Thursday, April 25, 2013

Top Ten Things I Learned From Traveling with Little Kids

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

This past weekend Chris, the kids and I met up with some Oklahoma friends in San Antonio for their Spring Break. This was only the 2nd family vacation we have taken and the 1st trip to have taken with Luke. Approximately 2 years ago after moving to Texas in June of 2011, Chris and I decided to try to take a "Family Vacation" to San Antonio with Natalie. This was a complete and utter diaster. She was not even 2 years old yet and she was OUT OF CONTROL! She had a temp-tantrum in the San Antonio Zoo that was just epic! She also didn't do well with the typical tourist attractions in San Antonio like the Alamo and the Riverwalk.

Despite that vacation record, we decided Natalie had grown up a lot and we REALLY wanted to see our friends. This quick- QUICK 48 hour trip turned out to be AMAZING and a blast. I am so glad we decided to go ahead and meet our friends.

I did learn a few things though:

10. When having to use baby food... Jar Food is better.
The 1st evening and day we were using the plastic containers that come in 2-packs. Then after an entire container spilt all over the back seat and diaper bag, we went to Wal-Mart and decided to get the jars that had screw-on lids! I swear this was just pure genius!
9. Don't forget the DIRTY CLOTHES bag!
Haha... So we already had a TON of stuff with a baby and two kids but after the 2nd night we realized we didn't have a large bag for all the dirty clothes. With Luke contributing several dirty clothes from blowouts, it would have been nice to have a plastic bag for those and some way to keep those nasty clothes from our remaining clean clothes.
8. Don't detail your car until after the trip!
This is a "DUH" thing I know but I spent a lot of time the previous week leading up to the trip cleaning out my car and getting it ready for our trip. I vacuumed and Armoral-ed all over the place and even went to the car wash to get it detailed further. We had not even reached San Antonio before there were cracker and chip crumbs everywhere and a container of baby food had stained my seats! I think next time I will just tidy it up and leave the real cleaning and detailing til AFTER the trip!
7. Sometimes McDonald's just isn't worth it!
Having traveled with my family my entire life, I was brought up to eat snacks in the car and way back in the day my family would not even stop to eat fast food. Instead, we would buy bread and peanut butter and jelly supplies and make sandwiches on the road. I use to hate this because I wanted to eat out, especially McDonald's for breakfast! However, it was on this trip that I discovered (Well... I should say I was REMINDED) that McDonald's is just terrible and should be avoided at all costs! We stayed at a hotel that did not have breakfast so both mornings we had to stop and get breakfast for all of us. We ate at Sonic on the first day but on the second day on our way to the Safari, we saw a McDonald's and decided to stop and get breakfast. WHAT A MISTAKE! The service was AWFUL and the food wasn't any better. I guess my Dad WAS right... NEVER EAT AT MCDONALDS! Thanks dad! I will remember next time!
6. A Hotel is just a place to sleep.
Our friends from Oklahoma had originally asked us to stay with them on the River walk at a very extravagant hotel and was pretty pricey per night. Having not stayed with Luke in a hotel situation I was very hesitant to pay that kind of money to stay with a newborn. I remember Natalie as a young child in a hotel room and I wanted to PULL OUT MY HAIR! We decided to stay at a Red Roof Inn close to the airport. My dad also taught me that if you are going to stay in a cheaper hotel, at least stay near the airport because those hotels are usually nicer! I looked and looked and looked and finally found one that was recently remodeled and still under $100 a night! Again, I didn't know what to expect. It turned out that this was a hotel that worked well for our family! I do think next time we stay in San Antonio we will stay closer to all the amenities, however! It did NOT have breakfast so that too became and added expense and hassle! But overall, it worked for the reason we needed it... TO SLEEP!
5. In Texas... Vacations are ALWAYS better when it is not as hot!
Nearly 2 years ago, Chris and I took Natalie to San Antonio in late July and that was just a nightmare. She is naturally hot natured (Just like her Mama and Poppy) but this was just ridiculous! She was sweating and getting so hot she would need to be held all the time! We tried to go on a river boat tour on the Riverwalk and she just screamed and screamed and screamed! That was in July... This time around, in March, she and all 4 of the kids were just fine! It was very pleasant at only 80* most of the time! We did the Kiddie Park and it too was very nice and pleasant! I don't think I will do San Antonio in July again! Whew... it was too hot!
