Easy DIY Summer Time Capsule for Kids

June 8th, 2015

Easy DIY Summer Time Capsule for Kids from MomAdvice.com.

This year has flown by for our family and it’s hard to believe summer is so quickly upon us. Each year I’m more desperate to hang on to our summer and our memories together. My kids are hitting the teen and tween stages this year and I treasure each moment with them so much more as they get older than I had ever imagined.

Today I want to share with you a fun summer time capsule ornament that your children can hang on the holiday tree or can be the launching point of a fun family mealtime together this summer. Have you ever had your kids create a time capsule? I am telling you, it is so much fun and gives you a glimpse, as a parent, into what is important in their lives.

Head on over the Kenmore blog to get the instructions & tutorial for this easy DIY Summer Time Capsule for Kids.

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

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!

Sundays With Writers: Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

June 7th, 2015

Sundays With Writers

Sundays With Writers is my favorite feature on MomAdvice and I am so excited to share with you today an exclusive interview with Jessica Knoll, the author of Luckiest Girl Alive! This dark and twisty thriller recently hit bookshelves and today Jessica is sharing a little bit behind her story in this interview.  Of course, I am particularly excited since this book got picked up by Reese Witherspoon’s production team so I get to give you the scoop before we see this one on the big screen!

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

How can this book not be on your top list? The title has GIRL in it (like this, and this, and this…), Gillian Flynn’s name is dropped on the front cover for the endorsement, the narrator is unlikable, AND Reese Witherspoon will be producing the movie version of this book (only just recently announced). I’d say this has a winning combination for this to be the book that everyone will be talking about this summer.

Much like other thriller books, I don’t want to give away the plot too much so that you have the satisfaction of discovering the twists yourself. Ani is a girl who never has the ability to fit in at her prestigious private school, no matter how many brand name clothes her mother buys her. When Ani intrigues the popular kids, they decide to invite her in and Ani discovers, maybe it was better to have never been a part of the group at all. In a horrible turn of events, she finds solace in another kid at school that will, ultimately, change the destiny of the school and the kids in it forever.

The book flashes back to Ani’s painful teen years and then alternates chapters as they film a documentary about what happened at their school and how much happier Ani is now that she is working at a high-profile magazine, beautiful, thin, and has the guy of her dreams. Of course, things are never as good as they seem and getting to the root of why Ani is so unlikable helps the reader to connect more as the story progresses despite the excruciating shallowness and weight obsession of this woman.

With just the right amount of sass to balance the darkness of this book (think Gillian Flynn for how dark we get), this read is a quick page-turner that I can’t wait to see adapted into film.

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars in our must-read books list for April- did you catch it?

Grab your coffee and settle in for an interview with this fantastic author!

Jessica Knoll

Let’s start with the most exciting news, Luckiest Girl Alive had the movie rights acquired by Lionsgate and Reese Witherspoon is set to produce the film version of your book. Do YOU feel like the luckiest girl alive and how/when did you find this out?

I cracked this joke to Bruna, Reese’s producing partner, and she quickly corrected me by telling me that I’m not lucky—good things come to those who work hard to develop their craft and talent. I really appreciated that! There is certainly a degree of luck involved, but I was also very, very calculated in terms of setting myself up for success. I fought tooth and nail to land a job in the magazine world right after I graduated college, knowing that once you get your foot in that door, it’s a great place to develop your voice and improve your writing and storytelling abilities. Most important, you make a lot of great connections working in magazines, and publishing people like magazine people because you have a whole network of friends who are willing to support the book. I met my agent years before I ever wrote Luckiest Girl Alive, and I met other people in the industry who had lines into Hollywood. One of those lines happened to be to Reese and Bruna. Their involvement has undoubtedly granted the book a certain amount of visibility that any author, let alone a first time author, could only dream of, and I’m so grateful to them for their unwavering support. The luck part comes into play as I got to know them both, and realized how incredibly collaborative and inclusive they are. I really lucked out in terms of being paired up with two smart, powerful women who are also willing to help a first time writer develop and grow. I have so much to learn from them, and lucky for me, they want to teach me.

The unlikable narrator seems to be a growing trend in fiction. I won’t drop the Gone Girl comparison, but why do you think authors are gravitating towards a different dynamic with the narrators of their story? Do you think Ani is unlikable or just misunderstood thanks to her past?

In my eyes, Ani isn’t unlikable at all. She’s flawed, yes, but isn’t everyone? That’s what makes her real and honest. And real and honest are two very likable qualities. That being said, I think we are living in a very exciting time for strong, female driven narratives. I will make the Gone Girl reference here, mostly because it was such an absolute phenomenon that it goes to show you that audiences are interested in the anti-heroine’s story too. There’s a demand for Tony Soprano and Amy Dunne, Don Draper and Ani FaNelli. Let’s give the people what they want!

