Saturday, March 23, 2019

8 Travel Tips with Little Kids

We recently got back from a trip to LA to visit my brother.  If you're new around here around here, then it is important to know that we have a 3.5 year old little boy and twin girls that are 16
 months.  While I had things planned pretty well ahead of time and felt like I had thought through most things, we learned quite a few things along the way.  We still had a fun trip, but there are certainly things that we will do differently the next time we brave a trip with our small children.
If you are renting things, read reviews and find more reviews and read those too.  I have rented or bought lots of things through sites like Expedia, Travelocity, and such and have always felt like I could just trust them.  Well, that theory of mine was proven wrong this trip.  Maybe I am the only one that didn't really know this but it but us in a tricky situation.  Long story short, we ended up with a rental van that was clearly not what we that we would be getting and the company wasn't the easiest to work with.  As soon as I dove into the situation a little further, most of the reviews on this company stated--stay away if at all possible!

We lost a day of car rental and gladly returned the van and rented a different vehicle from a different company.  It was well worth the $54.  You get what you pay for and when you are traveling with your small kids in lots of traffic, I wanted something safe.

If you are renting a vehicle, check to see how much it is to rent carseats as well.  The thought of getting the five of us, luggage, strollers, and our kids from point A to point B seemed really overwhelming to me so we ended up renting them.  I did call ahead of time to make sure they would guarantee them and to make sure they'd have the correct sizes.
If you are somewhere that is going to have a lot of traffic, plan your driving times around rush hour.  Because of the ages of our kids, it wasn't always the easiest to do this because we couldn't really stay at Disneyland until rush hour was over at 8 but we didn't want to leave at 2 to miss it either.
Several nights though, we attempted to leave where we were at to go to supper, only to land ourselves in rush hour traffic with starving kids.  Lesson learned!  I packed a entire bag of snacks every morning but our kids ate them ALL every single day so by the time we were heading to supper, the bag was gone....and they were HANGRY!

Looking back, we both agreed that we should have found somewhere to eat close to where we were leaving, ate, and then landed in rush hour traffic in hopes that they would now just fall asleep.
If at all possible, bring your good stroller.  In our case, we actually brought two jogging strollers, and I don't regret it one bit.  Because we were skipping naps all day long, our kids were able to easily take a nap in their stroller while we walked.  The girls took one, if not two, naps in the stroller every day!  It was well worth the extra room they needed in the back of our vehicles.
We also were able to easily contain our kids if we needed too: trekking it through the airport, security, or in ginormous parking lots at Six Flags and Disneyland.  You are also able to move quickly if late to your reservation to eat breakfast with Goofy.
On that note, not only make reservations well ahead of time to get optimal times, but also plan where you are going to park.  We were 2 minutes away from losing our reservation for breakfast with Goofy due to a parking issue.  We got separated from my brother and parents in traffic on the the way to Disneyland and where trying to find each other to park.  In hindsight, we should have known way ahead of time which lot we were going to try to park in so that we could have plugged that into our GPS and headed straight there.
Pay for the seats you want on your flight!  In the past, pre three kids, it never really mattered where we sat and it never bothered us if we weren't right next to each other.  Maybe it is because we haven't flown a ton with our kids, but I didn't think that they would separate both of us from Treyton, who is 3.  On one of our flights, Gavin, Treyton, and I were all in different rows no where near each other.  The people at the desk weren't overly helpful so we ended up having to just ask someone to switch with us so Treyton could sit by Gavin.
On two of our flights, Gavin and I sat right across the aisle from each other which was the absolute best scenario.  We weren't able to sit in the exact same section of three seats due to having two lap children but being right across from each other worked well.
Spend the extra money and pay for this if possible!  The aisle seats were also very helpful!  They allowed us to pass kids back and forth without having to go over others.  I was able to get up easily and walk around with Trynlee, who wasn't a huge fan of flying, and you don't have to bother the person sitting next to you when your 3 year old thinks going potty on the plane is cool.  I also felt like the aisle seat gave me a little more room instead of being surrounded by people or nudged right up next to the window.
Rent a house if at all possible instead of a hotel room.  We were all able to stay together instead of being divided up into separate rooms, and it was actually cheaper than us paying for several hotel rooms for the duration of our trip.  
If you have small kids like us, you can still put them to bed close to their bedtime and not have to sit in silence in your hotel room at 7 o'clock.  We would get our kids put to bed and had some time each night to play a game, sit in our property's hot tub, or just sit around and chat.  Probably one of my favorite reasons though is that you can buy groceries and make some meals instead of eating out for every meal.  I love to explore different restaurants and experience all of that but it was awesome to be able to feed our kids a decent breakfast every morning and supper on nights when we were staying in.
If you are going to a theme park, spend the money on their form of a Fast Pass.  We got these at Disneyland and it was worth its money in gold.  We were able to ride so many more rides due to it and it was the only thing that made waiting in line bearable with small kids.
We didn't have to do this at Six Flags due to it being pretty bare because of the wind but would have if the lines would have been long.
Before going to a theme park, make sure you check their website or call to see what you can bring in.  We were able to bring snacks and water bottles and it literally saved us hundreds of dollars.  There were some limitations but we were easily able to bring our kids enough snacks to last them the entire day so were weren't paying $20 every time someone was hungry.
I think that is all I have for now!  If you have any other travel tips, please comment below.  I would love to add them to my list for the next time we brave a trip with our kids. 

