Best Estes Park Hikes For Kids

Best Estes Park Hikes For Kids

This page contains affiliate links. Estes Park hikes for kids

I was such lucky kid to have many memories hiking around Rocky Mountain National Park and other areas near Estes Park, Colorado. Quite often I think about how fortunate I was to grow up near to such a beautiful place. Naturally, I want my kids to love it as much as I do, and so it’s necessary we explore as often as possible. Of course, we don’t get up there nearly as much as I’d like!

Estes Park hikes for kids elk pin

Flashback!

I close my eyes and flashback to my childhood. My parents and I drive up to Estes Park and eat lunch at a local restaurant. Then, we head into Rocky Mountain National Park to drive around and look at the leaves or the elk, and stop at a hiking trail to explore. My father bends down with his black Canon camera to take close-up pictures of leaves and rocks along the trail. Squeal! I see a chipmunk, and my day is made.

What’s in it for you?

Together, my kids and I adventure out to explore the same trails and others in the Rocky Mountains. For you, we’ve put together a collection of our favorite Estes Park hikes for kids. Why? Because I want you and your family to have a fabulous Rocky Mountain experience. If you’re nearby or plan to vacation next summer and come in from across the country these are must-see beginner hikes. I hope you will love and protect these areas too.

How could you not love it?! Really.

The hikes we’ve listed are an easy introduction to hiking and meant for families to do together. Consequently, they are each no more than a mile or so in distance and fairly level. They were selected intentionally so a 4-year-old can walk them with Mom and Dad, and Grandma can join in if she wants. Try any or all of these Estes Park hikes for kids your whole family will love!

Our 8 favorite Estes Park hikes for kids

1. Lily Lake

Estes Park hikes for kids, Lily Lake

Lily Lake is an absolutely magical place in Fall. I highly recommend going there anytime, but if you are in the area in late September this is a must-see. There are yellow and orange aspens all about the lake and a nice flat walking area all the way around (about 3/4 of a mile). This is a handicap accessible trail, and you are in for some great photo ops!

Lily Lake is located about 6 miles south of Estes Park on Colorado Highway 7. There’s a convenient parking area very near the entrance to the trail. Everyone in the family will enjoy this one.

Hiking at Lily Lake

Bonus! The historic Bald Pate Inn is just nearly across the street and makes some of the most awesome pie I’ve ever eaten. Read about the Baldpate Inn here.

2. The Knoll

This is a good hike if you’re actually staying in Estes Park or spending a lot of time in town. Maybe you check out the historic Stanley Hotel, go on the ghost tour, and then the kids are ready to run. Park your car in the small parking lot or on Wonderview Avenue, just across from the Stanley Hotel. You will be able to access the trail from the parking lot. FYI – Dogs are not allowed on this trail.

Estes Park hikes for kids, Stanley Hotel

First, start off going south on the trail to the Knoll. Don’t you just like that name? “The Knoll…” What it is really is a view of downtown Estes Park and what’s left of an old stone cabin. For those of you who like histories, I was told it was originally built in 1907 by a former editor of the Denver Post. The elaborate cabin had a huge porch and fireplace, maybe too big, since it burnt down at the end of that year.

Next, go back north on the path until you see a downhill trail to the west. Follow it until you find the cabin built by the editor, Mr. Birch, to replace the one burnt in the fire. This one was built in 1908 and used by the Birch family into the 1980s. It’s is a fun path to scout out and to see some great views of the Stanley Hotel and downtown Estes Park.

3. Lake Estes Trail

Did you bring dogs with you on vacation or your bikes? You can walk with your furry friends around Lake Estes or have a fun family bike ride. When the fog and mists are down you almost imagine yourself in the Scottish Highlands (especially if the Scottish Festival is going on in mid-September, and you can hear the bagpipes over the lake!).

4. The Downtown River Walk

The Estes Park Downtown River Walk is a fun “hike” with the kids along the river. There are cafés and restaurants with tables set up should you need refreshment. Also, parents can peruse the gift shops as you walk, and kids can explore with another adult or take a rest at one of the many wooden benches with a fabulous view and sounds of the river running by.

5. Moraine Park Discovery Center Nature Trail

As you enter Rocky Mountain National Park, hold onto that map and newspaper the ranger hands you after you pay your fee to get in. The newspaper lists a ton of hikes and activities you can participate in during your visit. Certainly, take a look at your map if you need to, and head on over to the Moraine Park Discover Center.

After you park, you’ll find an easy half-mile trail the kids will enjoy just behind the Discovery Center. Before you begin, be sure to find a ranger in the center and get the activity booklet for kids to complete as they explore. You can get other great ideas from the rangers here for things to do with kids, and in the summer there are activities like Discover Days and Discover Hikes led by the rangers.

