California Road Trip 2017 – Our Packing List for Three Weeks on the Road with a Two Month Old

My  packing list for this trip was inspired by my packing list for Newfoundland in 2013. I over packed for this trip – both for me and the little guy – but we did only forget a few small items.

My Packing List

I found it more difficult to pack for this trip since I knew San Diego would be warm but San Francisco could be cool. We didn’t have any serious outdoor plans but I wanted to be comfortable with a lot of walking. Here’s what I brought for myself –  items parked with an * were never used.

Bags

Jon and I shared a suitecase (a larger wheeled one) and then I had my small purple daypack plus a purse. It was a tight squeeze to fit everything into the one suitcase but we didn’t want to be struggling with a ton of luggage as we moved around. The day pack was perfect for carrying my stuff on the plane and also doubled as a diaper bag when we were out walking around. I used my purse while traveling, but also have a little pouch that fits my wallet and a few essentials that I can transfer easily into the diaper bag or backpack when I don’t want to carry the purse.

Clothes

  • one pair of dressier khakis – to wear out for dinner
  • one “nicer” shirt* – to go with the khakis, could have just worn one of my other shirts
  • leggings (capri length)* – I wasn’t quite comfortable enough with my post baby body to pull these off without a long top, which wasn’t convenient for nursing so I never wore them
  • two long sleeved tops – usually layered over my t-shirt
  • three short sleeved tops – two would have been enough, I wore the same one all the time
  • one tank top – great in Solvang, but not needed else where
  • scarf – used this all the time, especially in San Diego when it cooled off at night
  • three pairs of casual pants – I brought some comfy pants from MEC that look nice enough for the city. Two pairs would have been enough but I did wear all three
  • PJs
  • Two pairs of shorts – one longer pair, one shorter pair
  • Hoodie – didn’t wear too much as it isn’t as easy to get out of/into with the baby carrier
  • Pull over sweater X 2 – one was heavier and I rarely wore it but my lighter sweater got a lot of use over a t-shirt in the evenings
  • Down jacket
  • bras/nursing tanks
  • Swimsuit*
  • Raincoat* – even though I didn’t wear it, I would still bring one
  • Sun hat
  • Toque and mitts*
  • Cardigan sweater – great for layering while wearing the baby carrier as I didn’t have to remove the carrier
  •  Socks and underwear

Shoes

  • Running shoes – great for days where we walked a lot
  • Merrell wonder gloves – my go to flats for everything and nice to wear when I wanted to feel a little more put together
  • Birkenstock sandals – comfortable and easy

Toiletries

  • Essentials – toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant and dental floss
  • Solid shampoo and conditioner from Lush – mostly I used hotel provided shampoo/conditioner but there was one hotel that only gave shampoo and I need conditioner!
  • Face wash and moisturizer – I actually had to buy face wash while we were there
  • Sunscreen
  • Comb and hair elastics
  • Some advil, gravol, etc

Electronics

  • iPhone and US SIM card
  • iPad and charger (also used for phone)
  • Pentax camera and charger* – never took it out for photos

Other Stuff

  • Sunglasses
  • Reusable shopping bag
  • Umbrella
  • Beach Towels*
  • Water bottle
  • First aid kit
  • Plastic spoons – a must for eating on the go!
  • Snacks and some candy
  • Two pairs of earrings
  • ID and electronic copies of important documents

Stuff I Wish I’d Brought

  • Hair gel (my hair was so puffy!)
  • Travel mugs – to take coffee to go from the breakfasts instead of always using disposables
  • Ziplock bags – because there is always something you need to seal up (extra food, wet stuff, etc)
  • A light jacket – something like a jean jacket because my puffy jacket was too warm and my rain coat to bulky

Baby’s Packing List

This was our first trip with the little guy so I didn’t know what to expect. We managed to do laundry once on the trip and I hand washed a few things which helped us get through almost three weeks without a ton of outfits. Stuff with an * was never used. He was just two months old for this trip and I already know that his packing list now that he is older is a little different!