At the heart of it all, Ani just wanted to be liked, even when she is mistreated in a truly devastating way by the popular kids at school. Do you think this happens more than we know (perhaps, not to this gravity) and did you face any struggles with fitting in when you were in school? Were there any real events that were the inspiration for your story?

Speaking from personal experience, I think it’s incredibly common. Kids can be cruel, and up until recently, sexual assault and slut shaming culture was not something we discussed openly. When I was in high school and college, I didn’t truly understand what rape looked like, and I know a lot of my friends—guys and girls—didn’t either. How can we expect kids to make the right decisions, and treat each other with dignity and respect, when we don’t give them examples of what that does—and doesn’t—look like? What happens to Ani in the book isn’t new. It’s a story old as time. But this sudden willingness to talk about bullying, slut shaming, and sexual assault is new, and that’s a good thing.

Since you have worked as an editor for magazines, did this background prepare you for writing your first novel and how hard was it to transition from writing/editing article pieces to a book? How long was the process of idea into book for you?

It absolutely did. I could not have written this book in my early and mid twenties. That was an important, developmental time for me in terms of discovering my voice, and learning how to find a story’s unique angle. Once I had that skillset to draw on, I spent a good year or two really thinking hard about what I wanted my book to be about, and high on that list was for it to make some sort of commentary about the world and times we are living in. Magazines taught me to have that strong perspective. Once I actually sat down to write Luckiest Girl Alive, it was extremely liberating to be able to write in my own voice. When you write for a magazine, you have to appropriate a ‘house’ voice. But Ani was all me. It was so freeing to tell her story that I churned it out in nine months.

If you could tell anyone to read one book right now (other than your own) what would that book be?

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I’ve been tweeting about this book a ton, and I am probably starting to scare the author a little. But it’s a stunning book—gorgeous prose, and an epic and powerful tale about friendship.

You can connect with Jessica Knoll on GoodReads or through her website! I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads,through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

*This post contains affiliate links!

Freebie Friday June 5, 2015

June 5th, 2015

freebie friday Happy Freebie Friday, everyone! As always, we would like to thank Couponing 101 for assisting us with our freebies each week for loads of deals, savings, and freebies!

This week on MomAdvice we’re kicking off this month’s Focus on Travel M Challenge with some great ideas and tips: Tips for Traveling with Kids, Family Disney Travel Tips, and my favorite thing we’ve done with our kids for Christmas, a Choose Your Own Adventure Travel Idea. And we’ve got lots more in store for June, so be sure to sign up for our newsletter or check back daily so you don’t miss a thing!

Check out this week’s edition of It’s the 3 Little Things to get your weekly dose of happy,  find lots of inspiring DIY, food, decorating and craft ideas in our popular Notebook, and be sure to take a look at all the contests you can enter on our weekly round-up of great giveaways, too.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

Food & Drink
Zing Zero Calorie Sweetener Sample
Any Doughnut at Krispy Kreme on June 5th
Snapple Tea on June 10th with Coupon
Pineapple Berry Blue Iced Tea at Teavana on June 10th
Kraft Barbecue Sauce at Kroger with eCoupon

 
Health & Beauty
 
Entertainment
 
This Week’s Freebie Events: June 6 – June 12
6th – Barnes & Noble: Join story time featuring Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, 11 am
6th – Home Depot: Build a Load ‘n Go Truck, 9 am – 12 pm
6th – Lakeshore Learning: Create Beaded Bubble Wands, 11 am – 3 pm
6th & 7th – National Museums: Bank of America Cardholders get free admission all weekend long

 

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May 2015 Must-Reads

June 5th, 2015

May 2015 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

I hope that you guys had another great month of reading. This post is running a bit behind this month since we were traveling, but I had to be sure to sneak this one in before June is in full swing. Since we had a long flight to Italy and back this week, I tackled four books on my trip and I have a couple of other great ones to share about this month.  I hope I will have some new ones to add to your beach bag because it is almost beach bag season! You know I can’t wait for that after this long winter season in Indiana.

Here are six books I tackled this month!

Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

 (currently available for pre-order, hits stores on July 7th!)

I am a huge fan of Taylor Jenkins Reid. In fact, this book made my top ten a couple of years ago and would definitely be one I would recommend adding to your beach bag. NetGalley sent me an advance reader of this book which I could not wait to dig into. If you are like me though, when your favorite authors come out with books you quickly devour it and then have to impatiently wait for the next book from them.

At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college. On the heels of leaving yet another city, Hannah moves back to her hometown of Los Angeles and takes up residence in her best friend Gabby’s guestroom. Shortly after getting back to town, Hannah goes out to a bar one night with Gabby and meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan.

Just after midnight, Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. A moment later, Ethan offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay.  What unvold are two story lines- what would happen if she left with him and what happened if she refused.