Another awesome program is the Junior Ranger Program where kids can complete a booklet, speak with a ranger, and earn a Junior Ranger badge. Lots of fun! For more information on the Junior Ranger program click here.

6. Sprague Lake

Sprague Lake trail

Sprague Lake, oh how I love you! Sprague Lake is located in Rocky Mountain National Park up Bear Lake Road. This is a fabulous place to go for a leisurely picnic by a stream. We like to go to Sprague Lake in the fall, generally mid-week when it’s less busy. Although, as long as you can find a parking spot there are many picnic tables and a nice path around the lake. We always have a good time whether it’s busy or not.

Estes Park hikes for kids, Sprague

First of all, you can enjoy your picnic, and then put your lunch stuff in the car. There’s even a well-kept bathroom with regular toilets during the summer, which is always important with kids! From there, head over to the path around the lake. It’s about 3/4 of a mile all the way around, and my kids love it! You’ll find log benches placed every 50 feet or so to sit and take in the magnificent views. Not only that, but it’s wheel-chair accessible, stroller friendly, and ready for the perfect photo op! A couple of weeks ago when we visited, my son stopped at every bench, rock, sign, flower, whatever, then plastered a smile on his face and yelled, “Picture!”

Sprague Lake view and tree

Therefore, take your camera or phone. You’ll get some great shots.

7. Bear Lake

After you finish at Sprague Lake if everyone’s still full of energy head up Bear Lake Road until you get to the Bear Lake Trailhead. The loop trail around Bear Lake is not to be missed, and even though it’s only about .6 miles, it’s a bit more challenging than Sprague Lake and others. I don’t mean it’s incredibly difficult, but it’s not completely level and may be harder for younger kids.

Word of warning. Bear Lake is INCREDIBLY popular all times of the year so I would suggest going early, or late in the day, mid-week. There are a lot of other fun more lengthy trails that start out here, but they’re more advanced. For example, Nymph Lake is only .5 miles away, but it has an elevation gain of 225 feet. You can look at RMNP’s list of trails here.

8. Copeland Falls

If you’re heading out of Estes Park to Meeker or Allenspark south on Colorado Highway 7, you’ll want to pay a visit to the Wild Basin Trailhead. It’s about 12 miles south of Estes Park, then turn right off of Colorado Highway 7 onto Wild Basin Road. From there, drive about half a mile more and take another right into Rocky Mountain National Park. Keep going to the Wild Basin Trailhead just a couple more miles from the park turn-off.

In our experience, this trail is not nearly as busy as some of the others. Moreover, it’s conveniently located near Allenspark and one of my absolute favorite restaurants, the Meadow Mountain Cafe, a rather fabulous gem you should definitely check out (read about it here in Estes Park Restaurants With Character). But enough tangent there, back to the hike!

So you’ve made it to the Wild Basin Trailhead. The trail will eventually take you all the way up 2565 feet and seven miles to Lion Lake. However, with the kids we like to hike to the Lower, then the Upper Copeland Falls, only about .3 to .4 miles up the trail. There’s an elevation gain of 15 feet so pretty manageable! From the main trail, you will want to branch off to the side trail to take you right by both parts of the falls. After you pass by the Upper Falls it will reconnect back to the main trail without having to backtrack down by the falls on the same path. There are more lakes, cascades, and falls the farther up you go, but it’s also a lot steeper so I’d wait until the kids are quite a bit older to tackle those.

Sprague Lake purple flowers

Now go hike!

There you have it! Those are 8 of our favorite hikes in and around Estes Park, Colorado. Give them a try and let us know what you think. OR if you have another kid-friendly hike suggestion in the area PLEASE let me know because we’d love to try them out!

Estes Park hikes for kids pin-

Easy DIY Pumpkin Decor for Fall

Easy DIY Pumpkin Decor for Fall

 This page contains affiliate links. Easy DIY Pumpkin Decor 

It’s fall! Are you ready to make an easy DIY pumpkin, or maybe 10, out of velvet or satin to decorate your space? I know I am! We’ve been pulling out the fall decorations and scents and are ready to celebrate the season!

The leaves are turning yellow, red, orange, and gold. There’s finally a chill in the air, I’m listening to a lot of Loreena McKennitt music, and Grandpa’s giving the kids giant warty pumpkins and Indian corn to decorate our front porch. Let me say it again, it’s fall!! Autumn is easily my favorite season, and I LOVE pulling out the scarves, earth tone sweaters, and pumpkin spice soaps and candles.

The Velvet Pumpkin

It’s also that time of year when the catalogs start pouring in from the mailbox, and I’ll admit I look forward to seeing all those fall colors and holiday preparation guides. There’s one catalog, in particular, I read from cover to cover and look forward to receiving multiple versions of every fall. This year I prepared my mug of tea and snuggled in on the couch after the kids had gone to bed to enjoy my catalog (it’s the little things). One item that jumped out at me was a beautiful burnt orange velvet pumpkin, and of course, that voice in my head said, “Oh! I would love several of those to put around the fireplace in the living room!”

