Christmas at Home or Abroad, What’s Your Take?

Yes, I know it’s only October but did you realise there are just 10 weeks until C-day. That is Christmas Day! It got me thinking about whether it is better to spend Christmas at home or abroad. We went away for Christmas last year but I wondered whether other families go away. Is it a regular occurrence or do they prefer to stay at home?

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Last December we flew to Tenerife for Christmas with BattleKid. We had wanted another holiday before the year was out and thought it might be nice to get away for Christmas and escape the cold, wet winter of Wales and spend it in the sun. We also thought it might be the last time we could get away with it before BattleKid started realising just who Father Christmas is and whether he could still find us if we were away from home on Christmas Eve. However, although we enjoyed ourselves and it was nice to not have to worry about cooking a big meal or cleaning up afterwards, I didn’t feel quite right about it.

We had our own Christmas on New Year’s Day when we got back, with Father Christmas making one last special delivery on New Year’s Eve to deliver BattleKid’s main presents, and I cooked Christmas dinner the next day, trimmings and all. It was lovely but it just didn’t sit right with me, if you know what I mean.

This year everything is different. We will be spending Christmas here in Portugal with my parents and my nephew who is flying over on the 21st for 10 days. It will be warmer than the UK or Ireland and between my Dad and I, we’ll figure Christmas dinner out. BattleDad’s aunt at least knows a butcher who can sort us out with a turkey. Our huge 7-foot Christmas tree is in storage so we might have to buy ourselves a slightly smaller one, but I’ve mountains of decorations I can fish out. And Father Christmas has already had BattleKid’s present list.

And while we will be sort of spending Christmas in the sun, Portugal is now home and we will be with family. But I still wondered what other families prefer so I asked the blogging community what their take is on Christmas at home or abroad. Have they gone away, do they plan to go away, would they if they could? Or do they prefer to spend it at home? Here’s what they had to say.

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Pete from Household Money Saving and his family usually spend Christmas at home. This means

We can do everything at our own pace. We once spent Christmas at our in-laws but didn’t really enjoy it. I constantly offered to help but always felt like I was in the way.

Being in his in-laws house meant their kids couldn’t get all their toys out for fear of making too much mess and Pete never felt like he could do what he wanted as it wasn’t his house. For him, he would choose Christmas at home every time.

Laura from Mumoam much prefers Christmas at home too. They have tried going to other peoples but

With a child in a wheelchair it is really stressful and awkward.

She much prefers hosting at her home as she also gets to choose what they eat.

Alina from We Made This Life never goes away for Christmas, not even to the in-laws. Her parents split when she was younger and she had to visit her Dad every Christmas Day (despite only seeing him that one day a year), and she hated having to go and leave all her new toys at home. For that reason, she will never go away for Christmas. In her words

I just need to be at home.

Alana from Baby Holiday says growing up she always had Christmas dinner at her gran’s house, having visited her other gran in the morning before dinner. So she wasn’t exactly away but still wasn’t at home for most of the day. Last year they took their boys to her gran’s house, her in-laws and her brother house and she felt it was far too much for one day. This year they will most likely stay at home

Although I’d love to go away somewhere and escape!

Kerry from Kerry Louise Norris is spending this Christmas in Australia with her family who emigrated there. She hasn’t spent Christmas away before although she is not worried about it as they’ll be  with family, so it should be special.

I know the food we will eat etc will be different to what we’re used to. We’ll just have to make it as magical as possible for the girls.

Jess from Mrs. Helicopter Writes once had Christmas in Athens aged 19 with her then boyfriend.

It was bonkers and brilliant. They get up late and stay up late…. I was still awake at 6am on Christmas morning so I opened my stocking (my mum had still packed for me) then slept until 2pm.

They then did family visits, tree presents and eventually more family arrived, everyone eating Christmas dinner at midnight! She loved every minute of it and would love to give her kids a foreign Christmas experience. She also once spent Christmas in Oz but said it was rubbish as it was cloudy and grey, so no Barbie on the beach.

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Laura from The Mamma Fairy and her family rotate Christmas between her husband’s home place and their current home in her home town. Even though they have their own place at her husband’s home place, she still misses being at home.

I doubt we would ever go away for Christmas as we both love spending it with our families more since the kids came along.

