Lincoln City, Summer 2018

Every summer we’ve taken a family overnight trip to the Oregon Coast. (In addition to occasional daytrips through the year.) This year we semi-reluctantly chose Lincoln City. There’s no big attraction there really, so we weren’t sure if there would be enough to do. We were pleasantly surprised and enjoyed our two days!

First, we visited the brand-new Tillamook Creamery Visitors Center! (Of course, this is not *in* Lincoln City, but it was on the way-ish.) The boys loved seeing the cheese factory a few years ago and I couldn’t wait to see how the new updated factory looked. Plus, you know…delicious Tillamook cheese and ice cream. The new visitors center is gorgeous and large, and they have (cheese-focused) food area and a separate ice cream counter. The boys once again loved watching the cheese production, specifically the slicers.

From Tillamook, we drove to Lincoln City and found a huge playground! It was at Regatta Park, situated on a sweet little lake. It was totally perfect!

For dinner, of course we went to Pig n Pancake–our favorite coast place. 🙂

We stayed in an oceanfront hotel, which we’ve never actually done before. That first day/night was crazy foggy, so the view was of basically nothing. The next morning though, we were all wowed. The boys loved standing at the window just watching the waves.

We spent a good chunk of the day outside. In the morning, we walked to the main drag to explore some shops. We found a cute little bookstore and also a candy shop.

After lunch it was beach time! There were some sweet tide pools but also splashy waves, so we explored carefully. E in particular was very worried that we would get ‘tided on’ and at one point M and I were standing on a tide pool rock when a big wave crashed up and soaked half of me. Thankfully we kept our footing. (I also had my phone in its waterproof case hanging around my neck, so that stayed safe!) We had just bought a beach tent before this trip and brought it out…it was really tough to put together. It did sort of work to keep us out of the constant wind, but of course the boys weren’t interested in sitting in there for very long.

We hit up the playground again before dinner, and found a pizza place next to an arcade for dinner and entertainment.

Any time we’re all at a hotel, we make sure to stay at a place with a pool so the boys can swim. As always, they loved paddling around in their floaties! They went swimming all three days we were there.

We left after lunch the third day! It was a good amount of time with enough variety to feel like a fun adventure. Hurray for coast trips!

 

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A Week in Maui!

My little brother got married in Maui this November. I got to spend six nights there with my family, and Andy stayed home with the boys. Not too shabby!!

It was gorgeous and peaceful and wonderful. Obviously! It was a pretty quiet week, with a lot of quality family time and relaxed hanging out.

This was the view when we walked into our condo. Our jaws literally dropped.

The wedding was simple, sweet, and beautiful. It was at a beachside/cliffside restaurant at Kanalua Bay, late afternoon just before sunset. My little brother and his new bride looked amazing and so, so happy. We were all so thrilled for them, and to be there to celebrate them.

We went snorkeling a few times: by my brother’s hotel, at Black Rock, at Honolua Bay. (I tried to snorkel by our hotel but got caught in a riptide.) Just like the last time I snorkeled (in Australia), it took me awhile to catch my breath and also try to float. But after the first outing, I got used to it and fell in love and felt right at home. It’s so quiet and peaceful and colorful gazing under the surface, while floating effortlessly. Just magical. It is absolutely my new favorite thing and now I can’t wait to find another vacation as an excuse to snorkel. And take underwater photos–I quickly became a little obsessed.

My sister and I went ziplining! I had so many things on my to-do list but the week didn’t really turn out to be too much of a tourist-activity kind of time. However, I knew I would be mad at myself if I didn’t do a zipline. (I’ve also done them in Guatemala and Costa Rica, and sort of in Australia.) We went with Skyline Zipline, on a hill overlooking the ocean with views of other islands. It was incredible, and I was so glad we did it. 

We did wander Lahaina a couple times, and hang out by a pool or beach.

I read three books over the course of the week! My brain did not allow me to sleep in past 6am, which sucked. So I would just get up and read on the balcony listening to the ocean. And that definitely did not suck.

Overall it was just so beautiful, and a really special family time together.

Astoria! Coast Trip 2017

Our summer coast adventure this summer was to Astoria! We hadn’t been there before, so it was fun to explore a new place. We went on Labor Day for two nights, so there weren’t too many people aorund. Unfortunately, it was also when that horrible Eagle Creek fire started, and the smoke followed us all the way out to the coast.

Our first stop was actually past Astoria at Fort Stevens the famous beach with a real life shipwreck (the Peter Iredale). The boys had a blast playing in the water, climbing the ship, and playing in the sand.

We stayed at the Hampton Inn, of course, which is my favorite hotel because it always has a reliable good free breakfast, and usually a pool. We brought the boys’ floaties and they loved going swimming! They were so cute–flapping so hard around the pool, puffing out their cheeks to hold their breath.

But perhaps even better than being cute, the swimming totally wore out the boys and they went to sleep really fast and easily. Usually vacation bedtime is *terrible* so this was a very welcome surprise. They shared a big bed–this was our first time traveling without a pack n play or a kid tent. What an exciting move up, to not need special places/equipment for them to sleep!

