We’ve done a lot of traveling this summer, at least for us. Ben and I left for Singapore, then the whole family went to the East Coast, and we were off again for a few days this past weekend. There’s been a lot of packing, unpacking, and laundry set on repeat all summer long. When we left for our D.C. – Williamsburg trip, we wanted to pack as light as possible. We were flying into D.C., then taking Amtrak to Williamsburg, then flying out of Richmond with lots of taxis and shuttles in between, so we didn’t want to have to lug around a lot of stuff. Four kids going to and fro was already going to be a handful.
This was our first time flying with all four, while we have the whole road tripping thing with four kids down, flying with them is something we aren’t familiar with. Somehow, I managed to get 5 days worth of clothes (for all of us) in one carry-on suitcase. My mom was pretty surprised at how little we packed, and another mom on the flight who packed for the same amount of days (for a family of 5) was surprised how we were able to do it with no bags checked-in. I’m not an expert at all, since it was our first flight as a family of six, but we seemed to manage well enough, so I’m glad to share what worked well for us here with you all.
We took a red-eye, since it was the most economical and direct way to get to D.C., but I had no clue how the girls were going to do on that flight. Once the plans were in place, I tried to do a little training beforehand. For a couple months leading up to the trip, every time we saw a plane, I would ask Glow, “What are we going to do on the airplane?” And I trained her to respond, “We’re going to sleep!” So that’s what she said every time I asked. I hoped if she said it enough, she would do it when the day came.
Our flight left at 11:45pm (the kids are normally in bed by 7:30pm), so it was already a late night for them, and we didn’t let them sleep on the drive to the airport. I was thinking it was going to either backfire and she would be so tired and cranky that she would wail on the plane, or she would just fall asleep. All the girls were so excited about flying, and take-off was pretty exciting for them, and after take-off, Soul went to sleep and the big girls knocked out soon after. There were some kids sitting in front of us who were watching cartoons (and Glow could see the screen), so she would try to watch, I had to do some maneuvering to block her view between the seats, and after some tossing and turning, she fell asleep. Whew! Then, I fell asleep once I knew she was done for the night. Since it was a direct flight it was only about 4.5 hours, but the kids seemed to sleep well the entire time (it was a different story for Ben and me) and we woke up just a little bit before landing. Once we landed, the girls were so excited and ready to go. We had a shuttle pick us up, and thankfully, we were able to do early check-in at the hotel, so we spent about half an hour just reorienting ourselves with the area and plans for the day before we set off exploring with only about 5 hours of sleep in all our bodies.
The plane ride home was just as smooth, even though we had a layover, and all the girls fell asleep on the plane ride again. I’m thankful that they didn’t throw any plane tantrums and they all did a really good job on all the flights. You just never know with kids, so this first experience with all of them turned out really well.
Now for the packing tips, I packed the exact amount of clothes needed (no extras), one set of pajamas for each person (we bathed each night, so I figured they would stay clean), and I think what made the biggest difference in getting it all to fit into one carry-on suitcase is that I ironed everything. I ironed all the clothes to free them from wrinkles, then folded them to be put in the suitcase, and ironed them all again folded to flatten it even more. I totally think that did the trick! Everyone pretty much only had one pair of shoes and those were the shoes we wore on the plane, so we didn’t have to worry about packing any shoes in the suitcase (though I did throw one extra pair for the girls just in case). All our toiletries were travel size and Ben had them in his messenger bag (not in the suitcase), and I put enough diapers in the carry-on suitcase to last the 5 days we were gone. We didn’t bring any laptops, just an iPad, and I made each of the girls their own mini backpacks and in it were their books, crayons, and a light sweater. I had one backpack, and in it was my camera, wide angle lens, and wallet. We also brought our light umbrella stroller with us too, and that’s that for everything we brought along. Packing light made it really easy!
The girls knew they were each in charge of their own backpack, and since we only had one stroller, they knew their little legs had to do all the walking and complaining wasn’t going to get them very far. I’m pretty proud of them because they were such troopers the entire trip. Sure, we had to stop here and there to break up a fight or put one of them in time-out, but overall, they all did a fantastic job.
What are some of your tips and tricks for traveling with children?
We are very thankful for this chance to experience Colonial Williamsburg Revolutionary City. When the opportunity first presented itself to me, I was shocked and ecstatic: (1) I love history. (2) The kids would love this experience. We were given a budget to work with, and when it’s a family of 6, you still have to be creative to make it all work (e.g., find the best price taking a red eye… I know, kinda crazy), and it was completely up to us what we wanted to do, see, and eat when we got there. We stayed at Colonial Wiliamsburg Woodlands hotel, since that was suggested to be the most family friendly option, but there are plenty of other accommodations to choose from.