Christy from Welsh Mum has a very small family so wouldn’t mind a Christmas holiday.

Not having any cooking or cleaning to do has a big appeal!

That said, she does love the familiarity and comfort of home as well, but if she is at home she spends a lot of the day cooking and cleaning up which isn’t the most relaxing. It comes down to cost most of the time. She would do Christmas away more often if it didn’t have the premium price tags associated with it. (I completely understand that.)

Michelle from The Purple Pumpkin Blog spent Christmas 2015 in Disneyland Paris and said it was so much fun, although weird to wake up on Christmas morning without all the decorations and opening of presents. That said they did get to spend Christmas Day with Mickey Mouse! Her sister and family also went and they all agreed it was a great Christmas. This year they are off to Walt Disney World as her son is older. She loves not having to worry about cooking a huge turkey and having tons of leftovers.

Alex of Better Together Home and her family are pretty much forced to split Christmas at either her mother-in-laws or her Dads. They started doing alternate venues years ago and it’s stuck. They have decided that they will be spending Christmas 2018 in Sweden, just the three of us as she is tired of always doing Christmas to suit everyone else!

Azaria from Being Mrs Lynch spent last Christmas and New Year in a cottage and she would do it every year if they could afford it. They had company in the form of her husband’s parents, brother and wife, along with their two-year-old and dogs, and says it was amazing to spend time together. They live 500 miles apart so don’t see them very often.

Jade of Mummies Waiting has spent Christmas at Walt Disney World and said it was awesome. Last year was their first Christmas in their own house and says

From now on we’ll go away before Christmas and stay at home on Christmas Day, it’s so much nicer.

Emma from Wanderlust and Wet Wipes has had many different Christmases in various locations around the world including Australia (at 11, weird and not Christmas but fun), South Africa (at 18, fun but still not the same) as well as the Middle East and Bali. This year they are joining her mu in Jordan, where her brother and his wife will join them for New Year.

We’ve had so many different Christmases now I don’t know what is normal now. We are trying to create little traditions that we can have no matter where we are or who we are with. For me, Christmas has become more about the people than the place.

Hayley from I am River spent last Christmas in Dubai and it was amazing. This year they are off to Thailand!

Nellie from Nellie Pompoms had a Christmas in Australia with their eldest 2 and says it was bonkers seeing Father Christmas in the heat. They spent Christmas Eve in a hot tub before spending Christmas Day with family and their air con!

After lunch we went to the beach, then had drinks on the veranda, watching the kangaroos. It made a nice change to be away and the girls had a different experience.

Emma from The Money Whisperer always went away at Christmas as a child as her Dad owned his own business and it shut for Christmas. They went to Disney World twice and the Canaries a few times. As an adult she lived in Australia for 6 years so Christmas on the beach was a novelty but she missed ‘proper’ Christmas.

Now I have kids, I personally love being at home where the magic is for Christmas time. They are only young once.

Helena from The Queen of Collage has spent Christmas in America before but says

Being at home for Christmas is where my heart is.

Emma from Me and B Make Tea says they alternate between her husbands parents and her own. Christmas day they are at one, and the other on Boxing Day, alternatinf every year. It was fine when it was just the two of them but she says it’s a right pain now with their son.

It’s never relaxing, there’s so much pressure to please everyone.

She is sick of it and would much prefer to stay at home or jet off on holiday and stuff everyone else!

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Ally from the SML Diet Blog usually hosts Christmas and her husband’s family go to theirs. While it is hard work, she enjoys being the hostess with lots of people around. Last year they spent Christmas with her sister-in-law and this year they are going to her husbands parents. While she is excited it won’t be the same.

For me, I have rituals around Christmas. So, 23 Dec is about cleaning the house ready for Christmas. Christmas Eve is about relaxing and not moving from the sofa (movie day) and then there’s the Christmas Day celebrations and it’s not quite the same without my rituals.

Star from Autism Kids on Tour spends every year at a log cabin at Forest Holdiays. The cabin is decked out with a real tree, natural decoration making kits and a Christmas hamper. There’s a hot tub, heated floors and full kitchen where she can cook the Christmas dinner with the ingredients and turkey she gets delivered to the cabin from a local farm.

It is so relaxing and we love our Christmas in the forest!

And solves the problem of who to visit at Christmas.

