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One Day Itinerary – Insider Tips for Disneyland with a Toddler

I’ve been taking my little ones to Disneyland since they were babies. I’ll admit that vacationing with a toddler at Disneyland can be a challenge. There are definite considerations and adjustments that need to be made in your trip when you have a toddler in tow! Check out my ideal one-day Disneyland itinerary with a toddler.

Please note that I use affiliate links in my post. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

This one-day Disneyland with toddlers itinerary has all the insider tips for a magical day!

Toddler at Disneyland

Before your trip, here are a few ideas and additional posts about what you should plan ahead of time.


Disneyland Itinerary with a Toddler

This is a one-day Disneyland itinerary with a toddler. I’ll outline what things you can see, do and eat in a single day at the Disneyland park with your toddler. You won’t be able to do EVERYTHING (you’d need more than a single day for that!). But these are the essentials that your toddler will enjoy!


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Extra Magic Hour and Rope Drop

Most toddlers are early birds, which will make it easy for you to get to the Park before opening. Have a quick breakfast at the hotel or do what I do with my toddler – Give her a granola bar or dry cereal and a cup of milk, and let her nibble in the stroller while we’re walking to the gates!

Guests staying at a Disneyland Resort Hotel can enter the Parks one hour before official opening. Not all attractions are open but Fantasyland is! And Fantasyland is the perfect place to start with your toddler! Note that there are specific days that the Disneyland Park is available for Extra Magic Hour so check at the hotel for the schedule.

If you aren’t staying at a Disneyland Resort Hotel, you’ll want to take advantage of “Rope drop”. This happens in the 30 minutes before the Park opens officially. If you arrive during this time, you may be able to enter onto Main Street U.S.A. before the rest of the Park opens. There are often character greetings and the shops are open for browsing.

This one-day Disneyland with toddlers itinerary has all the insider tips for a magical day!

Character Greetings

Toddlers are fickle little people. Some toddlers LOVE the characters. And some toddlers HATE the characters! I recommend letting your toddler watch from afar at first and judge from there if you really want to do the character meet n’ greets. There are plenty of characters around the entrance and hub of Main Street U.S.A. and if you’re there right at rope drop, you’ll be able to meet with Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Donald and more.

Check out this TravelingMom post with tons of tips on how to meet characters (with practical advice from a mom whose toddler is scared of Mickey!)

This one-day Disneyland with toddlers itinerary has all the insider tips for a magical day!

Fantasyland

The first two hours inside Disneyland are important to maximize! Many vacationers will sleep in and arrive to the Park later in the day. It’s good to be an early bird and take advantage of the lighter crowds during those first few hours. I recommend hitting Fantasyland first with your toddler. Walk straight down Main Street U.S.A., across the Sleeping Beauty Castle drawbridge and into Fantasyland!

Most of the rides and attractions in the Fantasyland area are toddler appropriate (save for the Matterhorn Bobsleds, which have a 42″ minimum height requirement). I’ve included all of the attractions here with key notes for taking your toddler –

  • Alice in Wonderland -Most toddlers enjoy this ride
  • Casey Jr. Circus Train- MUST DO
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant – MUST DO
  • “it’s a small world”- MUST DO
  • King Arthur Carrousel- MUST DO
  • Mad Tea Party-Can take Toddler but they might be scared (fast moving)
  • Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride-Can take Toddler but they might be scared (dark elements)
  • Peter Pan’s Flight-Most toddlers enjoy this ride, however it is dark inside
  • Pinocchio’s Daring Journey-Can take Toddler but they might be scared (dark elements)
  • Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough-Most toddlers enjoy this ride (lots of stairs to climb, which toddlers usually enjoy!)
  • Snow White’s Scary Adventures-Can take Toddler but they might be scared (dark elements)
  • Storybook Land Canal Boats-Most toddlers enjoy this ride (slow boat ride, storytelling & miniatures)

This one-day Disneyland with toddlers itinerary has all the insider tips for a magical day!

Lunch with Littles

Most dining locations offer toddler meals on their menus. And of course you can always request an extra plate and feed your toddler from your own meal. Feeding your under 2 year old at a buffet location is free. I have more dining tips for little ones at Disney on this post.

I’m not a fan of full-service dining with a fidgety toddler. When toddlers are hungry they want to eat NOW! Also, my toddler tends to eat quickly and then clamor to get out of her highchair. This means I’m usually having to rush my meal or take it to-go!

Character dining can be hit or miss with a toddler. If your little one loves the characters, then yes, by all means book Goofy’s Kitchen, Disney’s PCH Grill or the Plaza Inn Breakfast with Minnie and Friends. But if your toddler doesn’t like the characters, I’d definitely skip the pricey character dining experiences.

Here are my favorite places to eat for lunch with my toddler at Disneyland:

  • French Market in New Orleans Square- outdoor covered patio dining with roast chicken, meatloaf and corn chowder. The restaurant often offers live jazz music.
  • Red Rose Taverne in Fantasyland-indoor dining. My toddler liked sharing the flatbread and fries.
  • Hungry Bear Restaurant in Critter Country-outdoor covered patio dining with chicken nuggets on the kid’s menu.


Play Time

Toddlers can only take so much of being strapped into a stroller. They need to get out, run around and play a bit (best to do right before their regular nap time).

There are places for you to let your toddler walk (like Main Street U.S.A. and the plaza near “it’s a small world”) that aren’t too congested. Other areas like New Orleans Square and Tomorrowland tend to be very crowded and it’s easy to get separated. Here are a few places to let your toddler out for free play (for more details and more locations, check out this DisneyBaby post about play areas at Disneyland).

  • Mark Twain Riverboat
  • Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island
  • Tarzan’s Treehouse
  • Toontown Play Areas including Donald’s Boat, Goofy’s Playhouse, Minnie’s House and Mickey’s House

This one-day Disneyland with toddlers itinerary has all the insider tips for a magical day!

Nap Time

Do NOT skip the nap! I repeat, do not attempt to skip sleep with your toddler! It’s tempting to want to power through your Disneyland day but you’ll pay for that skipped nap with tantrums and meltdowns!

You have several options for nap time, whether it be returning to the hotel, finding a quiet location or letting your toddler stroller sleep (my personal choice). Read more on this DisneyBaby post about ways to encourage naps at Disneyland.


Toddlers Love a Parade

Mickey’s Soundsational Parade is an absolute delight! Toddlers will love the vibrant colors, familiar characters and dance-able tunes. I keep my toddler in her stroller and roll it right up to the curb during the parade. This allows her a front row view to the show!

This one-day Disneyland with toddlers itinerary has all the insider tips for a magical day!

Dinner at Disneyland

As dark falls on the Park, thoughts turn to dinner. As I noted at lunch, I recommend sticking to quick service locations. These are my favorites:

  • Plaza Inn on Main Street U.S.A.- Both indoor and outdoor dining. The fried chicken, veggies and mashed potatoes can’t be beat and the large platters are perfect for sharing.
  • Rancho del Zocalo in Frontierland – Outdoor dining. I love the atmosphere here at night, with the beautiful colored lanterns that hang over the dimly lit patio. The Mexican food offerings are good. Just be sure to check the menu before sharing because some of the items are on the spicy side.

Other Must-Do Toddler Attractions

Any ride or attraction that does not have a height restriction is a-okay for your toddler! Rides like Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion do not have a height restriction but use your best judgement before bringing your toddler aboard. Skittish little ones who do not enjoy the dark aspects or “spooky” elements likely will not enjoy these attractions!

I’ve noted the following attractions that are must-do with your toddler-

  • Disneyland Railroad
  • Enchanted Tiki Room (snacks are allowed inside!)
  • Jungle Cruise (there is a loud gunshot during the ride; the Cast Member “Skipper” will alert you to cover your ears)
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (let her wield her own “blast” gun!)
  • Finding Nemo Submarines
This one-day Disneyland with toddlers itinerary has all the insider tips for a magical day!

