Subscribe RSS

Archive for November, 2008

Skiing Anyone?

November 29th, 2008 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Montana Adventures, Winter Adventures


Looking for a white Christmas?  Guest blogger Joanne Smith gives you the lowdown on family snow adventures in Montana.

So, I’ll admit I’m not a skier, but I did have good intentions when we moved to Montana to make it a part of my life.  Unfortunately life has thrown some curve balls at me.  I’ll probably try learning to cross country ski and/or snow shoe in the future instead of snowboarding or downhill. 

As a daily reminder of my inability to ski I have a beautiful view of Whitefish Mountain Resort, better known to locals as Big Mountain, from the front window of my home.  We even watch the snow cats groom the trails each night.  Along with top notch skiing there are also world class restaurants and lodging in the area. 

For someone looking for good skiing and a few less people, travel 30 miles to the south, overlooking Flathead Lake, is another great place to ski in Lakeside, MT on Blacktail Mountain, .   Tickets are about ½ the cost at Blacktail Mountain in comparison to the Whitefish Mountain Resort, which is one of the biggest reasons that this is the place to find families looking to ski on a budget. 

In addition to these two full service resorts, there are several area golf courses that offer cross country skiing, as well as a couple of wonderful secluded places to cross country ski off the beaten path.  One such location is the Izaak Walton Inn,  in Essex MT.  Located about ½ way between the West and East Entrances to Glacier National Park on HWY 2 is this beautiful getaway.  We have friends who drive up at least once a month for a weekend of cross country skiing and they are constantly raving about the well groomed trails as well as the lodging.  For more information about skiing anywhere in Big Sky Country visit Montana’s official web site for skiing,  . 

Not into skiing?  Try snowmobiling on a guided tour.  Learn how to snow shoe at Glacier National Park, ice fish on one of our many lakes, or just come explore the winter beauty of the northern Rockies.

Thank You Bridget for giving me the opportunity to share with your readers this beautiful valley that I call home.  To get here by air, Glacier International Airport is located in the middle of the action in the Flathead  Valley.  Amtrak stops in Whitefish, MT as well as West Glacier, MT via the Empire Builder line.  If driving, plan on a long but scenic trip, where you can find this valley  by locating HWY 93 and US 2 on any map.


Tags: , ,

Over the River and Through the Woods

November 23rd, 2008 by bsmith | 3 Comments | Filed in Road Trips, Travel Tips, Uncategorized

This week we have a treat…my dear friend Joanne Smith has provided a guest blog.  Joanne was my first internet friend.  We “met” on a Parent Center board during the 72 hours that I was on bed rest when I was pregnant with my son Justin.  Looking back, I’m very grateful for that little episode.  It gave me the chance to meet Joanne who has been a faithful friend and mommy mentor for almost ten years! 
Joanne lives in Montana now, and I have asked her to contribute some blogs to give my blog a more nationwide perspective.  This week she has a great tip for surviving long distance car trips.

It’s the holidays and many of us will take our kids home to visit grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  From my home in the corner of Northwest Montana, everywhere is a long way to go and it’s also expensive to get there.  We rarely fly as a family because individual tickets cost well over $300 and require at least one layover.  The Amtrak stops nearby but spending 12-16 hours overnight sitting up on the train with two kids isn’t exactly my idea of a good time either and to upgrade to a family room costs as much as the flight and in that case I’d take the shorter flight over the train in a heartbeat. 

This is why we travel by car more often than not.  My brother lives in central Oregon and my husband has an aunt that lives in the Tri City area of Washington, so when we make the trip to Oregon for the holidays we can spend the night at almost exactly the halfway point for free.  In the car, we let the kids watch DVD’s on our computer, listen to their MP3 players and play their handheld video games too, but their favorite thing to do is listen to a book on tape.  That’s right; you read that correctly, we listen to kid’s books on tape.  From Harry Potter, to an Alaskan adventure we’re going to be in the car for 24 hours over 4 days going and coming, so why not listen to an adventure? The book is always better than the movie and it doesn’t take much time to convince your kids that’s true either.  I’ll never forget stopping for gas and my son asking if we had to turn the car off because he was more interested in listening to the story than stopping for a snack, taking a bathroom break and stretching his legs. 

Before you pack up, head to your local library and find a great book or two to share. Or, if you’re like me,  save some time by hitting the library internet catalog and reserving a few.  

Once you arrive at your destination, especially if you’re in the middle of a chapter or book when you arrive, Don’t be surprised to find your kids asking when you’re leaving or going to the store, anything to get back in the car to finish the story.  So enjoy a holiday trip to visit family and get your own family caught up in a good book in the process.

