Thursday, July 31, 2014

Wanderlust Wishlist

The other day I was looking through my "Travel" folder on Pinterest and thinking about all of the places in the world I would love to go someday. Hank and I have a list going that we've added to throughout the years, and we've very slowly been checking off places. And I say slowly because right now we're in the baby season of our lives and it can be hard to just get up and go! However we are firm believers that kids don't need to slow you down...they just might change your plans a bit. With that said, I thought I would share some of the place son our list- it's a LONG list, but here are the top places on our "someday" wishlist.

1. Japan

Have you ever been? I was so close to moving there after graduation to teach English as a second language but plans changed and I never went. It's always held a very special in my heart though, and I've wanted to go there for as long as I can remember. My Dad lived there for awhile when I was younger, and traveled there frequently. I can still remember how excited my sister and I would get whenever he returned home, a suitcase full of fun toys and Japanese candy. And luckily it's always been right at the top of Hank's list too. So Japan, we're coming for you! day.

2. Northern California

We've been to San Francisco a few times but I've never ventured north. Whenever I see pictures of the beautiful Redwood trees or the Northern California coast there's this ache in my chest- I just want to be there. A dream of mine is to pack my family into our camper and just drive up the coast, stopping along the way to admire all of the beautiful sites. I'd love to camp in Yosemite and wake up surrounded by those big, old trees, swim in the hot springs, and go to bed with the sound of the ocean crashing against those huge cliffs.

3. The South

Broad, I know, but I couldn't pick just one southern state if I tried. One of my dear friends lives in South Carolina and posts some beautiful photos of her city that always makes me want to see it in person. I love the history there, and I'd love to explore it more with my family. And then of course there's Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama...the list goes on.

4. Greece

This is a given, right? Doesn't everyone want to see Greece once in their lifetime? We almost honeymooned here but instead decided to go to Moorea, a small island next to Tahiti. We had the best time on that trip, but sometimes I'll see a photo of beautiful Greece and feel a tiny little twinge of regret that we didn't go when we had the chance. It's just such a gorgeous place between the water and the countryside and the colorful towns.

5. Norway
This is another one of those places with that "WOW" factor. If you do a simple image search I'm sure you'll feel the same way I do- in total and complete awe! I've only known one person who has visited Norway and she said it was amazing (of course). This is another place high up on my travel wishlist that I daydream about often.

So how about you? Do you have one (or more!) places you just HAVE to see in your lifetime? Share below, if you'd like! I always love hearing what's on people's wishlists.


Sources: 1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

10 Tips for Traveling with Babies and Kids

So, I'm no expert but we have traveled quite a bit with both of our boys, both road trip style and via airplane. I remember before we took Henry on his first plane ride back in 2011 I was incredibly nervous and I think kind of psyched myself out reading way too many blog posts and articles on the subject of traveling with kids. In the end, it wasn't as bad as all of the things I read made it out to be. Isn't that how it usually goes though? And since that first trip we've been many more places and each time I feel like I learn something new as far as what works, tips/tricks, etc. So, I thought I would share some below, and maybe you'll be able to grab something new that could work for you on your next trip! I would also love it if you'd chime in below with any tried and true travel tips with your kids too. Here we go:

1. If at all possible, try to rent a house rather than stay in a hotel. I only recently realized that renting a house is actually a lot more economical in most cases. And just for comparison because I know it does sound kind of crazy to "just rent a house," I looked up places in San Diego for a family of four. Average price for a 3-star hotel room was about $120 and renting a 2-bedroom apartment via Airbnb was about the same per night. We often travel with my family, so we're able to split a bigger place 2 or 3 ways. It's the best and so, so much cheaper. And like I mentioned in yesterday's post it will make things a LOT easier, as far as naps and bedtime. We generally like to stick to naps when we can, so having bedrooms for the boys to nap in helps everything go a little smoother. And it's a treat to not have to be silent in one hotel room at 8pm when your kids have to go to bed- just be sure to bring your baby monitor so you can sit in the backyard or another room while your little ones safely snooze away.

2. Bring a white noise machine! Our kids both sleep with white noise machines (here's the one we use) at home to drown out the noise that WE make, so we don't have to tip toe around the house when it's time for them to go to bed. We always bring one on trips, and use it in the hotel room or bedroom, wherever we are. It came in handy during this last San Diego trip because our condo was close to a restaurant and it could be very loud during mid-day, aka naptime. Thank goodness for that white noise making it possible for Henry, Charlie, and Lucy to sleep no problem.

