Traveling With Kids – Tips and Tricks

We’ve done a lot of traveling with our girls in 2018 – for holidays, for Disney World, and sadly, for funerals. I have some tips that we’ve learned through our travels this year and every time that we’ve traveled.

Please note, I am not an expert. Not at all. And sometimes these tips work really well. And sometimes, life happens and nothing goes the way you think that it will…….

IMG_6961

1) Each kid gets a backpack. Not only does this ensure that they are able to bring things to entertain them in the car, on the airplane, however you are traveling, but it also ensures that they have the things that they want. Each girl is now old enough (6 and almost 4) that they are in charge of packing things that they want. But, they can only bring what fits in the backpack. This helps to keep the backseat from becoming a toy pile.

2) Make a checklist of things that you need to bring. I love Google Notes. I start working on a checklist before we leave and then mark them off as I pack. This way, I don’t end of staring at the suitcase wondering what else I need to bring. (Although, I still do that….just not as much as I used to….) Google Notes is great because you can also share it with someone else.

3) Snacks! Snacks are great because, in our family, being hangry is a very real problem.  We still bring our diaper bag on trips but our diaper bag (a backpack) is now filled with snacks, juice boxes, water bottles that can be refilled, and a change of clothes for each girl (because you never know what might happen). If you are staying at a hotel with a complimentary breakfast, grab a couple extra things to have in the hotel room for later. Granola bars, fruit, and dry cereal all make great snacks that you can grab from the hotel breakfast bar and enjoy later in the day.

4) Plan for a rainy day. There are always days when the weather will not cooperate with your plans and you might be stuck in your room for awhile. The Target Dollar Spot is my favorite spot to hit up before a trip so that I can stock up on fun stationary sets, stamps, stickers, etc. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. They don’t take up a lot of room in your luggage. And if you don’t use them, you simply take them home to use later.

5) Buy Ziploc baggies! I use them to pack things that might leak like shampoo or lotion bottles. I throw extras in the diaper bag in case we need to pack up wet clothes. (Also good if you are still in the diaper phase and can’t dispose of a dirty diaper right away.) The bags aren’t going to leak and they really don’t take up much space.

6) Be sure that everyone knows the plan but be ready for the plan to change. Yes, it’s fun to plan and plan and plan and plan. I love planning! But, it’s important to be flexible too.  Things happen. Plans have to change. And teaching kids how to deal with disappointment or change is an important part of traveling. Be ready for the unexpected but still plan for what you want to do. And let your kids be a part of the planning! When kids know what’s going to happen, they tend to feel less stress because they know what to expect. Or at least, they know what they can plan to expect.

7) Organize ahead of time and continue organizing while you are at your destination. I like to plan outfits in advance and then roll the outfits together when packing. That way, all that you have to do is pull out an outfit and go. Plus, if you’ve rolled the outfits together fairly tightly, they are most likely fairly wrinkle free! And that’s a huge plus. Because I don’t iron. Seriously. Ask my husband. I would rather hang a pair of pants in the bathroom to steam during showers for days on end instead of simply ironing them.

8) On the night that you arrive, take an hour and unpack what needs to be unpacked. I hang up things that I know should be hung up. We set up a spot for the backpacks to be stored. We designate a place for shoes. We designate a place for dirty laundry to get piled up. If everyone knows where the new homes for things are while traveling, it makes getting ready in the morning much easier. No searching and searching for shoes if everyone knows where the shoes go.

9) Take time to slow down. This is something that I am still working on. It’s so easy to just go, go, go, go all the time when traveling with kids. However, some of our favorite times are when we are just lounging by the pool, or watching shows while all piled in the hotel bed. Also, eating cookies in bed? Definitely something I only do while traveling but it’s also one of my favorite parts of a trip.

10) Try to find ways to keep the daily schedule similar to your at-home schedule. Eat at similar times. Try to go to bed at similar times (although this one is much harder to accomplish, in my opinion).

11) Do something that you haven’t done before! Yes, routine is great but travel is fun when you get to explore and try something that you haven’t done before. Eat new food! Visit new spots! Even when traveling to places that you’ve been to many times before, there are still opportunities to expand your horizons and try something new. And I recommend doing that!

12) If you are still traveling with big essentials (strollers, pack-n-play, car seats) make life as easy as you can. In some large travel destinations and some hotels, you can rent many of these items so you don’t have to travel with them. Babies are so small but all of their things take up so much space! And if you are traveling with a car seat and are using it on a plane (each time we’ve flown, we have had at least one car seat on the flight with us), invest in one of those straps that attach to your luggage. They aren’t very expensive and they make it so much easier to run through an airport. (Just google “car seat luggage strap” and you’ll get many options).