Carol from Family Makes went skiing over Christmas a few years ago and they are planning on doing it again this year. It guarantees a white Christmas and solves their issue of where to go for Christmas family-wise.

We would struggle to afford Christmas and a ski holiday, especially being tied to school holidays, so combining both is ideal for us and a huge treat for our kids too.

Donna of The Sleep Thiefs Mummy used to spend every Christmas alternating between her parents and the in-laws. Now they stay at home and have them visit them.

We’re the only ones in the family with young children – I spent the Christmases of my youth at home and want the same for my children.

Lynette of The Reclusive Fox used to visit her granddad as a child and it never felt like an upheaval. As an adult she always spent it at home, ideally with just the people that lived under the same roof, saving visits for other days.

I would love to spend Christmas in a hotel with our little family, but I do think some of the magic would be removed, there’s no place like home. But it would be nice to remove some of that Christmas stress that comes with expectation.

It’s amazing to see the different views on whether to spent Christmas at home or abroad. Some people go away to spend time with family, while others do it for less stress and hassle. But it’s also interesting to see so many people preferring to spend Christmas at home with family.

christmas at home or abroad?

Portugal is now home and for the first time in a long time we actually have family close by to spend it with. Before, we would have to go back to Ireland or invite people over to spend Christmas with family, but now it’s different. It will be strange to be in warmer temperatures than Ireland or the UK and I do hope we have sunshine. We rarely ever got a white Christmas in Wales, but I guess if we ever want one we can go abroad for Christmas when BattleKid is older. This year he will be almost four and I think it’s going to be a magical Christmas either way!

Are you spending Christmas at home or away this year?

Cath x

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Family Day in London – Our 36 Hours

I might have mentioned it before, but when we booked our USA road trip last October, we were well and truly still living in Wales. Fast forward eight months and we had moved to Portugal. This meant a hasty booking of flights back to the UK in order to meet up with our Portland flight. It did mean, however, we got to have a family day in London. We left Faro on the Thursday before our USA trip at 8pm and landed 2 hours and 20 minutes later into Heathrow.

family day in london

We could have flown to another airport much cheaper, but it would have meant an airport change on our return trip from the States two weeks later and I really didn’t fancy that with a three-year-old in tow. So, we flew with British Airways and had a relatively easy flight back to the UK. We cleared customs and had our bags within half an hour and were soon getting a taxi across the road to the Park Inn by Radisson next to Terminal 3. This was to be our home for the next two nights. Although we were in late, we were all tucked up in bed by midnight, ready for a fun family day in London.

We were up and dressed by 8.30am on the Friday and as we hadn’t added breakfast to our hotel booking, we got an Uber into Southbank to visit Le Pain Quotidien on Southbank. I had had brunch there with my sisters during my weekend away with them in June and BattleDad was up for trying it out.

We had an amazing breakfast, with BattleKid enjoying scrambled eggs and bacon, while I had a smoked chorizo frittata and BattleDad munching down baked eggs with scrambled egg. Suitably fuelled we walked through the Jubilee Gardens towards the London Eye. There was a brief stop for someone little to chase the birds!

I had booked Fast Track Anytime tickets for the London Eye so once BattleKid had chased all the birds away, we joined the short queue and on we went into one of the pods. While those tickets are expensive, they are worth it to arrive any time you like and skips the long queues which are always at the Eye! I had visited the London Eye during that aforementioned weekend but this was both BattleDad and BattleKid’s first time, so I knew I wanted us to do it on our family day in London. Both enjoyed it, although a certain someone enjoyed the information tablets within the pods more than the views.family day in london - BattleKid standing in front of the London Eye family day in london - BattleKid looking out of our london eye pod

From the London Eye, we walked the very short distance to SeaLife, the next stop on our family day in London. I had seen a few blog posts about it and with BattleKid having enjoyed the Blue Planet Aquarium in Chester and the smaller aquariums in Chester and Bristol Zoo, we knew he should enjoy SeaLife. Again, I bought Fast Track Anytime tickets so we breezed through, only going to the cashier desk to pick up BattleKid’s Ranger Pack.

