From Sand to Snow: Driving From Las Vegas to Wyoming in Pictures

We are very happy to be settled into our rental in Wyoming’s Star Valley, and the contrasts from Las Vegas couldn’t be greater. After living in close proximity to neighbors in Europe over the past several months, and especially after being cooped up in a train for two weeks, having some room to roam is exactly what the kids need. The drive through Utah was rather snowy and slippery at times, but our CR-V handled the poor driving conditions very well. The wide-open spaces and snow-capped mountains of Western Wyoming have more than convinced us that we made the right choice for our next apartment, and we are eager to explore more of the surrounding area over the coming month. Here are some highlights of our drive:

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We couldn’t have asked for a better welcome to Wyoming than the friendly company of a neighboring dog and cat 🙂

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Limbo

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Personal entertainment systems on the Condor flight made the 12 hours go a lot smoother.

We flew back to the United States a week ago today and we are still in limbo. For the past week we have been trying to convince our bodies to adjust to the new time zone. However, it has not been easy and we find ourselves eating breakfast at 3am, while the rest of Las Vegas is still sound asleep. Our flight from Germany with Condor airlines went pretty well for a long distance haul with three kids. The staff on the airplane was wonderful, and Condor tries hard to make their youngest passengers happy.

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The staff on the plane gave out special activities and games just for kids.

As soon as we hit the ground we had to think about transportation. The days of trains are long behind us and our first objective back in the states was to buy a car. This was not a very fun process. We have all had enough of dealerships and sales lingo to last a lifetime. However, thanks to Five String and his wonderful negotiating skills we are now the proud owners of a Honda CRV.

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The newest member of our family.

The next objective was deciding where we are going to live next. The Younger Fives are quite fond of the many services that Las Vegas offers, especially the stunning libraries and playgrounds. However, Five Spice was having a really hard time committing to staying in such an urban area. We also had to consider how long to stay and whether we wanted to move away from vacation rentals and look at unfurnished houses. In the end these questions were just too much to tackle with our jet-lagged brains, and we decided to put the issue on hold for now.

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Three kids in a hotel room is getting really old! We can’t wait to let them run free in Wyoming.

In the meantime we found a great rental near Jackson Hole, Wyoming for the month of March. It will be a wonderful change to live in a house again, and eat meals consisting of more then sandwiches and cold cereal. We are bracing ourselves for the colder climate (it is sandal and t-shirt weather in Vegas), and are looking forward to introducing the new car to the gorgeous mountains of Wyoming.

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We took a big gamble and mailed the kid’s Lego collection from Croatia at the beginning of the month. It arrived today just in time for our trip to Wyoming. We were all very relieved!

The Fives Take to the Sky

We have just completed our first travel via airplane as a family and survived to post about it! All in all our journey from Las Vegas to Mexico flying Volaris airlines went pretty smoothly. However, there were a few moments of panic when we wondered what we were doing lugging three young children and all of our worldly possessions through crowded airports.

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When shouldering the weight of our collective baggage we definitely missed the Mazda5, which we are saddened to report stayed behind in Las Vegas. The Mazda5 was a true gem of a vehicle and brought us safely over many, many miles of varied terrain. However, when we arrived in Mexico City during rush hour traffic we were reminded of the benefits of public transportation. Five String, our esteemed driver for the past two years, had a huge smile on his face as he relaxed in the back of the taxi instead of behind the steering wheel.

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The things that worked really well for us during our two flights (Las Vegas to Mexico City and Mexico City to Tuxtla Gutiérrez) were bringing our own snacks and water onto the plane. We traded in our Kleen Kanteens for Vapur water bottles, which are completely collapsible. This way we could tuck them in our pockets and once we were through security fill them up before boarding the plane. Since planes are so dehydrating, we were really glad to have had full water bottles with us.

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We also found that wearing the kids out before the flight helped them stay calm and in their seats while in the air. In fact all three kids napped during both flights, which was awesome. Before take-off we let them run, jump, and take as many escalator rides as they wanted. Planning our flight times close to their usual quite time or rest period also helped.

