It’s been a few weeks since our week long trip to Seattle and Vancouver and it already feels like a distant memory. I felt like it was a “successful” family trip – we all got to enjoy new experiences, we ate well, and the girls did great overall which I think makes the biggest difference. As I think about some of the decisions we made, I have to admit that there was a mix of good and bad choices we made on our travels, along with a handful of decisions that leave me questioning if I would do it differently next time. We are definitely not seasoned travelers so every trip helps us to try to plan a little bit better for our next.

Here are some of our good ideas, our bad ideas, as well as ones we aren’t so sure about still:

The good ideas

  • If you have access to a laundry machine, don’t feel the need to have a different outfit each day. Even though we were on vacation for a full week, we managed to fly with just our carry-on bags. We limited the amount of clothes each person brought and it was really no big deal, especially since we were wearing jackets most of the time.
  • If you want to enjoy being outdoors, dress appropriately for the weather. Prior to our vacation I was constantly looking at the weather in Seattle and Vancouver and it showed mostly rainy days in the mid-50s. I was sure to have raincoats and rain boots for all of us and brought clothes that we could easily layer. Thankfully, we didn’t have as many rainy days as expected but when we had to be out in the rain, the girls (and even I) enjoyed our time in the rain and in the puddles.

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The girls loved every chance they got to splash in puddles.

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  • Plan activities strategically around naps. We planned all our long drives around Baby Pizza’s naps, including our three hour drive to/from Seattle and Vancouver.
  • It’s kind of become Mr. Pizza and my thing to be open to a late night meal when the opportunity is there. When we are on vacation, that often translates to Mr. Pizza picking up food that we want to try (this helps to avoid long lines and also try places that might not be kid-friendly). We had a few late night meals and Mr. Pizza was able to enjoy the city at night while driving to pick up the food with our friend. Sometimes we enjoy a bit of the city simply driving through it, but I guess that’s better than missing it completely right?
  • Enjoy a night out sans kids if possible. Okay, so this was a rare opportunity, but our friends, whom we stayed with while in Seattle, offered to get a babysitter (a good friend they trusted) so we had to take advantage. We left after we put the girls down for the night. We were able to enjoy some quality seafood at The Walrus and the Carpenter (we waited for seats to open at an adjacent restaurant and thankfully got the very last seating for the night) with our friends and without our kids. It was pretty awesome.
  • Snacks and compact activities are a definite must when traveling with kids. Phones are a lifesaver, especially at restaurants when the kids start to get too antsy.
  • Most of the activities we did were outdoors. They love walking around freely and enjoy simply being surrounded by nature.

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The girls loved going up and down the hills at Gas Works Park. Can you spot Lil’ Pizza with her friend?

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The bad ideas

  • Apparently, 97% of short-term listings in Vancouver are illegal, including Airbnb which is what we had used. If we had known earlier, we would have stayed elsewhere. It was a stressful stay with signs in the elevator mentioning Airbnb was illegal, and our host had given us the wrong keys which only made the situation worse. Lesson learned: stay at a hotel when traveling to Vancouver or other destinations where Airbnb is illegal.
  • I often forget to pack extra clothes when we are out and unfortunately we needed a change of pants for Baby Pizza, whose diaper leaked. Mr. Pizza was very creative and somehow managed to make pants out of her raincoat, and Baby Pizza didn’t seem to mind one bit. Lesson learned: Bring a change of clothes wherever you go!

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She played it cool with her makeshift pants.

  • So this is kind of silly but has happened to us now three times (you would think we would have learned by now).  Release the pressure from straw bottles before using the straw! On the flight to Seattle we accidentally sprayed Baby Pizza’s face with one water bottle and sprayed the person sitting across the aisle from us with a different bottle. Thank goodness the person was very understanding and kind about being sprayed with a water bottle.

The “not so sure” ideas

  • Our friends, whom we stayed with while in Seattle, let us borrow one of their cars for the week while we were on vacation. And although they don’t have kids just yet (they will have their first baby this summer), they were able to borrow two car seats from a mutual friend. We felt extremely blessed and lucky to not have to deal with a car rental or lug around two large car seats. However, the friends we were staying with were flying in that day a few hours after we would arrive so we didn’t have a ride and car seats yet. Our friends lived fairly close to the airport and were a short train ride and a 5 minute drive away. I was a bit stressed out about not having the car seats, but we ended up using Uber without the car seats anyway. What would you have done in this situation if you needed to use cabs or Uber/Lyft?

  • The night before we were leaving for our trip, Mr. Pizza and I were going back and forth about which stroller to take with us. We were trying to decide between our Joovy Caboose Ultralight Stroller or our Bob Double Stroller (we have older models of both of these strollers). Initially it was a no-brainer for me because the Joovy stroller is more compact and light. However, Mr. Pizza started to convince me that the Bob stroller would be more useful because it would be easier to handle on hikes and longer walks and both the kids would easily fall asleep in the stroller if they wanted to. A big con for the Joovy stroller was that it didn’t manuever very well; it might be because we have an older model but our wrists start to hurt after using it for awhile because you have to use a lot of effort to make turns. After I was convinced that the Bob stroller would be a better choice, we still had to figure out if our airline would allow it and if we would have any issues getting to the gate. I didn’t want to check in the stroller because when I researched heavier strollers being checked in, people mentioned broken strollers. After calling the airline and finding out there shouldn’t be an issue (some airlines are more strict with the stroller weight limit), we still had to figure out how we would keep it contained in a bag. Again, we didn’t want to keep the stroller left without a bag because we were worried there would be a greater chance that the stroller could break. However, we didn’t have a double stroller travel bag that fit a Bob double stroller. Mr. Pizza got creative and unscrewed one of the wheels and used a bungee cord to keep it all secured in a different double stroller travel bag that barely fit the stroller. The process was stressful but once we landed in Seattle and picked up our stroller, we felt like it was definitely worth it for our trip. I think I would have to reconsider this choice, depending on where we were going and how the stroller would be used. What do you usually use when traveling and need a double stroller? Do you always opt for an umbrella or lightweight double stroller?

What are some good tips you have to make your vacation an enjoyable one? What are some things you decided to do that you now recognize were poor choices?