Inside Finding Nemo Submarines – Toddlers can stand and look out the porthole.

Nighttime Entertainment

If your toddler doesn’t mind the noise and can stay up late, the fireworks spectaculars at Disneyland are amazing. Another excellent nighttime show is Fantasmic! I recently viewed this show with my toddler and have a few pointers. You’ll need to collect a FastPass ticket for Fantasmic! early in the day to have standing room viewing. Note that you’ll be arriving to your designated location about an hour early and standing to wait for the show. That’s a LONG time to hold a squirmy toddler. By the time the show came my arms were spent!

I highly recommend booking a Fantasmic! Dining Package in advance. You’ll receive a meal at one of the designated locations and a seat to watch the show front and center. I’m totally doing this next Disneyland trip!

This one-day Disneyland with toddlers itinerary has all the insider tips for a magical day!

For more Disney itinerary ideas,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Traveling with an Ergobaby Baby Carrier – Must Have Travel Item

Since my daughter was about two weeks old I’ve used a baby carrier. Neither of my boys liked their baby carrier experiences but I’ll be honest- I didn’t consistently use the carriers with them, but I did with my daughter. Since my daughter was 5 months old (she’s now 17 months), I’ve traveled cross-country with her twice and the baby carrier has proven to be the must have travel item. Here are a few reasons when traveling with a baby carrier can truly make your vacation experience better and why the new Ergobaby Omni 360 is ideal for babies of all ages.

I received a complimentary Ergobaby Omni 360 for review in compensation for this post. No further monetary exchange was made and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Traveling with an Ergobaby Baby Carrier on Vacation

While it might not necessarily fit inside your diaper bag, a baby carrier should absolutely be something you take with you when traveling with a baby. I traveled alone to Walt Disney World, across the country by myself and my 5 month old. I would not have been able to do it without my baby carrier.

Even if you think that there will be plenty of people to hold the baby on the trip, bring the carrier. Babies can get easily overstimulated and appreciate the close quarters that a baby carrier provides.

The Ergobaby Baby Carrier is my MUST HAVE baby travel item, read why! #Ergobaby #LoveCarriesOn #ad

I use my Ergobaby baby carrier every day at home. See why I take it when I travel too.

Even if the baby is old enough to walk, bring the carrier. Little ones get tired and want to be carried and you won’t want to tire yourself out from carrying her.

Places like airplanes can have a lot of strange germs. Placing baby in a carrier can keep him from touching everything. And keeping him in the carrier also dissuade germy people from reaching out and touching the baby!

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1. Baby Carrier at the Airport

If anything, you want to be hands free at the airport. From having to take out paperwork like tickets, passport and ID, dragging your carry-on bag, and removing and putting back on your shoes, putting items on the conveyor for scanning, you’re going to need your hands. If you’re taking a stroller, that’s just one more thing to push around.

I preferred having my baby snuggled in close in her carrier while going through the airport. I was even able to pass through airline security with my baby safely sleeping at my chest. TSA swabbed my hands and allowed me to skip the full body scanners.

2. Baby Carrier on the Airplane

Since I was traveling alone with my baby, I didn’t have anyone to hold her on the plane. Having the baby carrier was so convenient during the flight. I did have to take my daughter out of the carrier during take off, as requested by the stewardess. But as soon as we were in flight, I was able to slip her back inside the carrier. This made everything from eating a snack, holding a book and yes, even using the bathroom that much easier!

The Ergobaby Baby Carrier is my MUST HAVE baby travel item, read why! #Ergobaby #LoveCarriesOn #ad

While you can’t baby wear during take off or landing, you can wear Ergobaby Baby Carrier in flight.

3.Baby Carrier While Touring on Foot

There are some places where pushing a baby in a stroller just isn’t conducive to the environment. For instance, what about when the terrain is rocky or steep (like on a hiking trail). How about when the streets are cobbled or overly crowded. Or perhaps it’s raining and you need to keep baby under an umbrella. In these cases having baby in a carrier makes so much sense. You’ll be able to climb stairs without looking for an elevator and easily navigate through crowds.

4. Baby Carrier in a Hotel

At the end of a long day, I found that it was sometimes tricky to get my baby to calm down and sleep. The strange location and having the entire family inside one room was disturbing her rest. Holding her in the baby carrier while I walked around the hotel room, prepping for the following day, allowed her to relax and actually fall asleep. Then I was easily able to transfer her into her crib.

5. Baby Carrier at an Amusement Park

In many cases, when visiting an amusement park, you’ll have a stroller with you. I suggest that in addition to the stroller, bring along the baby carrier as well. I tuck my carrier in the basket under the stroller and use it throughout the day. While standing in queue, you’ll be able to hold baby without sore arms. While my baby napped inside her carrier, we were able to go on family-friendly rides without disturbing her. I was even able to nurse her inside the carrier while I walked around the parks. Most convenient was being able to hold my daughter in the carrier while folding her stroller and boarding a Disney bus to and from the parks.

The Ergobaby Baby Carrier is my MUST HAVE baby travel item, read why! #Ergobaby #LoveCarriesOn #ad

Some amusement parks will allow you to ride with baby in the Ergobaby Baby Carrier without any nap disturbance!

Tips for Your Baby Carrier

I recently received the Ergobaby Omni 360 baby carrier for review. Offering all carry positions, the Ergobaby Omni 360 can switch baby to face out or face you and easily adjusts from newborn to toddler (7-33lbs), no infant insert needed.

Get Used to the Parts

The various straps, buckles and buttons on your baby carrier can be overwhelming at first. Definitely sit down with the manual and your carrier to get familiar with the different styles of carry and techniques for the most comfortable fit for your baby. It helps to have another adult there to help you with interpreting the instructions and diagrams.

The Ergobaby Baby Carrier is my MUST HAVE baby travel item, read why! #Ergobaby #LoveCarriesOn #ad

Watch a Video

If you’re struggling to understand the instruction manual with pictures, try watching a video on Ergobaby’s Facebook page for more clarity!

Practice at Home

Your vacation shouldn’t be the first time that your baby has been in the carrier. Make sure both you and and the baby are comfortable with the carrier. Practice putting him in and out of the carrier and let him ride around the house to get used to it.

The Ergobaby Baby Carrier is my MUST HAVE baby travel item, read why! #Ergobaby #LoveCarriesOn #ad

Get work done while baby naps in the Ergobaby carrier

Follow Size Rules

It is very important to follow the size rules for your baby carrier. Take into consideration the size of your baby and take note of what methods to use for each age.

My daughter is now a toddler, a petite 21 lbs and 17 months old. She still enjoys riding in her baby carrier, especially when traveling. She likes being close to me. However my arms and shoulders get so tired when holding her for extended periods of time so I’m happy to have the Ergobaby Omni 360.

Try a Variety of Positions

I can place my daughter facing in, which is perfect when she’s napping. In the Ergobaby Omni 360 my daughter can also face outward, ride on my back or sit on my hip. Velcro tabs and button closures help me quickly adjust the carrier for my baby’s size. Double-lock buckles are easy to snap in and release with one hand.

Comfort for Parent and Child

The fabric and design of the Ergobaby Omni 360 is soft and flexible, but still offers sturdy support. The padded straps and ability to crisscross in the back helps relieve any discomfort to my back when carrying my daughter.

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Want to take the best cell phone pictures? These tips for phone cameras will have you capturing the best images.

Phone Camera Tips for Capturing Your Best Shots

Everyone’s taking lots of pictures with their phone cameras. Naturally your phone is easy to carry with you, especially when traveling. And you can share images immediately on social media which is always fun! When traveling light, I leave my bulky DSLR camera at home and rely solely on my phone camera to take pictures. Here are a few tips for capturing your best shots on your phone camera.

Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Want to take the best cell phone pictures? These tips for phone cameras will have you capturing the best images.

