Thursday, June 6, 2013

Traveling With Kids (and more pics)

So, obviously, when I was younger, I always thought it would be cool to travel, but I didn't really GET those people that were like TRAVEL ADDICTS, MUST SEE ALL THE THINGS. But now? Now I get it.  I feel like my life at home in Northwood is basically just a waiting game, and my REAL life is when we get in that little Ford SMax and hit the road.  THAT'S LIVING.  I want to see ALL THE THINGS.
And yes, it helps that we're just outside of London and can get to neat places rather quickly, but honestly, other than being in Guam, you can basically travel from anywhere.  Surely there's cool things to see in America.  In Mississippi even. And the idea that people skip out on the wonder that is travel just because they have kids? That turns my stomach.  Just go!!! GO!!!
So.  In the interest of wanting everyone to agree with me and feel and think the same way that I do, I put together Travel Tips.  YOU'RE WELCOME.
Tip One: Where to stay when you get to wherever it is you're going.  DO NOT STAY IN A HOTEL. Hotels are for suckers.  Or for rich people.  Or for rich suckers who only have one kid.  If you have more than one kid, you need a house.  And entire house, with beds behind closed doors, and even better a kitchen.
Our house in Bruges.
And a washing machine.  Now, if you have more than one kid, you're doing laundry every day anyway. So you can either pack every single shirt your kids own and not have to do laundry on vacation and have twenty seven loads to do the day you get back, or you can suck it up and just do laundry on vacation.  Yes, it sucks, but that's what you get for having so many kids.

We use to find houses, but I've heard great things about airbnb too.  And for those of you who have a creepy feeling about this, or you think of that Kate Winslet movie The Holiday where they swap houses, it's not like that.  Most of these people (although NOT the ones in Paris) have these homes for the SPECIFIC purpose of renting them out.  They're stocked with dishes and clean sheets and towels, and they're ready for strangers.  It's not like the owners live there day to day and then go to a hotel when you show up, leaving all their icky soap and leftovers and hair in the showers.

At least, that's been our luck.  The only 'bad' experience we've had was in Wales, and that wasn't even actually bad, it just kind of wasn't fantabulous.

Tip Two: Don't pack a bunch of shit you don't need. Ever since Ava was tiny and when we were only going to visit my sister a few hours away, I've always packed my kids' clothes in gallon sized ziplock bags.  Pants, shirt, undershirt, undies, socks, and jammies for Warren and Daisy, who are still small enough that all of that will fit in one bag.  Ava and Scott are now tall giants, so their jammies just get thrown on top of the suitcase.
With four kids, we use one big suitcase for the kids, and one for me and Nick and our toiletries.  We used to bring fullsized shampoo and shit, but that was dumb, so now we use a travel kit from Ikea.  I filled it up when I bought it and hopefully won't have to refill it for a year or something.  I got four sets, so that I have a full set of each color.  My stuff goes in all the pink bottles, Nick's stuff goes in all the orange (plus two oranges for lotion because he only uses two things and my eczema babies go through a LOT of lotion) and the girls get purple and the boys get green.  Everyone knows what to grab for shower time, and it ALL fits in the Ikea case.  Ikea for ever.  Seriously.
Anyway, I've worked out that for us, three outfits is plenty.  Especially considering it's never EVER going to warm up, so they're wearing their jackets in all their pictures anyway, so no one knows they're wearing the same thing over and over.  Three outfits, plus what they're wearing when we leave the house, plus extra pants for Daisy in case her diaper explodes and an extra outfit for the trunk for Warren in case he's alive, and we're good to go.  Bonus, with three outfits, if for some reason I can't get to laundry one day, we CAN survive.  It just sucks.
Tip Three: get an iPad.  Since I'm no longer in competition for Mom of the Year (I dropped out of that race the day we brought Baby Ava home from the hospital) I have no qualms.  I want my kids to shut their mouths in the car so that Nick and I can hold hands and listen to Mumford and look at the scenery.  I don't want to hear made up knock knock jokes for seven hours, and I CERTAINLY don't want to listen to them cry. The big kids in the back row share Nick's iPad, Daisy gets mine (God we sound like awful people.  Nick got an iPad during that awful deployment in Guam, summer 2011, and it was the original so it doesn't have anything cool and someone <no names> broke it a little and the screen is wonky, so he got a new one a few years later, so now I have the old one) and Warren gets Nick's phone.  This could all be avoided if we didn't live in the suburbs of London and could drive a mini van with a DVD player, but since we already had all these Apple products anyway, it wasn't that big of a deal.
And for some reason (probably because they know that all they have to do is ask and I'll hand the screens over) my kids are mostly really good travelers.  Car travelers anyway.  They'll read books, draw, talk to each other, just be dummies.  They sit still, they don't usually complain, they're good.  In fact, during that awful deployment in Guam, I used to load them up in the van and just drive up to Andersen because I knew it would buy me two hours of peace and quiet.
Tip Four: If you have a kid who cries nonstop about hating to walk, buy a second stroller.  No one cares.  No one is going to look at your four year old sitting in a stroller and say "that kid is too old for a stroller." And even if she does, you won't care, because you'll be pushing your four year old up the coblestone streets, holding hands with your lover and gazing at breasts and penises molded from chocolate.