Then I looked down at the dollar mark, and the sensible voice from the other side of my mind countered with, “That’s silly. You could easily make those for a quarter of the price!” The next day, I shared this idea with my 8-year-old daughter who thought it was a fabulous plan, and we got to work! So here we go, easy DIY pumpkin decor…

Easy DIY Pumpkin Decor pin

Make your easy DIY pumpkin decor with me today!

Easy DIY Pumpkin Decor in grass

1. To begin, gather your craft supplies together

You know you’re going to be at a craft, fabric store, or even Wal-mart to get costumes ready. Pick up a couple things for yourself while you get everything ready for the kids.

2. Cut out a circle of fabric

After you have your supplies set out the fabric you’ve chosen for your first pumpkin. I tried several, and if you can get some burnt orange velvet or velveteen, you’ll get sort of a vintage look. Other fabrics work great too, such as satin or simple cotton.

Easy DIY Pumpkin decor - tape measure

Fold your fabric in half so you only have to cut out a half circle. Then take your tape measure and mark a 9-inch radius. Basically, you’ll have 9 inches from the center of your circle all around. In order to do this, I placed my tape measure at the folded edge and used a Sharpie to mark 9 inches all the way around the half circle. For a smaller pumpkin try 7 inches or for a larger just increase to 12 inches or whatever you like.

Easy DIY Pumpkin decor - cutting the circle

Once your pattern is marked, cut out your circle and unfold it.

Easy DIY Pumpkin decor - circle

2. Gather and sew your pumpkin

Now, take your needle and thread it with a thread at least a similar color to the fabric. Then knot the end of the thread and begin to sew about half an inch from the edge of your circle. Weave the needle back and forth to make half-inch stitches.

Easy DIY Pumpkin decor - sewing to begin

Don’t forget to tighten the stitches so it gathers the fabric as you stitch around the entire circle of fabric.

Easy DIY Pumpkin decor - scrunched on the needle

You’ll see it start to look like the picture below, sort of a hat or little purse shape. As you finish going around, leave the last several inches loose so you have a big enough hole to fill your pumpkin with filling or newspaper.

Easy DIY Pumpkin decor - unstuffed pumpkin

3. Stuff your pumpkin

While I don’t get a physical newspaper anymore, my parents get one daily. If you have any sitting around, this is a great way to reuse them! For a 9-inch radius pumpkin, I used 5 double sheets of newspaper wadded up and stuffed them into the empty pumpkin velvet skin. Use more or less to your preference, but shape it as you go. If you prefer, you can use the poly or pillow stuffing from your local craft store (or here on Amazon if you want – Poly-Fil Fibre Fill).

Easy DIY Pumpkin decor - stuffing the pumpkin

Next, tighten the stitches and knot and finish off your thread so it looks like the picture below. In the center, you should have the perfect small hole for the stem to fit into.

Easy DIY Pumpkin decor - no stem

4. Cut out the stem

Once the pumpkin shape and fabric is secure, take your stem fabric and cut out a right triangle (a triangle with one 90-degree angle) or as close as you can get. It definitely doesn’t have to be perfect as you can see from my example below! I used about a 5 by 10-inch right triangle.

Easy DIY Pumpkin decor - stem triangle

5. Make the pumpkin stem

When the triangle is cut out, begin from the wide end. Roll it up tightly so it spirals up and the stem is thick at the bottom and becomes thinner the taller it gets.

Easy DIY Pumpkin decor - rolling up the stem

6. Attach the stem to your easy DIY pumpkin decor

You’re almost done! Again, thread your needle folding the thread in half to make it double strength. Next, tuck the edges of the velvet pumpkin fabric inside. Then sew from the stem to the velvet pumpkin fabric about half an inch from the edge. The extra half inch is what’s pushed down inside the pumpkin to make a clean edge. Sew all around the stem, from the stem to the velvet each time, to secure the stem. If the pumpkin will be used and thrown around by kids you may want to sew around the stem twice!

Easy DIY Pumpkin decor sew stem to pumpkin

7. Finish the pumpkin stem

From here on the finishing touches are up to you! If you like the stem as it is, leave it that way. I trimmed mine down and sewed the tip closed on this pumpkin, as you can see in the picture. Also, I bought some ribbons to attach around the stem but then decided I preferred the plain and simple. Play around with it, be creative, but have fun!!

Easy DIY Pumpkin decor, sewing the stem

Easy DIY Pumpkin Decor pin2

Enjoy the season!

Do you love fall as much as I do? Then I really hope you try this project out and have fun with it. It is pretty easy for a sewing project, and even my 8-year-old daughter was able to do almost the entire thing herself. You don’t even need a sewing machine! She did need a little help sewing the stem to the pumpkin, but that was it! You know, they also make great gifts. My son took one (very proudly) to his preschool teacher, and said maybe she’d like to put it on her desk. She loved it, and it made his day.

