Winter Checklist Update #4

Before we had children, we would drive down to spend Christmas Eve with my side of the family, then on Christmas Day we would get up and drive to spend Christmas night and then next day with Ryan’s side of the family. We knew that when we had children, that that tradition would need to change. Now, we travel to my side of the family the weekend before Christmas and we travel up to Wisconsin after Christmas.

So, we have now gone to Mimi and Pa’s house…..

And Granny and Pa’s house…..

Christmas Eve, we make cookies (or, this year, make a gingerbread house), go to Christmas Eve Mass, drive around and look at Christmas decorations, then come home. Christmas Day, we spend in our jammies, watch Christmas specials, and eat breakfast casserole. The girls have all day to play with toys and we can all relax. Our Christmas traveling allows us to see family for Christmas and also allows us to be home for Christmas.

The list thus far:

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Granny and Pa’s House

We were recently able to cross this one off of the list. It was a busy week (or partial week for me because I came home early to work in my classroom) and a very fun week. We ate a lot of yummy food (check out my Instagram and search for #wisconsinvacation for some pics of food and more food), went to the beach, and the girls went to Discovery World with daddy and grandparents. Fun, fun times!

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Beach Day!

The list thus far:

  • Make lemonade.
  • Eat at Big Bowl.
  • Go to Millennium Park.
  • Go to Adler Planetarium.
  • Get space ice cream.
  • Go to zoo.
  • Go to Shedd Aquarium.
  • Go bowling.
  • Make banana pudding.
  • Go to the splash pads downtown.
  • Play at Maggie Daley playground.
  • Go to Field Museum.
  • Go to Art Institute and do a JourneyMaker tour.
  • Go swimming.
  • Go to the Children’s Museum.
  • Play at playground.
  • Have a pajama day (with daddy.)
  • See a movie at the movie theater.
  • See a movie outside.
  • Go to the library.
  • Go to the Family Festival downtown Chicago.
  • Make cookies.
  • Read books at home.
  • Ride the train at the mall.
  • Go to the beach.
  • Have a picnic.
  • Go to American Girl Place.
  • Draw pictures and cut them out.
  • Play with legos.
  • Make muffins.
  • Make pasta salad.
  • Play with toys.
  • Go to a festival.
  • Try to go to a water park.
  • Go to the Disney store downtown Chicago.
  • Eat at Rainforest Cafe.
  • Eat at Labriola Cafe.
  • Bake an apple pie.
  • Play games on the iPad.
  • Play Mario game with daddy.
  • Go to the Morton Arboretum.
  • Go to Mimi and Pa’s house.
  • Go to Granny and Pa’s house.
  • Go on a hike.
  • Go to the Museum of Science and Industry.

Flying with a toddler – Learn from us!

We recently had an epic family trip to Florida.  This was little girl’s first time on a plane.  For the most part, the flights were a pretty smooth experience.  However, we did learn a few lessons that we will use for future flights.

  • Pack snacks. Pack snacks everywhere! I had snacks in our carry-ons, in my purse, in the diaper bag, everywhere.
  • Bring a sippy cup or water bottle that you can fill up once you have gone through security.  Little girl had her water bottle the entire time and sipped from it pretty continuously.  I have a feeling that the constant sipping helped to avoid any ear aches that frequently happen for little kiddos (and grown-ups) on planes.
  • Check your luggage. We didn’t and we both agreed that we would check luggage the next time we flew anywhere. Checking luggage will ensure that you have some extra hands for child wrangling.
  • Although this can’t always be helped, try to fly during the time of day when you know that your child is calmer. We flew in the evening for our flight down and in the morning for our return flight. The morning flight was far more pleasant because she napped for almost the entire flight.
  • And although this also can’t always be helped, try to fly non-stop. If you have a layover, plan on longer than an hour. That way, you have plenty of time to relax/bathroom break/have a snack/walk around/whatever before you have to get back on the plane again. Our flight down had a one hour layover and our first flight was very delayed so we had to run to our connecting flight. No time for the much needed diaper change.
  • And, if you are planning on using your car seat we purchased something like this that was great.  It was fantastic because we were able to attach the car seat to a carry-on suitcase, strap her into the car seat, and wheel her around the airport.

