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Guest Book: Jeri Choi’s Family Friendly Tips

Jeri Choi has stayed at Getaway DC a number of times and we love how she’s made a new tradition for her family of four (soon to be five). We asked Jeri to share more about her experience with Getaway, as well as her favorite family-friendly places to stop along the way.

“Are we there yet?! Are we there yet?!”

Only 15 mins into our estimated 2-hour drive and we were already hearing the chants and giggles get louder from our 2 kids in the backseat.

The kids were so excited. We were on our way to the Getaway.

My husband and I try our best to catch up and talk to our kids at dinner each night and then pick up the conversation as part of their bedtime routine. We listen to them talk about their day, read them a book, and pray for them. But that time is never enough—there are always more stories from what happened at school and more jokes they want to share.

Especially during certain seasons of busyness, we find that we can lose ourselves crossing off to-do lists, following a strict schedule, and living by our Google Calendar all while making sure that the kids are fed, clean, and generally doing well.

It was one winter, during a particularly busy time, that my husband suggested we go away for a few days as a family. A getaway to the Getaway, to retreat as a family of four.

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Our very first trip actually took us close to 4 hours to get there. We stopped multiple times for bathroom breaks, for coffee, for gas, to change a diaper, and eventually got stuck in traffic because of the rain.

It was horrible. It’s not what I had planned or imagined. I wanted the two days away to be the best—about us, disconnecting from our busy lives and reconnecting as a family. But here we were, in traffic, spending the majority of it in a parked car on the highway.

The last stretch of traffic made our kids really antsy so we decided to take just one more stop before heading to our cabin. We stumbled upon a shopping center with a Target, about 35 minutes from the Getaway.

The kids ran down the aisles, getting out all their wiggles, following us as we looked around for diapers and milk. Moving through the aisles, our kids got a hold of different snacks and toys and continued to ask me if we could buy it. Annoyed from the rain and the cold, I didn’t even hear what they were asking, just responded with, “No. We have to go.”

Our daughter grabbed a box of cereal, tugged on my jacket and asked, “Can we get this for breakfast? I’ve always wanted to try unicorn marshmallows!” I quickly snapped back, “No! I planned to make pancakes so we’re having pancakes for breakfast.”

I saw her put it back on the shelf and she hopped back onto the cart as my husband pushed it. He turned around and smiled at me. I walked towards him and he put his arm around me and said to our kids, “Hey guys, let’s hurry up here so we can go!”

As we were checking out, our son started to cry. He was hungry. We were all hungry and we needed to eat dinner. In the same shopping center was Panera. We made our way over and sat down in the booth. Our daughter at this point was tired and started to wind down, putting her head on the table. Trying to revive her excitement and also to remind myself of why we came, I kept telling her, “Just wait! As soon as we get there, we are going to have so much fun!” She looked up at me and said, “Mama, but this is already fun!” Her face brightened up as she looked at me and continued to tell me stories of what happened at school—right where we left off the other night before bed.

I tried to hold back my tears as I was trying to eat my broccoli cheddar soup. The idea of wanting rest and connecting with my family looked effortless in my perfect schedule. I wanted to cross off my to-do list of our trip to find rest when really that would never give me peace.

Obviously, not following it made me unhappy—living like this would never make me happy. I needed to lay down my selfish and unreasonable expectations for myself, as a mom, as a wife, and for our family. There will always be a to-do list but only one moment in time when our kids are little. I just needed to be present for my daughter, for my family.

I apologized to my daughter for my crabby attitude. And my very keen daughter responded, “It’s ok mom. I forgive you. I get like that when I’m hungry too!” We left Panera with full stomachs and a new sense of excitement. Our last 30 minutes in the car were filled with singing, guessing games, and laughter. We were enjoying each others company and even decided to make one more stop at Sheetz to grab ice-cream for dessert!

We pulled up to our cabin and unloaded our bags. The kids had so much fun holding up flashlights for us to see the path from the car to the door. We were all wet and cold, but our cabin was warm inside and greeted us with a pleasant smell of wood and fresh bedsheets. We washed up, put the kids in their pajamas, and talked some more in bed. Right before falling asleep, our two-year-old son said, “this is the best ever.” And it was. It was the best ever.

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Since then, our family has gone two more times. We book our trips when we know we’ll have a busier season coming up for us. It’s become our new tradition. On the way to our cabin, we’ll all take turns sharing knock-knock jokes that we’ve been saving up, talk about school and work, share our hopes and dreams. We stop by that same Target from our first trip where our kids will each pick out a snack of their choice along with a box of cereal to eat for breakfast the next day. Then we make our way over to Panera to grab a bite to eat while talking about what we want to do during our stay.

