Travel/Hiking/Getting Out With Kids

I’ve been getting a couple of questions, getting some comments, and hearing remarks from other families about how great it is when you have kids that are “easy” travelers, love to be outside, don’t mind walking/hiking. Most of these are in a tone of surprise, some have further questions, and I have heard a couple people say that they wouldn’t travel as much because they do have kids.

Let me say this, in the grand scheme of things traveling with kids is easy.

That’s putting it lightly. It’s obviously not “easy” and it is a little bit more complicated than if it was just you or you and your significant other, but it is definitely not as hard as people seem to think it is. Kids are not a reason not to travel. Let me say that again- kids are not a reason not to travel. In fact, they are a really good reason to travel.

This is going to be a post in two parts, the first talking about how we started and managed to travel/hike/get out with our two boys and the second will touch on the good reason about traveling with your kids.

When we had Colton we did a fair amount of day trips, getting out on the weekend and exploring our area. We did two long distance trips a year, one to see family and the other to a new location every year (both of which we drove to). We also did one long haul flight when he was a little over a year and a half.

Honestly, there has been no special secret to traveling with him, or with Andrew. We’ve just done it.

Has he had meltdowns? Yes, in fact he had the worst meltdown in a Dunkin Donuts in Berlin. Did it suck? Yes. Did people stare? Eh kind of (as much as they ever have in any other circumstance). Did it end? Yes. Did we quickly finish our food and head out, yes. It wasn’t an end to the trip, it didn’t change our enjoyment of the trip overall and it definitely didn’t change our minds to traveling in the future.

Yes, on the whole we have relatively easy going, up for anything kids, BUT I’ve found that kids are willing to go along on a good amount of things if you are wiling to take them. We do a variety of things on our vacations, some things with the kids in mind (Tiergarten in Berlin), some things with Mom and Dad involved (Mozart’s Birthplace in Salzburg). We make sure that we combine things throughout the day of kid friendly and mom/dad. We make sure that meals are as close to the same time when we are out as when we are home.

I’ve also found, specifically when it comes to hiking, being active, and being outside (also just being away from screens), kids follow their parents lead. Lately Colton, currently 3 ½ years old, has taking to walking almost 90% of our hikes. We recently did a “light/mild” hike through some Castle Ruins. We ended up walking almost 2 ½ miles that day and he walked almost all of that.

We’ve had some really long days while traveling. Walking, riding various forms of public transport, and while we’ve had moments of meltdowns (to be expected either way), they’ve both adapted really well to this sort of go, go, go. If anything I think they enjoy it, seeing all sorts of different, new things. They nap when they need to whether that is in a little umbrella stroller or on our shoulders and are generally really good on the fly.

Our weekly walks (once or twice a week) go about 1 ¾ mile and he walks all of it without being asked to be carried. Even Andrew at 2 years old is walking a good amount of these walks we do. We have always been outdoorsy, always chosen to walk a lot, hike, be outside as much as possible and I think that is a lot of why our kids are that way as well.

Basically what I’m saying (if this makes any sense), is to just go with it. Get out, experience the world, have a positive mindset about it and your kids will follow that. They model their behavior off of you as their guide, so if you are open to these new experiences, so are they.

Quickly I want to touch on WHY traveling is so good and important for our children. The first is that it teaches them a level of independence. Of learning how to handle new environments, new places, and new experiences. It also shows them that there are other places in our world. The world is a wide and wonderous place full of different people, cultures, and traditions. I think it is incredibly important to teach and show our children as many of these as possible. Our children should know more than what they grow up in, they should know of the world and if you can do that for them in some way, that is invaluable towards their future and their lives. I can touch on this in a separate post if you’d like.

And that is how/why we travel with our kids. Ultimately it comes down to just doing it. If you are wondering how to travel with your kids, more practical tips/or things that we take with us, let me know below and I’ll talk about that in another post!

Hotel Living With Two Toddlers

Today I wanted to talk a little bit about something that I’ve referenced before, but felt deserved it’s own blog post and that is living in a hotel with two {very active} toddlers.

One of the things that we knew ahead of our move was that we were going to be in a hotel for quite some time. This wasn’t a breaker for us, just something that we tried to prepare for ahead of time as best we can. Knowledge is power and preparation is key for this type of situation. We weren’t really able to prepare the boys though and honestly we didn’t know what we were actually walking into with our room set up.

I’ll start by saying that we are lucky. At this point we actually have a little one bedroom/one bath apartment style set up, with separate living room and bedroom areas. This allows us to have our own “space” separate from everything else when we need a little breather (which does happen). I don’t want to trivialize what this has been like at this point, but I do feel like it is important to acknowledge that we have had a better option than some of the other families.

We have two very active, very loud little boys. They love to run, wrestle, and create as much noise as possible. We’ve never had a problem with this and have generally let them explore and create and play as they want to (realistically, within reason so no one gets hurt or anything). They thrive on being able to have the room to run in circles or sing a song or heck, even just play with their own toys.

