Trailing Spouses: Life Behind the Scenes

When I married my husband I had no idea what the term “trailing spouse” meant or that I would become one. A trailing spouse is someone who follows their spouse’s career opportunities to different cities and often abroad. While it is an exciting life that affords travel opportunities and may seem glamorous on Instagram, there is much more that goes on behind the scenes. I asked other trailing spouses (and one former trailing child) for their insights on their lives. They provided thoughtful commentary to help illuminate the ups and downs of following their partners. Enjoy reading about what they love, what frustrates them, and if they would do it again!

Helen, Former Trailing Child

Helen and her family in Greece.

My father works for the State Department, so I grew up moving all around the world. I am the oldest of four children, and we were all born in different countries. I’ve lived in Panama, Paraguay, Croatia, Austria, Virginia and Maryland, and as an adult, while living in the US, I have been able to visit my parents while stationed in Greece, Peru, Germany, and now Turkey (I have not visited them in Turkey yet).

My personality is pretty extroverted and outgoing, so growing up, I usually did okay making friends with each move. However, being social and having friends was always very important to me and caused me a lot of stress, even as a young kid. I often felt like 2-4 years at each post was just enough time to really make good friends, get settled on a sports team, etc., only to have to start all over again. Some of my younger siblings had an even harder time with this than I had, some easier. In middle school and high school I always played sports, mostly as a way to make friends. I figured if I could get on a team I would have automatic friends and a sense of belonging. Family support was huge for me, and my siblings and I were close due to our circumstances. My faith was also huge, as I knew my church would be wherever we went. I am a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the congregations varied in size, but they were always there.

When I graduated high school and left for college, we had been living in the Washington D.C. area. That summer, my family was moving to Athens, Greece. We went to the airport together as a family, but were going two opposite directions. I flew to Salt Lake City, Utah for college, and they flew to Athens. Their plane left first, and I cried privately in the bathroom after they left until I could board my plane. Luckily, when I got to Utah my aunt was there to move me into my dorm room and get me settled, but it was hard! It certainly wasn’t the typical college send off you see in the movies! That was something I really wasn’t prepared for, how hard the moving around would be even after I was out of the house.

I have been able to have some wild experiences due to my dad’s job like meeting President Obama in the Oval Office, meeting Colin Powell at “bring your child to work day”, interning at an American Embassy when I was in college, and playing “hide & seek in our house’s bomb shelter in Zagreb, Croatia in the 90’s which my siblings and I had no idea was a bomb shelter because typically we just got evacuated. I have been able to go to some amazing “bucket list” places too, some of my favorites being Machu Picchu, the Amazon, Santorini, Salzburg, and Venice.

As a kid, I didn’t really appreciate all of the beautiful places we got to visit, and honestly would have rather been at my grandparent’s house playing outside with my cousins. My siblings and I often complained about every sightseeing trip we did, and certainly didn’t appreciate the amazing places we got to go! However, now as an adult, I am very grateful for the global perspective I believe I have, and the travel experiences I was able to have that have shaped me. I always went to international schools, so I had friends from a very diverse range of backgrounds and cultures that I believe was very good for me. Even though I am a proud American, I view myself as a global citizen and still enjoy traveling, now with my own four children.

Any advice I would give is to be patient and gentle with your children of this lifestyle. It’s hard dealing with the constant uprooting, and brings challenges you don’t even see coming sometimes. You are much more vulnerable, and “third culture kids” often make bad decisions out of a desperation for connection and friends. I was lucky that my mom was not only a “trailing spouse”, but also was a trailing child as her father was a diplomat as well. Her and my father were always very understanding of us. However, you also have incredibly rich experiences, see parts of the world some people never get to see, and great cultural experiences that will shape you for your entire life. I believe these experiences can make children become more empathetic, understanding, and aware.

Follow Helen on Instagram.

Lindsey

Our family visiting Tbilisi, Georgia while we lived in Ukraine.

