Thursday, September 29, 2011

Traveling with A Preschooler and a Toddler... and Liking It

One of the amusing things about telling people about our recent California Road Trip is their reaction when I tell them that we did the trip with a 4.5 year old and an almost 2 year old. They mostly look at me like I am crazy.

And maybe I am crazy, but I have to say- it was really a great trip. We had a lot of fun.

Which is not to say that there weren't meltdowns and moments when I wondered why on earth I had decided that we should take a road trip this year (answer: I didn't feel like messing with the airport/airplane hassle with my almost two year old).

But for the most part, the trip was really fun for the grown ups as well as the kids. Really, all of our trips with our kids have turned out pretty well, although there were some dicey moments in the Wichita trip, before we realized that we needed to back off on the potty training for the duration of the trip.

Now, a lot of this is just luck. In fact most of it is probably luck- we happen to have two good little travelers on our hands. Honestly, Pumpkin may be a more patient traveler than I am.

Perhaps a little of our traveling success might be due to things we do, though, so I thought I'd share some tips, in no particular order:

1. Plan like crazy.

Seriously. Plan the trip, then plan some more. And then some more. Know where at least one decent playground is in each city you are visiting. Google maps and Google Earth are big helps in this regard- you can even zoom in and check for swings if you happen to have a little swing addict (like we do). Have several family-friendly restaurant options identified ahead of time- you don't have to use them if you have time to stroll around and look for whatever restaurant looks best. But sometimes you just need to get to an acceptable restaurant fast, before your kids go from looking forward to lunch time to melting down due to hunger.

And speaking of restaurants....

2. Brew pubs are excellent places to take kids for meals.

I explained why we love to go to brew pubs in my last post. In short: they are generally noisy enough that my kids are not the loudest people in the restaurant, the beer mellows everyone out- us and the people around us, and they almost always have kids menus. Oh, and we like beer.

I am not a huge foodie, so we eat at chains, too. Sometimes, something familiar is what your kid needs. Chains can also usually be relied upon to have the mechanics of serving kids down- bringing the kids' food as soon as possible, for instance. The really good ones even know to let it cool in the kitchen for a bit before bringing it to the table.

3. Know which parts of your kids' routines can be messed with, and which can't.

For us, breakfast is sacrosanct. It needs to happen as soon after Petunia wakes up as possible. Almost everything else has some wiggle room, but not breakfast.

4. Try to stay in suites, if you can afford it.

The extra space is nice. And a door to close on your sleeping kids, allowing some grown up time on the vacation- even if you just use it to plan the details of the next day without a 4 year old asking "Why, Mommy?" every 20 seconds- is priceless.

5. Pack distractions for the travel time.

The magna-doodle has served us well here, as have the felt boards my Mom made for the kids for a return trip from Arizona. It is also handy to have something completely new for the trip. The night before our trip, I had to run to the drug store for some things, and on a whim, I bought a little princess coloring book on a plastic frame for Pumpkin. She loved that thing, and colored in it during most of our drives on this trip. Some of that was pure luck- but some of that was me knowing that she loves to color, loves princesses, and is always interested in something new, so there was a good chance she'd like that toy.

6. Be realistic in your expectations.

We don't try to take the kids to art museums yet, because Petunia is too little to understand how to behave in one and I am too sensitive to take her anyway, and just ignore the glares from other people. (Typing that sentence made me think that perhaps it is time I found the time for a trip to an art museum with Pumpkin, though- she is old enough to perhaps behave, and I'm curious what she'd think of it.)

We have also skipped many things we'd like to do just because the timing didn't work out. For instance, we drove through downtown San Luis Obispo on this trip and both thought it looked like a great little downtown that we would have liked to explore. Unfortunately, we were there at nap time and Petunia was snoozing happily in the back seat. We could have woken Petunia up, strapped her in her stroller, and hoped for the best- but chances are we would have gotten a meltdown, so we just made a mental note that we'd like to go back someday.

