For actual Thanksgiving, we celebrated it in Texas with Victoria's side of the family. My extended family decided to celebrate Thanksgiving on December 9th. This was also close to Christmas. It made sense to celebrate that with my immediate family on December 10th. On Friday the 8th, we headed up to my hometown of Marshfield after work.
This time of year, it gets dark super early. Between working earlier that day and driving in the dark, we were spent. We went straight to the Hampton. This time, we got an accessible room, and there seemed to be less Austin could get into.
The only thing that caught his attention was the microwave, but we have our methods to guard it.
We realized the bathtub's handles to turn the water on were low enough to be within Austin's reach. That was definitely something we'd have to watch.
Austin also likes to play with the phone, so we make sure to unhook that. It was nice having Maya keep a watchful eye on him.
Everything else was finally blocked or out of reach, so we were good for the little bit of time we were up before bed.
One trend I am noticing is Hampton's breakfasts are pretty spot on. There is a nice variety, and it's all cooked well.
Austin is starting to hatch schemes. He figured out he could push the chair around and then climb on it. From there, he could access the things normally out of reach. We had to hide the chair in the bathroom.
Later, we went to my parents' house. There was plenty of food!
I made sure to get a little bit of everything.
We visited with my extended family. I noticed that it was snowing a bit, so I checked the radar.
They weren't supposed to get snow, but it was coming down hard for a while.
It was enough to make the roads a bit messy. We made it safely back to the hotel and went to bed. In the morning, we had moved the chair out of the bathroom. Austin took this as an opportunity to conduct one of his schemes.
The accessible room's curtains were automatic and worked with the push of a button. He loves pushing buttons (literally and figuratively) to see what happens. We had to find another distraction for him. Snoopy to the rescue!
Another nice thing about Hampton breakfasts is they vary their selection day-by-day. This morning, it was Western omelets.
Maya took the morning to sleep a little more.
Soon, it was time to pack everything up and check out. The sheer amount of stuff you bring when you have a toddler is crazy. It's definitely a massive contrast between me traveling solo and living out of a backpack for a week.
After checking out, we fueled up and got some caffeine.
We stopped by Papa Murphy's to bring some pizza out for lunch.
We had lunch and opened up presents.
We visited until Austin started to rub his eyes. We were looking to time things just right. We hoped he'd sleep for most of our three-hour drive back to the Madison area. We hit the road, and you could see there was a fair amount of snow.
About halfway to Madison, most of the snow had disappeared.
Once we got to Verona, we gassed up again and got a carwash. We wanted to make sure to get as much corrosive salt off the van as we could.
We made it to Belleville and then unpacked a bit. It was nice seeing family over the weekend, but we were exhausted. Traveling with a toddler can definitely take a lot out of you. I will say I did gain some further insights on this trip.
Besides the lower bathtub handles, there is less stuff for a curious toddler to get into in an accessible room. I also found the automatic blinds to be neat. I guess Austin did, too. I wish every room were like this since it makes things much more convenient. In some ways, we felt guilty about using this room, but it's clear they're more toddler-friendly.
Our next idea is to try an extended stay sort of room that has a kitchen and separate bedroom. I think this will provide an even better environment for us. We should be able to relax while following Austin's routine. Plus, we can eat healthier and not have to sit in the dark at his early bedtime.
Having a good hotel room can be a lifesaver when traveling with a toddler. It provides a lot of the structure you need while dealing with the chaotic nature of the road. Where you stay can really make or break a trip. If the hotel room is relatively babyproofed, you can put your guard down a little bit. This helps save a little energy and makes things a little less exhausting.
I've traditionally stayed at a La Quinta or Wyndham-branded hotel. Lately, I've been impressed with Hilton's brands of hotels, especially Hamptons. I used to never think of this stuff, and a hotel was just a hotel to me. Then again, I do sleep in my car while traveling solo. I am definitely more particular about hotels when I travel with the family, but this gives me a lot of good insight.