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Road Trips with Young Kids Jul 15

I’m going to continue to ignore the half dozen draft posts that have been staring at me for months. Daydreaming about fiction books can wait, because lately I’ve been not just dreaming, but planning an east coast road trip for our family of four.

We are not strangers to road trips with kids. We took a similar trip to the one we’re about to embark on when our oldest was just 22 months old. The youngest took her first 8 hour car trip at 14 months, and has repeated it every year since. Some say we’re crazy, but we enjoy the freedom traveling in our own car gives us.

My daughters are now 6.5 and 3.75 years old, and this might be the hardest age to plan a trip for. Well, other than infancy when feeding and changing occurs every two hours or all hell breaks loose.

Both girls are potty trained. Neither have life threatening allergies (that we’ve discovered). So why is this the hardest age?

Because the little one copies the big one, and the big one asks, even on trips around town, “Are we there yet?”

So here are 4 ways that I hope to avoid hearing “Are we there yet?” on our next trip.

    1. Planned stops. As an adult or even a teen, you can just drive until you absolutely must use the restroom and then get right back on the road. With young kids, this can be a recipe for disaster. Their bladder control is just not that good. So I have planned stops in active areas ever 2 hours throughout the trip. Why search for active areas and exits? Clean bathrooms. If any of you have ever had young kids refuse to use a public toilet before, you understand how crucial clean bathrooms are to a happy trip.
    2. DVD player. I know there are all kinds of studies calling screen time the devil, but it helps the sections of the trips fly by for kids. I’ve picked a surprise new movie, they picked a new movie, and we’ll pack 3-4 favorites to take with us as well.
    3. *NEW* Map reading skills. Now that the oldest can read and has studied basic geography, we’ve spent a lot of time this summer talking about the map and our route. The girls both know all the states we’re going to, the order we’re visiting them in, and where they are located on the map. Where are we? Are we there yet? Let’s check the map!
    4. *NEW* Surprise toys. In the past, I have allowed the girls to pick whatever toys they want as long as it fits in a certain bag or bin. This trip, since our only real downtime is in the car, I’m packing for them. Colored pencils and paper, Crayola Wonder markers and paper, school workbooks, Busy Books which include a play mat and mini figures to play with, a soccer ball for exercise at our planned stops, and – the biggest surprise for them – a new LeapPad (the youngest broke ours over a year ago) and the use of my old Nintendo DS. They will be allowed to top off the bag with their comfort items – blankets, stuffed animals, iPods, and one item of their choosing.

Have you tried any of these before? Were they successful? What have you done successfully on a road trip? What has been an epic fail?

Category: Alyson, Emma, travel  | Leave a Comment
Atlanta Recap Feb 24

Well, here goes my second attempt at this blog post. I do everything on a mobile device and everything I had written just went poof. Let’s try this again.

It’s been nearly 2 months since we returned from our camping trip to Atlanta. Just more proof how quickly time flies.

The drive up took a little over eight hours. It was fairly easy, but we did arrive after dark which we had hoped not to do.

It took awhile for us to get the camper situated on our site in the dark, especially since it was uneven and took quite a bit of maneuvering to get the camper level.

Once the camper was set up, we started loading in our stuff and trying to get the heater to work. While everything else that ran on propane worked, the heater refused to. There were plenty of options to keep warm still, so we went about unpacking. We were getting hungry, so we started to fix dinner. Or so we thought.

Something had happened during set up or a previous take down and the drainpipe from the sink was broken. Water filled the compartment that contained the drainpipe which also holds the fuse box for the camper.

So instead of making dinner, my husband and I start throwing towels down in the compartment to soak up the water before it can get into the electrical. As we are pulling out the soaking wet towels, we realized that they aren’t just wet but covered in mulch and dirt and other bits of nature. Now we don’t have any towels for showers for the rest of the trip.

My husband says, “We need a heater, new towels, and I need some tools to repair the sink. I’m going out to find a Walmart.” As true as his statement was, the current state of the camper was starting to make my skin crawl. But he went out to find the things we needed and I just kept going through the steps of making the beds and putting our things away one by one until they were finally done.

