Saturday, May 12, 2018

San Diego- final day + navigating flights/sleeping/schedule/routines with little ones


Good morning! I intended to get this post out yesterday, but then life happened. So here we go today with our final recap of our trip plus all those logistical details that type-A people like me want to know before tackling a cross-country trip with their own family.

Okay- our last day! Ahh, this was our breakfast view a week ago:


In case you missed my first post recapping our trip, we stayed at the Pantai Inn in La Jolla and looooved it. Just don't look anywhere else if you're planning a similar trip. Book this place and call it a day. And sign up for their emails because they do cyber Monday deals on occasion and you could snag a super great rate.


We left our last day wide open with no set plans knowing that the kids would probably want to explore and would likely be worn out from all of the adventure from our three previous days at Disneyland, the zoo, and SeaWorld.

Sunglasses, paci, leaned back with her hands behind her head- living the life

Little observer

At breakfast that morning, Ryan and Natalie met two kids from Shanghai and played with them for almost an hour after we ate, and then they made a play date to meet at the beach for the rest of the morning. I love when our kids have opportunities to meet people from other cultures and was so glad this day was open for them to just play! 
Emily napped while the big kids played.
Natalie's new friend let her wear her Minnie Mouse hat, and Natalie always wears hats backwards. :)
Then we walked across a bridge to see the Sea Lions before heading to lunch.
I have this irrational fear of railings, so toddlers on an old bridge with rusted-looking bars and wider-than-I'd-like openings kind of took away from the coolness on seeing the sea lions down below. But we all survived, ha.

Lunch and gelato to follow!

After lunch, the girls napped in the stroller while Ryan and Matt explored this other cool beach with a cave.
There they are coming out- I was watching them from the top while the girls napped:
Not a bad nap-time view!
We walked back to our room and Natalie woke up right as we pulled in to our driveway. Look at that rested face. :)

Matt got himself and the kids popsicles from our room while we waited for Emily to wake up. And then we all changed into bathing suits to head back to the beach for the afternoon. 
We asked Ryan and Natalie how they would like to spend the rest of the day and they said playing on the beach with Cynthia and Elvis- their new friends from China. :) So I texted their mom to see if they'd like to meet up again and they did!
The sea lions would just swim up onto the beach while we played and then swim back in when the kids started to walk up to them. Definitely not our typical beach experience!
We spent the rest of the day here before heading back for dinner and bed. 
Ryan and Cynthia got each other's addresses so they could be pen pals. So sweet!


Okay, so I wanted to address a few things about traveling with kids that we have learned over the last few years that may be helpful to other families planning trips. If you have any questions about anything I mention or want further detail about anything, feel free to shoot me an email {notesftn@gmail.com} or comment below.

Flights:
*Bring car seats- these are a pain to carry through the airport but SO worth having on the plane. The kids are just more comfortable and have a much higher chance of sleeping on longer flights. Plus they're contained, and it's a familiar way to travel for them.
*Bring a change of clothes for everyone- air pressure does funny things to little bodies. Babies are pretty much guaranteed a massive blowout, hah. I packed an extra shirt for me and Matt and extra outfits for our kids just in case. I also put Emily in a larger diaper and latched it tighter to avoid the up-the-back mess. (Sorry, gross)
*Use pull-ups for your potty-trained kids- Ryan and Natalie both used the airplane potty, but if they pee-peed while they napped or had an air-pressure-related accident, I didn't want to risk dealing with that on a plane.
*Follow regular nap times- I booked our flight on the way there and back during their nap time. On the way there, this was at the 2 hour mark. So at that time, we put away books, toys, snacks, etc. and I sang to them and rubbed their heads to help them fall asleep. There is so much stimulation leading up to the flight, so they're usually pretty tired anyways.
*Pay more for a direct flight- listen, I love a good deal, but nobody's thinking about the money you saved when you're flying all day with kids and you didn't have to.
*Fly Southwest if possible- Southwest offers family boarding right after their preferred members board. They also don't have assigned seats. So we make our way straight to the very back of the plane where it's the loudest and you're right next to the bathrooms. Then we spread out and hope no one sits next to us, ha. On the way there, we were able to get 5 seats when we only paid for 4, and on the way back we got two full rows (6 seats).
*I also love flying Southwest because each ticket allows 2 checked bags for free and each baby gets 2 checked items for free as well. So we technically could have checked 8 bags for free.
*But on that note, think about your walk through the airport when you're packing. We knew we would each be pushing a stroller and wearing a carseat, so we only checked two rolling suitcases (so we could each pull one while pushing a stroller) and each had one carry-on item that we could either wear or have in the bottom of the stroller.
*When you get to your gate, prior to boarding, let them know you have a lap child and ask if the flight is full. If it's not, bring the baby carrier on board. If it is, check it at the gate with your stroller(s). They'll give you a tag for each item and they'll be waiting for you right when you get off the plane. I had a wrap in my carry-on as a backup if the flight was full and I had to wear Emily.