4. Don't Let Mommy (Kellie) feed the Zebras
So on Sunday before we headed home to Houston, we stopped in New Braunsfel at a Drive-Thru Safari. We figured Natalie would just love it! SHE DID! We reached a point in the Safari of feeding the Zebras and a sign said "Don't let the Zebras eat from your hand... THEY WILL BITE". I immediately got a little nervous since we had been holding our hand out the entire tour until then. Chris had Natalie in his lap first and he continued to hold his hand out for the animals to eat from. Sure enough, a Zebra bit him! This scared me so when the zebras came to me I still placed my hand out the window to allow them to eat from my hand but I was nervous! One Zebra came and ate and did not bite but I only had a handful in my hand. The rest was still in the bag in my lap! Like any other animal of the wild, he smelt the rest of the food in my lap and reached his head into our car and took the entire bag. I think I had a "My life just flashed before my eyes" type of moment. Natalie started immediately crying and said "The Zebra took all the rest of our food". Poor Natalie was so upset. Luckily, we had 2 more bags of food for the rest of the Safari. I get freaked out by big animals and obviously I should NOT feed Zebras!
3. Having an older child around to help is AMAZING!
Natalie Grace was so AWESOME on this trip! Seriously, looking back on our previous trip to San Antonio when Natalie was 22 months old was so depressing going into this trip! On that trip Natalie was very needy and cling-y and was constantly fussy! Now as mentioned above, it was 110+* in San Antonio and this was our first trip as a family (As parents!) but I was very nervous going into this trip remembering that trip. It turns out that taking a baby or a toddler on vacation BY YOURSELF is HARD but when a young child is available to help AND ENTERTAIN the baby... it is pretty easy and FUN! Natalie Grace was a life-saver at some moments on the trip! She would go and help entertain Luke while we paid for a food bill. She would also help keep him entertained and HAPPY on the car trip! She was able to ride in the stroller or walk along side us! She even helped out with our friends' 2 year old and baby! Thank you Natalie Grace! This makes me want to do it AGAIN!
2. I need a BIGGER car!
Our poor Small SUV was loaded to the ground with all the stuff you need for a baby and a toddler. Chris and I had to practically share a suitcase just to have room for all the gear and equipment needed for a family of two small children. Plus we needed snacks and  a cooler for the car. It felt as if we were actually moving to San Antonio at some points of the trip! I know Chris likes NOT HAVING a car payment but I am thinking that if we are going to take anymore family vacations, WE NEED A BIGGER 3rd row SUV!
1. A Family Vacation is ABOUT THE KIDS!
I think one of the things we did wrong on the 1st trip in 2011 was trying to meet the needs of Chris and I... Not of Natalie. This time we realized that this "Family" vacation was about our kids! For example, as soon as we got to the hotel and got our stuff unloaded Natalie was so Excited! SHE WENT CRAZY! She started chasing Luke around and just having fun! The OCD person in me kept wanting to get the suitcases unloaded and other stuff ready for the next day and get on to her and tell her to settle down. Instead I was just let her run around and get her energy out! She wanted to have fun and she has stayed in hotels with Gigi Shirley and Poppy numerous times so she was just having fun! Luke loved it and was belly-laughing frequently. Both nights were like this and it was fun! We also planned our activities to meet the kids needs! We ate pizza instead of a nice sit-down Mexican restaurant. We went to the Kiddie Park and Safari instead of spending tons of time at the Riverwalk! This allowed it to be a memorable experience for Natalie! Despite this being "ABOUT THE KIDS" I still had a ton of fun! I think it was because I got rid of my "All Serious, All the Time" attitude and started to act like a kid! Thanks Chris for helping me get into this "MODE"!
Our mini-vacation to San Antonio was really fun and I hope to be able to meet up with our friends from Oklahoma ANNUALLY to see each other and watch our kids grow! We really miss y'all and are so glad we got together!
God is good... ALL the time!

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