It was great to see my family, most whom I hadn’t seen since Christmas.

Including my brother, Greg, who lives in Berlin.

FW loved seeing his Nonna and Grandpa.

I loved showing everyone LM.

And of course celebrating the BEAUTIFUL bride.

And now we are back to reality … and I’m back to work from maternity leave. It was a nice summer home, and hopefully going back to work won’t be too difficult.

Some questions for you:

  • How many first cousins do you have?
  • Are you done with weddings for the season?

Visiting Annapolis with a Toddler

A few weeks ago, B, FW and I took our third vacation as a family of three. (The first was a weekend in Columbus when FW was 2 months old, the second was a trip to Atlanta/Cincy/Asheville when FW was 8 months old) After our time in New York seeing my family and friends, we hit the road for another car trip – this time, to Annapolis.

I had never been to the city before, and in our few days there, I really liked it. I would definitely visit again and recommend it if you are traveling with a baby/toddler. (Side note: Is FW really a toddler? It’s hard for me to believe, but at 14 months, he sure is close to being one if he isn’t already.)

Here are some ways to pass the time if you go:

Walk down Main Street and check out the water. View the boats, get a bite to eat, and take photos of the water. We did this each day we were there. With FW we watched the ducks in the water, “woofed” at the many dogs that were walking by, pointed at the many boats and read the historical markers along the way.

Tour the Naval Academy. Most of this tour was pretty toddler friendly – it was a lot of outdoors, walking (or strolling) around, and FW was able to walk or sit and be somewhat loud (he’s at the age where he likes babbling AND shrieking) while we got the scoop. The only parts that were difficult? The chapel and John Paul Jones tomb – both were not places that were built for running/shrieking babies. 

A highlight of the tour? The noon formation. All of the students (or midshipmen as they are called) line up and do roll call at noon before lunch and the band plays some music as well. FW and I enjoyed this part very much!

Take a walking tour. While this tour was a great way to get an understanding of the history of the area, it wasn’t FW’s favorite. In full disclosure, I wouldn’t necessarily call this a toddler-friendly activity, especially if you have a toddler who likes to walk, talk, run and touch every single thing. The constraints of the walking tour (walking when the guide was walking, not touching the historical exhibits, etc.) were a little too much for FW. The tour was also 2+ hours, something that most toddlers may have a hard time following.

Going out to eat. And by out I mean OUTSIDE. We lucked out with the weather while we were in town and got to enjoy a few meals outdoors. I find patios much more FW-friendly (we can get up, walk, be loud, etc.) and Annapolis had quite a few of those. My favorite restaurant while we were there was The Iron Rooster- we actually ended up going there twice – once for brunch and once for lunch – and they even had a kids menu and crayons for FW to color with.

Get ice cream. I made it a goal to get ice cream nightly, and FW enjoyed sharing cones and cups with us. He enjoyed my peanut butter ice cream and B’s chocolate.

Find a playground. Let’s face it – most of the activities we did weren’t made for FW. They were baby-friendly activities, but they weren’t necessarily things he would enjoy doing. So, we made sure that we did find some ways for him to have fun and one of the things we did was find a playground. The playground at the Annapolis Elementary School was perfect! It had kiddie swings, little slides and plenty of area for him to play and run around. We went there before dinner one night and he got so tired out he slept for the first part of our meal, which as any parent knows, is great!

Some questions for you:

  • Have you been on a vacation with a toddler recently? What activities do you recommend?
  • Have you been to Annapolis?

Annapolis Eats: Fish+Ice Cream

Happy Wednesday! I’m back again for What I Ate Wednesday (WIAW). It’s been a while since I’ve shared some of my eats, and since I just got back from a trip to Annapolis, I thought it’d be fun to share some of the food we ate in Annapolis.

Before I show you some of the pictures, I’ll share with you my goals going into the trip:

  1. Taste the local beer.
  2. Eat plenty of local fish. Especially crab and oysters.
  3. Eat ice cream. Every day if possible.

Spoiler alert – I got to do ALL of the above! Successful vacation in my opinion. Here’s some of the goodness:

Ice cream.

Oysters.

Fish boil.

More ice cream.

More oysters.

GIANT crab cake.

Breakfast hash with CRAB.

Crab soup. Not pictured, sadly. But here’s a picture of one of the few non-crab or ice cream dishes I had- french toast!

