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…….

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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?

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Michigan Vacation and the Summer Checklist

We recently took a trip to the Harbor Country area of Michigan. It was a great trip and we were able to get a couple big things checked off of the summer list.

We had a beach day. And a couple beach nights in which we went back down to the beach to check out the sunset. (If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve already seen these. Click here to follow me on Instagram.)

We also had a morning of blueberry picking. It was a lot of fun and the girls picked (and ate) a lot of blueberries. When we got home, we made muffins after big girl helped me to sort out all that we had picked.

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So many blueberries!

I used a new recipe that you can find here. Not gonna lie, they are really good and when they are baking they smell amazing (!!!!!!!!).

(After making the muffins, we sorted out two sandwich baggies full of blueberries to eat right away and a gallon sized freezer bag full in the freezer to use throughout the coming months.)

The list thus far:

  • Make lemonade.
  • Eat at Big Bowl.
  • Go to Millennium Park.
  • Go to Adler Planetarium.
  • Get space ice cream.
  • Go to zoo.
  • Go to Shedd Aquarium.
  • Go bowling.
  • Make banana pudding.
  • Go to the splash pads downtown.
  • Play at Maggie Daley playground.
  • Go to Field Museum.
  • Go to Art Institute and do a JourneyMaker tour.
  • Go swimming.
  • Go to the Children’s Museum.
  • Play at playground.
  • Have a pajama day (with daddy.)
  • See a movie at the movie theater.
  • See a movie outside.
  • Go to the library.
  • Go to the Family Festival downtown Chicago.
  • Make cookies.
  • Read books at home.
  • Ride the train at the mall.
  • Go to the beach.
  • Have a picnic.
  • Go to American Girl Place.
  • Draw pictures and cut them out.
  • Play with legos.
  • Make muffins.
  • Make pasta salad.
  • Play with toys.
  • Go to a festival.
  • Try to go to a water park.
  • Go to the Disney store downtown Chicago.
  • Eat at Rainforest Cafe.
  • Eat at Labriola Cafe.
  • Bake an apple pie.
  • Play games on the iPad.
  • Play Mario game with daddy.
  • Go to the Morton Arboretum.
  • Go to Mimi and Pa’s house.
  • Go to Granny and Pa’s house.
  • Go on a hike.
  • Go to the Museum of Science and Industry.

Swimming in the River – Summer Checklist Update #8

Our final day of our camping adventure, the girls were able to go swimming in the Meramec River. Now, I won’t count this afternoon adventure as “going to the beach” because the beach is basically gone. I have memories of hanging out at the riverside beach for a whole day but the Meramec River and the surrounding area had some immense flooding in the spring. The beach is gone!

But, the girls were able to swim around and wade into the river (which is now much more shallow in the parts that we were at.)

The checklist thus far:

  • Make lemonade.
  • Eat at Big Bowl.
  • Go to Millennium Park.
  • Go to Adler Planetarium.
  • Get space ice cream.
  • Go to zoo.
  • Go to Shedd Aquarium.
  • Go bowling.
  • Make banana pudding.
  • Go to the splash pads downtown.
  • Play at Maggie Daley playground.
  • Go to Field Museum.
  • Go to Art Institute and do a JourneyMaker tour.
  • Go swimming.
  • Go to the Children’s Museum.
  • Play at playground.
  • Have a pajama day (with daddy.)
  • See a movie at the movie theater.
  • See a movie outside.
  • Go to the library.
  • Go to the Family Festival downtown Chicago.
  • Make cookies.
  • Read books at home.
  • Ride the train at the mall.
  • Go to the beach.
  • Have a picnic.
  • Go to American Girl Place.
  • Draw pictures and cut them out.
  • Play with legos.
  • Make muffins.
  • Make pasta salad.
  • Play with toys.
  • Go to a festival.
  • Try to go to a water park.
  • Go to the Disney store downtown Chicago.
  • Eat at Rainforest Cafe.
  • Eat at Labriola Cafe.
  • Bake an apple pie.
  • Play games on the iPad.
  • Play Mario game with daddy.
  • Go to the Morton Arboretum.
  • Go to Mimi and Pa’s house.
  • Go to Granny and Pa’s house.
  • Go on a hike.
  • Go to the Museum of Science and Industry.

