Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Our Hamilton Chicago Family Review and Experience

Monday, December 5th, 2016

Our Hamilton Chicago Family Review and Experience

It’s 4:30 in the morning and I just can’t sleep. I can admit that I am still riding on quite the high after returning last night from a, TRULY, unforgettable weekend with my family. For those of you that follow me on the interwebz, you already know why it was so exciting, but if you are just catching up, I wanted to share with you the surprise getaway I pulled off to see Hamilton in Chicago with my kids. So many people have been messaging me and asking us questions about our experience that I thought I would share it with you so that others could replicate all the fun that we had!

How We Caught the Hamilton Bug

We caught the Hamilton bug a little later than most of my friends, but when we caught it,  we we fell fast and hard for Hamilton. During a marathon on a puzzle, over our Fall break, we started listening to the soundtrack with our kids. As soon as it finished, they begged to listen to it all over again…and again…and again. It happened to be around the time of the PBS documentary, so we curled up on a couch with them and watched that too. As we drove home from our holiday (blasting Hamilton at full volume), we asked the kids IF (and this was a big IF) we could get tickets to Hamilton, would they be interested in doing this for Christmas. Our family is BIG on experiences and not big on crap in our house so this was, of course, a welcome and familiar idea for our kids.  In fact, we have done a couple of our very own Choose Your Own Adventure Christmas gifts that have been an incredible way to give the gift of experience to our children.

We did not talk about it again with them and pretended like this would never happen in a million years. In fact, they did not know until the morning we left where we were even headed, not only because we wanted to surprise them, but because it didn’t even feel real to us.

hamilton

How Did We Get Tickets!?!

We are known for being frugal so thinking about buying tickets when balcony seats are going for $600 (or more!) seemed way out of our comfort zone for pricing. This month was a crazy month for us though on the site thanks to Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holiday content I had written. We doubled our ad revenue this past month, thanks to that burst in traffic, and we had more sales than we have ever had through the site, sometimes in just a single day!  Each time you make a purchase, we make a small commision off your purchases.  This passive revenue is nothing I ever bank on, it is always just a really happy surprise.

Basically, THANK YOU!

Just in case, I glossed over the whole the site did great stuff, this was the most work I have ever put into it this season. I actually went four days without sleep or a shower, we ate cereal for a week so I could hang out online tracking stuff, and I was pretty awful to everyone around me.

I like to live in a truthful place.

In the end, we pretended like that extra money did not exist and set that amount aside to give our family an experience of a lifetime. It was money that we did not bank upon so it made that a wee bit easier to spend.

 

Privatebank Theater Seating

Just because you have the money though doesn’t make it easier to spend especially if you are unfamiliar with a theater or its seating. PrivateBank Theater  (formerly Bank of America Theatre- VERY CONFUSING!) has some really good seats and some REALLY terrible seats.  My worst fear is to spend a ridiculous amount of money only to find that we can’t see a thing when we got there.

I spent a month scoping out tickets, but also asked for advice from a friend who frequently buys concert tickets and is just a guru in general on ticket buying. His advice was to wait until the last possible minute to insure the best deal on the tickets.

We are a two hour drive away from Chicago so we knew we could do that.

 

vivd-seats-2

After searching on a million sites, we ended up going with VividSeats for two reasons. The first reason was that they actually had the lowest priced tickets after hunting all of the other usual suspect sites. The second was that they offered a 100% buyer guarantee on those seats and it felt less risky than doing something like buying them on eBay.

I used the site,  A View From My Seat to help us figure out if our seats would be good or not. This is a great tool for ANY event you are going to and can help determine if your tickets are a good value or not. Basically, people take a quick phone shot from their seat and tell you whether it is a good one or not. This was the shot that I found from the tickets we were looking at which said, “Limited View.” Because the view was limited, it lowered the value on the tickets and gave us seats in Orchestra Row F for $300 each which ended up being less than the nosebleed seats. Spoiler alert:  the seats were fantastic and better than we could hope for! More on that later…

hamilton-day

Was the process smooth? No, thanks to the seller we bought them from. Waiting until last minute yielded great prices and a panic attack until they arrived. I logged in to check that the tickets had been sent out and Wednesday evening they still had not been sent out for us to leave on Saturday morning. I called VividSeats where I talked to a real-life person who put me on hold, called the seller on another line, and discovered he had not sent them out like he was supposed to. We made alternate back-up arrangements to have them shipped directly to our hotel and she assured me that I would be getting my tickets as soon as possible.

The tickets were overnighted and arrived on my doorstep at 4:30 PM the night before we left. I was so thankful to have them in my hands and practically kissed the delivery man who looked bewildered at the unshowered woman in her pajamas having a near meltdown at the front door. I really appreciated that VividSeats was quick to action and that they made sure that they honored their buyer guarantee to have them to us before our event.

We woke them in the morning and I think they were just stunned. I had packed their bags for them and we were a little disappointed they weren’t losing it about all of this. It wasn’t until we pulled up to the hotel that they were BESIDE THEMSELVES. Much like us, seeing is believing!
thewit chicago

thewit chicago

Where Did We Stay for Hamilton Chicago?

This was our first overnight with our kids in Chicago, but not my own first overnight there. When I did a girl’s trip, one of the gals arranged our stay at theWit. We got the room for a steal and had a really enjoyable stay so it seemed like a great place to try again. The best part is that it was within walking distance of everything so after I booked our tickets, I booked a stay again at theWit. Definitely check for deals through sites like Booking.com, Hotels.com, or TripAdvisor for scoring a really good rate.

Staying for a girl’s trip is a lot different than staying somewhere with your kids though. I was shocked when the concierge emailed me and said that he saw were coming with our children and wanted to be available to me to answer any questions. We knew our kids would love getting Chicago pizza so I emailed a request for a nearby option for gluten-free pizza. They emailed their pick (it was PERFECTION!) and a menu so we could look it over before we came.

The night before arriving the concierge called again to make sure we had everything in place. He explained the valet parking option ($65 overnight and they park it for you!), went over what time we would be arriving so our room would be ready, and assured us they were available moving forward for anything and gave me his number to call if anything came up.

Um, awesome!

We ended up getting there an hour earlier than we said and the staff was apologetic that the room was just being inspected and not ready. After we threw our diva fit about it being unacceptable (JUST KIDDING!)  they got us water and snacks and a few short minutes later, we had keys and headed up to our beautiful room. After breakfast, we came back to a gorgeous complimentary fruit platter welcoming us which was, seriously, the nicest thing ever.

