This is a delayed post from July 2015. As you know, my child is now 13 and sees the world a bit differently. It is always fun to look back on our adventures.
Do you want to explore a big hole in the ground? It’s 450 miles long, and counting. It is a lot of fun!
Living now in the midwest, Kentucky is a lot closer than it was when I was growing up in New England. My daughter and I recently decided to take advantage of our proximity to this national treasure and head out for a week of fun. We met my parents who live in North Carolina and headed out for adventure while my hubby was off studying hard.
Now, my parents and I have been to Mammoth Cave before. I was, perhaps, still living in their house the last time we visited. Even though it was far away, they still managed to pack their 3 kiddos in the car and get us out into the world to enjoy something new as often as possible.
Though most of our group had been to this giant hole in the ground before, kiddo had not, so off we went. We camped in an RV park nearby (my parents have a travel trailer) and drove into the National Park each day. There were shenanigans all the way in and out of the park I might add. My parents, my child, and I are goofy people, especially when we are together. We behave in public but in private cars, not so much.
We took 3 cave tours over the course of 3 days. The first was called the Gothic Avenue tour and we entered through the Historic Entrance. It is a very interesting place. We saw historic graffiti and had a pleasant, well lit walk.
The second, called Frozen Niagara, went well. Kiddo loved it, we saw cool stuff and we were in the cave for about 20 minutes. This tour does not start at the Historic Entrance but at a little door in the woods. Fun, and a pretty drive on the bus to get there. Kiddo was a pro by now and knew not to touch anything and even asked the guide good questions.
The third tour was, well, different. The Star Chamber tour is actually really cool. You tour only with lanterns like people did in the 1800s. They also, for about 2 minutes, plunge you into complete darkness, as in can’t see your hand in front of your face darkness. You get to see sections of the cave that you won’t on other tours and I highly recommend it. Actually, I recommend it IF you have older teenagers or if your group is all adults. You see, 10 year olds might freak out about the dark and the creepy. Kiddo DID NOT care for this one. To make things more complicated, while we were in the cave that night a HUGE storm came up. Now, during a terrible storm like that in Kentucky, the safest place to be is in the cave. It is the ultimate basement, good tornado safety and all. In fact, we were so far in, we couldn’t hear the weather at all; we only knew because our guide was notified. Once we got back to the Historic Entrance we could hear it through the door though. Yes, they were right, it was a BIG storm.
Do you know what the park rangers do if you are on an evening cave tour (the last and only tour currently underway) during a storm like that? Well, they are very careful with you, that’s what. They take your safety very seriously. You get to stay in the cave until the gigantic storm passes…with your lanterns…still on a tour your daughter doesn’t want to be on for one second longer…fun!
No manner of convincing my child that we were safe, that the rangers were trained for this and had everything under control, that we couldn’t be left completely in the dark even if the power went out in the entrance area because we had our own lanterns (and flashlights, and smartphones for that matter) worked. She was, thankfully, old enough to keep herself from throwing an actual fit but she was furious with her mother!!
So the next day we decided to stay above ground and see how Corvettes were made. Both my child and my father thought it was the coolest thing ever. My husband was so jealous when we told him about it. My daughter now can pick out a Corvette from way down the road. In truth she is still looking for the grey one that was delivered to someone who lives in our county while we were there. The county isn’t that big and the license plate is easy to remember so I’ll let you know if we find it.
Weird things happen on vacation folks! That ought to be my tagline.
If you can swing it and your child is old enough, I highly recommend summer camp for a week at a time. I just signed my child up, once again, for adventure camp where she can climb walls, stomp in a creek, work with her team on a ropes course, sleep outside, hike, bike, and swim to her heart’s content. This is a camp she has been to for several summers but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t look forward to it all year. During that week away, she forgets she has parents unless we send her a care package that is.
As much as I love and advocate family vacations for adventure and general family bonding, it is important for kiddos to have time on their own to spread their wings and figure out what they are made of. If your child is not comfortable going away to camp just yet, there are several camps that offer that a “women’s week” or “parents’ week” where Mom or Dad can stay at camp too. The kiddos have their own activities throughout the day and then stay with their parents at night instead of with other kids and counselors. If finances are an issue, many camps have scholarships available. Try to find a way for your kids to fly on their own if you can, it will bring confidence, resilience, and fun!