Bag

All the baby stuff went into a carry-on sized wheeled suitcase (which we checked), plus a diaper bag and my pump bag. Airline rules allow you to carry on a lot of stuff for a baby and we took advantage of that!

Clothes

  • 8 onesies – he used these to sleep in and to wear during the day.
  • Pair of pants – only wore once
  • Two short sleeved onesies
  • Two long-sleeved onesies
  • Romper – more for fun that necessity, he did look cute in it!
  • Swim diaper*
  • Hoodie
  • Toque*
  • Sun hat and sun glasses

Gear

  • Car seat and caddy – we have a keyfit30 and the matching collapsable caddy. We used this as our stroller and just gate checked the caddy part when flying
  • Crib sheet – we used hotel provided pack n’plays but the sheet was a must have since none of the hotels were able to provide a sheet that fit the beds
  • Receiving blankets – I brought four but only used three: one for him to sleep on, one for me to sleep on and one to spread on whatever nursing chair I used
  • Boba carrier – used every day
  • Nursing pillow – we were still very much working on our nursing technique so this was really nice to have
  • Breast pump, bottles and cooler to carry milk around – you can fly with a pump, full bottles and an ice pack. It was nice to have the option to bring a bottle when we found ourselves needing to feed him in a place I wasn’t super comfortable nursing
  • Stroller blanket* – a heavier knit blanket that we never used since he always seemed warm enough with the muslin

Toiletries

  • Nose Frida
  • Small bottle of baby soap
  • Thermometer
  • Diapers – I brought enough for the first few days and we just bought more as needed
  • Water wipes – for diaper changes on the go
  • Face clothes – what we normally use to clean up during diaper changes at home
  • Changing mat – I use the Kushies waterproof ones when out of the house

Diaper Bag

  • Some diapers – I usually have 8-10 in the bag at any time
  • Water wipes
  • Changing mat
  • Wet bag with change of clothes, extra blanket and spare shirt for mom
  • Diaper change pouch – small bag with a couple of diapers and wet wipes
  • Nursing cover
  • Wubbanub pacifier
  • Two small toys
  • Muslin blanket
  • Small burp/clean up cloth

Extras

  • Nightlight – so I could see to nurse without turning all the lights on
  • Dish soap, towel and microwave sterilization bag – so I could wash and sterilize pump parts and bottles

Stuff I Wish I’d Brought

  • A car mirror – we ended up buying one so we could see him while driving
  • Some laundry detergent
  • Diaper cream – again, had to go buy some since with the heat he developed quite the rash

We definitely travelled with more stuff than we ever have in the past but it was nice to have those extras since I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew that we’d have a lot of bags so I planned accordingly and it was never stressful to move our gear around. Next trip I think we’ll be able to get away with less stuff overall.

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First Camping Trip with Baby

This past weekend we went out for our first camping trip (and hike) of the season and E’s first ever!

I started planning our trip a few weeks ago by booking a single night of camping at Bow Valley Campground near Calgary. I chose the location because it had reservable campsites available, looked nice enough and is a short 45 minute drive. While there is the argument that it takes just as much work to go for one night as for two or three, booking a single night also had many advantages – I wouldn’t be losing out on several nights of camping fees if we bailed early due to weather or too many diaper explosions, food prep is way easier and you can save a lot of the camp clean up duties for at home.

We keep most of our camping gear in rubbermaid tubs but because this was our first trip of the season I had a quick look through the bins and then we were ready to go. We were able to borrow a larger tent (since we weren’t all going to fit in our 4-man) and I bought some easy meal items (sandwiches made at home for both day lunches, smokies and a bag of kale salad for dinner and cereal for breakfast. One of my gear bins is food so we always have coffee, hot chocolate, sack bars and the stuff to make s’mores on hand.).

The morning of we put the Thule on the Disco and packed up all our gear. Stuff for the baby didn’t actually add much to our gear pile – a few outfits, a couple sleep sacks,  diaper stuff, his pack n’play, a couple of toys and the soft carrier. E showed us he was already going to be a great camper by taking a nap so we could both pack.