This location was about a 10-15 minute walk to theater and on the way we could see all the beautiful holiday displays in the windows!
Hamilton Chicago Family Review

Hamilton Chicago Family Review

Hamilton Chicago Family Review

What Did We Think of Hamilton Chicago?

As we headed into the theater, an older couple asked if my husband and I were aware of the content in Hamilton since we came with our kids. He grinned and said that they had heard the soundtrack many a time and that we were very aware of what we were taking them to.

There are a couple of f-bombs in the show and there is a sexy number, when Hamilton is involved in a torrid affair,  that is pretty sultry. There are also a few sexual innuendos and such that I doubt went completely over their heads.

Here is what I will say about this. I’m a Christian and we have kept our kids very sheltered from a lot in life. At the same time, there are a few things that have recently happened that gave us confidence that our children had the maturity to see this show.

The first is that they are both in middle school now.

Do you remember middle school?

Hard knock life, yo!

They are already hearing this stuff from their peers and what they saw on stage, I doubt, is any worse than they get to experience on a bus ride.

I’m just having a little flashback to a good Christian girl getting down to Humpty Dance repeatedly at dances reminds me that I’m not too worried about seeing a musical with my kids- hahaha!

The second thing is that this political season has been a doozy and they have been exposed to a lot of garbage thanks to that. Many things happened that I wished I could have sheltered them from, but they still heard all that stuff from their peers, on their news at school in the mornings, and what they have heard on NPR.  This election season, as awful as it was, has created a really honest dialogue with our children about politics and our beliefs. Hamilton is about politics and it is also about a revolution.

You know, our kids are living through a revolution right now and we wanted them to see what happens when people become a part of that narrative for change.

We want to raise kids that are part of the change, part of the good, part of the narrative.

The only worry we had about the Pence drama, by the way, was that it would raise the price of our tickets.

If you thought that might be a worry for us, I encourage you to get to know our family better!

Namaste.

Hamilton Chicago Cast

source: chicago sun times

Being familiar with the original cast doesn’t insure anything though, does it? I have gone to many shows where the current cast was a world away from the original cast. Here is what I want to say, this cast is as incredible as the original cast and does not AT ALL feel like a second-rate show. Being as close to the stage as we were, certainly gave us a very personal perspective of the acting to really witness every nuance and every facial expression. I can’t begin to tell you how moving and how incredibly well done this production is.

Lin-Manuel handpicked their next lead for Hamilton and this is the first leading role for Miguel. You would have never known he hadn’t been the lead in everything he has done and Miguel adds his own flavor to Hamilton, never feeling like a Lin-Manuel knockoff ever at any point in this show.

Every single actor is incredible so it feels unkind to single any out, but I have to do it.

Joshua Henry is one of the most incredible talents I have ever seen on the stage. He played Burr in such a controlled way and the emotions he displayed had me absolutely weeping through much of the show. His voice was unreal good and a perfect rendering needed for Burr.

Ari Afasar’s performance as Eliza was the one that I was most worried about. Phillipa Soo’s voice doesn’t seem like a voice that can be replicated, but Ari’s performance was astounding and perfectly pitched too. It was so much better than I could have ever expected.

Karen Olivo made from an incredible Angelica. There is this point in the show, after her toast to the bride and groom, where the emotion is rawly displayed on her face at this union between her sister & Hamilton. For me, it was one of the moments that made the whole show. In fact, I could burst into tears again thinking about it. That one moment, for me, really showed off what caliber of actress she was.

Hamilton Chicago Cast

source: chicago times

Chris De’Sean Lee plays both Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson and adds humor and heart to this performance. He soars in, “What’d I Miss?” and had my kids belly-laughing through his portions in the show.

Alex Gemignani as King George could not have been more pitch perfect. There is so much about his part that you don’t get to hear on the soundtrack and he adds so much hilarity to an often serious show. In fact, King George ended up being both kid’s favorite in the show.

Even the stage was so cleverly constructed and set designer, David  Korins, shared that they even tried 33 different colors of brick before they found the one that matched the costumes best. Not a detail was spared on this project and it shows.

At the angle we were seated, we could look into the wing of the theater as the actors exited and entered on stage. I have done so many shows during my own time of theater so I was curiously watching them while trying to take in the show. They never once broke character, not once. Each face you would gaze upon was completely in that moment on stage and never strayed. I think that also says a lot!

Generously, after our performance, Alex shared that they were raising money to assist those with HIV. Several members of their cast stood with buckets to take our donations and it was incredibly moving as a fan to get to say, “YOU WERE AMAZING,” in a really intense stalker kind of way to them.

I hope we didn’t scare them.

As soon as we left, my wish was to do it all over again. The show felt like minutes for me, my son, and my husband. My daughter, however, was satisfied with the first act and it took a forty dollar soda to get her back in her seat for the second act.

She loved it, it was just a long day of travel and excitement for her!

At ten and fourteen, I do believe they loved and appreciated this experience. It’s like Disney…you want them to be old enough to appreciate it so you feel like you made a good investment. We really felt like this was a great age for that.

The Art Institute of Chicago

What Else Did We Do After Hamilton Chicago?

The kids were pretty wiped after the show and we were really glad we picked the 2PM one and not the evening performance because of that. We packed a collection of our favorite Christmas movies (these two for them and this one for us!) and scored a DVD player through the guest services at our hotel. We ordered our yummy pizza, got in our pajamas, and had a Christmas movie marathon.

After a lazy morning, we headed over to The Art Institute of Chicago for the day and got to see some REALLY incredible art (it was also within walking distance of our hotel!)If you haven’t been, it’s an incredible museum filled with more art than you can ever imagine. They also have a beautiful cafe to sip some warm drinks in between.

Shake Shack

Shake Shack

We finished our trip with our first visit to a Shake Shack (which was right across the street from the museum!)  and I really hope it isn’t our last. HOLY YUM!! You can get their patties wrapped in lettuce if you are gluten-free. The shakes are divine and a midday glass of wine hit the spot too for this tired mama!

Unfortunately, the weather took an awful turn and my poor husband had to get us back in the middle of a whiteout and slick roads. We were all so thankful to be home after seeing so many people in accidents. Had the weather not done that, the entire weekend would have been absolutely perfect.

