Category Archives: Travel

Keeping it Simple on the Road: What We Packed for a Two+ Week Car Trip

Keeping it Simple On the Road | A Simple Haven

I’ve said it before: I aspire to minimalism but default to over-preparedness.

But with two and a half week road trip on the horizon and the knowledge that less stuff would be easier to lug in and out of hotels, motels, cabins, and houses, this time I was determined to err on the side of less.

My goal was to take enough to help our trip go smoothly but not so much that our stuff felt burdensome.

How did I do?  Well, it depends.

For the kids: pretty well. For myself, I realized I could have done without several pieces. For the food, I made a big ‘ol list of what-not-to-dos for next time.

(Yes, there will be a next time! I hope. Sign of a good trip, right?)

So, here’s the 411 on what we brought and how simple it all felt in the end. Regardless of where you fall on the minimalist spectrum, hopefully somewhere in my pack-list reflections, you’ll find something helpful for your next trip.

Kids’ Clothes

I packed nearly all of my two kids’ clothes and shoes in one small suitcase.  They each got three pairs of shorts, two pants, about four tops, a couple sweaters, swim stuff, a raincoat, and two pairs of shoes.

This ended up feeling just right. I expected to have access to a washing machine at the end of the first week, but no dice.  So instead I did a couple of sink washes to tide us over and bagged the rest of the dirty laundry until we got to Maine around day ten.

I’m a pretty committed cloth diaper-er and briefly considered trying to use at least some cloth on the trip. Then gave my pregnant self a break and opted for disposables.

Kids’ Car Stuff

The dilemma: how to pack enough to keep them happily occupied on some stinking long drives but not so much that junk tumbles out whenever you open the door?

Here’s what we brought:

1.)  2.)  3.)  4.)  5.)  6.)  7.)  8.)

1.) 2.) 3.) 4.) 5.) 6.) 7.) 8.)

Not shown: a large Magnadoodle, a few books and blank notebooks, each kid’s special “friend,” and the Kindle (loaded with games, books, and our two favorite movies (The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins).

This was our first road trip with movies in the car and I’m glad we had them. Although I learned that when you’ve got a restless, over-tired kid, movies are by no means magical.

Glad I brought: pretty much everything. Wish I’d had an extra Magnadoodle (the small one above was lame).

Note to self: don’t let your toddler keep the rocks he found at the rest stop in his carseat. It’s not worth the risk to your car windows or kid’s stomach.

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My Stuff

I love pinning those travel wardrobes.  Just a few fabulous mix-and-match pieces and you’re set.

Problem is, I often don’t own half the things they show. And I was in that weird early stage of pregnancy where regular clothes were getting tight but maternity stuff was too big.

My solution? Comfy dresses, low-rise shorts and jeans, maternity tanks, and strategically flowy shirts.

Also helpful: a Panama hat to both protect my face from the sun and cover the hair that I didn’t have time to wash in the midst of getting everyone out the hotel door.

Could have done without: the extra sweater or two, one of my three pairs of sandals, the extra bathing suit.

The Food

I wrote about how I navigated attempting to eat decent food on the road here, so I’ll just say if you’re going to be all committed to bringing organic meats, make darn sure they’re double-Ziplocked in the cooler.

Otherwise, gross raw meat juice will contaminate your bread, cheese, and everything else. For the record, I just washed off the cheese, said a little prayer, and ate it.

Family + Beach Stuff

Is there a beach tent on earth that doesn’t require 20 minutes and a degree in engineering to collapse and put away? (Really, let me know).

Ours was horrific. We only used it once because we never could figure out how to fold it up properly. And really, we probably didn’t need it in the first place.

Other stuff we brought: standard beach gear, a kite, camera + video camera, double stroller, and two pack-n-plays.

That’s right. Our four year old (who sleeps in a big girl bed at home) prefers to be “cozy” in a pack-n-play when we travel. And because she’s the world’s greatest sleeper, I’ll throw out minimalism and do whatever makes that sweet girl feel cozy.

