A few thoughts on road trips and our Thanksgiving travel

Let me start by explaining that we live in the Chicago area and my sister and her family live in the Twin Cities. We are blessed to have airports with hubs but this does not mean that we have an easy time with flying to see each other. After a flight issue caused us to drive home on a windy, blowy, snowy February day we came to the conclusion that if we can, we will drive. Especially if everyone is going because at the end of the day it doesn’t take that much longer to drive if conditions are good and we have more control.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving 2019 and we decided that if weather looked good we would drive and otherwise we’d stay home. Going up, no problem, we were after the snowbelt so we had no problem. Coming back, the forecast kept changing so we were debating what to do.

The number one lesson from this weekend is BE FLEXIBLE. We had planned on staying in Eau Clare both ways to shorten the trip a bit. We ended up changing our plans and driving to the Dells on Saturday therefore getting south of most of the snow and then having an easier drive on Sunday.

I know that the drive from Chicago to the Twin Cities is doable in a day but with a three year old and my mother is it easier for all involved if we can break it into two. Also I’m not good at sleeping in the car so I’d much rather break it up and get a good nights rest if I can. Another tip I would give is especially on a road-trip, stay somewhere that provides breakfast to make mornings easier.

I do BonVoy (Marriott Rewards) which is something I’ll go more into another time, but this means usually when on a road trip I look for Fairfields, SpringHill Suites or Courtyards. I know there are lots of options and you need to do what works for you. Another thing I look for are hotels with laundry facilities. It makes the travel with the three year old much simpler depending on what goes wrong. We’ve also washed things in the sink with body wash if its only one of two items. Depends on the situation.

Last but not least, I usually rent a car. We have used our cars but if its more then 250 miles I’d rather rent because 1) why put miles on my car that I don’t have to? and 2) If I’m driving somewhere and have a problem I can contact the rental car company and get a replacement.

Whether you stayed at home or were among the many of us on the roads this Thanksgiving, I hope you had a wonderful holiday!

What are your thoughts on road trips?

The Holidays are here again… some of my favorite festive things in Chicago…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… and truly it is a wonderful time to travel and see new things. We have a child who LOVES holiday lights. His first trip to Disney World the lights on Cinderella’s castle were the most magical thing to him. And 3 years later he still loves any opportunity to see lights!

I know its not quite Thanksgiving yet, but there are already plenty of ways to celebrate the season! Its tough to put them in order because I love them all but here is my top list of things to do…

10. Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker. I love the music of the Nutcracker, it just evokes memories of the holidays. That being said they changed the setting so its not quite the classic its always been. The Joffrey always does a wonderful job however so…

9. Goodman Theater’s Christmas Carol. Its a classic, they’ve been doing it for years so for many people it has become a Holiday tradition. If you’ve never seen it, definitely do.

8. Drury Lane Oakbrook’s Christmas Carol. They do a fantastic job but make it family friendly for all ages. They also offer a brunch with Santa. Its also in the western suburbs and they have a huge parking lot.

7. Holiday Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute The Art Institute kicks off the holidays with the wreathing of the Lions on the Friday after Thanksgiving but they keep it going with the Holiday Thorne rooms. The Thorne Miniatures are always worth a visit but now they showcase different holiday traditions from different eras and cultures. Every year they add 2-3 more rooms that are decorated.

6. Holiday Magic at the Brookfield Zoo. This is the 38th year which is why I have many childhood memories of attending. This year there are over a million lights. Lots of decorated trees including community trees from schools (including my son’s) and corporate decorated tree. They also do caroling to the animals. Its great family fun and also in the suburbs.

5. The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival Saturday November 23rd. It’s a day long event capped off by a parade staring Mickey and Minnie Mouse which turns on all of the lights and then ends with Fireworks. Its beautiful, magical and extremely crowded! For those who want to avoid crowds the parade is usually broadcast on WGN tv as well.

4. Zoo Lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo It’s beautiful, they have Santa, you can see the city skyline lite up. Its a wonderful family friendly event. There are various light shows throughout the event. Also as a bonus, there’s no cost to enter the Zoo, only for parking.

3. LightScape at the Botanic Gardens We got to go to a special member preview night of this new light display and its amazing!!! We all enjoyed different parts of it and would definitely recommend it. I have a feeling it will sell out so get your tickets now if you are interested. This is in the Norther Suburbs so its another nice, non-city option.

2. Chicago Symphony Orchestra – Merry Merry Chicago It this doesn’t get you in the holiday spirit then nothing will. Its a mix of classical holiday music mixed with sing alongs to carols. Local choirs are featured and Santa himself usually makes a visit! Fun for the whole family!

1. Christmas Around the World at the Museum of Science and Industry It started back in 1942 so its part of many locals holiday traditions. There are trees and displays representing different cultures and celebrations. Every weekend until Christmas they have different performances from local groups. So much to see and enjoy! Definitely family friendly!