Some questions for you:

  • Have you been to Annapolis?
  • What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?
  • Do you like crab?

A Few Days in Albany (Alternative Title: Things to Do in Upstate NY with a Baby)

Note: I apologize in advance for more typos than usual on this post and others recently – I’m typing this with 9 fingers (see the BONUS at the bottom of this post for more details)

B and I just got back from seeing my parents. While we used to go out to Albany several times of year, our trips back to NY have gotten fewer and fewer now that we have FW. My parents have spent much more time coming to visit us in Cleveland. That’s why when B suggested we take some time off around Labor Day and take a trip, I was excited about the prospect of using part of that time to see my parents.

 

Trips to NY are a little different now that we have FW, but we still were able to have some fun and found a few baby-friendly activities to keep us busy.

FW loves visiting Nonna and Grandpa because Nonna makes delicious cookies 🙂

Some of the highlights:

Seeing my brother. He was in town from Berlin and I’m so glad I got to see him, even if just for a day. T he last time he saw FW, he was only 6 months old!

Going to a Farmers Market. Saturdays in Upstate NY mean farmers markets – we went to the one in Colonie, but Troy also has a great one.

Checking out the New York State Museum. It was rainy one day we were in town so we spent some time indoors at the museum. The museum is a great place to take your kids – it’s free (just a suggested donation), full of plenty of kids running around, has some really cool exhibits, and even has a toddler-focused hands-on room (that we didn’t get to check out).

the infamous long house inside the museum

are they on a train in the city? Yup – but inside the museum!

Also, the museum has a large indoor free carousel! It was FW’s first time on the ride and he LOVED it.

We met up with Jane and Alisa and her boyfriend at the museum, and then we had them over for dinner. They also hadn’t seen FW since he was 6 months old.

Going apple and blueberry picking at Indian Ladder Farms. I LOVE apple picking and have fond memories of going every summer I as growing up. It was great to go with FW, who was old enough to help pick the apples, put them in the bag and even taste them. We also got to pick some blueberries and after our picking, we enjoyed the local cider and beers at a picnic table with some apple donuts and apple fritters.

❤ my momma

the only time i’ve seen him enjoy blueberries – while picking them!

william tell …

family photo!

Stopping by a local playground. One of the days was gorgeous out, so my parents and I took out FW and had some fun running around in the grass and enjoying the rides.

Visiting West Point. Okay, West Point isn’t in Albany, but it’s not too far away, so the day we left Albany, we headed to West Point. We got in some beautiful sights (they sit above the Hudson River and have some great views) and an informal tour of campus with one of our friends who is a professor there.

BONUS: spending some time in Urgent Care. Ha! Okay, so this isn’t necessarily a “highlight” but I can’t share this post without mentioning this story about my Saturday night. My dad was cutting some vegetables for dinner when the knife slipped and he cut his pinky. It was pretty bad, but not bad enough to need stitches, so he elevated it and bandaged it up and I took up the cutting. I decided to take the opportunity to show him (and my mom and brother who were also in the kitchen) how to properly cut vegetables and the right type of knife to use (the knife he/I was using wasn’t the right kind). Of course, as I got to the last piece of eggplant, the knife slipped and I ALSO cut my pinky. I looked down and knew that this was no ordinary cut – the tip of my pinky was hanging off and bleeding pretty bad. I looked over at my brother and mom and said, “I need stitches.” So, my mom and brother took me to the local urgent care while B stayed home with FW and my dad resumed preparing dinner. Three stitches later, my pinky is in better shape now and I’ll be getting the stitches removed in a week or so.

Some questions for you:

  • When was the last time you went to Urgent Care? What was it for?
  • Have you ever cut yourself so that you needed stitches?
  • Do you like picking apples/berries/etc?

A Weekend Getaway with My Favorite Ladies

I’m writing this after finishing up from an amazing girls weekend with my best friends from high school. Me, Jane, Alisa and Melgar have been friends for 20 years and each year we try to do a girls weekend / getaway somewhere.

This year, we spent the weekend in California, visiting Melgar who lives in San Jose. We did some day trips and spent time catching up at her new house.

The weekend included:

Some hiking in Big Basin. Alisa was our fearless leader (we called her the trail maven).

An overnight in Monterey, which included some day trips and scenic driving around Bixby Bridge, 17 Mile Drive and visiting Carmel.

Relaxing by Melgar’s pool. Her new house is gorgeous AND she has a great walking/running path right next to it, along with a pool!

