Thursday, February 18, 2016

6 Tips for Going to St. Thomas with Toddlers

traveling to st thomas with toddlers
I have this feeling that whenever someone writes “with toddlers” at the end of a title or a sentence or a thought, it’s likely met with a mix of fear and apprehension. Toddlers should be taken on an airplane with extreme caution! Toddlers need so much stuff! Toddlers are loud and messy and prone to throwing their little bodies on the floor at totally inopportune moments!

All this, my friends, is true.

But here’s the other thing about toddlers: they are curious and engaged and they force you to slow down and notice all the small things you may have otherwise missed.

It’s with this latter scenario in mind that my friends and I—three couples with three kids aged 10 months, 15 months and 16 months—booked a 6-day vacation to the US Virgin Islands for the end of January. We kicked around a few other ideas: Aruba, Puerto Rico, Turks & Caicos, Mexico, which I’m sure would have been great. But ultimately the fact that we didn’t need passports, none of us had been there before and that it was a quick (at least from NY) 4-hour direct flight, made the USVI—namely St. Thomas—the winner.

Overall, the trip was fantastic and I would absolutely recommend going. As can be expected, we did learn a few things along the way. So if you’re thinking of going with your family, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Consider renting a house


When we first started researching our trip, we thought an all-inclusive hotel would be the way to go. But the more we thought about it, the more it became clear that renting a house was a better idea. And in St. Thomas, it was ideal. First off, we were all in the same place so there was none of that awkward “let’s meet downstairs at X time” scheduling. We were able to cook at home, let the kids run around and, once they were in bed, all hang out in the living room or by the pool. (Also smart: bring your baby monitor!)



We rented this house and it was gorgeous—a great size for three families with babies and a view that went on for miles. (Plus a pool and a hot tub.) The house was high up on a hill, so we did have to rent a car/take cabs to get to the beach and out to dinners and such. The other thing we noticed—and I don’t know if this was just us—but we couldn’t find an area where you could have dinner and then walk around to say, get ice cream or walk along the beach. For us, that made having the rental even better, since we were then just able to spend that time together at the house.

Magens Bay Beach is beautiful—and totally family-friendly


There’s a reason this beach is so popular. Not only was it absolutely gorgeous and all crystal-clear waters, but it was great for the little ones: the water was calm, there was lots of natural shade (we didn’t need to bring an umbrella), the restrooms were close by, there were picnic tables where you could set up and the food, which was typical beach-fare, was pretty good. Plus, you could rent SUP boards, kayaks and floats, and the adults could order drinks and have them brought towel-side.

Use a stroller as a backup high chair


While it was great to be able to cook at the house, let’s be real: it’s not really a vacation unless you go out to eat. Which we definitely made sure to do. But one thing we noticed at most of the restaurants was that there was 1, maybe 2, high chairs, max. Since we were with 3 kids who all needed high chairs—not to mention if there were, you know, other kids at the restaurant—it was smart to have the strollers on hand. Setting the non high-chaired kids in them was totally fine—and allowed the adults to (usually) eat without a baby in their lap.

There’s “kid-friendly” food that they’ll actually try  
So you now how kids’ menus are mostly just bland pasta and hot dogs and chicken tenders? The worst, honestly, even though sometimes they’re hard to escape. (And sometimes, let’s be real, it’s easier to give them something you know they’ll eat.) So while we did order off the kids’ menu at one restaurant, we found that it wasn’t super hard to find “kid-appealing” options that still gave them a taste of something other than pasta with butter. The pizza at Pie Whole was a great—and still had that “kid-friendly food” vibe. Definitely try the Spanish Town pie.) But the best by far was at De’ Coal Pot, which we went to on St. John. The food was awesome (like, I wish I could eat there right now kind of awesome) and they had Caribbean-style sides like plantains and sweet potato stuffing which the kids were happy to eat.

Have a car if you’re visiting St. John


We wound up doing a day trip to St. John—we took the ferry from Red Hook and it only took about 15 minutes. We didn’t do a ton of research beforehand and assumed we’d be able to walk to a nice beach from the ferry. Instead, we wound up hanging out at the beach right next to the dock, since all the better beaches were a car ride away. The idea of lugging all of our stuff, plus three kids was just too much in the moment. The water was still nice and all, but if you’re going to go, think about the car situation ahead of time—and bringing less stuff.  

Go slow


Ok, I know this is the most clich√©d thing ever, but I’m going to say it anyway. The best part about being on vacation with toddlers is that you really can’t go a million miles an hour—they don’t want to see that exhibit and take that tour and go to that must-see sight. And sometimes, that can be a good thing. And usually, it means that you get to spend more time just being—which, in my usual frenetic state, is always a good thing. And St. Thomas, I can tell you, was a great place for that.




Tuesday, February 9, 2016

What if?



I look in the mirror at my short hair and fading lipstick.

I like the idea of growing it out. I’m looking for the perfect shade of purplish-wine.

I think: What if? What if my hair was long and had the exact beach wave I’ve been trying to get for the past six years. What if that lip color was exactly the way that girl wore it on that one blog, what if it were $6, in CVS, right next to the face wash and the baby Tylenol.

