We just got back from an excellent family vacation. We took the train from Minnesota to Toronto and then, a few days later, from Toronto to Montreal. I feel like our family trips usually fall into one of two categories: the sit in one place (usually by water) and relax trip or the Do! All! The! Things! trip. This one was very much a doing and moving and seeing kind of trip and now I would kind of like a week of sitting by a lake to recover from it, but I’ll settle instead for a three day weekend and a return to work instead.
(I may have spent sometime online today looking for cabin rentals for later this summer. I’m only human.)
(I’m also a Minnesotan, which means that 95% of all the cabins in the state appear to have been rented already because we are a state obsessed with our lakes and spending as much time as possible sitting by them so my dream of spending my upcoming 40th birthday in the woods somewhere probably won’t come true.)
(I’m turning 40 this summer. I… I think I feel okay about this? We’ll see. But in case not, please brace yourself for the possibility of some angst ridden blog posts in August. )
This trip was probably the longest one we’ve taken as a family and it went 97% well. Please allow me to be a lazy blogger and share some thoughts in trusty old list format:
1. Taking the train is better in almost every single way than flying or driving in a car, especially when you have kids. The downside is that it takes longer than flying but the upside is EVERYTHING ELSE. You can get up and walk around! You have leg room! Sexy, sexy leg room!
We got a sleeping car for the overnight portion of our trip and the kids basically vibrated with excitement about the whole thing. The rooms are small, especially for the more robustly built of us, but sleeping on a train is actually pretty great.
I asked the kids if the want to drive, fly, or take the train on our next trip and they were instant and unanimous in their answers: TRAIN. This was even after we had a 10+ hour layover in Buffalo, NY which was kind of brutal.
2. Speaking of: there is nothing, not a single thing, to do at the Buffalo Depew train station. If you should find yourself there for longer than an hour or two, I highly advise that you make an alternate plan. We checked into a cheap hotel and watched TV and let the kids get a few hours of sleep. We’d thought about renting a car and going to Niagara Falls but this layover was at the end of our trip and we had a kid getting sick and I was pretty done by that point. Seven hours of screen time seemed like a good plan at that point.
3. Visiting aquariums gives you the opportunity to take cool pictures (#nofilter).
Visiting aquariums that let your child hold cute little cleaner shrimp and pet stingrays may cause them to give up eating shrimp for the foreseeable future, which is slightly problematic when they have already given up eating most other meat. Let me just say that I’m not sure the aquarium snack bar should have fish and shrimp tacos on the menu.
4. We went to a major league baseball game (go Blue Jays!), which was E.’s first time going to a professional sporting event. Her interest lasted exactly as long as the money available for snacks did. Should you make the trek to watch the Blue Jay’s play, I suggest the $3 frozen ice pops during the 6th inning, when things are starting to drag for your average six year old.
5. We got a condo with a washer and dryer in each city and were basically able to do the whole trip with one backpack per person and one small shared suitcase. I’ve decided that trips over five days require a laundry option. That plus a kitchen makes the condo option my first choice for all future trips.
6. Canadians really are nice and polite. We used the subway almost every day in Toronto, mostly out of the Union Station which is large, under construction, and kind of confusing. But I discovered that if you stand still there with a confused look on your face for more than 90 seconds, someone WILL come and offer to give you directions. And they will be incredibly pleasant and helpful about it. It’s probably the quiet knowledge that they have a hot prime minister and universal health care that keeps them so kind.
7. To the extent that our being American came up, I felt like Canadians just feel, well, sorry for us. They pity us. This was especially true when there was yet another school shooting while we were there. Hearing someone say “we don’t really understand how you can live like that” was kind of a gut punch.
8. This whole trip would have been a wildly different experience two years ago. Travel is really one of those things that gets SO MUCH EASIER as kids get older.
9. Poutine is delicious.
10. Poutine is delicious and practically necessary when you average 17,000 steps a day. So. Much. Walking. But worth it when you are walking around Montreal which is just gorgeous.
She approves of the vacation lifestyle.