The Hamilton Mixtape

We managed to make it through that awful weather thanks, in part,  to The Hamilton Mixtape that came out giving us a chance to hear songs from the show in an entirely different way. If you haven’t heard it yet, you are in for a real treat. Artists like Sia, Nas, Alicia Keys, Andra Day, Jimmy Fallon, The Roots and so many other incredible talents put their own personal spin on songs from the musical. You also get to hear the original demos as well as some original music that was created and mixed just for this project. You must, must, must listen to it!

hamilton-chicago-family-review

This Christmas will definitely go down in our memory books as one of the best we have ever had. Thank you to the incredible cast of Hamilton Chicago for making it an experience we shall never forget and making an incredible family memory that I hope will last a lifetime!

Thanks so much for letting us share about our experience with you!

Have questions? Ask me!

This post contains affiliate links that help our site! Thank you for supporting me! xoxo 

 

DIY Car Organizing Tips (Giveaway with Big Fat Notebooks!)

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

You know that mom that always has bandages, always has a snack and drink on hand, can pull a pen out at a moment’s notice, has tissues, never forgets an umbrella, utilizes time well between running kids, and keeps a tidy car?

That’s not me.

In fact, I have been pretty embarrassed about just how bad things have gotten. No one really wanted to ride in my car including myself (insert scared face emoji).

It was on my organizing bucket list to tackle this since a good portion of my day is now spent in the car running kids from activity to activity. I spent an afternoon getting us organized for this school year and I wanted to show you how I did that.

Big Fat Notebooks Big Fat Notebooks

The inspiration came from today’s partner, The Big Fat Notebook series. If your kids love Diary of a Wimpy Kid, they will LOVE this new way of learning. When my kids were younger, they were hooked on Brain Quest, but once they hit middle school age, I felt like everything just felt like…Well, work. After a long day at school, the last thing they want to do is browse another textbook. That is why these are so genius. They look fun and teach you something in the process.

There are five books in all, and each is the only book you need for each main subject taught in middle school: Math, Science, American History, English Language Arts, and World History.

They also happen to meet Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and state history standards, and are vetted by National and State Teacher of the Year Award–winning teachers. If you are a homeschooling mama, this would make an excellent addition to your curriculum.

You can find these fantastic books at AmazonBarnes & NobleIndiebound, or Workman.

Big Fat Notebooks

I am not lying when I say that my daughter has become OBSESSED with these. There has been a lot of fact reciting at the dinner table!

We REALLY want to share them with you so please scroll to the end to catch this giveaway!!

I also wanted to figure out a way that we could keep these books on hand for busy days so I used this as an excuse to get my car organized and create caddies for each kid with the things they need. With school supplies on sale right now, it also happens to be quite an affordable time to create these little kits!

DIY Car Organizing Ideas

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

After browsing every type of organizer available, I ended up using these shower caddy organizers for each of my kids because they had great pockets and a wipeable surface in case they get dirty or muddy. I also slipped a plastic cup for each to hold pencils/pens so it would make it easier for them to grab. In each one, I have an umbrella, snacks (that can withstand the hot car),  a water, a couple of Big Fat Notebooks (strategically chosen for the subjects we need to work on!!), and packages of tissues.

car-organizing-tips-2

I had planned to hang them from the backs of the seats, but the width was too deep on our car. I actually think it will be easier to have them on the floor and they can also be moved to the center when they are being used.

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

Backpacks can also pile up on the floor so I got these hooks to give these guys a home. It can also be a great place to hang a jacket, hat, or purse. Our backpacks often get dirty and thrown on the floor so I am hoping it helps with that too!

Now that the kids are in better shape, I wanted to work on some problem areas for me. My biggest issue is carrying around gym equipment so I wanted to make that an organizing priority.

diy-car-organizing-ideas-9

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

In my gym equipment stash I have two pairs of shoes (one for dance class and one for cardio), a spare pair of socks, yoga socks, tissues, water, facial cleansing wipes, hair ties, travel brush, and a towel. These are things that I am always forgetting and that I sometimes end up having to buy at the gym.

All of these fit perfectly in this container.

Again, plastic, wipeable, AND breathable.

Not that my feet sweat AT ALL, but I wanted you to know for you. It’s okay. It happens to a lot of people.

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

My yoga mat takes up valuable space and I hate that it is always rolling around in our trunk. Again, using those utility hooks to keep it in place along with my hot yoga towel and umbrella.

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

To finish up the tour, I wanted to show you just a couple of other things that are helping.

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

removable hook for hanging the trash bag- we will see how long this holds!

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

tiny totes for random things- one has receipts and pens, one has snacks for me, one has a mini first aid kit (for a legit one check here!), and the last one has tissues.

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

utilizing the gaps for my phone to save space in my drink holder (similar idea here!)

It’s not perfect, but I’m pretty proud. I feel like I *might* be able to be that mom this year AND my kids will be learning between activities too. High fives all around, friends!

Giveaway Time

Big Fat Notebook

I can’t wait to give someone this whole collection. We are so excited to share this with you! The books included in this giveaway are:

Everything You Need to Ace Math . . . covers everything to get you over any math hump: fractions, decimals, and how to multiply and divide them; ratios, proportions, and percentages; geometry; statistics and probability; expressions and equations; and the coordinate plane and functions.

Everything You Need to Ace Science . . . takes readers from scientific investigation and the engineering design process to the Periodic Table; forces and motion; forms of energy; outer space and the solar system; to earth sciences, biology, body systems, ecology, and more.

Everything You Need to Ace American History . . . covers Native Americans to the war in Iraq. There are units on Colonial America; the Revolutionary War and the founding of a new nation; Jefferson and the expansion west; the Civil War and Reconstruction; and all of the notable events of the 20th century—World Wars, the Depression, the Civil Rights movement, and much more.

Everything You Need to Ace World History . . . kicks off with the Paleolithic Era and  transports the reader to ancient civilizations—in Egypt, Greece, India, China, Africa, Rome; the middle ages across the world; the Renaissance; the age of exploration and colonialization, revolution and imperialism, and the modern world and the wars and movements that shaped it.

Everything You Need to Ace English Language Arts . . . covers everything to get you your best marks: grammar, including parts of speech, active and passive verbs, Greek and Latin roots and affixes; nuances in word meanings; textual analysis, authorship, structure, and other skills for reading fiction and nonfiction; and writing arguments, informative texts, and narratives.

One (1) lucky winner will receive:

  • Copies of all 5 titles in the Big Fat Notebooks series
  • Branded school supplies including highlighter/pen combos, a notepad, and jigsaw sticky notes.

