Traveling with kids isn't easy, but we try to expose our children to as much outside of our own city as possible. Recently, we had an opportunity to take a trip to Galveston Island, which is about a four-hour drive from our home.

With three 3-year-olds and a 4-year-old, we knew the drive wouldn't be simple, but we've done it before. Back in October, we departed from Galveston when we took our magical Disney cruise. Only that time, we drove from San Antonio early in the morning and the kids were asleep. This time, they were wide awake.

What's that, Mama?

Though there isn't a ton to see along the freeway on the trek across Texas, you wouldn't know it by the number of questions that the kids asked along the way. "What's that sign, Mama?" "What's that building, Mama?" "What's that animal, Mama?" At first, I was thrilled that they were so inquisitive and thirsty for knowledge. By the third hour, I admit that naming each living organism and inanimate object along the way was too much.

Stocking up

For us, one of the keys to successful travel is making sure that the car is fully stocked. We leave the messy snacks at home. So that means no Cheetos that will leave orange smudges everywhere or bananas that can be smashed into the upholstery. This time, we gave each of them a Ziploc bag with apple slices, pretzels, nuts and other goodies. They begged for chocolate, but that was definitely crossed off the shopping list. Small toys and games also kept them occupied, as well as singing. How many times do you think a 3-year-old can sing the alphabet song is four hours?

Moody Gardens

The main event

The first time we traveled altogether as a family was just about six months ago when we took an RV trip and stayed at the beach in Port Aransas. We have also stayed at hotels fairly close by our home and we even spent the night at a cabin at an exotic zoo. However, other than the cruise, this was our first big family trip.

We had great accommodations at Moody Gardens Hotel and were super excited about scoring Moody Gardens Theme Park passes on Galveston Island. This theme park is a unique destination that features three different pyramids: the Aquarium Pyramid, the Discovery Pyramid and the Rainforest Pyramid. Also, on site are a number of other attractions including an 800-passenger authentic 1800's replica paddlewheel boat, a very cool 3D Theater, an incredible Ridefilm and a 4D Special FX Theater. In the summertime, families also enjoy their Palm Beach — a white sand beach with a wave pool, tower slides, lazy river and more.

Palm Beach

The hotel

When you have four kids — even when they are young — you usually need a suite or two adjoining rooms. At the Moody Gardens Hotel, we had the latter. The beds were comfy, the space was roomy and the amenities were top-notch. The hotel itself is gorgeous and offers everything you'd expect and more.

Little things that mean a lot^

Sometimes when you are in a hotel, it's the small things that make your stay a lot more comfortable and pleasant. Here are just a few little (but important) things you'll find in the rooms at the Moody Gardens Hotel.

  • Keurig single-cup coffee makers
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Plush bath robes
  • A strong hair dryer
  • Plenty of shampoo

Of course, the hotel has plenty of other pluses — from an incredible spa (gotta have some me time!) to heated indoor and outdoor pools.

Moody Gardens

The Aquarium Pyramid

Prior to this trip, we had visited Moody Gardens once before as a family (right after our cruise before heading back to San Antonio). However that time, we only ventured into the Aquarium Pyramid. This time, we were going to experience everything we could — starting once again in that big blue pyramid.

Inside the Aquarium Pyramid, you'll find everything from seals to stingrays to sharks. But our kids were interested primarily in one thing — the penguins. And the exciting part... we were scheduled for a Penguin Encounter.

Galveston Penguin Encounter

We were fortunate enough to get to go behind the scenes of the penguin exhibit. Not only did we see the penguins first-hand though a chain link gate, but we were ushered into a small, private room where we would meet one penguin up-close and personal. The biologist asked us if we wanted to meet a small penguin or a large penguin. We elected for a smaller (yet talkative) penguin named Marly.

Marly waddled into the room and she was much louder than I had imagined. The kids were a little startled and a little nervous, but a few moments later my youngest daughter was able to get right down with Marly, talk to her and pet her back. They all squealed with delight. My oldest son was also comfortable enough to rub Marly's back too. And though my other two children didn't want to touch the little penguin, they did love getting a close-up look.


The Rainforest Pyramid

Though the Aquarium Pyramid was amazing, the kids really enjoyed the other pyramids too. The Rainforest Pyramid is spectacular.

This pyramid is full of all kinds of wildlife, from gorgeous blue Macaws to colorful frogs and Chinese alligators to spectacular butterflies. As you walk through the pyramids, animals — from monkeys to birds — come right up to you.

Moody Gardens monkey

When my son saw the monkey coming toward us, he said, "Oh no, he got out of his cage." I replied, "No, actually we are in his cage." And he thought that was incredible!

Discovery Pyramid

The Discovery Pyramid

I can't forget to mention the Discovery Pyramid. I wasn't sure if my kids would like it at first, but they ended up loving it. Right now in this pyramid features JAM REMASTERED: The Science Behind Music.

The kids had an opportunity to play a variety of instruments: drums, pianos, violins and more. From whisper pipes to a karaoke stage, JAM REMASTERED is a very unique, hands-on experience. We ended up going back to the Discovery Pyramid on two consecutive days because the kids liked it so much.

Outside Moody Gardens

Though you could spend your entire stay on Galveston Island at Moody Gardens, there is so much else to see and do in the area. Of course, there is the beach and ocean for swimming, fishing and water sports. You can't miss the Galveston Duck Tours. This is a fun, narrated sightseeing adventure that takes you from land to water in the same vehicle! You'll tour Seawall Boulevard, Offatts Bayou, the historic downtown Strand shopping district and more.

Galveston Pleasure Pier

Pleasure Pier

The last day of our trip, we went to Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier. I loved that there were so many rides available for young kids — from bumper cars to Ferris wheels. And if you have older kids, don't worry because there are tons of thrill rides for them too.

Pleasure Pier is one of the few places in the world that has this many rides over the water. The kids enjoyed all the traditional carnival food and games too — filling up on pink cotton candy and soft-serve ice cream. You can visit the Pleasure Pier website to see all the rides and other attractions they offer. It even shows how tall the child must be to go on each ride. My youngest daughter was the most daring. We figured that she would be by her personality, but we didn't know how extreme it would be. She wasn't scared of anything and insisted on going "on the high one" over and over by herself, while the other kids were too scared to even get in line.

Winding down

Exposing your children to new places and experiences is a wonderful gift. I fondly remember all our cross-country road trips and other childhood vacations. Our trip to Galveston was just five days, but it was so full of action and adventure, and beautiful memories that will last a lifetime. My kids might not be seeing the world (yet), but at least they are seeing Texas.

More about traveling with kids

The tricks for a successful trip
Our big adventure: Road tripping with the family
Family-friendly resorts