There are so many other wonderful seasonal things to do in the area but these are some of my family’s favorites! What are your favorite traditions?

Travel with toddlers part 2…

My other half had a few additional points to add on the topic…

It’s worth having a “travel stroller” which a) you expect the airlines to kill, yet b) has good carrying capacity to aide getting through the airport plus wherever else you are going on your travels. Being able to load up his one stroller like a packhorse has been so useful to us. Our first travel stroller was the type that the car seat locked into. As that one had been lovingly treated by the airlines, we continued to use it as an umbrella stroller for awhile. Our current travel stroller was a garage sale bargain. Either way still use a gate check bag for the stroller similar to the car seat.

As to packing, I’d almost say to pack “one more outfit per day than you expect to use”, rather than simply saying two. We’ve pack more than 2/day on several occasions and I don’t recall ever thinking we excessively overpacked for him. I’ll also mention having spare clothes for one or more of the parents in your carry-on for emergencies, rather than simply packing & checking the extras for the rest of the family. Especially for whichever parent is sitting by the child on the plane…

As we start getting organized for Thanksgiving travel we may think of more but that’s all for now!

Travel with Toddlers

Anyone who has ever traveled with children knows that they can take over. Here are a few tips we’ve come up with to make life smoother!

1.) Get a travel toddler bed. You can see the one we have here: https://amzn.to/34HlLKy There are lots of options out there but we like this one because we can fit it in a rolling suitcase to check or throw it in the trunk if we are driving. Its light but soft and gives our little guy a place of his own. He seems to really enjoying have “his own space” as well. When he was younger pack-n-plays worked and some hotels (Disney, some Marriotts and others) have cribs which is awesome.

2.) Have a few toys/items that are only for travel. This will make them more of a novelty and keep them entertained longer. We also let him pick out a couple of items for us to take with as this way he feels more involved.

3.) Bring enough food/snacks in case of emergency. We’ve had 2 flights canceled that resulted in extra nights on trips and so as a result we are always extra prepared just in case.

4.) Bring your own carseat. If you bring your own, then you know where its been and you know what condition its in. We use a Gate Check Bag (https://bit.ly/2WUxCTe) and it keeps it in better shape.

5.) Bring 2 outfits per day (at least). Some days you won’t need them and some days you’ll be stunned at how many outfits one child can go through. Trust me!! Also bring one or two extra outfits for everyone traveling with said child, just in case!

Wishing everyone smooth trips as we head toward the holidays!

Fall Travel – tips our most recent travels

In most of the Northern Hemisphere fall is in full swing. For me this year, this meant that I finally got to take a one of my “dream trips”. I’ve always wanted to go to New England in the fall and see the leaves. This may sound silly but I’ve always loved the different colors of fall and while the Midwest has some beautiful fall color, New England is known for it.

We just got back from Central New York and Western Connecticut. The main purpose of our trip was to visit the Roosevelt National Park sites in Hyde Park, NY and to visit family in Connecticut. Along the way we picked up a few tips to keep in mind…

1.) Roll with it – plans are fantastic, but there are times that they just don’t happen. We had made plans to grab some lunch right after leaving the airport and then drive up to Hyde Park. Less then 5 minutes after we got in the car, the 3 year old fell asleep. So instead of stopping, we drove until we were about 15 minutes from our hotel and then found a restaurant that worked.

2.) After a day of visiting sites and driving through the area, the last thing we wanted to do was get back in the car to try to find a place for dinner especially when we didn’t know the area. We also weren’t in the mood for what our hotel had to offer, so we DoorDashed our dinner. If DoorDash isn’t your preferred food delivery service there are plenty of other options, but it made life so much easier and the 3 year old had a lot more freedom.

3.) Make time for kids to be kids. Trust me, the whole family will be happier, especially if they get their wiggles out. Otherwise they will get bored, frustrated and make sure the whole world is aware of how they feel! My mom would much rather sit at a playground for a bit an allow my son to play then to have him fall apart later due to lack of freedom.

I hope these are helpful as you consider travels. What tips would you give when traveling with 3 generations?

The value of a “staycation”

This weekend I was reflecting on the value of a “staycation” aka enjoying our surroundings and not traveling but still doing “tourist things”. How many of us travel to places all over the country and world going to sites and museums, but when we are home fail to visit attractions in our own backyards? When I was little we often took one main family vacation but spent a lot of the summer doing tourist things in Chicago, going to museums, the beach, the zoo etc.

Now, we still live in the suburbs of Chicago but we rarely venture into the city. There are a whole variety of reasons but at the end of the day it seems that many people are most likely to “play tourist” when friends and/or family come to visit. October 19 and 20, 2019 is an event called Open House Chicago which allows people to play tourist and obtain access to more than 350 buildings in the city and suburbs. We did it a few years and really enjoyed it and weather dependent, hope to do it again this year. I mention this because “Open House (insert city name) is a growing trend worldwide and a great way to find hidden gems in your own backyard.