However, we know that meltdowns will sometimes happen, and we try not to let them get to us. It is unrealistic to expect the kids to behave perfectly for ten days straight. They certainly don't do that at home, so why would they do it on vacation? That is actually so important that it deserves its own list entry!

7. Remember that they meltdown at home, too.

Pumpkin threw a couple of impressive fits on this vacation around clothing. She wanted to wear shorts but it was too cold. She wanted to wear a certain shirt, but it was already filthy. Etc. But she throws fits about her outfits at home, too.

Petunia has been known to ruin a dinner time by crying loudly for a show while the rest of us try to finish our food (we have a rule: no TV while eating). So, while I would have preferred not to have to resort to tag team eating so much on the trip (one adult eats while the other walks around outside with Petunia, then we switch), I can't really say that dinner time disruptions are a unique feature of travel. They are a feature of having a two year old.

8. Plan in lots of park visits

As I said above, we always do some research and know where the local playgrounds are. We visit a playground almost every day when we're traveling, often for afternoon snack. I suspect that the play time helps the kids behave better during other times, and we've actually really enjoyed seeing the different parks in various places. I'll be writing more about the Dennis the Menace playground in Monterey. There were also some really good parks in Portland and Kaua'i (I didn't write about the Kamalani playground there, but it was pretty cool). Even better, hanging out at a playground with your kids is a great way to meet some locals, who might give you some good tips- we found both the Jamison Water Park mentioned in my blog post and the Portland brew pub run by the Deschuttes brewery (which was so great we went there twice) thanks to some advice from a friendly dad in a local playground, who struck up a conversation with Hubby while Pumpkin and his son played, and I shopped at Powell's.

Those are my tips and tricks, but I know we don't have it all figured out... so please, chime in via the comments. What are your tips and tricks for traveling with little kids, and enjoying it?


  1. Sounds like you've got both the planning down and the right attitude! I especially like the advice to remember that they melt down at home, too.

    When we travel with our kids here in France, we rent a house or an apartment for a week, so we have a "home base." This makes more sense in Europe than in the US because a) it's not really road trip land here, and b) reasonably-priced rental properties are easy to find. I love it because I don't have to take my kids to restaurants, which I mostly hate to have to do.

    But... I love your brew pub idea, and I'll have to remember that for the next time we're back in the States. Good microbrewed beer is one of the things I miss the most about home!

  2. Anonymous2:31 AM

    Our only problem with road trips at those ages was what to do with pottying. In the end we went with diapers, but we still had to stop a LOT on the road, which was kind of a pain.

  3. paola5:05 AM

    Here are a couple of others that I subscribe to, but didn't end up implementing on our trip to Berlin last weekend:

    Always carry snacks and water with you otherwise you are destined to spend big bucks on food the kids don't eat anyway, and the expensive bottled variety.

    Stick as much to your kids schedules as possible, incorporating a couple of hours rest time at the hotel (or in the car)and eating at usual meal times. Of course we did none of this and as a result Zoe was so overtired that the night we really needed badly to sleep, she had one of her night terror/freak outs at midnight waking up the rest of us,

  4. These are great tips, Cloud! We haven't done much traveling with Evan yet, but we do have a trip planned for the Spring (he'll be about 1.5 years old). I'm definitely going to steal your parks/playground idea.

  5. @Parisienne- we were discussing the relative merits of the "go somewhere and stay" vs "tour around" vacations during our drive times, while the kids slept. We've done both. I think the "go somewhere and stay" is logistically easier, but the problem is that we like to see new things, so we have to find a place with a lot of nice things to do. And I consider a break from cooking dinner to be one of the benefits of vacation. I guess that at least my husband could share the duties if we were staying somewhere, but despite all the problems, I really enjoyed eating out so much on the trip!

    @nicoleandmaggie- we lucked out in that regard, too. Petunia only poops once a day at most, and can't do it in her car seat! But potty training issues were definitely a problem during our trip to Wichita, so I completely understand your point.

