‘Travel’ Category

  1. Traveling with Small Children: A Visit To Florida

    March 2, 2015 by Jennifer Carsen

    traveling with small children

    We have just returned from a successful trip to Florida – our first official family vacation.

    The four of us have technically flown together before, but that was back when Lorelei was 21 months old and Nicholas was in utero, so it was a very different experience on all fronts. This time around, we had a 4.5-year-old and a 2.5-year-old.

    I have come to the conclusion that traveling with small children is a lot like being a cruise director in that you are tasked with coming up with an endless array of creative amusements for entitled, largely unappreciative vacationers. Parents, however, are not allowed to lock the cabin door at night; we also lack the consolation of midnight buffets and endless tropical drinks poured with a heavy hand by Isaac the bartender.

    Nonetheless, while there is never an easy time (or perfect age) to travel with small children, I’m so glad we did. Some of the notable highlights of the trip:

    – Lorelei, turning to Eric in wonder amidst collecting shells on a pristine, sandy beach: “Daddy, this is a great vacation.”

    – Nicholas, studiously packing sand into his ears on that same beach as if he were trying to turn himself into a DIY pearl factory.

    – The friendly gecko who kept reappearing at the same spot by my dad’s pool, despite (or perhaps because of) the kids’ enthusiastic response to him; they named him Noah.

    – Nicholas amusing himself during a dinner out with several caps – from, respectively, a bottle of Poland Spring, a bottle of Stoli, and a spice jar (the last of which he deftly flipped open, held up to his ear like a practiced veteran of the Razr years, and pretended to call a friend on).

    – Eric pointing out something questionable in the water off the dock and Lorelei exhorting him to “pull yourself together, Daddy!”

    – A two-part al fresco lunch consisting entirely of convenience store snacks and massive ice cream cones.

    – Nicholas nonchalantly yet completely devouring the corner of a manatee postcard before we even had a chance to pay for it at Publix.

    – The mellow hippie wearing dark sunglasses and a bandanna headscarf, chilling out on a boat across the way. The kids waved and dubbed him “the friendly pirate.”

    – Lorelei fishing off the dock with my dad, squealing as he threaded live bait shrimp onto the hook, while Nicholas sat and watched the proceedings from my mom’s lap, clutching his stuffed kitty.

    – Nicholas’s puzzled look when we told him we’d be flying back home the next day. “Home?” he asked, his brow furrowed, as if the entire concept were both unfamiliar and somewhat disturbing.

    – Lorelei setting up shop on her airplane tray table with the essentials she packed in her Strawberry Shortcake backpack: A kaleidoscope, a small rubber duck, and a plastic saucer, cup, and spoon from her tea set.

    – Nicholas loudly reminiscing about a daycare friend on the plane home and alarming parents and flight attendants alike: “I LOVE ISIS! I LOVE ISIS!”

    – The same 2.5-year-old Lothario shamelessly flirting with a cute tween girl he spotted across the aisle. “I love her!” he repeated over and over. “What her name?”

    The best and worst thing about having kids is that nothing ever stays static. If we make the same trip next year, and I hope we do, it will be a whole new set of adventures and memories. I can’t wait.


  2. You Had Me At Goodbye

    February 3, 2014 by Jennifer Carsen

    Cruise ship
    Yesterday, as Eric and I were waiting for the Super Bowl to start, I caught the tail end of a commercial for Princess Cruises.

    I couldn’t hear the voiceover, as Lorelei was caroming around the living room with a balloon and Nicholas was busily squeezing out his fifth poop of the day, but I saw the tagline on our finger-smeared TV screen: Princess Cruises: Come back new.

    Not a bad bit of copywriting by any stretch, and certainly an appealing notion. But it occurred to me that they could actually set the bar far lower with parents of young kids and still keep their reservation line ringing off the hook:

    Princess Cruises: Pee by yourself.

    Princess Cruises: Sleep past 5 am.

    Princess Cruises: We won’t fling half-chewed food at you during meals.

    Princess Cruises: The only person you need to wipe…is you. 


  3. Nicholas @ Nosh

    October 23, 2012 by Jennifer Carsen

    Last Thursday, Eric and Nicholas and I took a day trip to Portland to check out Nosh, a restaurant we’d seen Adam Richman take on in a recent episode of Man vs. Food.

