CO + UT Trip 21”
Gosh! It’s been so long since I have written a blog post! While it can sometimes feel like I’m back in school with deadlines due, I actually thoroughly enjoy writing these silly little posts! This week I want to take us back a couple weeks and recount our trip to Colorado and Utah. It was such a wonderful trip – full of new adventures for all of us, new memories, and new accomplishments. We learned so much about traveling together as a couple, with a toddler, and to National parks – which we have high high hopes of continuing to do moving forward. I thought it would be helpful and a little informative to take you through all of things I learned while traveling with a 17 month old. The things I found extremely helpful and even some things I would do a little differently next time! I’ll also add some info about traveling to National Parks with toddlers if you ever think that would be something you and your family is interested in!
Car Ride Tips
Tip #1: leave at a time where your little can sleep during the car ride
I think we can all agree that the drive (if you so dare chose this route…) to any vacation is probably the most stressful. There truly is nothing worse than having a screaming child in the backseat during a looong and tedious drive where you are most likely already tired from the preparations. When we took our trip to South Dakota back in September when savy was about 9 months old, we made the decision to leave our house at about 3:00am so that we would hopefully catch a lot of the 9 hour drive while Savy was sleeping. It was pretty rough on Trev and I, but it was a total win on the Savy front! On the way home we decided to leave at 7:00am instead, and man ohhh man was that a mistake! What was supposed to be about a 9 hour drive turned into a 14 and by the time we arrived home that night we were all crying! So, this time around we without a doubt left in the wee hours of the morning. My friend told me that she always left for her trips right at bedtime for her little girl and just drove through the whole night. I’m definitely not opposed to that and for those who don’t need much sleep, this would be an awesome option!
Tip #2: Pack the car before you actually need to leave
This may seem like a no brainer, but it seriously made a huge difference for us. It can easily take an hour to pack your car depending on how many bags you pack. Since we left at 3am, we did it the night before right before we went to bed that way we could take our time arranging and rearranging bags, strollers, carriers – the whole works – that made the most sense for us. It also allowed us to take our time in the morning when we woke up and just do the basics. Showered (Trev and I both need to shower when we first wake up because it *actually* wakes us up) got dressed, made coffee, packed any last minute trinkets, and then woke Savy up very last so we could just transition her to the car quickly and smoothly and get her back to snoozin. I get pretty stressed days leading up to the trip because I hate learning the hard way with anything, so I will say if you are anything like me planning and organizing before you actually leave will make the car ride sooo much smoother – and peaceful!
Tip #3: Create a diaper changing station for your little
Ok Taylor gave me this tip and it has without a doubt changed my life! First I had to figure out where made the most sense to even set up a diaper changing station because we like to bring our whole lives on trips with us and within hours of leaving our house, the car is usually a disaster and finding anything is very tricky. So, I decided that in order for me to even be able to create a space for a changing station, I needed to organize the back in a way that was efficient long term. I have baskets all over my house (smallish squared ones) and I decided to take 2 of those and hopefully put everything we wanted to keep behind our seats, in those baskets – including everything that I would need in the changing station. Low and behold, it worked! On one side of Savy, there was her diaper bag on the seat and the basket with all of her diaper essentials on the floor in front of the seat. The other side of Savy was the little blue cooler we brought along on the seat, and on the floor were all of our snacks in the basket. Now, this set up worked incredibly well for us because we only had one child that was in a car seat and did not need that leg room on either side. If you have more than one child, you may need to just rearrange the baskets to places that better suit your needs, but I highly recommend this tactic! It allowed to me to made a quick inventory on exactly what I had back there on the days we were going from the hotel to the state parks and what things I could leave in the hotel room and I needed to bring back down. Aside from leaving all the wipes in the hotel room one day when we went to Glenwood Springs (woof) it was an incredibly Efficient way to keep us moving! The diaper changing station was pure genius! If you’re wondering what to put in it, Ill list what I did below! I added some extra things for the days we were at the parks which really helped in those situations.
Diaper Changing Station:
5+ diapers (I just refilled when I needed)
1 container of wipes
Smaller sized diaper cream
Honest Company Bottom spray (to make clean up easier for those nasty toddler poos)
A roll of Doggy poop bags (for the dirty diapers)
A pair of socks
A hat Sunscreen + bug spray
It was all pretty simple, yet incredibly necessary items we would need all day, every day and it was much more efficient using a basket where I can just look down and grab what I needed, rather than sifting through a bag to find a diaper and wipes while my toddler squiggled around. It made getting in and out of the car seat and car super smooth! Which, you mamas know can truly be half the battle!
State Park Tips
First and foremost I gotta say, going to state parks with a toddler is not for the faint of heart – but it is so so rewarding. A tooon of driving is going to be involved so you are gonna wanna make sure your car life situation is at least tolerable if not comfortable, but if you can – it honestly was way less stressful going on hikes then it was going to a restaurant or out shopping! Got a toddler that likes to run and ramble? There is no better place than at a state park! Granted, you want to be very choosy on where you let them roam on their own because these places are known for their deep drop offs, massive boulders, and loads of people! But its so exciting seeing these amazing natural features that we just don’t get to see here in Lincoln, NE! So, here are my little tips from our trip to Utah’s Canyonlands National park + Arches National Park!
