Travel Mom Ashley joins us to share her summer vacation adventures from Iowa to Ireland with kids, her two under 3 years old. As a frequent traveler with her kids, she has great tips, tricks, and tools for any family traveling with kids.
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Tell Us About Yourself
I’m a mom of two. I’ve been married to my husband, Bryan, for 14 years. We’ve got two little boys. Myles is three. Eli is one. We live in Denver, Colorado. We’ve always loved travel adventures, both before and now with kids.
Tell Us About Your Summer Adventures
We’ve had a ton of adventures this summer. We’ve done a lot of day and weekend trips around Colorado and out west. We get up to Rocky Mountain National Park. We go camping as much as we possibly can. We love to hike and backpack with our kids. We had a fun trip to Pella, Iowa, in May and an international trip to Ireland in June.
Tell Us About Your Ireland with Kids Vacation
We went directly from Denver to London and then had a short layover in London to get to Dublin. And it worked out just great. We spent part of the time in Dublin and part of the time in the west of Ireland. It was a nice balance of the city and then the relaxation and beauty of the west of Ireland.
The west has the national parks, and the major city in the west is Galway. We didn’t spend any time in Galway. We stayed just south of Galway in the county of Limerick, which is a pretty large county, and it was great. The weather was wonderful, dry, and sunny, with perfectly mild temperatures.
Dublin, Ireland with Kids
We stayed in Airbnbs in both locations. In Dublin, we had a place that was in the area called the East Wall. Dublin used to be a walled city. It wasn’t right in the heart, which was nice because it was quiet with children. We rented a car while there, and our Airbnb had parking and a bus at the end of the block, so it was all very convenient.
We went to the Guinness Factory, which is very touristy, has a lot to see and do, and is very family-friendly. The kids loved it. We had lunch halfway up the factory. When you reach the top, they pour you a pint of Guinness and have kids’ beverages, too. It was fun for the kids to learn about the process and see the factory.,
And in Dublin, Myles really wanted to do a double-decker bus tour, like KeeKee does in her London book. I didn’t realize they had them there, but when he saw them, we had to go. We sat up top and had a great time.
Western Countryside of Ireland with Kids
In the Irish countryside, we stayed at a house on a farm in the county of Limerick, south of Galway. They had goats, chickens, horses, and donkeys; it was so fun for the kids. They had the main house, and we stayed in their guest house.
The owner had a six-year-old who went right up to Miles, and they started playing. He had this little John Deere bike-like thing that had a seat in the back, and he took Miles for rides around, and they were talking about the animals. He made Irish friends everywhere, which was heartwarming to see.
We used this as our jumping-off point. We spent long days in the car, seeing many areas around us.
We went out to the Dingle Peninsula, a fishing village with lots of rolling hills, a beautiful coastline, tasty food, delicious ice cream, and rocky beaches.
And then we drove north to get to Doolin, a port that takes you to the Aran Islands. And then also you can do ferry tours from Doolin to see the Cliffs of Moher from the coastline, which is just stunning. We took the ferry to the Aran Islands and spent part of the day walking around and exploring the Aran Islands, which are so interesting. There are very high cliffs and rocky coastlines, so we got the perspective of this stunning landscape from above.
There’s so much to explore in the area, and we enjoyed all of it.
Iowa Dutch Tulip Festival
Another fun trip this summer was in May to Pella, Iowa. Right after we got married, my husband and I decided we wanted to go to all 50 states, so we’ve researched fun things to do in each state. Pella has an annual Dutch tulip festival. Their slogan is Be Dutch for a day. It’s a weekend-long festival. It was awesome.
We had not been to Iowa; my husband’s family is Dutch, so this was a great reason to go. His parents met us there and it was so much fun. There are tulips everywhere. They’ve got a couple of windmills in town. One is one of the largest windmills outside of Amsterdam. There’s tons of great Dutch food. And then they have a great parade twice daily. The parade was one of the best parades I’ve ever seen in my life. One of the bands has been in the Rose Parade several times. They have a middle school marching band that always wears Dutch shoes.