While you’re in the fall spirit, light those pumpkin spice candles, plan a fall hike in the mountains, find a new book, buy some new hot teas, and pull out your favorite sweater. Well, at least that’s what I plan to do!

 

What other fall traditions do you and your family have?

One of my favorite places in the world in fall is Estes Park, Colorado

Estes Park Restaurants feature

Craft supplies for easy DIY pumpkin decor:

   
 

How To Make Traditional Georgian Bread

How To Make Traditional Georgian Bread

This post contains affiliate links. Traditional Georgian Bread

When you travel do you search out the local restaurants? Do you try to get at least a glimpse of the culture and history of a place? I’m admittedly a history nerd and love to meet with the people who live where I travel to get their inside stories. Georgia is one of those magical places that celebrates and shares its own culture. With warm hospitality, Georgians are more than ready and willing to give you a huge traditional dinner party, dance, and song. Many people struggle on a daily basis in the country, but their pride in culture and tradition are a foundation and bring an optimism for the future.

Traditional Georgian bread pin, tonis puri

The bread and salt of Georgia

My husband is from Georgia, and this summer we got to take the kids over to see family, the people, and places he loves. Guests are greeted with the “bread and salt”, in Georgia generally meaning a feast, always including bread. Most any meal you eat in the country will involve a plate of bread on the table. Moreover, bread is a respected food, almost revered. It’s a huge insult to throw it away or waste it. The salt on the table represents the spice, or the relationships and friendships made.

Being Georgian, my husband has always emphasized the importance of the bread. Can you imagine my 8-year-old’s excitement when she was invited to help make it in the traditional oven? If you look at the picture below, it’s sort of an earthen kiln, called a “tone”.

Traditional Georgian bread, tone

Georgian culture is rich and deep, full of emotion. It’s fascinating to see bread being made today in the same way it’s been made for hundreds of years. It represents the welcoming hospitality of the Georgian people. Take a dive into Georgian culture and learn how this traditional Georgian bread is made. 

Preparing traditional Georgian bread, tonis puri

First of all, make the basic bread dough and set it to rise. Families use a simple recipe including flour, salt, water, and yeast. Then, prepare the oven (kiln) by starting a huge fire in the center and burning down the wood or dried grapevines to ashes. Every household (nearly) in Georgia has their own grapevines and make wine. I could go into the significance and symbolism of using the grapevines, but I’ll save that for another time. The fire must burn for half an hour or more to get the oven hot enough to bake the bread. While this happens the dough rises and you set out the cooling racks.

Preparing the dough

Once the fire burns long enough, the ashes will smolder down at the bottom of the oven. At that point, place large sheets of metal over the hot ashes so the dough can be safely placed on the sides of the oven (tone). 

Traditional Georgian Bread preparation

The oven’s ready

Then, pat out the risen dough and press it in a sort of oval form all over the insides of the kiln. This is not a process you go through for one or two loaves, no! A family will bake 10-20 or as many as fit in the kiln. Then, that bread is used for a large event, or for the family for the next couple of days or so as well as for the cousins and neighbors surrounding. The next time it will be someone else’s turn to bake.

Dough put in the kiln

Bake the traditional Georgian bread

As soon as you stick the bread dough to the walls of the kiln, carefully remove the metal sheets from the ashes below. Now the heat and steam can come up and hit the dough to bake. Finally, close the top of the kiln (tone), and bake the bread for 20-30 minutes.

Traditional Georgian Bread in the kiln

When it’s ready, take off the top of the oven and remove the bread loaves (tonis puri) and set to cool.

Baked traditional Georgian bread

Have you ever smelled freshly baked bread? If so, you will know your mouth immediately begins to water, and you’re drawn to the smell. This is the time the kids, and some adults, suddenly decide it’s time to help so they can rip off a bit of that delicious yumminess. Bread brings the family and guests together with smiles and laughter.

Traditional Georgian Bread supra

Grandmother Tamar’s story

Several years ago we visited my husband’s grandmother’s home in the village of Ali, Shida Kartli region of Georgia, for her 100th birthday. She shared many stories during the time we were there, but one stood out for me. With a big smile, she told me the story of two naughty little boys, my husband and his brother, who used to “help” her around the house.

They would get into everything, but one day she was making the bread in the “tone”, as she did often. The boys were told to stay away from the oven, she would give them bread when it was dinner time. But being two mischievous and impatient boys, they could not wait for dinner. When she found them they had the lid off the oven and two heads were down inside the kiln (oven). Thankfully, it had already cooled down, but there were bits like cracker still stuck to the side. My husband reached far in to get one of these pieces and actually toppled inside. Grandma Tamar had to jerk both boys out, and my husband’s head was covered in the ash from the bottom of the oven.