13) If possible, do a load of laundry during your trip. This means that you don’t have to pack as much in the beginning! And then you have room in your luggage to bring home more souvenirs! Sometimes, it’s just inevitable that you’ll need to do at least one load. If there’s a diaper blow-out or a car-sick incident, and you won’t be heading home a few days, you’re probably not going to want that yuck to just sit on the clothes until you get home. But look on the bright side, a load of laundry done while on your trip means one less that you’ll have to do as soon as you get home.

14) Have fun! This is, of course, the most important tip! Your kids will feed off of your energy, especially little ones. If you’re having fun, they will have fun. If you’re stressed, well, they are going to be stressed. And that’s going to lead to arguing, tantrums and all of that kind of fun behavior……

 

Now I want to know……what are your tips and tricks for traveling with kids? What works for you? What doesn’t work?

Advertisements

Finding All of the Green Food!

March means St. Patrick’s Day and the first signs of spring. (Also my baby sister’s birthday and my mom’s birthday!) The color green is everywhere! Green clothes worn on St. Patrick’s Day. The green leaves of tulips starting to come up. The Chicago River gets dyed green.

IMG_7393

Seriously! Look at that river! Soooooooooo green!

St. Patrick’s Day may be over but we still have more March. And you can still celebrate with green.

Are you searching for some green food? Well, let me help you out on your search!

1). Culver’s – Mint Concrete

IMG_7312

Get yourself a mint shake or concrete. This one pictured is a mint/Oreo concrete. Because, if you’re gonna have a concrete, adding Oreos is a pretty good plan.

2). McDonald’s – Shamrock Shake

IMG_7225

It’s the classic, right? Sort of tastes like mint. Sort of tastes like vanilla. Sort of tastes like sugar. Very very very green.

3. Public House – March’s Seasonal Cake Shake
IMG_7283

Yep. You want this. The cake shake has a piece of cake on top!!!!!! And has another whole piece of cake mixed into it. Plus – beer. Each month, Public House has a new crazy over-the-top cake shake. I’m looking forward to the April one because I’m guessing it’s going to be amazing.

4. Spunky Dunker’s – Easter Donut

IMG_7299

So, it’s not a St. Patrick’s Day themed donut but it sure is green (they do have a chocolate mint donut for the month of March if you want a little more of a minty-St.Patricks-taste). I originally thought that the jelly beans were just sitting on top….nope. The donut is basically hollowed out and has a jelly bean core. Yep. Lots of jelly beans.

5. Epic Burger – Green River float

IMG_7433

If you live in the Chicago area, you are probably already familiar with Green River soda. It’s green. Really green. And tastes kind of like lime jello (well, in may opinion it’s like lime jello). Well, for a very limited time, Epic Burger is turning it into a float. I actually like it better as a float – it kind of mellows out the lime flavor a bit. But, limited time means you need to get there soon! (Or Epic Burger, you could just offer it year round……just sayin’)

6. Labriola Cafe – Mint bar

IMG_7475

This one is not seasonal. You can get it whenever you want (or at least whenever they have it in their pastry case.) It’s super minty. Like astonishingly minty! So if you don’t really love mint, this might not be for you. But if you are a mint fan, go for it! Also, it’s huge!!!! So, you could definitely share. Or not.

 

Where are your favorite places to get green treats? Remember, March isn’t over yet!

Changing Up the Routine

It’s snowing. It’s actually snowing again. I, along with many in the Midwest, am just so done with winter. Come on spring! Let’s get going!

However, in the meantime, it’s time to get back into the workout routine. I took some time off after the the RunDisney Princess Half-Marathon weekend………

IMG_6913

19.3 miles in two days…..well, that’s the most that I have ever done in that amount of time. So, taking a rest was definitely ok with me.

My left foot was very sore in the days/weeks following the race weekend, so I’ve been taking it easy to let the (self-diagnosed) plantar fasciitis heal properly. No running. Lots of stretching. And lots of massaging with golf balls – rolling my foot over a golf ball really worked well to give a deep massage on the arch and heel of the foot!  – I am not a doctor and in most situations have no idea what I’m doing…..so please do not take that as medical advice. It’s just something that worked for me.