Please follow the widget below to enter to win! I hope this post inspires you to get organized. As always, feel free to ask me any questions in the comments below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

This post was sponsored by Workman Publishing and Big Fat Notebooks. All thoughts and opinions are my own!

 

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How To Make Flying Economy Feel Like First Class

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

How to Make Flying Economy Feel Like First Class

Wouldn’t it be lovely if you could fly in first class all of the time? Unfortunately, for most of us, we often find ourselves in the back of the plane feeling a little bit jealous of those first class passengers. Lucky for you, with just a few thoughtful items tucked into your carry-on bag and a little planning before your flight, you can trick yourself into believing you are having a first class flying experience without the expensive price tag!

As a frequent flyer myself, I wanted to share with you a few quick ideas for making your economy experience feel like a first class one for your next flight!

How To Make Flying Economy Feel Like First Class

Make Flying Economy Feel Like First Class

 

Select Your Most Comfortable Flight

To begin your first class experience on your economy budget, begin by choosing the most comfortable flight you can within your budget. InsideTrip.com is a site that not only arranges your flights by price, but they also allow you to include the most important flight features for you, including the speed of the flight, the comfort level of your flight, and the ease of the flight. Using this site, you can plan the flight with the most legroom, the type of aircraft you prefer to fly on, and even arrange flights with the newest aircrafts for your next flight.

Select the Best Seat You Can 

You might not be able to afford a first class ticket for your flight, but you can certainly make the most of the economy seat you are in. Visit sites like SeatGuru.com or SeatExpert.com to select the best seat available for your trip. By using a site like one of these for selecting your seat you can avoid a seat with limited recline or reduced legroom on your next flight. With a little extra legroom and the best seat in the back of the house, you are just a little closer to that first class experience!

Make a First Class Tote 

Many of the amenities the other passengers are enjoying in first class can be enjoyed in economy with a little thoughtful planning. Inside your carry-on bag tuck in a few items that will help you feel comfortable when you are flying. I love to have an easy cardigan or wrap that can double as a blanket or to keep my arms warm when I fly, a warm pair of socks when the cold air is blowing on me, and a few delicious snacks that I can enjoy for free while I am in flight. A moist towelette for freshening up, dental floss, a toothbrush, and toothpaste can also be wonderful to keep you feeling refreshed on longer flights.

Take a First Class Nap

While you might not be blessed with as much room as the first class passengers, it certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t be comfortable. Purchase an eye mask that you can take along with you when you travel that can block out the light so you can take a really great nap and look for free white noise apps that you can download to your phone to block out the noise around you while you are flying. With the addition of your cardigan or sweater to snuggle up with, you have the makings for a perfect first class nap!

 

 

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5 Free iPhone Travel Apps That Save Time & Money

Monday, June 29th, 2015

5 free iPhone travel apps that will save you time and money

I have to admit that before I had a smart phone, I was hesitant to travel or venture anywhere without a good tour guide to help me navigate the unfamiliar terrain. Thankfully, my phone has not only helped me to be more adventurous when exploring new restaurants and sites, but in some ways, it truly helps me to feel like a local.

Of course, my favorite apps are the ones that can save me time and money, both of which are always on short supply when traveling. Today I wanted to share with you a few of the best apps that can save you both of those things when planning your next trip.

5 Free iPhone Travel Apps That Save Time & Money

Use Travel Apps to Save Time and Money

Gate Guru

Wandering around aimlessly at an airport searching for your gate, a good place to eat, or where to pick up a good book to enjoy on your layover is a thing of the past! Just as Yelp, CitySearch and foursquare are great for locating new and interesting options within a given city, GateGuru serves as the leading light to locate the best food, shopping and service options within any airport at the touch of a button. This free app covers the top 86 airports in the United States, the top 12 airports and Canada and London’s Heathrow Airport. Be sure to add this to your phone to help save you time on your next flight!

Wi-Fi Finder

There is nothing worse than arriving at a destination and discovering that there is a charge to use the Wi-Fi when you finally make it to your destination. Fortunately, with the Wi-Fi Finder, you can quickly and easily find free Wi-Fi when you need it most. This app simply uses the GPS function on your iPhone and the Wi-Fi finder will tell you exactly where the closest Wi-Fi hotspot is, and how to get there. Although the app highlights both paid and free Wi-Fi spots, a simple filter allows you to easily filter only the free spots so you can save a few bucks on your next trip.

Take Me To My Car

Is there anything more painful than taking a red eye flight and parking your car…only to forget where it is? This application solves the problem and with only one tap saves your current position wherever you might be. The next time you start the app you’ll have walking directions to your car right in front of you. Unlike many apps that offer only turn-by-turn driving directions, you can use this app to find your way back to your car with walking directions and ditch the endless wandering around the airport parking after a long day of traveling.

Flight Tracker

Any app that makes a flight easier for me is an app that is worth downloading. With Flight Tracker you can track all of your flights with zoomable maps, get real-time departure info, or delays and gate numbers at a glance. The best part, of course is that they will update you on cancellations and help you find an alternate flight. With assistance like this, you are bound to save time not only locating your gates, but also avoid being stranded at the airport the next time your flight happens to be canceled!

Cheap Gas

For those travelers that are hitting the road, Cheap Gas! is a fantastic app to add to your iPhone. Simply by using the GPS, Cheap Gas! lets you know the prices of gas near you, and then automatically maps a route to the station of your choice All gas prices are provided by the Gas Buddy network of sites and includes time stamps to let you know how long ago the gas prices were updated. When gas prices rise, you will be armed with this money-saving tool to make the most of your travel budget.

 

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Strategies for Packing Lighter

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Strategies for Packing Lighter

Packing lighter not only will help you save you time at the airport, but it can significantly reduce the amount of money you spend on your next trip. Unfortunately, most airlines now charge for you to check in your luggage, but it is important to be aware that the largest allowed size for carry-on bags is 22×14×19 inches. With careful planning and strategic packing though you can maximize your suitcase and shave approximately $50 off on your next round trip flight with a few smart packing strategies.

Here are a few quick tips for lightening your load on your next flight:

1. Call Your Destination First

Wherever you are headed, whether it is for business travel or leisure, call first and see what is already included in your hotel room. Some items like bathrobes, hair dryers, and toiletries are common items that are often included within your stay, but you may discover that your hotel can offer some unexpected offerings that will free up a great deal of precious space in your carry-on bag. For example, items like beach towels, toys or movies for children, and portable cribs are items that could be offered complimentary with your room. I have found that it just never hurts to call ahead and ask and you might be surprised to discover just how little you really need to bring!

