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.

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

 

Amsterdam – A Long Weekend

Good morning! I’ve got another long weekend travel post for you today of one of my favorite vacation spots that we’ve been so far. We just recently spent a long weekend in The Netherlands and it was one of the most beautiful trips that we have taken. Fun fact: Holland is the informal name for The Netherlands and you hear the residents refer to it both ways. I am going to handle this trip the same way I did with our Berlin weekend, today’s post will breakdown everything that we did and I will do a separate post with all of my tips/recommendations! So, without further ado, let’s talk about our weekend!

I want to start by saying that we got incredibly lucky with the weather being as amazing as it was. The temperatures were in the 70’s and everyday was a clear sky. We couldn’t have asked for anything better!

Our trip started off a little rough with the drive over to our final location being a bit longer than anticipated. It was Easter weekend, and that meant cars on the road, but we also had a couple of situations come up for the kids as well. HOWEVER, even with the problems, the drive was absolutely beautiful and we got a chance to see the Tulip Fields on our drive in. It was nice to get a litte view of what we were in for. To say that we were happy/relieved/ready to be done when we arrived at our final location was putting it mildly. With the drive out of the way, we were free to explore the area.

We had decided that we did not want to stay in Amsterdam. Not only is the cost very expensive, but the traffic, population count, and 24 hr atmosphere is quite a lot to take in. We wanted something a little bit slower for our weekend. We picked out a little AirBnB in a little town called Noordwijkaan Zee. This is a beach town that is absolutely perfect in location being about 30-45 minutes by train from Amsterdam and about 15 minutes by car from the Tulip Gardens we planned to visit, AS WELL AS being about a 10 minute walk from the beach.

We spent our first late afternoon/evening walking through the town and the beachfront. I am not a big beach person, but I really enjoyed the time that we did spend on the beach. It was not very crowded and was very well…maintained (by this I mean there wasn’t any trash, the people were very nice, etc.). We had a dinner outdoors at ‘T Elfde Gebod and our food was delicious. For me, I chose a sandwich of Salmon, Avocado, Tomato, Pine Nuts, and Dressing on a Sesame Seed Bun. What a way to kick off our weekend!

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We had already decided to spend one day in Amsterdam and to try and do as much as we could within the city in that time frame. For me, I mostly just wanted to walk throughout the city and if something looked interesting, we would pop in. There were a couple of museums, and The Anne Frank House, that I wanted to visit, but we didn’t get to. There was also a food spot that I wanted to try, but had to pass as well. Those are things I will hold on to for another trip in the future.

Even though we didn’t get to cross everything off our list, we did end up doing quite a bit. We started out in a boat on the canal…

The boat tour was one thing that our oldest son requested (he’s 3…as soon as he saw the canal boats he asked right away) and we actually really enjoyed it. Not only is it a way to go along the actual canals, we received a fair amount of information about the history of Amsterdam and the current information as the city is now. It gave us a really good overview of Amsterdam, as well as let us see some sights without fighting the crowds (because Amsterdam is crowded). IMG_8536After the Boat tour we decided to grab a quick bite to eat (it was already lunchtime) and let the boys eat their snacks as well. We stopped at Bistro Berlage where we enjoyed sandwiches and coffee before heading out.

The afternoon we decided to just walk through the city, hitting up the spots that we wanted to at least see and then experience everything thing else. Once you get out of the “immediate” area of Amsterdam, aka the train station hub, the crowds start to thin out ever so slightly and while you are still fighting a sea of people and bikes, it isn’t as bad. We started out at The Red Light District and worked our way away from there. I will say, The Red Light District isn’t as…mind blowing as many people make it out to be. Yes, it is the brothel area. Yes, there are women in windows attracting passerby’s and selling themselves. BUT, it is not as seedy or as wild as it is put out to be. These are just people going about their business, doing what they do. Once we walked through there, we headed back in the direction of Dam Square and the Royal Palace. 5205528369492211466_IMG_1875Dam Square is their central town square and it was packed full of people. There was some sort of a party/music/event going on and we only got to slightly see the full square before having to hurry along.

