This is the tale of an up and coming adventurer: Caylea. Caylea is our 9 year old niece, who lives in Oklahoma. Over Spring Break this year, we decided to give her the trip of a 9-year old’s dream!
As I mentioned, Caylea is our niece. She is the oldest cousin on Steph’s side of the family, daughter to Steph’s sister Jennifer. Caylea currently attends Sooner Elementary in Moore, Oklahoma. She is a sharp cookie, too! Caylea really enjoys school and was actually pretty excited to get back to school after her adventures in Colorado.
First Flight EVER!
Jennifer and I (Stephanie) decided that Caylea was old enough to make a solo trip out to Colorado via direct flight. We actually planned this trip about 2 months before Nate and I decided to move into an RV, so we did have to adjust some plans for that. Caylea is my oldest niece, and I wanted to do something special for her, since she was so sad when I left Oklahoma and has been guilt tripping me ever since! She’s a sweetheart 🙂
We planned the trip for her over Spring Break and gave her the flight information for her birthday last November! She was so stoked! Not only was she coming to Colorado to visit her FAVORITE aunt and uncle (wink wink), but she was also getting to come ALONE! Now, note that Caylea has never flown before, at all, so flying alone was a big feat! Not for her, though. She was cool as a cucumber when she landed! Needless to say, her mom and dad were nervous wrecks while she was in the air. Luckily it’s only about an hour and 20 minute flight from OKC to Denver.
So, something I’d like to note about the flight is that Southwest Airlines is AMAZING for solo kiddos (and for adults, but that’s for another post). When I booked her flight, it was simple to check the “Unaccompanied Minor (UM)” box and fill out the info for who was going to drop her off and pick her up. It’s just a $50 per way fee for a UM, and that is totally worth it. In comparison, most other airlines were about $150 per flight.
So, when Jennifer took her to the airport in OKC, they all checked in, mom and dad were given non-passenger passes to get through security, and Caylea was given a Southwest Airlines lanyard with a pouch so that she wouldn’t lose her flight info. They went through security without a problem and got to the gate. When they checked in, of course Caylea was going to be the first person on the flight, and she went down the terminal with the attendant to find her seat (second row, like a smart cookie, so she could keep her backpack with her!). Her flight was quick and easy, and she pretty much played on her phone the whole time. Once she got to Denver, I was there waiting to pick her up right at the gate! I Periscoped it, too (side note: if you aren’t on Periscope, you should be)! On our way out, I gave Caylea a quick tutorial of how to find your way in an airport. She caught on quick. Then we headed towards the mountains!
Day One: Ski School
The next morning, we got up bright and early, as we had a Ski and Ride lesson booked at Winter Park! Caylea was certainly not a fan of the ski boots, haha! Those definitely take some getting used to! Once she got fitted with skis, we put her backpack and other valuables into a locker and headed over to the ski school line. They attach GPS trackers to the kiddos, then pretty much tell the parents to get outta there! So, Nate and I met up with his cousins (Kolby and Tucker), who also happened to be in Winter Park for Spring Break! We skied with them until lunchtime, when I broke away to go check on Caylea. She was having a BLAST! But she was hungry, so she pretty much told me to get out of there, so I did.
After lunch, Nate and I, along with his cousins, decided to get some video of Caylea skiing. We hopped on the lift just a few groups in front of them, and then got to watch them to about halfway down the mountain. Caylea was doing so good; proud Auntie moment!! Then we got separated from them since they stopped in the family ski zone (i.e. very flat).
At the end of the day, we picked Caylea up and she was so exhausted! Poor thing! But she had a blast and loved every part of it (except walking in those stupid ski boots), so it was worth it. We had chili already cooking over at Kolby and Tucker’s hotel room, so we headed over there to hang out for a bit. Caylea had a bowl of chili then passed out.
Day Two: Ice Skating
We were all pretty tired the next day, so we slept in and then lazed about the RV for a while. The only real thing we had planned that day was ice skating lessons. Luckily, Caylea is about the same size foot as I am, so we just put my skates on her and took her over to the skating rink next to our RV park.
At first, Caylea was very rigid and wasn’t sure how to stand up on the skates. However, once we taught her to bend her knees and let her legs do the work, she actually did really well! She started to learn to push off with one foot while gliding on the other. I stayed beside her to help her out. Of course, I did let her fall a few times, just to get the hang of falling (and learning that it won’t kill her to fall). She did great and we all had a blast!
Day Three: Hiking
The third full day Caylea was with us, we took her up to Steamboat Springs to go hiking at Fish Creek Falls. It’s a pretty short hike to see the falls, but there are trails all around it so you can make it as long or short as you want. We started with the steep climb up to the falls viewing. It was a gorgeous view, but very well traveled. Since it was steep, we decided to glissade back down! Caylea had never glissaded (or butt sledding, as she dubbed it), so it was a great time for all of us!
After glissading down the original trail, we headed down to the lower trails, which were a bit less traveled, but still able to hike it without needing snowshoes. The trail to the falls on the lower end was gorgeous and full of beautiful views. We headed back around the longer trail to see if we could get to the top, but we all started getting tired and hungry before we reached it. Turns out, the trail we were on doesn’t go to the top of the falls, so I’m not mad that we turned around! Haha!
Our final day together was way too short. We had to leave Kremmling SUPER early (like 5 am early) to ensure we got Caylea to the airport on time. You never know with those mountain passes! We got up and hopped in the car and she promptly went back to sleep. When we got to Silverthorne, we stopped for breakfast at Dunkin’ Donuts. I know, super healthy. I do what I can. Anyway, we got to the airport with plenty of time to spare. So then we shot this video and said our goodbyes! I had a hard time leaving the airport after that. I was so sad to see her go, but I had such a good time and I know she had an amazing adventure! What stories she will tell when she gets back to school!
I highly recommend anyone who lives apart from their families to do one-on-one activities with them. I have always loved my family coming to visit, but this trip was special in its own, unique way. I know Caylea will remember it for a long time; she can’t wait to come back and bring her sissy! We are grateful that we are able to do things like this for our nieces, and we can’t wait till the other two are old enough to do it! Caylea loved living in the RV for a few days, and she learned several new skills. We had a wonderful time in the evenings, and Nate and I learned more about her. She is growing up so fast, and she is her own beautiful individual now. I just love it!
Until next time, #LiveVicariously through this 9-year old! Be sure to check us out on our other social sites as well, and subscribe for all of the juicy details of our adventures!