The next day, we drove out to Cape Disappointment and enjoyed being the gorgeous woods to see the lighthouse and the Lewis & Clark Center. (The boys were not terribly enthused about most of the outing; there was a decent amount of whining and complaining.)

On Day Three, we visited the Astoria Column! The boys walked all the way to the top with us, all 165 steps! And then about thirty seconds later they were like, okay let’s go back down.

We also found this huge playground called Tapiola Park, and the boys had a fantastic time running around playing on day two and three.

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Overall it was a really fun trip! I love going on family adventures and exploring new places. 🙂

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.

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!

Summer Coast Adventure 2016!

Hurray for another trip to the coast!

After a lot of trips to the Seaside/Cannon Beach areas, we decided to go somewhere new (Newport) this time for a two-night trip, and I’m glad, because it really did feel like an adventure.

The downside of traveling farther down the coast is obviously that it takes longer to get there. So we drove to Tillamook first (which was our first coast overnight trip with babies in 2013) and spent the afternoon in that area.

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The boys LOVED the cheese factory. They lay down on the floor and settled in like they were watching television. Probably they would have stayed for quite awhile…as it was we had to practically force them away, and that was to go get ice cream!

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Of course they loved getting to choose and enjoy their own big ice cream cones! (When we go to our local ice cream shop, they get a half scoop in a cup.)

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From there, we drove to Cape Lookout. The boys were excited to see a real live lighthouse! Sadly they were too small to go up to the top, but they’ll be excited next year to do it. 🙂 It was a gorgeous day to enjoy the coastal scenery!

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We drove south along the coast and I kept oohing and aahing. I wanted to stop every five feet but sat on my hands. We did pull into this viewpoint and I decided I wanted to jump with my boys. Andy dutifully took photos for me. 🙂 E & M did really well and they had a great time jumping with me! ❤

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We stopped for dinner at Pig n Pancake in Lincoln City (it’s our favorite place to eat when we’re at the coast), and continued down to Newport. The light as we approached was AMAZING. It wasn’t golden hour yet, but it was that perfect gold afternoon light and I was alternately so excited and so frustrated because I couldn’t stop and explore with my camera.

We arrived at our “hoo-tel,” as the boys kept saying, just across the street from the beach. It was going to be the boys’ bedtime soon but the weather and the light were perfect — PERFECT — so we dropped our stuff in our junior suite (literally half of our stuff was stuffed friends, by the way) and walked over to the beach.

Check it out. There was only a light breeze, and I was completely giddy with that light:

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They had a fabulous time scooping sand into buckets, running in circles, etc. We had to practically drag them away.

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Bedtime back at the hotel was…pretty much the worst. It took like two hours for them to calm down and go to sleep. It was after 10:30 I think. UGHHH.

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The next day we started out at the Newport Aquarium. This was the big draw for us and impetus for this trip; we’d been waiting a year or two until the boys would be big enough to enjoy it. We figured this age would be great. And since it cost so much for the four of us to get in, we were hoping they would think so too!

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We were there for 4-5 hours total, and we all enjoyed exploring. I had assumed it would be a bit bigger/fancier than it really was, but there was plenty to see. They didn’t care too much about the indoor exhibits, but they liked watching the otters swim in the outdoor exhibits. The tunnel, which we’ve seen in Goodnight Oregon for years now, was not quite as spectacular as I’d expected. But there were three or four, not just one, and that was neat. It was pretty cool to see sharks swimming above your head! Of course, the boys weren’t super interested in the fish…they were super intrigued by the scuba divers (which they pronounce scoopa-divers). They just wanted to sit and watch the divers float around.

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Once we’d exhausted the exhibits, we hit the gift shop on the way out. There, the boys discovered the shiny rocks bin. They played with them for probably fifteen minutes and would have happily stayed much longer. We did buy them a pouch of rocks of their choosing. (Which then would fall out/spill in the car and in the hotel for the rest of the trip, causing much distress.) After we’d finally left we asked them their favorite part of the aquarium, and they both said, the shiny rocks. Kids, man.

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That afternoon, after a nap and snack, we went to Seal Rock. I was hoping it wouldn’t be very windy, and there were supposed to be tide pools there. Unfortunately, E woke up super cranky, and he was very, very unhappy about the strong winds. M was happy though; he dug in the sand for a bit and then wanted to run around in the edge of the sand/water. I started to take E back to the car and halfway up the trail he decided that he wanted to go back to the beach. He was calmer and happier after that. M was having a great time racing near the water, and he and I went to explore the tide pools that were emerging. (Low tide was still several hours away, but the water was retreating slowly.) And eventually I found some sealife! I cut my feet really bad on some barnacles but I found a little puddle on a rock that was ringed with anemones! It was our first tidepool experience and wild sea creature spotting, and I was really excited about it. 🙂

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The following morning we visited the Hatfield Marine Science Center. It’s fairly small, but has some neat things to see. There is one octopus which we saw for less than a minute before she went into hiding again. There were two really neat water tables that demonstrated the tides and tsunamis. I was as interested as all the kids were. 🙂 And then we found the augmented reality geography sand table!! The boys would have played there all.day.long. (I can’t blame them; it’s a really fun tool.)