Sleeping
We try to either book 2 connected rooms or a 2-bedroom suite so that everyone can spread out for sleeping. Since two of ours are in cribs, we can use closets or bathrooms for pack-n-plays as well. It is worth spending more for space, although we have definitely paid for single rooms in the past and asked for possible upgrades (free upgrades) at check-in. I've written about this in other travel posts, but Matt is a pro at free room upgrades. If there's availability, they do it. We've never been told no when there are upgraded rooms available.

On this trip, we were not as spread out as I would have liked for sleeping, but it actually worked out because the kids were so tired. Our girls shared a room with their pack n plays and Ryan slept on an air mattress in the living room. And yes, Natalie woke up Emily (our 10 month old) every morning because she was so excited to see her when she woke up, but Emily either fell back asleep or got an earlier morning nap.

I am really particular about sleep at home, but the thing to remember about vacation is that you're not following your other daily routines like you are at home, and you're also not doing it alone when you're on vacation. So if sleep gets off, they can make it up in strollers or go to bed earlier one of the nights. It all works out.

Schedule
I am also pretty particular about schedule at home, so I have to let this go somewhat when we travel. The strollers are great for helping with naps and still being able to maximize each day. Because we were on a 3-hour time change, the kids woke up between 4-5:30 each day and therefore needed a little cat nap in the mornings. But this just naturally happened as we would drive to a park or walk around with the strollers. So point is (speaking to myself for our next trip) that all of these little schedule-related things work themselves out and it's best to just chill and be thankful you're on vacation. ;)

Routines
The routines our kids are used to at home revolve around what they do when they first wake up, what/when they eat, and bath/bedtime routines.

We try to keep the morning and evening routines the same and flex on diet- partly out of convenience and partly because having things you don't usual have (treats, juice, ice cream, etc.) when we're on vacation is part of the fun.

So on that note, I mentally prep for some meltdown moments from all of the fun and routine changes. Matt and I definitely have certain expectations for manners and behavior at home, but we try to give more grace for these things on vacation since their little bodies are experiencing a lot of excitement and routine-changes at once. And honestly, we've found that they do so much better than we expect any time we travel.  


So now that I've given you about 4 posts in one, let me know if you have any questions. ;)


Hope y'all have a great weekend!!


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Thursday, May 10, 2018

SeaWorld San Diego


Our SeaWorld day was such a highlight of our trip!


Matt and I said several times that we would definitely be members of the park if we lived there. There was so much to do and so much for the kids to just play on.


Even Emily got to play!


We spent a majority of our morning in the Sesame Street Bay of Play playground area where all 3 kids had a blast. And since our kids are smaller (3, 2, and almost 1), we were up in the play places with them, but it was fun for us too!

If you saw our stories on Instagram, then you might have seen this pic already, but I just DIED laughing when someone messaged me after I posted it the first time and said, "Is it bad that I keep looking at his shadow?!" I didn't even notice his shadow until she pointed it out! hahahha, so good.