Thanks Joanne!  Have a safe trip this Thanksgiving.  We look forward to reading about your next adventure.

For those of you who may be in the San Diego area over the holidays, please think about purchasing my Unauthorized Legoland Guidebook.  You can choose from a light slim volume that can accompany you on your Legoland Adventure or an affordable e-book version.  Just click on the link on the main page for ordering info.

Happy Trails,



God Watches Over Us When We are Away From Home

November 17th, 2008 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in Travel Tips, Uncategorized

Sometimes,  reflections on family travel come from an unexpected source!  My little ones are doing a great preschool program at church and this week they were studying Daniel.  The theme was “God Watches Over Us When We Are Away From Home”.  As my four year old and I discussed her “homework”  she pointed out to me that travel can be scary.  It is hard  to sleep in a strange bed in a dark place.  It was comforting to her to be reminded by her teacher that God is with her, even when she is away from home.

This discussion got me thinking about the presence of God in our family vacations.  Our family tries to be devout.  We say grace before meals and attend church on Sundays, but when we head off on vacation sometimes these devotions start to slip.  Yet, as Destiny reminded me, perhaps these are the moments when our family needs God the most. 

You may be on the road on Sunday and the thought of preschoolers at a Saturday evening mass or service makes your toes curl.  I am a big fan of visiting churches with preschoolers when no one is there!  We sneak into church, look at the statues and windows, talk about Jesus and God, and say at least one little prayer. 

Perhaps you can find a church with lively music or a rich history that your older child will appreciated.  We are lucky here in California to have missions throughout the state.  When the kids are older I am looking forward to attending mass in most of them.  Not only are they beautiful, but they give us rich insight into our historical past. 

If visiting friends or family ask around for the more kid friendly churches in town.  Even with the best of intentions you may not make it through the whole mass or service (I have needed to walk out when I was by myself with two unruly toddlers).  Still, you have showed your children that you value being with God and are willing to make the effort to be at church.

My husband’s family has a sweet tradition where they start out major road trips with a guardian angel prayer.  In the future, I plan to be more intentional about including prayer throughout our vacation day: remembering to say grace in a restaurant, praying to St. Anthony when we are lost (which is often), and thanking God for the beauty and wonder of our journey at the end of the day.

Destiny and Jared’s church school material recommended bringing a Bible on vacation to remind your child that God is with them when they are away from home.  I think this is a great idea, and also think that a smaller religious symbol, a cross, small statue, or holy medal might do the trick and be easier to carry.

My final thought on this is that God really does watch over us when we are away from home.  Continuing to have a relationship him while we travel can really enrich our experience.  Most of my international traveling was done as a teenager and young adult.  As a teenager I spent the summer in Venezuela.  My family may have been Catholic, but they never went to church.  I was somewhat isolated where I lived and didn’t go out and find a mass to attend.  I was lonely and missed that spiritual connection during my time away.  The next time I went abroad as a college student I purposely requested a family who actively attended church.  Going to church in a foreign country and learning the mass responses in a foreign language enriched my experience beyond measure.  There were times that were tough.  I missed my fiance. My grades weren’t the greatest. I was ready to give up.  What kept me going was lots of prayer and a dose of daily mass now and again.  A friend of mine who studied church history and I visited different churches throughout Santiago, Chile.  I loved seeing the differences in the physical buildings and the cultures of the church community.  A visit to a peaceful Franciscan Monastary is also a treasured memory.

So as you begin your next family adventure, share with your child that God watches over them when they are away from home.  Try to find some spiritual moments in the midst of all that fun.  Your adventure will be richer for it.

Happy Trails,



Tags: , , , , ,

Sea Life Aquarium Closed for Modifications

November 13th, 2008 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Legoland, Uncategorized

The Sea Life Aquarium at Legoland California will be closed for modifications from November 11, 2008-December 26, 2008.  A Legoland press release says that the modications will include, ” adding an interactive Lego sand castle building area; enhancing the Lego animation in the Lost City of Atlantis display; adding decor to the Lake Tahoe area; remodeling the fron and Park-side Sea Life entrances; and improvements to the interactive audio/visual techologies currently being used throughout the aquarium.”

I am excited that they are remodeling the entrances and hope that this will include eliminating the little scary dark room that you are forced to stand in to listen to the orientation talk before entering the aquarium.    The new Lego Sand Castle building area sounds great.  This aquarium was in need of some fun hands on activities.