Well, I have to say I was very impressed by SeaLife. I had wondered what an aquarium on the bank of the River Thames would be like but it was really good. BattleKid loved it, running from tank to tank searching for Nemo and Dory, as you do when you are 3. I especially loved the Easter Islands heads in the large tank.family day in london - the wonderful Easter Island statues in one of the aquariums in SeaLife family day in london - BattleKid searching for Nemo and Dory in SeaLife

After a brief stop on Southbank to watch some street performers, we crossed the Golden Jubilee Bridges to get a tube from Embankment to the Tower of London, the last attraction on our family day in London. Why were we headed there? To do a spot of dragon hunting of course! And this tube trip was BattleKid’s first ever ride on a London Underground. He wasn’t too sure of the noise they made coming into stations but once he was on he was fine. Watching him enjoying the short trip reminded me of our rides on the New York Subway last year.

family day in london - BattleKid covering his ears to reduce the noise of the underground trains approaching
Closing his ears as a train approaches for his first ride on a London Underground tube!

I had prebooked tickets for the Tower of London to save some time and after a short bag search we entered the ‘castle’ to start our dragon hunt. After the excitement of the morning, we were getting peckish so we had a cuppa with cake at the Raven Café before resuming our dragon hunt. We eventually found him within the White Tower.family day in london - The Tower of London family day in london - BattleKid in front of the White Tower in the Tower of London

We left the Tower of London via Tower Bridge and got a tube back to Paddington. Someone fell asleep in BattleDad’s arms along the way, tired from all his adventures during our family day in London. When we arrived at Paddington I stocked up on some last-minute essentials in Boots before buying BattleKid a Paddington Bear in the Station. It had to be done.family day in london

We got a black cab back to our hotel rather than trying to get the Heathrow Express. The driver introduced us to Gett, the new black cab app that works like Uber and he managed to get us some money off our trip, which was really nice of him. We tipped him well. After over an hour’s sleep, BattleKid woke refreshed and we had dinner in the hotel restaurant at 7pm. We had to leave feedback with the waiter for the kitchen staff as BattleKid’s dinner came out so hot it could have rivalled lava. Thankfully we stopped him trying to eat it while it was too hot.

After dinner BattleKid had a bath, which is a treat as we don’t have one in our Portuguese home, only a shower. I was knackered so I fell asleep by 10pm, while the boys were awake for a bit longer. We had an amazing family day in London and it was the perfect way to get us ready for our USA road trip!

Cath x

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Researching Our Next Road Trip in Europe

Having had an awesome two-week USA road trip, we are now thinking ahead to next year’s holidays. We have Lapland pencilled in for December but we cannot wait until then to spread our wings and fly off somewhere else. One thing we have decided is we want a destination that involves just one flight direct from Faro. Having done Faro to London to Portland and the return trip, we would like an easier ride of it next year.

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One destination that has jumped out is Germany. There are direct flights from Faro to many cities in Germany including Munich, Berlin and Stuttgart. Neither BattleDad nor I have ever visited Germany before, and since I read another bloggers post about the many castles in Germany, it has been on our radar. Imagine dragon hunting in a fairytale castle in Germany.

Because we enjoyed our road trip so much, we thought we could make Europe our destination for our next road trip. We could fly into Germany to either Munich or Stuttgart and do a round trip taking in parts of Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and most importantly, the Black Forest. That area of Germany is somewhere BattleDad has wanted to visit for a long time and I’ve heard many good things about the area.

Initial research tells me there is plenty to do with a 4-year-old in tow, the age BattleKid will be if we go next year. I’ve also read that spring or autumn are good times to visit as it is less busy. I am thinking early to mid-May might be an ideal time to do our next road trip and would break up the year in terms of holidays while we eagerly await our visit to Father Christmas next December.

I’ve even gone so far as to investigate hire car prices and they are not crazy for a two-week trip. But the one question I do have is whether we stick to AirBnB or try something new. Although we use AirBnB quite frequently, the last place we booked on our USA road trip was in the most horrendous looking area. Although the property itself was lovely, we didn’t feel safe and so ended up booking into a hotel. It’s the first time that’s ever happened to us.

So, the question remains, what do we do about accommodation? Someone recently mentioned Clickstay to me and I must admit that although I’d heard of it, I’ve never considered it more closely. Clickstay seems to be similar to AirBnB but definitely more geared towards holiday villas and apartments. Another option would be hotels, but then we like having at least one separate bedroom so that we can enjoy an evening watching some Netflix after BattleKid goes to bed. We’ve done hotel rooms with him before on holiday and it’s not much fun sitting in the dark until he’s asleep. We could stick with AirBnB and hope we don’t get a repeat performance. But our last experience has left a sour taste in my mouth.

