Traveling with a Toddler and a Teen: The DC Area

I’m probably not alone in this thought: traveling with kids is hard. It’s difficult regardless of the age of the child, but for me, the toddler years are rough when traveling. Add a teen to the mix, and it gets a bit more tough. Sure, the teen is more independent, but planning activities for two different age groups isn’t so simple. 

Our annual family summer trip was to the National Harbor in Maryland this year. We knew we wanted to visit Washington DC, but we didn’t want to stay in the busyness of the city, so the National Harbor seemed the perfect compromise. 

The National Harbor

The National Harbor is a new community nestled along the Potomac River near dozens of historic sites such as Georgetown, Mt. Vernon, Old Town Alexandria, and Washington DC. It offers plenty of dining and entertainment venues, as well as a carousel which gets kids unlimited rides for just $7 for the entire day (adults ride free with the child). MJ enjoyed several rides and I liked that with so much to do on the harbor, it wasn’t overly crowded. The carousel was great at keeping my toddler busy, but Xander and his teenage cousin wanted nothing to do with it. They opted for the nearby shops. 

For only $7 kids get unlimited carousel rides for the day

The Capitol Ferris Wheel is also on the harbor and takes guests 180 feet above the Potomac River waterfront to enjoy stunning views of the White House and Capitol, the National Mall, Arlington Cemetery, and the City of Alexandria. 

The Wyndham

The National Harbor was the perfect, family-friendly community for our stay. From the Wyndham, we were able to walk next door to CVS, walk across the street to have dinner, or take a stroll on along the water or watch a movie on the outdoor screen. 

The Wyndham Vacation Resorts offered a Lego Room for kids, an indoor and outdoor pool, as well as a baby pool, an arcade, and movie theatre. It was a very family-friendly resort and we stayed in a roomy 3 bedroom with 2 restrooms, a full kitchen, and a balcony overlooking the water.

The Lego Room at the Wyndham

No Car Seat! 
On our day trips to DC, we took several different modes of transportation: the metro, shuttle, tour bus, taxi and Uber. None were very toddler friendly. The metro was crowded and rushed and we found it difficult lugging the stroller and carrying MJ. We worried about safety in the taxi, shuttle and tour bus, because this was the first time MJ rode without a car seat. UberFamily offers vehicles with a car seat, but none were available when we needed them. Surprisingly, although we were worried about safety, toddlers riding in these modes of transportation with no car seat is perfectly legal. 

DC for Teens

There was lots to do in DC with teens. We visited the Spy Museum, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and all of the national monuments (the White House, Capitol Building, as well as the Lincoln, FDR, MLK, Marine, WWII, and Vietnam Memorials). Many of them we visited via DCTrails, where Henry “The Best Tour Guide Ever” gave us insight and historical sites on all the history of landmarks and monuments. The tour was one of the best decisions we made on the trip. The bus drives occupants right up to the monuments and we did not have to worry about parking, and our driver, Noe, navigated safely through the constant heavy traffic. It was an added bonus that DC Trails also had a bus that picked up guests from the Wyndham and several other hotels. 

Look for Henry “The Best Tour Guide Ever” on the DC Trails tours.

Washington DC was great for teens in my group and I was glad Xander got to learn about so much history and see the things that we read about in textbooks. This was a great age to visit. At 13 and 15, this is a trip they’ll actually remember. The Spy Museum was a favorite for everyone and had lots of interactive exhibits.It’s one of the few museums that is not free, but it was well worth it. Each museum guests assumes a secret identity with activities that follow. You’ll find lots of spy info and history, a small theatre, and fun gadgets in the gift shop. 

At the Spy Museum, everyone assumes a secret identity.

MJ did not always enjoy herself. She doesn’t sit still for long, so she squirmed through the bus rides and got in and out of the stroller throughout the day. She was not a fanof the crowds and cried when too many people were around. She was happy on and off, when not surrounded by crowds of people and able to move around freely.

The Reflecting Pool at the Lincoln Memorial

 Mount Vernon by Boat

Several boat cruises and water taxis depart from the National Harbor, and we were excited to learn that one of the boat tours was to Mount Vernon, the home of George and Martha Washington. A nice 45 minute ride with historical facts provided by the guide was both relaxing and educational for all 8 in our party. MJ enjoyed being on the water, but was upset that she couldn’t run around on the boat. My family and I loved the tour of the mansion. It was amazing to tour our first president’s home, walk the grounds of his estate, and enjoy reenactments. Touring the mansion was a definite highlight of my trip, but I can’t say the same for MJ. Staying on the path and walking slowing throughoutmansion was not an easy task for her. Animals are alive and well on the farm, and all the kids on the grounds seemed to enjoy the horses, sheep and bulls. 

Kids will enjoy seeing the sheep, bulls and horses at Mt. Vernon

Teens and adults will enjoy touring the mansion and the grounds of Mt.Vernon

Now, we’re from Texas and are accustomed to the heat, but the June weather in Virginia was a lot to bare. Walking the grounds in the direct sun was painful. It was well worth it to learn the history, see George and Martha’s tombs, and experience the spectacular views. 
Traveling with kids is hard, especially when the kids are of very different age groups. Toddlers and teens are worlds apart, and while DC was definitely more teen-friendly for us, luckily the National Harbor and the Wyndham allowed for more toddler-friendly activities.