It only took about an hour for my husband to find the Walmart, shop and return. He also brought with him food from Wendy’s. Wendy’s has never tasted so good.

We devoured our meals, he fixed the sink, and at 11 PM we finally were able to go to bed. And from both beds, we were able to see:

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That was the best $20 I have ever spent. It just melted away all the stress of the day.

The next day went much smoother than the first. My husband is a huge fan of Diet Coke, so we had to go visit the World of Coca-Cola while we were in Atlanta. While the kids were not impressed with the exhibits, they did appreciate the holiday decorations:

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We also took them to Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta. This place was AMAZING and I highly recommend it for anyone with kids under 8, for sure, tho my husband and I enjoyed it as well. The kids were moving so fast from one exhibit to another that I don’t really have any good pictures, but trust me they had a fabulous time.

We took a roundabout way back to the campground from downtown Atlanta and stopped at Fox Brothers barbecue. If you’re a fan of barbecue, this is another stop that I highly recommend. The fried pickles and jalapenos are delicious, as is the macaroni and cheese and the ribs. Honestly, in my two visits there last year, I haven’t had anything that I wouldn’t eat again.

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For our third day, our plan was to do the events at Stone Mountain Park. They offer Snow mountain at Stone Mountain and, because it was just after Christmas, we could also participate in all of their Christmas events except getting to meet Santa. Because of course he was done for the year. 😉

The kids had a fantastic time playing in the snow! Unfortunately, before the Christmas events opened, it started pouring rain and we spent the rest of the day stuck in the camper watching TV and coloring.

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Our final day in Atlanta had no agenda, so we took a short ride through the neighboring towns and then visited the old mill and quarry in the park. Again, the kids were not impressed, but were able to be outside and active and burn off some energy unlike the day before.

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On our way back to our campsite, my husband dropped the kids and I off at the playground while he went back to make dinner. They had a blast! It’s amazing what a new playground will do to a kid.

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We spent our last night attempting s’mores by the fire and packing up most of our belongings.

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Our final morning, we were up early to finish packing and get breakfast. While my husband took down the pop-up, I took the kids to the massive playground on the other side of Stone Mountain Park. It was way too big for them, as well as too wet, but they really weren’t that interested. They knew it was time to go home and were ready.

The drive home took a little over nine hours and ended with pizza and a friend stopping by to welcome us home. It was a great trip and further fueled our desire to do a US road trip in a few more years.

The Story of Prague Mar 12

I’ve hinted several times that my husband and I had an opportunity for international travel, and even wrote about the carry-on I bought and my experience with international flights, but have yet to write about the trip itself.

Strangely enough, it’s been a little over six months since we got on the plane to Frankfurt and then to Prague. It took me an entire month to relax after the flights and then it was time for a first birthday, the holidays, and then a fourth birthday. Part of me still feels like Prague was just yesterday.

When we first returned, I wasn’t sure what to think about my time in Prague. I wasn’t sure what the big deal was about the city, and why I should convince friends to go there. It’s an old capital city, with some beautiful historic locations, and a great location within Europe. It took quite awhile for me to “get” it.

Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic, and the people primarily speak Czech, along with German, Polish, and English. The food is hearty meat and root vegetables served in a variety of savory ways. The Czech version of a German strudel and tart are found in every food place you visit, and coffee and beer are available on every corner. My husband and I both fell in love with Kozel dark beer, which is a lot like the brown ales my husband favors. I drank more alcohol in our 8 days in Europe than I had in the 8 months prior and was never drunk or even buzzed. Beer is cheaper than water at restaurants and stands and is always served with food.

The city is split into several districts – Old Town, New Town, Little Quarter, Jewish Quarter, and Prague Castle. We stayed at the 987 Design Hotel which was a stone’s throw from the train station, the university where my husband spoke, and city center. We were just barely located on the typical tourism map. It was a great place to be. We could walk or hop a bus, tram, metro or train and be anywhere in the city without issue. And we covered most of the city by foot while we were there.

