11-Day Road Trip: Packing for a Family of 4

Do you consider yourself an expert packer? I’m somewhere in the middle of an expert and a novice.

Like many, I have mixed emotions when it comes to packing for a trip.  On the one hand, having to pack means we are about to embark on an exciting adventure! But on the other hand, it takes a lot of work to decide what we need, organize all those essentials, and fit it all into bags and suitcases.  I worry about over-packing and forgetting necessary items all at the same time.

Last month, when it came time to start getting ready for our Oregon-California road trip, I agonized about getting it right.  We had 6 different overnight destinations.  Thus, I wanted to make sure that we had a system that wouldn’t leave our car looking like a tornado blew through.  I didn’t want to waste a lot of precious adventure and family time trying to figure out where something was located.

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Traveling to and through High Altitude Destinations with Babies

When we road tripped from Seattle to Oregon and California, we traveled through more mountain passes than I could count or keep track of.  One of our longer stays was also in the small mountain town of Truckee, California where the elevation is about 6,000 feet, a far cry from our usual comfortable and damp sea-level living.

We took a couple of things into consideration (and preparation) knowing we were traveling with our newest (now 4-month old) adventurer, and we also picked up a few tips and ideas along the way to make high altitude travel most comfortable for babies.

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Oregon-California Family Road Trip: 11-Day Itinerary

We recently embarked (and returned all in one piece) on our first {family of four} multi-day road trip.  The journey was eventful to say the least, and to my surprise, a whole lot more enjoyable than I anticipated.  I’ll admit that I expected wild tantrums occurring in the backseat along with piercing baby cries that would be impossible to quiet.

And while there was some of unpleasantness, it certainly wasn’t the norm.  More often, we found ourselves enjoying the scenery, having the luxury of researching possible lunch and rest stops, and actually engaging in grown-up conversation! The one thing that did cut into our travel time (and sometimes sanity) was the amount of bathroom stops required for a 3.5 year old!

We’ll dive into more specifics of each of our destinations (and even pit stops) in the coming weeks and months (we covered a lot of ground!), but first we want you to see the bigger picture, and a few statistics for fun.

Day 1: Salem, Oregon

A good distance away (but not too ambitious) from our home in Seattle for the first leg of our trip, and also the home of my husband Slaed’s aunt, uncle and cousin.  Here we visited with family and took some time to explore the capitol.

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Central Washington Getaway: Cozy Cabin Retreat in Cle Elum

Sometimes you need a vacation after your vacation, or a vacation after our “staycation“.  After choosing to stay in Seattle for Christmas and New Year’s gratefully hosting family and loving the extra time to enjoy the city without rushing away on an airplane, we were ready.

Ready for a quick getaway. We chose Central Washington’s Cle Elum area (just an hour and a half drive) because of it’s proximity to home combined with a complete change of scenery and opportunity to unplug.  Our wishes were to be close to some hiking trails and have a comfortable place return to and easily cook a few meals.

With this truly being a budget adventure, our usual desire to be close to town wasn’t an issue. We’d cook all of our meals rather than eating out) and make our own coffee, and all of our recreation and entertainment would be found in our immediate surroundings.

The vacation rental we found in the Teanaway Valley was just right for our needs.

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Lake Chelan Wine Tasting with Toddler in Tow

When my husband, Slaed, mentioned  he’d need to travel to Lake Chelan for work last weekend, I jumped at the chance for Bergen and I to tag along.  Being just a little over 3 hours, in North Central Washington, by the car makes it the perfect roadtrip, and a good opportunity to get away, even if it would only be for a couple days.  I was also hoping to take advantage of the 300 days of sunshine that Lake Chelan boasts.

The weekend had it’s ups and downs.  Thankfully more ups than downs, but the downs had us questioning why we were traveling with our rambunctious toddler yet again. Were we pushing it? Should we have just stayed home where he’s comfortable and has a routine? 

Cloudy Day Lake Chelan, WA

Our first full day greeted with a sky full of clouds and a forecast for rain after a rough night of little sleep, but we were determined to make the most of it.  Slaed worked in the morning while Bergen and I went on a nice long walk (despite the weather) and explored town.  During Bergen’s nap, we hatched a wine tasting plan.  Thanks to Chelan’s Chamber of Commerce, we were armed with a map of Chelan Wine Country and a slew of recommendations with our unique needs in mind.  The wineries need to be open, family-friendly, and not too terribly far away.  

Lake Chelan and the surrounding area has long been famous for it’s apples, but only in the last 5 years or so has it’s wine scene picked up, and become quite a destination for tasters. According to the chamber of commerce, in 2009 it was designated as an American Viticulture Area (AVA), and now has over 20 wineries to explore.

Our tour started at Vin du Lac just outside of the town of Chelan.  Upon arrival we immediately noticed the view and the spacious patio area.  We were also put at ease when we spotted another couple with their older toddler enjoying a glass of wine inside.  After sampling a red and a couple whites, we decided it was  best to choose a full glass, and enjoy it outside where Bergen was free to explore.  We settled on the Les Amis (75 % Riesling, 10% Gewurztraminer, 15% Muscat).  Fresh, not too sweet, not too dry, perfect for sipping as we soaked in the Vitamin D and took in the view.

Vin du Lac Winery Lake Chelan

For our next destination, we were torn.  We knew we would continue around the lake towards the town of Manson, but with our limited time and toddler patience, we couldn’t make any mistakes! Luckily, we quickly found out one of two choices was closed making our decision easy: Benson’s Vineyards.  This time, we put Bergen on my back in the ergo.  Again, we sampled just a couple wines, and then noticed the nice back deck.  The two of us decided on another full glass so we could enjoy the sunset as Bergen meandered around the fully enclosed area.  Their 2009 Sangiovese was the right choice. I liked it’s balance with just a touch of raspberry fruitiness.  We loved not worrying about him wandering off, discovering stairs, or some other way out.  Sure it was a little chilly, but we were prepared, and the view made it all okay.

