Stay in Touch with Standardized Vacations

Gretchen Rubin and Liz Craft spoke about the idea of the ‘standardized vacation’ on their most recent Happier podcast. If you aren’t familiar with Gretchen, she is a top-selling author of several books including The Happiness Project. Her co-host, Liz is an accomplished Hollywood writer and producer. They are sisters who are originally from my hometown of Kansas City, so obviously I’m a big fan.

When they started talking about the concept of the standardized vacation I thought it sounded terribly boring. A standardized vacation could mean having a trip planned on the same dates each year, to the same place, with the same people, doing the same activities, and dishing out the same planning responsibilities. There is some flexibility allowed in these factors of course, but the goal would be to get the vacation set on the calendar and to reduce ‘decision fatigue’.

The more I thought of it, the more I fell in love with suggesting a standard-ish vacation to an amazing, adventure-loving friend of mine who is moving across the country this month. Knowing we will have something on our calendar each year would help us make sure years don’t slip by without seeing one another… and that actually does make me feel a little happier!

Do you use the concept of standardized vacations to make planning family vacations easier or to stay in contact with friends and relatives? Any tips? 

Deer Mountain – a Family Friendly Summit Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Looking for a family friendly summit hike in Rocky Mountain National Park? There is something very rewarding about reaching the summit of a mountain, but with young kids it’s hard to spend the time, energy and face the technical challenges of hiking up many of the prominent peaks.

Good news! You don’t have to hike all day to experience wonderful panoramic views and gain that awesome feeling of accomplishment. A three-mile hike up Deer Mountain offers both. The hike is located at Deer Ridge Junction, a few miles west of the Beaver Meadows entrance.

Hiking with a baby in the mountains

There isn’t a parking lot near Deer Mountain. Cars park right off the street making parking limited.

Parking near Deer Mountain is limited

Gear for hiking with young children and babies
I carried our 4 month old in an Ergobaby carrier and my husband carried our 2 1/2-year-old in a Deuter kid comfort carrier. With the added weight, we were happy to take extra breaks to enjoy the inspiring mountain vistas.

Great views on the way up Deer Mountain in RMNP

As we approached the summit, we hiked through melting snow which is pretty common in May –  especially this year.  I was thankful for my waterproof hiking boots, but we still got wet and muddy. Keeping a pair of flip-flops in the car to change into post hike would be helpful.

Deer Mountain Summit near Estes Park Colorado

Trekking poles were also helpful. You gain 1,093 ft of elevation.

Hiking Deer Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park in May

Standing at 10,013′ we made it to the summit. This was our youngest daughter’s first summit hike. Both girls were ready for a snack at this point, but we were worried about dark clouds looming in the distance and decided to start our descent. We probably should have started this hike earlier in the day because storms are more common in the afternoon. Deer Mountain, good spring summit hike for families in Rocky Mountains

On the way down, we had to be cautious in a few areas where slippery rocks were covered in slushy snow (especially with our precious cargo).

Hiking in snow

Luck was on our side, the weather cleared and we enjoyed the 3 mile return trip under blue skies.

Hiking Deer Mountain


10 Questions to Ask Before Booking Lodging in Estes Park, Colorado

Rustic mountain cabins, condos with sweeping mountain views, historic lodges, river-walk lofts – there are a wide-variety of options for your stay in Estes Park, Colorado. Beyond price, availability and customer reviews, here are additional questions to consider before booking your family’s Rocky Mountain vacation:

  1. Where is the cabin located in relation to attractions we are most interested in? Anticipate traffic during prime summer months. It’s worth considering if you prefer lodging close to downtown Estes Park, close to a Rocky Mountain National Park entrance, or in a more remote spot away from congestion.
  2. Where are we going to eat our meals? There are a lot of restaurants in town, but you’ll save money and time if you can make some of your own meals. Many vacation rentals come with grills, ovens, refrigerators and all the plates and utensils you need. There is a Safeway grocery store in Estes Park. Get a saver card at customer service to save extra money in-store and at the nearby Safeway gas station.
  3. Is there a good way to bathe our little ones? We bought our condo when our daughter was a baby without thinking about the challenges of bath time without a bath tub. Now she’s learning to use the shower which is great because she’s getting too big for baths in our kitchen sink.
  4. Will we have a way to wash dirty laundry? Not everyone wants to spend vacations doing laundry, but my girls go through several outfits a day. Having laundry in the condo or cabin you rent can be really helpful to cut down on the amount of luggage you transport.
  5. Are cribs available? Many hotels have cribs or pack n’ plays available. Call ahead to reserve them. If they don’t have cribs available, make sure the room is big enough to set up your portable crib.
  6. Could there be noise issues caused by traffic, event venues, etc. that could disrupt sleep? If you are concerned about noise, consider bringing along a small noise machine.
  7. Is there enough room and privacy for everyone? For us this comes up more when extended family or friends are sharing a space. If the condo says it sleeps 5, is one or more of those beds a pull-out couch located in a gathering space, a bunk bed, or in a loft?
  8. Does the facility have enough parking? And, is there a shuttle stop nearby? Estes Park has a free shuttle service that runs during peak times of the year. Different routes stop at various lodging, restaurants, shopping and information centers in town. You can learn more by visiting the Town of Estes Park, Colorado website.
  9. Does the hotel have the amenities we are looking for such as a pool, hot tub, mountain views, fireplace, free wireless connection, air conditioning, etc.? A good site to check out for lodging in Estes Park, Colorado is You can search with their map feature and filter by amenities.
  10. Are there any child safety concerns like high balconies, proximity to river/water, smoke-free rooms, steep staircases, open lofts, etc.? If you have any concerns, it’s always good to think ahead so you have a game-plan on how to child-proof the place you are staying the best you can.

    We have special memories from all of the places we’ve stayed in Estes Park, from sharing a bottle of wine on the patio after a long days hike as newly weds to worrying about how best to store milk for our baby as new parents. Here are a few pictures from places we’ve stayed along our way.
    Sept 2013 172 Sept 2013 500IMG_0418IMG_1920IMG_1924IMG_1941