    @paola- a big YES to carrying snacks and drinks. We do that, too. Even at home. There is a snack bag in our diaper bag at all times.

    @Alyssa- I hope you have a good trip!

  6. the milliner7:46 AM

    Yes, yes, yes to all of the above. The only thing we can't do is the brewpub restaurants, unless they aren't too noisy. DS is not good in really noisy and/or chaotic places, so it just ends up being more stressful. The upside is that we can bring him to restaurants that are more our style. And he often will eat stuff he never eats at home. We lucked out with a kid that for the most part does really well in restaurants. I do always try to bring a snack to the restaurant too (cheerios or something easy and non messy) just in case things take longer than expected. There is sure to be a meltdown if DS gets too hungry. Like @Paola said, I always carry snacks & water.

    We haven't done a long driving trip since DS has been potty trained, but I can imagine that this would be a bit of a pain in having to stop frequently. However, I've just resigned myself to the fact that this is the way it is. I no longer have aspirations of actually getting to a destination (far away) in the exact amount of time we planned.

    Also, we keep an IKEA potty in the car for emergencies (or to use at our vacation destination) and this has saved us more than once (even in the city) for the 'I have to go NOW' moments where no bathroom (or sheltered tree...) is in sight.

    The finding the park close by thing is also a must for us. It really does make the rest of the time easier. Now, @Parisienne Mais Presque can confirm, but I've been told that Paris is littered with kids playgrounds (somehow I've never noticed this on my previous visits sans kid). Another excellent reason to go to Paris!

  7. Great, great tips.

    Oh man, yes, planning meals were stressful for us, especially when kids were already hungry and we didn't know where to go. Thank god for yelp.

    I'd add one more thing..if you can afford it, stay somewhere with a pool. We would go to the pool everyday instead of the playground. I think it serves the same purpose as a playgound, but you don't have to leave your hotel to do it. My 6 year old loved the before bed pool trips with dad.

  8. Amen to snacks, snacks, and more snacks.

    I think the biggest thing for me and DH is just to adjust our attitude. Travelling with kids is never going to be the same as travelling before kids, so don't expect that.

    Also, travelling with kids is not a vacation, it is an experience. So, it can still be tiring, and you are still dealing with all the daily issues of having kids. I think as long as you are not magically expecting your kids to be models of perfect behaviour for the duration of the trip, everything else falls in to place. Just don't forget to pack your sense of humour.

    Also, for long plane rides, I love my iphone for movies, games, and stories. We took a 12 hour plane ride with DS when he was 2.5. He didn't sleep, but he was totally fine, snacking and watching cartoons the entire way. When he got bored, we broke out some little toys, books, or crayons. Half an hour later, the tv would be back on. It was good to cycle things through frequently like that. We try to limit tv so unlimited access was such a treat for him.

  9. I've done quite a bit of traveling with my kids at various stages (including a 2 week 5,000 mi road trip with a 3 m.o. old and a 2.5 y.o.) of various types. I *love* traveling with my kids. There are few parts of parenting I enjoy more than sharing new things with them. The last trip we took (3 and 1) was SO exhausting, but my 3 y.o. was just shining with joy the whole time. And so was I.

    I agree with snacks and carrying along the potty. On the long road trip, we made sure we stopped every 100-120 miles (unless the toddler was sleeping), so he could run around and play. After a while he didn't protest when we put him back in the car, because he knew we'd let him out soon. We had good luck with rest stops that had playgrounds at them, and even a couple of McDonald's with toddler play areas. Going on a big trip with the under 5 crowd, for me, is the most exhausting thing I do as a parent. I'm so tired on those trips I feel like I could fall asleep standing up. But it's also the most fun!

    We didn't just travel with snacks on the road trip, we took all their food and a cooler. My then 2.5 yo only wanted corn flakes for breakfast, so we made sure we *always* had cornflakes and milk handy, so he could eat in the room.