Congratulations, you had a baby, you never get to leave your house again! Uh, NOPE! I know it can feel that way sometimes but it simply is not true. Having children will absolutely change your life, every part of it, but if you love to travel, your kids probably will too. Yes, the younger they are, they harder children can be to travel with but kids grow fast. What’s that saying? The days are long but the years are short. Blink and your infant will be a 13 year old who is taller than you are. Ask me how I know. (I really should have seen this coming, my husband is 6’3″.)
That said, you only have a few years of having children home with you to travel with them as a family. Take advantage of the time. Travel with small kids, travel with big kids, get those kids out to see the world around them. Broaden their horizons and teach them that a whole world exists outside of their little town. Yes, there will be days that you wish you’d never left the house what with the whining and arguing but there will be more days that you are SO glad you got to enjoy.
Traveling is a great way to bond with your kids. You’ll get to see the world through their eyes. You can take them places you visited as a child or you can experience new things together. You’ll make memories and teach life skills. Oh so many life skills! That’s a topic for another day though.
Chances are you think your kids are funny. Well, pint-sized or taller than you, they are probably funnier when they travel. Breaking out of routines and schedules brings this out in people perhaps because they feel freer. The kids might even get along with each other, *gasp*! (Do not say it out loud though, you don’t want to jinx it!) When you take kids out into the world, hilarity is sure to ensue. If it happens at Target, it can happen at the Grand Canyon. You’ll likely find yourselves in weird situations, due to travel delays, new food options, or just because you are tired. Enjoy the weird stuff and laugh. Twenty-five years later my family still talks about chip bags exploding as we drove up into the mountains, melted steps in Utah, a sneezing fit that sent 4 of us into giggles and 1 of us into terror that we were going to drive off the cliff in Mesa Verde, the guide’s reaction to Dad’s hat staying on through class 3 rapids, my brothers’ very own “radio show” in the backseat of the van complete with commercials for random household items, and the strange juggling waiter at Perkins. Sometimes it is the kids who are funny and sometimes it’s their reactions. Enjoy and maybe keep a journal.
Sometimes things go WRONG. Have you ever been in a camper in Nebraska during a wind storm that spawned tornadoes? Have you ever been driving through the desert and had your engine overheat? Have you been on the wrong side of the swiftly, and historically, rising Mississippi and had your engine overheat again? No? Lucky you. All of these things happened on the same trip as the hysterics in the section above. A little adversity does tend to bring a family together. It also teaches kids that if you work together, you can get through just about anything. Kids and adults alike learn resilience and that laughter really does help. It makes us better people and better families.
So get out there with your kids. Go for day trips, weekend trips, or month long adventures. Do what fits your interests, time, and budget but do explore with your kids. They grow fast and the memories of traveling together will stay with them for a lifetime.
This, my friends, is another delayed post. We visited Scotland in May 2017 and we can’t wait to go back. We met the kindest people and thoroughly enjoyed our visit. The words may have been lost for a bit but the adventure was not!
Somehow I am lucky enough to be leaving for Scotland in a few days. Since we are traveling internationally, watch this space for run-ins with border patrol. Something odd always happens to us. From a VERY un-amused guard at Heathrow to our first ever jovial guard on the border between Ontario and Michigan.
Before all the border crossing fun begins, let’s get to the planning shall we? As I’ve mentioned before, I really love to plan trips. By this I mean, I like to know what there is for us to do in a place and then partake of whatever strikes our fancy when we find ourselves in that city, or in this case, that barely inhabited section of the Scottish Highlands. I’m so excited! I’ve wanted to go to Scotland for a very long time.
We will be in Scotland for 10 days and we are essentially breaking our trip into 2 parts. First we’ll be in Edinburgh for several days and then, once we are fully conscious, we’ll be renting a car and headed out for a very different kind of adventure. In Edinburgh we’ll spend a day walking the Royal Mile and then take suggestions from our Airbnb host and other people we meet who are lucky enough to live there as to how to fill the rest of our days. I bet we find some great local places!
Once we head into the Highlands, there are a few whisky distilleries we plan to stop at, including my husband’s favorites. (Did I mention we are taking this particular trip sans kiddo?) We also have a couple of castles on our list, a Skyfall sight or 2, and some time on the Isles of Skye and Iona. For the most part though, we are going to take our time driving and stop wherever we like. It’s a beautiful place and we have no intention of speeding past it.
