We spent all of last week on my home turf: the DC area. We decided to get ourselves away for a less-expensive vacation than House of Mouse, and the original plan was halfsies in Sesame Place and halfsies in DC. When it turned out that I couldn’t even stomach the price of 3 nights of hotel + 2 days admission at Sesame Place, we decided to go all-in for DC and just give ourselves more time to visit with friends, more flexibility in scheduling what we’d do, etc.
Before I get into this, let me give a BIG shout-out to KidFriendly DC, which had some fantastic ideas about where to go, what to do, etc. I haven’t lived in the DC area full-time in 16 years, and even with trips home no less than once a year, I don’t know all the latest-and-greatest places to take kiddos. So, big thanks to a blog that’s really well done and very helpful.
As we did in prior trips, this was a driving trip, and I’ll say only that I learned three very important things on our drives down and back:
- NEVER travel on a Sunday in the summertime,
- Google Maps has another color that’s for traffic worse than bright red and, if you see it, time to start looking for an alternate route, and
- I want to give sloppy tongue-kisses to whoever it was that designed the DVD player in the backseat of our SUV.
Seriously, for someone who (pre-kids) thought, “I’ll never need a DVD player in the back of MY CAR”, I’ve come over to the not-so-dark-side in relatively short order. That stuff is genius. DD appears to have inherited at least some portion of dh’s carsickness, so she can’t read in a car or focus on things in her lap for too long without getting ill. The DVD screen, however, works fine for her and she can watch it for a good long stretch with NO negative side-effects. Sure, her brain’s probably rotting out the side of her head for watching so much TV but…did I mention that we were on vacation?
Anyhoo, we did our usual thing of staying at a suite hotel that’s near a Metro stop. When the kids were younger, having a kitchen with a sink for washing dishes and a fridge for storing milk was key. These days, it’s less important, but it’s definitely a nice thing to have: you can fill up the pitcher with water and just pull cold water for your water bottles first thing in the AM. A full breakfast is included in our room price, so we had fantastic breakfast choices every morning – something for everybody. Getting a one-bedroom suite is also the standard for us, since it allows us to put the kids to bed in the evening and then adjourn to the living room to chill out, watch TV, read, etc. before we retire to bed – all without disturbing the sleeping kidlets.
The kids got plenty of exposure to many of the kid-friendly places in DC: Smithsonian institutions like the National Museum of Natural History, the National Air & Space Museum, and the National Zoo, plus the National Building Museum, the National Aquarium (in Baltimore, MD), the B&O Railroad Museum (also in Baltimore) and a bunch of neighborhood playgrounds. Staying in the close-in MD suburbs also gave us great access to really good restaurants (like Redwood, in Bethesda, MD) and places that are MUST-EAT-ATs, like Tastee Diner (we went to Bethesda for that, as well). I was overjoyed – and totally unsurprised – that the meal the kids ate best was as the Tastee. I’m not sure how many late night and weekend breakfasts I had there when I was still a local…let’s say many.
Eating out was something we were dreading, since the kids don’t typically do well at eating out in a one-off situation, much less for about 21 consecutive meals. So, we devised a scheme to tackle this: a rewards system. We told the kids we’d give each of them a single point for trying a bite of something new to them, and we’d give them 5 points for eating an entire serving (or whatever we carved out as what we wanted them to eat). Every 10 points could be cashed in for screen time on dh’s iPad or my iPhone. The hope was that they wouldn’t exist solely on chicken fingers, pizza, and burgers for the entire week. And it worked…somewhat.
DD turned out to be the more adventurous of the two (which is a bit of a reverse from the usual), but that was mainly because she was all about the points. (Her common response to my offer of a food or drink: “Will I get a point?”) I think if I’d asked her to eat fried worms, she would’ve done it to get the point. DS was less into it, but he still tried a few foods here and there. The big surprise for us was that we all liked baby cactus (included in a light salad offered by Oyamel, in downtown DC), especially dd. We all agreed that the baby cactus pieces tasted just like pea pods, and she gobbled up the serving dh gave her and proudly told everyone throughout the rest of the trip, “I ate baby cactus!” She also discovered that she likes some cheeseburgers. (Now, I could’ve told her that, since she’s finished off my cheeseburgers before…but I was trying to encourage the girl to branch out, and I wasn’t about to burst her bubble at this point.)
All in all, it was a nice week away…the kids got plenty of outside time, dh got some workouts in, I got a nice tan, and we got visiting time in with several of my friends who I desperately miss. There’s something very frustrating about not being able to just hop on a plane for a weekend visit like I used to do in the old (read: pre-kid) days, but life’s different now and I
mostly accept that.
One of the big benefits, in the end, was also seeing that we could go on the road with each other for a solid week and have everyone come home in one piece. Future trips may be in the car, or may be based on a plane (which would be a whole other new frontier for the kids), but we at least have our routine down for life in a hotel. I’d say it was a big win all around. Now, if only I can scrape together enough cash for that trip to Florida…