Here are a few places we’ve stumbled upon either by accident, because of a bathroom break, or because one of our kids yelled, “Can we go there?!” We hope you and your family enjoy them as much as we do during your Getaway. We can’t wait to go back again but this time with our new baby!

Culpeper Colonnade (15295 Montanus Dr, Culpeper, VA 22701)
The shopping center we always stop by on the way. About 35 mins from the Getaway; has stores from Target, Dicks Sporting Goods to Panera, and Chik-fil-a.

Yoder’s Country Market (2105 S Seminole Trl. Madison, VA 22727)
It’s a market, deli, petting zoo, and also has a playground! For lunch, we drive 12 mins from our cabin to Yoder’s Country Market. The deli has great food and we’ll take some time to shop around for some snacks. The kids love the free petting zoo behind the market and when they’re done watching the goats and peacocks, they’ll make their way over to the playground. We’ll also grab Trickling Springs ice cream to enjoy on the rocking chairs in front of the market.

Moo-Thru (11402 James Madison Hwy. Remington, VA 22734)
Our family loves ice cream! We try to stop by Moo-Thru either on the way to the Getaway or on the way home from our trip because of the distance- about 45 minutes from the Outposts. If the weather is nice, the kids will run around outside or we will take a break under the pavilion to eat a packed meal and
enjoy our ice cream.

Sheetz (7020 Seminole Trl. Ruckersville, VA 22968)
I know its just a gas station and convenience store but its open 24 hours! It’s inevitable that you’ll forget to bring something, especially if you have children. We’ve made so many runs to Sheetz for all sorts of things, even in the middle of the night, just 15 minutes drive from the Outposts.

Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive (Swift Run Gap Entrance Station at Rt. 33)
The kids love to explore around our cabin and take pictures of interesting finds. We also run into other people staying at the Getaway walking their dogs and the kids love greeting them. But if we need to get out, we drive 15 minutes to enjoy the beautiful view at Shenandoah National Park.

S’mores and campfire (at the cabin)
One thing we look forward to is the campfire to make s’mores! Getaway is so kind and gifts you a s’mores kit, however, make sure to pack extra graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows because if you’re anything like our family, we can always eat more s’mores!

S'mores

For Your Free Time

Throwback Analog Activities For Kids

Most modern parents will tell you that the easiest way to placate a fussy child is with a smartphone. There are countless apps, YouTube videos, and educational games that can capture the attention of even the rowdiest toddler.

For generations, televisions were the stand-in home babysitters. Now, screens follow us everywhere: a 2017 study found that the amount of time young children in the United States spend with mobile screens has tripled in just four years—and that number is increasing.

Smartphone addiction impacts our brain and ability to focus, and the still-developing mind of a child is even more vulnerable. More time in front of screens also means less time for other activities, including playing outside, reading, or engaging in sports — which can negatively impact health and development.  

The solution?  Go retro with some of these fun analog activities with your kids to boost their brain development, increase their mental focus, and strengthen the bond between you —  all while having fun the good old-fashioned way.

Play a boardgame

Research shows that boardgames are one of the best things you can do to boost your child’s mental development. It teaches them logic and reasoning skills, it gives them an opportunity to learn how to win (or lose) gracefully, and it gives them space to practice critical thinking and/or spatial reasoning, depending on the game.

Even a game as simple as Go Fish can improve a child’s verbal communication skills and their focus and memory by requiring them to vocalize what they need, respond to others’ requests, and pay attention through people’s turns who are not their own.

Read together

Take turns reading a chapter out loud to one another, or read the same book side-by-side, one chapter at a time, discussing what happened at the end of each chapter.
This simple activity can help develop early analytical and critical thinking skills—no lesson plan necessary! Just ask them what they think about what happened, what they think will happen next, and how they feel about the book so far at the end of every chapter.  

Analog Toys

A nice option is to turn back to objects of distraction of yesteryear: think slinkys, Play-Doh, puppets, puzzles, bubbles, skipping rope, water balloons for summer, Twister and more.

The benefits of these throwback toys also extend to a sense of bonding. Show your child your favorite toy of your own childhood, and explain to them a time that wasn’t dominated by screens.

Explore nature

Spending time outdoors has been shown time and time again to support healthy development in a child – both mentally and physically.  

Physically, it’s great for kids to spend time running around outside. This is good for their heart, their lungs, and their growing muscles. Mentally, a child’s outlook on life as they grow older is greatly improved by spending time in nature. Studies show that even just taking a short walk every day boosts your mood and clarity of mind, which matters just as much for a child’s developing brain as it does for a stressed-out adult – maybe even more so.

Our ultimate recommendation?  Pack up your family, your favorite board games, comfortable shoes, and hit the road to unplug and escape to nature for a few days. You might have guessed that, though. For other recommendations, email them to us at [email protected]