Visiting National Parks with Toddlers

 

Enjoying the National Parks with Kids.fw

We booked a job in Utah so we decided to take a circuitous route through Arizona (Grand Canyon), Utah (Bryce Canyon), Wyoming (Grand Tetons), Idaho and Nevada. We ended up the next week in California for our next booking. The plan was to enjoy four national parks with our three year old and one year old.We wanted to visit Grand Canyon National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Grand Tetons National Park.

We expected to spend a week driving around and plunking down $30 for each national park. We visited AAA to get our maps and set out. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I told my family that we could do it. I told them it would be fun. Here are some tips that we picked up along the journey:

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Crossing the bridge back from Mossy Cave outside of Bryce Canyon National Park.

#1 Buy the Pass

I knew that each park would cost $30 per carload to get in but what I didn’t realize was that there is a pass that will get you into all the national parks for the low price of $80! We paid $30 to get into the Grand Canyon and then found out that though the park is fine, the canyon doesn’t stop once the official park gates are behind you. After exiting the park, we noticed that the Grand Canyon (a huge gorge) runs for miles and miles outside the park. I pulled over to the side of the road and took a peak … for free. Hmmmm …

Next up was Utah. There are plenty debates over whether Zion National Park or Bryce Canyon National Park was the better park. I didn’t want to spend $30 for each park when I knew we’d only be able to visit for a few hours each. I decided to do a little Googling. Sure, I’d like to see the both parks but if it was going to save me $30 I don’t mind being cheap. We decided to visit Bryce Canyon National Park ($30 saved from not paying for both parks). The night before we reached Bryce Canyon National Park we realized that there is a hike that is perfect for toddlers with the same views of the hoodoos outside of the official park gates.  *slaps forehead* Instead of plunking down another $30 we did the free hike and spent about two hours viewing the little waterfall, crossing bridges, playing in the stream, and taking photos. We, of course, drove right by the actual park and I would have gone in …  if I had known that for $80 there was a pass that would get me into all the national parks …  but I didn’t …  so I didn’t …  and we missed a great opportunity and see Zion and Bryce Canyon.

Along with the Annual Pass, there are also passes for seniors, passes for 4th graders and their families, and passed for disabled folks. View all the passes here.

Grand Canyon 2017 - Horseshoe Guillermo chillin

Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona outside of Grand Canyon National Park.

#2 Enjoy the Outskirts

Some of our most enjoyable times happened just outside of the national park we planned to visit. I mentioned the hike we did up to Mossy Cave outside of Bryce National Park. It was an easy hike for both children and it provided a way for them to engage with nature (playing in the stream, touching the rocks, ducking into the cave, crossing the bridges, etc.).

I didn’t mention the short hike up to Horseshoe Bend outside of Grand Canyon National Park (outside of Page, Arizona). It was the best part of visiting Grand Canyon National Park. Driving around the edge of the Grand Canyon was cool but I wouldn’t run to do it again. Doing the short hike up to Horseshoe Bend was exhilorating. It’s free, it’s a bit of a challenge (there are uphill parts on the way there and the way back), and of course the view is beautiful. I had seen photos of it but I didn’t realize that it was outside of the park grounds. Taking time to explore things outside of the park made the trip memorable and made us feel like we were having a trip that no one else was having.

 

Shoshone Falls 2017 - Snake River Guillermo

The view of Snake River from Shoshone Falls platform.

 

#3 View the Little Things

On each trip, we tried to visit small, local things to break up the drive and help us learn a bit about local culture (can you tell we’re unschoolers? Lol). After driving through a snowstorm we realized that some of the streets in Yellowstone National Park were closed and it probably wasn’t a good idea for us to continue on. Instead we spent the day in Idaho visiting the Space Museum, getting stuck in the mud trying to find Hell’s Half Acre (volcanic rock), and made it on down to Shoshone Falls. Crossing from Nevada into California, we found Donner State Park (yes, where they ate each other) and spent a morning chasing butterflies and learning more about the native peoples in the museum. Taking time to stop and see what’s around us, instead of only focusing on reaching the next goal, makes for an enjoyable trip and give the kids time to get out of the car.

Utah 2017 Kids running

The kids enjoying some free time before the drive to Bryce Canyon National Park.

#4 Find a Park

Yelp is our friend. Little ones need to stretch their legs and RUN. At least once a day we find a park in whatever city we’re in to let the kids run around. I try to think of our trips as family endeavors, not just things I wanna see. To that end, we make an effort to let the kids have free time to play. It does take a little time away from the drive but it’ll save everyone’s sanity when the kids are sleeping after a run and a meal. Take my advice, find a park.

 

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#5 Let ‘Em Explore

Half of the fun of visiting the national parks is enjoying the wildness of it all. We do babywear and put them up when they are tired or we need to keep them safe but often you’ll find our kids running loose along the trails. Touching things, looking at things, dipping their fingers and toes into things ….  it’s how kids learn. Instead of us always telling them how to play and where to play we try to let them lead the play. It leads to things that I wouldn’t have thought of and the kids enjoy.

We really enjoyed visiting the national parks and look forward to visiting more. See you on the trails!