She cackled and said he had some scratches, was covered in ash, and looked a mess. Really, it could have been worse, but the bread was medicine. They made and shared it together just as her ancestors did and her grandchildren do today.

So tell me,

How do you welcome guests to your house? What traditional foods or crafts does your family enjoy?

Do you want to learn more about Georgia?

Read about our favorite places to visit as a family in Batumi, Georgia, on the Black Sea.

Batumi with kids feature

Learn more about Georgian food and traditions:

Tasting Georgia: A Food and Wine Journey in the Caucasus by Carla Capalbo

Supra: A Feast of Georgian Cooking by Tiko Tuskadze

Lonely Planet Georgia, Armenia & Azerbaijan (Travel Guide) by Lonely Planet


Long Layover With Kids: 8 Ways to Survive

Long Layover With Kids: 8 Ways to Survive

This post contains affiliate links. Layover with kids

When you hear the words, long layover with kids, do you just cringe? For those of you who’ve experienced a layover between flights at an airport, think about how tired you are and what you do. Now imagine that same level of fatigue after an eight-hour or longer flight while you wait five hours for your next three-hour flight, and add in two grouchy kids. Doesn’t that sound like fun?! Not so much.

Today I’m going to give you 8 things to do to survive a long layover with kids. In addition, you are going to feel super-awesome because you planned beforehand and won’t have a breakdown in the middle of the Toronto Airport (or wherever you’ll be). This is truly a win-win!

Recently, my family of four traveled to Tbilisi, Georgia by air. This lengthy trip involved two layovers each way, and it’s stressful enough on your own, much less while you’re trying to help your kids get through it! First, we stopped in Toronto, Canada for five hours, and then in Warsaw, Poland for fourteen. Bragging moment, I was super-proud of my kids and how they handled it. Now, I’m going to give you ideas for both the long and short layovers. Here we go!

Long layover with kids pin

8 Ways To Survive A Long Layover With Kids

1. A well-packed carry-on bag the child can carry or pull

This is so important! You will all be tired so don’t overpack the 4-year-old’s bag so you have to carry it all the time. Admittedly, I carried my son’s bag now and then, but he could carry it himself, and he used everything in it at some time or another. For more detail on what to pack, see my post on ‘The Complete Kids’ Carry-On Packing List’.

2. Find a home base

Next, as soon as your plane lands and you’ve taken care of the essentials like finding the restroom, you’ll look for a home base. No, you’re not going to be hauling around a tent, but find your own space not too far from your next gate. Also, this should be an area with several chairs where you can park your carry-on bags, and the kids can spread out.

This spot will become your home base if one parent needs to take one child to go do something. One adult should always be at the base to watch the bags, but then you can otherwise come and go as you please. Moreover, the kids can spread out coloring books, crayons, snacks, whatever, without feeling smushed and without bothering anyone.

I even like to get food and bring it back to base for everyone so we don’t have to cart our bags (and kids) around.

3. Change of clothes and pajamas

A change of clothes for everyone and a set of pajamas are imperative to make the kids, and you, more comfortable. Maybe a child got sick on you on the last flight and you need to change. Don’t just think the kids will be the only ones whose clothes might need replacing.

If it’s night time, pajamas are a great thing to have for the kids. Pajamas are familiar and comforting, and hey! They might even get some much-needed rest and take a nap!

4. Take frequent walks 

If you’re not napping, walking around frequently, with the adults taking turns, is a great idea. You’ve been smushed up on an airplane for so many hours without moving and will just be getting on another. Kids don’t ever sit still and in one place any longer than they have to so why expect they will while traveling? Walk around, find the nearest bathroom and your favorite snack store, but get moving!

5. Airport scavenger hunt

Kids love to play games so try out this Airport Scavenger Hunt printable (scroll to the end to download) or other activity books. The scavenger hunt is awesome because it gets you moving around intent on finding the listed objects on the list. Work it as a family or individually, but make sure to emphasize the rules about staying with an adult.

Layover with kids: Airport Scavenger Hunt pin

6. Tablet with earphones for each child

I normally limit screen time at home but not while traveling! If it will entertain the child and let us rest, it’s completely worth it on the airplane or at the airport. My children were actually tired of the tablets by the time we got to the layovers and didn’t use them as much as I expected. Get everyone moving around and doing other things, but when they’re tired of that and sitting around waiting, a new movie or game will pass the time.

Long layover with kids and iPad

7. Food! 

Make sure you have or can buy snacks (see ‘30 Nut-Free Snacks For A Long-Haul Flight‘) and meals in between flights. We love to try out local foods, and even at an airport, we try to get something different. (That is unless we’re on the last leg and my four-year-old snaps and only agrees to eat Oreos or the snacks I’ve brought because they’re familiar). For example, it may sound odd, but my daughter loves sausage. She was so excited she got to have a sausage sandwich at the little cafe at the Warsaw Airport. “It was so good Mommy! That’s why they call it POLISH sausage at home, hahaha!”