3. For either car or air travel, have one change of clothes for each child NOT packed away. In our car we actually have a little emergency kit that is always stocked with diapers, wipes, extra underwear and pants for Henry (still in there from potty training days), a onesie, and a couple of different shirts. I can't even tell you have many times those extra shirts have come in handy due to a spill or even just a sweaty car ride down in Phoenix. And when you're traveling by plane be sure to have the same thing in your carry on. Nothing is worse than have a diaper blow out or a huge mess on your hands, and no spare clothes to change into.

4. Split up downtime, sometimes. When you are traveling with small children there will always be downtime, either during naps or early bedtimes. If you're with your partner, there's no need for both of you to sit back at every single afternoon or early night- instead, take turns going out and enjoying your surroundings. During our last Disneyland trip Henry was napping for 2-3 hours every afternoon so Hank and I would switch off and spend time on our own. Hank rode the Space Mountain a few times in a row and I enjoyed walking around my favorite parts of the park. It was nice to have some "me" time, and helped me to recharge a bit too.

5. If you're taking a beach vacation, pack a beach tent. We always, always bring one with us if we're going to the beach or lake and it makes hanging out all day long a breeze. Little ones can nap in there, you can nurse without worrying about getting sunburned, and just relax out of the sun. This is a necessity for us since having kids.

6. If possible, stop by the grocery store when you arrive at your destination. Having the room stocked with water and healthy snacks is the best and cuts food costs by a lot. And so many times when traveling getting breakfast can take awhile (getting there, waiting to eat), that I find having a big stock of things like Larabars to eat in the room when we wake up is key to happy kids and parents.

7. Babywear/nap on the go! Having a lightweight stroller is convenient too, but so many times when traveling I find myself bringing one then just wearing Henry or Charlie all day long. When I'm visiting a new place it makes it so much harder having to navigate a stroller around too. Strapping your child to your chest or back and being able to walk and move and not worry about one more thing to push and maneuver makes life a lot easier. And as a huge added bonus, many small children will sleep in the carrier. Charlie is still napping twice a day and there is no way we want to sit around all morning, but we also don't want to skip the nap, resulting in a crabby baby. So instead Hank or I will just wear him in the Ergo and he'll fall asleep right around naptime, and get some rest while we explore or walk around.

8. Get there early. Wherever you plan to go, be the first ones there. Museums, "nice" restaurants you want to try, monuments, whatever. With kids earlier is better so you can avoid crowds and enjoy the experience as much as possible. There have been so many times we've had a restaurant on our must-try list, but know that it's probably not the best idea to bring to children to a place that might not necessarily be the most kid-friendly spot (tables close together, low lighting, etc.). So we will look to see when they open, and arrive then. If that means eating at 3 or 4pm so be it, because the place is usually empty and we don't have to worry about ruining someone else's meal with our happy, excited children (see also: loud). And a quick disclaimer- I don't feel like kids should be silent or we should live in fear of ruining anyone else's time (kids will be kids!), but I do feel like there are certain types of restaurants or places where yes, kids WILL ruin the ambiance, or possibly someone else's dinner, and I think it's courteous to avoid that.

 9. Make little entertainment packs aka "bags of tricks." When on vacation there are some times that he needs a bit of downtime or distraction, especially if we go out to eat and we want to enjoy a nice meal without having to rush and get out of there before he gets bored. So before traveling I will stop by the dollar section at Target and pick up some fun little toys, crayons, coloring paper, and new books, and put them into little packs I can bring out when needed. If you're flying it's always fun to wrap little toys up too. Nothing expensive or fancy- 99 cent Hot Wheels are always a huge hit and the entertainment factor goes a long way.

10. Let go of expectations! You're talking to the former queen of expectations here. Kids will kind of shock that right out of you though, because the number one rule while traveling with small children is to just go with the flow. Nap time won't happen at the normal time, bedtimes will be later, and in turn kids won't be their normal selves. Maybe crankier, maybe crazier, and plans won't work out just as you envisioned them to go. Instead of fighting against it, go with it. The sooner you can let go and accept that your happiness doesn't depend on everyone else having the perfect time, or being in the best mood, you'll be able to enjoy your trip in all of it's imperfect perfection.

