Traveling with kids is not a vacation, its traveling.

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Since becoming a parent, I’ve reflected more and more about my own parents and how they raised us when we were young. I wish I could travel back in time and watch my parents interact with my two-year-old self. I know what my childhood felt like from a child’s perspective, one full of love, support and adventure. But now that I have children of my own, I would love to observe it from an adult’s perspective. Recently, Cory and I took both kiddos to Maui and Oahu which started me thinking: I wonder what my parents packed for us on the plane? I wonder how they handled me when I threw a tantrum in a restaurant? Would they have set out on an adventure with two babies on a 6-hour round trip to Hana down a windy road?

As a child I vacationed often with my family. I use the word vacation because most of the trips included beautiful hotels, beachfront views, overpriced food and expensive excursions. Naturally, I loved every minute of them. These vacations comprise some of my best childhood memories. My dad is the one who planned our family trips to Hawaii, the Caribbean, Mexico and our Mediterranean cruise. It wasn’t until college I learned the difference between vacationing and traveling.

Traveling was a totally different experience with inconveniences, uncomfortable nights and basically a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants itinerary. During my senior year in college, I studied abroad in Belize for 4 months, which produced situations packed with all sorts of surprises. One might ask why Belize triggered my obsession with traveling? It was because I’d never felt so “in the moment." I grew to love the uncertainty of traveling, the craft of being open minded to new cultures and the adventure of the unknown. After Belize, I traveled to dozens of countries around the world including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Panamá, Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, Perú, Nepal, India, Kenya, Zanzibar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Germany.

Since having children, I have come to terms with the reality my travel adventures will look different for a couple years. While pregnant I declined multiple trips because of the Zika virus. Now I have two little ones, which doesn’t make it impossible to travel, just different. During Cooper’s first year and a half of life, she went on 18 different flights all stateside.  Since Clark joined our family, I haven’t felt confident enough to travel alone with two little ones, but I know I will get there. As for now, my husband and I tag team the our adorable and independent duo. 

Our Trip to Hawaii

As we installed the car seats at LAX and made our way home, Cory and I literally gave each other a high five. We had done it. We’d successfully taken two young kids to Hawaii. By my definition, we had traveled with the kids, sprinkling in a little bit of vacation.

We hauled around two car seats, a pack ‘n’ play, snacks, luggage, a stroller, a determined and independent toddler and a super wiggly 7 month old.

We stayed in three different houses. We are incredibly grateful for the family and friends willing to house our family of four. Even though many of the houses were kid friendly (Uncle Ry rented high chairs and a baby exersaucer), we didn’t have the comforts of our own baby-friendly stuff. We laid out towels under our children when they ate, we bathed with them in slippery bathtubs, and we slept in the same rooms, fully aware any noise from them would wake up the whole house.

We debated nap and sleep schedules daily. I was more determined than my husband to cater activities and outings around the kids’ naps. Sometimes that was an option, but most of the time impossible to do. Halfway through the trip I surrendered and just hoped they would nap in the car without having complete meltdowns by the afternoon. So everyday, mornings and evenings were packed with the uncertainty of how the kiddos would handle life outside their routines. And guess what? They TOTALLY figured it out. Yes, we had a few melt downs, but we adjusted with food, beach showers, carseat naps…and everything ended up “mo bettah.” All in all, the trip was amazing. It felt like we were gone for a month (in a good way).

To be completely truthful, I was very nervous that having children would limit my ability to travel. Yes, it looks different, but I can honestly say traveling with children is even better. You see the world through their little eyes which allows you to notice and find joy over the littlest things.

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The toad jumping across the sidewalk

The flamingos at the hotel we pretended to stay at for the day

The birds chirping at 3:30 am the first morning they woke up

Cooper announcing she is “brave” for swimming with floaties in the ocean all by herself

Literally smelling the flowers in the Hawaiian lei

Roasting marshmallows with friends at a bonfire in their backyard

The chickens at my aunt’s organic farm

After this trip I have renewed excitement about continuing my passion for adventure and travel with my children and husband.

Tips for traveling with two little kiddos

-Our bob stroller saved us: We loaded it with luggage, beach gear and children, depending on the adventure.

-Of course, bring your ergo to carry baby or toddler if they need to be strapped to your chest for whatever reason.

-Bring snacks for all car rides even though the kids will be filthy when you arrive at the destination. Just bring tons of extra clothes.

-Write down memories daily because so much happens and it is easy to forget.

-Bring reusable water bottles for the kids. We ended up buying a kid hydroflask and keeping it full during the beach days and car rides. (#bebetter52 challenge completed).

-Prepare to be up early (due to time changes), so plan a fun early morning activity. 5:30 beach mornings were the highlight of our trip.

-I brought tons of activities for the plane. Honestly, stickers didn’t entertain Cooper very long, and she was easily frustrated by them. Books and movies were the best entertainment. WARNING: Cooper doesn’t watch a lot of TV at home, and after she watched two hours of movies, her brain had turned to mush and her temperament had become much fussier…like tantrums that required us to hide in the plane bathroom to drone out the noise. Thankfully, they only lasted a few minutes.

Some great beaches for kids in Maui and Oahu.

Maui beaches

Grand Wailea (kid friendly next to hotels with pools and showers to rinse off babies)

Sprecklesville- Baby Beach (protected by reef)

Hamoa (not baby friendly, sticky black sand and big waves, just played in beach break)

Kaanapali beach (beach outside the Westin, bigger shore break)

Other kid activities

Maui - Iao Valley  (hike and play in stream)

Maui - Splash Pad (Maui mall)

Maui- Road to Hana, return backside Kaupo

Oahu – Kanu Farms (visit the Chicken Coop)

Oahu Beaches

Baby Makapuu (beach with tidepools for kids and surf next to it)

Baggers Beach (totally baby friendly)

Pipeline (top surfing wave in the world, just played in sand)

Bikini Beach (totally baby friendly)