Category: Travel

Road Trip Travel Tips with a Toddler

Carla May and I went up to Mentone, Alabama, last weekend, a road trip that usually takes me six hours to drive by myself, so I had no idea what to expect with a toddler in tow.  I put out a call for help on Instagram beforehand, and lots of mom friends shared their valuable advice with me.  Including stops, the drive ended up taking us a little over seven hours each way.  CM was a road warrior – only a little fussing and no tears!  Here are our travel tips from the experience:

  • Have a supply of snacks and drinks within easy reach.  In the passenger seat next to me, I had a cooler stocked with cheese, fruit, water bottles (for me), and milk cups for CM (I like these because they don’t spill).  I also had a bag full of snacks – puffs, cheerios, teething biscuits, etc.
    • WARNING:   Do NOT pass a pouch full of baby food back to your child, or it will end up all over your child and your backseat!  (The photo below is actually from CM eating blackberries with her dad, but it is pretty representative of what she looked like when we finally stopped…)
    • Which reminds me: Have an extra set of clothes and LOTS of wipes on hand, just in case!

Eating blackberries or killed her first deer?

A post shared by Chatham Morgan (@chathammorgan) on

  • Even if (ESPECIALLY if) you are a no-screentime or limited-screentime family, buy or borrow a TV/DVD player for the car.  I don’t let Carla May watch TV normally, only if she is sick or if it is an Alabama football game, so TV is still really special for her.  We borrowed a player (similar to this one) from my sister-in-law, along with an assortment of DVDs, and it provided hours of entertainment for her and quiet for me.
  • Have a bin full of toys and board books within easy reach of you.  Whenever your kiddo starts to fuss or act bored, pass a new toy back.  Bonus points if you bring things she/he hasn’t played with before.  Double bonus points if you bring this toy (A sweet friend got this for her as a birthday gift, and in all seriousness, she played with it for hours).
  • Plan out a few fun stops along the way, but BE FLEXIBLE.  One friend recommended stopping at a great park near Birmingham that is conveniently located on the same exit as a Chick-fil-a.  I had the address all plugged in to my GPS and looked forward to checking it out, BUT as soon as we got near the exit, CM fell asleep… Rather than wake her up, I just kept on driving and found a Chick-fil-a to stop at later on.

road trip travel tips with a toddler

  • Tourist traps make great stops!  One of my favorite places to stop is Durbin Farms Market in Clanton, Alabama, a little town known for their world-famous peaches.  CM and I shared a double scoop of peach ice cream and played amongst the pumpkins on display at the Market to break up the trip.

road trip travel tips with a toddler

road trip travel tips with a toddler

These sweet little duck overalls are so cute and soft and were the perfect traveling outfit.

  • If you are traveling alone with a toddler, bathroom trips (for you) must be thought out in advance, something that never occurred to me before traveling alone with a toddler.  Putting my daughter on the floor of a public restroom is out of the question, and leaving her in the car is frowned upon these days, SO I brought an easy-to-unfold umbrella stroller for restroom stops.  This model is slim enough to fit in a handicap stall with you.
  • Don’t forget to bring paper towels and trash bags!  By the time we arrived at our destination, my car was a WRECK, but my happy traveler was well worth the clean-up.
  • If all else fails on the entertainment front, pull out a box of tissues.  Hand them back one by one and let your kiddo rip them to shreds.  This valuable tip was shared with me by a friend who embarked on a 13 hour (!!!) road trip with her tiny tot, and she said it was a lifesaver during their last hour of travel.

Traveling with little ones can be a lot of effort, but new experiences are so good for young minds and so worth it!

For more toddler travel tips, check out this handy post from Daytrips & Diapers!

Do you travel often with toddlers?  What are your favorite travel tips and tricks?

Montana: Our Vacation in Photographs


Last week, my husband and I spent a week in Montana, hiking, fly fishing, eating, and exploring in Yellowstone National Park and the city of Livingston.  This was our first trip with just us two since having our daughter almost a year ago (she stayed home with her Lottie).  We missed her a lot but had a wonderful time together as a couple!

Montana is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to and photos simply don’t do it justice.  The expanse of the sky, the majesty of the snow-capped peaks, and the vibrance of the colors are impossible to portray without full immersion into the landscape.

I lost my camera battery at the beginning of our trip, so all of these photos were taken with my iPhone.  Our first stop was the Old Faithful Inn, located at the Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park.  On our way to the hotel, I saw an American Bison for the first time (we nicknamed bison #DaBubbas for the entire duration of the vacation), which basically made my trip.