I grew up outside of Seattle, Washington. I lived in the same house my whole life until I went to college in Arizona. Right after I got married, my husband received his first overseas opportunity in Germany and we jumped at it! We were so excited about the potential travel and new experiences we would have. We lived there a few years then moved back to the U.S. Before too long we found ourselves with another chance to live abroad and moved to Ukraine for about a year. After that, we moved to the Washington D.C. area where we currently live, but are looking at more opportunities back in Europe soon.

Overall I have loved this life! I love living and traveling in Europe. I have been able to see and do more things than I ever imagined. I have developed a passion for  travel and photography and I love getting to pursue them by living abroad. I have also enjoyed living in different places in the U.S. You have the opportunity to explore the region and become a mini-expert in many places. I like  “trying on” different locations to see what we enjoy, what we don’t, and what we will look for in a forever home/location. Though it’s hard to imagine anything will ever truly be forever.

My least favorite thing about being a trailing spouse is leaving friends and family. I hate saying good-bye and at times it’s hard to maintain friendships via FaceTime and Facebook. I also don’t like feeling like I’m depriving my children of growing up nearby grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

I was a teacher for four years before we started moving around. People always told me that I could do that job anywhere, but I have found it hasn’t been that simple. In Germany I was lucky to find an English speaking preschool to work at. However, once I had my daughter I stopped working to be home with her. When we moved back to the U.S. I was pregnant again and had  an almost 2 year old to care for, so I chose not to work. In Ukraine, my daughter’s preschool was interested in hiring me, but we knew with the amount of travel we planned to do I wouldn’t be able to commit to a regular schedule. Now we are back in DC, I am pregnant again and currently on bedrest-I’m definitely not working! I often wish I studied digital marketing, graphic design, or anything related to computers to give me something easier to do remotely from home.

My biggest challenge is finding my own niche. My husband has a career which instantly integrates him and gives him something to make him feel accomplished and productive. Sometimes I feel lost when all I have done is cook, clean, and try to prevent toddler meltdowns. I don’t have that same sense of accomplishment as a stay at home mom. It can be lonely and it compounds when you’re in a different country, can’t speak the native language, and not fully comfortable with the day to day routine.

Another challenge is the expense to move and feeling like our house is in a constant incomplete state. Everytime we move things get damaged and purged. What works in one house may not work in the next. It is always a dilemma of “do I keep this in case it works in the next place, or just get rid of it?” About 6 months before a move, I start to feel that it’s not really worth it to invest in home décor/organization because we are just going to box everything up anyway. I don’t like that temporary feeling in my own house. I keep hoping that in the next house it will feel complete, but so far it hasn’t happened.

Finding a community and something just for me are important to help me thrive in each location. I find that I am much happier when I feel integrated into a group of friends who I can relate to. Sounds obvious, but finding meaningful friendships can be a challenge. I think jumping into social events right away is very helpful. Friends aren’t going to just appear so you have to get out of your comfort zone a little. I try to say “yes” to anything I am invited to when I arrive at a new place. It might not be a perfect friend match, but you don’t know if you don’t go. At the very least it is a way to get out of the house! For example, I was never a runner and when I moved to California I joined a running group. To my surprise I ended up enjoying running and I made great friends! Similarly in Ukraine, I tried a barre class for the first time and formed lasting friendships with the other women who attended. Trying these new things gave me friendships as well as a meaningful activity just for myself.

Traveling as a family is something that I really look forward to as well. I like planning out the trip, doing the homework, and then of course exploring once we get there. Having something always on the horizon to look forward to is something that excites me and gets me through the lulls. Our daughter celebrated her 4th birthday in Paris and our son celebrated his 2nd birthday in Montenegro. Those are fun memories we will have forever!