  10. Our saving grace for long car trips with the kids is the iPad. It allowed us to take the 3.5 year old and 21 month old on five trips this summer -- four driving and one by air.

    When it was just #1, even long car rides were easy. She was happy to look at books and play with toys or sleep in her seat. But #2 won't do any of that. So we let them OD on TV for long trips. Because #2 only sleeps for 30 minutes in his seat, he can watch TV on silent while his sister naps. This is in lieu of all-out screaming.

    The iPad is attached to the back of my seat via a velcro strap on a non-Apple case, and one button will play through all the shows. It's a lifesaver.

    We also bring a bag of books, a favorite toy for each, a couple of loveys to sleep with, a small bag of crayons and paper for restaurants, a small cooler for snacks, bananas and shelf-stable milks. That covers most hunger crises.

    One trip we took this summer that I think is great for families was an all-inclusive resort in the Trinity Alps. It was our first time at a place like this, and it's not actually a resort -- we slept in a one room cabin. But all meals were prepared for us, the hiking trails were right out the door, and everyone could shower. The best part was childcare during dinner! Kids ate early, then had activities while the grownups ate.

    Cloud, we went to Dennis the Menace park last month too! It was fun. And I live about 20 minutes from Fairytale town. I think you picked a good time to go -- the two times I went, it was overrun with school field trips.

  11. Oh bless you for writing this post! Big family trip for us coming up, 1.5 and 3.5 year old. Long plane flight that gives me palpitations just thinking about. Any idea what to do about car seats in big urban cities when you don't plan on taking many cabs but know there will be a couple? We will take the car, and this the car seats, to the airport. Everyone has their own seat on the plane and we got one of those cares harnesses for the little one. There will be a train and one can trip from the airport in the big city and mostly mass transit once we get there. I do not want to lug two car seats just for a couple short rides, do I have to? This is the last detail that is completely stressing me out! Thanks in advance for any advice/help!

  12. @a I used the Safe Traffic Systems Safe Rider Travel Vest for my son on a trip this summer (we had about a 3-hour drive after arriving at the destination airport plus assorted incidental travel at destination, then return to airport). I checked with a car seat technician and basically was told that if correctly adjusted (meaning snug on the kid + seatbelt snugged up -- not absurdly tight, but snug) this vest is as safe as a car seat. My son was fine with it and it's very portable; it would only fit your older child (not approved for <3 y.o.), but even getting to take just one of 2 carseats is worth it in my book.

  13. @a- we haven't done any cabbing with our kids, so sorry- I have no direct advice on that.

    But I will say that when we've flown with both kids, we take one car seat (a Sunshine kids one that folds- it is heavy as the dickens, but compact) and rent the other with the rental car.

    I also remember that my Baby Bargains book ages ago had some sort of cab car seat solution- maybe check a copy of that out for the library and see what it says.

    On the long plane ride- we have some friends who have done several Australia to US flights, and they swear by a goodie bag of essentially disposable toys. They say constant variety is the key. I'd be tempted to try the iPad option, too, if you have one. Heck, even my black and white Kindle fascinates my 2 year old.

    Good luck!

  14. Yes to the IKEA potty, we used that many times even on short car rides.

    Even with your great tips, a road trip would be a nightmare with my family. I almost hate to admit this, but my boys are 4.5 and we've NEVER driven anywhere more than 3 hours away. Well, except for the one time we tried to drive 6 hours, and it was an utter and complete disaster. They are also awful in restaurants so going out is way more stressful than eating in. So we are definitely the family that drives to a vacation rental max 3 hours away, and hangs out on the beach and goes hiking.

  15. Anonymous4:37 AM

    We always lugged a carseat, but we just have the one kid. Except in cities where we can take public transportation-- in that case we eschew the carseat and take the subway and do a lot of walking. We try to pack light. (We used to buy diapers at the nearest drugstore to our destination.)

