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Adventures in Aspen + Tips on Flying with Toddlers

Right after Christmas, Matt, Riese, and I flew out to Aspen to spend a week hitting the slopes with my family!

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that trying to get to Aspen was a full 2 day odyssey/hot mess that involved multiple cancelled flights, lots of time to kill in airports, zero naps for Riese, a random unplanned overnight in Denver, and an eventual 5 hour car drive from Denver to Aspen the next night instead of flying there from Chicago (our layover en route from DC). Oh, and lost luggage for 3 days…

We were supposed to get to Aspen on early on Friday afternoon… instead we arrived super late on Saturday night. These views were very welcomed and worth the hot mess to finally get there! 

(See the end of this post for some toddler travel tips aka advice I wish we had seen before we spent 2 days in airports/on planes with a toddler…)

The main thing to do in Aspen in the winter is ski, of course, and the slopes did not disappoint. I had only been out west to ski once before (on a trip to Breckenridge in 2015 with grad school friends), so I was pumped for some beautiful mountain views and powder!

skiing buttermilk mountain near aspen

Unfortunately the mountain we were staying on (Aspen Mountain) was too advanced for me to ski, but Buttermilk Mountain was about a 10/15 minute shuttle away and it was lovely – lots of super long, meandering green + easier blue runs with amazing views to boot. 

skiing buttermilk mountain

Conditions were good, too, thanks to all the snow that fell while we were trying to get to Aspen – and also mid-week!

Matt and I mostly traded off skiing – he usually went out early with my family to ski the harder slopes while I hung out with Riese, and then I went later in the day – but we did get to go together twice thanks to my mom babysitting over naptime – thanks, mom!

The last time we went skiing was 3 years ago, right before I got pregnant with Riese, so it took my legs a little while to get back into it, but once I got more confident I had a lot of fun out there. I felt a little left out that I couldn’t ski with the others on the mountain we were staying on, so that was a bummer, but the other mountain was great and an easy trip! I only ended up skiing 3 times but that felt just about right – it always kills my legs! 

Besides skiing, I had one other snowy adventure – one day during naptime while Matt rested with Riese after a morning of skiing, I took the gondola to the top of Aspen mountain to go snowshoeing! 

The views up there are insane, you guys.

aspen mountain views

I joined one of the official snowshoeing group tours, and while it was a lot more standing around and listening to the guide talk (which was interesting, but I was cold and wanted to keep moving) than I had hoped, it was still crazy beautiful. 

snowshoeing aspen mountain

We went on the other side of the mountain, the one that doesn’t have any ski slopes, and the snow was really deep – the snowshoes were definitely necessary!

snowshoeing in aspen

I couldn’t get enough of the views!

aspen mountain snowshoeing

We took Riese up the gondola to see the views on the top of Aspen Mountain one clear, sunny day as well – she was into it and didn’t seem at all phased by the heights! 

Snow bunny!

We had lunch with Riese at the lodge on the top of the mountain by the gondola that day – the food options were surprisingly varied and delicious! Matt, Riese, and I shared some pork pho, a really yummy salad, and an orange. 

aspen mountain lunch

The food at the lodge on Buttermilk Mountain was great, too – I was only up there one day at lunchtime but some chicken, white bean, and kale soup, cornbread, and salad hit the spot! We had a lot of super delicious (but heavy) dinners while in Aspen – lots of steak – so I was craving lighter lunches. 

buttermilk mountain ski lodge lunch

I actually didn’t get many dinner food photos – it was pretty dim in the restaurants we went to and I wanted to just relax and enjoy, but Aspen’s food scene is legit (but pricey)… we had some really amazing meals with my family. 

If you’re in town and looking for a cheap/easy/fast dinner option, check out Big Wraps (sooo good and they had breakfast wraps that were great too) and the NY Pizza spot – both super low key and affordable. 

The town of Aspen was really cute and I loved how walkable everything was. It was so pretty with all the Christmas decorations still up, too! If you’re in town with a kid, be sure to check out the library – Riese loved their play area!

town of aspen at christmas

On New Year’s Eve they shot off fireworks over the slopes at both 8 p.m. and midnight – we caught the 8 p.m. early bird show with Riese and she was absolutely fascinated. It was so beautiful!

aspen fireworks new years eve

Other highlights from the week included a few fitness classes!

First up was a yoga class at O2, which was recommended by an Instagram follower. It was a lovely class and had the most amazing mountain views from the studio, and although it wasn’t cheap (a drop in was $30) it was definitely worth it as a treat:

o2 yoga aspen

The other two classes I went to were via ClassPass (<- affiliate link for $40 off) – I love that you can use your account to attend fitness classes in any city, super convenient!