Taking the Best Shots on Your Phone Camera

We’ve all seen some truly fantastic phone camera shots that look like they were taken with a “fancy camera”. And we’ve seen the out of focus, smudgy and too dark/overly bright cell phone shares too. Here are some phone camera tips for taking the best shots! All of these pictures were taken with my Android, Samsung Galaxy S6.

Want to take the best cell phone pictures? These tips for phone cameras will have you capturing the best images.

So happy I had my camera with me to capture this first taste of a Dole Whip at the Polynesian!

Clean the Lens

That’s a no-brainer when using your regular camera, but often forgotten with your phone camera. Use a lens cloth to clean up smudges for the most crisp images. In a pinch, the edge of your shirt will do.

Want to take the best cell phone pictures? These tips for phone cameras will have you capturing the best images.

Celebrating Dia de los Muertos at Disneyland during Halloween time.

Getting in Focus

Getting that beautiful bokeh (or blurred background) is easy with your cell phone camera! Simply tap the spot on the screen that you want to be in the most clear focus before you snap the picture. Having the item close to the camera will create that lovely bokeh in the background.

Want to take the best cell phone pictures? These tips for phone cameras will have you capturing the best images.

Adjust Brightness Manually Before You Shoot

Things looking too dark or overly bright? Just before taking a photo, adjust the brightness manually. Simply touch your cell phone screen and slide your finger either right or left to brighten or darken your shot. My phone has a little light bulb icon that pops up on the screen to indicate brightness.

Want to take the best cell phone pictures? These tips for phone cameras will have you capturing the best images.

The sun was overly bright on this day at the Wyndham in Disney World. I adjusted brightness before taking the shot.

Turn Off the Flash (or Diffuse It)

Sometimes lighting is lower than you like but always try to resist using your cell phone camera flash. The flash can create some intense shadows, hot spots and maybe even completely blacken out the background of the image. Instead of using your flash, concentrate on holding the camera very still by propping your arms or using a travel tripod.

Another option is to diffuse the flash (especially helpful when photographing food in a dimly lit restaurant). Hold a paper napkin over the flash on the camera to lessen the strength.

Dozens of ways how to save money on food at Disney!

I wanted to capture the entire scene behind the Dole Whip cup so I didn’t use the manual focus for this shot inside the Polynesian.

Night Shots

I find that I can capture better night shots with my cell phone camera than I can with my regular camera. One tip is to hold your phone very steady. For this shot of the Disneyland Hotel pool area at night, I held my elbows on a railing so I didn’t wiggle the camera when I took the picture. Use the brightness feature sparingly to lighten things up as you wish.

Want to take the best cell phone pictures? These tips for phone cameras will have you capturing the best images.

Dark scenes that are far away aren’t going to show up well. You’ll need to get up close to the item and make sure that it’s fairly well lit. Also items that are moving quickly in the dark are going to blur if you try to photograph them. Aim to shoot items that are still or moving slowly and very well lit, like the float in the Paint the Night Parade (featured image at the top).

 

Crop Later Instead of Using Zoom

Zooming on your cell phone camera is going to make you photo look very pixilated and/or blurry. Better to take the photo as you see it and then crop later.

Want to take the best cell phone pictures? These tips for phone cameras will have you capturing the best images.

Don’t zoom! Better to crop the image later.

Sharing on Instagram

If you’re taking a photo specifically for Instagram, set up the shot ahead of time to best fit their square frame. You don’t want to have to crop out your favorite part of the picture to make it fit into the frame for Instagram. I wanted to capture not only my kids in this photo but the sandy beach and the hotel behind them so I took a wide shot and then cropped for Instagram.

 

Snapseed

Rather than using the same ol’ filters on Instagram that everyone else is using, edit your photos in Snapseed. This free app allows you to simply crop, brighten or sharpen images. Or you can get as complicated as you would in Photoshop on your desktop with curves and healing tools. Except that Snapseed is totally easy to use!

I used Snapseed on this shot at Port Orleans Riverside, including white balance and brightness.

Want to take the best cell phone pictures? These tips for phone cameras will have you capturing the best images.


For more Disney photo tips,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Tips for Kids to Enjoy Walt Disney World Playgrounds

Working downtime into your Disney vacation schedule can benefit everyone in the family. When you’re not in the Parks, take time to enjoy the amenities like the pool, resort activities and the playgrounds. Allowing kids time to play lets them burn off extra energy. The various themed playgrounds available at many of the Walt Disney World resort hotels let kids do what they do best! Here are a few kid-tested tips to enjoying the Disney World playgrounds.

Disney World playgrounds and water play structures at the Walt Disney World Resort hotels in Orlando are another way for kids to play!

Please note that I use affiliate links in my post. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Walt Disney World Resort Playgrounds

Playground structures are located at many of the resort hotels and are intended for kids aged 2-12. On my last Disney World trip I had my preschooler with me. I made sure we spent time at the resort playground each day. I found that he was much more cooperative about waiting in lines inside the Parks when he’d had the free play time!

Disney World playgrounds and water play structures at the Walt Disney World Resort hotels in Orlando are another way for kids to play!

Kids will love The Dig Site at Disney’s Caribbean Beach, with several areas to play.

Not all of the Disney World Resorts have a playground. Here’s a list of those that do:

  • All-Star Movies Resort
  • All-Star Music Resort
  • All-Star Sports Resort
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
  • Art of Animation Resort
  • BoardWalk Inn
  • BoardWalk Villas
  • Caribbean Beach Resort
  • Coronado Springs Resort
  • Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
  • Old Key West Resort
  • Pop Century Resort
  • Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
  • Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
  • Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
  • Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel

What to Expect at Disney World Resort Playgrounds

Some of the playgrounds are more elaborate than others. Certain playgrounds are themed to the resort. Other playgrounds look like they’d be at your local park. Most will have some kind of climbing equipment, bars for hanging and slides.

Disney World playgrounds and water play structures at the Walt Disney World Resort hotels in Orlando are another way for kids to play!

The Disney World playground at Fort Wilderness is under a canopy of trees.

During my visits (late spring) the playgrounds didn’t have a lot of kids. I’d expect that during busier seasons, there might be more activity. If your kids are anything like mine, they prefer when the playground has other children to play with! Check the times posted on when the playground is open (they generally close at dusk).

Some play areas at Disney World are under shade and others are out in the open. Play structure equipment can get really hot in the sunshine. Be sure to check before letting your child play.

There seems to be a good number of benches and seating for adults around the playgrounds. But of course, sit where you can supervise your kids!

Disney World playgrounds and water play structures at the Walt Disney World Resort hotels in Orlando are another way for kids to play!

Coronado Spring’s Disney World playground is Mayan-themed like the resort.

Just Add Water!

A few of the pool areas at the Resorts also have interactive play structures. Kids can climb, splash, spray and stay cool. Many have height restrictions which limit use to preschool age or young elementary. These play structures are nicely suited for little ones who aren’t comfortable with full swimming pools or can’t yet swim.

Disney World playgrounds and water play structures at the Walt Disney World Resort hotels in Orlando are another way for kids to play!

Elaborate pirate-themed water play structure at Disney’s Caribbean Beach

Other Places to Play

No playground? No problem! Many of the resorts have areas for kids to play or simply run around. Always be considerate of noise (especially if the location is near hotel room windows and/or it’s particularly early in the day). And of course observe all rules, stay out of flower beds and take heed of signs that restrict access.

Kids can run and do cartwheels on the lawn at Beach Club.

Disney World playgrounds and water play structures at the Walt Disney World Resort hotels in Orlando are another way for kids to play!

No playground? Let kids run on the grass (so long as there’s no sign restricting it)

There’s a game of corn hole in the bus waiting area at Port Orleans Riverside.

Disney World playgrounds and water play structures at the Walt Disney World Resort hotels in Orlando are another way for kids to play!

A game of corn hole at Port Orleans Riverside

Many hotels, like Coronado Springs Resort have sandy beach areas.