And the lady saying nasty things will be dragging HER screaming four year old behind her, broken out in a sweat and having a miserable time. You probably won't even HEAR her nasty comment because you'll be all high on the endorphins from walking and seeing ALL THE THINGS and enjoying yourself.  So seriously.  Get the second stroller.  Ava is SEVEN and she needs a break every now and then too.  You certainly can't expect kids to walk ten miles a day up ancient European streets with no breaks.
Tip Five: Take breaks.  Again, ever since Ava was a wee one, and we ventured to Disney with her and Baby Scott, we kept up with nap schedules.  This is why my kids are such excellent nappers.  Hate on haters.  Take a break.  If you can't get back to the house for a proper nap, at least put them in the car for a cat nap while you go look at something else. Also, if you have another stroller, you can nap two of them in those suckers.  Win win.
Tip Six: Plan.  Plan plan plan.  Yes, Bruges was nice, and I didn't plan a thing.  But.  BUT. I am a planner.  People don't plan to fail, they fail to plan.  When we did Disney before coming to Guam, I planned our daily itineraries to the hour.  Seriously.  And everyone laughed at me, but you know what? We rode every single ride we wanted to ride, we saw everything we wanted to see, and I got every picture I wanted to capture. Same with Scotland and Ireland.  I want to do specific things, and I know that Nick is fine with going with the flow, so if I want to make sure I get to see what I want to see, I plan for it.  Specifically.  Don't be embarrassed.  If you're embarrassed, just don't show anyone how detailed your plan is. But if you're only going to go to Ireland ONCE in your life, and you have a few MUST DOs, you better plan it out, including drive time, distance, traffic considerations, bathroom breaks, hours of operation for the specific location, pictures you'd like to capture, coresponding hours of the day to get the best picture, PLAN IT ALL OUT.  The less you leave to chance, the more likely you are to accomplish most of what you want to do.  And believe it or not, extensive planning makes it EASIER to go with the flow.  Say I plan three things for the day, but we end up having a FANTASTIC lunch and spending an extra hour at the pub.  Well, I can look at my detailed files and quickly rearrange any little thing to accommodate my NEW plan. I know it seems counterintuitive, especially to people who don't plan plan PLAN like I do, but seriously, having a well oiled plan truly does make it easier to go with the flow.  I don't make the rules, but I can vouch for their efficacy.

Tip Seven: just go.  I don't know what else to advise you to do.  Just plan it out, get in the car, and go.  That's the only way you're going to see stuff.  When we get back to the States, I plan on renting an RV and just going to see a bunch of stuff.  Wouldn't that be fun? But the first step is to just GO.  Make sense?

Engelbrecht out.


  1. these are really awesome travel tips! y'all are doing it up right. i love seeing it here. by the way, how did you survive FOUR c-sections? seriously.

    1. Well I think my survival had a lot to do with the fact that it's the only birth I've ever known, I took my Vicodin a TINY bit differently that the doctors would have preferred, and I have an amazing husband who really pampered me. I'm so sorry you had such an awful experience!! So when are you going for number four?

    2. no number 4 for me. my ob gave me a pretty hard core talkin' to after that vertical incision in my uterus...we're done. you're super mom. be easier on yourself. you've done amazing things and will continue to do so.

  2. Oh I wish I could just in Europe that is! Also, it would be most enjoyable if I had the funds to go go go with! ha Until then, I'm living vicariously through your adventures, pictures, and commentary.

    1. Well I'll be sure to post a ton of pics :) It really is amazing, we're so blessed to have this opportunity. I keep trying to explain to my kids how amazing it is, but they really just don't understand.

  3. Love this post! Um, how is Ava 7?!? I feel like she'll always be 4 or 5 (b/c that's when I started following your blog). I always love your honesty!

    1. She would want me to snap that she's SEVEN AND A HALF. Ugh.