Although the listings are not yet available for May, I have found some lovely holiday apartments for rent in both Austria and Switzerland via Clickstay, which would form part of our Europe road trip. Imagine looking out at this view from this apartment in Fischbach in the Austrian Alps.

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We had a similar view when we stayed in a holiday apartment in Slovenia and you never tire of it. Or we could be lucky and find one with a pool.

I think we have quite a bit of planning to do if our next road trip is going to take place in Europe as one of our holidays next year, but I now know I have several options available to me where accommodation is concerned.

Cath x

*Collaborative post

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portland to Yellowstone and Back Again – A Two-week Itinerary

Many of you who read the blog and follow us on Instagram will know we have just returned from an epic two-week USA road trip in which we went from Portland to Yellowstone and back again. It was 11 months in the planning, from Portland to Yellowstone, and came around rather quickly after we moved to Portugal. Before we knew it, we were getting ready to go.

I have so much to write up about our trip. From amazingly beautiful Yellowstone, to smoky Montana, to hip and trendy Portland, we packed in a lot over our two weeks. I’ve had some people ask me about our itinerary so I thought I should get cracking with it. So, in the first of a few (ok, maybe many) posts about our wonderful trip, here is what our itinerary for our two-week trip looks like from Portland to Yellowstone and back again, with 36 hours in London.

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Portugal to London – Thursday, 1000 miles, 2 hours 30 minutes

When we booked our flights to Portland from Heathrow last October, we were still well and truly living in Wales. Delta Airways had just opened their new (and the only) direct route from Heathrow to Portland, in association with Virgin Atlantic. This made a huge difference to how our trip was going to work out. When we had previously looked into the trip, we would have had at least one, if not two stop-overs. With a toddler in tow, this would not have been ideal. But a direct flight most definitely was.

That said, once we moved to Portugal, we needed to book flights to and from the UK to connect with our Portland flight. The only airline flying to Heathrow from Faro around the weekend of our trip was British Airways. We flew to Heathrow on the Thursday evening (there were no other flights before our Portland one), two days before our flight to Portland. This flight was just under two and a half hours. Following this, we had 36 hours in London and we had a great day in London. More on that to come.

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Starting our epic trip

London to Portland – Saturday, 4897 miles, 10 hours

Our flight from Heathrow to Portland with Delta Airways left London at 12.30pm and was scheduled to be 10 hours 55 minutes, arriving at 3.15pm local time. We actually arrived ahead of schedule at 2.30pm. This is the longest flight we have done with our son to date and it was us adults who were getting bored long before he was.

Portland, Oregon to Richland, Washington – Saturday, 227 miles, 3 hours

Our first destination on our road trip was going to be Yellowstone but to drive there in one trip would have involved between 762 and 829 miles, and a minimum of 12 to 13 hours driving, without stops, depending on the route we decided to take. You can either go over the top of the Nez Perce Clearwater National Forest or around the bottom of the Sawtooth National Forest. We had a look on Google Maps and saw nice roads around the Nez Perce route, so opted for that.

But with our son in tow, we decided to break up the driving by stopping at a town called Richland, in Washington state, for an overnight stay before driving the rest of the way to Island Park close to Yellowstone. So, after picking up our Hertz car for the two-weeks, hubby drove us to Richland via I-84 and the very beautiful Columbia Gorge Creek.

Richland, Washington to Island Park, Idaho – Sunday, 607 miles, 12 hours

From Richland we made our way to our AirBnB accommodation in Island Park, Idaho, located 30 minutes from the West Yellowstone entrance. We had looked into staying within Yellowstone itself but this proved to be outside our budget.

Leaving our hotel at 6am, our route took us along some stunning scenery past Coeur D’Alene, along I-90, until we turned off onto US-287. From there we met up with I-20, just south of West Yellowstone and it was a short hop to Island Park where our log cabin was located. This was a long haul and we stopped four times along the way, twice to fill up with gas (as the Americans would say), once to stretch our legs, and once in Missoula for lunch. It took us a total of 12 hours to drive the 607 miles. Our drive from Santander to Tavira, when we moved to Portugal, was good practice for this trip.