We packed several of their toys in their luggage and have purchased a couple of items, but the vast majority of their toys are still in transit with the rest of our household goods and we wont get any of them until we get a house. So they get a little bored playing with the same games and toys (which I realize may make them sound incredibly spoiled which they are not, but boredom is a factor at times here).

I think the hardest thing for the boys has been that they can’t just play as they please. We are trying very hard to keep our noise level down as best we can (considering we are at the top floor of our little building) and while I know that at times kids will just kids and others will be understanding, I also want to be understanding towards them. I know that not everyone wants to hear the pitter patter (or elephant thuds) of feet across their ceiling during the day. When they will, I encourage the boys to sit and draw/color, read a book (sort of), or watch a movie/tv show that they like to watch. They do get to wander around and be active, just in a quieter way.

The biggest help has been getting out as much as we can. We try to leave the apartment 3-4 weekdays in the mornings, whether its just going to a café or shops or going to a play group, and then we are out and about on the weekends. I try to leave one day to have a cosy day at home just to break up all the out and about stuff and to give them a bit of a break. I find that by doing this, they aren’t as “hyped up” on the days that we are in the hotel apartment and are more likely to take it easy.

Our boys are quite resilient and aside from a few rough days here and there have been doing remarkably well, but it’s not all sunshine and daisies. They do fight (A LOT), we do run into issues of noise (although most of that is just us being extra aware that we share walls) and sleep and there have been a couple of moments that we have just needed a little 10 minute break. I’m not going to lie and say that I haven’t just wanted to scream at moments. It hasn’t been “easy”, but with everything that we are experiencing, the memories that we are making, and this opportunity that we’ve been given has made it all worthwhile.

Travel Trips – Traveling with Toddlers

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Keeping those smiles strong!

Good morning! I figured this morning I would take a minute to talk about some of the things that I’ve learned over the past month about traveling with toddlers. If you’re new, we recently moved from the US to Germany, which included a total of 53 hours of travel (by the time we checked into our hotel) and I learned a lot. Some things I had already known would be a “thing” (rather they are kind of common sense), but others kind of took me by surprise.

Tip #1: Don’t lost your boarding pass, but don’t panic if you do. The most common sense tip on my list and the one that might not even matter anymore. This tip might actually be obsolete now in the commercial travel world with technology and smart phones becoming so much more a part of everything, but if you are given a paper boarding pass try your best to hold on to it. You can read all about my fun time losing mine HERE.

Tip #2: When packing your carryon bags, pack appropriately for TSA. When we packed up our carryon bags, we packed them with the knowledge of what we would need to take out per TSA regulations. Liquids in a plastic back in the outside pocket. Electronics right on the inside flap of the carryon (we dressed accordingly as well, but this is more natural than you think). Once we arrived at the gate we repacked our carryon bags to what we wanted while we were flying. By doing this, we not only saved a bunch of time in the TSA line, but we it actually made for a much smoother transition from the line, to the screening, to the gate.

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Andrew using his favorite bear as a pillow.

Tip #3: If you have a child (and are on an overnight flight), pack the blanket and stuffed animal they reach for the most. Another common sense tip, but one of the most valuable one’s I’m offering. We did not put our children into pajamas, and I didn’t really find it necessary (although it may be for some) but having the blankets and stuffed animals helped so much. Not only does it get cold on the planes, so the blankets are good for warmth, but it’s a comfort thing. I know I like to have a little bit of comfort and I figured kids would definitely appreciate it. Plus, it’s a good extra toy to have.

Tip #4: All About Food. Ok, so here are my thoughts on food (I’ll try to keep them short, straightforward, and to the point)…I packed a couple of things, snacks for the first flight for the kids and then purchased a couple of snacks and dinner at the airport. I know that the airport is going to charge more for food and won’t have as healthy of a selection, but the portion size for my children is a lot better and it means I’m not carrying a whole bag just devoted to food. If you are doing an overnight flight (especially if it is military), make sure you purchase extra because where you are going may not have a food option within reason. We found this out the hard way when we landed in Germany. Thankful for the little USO desk!

IMG_1256Tip #5: Car seat Carrier.If you have young children, you know all about the fun that is car seats. Now, you can certainly carry the car seat on the plane and have your children strapped into it (that is the safer thing to do), but we did not do that. We gate checked our car seats and the children each had their own seat on the plane. This worked for us, but even before gate checking, we were concerned about the damage that could be done to our car seats. The last time we gate checked baby gear it was broken in transit and with us needing the car seats shortly after landing I was especially concerned that they not be damaged. Enter a car seat carrier. We purchased two and spent I think about $70-$80 total and they were more than worth that price. They had some points where the bag was dirty and the bottom of one showed a decent amount of wear & tear, but it was the bag, not the car seat itself. They both arrived completely intact with no damage. It also made it boat loads easier to transport the car seats both to the first ticket counter and from baggage claim to the second ticket counter.

Tip #5: For Military Specifically.If you are in the military, check out your USO. A lot of times they are before security, so definitely keep that in mind, but often times they will have snacks, comfy seats, and an enclosed space for kids to stretch their legs. The USO at Baltimore is especially nice, although it can get packed fast. We spent a little over an hour and a half out the USO just relaxing and letting the kids play. It definitely made a difference for us.

