Friday, May 31, 2013

Road Trip Tips

Before we left for our vacation I spent countless hours searching pinterest for ideas of what to do with the kids while driving down to Florida.  I knew that we were crazy for thinking we could do an 18+ hour drive with a 2.5-year-old and a 1-year-old.  I wanted to be as prepared as I possibly could be. 

Now that we're on this side of the trip, I can honestly say it wasn't that bad.  Here are some of my tips for road trips with young children:

1. Know your child.  Micah has never slept in the car for a long time.  When he was a baby he would fall asleep and stay asleep but ever since he turned about one he just doesn't stay asleep for very long.  Sleep is important to us so we decided that the majority of our driving would be during the day.  Worked great for us.  The one time we drove at night was a nightmare.  Micah slept for 20 minutes at a time and then would wake up whining.  We didn't end up getting to the hotel until 1am.  If you are confident that your child will sleep well in the car, then maybe night driving will work for you.  Whatever it is, just know what will work best for your child!

2. Have plenty of entertainment!  I stocked up on new entertainment for both of the boys.  Some of the biggest hits were:
This Thomas busy book was awesome!  It has 12 little trains plus a huge storymat to put the trains on.  Plus, the book itself is a story.  By far, Micah's favorite toy the whole trip.  This is all he played with on our trip from Nashville to Atlanta and it was the first thing he asked for whenever he wanted a toy in the car.  It also provided lots of entertainment in the hotels.  They have several other versions, and we also bought the Cars version.

Playing with his Tag Junior
We bought Micah a tag junior and several books to go with it.  He loved reading the books, especially once he discovered that he could make some of them sing!

He also really enjoyed just playing with his toy cars.  We brought all of his Radiator Springs cars.  I gave him a cookie sheet to play on and he was set for a long time.

He loved having his Color Wonders (again, just used the cookie sheet as a hard surface) and putting stickers on paper.

We got a few books on CD that he really enjoyed listening to.  And, of course, we had several DVDs for him to watch just in case.  In honesty, we didn't turn to the DVDs very often (except the day he was sick, that was pretty much all he wanted).  He was so entertained with everything else that he didn't want to watch anything.

Enjoying a yummy cereal bar.
3. Pack lots of snacks!  Before we left, I stocked up on everyone's favorite snacks.  We got goldfish, teddy grahams, animal crackers, raisins, granola/cereal bars, fruit snacks, nuts, fruit, etc.  I put everything in snack size baggies so that we could just pull one out and pass it back.  I stored the snack bags in larger gallon size bags and then everything was put in one of my organizing utility totes from 31 and kept in the front seat by me.  We also bought a gallon of water and filled all of our water bottles up at every stop.  We went super overboard with the snacks, but I never once had a meltdown because someone was hungry.  Also, I tried not to have super sugary snacks since we'd be sitting in the car, but I also wanted easy and what I know he would eat.

Climbing the playplace at one of the many  McDonald's we stopped at.
4. Make plenty of stops.  This can be tough because you just want to be there, but it's important to stop when you need to.  There's not much worse than a crabby toddler who just wants to get out of the car.  We typically stopped every 2-3 hours.  We planned an activity for each day to get us out of the car and stretch, but we also stopped for one meal a day.  We usually chose someplace that the boys could run around, typically somewhere with the playplace.  These stops usually lasted an hour or so and were perfect for everyone!

5. Have something to prop your kid's feet!  We found this out about 4 hours into our trip.  Micah was so uncomfortable because his poor little feet were hanging down his car seat and his legs started to hurt.  We stacked a couple of suitcases/blankets/pillows so that he could straighten out his legs and he was much more comfortable!

6. This one is more about packing, but still a great tip.  I'm sure you've heard to put your child's clothes for the day in a gallon bag.  All accessories, etc. so they can choose their own clothes and everything is there for them.  I didn't think my kids were old enough for this, but we tried it anyway.  Worked great!  I labeled the bags with what day the boys were supposed to wear the outfit and my hubby had no trouble getting the boys read in the morning in an outfit that I approved of!  Also, we discovered that it really does save space in the suitcase (clothes were not bagged on the way home and took up way more room!).  Love this tip!

That's it for now.  Check back soon for my tips on doing Disney with toddlers!

Finally!  Asleep in the car!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Happiest Place on Earth Part 4

By Friday, it was evident that everyone was ready to go home.  Our check-out was 10am so we didn't have a lot of time, but luckily we were prepared ahead of time.  We wanted to stop at Downtown Disney because we hadn't done any shopping and there was two souvenirs we knew we wanted to buy.  Micah started the day off great, but as were at Downtown Disney it was obvious that he was getting very tired.  So, we cut our shopping trip short and got in the van to head to Chattanooga.  But Micah was miserable.  I think it was a combination of being tired and having sore feet.  He just could not get comfortable and ended up crying most of the 8 hour trip.  He wasn't whiny, just sad and there wasn't anything we could do for him.  When we got to our hotel in Chattanooga he was happy to stretch his legs and he got some medicine.