As I was booking, I noticed they had a “Kids Play, Stay, and Eat Free” package and so that’s what I went with. It includes all the admission tickets to the museums, most buildings, and tours (there a couple things like carriage rides or ghost tours that would be an additional expense if you want to do that), the hotel had a new water park (we’re not talking theme-park huge here, just to give you some perspective, but more than enough for the kids to love). Regarding meals, there was what I considered to be a higher-end continental breakfast (it had many options, to include a DIY waffle-maker, sausage, eggs, fresh-cut fruit, yogurts, hot/cold cereals… just your basic as bagels and pastries) and kids get to eat free for dinner (we appreciate little perks like that)! I think it is the best option for families, just for the tour tickets alone. We were able to get in to see show/tours that would typically require an extra fee, but with our package, that was already included! Extra things that we had to pay additional for were the carriage ride and the meals during lunchtime for the kids.
The whole place is really family-friendly. One spot in particular we spent a lot of time at was the Colonial Garden. Ben was marveling at the 18-century methods they used to care for it; he was mesmerized as he walked around observing the various plants and vegetables. The girls were able to help out with the watering, and I was ooh-ing and ahh-ing over how that is exactly how I want my garden to look like. I love the look of overgrown bushes and flowers tumbling into each other, and while I try to mimic that at home, mine looks more like an overgrown mess.
One request the girls had was to ride a carriage, but for this you need to make sure you’re at a ticketing office right at 9am because they sell out quickly, especially in the hot summer months because they don’t let the horses ride past noon on hotter days. We rode an open carriage because that is what fit our family of six, and it also happens to be the same carriage Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip rode when they visited here in 2007. Though it’s a short ride (fifteen minutes), the girls faces told us it was well worth it.
There are shuttles that can take you from one area to the next, but we also found it quite easy to maneuver about on foot. Sure, it was hot and humid, as we were all sweating cats and dogs, but the fun and excitement of roaming the streets and interacting with different characters really distracted us from the hot conditions.
For lunch, we ate at the taverns since we were usually exploring the historic area; Chowning Tavern was our favorite. Dinners we spent at Huzzah! (adjacent to our hotel) and Traditions (adjacent to the Williamsburg Lodge). Huzzah was super family-friendly and the kids got to make their own pizzas. Traditions was a little more formal, and I got to indulge in crab cake and the girls got dishes that were equally as fancy, but just kid size. With the package we signed up for, the kids were able to eat free at both places for dinner (and also the taverns, but we never went to the taverns for dinner). I think deals like that for families are much appreciated.
Another thing we read about was the brickyard. Brave was commenting how much she wanted to come back in October to see the bricks fired up, since that’s what she read in the book. Though, we didn’t get to see that, the girls did get to take part in treading the mud to make brick. They were really hesitant at first, but eventually (with a lot of coaxing), they went in. Go figure, at home they don’t hesitate to play in the mud, but here when they are encouraged to, they hesitate.
There’s so much we saw and did that I’m sure the girls probably weren’t able to keep track of it all. We plan to continue studying the American Revolution and Colonial Times, so I think reading more books after the visit will allow us to continue building upon their knowledge. We let them indulge in some costumes to commemorate their time there (Brave chose coloring books however), so that will get added to their dress-up box and we will recreate our own scenes of the Revolution at home. My mind is already spinning with learning activities we could do to dive deeper into this time period, and we are all very thankful for the opportunity to experience this living history museum in-person and for all the memories we created together as a family.
Brought to you by Colonial Williamsburg. With so much to do, stay and make some history. Book your trip at colonialwilliamsburg.com. I‘m super thankful for this opportunity, and this is able to happen thanks to all of you. As always, all opinions and thoughts are always my own.
We are thankful for the opportunity to spend a few days immersed in the history of Colonial Williamsburg in Williamsburg, Virginia. The girls and I spent some time leading up to our adventure reading books and preparing to see a glimpse of what life might have been like during colonial times. We read If You Lived in Williamsburg in Colonial Days, Hogheads to Blockheads, and they also read The Colonial Caper Mystery at Williamsburg (a fun easy to read chapter book). True and Brave also started reading about Felicity of The American Girl series (thanks to your recommendations!), so that really helped paint a picture of what Williamsburg was like for little girls during this time period. We brought the books mentioned with us on our trip, as well as Colonial Williamsburg: A Pocket Guide. We had all of these on hand before our trip (bought from Amazon), but I did see them all for sale at the Colonial Williamsburg gift shops.
I wanted to give the girls as much background information as possible before our trip, so when we went, they would be able to make connections with what they read to what they saw in real life. They had a lot of “aha! moments” when they recognized a place, activity, or shop mentioned in one of the books we read. In addition to that, I used the pocket guide throughout our visit as a reference to learn more about a particular place. We’re technically on a break from homeschooling, but learning was still happening even while on vacation.