 

Joys of Taking a Break

This year, more than many other years, I have really really really needed this Christmas break. But, now, I actually have time to do some reading….some non-grad school reading. I can sit down and look at recipes (although I haven’t really tried out any yet). I am going to make an effort to take better care of myself in 2017 so that I can be better for everyone else who need me. In the meantime, Amy Poehler and a toasty fire in the fireplace are helping greatly.

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Vacation Preparation – So Many Movies

Our guest room (also known as the grandparent’s room since that’s where they sleep when they stay over), has become the prep room for our upcoming Disney trip. There are suitcases stacked up, piles of clothes waiting to be packed, and toiletries in various piles. But, we’ve been prepping for this trip for the majority of the summer. We watch a lot of Disney films in our house but a lot of times we end of watching and rewatching and rewatching and rewatching the same ones over and over again (Frozen….Tangled….anything with Tinker Bell in it.) One of our Disney prepping activites has been to watch as many movies as we can.

So far…..

  • Bedknobs and Broomsticks
  • Brave
  • Brother Bear
  • Brother Bear 2
  • A Bug’s Life
  • Cars Toons: Mater’s Tall Tales
  • Chicken Little
  • The Emperor’s New Groove
  • Fantasia
  • Fantasia 2000
  • Finding Dory
  • Finding Nemo
  • The Fox and the Hound 2
  • Frozen
  • Hercules
  • The Incredibles
  • Inside Out
  • Lady and the Tramp
  • Legend of the Neverbeast
  • Lero & Stitch
  • Lilo & Stitch
  • Lilo & Stitch II: Stitch Has a Glitch
  • The Lion King
  • The Little Mermaid
  • Kronk’s New Groove
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie-The-Pooh
  • Mary Poppins
  • Mickey and the Beanstalk
  • Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers
  • Mickey’s House of Villains
  • Monsters, Inc.
  • Mulan
  • Mulan II
  • Muppet Movie
  • Piglet’s Big Movie
  • Pooh’s Heffalump Movie
  • Robin Hood
  • Secret of the Wings
  • Short Films Collection
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • Stitch! The Movie
  • Tangled
  • Tarzan
  • Tarzan & Jane
  • Tarzan 2
  • Tinker Bell
  • Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue
  • Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure
  • Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy
  • Toy Story
  • Toy Story 2
  • Toy Story 3
  • Up
  • Wall-E
  • Winnie-The-Pooh

And…..countless episodes of Doc McStuffins, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Little Einsteins, Octonauts, Sofia the First.

A lot of these are ones that we own, some we watched on Disney Channel and some were on Netflix. (Also, I love Netflix!!!)

I think we’re ready………Now to just get the actual packing finished…..

A Staycation Vacation Downtown

With the economy being the way that it is, staying close to home on vacations has become more and more popular.  The new term “staycation” means staying at home on vacations or taking day trips.  Ryan and I were very lucky this past weekend as our wedding anniversary coincided with some great deals on hotels downtown for Memorial Day weekend.  One of those deals was at the Swissotel.  Normally, rooms in this fancy downtown Chicago hotel can start at $229 and can go up to $399.  Needless to say, this is not a hotel that we would normally stay at as it would be way out of our budget.  I come from a family that swears by Holiday Inn Express.  The Swissotel is a huge leap from Holiday Inn Express.

We booked two nights at the Swissotel.  We made reservations for our anniversary dinner at the Publican. We had a great last minute dinner at The Purple Pig.  We saw a movie and we took advantage of our membership at the Art Institute (that I purchased using Groupon last year) to see the Matisse exhibit.  We came back to the hotel just on time to see the Saturday night fireworks at Navy Pier from our hotel room.  It was a very nice weekend.  But, even though it was a lovely weekend, I was a bit surprised when I woke up this morning and felt that sadness that I normally feel when a week long vacation in a different city/state/country ends.

Ryan and I didn’t travel very far for our vacation.  We just went downtown in our own city.  However, we made it a special weekend by staying in a hotel that we would not normally stay in.  We were able to pretend to be tourists in our own city and were able to see this area of town with new eyes.

The economy isn’t going to turn around very quickly.  More and more families will choose to stay in their own town for a vacation.  But, if you think of it as a true vacation and not as your only choice due to the economy or other needs, a staycation can be just as fun, relaxing, educational, busy, or whatever you want your vacation to be.

A Perfect Weekend