Big Family Trip! Part 2: to DC!

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On Sunday after the Easter fun, we packed everything up and headed back to DC. (We left an HOUR EARLIER than planned, which is a goddamn miracle.) Andy’s sister told us about the Air & Space Museum at Dulles Airport, which was right on the way, new to all of us (we visited the one on the National Mall on our last trip of course), and broke up the drive perfectly. Super perfect! It was a really cool museum—tons of airplanes of course, and a freaking SPACE SHUTTLE. I was blown away.

We also got these super awesome green-screen photos!

We stayed for about two hours, and drove into DC and parked at our hotel. We walked to the zoo (with stroller!) and wandered around a bit. The boys enjoyed seeing the animals, and so did we, but we all started getting tired and hot and hungry. Grabbed a super quick dinner across the street and then got set up at the hotel.

Speaking of the stroller–we didn’t need it during our time in Virginia, obviously; we brought it with us for airports and for going around town in DC, since there’s so much walking for sightseeing. It was helpful for sure, though the boys seemed to use it as a crutch. Like immediately wanting to sit in the stroller instead of waiting until they were actually tired. They so rarely ride in strollers anymore, so I’m sure it was nice for them to have the option to just sit down. If we hadn’t had it, I know we’d have heard SO much whining about being too tired to walk. (And I just cannot carry a forty-pound person very long or very far.) In general, I would not have guessed one would still need strollers for four-year-olds, but I was glad that I’d been too lazy to sell ours. (We also still have our Ergos! And used one (briefly) as recently as Christmas!)

Monday morning we went to the National Postal Museum. It’s part of the Smithsonian and I’d never heard of it! I guess since it’s not on the Mall it never crossed my radar. Bad tourist! There were some really neat exhibits–an old mail train with cool sorting bags and slots, a game to try using the zip-code machine (it’s this weird keyboard and we all failed at it), some mail scanners, and more. There was a table to try sorting mail, with a person there helping. We learned that members of Congress can sign an envelope instead of paying postage! Apparently it’s so they can communicate easily with their constituents, or for official purposes. A president cannot do this. And you can send mail to the president without including an address…since there’s only one place it can go. Same for Santa. Then there’s a computer station to make your own postage. You can see the boys’ efforts below. 🙂

After lunch at Union Station, we walked over to the National Building Museum. I also had never heard of this one. It was gorgeous. The space is huge and open with enormous pillars and even though I saw it on the website, my jaw still dropped when we got there in person.

There’s a “play zone” that you have to get special tickets for (you can see E playing with a huge toy house below)…but the boys liked another play area even better. It had blue foam blocks to build with. They played for almost an hour before our ticketed time to the other play area, and then for another hour until the museum closed.

Tuesday we packed everything up and went into town one more time to the American History museum. We walked through the transportation exhibit and then hung out in a play area. There was a miniature version of Julia Child’s kitchen, a big fun play structure, some books, and more. On the way out, I made us stop for a family selfie with something DC in the background. 🙂

The boys did well on the metro. They liked tapping our cards for us, and walking up and down the escalators. They behaved very well on the platforms, warning us if we went past the bumps too close to the edge, and sitting quietly on the trains.

The flights home were also very smooth and easy. Andy and I both have pre-check, which means the boys get to do it too. It was amazing to not worry about long lines at security! During the layover in Atlanta, we were sad to find out there are no play areas. So, knowing the next flight would be long and go into bedtime, we made our own playtime. I found a mostly-empty gate and they ran around the chairs in circles. Then I had them hop and jump on the floor tiles. Got them nice and worn out. They watched yet more tv on the flight and finally at 10freaking30 they were tired enough to lay down on my lap and sleep (I was sitting between them). It was really sweet.

Then I noticed someone had wet pants. Good thing I always travel with extra clothes. I had undies, socks, and shorts for them in my backpack just in case, and thank goodness too!

After Andy took him to the bathroom to change, he saw the other boy had even wetter pants. He got changed too, and we smacked ourselves for not having them go potty one last time before going to sleep. Oops!! But that was the only hiccup in our whole travel day.

We picked up our checked bags, got the shuttle to the economy parking lot, and finally arrived back home. It was SO wonderful to get back into our own bed! What a fantastic experience this whole trip was.