We will be staying at Airbnbs the entire time. During this trip will be mostly in private rooms in homes as opposed to having the whole place to ourselves. Our hosts are already helping us figure out what to see and do and ensuring we have a great time. I just wish I could figure out a small American gift that is easy to pack and would be enjoyed by all of our hosts. We always pitch in around the house but a small memento might be nice too. Hmm.
I talk a lot about travel planning on this site. I confess that I’m an over-planner, I tell you how to set yourself up for a great road trip or flight with little kids. I plan and I plan and I plan. I can hear you asking, “Why, my dear, do you do this?” I’m glad you asked and there are two reasons.
I like to plan. It is how I’m wired. I think it is fun to work through logistics and enjoy a trip long even before I leave. Heck, I even like planning other people’s trips!
I like to have some idea of what is coming my way, a basic framework upon which I can rely. It allows to me relax and just enjoy, or at least handle, the experiences when they come.
Specifically, when we travel I like to know where I am going to lay my head each night and that I can keep everyone healthy by having decent food choices available. When we travel with our dog, it is a bit more complicated because not every place will take a dog. I know this limits our flexibility but otherwise I’d worry all day about where we would stay and I wouldn’t enjoy the time away. Besides, it’s not the end of the world to cancel a reservation if plans change drastically.
Honestly, when we leave on a trip, I stop worrying. Whatever happens, happens. I have prepared for most contingencies and I know that we can handle nearly anything that may come our way.
My husband was stung by several bees. I had Benadryl. It was a non-issue after that and we went on with life.
We got stopped at the border because the guards thought we had stolen our own car. I had all of the paperwork proving otherwise so it was a matter of a phone call to verify once the bureau opened in our state.
I have my bag searched rather frequently when flying (and sometimes when driving over borders). I pack well and keep like things together, frequently in see-through containers. This keeps the searches to a minute or two and I am on my way.
We’ve faced major road closures in faraway places. I have electronic and paper maps in the car to re-route.
We’ve been stuck in traffic for hours on end behind terrible accidents. We stop regularly to fill the gas tank and use facilities. We keep snacks, entertainment, and blankets easily accessible.
We try to drive and fly as safely as we can but things happen. We know that we are prepared and whatever happens, we will roll with it. There is really no other choice. As long as everyone makes it through the trip, the stories usually become funny anecdotes once enough time has passed.
In short, the reason I plan (besides that I enjoy it) is because weird things happen on vacation! (Seriously, this should be my tagline. Can I copyright that?)
This is the first in the New Adventures series. In this series, I will be outlining plans for future trips. I expect this series will cover most of 2019 and perhaps spill into 2020.
These posts will contain a variety of information based on location, modes of transportation, budgets, etc. I plan to have a Stats section at the top of each post to provide a snapshot of what’s to come. Each trip will come in a set of posts. There will typically be an itinerary post like this one, followed by one or more posts about what to do in each location, and, when needed, a packing post.
I’m starting with the Upper Midwest and Pacific Northwest for two reasons: 1. It is close by, relatively speaking. 2. There seem to be a few states that I haven’t seen, as in nearly all of them.
Let’s head out, shall we?
Mode of transportation: Personal vehicle, road trip! Miles: roughly 5,100 + 500 for extra excursions further off of the highway. Hours in the car: roughly 83 Days: 22 States: 11 (I am not counting our home state.) Travelers: 2 adults, 1 teenager, 1 tiny dog Visas/paperwork: None. All of the humans are US citizens and our dog is not a restricted breed anywhere. Overnights: 21 Airbnbs: 6 Hotels: 6 Campgrounds (tent camping): 2 Estimated Cost of Transportation: $560 (5,600 miles at 35 mpg and $3.50 per gallon. We drive a hybrid sedan and usually get 37-40 mpg so this is a conservative estimate,) Estimated Cost of Lodging: $2,700 (I pad the costs a bit to help with budgeting but it comes out to about $130 per night for private, pet-friendly spaces with kitchens, real beds for everyone, wi-fi, usually a washing machine, and parking included.) Estimated food costs: $1,000 (This assumes that we will mostly buy prepared food. With included breakfast and cooking for ourselves, we can bring this way down.) Running Total Cost: $4,260 Major Points of Interest for Our Family: Chicago, University of Wisconsin- Madison, Minneapolis, Glacier National Park, Seattle, Portland, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore
We live near Indianapolis so we will start there. 1. Chicago, IL – 3-hour drive – we’ll leave home early and the time change will work in our favor – overnight – Airbnb ($200). BTW, options include a Harry Potter themed apartment!
