VACATION PLANNING? I have binders full of vacations.

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Nothing to see here: just a girl and her midliners making a vacation binder full of budget estimates, itineraries and park maps. Raise your hand if you are a binder kind of girl? Page dividers? Multicolored midliners for further clarification? Spreadsheets??? Oh baby, right?

On a related note: Who here has been to Universal Studios in Florida with the fam? Share your best tips and experiences in the comments section!

Road Trip Diary: Lost River Cave, Bowling Green KY

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Did you think I was done recapping our summer road trip? Believe it or not, there are still more stories to tell! We got busy last month with the start of a new school year and that whole me getting a job thing, but I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you guys about one of the coolest places we went this summer: The Lost River Cave in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Initially we’d planned to see Mammoth Cave while we were in Bowling Green but it turns out that the tickets to the Mammoth Cave tours sell out FAST! I did a little research and came across this gem of an alternative. The Lost River cave was conveniently located, reasonably priced and even better: not sold out yet!

I was fascinated with the history of the Lost River Cave which boasts the tale of the blue hole, disappearing Civil War soldiers, Jesse James’ hiding place and the cave’s night club past life. I got a lot of story ideas out of this trip, not to mention a ton of exercise!

After a 20 minute leisurely hike along the property, we came to the entrance of the cave where we took a boat tour through the cave – parts of the cave ceiling are so low that you have to really duck as you go by which sounds intimidating but the guide does a good job of preparing you for it and the boat is moving pretty slow to give you time.

The tour guide was funny and informative and had a lot of great stories to tell. The cave was beautiful (and nice and cool – awesome on a hot July day). Afterwards we hiked some more to the butterfly habitat which was beautiful and probably one of BB’s favorite parts of the morning – and just one of many family friendly activities they have to offer in addition to the cave tour. We couldn’t resist pressing some pennies up near their gift shop where they also had treasure mining activities and an Outdoor Classroom to learn more about nature.

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So whether you are a hiking enthusiast, science geek, butterfly lover, spelunker, tree hugger, eager tourist or just looking for something fun to do with the family on your next visit to Bowling Green, I highly recommend the Lost River Cave.

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D.C. in 4 Hours: Walking the National Mall

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We only had about four hours to spend exploring Washington D.C. and we were traveling by foot the entire time. According to my pedometer, we put in over 10,000 steps in D.C. mostly just walking the National Mall. We fully intend to come back to D.C. and stay for a weekend at least so that we can do it right because there is so much we didn’t get to see. That said, we had a great time.

Map it: If you are planning a trip to D.C. I recommend looking over a map of the area, especially the National Mall, and figure out what you and your family want to see most. We walked the mall and saw the Washington Monument, The World War II Memorial, The Lincoln Memorial, The Vietnam Veterans Memorial and everything in between.

We also briefly visited the Smithsonian Castle and even more briefly walked through The Natural History Museum (sadly just as a way to cut across the street and be in air conditioning for a few minutes). If we’d had more time, I would have spent the whole day exploring all the different Smithsonian Museums which are all FREE!

Pro tip: If you don’t have all day, I recommend hitting the Smithsonian Castle which has lots of mini exhibits from all the other museums, giving you a taste of all the museums in a fraction of the time.

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1 – sitting in front of the Lincoln Memorial 2 – Standing in front of the Washington Monument 3 – Reading names on the Vietnam War Memorial 4 – Admiring the Washington Monument from afar 5 – The infamous Lincoln Memorial statue!

The kids were such troopers that day, keeping up with us as we eagerly walked the mall to see all the different memorials. Dan and MM were really impressed with the Washington Monument – Dan was marveling at how the bricks on the monument are actually a slightly different color almost halfway up as they ran out of money building it and had to regroup. My favorite thing was definitely the Lincoln Memorial which I’d looked forward to finally seeing after the first day of our trip. I think BB most liked the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, not that she understood the importance of it. She honestly just liked the pretty reflections.

The in between moments:

Aside from all the big exciting things we saw, here were some of our smaller moments and memories of Washington DC.

1. We parked outside of the city and took a train into D.C. The hardest part of this process was trying to find the ideal train station to park at. Most of the cities around D.C. are quite urban and the first one we went to was both difficult to navigate and kindaaa sketchy. Another reason to just get a hotel in D.C. proper next time?

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2. By the time we walked the length of the National Mall and got to the Lincoln Memorial, BB was absolutely exhausted and not happy about the crowds either. She needed a time out before we continued walking and I was worried that we’d pressed our luck walking the whole way. Luckily she perked up and we all made it back to the train station in one piece! Bring water bottles and stay hydrated or consider getting tickets for one of those tour buses.

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3. There was a random piece of fencing in the reflecting pool and ducks were hanging out around it. While I marveled at how absolutely normal the city was with all the same amounts of construction, disarray and litter that you’d find in any major city, BB simply thought it was a bridge that she should walk on so she could go say hi to the ducks. She was very disappointed when I refused!

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4. After leaving the Vietnam Memorial, we kept walking to see the White House. We were coming from behind but had been hopeful for a good view. This was about as good as the view got. If we’d had any semblance of energy at all, we might have tried to walk around and see the front but we were low on energy and time and had to settle for this view and keep walking for the train station.

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5. Most of our pictures on this trip obviously were of the kids but MM did offer to take this picture of Dan and I so that we could be in a picture, too. I think it came out really good!

It was a long day with a lot of walking and a few moments of disappointment – mostly when we realized how little we’d actually have time to see, but we enjoyed our afternoon in D.C. and can’t wait to go back and see everything else!

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Aloha Friday: Where Would You Go?