We were able to get on the road just after noon which meant that even with a few stops to grab supplies we arrived at our campsite by 1:30 pm. Official checkout time isn’t until 2 pm, and check in isn’t until 4 pm, but we were able to get out campsite permit early and arrived at our site to find the previous occupants had already vacated. We set up our tent and then loaded up with the supplies for lunch and a short hike.

Te campground is along the Bow River and a trail lead right from our campsite (A-39) to the Whitefish Day Use Area (an easy 30 minute walk).

Walking along the Bow River

It was super hot (+30C) so Patches had a swim and we ate our sandwiches in the shade before walking up the road to the Many Springs Trail.

Almost got everyone looking at the camera

The trail is only about 2km but with the heat and Patches being very  much a senior citizen it was just the right distance. For such a nice day we had the whole trail to ourselves.

Easy mountain views
Where the many springs are
Snoozing through the hike
You just have to accept that the baby and the dog won’t be looking at the camera

Everyone was feeling the heat by the time we were done so we re-traced our steps (stopping for another swim) and got back to the campground around 4 pm.

I’d picked a site that was walk-in (less than 50 m) but we still opted to only bring it what we needed. We worked at setting up camp, taking turns to hang out with the little guy in the hammock. Being right along the river without breeze meant that there were a fair number of mosquitos and we both got bitten a lot (we managed to keep them away from the baby).

Any excuse to put up the hammock

Then it was time to just hang out.  I’d chosen the site because it is right along the river so the dog was able to swim and we had a spectacular view of Mount Yamnuksa. While it was a lovely location I probably wouldn’t stay in the site again – it was a bit tiny (even though our tent wasn’t huge) and not as level as some of the other walk in sites. Being riverfront was great but since the hiking path was right along the river it had the potential to be a busy spot (luckily not too many people were out using it).

Campsite A-39 probably has some of the best views in the whole campground
He was fascinated by the trees
Just hanging out with Dad
Patches was so tired from our hike that he soon dug himself a little dog bed and slept the evening away

We got a campfire going and roasted smokies for dinner and s’more for dessert. Since I knew we were headed home the next day I just packed up the dirty dishes so post dinner clean up was super easy and we had time for more hanging out before getting ready for bed.

Cooking dinner
Hanging out with mom

The tent was the exact right size for our camping set up – adults on a “queen” sized air mattress, the dog on his dog bed and E in his pack n’play. There are lots of different sleeping arrangements out there but the pack n’play kept E safely up out of the way of the dog (who has been known to panic while sleeping in the tent). Much to my surprise both the dog and the baby went to sleep right away in their respective beds and slept until about midnight (when a train went through). I fed the baby, put him in a sleep sack and attempted to sleep myself. When he woke up again for his feed around 4 am I snuggled him up in another sleep sack but I think he was too chilly on his own and he eventually ended up in bed with us. I managed to sleep in until about 7:30 which is pretty good in the tent!

We woke up to cloudy skies and a light sprinkling of rain so decided just to pack up and head home. It didn’t take too long to pack up camp and we were able to get on the road just after 9 am. Our timing was perfect since it started pouring rain just as we got the last items into the Disco and I was thankful that we’d decided to skip making breakfast!

While one night out is hardly an epic adventure I am pleased that we were able to make it work. I think we’re ready for more camping adventures!

Pretty happy after his first night in the tent

Some thoughts on our first camping trip

  • Bow Valley is a big campground so it has lots of amenities (although we didn’t use any of them) and still seemed to be fairly quiet. There were lots of families camping there so I assume it is also a nice place to bring older children. There are some short hikes in the area (like the Many Springs Trail we did).
  • We chose a walk in site for this trip and while the location was great, and the distance from the car very manageable, I wouldn’t choose to do another walk in site with E right now just because one adult always had to stay in the site while the other went to get items, even something simple. In a site with the vehicle parked right there it would be possible to grab something from the car either holding the baby or letting him sit in his play chair.
  • As much as I’d love to rush out and buy new camping gear what we own works just fine for camping with the little guy. I’ll keep my eye out for deals on screen shelters but everything we used when it was just the two of us and the dog is still enough stuff.