Since I am not currently training for something in particular, I am going to be changing up my workouts a bit more. Yes, I’ll hit the treadmill during the week and run outside on the weekends (as long as it’s not snowing……..) but I’m also planning on adding in some classes. I’ve never actually taken a workout class. So, it’s a bit nerve wracking to even think about. But, Yorktown Mall in Lombard (hey suburbanites!) has a really great deal right now where you can try out two classes at each of their fitness studios for free! You can find info about the program here.

So, who wants to look ridiculous with me in a class? Come join me!

Disney’s Art of Animation – Resort Review

So, as you may have previously read, my family recently took a trip to Disney for the RunDisney Princess Half-Marathon weekend. I did the Fairy Tale Challenge (10K and half-marathon) and the girls both participated in the kids races (100m and 200m). As we do whenever we travel to DisneyWorld, we stayed at a resort on the Disney grounds. Our hotel this time? Art of Animation.

IMG_6962

Upon entering the resort, you can see right away that the animation theme is in full effect. There are animation sketches on the walls of the lobby and on the chandeliers (some of my favorite chandeliers ever!)

IMG_6537

IMG_6547

There are four different sections with very distinct designs – Lion King, Finding Nemo, The Little Mermaid, and Cars. We stayed in a family suite in the Finding Nemo area. I will go ahead and say that I think that the Finding Nemo section is probably the best if you are staying with younger kids. It’s the closest to the big pool, the playground, and the quick service food option, store, and lobby. We have stayed in the Little Mermaid area before, and it’s a fun design but it’s definitely a longer walk. Long walks after a day at the park (or a day running) with small children and tired feet is always something to take into consideration when planning your stay.

Everything about the design is larger than life. The huge scale makes it feel as though you are a little fish in this big big world.

IMG_6647

IMG_6950

Of course, not all of the design elements are huge…..be on the lookout for hidden Mickeys!

IMG_6540

Hidden Mickey – in the bubble design of the carpet

Check out the pictures of the Finding Nemo family suite here. There was plenty of room  for the four adults and two kids that were staying with us. The girls slept on the table bed – I wish I could find a video of that thing unfolding so you could see just how easy it was to turn the table into a bed. Very easy and the girls slept very well. Ryan and I slept on the sleeper sofa. It wasn’t as comfortable as a bed. Sleeper sofas rarely are. But, I was exhausted each night so was able to fall asleep (except for when the pre-race jitters would keep me awake, which honestly was a large portion of each night.)

Also, since we stayed in the family suite, there was a kitchenette. Do not plan on preparing full meals using the kitchenette. But, it’s great to store and reheat some leftovers.

There is only one restaurant option here and this quick service option is ok. Lots of family friendly options and probably something to fit every craving that you are having at any time of day. However, at least when we were there, it seemed that no matter what time you were there to eat, there was absolutely no sense of urgency among the employees working there. Everything, from placing an order to paying for your food, took way more time than it needed to. When you are trying to feed a hungry kid or someone who just ran a half-marathon…..you really don’t want to wait in line longer than you need to. The lines were crazy during peak meal time but they were also crazy during every other time of the day as well. When you can see employees just standing around and talking when there are huge lines of people, it doesn’t really reflect well on your dining experience. (There was never a time when I saw every available register was open and being used…..that definitely would have cut down on the lines.)

One of the best parts of the quick service option is that you can take your food out to the pool. One night, for dinner, I grabbed a ready-to-go large cheese pizza and some drinks. This is actually a pretty good deal for Disney food because the pizza is huge! We brought leftovers back to the room. In addition, if you have the Disney dining plan, you will find many options to choose from for each meal and snack.

For the adults, perhaps one of the best parts of the pool area, is the pool bar!  The drinks were delicious and strong (!!!!!). And best of all , the bartenders all seemed to really enjoy their jobs. 🙂 You can enjoy your beverage in the bar area, or by the pool.

IMG_7129

The number one reason to stay on site when traveling to Disney, in my opinion, is the ease of transportation. Yes, the Disney design is fun and each resort has it’s own unique design and different level of Disney-ness. It’s always fun to keep the Disney atmosphere with you all day, whether or not you are in a park. However, transportation is key!

The schedule for the race weekends begins very early in the morning. Yes, on the morning of the half-marathon, I was on the bus at 3:30am. 3:30am. Gross. The early mornings were, well, really early.

IMG_6545

It was so nice to not have to worry about parking…..or driving anywhere during this weekend. However, the Disney transportation is definitely a benefit whenever you are staying. Some of the hotels have boat or monorail transportation to get you from the parks back to your hotel. And at some resorts, you are so close that you can simply walk to the park. However, they all have buses. We used the bus to get to the Expo, to the race starts, and to get to Disney Springs for dinner, snacks, and to see Black Panther.

