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!

No Camera’s Allowed

It’s no secret we’ve been doing A LOT of travel over these past few months and that is not something that will be changing anytime soon. It’s also no secret that I’m a major camera/picture junkie. I LOVE taking pictures.  I’ve always got my camera out from everyday little moments (seriously, my older son just looked so cute playing with a baseball bat in the store), to bigger vacation moments (this scene was just dreamy!). I’m one of THOSE people. I love having all of the memories to look back on, little snippets of our day to day to have for memories. This is especially heightened when we travel.

I’ve been able to capture photo’s at almost every place that we’ve traveled (every place’s exterior at least), but I have noticed that there are some locations that will not allow camera’s or photos. The most memorable were Neuschwanstein/Hohenschwangau, Berchtesgaden Salt Mines, Mozart’s Birthplace, and Salzburg Cathedral doesn’t encourage them. Each place has their own vast reasons as to why and I am not here to talk about the reasons (frankly I can guess, but just respected their rules).

With that though, it got me thinking. Every time I pick up my camera I pull myself ever so slightly out of the moment. Every time I go to take a picture of a place, rather than just take a minute in that place, I pull myself away. Yes, I’ve got a beautiful picture to hang in my home, to remind me of the wonderful places we’ve been, but I also have then taken a few minutes out of our time there (just for one single picture, not for all of them), to take the picture rather than simply enjoy the scenery.

I’ve been pretty good at balancing pictures and being in the moment at every place that we’ve traveled, but in places where “No Camera Allowed” is displayed, I honestly get a little thrill out of it. A chance to just look, to not feel the need to capture everything I want (which is A LOT). I am able to focus more on what I’m looking at, take a little more time at each point in a tour, and while I don’t know if the enjoyment level is really any more or less (as like I’ve said I love taking pictures) it’s definitely different.

I’ve even noted this in my everyday. As I said, I’m always taking pictures in our everyday. Our kids are actually picking up on that, and will say cheese at any time or even pose sometimes haha. I love seeing what we were up to at various times of our weeks and it’s really funny to look back on. I’ve been trying to get better over the past year or two about just taking a step back from being like that, for a similar reason than the one’s I’ve stated above.

Now, let me make something clear…this picture bit has really nothing to do with Social Media or with Blogging. I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember. Always wanting to capture moments in pictures and in words, rather just being in the moment. This is nothing new to me. Social Media and my Blog has given me a way to share that with others, but it is not the root of what I am talking about.

I also want to be clear that I don’t think that there is anything wrong with this. I think that it is great and I fully plan on continuing on being that crazy picture person, BUT I definitely have enjoyed a bit of a reprieve every now and again and I think I need to do that more.

Looking through the lense or viewfinder can be incredible and you can see things and people in different ways, but It doesn’t really compare to just putting the camera down and being present at that moment. So here’s to less camera time and more in person/in the moment time.

June In Travel – All the Ruins and Hikes

So, June has come to an end…what?! I remember posting earlier in the month that I couldn’t believe that the year was already halfway over and I am still heavily into that mindset. How are we already at this point in 2019? How are we already in 2019? I’m at a crisis point over here just thinking about how much time has already passed…

But that is not what we are here for today, so we will just put that thought to the side.

Today I am going to be re capping our month in travel, which to be honest is only mildly exciting this month. We have a very big travel month next month and have been preparing to move to our house for most of June (because somehow during our time in the hotel we managed to accumulate stuff, mostly books, and that all had to be packed up and moved). Originally we thought we were going to be moving into our house mid June, but that changed and we scrambled to find some weekend activities.

All that to say, that while we didn’t travel far, we managed to find quite a few fun/interesting things to do with our weekends.

I’ve always been really fascinated with ruins. I love to imagine what was, what could have been, what happened on the site, what the people living there were like, etc. It’s the nostalgia, the idea, the dreams of a different era and way of living. Ruins here are also great because a lot of the sites are open enough for the boys to run around and through the different passageways. It gives them a chance to stretch their legs, and learn how people used to live.

We have quite a few ruins in our nearby area and since the weather was nice, we decided to make those weekends into ruins weekends. We did two sites and then a third hike through the hills behind our house. I’ve got a couple more castles and ruins on my list that I hope to head to over the next couple months after we get back in town from vacation.

