What kind of parents voluntarily sign up for an overseas trip to a foreign country with a toddler…especially a country where hardly anyone can speak english?
And to top it off we are contemplating a SECOND trip! Yes, you read that correctly! Nicaragua had such an amazing impact on us, that we want to go back!
Over the years we have visited many places, large towns, small towns and met eclectic people, foreign people and fun people but have never been so moved by a place that we HAD to go back…until now!
If you tell our daughter she has a cute chin and ask her where she got it, she will tell you “NICARAGUA!”
Some mornings when I ask her what she wants to do for the day her responses will be, “Go to Nicaragua!”
The country had that great of an impact on her as well!
We have a rare opportunity to spend 3 weeks this summer doing whatever we want. No work, no school, just us! So we are considering splitting the time between a fun weekend with family and another Nicaragua trip! The stars have aligned for us over the past few months and this seems like a very viable option for us!
Over the past few weeks we have been busy traveling abroad, treasure hunting and volunteering. We spent 6 days vacationing in Nicaragua with a toddler. She was such trooper.
We left on Christmas Day so she handed out chocolates to all the workers, flight attendants, and bus drivers we ran into. We wanted to make sure they knew we appreciated them being there for us on Christmas. She brought a smile to everyones face that she gave candy to!
She endured an extremely early wake-up call and 2 rather short flights. We found out very quickly she no longer likes to sleep on the airplane. This made it a little trying but nothing we were not expecting.
Upon arriving in Nicaragua, our little princess immediately met a few little ones her age while we waited to clear customs. The line was long and the wait was longer; she was just as entertaining for them as they were for her.
Once we cleared customs we walked through the international arrival door looking for the little sign with our names on it. Nothing. We waited and waited. Still no one arrived. I had arranged a ride for us a week earlier. We waited nearly 2 hours at which point the little one fell asleep in the Kelty backpack. The delay was frustrating, but in the time we waited we met some expats who asked if WE were the living in Nicaragua! A great couple with 3 kids who run an ice cream shop in Matagalpa!
Since the driver didn’t show, or we all failed to see each other, we took a taxi. The address I had for the villa we were staying at seemed easy enough to find … if there were street signs and house numbers in Nicaragua. Since the roads are not marked, our very limited english speaking driver couldn’t find our rental. We stopped 3 times to ask for directions. It finally took a phone call to the property to find our way.
After a few turns we were there … we had arrived to an absolutely beautiful guest house. We were completely blown away by the tropical oasis.
Stay tuned for multiple posts about our week in Nicaragua!
When you have a long road trip ahead of you and you have a kiddo or 3, try these 5 Essentials to Traveling with Kiddos to make the ride a little smoother.
Travel Organizer from Tip Junkie! Take a canvas shoe bag and let the kiddo’s stuff it with their favorite items: small toys, books, snacks, glow sticks and a new toys is always a fun surprise, make sure to wrap it! Who doesn’t love to unwrap a new present!
These are the BEST items to keep little ones busy. The kiddos can practice their fine motor skills by taking the backing off and sticking them on themselves and removing them. The best part is that they stick to the surface and can be removed without the gummy residue stickers leave behind. We use these on airplane rides as well! I have BOXES of fun kid BandAids. *Do not hold me to this. (we have OLD cars … 1971 VW Bug and a 1978 FJ40 Landcruiser) we DO NOT drive expensive vehicles with full leather interior. So, please test this theory before you hand over a box of BandAids to your kids and they get stuck on your nice BMW SUV leather seats.
Music Unlimited by Amazon is your go to! As Prime members we just added this to our account. We get 250 Downloads a month… and they do NOT disappear after a month so they are YOURS!
Fun Cheap Or Free has an AWESOME idea for a book tote! Fill a tote with your child’s favorite books, and put them within arms length so they can reach them.
When all else fails….hand over the electronics. Check out this list of awesome Apps for Traveling Toddler from Media Macaroni.
What are your favorite road trip activities for the kiddos?
So following a few days in the Outerbanks with friends, we cruised back through the Bike Virginia tour for a long weekend of cycling. This year’s event was titled East Bound and focused on cycling in the Chesterfield and Williamsburg areas of VA with the first few nights of camping starting at the Pocahontas State Park. We registered for the weekend event starting on Friday and ending Sunday, however there was a full week option with a second camping area available for those individuals looking for some additional miles.
