TFW your kids are obsessed with Embassy Suites

My kids love this room

My kids love this room

We’ve stayed in some pretty nice hotels in our days of traveling as a family. Four Seasons properties. Ritz-Carltons. Fairmonts. Heck, we’ve even taken the kids to some pretty romantic five-star resorts here in Wine Country (looking at you, Carneros Inn and Meadowood).

But my girls like to keep it real. Their favorite hotel remains the Embassy Suites hotel near my inlaws’ house in Silicon Valley.

Among the things they like best about the hotel: The breakfast buffet, the indoor pool, and the fact that they can watch planes landing at San Francisco International Airport. We always (for some inexplicable reason) get handicapped-accessible rooms there, so both girls also sing the praises of the bathroom, which they describe as “super big” and “fun because of the handlebars on every wall.”

Lucky for the girls, we’re headed to their favorite hotel tomorrow night. For the third time this year.

This particular Embassy Suites has become our home away from home whenever we hang with my wife’s family. They live too far to drive there and back in the same night, and we’re now too large of a pod to crash at my inlaws’ downsized apartment.

Naturally, we’re headed down for Christmas Day. It will be the second Christmas Day we’ve checked into the good old “E.S.,” as we call it.

My wife and I like the room for its efficiency. The living area has a sofa bed and a drawing table for the kids to use when they wake up at 5:30 a.m. and we do not. There’s a mini-fridge and a microwave. The bedroom has one king bed. Pretty much everything we need for an overnight.

Our routine is simple. I drop off Powerwoman and the girls, then double back to check us in, make the fold-out bed for the big kids, and get all of the bathroom supplies ready for a lightning-fast pre-bed ritual. This way, when we get back to the hotel at 11 p.m., all we have to do is get the kids upstairs and they can crash out.

Is the Embassy Suites fancy? Not by a long shot. Is it cheap? Compared to other hotels, not really—we book on Expedia and it usually runs about $249 per night. But this particular property works for us. So when we visit family in the southern part of the Bay Area, we’re sticking with it. And if you travel regularly to see family members (or for the holidays), I encourage you to find a hotel you like and do the same.

Holiday family travel tips in local daily

R, planespotting

R, planespotting

I’m a newspaper guy at heart, so it’s always nice to get some actual ink in an actual newspaper on the subject of family travel.

That’s why I’m so jazzed about my latest article for the Press-Democrat, our local metro daily.

The story, titled “Ten tips for easier holiday family travel,” appeared in today’s edition, and offers just what the headline promises: A bunch of suggestions for making holiday travel with kids easier. My editors published the piece with a bunch of pictures from our family travels over the last few months. They included even more of the pictures in the gallery online.

Among my suggestions:

  • Embrace apps
  • Take advantage of the lapchild rule while you can
  • Stick to schedules
  • Let kids own part of the plan

One of the tips I didn’t include: Bring backups—backup snacks, backup books, backup crafts, even backup clothes for those unforeseen bathroom debacles. Because you never know when a delay or a missed connection will result in extra travel time to kill.

What tips would you add to my list?

 

 

 

 

 

Family outing for holiday tea

Yum.

Yum.

As the father of three girls, I’ve resigned myself to lots of fancy stuff over the next 18 years. Sometimes this means attending elaborate dress-up parties. Other times it includes fabulous afternoon teas.

On very rare occasions, I get to do both.

Such was the case earlier this weekend, when the five of us attended an afternoon holiday tea at the nicest hotel in our hometown, Hotel Healdsburg.

The tea is a special annual offering for the Christmas holiday. Every year on weekends in December (and, some years, in early January), the hotel (technically it’s Dry Creek Kitchen, which is the hotel’s signature restaurant) serves the fancy meal in the lobby. We’ve wanted to go since L was 3. Finally, this year, we got there. And it was well worth the wait.

For each person, the experience includes tea (of course), savory sandwiches, house-made scones, and house-made pastries. In our case—at least for the grownups—the tea also included special holiday drinks. The price: $34 ($43 if you get a cocktail or wine) for adults, and $14 for kids.

Among the favorites: The egg-salad, scallion, and watercress sandwiches; the cheddar-sage scones; the almond raspberry cake; and the lemon bars. L and R also loved the sandwiches of smoked salmon, cream cheese, and caviar. In fact, they loved ‘em so much that neither Powerwoman nor I even had a taste.

Equally delicious was the holiday themed drink: a walnut-flavored whiskey sour.

But perhaps the best part of our tea experience at Hotel Healdsburg was the setting; the host put us at a table right next to the piano, where a woman played holiday tunes throughout. The girls felt like they were receiving their own personal concert. And Powerwoman and I were grateful for the distraction.

It’s not too early to book for later this year. It’s also never too late to bookmark this idea for next year. Life is better when it’s fancy. Take it from a guy who’s reminded of this every day.

Weight training, family travel style

Little R, (well) before the body bench press.

Little R, (well) before the body bench press.

There are a lot of benefits to traveling with family for the holidays. Enabling your kids to build bonds with cousins is a big one. Watching them engage in extended family traditions is another (even if you, like I, are NOT a fan of The Sound of Music).

Another benefit: Building muscle mass by carrying sleeping kids like potato sacks.

I’m not talking about lugging all the crap (though I have written about that before). Instead, I’m talking about actually carrying the kids AFTER THEY HAVE FALLEN ASLEEP. If you’re a mom or dad, you know what I mean here—the end-of-night ritual where you have to pick up your sleeping child, somehow grapple with the kid’s apparent bonelessness as you toss him or her over your shoulders, and stumble out to the car, only to do it all again when you get back to the hotel (or wherever else you’re staying).

I’ve done with at least one child this every holiday now for the last five. And let me tell you—as the kids get older and bigger and heavier, it schlepping them around at midnight never ever gets easier.

The first challenge: They weigh a lot. At L’s last checkup, she clocked in at just under 50 pounds—no small potatoes, even for a bruiser like myself (that was a joke, people). The second challenge: Temporary blindness. When you’re carrying a child across your upper body, you can’t really see. This means you need to be extra-specially careful navigating stairs and corners.

Of course the third and final challenge is simply keeping the child asleep, knowing full well that if you wake up the little Mister or Miss, all hell will break loose and you’ll spend the next hour of your holiday struggling to get the kid back to dreamland.

I’d like to sit here and tell you I’ve got all sorts of tips for doing this easily. The problem: I don’t. My advice on this subject is especially typical. Bend at the knees, use your body to support the child, don’t make loud noises. If you’ve got input to share, please do so in the comment field below. If not, rest assured that I’ve been working out quite a bit these last few weeks, and I should be ready to bench press a small 13-year-old by the time Kwanzaa is done.

What are your tips for carrying a sleeping kid after a long holiday with family?

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