--

I open the fridge and see leftovers from last night, uneaten yogurt, and a half-empty carton of eggs.

I’m wondering what to make for dinner. I’m hungry right now.

I think: What if? What if the lettuce was washed and the carrots were for cut and the sweet potatoes were peeled. What if there was a green juice waiting for me, freshly-pressed and full of hope. What if there was an acai-bowl place down the street and homemade granola on the counter and a meal plan that required no research.

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I sit on the couch, scroll through the channels.

I should go for a run. I should clean the kitchen. I should only be here for half an hour.

I think: What if? What if my workout clothes were laid out beforehand, matching sneakers and sports bra and I stuck to that 20-minute routine. What if guilt didn’t come dressed up as dirty sinks and empty refrigerators and just one more episode of Downton Abbey. What if it was 75 and sunny and a run outside could be paired with a baby stroller and a new podcast. 

--

I stare at a blank screen and write a to-do list. 

I have an article idea, a book idea, a photography idea. I have a toddler and a house and a full time job.

I think: What if? What if I woke up early to do yoga and meditate. What if I made time to write, every day, because nothing fuels me more, or better. What if I planned date nights and weekend trips and we all wore clothes in similar colors and got together during the golden hour to make sure our photos had the best light.

--

I lie down on the bed and open a book.

That closet isn’t organized. That pile of shoes is still there. I’m reading.

I think: What if? What if wondering doesn’t make me sad or un-hopeful? What if the thoughts and wishes and the would-be’s and could-be’s and the maybe should-be’s set themselves up in the world and just be. What if some days there were excuses and some days there weren’t. What if now...what if now I’m just reading.



[photo via unsplash

Monday, February 8, 2016

Taking Stock



We’ve officially been home from vacation for a week now and I finally feel like we’re back in the swing of things. Luca was sick and I was sick and you know how that goes. But there’s so much to say about the trip and about January in general—we threw a baby sprinkle for Sherry early on, had a big surprise 60th birthday party for my dad a couple weeks ago and then rounded it out with a week in St. Thomas with some of my favorite people.

Now, on to February!

Cooking: nothing, at the moment. I finally got my act together and went food shopping…and then I made scrambled eggs. #fail. (they tasted pretty good though!)

Drinking: tea, all the tea. In this mug, for the win.

Reading: still haven’t finished All the Light We Cannot See. I thought I’d have more time to read on the trip but…toddlers.

Making: lists of things I want to organize. I’m toying with the idea of finally reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I don’t know.  

Wanting: to meet baby Lexi! Hopefully we can make it down there in the next couple weeks.

Looking: for some new shoes for work

Deciding: on all the things for the bathroom renovation. There are so. many. things. Tiles and tubs and toilets and vanities and fixtures and lights and storage and does the showerhead really cost that much?

Wondering: if the snow this week will actually be anything worthwhile

Questioning: whether to go with a round mirror or a rectangular one in the bathroom. First world problems and all that, I know.

Wishing: that we were still at the beach. It’s not freezing here by any means, but 80-degree weather trumps 35-degree weather every single time. (And my best friend Sherry a very happy birthday today!) 

Enjoying: our new makeshift basement gym. Is that something to enjoy? John threw it all together for about $100 and you guys, it’s great. No more running to the gym at like 530 am cause that’s all I can manage. (Though I seriously did that like once.)

Considering: How even one small thing can shift your thinking. How even just the idea of that small thing can shift your thinking.

Watching: Unreal. I had no idea this show existed before this week, and it is absolutely ridiculous in the best way.

Hoping: that Luca feels better. I think he’s definitely over the worst of it, but that lingering cough has got to go

Smelling: leftover pulled pork from Superbowl

Wearing: workout clothes with no intention to workout. J

Knowing: that I have to trust my gut when it comes to Luca—whether it’s the amount of time we’re together or the type of attention I’m giving him or how I want to be as a parent, I know that actually listening to myself is the best I can do right now.

Thinking: how important vacation is—or rather, just how important a reset is. I know it’s completely clich√© but that whole time out from your life thing is really key.

Following: Kayla Itsines on Instagram. I’m late to the party, but I can’t decide if it makes me feel motivated or just super lazy…I’m hoping motivated?

Needing: to upgrade my Mac operating system, since it looks like Chrome won’t even run on it soon

Wasting: bobby pins, as always

Marveling: at how the actors in Something Rotten, which we went to see on Saturday night with my siblings, could sing and dance in such heavy costumes. But I’m so glad they did.

Loving: that I got 6 full days to hang out with two of my closest friends. We group chat every day, but there’s something about sitting around until 2 in the morning talking about everything that you can’t really compare

Getting: back into the swing of things.

Sorting: through all the towels and other junk in the linen closet.  

Snacking: on cereal.

Bookmarking: this parenting article. Sometimes I think about the type of person I hope Luca will be, what success means and what it will mean to him. I hope that being creative and thinking outside the box are at the top of the list.

Feeling: tired. And ready for bed.