A week in Vermont with a baby and a two-year old
This was our first airplane trip with both kids. My son had just turned two and my daughter was five months old. My husband had some days off work in early October. Since it was peak foliage season and only an hour and a half flight, Vermont seemed like an ideal fall family vacation spot. I had planned to do a lot of hiking in the fall foliage, but I ended up having to rework my itinerary quite a bit as I realized that our travel plans now need to revolve around our two-year old’s needs. Up until two, my son was capable of getting a nap in just about anywhere. He would sleep in the car between destinations or in our hiking backpacks. We realized on this trip that he now needs to sleep for about two hours in a bed and in the middle of the day. This means that pretty much all of the day hikes I had planned were now out of the question, and we were limited to a short activity in the morning and another short activity in the afternoon. Plus a visit to a playground everyday was pretty much mandatory. Taking care of two kids in diapers had already reduced our travel pace, but the nap in the middle of the day has officially pushed us over the edge into the category of slow travelers. Below is what we were able to do in a week in Vermont with a toddler and a baby in tow.
Day 1 - Getting Settled in Johnson, VT
We flew into Burlington in the early afternoon, and found their tiny airport to be very easy to navigate with small children. It was about an hour drive northeast to Johnson where our AirBnB was located. We stopped on the way in Colchester for groceries and baby supplies as I had assumed there wouldn’t be many shopping options in Johnson. Johnson, while still a very small town, was larger than I had anticipated and did have a small grocery store as well.
When I was planning for this trip, Johnson seemed pretty central to all the activities I had wanted to do, and the AirBnB had a setup that would work well for our family. In hindsight I wish we would have stayed 16 miles south in Stowe which has lots to offer in the way of quick family fun activities without as much driving. Luckily Vermont is a pretty small state, so nothing is too terribly far. We also really lucked out with our AirBnB which was way better than I had anticipated. It was a short walk to a beach on the Lamoille River, it backed up to a train-themed playground, and the host stocked the house with trucks and trains for my two year old.
Day 2 - Burlington
Since rain was in the forecast, we drove to Burlington for some indoor activities. On our arrival in Burlington, the rain was still a couple of hours away, so we decided to start the day exploring some of Burlington’s murals and parks on a long walk to the Echo Leahy Center for Lake Champlain.
The Echo Leahy Center for Lake Champlain was our main reason for visiting Burlington. Friends who had previously lived in Burlington had recommended this place and it did not disappoint. It’s a huge museum that entertained us all for about three hours. We learned all about Lake Champlain creatures including eel, starfish, and our new favorite fish- the Longnose Gar. They have a great toddler section with a really cool slide and the best water play station I’ve ever seen at a children’s museum.
We got some lunch at the Echo Leahy cafe which included some healthy kid friendly foods. Then we took the long walk back to our car on a different route to see some more of Burlington on foot. On our drive back to Johnson, we stopped to take a closer look at the beautiful silos in Jeffersonville.
After the drive back to Johnson and a nap, we spent the rest of the day playing at our neighborhood playground.
Day 3 - Smuggler’s Notch and Stowe
We started off this day with the Sterling Pond Hike in Smuggler’s Notch State Park. The drive from Johnson took about 25 minutes and was quite scenic. The hike is only about 2.5 miles but way too rocky and steep for our two year old to get out of our hiking backpack. So that combined with a battle to wear a jacket resulted in a meltdown as we got close to the pond. We actually turned around just before getting to the end of the trail, but aside from the meltdown it was a lovely hike. There were lots of leaf peepers in the parking area, but relatively few on the actual trail. The leaf colors were way more intense than I had imagined
We then drove about 20 minutes further south on 108 to explore Stowe. Our first stop was the Memorial Park playground because our two year old must sample all the local playgrounds.
We then wandered through the main street area and into the local library which had an art exhibit upstairs. The rest of our day was spent enjoying our AirBnB in Johnson.