I think it is a little early to determine how our children’s lives will be affected by this lifestyle. My daughter makes friends easily, which I think will her with all the change. My son is becoming  more and more social as well, so it will be interesting to see how he reacts to the next move. So far they have been very adaptable to each new situation. They have also learned how to be good travelers (though there are definite highs and lows there too). It is fun to see them recognize world landmarks and know that they’ve been there. I love giving them special experiences that will hopefully leave an impression, even if they don’t remember all the places they’ve been. I am happy for the education they will be afforded by being exposed to different cultures, people, and ways of life. I want them to know that there are many different ways to live and there isn’t one “right” way.

Honestly after living this way, I can’t imagine if we had just stayed in one place for all these years! There would be other benefits I’m sure, but now that we have all these experiences and memories made I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Follow me on Instagram and Pinterest.

Haley

I grew up in the deep south of the United States. I lived in Mobile, Alabama from my birth until I went to college in Pennsylvania. I met my husband in college; we were lab partners in Physics 201. We married right after college and moved to Columbus, Mississippi for his job. After a year and a half in Mississippi, we moved to Tucson, Arizona. Next to South Korea, and Las Vegas, Nevada, where we welcomed 2 children. We then moved to Washington, DC, and Alamogordo, New Mexico. Finally we moved to Germany where we currently live and have welcomed a third baby.

I have thoroughly enjoyed following my husband’s job around the world! We have had the amazing opportunity to live in some incredible locations. I think my favorite part about the unexpected locations we have lived is the fact that you really can find community everywhere. From big lights and never quiet Las Vegas,  to a tiny, quiet town in Germany we have made some life-long friends and have been surrounded by fabulous communities. It really forces you out of your comfort zone to meet new people. If we weren’t forced to embrace some of these new locations I don’t think I ever would’ve tried them on my own. I am definitely thankful for the unexpected blessings in each location we’ve called home!

I can’t think of much I don’t like about the life we’ve been given, but if I had to choose one thing that is difficult about the trailing spouse life, it would be my career advancement. I went to school to become a meteorologist. It’s what I knew I wanted to do since I was a little girl listening to the weather radio I got for Christmas in 4thgrade. It’s a passion of mine and unfortunately, I have not been able to continue in that career field while moving to these unique locations. I was able to continue my education and pursue a career of teaching, which I have also thoroughly enjoyed. I have even been able to teach meteorology! I decided to stay home with our children after our daughter was born and it has been a true blessing for our family! I’m now the family travel-planner! One other sad aspect of this lifestyle is missing family. On the other hand they have truly enjoyed visiting us around the world!

I think my biggest challenge as a trailing spouse is stepping out of my comfort zone and meeting new people and finding a new community in each new place we settle. At the same time, I would also call this my biggest reward! I would never step out of this comfort zone if I wasn’t forced to, and I’m so thankful for all of the opportunities it has provided our family. From new friends who are like family to incredible travel experiences, it has ultimately been an incredible life for us!

A sense of adventure and flexibility have allowed us to thrive in this lifestyle. We have truly embraced all of the opportunities presented to us, and have tried to enjoy each and every move. Whether that is to the middle of the desert or to a foreign country, we have succeeded in finding opportunities for exploring all that each spot has to offer.

I think the best piece of advice for someone entering this lifestyle is to find something that can bring you joy no matter where you are! There can definitely be challenges to following a spouse around the world, but if you learn to embrace your situation and find joy in each new location, you will learn to love the lifestyle. Finding a community quickly in each new location can also help. Whether that is through church, work, or neighborhood activities, finding a community is always what makes me feel at home.

I think my children have been affected in such positive ways by moving around. They are flexible, resilient, world-travelers, and are now also bilingual! They can make friends easily and while leaving those friends is never easy, they can also say they have friends around the world. What incredible experiences they’ve had at just 6 years, 4 years, and 3 months old! Our kids can sleep anywhere, find adventure in a pile of sand or a stick and 2 rocks, and explore a museum like it’s their job. We are so proud of the kids they are and are thrilled for the opportunities this lifestyle has given them.

