Without a doubt, Thumball gains more attention from other travelers than any other product we’ve ever used. On our most recent trip people stopped us time and time again to inquire about our Thumball. Not only that, we drew Continue reading Friday Favorite- Thumball→
As my kids get older, some aspects of travel are getting easier. For example, I no longer have to pack diapers. In addition to that, they understand how to behave in most settings (not that they always do!) However, keeping them entertained during road trips and air travel remains the same. In fact, in some ways it’s more difficult now because they no longer nap to fill the time.
With that in mind, I’m always on the lookout for new ideas to keep them busy. We try to do at least a 50/50 ratio with technology time when we travel. So when they aren’t watching a movie or playing a game on their iPad, I need other things to occupy their time.
I recently ran into the Crayola Dry Erase Travel Pack and instantly knew I’d found a gem of a product. For starters, it’s specifically designed for travel. The mat is “fold and go” style with little storage hoops for the markers. The convenient, all-in-one design helps save space. It also eliminates the hassle of loosing markers!
The Crayola Dry Erase Travel Pack comes with 4 mini dry-erase markers, and a dry-erase cloth. The Travel Pack is ultra lightweight and about the size of a book. The markers erase easily with the cloth without water. And the board is ready for it’s next use.
*I’ve mentioned this before so in case you’re wondering- I still do not allow markers in my car. I’m crazy, but it’s one of my pet peeves. IF I were the type of person who allowed markers in my car, this would be absolutely perfect! That said, I will use this product exclusively for air travel.*
Have you ever noticed how much water costs when you purchase it randomly? I mean, seriously, for what it costs to hydrate my family for a day on vacation I could water my entire lawn every day for a month! You could really add a line item to the vacation budget just for “bottled water” for our family of 4. Consequently, we’ve become more conscious of ways to save money on water when we travel.
By taking a few steps ahead of time, we save hundreds on our bottled water budget! Here are a few things we consider prior to our travel:
Know The Rules: By simply researching the location ahead of time, you will know if it’s okay to bring water. Some theme parks actually welcome you to bring your own. Likewise, it’s good to know that airport security will not allow liquids past the screening point. Additionally, some venues have become extremely strict on what they allow while others have not. Check websites and look for sections titled “Frequently Asked Questions.” Often that is where you can located the beverage policies.
BYOW: By all means, if you’re allowed BRING YOUR OWN WATER! Paying astronomical prices for something so inexpensive is inexcusable when you have the option.
Water Bottles: If you are going to a place that doesn’t allow you to bring water, attempt to bring your own water bottle. It is easy to fill your water bottles at a water fountain inside the park or venue. Water bottles also allow you the convenience of not having to stop to refill often. If space is going to be an issue, consider purchasing a few collapsable cups. We’ve found that our kids think it’s a huge adventure to use these special cups, and it prevents arguments at the water fountain.
Sharpie: If bringing your own water or water bottles is completely out of the question, bring a sharpie. Yes, you will still have to spend money purchasing 1 round of drinks for everyone. However, instead of getting them mixed up and subsequently wasted, writing names allows you to use the same bottle all day. Again, see the paragraph above about filling water bottles at a water fountain.
Grocery Store Water: If we are going on a road trip we make room for a pack somewhere in our car. It’s amazing, for the same price we would pay for 1 or 2 waters at a gas station, we purchase a whole pack of 24!
Buy Smart: If you decide you need to purchase a bottled water somewhere, you pay anywhere from $2 to $5. Now, some places will give you a water (tap) without a purchase. However, those places are few and far between these days. But consider taking the same money you would have spent on water and put it towards a food purchase. Often times, with a food purchase, places are willing to give you a water.
At the end of the day, water is SO important. It’s not worth making your family sick in order to save a few dollars when traveling. On the other hand, when you can put in a little planning effort to save money it’s always helpful!
Have you found any additional tricks to avoid overspending on bottled water when traveling?
The calendar says ‘November’ which means the holiday season has officially begun. A recent study conducted by Orbitz concludes that between Thanksgiving and Christmas 72% of Americans will travel. Many will travel to be with family. While others will travel for an exciting getaway. (And how lucky are those whose travel is a combination of both! I keep trying to tell our family that we’d visit more often if they moved to the Bahamas! Ha!)
Of course, the best way to keep kids entertained and happy during the travel portion of a vacation is to plan ahead. Preparing some simple activities, games or other time occupiers help a road trip or air travel to be more enjoyable for everyone. Likewise, unique ideas for snacks and other forms of entertainment always help long travel be more pleasant.
In searching for new ideas, I hit the jackpot of all blog posts. Back in June, The Dating Divas rounded up 101 of the best tips and ideas for travel. Although many were not new to me, I couldn’t believe how many I’d never thought of before. Similarly, having them all together in one spot for reference simplifies the preparation work.