We rolled into camp around 2pm on Friday, just late enough to not get a group ride in, but with plenty of time to get signed in and find our campsite. With the Sprinter, life is good… We popped out the awning, opened up our REI camp chairs, and unloaded our bikes so we could go checkout the festivities.
HQ, as the Bike Virginia hosts call the main meeting site, was a virtual tent city packed full of cyclist claiming real-estate and finding a parking spot for their bikes. There were a few venders on site, a beer truck and a swag tent selling all kinds of Bike Virginia jerseys at a great deal. We snagged up a couple of silicone pint glasses for use in the Sprinter. The dinner served on site was a catered in Lasagna meal and boy did it hit the spot.
After dinner we biked back to the Sprinter and focused on chasing fireflies with our 2 year old. I really enjoy how having a toddler in your life puts the excitement back into things we’ve long forgotten were fun.
Once we got our little one down for the night, Sarah and I focused on drinking some red wine, watching the fire and talking about life. The next day we would have 65 miles of pure cycling bliss in front of us, so we hit the sack early.
An early morning start was in order for Saturday based on the 65 miles of cycling ahead of us. We don’t exactly set any land speed records on our Salsa Vaya and Surly Big Dummy (with toddler attachment), although we do average about 12-13 mph over the day.
The morning went well with cyclists everywhere! People were excited to be starting the day and everybody was enamored with our little 2 year old who was ringing her bell over and over. The route was an awesome rolling country atmosphere with no significant hills for the first part of the morning.
The first aid station came up around the 13 mile mark at a local horse stable. There were plenty of snacks and liquids available for a quick replenishment. Our little girl ran around and said hello to EVERYONE to include the horses. This was just the beginning of her making friends on the trip.
By the second aid station, people would cycle past us and know our daughters name! She was constantly receiving compliments and greetings from fellow cyclists.
The day was filled with nice rolling hills all day through the Virginia countryside with minimal traffic. At about the 50-mile point a couple of things happened…. We started getting tired and the hills started getting steeper. None of the hills were very long, but some of them got pretty serious for short durations.
At about mile 62 we were on the home stretch, when we noticed an ice cream shop! As a habit, we try not to pass up on a tasty treat during a hot humid ride and today was no different. We stopped for an ice cream and lemonade, making the last few miles to camp very easy.
Once we had taken advantage of the showers at our awesome campground, we decided an evening on the town in our favorite neighborhood, Carytown Virginia would make for a perfect ending to an awesome day of biking.
Carytown has a bunch of cool restaurants and shops on the main street for hours of walking around, but because we are routinely in the area, we went direct to one of our favorites called the Burger Bach.
The Burger Bach is a “New Zealand inspired gastro pub” and serves some AWESOME burgers only to be rivaled by the beer selection. Sarah and I both decided to do the noble thing and each had a burger and a beer to cap off the day.
A short 25 mile day was on the agenda for Sunday. There were longer options, but after our 65 miles the day before and a need to get home, we decided a short day was the best option.
Many of our acquaintances from the day before cycled by and said hello to us and mentioned how awesome if was we were introducing our daughter to cycling so early. The ride was pretty easy compared to Saturday ending with just a few sprinkles of rain as we entered the campground.
The Bike Virginia event was a fun tour, with tons of awesome people. There were bikes of all types, from crazy fast folks on tri-bikes to recumbents, tandems and even a family on a Surly Big Dummy with a toddler seat (Adventure Family in Motion). We had the opportunity to speak with a TON of people about our family cycling history and how we came to utilize the Big Dummy with a Yepp seat installed. I hope we inspired at least one other cyclist to consider bringing their family on the next ride vs leaving them at home!
Did you get to enjoy Bike Virginia this year? Share your stories or a link to your writ sup with us! We would love to hear about it!
I have been delaying writing these few post about Nicaragua for about 5 months now. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe the reality of writing them and reflecting on the awesome trip we had, makes it final. And no one wants to see the end of an amazing trip.