It’s time for another Aloha Friday, the day that you take it easy and look forward to the weekend, in Hawaii and blog land anyway. As you should know by now, over at An Island Life, Kailani decided that on Fridays she would take it easy on posting and ask a simple question for you to answer. Nothing that requires a lengthy response.

If you’d like to participate, just post your own question on your blog and leave your link at An Island Life’s blog. Don’t forget to visit the other participants! It’s a great way to make new bloggy friends!

This week I’m feeling that deep down inside desire to get out of town. So I asked my husband to take us to a town nearby for a mini day trip. We decided a few months ago that we would not be taking a big family vacation this year – it makes sense economically, especially with a new baby coming this summer. Last year we took a trip in the fall which I loved, but we have no way of knowing what our lives will be like physically, emotionally or economically come this fall and I think it will be more realistic to stick to day trips for the year. Which of course means that my travel bug has been biting hard every month at least. The idea of being stuck in dodge for at least a year pains me. I love to travel. I also really want to move – knowing that won’t happen is easier to shoulder with the occasional vacations thrown in.

Right about now – I would be happy with anything – a fun tropical getaway to escape the snow; a fun New England getaway to embrace the snow; an exciting European vacation to get out of the US all together – they all sound fabulous. And you know, this day trip we’ll be taking tomorrow doesn’t sound so bad either. Anyway, blah blah blah, enough about me – here’s where you come in.

If you could travel anywhere this weekend for a little spur of the moment family trip, where would you go? What would you do? Tell me about your ideal vacation plans.

Top 5 Tuesday: Places I’ve Got To Check Out, Before I Check Out…

This week’s theme is places you want to see before you die, or as John Mayer and I would so eloquently put it, “these are the last things I’ve got to check out, before I check out…” or something like that anyway. So you know my wanderlust knows no limits and I’m sure I won’t do this list justice, but regardless, here they are folks – the top five locations on my To Be Seen list in likely no particular order:

  1. Canada – let’s start small, right? I think it’s absurd that I’ve moved over ten times in my life and have gone as far as Germany, but I’ve never been to Canada. I’m a New Englander for Pete’s Sake! I’m hoping to remedy that next summer with a camping trip to Jellystone Park.
  2. Paris – I want to travel throughout as much of Europe as possible but Paris seems like the most logical place for me to consider a Must See in Europe – after all, I’ve taken ten years of French lessons and though I wouldn’t claim to speak the language, I think I’d fare better there than anywhere. And it’s the city of love! And desserts!
  3. Washington State – My mother lives there. I’d like to meet her before I die (the last time I saw her I was too young to remember it, so I’m thinking it doesn’t count). It just doesn’t seem right that I can’t claim to have met my own mother while she is living and breathing and I know where she is. If it weren’t for the cost of gas / air fare / time, I’d be remedying this pronto. And I hope to do it sooner than later.
  4. A Cruise Ship – I really don’t care which one, except I’d like for the cost to be reasonable, the amenities to be nice and also reasonably priced and for it to be fun with plenty of layovers and sight seeing. I’d love to go on a European River Cruise or this other fun one that goes from Maine to somewhere in Canada and looks all quaint and actually interests my husband. DH says we have to test the extent of my sea sickness before he’ll pay for a real cruise. I guess that makes sense.
  5. Washington DC – Why not round it out there? I want to see the White House and all those other important places where important decisions are made. I can’t help it, I’m a nerd.

I know this list doesn’t look terribly exciting. I mean, I also want to see Japan, India, New Zealand, Chile, Brazil, Nigeria, whatever. But those are all, “Wouldn’t it be funs?” as opposed to my top 5 which are more, “Really, if I can’t even accomplish these things, what can I really say about the quality of my life?” They are the more likely to happen and important to me as opposed to the dreamer side of me.

What 5 places would you most like to see before you die? To see other bloggers’ bucket list checking out to check out posts, just head over to Supernanny Where Are You.

Finishing What I Started: Vacation Photos

Well picking up where I left off (or um, where MM left off…) here are the rest of the pictures from our vacation… This will show pictures on the road, at the hotel and at Storyland…

The wading pool at the hotel was literally like 1 foot deep, maybe less – perfect for my little not quite swimming 2 year old. This was probably about as deep as his bathtub is filled so he was feeling rather confident and had a blast.

We were somewhere along the Kankamagus Highway, looking at a basin I think and I stopped and took a picture of MM… I just love how this shot came out, don’t you?

Another shot from the same stop – hubby took this of the two of us. Don’t mind the mess that is my hair.

The Kankamagus has all these great little “scenic view” rest stops set up just for taking pictures. We did a lot of landscape shots, but I also tried to get pictures of US, too.

This is self explanatory, right?

How can you resist pictures of a toddler in a teeny house that’s just their size? I love these two shots of him playing in the “cupboard” and looking out the  window at us. He kept flirting with girls when they came in the house – that was cute, too.

His aunt’s are like piano playing professionals (really) – I know they’d be proud of this picture. He loved this piano something fierce.

But this door here? This “3 4 shut the door” display, was literally where we spent half the trip. We could not tear him away from this “just my size” door. Much to my dismay…

Um, I just want the Bloggess to know, if she’s reading this, I totally took this picture for her. Actually I had my husband take it. And yes, Bloggess, I told him the story. He’s a big fan of your blog, too, btw.

(Yes I know she probably won’t read this. That’s okay. I’m only crying on the inside I swear…)

He picked out this little completely unrelated to Story Land pirate ship out himself. It was his favorite part of the trip. For real.

This was my favorite part of the trip. Chocolate has never tasted so good.

Okay I was going to post landscape pics, but now I’m worried those will be boring to anyone who wasn’t there – unlike the pictures of my kid – those were riveting, right? But if anyone is like, “Aw man, I totally wanted to see all the pictures of the rocks and trees you saw,” just say the word and I’ll totally post them. K?