🗺 5 Tips For Your Best Family Vacation 🗺

Family vacations are often a combination of fantastic moments and memories peppered with meltdowns and arguments. We’re all human and there is no such thing as a perfect vacation, but here are a few tips that might help tip the scales a bit in that direction!

 

1. Plan before you pack.📝

You will save yourself a lot of stress (and possibly your marriage 👰🏼🤵🏼) if you do a bit of research and planning before you go.  I suggest a travel agent (Five Sandals Travel, maybe?? 😬) for any trips taking place outside of the country including a cruise or an all-inclusive resort. However, even with trips like that, doing your own research is always beneficial. Don’t carry the weight of research on your own- include your family! You could let each one of your kids pick a family activity or a restaurant. This will help everyone to feel involved and have a sense of ownership over the trip, rather than feeling like they’re being forced to tag along on your vacation. My favorite part of trip research is that it builds excitement!

 

2.  Try not to overschedule your days.🏖🎡🛤🗽

If you are going on a trip that involves sightseeing, amusement parks or day trips, make sure you take the ages of your children into account when you’re planning those days. As adults we know how we can feel at the end of a long day, so keep in mind how the small people in your family must feel. Try to build in extra time between activities so you’re not rushing from Point A to Point B and missing those special, unexpected moments that happen when we just stop rushing.

 

3. Expect the unexpected. 🤢👎🏼

This might be the most important tip and piggy backs on Number 2. Anything can happen on your vacation…you might be siting in a  restaurant that had a bazillion great reviews on Trip Advisor, but you are not loving it. Rather than grumbling about it and letting it infect your trip, try to roll with it. You and your family could try to come up with a funny way to word an unfavorable review in order to finish out your meal or some other silly game. I PROMISE you, your kids will not remember the restaurant being horrible, but they WILL remember how much fun you had while you were there. It is all how you spin it.

 

4. Pack snacks.🍎🥜🧀🍭

Seriously. Pack them no matter where you go. The beach. An amusement park. The pool. The wax museum. I do not care where you’re going. Throw enough granola bars in your purse or backpack for everyone. We all know that at the most inopportune moment, one of your kids is going to have a meltdown because they’re hungry. There will not be a snack cart or stand within 100 miles of your location (because, why would there be?!) and nobody, I mean NOBODY, needs a hangry kid or husband on their hands!

 

5. Memorialize your trip. 📸🎇

Do you have a family trip tradition or something you collect to remind your of your travels? Our family collects sand from any of our beach locations. I stack it in a jar and label each layer with the location. My daughter collects snow globes and we always take family selfies. As a family you could decide on the best way to be reminded of each of your trips- it could be putting together a photo album when you return or collecting items from you trips. The most important part is to allow everyone to feel included.

 

If you have any tips you would like to add, leave them in the comments!

The Benefits of Travel Insurance

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You purchase insurance in case of an emergency for your large life purchases- your home, your vehicle, your belongings and your health. Most vacations cost thousands of dollars and, in some cases, families have scrimped and saved over time in order to take their once in a lifetime trip.

Generally speaking, travel insurance can cover all aspects of your trip from lost or delayed luggage to flying you out of a remote location if you need medical assistance. The cost is usually minimal compared to the cost of your trip and can save you many headaches, lost money from a trip that cannot be taken and, in some cases, even your health.

I often think that clients do not understand the value of travel insurance until it is explained to them. I also understand that it can feel like you already spent enough money on your trip, so pulling out your checkbook to write another $400 (I just pulled this number out of the air) seems unnecessary because “nothing will happen”. However, you just never know and, just like with your car or your health, isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?

Here are some ways that travel insurance can add value to your trip:

  1. Handling the Unexpected. You have saved for your perfect vacation and are all ready to go and then an elderly parent become hospitalized, a child becomes seriously ill or there is a work emergency. Travel insurance can save your perfect trip so you can take it at a later date.
  2. Rebooking for Later.   A policy that includes trip cancellation will allow you to preserve your funds so you can rebook with your agent at a later date.
  3. Trip Interruption. You are in the middle of a fantastic trip and get a phone call that there has been an accident at home and you need to return immediately. Trip interruption coverage allows you to return home in the middle of your trip and recover most of your investment.
  4. Lost Baggage. If your luggage is lost or stolen, baggage benefits on your policy can help you replace the essentials that have gone missing.
  5. Help with Problems. Having emergency travel assistance with your policy is essential. This provides your with a team available 24-7 to deal with emergencies. This could be a need for an attorney or lost or missing travel documents.
  6. Keeping your Healthy. If you become sick or injured while in another country, travel insurance with medical benefits allow you to be directed to a local English-speaking hospital or doctor.
  7. Getting you Home. If your insurer determines that your health and medical situation is an emergency and that you cannot be helped where you are, they can arrange for you to be moved to a proper hospital or medivac you back home.
  8. Peace of Mind. The peace of mind knowing that almost every situation that could arise would be covered by your travel insurance policy is probably the most important item on this list.

