Families vacation

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Vacations are a weird thing. It seems this is an area we have struggled finding an appropriate balance in going somewhere and doing things that combine appropriateness, rest, activity and escape. Pre-kids what ‘vacationing’ and ‘getting away’ looked like would be totally inappropriate with three kids. We also aren’t real traditionalists, as going to a resort like Disneyland or buying a vacation package to Mexico isn’t really appealing. Neither, have I realized, is treating trips to events or scheduled purposes or holidays really a fulfilling get away, as they are usually fraught with stress and other people’s schedules and expectations. We recently have taken a really hard look at what ‘Vacation’ should look like to our family. And given a really tight ‘budget’ (or really lack thereof), how we can make the most out of HOW we get away while simultaneously engaging young children and achieving rest for the adults. Talking to a few other families, we have realized this is not something we alone are working through. We also realized the benefit of traveling with another family, especially if your expectations are congruent. So out of that came a very last minute, yet incredibly awesome, trip to Portland, Oregon.

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One thing we realized before hand is that each of us equate stress as not being fun. Stress in this age group mostly comes from unhappy children, expectations that don’t line up for where both kids and parents are at in their desires, and not escaping the pressing things that are faced everyday. Downtown Portland was a good fit simply because it offered an awesome Hotel which served as a retreat and rest space with many places, activities and stimulation right at our doorstep. Portland is only 3 hours away, so kids don’t go crazy on a long drive. We actually took the train, so all 6 girls could move around a bit and interact, giving parents a bit of time to sit, talk and not have to stress out and drive. 

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Additionally, the Ace Hotel, where we stayed, is an awesome, hip, modern and design-y place. It thinks out of the box when it comes to Hotels, more of a European hostel model, with many communal spaces and pared-down rooms. I find that the Ace is one of the most kid-friendly hotels we have stayed at. One of the rooms had three beds- a bunk bed and a single; the other, two doubles; the third (for another family who joined us the first night) a queen and a bathtub. It is affordable and in an amazing location. We brought our baby monitor, so we often would put the girls down for bed or a nap and then be able to go grab coffee and sit in one of the few different lounge areas and listen in on the kids, who were a floor right above us. We were also able to swap dates with the other couple, so we would watch their girls one afternoon they they listened in to our girls after bedtime- then we did the opposite the next day. In the main lobby are entrances to two other businesses- Stumptown Coffee (totally amazing hand-roasted coffee) and Clyde Common (seating was family-style in this restaurant, bar and lounge where we frequently took advantage of Happy Hour), plus next door is an awesome sandwich place, Kenny & Zuke’s. For the mom’s, breaking from having to do thinks like cook meals and do dishes and be able to cruise down a flight of stairs to grab morning coffee without the circus of getting up and out somewhere was truly an area of rest. And we didn’t have to eat out all the time, as there is a Whole Foods a few blocks away. One night we grabbed a few roasted chickens and sides and ate in one of the rooms. There is a definite advantage to having things close, it would have been a lot harder if we had to get in a car and drive to the things we did.

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Between us and the other family are 6 girls- 4.1, 3.3, 2.7, 1.7, 8 months and 4 months. The older four are amazing friends, continually engaging one another. They had a ton of fun just hanging out all together. We were able to keep preserved each families rest time, where we could each retreat to our room for naps and quiet time. We did activities both together and with our individual families. It is still a hard age, as naps are essential. Everything we did was so close by it made it incredibly easy to just head back up to the hotel when needed. We were even able to engage the kids in many activities, like crafting at a modern kid’s store, the toddler section of Powell’s bookstore and hanging out in an awesome eatery, but weren’t overwhelmed by the juvenility you can often find some places and didn’t have to force the kids into adult places and things. I find it very hard when we try to even go somewhere to eat and the restaurant obviously isn’t equipped or happy that you just showed up with 3 young ones, those meals tend to be very difficult. That wasn’t the case at any of the places we went to, as there are tons of kid-friendly places concentrated in this area of Downtown and the Pearl District in Portland.

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Portland’s public transit is far superior to most of the cities I have been in. I really love that you don’t have to collapse the stroller on the streetcar, just wheel it right on. It makes taking it so much less of a task than the busses around Seattle. It is quick and best of all, most of the places we went, Free. It seems we know many people nearly everywhere we go. Not only was this trip to intentionally meet up with Matt’s family and celebrate a psudo-late Christmas, but we met up with another family who ended up booking a night at the Ace (they live in Tacoma and were visiting family in Portland), plus met up with another friend from San Francisco also visiting family in Portland, my friend from kindergarten who now lives in Portland, and really randomly a friend from college who commented on our Facebook Status and we got to meet up with for coffee. It was good get to see people, check in with their lives and build those relationships.

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We did do a very good job of eating our way around the City. In one day we managed Stumptown, & Zukes, and Descutes Brewery all before 1pm. A highlight for me was a sushi restaurant we met Matt’s Parent’s, sister and brother-in-law at, where we were also met with the pleasant surprise of all-day happy hour of half-priced rolls and sushi. It was really good to indulge in a lot of raw fish for cheap. Araiya and Tallis were really happy too, as they absolutely love sushi- proof below- see? That’s Araiya eating fish eggs, those nigiri sushi were both the girl’s favorites, but also happen to be one of mine, so sadly I missed out this time because Matt and I gave them ours. 

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The day of the 1st was our most difficult day. Looking back now it probably would have been a wiser idea to take an early train, as we had all afternoon to burn after checking out but before our 6:15 departure. It wouldn’t have been such a big deal except for the bad combination of pouring rain (like a few inches) and the holiday where few places were open. We all got pretty soaked, had a few meltdowns (me included), spent way too much time at Starbucks, but made it none the less. Oh, and Pia had an unusual fit on the train, screaming her head off, unable to be consoled before finally falling asleep. On top of that, Tallis has been potty training, fell asleep on Matt and when he got up to gather our stuff to get off in Seattle his lap was soaked (we still do nightime diapers). I think we just pushed the return trip too late, but it was relatively easy after that to get home. I make it sound pretty bad, but all in all, it was a relatively small bit of stress that came right at the tail end of the trip.

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Looking back, this was one of the best trips we have taken, akin to ranking with other notable trips like Hawaii, a California trip to Orange County and Big Bear, and going out to Westport for a weekend with friends. A great blend of rest, adventure spending quality time together, building relationships and fun activity. Really an amazing start to 2009!

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~ by gdesign on January 3, 2009.

2 Responses to “Families vacation”

  1. Glad you guys had a great time here at the Ace!
    Come back soon!

  2. Next time you come ,call the Housekeeping Department, we can babysit too….hope to see you guys again soon.

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