I live in central Florida, home of Walt Disney World. And unless you are on WDW property, public transportation is nearly non-existent. If you want to get somewhere in this town, you drive. Not so in Prague. We could have taken the metro instead of hotel shuttle to the airport if we’d desired. The only city in the U.S. that I’ve been to that even begins to compare? Our own nation’s capital. Prague has far more history and connection to its culture than Washington D.C., but it the closest comparison I’m aware of.

Prague has wonderful parks and greenery on most street corners, and some of the more tourist-y areas have parks in the street median. Roads begin and end at museums, because there is just that much history. Nearly all buildings are a business at street level and then two or more levels of residences with parking hidden in interior garages and courtyards.

It feels as though every restaurant offers outdoor seating, and food carts are set up near the established parks to create seating. Everyone who works in the hospitality realm speaks English, although there was one location that didn’t like that we didn’t speak their language. I got the impression that they thought we were snobby Americans, but my husband and I both speak conversational Spanish, and if I had to, I could stumble through reading some Portuguese. Oh, and we looked up some Czech phrases before we went AND had a friend give us some German basics in case we needed help in Frankfurt. There just isn’t time for a standard short vacation to learn an entirely new language. Now, if you’re going to spend more than a month in any country other than your own? Put forth the effort. Otherwise, a few phrases go far.

I’m going to use the next few (Wordless) Wednesdays to post pictures from Prague. Words just don’t do justice to the combination of history and modern day that is found there. If you have the opportunity, I’d recommend it.

My Experience with International Flights Feb 12

My husband and I were presented with An Opportunity for International Travel that would test the boundaries of our flying abilities.

A little background before I get into the nitty gritty of our experience? At one time, my husband was working toward his pilot license, and has generally always enjoyed flying. His opinion has changed slightly since the girls were born, but would still prefer flying to any other form of travel. I, on the other hand, have never been a good flyer and much prefer to drive or possibly even travel by train than to fly. With that out of the way…

We flew on a Lufthansa Airbus A330-300 from Orlando, FL, USA to Frankfurt, Germany and then, (according to my husband) a 747 to Prague, Czech Republic.

We left home at 4:30pm for the airport. We took off out of Orlando at 8:20 pm on Friday and arrived in Frankfurt shortly after 11am (all times written are local time). We spent most of our time in this airport sleeping on benches. Our flight from Frankfurt to Prague left sometime around 3pm and arrived shortly after 4pm. Our hotel shuttle had us checking in to our room by 5:30pm. We were showered and dressed for dinner with a friend by 7pm. Did I mention we’d both been awake since 7am Friday? And that it is now 7pm Saturday?

By far, the most hassle we experienced was at U.S. airports. We were scanned, questioned, and a few were scanned again (luckily, not us). The lines were long and people were impatient.

In Europe, we walked off the plane with completed customs forms in hand, handed them and our passports to airport customs officials and then continued on to our next gate or to baggage claim. It really was just that easy. The longest we waited in line was 5 minutes.

For the return trip, we had the usual hassle of checking in. We probably spent the same amount of time in line checking luggage and getting boarding passes, except in the U.S. there were no less than 4 agents working, while in Prague there were only 3 and one was dedicated to First Class and Frequent Flyers.

After our baggage was checked, all we needed was our passport in Frankfurt and we were good to occupy the airport for a few more hours. When we finally landed in the U.S. (10 hours from Frankfurt and about 20 hours and counting in total travel time), we waited in line for at least 30 minutes to visit with customs, and it wasn’t until we were through that luggage started coming into international baggage claim (and we’d been in the middle of the group getting off the plane).

When it comes to amenities, these flights do rival domestic flights on JetBlue. The one MAJOR difference is that the seats are smaller. They are narrower than JetBlue and those falling in the obese category might have difficulty fitting into a single economy seat. We were provided with headphones, a pillow, blanket, and all seats have TVs for in-flight movies, TV and music. On both long flights, we were provided 2 meals and 2 snacks. Both short flights we were provided with simple breakfasts. Overhead compartments were adequate if you stuck to the guidelines (and I didn’t see anyone having to force anything into the bins). The bathrooms were well maintained and there were 3 sets throughout the plane. Refreshments (including a limited supply of alcohol) were distributed roughly every hour.