California Road Trip 2017 Part 5 – San Francisco

California Road Trip 2017 Part 1 – San Diego
California Road Trip 2017 Part 2 – San Diego to LA
California Road Trip 2017 Part 3 – Solvang
California Road Trip 2017 Part 4 – Monterey and Big Sur

Day 13 – Alcatraz

We left Monterey pretty early in the morning in an attempt to return our rental car in San Francisco on time but were delayed by the little guy who just didn’t want to make the drive. We managed to make it into the city by 11 am so we dropped our stuff at our hotel in the luggage storage, returned the car and then waited a little bit for a room to be ready. Lucky for us our room was ready just minutes before we had to head out from the hotel to make our 3:20 pm departure for Alcatraz!

We walked from our hotel in Japan Town to the pier and arrived hot and tired after all those hills. It was nice to settle onto the boat even if the sailing over to the island was short.

Looking towards San Francisco as we cruised towards Alcatraz

We chose to do the (optional) audio tour of the cell block – which seems to be one of the major parts of the park (it takes about 45 minutes). I found the tour a little slow but informative. The cell blocks are kinda creepy and it is hard to imagine being locked up here.

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After the tour finished we took a little time to wander around and look at some of the buildings (including climbing up to see the recreation yard). Random Alcatraz observation – the ceiling tile in the dining hall of the prison block is identical to the ceiling tiles in our basement.

Sure is a nice view from the island
The facility has beautiful gardens that were apparently maintained by the prisoners

Then it was back down to the boat (we caught the 5:15 pm sailing) and back to the mainland. We were pretty tired after our early start so we just grabbed some street vender hotdogs and caught the trolley and bus back to our hotel.

Day 14 – Hop on Hop Off in San Francisco

We’d decided we wanted to do a hop on, hop off tour of San Francisco to cross off some of the major sites since we’d enjoyed it so much in Edinburgh. None of the tour operators came near our hotel, but there was a stop about 30 minutes away so we decided to start our day with a walk. One of my bucket list items was to eat a cruffin (a cross between a croissant and a muffin) so we walked first to Mr. Holmes Bake House where we sampled a cruffin (meh, sort of boring) and a lime donut (again, not much flavour) and then down to catch the tour.

Tours are not cheap and we both found ourselves very disappointed (and annoyed) with the tour guide on our first bus who seemed to only talk about herself, not any of the things we drove past. Hoping for a better experience, we got off the bus at Fisherman’s Wharf and grabbed lunch (another hot dog – mine got snatched right out of my hand by a seagull!). Then we tried our luck with a different bus – slightly better but not great. We were rather relieved to hop off pretty quickly at the Golden Gate Bridge to check out the key landmark.

The Golden Gate Bridge

It was pretty busy at the bridge but we did a little walk and took a snack break. Last time I was in San Francisco I walked across the bridge but this time we were content to just to take a look.

From the bridge we got back on the bus and rode it to Golden Gate Park. The park is huge and we didn’t really do it justice since we just hung out in one area soaking up a little sun and taking break.

Then we rode the bus through the last part of the tour and back to Fisherman’s Wharf. We did a short walk around – checked out the sea lions at Pier 39, had a look at some of the touristy things, etc. – before catching the trolley/bus back to our hotel. We had dinner at a nearby restaurant and headed back to our hotel to plan the next day.

Day 15 – Cable Cars and China Town

After our tour all around the city the day before, we knew that there were just a few key sites that we actually wanted to visit – the first being Bob’s Donuts for some fresh baked doughy goodness. They look a little run down but the donuts were delicious (and reasonably priced!).

Walking the streets of San Fran – we thought it would be super helpful if Google had a route option that minimized elevation change

Armed with donuts we worked our way to the Cable Car Museum to learn about this one of a kind transport system. The museum is free (and you can take a cable car there, or catch one on your way out) and allows you to see the actual working machinery that runs the cable cars. They also have these cool little viewing machines that show series of old time photographs for $0.25.

