I laughed out loud in the dark earlier this month when I came across this this article while scrolling through my Facebook feed, instead of going to sleep at a reasonable hour.
And, then a couple of weeks later, as we made our way through a weeklong Canadian road trip, I laughed quietly to myself again and again, as I did many of the things mentioned in the post.
Rifling through my backpack to make sure that I had some “in case of emergency” plastic bags tucked in one of the compartments? Yep.
Scanning the aisles of a grocery stores in Ottawa for microwaveable mac and cheese to make in our en suite kitchen back at the hotel? Check.
Using the nightstand as a pillow because our hotel was out of rooms with two double beds and all four of us were trying to make it work in a king? Uh-huh. For three nights.
And, we did all of this with my BFF and her family. The author of the aforementioned post doesn’t seem to be a fan of this idea, it’s actually pretty awesome.
Traveling alongside a family with other small children means that everybody is cool with eating dinner at 6 p.m., while Daniel Tiger plays on the iPhone. (Please note that the vacation vibe does not make him any less annoying. But, his whining is small price for the adults to pay in order to enjoy a beverage in relative peace, while reminiscing about the pre-kid days of couples-only vacations where you all listened to the audio tours at museums).
Everyone understands that there will be frequent pit stops, snack breaks and pre-nap meltdowns. You’ll just scout the restrooms for baby changing tables and pass the Goldfish crackers, as needed.
No one can be jealous of–or feel superior to–people who got to sleep in—rest assured, no one is sleeping in because those hotel blackout curtains are a joke.
I think it worked for us because, in general, we are a fairly drama-free group. The adults get along well and our girls are adorable together. They would literally light up upon seeing each other in the mornings when we would meet up for our outings and kept each other entertained along the way. When it made more sense to do things separately because of naps, moods or interests, we did. And, each couple managed to sneak in a date (!) while the other family entertained the kids for the evening.
So, yes, term “vacation” becomes a little muddled when you add to kids to the mix. It basically amounts to doing everything you would do at home to keep your kids happy and alive…just in another city. But, that doesn’t make these trips any less worthwhile. Seeing Alice scream with joy over all of the fountains in public parks, watching B conquer the winding staircase to the top of a tower and remembering how our three girls made each other laugh are the souvenirs that we’ll carry with us, carefully pulling them out and dusting them off to talk about some years from now, when its just us grown-ups on vacation again.
Here’s a little photo journal from our trip! If you follow along on Instagram, you may have seen some of these already, but I was so excited to actually shoot with my “good” camera again instead of just my iPhone.
Before heading across the border, we spent a night in Skaneateles, NY, to break up the driving. It was an adorable little town, and I would love to go back in the fall when the leaves change.
The next day, we drove to Alexandria Bay for lunch and a boat ride across the St. Lawrence River to Boldt Castle. This sprawling estate was built by the owner of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel as a display of love for his wife. When she died suddenly in the early 1900s, he stopped all construction on it and the house fell into ruins before restoration began in the 1970s. The boat ride is about ten minutes, and you but you could easily spend all day wandering the island and touring the house and grounds.
After our boat trip back, it was on the road again for a three hour drive over the Canadian border, Ottawa. We spent two full days there, and felt like that provided a good amount of time to explore. The city is compact and walkable and wasn’t overly crowded. It’s a government center, so people seemed to clear out in the late afternoon, leaving the city relatively empty by just after 5 p.m. There’s a nice mix of old and new, in terms of the architecture and overall vibe of the city.
The next day, it was off to Toronto. We broke up the five hour drive from Ottawa to there with a stop in Kingston for lunch and a stroll. I’m a sucker for cute, little towns, and this is one!
Toronto has a much different feel than Ottawa–busier, more metropolitan, sprawling. We also had two full days there, and spent our time in the city center. Like Philly or New York, it is a city of neighborhoods, and I think we would definitely like to make a return trip to explore some more.
After our visit to Casa Loma, we did a lot of walking through downtown, including the Kensington Market area. This is definitely a neighborhood to come to hungry–there are tons of food options, from just about every cuisine imaginable. Some of us (ahem, B), don’t have quite an extensive palate–fortunately, there were cupcakes.
Our second day included a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame (Chester probably enjoyed this the most). But, thanks to a nice lady who offered to take this photo of us in front of the CN Tower, we actually have a halfway decent family photo from this trip!
For our last stop north of the border, we stopped at Niagara Falls. The weather wasn’t great that day–humid and overcast–so the kids weren’t really all that happy to be outdoors. But, I don’t think the grown-ups minded. If anything, the extra mist and choppy water made the falls look even more impressive. It really is quite a sight.
Niagara Falls to PA would have been about a seven hour drive, so we made one more overnight stop in New York (Canandaigua), before heading home!