Right off of the square is the Royal Palace. The Netherlands does have a monarchy and the monarch is part of the government. The Royal Palace has rooms that are open to the public as long as there is not an event coinciding with your visit. It is one of three palace’s in The Netherlands, and while it isn’t used as a residence, it still has a very prominent role in both history and present day. It started as a Town Hall and was later turned in to a Royal Palace. It was very interesting to see the inside of the palace itself and we were able to see several different rooms, bedrooms, and the balcony. The audio tour not only gives the current relevance of the room, but also gives a historical perspective. Most of the palace had close ties in design to Bonaparte, which was interesting. It was a really beautiful interior, with the  Central Hall taking the cake of beautiful interior.

We finished our day by walking over to the exterior of the Anne Frank House (we couldn’t get tickets to the tour, which I will touch on in my Tips/Tricks/Recommendations post) and then walking along the various canal streets as we headed back to the train station. Even though we couldn’t go inside the Anne Frank House, it was still impactful to see the exterior and put a place to something that we have all heard about. Our day ended with a train ride home and dinner in a town called Leiden at Oudt Leyden. It was a truly wonderful day.

Easter Sunday dawned the prettiest of the four days of our weekend. Lucky for us as Easter Sunday was our day to spend with the flowers. One of the things The Netherlands is known for is their Tulips. If you do a google search you will see aerial and ground shots of just fields and fields of tulips. It is a sight to see just in that search, let alone in person. One of the biggest reasons (in fact the main reason) we decided to The Netherlands at this time was because it was supposed to be the peak weekend for the blooms. There are several different ways to see the Tulips, a flower garden, biking through the fields, or driving along the road. -5581938934245434523_IMG_2009We decided to go to the Keukenhof gardens in Lisse. This is one of the more popular and well known spots (aside from Amsterdam) in The Netherlands. Let me tell you, if you can make it here, do it. It will not be a disappointment and is well worth the time and price. This year was it’s 70thyear of exhibitions and this year boasted 7 million flower bulbs. There is something to be said for the sheer beauty of the garden as you walk through not only a variety of colors, but a variety of tulips. There were tulips I didn’t even know existed on display! Have no fear, it is not only Tulips (although that is the main flower), they also have hyacinth and other flowers on display. We spent a few hours just walking through the center stopping to see different flowers and to walk across the water as well.

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Every year they have a theme to the main exhibit and this year’s was a really fun one, Flower Power. The main floral part of that exhibition had a women in flowers with the headband, peace sign, flower, and a butterfly.  The main exhibition pavilion and outdoor display touched on that 60/70’s hippie free love feeling.

The best part about Keukenhof is that not only do you get the best of the growers fields, but you can also see just plain tulip fields, a full windmill, a petting zoo and playground for kids, and 3 pavillions of floral exhibitions. There is something for everyone involved! Which means that even my husband enjoyed walking through the different plots and gardens within the center. It was a wonderful few hours spent soaking up sun, flowers, and the sheer beauty that is The Netherlands.

We ended our day (and our weekend), back on the beach. This time we decided to do a long walk with both boys and dip our toys in the water and sand.

The boys struggled with the sand at the beginning, but quickly started to enjoy running along the beach. Andrew was especially captivated by the waves from the water, while Colton wanted nothing to do with the water. Either way, they both really enjoyed soaking up the sun in the afternoon after short little naps and we enjoyed walking along the water (and soaking up the sun). We had one last delicious dinner at Malegij’s, which was delicious (as was all the rest of the food that we ate this weekend) and headed back to the cottage to pack and sleep.

And with that, our time in The Netherlands had come to an end! While we didn’t do AS MUCH as we wanted, we still managed to hit every spot that we really wanted to and had the best time exploring a new area. The weather was incredible and everywhere we looked was just so incredibly beautiful. The people were so welcoming and we enjoyed every minute we had there.

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I hope that you enjoyed seeing just a small glimpse into The Netherlands through our eyes.  My tips/tricks/recommendations will be up in about a week or so.