8. Book a hotel room in the airport or nearby

This is a big one that can make a huge difference in your travels. If you have an 8 or more hour layover, and you’re not trying to run into town to do some sight-seeing, I strongly suggest getting a hotel room at the airport or near-by if available. This made such a difference in how we arrived at our destination and was super-easy. Before we left, I made a reservation at the Courtyard Marriott across the street from the Warsaw Airport, and we simply walked over and checked in.

Courtyard Marriott Warsaw

We all got to shower or take baths, sleep in our own space, and just relax and get ready for our vacation. This meant we (even the kids) were refreshed and ready to go get on that last flight to our destination. The jet lag was easier to handle, and it made for a much happier family.

Be Prepared

If you’re going on a long trip anytime soon with kids, I think the lesson is to be prepared. You’ll want to prepare your carry-ons and the kids’ favorite items. Then, plan your layovers and if you can get a hotel or not, and be sure there are options for everyone in the family. No one wants a grouchy goose, so make your travels go as smoothly as possible.

Helpful hint: it takes some effort and planning!

Don’t neglect your packing list and then wonder why the kids scream and complain and drive you crazy the entire trip. It can still happen, but you can plan, be prepared, be flexible, and enjoy your travels as a family. You can more than survive your layover with kids, you’ll make it a fun adventure exploring a new place!

Download your Airport Scavenger Hunt PDF now!

Layover with kids: Airport Scavenger Hunt preview

Share in the comments below, what’s the worst or best experience you’ve had on a long layover with kids?

The Complete Kids’ Carry-On Packing List

The Complete Kids’ Carry-On Packing List

This page contains affiliate links. Kids’ Carry-On

Do you struggle at the last minute before a vacation with what to put in your kids’ carry-on? What you have with you on the airplane can be a lifesaver, just as a possible missing item can unleash a frustrated ear-splitting series of wails from a small traveler. Then, of course, come all the stares from the passengers around you. Many do sympathize, but several years ago all I could see was judgment and glares. Now, I don’t really care what others think, and the focus is on how to calm and reassure my child.

My recent tale of kids on an airplane

This summer we were returning home from an international trip and at the end of a twelve and a half hour flight. If you want to picture it, I sat in between my two kids in a row of three seats by the window. In addition, my husband sat just across the aisle. This was the second flight in a series of three to get us home and so far the kids had been awesome. Queue trouble.

The dreaded seat-belt sign

First, the seatbelt sign was turned on, and my worn out 4-year-old stared at it a second and then went into panic mode. “Potty! Potty! Mommy, I need the potty!” Now, at this point, it didn’t really matter what I said to him or how I reassured him. Quick as a flash he had his seatbelt off and was clawing me to get into the aisle. We’d already learned the toilets were locked when the seatbelt sign was lit up, and after what felt like an eternity of screaming a flight attendant came by. She looked pointedly at my struggling son and said, “Ma’am, I must ask you to put the seatbelt on. We’ve begun our descent.”

The Request

Now, I’m a rule follower and want to support flight attendants and put safety first. However, I don’t think our elevation had changed at all, there was no turbulence, and we were not anywhere close to landing. Everything I tried to make the child comfortable and sit back down in his seat failed. He continued to scratch and scream, and he’s a strong kid! Another attendant walked by looking irritated, and I said, “Could you please unlock the door to let him go to the bathroom? He’ll calm down and be fine if he can just use the restroom.”

“Ma’am. The seatbelt light is on,” he began, and then just adopted an expression of incredible inconvenience. “Come with me.”

My son did his business and was back in his seat with his belt on, now a perfect angel. The anxiety over, he waited for us to land. I know my son, and it didn’t matter he was in a pull-up for the flight for just such a situation. Basically, he was tired, panicked, in one-track mode, and couldn’t think of anything but getting to the bathroom. I breathed a sigh of relief and turned to check on my daughter, whose eyes widened looking into mine, and at that instant, she threw up all over me.

We won’t ever be prepared for absolutely everything.

Why do I share this story? We can’t be prepared for everything, but we can help our kids limit the risk of panic and frustration by packing a well-thought out kids’ carry on bag.

Be assured your kids will be ready and entertained on their next flight when you use this kids’ carry-on packing list.

Kids' carry-on pin

The Complete Kids’ Carry-On Packing List

1. The Bag

 
When selecting a bag for your child choose something they can carry themselves or pull on their own. Don’t get one that’s too big you’ll end up carrying it the entire trip.

2. Stuffed animal or blanket

Bring that one favorite stuffed animal or blanket. Your little one may need the extra comfort and a friend to talk to!