Disney World playgrounds and water play structures at the Walt Disney World Resort hotels in Orlando are another way for kids to play!

Kids enjoy playing in the sandy beach at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.

Do you have a favorite play area at Disney World? Share with me in the comments!


For more play areas for kids at Disney,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


 

Tips and Products for Keeping Kids Safe on Vacation

Over our spring break vacation to Monterey we lost my 5 year old son. One moment he was playing on the lonely beach in the sand with my husband. The next moment he was gone. It was the scariest ten minutes of our lives, not knowing where he was. Looking back there are a few things we should have done to ensure that he’d never been lost in the first place. And there are also steps and precautions we can take in the future to keep him safe. Here are my tips and products that help keep kids safe on vacation.

Travel safety with kids is priority #1. Check out these practical and inexpensive ways to keep kids safe on vacation.

Getting Lost (Scary for Kids & Parents!)

On our Monterey vacation I was on the hotel balcony watching my sons and husband on the beach below. My husband and teenager were poking in the sand with a stick, looking for crabs while my preschooler ran up and down the wet sand behind them. When the baby needed a diaper change I took her inside and returned to the balcony a few minutes later. What I saw next made my heart stop.

My eldest son was yelling up to me, “Mom, is Dillon up there with you?”

Then I saw my husband. He was running up and down the beach, calling Dillon’s name. He was stopping strangers to ask if they’d seen a little boy in a blue bathing suit.

He didn’t go into the water, I knew that (he was scared of the ocean’s big waves). My eyes squinted at a crowd of people sunbathing in the distance. Had he wandered that far?

My husband was now in full panic mode. He ran around to the front of the hotel, concerned that my son might have gone with someone to the parking lot. My teenager was racing down to the crowd further down the beach. I raced down to the hotel lobby.

I met my husband in the lobby as he’d looped around the front of the hotel. He was cradling our 5-year old in his arms. My son had wandered into the lobby, wanting to return to the hotel room and asked for his mommy. The reception desk had wrapped him in a towel and had him stay put. Thank goodness, found.

Travel safety with kids is priority #1. Check out these practical and inexpensive ways to keep kids safe on vacation.

One moment he was there, the next moment he was gone.

Tips to Keeping Kids Safe on Vacation

It was a scary 10 minutes and honestly, it’s taken its toll on us all. For the first month after our vacation, my son was extremely clingy and afraid of getting lost. He has cried during drop offs at school and Sunday school at church, something very unusual for my independent boy. I started trying to think of ways that we could have kept him safe.

Here are tips and products that help keep kids safe on vacation.

I received complimentary product for testing and review. All opinions are my own. Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Clicking through helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

SafetyTat

If my son had been wearing a SafetyTat when he was lost, it would have saved us 10 minutes of worry. The hotel lobby would have been able to call me immediately! SafetyTat is a water-resistant temporary tattoo. The original SafetyTat can be pre-printed with your contact info and applies with a damp paper towel.

Travel safety with kids is priority #1. Check out these practical and inexpensive ways to keep kids safe on vacation.

The SafetyTat temporary tattoo is water resistant.

Write-on SafetyTat peels and sticks with a bit of pressure and can be personalized with the included water resistant pen. I love the idea of using the SafetyTat when traveling to busy locations like at the zoo, children’s museum or amusement park when kids can easily become lost.

Travel safety with kids is priority #1. Check out these practical and inexpensive ways to keep kids safe on vacation.

Write your number to personalize the SafetyTat and keep kids safe on vacation

In addition to returning lost kids, several of the SafetyTats have specific child-safety needs printed on the tattoo. Alerts like, “I have Autism”, “Allergies – Ask First!”, “Non-Verbal” and “Alert – Diabetic” help other adults know immediately about your child’s special needs. These special SafetyTats would be great for children to wear when in large groups where they might be separated from their parents, like at day camp, church or at a party.


Fairy Tales Bug Bandit

I received a complimentary bottle of Fairy Tales Bug Bandit Repellent just in time for my trip to Orlando Florida. On my last visit, I’d gotten a nasty bug bite on the final day and it took ten full days to clear! I was hoping to avoid such a fate this time, especially for my kids!

The contents of Fairy Tales Bug Bandit are Deet-free and include lemon Eucalyptus oil, soybean oil, cedar bark, citronella, peppermint and rosemary blend. These non-toxic and pesticide free ingredients help to repel mosquitoes, flies, fleas, gnats and other biting insects. It’s proven effective in children 3+, though I did use it sparingly on my 1-year old’s legs and arms with good success.

Travel safety with kids is priority #1. Check out these practical and inexpensive ways to keep kids safe on vacation., including the Fairy Tales Bug Bandit

Spray Fairy Tales Bug Bandit before going outside to protect skin from insect bites

Simply spray the Fairy Tales Bug Bandit onto your body after dressed and ready to head outside. It worked like a charm! The smell is pleasant and works for several hours.

And then there was the day I forgot to apply the spray. I was headed to a conference and stepped outside briefly to access another building and within 2 minutes a bug got me. Within moments my ankle was swollen and itchy, ugh! I immediately texted my sister-in-law to remind her to spray the kids before they went outside! Happy to report that my kids returned from our week-long vacation without one bug bite.

Travel Baby-Proofing Safety Kit

Before settling in at the hotel, make sure you check out the room for any potentially hazardous items. Looped window cords? Furniture that your toddler or child could climb and topple over? Loose cables? Exposed electrical outlets? Bring a safety kit along with you on your travels to “baby-proof” the room (even if your child is no longer a baby, they might become curious).

If your baby will be using the hotel crib, be sure to inspect it for any loose screws, chipping paint or pinchable parts. If you’re taking medications with you, be sure that they stay inside their child-proof bottles and keep out of the reach of your children (consider a box with a lock).

Preventing Stomach Bug

Ugh, nothing ruins a vacation like coming down with the stomach bug.

Help keep the bug from spreading through the family with frequent hand-washing and the use of hand sanitizer. Disinfect items in the hotel room that are frequently touched, like the door knobs and remote control.

Travel safety with kids is priority #1. Check out these practical and inexpensive ways to keep kids safe on vacation.

Of course if spending your vacation in another country make sure that the water is drinkable before allowing your child to sip.

Avoiding Sunburn

If your kids are extremely prone to sunburn, consider indoor activities during the day and then swim at night. I’ve found that one of the best ways to avoid sunburn is to cover up as much as possible. My kids have Lands’ End rash guards with UPF 50 rating. A hat for toddlers that can be worn while their splashing will protect scalps and faces.

Travel safety with kids is priority #1. Check out these practical and inexpensive ways to keep kids safe on vacation.

And of course, you can’t forget the sunscreen! Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before getting into the water otherwise it’s just going to rinse off in the pool!


Pack a Get-Well Bag

Despite all preparations sometime your child may get sick. Rather than have to make a run to the 24 hour market at 3 am, have a get-well bag ready to go with what you might need.

    • Stomach pain relief like antacids or kaopectate
    • Fever reducer
    • Benedryl (in case of allergy)
    • Aloe vera or sunburn relief cream
    • Anti-itch spray or lotion in case of rash or bug bite
    • Travel First Aid Kit with antiseptic and bandages

Car Seat and Stroller Safety

Don’t assume that you’ll have the car seat you need when you arrive. For instance Uber may provide car seats for some children. However they don’t have rear-facing car seats that children under two must use. For infants and toddlers, it’s best to bring your own.

For pre-K and up, bring along a mifold Grab-and-Go Car Booster Seat. Weighing only about one and a half pounds, the mifold is a booster seat designed for ages 4 to 12. So clever and convenient when using Uber, Lyft or a taxi.

If renting a stroller at your vacation location, be sure to inspect for any spots that might pinch little fingers. Always use the buckles to secure your child in tightly. Get in the habit of putting the stroller brake on each and every time you let go of the handle. You never know when the stroller might roll away from you. Never leave your child in a stroller unsupervised.