2. Divide Your Luggage 

If you are traveling as a family, divide the luggage up between each family member and consider investing in one small roller bag for each child that they will be able to maneuver themselves. Child size luggage can be found at discount stores like Target, Walmart, TJ Maxx, and Marshall’s. Even with this investment, you can still easily save $25 on the way back because you won’t need to check a bag. The bonus is that they can use that bag for years to come, making it easy to recoup your travel investment.

3. Pack Smart

It seems that it is always the people that do not take the time to pack wisely that become the most flustered or are asked to step aside by security. The most important thing to note is that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules require that passengers only carry liquids in three ounce containers in no more than one, clear, quart-sized bag.

I love to visit freebie sites like Freebies4Mom.com, DealSeekingMom.com, or The Savings Lifestyle and stockpile sample size toiletries and detergent for your trips that will comply with these federal guidelines. If you travel frequently, reusable travel containers can also be a fantastic investment that can be refilled with the items you already have from home. Make sure to store this bag right on top for easy access, as it will need to be removed from your bags when going through airport security.

4. Establish Order In Your Carry-On 

Underneath your bag of toiletries, tightly roll your clothing to prevent wrinkling and to maximize the space within your carry-on luggage. Choose clothing that can easily be mixed and matched and make sure to prepare for what weather conditions may be awaiting you. There is nothing worse than being at an amusement park with your family during a torrential downpour and paying $15 for an umbrella or heading to a state with warmer weather and paying $35 for a junky tourist sweatshirt because you are freezing.

Last, make sure that any electronics that will need to be inspected rest on top next to your toiletries until you get through security. The ones that will not need to be run through separately will be easier to scan if they are right on top and those that require a separate scanning will be easy to access for this procedure. Remember that everything can be rearranged in the bag, once you get through security, to protect your electronics from harm during travel.

5. Save Even More Money

The best part about keeping your bags light though is that you can use this as an excuse to not buy so many travel souvenirs on your trip. Consider that light bag as not only a savings for not checking in, but the ultimate excuse to not indulge in those pricey gift shops. I have been known to use this excuse a time or two when coming home empty-handed after a business trip!

The important thing to remember is if, in the end, you are unable to reduce your luggage to be carry-on compliant, try paying for your baggage online first. Just by paying for your checked bags online you can sometimes save you a few dollars each way.

How to Pack Lighter for Travel

In the end, the lighter the load, the lighter the expense and the easier your life will be when getting through those security checks!

What are some of your tips for packing smarter and lighter when traveling?

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Learning to Love Travel with Your Husband

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Learning to Love Travel with Your Husband

When I was a kid, my family took a vacation each summer. Even if we could only afford to visit the next state over, we went somewhere new. When my husband was a kid, his family spent a week at the lake each summer. Even if the traffic was horrendous, they took a road trip to spend those days swimming and sunning.

Though we knew these things about each other before getting married, we never imagined it would influence our own relationship and decisions for our family. Unlike money and communication and how to fold towels, we had no idea that our approaches to travel could result in frustration, disappointment and general disagreement.

If you think about it, though, travel is more than an interest or hobby. It’s related to how we view spend our time and money, what we determine are priorities and set as goals, and even what we think is best for our families. No wonder it can cause so much trouble between two people with completely different backgrounds!

While WHERE to go is the obvious difference of opinion when it comes to travel, that’s just the beginning. Since getting married 16 years ago, my husband and I have disagreed about…

  • When to travel – which season, which month, what part of the week? early in the morning or in the middle of the night?
  • How long to travel – a long weekend? a full week? a day’s journey away? only a few hours away?
  • How to pack – like a Boy Scout (be prepared)? roll your clothes to fit more in the bag? just the necessities? {shudder.}
  • Whether to fly or drive – spend the money? or the time? or the sanity???
  • When (and whether) to travel with kids or friends or family (speaking of sanity…)
  • How strictly we adhere to an agenda – or do we even need an agenda? {Yes. We always need an agenda!}
  • Where we splurge and where we pinch pennies
  • Whether tourist traps are fun or awful
  • How often to stop for bathroom breaks or photo opportunities

And probably more that I’ve forgotten!

Because of these differences and disagreements, many of our early trips were spent with as many frustrated signs and ill-tempered words as museums and national parks. Both of us assumed that OUR WAY to travel was THE RIGHT WAY to travel, and we felt both disappointed and disgruntled that the other one didn’t get that!

Tips for learning How to Love Traveling with Your Husband

Thankfully, after so many years of traveling together, my husband and I have figured out which details and decisions we can compromise on and which ones we need to take turns on. He knows I’m never going to go somewhere without an agenda, and I know he’s never going to be happy about multiple bathroom and photo breaks. But, for the most part, I can manage a laid back schedule designed for maximum fun and minimum stress – and he almost always humors my requests to stop {again.} for one more break.

Of course, that doesn’t mean our travel planning days are carefree, full of rainbows and giggles. {Um, no.} As a matter of fact, as we worked on plans for this summer’s vacation, we had to debate again the benefit of a larger hotel room when traveling with children versus the benefit of saving a few dollars! But for the most part, our travel dreams are more aligned than ever.

They’re so in sync {sometimes. okay? not always!} that we’ve started a Travel Wish List.

The wish list began when I read something online about how many summers we have left with our kids before they go to college. After I stopped crying my eyes out {because REALLY.}, I counted. My oldest daughter is seven and just finished the first grade. She may travel with us after going to college (and we have a handful more years before her baby sister leaves the nest), but the reality is that we only have 12 summers left before she moves out.

We immediately began brainstorming all the places we want to take her – and then realized that a) the list is way longer than 12 destinations and b) we might not want to take kids on all our trips over the next couple of decades! We came up with a list of 24 places we’d love to take our girls, but the truth is several of the destinations overlap with our couple’s travel wish list.

That may mean we visit those places twice over the years – once with kids, once without. It could also mean our daughters have to make some trips with their own families down the road. In other words…don’t tell the girls, but they might get left with the grandparents a few times, no matter what our list for them says!

