We are knee deep in Tahoe season! Last year we were lucky enough to bring our two kids (then just about ~10 months and just over two-years-old) to Tahoe for two great family weekends. With kids that young, your probably not hitting the slopes all day. But the trip to the mountains can still be a lot of fun!
My tips and takeaways below:
Packing the Car Really Well
If you have never been to Tahoe before, or you have been lucky enough not to have been caught in a snowstorm or car accident traffic on your way there – you might not know that a 5 or 6 hour drive can quite easily and legitimately turn into a 8-13 hour drive. The routes to Tahoe are fickle and the winter weather can be unpredictable. There are a few things you should remember when planning for your trip.
- If you don’t have 4-wheel drive, you might be required to put chains on your tires the closer you get to the lake. You can buy these ahead of time, and sometimes along the way – so bring cash. Normally they sell for $40-60 bucks for a regular sized cars/tires.
- Bring a small cooler with lots of water and snacks. Especially with kids! Getting stuck in a lot of traffic or a snow storm can be a really serious thing on those icey, one-lane roads leading up to the mountains.
- Pack enough (+extra!) diapers for your babies, and bring a portable potty seat for your older babes. Also, pro-tip for the to-go potty – bring those disposable bags so you aren’t cleaning crap from a plastic toilet on the side of the road in sleet.
- Have an emergency kit for your car, if you don’t already. This winter one is most applicable for trips to the mountains.
- Always have a first aid kit in your car.
- Do not forget the ice scraper! We have made this mistake before and it is a pain in the butt (and super ineffective) to try to clean off your windows/car with the sleeve of your jacket after a night parked outside.
- The stroller – when we were headed up to Tahoe the first time with the kids I was hesitant to bring the stroller. I mean, we weren’t even going to use it right? We brought it anyway, just in case, and I am glad we packed it in. It would have been nearly impossible to get our really young kids and all our stuff from the car into the lodge (and up to the room!) without a set of wheels. If you have older kids, that’s not necessary – leave it at home. You won’t be using it otherwise. If you have a wagon with awesome tires for the snow, I’d trade for that! (Check out the best strollers for winter weather here).
- Bring a lightweight sled with you – no matter where you stay, you can pull your kids around outside for some casual fun.
- Chargers, chargers, chargers. Bring phone chargers for the car! Enough said.
- Medications. Don’t forget medications! I mean, whatever they normally need – down to Infant Tylenol. Our 10 month old ended up with an ear infection while we were in Tahoe and we were SOOOOOOO thankful to have some meds handy for him! (There is walk-in clinic at the base of Squaw if you need it!)
Where to Stay
Squaw Creek Resort is a great place to stay with kids. Mostly because it is a huge hotel with lots of space to run around and get energy out without having to be outside. Though going outside at this lovely resort is a great option too with a heated pool, hot tub and ice skating rink! They have multiple places to eat, a gift store and a big lobby with board games and evening music. There is also a whole level of conference rooms/ballrooms (that were mostly empty when we were there) that can be fun to explore with ansty kids. You can also get on the slopes RIGHT from outside the backdoor (buy your pass downstairs next to the ski rental shop) – as well as find some fun independent sledding behind the hotel! We pulled the kids around in the snow outside for some great fun!
Con: You are not at the base of the Village at Squaw meaning you are away from the hustle and bustle, tram, and ski lessons. However, the Resort has a free shuttle back and forth from the back-side of the hotel.
The Village at Squaw at the base of Squaw can be super fun. And also, very close to Starbucks if you are addicted like I am.
You are definitely smack dab in the middle of it all! The Village at Squaw rents regular rooms, as well as suites, so you can get more space for a family and reap the benefits of having a small kitchen (which was super necessary without kiddos). I even had packed some healthy breakfast foods and easy lunch items in our cooler when we stayed here so that the kids didn’t have to eat out “junky” (and expensive) food for every meal during our trip.
Staying at the base was fun because we could see a lot of excitements, skiers coming down the mountain, music outside at some of the restaurants, snowplows in the morning (oh my gosh were my kids excited about that!), and we took them “sledding” (er, pulled) around the village for some fun. The hotel also has covered underground parking which is awesome for keeping your car protected from the headache of an icy snowstorm. They also have a tiny, tiny little playroom on the first floor you can access with your key card. Don’t get overly excited about this space, but at least it’s something.
Rent an Airbnb. We didn’t rent a house or condo during either of our trips because we ended up with deals on the hotels above – but we wouldn’t have ruled it out! Getting a bigger space to yourself, or to share with friends or family is such a wonderful idea! Having a washer/dryer/kitchen and more room to spread out with kids goes a long, long way in winter weather! Tahoe has some shuttle services that are worth checking out – ask the host of your rental if they are close to a stop for the slopes to avoid having to drive from the rental to the mountain.
