5 Sanity Saving Tips for Holiday Travel

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July 2. That was the date when it had seemed like a great idea to travel home to spend the kids Christmas Break with your family. Amidst pictures in your head of jammie wearing cousins snuggling on your mom’s couch on Christmas morning you bought the plane tickets.

Now, 2 days before you travel, you’re watching your two little angels bicker over which movie to watch and you’re panicking. School has only been out for 3 days and you’re already feeling your patience thin.

What if there are weather delays? That happens right? Not just in the movies. What if they fight and spill their juice on the person next to them? What if your 6 year old takes your 4 year olds doll away and she starts crying and everyone on the plane gives you the long suffering totally annoyed stare? What if your baby has a potty accident?…maybe the tickets are refundable…

Or, you could do a little pre-planning and have an amazing and stress free trip. Now that would totally rock! And then you could go ahead and buy those matching cousin jammies for Christmas Eve.

5 Easy Tips for Holiday Travel with Kids

1. The Go Bag
Put together a bag for each child that has new toys/books that they’ve never seen before. If they love coloring buy them a new book with a new set of crayons. The dollar store and the Target $1.00 bins are great places to source these items from.  Amazon is great too when you don’t want to run out and run another errand before your trip!  Mini Play-Doh cartons, individual lego kits, new books, all fairly inexpensive, but totally worth the peace and serenity each will earn.

2. Healthy Snacks
Traveling can be exhausting for everyone, the kiddo’s are no exception. Eating in the airport and on the go is not only expensive, but the unhealthy options will sap energy quickly. We’ve all seen the after math of a sugar crash, and it’s not a pretty sight. Have some non-sugary snacks available to help them keep their energy up throughout the day. The day before, buy some fruit and nuts if they are not allergic. Individual packs of mandarin oranges and peaches are great choices. (These count in the individual allowances for liquid carry-on’s if flying.) Favorite granola bars or a bag of granola is also easy carry.

3. Separate Seats
If you have button tiny button pushers, why not give them a little space? If possible, choose seats across the aisle, have one parent sit with each child. You’re close enough to be able to share resources and chat, but everyone gets a little personal space as well. If you’re a single parent traveling with 2 or more, take the middle seat and alternate the window turns on different flight segments.

4. Check in Early
Online check-in opens for most airlines 24 hours early. The earlier you check in the less likely you are to get “bumped” in the case of an oversold flight. Less time stranded in an airport unwillingly is a win win. It also ensures you have the greatest amount of time to verify your seat assignments and contact customer service as needed if you need to ask to be reasigned. Verify that you are all assigned together, then re-verify within 2 hours of your flight.

Remember, while you are purchasing a flight, the airline is not required to accommodate you seated together. Most will make every effort to do so, but don’t hesitate to ask if needed. Sometimes planes are swapped out for a new plane with a different seating configuration. The automated system might not have seated you together and a live agent can adjust those assignments.

5. Choose Flight Times Wisely
That 6 am flight seems like a great idea when you’re thinking of having the afternoon at your destination. However, when you take into account how early you really are going to have to get up to get ready and get to the airport, allowing sufficient time for longer security lines, is it really worth it? Why not treat the travel as an adventure. Allow extra time in between flights if you have a layover for a relaxed lunch. Explore the airports, most have kid play areas and art on display. Everyone will arrive a few hours later, but relaxed and in a better mood.

These are just a few suggestions to help you plan a great traveling experience with your family. What has worked for you in the past with your kids?

Tis’ The Season to Travel Jolly

This post is sponsored by Patterson Chrysler Dodge.  If you’re in the market for a new car visit PattersonChryslerDodge.com

Kid in the snow

The perfect Christmas scene begins with the scent of hot coffee brewing in the kitchen, lights twinkling brightly around a tree filled with bright baubles, the kids squealing in excitement as they unwrap their gifts, and most importantly, the whole family gathered around to share in the fun. This is the love, kindness, and magic we all hope to have during the season, but traveling to get there, isn’t always a warm and joyful experience. Here are some travel tips for the kids:

-Seasonal Snacks– Tis’ the season to indulge in delicious and festive holiday treats, right? Packing the kids adorable little snacks for the trip will make it fun and memorable while keeping stomachs full. Cookie cut sandwiches into a Christmas tree shape, have some “cold” hot chocolate by adding mini marshmallows to a jug of chocolate milk, put red and green M&M’s into the snack mix, the ideas are endless.

