A Diary Excerpt from Our First Family Vacation

Going on vacation is hard work.  When you have a kid, it adds a whole other layer.  I can’t imagine traveling with multiple children under the age of 3, or traveling alone with a child.  Just getting out of the house was a chore.  But we did it.  We went on our first family trip, and lived to tell the tale.

Before I get into the actual trip, I wanted to mention again how traveling with a toddler is hard work.  We did it.  And did it well.  And without the need to sedate our 17 month old with Benadryl or a wine dipped Binky.

Here are my top 5 toddler travel tips:
1. Travel light. I know–easier said than done. Try to make it on the bare minimum. No need to pack plates and spoons and cups or diapers. Unless where you’re going is a barn, someone should have those essentials. You can buy diapers when you get there. Try to plan kids’ outfits around 1 or 2 pairs of shoes. This eliminates the need for a lot of bulky shoes that take up space.
2. Keep them entertained. I bought Ella a little travel suitcase and filled it with snacks, books, crayons, stickers and new toys that she hadn’t played with before. I also put a blanket and sippy cup in there. It was a perfect entertainment package on wheels.
3. Fill their stomachs.  Just like adults, children are much more pleasant with full stomachs.  Before we left, we gave Ella a protein packed breakfast of eggs, turkey bacon and soy milk.  Once we got checked in at the airport, we sat and had a nice family meal in the terminal.  I use this trick when we take her anywhere.  Who wants to listen to a whiny, hungry kid?  Not me.
4. Organize.  Once again, I made lists.  I made lists of what we needed to pack and lists of what we’d need to buy once we arrived.  Gallon-sized Ziploc bags also helped me to keep like things together in the suitcase and toiletry bags.  God forbid I mix Ella’s shampoo with mine!  She has her own little place for her stuff.  If you haven’t read my post about staying organized, you should check it out.
5. Be flexible & stay calm.  Let’s face it, no matter how hard you try, you won’t get to see everything or go everywhere that you plan.  Your child will NOT take naps or have the same bed time as they do at home either.  We were lucky to get one nap squeezed in per day, and they were during car rides.  If you don’t stay flexible and realistic, you will drive yourself (and probably others) nuts.  Keep in mind that you will all survive and your vacation is meant to be fun.  You might be tired, but your kids’ fun is really what’s important.


OK–that’s enough small talk.  On to the vacation!  There were so many cute photos and it was really hard to decide on just a few to share with you all.

All of Derek’s immediate family lives in and near Santa Barbara, CA.  And what a wonderful place to have to visit.  I mean really… tough life, people.  I’m pretty sure no one complains that they live there.  It was the title of a soap opera for crying out loud.  And for good reason.  It’s amazing and beautiful, and a pretty neat little place.  The weather was so-so.  It was actually warmer in Denver, but we made the best of it.  And my body isn’t really ready to be seen in a bathing suit anyway!

One of the first things we always do is take a walk out to the bluffs.  They are literally in Derek’s parents’ back yard.  You walk down a short trail and about 15 minutes later you’re standing on top of a hillside that overlooks the Pacific Ocean.  I love taking this walk because of the vegetation.  Anise plants, eucalyptus, mustard plants, succulents.  Breathtaking.  And on the second leg of the journey back to the house, you get to walk through the butterfly sanctuary, where millions of monarchs visit yearly.  If you’re there at the right time of the year, you are in for a treat.  And I love the smell of the ocean.  Every single time we’re out there, it’s like the first time.

We stayed in a cute little loft, courtesy of Derek’s sister and boyfriend.  They gave up their home so that we could stay there for a few days, rent free.  It was about 2 blocks from the beach, and you could actually see the water from their living area.

We spent most of our time with both sets of D’s parents, his sister and her boyfriend, and his older brother, his wife and daughter.  Ella had a blast playing with her older cousin.  On this trip, Ella saw the ocean for the first time.  She loves sandboxes, so this was a dream come true!

We spent most of our time in Goleta and Santa Barbara, but on the last night we headed to San Luis Obispo and then Avila Beach.  On the drive up, we passed about a half a dozen vineyards.  I sooo wanted to stop, but we had a sleeping baby with us.  We pulled off to check out the road where D had his motorcycle accident back in the day.  I snapped a few pics of what was around:

D’s mom put us up in a hotel right on the sand that night. It was wonderful.  We were all so tired that we ordered a pizza and stayed in.  It was too perfect a night to be cooped up in some restaurant somewhere.  I found a sand dollar on this beach.  It was whole and intact and the first one I have ever found in my entire life!  I should play lotto or something.

When we left Santa Barbara on Tues, we all felt the effects of much fun and little sleep.  Ella wasn’t as good spirited as she was when we left Denver. But she was pretty wonderful for a toddler and we’re proud of her.  She pooped on the plane and I don’t even want to tell you what I had to bribe Derek with to get him to be the one who was so lucky to change that diaper 😉  But I guess it was difficult being 6’2″ and in the tiny plane lavatory.

Vacations do a body good.  I haven’t completely felt like myself for a long time, and this trip really helped me to get centered again.  With every experience, our marriage grows stronger.  And with little Ella, I so look forward to a long family life together.

Everyone is sleeping as I blog, and I should be doing the same, but I couldn’t wait to start to create this chronicle.  I have some fun DIY/crafty souvenir ideas that I will be starting this week.  I still have 3 full days of spring break left, and I intend to use them wisely.

xoxo ~Marisa

P.S.  I don’t know… I’m kind of loving these photos and feel like I’m getting a better eye.  I took most of them with my crappy point & shoot Canon.  Some of them were taken with my phone.  I edited them all in Picnik.  I feel like if I get good enough I can justify spending $700 on a DSLR.  I can dream, right?!


2 responses to “A Diary Excerpt from Our First Family Vacation

  1. Dear family-loved reading the blog-what wonderful pictures too. Great to have all this to look back on as well as other days when Ella grows-she too will enjoy looking at the pics!! love ya

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