Travel safety with kids is priority #1. Check out these practical and inexpensive ways to keep kids safe on vacation.

Safety After Dark

If you’re worried about losing your kids, it can be even more challenging once night falls. Remind kids to stay close to you. Carry a flashlight. I keep a supply of glow necklaces and bracelets for my kids to wear when we’re walking about after dark. If walking in a dark area where there are vehicles, dress your children in light colored clothing. Consider adding a reflective strip of tape to their back and down each pant leg for better visability.


Other Things You Can Do to Keep Safety First

  • Before hitting the road for an extended vacation, be sure to schedule a pre-trip check up with your child’s pediatrician. The doctor will be able to check for any developing illnesses.
  • Bring your child’s immunization records.
  • Dress your child in very bright clothing. It’s so much easier to see them if you can spot a bright yellow, orange or hot pink shirt.
  • Remind kids not to touch wild animals (this includes squirrels and pigeons)
  • Take a photo of your child each morning so you have a record of what they are wearing.
  • Before going into an establishment (like a theme park or museum) discuss what to do if lost.
  • Wash hands frequently and especially before eating.
  • Remind children to stay put in case they are lost.

Travel safety with kids is priority #1. Check out these practical and inexpensive ways to keep kids safe on vacation.


For more on this really awesome topic,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


No Painful Feet! How to Find Foot Comfort in Your New Shoes

If painful feet stop you from exploring check out these tips and products that will minimize blisters, swelling and foot pain!

I hate shoe shopping. Okay, so I know I’m in the minority and lots of ladies love to buy new shoes. But I don’t. I HATE getting new shoes because it means I have to try them on, break them in and suffer through the pain and discomfort of new shoes. The thought of painful feet is enough for me to avoid buying new shoes. So I stick with the worn out and broken in shoes I already own. I’m on the hunt for foot comfort, especially when I know I’ll be traveling and walking a lot!

Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Clicking through these links helps me in a small financial way, thank you! I’ve received complimentary product for some of the items reviewed in this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Painful Feet? Try These Tips

  1. Compression Socks
  2. Open-toed shoes
  3. Shoes that don’t require “breaking in”
  4. Stick with what works for you
  5. Inserts

Compression Socks

Several years ago my husband and I flew overnight to Europe. It was my first long-haul flight and I made the mistake of taking off my shoes and putting on cozy socks while I slept. When it was time to get off the plane, I had to cram my swollen feet back into my shoes. By the time we reached the taxi I had blisters on every toe, across my heel and several of my toe nails were broken! Not the best start to a 10-day trip.

The next time I flew long distance you can believe I was wearing compression socks! I’ll be honest: I always thought that compression socks were for “old people” or if you were in the hospital and couldn’t exercise. But these adorable patterned socks from Vim & Vigr changed my mind (they are so cute!)

These nylon compression socks from Vim & Vigr have a multi-dimensional weave and 400-needle count that allow for comfort, flexibility, and breathability. They even offer socks for wide calves.

I hear that compression socks are great if you’re running (not that I’d know about that!) I’ve worn the Vim & Vigr socks on each flight since and no blisters or broken toe nails after flying again!

Vim & Vigr 15-20 mmHg Graduated Compression Socks – Nylon Collection – M – Cream & Black

Why I Gravitate Towards Sandals

After the birth of my last baby I realized that my feet had grown along with my belly! In fact I now have one foot that is over a half-size larger than the other foot – how annoying is that?! And it makes it nearly impossible to purchase certain shoe styles. I suffer with having one shoe too tight or the other flopping off.

If painful feet stop you from exploring check out these tips and products that will minimize blisters, swelling and foot pain!

My 7 1/2 months pregnant feet walked the Disney parks in Crocs!

That’s why I tend to choose sandals over any other shoe type. Fortunately I live in Southern California, where I can wear sandals 75% of the year! Here are a few of my favorite sandal choices that are comfortable for long distance walking. I discuss more sandal options in my post, Best Shoes for Disney Parks – Why I Love Sandals! 


Comfortable Shoes for Kids (No Breaking In Period!)

I’ve been purchasing pediped shoes for nearly 6 years. They were my son’s very first pair of shoes. When I saw how comfortable they were for him and how much he enjoyed walking in pediped, they quickly became the only pair of shoes I would buy for him. It’s a happy day for him when he sees a box from pediped in the mail!


When I first found out I was having a baby girl, a pair of pedipeds Originals was one of my first purchases! They are the shoes she took her first steps in and I’ll be putting them into her keepsake box. Any other shoes she outgrows will be gifted forward to another child. We’ve handed down my son’s outgrown pedipeds to his cousins.

If painful feet stop kids from exploring check out these tips and products that will minimize blisters, swelling and foot pain!

My kids wearing their pedipeds at Walt Disney World.

I’ll be honest about the price because it might be more than you’re used to paying. Many people will not pay a high price for kids shoes, preferring to buy cheaper shoes. I’d much rather purchase something of high quality that is comfortable for my child, supports her feet and won’t fall apart or look worn after just a few wearings. My kids only have 2 or 3 pairs of pediped shoes and rotate between them (instead of a dozen pairs of “cheap” shoes).

If painful feet stop you from exploring check out these tips and products that will minimize blisters, swelling and foot pain!

My son in his Flex Sahara Red sandals at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom.

Because many pedipeds are washable they uphold their look. And the high crafted quality means they last and last. My son is currently wearing pediped sandals he had last summer and they still look in perfect condition!


My only complaint? That my eldest daughter is now 13 and has outgrown them! I’ve only bought her pediped shoes for the last five years. She has one foot that rolls inward, causing shoes to get a hole in them after just a few wearings. Pediped is the only brand that we’ve found that will hold her foot solidly upright and not to roll. pediped footwear has been awarded the American Podiatric Medical Association Seal of Acceptance for the promotion of healthy foot development.

Stick with What Works

I legit own 8 pairs of shoes total. Four of these shoes are exact duplicates of each other, just in different color schemes. I know what works for my feet so I tend to purchase two at a time.

I gave up a long time ago trying to wear regular high heels. Now if I’m dressing up I wear my favorite crocs Women’s Leigh Ankle Strap Wedge Sandal. I have them in oatmeal and black and they’re versatile enough to wear with either a dress or jeans. And the best part is that I can actually dance and walk comfortably all night in them (and not revert to the barefoot walk back to the car at the end of the night!)

If you have a favorite shoe, next time buy two so you can switch out between them!

Comfort Aids for Inside Shoes

Adding extra support where your foot needs it is a great way to get comfy. A little lift here, a little cushion there and your foot pain can be greatly relieved. I recently tried Silipos Active gel products. These conform to your body reducing friction, abrasion and burning sensations during high impact activities.

I tried Silipos Active Ball of Foot Gel Cushions. Slip the loop around one of your toes and the cushion rests underneath, covered by a sock. These cushions are so thin I wondered if they’d make a difference. I tested them on a 5 mile hike we took across concrete and gravel. I could really tell the difference after walking as I didn’t have the usual ache in my foot bones that I usually do after walking on that type of terrain.

Ever worn a pair of flip-flops when the center post cut into your toes? That is just the worst! Silipos Active Sandal Toe Protectors slips over that post to cushion between the toes.

How do you counteract painful feet? Share in the comments!

5 Reasons to Plan a LEGOLAND California Vacation

We’ve been LEGOLAND California guests since shortly after the park opened in 1999. I appreciate that it’s a park for a good variety of ages, with places for toddlers to roam, rides geared just for preschoolers and adventures for older kids too. These are my 5 reasons why I think you should plan a LEGOLAND California vacation!

I am a LEGOLAND ambassador. I have received complimentary tickets to the parks. All thoughts and opinions are my own. There are affiliate links in this post. Purchasing through my link helps me in a small financial way, thank you.