My one REAL issue with the long flights? Unless EVERYONE sits upright or EVERYONE reclines, you end up with people in your lap, and that’s not really an exaggeration. Both my husband and I on the return flight made several unnecessary trips to the restroom to escape the claustrophobic space that had been created when the couple in front of us reclined. Why didn’t we recline? Because we looked behind us and saw that both people were using their laptops on their trays, and if we’d reclined, would have closed their computers (which happened to my husband and his laptop).

It’s called common courtesy people.

Oops, sorry, end rant.

In short, any adult can manage an international flight. Just do your research and be prepared. However, I will not be taking my children on a flight like this until they are MUCH, MUCH, heck, MUCH older, because there just isn’t the space in economy to keep them distracted. IF, somehow, we can afford Business Class seats, I might consider the trip once they are both in elementary school, but definitely not as infants, toddlers, or preschoolers.

I hope this has helped anyone who might be about to take their first international flight. If there are other questions, feel free to ask, I know that having answers helped me handle the flight despite being claustrophobic and just generally not a good flyer.

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An Adventure Jan 18

At the time this posts, I will be buckling my seatbelt to drive myself, my 2 daughters (4 years and 14 months), and a friend of mine to Atlanta for a girls weekend while my husband and a couple friends participate in a startup weekend. (More info on that after it’s over.) The number of firsts that this is for me is pretty high and is resulting in a high anxiety level. There have been more tears and stomachaches over this trip than in all the years I’ve had issues with anxiety.

But this trip has the potential to be AWESOME.

This trip could open up the world (or at least the continental U.S.) to our family. My husband and I have wanted to do a cross country road trip for some time, and this is the springboard trip which will help us determine if and how it can be done.

This is not the first time my husband and I have done a road trip with a child. Our older daughter is a fabulous car rider and made the trip from FL to NY like a champ. Our younger daughter though, can barely make it out to Disney (about an hour) before she’s antsy and fussy.

And I have chosen to drive this fussy child all the way to Atlanta. Just me in charge of my two girls in a Mazda CX-9 for 9-10 hours.

The only thing saving me from dissolving into a literal puddle of goo is that while I might be the driver and parent, I am not alone. If I absolutely have to, there is still someone else who can drive. There is still someone to take the “happy” child while I deal with the “unhappy” child – whoever that may be at the time.

And that this trip has the potential to be AWESOME.

Wish us luck.

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Camping at Stone Mountain Jan 02

In April 2012, we bought a popup camper. A Rockwood Freedom 2318g, to be exact. Despite construction that doesn’t meet my husband’s stringent standards, we made our tenth trip over the Christmas break. However, this was only our third to someplace other than Fort Wilderness at Walt Disney World.

We LOVE Disney, and have become pretty good at packing for those trips. It helps that we can pack everything up at home and into a cooler without worrying that it will spoil on the trip. That also worked for our trip to Fort DeSoto. But this time, we drove all the way from Central Florida to Stone Mountain, Georgia, just east of Atlanta. Best case scenario was 7.5 hours to get there. Neither my husband nor I was comfortable filling a cooler with food for that long.

So the “plan” was to take a meal that could be cooked without any ingredient needing to be refrigerated. I decided on Barilla Three Cheese Tortellini and sauce. The sauce was supposed to be Prego Italian Sausage, but it wasn’t on sale in the weeks prior and I forgot to grab a jar regardless of price. So instead I took a box of Pomi Tomato Sauce, our McCormick Italian Herb grinder, and my own version of seasoned salt and made do. Or, my husband did when we finally got around to eating them.