I might be biased, but I think the trailing spouse lifestyle is the best out there! I have everything I need in my faith and family and those can go with me wherever we live!

Follow Haley on Instagram and on her blog Where Are We Going Today.

Jules

I grew up in Germany before moving to the UK. After graduating high school I moved to The Netherlands, where I met my partner whose career means we relocate internationally.

I love seeing the world not as a tourist but actually living in different countries and experiencing mundane everyday life. I like that whenever you move you get to explore a new side of yourself. In a way, wherever you go you get a fresh start and can “reinvent” yourself.

My least favourite thing, especially now that we have a son, is the fact that we want our little one to have a home and friends and we feel he is missing that. My husband and I are still in touch with some of our childhood friends. We feel that we take that away from him as he is growing up as a third culture kid.

Currently I am a stay at home mom, but our next assignment location will be the UK. I am legally allowed to work there and am keen to look for employment, even if it’s a part-time role. I am not focused on a career at this moment. I just want to have a professional life, colleagues, and not be fully financially reliant upon my husband.

One of the biggest challenges is you often cannot make choices about how and where to live. At the moment we are waiting to relocate to the UK and the employer will choose our housing. I wish we had more control and input. I am over living in furnished houses. Sometimes they are not according to our taste and then you have to live in a house that never feels like home. It feels like living in other people’s “old junk” or sometimes a stylish hotel, which is not really suitable for babies.

The advice I would give a new trailing spouse is not to expect a life full of glamour and travel. Often it’s lonely and you have to be very independent and self-reliant. But, if you get the chance to experience life abroad DO IT, GO! You will not regret it, as overall the adventure and memories will outweigh the bumps in the road. Always remember the days are long, but the years are short!

Follow Jules on Instagram and on her blog Shades of Courage.

Camille

Hi! I’m Camille, the voice behind Get Globetrotting. We are frequent home exchangers based in LA. We exchange our home with other families in the country/world most months. I run an Instagram account aimed at helping other parents find affordable things to do with their children at home and abroad. I also work one-on-one with clients to help them plan budget international trips. My overarching goal is to help parents find joy and fulfillment by making travel a part of their lives!

We’ve lived in Utah, San Francisco, and now LA. We have traveled all over the world by exchanging our homes with other families. We follow my husband’s career. I am primarily a stay-at-home mom but I work outside the home as a nurse 1-2x a week.

I knew I wanted to primarily stay at home with our children. Because of this, we decided to send my husband to grad school 2 years ago meaning he would have a higher earning potential of the two of us. We think of ourselves as a team. He recognizes the sacrifices I make to help him excel in his career and I am grateful to him for providing a good living for our family. However, I do sometimes struggle with him receiving awards, promotions, and recognition while I put aside my career for a time to raise our kids!

We aren’t a nomadic family because my husband has a typical 9-5 with every other Friday off and a fair amount of vacation time. He really likes his job and we’ve investigated remote work, but nothing ever felt right. I work 4x/month any day of the week I choose so I can build my schedule around our travel plans pretty easily. Also, I am working on building my travel planning, Instagram, and photography business so I can do that from pretty much anywhere! We also own our home and it’s a good investment for us plus we can exchange it for other homes.

One of my greatest challenges is struggling with doing the same thing every day and I miss the stimulation of talking to people that aren’t children. I try to remedy this by planning outings with friends and daydreaming about travel. Every time I go to the hospital to work I cannot stop chatting with all the adults!

Communication has been key to thriving for me! My husband is really good about hearing me out, even when my concerns are completely irrational. I try to treat his successes as my own because it’s me doing all the behind-the-scenes work! We also have a good divide of chores at home so I don’t feel like I am constantly doing housework.