    1. You don't have to put a kid in a carseat in a cab. If you want to take your chances and the ride is short, that's legal.

    2. At airports I see parents tooling around their multiple children in carseats on wheels with a stick. I think one is called a travelmate from gogokidz, but there are others. Once I saw a single dad with 4 kids... he pulled 2, and his oldest pulled the third carseated kid. There's also something called a traveling toddler.

    We never take a stroller, but if you do, things like the sit and stroll might be worth the investment.

  16. @zed- yeah, some of our travel success is luck in our kids' personalities. Probably MOST of our travel success is luck!

    We generally only drove ~2 hours/day on our car trip. The first day we had to do ~4 hours, so that was split into two, and we had a couple days with ~3 hour drives, but mostly, we drove for the two hour nap time, and that was it.

  17. on cabs and car seats, we faced this a few years ago when we flew to San Francisco with the boys for a meeting, and were arriving late and didn't want to get BART. We ended up booking a car service, basically a limo! It was expensive and kind of ridiculous, but the only option I could come up with that didn't involve lugging two car seats for 2 short trips in a cab.

  18. @Cloud, don't take this the wrong way (and heck, I'm only traveling with one kid, so what do I know?), but when you got to the comment about, "We generally only drove ~2 hours/day on our car trip. The first day we had to do ~4 hours, so that was split into two, and we had a couple days with ~3 hour drives, but mostly, we drove for the two hour nap time, and that was it," I had to laugh because this felt a bit like, I don't know, two people who are supporting each other in trying to get their finances under control and then a year or 2 in person 1 has an emergency and says, "Oh, thank goodness for my trust fund!"

    Lots of good tips here (and I haven't done the two-kid travel, so who am I to talk), but I do dream of a trip where we could limit our driving to 2-hour blocks (not to mention dreaming of the existence of naptime).

  19. @Alexicographer, I understand what you're saying- and I'm definitely not offended. But I have to point out that the reason we had shortish drives is that we PLANNED it that way. This was a road trip vacation, and I specifically planned it so that we didn't have to drive more than ~2 hours most days. So- we would have loved to see San Francisco, or the redwoods, or a gazillion other things, really, but we left those off of the itinerary, because trying to do that would have made the travel times too long for what we figured would work best for our kids. Conversely, we had no burning desire to see Merced, but we added that stop in to break up the drive to Sacramento. Perhaps I should have made that more clear in the "planning" and "have realistic expectations" points. To have a good vacation with kids, I think you have to change your expectations on how far you can go and how much you can see.

    But of course, sometimes, you just have to make a trip that doesn't fit with what will work well for your kids. And yes, that can suck. Although... we have done the ~6 hour drive between San Diego and Phoenix in a single day multiple times. I think I have written up how that went... I'll look when I get a chance and add a link. The short story is: not as well as this trip, but not horribly, and the key to that was including a longish stop at a park midway through, and trying to plan around the kids' schedules as much as possible.

    On the nap thing... I know! That falls under the pure luck category. Petunia still naps, and Pumpkin will nap a bit in the car if we've sufficiently tired her out ahead of time. And even when she's not napping, she is amazingly good at entertaining herself. We did have to listen to more kids' music than we'd have really liked, but that seems like a small price to pay. I fully acknowledge that none of my tips/tricks/ideas will take a kid who hates to ride in the car and make a road trip with that kid heaps of fun. I guess the closest thing would be under having realistic expectations.... If my kids hated car rides, I wouldn't plan a road trip like this for a fun vacation. I'd probably do a forced march drive (or flight) in a single day and then just stay somewhere. We've done that sort of vacation, too (see our Kauai trip), and it was fun, except for the part where almost everyone got a tummy bug. The flight home was miserable, but we kind of expected that going in.

  20. @Cloud LOL, yes, OK, fair enough. Either your original post wasn't explicit enough (for my taste) about the planned 2-hour drive part, or by the time your comment rolled in I'd forgotten that part of the emphasis.