    We were able, just barely, to resist the “apocalypse now” burger (beef patty, American cheese, pork belly, foie gras, mayo, and cherry jam). However, given that my burger had a fried egg on it and was accompanied by an order of the unbelievably delicious bacon-dusted fries – the place is truly a vegetarian’s worst nightmare – I can’t really claim that I exercised a lot of restraint.

    A good time was had by all – even those among us without teeth:

    We decided to leave the divine Miss L. in daycare rather than accompany us (I told Eric I felt a little like we were cheating on her, sneaking off for a fun day out with just baby brother in tow), but she, too, enjoyed a small taste of Portland at home that evening:


  4. Contest Giveaway: Win a Summer Getaway in Vermont!

    April 3, 2012 by Jennifer Carsen

    The northeast (or “upper right,” for the geographically challenged, like myself) corner of Vermont is known as the Northeast Kingdom – it’s a beautiful area full of breathtaking scenery, numerous ecotourism and agritourism opportunities, and fun outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, and biking (not to mention more cows than you can shake a stick at).

    In other words, it’s the perfect spot for a relaxing family getaway. And the Northeast Kingdom Travel & Tourism Association (NEKTTA) is offering the chance to win a free two-night stay there this summer!

    Check out the Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom Facebook page to enter, and for additional details. The contest is open from today through the end of April, with the winner to be selected on May 1.

    Good luck, and may the cows be with you.

    Note: I am in no way affiliated with NEKTTA or this contest; just thought it sounded like a fun opportunity to pass along. I will, alas, be approximately the size of one of the local cows this summer and thus unable to make the trip myself.


  5. Windy City Baby, Part 2

    September 12, 2011 by Jennifer Carsen

    One thing we hadn’t anticipated when we brought Lorelei to Chicago was that the trip would precisely coincide with the days she decided to really get serious about her walking efforts.

    Eric and I spent a lot of our time in Chicago hunched over, gripping under Lorelei’s arms and surveying the top of her little blond head, as she trotted around the city saying “bucka-bucka-bucka” over and over. Stairs were a particular favorite; I think she’s in cahoots with a local chiropractor. Needless to say, we had a knack for bringing her to places with many alluring, backbreaking possibilities.

    She also began pulling herself up on a consistent basis for the first time during the trip.

    One morning she pulled herself up, gripped her way around to the side of the crib, and hit the speaker button on the desk phone. I think she was trying to call room service.

    We thought we’d been very clever situating the crib behind the desk, so that we had a small divider between her bed and ours, but her newfound ability to get herself vertical meant that she could just peek over anytime she wanted. “Stay low” became our mantra during naptime.

    We did make it to Wrigley Field for a Cubs game one afternoon (I think a passing baseball hat sundae caught her eye as I was snapping this shot).

    Lorelei devoured an entire brat like a born Midwesterner, accidentally cheered for the Reds as they scored some early runs, and became irate when I refused to let her bucka-bucka up and down the stairs between the concourse and the seats for fear we’d get trampled by an inattentive fan.

    We decided to call it a day in the middle of the 5th inning. As we were leaving, a nice woman in our row (who’d been very patient with our frequent comings and goings) asked how old Lorelei was and mentioned that she had a baby just a couple of months younger.

    Eric: [Barely holding onto Lorelei as she lunged toward a passing beer vendor] “And you didn’t bring her to the game today?”

    Cubs fan: [Trying to contain her laughter] “Oh, she’s my fourth. You learn.”

    Our flight home left ridiculously early, necessitating a 4 am departure from the hotel, but Lorelei was a champ.

     

    There was a tremendously unhappy newborn seated two rows in front of us on the plane. The bad news is that he disturbed most of the plane for most of the flight. The good news is that when it’s not your kid making the noise, he or she comes off looking even better in comparison.

    We left Chicago just in time: The day after we got back, the housekeeping workers at our hotel went on strike. We left a good tip, but our applesauce-soaked breakfasts in bed may well have pushed them over the edge.

     


  6. Windy City Baby, Part 1

    September 9, 2011 by Jennifer Carsen

    We just returned from a great trip to Chicago with Lorelei – the kid is a born traveler.

    Our flight was from Boston to O’Hare. As the plane took off she watched, rapt, from Eric’s lap as the ground fell away.

    She then caught up on some light reading.

    She got a little squirmy later on in the flight, but we were graced with our own personal travel angel in the form of Dave Gomez, flight attendant. He brought over both a huge chocolate chip cookie and a set of those little wings you rarely see nowadays, the kind with the straight pin in the back that has undoubtedly marred the memories of many tiny travelers over the years.