I would tell other trailing spouses to communicate with your partner. Recognize that the work you do may not be recognized by the world, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Find something that you love to do that has absolutely nothing to do with childcare and make time for it. You may resent your spouse sometimes and that is OK. Just don’t let it consume you. Talk about how you’re feeling; don’t hold it in.

Marriage is a team sport! Today women are told they MUST work or they are not fulfilling their potential. But the great thing about being a woman now is that we get to choose the life we want. If you choose to be a trailing spouse, a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, or some combination of them all, realize that those choices are between you and your spouse. Keep your sense of self-worth because the work you’re doing is just as important as the work your spouse is doing. As Eleanor Roosevelt said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

We keep a house in order to provide stability for our son. We want our child to have one place he feels grounded. We were both raised in a really traditional manner and we wanted that for our kids. But I do get jealous of others I see online who have freedom to move around as they wish.

Follow Camille on Instagram and her blog Get Globetrotting.

I always love to hear your comments and questions! Please feel free to say hi below! Don’t forget to follow abroadwife.com for more; you can also find me on Instagram and Pinterest!

Why I’m Hoping for a Planned C-section

I have a complicated birth history. When I got pregnant for the first time, I had a certain picture in my head of how it would be to labor and give birth to our baby. I thought it would be extremely painful (obviously), but that I would endure it with the help of my midwife and likely an epidural. My mom had two quick deliveries so I kind of thought I would be the same. Things didn’t exactly go according to the plan.

This is how it actually went: 20 hours of active labor, 1.5 hours of pushing without progression, and ending in a C-section. I was not prepared for that outcome at all. All the books tell you to make your birth plan, bring music, ask for skin to skin time, decide what interventions you’re OK with, and do your research but I never seriously thought about the possibility that I might end up having a C-section.

The recovery was rough, I felt like I got hit by a truck. I remember holding my scar when I laughed, when I walked, and going over bumps in the car. I wasn’t prepared to be separated from my daughter for an hour after I left the operating room (the normal recovery area was full so I had to be in an ICU unit where the baby couldn’t be). I was so disappointed that I “couldn’t do it” and ended up having surgery. I was jealous of the other women I knew who were able to birth their babies what seemed like so easily.

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Newborn photo taken by Angela Inc. Photography.

 

When I got pregnant for the second time, I had an idea that I might not be a good VBAC (vaginal birth after Caesarean) candidate but I wanted to at least ask and explore the option. I was told by multiple doctors that indeed I was not a good candidate. They recommended I have a planned C-section.

I really struggled with this idea. I felt guilty that I was giving up, or not trying hard enough, or not asking the right doctor. I heard success stories of other people and wondered if that could also be me. I decided it didn’t seem worth the risk to go against this medical advice, but I still had a hard time being at peace with the idea.

I started being more accepting of a planned C-section about three months before my due date. It seemed right as I had come to accept it, I was given some unsolicited advice about having a VBAC. It came from a woman I didn’t really know, I had just met her. She decided to interject when we started talking about my upcoming birth being a planned C-section. She proceeded to tell me about how she had a VBAC, she had a great doctor if I was interested in switching practices, I should really consider the VBAC, do my research, and so on and so forth.

I went home and cried. It brought me right back to feeling guilty, like I had failed, and that people were going to think I “took the easy way out.” She may have been well-meaning, but it was very upsetting to me. My point in bringing this up is we don’t always know the background of people’s situations, and feelings. By offering me all that advice, she was actually reopening wounds that had taken me a long time to heal.

About 2 weeks later I ended up delivering my son very unexpectedly while I was on a trip alone with my daughter. I had an emergency C-section, and afterwards I honestly didn’t care at all about the C-section part because I was just relieved that my son was OK. I was 30 weeks pregnant and I had no idea about premature babies and how his health would be affected. It was another episode of being completely blindsided by the situation I found myself in.

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Talking to my son when he was about 9 days old.