I checked out Aspen Shakti one day for a vinyasa yoga class that was lovely – the studio was really pretty and the instructor led a really nice, creative flow:

aspen shakti yoga

And then early the morning we left Aspen, I got up and out to get in some movement before sitting in airports all day via a HIIT boot camp class at Ritual Aspen. I didn’t get any pictures but it was AWESOMEEEE and led by a guy named Joe, so if you find yourself in the area check it out. I was so sore – it was tough, especially since I haven’t been doing a lot of strength training lately! 

I will leave you with a few travel tips for those of you that have toddlers (these are mostly tips that we didn’t do/learned the hard way and I want to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes, ha):

  1. BRING A CHANGE OF CLOTHES! For your kid AND yourselves. I seriously can’t believe we didn’t think to pack a backup outfit for any of us… not only because our bags ended up being lost for days, but because Riese spilled water/milk/everything on herself/us and it would have been helpful even with our bags. Womp, womp. 
  2. Bring a billion extra diapers (if applicable) in your carry on. I only had 4 or 5 packed in the diaper bag we carried on with us, and the rest of them were in my suitcase… which was lost. Fail. I ended up having to ask for diapers from random people in the airport (thank you, kind fellow parents of similar-sized children who gave me diapers!) and then buying more later from an airport kiosk (at great expense) when it became clear we wouldn’t have our luggage anytime soon.
  3. Pack 5,000 snacks – this was one tip that we actually did do, and it was a lifesaver for both us and Riese. I made my flour free breakfast pancake for us the night before we left to have as a big morning snack on the plane with Riese, and then I also packed lots of shelf stable options that we all enjoy like Larabars, Perfect Bars, freeze dried peas, bananas, dried carrots, kale chips (Riese randomly loves these), dried edamame, Clif peanut butter stuffed bars, cashews, dried mango, etc. etc. ALL THE SNACKS. (and those were all amazon affiliate links)
  4. Regardless of your views on screentime, download some shows on your phone just in case. Seriously. Unless you have a child that will sleep on a plane… you will need this when they get overtired and they have already eaten a ton of snacks, read all your books, played with/looked at all the stuff on the plane, colored, etc., and are now trying to jump up and down while holding onto the seat in front of them and/or trying to break free and run screaming down the aisle…
  5. Bring your carseat if they have their own seat on the plane. This is a tip I reallyyyyy wish we had done because not only would bringing the car seat on board and strapping it into her seat kept her nice and contained, but I think it also would have meant she slept on some of the plane rides (at least when during naptime). Without a car seat, the stewardess will come by and say “they need to be strapped in” and you will try your best (again, because you already tried of course) to get them strapped in and then it will last for 40 seconds before they freak out, worm out/slide down the seat, and then scream “TOO TIGHT” over and over because now they are trapped with their legs dangling and the strap basically up around their shoulders. I mean, at least that’s how I would think it would go. Not that I’m talking from experience or anything… ha, ha. ;)

Have a great day and I’ll see you guys back here on Friday with some food + fitness from the week! Aspen was a lot of fun, and we were so grateful to have gotten to go on such a cool adventure, but it’s been pretty nice to get home and back into a routine. :)

Comments

  1. 1

    The trip sounds pretty dire but I’m glad you enjoyed it once you (finally) got there. Aspen looks beautiful!

  2. 2

    Hi Anne!

    The trip looks like it was beautiful!

    You are not alone on the plane difficulties with a 2 year old. I feel you.

  3. 3

    What an amazing trip; thanks for the recap and tips!
    And yesss, carseats on planes are the way to go and worth lugging it through the airport. Toddlers seem to understand that they need to stay in the car seat like when they are in the car; without it, they don’t. I’ve tried both ways (without there is so much wiggling and annoyed neighbors) and will be using the car seat until my daughter is old enough to be comfortably strapped into her seat. We got a cheaper Cosera Senera Next car seat for traveling that is much lighter than the seat we use in the car.
    Happy New Year!

    • 4

      Our car seat is super heavy so I’m definitely looking into the one you recommended if we fly with Riese again anytime soon… thanks!

  4. 5
    Allison D. says

    To add to the bring your own car seat….we had wheels for the seat when we had little kids so we did not have to lug it through the airport, could put luggage in it and it kids were tuckered out, they could ride in it. And with an 8 and 9 year old, I still pack extra clothes in my carry on if we check our main luggage. I only had to get throw up on once by a motion sick kid to learn this lesson! And I agree about screens – we do so little screen time but on a plane my kids can use a screen the whole flight if they want. Good job making in through a rough day. We have always traveled with our kids and they get so used to it – it gets so much easier pretty quickly!

  5. 7

    Wow. The views are beautiful! What a fun trip.
    I couldn’t imagine having all the travel difficulties with a my two year old. Glad you made it through and I am sure are stronger because of it!