Would we stay at Art of Animation again? Of course! This was already our second time staying at the resort. It is one of the Value resorts (very important!!), you get the ease of Disney transportation and a fun Disney design everywhere you turn. The girls loved coming back to the hotel room and seeing the giant Crush the Turtle right outside the door!

Key Takeaways:

Fun design. Very kid friendly. Loads of large character sculptures around the buildings and the pool.

Rooms are a fun design and can easily accommodate a large family.

Design is very Disney. Many of the resorts have a subtle Disney design. This is not one of one those resorts.

Food options are plentiful but be prepared to wait. And wait. And wait. And there is only one restaurant at the resort.

Transportation is right outside the lobby. Although Art of Animation only has buses at this time, they definitely get you where you need to go and you don’t need to worry about renting a car, driving, and parking.

 

 

Princess Race Weekend – My Experience

A week ago, we ventured down to Florida so that I could do one of my bucket list races. I did the Fairy Tale Challenge (previously known as the Glass Slipper Challenge). That means a 10k on Saturday and a half-marathon on Sunday. 19.3 miles in two days! To say that I was nervous beforehand would be an understatement.

IMG_6711

It’s dark in the picture because each morning’s races start at 5:30am. The transportation to the start area is really great if you are staying on site. It’s easy, but it’s early. You have to be on the bus by 3:30am (for the 10k) or 3:00am (for the half), sleep deprivation is an added obstacle to overcome for these races.

The 10K was a lot of fun. I took my time and didn’t push myself too much so that I wouldn’t start the next day being exhausted. I had some soreness in my left foot after the run but other than that, I felt good. (I have now self-diagnosed my left foot pain as plantar fasciitis.)

The 10K takes you around all of Epcot. You run outside of the park for the very beginning, but this part goes by quickly. Then, you get to see some of the actual park.

There are lots of characters on the path.

IMG_6740

But you have to wait in line to see them….and some lines are very very very long. (So, if you want to stop, know that it will change your finish time.)

IMG_6734

This is the line to see Pinocchio….that’s a long long long line.

After the 10K, we went to the kids races. Unfortunately, it was really hot. The kids races started at 10:30 with the 100m, then the 200m an hour later. I’m glad that neither of our girls were going to do the 1mile because that started at 1:00pm. The kids races were actually a bit unorganized. Big girl and I could barely hear anything while waiting for the 200m. When you have a big group of hot and sweaty kids with their hot and sweaty parents (who probably already ran that morning), people start to get grumpy really really quickly. Thankfully, there was a lot of water…and applesauce for the kiddos. GoGo Squeez was one of the big sponsors for the kids races so there was applesauce everywhere. My girls had more applesauce pouches during this weekend, then they probably have during the whole year. lol

…..

Sunday was the half-marathon. This one goes through Magic Kingdom which is really magical and then ends at Epcot. I, honestly, started to feel a little emotional when we ran through the castle!

However, a lot of this is actually just on highways and roads outside of the parks. Soooooooo much of this is not in a park – and it gets a bit boring. There aren’t as many characters to see on the course when you are outside of the parks. Seeing the characters every mile definitely helped the 10K to fly by…..so the half got a bit boring…..and hot……it got really hot on those roads. The heat is definitely not something that my Illinois winter training could have prepared me for.

………………..

Now that I’ve had a week to think about everything, I have started to come up with a plan for myself. I think that I would, in fact, want to do the Fairy Tale Challenge in the future. However, I need to get my pace time way down so that I can start in a different coral. There were 25,000 runners during the half-marathon. 25,000! For a back-of-the-pack runner like me, that meant that I didn’t cross the start line until an hour after the race had started. It also meant that I had an hour longer in the hot Florida sun. (The “real feel” temp on my phone said 89 when I crossed the finish line.)

It was a great weekend and I’m glad that I was able to do it. I’m still tired (still trying to get caught up with the lack of sleep). And, my foot is still hurting. (Trying to stay off of it for awhile and doing lots of stretching. 19.3 miles is a lot for two feet.) But, I’m so happy that I was able to experience this and, most importantly, I’m glad that I was able to share this weekend with my family! Having them with me made it even more magical – Ryan, my girls, and my parents!!

Now, on to the next race!! My goal is to get my 5k run time way down, then do the same for my 10k time. Then, it’ll be time to start training for my next half!