Smartest Thing I Packed:

A backpack full of essentials for a one-night hotel stay (basically everyone’s pjs, toiletries, and if necessary a change of clothes for the next day). That way we didn’t have to unload suitcases if we were just staying the night.

Pat on the back for Mommy.

Do you aspire to minimalism? How does that work out on trips (with or without kids)?

*This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting ASH!

 

 

 

 

A Peak into Our Adventure

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Though we’ve been back from our big trip for a couple of weeks, other travels, hosting company, and a bad stomach bug have kept me from fully returning to normal life.

So our trip is still on my mind, especially as my kids remind me of our adventures and as I share them with friends who ask.

To record them all in one place and to satisfy any curiosity there may be (?) about what did and how we did it–here’s a little peak into our adventures.

A Peak into Our Canada Extravaganza

Day 1: Departure

Acquired expedited passport (a minor miracle–tip: call your Congressman and plead your case) then drove six hours to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Arrived at 2am and slept at some friends’ house. Sounds crazy but amazingly it went well.

Bun's handmade  passport for Hubs.

Bun’s handmade passport for Hubs.

Days 2-4: Montreal

Drove 14ish (it should have been less, but Toronto’s traffic was insane) hours to Montreal. Arrived at our hotel, which was apparently hosting prom night.

Wrangling my children and luggage amidst gussied-up teenagers was weird. Hubs was concerned our hotel neighbors would make a ruckus and keep us up, but my money was on our room being the source of ruckus. In any case, I had about three noise machines going and we all slept fine.

On the way up Mt.   in Montreal

On the way up Mt. Royal in Montreal

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We spent and day and a half in Montreal. Highlights: Mt. Royal (note: do not attempt to summit it pregnant, on foot, with a double stroller), Atwater Farmer’s Market, the old city, that nap I took at the hotel, and the kids’ train in a local park (Bun’s fav).

Low points: The emergence of my son’s feral cat persona and the impact it had on our restaurant options. Being attacked by angry birds in a park; it was both unprovoked and completely horrifying.

At the beginning of the hike, when we had no idea how far up we had to go.

At the beginning of the hike, when we had no idea how far up we had to go. Thank you, Daddy, for pushing and for knowing when we needed to turn back.

Top of Mt. Royal

Top of Mt. Royal

Attempt number 35 to preserve my son's life that day.

Attempt number 35 to preserve my son’s life that day.

Days 4-5: Quebec City

Thankfully, Quebec City is only 2.5 hours from Montreal. So after a brief driving tour of the city and a stop at the farmer’s market, we were off to spend the rest of the day in Quebec City.

Quick impressions: older and “frencher” than Montreal. Felt a bit European. Stellar crepes. Completely awesome.

Keeping it real: my son threw a stainless steel water bottle at another family’s table in a restaurant our first night there. Mercifully, they also had small children, no one was hurt, and after a good night’s sleep, we had our happy Buckaroo back the next day.

Exploring parks in Quebec City

Exploring parks in Quebec City

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Picking flower, playing, and a picnic in a park. Pretty perfect.

Picking flower, playing, and a picnic in a park. Pretty perfect.

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Days 6-9: Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

Epiphany: they don’t call it “New Scotland” for nothing. It looks so much like the Highlands I’ve seen in pictures.

Thankful for: our two bedroom cabin, which meant–holla!–no sleeping next to babies and we got to cook and eat in. The short walk to the beach. The fact that our children are undeterred by frigid waters and rain–the beach was their favorite thing regardless. A lovely afternoon by myself in a coffee shop. My kids are champion nappers. Watching the World Cup as a family.

Living dangerously: taking our son on a two and a half hour whale-watching boat trip during lunch/nap time with only (really, really, lame) gas station snacks to sustain us all.

Miracle: the whale trip went really well. The kids behaved, the scenery was amazing, and Canadian chips were a surprisingly satisfying lunch.

