Being so close to Chattanooga you would think we would be more frequent visitors, but this was actually our first time to go together! I think when you do something a lot as a kid or it’s too close to home, it can lose some magic and novelty in your mind.
But all cities can grow and change and update while still having those familiar memories that conjure up your 4th grade field trip or a family vacation. The fact that family travel can resurrect the magic of old places through the eyes of your own child is another reason I love it! Travel with kids can also take you to little corners you otherwise wouldn’t go. (Itinerary included.)
We are big fans of snow days over here! They usually only come once or twice a year, so we don't usually have time to get sick of them. Our city also doesn't have enough salt trucks or plows to handle all of the icy roads, so we get to completely shut down for a day or two.
It's even better when no ice has weighed down power lines, and we are still cozy with all the comforts of home (internet, heat and all) like today.
Rowan wanted to sled like the big kids for the first time, so we had to improvise with a plastic storage box. It was a pretty good solution thanks to Zack's ingenuity, and he didn't topple out even once! I'm also proud of myself that I didn't take any pregnant-falls on the ice, even though everything is pretty much like ice skating.
I don't really have anything monumental to share other than our funny storage box idea.. hahaha! But I just wanted to remember this day, because it's been really fun. I also have a recent obsession with Enneagram tri-types and instincts this week, and I just really want ALL my friends to take Enneagram tests so I can know what everyone's dominant type (and wing) is. In between building snowmen, taking naps and playing board games, you should get on that right now and tell me what you are. If you don't, then I'll feel like a big piece of my friendships are missing -- like the type 4 wing 3 that I am. Ha!
In honor of a fun weekend enjoying the premiere of another J.K. Rowling story, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I thought I'd share more about our little experience in the wizarding world. Over in Scotland, the Jacobite Steam Train known to many as the "Hogwarts Express" is packing up its coal for the winter. However, if you are planning a Scotland trip for this upcoming summer, tickets for the 2017 season go on sale today, November 18th!
The train will run from May 1st to October 27th next year (with the exception of special Christmas rides) and all of those months are prime for visiting Scotland. We especially loved our September visit (as opposed to our last trip in March), because everything was so colorful with loads of purple heather and red rowan tree berries in bloom.
So here are my top tips for including this excursion into your Scotland itinerary.
Aaaand we're BACK! I hope none of you are tired of me talking about our trip already. If you are, then I'm not sure why you are looking at my blog right now. Get outa here!... JK I love you, please be my friend. You guys, the mom-brain and travel-haze is so real, because I've been home for about a week and am already forgetting details about things that happened. God help meh! I'm so glad I'm writing this down! If you missed part one about our Oxford visit + how we packed, then check that out first.
So on the 5th day of our trip... "my true love gave to meeee... FIVE GOLDEN--"
Sorry. Staying on track...
DAY 5: When we were planning this section of the trip, we definitely made a calendar error. We wanted to just take a train to Glasgow and stay there for a day, but then we realized we were one day short and would have to stay on the railway alllll the way to Fort William with only a short stop-off in Glasgow.
Well, our traveling craze just earned us another badge. We officially survived our first family-style international traveling experience with an almost 2 year old. Back in March, we took a cross-country trip to Portland and drove down to the Redwoods in California. After that experience, I had moments of doubt that we would ever be able to travel internationally or with multiple children one day. But then... as we thought back on our planning mistakes with the Oregon trip and realized Rowan's free, under-two travel window was expiring (along with my last month before returning to teach)... we knew we had to squeeze in a trip. CARPE DIEM, PEOPLE!
So you are trying to simply walk out of the door and make it to the car with your kid. It's just a morning outing and somehow you're holding TWO different bags and a juice cup as you stuff a stray extra diaper in the backpack shaped like a (insert: fox, owl, ladybug, giraffe, monkey, etc.) with your non-phone/juice holding hand and grab your keys - whoops! dropped the phone!... [insert crazy-face emoji here]... If that description sounded very normal to you, then the title of this post probably sounds hilarious. It's hard to imagine EVER packing all you could need for an entire trip with a kiddo in one or two bags, but I'm here to testify... you can!
Obviously no destination is created equal, but this is how we tried to pack as smart and light *BUT AS PREPARED* as possible for our Oregon roadtrip.
This March, I turned the big 3-0! Yes, it's true. But instead of a party, all I asked for was an exciting trip... Then I remembered we have a 1 year old. So we carefully evaluated just how big and how exciting... And although he's plenty old enough for grandparent overnight babysitting, being without Rowan an entire week was really going to bring down my level of carefree galavanting (i.e. I might've had panic attacks.) We decided to use our Skymiles for free tickets and keep it in the States, and we planned a trip to drive down to see the Redwoods from Portland.
A week ago, we took Rowan to Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve on his first official hike. I suppose I'm still trying to play catch up on my 2015 goal of "doing things in Birmingham we never have," and Ruffner was on that list.
It was a perfect 55 degree February day, and the trails are extremely accessible. No need to stop in deserted rural areas asking the folks at the gas station where a trailhead is as you scour your iPhone maps and get half-hearted advice... "The what? Oh, yeah just turn left and head up the road a ways." GREAT. THANKS.
We parked and checked out the facilities at the Visitor Center, and then set out on the Quarry Trail. This was just over a mile and then it branched off to the Overlook trail, which is less than a half a mile more.
If Rowan hadn't been lulled to sleep in the backpack carrier, then it would've been a very relaxing, easy trek. Unfortunately he was flopping all around while snoozing pretty hard, so Zack had to carry him like a sack of potatoes for a good portion as we tried to wake him up. It wasn't even nap time! Sheesh! That's just how peaceful it was.
Halloween 2013. Zack and I were flying home (to Nashville) from our honeymoon with a group of friendly, cat-ear-wearing flight attendants. Two years later, I have a nap-fighting toddler who finally fell asleep, and I just raided the Halloween candy stash for a Reese's -- the only candy I like/love/regret.
If you missed part one of my honeymoon reminiscing, you can read here where I talked about the crazy ways we ended up having a free trip!
The title of this post is misleading, because I'm not really experienced enough to tell you "how to" do the best European honeymoon by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, I'm just going to recall all that we were able to squeeze into a week and a half without going over our Honeymoon Budget. So who knows, maybe it will help someone as you plan some adventuring. And if you are just here for the outlined itinerary without the stories... scroll down! :)
In honor of our "honeymoon week," I thought I'd post about our 12-day honeymoon in five cities and two different countries... that was free! (Read the full travel journal here.) Okay, I admit it, my post title is a little bit "click bait" material, but I'm really serious that our honeymoon was free (to us). Here's how...