Hello again friends! Since this was such a radically different trip from our Disney experience, I learned a lot and both Bray and I enjoyed this week away (and we were nervous when we left). So I thought I’d share some of what we did, beyond just the funnies, and what worked for our family which is still learning the travel ropes.
1. The airplane – so our flight into Reno was almost four hours, but coming back we couldn’t get a direct flight so we had two flights that ran over two hours each. The kids did remarkably well. We packed each of them their small school backpack. The small pouch contained snacks (applesauce pouches, candy cane, granola bar, goldfish), and the big pouch contained a travel color book (with handy pouch for washable markers), a couple of small books, an activity pad, and their small blanket in case they got cold. It was perfect.
I carried a backpack with my things as well as a kindergarten notebook, a travel magnetic game, and my iPad which had fun games and held a charge well. This later piece was particularly helpful because we had a four plus hour drive to the house. Which takes us to transport.
2. The van – Yes, yes I did rent a mini van. I can’t bring myself to own one but it ROCKED. You can check booster seats for free, so we opted for a little hassle because it was free versus paying to rent boosters. Plus, the kids each had their own chair they couldn’t hit each other the whole ride.
We stopped a half hour in and had a big late lunch and let them run around. The van gave us space to pack extras (that’s an ice chest for our park picnics!). Had I known it was going to come with a DVD player, I would have also packed DVDs (note to mommas: rent a minivan and pack DVDs). I did pack my car charger which did us little good since we had NO cell service anywhere. Including accommodations. Speaking of…
3. Lodging – Instead of staying inside the Yosemite National Park, which I had originally booked, we stayed in a three bedroom house I found on VRBO through my darling friend who vacations with a bigger family than mine.
The pluses: the SPACE, a wide open front and back yard with space for the kids to run; the front and back porch where Bray and I could drink our morning coffee and watch the kids play; the hot tub which we got in every single day when we returned from the park; the washer/dryer which let me do laundry so we didn’t have to pack a million extra clothes; and the inside space to spread out. They had a closet full of old board games and we played fierce games of Battleship (boys versus girls)! Not to mention it was over $400 cheaper than the lodge I’d booked in the park, and we cooked our own breakfast and dinners (saving lots more money).
The minuses: there is no convenient place to stay outside the park so we drove an hour in and an hour out every day and the road is a winding one high in the mountains; the one bathroom was a little tricky when my kids almost always need to use the toilet at the same time.
4. The schedule – I printed out the wonderful guide that Yosemite publishes every month or two showing the activities and areas of interest throughout the park. They highlight the programs that are family friendly, and I outlined the key ones I wanted to make sure we didn’t miss.
We did NONE of the programs I tagged to do. Please let me know how Ranger Ned’s Big Adventure performance goes if you make it. Or the evening theatre performance of John Muir’s adventures. I saw nary a one.
Nonetheless, we had a great time. Sunday we went straight to Yosemite Valley, the heart of the park, and hiked the Yosemite Falls, the lower portion is a very manageable and pretty hike. We always packed drinks but only a few snacks because I may have been a little paranoid about bears.
Monday we drove to Mariposa Grove and Wawona because the Grove closes in July for some time, and it’s where the giant sequoias live. The trails there are kid-friendly, and we visited the Grizzly Giant, the largest tree in North America.
Tuesday and Wednesday we were in and around the Valley: Tuesday focusing on our Valley Floor tour, buy in advance at Yosemite Lodge (highly recommend doing early in your adventure to orient yourself), and eating at the famous Ahwahnee Hotel which is super cool but has terrible food; and Wednesday heading over to see the climbers begin their ascent and picnicking at the Merced River across from the El Capitan Trail.
We spent our last 24-ish hours in Lake Tahoe which I don’t have time to detail here. I will share that we were SO close to Tahoe on our hairpin Hwy 4 8800 foot elevation drive through the forest when they CLOSED the road, and we had to turn back around and add another three hours to our already four hour trip. AGGGHHH! The kids endured though, Bray pressed on through that terrible drive, and we ended our trip at the Marriott Timber Lodge in South Tahoe complete with walk to the lake beach (through an iffy area of town), swimming pools and hot tubs, and scoops of ice cream!
Shorter posts for the rest of the week, I promise!