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Bun was pretty excited to spot some whales. Or be let out of the car. Either way.

Bun was pretty excited to spot some whales. Or be let out of the car. Either way.

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I can hardly believe this is straight off my camera, no editing.

I can hardly believe this is straight off my camera, no editing.

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This is how I'm choosing to remember our four+ hour hike. ;) So thankful they love each other so much.

This is how I’m choosing to remember our four+ hour hike. 😉 So thankful they love each other so much.

Ain't nobody happy we still have 2 more hours of walking. But kids! The view! Wasn't it worth it?!

Ain’t nobody happy we still have 2 more hours of walking. But kids! The view! Wasn’t it worth it?!

Canadian lupines, in honor of Miss Rumphius

Canadian lupines, in honor of Miss Rumphius

Days 10-16: Bar Harbor, Maine

Best vacation spot ever: mountains, beach, lakes, a cute little town, and a well-stocked grocery store. We stayed in a cabin in the woods, where the kids could explore and I went to sleep each night to the sound of the wind in the trees.

Trip-planning tip: if you decide to tackle a long road trip with small children, plan to spend a chunk of time in once spot on the back half. Even if everyone is crazy pants for the first half, you’ll have the consistency of the last part to look forward to. It worked really well for us.

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Bridges built by the Rockefellers. FYI, if you want to live dangerously, take a toddler on a two-hour carriage tour of these roads.

Bridges built by the Rockefellers. FYI, if you want to live dangerously, take a toddler on a two-hour carriage tour of these roads.

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Whew! You made it! 🙂

Ok, so tell me: what adventures (near, far, or in-between) have you had this summer?

 

Beauty Found :: Canada & Maine

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The point of these “beauty found” posts is to share bits of beauty I discover in everyday life. And to force myself to look for it.

Well, beauty pretty much smacks you in the face in Canada and Maine.  While taking a two and half week road trip with a two and four year old (and baby on the way) certainly had its challenges, I’d say the splendor we saw outweighed any struggle along the way.

Upon our return, a friend asked me how our trip went. My reply: “It was perfect.”

Woah.

“Perfect?”

Not only is “perfect” not a word I often employ (recovering perfectionist and all), I could easily recount a variety of episodes on our trip that did not remotely approach perfection: my son’s uncanny resemblance to a feral cat, both in sound and action. Starting our trip with a midnight drive to Michigan. Braving Toronto’s epic traffic during what should have been nap time.

As long as he had access to rocks and "ponds," he was good.

As long as he had access to rocks and “ponds,” he was good.

So what the heck did I mean when I said “perfect?” After some thought, I decided: I wouldn’t have done anything differently.

From what where we went to what we planned to do to what we adventures we found along the way, I wouldn’t go back and make different decisions. Given our circumstances (pregnant with kids in tow), I think it was the best it could have been.

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Would I have preferred to eat something more local and interesting than hamburgers for dinner in Montreal? Sure.

But with hungry people, an unstable toddler, and a long walk back to the hotel, we did what seemed easiest at the time.  After all, I got to have crepes, lobster, and fresh baguettes later on. And we got to chat it up with the super friendly manager, who educated us on all things French and Québec.

Four hour hike with the kids = everything you'd imagine. But if we'd cut it short, we would have missed this view.

Four hour hike with the kids = everything you’d imagine. But if we’d cut it short, we would have missed this view.

Would I have preferred that my son not throw an epic tantrum at the nice restaurant in Maine (while I happened to be flying solo with the kids for a bit)? Of course.

But how he responds to being tired and out of sorts is completely beyond my control. He would nap soon. So until then I addressed it as best I could and eagerly awaited Daddy’s return.

At which point I passed Buckaroo off to Hubs and enjoyed my popover, jam, fresh blueberry lemonade, and view of the lake.

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Would it have been easier to go on this trip with just my husband? Of course. But that’s not our current reality.