A few of my favorite new ideas included:
#7 Kid Clips For Road Trips
#10 Road Map on the Car Ceiling
#40 Travel Chalk (I would modify this a tad since chalk in the car sounds messy/dusty. However, I’ve never thought to bring chalk along for stops.)
#59 Printable Sewing Cards
#80 Postcard Travel Journal
#98 Snack Necklace
Visit the full post HERE for details on all of these ideas, and TONS more tips. This is seriously the best, most complete list I’ve ever seen!
Today’s Favorite Travel Product: States And Capitals Christian Wipe-Clean Book
For me, a large part of travel includes educating my kids. I want my kids to learn about our country and our world through experience. But, at the same time, there’s an element of memorization through home activities that adds value to their experiences. Additionally, practicing what they learn helps reinforce what we’ve learned through travel.
While there are A LOT of resources to help kids with states and capitals, this book is the best! Here are a few reasons why I love this States And Capitals Book:
Multiple Activities: This book contains multiple activities for kids to help reinforce the names of states and capitals. There is a word search, matching, labeling, and a word scramble for kids to practice. Additionally, kids can fill out information about their own state including the governor and historical figures from the state.
Christian: This States and Capitals book has a Christian theme throughout every page. From the words “In God We Trust” to a psalm, every page points to God. Our country was founded on Christian principal and despite the current political culture, I want my kids to know the principals that shaped our government.
Wipe-Clean: My kids have an obsession with dry erase markers. While I don’t fully understand the appeal, any activity involving them is a favorite for the kids. I also love that my 4-year old can “try” with these pages without fear of messing up.
Song: Along with the book, your purchase includes a downloadable praise song to help memorize the states and capitals. This song alone is worth the price of the activity book!
Visit this website to purchase a copy of the States and Capitals Christian Wipe-Clean Book:
As much as I hate to admit it, fall is officially in full swing. Even in the south, leaves are changing and the calendar keeps moving deeper into September.
Though I dislike the cooler weather, even I will admit there’s nothing more beautiful than fall foliage. And nothing cuter than kids with leaves!
Although I won’t even pretend to understand the complexities behind this weather phenomenon, rumor has it that this year’s fall foliage is expected to be the best in decades.
If you’re looking for some great spots to leaf-view this season, here are 18 places I recommend:
Skyline Drive (Blue Ridge Parkway), Virginia
Napa Valley, California
Litchfield Hills, Connecticut
Great Smokey Mountain National Park, Tennessee
Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, New Mexico
Adirondacks, New York
The Berkshires, Massachusetts
Acadia National Park, Maine
Lost Maple State Natural Area, Texas
Upper Peninsula, Michigan
The Ozarks, Missouri
Lake Champlain Islands, Vermont
Fayetteville, West Virginia
Chattahoochee National Forest, Georgia
Glacier National Park, Montana
I know, 18 is an odd number of places to recommend. 10 wasn’t quite enough. Then I ambitiously decided I’d do 50 before realizing there are some states that don’t even deserve honorable mention when it comes to fall foliage (hello, Florida!) Also, I decided not to duplicate any state. Although, I could have easily listed Vermont locations for all 18 places on the list!
Road trips are my favorite way to view fall foliage. We always try to plan travel during peak leaf changing season even if the foliage itself isn’t our destination. Taking scenic routes on the way to your destination will provide beautiful backdrops.
Always pull your car over at an overlook to snap pictures and capture all the fall colors! And, of course, get a few pictures of your kids with the falling leaves!
Where is your favorite place to view fall foliage?
I know I typically plug a very specific product on my “Friday Favorites” post. However, today I’m just highlighting the general concept of audiobooks.
2 members of our family absolutely love them. And 2 don’t. I’ll try to avoid throwing the ones who don’t under the bus…because, well, I’d be under the bus. That being said, my daughter and husband absolutely love them. They engross themselves in the book and completely lose track of time. This is particularly awesome on a long car trip because before they realize it, we’ve arrived at our destination.
Our family sticks to two different types of audiobooks. One option: a family friendly fictional read that everyone from a 4-year old, to a parent will enjoy. Our other go-to book category: a super boring (my words) business book. My husband listens intently, and the rest of the car goes to sleep! Occasionally we also get biography or historical books to add a little education to our road trips.
Here are a few places we like to get audiobooks:
Library: The library is our favorite place because the selection is great and it’s free. Typically you can keep an audiobook for 3 weeks which allows us to travel for lengthy periods of time. Most libraries also let you renew books not on hold at least once.
Cracker Barrel: Renting audiobooks at Cracker Barrel is also another awesome, convenient and economic option. You pay $20 to “rent” the book. By saving your receipt you are offered a full refund minus $3 per week, for the book upon its return. Another advantage of this program is that you are able to return the books to any Cracker Barrel location.
Discount Bins: I don’t usually like to buy audiobooks because I don’t love to store them. However, every once in a while I come across a price too good to pass up. Keep your eyes open for discount bins located in stores with an electronics section (such as Walmart or Target.)