Why You Should Plan a LEGOLAND California Vacation

Like the versatile LEGO play sets, the LEGOLAND California park is constantly reinventing itself. Over the last few years LEGOLAND has been consistently adding new and exciting pieces to their theme park. New sections like Ninjago World, Star Wars to Miniland USA and LEGO Friends Heartlake City have rejuvenated areas of the park. Additions to the resort like Sea Life Aquarium. LEGOLAND water park and the Resort hotel make LEGOLAND California a true family vacation destination.

From cool rides, water parks and billions of bricks, here's why you should plan a LEGOLAND California vacation!

Waiting for the water park to open at LEGOLAND California

1. LEGOLAND Water Park

Last year I visited the LEGOLAND water park for the first time. I was so impressed with the variety of play areas for a wide range of kids. There is a Duplo-inspired Splash Safari and Splash Zoo for toddlers & preschoolers. My kids liked the wide “family-sized” short water slides here. There are plenty of big-kid water slides too with lots of interactive ways to get wet. I’m partial to floating in the Build-a-Raft River.

From cool rides, water parks and billions of bricks, here's why you should plan a LEGOLAND California vacation!

The size of the LEGOLAND water park is impressive as well, with the addition of the Chima section. This includes a more slides and the Lion Temple Wave Pool. And the water park is about to get even bigger!

Opening next month is Surfers’ Cove. In Surfers’ Cove, kids will be able to race their friends at Riptide Racers timed water slides, enjoy an epic splash-ground at Wipeout Lagoon and enlighten their taste buds with the new Beach Street Tacos. My family got a “sneak taste” of the tacos and they were deliciously authentic. I still can’t decide which were my favorite – carnitas, carne asada or the fish!

From cool rides, water parks and billions of bricks, here's why you should plan a LEGOLAND California vacation!

Amazing street tacos will soon be offered at the LEGOLAND California Water Park

Riptide Racers will be a competitive water raceway designed for children to jump on a mat and race down one of six slides with family and friends for the fastest time! Each slide stands 17 feet high and is more than 100 feet in length. Wipeout Lagoon is a “spray ground” with multiple water jets splashing on and off and plenty of new LEGO® models like a surfing dog to create a fun place to cool off this summer.

The LEGOLAND Water Park is open seven days a week starting Friday, May 26 2017.


From cool rides, water parks and billions of bricks, here's why you should plan a LEGOLAND California vacation!

The Duplo Splash Zoo at LEGOLAND California in Carlsbad

2. LEGOLAND Hotel and Castle Expansion

My older two kids stayed at the LEGOLAND Hotel with their grandma a few years ago and I’m jealous! This hotel is jam-packed with fun (if a disco-ball in the elevator and a treasure hunt in the room is any indication!) Check out this enormous pirate play house in the hotel lobby.

From cool rides, water parks and billions of bricks, here's why you should plan a LEGOLAND California vacation!

This big pirate ship play area is inside the LEGOLAND California Resort Hotel lobby

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel has already broken ground and is slated to open in 2018. Given the popularity of the LEGOLAND Hotel, I’d expect this new hotel to be equally fantastic!

3. LEGO Fun for Babies

With all the bright colors and interactive elements, LEGOLAND California includes things for baby as well. Sweet and slow rides like Fairy Tale Brook and Coast Cruise are appropriate for baby to enjoy. There are baby-friendly splash pad areas in Pirate Shores and Heartlake City (just be sure to bring swim diapers & a towel).

From cool rides, water parks and billions of bricks, here's why you should plan a LEGOLAND California vacation!

Babies and toddlers will enjoy the LEGOLAND California water park Safari Splash

There are some rides that I would have thought would be okay for babies to go on (like Safari Trek) but my 14-month old wasn’t tall enough. Make sure you check the height requirements before getting in line.

My baby’s favorite place in all of LEGOLAND is Duplo Playtown. She enjoyed walking around the playhouses, playing with the blocks and riding the LEGOLAND Express train. My preschooler was able to climb and explore in this area as well.

Book a stay at the LEGOLAND Hotel and you can return to the room mid-day for a nap then return to the park later in the day.

From cool rides, water parks and billions of bricks, here's why you should plan a LEGOLAND California vacation!

Riding the LEGO Express Train in Fun Town

4. The Perfect Park for Preschoolers

Coastersaurus is a great first roller coaster. Mia’s Riding Camp is a cute carousel. Every preschooler loves the Royal Joust which takes kiddos on a LEGO horse ride through the “countryside”. Junior Driving School is a can’t-miss attraction for kids 3-5 (they can drive their own LEGO car!)

From cool rides, water parks and billions of bricks, here's why you should plan a LEGOLAND California vacation!

Preschoolers will love to drive their own car at LEGOLAND California Junior Driving School.

I love that there are places in many of the queue for little ones to play with LEGO blocks while parents wait in line. You can simply scoop up your kids before boarding the ride!

The 4D movie experiences are short films that preschoolers will delight in (3D glasses and quirky interactive moments will make preschoolers giggle!) Leave time in your day for a visit to Sea Life Aquarium. This area is nicely geared for preschoolers, with plenty of hands-on activities in this LEGO-splashed space.

Check out my TravelingMom post for all the reasons to take preschoolers to LEGOLAND.


From cool rides, water parks and billions of bricks, here's why you should plan a LEGOLAND California vacation!

Preschoolers can gallop on a LEGO horse at LEGOLAND California

5. Stuff for LEGO-Loving Tweens and Teens

My teens love taking in all the brick-by-brick details of Miniland USA. The Star Wars section is of particular interest! The scenes replicated from each of the Star Wars movies are crazy-detailed and impressive (1.5 million LEGO bricks were used!)

There aren’t any wild thrill rides at LEGOLAND California but unique and clever wins over thrills in my book (The Technic Coaster, Knight’s Tournament and Ninjago the Ride are all cool for tweens & teens).

From cool rides, water parks and billions of bricks, here's why you should plan a LEGOLAND California vacation!

LEGOLAND California features amazing Star Wars displays in Miniland

LEGOLAND California is also a foodie paradise as far as theme parks go. There are a great variety of flavors represented here, from Japanese style ramen bowls, smokehouse ribs and Bánh Mì Vietnamese sandwiches. Of course there are the traditional pizza and burgers too. For dessert Granny’s Apple Fries are a can’t-miss. Your tweens & teens could happily eat there way around the park and be quite content!

From cool rides, water parks and billions of bricks, here's why you should plan a LEGOLAND California vacation!

Inside the LEGOLAND California Resort Hotel

Save money at LEGOLAND!

Purchase discount tickets and vacation packages from my affiliate Get Away Today. Use the Promo Code REWRITTEN and receive an extra $10 off any 2-night or longer Southern California package. (Hotel and 2 ticket minimum purchase to qualify for the discount). 

From cool rides, water parks and billions of bricks, here's why you should plan a LEGOLAND California vacation!

Adjusting to Changes When Traveling with Kids

Traveling with Kids? These 3 practical tips will help ease into the changes like missing home or time zone adjustment.

Traveling with kids is rewarding for parent & child alike!

My family doesn’t leave home very often. Yes, I’m a travel writer for TravelingMom.com but most of our “vacations” are only one or two days and very close to home (that’s why I’m the Day Trips TMOM!) There are many considerations to make in schedules when traveling with kids, whether short or long distance.

Traveling with Kids

In the course of 30 days, my family and I had two scheduled vacations where we were gone from home a total of 16 days. As adults, we can likely adjust just fine to that kind of schedule variance. In many cases, we relish a break from our usual daily grind! But for kids, the changes in their daily routine can make things a little rough. They’re in new surroundings, away from their home and what they’re familiar with. Perhaps there is a time zone difference. And all the new people and faces they’re seeing and meeting can be confusing. Here are a few things we learned on our recent travels that I wanted to share in case they help next time you’re traveling with kids.

As an HP Smart Mom Panel member, I receive products, promotional items & educational material to use and share as I see fit. However, any opinions expressed by me are honest and reflect my actual experience.