There are also insurance options if you are traveling closer to home. Your agent can provide you with an accurate quote in just a few minutes.

5 Reasons You Should Give a Travel Agent a Try

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You use a professional for your taxes, your car repairs, your hair so why aren’t you using a professional for your travel needs?

In this day and age with hundreds of websites full of travel information, discount deals and special offers constantly in front of us, people need the services of a travel professionals more than ever.

  1. They read the fine print and compare offers. There are a lot of deals  on the internet seem far too good to pass up and people wonder why the quote they received from an agent was higher. However, what they are missing is the small details from the discount website quote that makes it less expensive. For example, it is a lower category room, doesn’t include transportation to/from the airport, includes horrible flight times, etc. An reputable agent is trained to put together the best possible deal for you and include everything you need for a stress free trip.
  2. They are your personal vacation shoppers. One you have established a relationship with an agent, you become more than just a client. They will often keep you in mind if they come across a deal or a trip that you might be interested in.
  3. The Human Factor. Let’s face it, a discount internet site isn’t going to share you vacation excitement and have real interest in how your trip was when you return.
  4. They are the experts. Like your doctor or mechanic, a good agent will ask the right questions, listen to your answers and help to guide you to the best fit for your vacation time.
  5. They can manage both the product AND the service of your vacation. A travel agent knows how to sell you the vacation that fits your needs-the airline and resort, the cruise or the vacation closer to home. They also offer the service that will guarantee your vacation is stress free and goes off without a hitch.

The best way to find a reputable travel agent is to ask your friends and family. You might be surprised how many people actually use an agent for their travel needs!

So, the next time you’re thinking about a vacation, give a travel agent a try!

 

To Do: 11 things you should be doing before you leave on vacation.

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I am a busy, working mom with 3 children. My family also loves to travel. So, nobody understands as well as I do what those days leading up to actually LEAVING the house can feel like. If you are anything like me, you have lists and then your lists have lists! It can feel as thought you are trying to keep track of a dozen papers in a hurricane. Even with all of our list making, it can be easy to forget to the basic things that need to be taken care of because we can be so focused on all the large things. I provide all of my clients a Travel Tips and Checklist document so they can leave for their vacation confident they have taken care of everything. I’m going to highlight some of the important items from that list today.

Money Matters: ALWAYS contact your financial institution and let them know you are traveling. We do it for every road trip that crosses state lines and you should ALWAYS contact them if you are leaving the country. If you are leaving the country, make sure you debit/credit cards have an expiration date that is one month after your scheduled return date. Pay any bills that will be due while you are away.

Your Mail/Newspaper: If you will be gone longer than the weekend, hold your mail. It is super easy to do. Just go to http://www.usps.com/holdmail. You just provide your mailing address and chose your hold dates. This will stop mail from piling up in your mailbox- and from people realizing your home is empty.

Your Services: Do you have a housecleaner or lawn service that would generally be scheduled to come while you’re away? If so, make sure you either cancel that scheduled service or make special arrangements with them to come while you’re away. If you have an alarm, notify your alarm company you will be away.

Your Pets: If you have to board pets, make sure they are up to date on their shots. If you have someone coming into your home, make sure you confirm your dates with them and leave your contact info.

Garbage Day: Will you be gone over garbage pick up day and have garbage that needs to go out? If you have a great neighbor, maybe they can drag your cans out if you have everything ready to go.

Clean Up: I know. I actually groaned when I typed that. However, the only thing worse than coming home from vacation is coming home from vacation to a messy house. So, try to get the laundry caught up (think about all the dirty laundry you’ll come home with), put clean sheets on the bed (think about how good it will feel to climb into your own bed with clean sheets when you get home), give the bathrooms a quick wipe down and clean off the kitchen counters.

The Fridge: Take a quick peek in the fridge and clean out any fruit, veggies or other items that could spoil while you are away. You do NOT want to come home and play the “what’s that smell” game.

Medication: If anyone in your family takes prescription medication, make sure you have picked up a refill if it will run out while you are away.

Your House: Set a light timer or two in your home. Close curtains or blinds. Double check all windows and doors are locked. Water your house plants. Set your thermostat (upper 70’s for summer and upper 50’s for winter).

Let People Know: Make sure you give a few people a copy of your itinerary and let them  how to get a hold of you if you will be in an area where you might not have cell service.

Documents: Double check that you have your identification, wallets, tickets, confirmations, copy of your travel insurance, and cell phones and chargers.

Last but not least, do a head count on the way out the door so you don’t forget any of the kids!