I am disappointed that it doesn’t sound like they have plans to alter the access to the touch pools.  I would really appreciate having my preschoolers be able to touch the creatures in the touch pools without having to do heavy lifting!  Well…maybe next year.

On another note,  we have had some beautiful weather here in Carlsbad this Fall.  Keep an eye on the weather report.  We may have some nice warm days to visit Legoland over Thanksgiving break.

Happy Trails,



Tags: , ,

An Unexpected Adventure

November 7th, 2008 by bsmith | 4 Comments | Filed in Smith Family Misadventures

I had to laugh, because in my last post I said if it was in my budget I would take a train adventure this weekend.  Little did I know that eight hours later I would get my wish.

I drove down to the SD airport with my two youngest to pick up my husband.  He was supposed to drop us off on his way to camp.  Unfortunately his plane was delayed, and he was concerned that he wasn’t going to make it up in time to give my son his sleeping bag before they closed the gate!  So he decided to drop us off at the Coaster Train Station and we could take the train back up.  The schedule Ken was reading said that it would be very tight.  He opened the van, I grabbed two kids, a diaper bag, and two booster seats and got on the train. 

Ken’s schedule was outdated, and we waited a bit for the train to go.   The kids wanted to climb up to the very top, so we did.  Next time I wouldn’t sit so close to the stairs.  My little guys were very wiggly (it was almost 7pm) and I was worried that they would fall down the stairs.  Closer to the middle would be a better way to go.  Luckily the train was sparsely populated so two boisterous preschoolers didn’t create much of a disturbance.  I was ill prepared since I did not plan to take this adventure.  We didn’t have snacks or much to do.  I managed to find some Post It notes that we had gotten for free at Pirate Day in Oceanside and we wrote on them with pens.  I also brought out my cell phone locked so they could push all the buttons. 

Destiny made up this tremendous game entitled, “I Wish”.  Jared wishes inevitably involved icecream.  Destiny wanted to ride the train alone or have a pony and a sheep.  I mostly wished to be home in my bed…ordeal over. 

We made it to the station, caught a taxi, and are finally home in our beds.  The kids would file this under adventure.  I would file it under misadventure.

Lessons Learned:

  • Have a up to date train schedule.
  • Riding the Coaster from the downtown station to Carlsbad is really fun.  However, it can seem very long if you do it with preschoolers.  Old Town or Oceanside is about the max I’m willing to go in the future!
  • Make sure you always carry some kids sweatshirts in the car.  Luckily it was a warm night.  Because we were supposed to be making a climate controlled pick up, the little ones didn’t have jackets or sweaters.
  • A well stocked diaper bag or “emergency” pack is worth its weight in gold.  I’ve gotten kind of lax as we reach the end of potty training, but some snacks, toys, and warmer clothes would have come in handy.
  • Yes there is a bathroom on the Coaster…its a little stinky and airplane like, but worth enduring.
  • Carry some cash…it allowed me to pay the $15 it cost to get home.
  • Keep your sense of humor…the central tenant of parenting.

The kids had a blast.  Anything, I do later in the weekend will be anti-climactic.  Happy Trails,



Tags: , , ,

Family Adventure Without Wheels

November 7th, 2008 by bsmith | 3 Comments | Filed in At Home Adventures, San Diego Day Trips

My little ones are very jealous!  Big Brother and Daddy are going camping with the Cub Scous this weekend.  This is a favorite activity for the little ones.  Adding to the challenge, the big boys are taking our only car.  (Our old commuter car died and we are saving up for Dad’s dream vehicle…a used SUV.) 

What’s a family travel guru to do?  Here’s a list of adventures we may have this weekend to keep us all in good spirits until Daddy gets home.  Hopefully if I do one or two they will go to bed early and sleep all night!

1) Take the dog for a walk on a local wooded hiking trail.

2) Dust off the jogging stroller and walk to nearby BatiquitosLagoon-the kids can walk the trail when we get there.

3) Swim in our pool.  (Sure it’s November but this is Southern California…it’s still in the 70′s and 80′s)

4)  Walk to a local park.

5) Break out the Sidewalk Chalk.

6)  Dig out those frozen yogurt coupons and walk to the yogurt store for a treat.

7) Little Kids movie night with lots of popcorn.

8) Practice our tricycle skills at the little rock garden by our house.

9) Set up our own tent in the back yard.

10)  If I wasn’t on a budget, I would bum a ride to the train station and hop a Coaster Train to Old Town and have a picnic.

Any more ideas????

Happy Trails,


Related Posts with Thumbnails

Tags: , , , ,