Two kids, a Giant Puppy, and a Minivan: How do you Pack Light?

Our next vacation is just around the corner.  The packing list has been started and I’m not sure how everything is going to fit.  In a minivan.  Which seems completely absurd.  Isn’t the whole point of a minivan its spaciousness??  We’ve never had to pack light for a road trip before.  But now we have Murphy –  our giant 7 month-old puppy who happens to weight about 90 pounds.  Needless to say, he takes up quite a bit of room.  Good thing he’s so cute. Murphy

I keep telling myself – and everyone who asks how we’re going to all fit – there’s nothing to worry about.  We’ll pack light.  Except, I don’t really know how to pack light.  Our lovely lake house has a washer and dryer so that should keep clothing to a minimum.  But we’ll be in Canada with warm days and cool evenings.  We also plan to do some hiking, swimming, biking, and kayaking.  All of this adds up to the need for a variety of clothing options: pants, shorts, hiking shorts, short and long sleeve tops, sweatshirts, bathing suits, and, well, you get the picture.  IMG_1148

While I’ve got my list and I feel organized, there’s still too much on the list – and even more not on the list.  Somehow we’ll make it work.  The laws of physics are what they are.  But it’s not going to be pretty.  Once we get there, yes – but oh, the process.  Sigh.

If you have any packing light tips, I would certainly welcome hearing them.

Planning a Kid-Friendly and a Dog-Friendly Vacation

Now that we have acquired the cutest puppy on the planet, we need to make room in our lives for this beast – um, I mean puppy. For me, a big part of that is making sure we still have family time to get away and explore new places. With a new puppy and two kids, vacation planning has suddenly become a bit trickier but wheels started spinning almost immediately.  We have 2 weeks set aside for a summer trip, and I’m hoping I’ve come up with a perfect destination – Canada!

How did we pick Canada? We had a few specific criteria for our destination in addition to being dog and kid-friendly:

  1. drivable
  2. cooler weather than where we live because it’s better for our thick-coated mountain dog
  3. easy access to hiking, nature, water, etc.
  4. somewhere new
How I started the search:

I may be new to dog-friendly vacation planning but I started the same way I always do – with Google Maps and Airbnb. We almost always stay in vacation house rentals and Airbnb is a great way to narrow down the destination options even if you decide to go with a different house rental provider.
Cooler meant north – duh. Since we are originally from New England, the somewhere new meant upstate New York and Canada were the top contenders – even though it’s pushing the envelope on being drivable. Despite having been to Maine before, I will admit it was a contender for a brief bit – primarily because Acadia National Park is one of my husbands most favorite places.
Thankfully, Airbnb has a pet-friendly filter. I also found 2 websites that help find pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, activities: Go Pet Friendly and  Bring Fido.

The searching nitty gritty:

I spend a ridiculous amount of time on Airbnb. I’m perfectly content zooming in and out, changing search filters and clicking on endless numbers of properties to find the perfect spot. If I find a house that looks like a great setting, I’ll then research the area and see what’s around if I’m not familiar with the spot. This is how we found our house in Kallo Knippla, Sweden. I would never have thought to look at that island if not for seeing the house listing first.

Reading the reviews for properties is also incredibly helpful. Often people will write about the location – close to shops/restaurants and public transportation, or secluded with nothing for miles. Depending on what we’re looking for, that will help me understand a new spot and give hints for how I should read the map information.

I also look for reviews in the same season as we’ll be traveling.  We often travel in the offseason as it’s more affordable.  Maybe it’s a beach house with ineffective heat during colder months or a town where all the shops/restaurants close in the offseason – the reviews will often leave clues.

The final decision:

After seeing a number of listings that fit the bill, we decided to commit. The house we booked looks perfect – secluded but not isolated, on the water with lots of space to explore with the kids and dog.  Even though the listing came up using the pet-friendly filter, I reached out to the owner before booking to confirm Murphy is welcome – especially since he’s a large breed. Thankfully, the owners love dogs and were ok with his size.

Out of the 2 weeks we have off, we’ll be spending 9 days in a lovely little house on a lake outside of Montreal.  Before arriving at the house, we’ll make a stop in New Hampshire for a few days. The timing gives us plenty of time for the drive home if we need to take it slow and stop overnight.

I was thinking of spending a few days in Quebec before heading to our Airbnb rental, but as with planning a kid-friendly trip, I think less is more with a dog-friendly trip.  Now we’re just hoping in the next few months that Murphy’s car sickness issues resolve.  Fingers crossed…