Nothing like a free museum
These wheels turn the cables that run the cars along the different lines
One of the famous cable cars in action

After feeding Scotch in a random little park (there was a lot of nursing the baby in random parks on this trip), we walked to City Lights Bookstore to browse the collection and pick out some souvenir books for Scotch. We ended up buying him Stuck by Oliver Jeffers (which has quickly become one of his favourites) as well as This is San Francisco, a classic children’s guidebook that has been slightly updated but contains the original text and illustrations from 1962. City Lights has a stamp that they will stamp into any book you buy so we had Scotch’s San Francisco book stamped.

We were both hungry by this point so we headed into China Town to find some easy eats. I ended up with some delicious steamed dumplings from a little restaurant (3 for $2) and some bubble tea. The bubble tea really hit the spot so we picked up two more large bubble teas as we wandered through China Town. Grant Street has the famous Dragon’s Gate, but the parallel Stockholm Street is more exciting with all the fruit and vegetable vendors.

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We didn’t really have much of a plan after that so we sat in Union Square for bit, trying to decide if we wanted to go see something else (or ride a cable car, which we never ended up doing). Feeling tired again after a busy day we ended up calling it a day and heading back to our hotel. We had an early dinner in the neighbourhood and then spent some time reading with the little guy.

Day 16 – Baseball in Oakland

We’re not huge sports fans but figured while we were in the States we should check out a baseball game (since you can’t here in Calgary). Of all the cities we visited on the trip, the only place that had a home baseball game was Oakland. So, off to Oakland it was – an afternoon game at the Coliseum to see the Athletics play the Jay’s was the final activity of our trip (kind of fun to see our Canadian team!). We picked the afternoon game because we thought it would be best with the little guy and you hear all sorts of terrible things about safety in Oakland so we thought daylight was always a good choice (definitely not a scary place in the afternoon – there were lots of other families attending the event).

We took the BART from Union Square and arrived about a half an hour before the game which was enough time as there didn’t seem to be many people attending so no lines and there isn’t anything to do at the stadium.

I missed the opening as I was off nursing the little guy (the stadium might be a boring cement box but they did have a Mamava nursing pod!) but then he made it through the rest of the game with only one other break. It was a rather slow game – not much excitement from the players and a small crowd but did go to an extra inning where the Jay’s won. We sat near a gentleman who must be a serious A’s regular and he provided a fairly steady stream of information for us.

Mostly empty stands – but a fair number of Jay’s fans
Not super excited to be at the game

After the game we hopped back on the BART into San Francisco. We ate dinner as we travelled back to our hotel and then called it an early night since our flight left early the next morning.

Some Final Thoughts on San Francisco

  • If you want to go to Alcatraz, book your tickets in advance because they seem to sell out suddenly. I knew I had to buy in advance so I kept checking availability and there was lots, until there wasn’t. We ended up getting some of the last tickets available for the whole time we were in San Francisco.
  • San Fran is known for hills so having the carrier was a must – there was no way I would have been happy pushing the stroller around.
  • Not a cheap city to visit! We saved some money by staying a little further out but that definitely increased the time it took us to get to things and meant we relied on public transportation to get around a lot of the time

Up next – all the trip details…

Summer 2017 Bucket List

We’ve got scorching temperatures and the whole family is on vacation – summer is here!

We kicked off July with a trip out to the cabin. It was warm and relaxing and Baby Scotch got smothered with attention.

Jon out for a swim
Hammock time with Dad
Just before I dipped his toes in the lake and he lost his mind
Not too sure about this canoeing thing

Now that it is summer and we’re both off, we’ve got lots of things we want to do. Some are fun and some are more chores but I’m excited to tackle both. There are lots of things we’d usually do in a summer (go for a long bike ride, backpack into the mountains) that we’re not going to do this summer with the little guy but there are lots of things that are way more fun now that he’s here (like hanging out in our yard) so I’m OK with it.