 

 

 

NEWS FLASH..Travel professionals are still a fantastic resource and you should use one.

Let me start out by saying we know all about them. Those not-so-secret sites that offer all the amazing travel deals and coupons for travel. 🤐

We also know that there are times that those sites can beat the prices we are able to find for you on that amazing all-inclusive vacation or the cruise to the Bahamas. You might think that it would pain me to type that they can sometimes beat my prices. But it doesn’t.

I swear It doesn’t bother me at all that those sites are out there. I’m the first person who loves a a great deal and I cannot fault anyone else who does too.

However, imagine this:  someone in your party has lost their passport or you are having a problem with your resort hotel room that is not being resolved on site. Then imagine yourself holding at an 800 number for 40 minutes to get in touch with a customer service representative to try and help you only to be told they offer you zero assistance once you have booked your trip. 😱

Now, I cannot tell you that every booking site works that way. What I CAN tell you is that if you feel strongly that you are going to book your once in a lifetime vacation through a discount site, that you know EXACTLY what kind of service will be offered to you should you run into a problem down the line. What if someone in your party should become ill and you need to return home in the middle of the trip? Can they help you with that? Did they offer you the option of travel insurance which would have taken care of the expenses associated with returning home suddenly? Or, will you be left high and dry and the $400 you saved by booking on your own suddenly seems like pennies when presented with a suitcase full of problems and nobody to help you carry it (do you like how I used the suitcase analogy there?) 💼

I want to cover just a few of the reasons why you should give a travel professional a chance.

  1. A LOT OF US ARE FREE. Yep. You read that correctly. Some people assume we must cost money for our time and you’re going to be writing a big, fat check to us for sending you on that cruise. I cannot speak for all agents because some do charge a fee, however most of us do not. We offer you our time and our expertise at ZERO charge to you. We search out the information on your perfect vacation, find the best deals, book it,  and handle any problems that arise while you are gone for the NOTHING. That’s not to say we do not get paid. We do. We all earn a commission from the hotels, the resorts or the cruise lines. You should know that he commission we earn from the suppliers is pretty standard across the board. Do not worry for a second that when we are offering you several resort options we are not swayed by the amount of money we would make. Our suggestions are based on YOUR personal and specific needs and requests. NEVER by any amount of money we would make.
  2. I WANT YOU TO GET A GREAT DEAL. Yep. You read that one correctly, too. If you find that amazing Internet deal, bring it to me. I’d be happy to look  it over and validate what they’re offering. I’d also like the option to see if I can match that price, find you a better deal or get you a few extra goodies that you aren’t going to get booking on your own. See…I’m not anti Internet deals at all!
  3. YOUR FAMILY WILL PUT YOU IN THE LOONY BIN. By this one I’m talking about planning that big multi-generational family trip to Disney World or on a cruise. You have to keep everyone happy from Grandma down to Baby Timmy. I’ve been there. I planned two Disney trips with both sides of my extended family- one trip was 17 people. Do you know how difficult it can be to keep 17 people happy? I hope you do not. It can be difficult to be impartial about plans- or make people believe you are impartial about plans- if you are part of the group. This is where a travel professional can come in. I can provide the information about why that knitters retreat might not be the best option for everyone and tell her that I found a great cruise that will have a knitting group on board. Essentially, I can help make everyone happy.
  4. DISNEY WORLD. For so many families a trip to Disney World is a once in a lifetime experience. You only see Disney through your kids eyes for the first time once and you want to make it as magical as you can. want it to be as magical for you as it can be. Book Disney with someone who knows the ins and outs of the most magical place on earth. Travel professionals that book Disney know how many days in advance you can make dining reservations, we can recommend the restaurants with the best character meet and greets, we can hep you with your Fast Passes, rand recommend the resorts that would be the best fit for your family.

❤I do what I do because I love sending families on an amazing adventure. ❤An adventure that will create memories they will carry with them forever. Every vacation I book for someone feels like MY vacation. I take your good time personally. Can one of those vacation sites do that…..😉

Theme Park Etiquette

It’s that time of year. You know the time..we pack up the car and hit the closest amusement park (hoping) for a fun filled day of rides, smiles, and family fun!  As much fun as amusement parks are, there are going to be meltdowns (by adults and their children 😉) and long lines to wait in for rides, food and the bathrooms. 

Here are some tips to make the day more enjoyable for you and all the other guests in the park:

1. Be patient. If you are going to an amusement park during season, you have GOT to go expecting to wait in lines. Grumbling, complaining or being rude about waiting is not only making your trip less enjoyable, the happy family behind you doesn’t need to listen to your stinky attitude. 😱

2. No pushing or jostling other guests. This bears repeating-Do Not Push People. Please give people their space while waiting in line. Nobody wants to feel someone else’s sweaty body pushing against them in line. 😷 Shoving people forward or crowding them doesn’t get you on a ride any faster. 