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Big Family Trip! Part 1: to Virginia

This was our longest family trip away from home–a full week! And it was awesome! We all had a really good time.

When thinking about gear for this trip, originally I had thought okay, we’ll bring our car seats to save money, in the car seat rollers (which I borrowed), and their single umbrella strollers. And somehow we’d manage all that along with three suitcases…which is hilarious. Happily, we found a much cheaper car rental (Costco!) so even with the car seat rental, it was still not expensive. And Andy realized that *two* single strollers would be stupid, so we switched in the double umbrella that we still have in the garage.

The double umbrella stroller was a really helpful thing to have for sure. Four-year-olds do a lot of whining, especially when there’s walking to be done. So it was perfect for the airport when it was so early in the morning and they were drowsy and we had to keep them corralled anyway.

OH–and check out these adorable backpacks! I found them on craigslist and we stuffed them with their own entertainment: notebook/coloring books, markers, books to read, water bottle, small friends, a toy car. It was really helpful to have their stuff separate from ours (that it wasn’t in my backpack with all my crap too), plus they were excited about carrying their own bag.

The flight was at 6am, which means that we had to be at the airport at “ass o clock” aka way too early for humans. I assumed that the boys would sleep through most of it—that we’d just pick them up in their jammies and put them in the car. (Didn’t everyone have that experience as a kid?) However! They woke up! At like pre-4am when Andy got them out of their beds! And then they stayed awake for the entire day.

The day went really smoothly. The flights went great, and we had plenty of time on the layover to get to the second flight. We boarded very near the end of the process, because why on earth would we want to be sitting in the plane longer than we need to. We had a row of three to ourselves plus the aisle seat next door. It worked great.

The boys watched tv basically the whole time for both flights (we were on Delta with screens at every seat). And I was really totally fine with it. It was way, WAY more screen time than they’ve literally ever had in their lives. But who cares. It made life super easy and it made them happy. Win-win for sure. (And they watched zero television for the next week until our return flights, so it all balances out.) (Also that meant we could watch our own screens! I watched two movies!)

We rented a car and car seats at the DC airport. Somehow it took a freaking HOUR to do the entire car rental process. (Partly because we had to wait for seriously half a dozen elevators) We had a ‘free upgrade’ to a bigger car, a Ford Expedition. It was a freaking beast! I loved the extra space in the backseat and the huge trunk space; it was perfect for all of our assorted baggage.

The drive from DC toward Lexington went smoothly for awhile, even the traffic getting out of the city wasn’t bad at all. It was supposed to take 3.5 hours or so, but somehow it took SIX to get there. We stopped for dinner and run-around time at Cracker Barrel, which abruptly ended with a kitchen fire and evacuation. We finally arrived in Lexington at 11pm. It was a long, long day. But overall it went so well and so smoothly!

It was certainly the right decision to do the early flight and then do a long drive all in the same day. It made for a long-ass day, and some crankiness, but it was really good to get all of it out of the way. We all woke up feeling happy to be there, and had an entire, easy, full day to begin our vacation.

We spent four days there with Andy’s parents, and his sister and her husband. It was all very relaxed, easy-going, no-stress. The weather was perfect—warm and 70s/80s. The boys loved playing around the house—Andy’s childhood legos, a ton of dried beans and cups/containers, some new and old books to read, tons of great yard space, and lots of grandparent and auntie/uncle love and attention and playtime! We hit up a couple local playgrounds too, and went for ice cream at the local shop, but we actually did less ‘outing’ stuff than I’d figured. Oh, and there was a tennis lesson thanks to Grandpa! That was really fun! We so rarely see them try such a brand-new activity, and with a stranger.

As a nice bonus, we were there for Easter weekend! On Saturday, the boys dyed eggs and baked some Easter cupcakes with Grandma. On Sunday morning, they were very excited about the baskets Grandma and I put together, and played with them enough for me to slip outside to hide all the eggs around the big front and backyards. They loved running around and finding all the eggs! I loved watching them have so much fun. I love Easter egg hunts! (I would totally do a grown-up Easter egg hunt; who’s with me?)

I think this timing ended up being really perfect. It was a fantastic time of year with the weather, and this age was just great. They’re young enough to be excited about a lot of things, and old enough to understand and have conversations about what’s going on. We are excited to go back for another trip next year!

Next up: the last two days of our trip, in DC!