Tag Archive for: day trip

On the rails for a family holiday travel day trip

Little R (and cat), enjoying the view.

Little R (and cat), enjoying the view.

While I always love family treks to faraway places, I also am a huge fan of day trips close to home. These excursions are great ways to introduce kids to new stuff in their own (proverbial) backyards. They also usually are cheaper and less disruptive of the family routine.

One of our favorite “local” day trips in recent weeks was a holiday-themed ride on the Napa Valley Wine Train. The excursion represented my parents’ Christmas/Hanukkah gift to my 3-year-old daughter, Little R.

Considering how much fun I had, it might as well have been my gift, too.

Our experience started at the bustling depot in downtown Napa, where hundreds of families waited patiently (and some not so patiently) for engineers to signal it was time to board. A large number of these folks waited in queues to have their photos taken with Santa. We lingered near the platform, marveling at the size of the train wheels and admiring the train itself.

This was a wise spot to wait; when it came time to board, we were that much closer to the front of the line. Everyone had assigned seats, so once the ticket-taker let us through, we headed toward the rear of the train for Car No. 11, where we were escorted to a spacious booth in a refurbished dining car. The booth became our home for the next two hours. As the train headed north toward Yountville, the four of us colored pictures of trains (with crayons provided by servers in the car), played word games with each other, and watched in amazement as the world zoomed by outside.

(A bridge! A vineyard! A truck full of bottles! )

Of course we snacked, too. Though food wasn’t included in the $30 ticket fees, servers in our car presented us with a menu featuring a handful of (reasonably priced) breakfast goodies (such as fruit, pastries, etc.) and a variety of drinks (non-alcoholic options, such as milk and hot chocolate, for the kids; alcoholic options, including wine and spiked eggnog, for the grown-ups).

As a family, we went in for a bunch of different stuff. (Little R is not a fan of cheese Danish. Now we know.) Dad got sparkling wine. I got the eggnog.

By the time the train stopped outside Domaine Chandon, in Yountville, to turn around, R was ready to get some wiggles out. Thankfully, that’s precisely when a cavalcade of mascot-like beings started making their way through the train to interact with kids and pose for pictures.

First came a person dressed as Frosty the Snowman. Then came someone dressed as Rudolph. There also was a giant gingerbread man. And, of course, Santa. R took in all of it, clapping and smiling and staring at every one of the characters. When the train started moving again, she was transfixed by the scenery as if she was seeing all of it for the first time.

And when the train finally stopped back at the depot in downtown Napa, her comment was, quite simply, “But I want to keep going on the train!”

Sure, there was more to our afternoon in Wine Country, including lunch at the Oxbow Public Market (C Casa in the house!) and a stop at The Model Bakery in St. Helena for peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. But the highlight of R’s 2014 holiday celebration was a special ride on the Wine Train. As far as day trips go, you can’t get much richer than that.

What sorts of family day trips do you like to take from your home?

Family Travel Fun with Words

These ducks are joining us on Friday's trip to Bath.

These ducks are joining us on Friday’s trip to Bath.

I’m writing this post on the eve of our first official “field trip” here in London: On Friday the girls and I are joining Powerwoman and her students on an day-long educational excursion to the ancient city of Bath.

Personally, I’m excited to get a glimpse at history; the Romans established the city as a spa nearly 2,000 years ago, and it is now one of the best places in the world to see Georgian architecture.

The girls, of course, are stoked for another reason: They think we’re driving 2.5 hours to take a tubby.

No matter how many times their archaeologist mother attempts to explain the actual historical and cultural significance of Bath, L and R are convinced the place is a bath of a different kind. Earlier this week, they “packed” a bag full of tub toys. This afternoon, during lunch, L actually asked me if all of the buildings in Bath float. (Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up.)

The prelude got me thinking about how literal kids can be—a reality that is especially entertaining when you travel internationally and encounter a host of different words and/or expressions.

In nearly two months on the ground in London, my daughters have had a fair share of laughs about some kid-oriented British words and how they differ from stuff we might say back home. Some examples:

  • “Nappy” is the British word for “diaper,” and R loves joking about how she needs a “new nappy for my nappy” every afternoon.
  • “Mummy” is what most kids here say instead of “Mommy,” and L finds this hilarious because her “Mummy” studies mummies for a living. (Side note: The first time Powerwoman took us to the British Museum to see the ancient Egyptian mummies, L laughed for nearly an hour nonstop.)
  • “Lift” is synonymous with “elevator” here, and whenever we ascend in one of these devices, L and R have a field day.

The girls also get a kick out of pretty much all three British words for “stroller”: buggy, pram and pushchair. “Buggy” receives the most play, mostly because some of their favorite toys since establishing roots here are, in fact, plastic bugs. (Without too much trouble, you can figure out the little-person humor here; jokes often revolve around the idea of taking a buggy in the buggy.)

The bottom line: You don’t need a Ph.D. to appreciate that linguistics is a HUGE part of the travel experience, and exploring it in amateur fashion is an easy way for you to expose your kids to the eccentricities of a new culture.

My advice? Don’t just point out differences to your little ones; engage them to think about why languages diverge, and challenge them to embrace new expressions and phrases as part of the travel experience. It might feel unnatural at first, but I guarantee you’ll be surprised/amused/entertained by the responses.

Remember, you don’t have to be a wordsmith (like me) to have fun with words.

How do you introduce your kids to linguistic differences when you travel abroad?