-Surprise Sacks-Pack a few brown paper lunch sacks with small stocking stuffers. On each bag write a certain time, for example the half way mark, once that time is reached allow the kids to open the sacks for a surprise. This will also allow you to get little items then can play with in the car or on a plane.  I completely recommend these Dover Little Sticker Books for less than $2 each,  Melissa & Doug Water Wow book, a rubik’s cube, and a fidget widget.

-Christmas Concert– Remember when we were young and would sing in the car? That never gets old, turn up your favorite holiday CD and belt out the songs as a family. Instruments are optional! (As you’ve heard me mention numerous times, Justin Roberts is THE go-to music for families! Trust me, you’ll love him!)

A sprinkle of creativity, a dash of joy, and a spoonful of love will guarantee a collection of new Christmas memories with your traveling family. Each of these tips is also a chance to teach about how priceless the time spent together truly is.

Happy Kids on Road Trips

This helpful post is sponsored by Hiley Volkswagon of Arlington.

Kids in the Car

There is nothing that spoils a road trip like an unhappy child – cooped up, cranky, bored and the kid’s aren’t too happy either. If you are going over 50 miles with kids under 12 you are going to want to have a game plan and load the car with plenty of kid friendly gear, food bribes, and fun activities. These tips are sure fire tools for success.

  • –  Comfort. At this point in parenthood you probably don’t need to be told to make sure the kids empty their bladder before leaving but just in case you need the reminder this is #1. If they say they don’t need to go, don’t trust them…MAKE THEM GO! After that is out of the way, be sure and dress them comfortably and cut out some of the complaining by putting them in loose, comfy clothes. Avoid tight waist bands, collared and buttoned up shirts, and anything that doesn’t support total comfort.
  • –  Snacks. Next you are going to want to pack snacks – Preferably items that won’t completely destroy your vehicles interior. Nothing sticky, oozing, or hard to clean.  Dried fruit, fruit snacks, pretzels, goldfish, and  juice boxes. Wet wipes and hand sanitizer are also must have items. Let them pack some items they want to have along for the ride-grab a small backpack or basket that will fit in the backseat and let them choose items like crayons and paper, their favorite book, doll, or handheld game (don’t forget the headphones). Dollar store cookie sheets make great activity trays for the road, throw on some magnets and you have a busy board that will keep kids from toddlers to tweens busy.
  • –  Music and Movies. Let them have a turn choosing music and the movies if you have portable dvd players in the car.  Keep in mind that it is their trip too and allowing them to have some say so will lead to increased cooperation (just choose movies ahead of time that you can tolerate, if not enjoy).
  • – Play games WITH them.  Punch Buggy, License Plate Bingo, anything to pass time and keep their minds occupied.  Who can spot the most pickups in 20 minutes?  How many yellow cars are in the state of North Carolina? Make them up as you go, be a part of the fun and you might find the trip goes faster for you too.
  • – Sing songs together.  Justin Robert’s music is our all time favorite.  If you have kids and HATE “kid’s music” you have to check this out!  Fun music that will have you reminiscing of your own childhood and singing the songs to yourself when you’re not even around your kids.
  • –  Stop occasionally. Kids are meant to move, it is cruel and unusual to strap them in and expect them to stay within the confines of a seat belt or car seat for 10 hours. Every once in awhile find a rest stop or even a park, let everyone out to stretch their arms and legs, have a run or quick game of catch if possible to get the blood pumping and burn off some energy (be sure to pack a football, a jump rope, or a Frisbee for stops).  This will make the time in the car a little easier to handle.