What are your favorite things to do on a “staycation”?

Planning ahead for the “worst case scenario”…

Watching the slow movement of Hurricane Dorian has me thinking about the “worst case scenario” and what to do if you have travel planned and something comes up.

I am a strong believer in trip insurance. That being said not all trip insurance is created equally and not all cases require the same coverage. We have had to cancel vacations for a range of reasons from the flu to someone in the hospital to being “too pregnant” to take a cruise, etc. Each situation is different and how to handle them varies.

Hotels: In the case of something like a Hurricane most hotels are offering penalty free cancellations. Also most major chains have fairly generous cancellation policies of no penalty if you cancel 48-72 hours out. If you need to cancel past the penalty free period, call the hotel directly and ask to speak to the manager on duty. They will have the best ability to accommodate you depending on your need. I also try to book with hotels directly as opposed to discount booking sites as you get better customer service and often earn other perks through their reward programs.

Flights: Check your airlines policies. Most airlines don’t want you flying if you have a contagious disease so if you have a letter from a doctor most airlines will let you cancel and use your credit within 12 months. If you need a refund this is where trip insurance comes in handy. I always buy my trip insurance from the airline when I book my ticket, that way I know I have adequate coverage.

Car Rentals: Most car rentals will let you cancel up to an hour before so trip insurance for car rentals is more about coverage if something happens while you have the car, not about canceling with no penalty.

Cruises: I’ve had both good and bad experiences. We had a family member with cancer and were told, “sorry you didn’t get trip insurance and you’ve paid in full so there is nothing we can do”. I also found out that I would be 3 weeks too pregnant to take a cruise per the cruise lines policy, got a doctors note and was refunded in full for my whole party including our flights which we booked through the cruise line. We did have trip insurance in this case and as we had to cancel due to the cruise line’s policy they even refunded that. Otherwise with cruises, until they are paid in full they are always refundable.

Other travel situations: There is a great site http://www.insuremytrip.com that lets you compare options and decide what is the best coverage for you.

Bottom line, know the policies and cover what you can not afford to not get back if you are unable to travel!

A few thoughts about travel planning

1.) Whether is a long weekend of a three week vacation, for me the planning is as fun at times as the travel. I love learning about new places & things. But I also enjoy visiting old favorites!

2.) When it comes to travel with children, I believe in starting them young. My son’s first flight was at 2 months old and we really took advantage of those first 2 years of him being able to fly for free. That being said he’s awesome in the car as well often sleeping for 3+ hours depending on the trip.

3.) When planning a trip, try to consider something for everyone. I’ve done more research on playgrounds and their locations in the past two years then I ever expected. But I also have priceless pictures, video and memories of my son swinging for the first time in Sonoma, CA before we wandered around the time square checking out shops with my mom. This way everyone was happy.

4.) Try to give everyone a vote or a day that is based on their idea. This way they feel included and you might enjoying something that you never would have thought of. My parents gave us a vote when we were kids. When planning for the summer of 1986 my parents asked our thoughts and I kept repeating that I wanted to see the Statue of Liberty. I was 6, my sister and dad were a bit stunned at my idea but my mom pointed out that they didn’t suggest anything else so off to NYC we went. It was a fantastic trip that I still have strong memories off.

Why do we travel?

It’s a great question to think and reflect about. Travel allows us to see different places and cultures, try different foods and experiences, and learn about others on so many levels. Some people travel to see and learn what’s different, some to see and learn what’s the same as what they are used to. When we travel in groups it’s possible that everyone in the group will appreciate different things.

My son’s favorite experiences are often when we find a playground or even better a Carousel. I love seeing his joy but I also love seeing and trying new things. My husband is similar to me in his love of the mix. My mom loves seeing and learning new things but often prefers the familiar when it comes to things like food.

As I said we are all different… so I ask you dear readers… why do you travel?

#zerotohero #familytravel #whydoyoutravel #threegenerationsoftravel

Who am I?

I am someone who has a life long love of travel. I’m very fortunate to have had parents who liked to travel and therefore almost every summer growing up we piled into the car for a great American (or sometimes Canadian) road-trip.

Now as an adult I am a wife, mother and daughter (among other things) who still loves to travel but now I’m planning for three generations! This blog will be tips, ideas and insight from some of our adventures and favorites things to do/places to go. I’m not paid to do this so if I wax on poetically about my love of Disney or my son’s love of Carousals its because they are true loves, not due to us financially benefiting.

Why am I doing this? To share my love of travel. To share things that I’ve learned. To help people not be afraid of traveling with young kids. Yes, they won’t remember it, but you will and you might get some amazing pictures in the process of creating some wonderful moments of joy for them!

#zerotohero #everyonestartssomewhere #travelblog #travel #family #threegenerations