3. Tablet or iPad (with a good case)
 

Yes, yes, I know. This is the one time I let the kids play on the iPad or Kindle and do not try to limit their screen time. My goal is to get through the trip, and screens are a HUGE help.

Before you go, make sure your devices are charged and cords are packed where you can get at them. Also, download a bunch of new movies, shows, or games last through your no internet flight. I highly recommend Shaun the Sheep.

3. Headphones

You will want to test out the headphones for your kids before you go to be sure of sizes. In addition, in order to prevent fighting, it’s important to have a set of headphones for each kid (and a tablet for each if possible).

4. Coloring/activity books

       
My kids don’t use these too much on the plane, but they were a big hit for killing time during our layovers between flights. It all depends on the kids’ moods at the time.

5. Crayons (triangle) or Twistables, colored pencils
 

I love these triangular crayons because they don’t roll around on your airplane tray table. They still can fall to the floor obviously but are much less likely to, and I’ll take that!

6. Pencil pouch with pencils and pens
 

I admit I chose these pencil pouches for me, but you can get just about any color and style in the school supply area of your local store. They’re awesome for keeping those individual pencils and pens, erasers, or whatever the child deems necessary.

7. Travel journal or My Quiet Book

Travel Journal preview for kids' carry on   
Click here to take you to the post to download!

An older child can fill out the basic information and begin their travel journal for a trip, and for a younger child, something like this My Quiet Book is fabulous. You can tie shoes, button buttons stick things on, and it’s all attached to the book so you drop and lose nothing.

8. Mad Libs and joke books

          

First of all, it’s always good to laugh. Secondly, if your kids are laughing as you roll your eyes in your mind, it’s a lot better than a tantrum in the middle of the airport or plane. Have fun with it!

9. Book(s) to read

   
I always have a book to read with me on an airplane, and it’s always good to encourage reading time for kids. Get them engrossed in Harry Potter, and you won’t have to worry about them until the flight’s over and the book needs to be put away. So load up that Kindle or bring the physical book, but read!

10. Post-it notes

Post-it notes may sound like an odd necessity to you, but they’re great especially for younger kids. My four-year-old thinks it’s a huge treat to draw creatures on all his sticky notes and then put them up all over the chair, window, airplane tray, and any other spot he can find. It takes a lot of time…FABULOUS!

11. Origami book and paper

     
Origami is hugely popular in our family, and the kids love to do it at any time so why not on an airplane? It’s entertaining, takes up time, and you have a paper crane or boat at the end of it. You can also tell them about the Japanese legend that says the one who folds 1000 Origami paper cranes will be granted a wish. And…go!

12. Games – UNO, a deck of cards, Skip-Bo, etc.

     

Card games are great for waiting to get on the airplane and a fun way to get the whole family interacting in a positive way. Who doesn’t like UNO?

13. Travel pillow

You always debate whether or not to splurge on using your packing space for a travel pillow. I think it depends on the person and how long your flight actually is, but my daughter loved hers on our last several flights. We were all able to rest a lot better with them, and I believe it’s worth the space. Make sure to get the right size of pillow for each person. I know from experience my adult-sized pillow will not work for my four-year-old.

14. Snacks (Mom will have back-ups in her carry-on)


Snacks are a must to get through a flight. We always bring nut-free snacks when on an airplane, and there are some great options out there without having to pay a fortune at the airport snack bar.

15. Wipes

This one is fairly self-explanatory, but they’ve saved me so many times. I always have a pack of Wet Ones in my purse!

16. Play-doh

An odd choice maybe? I thought so at first, but Play-Doh worked out really well on the airplane. It was fun sculpting and making snakes, and the kids were really good about keeping it on the tray table.

17. Make sure Mom has changes of clothes for everyone AND motion sickness medicine.

Kids' Carry On packing list preview

Do you need snack ideas for a flight?

Long-Haul Flight Snacks

There you have it. The complete kids’ carry-on packing list. When I got off the airplane in Los Angeles to go through customs with vomit all over me, I was grateful to have a well-packed kids’ carry-on bag. We were able to get through the airport, change, calm everyone down, and make it to our next flight without further problems. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference. Have a great flight!

Tbilisi, Georgia: Doors and Windows

Tbilisi, Georgia: Doors and Windows

This page contains affiliate links. Tbilisi, Georgia

I’ve always been attracted to different kinds of architecture, specifically doors and windows. Over the summer we took the kids to Tbilisi, Georgia and then around the country. Naturally, I spent much of the time chasing the kids around, but I also tried to get some good photos to remember the trip. Time and time again I found myself taking pictures of doors, windows, and buildings.

What draws your eye to a door or a window?

To me, a door or a window can say or hide much about a culture. Moreover, a closed-door always makes me more curious. Curiosity’s not a bad thing, so the monkey tells us, but it makes one wonder. What is behind that ancient wooden door?