My recovery after that C-section was much better. I actually felt pretty well later that day and felt really ready to be discharged the next morning. I made sure to get up and do my walks up and down the hallway to show the doctor I was ready for discharge. I needed that discharge so I could leave that hospital and move to the children’s hospital where my son was being cared for. I hadn’t been able to hold him yet, and that is all I wanted to do. Once I held him, I felt at peace. I didn’t see tubes, wires, and monitors I just felt whole, like I was finally where I was supposed to be.

The following 6 weeks in the NICU were not easy by any stretch. We were lucky that our son’s stay was relatively uneventful and he came off breathing assistance fairly quickly. It was wearing on us as a family though. I spent most of my days in the NICU holding him, and caring for him as much as I could. I was pumping every 3 hours. Eventually I was trying to work on nursing him (something that I tried and struggled with for several weeks before resigning myself to exclusive pumping). I was also still trying to spend time with my daughter who was only 2 years old. I felt torn between spending time with her and spending time in the NICU. Thankfully we had family in the area who helped a lot with caring for her, but that was another big source of guilt for me. I went from spending all day every day with her, to seeing her sometimes only for an hour during the day.

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Photo by K Chilton Davis.

We were not sure if we would try to have another baby. I wasn’t really prepared for my son to be my last, but the experience of his birth was traumatic. I didn’t know if I wanted to risk having that experience again. Through a lot of careful thought, reflection, time, and speaking with doctors, we decided to try for one more.

For this pregnancy, I am again planning to have a C-section. I am hoping to have a scheduled C-section at 39 weeks and not an emergency C-section earlier because I go into labor. I feel completely differently about it now than I did the first and second times. I am so hopeful that I will get to have my planned C-section-it is my goal. I would give almost anything to be able to have it! There is so much fear and chaos surrounding an emergency situation. I would be so thankful to feel prepared and calm going into the birth of our son. I have no qualms about not trying hard enough, giving up, or feeling inadequate about my birth plan. I went through two very traumatic birth experiences and I know now that I am stronger than I ever gave myself credit for. It was not easy, but it is the reality of my situation. When I really think about it I am so grateful to live in a time where these interventions are possible. Because at the end of the day, all I want is to have a safe, healthy baby and to be safe and healthy myself.

If you are grappling with the idea of a C-section or a repeat C-section, I’m always happy to talk and share support for you. Reach out at any time!

 

 

 

 

Zagreb

When you find yourself dreaming of a Croatian vacation, Zagreb probably isn’t the top of your list. While it is the capital city, it is inland and removed from the beautiful beaches and islands Croatia has become known for. We found ourselves with a couple days in Zagreb during our long road trip through the Balkans. It is just a couple hours drive from Ljubljana, our first stop on our trip. Here are our favorite things to do in Zagreb!

Ride the Funicular to St. Mark’s Church

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Look at that roof!

When in Europe, there is no shortage of amazing churches. After a while, many of them can run together. But this church will stand out in your memory for its gorgeously tiled roof! The bright colors and interesting design make this church very unique-it has a look all its own. Unfortunately we were unable to tour the inside because there was an event being set up. But the outside alone is worth the trip uphill. You can walk if you want the exercise or for under $1, you can take the world’s shortest funicular ride up the hill. 

If you still want to see some more churches, check out the Cathedral of Zagreb which has a fascinating history and is still under repairs and restoration. 

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Zagreb Cathedral still under reparations.

Ivana Tkalcica

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Colorful buildings and people watching!

This street is full of charm and life. The colorful buildings and cobblestoned street are lined with bars, restaurants, and shops. This is a great place to pick up a souvenir or grab some ice cream on a hot day. We even found a little playground with the cathedral peeking out behind it. This little strip is the perfect place to sit and people watch, many of the cafes have their chairs all facing the street. You can find all different kinds of food-everything from burgers to Indian food!

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Playground with a view!

Technical Museum

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Vehicles galore at the Technical Museum!