2. Madison, WI – 2-hour drive – stop for lunch and wander around Univ. of Wisconsin campus to stretch our legs. This is a point of interest for us since a dear friend attended this school. Since it is on the way, we want to stop.
3. Minneapolis, MN – 4-hour drive – 2 overnights – Airbnb ($300) We have friends who live here now so we’d love to visit with them. Besides, it’s a pretty cool city.
4. Bismarck, ND – 6-hour drive – overnight – Hotel ($100) Country Inn & Suites
5. Minot, ND – 2-hour drive – overnight – Hotel ($80) Microtel by Wyndham
6. Havre, MT – 6.5-hour drive – overnight – Hotel ($120) AmericInn by Wyndham * Time Zone Change to Mountain Time Zone
7. Glacier National Park – 4.5-hour drive – 2 overnights – camp in the park ($46 – $23/night at Many Glacier Campground. We can make reservations ahead of time and though there are no showers at the campground, it is a short walk to a motel that has coin-operated showers. Not luxury travel by any means but adventures come in many forms!)
8. Spokane, WA – 5-hour drive – overnight – Airbnb ($100) *Time Zone Change to Pacific Time Zone
14. Mount Rushmore – 2.5-hour drive – overnight – Hotel ($250). This is a bit high for us for one night. We might actually keep going after our stop at the monument. This is a gamble though, South Dakota has wide stretches between population centers.
15. Jackson, MN – 6.5-hour drive – overnight – Hotel ($160) AmericInn by Wyndham *Time Zone Change to Central Time Zone
16. Davenport, IA – 5.5-hour drive – overnight – Hotel ($130) My Place. This is a chain I haven’t heard of and this is a newly built facility but it comes highly rated.
17. Indianapolis – 4.5-hour drive – home (We already pay the mortgage so it costs us nothing extra.) *Time Zone Change to Eastern Time Zone
This is, admittedly, an ambitious trip. Driving 5,100 miles in 21 days is quite a bit. This breaks down to about 4 hours of driving per day. Since we will not be changing location every day, some days will require more driving than just 4 hours. Luckily, my husband likes to drive, my daughter and I are excellent passengers, and my dog settles down within 30 minutes.
Why Airbnb vs. Hotels? (Please note that I did not list individual homes for Airbnbs above. I did extensive research and that is what we would pay but since they are people’s private homes and that seems wrong.) We like Airbnb for several reasons. -We get to live like locals so we have a more authentic experience of what life is like there. We do like points of interest now and then but we really just want to get a feel for the place. -We’ve always had good luck though we do expect that our luck will eventually run out. -If we have a whole place there are fewer people to annoy if our dog barks for a few minutes when we need to leave him for a few hours if we are headed somewhere we can’t take him. He is crated though so we don’t worry that he destroy anything.** – We can cook for ourselves to keep costs down. -We can get a washing machine pretty regularly. **It is very important that when you initially contact hosts you tell them you have a dog with you. I usually describe ours as a “house-trained, crate-trained, 14-pound cutie pie who is in his crate at night and whenever we can’t be with him.” It is best to be upfront with people, so much trouble can ensue if you are not. Lest you think we are big meanies, we’ve tried for years to get him to sleep out of his crate or to be able to wander around the house while we are not home but he REALLY likes his crate. Therefore, we respect his den animal ways.
Airbnb filters used for this trip: -Entire Place -3 adults (Our teenager is over the age of 12 and counts as an adult.) -Pet-Friendly -2 actual beds (This is a long trip and our child is taller than me so we do not ask her to sleep on a pull-out, futon, or air mattress unless it is absolutely necessary.) -WiFi -Washing machine at least every 3 or 4 days though most places I found did have one. (We bring 5-7 days of clothes and wash as we go.) -Superhost I also scour the reviews looking for the words clean, kind, and awesome as well as dirty, not what I expected, and difficult.We have excellent guest ratings because we work hard to leave homes in great shape. We are usually able to give excellent ratings to the hosts as well but we have to be honest. It is best to be prepared for what you may encounter rather than ding someone for something you could/should have known before you booked.