And while it would also be easier to just stay home, Hubs and I have decided that we’d rather travel and have adventures with our kids–and adjust our expectations–than have no adventures at all.

How do you approach travel/travel with kids?

Our Canada Extravaganza According to My iPhone

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We’ve been back from our Canada Extravaganza for a couple days now. So while we continue to recover (read: I tackle laundry, the kids adjust to being without Daddy 24/7 and detox from a steady stream of fries, ice cream, and cinnamon graham crackers and lack of naps), I thought I’d share some bits of our trip.

I haven’t uploaded the hundreds of pics from our big camera yet, so for now here are a few moments I captured on my phone.

How was the trip?

The short version: it began with an expired passport, continued with an unhappy two year old whose uncanny resemblance to a feral cat made us remember why people don’t take small children on long road trips, but quickly got better and became a fabulous family vacation (no, really, vacation!) that I’m so glad we took.

I’m sure you’ll get the longer version later :).

The day before we left, we realized Hubs's passport was expired. So Bun took it upon herself to make him a new one. I meant to take it with to show the border guards.

The day before we left, we realized Hubs’s passport was expired. So Bun took it upon herself to make him a new one. I meant to take it with to show the border guards.

Crossing the border in Michigan with expedited passport in hand (a minor miracle).

Crossing the border in Michigan with expedited passport in hand (a minor miracle).

Day 4, Château Frontenac in beautiful Quebec City. I have no pictoral evidence of days 2-3 on my iPhone. Probably because my son turned into a feral cat during that time.

Day 4, Château Frontenac in beautiful Quèbec City. I have no pictoral evidence of days 2-3 on my iPhone. Probably because my son turned into a feral cat during that time.

The view from my seat at a coffee shop on Cape Breton Island.

The view from my seat at a coffee shop on Cape Breton Island.

 

See? He got happier.

See? He got happier.

Things I learned about Canada: Toronto's traffic is epic. EPIC. Ontario has awesome rest stops (bakeries + decent pizza + panini all in one building) and hilarious road signs. You can get lobster on your sandwich at Subway. They are really proud of the cleanliness of their bathrooms/washrooms.

Things I learned about Canada: Toronto’s traffic is epic. EPIC. Ontario has awesome rest stops (bakeries + decent pizza + panini all in one building) and hilarious road signs. You can get lobster on your sandwich at Subway. They are really proud of the cleanliness of their bathrooms/washrooms.

Bun spent her time climbing trees and making friends. with. everyone.

Bun spent her time in Maine climbing trees and making friends. with. everyone.

Things I was tempted to buy on the trip: 1.) The one was going to be a gift; I'd probably go mojito. 2.) Lovely pages of home inspiration 3.) My text to a friend: "If I were a man, I'd so be tempted to buy this." 4.) Map nerd alert: I got excited to discover the history + geography facts on each block. Too bad it's a bit beyond my kids right now. 5.)

Things I was tempted to buy on the trip: 1.) The one was going to be a gift; I’d probably go mojito. 2.) Lovely pages of home inspiration 3.) My text to a friend: “If I were a man, I’d so be tempted to buy this.” 4.) Map nerd alert: I got excited to discover the history + geography facts on each block. Too bad it’s a bit beyond my kids right now. 5.) Not shown: a wool sweater with a giant moose on it. Call it a weird pregnancy craving.

Lunch at a great place in Maine overlooking at pond. The view and popovers almost made up for the public reappearance of the feral cat stuff by this little guy.

Lunch at a great place in Maine overlooking the woods and a pond. The view and popovers were worth missing naptime. I think.

On the long way home.

On the long way home.

Apparently, I didn’t take many scenery pics with my phone, so I’ll be back to share some of the sights! Off to go continue phase two of vacation: recovery.

Does it take you a while to recover from a vacation?