If you’re into machines or have kids who are, the Nicola Tesla Technical Museum is the perfect place to spend the morning. Go check out their displays on trains, automobiles, boats, planes, and even rockets. Most of the descriptions were in Croatian, but it is fun to go have a look at everything regardless. There is also a planetarium and some tours are offered in english at certain times through the summer.

Parks 

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Spend some time relaxing by the fountain.

We walked through several parks in Zagreb like the park near the art museum (Fontana kraal Tomislav) and Park Zrinjevac. We were there in early summer and everything was green and in bloom. We spent time here just letting the kids run and play. We would find fruit vendors nearby and pickup a carton of cherries or strawberries to snack on. The kids would go through the whole container in one sitting! With scenery like this, it’s easy to sit down, relax, and take a break!

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Favorite Things To Do With Toddlers in Monterey Bay

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Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is probably the most well-known attraction on the peninsula, and for good reason! It’s waterfront location provides a perfect place to spot marine life in the wild. During whale migration season in August, it is not uncommon to spot whales in the bay from the aquarium’s viewing platforms. The aquarium has wonderful exhibits that are very engaging and interactive for children. There are touch pools, an interactive create your own fish activity, great kids’ play areas, and various feedings and talks you can see throughout the day. Our favorite to try and attend was the feeding at the Open Sea Exhibit. We would go a little early to find a spot near the glass to sit (it can get pretty packed), have a snack, and watch the fish get their snacks! The aquarium also has a nice, albeit a little pricey, cafe with beautiful bay views.  You can also bring in snacks and water and find a bench outside to eat at too. Many locals buy year long memberships because the ticket price is steep and if you think you will visit more than a few times, it is completely worth it!

 

Caledonia Park

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We lived walking distance from Caledonia Park, so we were there quite often. This is a wonderful park for little kids. It has a fence around it, so no running away. It also has a bathroom and drinking fountain. It’s just off of Lighthouse Avenue in Pacific Grove,  which is the main shopping and restaurant spot in town. So it makes for a good place to let kids burn off some energy. I prefer this park over the more well known “Dennis the Menace” park. Dennis the Menace park is also very fun, but it is much bigger, the playscape are bigger and I felt like I had to be very “on” there because of the size of things and the amount of kids. Caledonia is more manageable and better for small children. Also a short walk from the park is Lovers Point which is a scenic outlook, beach, and start of the Coastal Recreation trail. The park also hosts different little fairs and events throughout the year that bring in petting zoos, bounce houses, and some rides.

Walk on the Coastal Trail

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This is probably the place our family spent the most time, besides our house. We could also walk here and we loved to either walk, run, or bike the trail. I think it is a must do activity in Monterey. It’s very stroller friendly from Lovers Point toward the wharf (inland). If you go from Lovers Point toward Asilomar it is not paved and you may have to deal with some narrow parts, and uneven terrain. You can rent regular bikes or surrey bikes from bike shops near Cannery Row and cruise up and down the trail to the aquarium, Coast Guard pier (where the sealions hang out), the wharf, and all the way around the bay if you really wanted to! Keep an eye out for seabirds, otters, whales, sea lions, and harbor seals from the path. I guarantee you spot at least a couple animals. It is so scenic and beautiful, especially if you are there in April when the “magic carpet” is blooming and the coastline is bright pink!

 

Carmel Beach

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Carmel Beach is my favorite beach of the area. The weather always seemed to be better here (less windy than Asilomar), the water is gorgeous, and it is dog-friendly. Not to mention Carmel-by-the-Sea is just behind it with numerous restaurants, shops, and tasting rooms. It is also fun just to drive around Carmel and look at the thatched roof cottages and premiere real estate! If you are here in October, look for the sand castle contest. It is a local favorite event with everything from very amateur constructions to elaborate and impressive sculptures.