The Old Faithful Inn has basic rooms, but the lobby/lounge area is gorgeous.  It was built in 1903 and has four stories of balconies composed of exposed logs with a huge stone fireplace in the middle.  In the evenings, Martha Colby, an incredibly talented cellist and singer, played beautiful music that reverberated throughout the cavernous room.  She played a mixture of classical music and western renditions of modern hits, including a phenomenal cover of “Purple Rain,” which was met with a literal standing ovation.

The demographic makeup of the hotel guests was approximately 98% Baby Boomers and then us.  Since my husband and I had not yet gotten a photograph together, I asked one of the other hotel guests to take our picture.  The photo clarity isn’t quite what I’d expect if I had asked a Millenial, but whatever… You can tell we are having fun!

Temperatures were in the 30s and 40s all week, which was a lovely change from the heat and humidity we’ve been experiencing in Destin.  Our first morning, we woke up early, bundled up, and walked over to the Old Faithful Geyser, which was expected to blow at 8:08 am +/- 13 minutes.  As we sipped our coffee and enjoyed the crisp 30 degree morning air, we made friends with the largest crow I have ever seen.  The Old Faithful eruption was cool, but not as spectacular as depicted in many pieces of the Inn’s artwork.

That day, we hiked out to Fairy Falls and the Imperial Geyser, a base hike of 6 miles that we added a couple miles onto by climbing a steep butte overlooking the geyser and taking a scenic route to look at the Grand Prismatic Spring from afar.  At a couple points in our hike, we had to get off-trail to avoid bison grazing in the pathway.    I was amazed at how few people venture further than a half mile on the trail.  The first half mile was packed with people, but we were pretty much alone the remainder of the hike, which is where all of the best sights were!

After our hike, we cleaned up, packed up, and drove a couple hours through Yellowstone National Park sightseeing.  The below photo was taken near Canyon Village and was absolutely breathtaking.  What was also breathtaking was experiencing my driving on icy roads with no shoulder through the mountains, talk about some sweaty palms!

Saturday night, we stayed at the Dreamcatcher Tipi Hotel, which was a little hokey, but also really fun.   That night, it was supposed to drop into the low 20s, so we were concerned that we’d get cold, but the two space heaters and eight blankets kept us toasty warm.  We streamed the Alabama-Ole Miss football game over wifi in our tipi, which was a very unique and somewhat surreal experience.

The surreal experience continued the next morning when we opened our tipi door to see a family of elk only 10 yards away.  Montana is a very special place.

We spent the next day fly fishing the Yellowstone River with Brian O’Connor, the guide that took Chatham on his first fly fishing trip twelve years ago.  Brian worked with Chatham on some new techniques, resulting in several big, pretty trout making their way into the boat.  My only goal was to learn how to cast without hooking anyone, so I was delighted when I caught a few whitefish and a couple of trout!  I probably could have caught more, but I kept getting distracted by the beautiful scenery we were surrounded by,

The next day was the coldest one of the trip, around 25 degrees, so we took a bleak and beautiful snowy drive up to White Sulpher Springs, home of the Mineral Hot Springs Motel.  This was the first time either of us had seen snow since the powder dusting in Mentone, Alabama, the weekend of our wedding almost three years ago, so an unexpected cold front was a welcome treat on our Montana vacation.

We stayed in Anthony Bourdain’s favorite hotel room: the Pekinpah Suite of the Murray Hotel in Livingston. It was gorgeous and so relaxing.  There was a couple staying at the same hotel on their honeymoon so I sweet talked them into taking a photo of Chatham and I together under the classic neon sign, since we had only taken one other good photograph together the whole trip.

We spent one day exploring Livingston and, on a whim, checked out the Wheatgrass Saloon.  Sharing the space, we found a treasure of a bookstore, Elk River Books. Most of Elk River’s fabulous selection of new and used titles can be found upstairs.  The long staircase opens up to a huge room with high ceilings walls full of books, making it feel like a secret cavern.  I was so delighted by our discovery, I asked Chatham to take my photo, and he called me a dork.

The warmest day of our trip (50 degrees or so), we were itching to get outside again, so with a recommendation from Robbie at Timber Trails, we set off for Custer Gallatin National Forest.   The six mile hike took us through vibrant Fall-colored aspen groves, across snowy babbling creeks, and up steep switchbacks along Livingston Peak.   After our hike, we drove to the nearby Chico Hot Springs, where we soaked our tired legs and people-watched at their Country Club-esque facility.