 

 

 

Our Canada Extravaganza

photo by Breanne of This Vintage Moment

Recently, Hubs and I celebrated ten years of marriage. Over the last several years, we’ve talked and dreamed of a ten year anniversary trip. We even had one pretty well planned until finding someone to watch our littles became a challenge (we envisioned a week-long childless trip to best say “happy anniversary”).

Happily, I can say I only pouted for a short while.

(Realizing I’m not entitled to a week-long anni trip helped).

Hubs and I back in '04; he was 24, I was 21.

Hubs and I back in ’04; he was 24, I was 21.

Not wanting to completely forsake time away with Hubs, we figured out a weekend trip to a favorite town on Lake Michigan; dear friends watched our babies.  It was perfect.

But that left a chunk of vacation time and funds we’d set aside for the big anniversary trip. What to do?

In the words of Hubs: “How about we go on a two-week family trip to Canada? After all, we can always fly to Vancouver or Scotland, but who knows how long we’ll live this close to the Canadian border.”

Though I might take issue with his assessment of flights to Vancouver/Scotland, he’s right about our proximity to Canada.

Prior to last fall when I visited a friend in Nova Scotia, I didn’t think about Canada much except during the Winter Olympics. I have since become completely intrigued by it: old European-looking cities, beautiful wilderness, fantastic coastlines and beaches, Anne of Green Gables…

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So we planned a trip through Québec, Nova Scotia, and Maine.

We call it our Canada Extravaganza.

Yes, we’re taking our two and four year old. Yes, there are at least four ten+ hour drives. Yes, we’re spending the night in multiple cities/houses/hotel rooms. Yes, I am twelve weeks pregnant.

Yes, we may be crazy.

But yes, I think it will all be ok. Not perfect, not always easy, but with the right perspective, prayer, good snacks (essential), and a decent amount of sleep–I think it will be good.

We travel fairly often with our kids and have done so since they were both tiny babies. Our daughter has been on 14 flights and both have done multiple 15+ hour road-trips.  So while this is the longest they’ll have ever been away from home, it isn’t completely our first rodeo.

They’ve had their share of midnight scream sessions in hotel rooms, carseat freak outs, mid-trip sicknesses, and restaurant fiascoes, but generally? They travel really well.

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So I’m hopeful about this trip. Even if the babies freak out, we’ll still be seeing beautiful places, eating great food, and experiencing a taste of life someplace new. After all, this is my year of living boldly.

And we’ll all be together, without the usual distractions. In what has been a super full season, I’m most grateful for that.

So, the next few weeks here at ASH might be a little quiet. I was tempted to blog my way through the trip, but I think I’ll better soak up our time away without much screen time.

If you’re headed anywhere fun this summer, happy travels! If you’re staying home, I wish you a most restful, simple, joy-filled summer.

Before I go: I’m collecting road-tripping-with-children wisdom. Got any to share? 🙂

*Top photo by Breanne of This Vintage Moment

 

Beauty Found :: Saugatuck, MI

Beauty Found :: Saugatuck, MI | A Simple Haven

Besides the farm down the street, the fantastic children’s museum, and the coffee shop that lets you open a tab, one of my favorite aspects of Farm Town is its proximity to Michigan.

While we’ve only traveled there a couple times, it’s my new favorite summer getaway spot. Specifically, Saugatuck. And apparently, it’s everyone else’s favorite getaway spot, too.

This past weekend, Hubs and I were able to take a trip there–sans babies–to celebrate our ten year anniversary. Woohoo!

Fun fact: Since I apparently still look 18 (I actually got carded when buying spray paint last year), people often think we got married ridiculously young when we tell them we’ve been married that long. But I digress. And I also don’t think I look 18.

Our weekend was a fabulous celebration of being married for a decade and a nice reprieve from a busy season of life.

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We stayed in a great B&B, wandered around Saugatuck’s cute, artsy downtown, took a day trip to Holland, hiked in the woods, watched the sunset on the beach, and ate fabulous food. (Though at this point, any food I don’t have to cook myself seems pretty fabulous).