Yellowstone – Sunday evening to Friday morning

We spent 5 nights in our AirBnB wood cabin and toured Yellowstone National Park over four days. Although we didn’t get to see absolutely everything, we came away from our visit thoroughly content with what we did see. Our son did not complain once during the trip, as you have a lot of driving around the park to do. We got to see some stunning natural wonders along with quite a few of the animal inhabitants of Yellowstone. I cannot recommend Yellowstone National Park enough.

my sunday photo - gibbon falls in yellowstone national park
Gibbon Falls, Yellowstone National Park

Island Park, Idaho to Lolo, Montana – Friday, 280 miles, 4 hours 30 minutes

Leaving our AirBnB accommodation in Island Park at 9.30am, we took I-20 to US-287. We stopped once to fill up and use the toilet and, taking I-90, we arrived at Missoula, Montana, the main town beside Lolo at 2pm. Since we arrived early and before our check-in time for our next AirBnb, we stopped for lunch at a great Five Guys in Missoula.

This drive back was not as clear as the drive towards Island Park. We later discovered that a lot of Montana’s forests were on fire and the smoke we drove through was pretty awful, reducing visibility quite a bit.

Lolo and Missoula, Montana – Friday evening to Monday morning

We spent 3 nights in Lolo, the next town over from Missoula. Our plans were to visit Lolo National Forest while we were there but unfortunately those plans went by the wayside as there were wild fires across Lolo National Forest, along with many of the other forests in Montana. So, instead, we discovered some other delights close to Lolo like the National Bison Range, the Garden of 1000 Buddhas, and Missoula town itself.

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The incredible smoky skies in Montana

Lolo, Montana to Richland, Washington – Monday, 350 miles, 6 hours

As we made our way back towards Portland, we had another overnight stay in Richland planned. Leaving our AirBnB accommodation in Lolo by 9.30am, we travelled back along I-90, through 350 miles of smoke haze, which had various degrees of visbility, until we arrived in Richland at 4pm, local time. We had crossed a time zone when we left Montana.

We filled up just once on this trip and stopped once for lunch in a town called Spokane. I drove the first 230 miles, while hubby did the last 120 miles. We passed Coeur D’Alene again but could barely see this beautiful lake due to the smoke haze.

Richland, Washington to Portland, Oregon – Tuesday, 227 miles, 5 hours 30 minutes

We left our hotel in Richland at 9.30am but didn’t arrive at our accommodation in Portland until 3pm. The reason for this was the forest around Multnomah Falls and along the Columbia Gorge Creek had gone up in flames on the Sunday, and as a result, I-84 was closed. This meant we were diverted around Mount Hood, adding a couple of hours onto our journey.

Our intent was to visit Multnomah Falls on our way to Portland as I really wanted to photograph it, but that never happened. We filled up once on this trip and stopped for lunch off Highway 35 for lunch. Our final long leg of driving had come to an end.

Portland, Oregon – Tuesday afternoon to Saturday afternoon

We spent four nights in Portland and thoroughly enjoyed our break from driving. We visited a few places where our son could relax and enjoy himself like Oregon Zoo and the Children’s Museum. It was nice to have a chance to relax after an epic 11 days, 3000 miles and 60+ hours in the car. We did a little shopping, ate good food and got ourselves ready for our return trip to Portugal via London.

portland to yellowstone - trendy Portland building right out of Grimm
Hip and trendy Portland

Portland, Oregon to London Heathrow – Saturday, 4914 miles, 8 hours 42 minutes

As always, on the return trip from America, we had a good tailwind, so our original flight time of 9 hours 55 minutes was a lot quicker and we got to Heathrow ahead of schedule. I managed a few hours’ sleep, along with our son, but hubby never manages more than a few minutes on planes. It was a pretty uneventful flight.

London to Portugal – Sunday, 1000 miles, 2 hours 15 minutes

We had a few hours to kill in Heathrow between flights, so once we got rid of our bags we had lunch and did a little shopping before our flight to Faro was called. Unfortunately, we were delayed by almost 2 hours as they couldn’t get a passenger with a broken leg off the aircraft. Not what we wanted at the end of our holiday, all we wanted was to get home to our beds.

portland to yellowstone

So, there you have it, our full itinerary for our recent USA road trip from Portugal to London, to Portland to Yellowstone, and back again. We covered a lot of miles, both in the car and by plane, and we’d do it all again. That said, if we were to do it all again, the only thing we would change would be the time of year we go.