So why are you staying in hotels instead of Airbnb sometimes? This is usually for one of two reasons. 1. There are no viable Airbnbs available in that location. This is almost always the reason on this trip. 2. We will be a bit unpredictable in our arrival making it hard to meet a host. When booking hotels, I like to Booking.com because I can filter much the same way as on Airbnb. A word of warning though, I had to click “pet-friendly” for each new search in each new city.
Why do you sometimes camp? In some of the National Parks, we have little choice but to do so if we want to stay in the park. Also, our daughter enjoys camping and all family members have a say on what we do and where we go when we plan trips. My husband and I have done lots of camping and don’t mind doing so now and then. Besides, you can get some AMAZING views from campsites in National Parks. The fresh air makes for great sleeping too just be smart about where you book. For tent camping, you will want shade and a generator free zone. No one sleeps well in a hot tent surrounded by exhaust and noise.
Should you rent an RV instead? Well, let’s see. I checked that out at a few places around Indianapolis. I found that the cost of renting an RV would be: $3200 for the smallest vehicle (there are only 3 of us plus a small dog) $2,000 for the mileage. I eastimate 5,600 miles and they usually charge 35 to 40 cents per mile. $1,650 for the gas (5,600 miles at 12 mpg and $3.50 per gallon – here’s hoping the gas mileage would be that good) $735 for campground fees averaging around $35/night (The actual average range for campsites fees is $30 to $50 but there are some ways around that including being able to park at a Cabela’s or a Wal-Mart for free overnight. You have to run climate control/fridge/etc. off your battery though and you have no water or sewer hook ups. If you plan to stay at either of these stores overnight, you need to ask the manager’s permission. There are a few that do not allow it for one reason or another.) $500 for food (we’d be able to cook a lot more) Comparable RV total: $8,085*
*This does not include transportation into the cities and/or wasted time looking for city parking that would accommodate even a small RV.
From time to time I will be sharing the lost posts of Dream Depart Explore. This is one such post as we took this trip in July and August of 2016. We did then enjoy time away in Scotland as mentioned and it went just as well. Stay tuned for lost Scotland posts as well. Now, without further ado, our thoughts on a road trip that relied heavily on Airbnb to provide places to lay our heads as we dreamed happy vacation dreams.
We ADORE our immediate family, our extended family, and our friends who live in the Northeast and that is why we travel there so often. This past summer though we decided to get our munchkin (I need a new nickname, she and I literally see eye-to-eye these days) to the parts of the Northeast she hadn’t seen yet. Until this year she had been to New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts many times but that was it. So off we went.
This was the longest family vacation we have taken to date and we brought the dog. (Yes, some of my animal issues have subsided, who couldn’t love this face?)
We were gone for 16 days and drove over 3500 miles. My hubby is a champ!!
Our itinerary was a bit strange in that it wasn’t all that efficient. Though one of the main goals of this trip was to give small-fry (nope, that’s not better) a chance to explore the New England states she had yet to visit, we also wanted to be respectful of our family members. We stayed with each of my brothers for 3 nights and wanted those to be mostly on the weekends. We may have been on vacation but they weren’t and still had jobs to get to as did the rest of our friends and family we were hoping to see.
In 15 nights on the road, we stayed in 9 different places. Two were siblings’ homes, 1 hotel, 1 traditional bed & breakfast, and 5 Airbnbs. Before this trip we had stayed in just one Airbnb in Wisconsin. Did I mention I LOVE Door County? We had such a great experience and saved so much money, we decided to really test our luck on this trip. It was an excellent decision!
We were able to stay much closer to the action than we could have in traditional hotels so we saved a lot of time. We also saved quite a bit of money even with paying for parking in Boston. It is tricky to find hotels that will allow dogs, even house trained, crate trained, non-shedding, hypoallergenic, 12 pound cutie pies. When you do find them, there is usually a $35-ish charge per night and there is not much in the way of a safe place to walk the puppy. By staying in Airbnbs (use that pet filter well my friends) we had lots of options, nearly all of them cheaper than hotels in the same area. We had neighborhoods and parks to explore and we got to meet lots of nice neighbors walking their own dogs.