If you’re a pro traveler with kids I would love to hear what tips and tricks that have worked for you!

America’s Best Road Trips

This post is brought to you by SheridanFordSales.com

There’s nothing like a good old fashioned road trip with your windows cranked down and the music cranked up.  What better way is there the see the beautiful United States of America (excluding a flight to Hawaii of course!)?  Now that that’s settled all that’s left to do is take off work, pick where to go, and head out on that open road.  To help you choose I’m listing a handful of America’s Best Road Trips!

Grand Canyon

  •  –  The Grand Canyon, Arizona.  Ever since the Brady’s visited there on TV Land I’ve wanted to visit. I’ll just make sure not to get lost like Bobby and Cindy did.

Amish Country

  • –  The Amish Country, Homes, OH.  If you’re wanting to get off the grid for a while and enjoy life a the slower place this is a great place to visit.  Their food is delicious and their craftsmanship is to be admired.

The Blue Ridge Parkway

  • –  The Blue Ridge Parkway which stretches 469 miles along the Appalachian Mountains and connects two national parks, North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains and Virginia’s Shenandoah.

Overseas Highway

  • –  Key West, Florida by way of U.S. Route 1 or better known as the Overseas Highway.  This is a gorgeous stretch of road that I would love to visit some day!

Maine's Coastline

  • –  Maine. I would love to visit Maine in the fall but I hear Maine’s coastline is lovely all year long.  There would be plenty of fun spotting light houses and enjoying fresh lobster.

Red Rock Scenic Byway

  • –  Red Rock Scenic Byway, starts at Sedona, Arizona.  This 7.5 mile stretch is a beauty!

Route 66

  • –  Route 66, Illinois to California.  Go get your kicks on Route 66.

Million Dollar Highway

  • –  Million Dollar Highway, Silverton to Ouray, Colorado.  This section of U.S. Highway 550 reaches more than two miles above sea level as it weaves its way between two historic gold-mining towns. It’s breath-taking because of the view and the altitude.

I know I’ve had to have left off some superior destinations because our country is so vast and beautiful! Please let me know what else I should have included in the comments below!

Things to Do With Kids in Houston, Texas

With Kids in Houston Texas

During this year’s travels, if you and the family find yourself near Houston, Texas, you will definitely want to stop and see the sights.  Houston is an important part of American history, with great attractions for every member of the family!  Here are just a handful of the great places you may want to check out in Houston.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston  is perfect for the art aficionado in the family.  With works ranging from ancient civilizations, Renaissance works by Rembrandt, to artists like Chardin, de Goya, and Rousseau, to photography by the likes of Stieglitz, there’s a bit of everything in their collection.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science will satisfy the nature lover and dinosaur enthusiasts.  With the recently updated Burke Baker Planetarium, you can get a view of the stars like none other, even in the middle of the city!  Explore the globe with collections of artifacts from all over the world.  Learn how energy is developed, see rare and exceptional gems, glimpse into ancient Egypt, explore the hall of dinosaurs, and more, all in one place!

Head over to the Children’s Museum of Houston to win over the kids, and ensure a nap on the drive home.  The entire family can explore hands on exhibits with themed areas ranging from a mountain village in Mexico to the busy modern city of Kidtropolis.  Learn about electricity, change the flow of water and air, and create your own inventions to take home!  There’s even a toddler area for the little ones who prefer a different kind of play.

History sightseers will appreciate the Battleship Texas State Historic Site.  Right next to the San Jacinto Battleground Historic Site, the Battleship features the USS Texas, a storied battleship built in 1912.  The Texas has been involved in actions in Mexico, was in the North Sea during World War I, and was used extensively in World War II, including the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.  It was the first battleship to launch an aircraft, and is the only surviving dreadnaught battleship from WWI.  Definitely a unique experience!

– Downtown Aquarium is a restaurant and attraction all in one.  Grab a bite to eat, then wander through a number of exhibits ranging from the Louisiana Bayou to a sunken 17th century Spanish galleon!  With a number of different regional exhibits and special experiences like a sunken temple to explore, the entire family is bound to be amazed.  Then head into the Stingray Reef, where you can reach into shallow pools and touch and feed live stingrays!

