Traveling with Kids { The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC }

Easter in the mountains of North Carolina is always such a gorgeous time of year. Everything is just starting to bloom, none of the bugs have made their arrival, and warm and sunny days feel like an unbeatable treat. Plus, the mountains are just ALWAYS beautiful, so there’s that. When my husband’s parents mentioned taking a trip to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina as both an Easter get-away and a celebration of their fortieth wedding anniversary, we were delighted with the idea. It seemed a little funny to me to vacation where I grew up, but I’ve never actually stayed on the Biltmore Estate and knew it would be absolutely lovely. I wasn’t wrong. Traveling with kids, however, has definitely moved us into a new and different stage of life. Especially since this was actually our *first* vacation as a family of four! I felt a completely new appreciation of everything my mom has done in the past after coordinating the preparations for this trip. We definitely (and unfortunately) haven’t had many opportunities to travel much recently, so I felt like this was a BIG DEAL. I might have spent more than a little time researching ways to make it easier.

Spring at the Biltmore

Asheville was the ideal destination for our { traveling with kids } vacation.

Only a few hours away from Durham, the car trip wasn’t too terrible. I won’t lie: we dipped into many snacks and had to resort to some screen time for Povi, but all in all, not bad. It was also nice to be traveling during a warmer time of year. It wasn’t too hot yet, but also not cold enough to need to pack tons of coats and layers. Once Asheville gets through the rainy portion of spring, the weather tends to even out into warm and sunny days and refreshingly chilling evenings. In other words, perfect for exploring and then rejuvenating at night!

Vinco family all booked rooms at the Village Hotel on Biltmore. This particular hotel is adjacent to Antler Hill Village, which is a small collection of shops, the winery, a small farm with animals, a playground, and some trails. It’s probably the most child-friendly lodging on the estate. My biggest fear of the trip, I won’t lie, was how to deal with the sleeping arrangements. In the past, neither Povi nor Aidas have slept well when sharing a room with Vincas and me. Povi always thinks it’s time to party and Aidas just wakes up nonstop. Keeping this in mind, I made sure to bring along two pack ‘n plays, a sound machine, and a video monitor. I hoped to put Povi’s pack ‘n play in the bathroom, but the bathroom ended up not having a door (#fancyhotelproblems), so we scooted Povi’s pack ‘n play into the darkest corner of the room and decided to put Aidas in the spare bed instead, with pillows fencing him in. At night, we put Povi to bed first (later than normal so that he would be exhausted, and coupled with a long and comforting bed routine off books and songs to make the room seem less strange). We also blasted the sound machine. After he fell asleep, I wore Aidas and had the monitor going  while we hung out in a sibling’s room down the hall. I also had all our pajamas laid out for bed, so we could sneak ourselves in as unobtrusively as possible. Shockingly, we were completely successful and managed to get a great night of sleep each and every night! This in of itself makes me feel very optimistic about future travels.

I was crazy excited to just get out and wander the estate. Since I’ve toured the actual Biltmore House multiple times in the past, I left my husband and his siblings to go inside for the tour (Pro tip: They were able to buy discounted tickets at Costco before the trip!), while I took the boys out on the grounds. The last time I’d been on the estate I was young and single and childfree. Being there with kids is so different than being there by yourself. Instead of quietly meandering, buying myself a coffee to sip, and photographing everything I saw, I struggled hardcore with keeping two very active kiddos under control and wandering grounds that are not stroller friendly. Forgeeeet taking a million photos – I was lucky to pull out my camera once or twice! Things I should have done and did not prepare for: a) carried food and snacks with me at all times. b) dressed myself and both boys in thinner layers, seeing as the day warmed up quickly and c) not tried to go out with the boys by myself. 😂 Lesson learned. Regardless, it was still beautiful, even though I spent a crazy amount of time chasing Povi, trying to convince him to sit in the stroller, and wrestling with Aidas who just wanted to be free of any restraints. I also managed to meet up with a friend of mine, who was a great sport about helping chase down Povi every time he disappeared.

If you’re planning a vacation to the Biltmore, just keep in mind that there are many, many staircases and few ramps in the garden areas and your toddler will gleefully try to run everywhere. EVERYWHERE.

Family at the Biltmore

Easter Sunday itself was beautiful. Vincas and I decided to wake up early and attend mass at my home parish, the Basilica of St. Lawrence. I knew from experience that Easter mass is always PACKED and this time was no exception. Povi and Aidas both took turns screaming their way through mass. On a scale of one to mortifying, I might been ready to auction the kids off by the time the homily came to a conclusion. We had a lady sitting near us with a neck brace and Povi kicked her no less than three times. Since everyone was packed into the pews and the aisles so tightly, there was barely room to move, let alone get up and pace in the back. After mass, Vincas and I gratefully zoomed over to McDonalds for a quick breakfast, a jolt of caffeine, and a moment of peace while Povi happily dripped syrup on himself and guzzled his drink. Afterwards, we were able to relax at the hotel for a good hour or so before redressing the kids in their cute outfits and driving over to the Biltmore House Easter Egg hunt.

A word about the hunt: it’s kind of not worth it. You have hundreds of kids gathered around a small partitioned area that’s covered in eggs and everyone goes for it when the whistle blows. As someone who grew up actually hunting for eggs, this was hugely unimpressive. Many of my nieces and nephews got there too late for the hunt, so Vinco siblings gamefully created their own Easter egg hunt for the kids. Afterwards was my favorite part: since we were all dressed up and the gardens were shockingly empty (most people came for the hunt and then left immediately afterwards for lunch) we all wandered around a bit and took gorgeous photos. And you know me – I’m always a sucker for gorgeous photos!

Since we had six out of the seven siblings’ families there (one sister had just given birth in Chicago, so she wasn’t able to make it!) and only one spouse missing, we decided to try for a family photo in front of the Biltmore House. Povi’s face is epically awesome.

Family Reunion

If you’re attending the Easter egg hunt and are staying on the estate, another pro tip: don’t bother driving. You have to park super far away and take a trolley anyway. Since all the roads on the estate are one-way, this means that taking the trolley back to the parking lot will take roughly forty minutes. Yes, you read that right. Forty minutes. Driving anywhere on the estate takes a really, really long time. By the time we got back to the hotel after all the excitement, we were dying of thirst and ready to relax. Happily, Antler Hill Village had live music on their lawn and we spent the rest of the afternoon lazily laying in the grass and watching the kids dance, blow bubbles, and eat ice cream. It was the perfect leisurely afternoon after a busy morning!

Easter Egg hunt at the BiltmoreTwirling at the BiltmoreToddler Boy in Easter bestBiltmore Estate portraitsFamily at Biltmore

Anniversary PortraitFamily Easter Portrait

Despite the chaos of traveling with kids, I’m really glad we got to spend the holiday with Vinco family! Every night we would gather in someone’s room and chat about the day and about life. Since all of our rooms were close together, people were able to slowly put kids to bed and kick up their feet. Definitely more fun than going to bed early! I’m feeling good about how successfully we managed to pack and execute this trip – now time to start planning another one! What have been your favorite family get-aways with small children?

xox,

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