During this trip we stayed in entire homes or apartments. When we travel with kiddo (yes!) we tend to do this. It is much easier to have our own space. However, when my husband and I travel by ourselves or as a couple we are just as likely to stay in private rooms within family homes.
So, where did we stay?
Let me open my handy app and check it out!
In Boston we stayed in a fun and funky lofted apartment in a brownstone in Beacon Hill not far from Boston Public Gardens and Boston Common. We parked our car and forgot about it for 3 days as we walked everywhere. Thanks to our apartment in Back Bay, we were close enough to everything to do so. This all went so well that my daughter now has her eyes on Boston/Cambridge for college. She’s thinking MIT. We’ll see!
In Portland, Maine we stayed in a house that I’d guess was about 100 years old and had been converted to apartments. It was right down the street from a large park and a donut shop. Apparently they are the best donuts in Maine so we dutifully checked them out. They did NOT disappoint! We also visited the Portland Museum of Art and enjoyed time in the cafe and gift shop. Not far away was the Spring Point Ledge Light. Before we left the state we did make sure to stop at the LLBean outlets in Freeport. We spent nearly all day there, actually. It did my New England heart good!
In Vermont we stayed on a farm that came with goats and chickens and my daughter saw more stars than she has ever seen growing up in suburbia. (On our upcoming trip out west she insists that we camp a few nights so she can see more!) We were within a mile of the Ben & Jerry’s Factory. Bonus: Our host pointed us to The Reservoir restaurant in town. We enjoyed the wine at dinner so much that the next day we took off for the vineyard.
In Montreal we stayed in a converted cigarette factory that had the most gorgeous pool and patio on the roof. Once again it was walking distance to what we needed. There is a very eclectic set of restaurants and shops about 2 blocks away. Three blocks or so away and we found the Metro which we used well. Among other places, we hopped a ride as we headed to the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal. They had the coolest Pompeii exhibit while we were there. The permanent collection is well worth the trip too.
In London, Ontario we stayed in the most spectacular basement apartment I’ve ever seen. It was so clean and modern, and extremely well appointed. This was a stopover point for us but the hosts (who live upstairs) were extremely kind and hospitable. There wasn’t anything we needed that they didn’t provide for us.
The best part? We had our own local guides to ask for activity and restaurant suggestions. We even had people who located dog parks for us and drove us over to them!
We met the nicest people and have memories to last a lifetime. We did so well that when hubby and I head over the pond to Scotland in May we will be staying exclusively in Airbnbs. Some are entire homes and some are private rooms, one even has a dog. Wish us luck! Check back here to see how it went.
If you are interested in trying Airbnb for yourself, feel free to use my link here to get $40 off your first home booking of $75 or more.
**This is not a paid post, I am simply an enthusiastic Airbnb community member who loves to share my experiences with others.
Things here have been super crazy these last several years hence the break-neck speed of my posts coming at you about once a year!
This year I plan to, well, plan. We have quite a number of trips on our bucket lists here at my house. We don’t have exact timelines for these trips yet and a lot of the timing will depend on the time and money required to take each trip. I know, this is quite a startling revelation as we are obviously the only people with those parameters.
Anyway, I will be planning trips that I want to take. I will be researching flight costs, lodging options, car rentals, travel insurance, visas, attractions, etc. The goal is to have a set of trips ready to go whenever we can fit them into our schedule. My dear readers, I hope that you enjoy reading through these plans and I welcome information that you would like to share. Honestly though, whether anyone but me and my family ever reads these plans makes no difference to me. Our child is getting older and we have a limited number of years left to take her on adventures with us before she is off on her own adventures. We want to be sure to share as many trips and experiences as possible in the next few years. Time marches on.
Here it is, I’m an over-planner. Not everyday and not with everything but more often than I’d like.
My husband and I are headed to Scotland soon, a place I’ve dreamed of visiting for decades and I’m completely paralyzed by the planning of the whole thing. I don’t want to miss out on things but at the same time I don’t want to have an itinerary that is so tight that we can’t embrace our adventurous side. We’ve been at this travel thing together for the better part of 20 years (a side effect of meeting and marrying so young). For the first 6 or 7 years we flew by the seats of our pants. Young, childless, and optimistic we rarely had hotel reservations, we carried maps because we frequently got lost when we went “adventuring”, and many times we didn’t know exactly what day we were leaving or when we were returning. Things either worked out, we figured it out, or we learned a lesson. We are both perfectly capable human beings and can manage ourselves fairly well in nearly any circumstance. So we did.