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This wasn’t even everything, but it made getting from claim to ticket counter much easier!

Tip #6: Another Military Move Specific Tip.If you are needing to transport all of your luggage from one place to another (and let’s be honest even if you are just unloading a vehicle or transferring flights we’ve all had to do it), do yourself a favor and pay for the luggage carousel. It may be a hassle getting all your luggage to magically balance (and they are definitely overpriced), but it is 100% worth it for the sanity of not trying to wheel all the bags, car seats, kids, pets, etc. through the airport.

Those are my tips! I know a lot of them are just common sense, but sometimes we can forget these things in the hustle of planning trips, moves, or just travel in general. I hope you enjoyed!

A Mother’s Take on Toddlerhood (While In The Thick of It)

As of writing this post, our boys are aged 2 months shy of 3 years old and 16 months. So, right smack in the middle of what Toddlerhood is. While each age comes with unique challenges, I think toddlerhood can sometimes get an especially bad rep. When you hear from other parents talking about their experience, I’ve heard toddler and teenage years can be some of the hardest years. Personally, I think toddlerhood is just very mis understood. Not in a bad way, it can be so hard for us to understand as it has been years since we went through it and we don’t remember it. I think this may have been one of the most important shifts in thinking when it comes to parenting.

***I’ve touched slightly on an outline of what I will be saying, which can be viewed HERE***

As parents when our kids are acting out, misbehaving, throwing temper tantrum after temper tantrum, it is very easy to become flustered. Happens to the best of us, and it is completely normal to just want to throw your hands in the air and walk away. AND sometimes that is the best thing to do. Sometimes that can be the key to diffusing whatever the situation is.  It can be easy to lose our patience as we ask for the toys to be picked up for the fourteenth time, or to not play with the food, or to not touch something. It can be so draining to feel like you are just repeating yourself with no action or apparent listening. I think this is why people say toddler hood is tough.

And it is.I am not disputing the fact that parenting one toddler, let alone two, or three is tough. It is draining. (Make sure that you take care of yourself during this time, otherwise everything I say after this point will not work)

BUT(gotta love those buts right?!)…

If we think it is hard on us as parents, think about how hard it is on our children. They are being thrust into a whole new level of mental development, they are growing physically, they are trying to figure out how to navigate the world that just seems to be getting bigger and scarier. They are trying to figure out what are boundary lines, what they can and can’t do. How to articulate their feelings, hell what they are feeling. They are working on developing better communication skills and most of the time are bursting with things to say, things to do, places to see, parents/grandparents/relatives/friends to remember. ALL AT THE AGE OF 2.

Can you blame them for getting frustrated with not being able to say something, or talk about something that they really want to tell you, but they just don’t have all the words? Can you blame them when all they want to do is find the toy that they hid from themselves in a game? Or try to put the train tracks together a certain way and it’s just not working?

Imagine feeling angry about something, not being able to understand first that you are feeling angry and then second how to tell someone what you are feeling angry about? That is frustrating. Then imagine, as you are getting frustrated and angry, you see your parent, loved one, person you look up to, start to get frustrated. It escalates quickly (and again, it happens to all of us from time to time, no doubt about it).

Our children get thrust into this world and it is our responsibility as parents to help them, to guide them, as they learn. We cannot do that if we don’t at least try to understand what they must be going through. What we see as well, he’s angry about x, y, or z, is not what they see. They just have all of these things building up inside with no way to let them out. We only know that because we’ve learned that as we’ve grown up.

So, before you talk about the terrible two’s or the threenagers, try and think about what your children are experiencing. Sure, parenting is hard work. It is tough and draining. BUT think about what it is like through your child’s eyes, without having all of the knowledge that we as parents (or adults) now have.

Friday Morning Cups – A Super Important Motherhood One

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“Toddlers are not giving us a hard time, they are having a hard time”. Saw this quote a little while ago and it really just put me back in the right mindset. Figured I would share it as well as it may remind someone else of what toddlers go through. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it ISN’T hard to be a parent (it is at times and I will be the FIRST PERSON to acknowledge that, I actually just recently did), but I am going to try and say that sometimes we need to rethink our thought process when it comes to “terrible two’s”, “threenagers”, etc (which I totally do say those things, so I’m not perfect with this by any means.

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It’s hard for us to truly understand (as we as adults now possess the abilities our youngsters are learning), but imagine having all the feelings, feelings which you’ve never experienced before, learning all of these new things you’ve never known before, trying to understand the vastness and complexity of the world you live in, without having the words to express yourself. Without having the ability to truly make sense of what is going on around you. Sounds frustrating, right?

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So, when you are dealing with the 5th temper tantrum over your first morning cup, try to remember, they don’t understand. They are trying to learn about their world. Their rules. Their role. And it is up to us, as their parents to calmly riddle it out for them. To show them the way. To speak to them and help them understand. It is hard for them, just as it  can be draining for you. AND if you are feeling drained, say something. Take a little breather and do some self care.