Tips, Tricks & Tools for Traveling with Kids
- Bring Less than You Need. I will never stop telling people to bring less than they think they need. We did not check bags. When you have kids, time is so important. You do not want to wait for your bags to come through and go through whatever process they need. And you have everything you need with you. So the less you can bring, the better, and that’s what we always do. You can always pick something up where you are doing. We brought enough diapers for the trip for Eli just to get there, and then once we got there, we just went to a grocery store and picked up some diapers. As we only carry on, we do laundry. We try to book Airbnbs that have laundry facilities in them, but if they don’t, we will find a laundromat, and we are not above doing bathtub laundry, so we will bring a little bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap, which is great for everything. We tend to bring more clothing for the kids, and for a ten-day trip, we try to have three to four outfits for us as adults.
- Have a good travel credit card and know the policy. A good travel credit card can earn you free trips and hotel stays, but more importantly, it has trip insurance, health insurance, and car rental insurance. Double-check that the coverage is sufficient for your trip and that you will not need additional coverage, but a good travel credit card can cover your needs. Note that a good travel credit card typically comes with an annual fee, but the benefits often outweigh the costs.
- Have a loose plan. We like to plan one activity that you really want to do each day. And then, if everyone is feeling up to it, you can do more. Traveling is tiring for everyone. So, just have a loose plan and be adaptable. It also allows you to slow down a bit.
- There will be hard moments. Have a plan for how you will react to those hard moments. One of the things that I always say to Miles when we’re traveling is we are a team. So, how can we work together to make sure that we have a great day? That seems to refocus him. Just because I’m not buying him that treat that he wants in the store at that moment in time, it doesn’t mean that I hate him. It just means it’s not the right time for that.
- Snacks are also a must. Bring whatever feels like a treat, and pre-portioned options are very helpful. Once at your destination, pack snacks for the day. It is very easy to get distracted and be without a place for lunch, and hangry kids are not fun to be around.
- Wear your kids as much as possible. For our baby, we still use our soft-sided Lillebaby Carrier. We let our toddler run around a bunch, but it is very helpful to have a way to strap them on when they are antsy and you need to stick together. For our toddler, we have a shoulder carrier that folds down flat and allows for hands-free navigation. Wearing your kids is SO much easier than pushing a stroller around, especially in cities with uneven sidewalks, crowded areas, and public transport.
- Book the bulkhead of the airplane. You’ll have more space for the kids, and most have a fold-down bassinet for kids under 2.
- This Ride on suitcase makes navigating through the airport fun for our 3-year-old. Plus, it is his carry-on suitcase for the trip.
- Car Seat Strap and Bag – When we travel internationally, we rent a car seat, but we typically bring our car seats for domestic trips. Being able to strap our car seats to our carry-on suitcase makes navigating through the airport very easy. Then, when we get to our gate, we use this bag to gate-check the seat until we reach our destination. Note, that the strap doesn’t make sitting in the car seat safe for the kiddos to ride in…instead use a car seat dolly for that sort of thing.
- Table and Kids Headphones – These are the MVP of our travels. We love our Amazon Fire Kindle Kids Tablet – it is affordable, comes with built-in kids software, and a protective case. You can download great kids’ content before taking off from Netflix, Hulu, PBS Kids, etc. Also, Khan Academy has a kid’s app that includes age-appropriate games (letter tracing, matching, memory, interactive books, etc.) that can keep kids entertained for hours.
- Color Wonder Kit – This self-contained kit has paper and markers that only work on the paper. You can also buy additional sheets with favorite characters (Bluey, Toy Story, etc.).
- Flyaway Kids Bed – This little inflatable bed is incredible for long-haul flights. It makes traveling in coach a first-class experience for toddlers, where they can sleep comfortably and give parents a break.
- Summer Infant Seat – This little folding seat can also be a booster seat! It folds down small enough to fit in a carry-on bag. (See the photo of Eli below.)
- If you have pets, having a house/pet sitter is great. Your pet will be more comfortable at home, and you can save money and time by not going to/from a boarding facility. Trusted Housesitters has been an incredible resource for us.
What is Your Next Adventure?
We have a trip coming up to Hawaii. We’re going to Oahu, the big island of Hawaii. We’ll be doing some beach time and snorkeling. We’re going to check out Volcanoes, National Park, and Pearl Harbor.
Why do you think it’s important to travel with your kids?
It’s super important to remind ourselves that it’s okay to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. And then the second reason is we are all so much more alike than we are different.
When you get out of your bubble, and go to other places, you meet people that aren’t just like you, and you can learn so much. We all have more in common than we don’t, and that is one of the things that has always inspired Bryan and me to keep traveling before kids and after kids.