When I was in college, I spent some time in Oxford, England. There you can walk the streets and see so many closed doors, but then suddenly one opens up, and you get a peek in. Is it to a stairway or a room? No, it opens up to a beautiful quad grassy area with pathways and more buildings across. The colleges of Oxford allow only the chosen ones in through their doors to the beauty of the grass, gardens, and the inside buildings. As a curious one, I had to get myself invited into a few: to a play, a lecture, and even in with a tourist group.

Possibility

So really, it’s the possibility of what’s behind that door or window that may draw you to it. Whenever I travel I look at the different buildings, old, new, run-down, or immaculate. Especially when traveling in Tbilisi, Georgia and the surrounding areas, what you expect to find on the inside of a door is not at all what you find when you go in for a visit. A run-down building with trash around it, some broken brick, and wires hanging about can lead you into to a modern state of the art apartment, nothing like you’d expect.

Imagine

Now sit back and imagine. Look at some of these buildings and doors in Tbilisi, Georgia and around the country. Georgia is a beautiful mountainous country with beaches on the Black Sea, skiing in the Caucasus, vineyards, and powerful traditional music and dance. This area of the world’s also had a difficult history, but so many of the strong people there have risen above the hardships and celebrated their culture and traditions in a modern Georgia.

What do you think’s behind that door?

Tbilisi, Georgia

Tbilisi, Georgia, Cat in a doorway

What’s inside this building? Is it someone’s home, an office? Has it been abandoned or now inhabited by cats? Who owns the car in front of it?

Tbilisi, Georgia door with ivy

Now, what’s behind this door? Is it a church, an office, or a storage area? In addition, who goes through this door, and what does that symbol mean?

Tbilisi, Georgia Parliament

This building has seen a lot. Built in Soviet times, members of Parliament convene here and make decisions for the country. What is the monument on the front steps? Furthermore, who else has walked those steps and tried to go through those arched doorways?

St. Nino metal door

A woman carrying a cross. Who could she be? Why Saint Nino brought the distinctive cross to Georgia, formed out of grapevines and entwined with her own hair. Orthodoxy is a major part of the daily lives of many Georgians. Who’s behind this door?

Tbilisi, Georgia church

What has happened to this once ornate church? Did this happen during Soviet times? Who goes through those doors now?

Old town Tbilisi wooden building

How many people live in this house? How long has it been in the family? Does the design on the rug mean anything?

More Tbilisi, Georgia

Door with grapevines

Do you see those vines hanging down? In Georgia, you will see grapevines on nearly every house. Traditions run deep, and Georgians make wine to celebrate and welcome guests. It’s truly an art form. I wonder who planted this vine in the middle of the city?

Brown church door

How long has this door been in place? It’s not a work of art like the Saint Nino door, but it tells a history just the same.

Opera house

What is this place? Can you imagine a famous opera singer on the balcony? The people are dressed up to attend an orchestra or boys’ choir performance. It’s the Tbilisi Opera house!

Restaurant overlooking Tbilisi

If you’re a fan of old Soviet movies, I’ve been told this restaurant appears in all the ones with scenes in Tbilisi. Famous movie stars, politicians, and the well to do have dined at this restaurant at the top of the mountain overlooking Tbilisi, Georgia. The funicular brings you up to the top from the center of town. I can imagine quite a few scenes happening here!

Beyond Tbilisi, Georgia

Train station at night

Train station doors by night. Was that a bat that just dive-bombed me?! Look out for ghosts! Phew, that’s just my shadow.

House front

Here’s a cheerful house front. Grapevines, laundry, a happy yellow with open doors inviting over the neighbors.

Batumi blue apartment building

What is it like to live in one of these giant apartment blocks? How could each one be individualized to the tastes of its owner?

Soviet Batumi building

Imagine this building in its prime. Who would have stayed here at this prime location on the beach of the Black Sea? Vacationers, government leaders? Maybe someone on house arrest?? What do you think happened here?

St. George Batumi

Saint George is not only the Patron Saint of England but also of Georgia. Who doesn’t love the idea of George slaying the dragon?

Batumi green apartments

Again we have the apartment block, but here at the seaside, it’s a brighter shade of green. How many people live here? Incidentally, are they rented out or for vacationers? Hmmm…

Explore Batumi, Georgia!

Batumi with kids feature

Metekhi gift shop door

Small church by the church

Wooden doors

Follow the Open Door

Gonio Fortress

Be curious. Wander. Travel is an education in so many things. Listen to the stories of the people around you. The doors will open up, and you’ll be invited in to be a part of a new culture, tradition, and way of life.

Writing Prompt

Any one of these pictures would make an awesome writing prompt for a short story. If you use one I’d love to read it! Take the time and go through that door to a new world!

Curious to know more? Click on the object to take you to it on Amazon:

   

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