Due to wild fires in many of the forests in the Pacific North West, we didn’t get to visit Lolo National Park or Multnomah Falls. We also drove through 600 miles of smoke haze from Montana all the way to Portland and had it until our very last day in Portland itself. We’d perhaps choose to go earlier in the summer before it gets hot, and dry, enough for wild fires. Other than that, we wouldn’t change a thing.

Have you done an epic road trip similar to this? I’d love to hear all about it!

Cath x

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Our Visit to Portland – Planning Part 2 of Our USA Road Trip

As part of our epic USA road trip this year, we are taking in the wonderful city of Portland. It might seem like an unusual city to some but BattleDad and I have wanted to make a visit to Portland ever since we started watching the TV series Grimm. It always looked very chic and like it could be a cool place to visit. I’ve written about our wish to visit Portland and we’re finally doing it. But planning our visit to Portland has been no meant feat I can tell you.

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Portland by Night – Picture Source

Oregon is also somewhere I have wanted to visit to see autumn colours. While most people will visit Maine or New England to see autumn colours, Oregon is also somewhere to visit for this time of year. We may or may not see much in the way of autumn colours as we are visiting at the very start of September but you never know.

Our USA road trip starts in Portland but we don’t stop there. Firstly, we head to a place called Richland for an overnight stay before we spend a whole day driving to start part one of our trip: our visit to Yellowstone. After exploring Yellowstone for a few days, we make our way to Missoula for 3 days before heading back to Richland via part of the Dalles Shamrock Route. After another overnight stay, we head to our final destination of our USA road trip, Portland. There we will have 4 days to take in part of Route 101, the Pacific Coast Highway as well as discover and explore Portland and the surrounding areas.

Once again, I turned to the travel Facebook Groups I am a member of and asked for peoples advice on what to see and do in Portland, particularly with a 3 year old in tow. And boy did they come up trumps.

Recommendations for Our Visit to Portland

Portland Children’s Museum – This museum is dedicated to children and is located in Washington Park, near the Oregon Zoo. It is the 6th oldest children’s museum in the world. The Portland Children’s Museum is not a typical museum, opting to spend time investing in familiar materials to craft priceless opportunities for children to learn through play, rather than in precious objects. The exhibitions, workshops and objects on display are designed to be fun and bring about both creative and cooperative play in children. Reading some review on TripAdvisor, it seems it is designed with younger children in mind, which is perfect to us. So, I think a visit to this Children’s Museum is high on our list of things to do during our visit to Portland.

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry – This museum is one of America’s leading science centres and is a big attraction in Portland. Their mission is to Inspire curiosity through engaging science learning experiences, foster experimentation and the exchange of ideas, and stimulate informed action.  I have a feeling the Orgeon Museum of Science and Industry is going to be a lot like Techniquest, which I’ve brought BattleKid to, and will be enjoyed by both him and us adults. Another one for the to do list during our visit to Portland, particularly since they currently have a Pompeii Exhibition taking place.

Oregon Zoo – Also located in Washington Park near the Children’s Museum, this 64-acre zoo boasts nearly 2000 animals and over 200 species, and is also the oldest North America zoo west of the Mississippi. Exhibits include African Rainforest, African Savannah, Predators of the Serengeti, Amazon Flooded Forest and Condors of Columbia, to name but a few. I think no visit to Portland with a toddler in tow would be complete without adding the Oregon Zoo to your to do list. And it is most definitely on ours. With it being located beside both the Children’s Museum and the Hoyt Arboretum (see below) and with a light rail link to the Portland Japanese Gardens (see below), I think we’ll combine a visit to the zoo with these other attractions too.

Portland Japanese Gardens – Another attraction situated in Washington Park, these traditional Japanese gardens occupy 9 acres and is composed of eight garden spaces and a cultural village. With waterfalls, ponds, bonsai gardens and traditional plants, I think this is going to be a lovely place to visit for some quiet time after a hectic few weeks. As it is located at the opposite end to the Oregon Zoo and Children’s Museum we might make the Portland Japanese Garden our last stop during our visit to Washington Park. And I am secretly hoping some acers have vibrant leaves for me to photograph.