    Though in fairness to me I have to say there are a lot of parts of the US where I would guess one isn't within a 2-hour drive of much of anything worth visiting. We're in what I consider a pretty good location in the SE, but we're 3 hours (absolute minimum) from the coast or the mountains.

    Then, too, our preferences tend toward (a) visiting undeveloped places (and short of a really big change in landscape -- not readily available in our part of the world without a longer drive -- it's not patently obvious why we should leave really undeveloped spot A to head for really undeveloped spot B) and (b) 'camping' (note the quotes) in a ~25-foot tow-behind trailer equipped for such foolishness. Which we love, but which both lengthens the drive and limits our ability to nip into city parks en route (or on arrival). So we tend toward longer drives (4-5 hours) but with a "once we're there, we're there [and not getting back in the car]" sort of approach. And it means we can do all our cooking/eating on site, which is great.

    (I'm trying to work out, though, how to get to the Badlands from the US SE with a preschooler and the camper next summer, though, and so far ... drawing a blank!)

  21. I've just come back from a road trip within a longer trip - and also just worked out that my 21 month old has been on about 20 separate flights of at least 3 hours duration - so yeah, travelling with a baby/toddler. We obviously consider it worth the hassle!

    I think your tips 6 & 7 are really important - realistic expectations & remembering they melt-down at home too. It can be a bit hard to adjust your expectations for how much you can do on a trip. My husband suffers from this a LOT more than I do, because I am essentially lazy and also enjoy doing low-key kid-friendly stuff like walking around a park or a zoo a bit more than he does. I might choose to do that even without a kid who needs a run!

    We tend towards the staying in one place (with a microwave, washing machine and separate bedroom/living area) more now. We also tend to eat out for lunch or brunch more than dinner (although we have done it on this trip and it went fine (ish) - no-one could hear our toddler over the sound of the singing Irish rugby supporters). Then for dinner we'll get ourselves some tasty takeaway & feed Moo a microwave heat and eat meal.

    Microwave meals are my big tip for feeding a hungry toddler something balanced for dinner. The weight watchers or similar versions often have a reasonable selection of vegetables as well as meat & carbs.

    The other tip I have for travelling is packing lots of snacks and portioned out breakfast cereal with UHT milk for the next day in case you can't get to a supermarket when you arrive. I've also packed squeezy packets of yoghurt (frozen in advance) that defrost while travelling and keep perishable snacks, like cheese sticks, cool.

    Finally, if it's a long flight (5 to 6 hrs+) and you can afford it, choose a good airline with a reputation for service. After our last trip on Air New Zealand - we're swearing off the cheaper ways to get to New Zealand from Perth. The service was just so much better than on the no-frills airlines, as was the food, entertainment, seating arrangements...

  22. @Alexicographer- I dunno, if it were me and I really wanted to take a camping trip in the badlands (which are cool! I drove through once), I think I'd fly to somewhere close and then try to rent a kitted out camper.

    But we haven't even taken our kids camping yet. I am waiting until Petunia is old enough to understand the "don't put random things in your mouth" rule... because if I'm camping, my rule is that I have to be out away from it all. If I'm in/near a city, I figure I should just stay in a hotel!

  23. @Cloud, yeah, fair enough. Though part of what we enjoy about the camper is that it is our space, kitted out with our equipment. This plays out in useful ways, not so much a matter of having "my" pillows as that we can haul e.g. bikes and a kayak along -- and while such things can be rented at destinations, the logistics and costs of doing so are often daunting. But obviously this is sort of a quirky mode of travel and probably not one most of your readers are contemplating.

    LOL on the stuff-in-mouth issue -- I hadn't contemplated the issue 'til
    it presented itself but quickly became a fan of a pacifier (about which my son was also quite enthusiastic) precisely because it pretty much eliminated that issue for us, but I know not all kids (and not all parents) take to that approach.