View Benson Winery Lake Chelan

Benson Vineyards Lake Chelan

We were ready and looking forward to our last winery: Wapato Point Cellars.  We heard from multiple sources that not only was it a great place to taste wine, but a great (and family-friendly) place to have dinner.  There’s even a playground on the property!  After one or two samples, we quickly realized we needed to move on to our meal for Bergen’s sake.  I knew exactly what to order and was not disappointed with their burger. Flavorful and cooked just right with just the right amount of melted cheese. We went home with a bottle of 2011 Harmony: a refreshing blend of Pinto Grigio and Riesling.

We appreciated the laid back atmosphere of the Lake Chelan wineries, and while winter may not be ideal for most visitors, I was thankful for the lack of crowds, and blown away by the pleasant, family-friendly experience. And as for those questions above about traveling once again with our young toddler…I think we made the right choice, don’t you?

Where is your favorite wine region? What makes it the best?

Info to Know:

  • Before starting your wine tasting journey, take some of the guess work out of it, and head to the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce for a winery map and recommendations that suit your needs.  Up-to-date information on hours and tasting times are available as well.
    • 102 East Johnson Ave  Chelan, WA 98816
    • Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm
  • Vin du Lac of Chelan
    • 105 Highway 150 Chelan, WA 98816
  • Benson Vineyards
    • 754 Winesap Ave. Manson, WA 98831
  • Wapato Point Cellars
    • 200 Quetilquasoon Road Manson, WA 98831

Lake Chelan Wine Country


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Celebrating Fall WITH Pumpkins at Fall City Farms

You might have heard about our trip to the farm last week that ended without pumpkins going home with us.  The farm we visited didn’t have a patch, so we oped to venture to another farm on the Western side of the Cascades a couple of days later.

I decided to make this another “naptime roadtrip“, so while Bergen snoozed away in the backseat on the way to the farm, I enjoyed the fall colors that have popped up here in the Seattle area.  I even extended the drive since we arrived earlier than expected, allowing me to take in more oranges, reds, and yellows lining the country roads, and for Bergen to get a little more rest.

Since we were visiting on a weekday, some of the bigger happenings, like concerts and hayrides, were not going on.   However,  that also meant we were some of the only folks around, which was just fine by me as it was just the two of us for this adventure.

First up was a visit with all the animals that call the farm home.  This time we saw, turkeys, goats, and (especially vocal) cows.  The turkeys were particularly curious of Bergen!

On to the main event, we went in search of three pumpkins.  As you can see, this farm had the patch I was looking for with pumpkin after pumpkin in all stages of color nestled among brittle vines and leaves.  Bergen is on his way to becoming a walker, but still chose crawling as his mode of transportation to explore.

We found our three pumpkins:

1. Perfectly round

2. Tall and crooked

3. Mini

Info to Know:

  • Fall City Farms
    • 3636 Neal Road Fall City, WA 98024
    • 425-222-4553
  • October 2012 hours:
    • Wednesdays & Thursdays 12pm-6pm
    • Fridays & Saturdays 10am-6pm
    • Sundays 11am-5pm
  • Admission is free.  Cash & Check only.  Bring your own bags! Pumpkins are $0.50/pound.

What is your favorite type of pumpkin (color, size, shape)?

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Naptime Road Trips: La Conner, WA

After brunch and exploration in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood yesterday, we found ourselves with a sleepy Bergen, and the two of us wanting to still be out and about on a beautiful sunny Sunday. And maybe a little jealous of all the Labor Day travelers.  We knew if we drove home, Bergen would fall asleep in the car, and then not be able to fall back asleep once in his crib.  So we started to drive North.  No plan.

I had a destination in the back of my mind, but without knowing how long Bergen would sleep, I didn’t dare mention it.  Once we made it to Everett though, I started to get excited.  I told Slaed we needed to head to La Conner: One of my favorite Washington small towns.  La Conner is located in Skagit Valley between Vancouver, B.C and Seattle (North/South), and the San Juan Islands and the North Cascades National Park (West/East), and is famous for it’s Tulip Festival every spring.

Then as I was dreaming of wide-open spaces and plenty of roadside stops for fresh fruits and vegetables, we hit some heavy traffic, and Bergen’s smooth highway-driving nap was interrupted.  He woke up.  We panicked, and started scrambling to find something to do in Everett.  Slaed fiddled with the GPS map looking for a park we could explore, and I tried to look at the bright side of things.  Just as I was accepting this new plan, I was curious as to why Bergen’s fussing had stopped.  I turned around to find Bergen back peacefully snoozing, which meant we were back on the road to La Conner!

Skagit Valley

Snowgoose Produce Stand: Stop 1

Taking a ride on “Rudy” outside of Nasty Jack’s Antiques.

Swinomish Channel

Now for the real reason for our visit to the La Conner area.

Slaed’s modest “kiddie scoop” of peppermint.

A waffle cone of chocolate peanut butter is more my style. That’s a single scoop!

Info to Know:

  • La Conner, WA is a little over 60 miles Northwest of Seattle (1 1/2 hour drive).  Explore the antique shops and go to the Calico Cupboard Cafe and Bakery.
  • Snowgoose Produce Stand (Fir Island) is open roughly from March to October from about 8 am-6pm though they tend to stay open later on busy summer days.  They are known for their generous scoops of ice cream, so be careful when you order, and bring cash.
  • Mark your calendar: The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival occurs every spring during the month of April.

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