Check out South Lake
The hotels I discussed above are both in North Lake Tahoe – where we like the stay normally. But, South Lake is also such a gem!! There is an outside ice skating rink open to all, outdoor firepits, Casinos (some with play spaces for kids) and access to the lake beaches for a pretty winter view! There are some more options for airbnbs within a more “walkable” area than in North Lake and the lifts to the mountain can be found right at the center of the south lake village area.
What to Do
Ski lessons are open to children at different mountains for various price points. You can book private lessons or group lessons – but most children need to be over the age of 3 or 4 depending on the regulations of that ski school.
If you are bringing younger children to the mountain, skiing might not be an option. Plan to bring your own sled for some outside play, try ice skating, sip on some hot cocoa, bring up a few favorite winter/holiday movies for kids to snuggle up together on the couch, get out there to play in the snow (snowman time!), or find some other gems along the way like an indoor pool (or heated outdoor pool), catching some winter fireworks, take a ride on the tram, or for older kids – minisnow mobiles, and tubing are awesome options!
If the parents want to hit the slopes for at least a few hours, plan ahead for some childcare. You can have the best of both worlds but going out on the slopes early in the morning before the lines and crowds are hindering, and coming in after lunch for some family time.
Ask around on your mother’s groups first – has anyone had a great babysitter in the Tahoe area before? There are plenty of folks who will come to your airbnb or hotel room to help care for your kids while you hit the trials. Try scoping out Care.com a week or two prior to your trip – leaving time for you to Facetime Interview and call references for anyone you find on there. You can even run a background check if you leave enough time. Tahoe’s “All About Kids” site also lists a bunch of great options in the area. I have personally heard a lot about “Tahoe Nanny” – you can reach her here.
If you are worried about the kids in a hotel room with a new sitter, bring your own Nest camera with you and hook it up to he hotel wifi. You’d be able to access this “baby monitor” or “nanny cam” from your phone from the chairlift!
What to Bring
Portable Bed Options
Babies & Toddlers
- Lotus Travel Crib ~$200
- BABY JOY Baby Playpen, Ultra-Light Aluminum Portable Travel Crib ~$90
- BABYBJORN Travel Crib Light ~$300
- JOOVY New Room2 Portable Playard $125
- Graco Pack n’ Play ~$150
Toddlers & Young Kids
- EnerPlex Kids Inflatable Toddler Travel Bed with High Speed Pump, Portable Air Mattress for Kids ~$65
- Little Sleepy Head Toddler Inflatable Bed, Perfect Kids Travel Bed ~$60
The Privacy/Darkness Factors
If your children are anything like mine, they need darkness to sleep!
Also, I can’t be hanging out on the bed next to them trying to scroll through my phone while they fall asleep – it is really just not happening.
They need to be alone (or at least feel like they are alone!) and need a lack of distractions (like people and a cool hotel room full of new fun stuff to break, lick or jump on). Hotel rooms don’t lend well to this like of nap time or early bedtime for our wee ones.
There are so many problems with kids in hotel rooms, am I right? Once they are asleep – what, then I can’t walk around or move or watch my iPad for fear of disrupting them at 8:00 pm? We obviously can’t leave so we are just all stuck there being quiet, sitting in the dark at sunset. Ugh.
It’s true – travel can be tough if you don’t have space where you can all safely spread out. There are a few products on the market that can totally help you out!
- SnoozeShade Pack N Play Crib Canopy and Tent | Breathable Netting Sleep and Cover Shade ~$90
- SlumberPod Privacy Pod for Traveling with Babies and Toddlers ~$155
- Milliard Darkening Tent for Pack N Play, Baby Playard Canopy with Safety Vents ~$31
- Alvantor Canopy Bed Dream Privacy Space Twin Size Sleeping Tents Indoor Pop Up Portable Frame ~$90
- Privacy Pop Bed Tent ~$129
If your babes will have their own room (honestly, a laundry room, walk-in closet, and bathroom all count when I say room…), consider using temporary blackout shades on the windows if need be:
- AmazonBasics Portable Baby Travel Window Blackout Blind Shades with Suction Cups ~$25
- Jahoot Blackout Window Cling Film ~$12
- BOBOTOGO Blackout Pleated Shade ~$30
A Pack of Toys
We brought a foldable bin of toys/books and games and couldn’t be more thankful that we did! Don’t assume they will be entertained by looking out the window at the snow the whole time.
On the Sunday we were suppose to leave during our last trip of the season, a huge snowstorm hit and all the roads closed. We were totally stuck. I have never been more thankful for having extra snacks, formula and especially diapers. And being able to call out from work on Monday without it being a total disaster….
Although Tahoe isn’t totally remote and you could definitely find these items – we were in the middle of an incredible snowstorm and venturing out to get these things would have been tough, if not nearly impossible. Plan for extras!
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