Going for a little run. Melgar is pregnant and still running!

Some amazing food. Including my first cragel – croissant + bagel – which is waaay better than a cronut in my opinion. And Melgar’s husband Jon cooked us an amazing meal of crispy prosciutto and risotto.

And some baking in Melgar’s gorgeous kitchen!

It wouldn’t be a trip with my favorite ladies without some sort of adventure. We ended up semi-getting lost along our drive (that’s what you get when I’m the co-pilot … thank goodness Jane woke up from her nap and showed us the map!).

But it didn’t matter, because we were all together. Singing the Spice Girls and acting like we were in junior high all over again.

These are the friends that I can just truly be myself with. Share my darkest secrets with. Say what’s on my mind. We can laugh together. Cry together. And we did both this weekend. While we only get together like this once a year, we always pick up right where we left off. I know I am so lucky to have friends like these!

Some questions for you:

  • Have you ever been hiking in the Redwoods?
  • What songs bring you back to high school/middle school?

I’m linking up with the weekly wraps!

Family Travel Tips: The Biltmore with a Baby

B and I love traveling. We’ve been around the globe together, from Cambodia to Mexico City, Burlington to Los Angeles.

I’m not gonna lie, traveling has slowed down a bit since FW was born eight months ago. Since then, the only places we’ve gone outside of Cleveland have been New York to see my family and Columbus for a weekend getaway. But we finally got in a little family vacation, with a trip to Asheville and Atlanta.

One of the highlights of Asheville was the trip to the Biltmore. If you haven’t been before, I highly recommend it. AND if you’re traveling with a baby – it’s definitely doable! Here are some tips to make it work:

5 Tips to Experiencing The Biltmore with a Baby

1. Go early. We bought tickets for 9 a.m. and got to the house around that time. It was great- not only was it nearly empty (look at all my photos – where are all the people?!) but it was prime time for FW. He is a morning person and naps well in the a.m. so going there when he was in a good mood – and then sleepy – was perfect! He was great for the self-guided house tour and even napped a little bit.

20170205_090923

Selfie when got there. See – nobody on the lawn or anywhere!

20170205_095804

Snoozing in the Halloween room at the Biltmore

2. Buy tickets in advance.

Don’t waste time going to the ticket office the day-of your visit. You’ll either waste time in line or not be able to get in and see the house when you want (fact- this happened to B and I a few years ago when we first went to Asheville around Christmastime. We went to get tickets the day of and they were sold out!). Instead, buy tickets in advance. I’ve been told that some AAA offices sell discount tickets (not the ones in Cleveland, sadly), but if you buy your tickets more than week in advance, the Biltmore often offers a discount. And if you’re going with a baby, great news – they’re free!

3. Travel light.

My definition of “traveling light” has changed significantly since FW was born. Babies need so much stuff! But for the Biltmore, since I knew we’d be walking around a lot and have a baby to carry, I wanted to bring as little stuff as possible. And we did! In my Baggu (which has become my all-purpose FW bag) I had our Skip Hop diaper changing system with some diapers and wipes, 2 small toys, a bottle, my wallet, my Baby Bjorn and our tickets. That was it. And guess what – I didn’t even use any of the toys OR the bottle during the trip!

4. Go stroller-less if possible.

Yes, the Biltmore lets you bring in strollers (yay for them!) but there are TONS of stairs in the house. Knowing this, we opted to go stroller-less and were very happy. B wore FW in our backpack carrier (I also had my Baby Bjorn in case FW didn’t like the backpack – it was our first time using it for a long time period) and it worked out perfectly. We were able to go up all the stairs and not miss any of the exhibits. We were even able to go for a walk around the grounds, including visiting the ponds and gardens, without having to worry about the terrain, more stairs, etc. Which brings me to the last tip …

20170205_090629

5. Explore more than just the house.

The Biltmore is more than just the beautiful historic home. It has several gardens, a village (with a winery!), walking trails, ponds, etc. If your baby is being good, explore as much of it as possible! And if you’re going early (see tip #1), you’ll find you have much of the grounds to yourself.

20170205_104047

Taking in the view

20170205_105544

Visiting the indoor orchid exhibit

20170205_104314

Beautiful grounds

20170205_112454

FW enjoying his walk to Bass Pond

I highly recommend you visit the Biltmore the next time you’re in Asheville. It’s a great place to check out – with or without a baby!