They loved the nets, the bridges, the slides, the bouncy things- it was like a kid heaven.


There were also several kid rides in the Bay of Play area, and all of them had zero lines. So the kids rode their favorite rides several times.



On the little teacup ride, Ryan asked if he could ride in one by himself, and then shot me a thumbs-up where he started to stick up his pointer finger (like he's always done), and then looked at it closely and corrected it. And I looked at Matt with the most dramatic, wide-eyed, sad face ever and held back the tears. I don't feel like you always witness the "lasts" as a parent, but I literally watched him realize he had been doing it wrong all this time and correct himself. 

So if everyone could start praying now for when I send him off to college, because I clearly struggle with milestones. 😂 


Here's the rest of us! On our own ride. Without Ryan. (And there I am faking holding it together.) 😜

This girl felt like hot stuff getting to play on the equipment with her big brother and sister!

The touch pools were such a hit with our kiddos. There were several of them with all different animals and opportunities to feed them and pet them. Ryan still talks about touching these tiger sharks (or something like that? Tiger shark could be totally wrong) as one of his favorite parts of the entire San Diego trip.
Y'all. The food at SeaWorld is GOOD. We booked a deal through Get Away Today that got us our zoo ticket + SeaWorld ticket + all-day dining at SeaWorld that allowed us to eat up to every hour if we wanted to. We really only ate 2 meals (like normal people, hah), but this one meal alone would have cost $70 (because theme park food is insane), and SeaWorld doesn't allow you to bring in food. So the dining pass was worth it. The fast pass, however, was not. Save your $10/ticket if you have little kids. 


Another big highlight was the Orca Encounter show! You guys, SeaWorld does it right with their shows. They are only 25 minutes tops, and they are really interesting and interactive. We watched the dolphin show and the Orca Encounter show and loved them both!


But man do I wish I had a video of what happened during the Orca Encounter show. Ryan REALLY wanted to get wet (and I had packed clothes for all of us to get wet at some point during the day), so he, Natalie, and Matt went and sat on the 3rd row, while I had a napping Emily in her carrier out of the "wet zone" (and these are clearly marked, so no worries if you don't want to get wet). Matt said for the first 20 minutes, Ryan kept asking, "Daddy, when are we going to get wet?!" because several other sections had already gotten wet.

Well, right around the 20 minute mark, this big whale came up, turned, and flipped its tail 3 times and SOAKED all three of them with cold water, and then a big gust of wind blew. I saw Ryan from a distance walking out to the aisle, looking for me, crying, and trying to walk up to where I was sitting with Emily. So then I saw Matt grab Natalie and Ryan and walk up the stadium stairs with both of them in his arms, crying and soaked, but with a big smile on his face as all of the other parents laughed at the cuteness and hilariousness of it as he walked by.


Once we were out and changing into dry clothes, both Ryan and Natalie were laughing about it and saying how much fun they had (that picture is them cheesing and waving right before we changed their clothes). I think they didn't expect the water to be so cold or soak them as much as it did!

Ryan was really hoping to ride this one big wet ride, but he was an inch too short (and handled it so well! Proud mama moment ;) ), so instead, he and Natalie and Matt stood by the bridge and got themselves soaked as the other people rode down. :)


Natalie trying to move her mouth like the sting ray :)

This buddy loves checking the map whenever we go places. ;)

I snapped this pic of Natalie on our way back to our hotel. Sweet love looks so tired and content. :)


Okay, tomorrow I'm going to share the rundown of how we handled the flights, sleeping situation, schedules, and routines during our week. I know traveling with kids can feel daunting, so I'm hoping tomorrow's post will help some of you other mamas wrap your minds around the logistics of it all. Because if you're anything like me, you know the idea of traveling with little kids is fun in theory, but you want to know what it's really going to be like once you go for it. ;)

See you tomorrow!

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