    “This is for her scrapbook,” Dave said, handing the wings to Eric. “They don’t make these anymore but I have a secret stash.”

    When we got off the plane, Lorelei blew Dave a kiss. We had an offer to come to the cockpit for a photo with the captain, but we thought it best to keep on moving.

    As soon as we hit the terminal, Lorelei began scootching around O’Hare’s smooth tile floor, exposing herself to the accumulated grime of many nations in exceptionally short order. (Eric later discovered a long black hair wound around her left foot.)

    Things became markedly less fun once we picked up our rental car and started heading into the city. We hit bad traffic. Lorelei began to squawk from the back seat. I forgot that Wacker Drive is a four-dimensional street that has not just an East and a West, but also an Upper and a Lower, resulting in a few misguided subterranean tours of Chicago as we neared our hotel. We were eventually saved by a kind Morton’s valet, who pointed us in the right direction.

    It began to rain. A pungent stench started emanating from the back seat. Throngs of clueless pedestrians, some fiddling with their umbrellas, were wandering in front of our car at random intervals.

    Finally, we reached the hotel and checked in. We were so excited to be free of our various bags and belongings that we left literally everything but Lorelei with the bellhop.

    This seemed like a terrific plan until we arrived at our room and realized that we had no bags or belongings – including the diaper bag. Lorelei, stinky but unfazed, cheerfully began rolling around the king-size bed. Ten minutes passed, then twenty. Still no bags.

    I called down to the bellhop, who asked if we’d turned in our check tags at reception, as we’d been instructed when we relinquished our bags. “Yes, we did,” I said, confidently. He put me on hold for a minute to check things out. “Sweetie, we turned in our tags, right?” I asked Eric, who was busily blowing raspberries into Lorelei’s belly as she squealed with excitement. “You mean these?” he asked, holding them up.

    Shit. I hung up, grabbed the tags, and returned back downstairs to the bell desk – a trip that took several minutes, given that our room was on the 31st floor and the elevator stopped every couple of floors to pick up an additional happy conventioneer or two. I have never before seen the limits of “there’s always room for one more” tested in such enthusiastic fashion.

    As the doors opened at the first floor, I spilled out with the rest of the herd and made it over to the bell desk. “You hung up on me!” the bellhop said, accusingly. “Um, yes, I did,” I said. “I’m really sorry about that.” I began to feel pretty pathetic about the fact that my 15-month-old was handling the rigors of travel far better than I was. “We’ll send the bags up,” he said. His voice was cold. I wondered if we would ever see them again. Note to self: Never hang up on a bellhop.

    Fortunately, he didn’t seem to hold a grudge. We got the bags, changed the diaper, and got the peanut set up for the night. She was loving it all.

    Next up: Our adventures in the city.


  7. Bloggers’ Weekend at Smugglers’ Notch

    June 23, 2011 by Jennifer Carsen

    I must confess, when the folks at Smugglers’ Notch Resort first invited my family up as their guests for a “Bloggers’ Weekend” in Vermont, my initial thought was that they were going to try to sell us a timeshare.

    They were very nice when I actually asked, in my usual tactless way, if this was in fact the case. “No, no catch!” they assured me. They had decided to host a small gathering of New England mom/family bloggers just so that we could see for ourselves what a great family destination Smugglers’ Notch (“Smuggs,” to those in the know) is.

    And you know what? It really, really is. Although the area (not far from Stowe) is best known for winter skiing, it’s a great place for a summertime family vacation, too – loaded with pools for swimmers and splashers of all ages, waterslides, nature trails, and various activities like mini golf and tennis, all within the sprawling Smugglers’ Notch complex. There are also lots of activities for your too-cool-for-school teens, too, including dance parties and movies at the teen center, as well as an arcade.

    The resort struck me as being like a cruise ship in that you can do as much or as little as you want, with as much or as little family togetherness as you desire throughout the day.

    This is true even if you have peanuts much younger than Lorelei – the daycare program, Treasures, takes children as young as 6 weeks for either full- or half-day stints. You provide the diapers and wipes and they do the rest (private babysitting in the evenings is also available).

    The daycare facility is gorgeous: open and airy and full of familiar games and toys, staffed by an experienced team that obviously adores their charges. My favorite part was a window-lined room overlooking the resort with several baby swings facing out so that the littlest vacationers can enjoy the breeze and watch the world go by – I found myself wishing they had something comparable for grown-ups. There’s also a rack of tiny skis nestled in a corner; ski time is offered in the winter for ages 2.5 and up.