The first ruins site that we went to is the one that is closest and is also the one that we had to do a nice little hike up to. This is definitely more “ruins” than building, but we were able to see the barest outlines of what was and head up one of the turrets to see a beautiful overlook. After the ruins, we took another short hike through a nature preserve that we actually plan on going back to complete the full hike as it is a couple hours long.

The second site is Wolfstein Castle which is much more building structure and has a pretty good layout of what the castle actually looked like in its “heyday”. I think this might have been my favorite spot so far as it has so many little crevices and spots to look through. You can go through all sorts of good little rooms and areas. There is also a “turret” or tower that you can climb up to, although we don’t really know the rules for that and it wasn’t open when we were there. It has some beautiful overlooks of the city and there wasn’t a huge hike to get up there. As for castle ruins, right now it’s at the top of my very short list.

The final thing that we did was a short hike in the hills behind our hotel. We have been really outdoors this past month, choosing to be outside and walk as much as we can, but we decided to do something beyond our long walk to the park. We headed up the hills, in the woods, and off to a religious site. Now, religion is big here, so that wasn’t surprising, but the actual spot that we hiked to was so beautiful. I didn’t manage to get a lot of good shots of the actual spot because it was the top of a rock and trying to track both kids on the top of a rock is not good. But, trust me the whole hike was just wonderful!

And that was our month “in travel”. Definitely a little bit different than previous months, but still a really fun one! Next month we will be spending half the month in different countries so that’ll be an exciting month for us! Moving forward our travel will be changing a little bit due to my husbands schedule, so the Month in Travel posts might change a little bit, but I hope to still have a lot to share even if it is more local spots like these.

Things You Should Do and Tips for: Austria (Salzburg and Berchtesgaden, Germany)

We just recently spent a weekend away in Austria, which you can read about HERE, and it is a place that I would recommend that everyone and anyone should visit. It has a wide variety of things to offer for any taste and it is absolutely beautiful. I don’t have a lot of “tips” as some of the things we wanted to do, we couldn’t, but I figured I would share what I did learn with you.

Recommendations:

In Berchtesgaden there are two spots to visit. The first is Eagle’s Nest which we did not get to go to. I can’t say much more other than keep an eye on the weather and go during the July/August time period. There were still weather issues when we visited. The second spot is the Berchtesgaden Salt Mines. I would highly recommend this place because not only does it make the whole concept of a Salt Mine interesting and fun. It combines light shows with music, rides, and costumes. It is great for any age (especially the kiddos).

In Salzburg there is so much…

I highly recommend the Fortress, Hohensalzburg Fortress, at the top of the hill. Not only is the fortress itself pretty cool, but the view from atop the tower can’t be beat. If you are worried about the climb to get to the top, you are able to take a funicular up (and down). The base of the funicular is located near Salzburg Cathedral and is a good “jumping off” point for everything else as well.

Speaking of Salzburg Cathedral, I would highly recommend a stop in here. It is absolutely stunning inside and just take in the atmosphere and reverence. You can walk through the halls and head down to the crypt to complete your viewing of the Cathedral.

I would also recommend checking out one (or both if you can) of Mozart’s homes. We chose the birthplace, but you can easily do both if you would like to. The birthplace dealt with his birth, early childhood, and some of his composing as well as bits about his family. The residence deals with the bulk of his composing, everyday life in adulthood and has most of his instruments from later life.

On the Sound of Music tours, I personally chose not to do that. The tours that we were finding were close to 4-5 hours (which can be lengthy with children and a husband who isn’t super interested), on the more expensive side of things, and honestly I think you can cover the spots that you want to see pretty well on your own. I picked out a couple of spots that related to the story or the characters and went to those rather than doing a full tour.

Tips:

Tip #1: A Vignette.To drive in Austria you must have a vignette affixed to your car. You can purchase these in gas stations, at the border, or online (each has different date requirements and options), but if you do not it is a pretty hefty fine. They are inexpensive and easy to buy. Driving in Austria is really not any different than driving anywhere else in Europe (exception being the UK)  and even though we made use of the public transportation, we still really enjoyed having our car as well.

Tip #2: Getting registered.I don’t know if this was done this way simply because of where we were staying, or if it is a country wide thing, but we had to be registered by the AirBnB owner while we were staying there and pay a slight tax. By doing this though, we got a tourist “welcome” card of sorts which gave us a discount on some museums as well as free use of the public transportation (trains and buses).

