I’m truly one of the least spontaneous people I know. Partially it’s my nature, having parents who have been reinforcing the “5 P’s” since high school… and partially I think it’s due to being a DC wedding photographer; so much of my schedule is planned a year in advance and when most people are available on weekends, I’m working!
So when I found myself with unexpected time off this June due to schedule changes, I knew I wanted to take advantage of that time, but I also knew it was less than a month away. When I suggested to Rob we go on a trip… with our three year old and three month old… he looked at me like I was crazy. But he slowly warmed up to the idea, because almost two years of no travel will do that to you and we promised to continue exploring even when we had kids. We opened up travel wishlist (yes, I have an actual document for this because I’m so Type A) to see where we could realistically go… in the US… with two kids… during June. We landed on a National Parks trip and selected Utah simply based on availability of accommodations! We had previously visited the southern part of the state, just before Landon’s first birthday, to see Zion, Bryce, and the Grand Canyon, so we thought it would be fun to head north to Moab for Arches and Canyonland. We also added in a few days in Salt Lake City, strictly so we could do activities just for the kids!
Rob and I were both most nervous for the flight — him for how much stuff we had to bring and me for not annoying everyone around us. Luckily Landon is finally at the age where he loves watching movies, so this was one of the rare times we let him just plug in and enjoy! Between that and the endless snacks, he was quiet as a mouse. Gavin, of course, needed a bit more attention, but also surprised both of us with sleeping about half the flight and eating a good amount of the rest. We have the tendency to expect the worst and get pleasantly surprised when things aren’t so bad!
The rental car pickup, however, was another story. After the four hour flight, we were welcomed with an hour wait to get our car and another hour wait to install the seats. But we were finally on our way! We stopped in downtown SLC — seriously one of the easiest cities to navigate and get to from an airport ever — for lunch and a bit of playtime for Landon before our long drive to Moab. We made an 11th hour decision to do an Airbnb instead of a hotel and couldn’t have been happier with our choice… if I can leave you with nothing else, it’s that space trumps everything (even a pool and room service!) with kids. And snacks, lots and lots of snacks.
If you’ve ever been to the Utah National Parks, you’ll know that it gets HOT there during the day… it is, after all, the desert. We planned to start our days at sunrise and hike for a few hours before heading home around 10AM. I know that sounds ambitious with a 6AM sunrise and two kids, but coming from east coast time made it much easier — we basically stayed on our own time zone and went to bed early every night!
The one exception was our longest hike to Delicate Arch; it was a decent length, uphill trail and we didn’t want to do it in the dark, so we started off closer to sunset. The kids rallied hard (aka we carried both of them uphill the whole time) and we made it! It was a perfect sunset before heading back at dusk, dodging bats that kept dive bombing my face!
While in the area, we also visited Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse State Park, both of which I’d highly recommend. Basically, all of Utah should be a National Park because it’s all so jaw-dropping and unique!
After our time in Moab, we headed back up to SLC for a few days of things just for Landon. We spent time at the zoo, where he was elated to feed a rhino, but somehow even more excited to ride the carousel. We also went to Antelope Island State Park, which was a beautiful place that reminded me a bit of our time in New Zealand. We were lucky enough to see some of the wild buffalo roaming around. Finally, we wrapped up our trip with a visit to a “hands-on” aquarium where Landon was able to feed otters, kinkajous, a sloth (his favorite), stingrays, brids, and so much more! Our flight home was, thankfully, as uneventful as the first.
I’m so glad I didn’t let the over-planner in me talk me out of taking this last minute trip — after a year of no travel, it was so nice to get to explore with both of our boys!