Instead of arriving tired and stumbling through our pantry meal, we spent forever leveling the popup on the uneven ground, couldn’t get the heater started (It was already down to 42 when we arrived and the overnight low was predicted for 29.), and discovered that the drain pipe to the sink was broken and we flooded the electrical and plumbing storage compartment. We destroyed the towels that we keep just for camping trying to get the water removed before it damaged anything that would make the popup unliveable. We finally got the water mostly cleaned up and the heater still wouldn’t start. Wal-Mart (ugh) was the only thing nearby, so my husband left to get a heater, new towels, and the groceries I had intended to buy the next day.

While he went shopping, the girls and I hooked up the TV and digital antenna and bundled under all the blankets that belonged on their bed. It was pretty damp and chilly for us Floridians, and the temperature when we left home had been nearing 60 when we left home at 9:30am.

To try and keep this short, we’ll say the shopping trip was a success and we ended up eating Wendy’s for dinner. Then we finally got the popup organized and everyone in bed at 11p. Even the kids were so tired they just fell asleep.

It was a rough start, but the trip continued smoothly after that. We visited The World of Coca-Cola (my husband is a HUGE fan of Diet Coke) and took the kids to the Children’s Museum of Atlanta. They had a BLAST and, if we lived there, would definitely have annual passes. We ate at Fox Brothers BBQ which is kind of a requirement if anyone of our friends goes to Atlanta. The fried pickles and jalapenos are awesome and I’m a huge fan of the rub they use on their ribs. The sauce is more vinegar-y than I usually like, but it also good. And the macaroni and cheese is amazing. The rest of the menu is pretty standard in terms of barbecue and my opinion. But it’s fairly priced and a great experience to check out a local restaurant.

We spent several hours playing in Snow Mountain at Stone Mountain before we spent an afternoon and evening hiding from the downpour in the popup. After the rain subsided the next morning, and we had a huge pancake breakfast, we did some exploring at the Quarry Exhibit and the Grist Mill inside Stone Mountain Park. I could have spent quite a while enjoying the scenery of both, but the kids tired quickly due to the uneven ground and steep incline. We took a short, but somewhat scenic drive through Snellville and had lunch at Boston Market then let the kids play on the playground at the campground for a bit before reality set in that we would be leaving in the morning. So we cooked hamburgers and french fries on the grill and tried to use up the last of our refrigerated goods then started to pack up.

Packing up the night before was definitely sad, but it helped us get going sooner in the morning for the return trip. While my husband took down the popup, the girls and I went to Dunkin’ Donuts (found on our scenic drive the day before) and then to the huge children’s playground inside Stone Mountain Park. It was WAY to big for my 2 years 2 months and 4 years 11.5 months old daughters, but it was also still wet from the rain, so we didn’t stay long. The return trip took 9 hours as compared to 8.5 hours to arrive, so that is probably a pretty average time for us.

This trip taught us to take one step at a time and not worry about the big picture. Stay in the now. It also further emphasized to me that obsessive meal planning is key to any camping trip. I’m not a huge fan of obsessive meal planning, but it’s the only way to maximize food and storage in such a small vehicle over a few short days.

I’ll be uploading pictures of the trip to Instagram over the next few days. The lack of Wi-Fi when you’re out in nature made it difficult to share like I wanted.

Have you ever been camping with young kids? Do you have advice to share?

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PacSafe MetroSafe 200 Anti Theft Shoulder Bag Nov 13

MetroSafe 200

For those of you who read my very belated birthday post, or my opportunities post, you probably noticed that I went to Prague this summer. One of the biggest concerns for anyone in a foreign location is pickpocketing and the possibility of identity theft. My husband found a company called PacSafe that helps reduce the possibility of this happening.

After many hours perusing the company’s site and several minutes spent searching Amazon, I decided to purchase Pacsafe MetroSafe 200 Shoulder Bag – Grape Wine (affiliate link)
to be used as a flight carryon and as a purse during our upcoming travel. Thanks to Amazon Prime, it was at my doorstep in 2 days, ready for me to inspect it.

I ordered the bag in Grape wine, which is a pretty appropriate description of the color. It’s purple, but with a little bit of red, much like a red wine. I showed the bag off to everyone I knew (almost literally) within the first 24 hours that I had it. They all like the bag, but think it’s too small for a carryon, but would make a great purse for travel. I took this as a challenge and set out to see exactly how much this bag could hold!