  24. @Alexicographer: I would say that if your preschooler is okay in the car, you should just go for it. That's about the same distance we took our two when the oldest was 2.5 (see my comment upthread). Others had recommended us buying a portable dvd player, and we decided not to in the end (though we thought, we can if we get desperate along the way). For us the trick was stopping every couple of hours for a half an hour or so. It made the trip longer, but much easier for the two year old. At first he screamed every time we put him back in the car, and every time we reassured him that we would get back out again. Rest stops are usually pretty good places to let the kids out and run around. The hardest days for us was when we hit a patch of weather that was 110 plus humidity and I didn't really want to let him run around outside. So we found a shopping mall right off the interstate with a little play area and it worked like a charm. After the first day, the 2 y.o. just settled into the trip, and hardly fussed at all. (It was three full days in the car, followed by 3-4 days in one place, then another full day in the car [full day = 9-10 hrs of travel, including stops] then a 2 day rest then another full day in the car then a couple days rest then 3 more full days in the car.) We had snacks and read him stories and listened to music, but really, getting out of the car a lot was the key. We experimented with getting up really early or trying to drive late in the night, but at the time the 2 y.o. wasn't sleeping in the car that well.

  25. Yes to everyone else's tips!

    Snacks and other foods are especially important for us because of my daughter's peanut allergy. It's hard to find places that don't have any peanuts at all or to know for sure that the foods will be safe for her, so we bring enough safe foods just in case.

    My big tip if you are going someone and staying for a week is that if the place has a washer and dryer, do as much of the laundry as you can right before you leave. I learned this on my summer trips to my parents' beach house, and coming home on a Sunday night and NOT having to do laundry or worrying about what might be clean for the next day was priceless!

    Speaking of camping, we just took the kids camping for the first time two weekends ago, and I'm in the middle of a post about it, and plan to finish it tonight. It turns out that snacks were key there for us as well!

  26. Oh, also kids music and verbal/sight car games have been key for their entertainment and my sanity. (Thankfully, I don't mind kids music.) We play name that song, and even the 2 year old knows how to hum Row Row Row Your Boat and Twinkle Twinkle. We also look for all things green/yellow/black outside the window.

    My favorite car game growing up was the alphabet game, in which you had to find all the letters in proper order outside the car. Qs are by far the hardest, and I still get excited when I see a Dairy Queen or Quality Inn on a highway sign! I can't wait until my kids are old enough to play that one.

  27. the milliner6:54 PM

    We just had our first camping trip with DS, and all I'll say is this: if you bring an air mattress to sleep on, be damn sure it doesn't deflate every three hours overnight. This, and the resulting sleep deprivation/crankiness was the only major downside to our trip.

    DS, 3, loved camping and is now a marshmallow maniac. He says his favorite part was sleeping in a tent (we rented a 'prospector tent' - large tent with a wood stove inside. Awesome.) He sang Twinkle Twinkle all weekend, which was as hilarious as it was crazy-making. And he was overjoyed with being able to wear his 'snapsnack' (knapsack). It's really hard for me now not to call a knapsack a snapsnack.

    @Caramama, definitely going to play the alphabet game next time! Just got DS into 'I spy' and that saved us from a meltdown or three.

  28. @Erin thanks; yeah, I'm mapping routes. While DS is decent in a car and capable of being confined for long periods of travel time (we've survived two 10+ hour flights back from Europe at ages 2.5 and 4 years, respectively, without undue stress), I don't think there is anyway we can stand to make the long-haul drive with the trailer. Right now I'm eyeing something that would make it possible to do a six hour drive and then either 3 more 6-hour drives or perhaps 2 9-hour drives. One nuisance is we also have to come back, so double all that in terms of frequency, though perhaps 2 weeks in the Badlands + Black Hills will compensate.

    It's also possible we should just wait and do it when DS is older. But the "Life is uncertain, eat dessert first" principle points toward next summer as a good time, if I can get that much time away from work. We'll see.


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