Traveling with Kids? These 3 practical tips will help ease into the changes like missing home or time zone adjustment.

1. Bring Something Special from Home

Allowing your child to pack one special something can help ease travel anxiety. My son’s rainbow blankie is a frequent travel companion for road trips. A favorite bedtime book that can be read in the hotel room is another must-have. A small favorite toy (like a race car or a doll) can occupy kids and give them a connection of home. Help them choose one special thing (hopefully small!) that they can bring with them on the trip.

2. Aim to Keep Kids on Their Usual Schedule

I recently traveled with my 5 year old and 13-month old from San Diego to Orlando. I had the idea that I would keep the kids on California time and not change them to the three hour time difference. That meant my kids would be staying up till 11 pm and sleeping in until 9 am.

Thank goodness, it worked! My kids stuck to their California time schedule, which meant staying up very late and sleeping in.  Not only did I keep their sleep times the same but we stuck with a Pacific coast dining time schedule as well. This meant we were usually eating dinner at 9 pm EST! It totally worked for my kids and our travel schedule.

Traveling with Kids? These 3 practical tips will help ease into the changes like missing home or time zone adjustment.

Eating late-night pizza in the hotel Just sticking to our at-home schedule!

The key for us was staying in a hotel with blackout curtains so the kids could sleep in. I also made sure to put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door so the kids weren’t awakened by hotel staff wanting to clean the room.

3. Remind Kids of Familiar Faces with Photographs

When traveling with my little ones I like to bring photos. Photographs of loved ones can spark conversation and help with sadness over missing someone while away from home.

When my two littlest children traveled with me cross-country to Orlando, I made albums that included photos of their Dad and older siblings who didn’t come on the trip. These softback albums cost about a dollar and can be personalized with your own printed front cover. Include simple photos like a picture of your house, their bedroom or even a favorite toy that was left behind.My preschooler wanted pictures of his teacher and friends from school.  I’ve also made the albums for my husband and I to take with when we’ve traveled without our children. It’s a “brag book” of sorts, so we could show fellow travelers our brood left at home.

Traveling with Kids? These 3 practical tips will help ease into the changes like missing home or time zone adjustment.

Printing at home couldn’t be easier! My HP printer, Snapshots app & Instant Ink give me photos in a minute.

Print Photos at Home

How many photos do you have in your phone that have never been seen? Printing them out doesn’t require a lot of work. Good printer paper, a full color cartridge and your at-home printer are all you need. My new HP Envy 7640 prints photographs like a dream!

Traveling with Kids? These 3 practical tips will help ease into the changes like missing home or time zone adjustment.

Sweet memories at the Beach Club pool at Walt Disney World

I’m having fun with the HP Social Media Snapshots app and the coordinating photo paper sheets. You can print them off at home then take them on vacation with you. The back of the 4 x 5″ photo paper is stickable.

Simply peel off the backing, place the Snapshots wherever you want (in the car, a bathroom mirror in the hotel room, on your laptop, etc) and then pop them off easily without any damage. And since most of my photos are taken on my smart phone, I love that I can easily share and print from my mobile device straight to my printer.

Traveling with Kids? These 3 practical tips will help ease into the changes like missing home or time zone adjustment.

With the Instant Ink program I’ve never run out of ink mid-project. At a cost of $2.99 a month I receive 50 pages. My printer “talks” to HP and lets them know when my ink is low.  I get a new ink cartridge in the mail and never have to go to the store or figure out which ink cartridge I need. Sign up via my HP Instant Ink link & you’ll receive a month for free.

Traveling with Kids? These 3 practical tips will help ease into the changes like missing home or time zone adjustment.

What are the ways you adjust to changes while traveling with kids?

Epic California Road Trip – 5 Tips for Traveling by Car

My family and I will soon be heading for the open road on our first family road trip since adding two more to our brood! We’ll be hitting the road from San Diego and heading to Pismo Beach, Monterey, Reno and Bishop. Eight years ago we took a similar road trip when our older kiddos were in kindergarten. Now that we have four kids, we’re excited (and a bit nervous!) about taking the whole family on the road. Check out where we’ll be visiting so you can follow us on our road trip adventures!

My family and I will be hosted at several of these locations on our trip #hosted

Check out these helpful tips for a California road trip.

California Road Trip

My husband and I are big time “planners” and like to have a solid route and itinerary. We already know a bit of what we’ll be doing at each location, with free time built in for relaxation, play and adventure! With our little one only just turning one year old, we know that extended time in the car won’t be feasible. We’ll be in the car no longer than 3 hours at a time. We’ll be working in plenty of time to get out, stretch and play at each stop.

Check out these helpful tips for a California road trip.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Ventura

We’re starting our road trip from San Diego and the first stop will be in Ventura. Even as a SoCal native, there are so many coastal towns I’ve never been to, including Ventura! We’re planning a stop at Marina Park Beach for a picnic lunch and to allow the kids to play on the pirate-themed playground.

Road Trip Tip #1 – No reason you have to eat all fast food or expensive restaurant meals on your entire road trip. Make a quick stop at the local grocery for healthy fruits, prepped veggies or freshly made sandwiches. Our favorites in California are Whole Foods Market and Sprouts.

Check out these helpful tips for a California road trip.

Dinosaur Caves in Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach

Our first overnight of the road trip will be in Pismo Beach with a stay at the Hilton Garden Inn. We stopped in Pismo Beach in spring break of 2010. Our kids participated in an awesome Easter egg hunt and festival at Dinosaur Caves Park that overlooks the ocean. Hoping to make another stop at this beautiful park again this trip! There is an amazing Monarch Butterfly grove here but it’s only open from October to February each year, so we’re missing it this time.

Road Trip Tip #2 -Check the City Calendar

Each of the cities I mention here have a clickable link that leads to their website. You’ll be able to see what activities are happening in each community. Before your visit, check the city calendar to see if any special events are occurring. There might be a festival, art show or seasonal activity. For instance, the Pismo Beach annual Easter egg hunt was a highlight of our last road trip (totally free and fun for the kids before we got back on the road).

Check out these helpful tips for a California road trip.

Where the mountains meet the ocean in Big Sur

Monterey

Next up for us will be two days in Monterey. With a county that includes Big Sur (a waterfall that pours into the ocean!), Pebble Beach (golfing!), Carmel-by-the-Sea (shopping!) and Salinas (food, glorious food!), there are countless things to do in this beautiful coastal area. We’re staying at the Monterey Tides Hotel, right on the oceanfront.

We’ll be taking in the amazing Monterey Bay Aquarium, an agricultural tour at Earthbound Farms, and a surrey ride from Adventures by the Sea. We’ll be dining on local fresh seafood at Flaherty’s Seafood Grill & Oyster Bar and Peter B’s Brewpub. We have a pretty packed schedule so I’m not sure but we might try to squeeze in a Big Sur visit for some hiking. Also hoping that the Dennis the Menace park will be reopened by the time of our visit, it was a favorite of my kids last trip.

Check out these helpful tips for a California road trip.

Dennis the Menace park in Monterey

Road Trip Tip #3 – Study Road Conditions

Check for road construction, updates and closures online before your trip. 7 years ago we drove Hwy 1, a two-lane route alongside the Pacific. Gorgeous, but slow-moving at times. And there is a section of this highway that is currently closed so thank goodness we’re aware of this and not planning on taking the same route this time! Check with CalTrans before your visit for a quick look at road closures.

Fairfield

About 3 hours outside of Monterey we’ll be stopping in Fairfield, home to two cool factory tours. Grown-ups will enjoy the Anheuser-Busch factory tour (with beer sampling). Kids (and adults!) will love the Jelly Belly Factory Tour. We’ll be making time for the Jelly Belly tour for sure!