Houston, we have a problem.  We can’t talk about Houston without mentioning Space Center Houston, the official NASA visitor center for the Johnson Space Center!  Visit exhibits about numerous shuttles, astronauts, and missions.  Then catch the Stellar Science Show, explore the space shuttle, and get a behind the scenes look at the technology that makes space travel happen.  Not enough?  While you’re there you can actually touch a piece of the moon brought back by the Apollo 17 crew!

This helpful post brought to you by Northwest Dodge Houston.

Car Essentials for Day Trips With Kids

Essentials for Day Trips with Kids

Summer is here, and that means the kids are out of school, the weather is hot, and it’s time to take some fun day trips! Whether you’re going for a day at the park or a cross country vacation, it’s a good idea to keep some items in the car, ready to go at all times. Now, there are plenty of mechanic kits and emergency boxes available to get all your tools, flares, and other break-down necessities in order. Those are important, but today we’re going to be talking about some extra items to keep around just for summer trips with the kids.

Water
The first thing you always want to have in summer is a good supply of water. If the car breaks down, you’re going to get hot and thirsty, and you’ll be glad you have it on hand. Busted or leaking radiator? Let the car cool down, add water, drive, repeat. This isn’t a long term fix – don’t leave the house with this as the game plan. But if the car starts to overheat and you just need to get the family home, water will save the day. Even when the car runs perfectly, water will come in handy! After a day at the beach, a bottle of water is perfect for rinsing off sandy feet before getting in the car. If the kids have a sporting event or get a little hot while playing, pouring a little water over their heads can cool them off and clean them up.

Toys
Keeping some toys the kids like in the car will be useful in multiple ways. Having some outdoor toys like a ball will give you a chance to spontaneously play with the kids at a park or field on the way home from errands. Toys will even help out in case of a break down! A few indoor toys will keep the kids entertained while Mommy and Daddy figure out the car troubles. Choose some toys that don’t take up a lot of space and that the children are ok leaving in the car, that way they don’t get taken out and end up missing when you really need them.

Sifter
Speaking of toys, visit the toy aisle during the summer season and buy a sand sifter to keep in the trunk. Sure, it will be tons of fun if you happen to have a day at the beach. But where this item really shines is when someone loses something on the beach, in the sandbox, or a gravel or dirt playground. You simply reached down to pick up your toddler who’s doing everything in their power to stay in the sand box for the next three weeks, when suddenly your wedding ring slips off into the sand. The kicks and flails of toddler legs pushes the ring under the surface, and it’s gone. Having a sifter in the car will save you hours of frustrated searching.

Cups
Finally, keep a steady supply of paper cups in the car. You’ll need cups if you keep a gallon jug of water in the car and need a drink. Kids screaming for a snack the entire trip, claiming their stomachs are going to explode? Use cups to separate a trail mix bag from the gas station, or as an easier to handle container for some chicken nuggets. Keep one in the cup holder as a mini trash can, then take some to the sand to build a castle. If you forgot the toys and get desperate, you can even set the kids to stacking up cup pyramids. The uses for a simple cup are endless!

Now think about the places you go, and what items you’ve thought “ugh, if only I had one with me now this would be a lot easier,” and find a way to add them into your summer car kit!

This helpful post is brought to you by Sandoval Buick GMC.

Summer Vacation Checklist

This post was written by me in partnership with Westbury Toyota.

Summer Vacation Checklist

The summer comin’… I’m the first one standin’ in line.  Why, yes, yes I am quoting (actually singing) a line from the old 90’s song by Clint Black, Summer’s Comin’!  That song gets stuck in my head every summer and this year it’s lodged itself in there early.  I’m already anticipating the outdoor summer fun my family will have, our annual trip to the mountains, and maybe even a quick trip to the beach.