    So what did we Foster/Carsens do during our time at Smuggs?

    1. We marveled at our luxurious accommodations, which were listed on our confirmation letter as being a “two-bedroom” but were in fact an enormous, fully furnished three-bedroom condo that slept 8+ (including a room with four twin beds; we totally could have invited some of the other mommy bloggers and their kids over for a rager). There are a variety of lodging options at Smuggs, and I knew they’d put us up somewhere nice, but I had no idea we’d be staying somewhere literally twice the size of our house.

    2. We admired the magnificent view.

    3. We stocked up at the on-site Country Store, which to me evokes images of dusty maple syrup bottles and old cheese, but which is in fact a compact yet comprehensive collection of nearly anything you could want during your stay – a wide assortment of fresh and prepared foods, first-aid supplies, beer and wine, DVDs, puzzles and board games, souvenirs, snacks, maps, non-dusty bottles of maple syrup, and more. I couldn’t believe how much was there; I walked around just looking at everything for so long that I think the staff began to worry that I was casing the place.

    4. Daddy and Lorelei enjoyed quality (and, apparently, madcap) father-daughter time together while Mommy was at her blogger conference.

    5. Lorelei briefly embraced her inner flower child, until Daddy noticed that the daisy petals were winding up in her mouth rather than her hair, at which point the lovefest ended.

    6. Mommy and Lorelei headed to one of the gradual-entry pools but were turned away due to an imminent thunderstorm. We splashed around in the enormous whirlpool tub in the master bathroom instead.

    7. One of us – and I’m not naming names here – started cutting a new tooth and became extremely cranky on Sunday morning, causing the Foster/Carsens to head home a bit early and miss both our ziplining tour and our scheduled half-day at Treasures. We did, however, rally on the drive home.

    Smugglers’ Notch Resort, Jeffersonville, VT, www.smuggs.com. Although we were invited by Smugglers’ Notch and they paid for most of our stay, this post reflects my candid impressions of our visit.

     


  8. Babies and Nachos: Not Like Chocolate and Peanut Butter

    April 13, 2011 by Jennifer Carsen

    On Friday, Lorelei looked a little off as I was getting her ready for daycare – nothing I could really put my finger on (no raging fever or creeping rash), but she just didn’t seem right. When I brought her in, Dee Dee mentioned that there had been a cough making its way around the infant room. A few area pediatricians had already weighed in on the issue, concluding after examination of some of the wee coughers that it was nothing to worry about.

    Sure enough, by Friday night Lorelei was hacking away. It didn’t help matters that she found the sound of her own cough deeply entertaining, resulting in a few crocodile coughs mixed in among the real ones. She was pretty blotto the rest of the weekend, but more or less recovered (other than a persistently runny nose that she kept lapping clean with her tongue before we could hit her with the Kleenex) by Sunday night. Which was right around the time that I succumbed to it.

    Two observations about having a child in daycare:

    1) They come down with everything, which means that you do, too – especially if you’ve worked out of a home office, hermit-like, for the past several years and came to parenthood as merely a more weathered version of your antibody-free, blank-slate newborn.

    2) Each illness is distressing in its own unique way, like a really mean snowflake. December brought us rattling, wheezy chest phlegm that lasted (for me) well into March. The “throat shredder” virus darkened our door right around Valentine’s Day. In comparison, the current tax-time cough is positively whimsical – more tickly and annoying than truly debilitating. (I can’t wait to see what May brings; I’m hoping for something memorable, like shingles.)

    Undaunted, we continued with our plans this past Monday to take Lorelei to her first baseball game. The New Hampshire Fisher Cats play at a beautiful new field right next to a Hilton Garden Inn – we’d reserved one of the rooms overlooking the field, figuring that we could still follow the game even if we had to leave early to put the peanut to bed.

    Eric and I were hungry when we got to the room a few hours before the game started, so we ordered chicken nachos from room service. Lorelei is keenly interested in anything edible these days, so we sat her on my lap and gave her a few bits of chicken and olives (both of which she’s eagerly chowed down on before) off the nacho platter. I always forget that hand-feeding Lorelei anything is like putting my fingers in the path of a snapping turtle – damn, those little teeth are sharp! I also always forget that if a bite of anything is too big for Lorelei to handle, she still gets it down, no problem – but it comes back up a few minutes later.