Saturday morning was not looking good.  I thought for sure Micah was going to be sick and we were seriously not looking forward to our next drive.  We gave Micah some Tylenol right away and he actually did really well in the car!  I think he had a bad sore throat and the medicine really helped him to feel better.

On our way to Louisville we stopped in Nashville to visit my sister again.  We were supposed to visit Rock City in Chattanooga, but since Micah was not feeling well we skipped it.  We had lunch with my sister and headed to our hotel in Louisville.  Once we got there we immediately went to the pool.

Sunday morning we went to Louisville Zoo.  Micah was really excited to see the animals, especially since he didn't get to see them all at Animal Kingdom like he thought.  He did so well walking around the zoo and it was a great last opportunity to get out and stretch before our drive home.

That's the end of our trip.  It was definitely a busy 9 days, but we all had a lot of fun.  And now we're all ready to get back to normal!  Stay tuned for some future blog posts with some tips that I learned while on our vacation!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Happiest Place on Earth Part 3

Disney World is not the only thing we did in Orlando.  We knew that Disney would be a bit overwhelming for the boys so we still wanted to do something, but a little more low key.  We decided to go to SeaWorld because Micah loves fish.  We knew he would enjoy it.  As soon as we got there, we headed for the dolphin show.  It was an amazing show!  Very stimulating.  The boys both really enjoyed it.  Then, we walked over to the indoor aquarium.  This was probably Micah's favorite part.  We walked over to the Shamu show, too.  Brad and I were both really looking forward to it, but both of the boys had other plans.  The show wasn't as stimulating and we ended up leaving after about 3/4 of the show.  It was obvious that the boys were hot and tired and we needed to head home. 

Once we got home from SeaWorld, we put the boys down for a nap.  Then, we spent some time in the pool.  It was nice to just hang out together and a great way to spend our last night in Orlando.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Happiest Place on Earth Part 2

Getting to Disney World was half the fun, but let's be honest, everyone wants to hear about how Disney was!  So, here's a breakdown of what we did when in the Happiest Place on Earth.

Monday we arrived at our resort in Orlando.  We decided to stay off property because we knew we'd want a full kitchen and laundry services as well as at least one bedroom to give the boys their own space away from us.  We ended up with a two bedroom condo and could not be happier.  One of the best decisions we made the whole trip!  We were able to put the boys down for nap or bedtime and Brad and I could do what we wanted.  We also saved a lot of money on meals by cooking some of our own.  And we continued to cloth diaper even on vacation so it was great that we were able to wash our diapers at no extra cost to us.

Tuesday I was so excited that I woke up super early and was not able to fall back asleep.  We decided that even though we wanted to be there when the gates opened we would not wake the boys.  We didn't want to do anything to hinder the best attitudes possible!  Once the boys were up we quickly moved into action, eating breakfast and getting dressed.  We spent Tuesday at Magic Kingdom (another great decision since that was where we knew they'd have the most fun and they were the freshest on Tuesday).  Of course, our first stop was to get our ears.  We let Micah pick out his own, but I don't think he ever actually put them on.

Trying to get Micah to dance during the dance party.
When it was time for the street party we thought Micah would have a blast.  We were seriously wrong.  The loud music was too scary for him and he kept asking to leave.  Part of it might have been that he finally got to ride a train right before the parade started and all he wanted to do was go back and ride the train.  Either way, I was a little worried about the evening parade, but he did very well for that one.

Brad and I had low expectations for what we would actually get to see/do while there.  We knew Micah would be afraid of the characters, but we still wanted to give him opportunities to meet them.  We also knew that several of the kid-friendly rides would scare him, too, but if we pushed him a little he would really enjoy others.  Micah especially loved Small World.  We even did it twice.  We had to push him a little, but he really liked Dumbo, too.  Of course, his favorite was any train ride so we rode the people move and the train through the whole Magic Kingdom.

Around 2:00 we decided to head back to the resort so that boys could take naps and we could re-group.  Great decision!  The boys were ready to go and able to make it through the nigh time parade (though they both fell asleep in the car on the way home).  We brought our own glow sticks for the parade and both boys loved playing with them while watching the floats go by.  As I mentioned before, Micah really enjoyed the night parade.  And Judah kept clapping for everyone.  The highlight of the parade for me, was when Mickey saw us from his float and waved, then he made motions to show that he liked our matching shirts.  So fun!  It was a late night for the boys, but so worth it.