(In an effort to get this post out of draft form, please accept my apologies that there isn’t a picture here. Every time I find the kitchen table to create the picture, the tornado that is life comes through and covers it up again. I’m sure you know how that goes!)

I carried on the plane with me:
Neck pillow clipped to the strap
Tums
Super size bottle of Advil that also held other OTC medications not available OTC in Europe (which is most)
A spare t-shirt and underwear
Noise cancelling headphones (that I couldn’t use because they’re single input and the plane is dual audio output)
Bottle of water
Gum/candy for take-off and landing
Nook (My husband’s laptop bag carried charging cables for all of our devices, since we have the same)
iPod Touch
Blackberry Torch
ID holder containing driver’s license, debit card, and 1 international credit card
$100 USD for emergencies
Passport
1 quart ziploc containing hand sanitizer, lip balm and travel sized deodorant

So that’s everything I remember cramming into the bag, and I’m having a REALLY hard time coming up with anything else that anyone would NEED to have in a carryon. Sure, there’s plenty I could take, but how much do I want to schlep through airports and have to stow on board?

When I walked around the city of Prague, I kept the ID, Blackberry, iPod and payment with me, and was left with plenty of space to hold any small items that were purchased while sightseeing. I was able to have my hands free and my bag secure, so I could be aware of what was going on around me.

Overall, I love this bag and will be using it any time I travel away from home. The features and capacity are a perfect fit for the way I like to pack.

**Disclaimer: PacSafe and Amazon have no idea who am I and I was not compensated in any way for this post. All items were paid for with my own money and I just wanted to share my experience with others.**

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An Opportunity for International Travel Nov 06

Sometimes, you’re presented with an opportunity you just can’t refuse, and in March, my husband was presented with just such an opportunity.

He was asked to write a paper and present at the very first SecOnt conference, which was a part of ARES2012 in August.

This presentation? Was to be in Prague. The capital of the Czech Republic. A city that, at one time, was the capital of the entire Holy Roman Empire.

While not nearly as well known to Americans as cities like London and Paris, I was surprised to find that this city has just as much history. As a history and travel geek, I was excited for the travel opportunity.

However, travel isn’t as easy once you have 2 young kids. It took several weeks of near begging to convince our parents to watch the girls while my husband and I went to Prague for 8 days. Yes, folks, you read that right. Eight days on an entirely different continent without my children.

While some will disagree, I was NOT going to drag my girls (at the time, 3.5 years and 10 months) through 3 airports and 12 hours of flight each way. The thought was akin to torture – and so was our return flight. The logistics were the subject of nightmares – and so was the thought of what might go wrong while I was away from my babies.

But we all persevered, overcame our various obstacles and took a fantastic week long trip to a country we’d never thought twice about. We stayed in city center, near the University of Economics where the conference was held, and I had no problem walking the streets by myself. The metro was much like Washington DC’s and made it even easier to get around town. They have a fantastic bus/tram system, but my husband and I (AND a friend!) usually chose to take the metro to the day’s farthest stop and walk back to really appreciate the city.

There will be more on the city of Prague and our experiences getting there and back, but for now, please, capitalize on the opportunities life throws at you. You never know when you’ll get an experience of a lifetime.

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Beach Getaway Aug 07

Growing up, my husband’s family spent nearly every Memorial Day weekend on Anna Maria Island. It’s one of those childhood memories (like traveling in general is for me) that you really want to share with your kids. While this wasn’t DD1’s first trip (that was way back in July ’09 when she was just 6 months old), it was DD2’s and the first time we’d been there in years. While we don’t need an excuse to go to the beach for the weekend, we did use our nephew’s 18th birthday and his entering the Air Force as good reasons to make the trip July 5-8.

The hotel we stay at isn’t particularly special, but it has great air conditioning, sliding glass doors that open from the first floor rooms straight out towards the beach, and a pool. The rooms are clean, altho the furniture and kitchenette could really use an update, and, since we got a 1 bedroom layout this time rather than the traditional studio, the kids were able to nap while we continued the party in the main room.