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Passport Drama for Adoption #2

passport map

With the first adoption, we had a copy of the original birth certificate. We got the photos at AAA for $7. The Wednesday after finalization, we took our adoption order, the application we filled out, and the other paperwork and went to the library to turn in everything. The person that took the paperwork was very kind. We had a passport for the 1 year old within two weeks.

This time around, things are a bit different. We were given an original birth certificate for this baby but we moved ….  and now I can’t find it. When I asked our adoption worker for another one, she said they couldn’t give it to me due to privacy concerns (we already had one) which made me shake my head. All we have is the adoption finalization paperwork and the medical files from the birth.

When I asked my adoption group if we’d be able to get a passport with that information, the responses ranged from “just take the original birth certificate” (which is no help) to “get your attorney to get it for you” (which is also no help).

Yesterday, our adoption worker called to see if we want to keep our case open or close it. She casually asked where we’re taking our babies (after finalization last time, we took our baby to South Africa) and I told her, “No where”. My plan was to wait the six to twelve months until her amended birth certificate came in and then visit somewhere. She said that she’s had several adoptive families get a passport after finalization with just the two documents that we got after court. She said to make color copies (don’t give the originals to the passport folks) to turn in with the application.

She sounded so sure.

I’m making an appointment for next week. We shall see.

Two Under Three on a Flight

 

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My babies at a park. A year and a half apart. #DoubleTrouble Lol

We are taking two flights in the next few months. One is a coast to coast flight (baby girl’s first) and one is a short one-hour flight. I’m a bit anxious about it. My biggest concern is what to do with them both while on a long flight.

Usually the boy goes back and forth between our laps. He really enjoys looking out of the window. Well now …. she’ll probably want to go back and forth between our laps. He’ll have his own seat now but I’m not sure if that will be better or worse. Lol

I’m excited that:

  • The toddler has first first airline points account.
  • The toddler will have his own seat.
  • The toddler will be able to have his own bag.
  • Baby girl is taking her first flight.
  • They will be able to entertain each other.

I’m worried that:

  • The toddler will want more attention that we can give.
  • Baby girl will not like flying.
  • It will be hard to juggle two little ones.
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Early morning siblings.

We’ve gone on a few driving trips and we’re getting comfortable traveling as a family. I usually get all worked up about something, try to research and plan, and it’s not as big a deal and I had worked myself up for it to be. Let’s hope that pattern continues. Lol

Anyone have any tips for traveling with two little ones?

 

Baby Girl’s First Trip – Baltimore

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Baltimore harbor

We have a week of worked booked in Baltimore so we’ve extended on each end and are making it a family trip (we asked her social worker, hopefully the answer is yes)! Since this is our second time traveling with a baby in foster care, I feel a lot better. Last time I had a crapload of paperwork with me when all the airline cared about was a birth certificate. We had a very successful flight and I owe a lot of it to all the great advice I found on the internet.

This time, our oldest has his own seat and we’ll have a new lap child. We’re getting this airplane seatbelt since we travel a lot and our oldest is still a bit small. I know to pack lots of Ziplock bags, snacks, and a few toys. We’ll have two mei teis for this trip and we’ll have to ship two carseats under the plane.

I’m thrilled to be bringing her into our travel adventures but a little nervous about having TWO little ones on the flight. Our oldest flies like a champ (no ear issues at take off or landing, likes to look out of the window, and sits patiently and watches movies in the air) so I’m not too worried about him. I am worried about our youngest being up in the air on her first flight and I am worried about our oldest wanting more attention since our youngest might get tons of attention.

There’s really nothing to do but see how it goes so …  here’s hoping!

=)

 

Look at the Sky: August 11 – 13

Metiorite

“The best time for you be outside viewing this amazing astronomical phenomena are between the days of the 11th and the 13th of August.”

and

“The fragments are hurling toward the Earth’s gravitational pull at about 100,000 miles per hour, which burns them up, creating a small burst of light just as they are about to poof into thin air.”

 

AfroLatino Travel

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A mural in Cusco, Peru.

I like to travel and every country I go to, I seek out the Black history that’s usually there. Sometimes it’s a bit tough because countries like Japan and Vietnam don’t trumpet the contributions of Black people. Lol

Thanks to a new company called AfroLatino Travel I won’t have that problem in the Spanish-speaking world.

I’m bookmarking this for later.

Family Trip to China

Shanghai

One of our family goals is to visit every Disney property in the world. We’ve been to Anaheim (the original), Florida, Tokyo, Hong Kong so far. We still have Paris and of course Shanghai (the new one) to visit.

Since we’re thinking about visiting Shanghai Disney, it only makes sense that we’d also think about visiting the Great Wall. Tickets are really cheap this year but it’ll probably be a no-go since we’re hoping to be matched again this summer. If we have a baby in foster care, there is a good chance that we wouldn’t be allowed to take the baby to China. Lol Of course if we don’t get matched this summer, perhaps a winter trip isn’t out of the question.

Anyhoo …. if we go, we’ll need to get a visa and think about how we’ll get around once we’re there. My aunt took the liberty of finding out how to write the baby’s name in Chinese: 吉列尔莫. Right now, there are NO PLANS but …  you just never know.

=)