Traveling with a Little One // Our First Family Vacation to Gatlinburg, Tennessee

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June 27, 2015 by steelcitymama

This post is more than a little late but I really wanted to share our first family vacation experience with everyone and my tips for traveling with a little one. I was so excited when my husband suggested a trip to Gatlinburg, TN.  Oh, how we all needed some time to rest and relax after such a busy 7 months with our little man!  We were originally scheduled to go on this vacation in January for my birthday, but my husband got a call the Friday before we were supposed to leave from his company to go to engineering school which was too good of an opportunity to pass up.  Luckily, the cabin owner from whom we’d rented was kind enough to let us re-schedule even though it was VERY last minute. This was our first trip with our little guy, so we had no idea what to expect as he’s not used to being in the car very long…and this was a 5 hour trip!

I had most of our things packed up early and sitting by the door and we anxiously waited for my husband to come home and pack his things.  He has insane car packing skills, so that’s always reserved for him.  It’s just like loading the dishwasher, it’s like this big puzzle for him, and he’s so good at putting everything just where it needs to go so the space is best utilized.  I don’t know where he gets this skill, but I can tell you it’s definitely a big plus he brought to our marriage. Once we got packed, our baby fed, everyone showered, dressed and teeth brushed, (WHEW) we were ready to hit the road on our first little journey as a party of three.  My husband drove, as he is far less likely to loose it stressed behind the wheel, and in his words “drives less like a granny” than me. The drive was really quite pleasant and we just stopped when our little guy needed to be fed or to fill up the car and made pretty good time getting into Sevierville, TN, which was just a few miles from where our cabin was located.  Once we reached this town, it was pretty chaotic.  Apparently, spring break was wrapping up along with a few car shows which made the area insanely overcrowded with just as many youths as senior citizens.  We weren’t letting that get us down though, as we were so excited for a change of scenery!  And the classic cars definitely improved the slow drive through town.

Our cabin was in a really convenient location.  It was in Pigeon Forge, very close to Dollywood, and only minutes from Gatlinburg.  It was also on Parrot Mountain, which if you can only imagine, provided lots of interesting sounds during the day.  The cabin was really beautiful and had a wonderful view off the porch!  We were able to spend a good amount of time relaxing on the porch in the rocking chairs.  It was so nice to slow down and all enjoy nature together! The main things we wanted to do were to go to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies and to Cades Cove.

Our first full day, we purchased a bundled ticket for the aquarium and two other attractions. If you feel like you want to do more than one thing, this is definitely the way to go, because you can save a lot by bundling the tickets.  You can also purchase these online the same day and have them printed at the ticket desk, so there is no need to purchase them early.  At first, we thought we would wait to go to the aquarium on a day that it was supposed to rain, but we were really eager so we just went ahead and visited that day.  We loved it!  Our little guy had been to the Georgia Aquarium a couple months prior and loved it, so we were excited to take him to this one.  Although this aquarium is smaller, it is definitely laid out well to utilize the small space and the appearance is much more entertaining than the Georgia Aquarium.  For example, they have a huge faux tree that winds into a lower aquarium and up to another area that you walk through.

Our View from the Cabin

Our View from the Cabin

The next day we decided to take a ride out to Cades Cove.  It was a good distance from our cabin, but the drive was really nice.  We loved the scenery and even saw a bear (from a nice distance)!  Though this is not exactly the best activity for babies, our little guy really enjoyed it.  About half way through the drive, there is a place to get out (even with a stroller) and explore a little and take a restroom break.  It was actually supposed to rain the day we went, but luckily for us the rain held out the whole afternoon!

Stopping for a Selfie on the Way to Cades Cove

Stopping for a Selfie on the Way to Cades Cove

Family Photo in Cades Cove

Family Photo in Cades Cove

Driving through Cades Cove

Driving through Cades Cove

Cades Cove

Cades Cove

Chapel in Cades Cove

Chapel in Cades Cove

Grist Mill in Cades Cove

Grist Mill in Cades Cove

Downtown Gatlinburg

Downtown Gatlinburg

The last day we decided to play mini golf.  There are several mini golf locations, but the Ripley’s Davy Crockett one was perfect for us because it had a handicap accessible round which was perfect for strollers.  We actually ended up playing two rounds and I beat my hubby on the first round and he beat me on the second so we figured that was the perfect time to stop. Overall, the weather was wonderful and our vacation was even better than I expected.  It was so nice to go on our first family vacation and enjoy some very needed R and R!  I highly recommend Gatlinburg, TN for a family vacation.  Next time, we plan to go to Dollywood, ride the ski lift, and try some other restaurants as well.  I’ve made a short list of my tips for traveling with a baby below.  Thank you for reading my post and please feel free to leave comments and/or questions!

Trying to Take One Good Photo with My Baby

Trying to Take One Good Photo with My Baby

My 5 Tips for Traveling With a Baby:

1. Make a List – Pre-baby, I used to love packing without a list.  It gave me a huge sense of accomplishment if I was able to pack everything I needed without having to use a list.  If I forgot anything, it was also exciting to venture out for a little shopping trip to pick up what I needed.  NOT WITH A BABY.  Not only are baby items quite pricey, but you might not be able to find the brand or specific item you need in another location which could cause a lot of unneeded stress to your vacation.

2.  Contact your Hotel to See What They Provide – We stayed in a cabin, so we contacted our cabin owner ahead of our stay to see what accommodations were available for our little guy.  Surprisingly, he had a high chair and a pack-n-play available for us which were both a huge help during our stay.  He also had a washer and dryer in the cabin which meant I was able to wash anything I needed during our trip and actually washed all of our clothes before packing to go home.  You never know what could be available to you if you just ask!

3.  Be Realistic  on Travel Time – We had a 5 hour drive, so we expected to stop several times throughout the trip for breaks and left early enough to still make it to our cabin by late afternoon.  Even if my husband and I did not need one, we knew not to push it with our little man.  Allow yourself plenty of time for travel as babies usually need to stop more than adults.

4. Don’t Overdo It – Most babies can get overstimulated if you cram in too many activities each day.  We tried to have one activity per day which gave us the ability to enjoy each activity without feeling rushed and our little man didn’t get too tired either.

5. Stick to Your Budget – Set a budget prior to your trip and try to stick to it.  Some find it easier to split the budget into the amount of days you’ll be vacationing so it is easier to not go over your amount.  With babies, it’s best to also allot for a contingency in your budget just in case you need to buy something you hadn’t planned on needing.  With a budget, you’ll be able to enjoy your vacation without worrying how you’ll be able to pay for everything once you return home.

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