These days it feels like a miracle if my husband and I can go to the grocery store together, sans kids, so even a short road trip would be a gift. But we won’t always have young kids, and we want to plan now so bigger trips are possible sooner rather than later. So we’ve made a list for ourselves – and started a savings plan to make those travel dreams come true. Here are the top 5 places we’d love to go together right now:

  • Chicago
  • Savannah/Charleston
  • Hawaii
  • San Antonio
  • Europe

Our 20-year wedding anniversary is coming up in four years, so we’ve actually started saving for a trip to Hawaii. My hope is that we have way more than five amazing trips in our future, whether they’re far away or just a couple hours’ drive from home – and that, one of these days, we can even learn to agree on the ideal playlist, best snack foods, correct number of bags and appropriate souvenir purchases!

Do you and your husband have the same approach to travel?

 

Photos by wwarby and jolevine

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Printable Travel Games

Monday, June 15th, 2015

Free Printable Travel Games from MomAdvice.com

Road trips are in the plans for our summer. How about yours? My least favorite question to hear from the back seats is the infamous, “Are we there yet?”. Busy young minds sometimes need encouragement to look up and to gaze at the changing landscape outside of the car. With three children ranging from 5-10, we have a minivan full of various interests and developmental levels.

I have happy memories of bingo travel games (remember those with the transparent sliding doors) so I decided our children needed travel games of their own. For my older set, we put together a scavenger hunt, and for my son, an emergent reader, a bingo game of symbols and sites.

Free Printable Travel Games from MomAdvice.com

DRIVE bingo follows the traditional game with graphics you might see on a day of errands or a road trip (use as needed!). We always pack a lap desk or clipboard in the car for drawing and paper activities so my son was ready to get to work when he saw this board! Some symbols like the water tower or the number sign might need explanation but they will also keep little ones spidey eyes attuned to some new discoveries.

Free Printable Travel Games from MomAdvice.com

PRINT DRIVE BINGO HERE

My two older daughters, 8 and 10, want to be challenged. The Road Trip Scavenger Hunt is right up their alley. If you’re headed out on a longer journey, you could tape this to an interior window (making sure it doesn’t obstruct the driver’s view) and work on it little by little. This works well for us since we tend not to travel light, and a single piece of paper can get easily lost in the books, ipods, stuffed animals, etc.

PRINT ROAD TRIP SCAVENGER HUNT HERE

I’ll admit that I had a lot of fun thinking of what might stump them. :) You could use these as a competition to see who can find all of these items first. For our family, competition and long drives do not go well together so we use these more as a group project!

Free Printable Travel Games from MomAdvice.com

Searching for a lost shoe on the side of the road and sparking conversations about what counts as outdoor art is a fun way to pass the time, and even get to know each other a bit better. Some of these you might even find in your own car!

MJ from Pars Caeli

Enjoy the summer travels; we’re going to do our best to do the same! Any tips on helping your children enjoy road trips?

xoxo, MJ

I hope you enjoyed our guest post today from M.J. at Pars Caeli today. MJ will be joining us this summer to share her beautiful printables and knowledge with us! I am so lucky to call her one of my personal friends and to get to share her talent with you this summer! Please visit her blog for incredible ideas this summer to entertain your kiddos- she is one fun mama!!  You won’t be disappointed! xoxo

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Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

My husband and I went for our first time out of the country this past month and it was the experience of a lifetime. In the upcoming weeks, I wanted to share with you a little bit about our experience with traveling internationally from how we saved the money to do it to packing for your vacation.  Since this is our first time out of the country, we lack the seasoned advice of travelers like Tsh from The Art of Simple (I have been just dying over their family’s incredible adventure, haven’t you?), but I hope we can bring a new voice to it about first-time international travel.

One of the keys to our success was utilizing a travel agent and going the group tour route for our first time traveling internationally. This surprised us so we wanted to share that experience with you especially if you are trying to travel internationally on a budget.

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

The savings plan (I will go over that next week) had been in place for many years so that our family would not feel the pinch when we decided to take our 15th anniversary trip. Since it was our first time out of the country we had to get our passports. We headed to the post office to get the paperwork filled out which I was pretty nervous about.  I have so many issues because I dropped my middle name when I got married and this has been the biggest headache of paperwork ever since because my license and Social Security card do not match (thank you, Indiana).

My husband’s passport showed up in our mailbox quickly and I, of course, got a letter that my name was not correct on my license. After it being put before a board to determine if I am who I say I am (Sam I AM), they sent the passport with my correct name and that is when we started moving on the booking of grandma (bless her Jesus-sized heart!) and the booking of our travel.

I asked my friend Erika Brown from Chic Shopper Chick to help us because she and her husband had taken an excursion to Italy and she is my go-to gal when it comes to travel.

Armed with her amazing advice, we reached out to Cheryl Oddo from Carefree Vacations (telephone number 800.683.4074 and her email is coddo(at)carefreevacations(dot)com) to assist us with booking our travel.

PS- She said you can reach out to her if you are interested in pricing for yourself and she is awesome. Please tell her you are my friend! 

This was our first time working with a travel agent and it definitely will not be the last. Cheryl asked what we were most interested in seeing and looking for in a trip to Italy. She then sent to us several ideas for group travel packages that we could do and the pricing for each option. The pricing was carefully spelled out and told us what would be included (transportation, breakfast at our hotel, walking tours) and what wasn’t covered (airfare, additional excursions, tipping). We noticed the rates increased during the height of tourist season and selected one right before the rate hike for Italy to make the most of our money and the timing of our incredible grandma.

Here is where I keep things real….

I did not want to do group travel for my 15th wedding anniversary.

I did not want to be social.

Mostly, I just didn’t want to share my husband with anyone and I wanted to have a really romantic vacation with just him.

We weren’t thrilled.

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

At the same time, we had NEVER been anywhere out of the states and the idea of navigating Italy was, indeed, far too daunting for the two of us. My husband didn’t feel comfortable driving and I didn’t feel comfortable planning an itinerary and finding public transportation to everything. This did seem like the best option and what unfolded was quite glorious.

Here are 7 reasons why I think group tours are a great travel option (if you are a seasoned traveler or not):

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

You Can Avoid the Lines for Important Monuments

The lines at some of the important monuments and museums had minimum wait times of an hour or more. Since we were on a group tour, our guide knew what time to take us to avoid the crowds to get the best experience, and they had a VIP line for tours where you could bypass all the people who were not on a tour and just go right in to see everything.  For us, we were only able to spend seven days in Italy and we wanted to experience as much as we could in this short amount of time. Doing the tour allowed us to see multiple attractions in a single day and beat the crowd doing it.