I’m so thankful for dear friends who watched our littles so we could go. And I’m determined to get back as soon as I can.

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Maybe it was having these all over the place or maybe I'm just a pregnant super-smeller, but I swear the air in Saugatuck smells amazing.

Maybe it was having these all over the place or maybe I’m just a pregnant super-smeller, but I swear the air in Saugatuck smells amazing.

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Downtown Holland, where I found the perfect pregnant-or-not dress for summer at the local fair trade shop.

Downtown Holland, where I found the perfect pregnant-or-not dress for summer at the local fair trade shop.

Hubs & I at our B&B, with said dress :)

Hubs & I at our B&B, with said dress 🙂

Antique shop on the way out of town; home to fabulous blue glass finds and Mitch, the sweet owner

Antique shop on the way out of town; home to fabulous blue glass finds and Mitch, the sweet owner

Unscheduled, uninterrupted time to sit with Hubs and watch this. Priceless.

Unscheduled, uninterrupted time to sit with Hubs and watch this. Priceless.

 

Invite Them Into The Mess {Loving and Sharing the Home You Have}

invite them into the mess | a simple haven

To celebrate the release of my (FREE!) eBook, I am so happy to continue the Loving and Sharing the Home You Have series with a post by my friend Jacey.

Jacey is passionate about living intentionally in the face of real demands, the unexpected, and human nature itself. Her eBook on this topic, Escaping Reaction; Embracing Intention, recently released (and it’s fantastic!)

She writes about relationships, faith, and personal growth at The Balanced Wife. She lives in Charleston, SC with her husband, Mike, and golden retriever, Jack.

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We live in an old, poorly maintained apartment building with a noisy, creepy elevator. Until I got used to it, stepping in felt like stepping into a horror movie.

When people visit for the first time, they get lost trying to find our building, tucked away in the back of a somewhat intimidating college campus.  No central air conditioning makes it too hot in the summer, even with the window AC units blasting.

The walls are sparser than I’d like and unless we’ve just swept, tumbleweeds of dog hair settle on the wood floors.  I’d rather no one ever see my tiny, perpetually cluttered kitchen, but that’s exactly where people gravitate and linger.

Most of our furniture is from IKEA, originally purchased for my husband’s bachelor condo but not in our budget to replace.

All these “flaws” come up before me at the thought of inviting people into my home.

I’d like to think the anxiety would diminish if we lived somewhere “nicer,” but I know better.  As Shauna Niequist so sharply points out in Bread and Wine, women feel more shame and insecurity around their bodies and their homes than anything else.

I’ve talked to friends with homes that I admire and they are equally sweaty and nervous at the thought of dinner guests. (Well, maybe not equally: I may be sweatier than most.)  Even those who love hosting, as I do, face some level of anxiety or burden.

Inviting people into our homes is scary because it makes us vulnerable. I’m afraid to show people the messes in my life, dog hair and insecurities alike.

Reading Bread and Wine last year changed the way I think about inviting people here. Shauna, who I refer to by first name because I want us to be friends, began to set me free from my erring, unhealthy thoughts about it:

“You’ll miss the richest moments in life—the sacred moments when we feel God’s grace and presence through the actual faces and hands of the people we love—if you’re too scared or too ashamed to open the door.”

Inviting people in can be scary because on some level, it feels like I’m revealing who I really am.

But it’s a fear worth overcoming because don’t we all share the human desire to know and to be known?

Deep relationships aren’t built on who we wish we were. They are built right in the midst of our brokenness and mistakes, swirled together with the messiness and unpainted baseboards and piles of dog hair.

If you wait to invite people over until you have the perfect home, you never will.

Since it’s too good not to share, I’ll end with another quote from Bread and Wine:

“What people are craving isn’t perfection. People aren’t longing to be impressed; they’re longing to feel like they’re home. If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they’ll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest, no matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how odd.”

 Does the thought of inviting people over, especially new friends, make you sweat?

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