Road Trip Tip #3 – Research Between the Big Stops

When plotting your course, check out those little towns along your route and see what they have to offer. We never would have considered a stop in Fairfield if we hadn’t seen that the Jelly Belly Factory offers tours here. Fairfield will be the perfect place to have lunch, take a family-friendly tour and make memories!

Lake Tahoe & Reno

After two days along the Pacific, we’ll be heading inland for “snow-much” more adventure! We’re heading to the Lake Tahoe and Reno area, where we’ll be visiting family and exploring the area. We’ll be staying with my husband’s family, except for one overnight at the Atlantis Casino in the city.

I’ll be pampered in the Atlantis Casino spa for my very first massage! While I’m lounging in the spa my family will be taking advantage of the indoor pool. Other than hopefully playing in the snow, visiting family and checking out the local culture, we don’t have much planned yet. And that’s okay by us, we’ll play it by ear.

Check out these helpful tips for a California road trip.

Enjoying the snow in Reno, Nevada

Road Trip Tip #4 Allow Plenty of Travel Time –

The last time we drove this route (from Monterey to Reno) we got held up in a snow storm. Being SoCal natives, neither of us had ever driven in a snow storm before so it was a very tense few hours. After putting on chains, it was a late night white-knuckle drive through the pass that had us arriving to our destination several hours later than expected. This year we’re allowing ourselves plenty of drive time and leaving much earlier in the day.

Bishop

Our final day of travel will include an overnight in Bishop, CA, one place we’ve never been before. We’ll be letting the kids play at Law’s Historic Village, taking a warm dip at Keough’s Hot Springs and visiting the historic Manzanar site. Bishop is where many “cowboy” movies were filmed, so as we leave town, we’ll stop in for a tour of the Museum of Western Film History in Lone Pine and take a short hike in the Alabama Hills to view some of the movie sites.

Road Trip Tip #5 A Mix of Fun and Learning –

Along your travels see where you can combine history, teaching as well as fun. While we’ll be visiting the Manzanar site (place where Japanese Americans were interned during WWII) we’re also leaving space in our itinerary for free play and fun.

What are your road trip tips? Share with me in the comments!

 

Can’t Afford a Trip? 7 Ways to Take a Family Vacation on a Budget

Taking a Family Vacation on a Budget

For a majority of families, what stops them from the family vacation of their dreams is their wallets. They think they can’t afford a vacation.

I think they’re wrong.

Even as a family on a tight budget, we’ve found that there are many ways to make a vacation happen.

Travel brings so much joy, adventure and memories to families. I can safely say that most of our happiest family memories are from our vacations. I’m sure I’m not alone in that sentiment.

So why aren’t you taking a vacation? What is truly stopping you from planning and going on that dream vacation? And if your answer is “money”, here are a few ideas to consider.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

Think You Can’t Afford a Trip?

According to a recent survey on Spring Break Family Travel, conducted by Vacatia, TravelingMom and TravelingDad, agreeing on a budget and coordinating payment is a concern for 36% of respondents. If you’re on a tight budget than you might fall in that 36% range.

I’ll be frank though – My family is on a tight budget and we still find a way to take several vacations a year. I think family travel is way more important than having the newest gadgets. That little sacrifice can go a long way! Here are 7 ways we make those all-important vacations happen:

1. Day to Day Savings

Naturally your day-to-day spending can make or break whether you have extra vacation money or not (those lattes add up!) By cutting back on little things (generic instead of name brand, packing a lunch instead of purchasing), you can always seem to “find money” that can be used for your vacation.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

Every dollar counts! Put saved money towards your trip & get the kids involved.

Yeah, it can be a downer to eat pb&j from home when you’d rather get a sandwich at the deli but the $5+ savings means more money for you to take that trip. But there are little ways to cut back without it feeling like a major sacrifice. Consider a month of no extra expenses. Take a hard look at all the money going out and choose a few easy ways you can save on expenses.

2. What Can You Do Without?

I’d rather plan another vacation than have cable television. That’s just me, but traveling is just more fun than watching TV. I make the choice to do without. What do you have that you could cut back, freeing up more money for a trip?

It can be hard to tell the kids “no” when it comes to spending on things. When my older kids ask why they can’t have a cell phone or my preschooler wants a toy at the store, I use a distraction technique. I remind them about an impending trip and how we’re using extra money towards our vacation. Then I’ll bring up a certain part of the trip I know they’ll want to talk about and soon enough they’re excited, talking about the vacation instead.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

3. Buy Less Stuff

A recent article suggested that parents should spend less on toys and take more vacations. I’m all for that. We save toy purchases only at Christmas and even then, we try to choose high-quality classic items that work for a wide age group.

We take this concept of limiting stuff even further by branching out into other parts of our home. All the money saved by not buying “stuff” (Dollar Spot, I’m looking at you!) goes into our vacation fund.

4. Use Points for Your Trips

I’m not a huge credit card hacker but I do have a few practical and very easy tips for earmarking points towards travel. Since we do a lot of Disney travel, I have a Disney Visa that I use to pay household bills. The Disney Dollars earned go towards our meals at each trip and we have very little out-of-pocket expenses there.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

Our Costco Visa is used solely for groceries and gas and we earned about $250 in Costco cash last year. I took the check we received to Costco, they cashed it out for me and I’m using that money on our road trip. I’ve also plotted out on a map where all the Costco gas stations are on our route so we can get our gasoline at a great price! We purchased 2 new cell phones at Costco last year and received a $450 Costco gift card rebate so this is our gas money for the road trip.

I also use and love Ebates and book all my travel through the links. I get paid in a “Big Fat Check” and naturally, that’s money to go right towards the vacation.

5. Realize that Separate Vacations Are Okay

According to the responses in the survey, 38% say that coordinating everyone’s schedules is the worst part of planning a vacation. And once you do choose a date that works for everyone there’s also the challenge of making everyone happy. 32 percent say the ickiest part of planning is finding a destination that makes everyone happy and 24 percent say it’s choosing accommodations that will make everyone happy.

Here’s a solution to this issue – Plan separate vacations. Don’t wait until you can get things “just right” because that day might never come. When trying to work out a trip between my husband’s work and school schedule, the kid’s school year and allotted vacation time, finding that week when everyone is available is the equivalent to a needle in a haystack.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

We compromise with separate vacations. My husband likes going to Disneyland as a family once a year for a few days but traveling cross-country to Walt Disney World for a week is not his idea of fun. He’d rather be riding the ocean waves in his kayak, fishing for tuna (definitely not my style!) while the kids play in the sand.

Our kids get the best of both experiences and nobody is gritting their teeth through a week of something they’re not happy with. And on the budget-side of this, a vacation with fewer family members is going to cost less.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

6. Find Ways to Budget on the Trip

Once you nail down the itinerary, decide what features of the trip are the most important to you. If spending time at a fancy hotel suite is a must-do, place the majority of your budget there. If you don’t care where you lay your head, then scrimp on the hotel costs and drop your money where it matters most, like on activities or meals. Survey respondents note that they spend about half of their travel budget on accommodations, which tells me that maybe the call of the upscale hotel pool is high!

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

7. Take the Time Off (and Save More)

If you’re white-knuckling those sick leave hours, you might need a vacation! Here’s a hint: Your coworkers can survive without you. Take the vacation time!

If you wait until summer vacation when the kids are out of school, the costs of a trip during peak travel season will be higher. Consider pulling the kids out so you can plan your vacation when the travel prices are best. I’m taking my kids out this spring for 5 days so we can take a road trip. I was able to contact their schools about independent study. The kids will be able to get their school work done on the road and not get “dinged” with unexcused absences while they’re gone.

Research tells us that family vacations have long-lasting impact on your child’s happiness. I know that seeing my children soaking in new experiences is going to have a greater impact on their lives than any gadget ever will!

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

Save money on your family vacation!

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Use the Promo Code REWRITTEN and receive an extra $10 off any 2-night or longer Southern California package. (Hotel and 2 ticket minimum purchase to qualify for the discount).