Along with the long-anticipated summer vacation comes the necessary – boring – uneventful preparation.  You don’t want to get to your beach house and wonder if you forgot to take the trash out and worry that you’ll home home to a house that smells rotten.  With all the excitement that comes with hitting the road it’s important to remember to tie up some loose ends so you can fully relax later.  Remember the movie Home Alone?  Don’t let that happen to you.  No child left behind!

1. Bring skin protection

Pack sunscreen, bug repellent, sunglasses, first-aid kit (or at least band-aids), pain relievers, and a hat.  Don’t forget the basics.

2. Stop the mail

This tip is particularly important for longer trips or if you’re someone who gets a lot of packages.  The U.S Postal Service even has an online request form for the hold mail service that keeps your mail while you’re away.

3. Set up an OOO reply

Take advantage of your email’s auto-respond feature and set up a short and sweet out of office reply so that those who email you will know you’re away from your computer for a few days.

4. Bring your power chargers

Actually, it might be a good idea if you skip this one and intentionally leave all electronic devices at home.  However, if you want to have a working electronic gadget, don’t forget and leave your charger at home!

5. Close your curtains

This keeps nosey neighbors from peeking in.

6. Don’t forget upcoming bills

You’ll want to pay any upcoming bills before you leave town.  The last thing you want to find when you return from a relaxing vacation is a late fee.

7. Make copies

Make copies of all the important information you need to have on you.  Possibly passports, credit card information, itineraries, confirmation numbers, insurance cards, and emergency medical information. Having a copy of important information can be helpful in case you run into problems. You might also want to give a copy of your itinerary to a close friend who might need to reach you in case of an emergency.

8. Tidy up before you leave

It’s a good idea to take out the trash and recycling before you leave your home.  Making your bed, emptying the sink of dirty dishes, and straightening the house will be extra work now but it will allow you to walk in from your relaxing vacation smiling.  There’s no reason to be stressed upon your arrival home!

9. Get your car a tune up

Go to your dealership and make sure your car is up to date.  Make sure there aren’t any recalls and your oil is changed.

10. Fill up the tank

Last but not least, fill up your car with snacks and fill up your gas tank with gas.

Did I leave anything off?  If I did please include it in the comments below.

Things to Do in Milwaukie, Oregon with Kids

Things to do in Milwaukie, Oregon with kids

Milwaukie is a quaint little city in Clackamas County, Oregon.  With only a little over 20,000 people living in the city this is a great friendly place to visit.  I’ve visited there briefly for a friend’s wedding and loved the area and the kindness of the people.  I was even able to see George Strait’s son at the rodeo at the county fair.  Fun memories!  If your family is taking a trip to Milwaukie Oregon, check out these attractions!

  1. The Portland Aquarium – What person doesn’t like an aquarium?  If they exist, I haven’t met them!  The wonder of wildlife is always alluring to kids young and old.
  2. Milwaukie Museum – Take a stroll back into time and explore some history at the Milwaukie Museum.
  3. Milwaukie Farmer’s Market – Featuring over 75 vendors, Milwaukie Farmer’s Market offers a variety of items including fresh produce, baked goods, plants and handmade items. The market also provides live music and services including massage and face painting.  Fun for the whole family!
  4. Tour Bob’s Red Mill – Our family uses a lot of Bob’s Red Mill products and I would love to tour their traditional stone-milling facility that makes organic and gluten-free products.  You can end the tour with a nice trip to their store or restaurant to enjoy their delicious products.
  5. Foothills Park – Enjoy the beauty that this riverfront park has to offer!  It spans 9 acres on the Willamette River. The park boasts of a large grass amphitheater, a picnic pavilion, walking trails, a pier lookout, and a boating dock.  This sounds like a relaxing place to spend the day.
  6. Take a Drive – While, this isn’t native to Oregon, taking a drive with the windows down is always an enjoyable way to spend a lazy summer day!

If you’re in the market for a new or pre-owned vehicle in the Milwaukie area, visit the McLoughlin Chevy dealership, our partner for this feature.

