Posted by: littlebitofparadise | October 8, 2014

Travel Adventures, Toddlers and All


Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in Eat, Pray, Love, “To travel is worth any cost or sacrifice.”

About 47 minutes into any flight with little ones (or maybe it’s while going through security with four bags three kids and a double stroller) I start swearing that Gilbert was dead wrong. Or maybe she just never traveled with children.

Because traveling with kids is flat out exhausting.

Two weeks ago our family flew to northern California for our annual family trip. As we were checking into the airport for our flight to San Francisco, the familiar apprehension about what lay ahead started to fill me, along with all the thoughts of “Is this worth it? What were we thinking?! Mental note to never leave my Church-Park-Target-Costco-ChickFilA-Home radius ever EVER again!” 

But then as we sat at our gate, just a few minutes before the boarding announcement came, I thought of my two sisters who are marathon runners, and my brother who runs ultra-marathons.

My siblings don’t stand behind the starting line of a race and think “WOW – the next 26 miles are going to be so. much. fun.!!” No, they stand at that starting line, pumped with adrenaline, knowing that they are about to embark on an extremely difficult emotional, mental, and physical journey. They’re about to accept a personal challenge, to fight towards an impressive goal, to run towards the reward of victory. The fun lies at the finish line, with a heart full of the joy of accomplishment. The pain and the hardship of the journey makes the accomplishment all the sweeter.

Traveling with babies and toddlers has always been like running a race for me. Either that or having a baby. It hurts like hell during the process, but at the end of the day when the finish line is behind me, my camera is full of pictures and my heart is full of memories, I always decide that it was worth it.

Travel is near the very top of my husband and my favorite things to do. We both feel very passionately that it’s an important part of life experience. Even though we live on a tight budget, we’ve traveled all over – nationally and internationally – with our little family. We set aside money in our travel fund each month and make whatever sacrifices necessary in other parts of our lives so that we can take a yearly trip and introduce ourselves to the planet. It’s been such a blessing.

This year, we visited northern California.

Sonoma Valley is as beautiful and wonderful as every Napa calendar says it is. We drove the Pacific Coast Highway and introduced the kids to Earth’s biggest ocean. We saw the Giant Redwoods forest. In Bodega Bay we saw the place where Hitchcock’s thriller The Birds was filmed. In Santa Rosa, we walked through Snoopy and Charlie Brown’s hometown (well, home to Charles Schultz. Snoopy’s all over the place). We took a ferry boat ride from Sonoma across the Bay to San Francisco. It was incredible to see Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, the mouth of the Pacific, and San Fran up close. The boys’ favorite thing about San Fran was the trolley cable cars that fly up and down the street past the pier.

In Calistoga we got to see the Old Faithful Geyser – one of only three in the world. Our boys insist Old Faithful was their favorite part of our trip. Sonoma has a kiddie park called “Train Town” where they’ve literally set up a kid-sized Old West town that the train drives through. The train ride there was also a major Bear Cub hit.

And then of course, there was wine country. Hundreds of vineyards, some huge, some small and family operated. We stuck to the family-friendly vineyards, for obvious reasons, and the kids enjoyed picnics, strolls, and animal petting while the Hubs and I sampled the libations. It was rather dreamy.

A vineyard highlight for me was the Francis Ford Coppola Winery. While the ambiance in the tasting rooms was too uppity and snooty for my preference, the gift shop and museum pieces were well worth the stop. On display were replicas and memorabilia from Coppola’s most famous films. On loan to the Winery just for the month were all of the Oscars that The Godfather films won. We also got to see and touch the famous desk and chair from Godfather I. So cool.

Fair warning – vacation photo dump below. I didn’t edit a single picture because time – can’t seem to grasp enough of it these days. But here are some highlights from our 2014 adventure, in all their #nofilter glory.

I found the boys spinning the atlas in our family room the other day, pointing to the places they want to visit next. Mark insists on Israel and Luke says we’re all going to Australia next year. Ha!