Enter our beloved kiddo and my inner planner instincts became very handy. I can plan an itinerary with the best of them. I’ve got maps, names, addresses, costs down to the penny, rest stops, hotels, Airbnbs, and everyone has exactly what they need exactly when they need it. I’m a pro. If I could get paid for this, I’d never work another job again.
This time though, since we are traveling childless (she has school and grandparents to oversee all that needs to go on), I’d like to fly by the seat of my pants again. It is way harder than I expected! I’ve always enjoyed our trips and can’t wait to go anywhere, anytime but I’ve missed the flexibility. So WHY is it so hard to be flexible? Perhaps I’m just out of practice. Perhaps it is because my professional life has consisted of putting out fires all over the place for the last decade or so and now that I have 3 seconds to think, I feel like I have to control something else. Who knows?
What I do know is this, I’ll either figure it out or I’ll drink a fair amount of Scotch to chill me out. Let’s see shall we?
Yes, I have issues with animals. Yes, I now have a dog. Yes, I’m a sucker for a cute face. I mean come on…
Our little guy is small on purpose, we knew we wanted a dog that was small enough to travel because we have no intention of slowing down! He’s even small enough to fly in the cabin of the plane if needed, though we’ve not done so yet.
Now, we’ve traveled with our child every year of her life, and some years it was every month. We are, therefore, aware that babies travel with a ridiculous amount of gear and it appears puppies aren’t much different. On our 16 day trip to the northeast each human had a carry-on size bag of clothes (laundry is our friend), a pillow, a book or 2, and an electronic device of some kind. We shared a toiletry bag. However, the dog had a crate, a backpack in which he could ride both in the car and out in the world, a sleeping pad, 2 towels, 2 blankets, a lifejacket (you can rent lifejackets for humans but not for puppies), a bag of food and treats, and a bag of toys. He is so lucky he’s cute. His stuff outweighed his cute, 12 pound self at least 2 times over!
The most important thing we had for the dog was paperwork. Humans need passports to cross the Canadian border and dogs need rabies vaccination records.* They are not kidding and there is no substitute. Even if you have the tag on the dog’s collar, you need the paperwork or your entire family can be turned around at the border. I was taking no chances. I Googled, I quizzed my friends, and I quizzed the vet who then consulted some magic vet portal to be sure we had what we needed. NOTE paperwork for driving to Canada is different than flying to Canada, ask your vet.
Border stop one, from Vermont into Quebec. An un-amused guard did not appreciate us butchering her native French (high school Spanish for me and Russian for hubby, but at least we tried) and checked all the paperwork and faces extremely carefully, including the dog’s. It was a good thing I got that updated rabies vaccination record, the original one said he was dark brown, which he was at the time of the shot, but his is now mostly cream colored. I’m positive we would not have passed had the paperwork not been updated. She did NOT like us but I’m pretty sure she didn’t like anyone. We forgave her though, that must not be an easy job.
Border stop two, out of Ontario and into Michigan. The guard briefly checked passports, waved off the the paperwork for the dog that we had out and ready for him and asked us why we were in Canada so long, “You couldn’t get out any faster?!” Funny guy, the first we’ve encountered actually.
The moral of the story, have ALL the paperwork for anything that breathes when crossing borders. Have it out and ready and be serious when approaching the border guards. Some will make you feel almost like a criminal and some will welcome you in with a smile and a joke.
The last bit of advice, pack very well. Keep like items together and be extremely organized. If ever your car is searched, it will be so much easier and quicker if you look like you have your sh.., err stuff together. Even if your trunk is usually a wreck, make sure it is pristine before you hit a border, this goes for all bags and compartments inside the car too. It will be easy to search and easy to put back together so you can get on your way. Yup, we’ve had the car searched too. Trust me, this is the way to go.
*Also note that PIT BULLS, dogs with pit bull lineage, and any dog that may be mistaken for one, are NOT allowed into Ontario and many other places in Canada. They will turn you around at the border no matter your paperwork. Please read up on this before you go! I’m refraining from adding links to this post as this is an ongoing discussion and I want you to research it for yourself instead of relying on what might be an outdated link that I have posted here.