Things to Do With Kids in Columbus Ohio

Things to do with kids in Columbus, Ohio

If you’re visiting or driving through the city of Columbus, Ohio you might want to slow down and stop to see some of these attractions. Here are a handful of interesting and family friendly locations.

  •  –  Visit the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium – It is a good spot where family members get to hand feed the giraffes in the Heart of Africa section. In addition, the zoo has the Zoombezi Bay where children can splash and cool off in a wave pool.  How fun!
  • –  Visit the Santa Maria Park – You can introduce your children to a real piece of history.  In this park, children can see the 500 year old ship that Columbus used in his trip to the United States!  Families can even go inside the ship to get a sense for what life would have been like in the 15th century.
  • –  Enjoy Candy as your family tours the Antony Thomas Candy Company – The factory offers family and educational tours. You will also enjoy gift boxed chocolates and see how candy is made and packaged.
  • –  Eat Out at the City’s Finest Restaurants – Select an exotic cuisine for your family and try it out. Columbus is rich with Portuguese history, so you are sure to find some delicious Portuguese cuisines there.
  • –  Visit Easton Town Center If you love shopping, this is the place to go.  I’ve been before and it is easily one of the best malls, if not the best mall, I’ve ever been too!
  • Visit German Village It’s an opportunity to feel like you’re visited Germany without having to step foot on an airplane!
  • –  Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens Trip Advisor visitors have given it 4.5 out of 5 stars.  It’s easily agreed that this place is gorgeous and worthy of a visit.

If you’re in the market for a new or pre-owned vehicle in the Columbus area, visit the Sandoval Buick GMC dealership, our partner for this feature. 

Tips for Traveling With Kids

Tips for Traveling with Kids

The holidays are upon us.  Ladies, lock and load ‘cause we’re hittin’ the road. We are traveling with kids.

I thought I would share my tips and tricks for traveling successfully with the kiddos.

  • 1.  Prep

I know this goes against the grain of the wild adventurer in every one of us, but seriously, you are cruisin’ for a bruisin’ if you don’t know where you’re going or what your doing on the trip. These are not the days of the road trip when we had the luxury of packing the essentials and hitting the road.

Most likely you are intentional about where you want to go and what you’re going to do, but the amenities of those places you will frequent are worth their weight in goal. Number one priority – a playplace. Have you planned a place to let your smunchkins out to roam, to get out the wiggles. Is there a good rest stop that can provide a run and roam area? How often do you need to stop on the way? Planning stops along the way can be crucial to a happy crew.

  • 2.  Protect

If you still want your vehicle to be in one piece after your return home, I suggest that you use protective covers on your car’s fabric features. There are expensive seat covers to protect the car’s fabric from kids’ spills, but you can also use a fitted crib mattress sheet. This is cheap, probably something you have on hand, and can be easily thrown into the wash.

I also like to put down old towels on the floor areas where my kids might drop something or to catch the snack crumbs. I don’t do this all the time because I don’t like a junky car, but it’s nice when your car is home on a long trip.

  • 3.  Pack

Pack your items in such a way that you can grab the essentials at a moment’s notice. You need to be able to get to your toiletries and an extra set of clothes in case junior decides to get carsick and go projectile on your clothes. Vivid but true…

Also, if room provides, make sure that you think through where you could change baby’s diaper if need be. If you’re tight on space, you can always change baby in one of the front seats when you’re not sitting in it. And pack those extra diapers. I’m constantly tucking Huggies in side pockets, nooks, and crannies like a little squirrel just in case we sometime forget to have diapers. Silly, but I’d rather be prepared.

  • 4.  Pennies

If you have a child at the begging age, you know it’s important to have some money set aside. We collect our pennies and loose change for trips, and then hubby and I decide on what we’d like to use it on. Sometimes it’s what the kids are whining for… within reason ;), sometimes it’s something special we planned. Either way, it’s nice to have cushion change that didn’t come from the budget.
 
What did I leave out? Let me know what your essential traveling habits are!