Tip #3: Public Transportation.Seriously the public transportation in Europe is top notch and I really think you should make use of it whenever you can. It is just so easy to hop on a train, go to a city, not have to worry about parking, traffic, or anything with your car, and then hop a train to go home when you are done. The boys love riding the “choo-choo’s” and we’ve just really adapted to them (not that we really had to).

I don’t really have any other specific tips, but as always I recommend looking around on AirBnB for your accommodation. Not only can they be cheaper than a conventional hotel, but you can get some pretty stunning spots. This time we stayed in the mountains without anyone really near us. It was such a relaxing spot and watching the sunrise/sunset, hearing the birds chirping, and the trees swaying brought a whole new meaning to being in the Alps.

 

Do you have any tips or recommendations for a trip to Salzburg/Berchtesgaden?

Frankische Schweiz and Pottenstein – A Day Trip

***As a note before we begin, some of these photo’s (in particular the cave one’s) were taken with my cellphone, not my nice, good camera. Between the cellphone camera and the dark nature of the cave, the photos did not turn out in the best way that I would normally feature on my blog. My apologies***

This past Sunday we decided to do a very special Sunday Funday trip and take a Steam Train Ride and explore a cave in a region somewhat near us. Our local post has an Outdoor Recreation Office that organizes a variety of trips for the residents assigned to the post. Sometimes it can be a little more cost effective to go through them for the trips they offer and sometimes they will offer up experiences that you hadn’t otherwise planned or thought about doing. A lot of times they are organized for group numbers and can therefore be offered at a lower price point than if you were to book it on your own.

This was not the case with this trip (I think our pricing was just standard pricing as if we had gone to get tickets ourselves), but they organized the whole day from start to finish. It did mean a very early start to our day (alarms set for 5 AM, to make sure we were ready, with a leave time of 7AM), but it was so incredibly worth it. A real dream come true. If you have the option to go through a group travel or through your own Outdoor Recreation office, you should totally do it! We love to travel on our own but doing it in a group was really fun as well.

So, we started our morning off with a beautiful, scenic drive to Frankische Schweiz area to a little train station (you can view the website for the train HERE, but you’ll want to use a google translate as it is only in German). We did end up blowing a tire not far from the station (thankfully it was that close, and we were moving at a slow speed so no real loss of control or anything like that), but it gave us a fun memory to go along with the experience. Our guide from the day was very informative, talking us through not only the day, but cool spots to come back to in the future.

Once at the station we got to take a look at the train itself, watch them bring the steam engine up and connect it all before boarding the train. Our boys LOVED  being able to watch the steam engine pull forward, backwards, and hook up to the train car. It wasn’t too long after we boarded that we were slowly starting to move. The Steam Train itself is from the 1930’s and still runs really well. The full ride was an hour, or two long and we got to lean out the windows, which the boys loved, and get out at the halfway point to watch them move the engine car to the other end. And, of course, they sounded the whistle anytime we were coming through a station or crossing.

If you get a chance to take a steam train ride, wherever you are, I would highly recommend it. Not only do you get that nostalgic feeling of a time gone by, but it is also just such a slower, prettier, more relaxed way to see the countryside. The steam trains can only go so fast, so you really get a chance to take in the towns and landscapes around you.

We then stopped for lunch at a little restaurant along the Wiesent River where three families with 4 toddlers and 2 infants managed to have a full calm no fuss meal. It’s a miracle! The restaurant was called Bruckla and I had a lovely tomato soup and a sneaky little slice of cake. (No pictures this time though!).

Once we finished lunch we boarded back on to the bus to head over to Teufelshohle Pottentstein (Devil’s Cave). This is a naturally formed limestone cave that features several different formations and can be trekked about a mile through. You climb about 400 steps during the course of the tour. It was discovered in 1922 and was extended/ dug through for the following 10 years. It is the longest cave in Germany (sitting at just under/around one mile) and the largest in Franconian Switzerland. You can read about the Cave/Visit the Site HERE, but again it will be listed in German so Google Translate will be a good option.

