"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Austin: A Super Helpful Travel Guide

We just got back from our second trip to Austin, Texas, to visit Sam's sister Kelly, her husband, Steven, and their new itty-bitty, brand-new baby boy, Duke. Our first trip to Austin was two years ago for Kelly and Steven's wedding. So it seems that, if you want us to visit you, all you have to do is get married or have a baby.

We're practically traveling experts by now, so I thought I'd share some of our Super Helpful Travel Tips that will make your next trip to Austin a breeze.

Um. Yeah, right.

Some day, these kids will be awesome travelers. Until that day, we'll keep our visits short and sweet and our expectations low. But read on to find out what we learned on this adventure...


1.  Stay where there are at least two bedrooms so that all of the sleeping that needs to happen, can happen. We rented a condo through VRBO, which ended up being cheaper than a hotel AND included a kitchen. I guess I forgot to tell my boys that separate rooms is supposed to mean better sleeping because they were still up BEFORE 5am. Yawn. Next time I'll make sure they get the memo.

1a.  And, just as importantly, stay where there is a Washing Machine. It allows you to pack for five people, for four days, like this:

1.b. It also means that the family who were on both flights of your trip to Austin will see your whole family in EXACTLY THE SAME OUTFITS when they are on both flights of your return trip, but you're not trying to impress anyone, so it's fine. Really, it's fine. You don't need to explain yourselves to them, even though you kind of want to.

2.  Bring extra jammies. I mean, like, a LOT of jammies. Because for some reason, when you are traveling in Texas, all of the kids don't quite make it to the potty in time in the middle of the night and huge, epic, meltdowns occur when there are not enough clean jammies to change into when they are needed at 4:45 in the morning. Explaining that washing machines (and screaming about having to wear CLOTHES instead of jammies at breakfast) are loud and neighbors are sleeping doesn't go well for anyone before 5am. Also, extra jammies will be needed when the orange juice is spilled all over the just-cleaned-from-peepee jammies.....which means that by 6am, the poor neighbors have heard two epic meltdowns and they're counting down the minutes until our trip is over.

3. Bring snacks. You'll need them on the plane because you'll be with your children On A Plane For Multiple Hours, which means they'll probably, at some point, get bored, which means they'll say they're hungry. Probably loudly. You'll also want snacks handy when you're on the go around Austin because meal times may be off schedule and nothing keeps a kid in the Vacation Spirit (and out of Off Schedule Grumpiness) quite like unrestricted access to snacks.

4. But most likely, you'll need additional groceries besides the snacks you packed, so go to Whole Foods. But go to the Whole Foods store not the Whole Foods Regional Office. It's tricky because they're both on Lamar Boulevard. You'll know you're in the right place when the building in front of you looks like a grocery store, not an office building.

4.a. While at Whole Foods, watch out for Hipsters. They're in every aisle. And they'll make you feel a hell of a lot older and less cool then you already feel...while you're explaining to your 7-year old why we're not buying Every Snack today, and telling your 4-year old to get off the floor and OHMYGOD STOP LICKING THINGS, and manhandling your 2-year old who wants to simultaneously "walk by MYself" and "hold mommy, HOLD!" they're sauntering, with iced coffees in hand and knit hats artfully placed upon their professionally-styled hair, talking to each other about microbrews and "shows."

5. Make reservations for The Thinkery. It's the new children's museum, and it's great. If you don't make reservations ahead of time, you end up waiting on an incredibly long line for a super long time and nobody wants that. Reservations allow you to skip to the front of the line like the VIPs you know you are. Once inside, avoid the water area. Remember that part about the freak-outs about wet jammies at 4:45 in the morning? Imagine that same scene going down for the second time in one day, this time in front of two hundred other kids and parents. Some people might suggest allowing your children to go in the water area and just bringing a change of clothes. Those people don't have my kids. My kids took one look at the sign at the entrance to the water area that read: "You Will Get Wet," and said, "We should definitely NOT go into that area, Mom." My kids can be so fun sometimes.

6. If you eat lunch at Central Market, which you should, and then let your kids play on the giant, awesome playground there, which you also should....then watch out for the three-year old climbing up the Little Kid area ramps while holding a full-to-the-brim green smoothie. Every time he squeezes it a little tighter when he starts to lose his balance, a glob of green smoothie swooshes over the top and onto the ramps, making them green and slippery. His mom, who is watching him closely, will offer once to hold it for him, but will decide that he's pretty much got it under control.

7. If you eat at The County Line, which you should, you should bring your own ketchup. They do have it there, but you'll have to ask for it and the waiter just might smirk at you, you obviously not-a-Texan, when you do.

7.a. After dinner, go out back to see the turtles and boats!

8. If you go to Zilker Park, which you definitely should, you should go with more than one adult. For some reason, the playground is split into two fenced-in areas, which are divided by a TRAIN. (It's a little park train, but still.) The playgrounds are connected OVER the train by elevated walkways. If your 2-year old climbs up, which she will, you either need to push the other preschoolers out of the way so you can follow her up and across the playground before she dives headfirst off the 8-foot ladder, or you need to try to beat her to the other side as you dodge a hundred kids, cross the tracks, enter the other enclosure, and navigate to where she has ended up....which could be anywhere. So bring a spare set of eyes and position yourselves on either side of the tracks.

8.a. While at Zilker, don't miss the Botanical Gardens. They're amazing.

(Pictures taken by Evan)

 (Then I took my phone back for a bit...)

9. And finally, while you're in Austin, you should stop by Kelly and Steven's house and see this baby. I have just received the Official Word from three Very Discerning Judges that he's the cutest little baby in Texas.

But you can judge for yourselves.

Who's the cutest baby in Texas?
I am!

Lesson Learned:
It was another great trip to this great city. Can't wait to explore more of it on our next visit!

Which, if Molly and her new BFF, Jelly, have anything to say about it will be sooner rather than later...

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