On our last day in Livingston, the weather was cool but beautiful.  We had planned to go on another fly fishing float with our friend and guide Danny Lahren , but the river was too muddy from the snow melt.  Instead, Danny took us and his two French Brittany Spaniels to a nearby stream on a friend’s farm.  He and Chatham and the doggies waded out and fished for a few hours, while I sat on the riverbank and read.  It was a peaceful and beautiful afternoon.

We had an amazing, but we missed our little girl SO much!  Our sitter took the below picture the day we were flying back.  Carla May did fine all week until the last day, when she was ready for her parents to get home.  That day, she carried around a photograph of me and Chatham and gave it “kisses” all day long.

As much fun as we had and as much as I love to travel, I love coming home to this sweet face, too!

Off to Montana!

Welcome to beautiful Livingston MontanaMy husband and I are off to Livingston, Montana, today!  I look forward to updating you on our travels when we return!

(In the meantime, feel free to follow along on my Instagram <3)

#GuanaGetMarried: Bahamas Trip 2017

We were so lucky to get to spend a week in the Bahamas this month to celebrate the marriage of Chatham’s sister Leah and her husband Matt.  The island of Guana Cay was completely rented out by friends and family of the couple which made for a festive atmosphere, and the wedding itself was by far the most beautiful one I have ever been to.  Flip Flop’s, the wedding location, was as gorgeous as it gets, with pristine white sand,  turquoise water, and a solo saxophone player for music.  The bride and groom’s impeccable taste showed through in every selection and detail.  I am so grateful that we got to be a part of their special day.

This was my first major trip traveling with a baby, and although Carla May did great, I definitely learned the difference between a trip and a vacation, and I know much better how to prepare and what to pack next time.  I’m not gonna lie – flying with a wiggly baby was tough!  It was nothing like Carla May’s first flying experience…  I should have brought more toys and snacks and things to entertain her on the flight, because all she wanted to do was crawl up and down the aisle.  Clearing customs and then waiting in the heat for the ferry in Marsh Harbour took a lot out of her, but arriving in beautiful Guana Cay made the travel well worth it!

Carla May shoved her hand in the space between the drawer and the oven of our range the week before the trip and burned two of her fingers.  We taped a sock on her arm to prevent her from messing with the bandages on her blisters or accidentally hurting herself when she was crawling around.  I know it looks a little silly, but it was effective!

The island of Guana Cay is absolutely beautiful.  The sunsets and sunrises each day are like nowhere else, and the water is crystal clear.  One of my favorite activities is to walk out on the dock with CM and spot all of the colorful fish swimming around.

One of the charms of Guana Cay is that everyone gets around by golf cart!  However, by the time I get used to driving on the left side of the road, it is nearly time to come back home.

Due to Carla May’s nap schedule (she takes two naps a day – one around 9 am and another around 1 pm), we were a bit limited in what we could do, so most days, we hung around the house, took in the views, and spent time with family.

I love this shot especially.  Camille, Carla May’s great-grandmother, went out on the porch to look at the water, and CM just couldn’t bear to have her leave the room.

Thank you Jane for taking the family shots!!!

We spent one afternoon island hopping with our friends Lindsey and Baxter.  We went to The Abaco Inn for lunch, then Hope Town to see the lighthouse where we got engaged three years ago, and then Scotland Cay to swim in the prettiest water I have ever seen.

We made it to the famous Nipper’s a few times to eat and enjoy a rum cocktail.  CM loved Nipper’s because so many customers bring their dogs.

CM and I lucked out and got to go on a golf cart tour of the luxury real estate development Baker’s Bay with Leah, Matt, and Camille.  The facilities are gorgeous, and we had a lot of fun touring their golf course, pool areas, and tiki bars.  Apparently a lot of celebrities own homes in the development, and I can certainly see why!

The rehearsal dinner was at Orchid Bay and just like everything on the island, it was beautiful.  I’m pretty sure babies are about 80% body fat, because CM was sweaty ALL week!  Evenings are tough for her, so I did my best to entertain her throughout the rehearsal dinner, which meant alternating between feeding her, standing up dancing with her, and sipping on my rum punch. 😉

On the day of the wedding, all of the bridesmaids got ready together with Leah .  She had chosen a skirt for us to wear and let us pick whatever white top we wanted, which I thought was a wonderful idea.  The looks are all cohesive but the variety adds interest.  She surprised us each with a necklace to wear – a gold Bahamian coin on a chain.  Each one was a little different – some girls got coins with fish and some with pineapples, some chains were longer and some were shorter.  I have worn mine so much since then, and I always think of that special day each time I put it on.