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Watching Mexico City traffic roll by.

Things that we wished we had done differently and that we will work on before our next flight include not having a good mental map of the Mexico City airport. It was large and confusing and we could have saved ourselves a little stress by studying the map online ahead of time. We also realized that if possible direct flights are totally worth the extra money when traveling with kids. By the time we completed the first leg of the trip, took the shuttle to the hotel, figured out vegan meals while at the hotel, packed everyone back up, took the shuttle back to the airport, caught our next flight, and finally took a taxi to our new rental house in San Cristóbal de las Casas we were completely exhausted. Paying for a hotel for the night, feeding everyone, and going through the process of checking bags and going through security twice adds up and makes a direct flight look really appealing, even if it is more expensive.

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We still have way too much stuff!

So, for now we will continue to process what we learned so far from flying as a family. We have about five months in Mexico before we fly to Italy (direct flight this time). During this time we will definitely be lightening our load, slimming down our carry-on baggage, and coming up with ways to prepare the Younger Fives for 11 hours in the air. If anyone has tips or advice to share, please send it our way 🙂

One of the Best for Last

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Since we started traveling as a family we have visited ten of America’s National Parks. However, there are so many more that are still on our bucket list. Some will have to wait for another day, but one park that we all really wanted to explore before we left the U.S. was Zion National Park in Utah. A fellow blogger Kirstencan had posted about her family’s visit to Zion and it looked like one park not to miss. However, while in the area this past November we ran into snow and had to hurry south before we had a chance to make it to Zion.

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So, when we ended up with a rental in Las Vegas for the month we were super excited to find out that Zion National Park was only about a 2 hours drive away. While Nana Five was here this past week we blocked off a few days just for visiting the park. It turns out that the wait was well worth it, and Zion National Park now ranks up there as one of our top favorite National Parks.

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While we didn’t have weeks to explore the entire park and hit all the trails we still felt like we were able to get a really good overview of Zion in just two days. Our favorite hikes were the short but steep trail to Weeping Garden, the refreshingly cool River Walk, and the varied terrain and amazing vista of the Canyon Overlook trail. By far the kids most enjoyed playing along the Virgin River. They would have happily dug in the sand all day and none of us minded taking in the beauty of the park as we dipped our toes in the cold water. Another family favorite was the drive through the tunnel to the eastern section of the park where we all had a blast watching Big Horn Sheep and scrambling on the beautifully colored sandstone formations.

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We found Zion National Park to be very well organized, and even with all of the other visitors it didn’t feel crowded. The shuttle bus service through the canyon really helped alleviate traffic and it acted as a nice break for tired legs in between hikes. The windows of the shuttle bus offer exceptional views and there is a pre-recorded tour that gives great information about the parks history and features. Overall Zion National Park proved well worth the wait and we highly recommend putting it on your to-visit-list.

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The Secret to Recycling in Las Vegas

During our first few weeks at our rental house in Las Vegas we were surprised not to find any recycling bins near the trash containers. We figured that there had to be recycling services in such a large city. Seeing as we were going to be here for a month we began collecting all of our recyclable materials in the garage and figured that as we explored the city we were sure to find a place where we could recycle.

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As the month slipped away and the recycling piled up we still hadn’t come across any roll-away bins or drop-off recycling centers. Finally after sitting down to a bit of Internet research we found posts from a few people that had luck dropping off their household recycling at Republic Services located at 333 W Gowan Rd in North Las Vegas.

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Today as we loaded the back of our rental van with a month’s worth of recycling we were really hoping that Republic Services would pan out and not send us away. Fortunately dropping off our recycling couldn’t have been easier. We were met by a friendly employee who directed us towards several clearly marked blue bins where we could deposit our recycling. After some quick sorting we were on our way, happy that we had cracked the secret to recycling in Las Vegas.