Pizza & Gelato at Cafe Ariana

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Our favorite place for pizza and gelato was Cafe Ariana on Lighthouse Avenue in Pacific Grove. There is another ice cream shop down the road known for its kitschy Beatles decor, but I preferred the always changing flavors at Cafe Ariana. It’s a family owned business serving up salads, paninis, pizza, beer and wine. Sometimes we would walk over after dinner just to get some gelato. The atmosphere is calm and there is some nice outdoor seating on Lighthouse Avenue for people watching. Everyone who travels with kids knows you always need a good ice cream bribe, and this is the place to do it!

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A short drive into Carmel Valley is the Earthbound Farm Stand. We loved coming here for outdoor play time. There is a giant tipi, children’s garden, cut your own herb garden, and of course a place to buy all organic lunches, groceries, and ice cream. Throughout the year the also host fun family events, like a bug walk where you are led through the gardens with one of the farmers to learn about the plants and pollination. At the end, each child is given a handful of ladybugs to release on the plants! This is also a great place for pumpkins in the fall. Look for pumpkin painting and fall festivals through the season. Also next to it is a feed store that you can walk to that has several different farm animals to look at.

Wharf Marketplace

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The Wharf Marketplace sits along the Coastal Trail nearby the wharf. It carries specialty groceries and serves salads, sandwiches, ice cream, beer, and wine. There is outdoor seating where you can relax. Kids can climb on the big stationary tractor, adults can play bags/corn hole. Our favorite thing to do on a nice day was bike on the trail from Lovers Point to Wharf Marketplace, have lunch and a beer, then bike home. Also look for wine tasting events and specialty food being cooked up on the weekends!

Drive Highway 1

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This is also a must of visiting the area. It isn’t technically Monterey Bay, but Monterey is the perfect jump off point for a drive to Big Sur. Try to aim for a day where it is clear so your view won’t be spoiled by fog. Drive south on Highway 1 AKA the Pacific Coast Highway. Stop at as many or as few lookout points as you want. Once again, if visiting in peak whale migration season (either January or August), bring your binoculars and look for whales! You don’t even need the binoculars though, you can see whale spouts with your naked eye. Bixby Bridge is along this route, a great photo spot but just hold tight to your little ones and head the warning signs about where to walk. Other great stops are Garapata State Park, McWay Falls, and Pfeiffer Beach. The views are unbeatable! We had a great lunch at Cafe Kevah which is the same location at Nepenthe. Both are great and have stunning views!

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Lunch at Cafe Kevah

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Takeoffs & Toddlers at the Monterey Airport

As a mom of a 2 year old, I find myself constantly looking for ways to entertain my little one that are fun for me too. Sometimes you need a change from the usual park you always go to. Or to do something fun in the middle of the week to break up days of running errands. One place we’ve discovered as genius place to take little kids is to the local airport!IMG_3436 The Monterey airport has a large observation deck with a restaurant connected to it. We sometimes go and let the kids watch the airplanes take off and land and then sit down for an outdoor lunch. The airport mostly has small private planes flying in and out, so the noise isn’t too loud. Sometimes the commercial planes pull right up to the observation window, so close the pilot starts waving to the kids!IMG_3440

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Big observation deck with a lot of space to move around.

It has the magic combination of open space for kids to walk around, while still being contained. I love that I can sit on a nearby bench, change the baby’s diaper and still see my toddler the whole time. IMG_3445 IMG_3446 The Golden Tee is the restaurant that connects to the observation deck. It has tables outside or you could go inside and sit in the dining room. Then menu is mostly various sandwiches and burgers. They’re known for their sand dab (type of fish) sandwich. They also have a kids’ menu with various selections.

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Bye-Bye Airplanes! Time to eat lunch!

When you go, park in the short term parking lot and bring your parking ticket with you. If you eat at the restaurant, they will validate your parking. It’s a great way to spend a sunny morning.  Watch the planes, eat a little lunch, and be home in time for a nap!