I’m so glad we’ve been able to share parts of the world with them. I hope their hearts continue to capture the inquisitive, curious, adventurous spirit of their Daddy. Because I really do hope they get to keep reading and dreaming and exploring the world.























Note: If you’re using Bloglovin or Feedly and about 20 pictures don’t show up, click on “View original” if you want to see my photo dump from Cali. 🙂 



  1. Stephanie, thanks for sharing the pictures of your beautiful family! Glad you guys had a safe and fun trip! Guess where I traveled to this past weekend? Greenville, SC to visit friends for my husband’s Godson’s Confirmation. Beautiful city! Our friends have met your Dad and had a nice chat with him – they are neighbors. I wanted to go by and see your Dad’s store in person (where I spent many $$$ on encouraging and helpful books, CDs, ect.), but we didn’t have much time. Lovely area. We visited the local park, walked around, and enjoyed the paddle boats. I LOVE SC – so pretty! Hope we can go back next year sometime to visit our friends and Godson and stay a little longer!

    May God Bless you and your family! You are in my prayers!

    Maria (Lehan) Newcomer

    • Hi Maria! I’m so glad you had a nice visit in Greenville! Love that town. Did you say your friends and my folks are neighbors? Small world and very cool! 🙂

      • Hey, Stephanie – thanks for the response! Great to hear from you. Yes, our friends told me that they live directly behind your parent’s house. They are Catholic and home school too. Such a beautiful neighborhood! Our friends and I talked about your Dad and you a little bit. I told them that I think I bought almost everything in your Dad’s store. I listen to the cds often. We also talked about how you used to host an awesome Catholic radio show for teens and young adults and how you are a young married wife and Mom to three adorable boys now. Stephanie, I am so proud of the wonderful Mom and wife you have become. Wish I could meet you guys someday and say hi in person. Maybe next time we visit Greenville I can ask our friends to show me where your Dad’s store is and I can pop in and say hi if it is open. I’d like to thank you and your Dad for being so kind to me through the years. I will never forget how after I told your Dad my story about being diagnosed with the endometriosis and wanting so much to be a Mama, he encouraged me to adopt. He sent me a copy of a talk he did on adoption free of charge. That was so nice of him and very much appreciated. I will never forget his kindness. Thank you!

        PS. Love reading your blog and your adventures with your beautiful family! You are all in my prayers! May God Bless the Woods and Weinert families!

        Maria In Mass

      • Maria! Trying to think who your friends could be – my parents live on a little farm with lake and woods behind their house, so not a lot of neighbors 🙂 but very cool! Next time hope our family can meet you 🙂 xoxo

  2. What a timely and inspiring and encouraging post for me! Hubby and I are about to embark on a long road trip on Friday with our four little ones. I have been dreading it–for the hard reasons you mentioned– but your comments about introducing the little ones to the world made me see the pain of travelling in a different light. I hope to experience this trip with a heart filled with gratitude and awe (even amidst the exhaustion that pertains to travelling with kiddos!) Thank you! Enjoyed all your pics. And–P.S.–please pray for a safe and healthy and happy trip for us!

    • Oh yes yes yes I’ll pray for you!! And hope your adventure is awesome. The travel part is so hard. But keep the memories in mind and I know it’s going to be worth it! God bless!

  3. Hi Again, dear Stephanie! I would LOVE to meet you and your family sometime. I am hoping we will be able to visit our friends in Greenville (the Costas) again soon. I will let you know the next time we plan on going down there again. Have you ever visited the Haywood Mall there? They have an awesome Catholic store there!

    PS. I listen to your cds from the Family Life Center especially the pro-life ones often. Have you read the wonderful Catholic novel “Rachel’s Contrition” by Michelle Buckman yet? Great book! So many people need to read this book. It’s a fiction story about someone who needs healing and how the Eucharist, Adoration, and confession are healing. I think you would love this book!

    God Bless and talk to you again soon! You and your family are in my prayers!

    Maria In Mass

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