    • 8

      Haha yes we definitely learned a lot from the experience in terms of what to do differently in the future travel-wise… like these tips!

  6. 9

    I made the no carseat mistake once as well (traveling by myself with 20 month old twins). I never did that again. The flights with car seats went SO much smoother.

  7. 11

    I always forget to pack extra clothes for my toddler and myself, great reminder :)

    What were Riese (and your) favorite screen time options? Did you use headphones? Hudson refuses them 🤷‍♀️

    • 12

      Daniel Tiger for liiiifeeeee! It saved us. And I like that it teaches nice life lessons/isn’t totally just entertainment. :) We don’t have headphones for her so we just played it loud-ish on our phones (but tried to keep it low enough that others weren’t annoyed by it).

  8. 13

    This looked like such a fun and relaxing trip! I hope to make it to Aspen one day! ♥️

  9. 15

    Glad you guys finally made it to Aspen! The best piece of traveling advice I have, and we have traveled a lot with our 5 and 3 year olds at all ages, is to plan for no napping. :)

  10. 17

    We are going to FL in Feb and I am planning on downloading Little Baby Bum (our toddler’s fave show on netflix). He will watch it for an hour+ if allowed (I have let him do that when he is sick or daycare is closed and I’m working from home – you gotta do what you gotta do when you are a mom!). he also really likes peek-a-boo barn on my phone but I imagine that might eventually get old after 30+ minutes!

    I am glad you guys had a good time despite the horrible travel experience on your way there. Yikes. What a nightmare!! Aspen looks beautiful! I wish I liked skiing but i learned too late in life to enjoy it. It just stresses me out as I am not super athletic and feel like the chance of injury is so high! So I have only gone a couple of times but that was back in my early 20s when I worked at a ski lodge in CO over college breaks and I could ski for free. I love snow shoeing and xc skiing, though!

    • 18

      Snow shoeing and cross country skiing are more my style, too – I wish I’d had the chance to get in some xc skiing on the trip! Less scary and just as pretty :)

  11. 19
    Roadrunner says

    Great post, with wonderful (painfully learned) lessons. Thanks! Despite the travel challenges, sounds like a wonderful trip. Glad you had the courage to do it with a two-year old. Kudos to you and Matt. And thanks for the amazing photos. Quite a place!

  12. 20

    We are very anti screen with our kids- still! And they are 8, 10, 11. The one exception we have always made is for airplane trips (though not car trips!). Totally worth it in my opinion. Screens on airplanes are about other people’s comfort, so whatever it takes! And if you save screens for only airplanes you may not even need that heave car seat!

    • 21

      That’s impressive! We don’t actually do any screen time at home either (well, an occasional couple minutes here and there on our phones for especially intense diaper changes, but that’s it – our only TV is in the basement, and Riese doesn’t go down there/doesn’t even know it’s there), and while it definitely kept her entertained for a bit on the plane, once she got really tired she was over it and a crazy wiggle-worm fast. Womp, womp. Car seat would have been a huge help!! Next time :)

  13. 22
    Rachel Fehr says

    Hi! Traveling with kids is so unpredictable! I would add, pack the change of clothes in a big ziplock bag. That way you can throw the dirty clothes into a sealed bag! Especially if there is vomit/poop involved!

  14. 24

    Oh man! I didn’t fly with a 2 year old (did take 20 hour road trip though!). I learned on my honeymoon the extra clothes thing when we ended up staying overnight unplanned in Texas and then our luggage was lost for 3 days when we went to Jamaica. When we road tripped with the 2 year old she watched daniel tiger on our dvd player for an entire day without volume because she refused to wear the headphones. :) My tips for travel is all the screen time (usually will buy a new dvd or season of a show), all the snacks, and i pack toys that haven’t been seen in awhile and buy new books! The screen time works because she gets so little of it any other time! Glad you survived.

    • 25

      New books would have been a good idea… thanks for that tip! Toys that haven’t been seen in awhile is a great idea, too. Same here re: the screen time, but after a full day of it on travel day 1 it had already lost its novelty, too, ha… seems novelty is the key for entertainment!

  15. 26

    I believe the preferred title for stewardess is flight attendant. Signed a former Stew 🤣🤣😜

  16. 28

    OMG!!! The carseat/seatbelt hypothetical! Definitely brings back memories :)

  17. 30

    I wrote a post on toddler travel tips! https://calmchaos.blog/2019/07/16/traveling-this-summer-keep-little-hands-busy/

    Aspen sounds wonderful! Glad you had that time away even with the nightmare travel getting there – bless your heart!

  18. 32

    What brand is that t shirt you’re wearing at the yoga class? It looks nice and loose and I need to update my workout wardrobe!

  19. 34

    Sorry for the hot mess… glad to see you had amazing views and you are keeping up your ski skills!! :D

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