Call us crazy, but we considered that a victory. We stayed in a hotel and nobody escaped! Everyone was still alive the next morning. We've been traveling ever since, and it's gotten easier. We've gone to Florida, Washington D.C., Chicago, St. Louis, Atlanta, northern Minnesota, and San Antonio. With the exception of Florida, these excursions have been long road trips in the van.
Our niece Hannah celebrated her second birthday in July, so we ventured to Chicago to party with her and some of our extended family.
How do we make traveling easier? We have family rules.
Rule #1: We always take a picture to document our smiles before the trip (while we are still in the driveway) because most of these trips age us at least 5-10 years.
Rule #2: No running at breakneck speeds. If we are traveling, let's enjoy the scenery. And if you feel the need to put on your running shoes, please do so at the hotel treadmill instead of on unfamiliar city streets.
Rule #3: If traveling in the van, take food for meals, including fresh fruits and veggies. Load up on healthy snacks. Stop at a rest area to have a picnic lunch; however, no camping is involved. The only camping I want to do is in a hotel!
Rule #4: Have fun. Chris is petting the kids. (Shouldn't Amelia Bedelia from the book series appear in this picture somewhere?)
Rule #5: As long as we're all together, let's try to get some good pictures. I like to take pictures in elevators because there isn't much room for anyone to run. Once in a while, we get really lucky and someone takes a shot we can use for our Christmas cards, but that's a rare occasion.
This is as good as it gets. Someone always has eyes closed, or Henry is planning bunny ears.
Rule #6: Cousins must play together.
Rule #7: Kids who can potentially get lost are dressed in bright colors.
Rule #8: It's okay to play with elevators on vacation.
Rule #9: If there's a fish in the Shedd Aquarium that's 10 feet tall, pose for a picture with your uncle.
Rule #10: Take some shots of the group, if possible. Not everyone may smile when we say "cheese." Be patient. We are all a work in progress.
Rule #11: No climbing on the outdoor sculptures.
Rule #12: Eat a Chicago dog!
Rule #13: Donuts and coffee can solve a variety of problems.
Rule #14: No matter how difficult things might be, things could always be worse. We could be extinct.
Rule #15: Our family pictures are imperfectly perfect.
Rule #16: When it takes two hours in traffic to leave downtown Chicago, take comfort knowing that Superman is in the same situation.
Rule #17: If the hotel has a pool, use it. Often.
Rule #18: If the birthday girl hands you a phone, you should answer it. If she asks you to play with her new pink kitchen set, put away the pots and pans when you're done.
Rule #19: When everyone sings "Happy Birthday" and the candles are lit, it's impossible to get around Grandma, who needs to be front and center so she can see all the action. (Ha ha ha!) Don't even try. It does make for some interesting photos, though.
Rule #20: When family togetherness is too much on the way home, resist the urge to put the pedal to the metal.
Rule #21: Sometimes it's helpful to imagine yourself elsewhere so you don't hear the kids fighting.
Rule #22: As soon as you get home, unpack. Put everything away, including the kids. They need to go to bed. Routine is good. A few months and drinks later, it may finally be time to think about next year's trip!