Day 4 - Bingham Falls and a Gondola Ride
After ditching my original day-hike plans, we decided to look for some hikes that would be good training hikes for our two year old. Bingham Falls fit the bill - just one mile round trip and with a waterfall finish. It was fairly flat until the last bit which was a steep rocky climb down. We passed another family with small children that decided to give up on the last bit, but we carried on with no problems. One mile takes a long time at a 2-year old’s pace, but he had so much fun hiking on his own, and a happy two year old = a happy family.
It was only about a three minute drive to the Stowe Resort, so we decided we had time to fit in a Gondola ride before nap time. The Gondola took us up to Mount Mansfield which would have come with gorgeous views on a clear day. There are lots of hiking trails and a restaurant at the top. For our family, the Gondola ride and some dogs at the top were the main attraction.
After a nap and lunch at our AirBnB, we spent the rest of the afternoon at Old Mill Park in Johnson.
Day 5 - Waterbury and Montpelier
Rain was in the forecast again so we headed about 45 minutes south to Waterbury. Our main reason for stopping in Waterbury was to visit Ben and Jerry’s. Their quick 30 minute tour was pretty engaging even for a two year old. It, of course, ends with an ice cream tasting which was a highlight for our son who hardly ever gets sweet treats. And as parents that are pretty cautious about sugar, we were pleased that the ice cream samples they were doling out were a very reasonable size for a two year old.
We also got to sample their playground and wander through their flavor graveyard.
Waterbury is chock full of food sampling spots. Cabot, Lake Champlain Chocolates, and Green Mountain Coffee also have visitor’s centers here. We decided to head up the road to Cold Hollow Cider Mill which has a nice fast casual restaurant with fancy Cabot Mac and Cheese and apple ciders (alcoholic and not). Since both kids were out as soon as they got in the car, we decided to take a scenic drive to and through Montpelier while the kids slept.
Once the kids were awake, we parked next to the capitol and strolled around downtown Montpelier for a while.
We ate a late lunch / early dinner at The Skinny Pancake which is a fast casual creperie chain in New England. I wanted to love this place, but was honestly a bit underwhelmed with my order.
Day 6 - The Lamoille Valley Rail Trail and Stowe Resort
We spent the morning taking a long walk on the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail which was a fraction of a mile from our AirBnB. On our visit, 33 miles of the final 93-mile trail were complete. We walked a portion heading a couple of miles northwest from Johnson VT. This portion runs alongside the Lamoille River and was quite lovely. Since it is completely flat, it was another great training hike for our son. But the best part for our son was the construction site where we ended our walk. Travelling with a two-year old really does make you see the world from a new perspective - and largely I just notice a lot more excavators and dump trucks than I ever knew existed pre-kids.
We got back to our AirBnB in time for lunch and a nap and then we headed out to explore Stowe Resort. Their Enchanted Forest Playground and beautifully maintained walking trails entertained us for a while before a very pricey and underwhelming dinner.
Day 7 - Moss Glen Falls and the Lamoille River
We started our day with a hike to Moss Glen Falls. With the exception of a very short steep climb to one view of the falls, this half mile hike was fairly level and another great training hike for our son. Past the falls is another great flat trail for those that would like to extend their walk. The falls are especially spectacular amongst the fall foliage.
After our hike we went back to Johnson for lunch and a nap. We spent the rest of the afternoon playing on the Lamoille River.
Flight from DC - I cashed in 60,000 United miles for our three plane tickets. The only expense to me was $33.60 in taxes. This would have cost $960 without the miles.
Rental Car and Gas - $300. I got two days free with Enterprise points I had acrued with my job. We only spent about $20 in gas. I upgraded to an SUV, but in hindsight, that wasn’t necessary.
Lodging - $180.95. I got five of our seven nights in Johnson free thanks to Capital One Venture miles.
Food and Drinks - $403. We generally ate one meal out a day and cooked the rest of our food at our AirBnB. This also includes all of our baby supplies - diapers, wipes, etc.
Activities - $95. This includes our tickets to the Echo Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, gondola ride, and Ben and Jerry’s tour.
Total for our family of four: $1012.55. That’s $36/person/day!