A few weeks ago we took our first “solo” family vacation- just the three of us. We decided to take a road trip to Asheville, North Carolina. The Biltmore, America’s largest privately owned home, put the town on the map- but its food and art scene have recently made it a vacation hot spot for many.
Nate and I have been talking about going for a while, and it seemed like a great option for us this summer. It had everything we were looking for:
Reasonable drive time? √
To this point Maddie has been a fairly easy traveler. We frequently do a five hour road trip to visit our family in Michigan, so six hours to Asheville didn’t seem like too much of a stretch. Typically, as long as we keep the car moving, have a warm bottle readily available, and a comfortable place for her to sleep, we’re good to go.
That was not the case this trip.
It seems that our 19-month-old Miss Maddie takes on more and more toddler characteristics every day. I’m laughing to myself as I write this blog- sometimes I focus on topics that are more unique to our family as one with special needs. But I’m happy to report that our adventures in traveling with a toddler were no different than that of a ‘typical’ family (i.e.- a little messy and not super relaxing).
The Car Ride
We did the first two-hour leg of the trip after Maddie’s bedtime on Friday evening, and it was awesome- a nice quiet time for Nate and I to chat and catch up after a busy week. The next morning after we left the hotel, it was a different story. About two hours down the road things got a little bit dicey. No amount of Cheerios, singing Wheels on the Bus, or peekaboo could console her. She flailed her arms and legs, and I knew the only thing that would make her happy was getting out of that seat. Sorry, sweetie pie, two more hours to go (queue the on and off screams the rest of the trip).
We stayed at the Grand Bohemian Hotel, just outside of the Biltmore property. Owned by the Marriott, but designed to have much more of a boutique feel, I’d have to categorize this hotel as phenomenal. It was beautifully decorated, warm and offered fantastic guest service.
The first couple we ran into smiled at Maddie, and told us that they’d left their five kids at home- this was a couples getaway for them. That should’ve been our first clue that this was not exactly a kid-friendly hotel. From that point on, everytime we hopped on the elevator or walked through the lobby, Nate and I noticed that we were getting the side-eye from people who were not excited to see that we’d brought a young child into their magical, adult oasis. Oops! And I’m sure our neighbors were none too thrilled with Maddie’s ongoing early morning cries. Although she loved the giant mirror and beautifully tiled floor for scooting, it seems that the new surroundings did not excite her, as they did Nate and I.
Food was ultimately the reason we chose Asheville as a destination. Apparently Maddie didn’t get the memo because our child, who is normally well behaved at meal time, turned into a bit of a monster as soon as we settled ourselves at a table. We gave her toys, food and offered to hold her- but she would not have it. Ultimatley we ate the majority of our meals in shifts.
On the last night we were determined to enjoy a nice meal with good conversation, so we hatched a plan to go to dinner after bedtime, so that Maddie would sleep. No such luck! She woke up as soon as we got to the table and proceeded to complain throughout the meal. Wah, wah.. But don’t you know that as soon as we left the restaurant she was happy as a lark. At least we were able to enjoy a sunset at the Biltmore. Not exactly what we had planned, but I’ll take it!
Surprisingly, shopping was an activity that Maddie was still tolerant of. But not in the stroller. She’s not walking yet, but she’s no longer content to be treated like a baby. She wants OUT! So I carried her as we strolled through the majority of the stores. That is, until we got to a store where I had some clothing to try on. We walked into the fitting room, and she was immediately excited by the mirror. Don’t judge me, but I put her down and let her play there to her heart’s content. She could’ve stayed there ALL. DAY. LONG. Bonus: Mom got a chance to find some nice fitting new digs.
The tour was actually the best thing we did the entire trip. Not only did Nate and I enjoy the history and architecture, but there was a lot for Maddie to love as well:
Mom and Dad also got to enjoy a few quiet moments while Mads was sleeping…
Overall, a decent trip with a few important lessons learned in regards to future travel. Bon voyage!