CM had a ball playing with her cousins while all the bridesmaids and the bride got ready.  I just can’t get enough of these two in their adorable baby’s breath crowns!

I didn’t take any pictures myself from the wedding since there were professional photographers for that (and I couldn’t find my phone), but here are a few taken by friends and family that I want to remember.  

We had a wonderful trip, but we are always happy to get back home!  I love traveling, but being away always reminds me how much I love our day-to-day life and also how much I miss my dogs.  Thank you to Leah, Matt, Charles, and Carla for an incredible week!

 

 

Baby’s First Flight! – Our Weekend Trip to Jupiter, Florida

Florida Wildlife Federation is an amazing organization that works with citizens and legislators to protect and preserve conservation lands for wildlife in the state of Florida.  I have really enjoyed getting involved and serving as a Board member over the last three years.

FWF’s Annual Awards Banquet and Spring Board meeting was held this past weekend in Jupiter.  I had to miss the last two meetings, one because I was super-pregnant and the other because Carla May was still too little to travel, so Stella, Carla May, and I were excited to attend!

Jupiter-1

Our trip started off with Carla May’s very first plane ride!  I was so nervous about this flight, since Carla May tends to get fussy if you aren’t moving – she prefers you to walk around while holding her rather than sit down.

Jupiter-2

Luckily my worries were unfounded – she slept almost the entire flight!  My arms and shoulders were sore the next day from holding still, but an hour and a half of uninterrupted snuggle-time was so nice.

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We stayed at the Wyndham Grand, which is where the Banquet and Board Meeting were also held, and we couldn’t have asked for a better setup.  Their basic room is comparable to a suite, with both a bedroom area and a living room area, separated by a wall.  This layout was perfect for us, since we were able to set up the pack-n-play in the living room area and turn it into a nursery.

Our room was on the same floor as the banquet hall and conference room, which was very convenient.  Although our room was in a highly-trafficked location between the elevators and the ballrooms, we didn’t hear a peep!  Carla May napped like a champ all weekend (and we slept pretty good, too).

Jupiter-4

The Awards Banquet was lovely. We were seated right next to a family with a sweet little boy about a year older than Carla May.  The two kiddos were fascinated with each other, which was delightful to watch.  She is usually fussy in the evenings, but we kept her entertained with asparagus spears.

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The weather was beautiful on Saturday, so while I attended the Board meeting, Carla May and Stella strolled all over Jupiter (and did a little shopping, too!).

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On Saturday afternoon, we took Carla May for her first dip in the pool.  The Wyndham had a great pool setup as well, with a large hot tub, an infinity-edge pool, and a huge poolside bar.  The pool is located on the third-floor deck overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway.  While we were at the pool, there was a wedding taking place on a boat docked below, and there were several people in formal attire watching the ceremony from the pool deck.  The atmosphere on the deck was festive, and everyone at the pool was cheering when the groom kissed the bride.

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As much as Carla May loves bathtime, I knew she would love the pool!  She was infatuated with the water and kept splashing with her feet and trying to “grab” the water with her hands.  I had to stop her from  gumming the edge of the pool and drinking the water though.

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After our pool deck adventure, Carla May took a nap while Stella and I got ready for dinner.  The Florida Wildlife group got together at a board member’s home on the Loxahatchee River.  The food and company was wonderful, but our favorite dinner guests were the hosts’ two boxers.  The younger boxer and Carla May quickly developed a fondness for one another that was so sweet to watch.  The boxer would put her head on Carla May’s tummy, and Carla May would laugh and laugh!

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Seeing as how dogs are usually my favorite party guests, I can’t say I’m surprised that my daughter is the exact same way.

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We woke up to rain on Sunday, so we didn’t mind heading back home.  The turbulence didn’t bother our tiny passenger, who slept soundly throughout the entire flight!

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I wish I had gotten a video of Carla May reuniting with the beagles after being gone all weekend.  Hayduke and Pocket were prancing in circles around her while she giggled at them.  It was quite possibly the cutest thing I have ever seen.

I feel a lot more confident about traveling with a baby after this weekend, and I am looking forward to many more adventures to come! <3

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