    Which is how I wound up with a handful of baby nacho vomit as Eric frantically ran to the bathroom for a hand towel. By the time we’d gotten her cleaned up, we’d lost some of our initial “take me out to the ballgame” enthusiasm – and the tax-time cough was starting to get to me – so Lorelei and I stayed in the room while Eric went to the game.

    There were approximately 18 people in attendance for this early-season game (which wound up being a 13-1 drubbing of the home team), so we were able to spot Daddy in the stands and wave to him from the room. It took Lorelei a while to settle down in the hotel pack’n’play at bedtime – she kept clawing at the mesh sides with her fingernails like something feral trying to escape – but she eventually drifted off and had a good night’s sleep.

    We strayed pretty far from our original plan, to say the least. But still – a good time was had by all (more or less).

     


  9. Mommy’s Business Trip

    February 24, 2011 by Jennifer Carsen

    About two weeks ago, I got the surprising news that the Connecticut-based company I work for has merged with one of its most formidable competitors – which is based in Nashville.

    A lot of the details still need to be sorted out – not least of which, the culture clash between North and South; the whole thing is practically screaming for a reality show of some sort – but we hammered out a lot at a day of meetings yesterday in Nashville. It’s the longest I’ve ever been apart from Lorelei before (two nights) and the first time I’ve been apart from Eric since she’s been born.

    I missed them both, of course, but it was decadently blissful to sleep in a cushy hotel bed away from those loved ones I left behind in New Hampshire who snore, scream, or shed. And people here in Tennessee are so incredibly nice that, as one of my fellow mom bloggers put it recently, you think at first they’re being sarcastic.

    It’s a good thing I’m enjoying the Tennessee hospitality, because I can’t seem to leave.

    My flight from Nashville departed bright and early at 6:10 this morning, only to make an abrupt landing in Knoxville – barely 200 miles away – mere minutes later because the de-icing equipment on our plane was broken. I don’t know much about airplanes, but I do know that the de-icing equipment is kind of key in terms of, you know, keeping the plane aloft, so it’s a good thing they decided to have a look.

    Ultimately, they rebooked us all – including the exhausted new parents traveling with an adorable yet agitated two-month-old, who really didn’t appreciate the unexpected detour – on new flights, so I now have two hours to kill at the Knoxville McGhee Tyson Airport – where I never expected to be at all (today or ever, really) and whose motto is, ironically, “You’re good to go.”

    UPDATE: I wound up spending about three hours at the Knoxville airport yesterday. And I must say, it came in as a dark horse winner for the “airport I would have least expected to vaguely resemble a ski lodge” award – it’s full of sand-colored stone wall accents and soothing wooden rocking chairs scattered about. It also boasts those really cool Dyson blade hand dryers in the bathrooms and Moon Pies in the airport shops – all in all, not a bad spot to be unexpectedly stranded for a few hours.

     


  10. A Trip To Vermont

    September 7, 2010 by Jennifer Carsen

    This past weekend, Eric and I took Lorelei to Burlington for an end-of-summer getaway. It went really well – she’s definitely a great little traveler (which is a good thing, as Eric and I would probably continue to drag her out in any event, and it’s much more fun for the whole family when she’s not screaming like a banshee).

    The one small snag was that Lorelei flatly refused to nap on Sunday. The hotel provided a lovely little porta-crib, complete with mini teddy bear, but she was having none of it. I couldn’t get that damn Aerosmith power ballad out of my head (Don’t want to close my eyes…don’t want to fall asleep…don’t want to miss a thing…)

    She dozed a little in the Björn as we were walking around town (incidentally, Lorelei has spent nearly her entire life to date cradled in one piece of Swedish craftsmanship or another, between the Björn and her Ikea crib; if she decides to do her junior year abroad in Stockholm, I guess I’ll know why), but popped up like a squirmy jack-in-the-box as soon as the walking stopped. This led to some interesting mealtimes, during which Eric and I managed to pick the least Björn-friendly meals possible (Eric: a reuben sandwich; me: fish tacos). We did a reasonably good job of keeping the top of Lorelei’s head free of sauerkraut, Russian dressing, and shredded lettuce.

    Back in the hotel room, since the nap was just not happening, we kept Lorelei entertained with the Foster Family Dance Party – one of us holding her while the three of us bopped around the room cooing and singing and laughing. She loved it. I’m really glad the houskeeper didn’t pick that particular moment to walk in the door – though if she’d been a fan of the Hustle, she would have been more than welcome to join us.