Our first full day in Nicaragua started at 9:00 when our driver and tour guide picked us up; Enrique and Gerald (like Gerald Ford he told us). Gerald spoke limited English but had been told over the years that was how to say his name so Americans could understand it. It worked!
Our first stop was the Masaya Volcano. After a quick tour of the museum at the base of the volcano, we headed up to the top. With 5 Craters and 2 volcanos, “the Spanish baptized the active volcano “La Boca del Infierno” or “The Mouth of Hell”. They planted a cross, “La Cruz de Bobadilla” (named after Father Francisco Bobadilla), on the crater lip in the 16th century in order to exorcise the Devil.”
Next it was lunch! We headed to the art market and had an hour to tool around and purchase souvenirs. We sat down at an outdoor snack stand and purchased a large fresh fruit ‘smoothie’, a water and a plate of watermelon for the little one. All for $3 US dollars. You wouldn’t have gotten away with that at Jamba Juice for less then $15.
We strolled the market and purchased a hand crafted pair of leather sandals for the princess. They had flowers on then and she LOVED them. The mistake I made was not purchasing them in a size bigger and a non “thong” sandal; poor girl got blisters in between her toes. At the market I met an older man who had been an expat in the country for nearly 10 years. He owned multiple homes in both Nicaragua and Coast Rica and couldn’t say enough amazing things about the area!
Our next stop was a little town over populated with tourists because of a beautiful overlook that looked out to a water filled crater. With a small band and locals selling their handmade goods, the streets were packed with people. We purchased a bunch of mini bananas for less the $1 and a handmade dress for the little one for $7.
Enrique was a pro at being a tourist and we shared with him that we love to see things that weren’t exactly on the beaten path. So he took us to a friend of his who owned a pottery school. The school and the pottery making is in the side of the home, the shop was in the front and the family lived off the back. This was one of the best experiences we had in Nicaragua. We watched and learned how pottery was made; from spinning the wheel barefoot to etching in the designs with bicycle spokes. While we enjoyed the lesson, our little one danced and made friends with the little girl who lived there. Gerald attended as well and kept and eye on her for us.
When it was time to leave, Enrique said the little girl looked very sad that we had to go. He told us that most Americans who come there, do not let their children play with these kids. The little girl who lived there was almost scared when she started to play with our princess. She had never touched or even interacted with a white child before.
We found this was the reaction ALL the children had with our little girl. They didn’t know how to react when she would run up to them and want to dance and sing! It was great by us, but the local children were very cautious. Once they warmed up to her overflowing personality, they all seemed to have a wonderful time.
When we returned to our villa that evening around 4…the little one was wore out! She fell asleep while carrying her to the corner market and didn’t want up until 7am the next day! I tried to wake her up twice so she wouldn’t be waking up at midnight ready to start the day, but sure enough she slept through the night. She was one tired cookie!
The other weekend we had NO PLANS for the two precious days we get a week to spend as a family doing what WE want.
So over our first morning cup of coffee we started throwing out a few ideas. We settled on heading for the ocean. The critical piece to being able to pull off this trip on such short notice was our ability to quickly get on the road in an hour.
In an effort to see you get out more often on family adventures we’ve compiled a quick list of tips that have allowed us the luxury of just picking up and hitting the road at a moments notice!
1. You don’t need all of the things you think you do…
If it’s a weekend trip, take it easy on the clothing, food, books, beer, computers, and games. Try to stick with just what you need, this will save time packing (and unpacking), not to mention space in your car.
a. Ladies: Think light… Do you really need your hair dryer, straightener, full-size shampoo and conditioner, nail polish, and cosmetic bag the size of a suitcase? Have a small (size of a “clutch”) travel toiletries bag always packed.
2. Have you gear organized.
We keep all our camera gear ready to go and have the van stocked with regularly needed items (baby wipes, trash bags, water bottles, phone chargers and camp chairs).
a. If camping, have your stuff all prepped in a large Tupperware, insuring you don’t forget things.
b. For cycling, keep all your helmets, shoes and bike accessories in the same place. Have your bikes already prepped with tire repair kits and water bottles.
3. Plan while on the road.
We rarely have the full trip planned before we depart. The majority of lodging, restaurant, or local attractions can all be researched WHILE you are driving (by the passenger of course) via a smart phone and adds an element of excitement to your voyage. Don’t be paralyzed at home planning the trip.