International Rose Test Garden – Another Portland attraction located in Washington Park, this garden is located near the Japanese Gardens. Occupying 4.5 acres, these gardens come into their own between April and October with different species in bloom at different times. The International Rose Test Garden has over 7000 plants of approximately 550 species. Who knew there were that many species of rose plants! If we get time we will pop in for a look after the Japanese Gardens and, if we do, I’ll be sniffing them to my heart’s content.

Hoyt Arboretum – Also located in Washington Park, this 189-acre arboretum hosts approximately 6000 individual trees and over 2000 species of shrub from around the world. Hoyt Arboretum boats 12 miles of trails, two of which are wheelchairs accessible, a visitor’s centre, indoor classroom, a picnic shelter and meadow. Although recommended as somewhere we should go during our visit to Portland, I am not sure if we will manage to squeeze this in.

Parks – As well as Washington Park, two other parks were suggested as somewhere we might like to visit. They were Forest Park and Mount Tabor Park. Forest Park is located in the west of Portland, while Mount Tabor Park, a dormant volcanic vent, is located in Southeast Portland. Again, I am not sure if we’ll have to time to visit these two parks during our visit to Portland.

Multnomah Falls – A waterfall located on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls is one highlight I am not going to miss, come rain or shine. When we started thinking about visiting Portland many years ago, these falls were something I stumbled across and that was it, we had to go. From pictures I’ve seen they look spectacular. They are also located only 35 minutes’ drive from where we are staying in Portland.

visit to Portland
Multnomah Falls – Picture Source

Other Recommendations for Our Visit to Portland

Eateries – These have included places for the best donuts which include Voodoo Doughnuts and Blue Star Donuts. For great coffee (BattleDad, not me) we have been recommended a place called Stumptown Coffee Roasters. For BattleKid, the best ice cream place recommended to us was Salt and Straw Ice Cream near to a good shopping area. That’s me sorted! For breakfast, I stumbled across as place called Slappy Cakes, a place where you make your very own pancakes on a griddle at your table. It’s then up to you what you have with it. Only a 20-minute drive from our Portland accommodation, I think we’ll be having breakfast there! And for all-round good food, we’ve been recommended a place called Mother’s Bistro and Bar but have been told to get there early! This is always a good sign so that might be a good place for dinner.

Powell’s City of Books – The world’s largest independent book store, they have a very good children’s section and are located in Downtown Portland. I think we might find a nice book or two in there for BattleKid and plan to combine a trip there with some general shopping.

Resources Recommended for Our Visit to Portland

Two websites were recommended to me for our visit to Portland and I’ve found them both very helpful so far.

Cascadia Kids – A blog dedicated to travel with kids in the British Columbia, Oregon and Washington States of Canada and America, respectively, this has given me some very useful information. One particular post I enjoyed and gave me inspiration was Portland in a Day: 12 hours of fun. Through reading this post I discovered just how much of our Portland wish-list was located in Washington Park and in what order we might want to consider doing them.

Redtri – Another blog dedicated to inspiring parents to do fun things with their kids and they have a section on Portland. They have posts with days out ideas as well as a calendar of events on for families. I haven’t consulted this website too much but may do so closer to the time.

If I thought the Yellowstone leg of our USA road-trip was going to be jam-packed, Portland looks just as bad. As mentioned we want to take one day to drive part of Highway 101, the Pacific Coast Highway so it only really leaves us two and a half days to do things in and around Portland. I also want to do a bit of shopping and visit the Disney store to see if I can pick up one or two things in preparation for our visit to Disneyland Paris in December, and I might even get a few things exclusive to the states.

So, our visit to Portland is going to be busy. I mentioned all these great things to my mum and she said, “Are you going to have any part of the holiday that is just a holiday?”. I saw her point, and thankfully we haven’t planned anything to do during our few days in Missoula and Lolo, so I think that will be the real holiday part of our USA road-trip.

To summaries, our Portland Bucket List looks a bit like this.our visit to portland

Whether we get it all done remains to be see but we’ll definitely do our best to pack in as much as possible.

Cath x

our visit to portland our visit to portland