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

You Have a Great Ride to See Everything Up Close

Our tour offered a motorcoach that even included WiFi so that we could share our photos and update email on the trip. Not only did we have an incredible guide, but our driver got us as close to our destinations as possible which helped us waste less time walking and more on the attractions themselves. The first night, for example, we got to see the lights of Rome and the bus pulled right up so we could take a photo. A nice touch of Andrea Bocelli singing Time to Say Goodbye certainly completed the mood while gazing upon the beautiful city.

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

You Learn SO Much Through Guided Tours

Here’s a little secret, I was a terrible student and listener.

SHOCKER!

It’s hard to hold my attention so I was on the fence if a guided tour was going to be my cup of espresso, so to speak.

Here’s another shocker.

It was.

The reason?

The tour guides were phenomenal. One of our guides majored in art history the other was doing archeology in Rome. These guides just didn’t know a little about these attractions, they knew everything. Standing at the feet of David would have still been a moving experience, tour or not, but when the guide told the story of Michelangelo and his passion for art as well as helping us discover details that we would have never noticed before, it made it an entirely different experience.

 

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

You Still Have Time To Shop & Explore On Your Own

Our big worry was that we would just be on a neverending tour everywhere, but that wasn’t the case. On some of the excursions, we were given a quick walking tour and then we were told where to come back for meeting and for other tours and you always had the option to opt out of any experience and do your own thing. For us, the travel into destinations would be more to cab it and try to navigate on your own then it would have been taking the motorcoach in and having the free time.

One day we skipped a tour to visit the Uffizi. We let our travel director know where we were headed and he not only checked to see if he could get us tickets (impossibly awesome to do this), but he walked us to the cab, told us how long we might expect to wait, and where could pick a cab back up. After three hours trying to get in, we walked in the museum to see my husband’s favorite work of art and had a glass of wine on the rooftop with an incredible view. When we got back, my husband hugged our tour guide with tears in his eyes because it helped make the impossible possible.

It was the sweetest thing ever.

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

You Will Know the Lay of the Land

No matter where you go there are good parts of town, bad parts of town, appropriate etiquette and tipping guidelines, and protocols  that you will need to know when navigating somewhere new. A guide can tell you where to find a bathroom (invaluable, if you ask me!), if you should tip someone, where to watch for pickpockets (and how they operate), as well as assist you if you have special dietary needs.

I thought being gluten-free would be an issue, but it NEVER was. I let our tour director know that I couldn’t have gluten and he let every single chef know wherever we ate. When on our own, he supplied incredible recommendations for where to get a bite to eat.

Safety would have been a big concern if we would have been on our own. We were advised how to hold our purses and where we shouldn’t be going to avoid having our money stolen.

Part of me disbelieved the hype until we stood in line at a museum and a girl told us how kids were distracting her and being cute in a seat next to her while they stole all the money in her purse on the subway.

Maybe this wasn’t just hype. Maybe we were really lucky to know this after all.

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

You Will Save A LOT

Not only did the travel agent provide good advice for making the most of our money, but the group tour option saved us thousands thanks to the affordability of group travel.  Factoring in the better budget accommodations, the transportation (by boat and by car), the included meals, and the walking tours, we really saved a bundle by going through a group tour.

Were all the meals spectacular? No. Were all the hotels fantastic? No.

We shrugged it off and worked around it. Most places we were there only a night or two so it was easy to laugh off. If we wanted better food, we could cab it somewhere better than the hotel offerings.

Group travel does require flexibility and it isn’t always perfect. For the most part, it was about the destination and the people…not necessarily the accommodations!

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from MomAdvice.com

You Will Make Incredible Friends

You know those two people who just wanted to be ALONE and not be social?

#lifeoftheparty

We met people from ALL OVER THE WORLD.

I even met two bloggers/photographers (check out Better Family Photos & Kellie Carter Photography)- what are the odds?

It never felt lonely or isolating when you had people to talk with.  Everyone has a story and I tried to put my listening ears on (see above why this is hard) and really listen and learn from these incredible people. My heart was so full and we had so much fun together that I was teary-eyed when it was time to go. Not to just leave this incredible country, but to leave these incredible friends. How lucky we are to have a place like Facebook where we can continue to follow one another.

There you have it.

Group tours are not only far more affordable, but they are officially the Clark jam.

We can’t wait to do another one!

Have questions? Ask me! Have a personal experience doing a group tour? Share it here! See more photos of our trip on Instagram (I’d be honored!) xo

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m challenge: What’s in Your Carry On Bag?

Monday, June 8th, 2015

Carry-On Bag Essentials Ideas from MomAdvice.com

I have gotten the chance to travel a lot with my job which has been an unexpected blessing for this blogger. I had always been a nervous and scared traveler, but now I don’t even lose sleep the night before my trips because I feel relaxed and prepared.

Today I wanted to share with you a few of my favorite carry-on essentials that I keep with me when I travel.

Carry-On Bag Essentials Ideas from MomAdvice.com

Cozy Items

I hate the cold air blowing on me in a plane so I always try to keep a couple of cozy items in my carry-on bag.  The first thing I always have is a nice cushy pair of socks especially if I am traveling in sandals where that cold air can blow right on my freezing cold feet.

The other thing I always have is a wide scarf or poncho to keep me warm. I discovered this Kerisma Poncho (found at Ali on the Boulevard for $36- you can contact her if you want one. Just call 574-274-3110, they can take your CC by phone and ship to you!). These come in a variety of colors and can be worn five different ways including as a scarf when traveling.  The nice thing about this poncho is that it folds up really small so it is easy to transport. Although this says it is a dry clean only item, I ran it through a handwash cycle and line dried it with no problems at all.  I keep this with me, not only for travel, but for a light covering at air-conditioned restaurants or as an easy layer on cool summer mornings.

Carry-On Bag Essentials Ideas from MomAdvice.com

Items to Help Me Sleep

After taking a ten hour flight, I now understand the true challenges of international travel. I always travel with a sleep mask, some Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Extra Tea (not the regular stuff, the extra stuff- read the reviews why!), and I pop a Tylenol PM as soon as I hop on the plane so I can try to knock myself out for my flight. Combining that with my poncho and socks… I can usually get a great sleep on the plane with this winning combination.

Carry-On Bag Essentials Ideas from MomAdvice.com

Great Snacks

Being gluten-free and traveling can be a tricky combination so I always try to keep lots of snacks in my carry-on in case I have trouble eating anywhere. I always carry a big bag of almonds and these Think Thin Creamy Peanut Butter Protein Bars are a go-to because they are gluten-free, have 0 grams of sugar, and 20 grams of protein. If I end up not being able to stop for a bite to eat between flight connections, this is often my lunch or dinner.