Some other small tips:

11. Always pack hats for everyone in your group.
12. Bring peppermint oil in case of air/car sickness or nausea.
13. Book flights or plan long drives during naptimes/downtime.
14. Have a ziplock bag or specific pouch in your carry-on bag or purse to conveniently keep all tickets, IDs, etc. organized. Nothing's worse than frantically digging around a big bag to find what you need.
15. Bring water shoes for kids- they're great for hot pool decks, the beach, etc.
16. Be sure to have wipes and a travel sunscreen on hand at all times.
17. Pack more snacks than you think you'll need, and be sure they are individually bagged or packed. This way everyone has their own, and you can easily pass them across an aisle or back in the car.
18. When going to a crowded place, sharpie your name and phone number on your child's forearm, or use a Safety Tattoo.
19. When traveling with a baby, call ahead to the hotel and see if they can have a pack 'n play or crib already set up in the room. Being able to have your child safely contained when you arrive and want to get settled and unpacked is so helpful. And if you're renting a place, just ask! In our experience the property owners we've worked with have always been extra accommodating.
20. Smile, laugh, then laugh some more. Things will go wrong, yes...but sometimes the best memories are made during those times!

Happy traveling! And like I mentioned above, if you have any more tips to add, please do so in the comments. I would love to learn what works for you, too. We hope to do some international travel in the future with the kids as well, so anything along those lines is much appreciated! xoxo

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Week in San Diego, Part Two

I'm glad I decided to break this trip into two posts- I had way too many photos! Looking back through them has made me miss the beach so much. For those of you who are lucky enough to live by the ocean, I can't even imagine how nice it must be to wake up and just BE there, every single day!

Have you ever been to San Diego? Like I mentioned in yesterday's post, we've been quite a few times but it was always either for Comic Con or while Hank was on tour. Henry and I visited La Jolla with Sarah a couple years ago and had the best time (it's so beautiful there), but as a family this was the first "real" San Diego beach vacation.

Do you have a favorite beach in California? I think we'd love to explore the northern part of the state next- I've seen so many photos at my friend Sarah's blog and Instagram of all the beautiful beaches and forests, and it's very high on our to-go/must-see list.

For now though, here's the second half of our trip photos, taken with both my "regular" camera and my iPhone! Enjoy. xoxo

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Week In San Diego, Part One

A couple of weeks ago we spent a week in San Diego, at another Airbnb rental (use that link for a $25 credit). This time we stayed in a condo a couple of houses from the beach and it was SO nice being that close to the ocean. We've been to San Diego in the past, but never with enough time to really relax and take it in, and this time I really fell in love! We stayed in the Mission Beach area and all of us really enjoyed it; it was a nice mix of things to do, restaurants, and of course, the beach right there.

Before I even get into this, I just have to add that this is an unsponsored post- I just really like using Airbnb! :) I've talked about it before but as our family gets bigger and bigger, we've found that renting one house for all of us on a site like that is a LOT more economical and much more fun than booking three separate hotel rooms for my parents, my sister's family, and our crew. Plus, with three little ones, nap times are infinitely easier on us as parents. Having a house with a few bedrooms means we can just bring our baby monitors and enjoy hanging out in other parts of the rental home, or in the backyard. This way no one is stuck in a dark room for a couple of hours on vacation. Although sometimes I do find myself napping right along with them, it's nice to have options! We still haven't tried some of the other home rental sites, but next summer we'll be traveling the East Coast and I hope to try them out.

Some of my favorite things about our week in Mission Beach:

-waking up early and running/walking along the beach and boardwalk. Although it's not really a boardwalk like the one I grew up with in NJ. It is a beach-walk? Walkway?

-The Olive Cafe, which was right across from the condo. The food was so good- I especially loved the chocolate chip scones, fresh out of the oven every morning.

-Some other restaurants we enjoyed: Mitch's Seafood, Rosaria Pizza, La Playa Taco Shop, Babycakes Cupcakes, and Chop Shop.

-The weather. I LOVED the gloomy mornings. It always burned off by 10am or so, but those cloudy, overcast early hours down by the water were some of my favorite times.

-All of our firsts: Henry's first time boogie boarding, Charlie's first time meeting the Pacific Ocean, the first beach vacation we've all taken together since Charlie was was awesome. Oh, and I can't forget my first time trying an acai bowl. Delicious!

Below are a million photos from our week, via my iPhone and regular camera. I had to split this post into two posts and I'll share part two tomorrow! xoxo

^a roadtrip essential!

^best ice cream at The Olive Cafe
^met up with our friend Kelly and her kids one afternoon- so fun