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Our final stop was the Yaquina Lighthouse in the afternoon before we headed home. It was CRAZY WINDY and so foggy we could honestly just barely see the lighthouse from the parking lot. It was very dramatic to see the scenery in that weather! We went to the visitor’s center afterward and the whole place looks so different in all the sunny pictures. (Also, we learned there that it’s pronounced “Yeh-kwinna” not “Yah-keenha”, which is weird.)

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As you can see, it was full and fun family adventure! I love creating these little traditions and exploring new places with our boys. I wonder how and when they’ll start building permanent memories, but even just for now, it’s pretty wonderful.

Family trip in Washington, DC!

Here’s Part 2 of our first big trip–actually being in Washington, DC. (Part 1 was our flying experience) I booked us at the Hampton Inn near the Convention Center. It was pretty near to two Metro stations, and since that was our only mode of transport, it was very important.

Back when I was traveling regularly for work, I discovered Hampton Inn and it became my hotel of choice. It’s always a decent price, and they have a great breakfast buffet. (This one also had a pool, and I brought all of our swim stuff but we didn’t end up going.). Free breakfast may seem like a silly perk or amenity, but whenever I traveled on my own, having a free meal first thing makes the rest of the day seem easier.

Having two small children to feed made a big free breakfast on site even more important. It saved us a lot of money and a ton of effort to just go downstairs and have their choice of cheerios, oatmeal, milk, a muffin, a waffle, yogurt, a banana, a bagel, toast. (Otherwise we would have had to buy a bunch of food and utensils/plates and eat in the hotel room, or go out for breakfast, which would take a lot of time and money.)

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The first thing they did when we got to the hotel was start looking for things to play with, and they zeroed in the phones. We had to unplug them so they didn’t accidentally call people. Then the phones became real toys–the boys made them necklaces and guitars, among other things. (Here’s Emmett strumming the phone.) (They also do this with books, by the way–hold and strum them like guitars.)

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I was kind of excited about taking the boys on the DC Metro. They love trains, they usually like seeing new places, and it was their first foray into big city public transportation. They seemed excited to go on the escalators, and watching the trains come in and out of the stations. We also discovered that all (?) of the stations have an elevator somewhere. This was a lifesaver, because while we could take them out of the umbrella stroller to take the escalators, it took a lot of time and energy. Plus it was such a surprise, since many subway stations in NYC don’t have elevators. The only bad thing was that weekend service is pretty spread out, so we often had to wait ten minutes for every trip to get on a train.

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One of the best reasons to travel to DC as a family is all the free site-seeing. There are so many world-class Smithsonian museums, all with free admission. As anyone with small kids knows, they don’t have long attention spans, so I would have been pissed to spend a lot of money for four tickets only to spend 30 minutes there. As it was, we could sort of run in and out at our leisure.

Our first stop was on Saturday morning to the Natural History museum. We looked at the dinosaurs very briefly, and walked through the ocean room, and then the jungle/savannah area. They sort of liked seeing the dinos, I think, but didn’t seem super excited to see the other animals. We all had fun in the gift shop, though. 🙂

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Saturday afternoon was the wedding! The boys stayed with a babysitter at the hotel, and we had a beautiful evening celebrating E & B!

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Sunday morning, the grandparents met us at the Air & Space museum. The planes were interesting, but their two favorite places were the re-created aircraft carrier area (especially the video that showed planes taking off from the deck), and this display of suitcases that opened and closed.

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On late Sunday afternoon, we went to the National Zoo, and the rest of Andy’s family met us there too. Hurray for more family time! The pandas were off exhibit with their new little babies, and so mainly we just saw the elephants.

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We all took the metro back into town together, and the boys were really sad when the others had to leave–they wanted more time with everyone!

Our last day was Monday. We began back at the National Mall again, at the Carousel. It opens at 11am, in case you’re wondering. DSC_0396_WEB

From there we spent almost two hours in the American History museum. A helpful lady at the front desk pointed out the areas that our toddlers would enjoy–the Kermit puppet, and the transportation exhibits: trains, cars, and buses. They did indeed love running around looking at all the cool things!

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The entire Mall is under construction…which is a bummer if you’re anyone but a toddler. They would seriously have sat and watched the construction vehicles for an hour, or more, I bet.

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Finally, it was time to head to the airport. We decided to just do the train after all, since Uber Family was unlikely to be around. I also found one of those suitcase straps that allows you to ‘carry’ one on top of another, which allowed me to drag all three suitcases at once, plus wear a backpack. Andy wore the other backpack and pushed the double stroller. And because of the elevators, it worked out quite nicely and easily! (Again, that would not be the case in New York!)

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So overall, as you can see, it was a great trip, and we all had a good time. Combining seeing family and seeing exciting new places was extra special, and this age seems like such a fun time to explore together. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I can’t wait to travel with our twins again!