The big reason I like to return to this hotel (other than it’s familiar, which helps plan for the kids) is the view.

Yep, we need to spend more time there. 😉

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Camping Trip #2 Aug 02

After purchasing our popup, I wasted no time in planning our first two trips – Fort Wilderness in May and Fort DeSoto June 15-17.

I’ve already talked briefly about our trip in May, so let’s talk about one of my favorite camping places so far!

I’m no stranger to Fort DeSoto, my parents took my brother and I there when we were young, but this was the first trip for my husband and our daughters (aged 3 years 5 months and just shy of 8 months). As usual, part of the planning for this trip included studying the campground map to find the “perfect” site and I found it. Seriously. If you’re taking kids under 10 or want to travel with a pet, reserve site 121, 123, or 125. They back right up to a playground and are a stone’s throw from the restrooms. I will be stalking these sites when I plan our next trip there. And there WILL be another!

Just like with our first trip, I helped my husband back into our site, then kept the kids occupied while he set up the popup and awning. Once they were up, I took the bedding and “needed NOW” bag inside, made the beds, and set up the TV so the girls could watch DVDs. I distributed the clothing and food to their homes for this trip and then walked off the back of our site and onto the playground with the girls.


The views from the back corner of our campsite

I can’t tell you how excited I was to have that playground RIGHT THERE, and my oldest daughter felt the same. While she was technically too young for most of the equipment, that didn’t stop her from finding ways to play with the big kids.

Saturday morning we made the short drive to the beach and almost all the parking lots had playgrounds and restrooms between them and the beach. I chose to park near the store in case we needed things and because it was the shortest walk. Since it’s practically impossible to roll a stroller onto the beach the short walk was the deciding factor.

DD1 touched the sand and promptly threw a tantrum. At the moment, she has a fear of the water and it took several minutes to convince her that she didn’t have to go near it if she didn’t want to. DD2 had her suit left behind at the campsite, so she crawled all over the sand in her onesie, spilling Daddy’s Diet Coke and trying to squash his pyramid sand castle. To distract her, I took her into the Gulf of Mexico and we practiced her swim skills. Since the beach is in a lagoon, the water was as still as a pool and she did awesome! It’s amazing the skills they can learn at such a young age.

We did have a scare that afternoon when DD2 fell off the bunk end in the camper, but other than a bruise, she was fine.

We cooked on the outdoor grill twice this trip, hamburgers and marinated chicken, and I made pancakes Sunday morning, which has become a kind of tradition on the last morning of vacation.

Take down of the popup seemed to take longer, but that might just be because I was chasing both girls around the playground while trying to avoid the sun. (DD2 and I got minor sunburns at the beach. 🙁 )

The worst part about this trip was the 2 hour drive. Apparently DD2 can only occupy herself for an hour and a half, and since she still eats roughly every 3 hours during the day, we couldn’t quite make it there or home without me sliding into the backseat to give her a bottle or help to occupy her. The middle seat between the car seats is NOT a comfortable place to ride.

The best part (other than the awesome location) was a better packing organization system. I went to Bed Bath and Beyond and bought Real Simple Cedar Insert Storage Bags. I bought the 2 pack of large and made one for linens to be used now, and the other I had extra sets of linens that now live in the popup. I also bought the 3 pack of medium and used one for me, one for my husband, and one for the girls for clothing and toiletries. These are the perfect size for a 3 or 4 day trip, and I always overpack. I also purchased a laundry bag that is only for camping trips. These purchases really helped to minimize the clutter. We’re still working on a good food storage solution, which will help us reduce the clutter even more, and when DD2 is done with formula and DD1 is potty trained, there won’t be a huge bag of diapers, wipes, and formula to deal with either.

**Disclaimer: Fort Wilderness, Fort DeSoto, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Real Simple have no idea who I am and I was not compensated by them in any way for mentioning them in this post. These are places and things that we paid to use and wanted to share with others.**

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