It’s been a week since our road trip home from Lake Tahoe. I feel like we have all adjusted well, other than being in this heat. Holy hell, it’s hot! Yet, there’s nothing quite like the comfort of your own home (and bed). Leaving Lake Tahoe was really difficult… the weather was amazing, every day was family day, and we were walking distance to the lake. Heaven! Had we all taken a flight home the day we checked out of our Airbnb, we probably would have been even more sad to say goodbye, but instead we took a road trip. 12+ hours in the car with a toddler, baby, and a months-worth of gear. Some days were better than others, yet by the time we got to Santa Barbara and Palm Springs, we felt the readiness to be home.
The idea to take a road trip happened after a long hour and 40 minutes flight with the girls to Lake Tahoe. Although I was not by myself (Gigi and Auntie Maya were the row over) it was still kind of awful. Tantrums, baby on lap, tantrums… it took a flight attendant to say the word, Cookie? to get Vivienne to stop flaring around. I thought, there is no way in hell I would go through that again… and the next time planned would actually be myself. Lucky for me, we only booked a one-way ticket so the road trip idea couldn’t be disregarded. We decided to take a couple extra days to get home, stop every 3-4 hours and stay the night in a city. We mapped out a coastal route and stayed in San Francisco, Monterey, Pismo Beach, Santa Barbara, and Palm Springs.
In this post, I’ll be sharing the places we stopped, what we did, and where we stayed. Then I’ll answer a few questions from followers about the trip and how we managed it with two kids.
Stayed at: Argonaut Hotel (Priceline deal).Shared a one bedroom, two pack and plays provided by the hotel.
We mainly walked around our old neighborhood, the wharf and Russian Hill. We noticed that we didn’t miss San Francisco as much as we thought we would after coming back- perhaps it was because we went back with our kids, which is fairly difficult going up and down those hills with a stroller. It’s a fun and beautiful city, but we agreed the the next time we would visit will be an adult trip or wait until the kids are older.
At bedtime: Putting the kids down to bed was difficult this night, as it was our first night and we had never slept in the same room together. We also had to order room service for dinner because Vivienne could not handle sitting at a restaurant. It took us laying in bed in the complete dark to get V to finally lay down and go to sleep. Not ideal, but what can you do.
Stayed at: Hotel Pacific (Priceline deal).Shared a family suite, technically one large room, no walls to divide, two pack and plays provided by the hotel.
I’m so happy we decided to not stay in San Francisco for two nights like we originally planned and headed off on our trip to Monterey. Had we done it again, I would have chose to stay in Carmel and drive to Monterey to go to the Aquarium for a few hours. We got to Monterey, had a snack and fed the kids before going to the Aquarium. Great place to take the kids, despite the end when Vivienne kept bolting away. Anyone else have this issue? Probably one of the worst things ever for a parent. We came back to our hotel and freshened up before going to Carmel for dinner and walking around. Highly recommend Carmel.
At bedtime: We made a poor decision and gave Vivienne ice cream after dinner. She was the most hyper I had ever seen her before and JJ and I looked at each other like… what the F do we do? Eventually, they go to sleep… but it was a little chaotic this night with the added sugar high. Note to self.
Stayed at: The Cliffs Hotel (Blog).Shared two connecting rooms, oceanfront, with two cribs provided by the hotel.
The next day we left for Pismo Beach, stopped an hour and ½ in to visit DAOU winery in Paso Robles (which was absolutely amazing btw) and took a long walk when we got to our hotel. It was beautiful weather and nice to walk down the cliff to the beach and listen to the waves. We had dinner at The Cliffs Restaurant that evening, which was delicious and beautiful to sit on the patio. We woke up, had breakfast, packed up, stopped at Firestone Grill (a JJ must) and left for Santa Barbara.
At bedtime: It was a lot easier with two connecting rooms to be able to enjoy some alone time and watch a show in bed. We had Alice’s crib on the other side of the connecting room, Vivienne by the window on the other side. Once we finished watching TV and were ready for bed, I opened the door so I could hear her if she cried in the middle of the night (we didn’t have baby monitors with us).
Stayed at: Kimpton Goodland (Blog). Shared one small room, two pack and plays provided by the hotel
When we arrived in Santa Barbara, we were early enough to go straight to the zoo. We spent a few hours there, which I would highly recommend checking out if you are with your kids in the area. It is a beautiful zoo. After the zoo we went to our hotel, which was in Goleta, 15 minutes from Santa Barbara. The hotel had enough going on and we were a little over getting back in the car so we decided to just stay there the rest of the night. We had dinner at Outpost, the hotel restaurant, and watched a movie before bed.
