Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Have Kids, Will Travel!

I'm BAAACK....

Yes, although I'm not too happy to say this, I am back to reality after an amazing vacation.

As you know if you read my prior blogs, my family and I took a week long vacation to Tennessee, visiting Memphis and Nashville. It turned out to be one of those vacations I will never forget, a vacation I never wanted to end. A vacation where everything fell into place. Laughter, adventure...and Elvis Sunglasses! 

 Our vacation was a road trip for a couple of reasons: (1) I'm really not in the mood to have to take out another mortgage on my house just to pay for the insanely high price of airline tickets and (2) the idea of being sandwiched between business suited professionals and people without kids while stuffing myself into the small airplane bathrooms because my 4 year old has to pee for the 5th time in an hour, trying to explain to my 3 year old why his ears keep popping, and trying to stop my baby from attempting to pull the hair of the lady sitting in front of us does not sound like my idea of a vacation. I may be eccentric at times, but I'm not crazy!

So last week we loaded up our Dodge Caravan and headed south. The drive took us about 13 hours each way with our planned stops.

Now, if you are like everyone else around me, reading that I took a 13 hour road trip with my 4, 3, and 1 year old you are thinking one thing: "Are you CRAZY????" If you are thinking this, you are not alone I can assure you. Todd and I were called crazy by pretty much everyone, from family, to friends, to a random stranger on a trolley in Memphis.

I've always wondered why people instantly think you need to medicate or drink heavily when you decide to road trip with young kids? And why do people instantly raise their eyebrows if God forbid you choose a destination other than an amusement park or some highly commercialized "Disney world" like destination.

Oh trust me, when I told people we were taking the kids to Nashville and Memphis I saw my fair share of raised eyebrows. I was met with countless comments like "Oh that's more of an adult town" or "Do you have family there or something?" Once I explained to people the 50 state mission we are on with our kids that silenced a few of the "Reallys???" from people, but still simply because my husband and I chose destinations that don't have ads in a parenting magazine people instantly jumped to the conclusion that our kids would be complaining and bored and we would be hitting the mini fridge in the hotel room in search of the tiny bottles.

But you know what? It's this close minded way of thinking that keeps places like Six Flags and Disney World in the black, but deprives our kids of really seeing this country. I want my kids to see this country and all the interesting things in it.

When I returned from vacation and posted my hundreds of pics online for my family and friends to see, I was met with emails and comments like "Wow, how do your kids do so well"? Honestly, my kids are amazing vacationers. They are great in the car, will sit patiently during tours, love being in hotels, and sit relatively patiently at any restaurant you take them to.

There is no secret behind the three amigos' travel ability...they are good at traveling because WE TRAVEL. I'm not one of those parents that says..."Oh we can't drive more than 4 hours because the baby needs to take a nap at 1:00 p.m.". Rather, L fell asleep in his stroller or anywhere he could get a few short winks between attractions. I think parents that think their kids won't do good on road trips or on a certain vacation create those beliefs in their kids. If you are stressed out about the trip...they will be stressed out.  My kids have always traveled well because since they were born we had them in the car. Whether traveling to some dot on the map town with me when I have a deposition or just going for a leisurely weekend drive, we go. That's seriously the only secret.

Now that's not to say that I don't have tips or strategies I use when I travel with my kids.  So allow me to share with you some things I have learned about traveling with kids:

First of all, plan, PLAN, PLAN, and (did I mention) Plan. Once a location is picked for a vacation, I start my research. My favorite site to find vacation stops, restaurants, and hotels is Trip Advisor. In fact, if you haven't already, download Trip Advisor's app onto your cell phones or IPads. Trip Advisor allows you to find kid friendly spots in pretty much every city in the country. I also search blogs, articles, or websites, in search of kid friendly ideas.

Now I'll warn you:  finding stuff is not easy. I promise you if you google "Kid friendly things to do in (INSERT CITY)", you will be brought to the Chamber of Commerce website with a link to a McDonald's Play Zone. So you have to dig deeper.... I found my best sources of information from blogs or sites that parents can weigh in with their opinions on destinations. I'm even going to do my share in my next blog and will give you my kids travel guide to the cities I visited (because honestly I was so frustrated with the lack of help from the internet on my vacation destinations).

 My tips for surviving in the car?? Leave your June Cleaver Mommy self at home and act a little more "Roseanne". You can't be a perfect Mommy on vacation, you have to break the rules. For example, at home I try and limit tv time for my the van its an all out technological marathon with an IPad, IPhone, and DVD player all playing at the same time. At home, I try and push healthy snacks. On the road? Well, lets just say there was more than a few pictures taken of L with orange lips from the countless Cheetos I fed him in the van.  Just go into survival mode...vacation is just that, throw caution to the wind and do whatever you need to make it a fun and memorable time.

I also follow a formula on vacation...for every site that Todd and I want to see, we work in an activity for the kids. So after a trip to the Ryman Auditorium, the kids swam in the hotel pool....after Graceland, a trip to the Children's Museum. Keep the ratio and everyone will be happy!
So, Have Kids? Well, then TRAVEL!! And TRAVEL OFTEN PEOPLE!! The best memories are made on the open road, I can assure you!!


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