 The late night turned out to really bit us in the butt on Wednesday.  I made the mistake of scheduling a character breakfast for 8:30 Wednesday morning.  Sounded like a good idea at the time.  Both boys were very tired.  We knew Micah would be apprehensive with the characters, but his tiredness just made it worse.  He wouldn't even sit in my lap because he knew that the characters were walking on my side of the table.  I could feel him shaking as he sat in his chair, just looking at his plate of food, refusing to even look at anyone that came to greet us.  As each character was getting ready to leave our table, he just looked up at them and very happily said, "Bye bye!" as if he couldn't wait for them to leave.  It was adorable and cute all at the same time.

Judah, however, was great with the characters.  Unfortunately, he was exhausted, and battling an infection at the time, though we didn't know it yet.  He looked so pathetic, so tired.  But all of the characters were so nice and gentle with him.  Mickey especially just melted my heart with the way he was comforting Judah.  It was just priceless.

After the breakfast (at which Judah fell asleep) we headed right for the safari because Micah was very excited to see the animals.  Judah slept through the entire ride, but woke up shortly after.  He seemed to be overheated so we went inside for a little while.  We tried to do something else, but Judah was just miserable and we decided that it would be better for us to head back to the resort so everyone could cool down and get naps.  Once at the resort we found that Judah had a fever and Brad ended up bringing him to the urgent care center.  We were given some antibiotics for him, but when all was said and done it was now 5:00 and not worth returning to Animal Kingdom (which closes at 7:00).  So, Micah and I spent most of the day at our condo just playing, which really ended up being a good thing!

 Unfortunately, our time at Disney was cut a bit short, but we did still have a fun day planned the next day.  I'll write about that later!

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Happiest Place on Earth

Phew.  We did it.  We survived our first major vacation as a family of four.  For the past 10 years or so my family has gone to the Outer Banks, NC every other May.  This is the year that we were supposed to go.  Brad and I were both so looking forward to this vacation and relaxing with the boys.  One by one, members of my family started backing out.  My older sister didn't want to pull her daughters out of school.  My younger sister decided to move to Nashville that week.  And on Easter Sunday my parents told us that they just didn't think they'd be able to go this year.  Brad and I were really looking forward to this vacation and we didn't want to give it up, but we just weren't sure that a beach vacation would be all that great with the boys so young.

So we decided to look into other options.  We thought about going west and doing some National Parks, something we really want to do with our family one day.  But we didn't think that trip would be as enjoyable for the boys.  So, we started talking about Disney World.  My first time to Disney was at our first anniversary.  I loved it so much and I decided right away that I wanted to be a "Disney family."  But I also knew that it would be several years before we take our own family to Disney.  It's so stimulating and there's just so much to do that I didn't think it was ideal for very young children.  In my opinion, the ideal age would be 4-7.  But we knew the boys would be free.  And we had low expectations.  Even though they would never remember it, we knew they would have so much fun, and the memories for us would last forever.  So, we decided "why not?" and started planning our vacation.

We decided to drive down there and to make the drive part of the vacation.  As soon as Brad got home from work on Friday we set out for Nashville, our longest drive.  We stayed the night there on Friday and Saturday morning checked out the Discovery Museum in Nashville.  This was a really cool children's museum with an even great outdoor nature center area.  Micah especially loved the model trains set they had running.  Outside was a neat little nature area where the boys could run free and explore.  This is definitely a place we will take the boys to when we come to visit my sister in Nashville!  And the best part is it's park of our museum membership so it was free for us!

After the museum we met my sister and parents for dinner.  They arrived in Nashville on Saturday and helped Brittany get moved in to her new apartment.
We stayed the night Saturday  in Nashville and got up Sunday morning to head to Atlanta.  We made an unexpected stop in Chattanooga to stretch our legs and decided to check out the Chattanooga Choo Choo.  Originally, we were going to do this on the way home, but since we were stopping anyway!  Micah loved this place!  It was raining the entire time we were there, but that didn't stop him!  He kept running from train to train and telling us which one it was like.  However, he was too scared to climb up on any of them.  And he was so excited when we bought him his very own conductor's hat.  This stop was well worth it! 

Once we arrived in Atlanta we stopped at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.  This place was amazing!  The children's garden was not so great, but the gardens themselves were just incredible.  They were huge and beautiful.  Lots of space to run around and plants to explore.  We could have stayed there a lot longer!  Plus, it was free for us, too, because of our Arboretum membership (I'm telling you--these memberships pay!).  However, it was raining lightly while we were there and they boys had not napped well in the car so we headed to our hotel after only two hours there.

 This post is already getting long enough so I'll stop here and right about our time in Disney later.