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There are several “landmarks” of the cave, the first being Devil’s Hole. This is the first hall and features some of the equipment used to dig through after a cave in and some natural formations on the ceiling. Walking past here we can see several natural limestone formations before reaching the next “landmark”, Bears Grotto. This features a complete skeleton of a cave bear. Per the cave the bear was approximately 900 pounds and stood at 12 ft high. There are also some pretty cool formations staggered around the hall.

One of the other “landmarks” that we saw within the cave was a large cavern that was covered in stalagmites and stalactites. Called the “Colossal Hall” It is 42 ft high and features the two oldest limestones of Devil’s Cave. These two formations are suspected of being over 300,000 years old. Then finally we saw the Candle Hall and headed through some very (and I mean VERY) tight quarters to find our way to the exit.

IMG_0831Upon exiting the cave, you come out to this beautiful rock formation and a lite gorge hike to reach the exit of the park. When we walked into the cave we had some light cloud cover, but when we stepped out it was full sunshine and a blue sky. What a wonderful way to come back to ground!

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Overall, this was one of our most memorable Sunday Funday’s and a day trip that I am not likely to forget anytime soon. If you have the chance to do a group travel through your own Outdoor Recreation program I highly recommend it. It was a great way to get to know a couple other families (we knew one of the other families) and you get to experience these things together which is always a fun addition.

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Sunset at the end of Sunday Funday

 

Things You Should Do and Tips For: The Netherlands and Amsterdam

Good morning! We recently spent a long weekend away in The Netherlands, which you can read all about HERE, and this morning I am going to talk about some of the tips/tricks that we learned and what I would recommend you do as well as maybe some things that are maybe a little over hyped.

As always, this will heavily depend on your own interest, how you are traveling, and the time of year that you are going. This is the first (and only) time that we have been to The Netherlands and we went to see two spots, Amsterdam and the Tulip Gardens. We were only there for 3 nights total, so we didn’t get to see everything that we had wanted to. We also traveled with our two young children, which as with Berlin, factored into what we did and didn’t do. I am going to do these as two separate sections, one for Amsterdam and one for everything else, that way if you are only interested in Amsterdam you can only read that part or if you are only interested in the Tulips you can only read that part. It is also too much and too different to try and consolidate into one long recommendations and tips section.

Recommendations for Amsterdam

It may seem overly touristy but take advantage of the boat rides along the canals. To be completely honest this is one of the best ways to get an overall look at the city, the canals, the different “high points”, but without all of the tourists. You aren’t fighting a crowd to look at a church or tower. It also gives you a unique point of view from what it would have been like in history.  If you take the train in, you can find plenty of options all along the exit of the station, as well as options all throughout the canals. Depending on what you are more interested in, you’ll find a boat tour that will meet those needs (we saw everything from a romantic cruise, to all about the alcohol, to a standard hear the history and nothing more). We didn’t originally plan on doing a boat ride, but our older son insisted, and it didn’t look too bad when we got out there.

I would also recommend heading over to Dam Square. This is the main town square and there is usually always something going on. From here you can get a good view of the exterior of The Royal Palace, see The National Monument, and the Nieuwe Kerk Church. There are also a couple other spots right off the square if you’re interested, Madame Tussauds and Ripley’s Believe It or Not. We did not go in either of those, but we did go inside the Royal Palace. I’ll be honest, The Royal Palace tour is not a necessity to a trip to Amsterdam. If you are interested you can certainly do it, but it is not like a “must see”. I really enjoyed it, but I am a royal fan and think that seeing different palace’s and other type of government buildings is really interesting.

A couple of the spots that I wish we could have gone to, that were on our list but didn’t end up being an option, were: The Anne Frank House, Foodhallen, and The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. I’ll get into The Anne Frank House in my tips/tricks, the Foodhallen is a food court that came highly highly recommended to us, and the Rijksmuseum as a lot of Dutch history that we wanted to learn about.

I’ll touch on one more spot as I feel like I need to make a note on this because to be honest, not a lot of people talk about Amsterdam without talking about The Red Light District OR the booming cannabis market/options. We walked through the Red Light District and I found it to be just like a regular stroll (in a weird way). Here’s the thing, first off you cannot take video or pictures in the District. This is to protect the workers that are there, and I can completely understand. These are regular people who are doing what it is that they do. Just because it is not something that we see every day, or something that may not be as popular or destigmatized in our area of the world, does not mean that they need to put in a spotlight situation. If you choose to stroll along the District, do not leer, do not linger, just be respectful. These are people just as we are, and they are doing what they choose and want to do.