Amazon Audible: This App allows you to stream audiobooks. If you are a Prime member, this is a free service you receive. Others can sign up for 30-day or 3 month trials (depending on when you sign up.)
Does your family enjoy listening to audiobooks during travel?
For the last 46 days our family has been eating gluten free. Thankfully, an allergy didn’t force the GF diet upon us, but rather a desperate need for some diet modification. It’s a fairly long story that I’ll save for another post, but choosing to eat healthier was the bottom line.
My excitement level started high. And, even better, my children somehow saw being GF as an extreme privilege. I planned. I shopped. I printed out recipes and stocked our home with all GF products. I loved it because I felt great about the meals I fed my family every day.
A couple weeks into our new lifestyle, we hit a little hiccup. We went on a vacation. It was a short, 2 day vacation, but a trip away from our house nonetheless. I had no intention of cooking on this vacation. You see, we didn’t get a hotel room with a kitchenette. We didn’t even get a room with a fridge. Since we’d previously eaten out for an occasional meal, I didn’t quite see the difficulty in being GF on vacation.
Eating multiple meals out required a bit of planning. And, I’ll be honest, I hadn’t planned ahead. Our family had a few frustrating moments on this particular vacation. All in all, we made it work. Our family didn’t starve and we maintained the strict diet away from home. But, I did learn, the importance of finding several go-to options. Lots of restaurants offer Gluten Free options. Additionally, many meals are GF by nature which makes choosing food easy.
Here are a few suggestions of gluten free meals we found easily when traveling:
Any Mexican Restaurant: Tons of Mexican dishes are naturally gluten free. The main ingredient in most chips at Mexican restaurants is corn. Also, substituting a corn tortilla for a flour one, makes many other dishes GF. Of course, you will need to worry about any type of sauce or spices used to cook the meats (if you are eating a very strict GF diet.) We love finding hole-in-the-wall places, but we also enjoy Moe’s, Chipotle, and Tijuana Flats.
Many Pizza Restaurants: Not only do pizza restaurants typically offer great salads, many offer a GF crust. GF pizza crust is easily our favorite substitute. It’s almost worth ordering even if you aren’t GF because the texture and flavor mirrors that of a regular thin crust pizza. You can always check pizza places you come across as you travel, but a few of our chain GF options are: Mellow Mushroom and Domino’s.
McAlister’s Deli: McAlister’s offers an extensive variety of GF foods on their menu. Additionally, some locations even offer GF bread which doubles the amount of options.
Waffle House: You can’t really ever go wrong with Waffle House! Our family could eat breakfast foods 3 meals a day, so this place is a great GF go-to when we travel. Not only are their locations everywhere, but they have so many options on their menu (bacon, eggs, hash browns!)
Any Burger Place: It took me a little while to figure this tip out. My kids (and I) love a great cheeseburger. It dawned on me, the bun is irrelevant. Ever since this realization hit, I was able to navigate almost any restaurants menu. Most children’s menus have the option of a cheeseburger. By ordering it without the bun, I make my kids happy and they are able to eat GF without any sacrifice.
Chick-fil-A: I don’t think our family could survive a week on the road without Chick-fil-A. So naturally, I was thrilled to find many GF options on their menu. Any of the restaurant’s grilled chicken options are GF (assuming you forego the bun.) Plus, many of their sides are also GF. Best of all, most of their delicious sauces do not contain gluten!
*Just to reiterate, no one in our family has a gluten allergy. Therefore, these meals are just loose suggestions that worked for us and our gluten-freeish lifestyle.
I love being an organized person. In theory, my life maintains a high level of organization. But I have two kids. And a husband that’s the opposite of an organized person. So despite my best efforts, occasionally I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle.
Travel brings out our family’s best and worst organizational habits. In order to stay one step ahead of disorganization, I take a lot into consideration before purchasing anything that could end up in our travel toy basket. I run through a few questions during the screening process:
Is the packaging for this game relatively indestructible?
Does this product contain small parts that will get lost in my car?
Could any part of this game damage my car (ex. markers, scissors)?
How long will this product entertain my children?
Unless the answers to questions 1 through 3 are: YES, NO, and NO, I don’t even bother answering question number 4.
eeBoo’s Travel Bingo game passes my screening process with flying colors! In fact, it turned into such a family favorite that I had to purchase a second one! Here’s a breakdown of the question/answers for Travel Bingo.
The box is almost indestructible. The product slides on a tray out the top and does not require any flaps to open. Little fingers can easily open and close the product without doing any damage to the box.
Travel Bingo comes with 4 multi-color card pads, and 4 pencils. That’s it.
With the exception of a stray pencil or the used Bingo sheets, nothing about this product will damage my car or leave it messy.
Also (and maybe best of all), this game entertains my children on and off for hours. We love playing as a family on our road trips! (Though, don’t bother packing this game for air travel. I made that mistake…we didn’t see too many cows, stop signs or tractors during the flight!)