At bedtime: JJ and I finally found a solution to sleeping in one room by the 4th night. We shared an Airpod and listened to music, both falling asleep with the music going. Alice has been a trooper this entire trip with going to sleep, when it was bedtime, whether we had tv on or was talking… she crashed!
Stayed at: The Ritz (Priceline deal).One deluxe room, floor level, two cribs provided by the hotel.
We were excited to get to Palm Springs because it meant we were almost home. We decided to embrace the heat and enjoy the pool with the girls for an hour or so. It ended up being our favorite day of the road trip, swimming and spending time together. We got showered, dressed, and went out to dinner for sushi. We watched a show with Vivienne in bed at the hotel when we got home, Alice fell asleep during it like a champ.
At bedtime: When both girls went down, JJ and I laid in bed listening to Airchair Expert podcast while sharing airpods. Why didn’t we think of doing this the rest of the nights?
As far as the road trip itself, answering some of your questions below:
How did you breastfeed and drive with Alice?
There was maybe one or two times that we actually pulled over to change her diaper and feed her, other than that I just fed her before we left and when we arrived. She is on a more lenient schedule now as she’s almost one years old and doesn’t need as much during the day. I still offer, but she definetly takes a lot less.
How was V in the car and potty training?
We were suggested to put a diaper on her while we drove long distance and I couldn’t be more happy that we did this. It made it so much easier to not have to stop 10x a day. We did put on undies once we got to wherever we were going and she had multiple accidents in hotel rooms. Now that we are back home, she is back to having her occasional accidental poop in pants but is doing great again.
How do you keep them both occupied?
So, Vivienne gets unlimited shows and movies throughout the drive. I know, it sounds like a lot and maybe it is but for the most part got the girls to nap in the car while we drove the 3-4 hours and at least cut off an hour of show time. Alice on the other hand was TV-less. She had a mirror in front of her that she loved, I also had a backpack of toys that I would hand her and at times had to play peekaboo or hold her hand from the front seat. As much as it sounds like I’ll need to be entertaining her the whole time, again, she slept for about 2 hours each time we were in the car so it only left a short time of entertaining, and she loved her toys.
How was your new car?
We LOVE it. It’s been so nice to have the extra space, captain seats, and might I add… it’s a really goodlooking car. We were all very comfortable, despite our seriously packed car.
How did you deal with naps?
We were a little off this trip, as you kind of have to be, and counted on car and stroller naps for Alice. She actually did great considering and had a few afternoon naps in the stroller (not pushing 5pm) if needed.
Who did most of the driving?
JJ did ALL the driving.
Stroller or wagon?
We used the Uppababy Vista tandem stroller for our road trip, making it easy to get around and also the option of a nap if needed.
There were actually more meltdowns OUT of the car than in. We have been dealing with more not listening situations than full on meltdowns or running away… neither fun.
We made sure to keep snacks in the car for the girls and eat before or during the drive. Some favorites: snap peas, veggie sticks, Cheerios, peanut butter crackers, etc. I think the best alternative to fast food (Chick-fil-A is our jam) while traveling with your kids is stopping at Starbucks and picking up one of their protein boxes. Peanut butter and jelly, cheese stick, cucumbers, carrots, apples, dip, and chocolate covered raisins are in this specific one. It’s been a game changer for traveling in the car with kids for me.
Reasons to travel with small children? “He won’t remember so why even do it?”
Everyone has their own thoughts and opinion for traveling with small children. I’ve heard it a time and again on wait until they are older… or… “they won’t remember it”. Sure, they may not, but I will. These are also memories for US. I want to explore so many places as a family, and hopefully get them accustomed to travel at an early age where it won’t be as difficult sooner than later. When we chartered a boat in Lake Tahoe, the captain told us that he takes off every winter and goes somewhere new with his family (his kids are the same age as mine). They have been doing this before the kids were even born and they choose relatively chill beach areas all over the world. You may have that one or two tough travel days, but then you’re there and the same meltdowns you’d have in the grocery store at home you’ll have there. It’s an interesting prospective to have and I actually 100% agree. Children don’t make it easier, of course, and alone time with your partner is ALSO needed if you have the option, but for me personally… I’d feel a lot less anxious to get home to them if they were just with us.
I hope this was helpful to anyone planning to travel in the car with your kids. Keeping a separate backpack with toys was helpful, so you knew where they were and could offer it to baby whenever she/he got fussy. I also packed some water wows, books, and flashcards for Vivienne… but she was more into watching movies (duh).