We hope these few simple tips lead to more adventures on the road for you and your family.
Please share with us your tips and recent adventures!
We have ARRIVED! We are now two southern bells and a cowboy (at least for a year)! We have been absent from the blog for a short while due to moving to a new state. That’s right, we packed up and moved from Virginia to Alabama in a quick 20 days! Its been a whirlwind of boxes, brown paper and goodwill donations.
Donald’s work gave us a VERY short notice to pack up and move to a new location. So we complied. Isn’t that what everyone would do? (LOL). We sent him down here 2 weeks after we received notice. I stayed behind with the little lady and waited for the movers.
Last Friday I started the 12-hour trek south on hwy 95. We made a quick stop in Raleigh, NC to visit a long time friend I hadn’t seen in nearly 10 years! It was a night of laughs, wine, and kids playing “batman cave” till way past their bedtime!
Day two of the drive was the part that made me nervous. 9 hours in the car with a 2 year old and no one to help me. But to my surprise she did AMAZING! We had no wet pants, no breakdowns and no fights getting back in her car seat! It was so AWESOME!
We drove to the new, yet temporary, home we will be in for a mere 9 months. Then where…who knows! But we love the adventures!
With only another small mile ride ahead of us to Kitty Hawk we decided to jump on our bikes for the 12 mile ride. Before we left Nags Head we backtracked a mile to Sam & Omies for breakfast! Our first real breakfast fuel on the trip!
We figured out a great way to get the little one in her Yepp Seat as easy as possible. She loves the seat but she loves to play more! So when its time to load her up we tell her we are going to look for School Buses. She eagerly runs to her seat and says “Hurry Daddy Hurry!” … works every time!
Once she is in her seat she asks each of us if we are “ready”.
“Are you READY daddy?” — “Are you READY mama?” — “READY! Lets go!
Our ride to Kitty Hawk was slow. We had a western wind so it slowed us up a little. We were on sleepy old Hwy 12 with limited traffic but a lot of vacation rentals. We were planning on stopping at a brewery in Kitty Hawk near mile marker 8 (everyone uses mile markers there). But somehow we over shot it and missed it all together.
We stopped into a bike shop and then spent a little more time at the beach. We saw the National Park for the Wright Brothers and road in! We have a National Parks pass and were able to get in for free. We only stopped for the restrooms and didn’t do much sight seeing. The monument sits on top of a tall grassy noel with a hike to the top. Working on a few pair of tired legs we chose not to make the hike.
After the exploration of the museum, we headed back down Hwy 12 in search of a cute place to stay for our last night. We found one that said vacant and rode in. But no one was there. I called the number left on the door and no one answered. So we rode on. We got to the end of the road where hwy 12 meets hwy 158. We found a very nice and very expensive Hilton Garden Hotel. They had a room for us with 1 king size bed. up until this point we had been able to put the little angel in her own room or bed or crib of some sort. So a 1 room arrangement wasn’t really up our alley. At the same time the motel we stopped at earlier returned my call! They had a few rooms we could choose from. So we made the 2 mile ride back into the wind.
The Beach Haven Motel is a very cute and quiet place! Completely remodeled, they accommodations were excellent! It was close to nap time for the toddler so we tried to put her down in the second room for a short nap. FAIL. She was too excited to play on the beach!
So we walked on the beach! We took her sand tools and walked about a mile up and turned around. We ran across a star fish, lots of shells, and she spend a lot of time watching a group of kids boogey boarding.
We opted for dinner at a sports bar and grille across hwy 158. A simple dinner of seafood and steak rounded the day out nicely!
Our last day of our Outer Banks by Bike tour was here. A 53 mile ride from Kitty Hawk to Elizabeth city on the following day and we had finished the trip. We started around 8am and were ready to hit the road. We stopped at Duck Donuts which was across from the Hilton Garden Hotel we stopped at the day before. This was the neatest donut place we had ever seen. They literally make the donuts in front of you and then you pick how you wanted it frosted! We got half a dozen, a coffee and a small milk for the little lady. We downed ALL OF THEM with no help from the 2 year old.