Here’s our 2017 Summer Bucket List:

  • Take the little guy camping
  • Go for a paddle
  • Go hiking
  • Use the smoker – and try something new (I’m thinking a smoked cheese?)
  • Play in the river
  • Get our front flower beds redone
  • Finally chop down the rest of the apple tree
  • Have a camp fire
  • Take another family vacation at the cabin
  • Have a picnic
  • Drink all the slurpies

Like all good lists, I hope that we can do more but I think this is a good start to a summer!

California Road Trip 2017 Part 4 – Big Sur and Monterey Aquarium

California Road Trip 2017 Part 1 – San Diego
California Road Trip 2017 Part 2 – San Diego to LA
California Road Trip 2017 Part 3 – Solvang

Because of the road closures we were unable to drive Hwy 1 along the coast so we headed inland directly to Monterey from Solvang and then backtracked along the open portions of Hwy 1 to check out some of the coast views.

Day 11 – Big Sur and the Coastal Drive

We left Solvang fuelled up on Danish pastries and headed north toward Monterey. It was sort of interesting traveling through the interior – lots of vegetable fields – but not so exciting that we were pulling over to see things. Instead I looked up facts about the history of California and relayed them to Jon as he drove. At some point we stopped in a random state park to feed the little guy and snack on our leftovers from the previous evening. I can’t remember the name of the park but it seemed to be focused on the history of agricultural equipment.

We arrived in Monterey mid-afternoon and immediately headed down Hwy 1. We only made it about 15 minutes south of town before pulling over at Monastery Beach. The beach is beautiful but not a place to get too close to the water – there are lots of signs explaining how dangerous the waves can be at this location. We parked ourselves far up on the beach (in what the signs indicated was the “safe zone”) and watched the ocean for a little bit. They also have nice restrooms.

Hanging out on the berm far away from the waves!
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After our break we decided to keep driving and just see how far we could go with the little guy. I was surprised at the number of other people out driving but it still wasn’t super busy and there was parking spaces at all the pull outs. We were able to stop a few times to look around but only made it about 8 miles down the road before the little guy started screaming. We gave up and pulled over at Garrapata Beach where we bundled him into his carrier and went for a walk.

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So different from the southern coastline
Garrapata Beach

Luckily the break calmed everyone down and we were able to drive the rest of the open highway as far as Bg Sur State Park where we stopped to feed and buy a pop from the park store before turning back.

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Once we got to Monterey we hit up Whole Foods for some dinner items and checked into our hotel. It was a big day of driving so everyone was happy just to take it easy.

Day 12 – Monterey Aquarium

We purposely chose hotel location over quality in Monterey to make it easier to access the aquarium so after a very mediocre breakfast at our hotel we set off to walk to the aquarium. It was just under 2 miles and was quite pretty along the water.

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Even though it was a Saturday the line to get in wasn’t too long and we were able to get in in time to see the morning penguin feeding. The feedings seemed very popular so we only timed our exhibit visits to see one other at the open ocean exhibit (worth it as the feeding draws up a huge school of sardines that aren’t usually visible) and then just wandered around. There is so much to see and we spent all day checking it out. My favourites were definitely the sea otters and the cuttlefish. Even baby E. took notice of some of the displays.

The most photogenic of the sea creatures

We left the museum around 3:30 pm and walked back to our hotel along Cannery Row.

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After all the walking we crashed pretty early at our hotel. Neither of us felt like going out for dinner so we dined on the previous night’s leftovers. Then it was off to bed so we could get an early start to our final stop on our trip – San Francisco!

Some Final Thoughts On Big Sur and Monterey

  • I wish we had been able to drive the coast the whole way but I think that driving it north to south did allow us to pull over more easily.
  • The aquarium is not cheap ($50 USD each!) so we really tried to see everything. It was very cool but also very tiring.
  • Monterey is pretty and worth a walk around either as part of your trip to the aquarium or on a separate putting.

Up next – our final stop in San Francisco…