Our first stop was Powell House. The girls and I were super excited to start off with something we were sort of familiar with from the books we read. The girls helped bring in fire wood, make a little tart, and played with some of the toys in the house. The girls are super shy, so they really need encouragement to get involved in the action, but they were doing it (Brave more than the others) and I could see they were in amazed with seeing this in person. The whole place is really overwhelming at first, so I’m glad we had some previous knowledge that really helped us get started and more familiar with the place. I highly recommend reading books before going because it also helps you map out your day on what may be of more interests for you and the children.
This face of True’s is a bit funny because in the picture prior to this, you can see Ben getting sworn into the Continental Army by Captain James Ennis. True (and the other girls) were not happy about that at all. True believed it was entirely real, and that scowl on her face stayed on for hours after we told her it wasn’t. She said that “if that was a joke, it wasn’t funny.” I guess those army guys were quite convincing.
There were so many reenactments going on all over the place. We hopped from one place to another and were just in awe at how well everyone played their parts; the whole family was totally into it! The girls would ask (with our encouragement) the various characters if they were a patriot or a tory. The tailor gave a very good answer to explain at how complex that question was since England was their home country, the difficulty of their choices, and what they believed to be what’s best for them. Just like it is now, it’s not completely easy to side with one or the other, but there are pros and cons to both sides.
To aid in the Colonial Williamsburg experience, there was a Colonial Williamsburg scavenger hunt that got the children really involved into learning more bits about life during the American Revolution. I think this was a great way to further learning and get everyone exploring more of the history of this revolutionary city. We went into all the trade shops trying to match the picture with the description in the hunt, and the girls were pretty excited to get seven matches and collect their prize. Ben, Brave, Soul, and Glow even got to march with the militia, with fife (a small flute) and drum fanfares for a victory march. They also had canon salutes which were super exciting and super loud! You had to brace yourself right before they fired each one.
This place is very educational, but it’s also a lot of fun! I’ve mentioned before that I get geeky about historical things, so I was relishing it all. There is so much for everyone; kids can go to the dancing school and learn various social dances of that time, adults (and kids) can participate in a re-enactment of an 18th-century trial or engage other political figures from that time period in a discussion of the political tensions going on, or you can just tour museums and historic buildings and soak things in that way. There is seriously something going on all throughout the day that you can’t even cover everything in just the few days we were there. You will no doubt leave some stones unturned and will be wanting to go back to explore more; I know we feel that way. If you’re living on that side of the coast, I’m pretty jealous at how much easier it might be for you to take a weekend trip to Colonial Williamsburg Revolutionary City than it is for us.
One of my favorite things, and no doubt the girls’ favorite, was being able to tour the R. Charlton Coffeehouse and getting to try some of their chocolate. We read all about that in one of the books, and how chocolate then isn’t quite the same as hot chocolate today. When the big girls saw the sign for the coffeehouse, they were so excited and exclaiming, “Mommy! Rememeber when we read about that?! Maybe we can try chocolate.” Sure enough, after the tour, they served the guests your choice of tea, coffee, or chocolate, and of course my girls all picked chocolate. The lady was surprised at how much my girls loved it (it’s pretty much straight cocoa and spices) and guzzled down their cups. I think you can see in the picture above which girl loved it most!
Brought to you by Colonial Williamsburg. With so much to do, stay and make some history. Book your trip at colonialwilliamsburg.com. I’m very thankful for this amazing opportunity, and thankful to you all for the support you give me and the companies I choose to partner with.
This is more of us roaming around Singapore, and you get a one picture of us with our bowls of food (we ate so much there!). There will probably be two more posts just of all the different food we tried; we wanted to try as many new dishes as we could! Ben and I seriously walked everywhere, as well as the MRT (their subway system), and my friend, Abby (pictured above), was the best tour guide. Not only did she take us all over the place, she knew so much about Singaporean history and we loved hearing all her stories. All her stories made this country come alive for us even more, and it deepened our appreciation for this city/country.
Of course, besides the plant nursery, Ben would love the place where you can buy all sorts of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats! He went by himself the first time (I was prepping for my classes), and he came back with $15 worth of fruits that we had never tried before! We also pretty much ate all the fruit in one sitting. We had rambutan, lychees, custard apple, mangosteen (my fave!), dragon fruit, and water apple. We didn’t venture to try durian (though I did have a durian dessert!). He took me back to the Tiong Bahru wet market a few days later and I loved looking at all the different things they were selling. Totally different from our farmers markets for sure!
It was so humid and steamy that once I took my camera out snap some pictures, my lens was completely covered in fog. That’s why that first picture looks somewhat cloudy, and I had to keep wiping the fog away to take more pictures!