What tips do you have for traveling with a toddler?

Searching for a home with a toddler

We’ve been seriously home searching for a couple months now.  And in that time we’ve had two very different realtors and have put in offers on three different properties.  I’m not sure how many properties we’ve seen but I’m guessing that it’s close to 25.

I keep reminding myself that our house is out there and it will just take some time to find it.

After searching for this long and seeing as many houses as we have, I’ve developed a list of tips if you, too, are home searching with a toddler in tow.

  • See as many places as you can in a short amount of time.  Try not to go past two hours of house hunting.  Not only do all of the places start to look the same for the adults, but the kiddo is going to quickly be losing patience.
  • Bring snacks.  Lots and lots of snacks.  It’s amazing how quickly a toddler can go from fussy to completely happy if they have a banana and some crackers.
  • Try to schedule around regular nap and eating times.  Although, in all honesty, this is something that we haven’t really kept to very well.
  • Be sure to spend a good amount of time checking out the outdoor space.  Not only are you going to want to check it out if it is a property that you are interested in, but it gives your kiddo a chance to walk/run around before getting back in the car.

Good luck and keep your fingers crossed for us!

New favorite travel hint

Traveling with a toddler is not easy. So, any time I figure out a way to make it a little bit easier I am quite pleased. We had a big road trip over spring break which was a lot of fun but little peanut is a toddler and wants to get out and run around. Sitting in a car for 8 hours is not her idea of a good time. Snacks are always a great idea and it’s an even better idea to have lots of different types of snacks.

At the hotel, she had Rice Chex for the first time and discovered that she loved them. (The person who invented “free, hot breakfast” deserves a big kiss!) So, I took a coffee cup and filled it with cereal so she could snack on them later during our drive.  The cup had a lid and since it was just filled with cereal, I was able to just toss the cup in the car and nothing spilled out.

cup filled with cereal = easy snack

cup filled with cereal = easy snack

When you travel, what is your go-to snack for the road?

A Staycation Vacation Downtown

With the economy being the way that it is, staying close to home on vacations has become more and more popular.  The new term “staycation” means staying at home on vacations or taking day trips.  Ryan and I were very lucky this past weekend as our wedding anniversary coincided with some great deals on hotels downtown for Memorial Day weekend.  One of those deals was at the Swissotel.  Normally, rooms in this fancy downtown Chicago hotel can start at $229 and can go up to $399.  Needless to say, this is not a hotel that we would normally stay at as it would be way out of our budget.  I come from a family that swears by Holiday Inn Express.  The Swissotel is a huge leap from Holiday Inn Express.

We booked two nights at the Swissotel.  We made reservations for our anniversary dinner at the Publican. We had a great last minute dinner at The Purple Pig.  We saw a movie and we took advantage of our membership at the Art Institute (that I purchased using Groupon last year) to see the Matisse exhibit.  We came back to the hotel just on time to see the Saturday night fireworks at Navy Pier from our hotel room.  It was a very nice weekend.  But, even though it was a lovely weekend, I was a bit surprised when I woke up this morning and felt that sadness that I normally feel when a week long vacation in a different city/state/country ends.

Ryan and I didn’t travel very far for our vacation.  We just went downtown in our own city.  However, we made it a special weekend by staying in a hotel that we would not normally stay in.  We were able to pretend to be tourists in our own city and were able to see this area of town with new eyes.

The economy isn’t going to turn around very quickly.  More and more families will choose to stay in their own town for a vacation.  But, if you think of it as a true vacation and not as your only choice due to the economy or other needs, a staycation can be just as fun, relaxing, educational, busy, or whatever you want your vacation to be.

A Perfect Weekend