 Tips for Amsterdam:

Tip #1: Bikes have the right of way and they will exercise that right of way whether you are aware of that or not. Amsterdam (and The Netherlands in general) has a huge biking community, it’s how the majority of their population gets around. Most places will have designated bike lanes, so don’t hover in those lanes and make sure that you are aware of where they are when there are no designated lanes.

If you want the true experience, there are so many different bike rental spots!

Tip #2: Make it an Adult Only or Girls Trip. This one is going to be a little bit hard to explain, or maybe it won’t, but I think Amsterdam would be so much different if it was just adults. I don’t say this for any “content” warning for what is in Amsterdam or for any lack of enjoyment reason. We loved (and do still love) taking our kids out throughout the world, exposing them to new cultures, places, people that they would not otherwise get to experience. HOWEVER, Amsterdam is so packed with people that you are spending a good amount of your time just shuffling along with the crowds and worrying about being separate from those you are with, until you get out of the main area. I think I worried a little bit more than normal with having our kids there.

Tip #3: Look at staying outside of the City Limits and taking the train in. Amsterdam is quite expensive and staying in a hotel in the city is very expensive. It is also, once again, full of people and traffic. We stayed outside the city in a little town and took the train in to Central Amsterdam. We were able to book a little cottage on AirBnB for a very reasonable price and it gave us a little breathing room. We didn’t have to worry about fighting traffic in a car or finding parking for the day. I am already a really big believer in public transportation, and this weekend away really confirmed that for me.

Recommendations for Tulips/Flower Season

As for how I would recommend you approach the tulip season that is going to depend on what you actually want to see. If you want to see just the Tulip Fields, there are a couple of different farms that you can go to. Lisse is the most popular spot and has the largest amount of options to see Tulips. MAKE SURE that you check my Tips out though, because there are some rules you will want to be available of. You can also see the Tulips just driving along the road and throughout train rides. I believe you can also see them from the sky, but I couldn’t confirm that.

We went to Keukenhof Tulip Garden, which is one of the more famous well-known spots for the Tulips. I knew that I wanted to see a bit of both the Tulip Fields AND the more manicured growing plots. Keukenhof has the best of both worlds for that. They boast about 7 Million Bulbs are planted and grown in their garden and I would believe it. Plus, believe me when I say there is something for everyone here. They have a kid’s area in the center where there is a playground, petting zoo, and park to eat at. There is also a maze for the kids to run through. There is a windmill that gives you a view over the fields, water, and gardens as well as two other overlook spots. Finally, you also have the indoor flower shows that follow along with themes for the year (one changes weekly). They have a unique planting and growing system that allows them to have blooms for eight weeks, so you have plenty of time to check them out.

My other recommendation would be to bike through the countryside. This is an excellent way to not only see the beautiful countryside of The Netherlands, but also see the Tulip Fields, the windmills, and be true to how the people get around. It is such a fun way to get around and see the country.

Tips for Tulips/Flower Season

Tip #1 (Possibly the Most Important One): DO NOT just go traipsing through the tulip fields all willy nilly to try and get the perfect picture or see them better. The Tulips are not only part of The Netherlands and the culture, but it is also a HUGE business for them. They work incredibly hard to grow and maintain the tulips and walking through the actual field itself ruins the flowers and the field. Only do this at the land owners permission (and if you’ve paid for it).

Tip #2:Go as early in the day as possible. No matter when you go or how you choose to see the Tulips it is going to be crowded. We went the peak weekend for the blooms, which also happened to be Easter Weekend and I didn’t feel like we were fighting the crowds until the very end of our time in the park. We went shortly after they opened and a few hours later everyone else seemed to start coming in. So, go early!

Tip #3:Just enjoy the beauty around you. I am a big one for documenting everything, taking all of the pictures, capturing every bloom and even I had to take a step back and just enjoy the sheer beauty around you. This is such a special place and time and honestly, not to get hokey, just take a step back from the camera/phone and enjoy the moment.

And on that note…

Those are all of my Things You Should Do and Tips for Amsterdam/The Netherlands! We do hope to go back and see some other area’s in the country one day, but this was one of the best trips we’ve taken. If you have any specific questions I will try to answer them in the comments below and if you have any of your own tips, please leave them below!