Once back on our bikes about 5 miles into the ride we encountered some road construction which resulted in 1 of the 2 bridges being closed. We were expecting to have a large shoulder on a 2 lane, one direction bridge. We road as far down the closed bridge as we could until we met up with some construction workers who told us that they were paving large sections of the bridge and we couldn’t cross.
Then we road the .5 mile back to the entrance and proceeded to jump into traffic on the slim shoulder, 2 lane bridge. I had Donald ride in front and I took up the rear. That way the little angel was between us incase something happened. We waited for a nice break in traffic to start the 2 mile ride across the bridge, although the break didn’t last long. Most of the drivers were courteous and waited to pass us until the oncoming traffic was minimal. But we had a few who were in a hurry and didn’t care about our 3′ biker bubble. Needless to say we took a break on the other side and let our white knuckles return to their normal color before we proceeded.
Farmland again. We stopped at a farmers market and purchased a cantaloupe, a banana and some Gatorade. We let the little one run in the freshly mowed grass and she played with her dinosaur in the rock beds.
For lunch we stopped at Weeping Radish Butcher and Brewery. A very German feel to the place complete with goats in the front of the building! We got a flight of beers and some schnitzel for lunch.
Back on the road to Elizabeth City, we passed the site of the Grave Diggers “birth place” (for lack of better words). For approximately a 1/2 mile we passed museums, an off road track, a mini golf course, and a campsite.
With 15 miles left of our trip we stopped a park for the little one. It was brand new and she loved every bit of it!
Once we were back on the road we spotted a crop duster. It swooped back and forth across the road ahead of us. The little one LOVED it and would call for the “airplane” every time is crossed the road!
The last stretch of the ride was tiring. We were sore and ready to be done. We had some headwind. A few hills and a little rain. We were ready for it to end.
Looking back we had an amazing time. Every bit was great and our little girl had a wonderful time!
We woke up slowly to a distant sound of the waves crashing on the shore. We had a short 20 mile ride rom Salvo to Nagshead, NC. We had gotten in a great routine of letting our bags explode at night when we arrive in our room, and slowly organizing and repacking before bed. This helps with dirty clothes and misplaced pacifiers. After a few bites of cold pizza and packed bikes, we were off. The 4th day of our Outer Banks by Bike trip has begun!
We had an AMAZING tailwind which made our 20 mile ride take just about an hour! But we still took our time on the ride. We stopped at the visitor center and explored the beach! The little princess loved it! She assigned us each a shovel from her new tools. And the colors stuck with each of us the rest of the trip!
Building a sand castle
We crossed paths with a lot of road construction, one long bridge and a cyclist who is traveling from Key West, FL to Oregon SOLO! He is taking 4 months to ride two sides of the country … and to top it off this IS NOT his first time doing this!
Like the previous days we had not had the chance to eat breakfast. So once we strolled into Nagshead we found a cute little coffee shop called Waverider’s Coffee and Deli. We spread out, got breakfast bagels, and coffee’s. We got a recommendation from a local for a place to stay and Donald took the Big Dummy andheaded over to make reservations.
We scored another quaint little ocean front cottage! 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, a kitchen and a nice living room / dining room area. After unloading the bikes we all changed into flip-flops and grabbed the sand castle building supplies.
digging with daddy
searching for shells
It was one of the first times our toddler had a chance to explore the beach on unlimited time! She LOVED IT! She was excited to see the water and hung onto daddy while they ran into the waves. She laughed and laughed!
After a good hour of beach time we went back for naps! Well needed naps and relaxation were in store for all of us!
The weather was still playing games with us all afternoon. After naps we headed out for dinner. We thought walking was the best answer since the restaurant was only .5 miles away. We chose Owens’ Outer Banks Restaurant. The place was quiet and charming. It reminded us of an antique store with all the oceanic old fixtures. The food was amazing the service was pefect.
Halfway through dinner the storm clouds opened up and the rain began. We waited as long as we thought was possible before we headed out for our 1/2 mile run to the cabin. It poured and poured on us! We ran through deep puddles and were thankful for the few cars that passed who slowed down so they wouldn’t soak us more. Our toddler is waterproof! She actually loved it!
When we returned we let the toddler choose the route the next day!
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