If you missed my recaps of our trip, click on the links below!

Friday, March 22, 2019

NOT My Favorite Friday

Happy Friday!

We got hit by the stomach flu yesterday and therefore any hopes of finishing up my blog post of today's Friday Favorites flew out the door.  I will just save it for next week!

I can't wait a whole week to share this gem though!
Aren't our daycare providers AMAZING!  They did a photoshoot with all of the kiddos this week!  I would love to see the shenanigans that happens behind the camera to get them all to stay sitting and smiling.

Instead of heading to work this morning, I will be snuggling two little girls who have no idea what is going on or what they should do when they get sick.  I 100% hate seeing them like this, but I haven't snuggled both of them at the same time since last winter and its pretty heavenly.

Make sure you check back tomorrow though as I will be sharing a list of things we learned while we traveled with our munchkins to LA.

Until then, I pray that this finds you enjoying warmer weather...and much healthier than our house!!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Trip to LA: Days 4 & 5

Phew!  After two days at theme parks, we were WIPED OUT!  Our kids had done fantastic with zero routine and limited naps.  I knew we were needing a little bit more of a relaxed day.

As relaxed as LA traffic gets....... #never

We hung out around the house Friday morning, played some Jenga, I did some laundry (coming home with suitcases full of clean laundry was glorious), and let the girls take a morning nap in their beds.

We went to the City Walk for lunch at none other than Margaritaville.  We were there to eat at noon and had about the whole restaurant to ourselves.  We watched a couple of kids attempt their luck at "air diving."  They were in a glass room/tube with a big fan at the bottom and wore what looked like an oversized 1980s wind suit.  They'd turn on the fan and the instructor would help the kiddos spread their arms and legs and "sky dive" like 4 foot off the ground.

While at the City Walk, I may have found the game Catan and bought it for Kolt and Emmy.  It's safe to say they're hooked as well.

From there we hopped back in our cars, that we parked in the biggest parking garage I've ever seen, and headed out to the Santa Monica Pier.  Kolton had warned us that it would be busy, and he wasn't wrong.  I don't know what I was expecting but it was much older and run down than what I had pictured.  

We walked to the end to see the ocean and then headed down to the beach for a while.  It was our warmest day by far so we stuck around for a bit and dug in the sand.  I'm fairly certain if you asked Treyton what his favorite thing of the whole trip was, he would tell you digging at the beach.  Ya know, since we don't have a massive sand box in our back yard or anything.  The ocean was officially freezing!
It took Tay a little bit to warm up to the sand but she finally sat down and loved it.  Trynlee freaked out anytime her feet got close to touching and leached on to me.  My dad's was plenty sore after several days of lots of walking so he had volunteered to hang out with out strollers so Trynlee and I headed back to him and she was happy as a clam to take her spot and have a snack.
We took about 20 pictures and this was about as good as it got.
We were all dragging at this point in the day and decided to just head back and order some pizza for supper.  Due to our kiddos age and inability to move around supper time, we seemed to always seemed to leave for somewhere in the middle of rush hour.  At one point on our way home, our GPS said 13 miles and 1 hour and 18 minutes.  Holy smokes!  It was fun to drive along the streets in Santa Monica though, there were a lot of cute little shops.
We wrapped up the night with some pizza and taught everyone how to play Catan.
The morning brought about several more rounds of Catan, intense bartering, packing, and cleaning up.  We had to be out around 11 so we headed to the airport to start our trip back home.  Our rental car return was much less exciting and stressful than the beginning of the trip.  #thankthelord  Our flights home were about the same as on the way out.  Taylor and Treyton slept or did pretty well.  Trynlee....still cried.  I even had an older lady come talk to me twice about how how mad she was.  Yes, honey, I am well aware.  I was a sweaty mess, slightly embarrassed, and totally defeated.  After a 30 minute layover (enough time to grab some food) in Denver, I got our seats changed so we were right across the aisle from each other, and we had three happy kids on our last flight.  They finally feel asleep with about 5 minutes until we landed!  