Tip #1: research the park you want to go to before heading there
The pandemic has created this crazy sort of phenomenon where people are literally driving in droves to National and Sate parks. Because of this, the parks are forced to implement never before seen rules and regulations to safe guard the sanctity of each park. Now, State parks and national parks all have their own sets of rules and regulations though. For example, for the first time ever Rocky Mountain National park now enforces time slots for when people can come into the park. Meaning, you have to select a time slot to go and explore, stay for only a certain amount of time, and then leave so others can enter in. This is the first year where they have every done that. It is so important to check out each parks guidelines and figure out whether or not they have a capacity limit – and I’m going to out on a limb and say they most likely do. We planned to go to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National park in Moab, Utah. We scheduled out our trip pretty clearly and on the day we planned to go to Arches National Park, we were met with a long line of people being turned away because the park had hit capacity. At the front they had a sign that read “try back in 3-5 hours” which, of course, we couldn’t do with a toddler. While we knew that being turned away was an option (thanks to Trev doing some hardcore research before hand) we didn’t stop to think what time we should be there so it didn’t happen. That day we got to the park at noon (I mean…what did we except? 😂) and quickly realized needed to rework our entire day. Thank goodness the other national park we wanted to go to was literally down the road and was open, so we just swapped our days around and went to Canyonlands National Park instead. But why would one have a capacity limit but not the other? Trev and I discovered that it may depend on how many entrances the park may have. Canyonlands had 2 or 3 areas where you could enter that would take you to completely different areas of the park. So, while you may enter on one end and have an experience with a lot of people, the other entrance may be virtually deserted. But Arches has only 1 entrance and because its one of the most popular parks in Utah, the entrance can quickly become convoluted. If the entrance is convoluted, you can almost guarantee the park would quickly become as well. When we went, we heard from one of the workers that they had been hitting capacity every single day for the last 3 months – which is nearly unheard of especially since we hadn’t hit the busy months yet! Because the parks are so massive, it really is important to do some research what to expect when you get there. Do they have a capacity limit and if they do, when is the best time to be there? Do they have areas where you can purchase food or water? Do they have bathrooms? How much does it cost to enter into a park? Blogs are super helpful when it comes to these things, but each park should have a website to help you out too!
Tip #2: make sure to fill up on gas before entering the park + bring lots of water and food
We knew we wanted to go to Arches and Canyonlands, and because we have a toddler we knew it as best to spread them out to separate days. And while we wanted to bring our own food for the trip to save on money, we didn’t really stop to think that if we had not brought our own food and water, we wouldn’t have access to any after passing the initial visitors center. And to be honest, I’m not sure they even had snacks – just water. The reason this is important is because you can very easily spend upwards of 5-8 hours driving around and hiking through the parks. Even if you’re not a water drinking, you’ll definitely start to feel parched after going so many hours without any in site. Luckily they have loads of bathroom, but no sinks or running water in any of them. Because of that, we made sure to stop at any opportunity (gas stations, restaurants, visitor centers) and filled up all of our water bottles so we could make them last. We brought a small cooler for this part of the trip so we could make sandwiches for lunches, and I’m glad we decided to be penny pinchers at this point because we would have had to actually leave the park to eat otherwise! They have areas where you can sit at tables and eat throughout the parks too, so it was a lot of fun. We ended up eating in the back of our Subaru because, why not! Always make sure you don’t leave any trash behind!
Tip #3: if your child is small enough to be worn in a carrier, bring a carrier.
This was huuuuge! We purchased a baby carrier when savy was first born and one of the requirements I had before purchasing was that the carrier would work for her as she grew. It’s important to read the instructions for each carrier because they aren’t all the same! I forgot the info on mine so I just wen to their website and easily found what I was looking for. The one we have is the Ergo Baby Omni 360 and it works until she reaches abounds 42lbs. She’s tall but is only 22lbs, so we didn’t even hesitate to put her in it. I originally wanted to put her in it from behind, but we didn’t practice before hand and just decided to scrap that idea and put her in front facing once we got into the parks. She loooved it! Trev, god bless his soul, wore her about 95% of the time 😅 but it isn’t a bad idea to switch back and forth with someone else to give each other a little break if you can. At one point we had been moving for hours and quickly went passed her nap time. So, naturally she just fell asleep while in the carrier. We didn’t worry about stopping though! We just paused, turned her around so she was facing Trev, buckled her back in, and continued on our hike! I of course took a million photos because, I mean! 🥺they are probably some of my favorite pictures to date 💛 but the carrier also allowed us to keep moving at a pace that suited us. It’s no secret that when you let a toddler loose, they are more apt to running away and into blind danger. Having her tucked away safely on us, allowed us to worry less, and enjoy more!
Ok! I think that covers it?? I know if I had written this immediately after the trip I most likely would’ve had way more tips, but such is life! I hope you’ve enjoyed my little list of helpful tips when traveling with a toddler though, and know that I will definitely be making more in the future! 💛
Canyonlands National Park
Grand Junction, CO
Arches National Park