I also try to bring an empty water bottle with me for filling. Our airport (as do many) offers a water bottle filling station so I bring it empty to get through security and then fill it once I am at my gate. Filling this up saves me several dollars and keeps me hydrated while flying. I recommend a style like this for optimal flavor and easy transport.

Carry-On Bag Essentials Ideas from MomAdvice.com

Fantastic Entertainment

For me, it is all about reading on the plane. My last trip, I managed to consume four books which would be ridiculous to try to carry around in my suitcase. I use the Overdrive app from my library and load up my Kindle app on my iPad for reading on the plane. I also purchased this Logitech iPad Keyboard that is my favorite gadget of all for travel. It basically makes your iPad into a mini laptop. I am able to answer emails and update my social media channels, but it also acts as a fantastic holder for holding my iPad to watch shows or for reading on the plane (I just rest this on the tray or on my lap).  If you are looking for some great books to read on your next flight, be sure to visit our book review section of the site!

Carry-On Bag Essentials Ideas from MomAdvice.com

Items to Freshen Up

I try to keep a couple of items to freshen up with when traveling on long flights. These Listerine PocketPaks are a great substitute for brushing your teeth in the tiny lavatory. I also use these Yes to Blueberries wipes that I buy off of ePantry (I love drugstore deliveries) for a fake shower, wiping down and refreshing. I also am a big fan of my Burts Bee’s lip balm (did you see the documentary on this guy- that is one interesting man!).  After a little refreshing, I feel a lot better after hopping off my flight.

 

What are some items you always carry in your carry-on bag? Share them below!

Choose Your Own Adventure Travel Idea

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

Choose Your Own Adventure Travel Idea from MomAdvice.com

As my kids get older, we have found that they need and want less and less.  We have also found that we desire less clutter and more moments with our kids so my husband and I hatched up a Choose Your Own Adventure gift for the holidays this year that we gave them in lieu of gifts.

Do you remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books? They were my favorite when I was a kid because each time you read a book, you could make a choice that would take you down a different path. I think I reread this one a million times, returning the well-worn pages back to the library, only to to check it out again.

That idea of choosing your own adventures still lives on and I decided that this year, our family would make travel a top priority. I want my children to have big adventures and see the world so at Christmas, we gave them the unique opportunity to, truly, choose their own summer adventure with us as a family.

I tell you this now instead of in the winter because this one requires a chat with your kids about gift expectations and it also requires saving money for your adventure. 

Choose Your Own Adventure Travel Idea from MomAdvice.com

We asked our kids if they would like to do a vacation instead of gifts this past Christmas and they were so excited to do this which thrilled us to no end.

Since my husband is a web designer, he came up with the genius idea to create a retro travel brochure (complete with a typewriter smear) that would make it look like this package was designed just for them that they could open on Christmas morning. Since there would be no gifts under the tree, we really wanted to give them something to enjoy on Christmas morning and to create a new tradition of gift-giving in our family!

The Mom & Dad Travel Agency (making dreams come true since a few minutes ago- ha!) cover sheet was designed with their names on it and placed on top of the gift.

Choose Your Own Adventure Travel Idea from MomAdvice.com

The first package they opened outlined the rules of the adventure.  If you decide to do something similar, you can create your own rules, but these were the rules we set up to make sure that things went smoothly. 

Found below are the rules we gave our kids! 

Rules for Our Choose Your Own Adventure Travel Package

ONE- You must agree TOGETHER on the trip. We know that this will be tough, but it is also a great opportunity to work on your teamwork skills. Take your time coming to your decision and read through each of the files carefully. In it, we have outlined how you will get to your destination, where and who you might visit, as well as the exclusive adventure you will get to take.

TWO- Although we will do our best to book the places we have outlined for you, these will also be subject to availability. Do you know what that means? It just means, it depends on if the places or owners have space for us. For example, if the place we show you ends up not being available when we are able to go, we promise to find something as close as possible to what we have shared with you. That is the MOM & DAD TRAVEL AGENCY guarantee.

THREE- We will book the destination of your choosing as soon as possible, but the trip will be taken in the SPRING (sometime between the months of MARCH-MAY). Again, all of this will hinge on the availability and the ideal weather for wherever you select.

FOUR- HAVE FUN! Again, the MOM & DAD TRAVEL AGENCY is so pleased that you want to do something with… well…, your MOM & DAD as a gift. How many parents get to say that? We are so proud to take this trip with you and look forward to serving all of your travel needs.

Choose Your Own Adventure Travel Idea from MomAdvice.com

Choose Your Own Adventure Travel Idea from MomAdvice.com

Choose Your Own Adventure Travel Idea from MomAdvice.com

Choose Your Own Adventure Travel Idea from MomAdvice.com

I designated one file folder for each package idea and my husband created retro cover sheets for each package. For our family, the three destinations were to Florida (Universal and our Mimi), Boston (renting a houseboat and seeing where my son was born), and California (to see the Redwood Forest). Each package was wrapped individually so they had three files to open in the morning.

Choose Your Own Adventure Travel Idea from MomAdvice.com

Choose Your Own Adventure Travel Idea from MomAdvice.com

Choose Your Own Adventure Travel Idea from MomAdvice.com

I then typed up travel itineraries that we hoped the kids would love reading together in the morning. We really wanted to make each of these special and a true gift in the morning.

Upon opening all three, they had a little conference session on their own to decide the trip that they wanted to do.  As outlined in the rules above, they had to decide together.  We knew this might be tough, but there was also the option of one picking one year and the other picking the next year.  

In fact, we are planning to recycle one that wasn’t chosen (that seemed to get a lot of buzz) and add a couple of new options.

Choose Your Own Adventure Travel Idea from MomAdvice.com

Over our annual Christmas Tree Cinnamon Rolls, they shared that Universal was the chosen holiday for the year. I am proud to say it wasn’t really about seeing the Harry Potter world at all… it was, in fact, getting to see their amazing Mimi that really sold our Mom & Dad Agency package.

Choose Your Own Adventure Travel Idea from MomAdvice.com

Choose Your Own Adventure Travel Idea from MomAdvice.com

I hope this idea is inspiring to your family! We are so excited to take adventures with our kids this year and in the years to come and are so happy they enjoyed this gift as much as we enjoyed creating it for them!

*This post contains affiliate links!
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