Nothing like an Iowa winter to welcome us home with some snow to drive home in!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Trip to LA: Disneyland!!

The day we were all sooo excited about!


We started our morning off early and left our house by 6:30 so that we could make it there, get parked, and to Goofy's Kitchen for breakfast with the characters.  If you had asked Treyton before our trip what we were going to be doing, we would have told you we were going to eat breakfast with Goofy.  He was sooooo excited!  In fact, he thought Goofy lived with Kolton and Emmy for quite some time prior to our trip.
It took us about an hour and a half to get there and then parking became a real big struggle.  Next time, I will plan out where we are going to park as well.  We lost Kolton in traffic so we were both trying to find the same spot.  Needless to say, our 20 minutes to get parked and to Goofy's kitchen turned into 5 minutes and I power walked with a double stroller a mile and a half to get there with only a couple of minutes to spare before they let our reservation go.  Ooofta!  I was panicking that Treyton wasn't going to get to do the one thing he was most excited bout.

Breakfast went great!  Treyton actually got close to the characters, and I got the chance to stop sweating from my unplanned workout!
When Uncle Kolt and Emmy take you to the breakfast buffet, you come back with an ice cream cone.  It was vacation, right?!

After breakfast, we made the quick walk through Downtown Disney and into the park!  And holy moly, the sea of strollers was unbelievable!  If nothing else, my faith in humanity was restored a bit as we left our stroller completely packed with our belongings in stroller parking at every ride throughout the day and came back to everything still there.

Guys!  Disney, plain and simple, has things figured out!  They know how to get people in line effectively.  It's clean.  The "cast members" aka workers know the ins and outs of everything.  And it was super clean!
My one piece of advice--get the FAST PASS!  It is worth every stinking penny!  We were able to ride double the amount of rides and the wait times were manageable with three little kids only because we all had fast passes.  Almost every ride had two lines--the standby lane and the fast pass lane.  The fast pass lane moved remarkably faster.  Emmy was a pro at securing us fast passes as quickly as she could and knew what rides Treyton would be able to ride.  It was all done through their app and we were able to link our group in our apps so that she could get all of us a fast pass for the same ride.   It only allows you to have a fast pass for one ride at a time and will only allow you to get one every so often, so you have to check back in on your phone throughout the day.  It was slick and easy to use.
Treyton's favorite ride by far was Buzz Lightyears.  He could have rode it all day and was disappointed he was able to ride it two times in a row like at Six Flags.  We were able to ride it 3 or 4 different times though with Fast Passes.  You ride in a cart and had a gun to shoot at targets throughout the ride.  My brother and Emmy have even researched how to get the most points on the ride.  They are slightly competitive.
We attempted to buy him several different things throughout the day, and the whole time the only thing he wanted was a skidloader.  #notshocking After riding the Buzz ride several times though, he did finally want a Buzz arm.  It can grab and spin and we has played with it nonstop since he got it.
These pictures of the girls accurately describe their personalities right now!
The girls took some decent stroller naps while we continued to ride some rides so we just traded off who stayed with them and who went on the ride.
Experiencing Disney with a 3 year old was truly magical.  No, he wasn't old enough or tall enough to do a lot of things, but he was just so excited about everything he did get to do.  We would be standing in line for something, and he would whisper to Gavin and I that he loved us.
Gosh I love this little boy so much!

We had such a fun day!  I am excited to go to Disney World and/or possibly a Disney cruise in the future when they are all a bit older as well!  I remember it from when I was younger and I know they will love that just as much.

Tomorrow, I will have our last couple of days in LA!  Make sure you check back to see what we were up to!