3. Walking the right way. My kids learned the phrase “on the right to be polite in school” and this applies in theme parks (as well as malls or any place where people are walking). If you try to stay on the right hand side you will (hopefully) avoid walking into people or feeling like a salmon swimming upstream. 

4. Stopping in the walkways.  I love my cell phone as much as the next person, but if you want to send a text, upload a picture to social media or check your map app, please MOVE TO THE SIDE and do not just stop while you are walking. This could cause people to walk into the back of you or, even worse, have a stroller slam into your heels. 😲

5. Watch your language.  There are kids of all ages in the parks. They do not need to hear about your drunken escapades from the night before or the f-bomb peppering every sentence you’re speaking. Be respectful of the people around you-making fun of people makes YOU look bad. So just don’t do it. 👍🏻

6. Be prepared for meltdowns. From your children and your own! As much fun as a theme park is, it is also a long, hot and overwhelming day. We cannot expect our kids to be perfect all day, anymore than we can expect not to have our own moments. Just try to handle it as best you can, give a hug and a smile, let it go and move on!

7. DO NOT BLOCK CHILDREN. This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. If you are at a park (or anywhere for that matter) and there are children waiting to watch a parade, or other show that requires you to stand, and children have been waiting DO NOT SQUEEZE YOURSELF IN FRONT OF THEM. I honestly cannot believe this even needs to be stated, but it happens over and over. Little Suzy has been standing there for an hour waiting to watch The Main Street Electrical Parade at Disney only to have adults squeeze in front of her. STOP DOING THAT RIGHT NOW. What kind of monster blocks a kid from seeing a parade so they can watch it?! 😠

8.  Stay with your group in lines. It’s super frustrating to have 6 people jostle their way past you because the rest of their party got in line 30 minutes ago and have been “holding” their spots. 

9.  Diaper changing. I get the frustration of needing to change diapers. I have three children with two of them being twins. So, I have changed my fair share of diapers. Please try to find an appropriate place to change diapers. Generally a diaper change is not an emergency situation so keep your eyes open for bathrooms.  I have seen people change their children on tables in food courts and picnic tables. 😳 Who knows if those tables will be wiped down before the next person sits down with their tray. 

9.  Smile! Remember that you are there to have fun and make memories with your family. Do not let the handful of grumpy or rude guests ruin your special day!

☀️Heather 

Travel Tip Tuesday #4: Travel Binders for Kids

If your kids are anything like mine, they want to remain attached to their electronics on a road trip. Ultimately, 2 problems eventually come into play after hours spent staring at their screens:

1. Using your phone as a hotspot is eating your data like one of those ticket eating machines at Chuck E Cheese

2. Your kids 👀 begin to rot from staring at their screen and even they grow tired of using them. 

So, what is a mom to do with hours left in the trip?! Pull our your customized travel binders. 😍

 Travel binders are a great idea if you are traveling by car, plane, train or boat. Any kind of travel that requires your kids to sit still for a boring extended period of time and they are on a much needed electronic break. 

If you are unsure what they are, here is a picture of a binder from Creative Connections for Kids

  

I made travel binders last year for my kids and they were a huge hit. I set ours up the same way using the case that would clip into the rings of the binder. The nice thing about the travel binders is that you can tailor them for your individual child’s age or interests. 

Creating them is a breeze! I promise. I am not a crafter. I actually don’t like it all all, so I wouldn’t consider this a crafty project. It’s super simple this is what you need:

1. Three ring binder for each child

2. Pencil case or bag that can clip inside the rings

3. Those plastic page protectors for 3 ring binders

4. Dry erase markers/cloth to wipe off pages

5. Pages you have printed and slipped into the page protectors. 

Here are a few samples from the binders we still had hanging around:

 
At the time, my daughter was almost 9 and my boys were 6 so they had some of the same pages and some different ones. They could all play along with things like scavenger hunt pages, tic tac toe, word searches and road trip bingo. My daughter was old enough to follow along on maps of the trip, so hers held a few maps. 

If you have older kids, try creating pop culture trivia sheets, or “guess the song” with just a few words from the lyrics. All kids love hangman-make a hangman sheet! You are really only limited by your imagination! Plus, there are literally DOZENS of sites that have the sheets you can download. I’ll list a few at the end. 

I also picked up a few things at the Dollar Tree (my fav store! 😍) and Five Below and stuck them in there. 

Tailor them for your individual kids and you’ll have a car full of happy people!

☀️Heather

Living Well Mom She has over 150 downloadable forms and tons of great ideas!

Glue Sticks Blog This blog is an excellent source for travel binders! You must check this one out!