In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parallel universes develop into radically different stories with large-scale consequences for Hannah, as well as the people around her.

Maybe In Another Life is a  fun escape that would make a great addition to your beach bag this summer. Fans of Life Intended will enjoy this as the reader is taken into two different directions as a moment in the narrator’s life leads them down two separate paths and you see the parallel lives unfolding. A satisfyingly sweet story that reminds us that just one simple decision can alter our lives in two different directions entirely. Reid is a beautiful storyteller and her books are always a personal treat for me!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

I have picked this book up from the library time and time again and kept returning it. The story did not grab me the way Gone Girl did. When my girlfriend gave this one five stars on GoodReads though, I decided to pack it for my trip and devoured it in a single day and can’t wait to see this one developed into a television show.

The story follows a reporter with a troubled past who has to return to her hometown when she is assigned a story on the murder of two preteen girls in her small town. Returning home is a challenge as she has a dysfunctional relationship with her mother and is reminded why she left the town in the first place.  As the mystery unfolds about the brutal murders of these two girls, she must confront her own twisted past and discover who the killer is just as the reader does, in a wild twist.

I will say that this is dark and I think that is why I have struggled with it before.  Flynn’s writing makes you feel uncomfortable because her imagery is so raw and graphic. It is disturbing in the way that I felt about Flowers in the Attic when I read it as a kid.  Sure, it’s disturbing… but you can’t look away.  Kind of like a train wreck. Flynn creates a necessary tension for such a dark tale and the writing creates a vivid picture for the reader of these dark characters and town.

A perfect twist at the end, makes this a satisfyingly dark thriller that I really enjoyed. Read at your own discretion!

4 Out of 5 Stars

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

 

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

I love our weekly reading check-in on the Facebook page and everyone has been talking this book up as a book that they just could not put down. I am always game for a good thriller so I snagged this one from the library and read it in two days. You were right. I couldn’t put this one down! Thank you all for recommending it!

On a night flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the mysterious Lily Kintner. Sharing one too many martinis, the strangers begin to play a game of truth, revealing intimate details about themselves. Ted talks about his marriage and his wife Miranda, who he’s sure is cheating on him. But their game turns dark when Ted jokes that he could kill Miranda for what she’s done. Lily, without missing a beat, says calmly, “I’d like to help.”

From there, Ted and Lily’s twisted bond grows stronger as they plot Miranda’s demise, but soon these co-conspirators are embroiled in a game of cat-and-mouse–one they both cannot survive–with a shrewd and very determined detective on their tail.

This is a book of cat and mouse, mouse and cat, cat and cat…Really, the reader just doesn’t know where this one will go and who to trust. This is a fantastically twisty thriller that you must pack in your beach bag this summer. The author does a great job of weaving narrators and twisting the plot so that the reader is left guessing up until that final page. A satisfying ending with a well-woven story. You will love it right up until that final shocking page!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Paper Towns by John Green

Paper Towns by John Green

Did you catch my interview with John Green on the site? An incredible moment for sure! The only John Green book I have read is The Fault In Our Stars which I absolutely loved.  I wanted to read Paper Towns since the movie is coming out and I always love to read the book before the movie. Are you like that too?

Quintin has been loving the neighbor girl, Margo, since they were kids. Margo has never really paid attention to Quintin so when she unexpectedly opens his bedroom window one night, complete in Ninja-attire, he is stunned. That evening is an epic one of revenge against classmates that they embark on all night. The next day, Margo is gone, but Quintin realizes that Margo has left clues to where she has gone. With mixed dread that she may have committed suicide and a need to see the love of his life again, he takes his friends on an epic minivan road trip to find Margo on their graduation day.

Super cute and laugh-out-loud funny, this was a great escape. I would recommend it for fans of All the Bright Places as the road trip leads this crew on a fun adventure.

4 Out of 5 Stars

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout & Sara Corbett

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout & Sara Corbett

Are you ready for another book that will be making my top ten of 2015? I can tell you right now that this book will be on the list.  I have never read a survival story like it and I have thought about this book ever since I shut the pages. It was one of the most difficult reads I have ever read and I will never forget this memoir or how extraordinary Amanda’s journey was.

Amanda Lindhout lived in a violent home and escaped her life through her issues of National Geographic that she collected and dreamed of traveling to a life far better than her own.  At the age of nineteen, working as a cocktail waitress in Calgary, Alberta, she began saving her tips so she could travel the globe. Aspiring to understand the world and live a significant life, she backpacked through Latin America, Laos, Bangladesh, and India, and emboldened by each adventure, went on to Sudan, Syria, and Pakistan. In war-ridden Afghanistan and Iraq she carved out a fledgling career as a television reporter. And then, in August 2008, she traveled to Somalia—“the most dangerous place on earth.” On her fourth day, she was abducted by a group of masked men along a dusty road.

Held hostage for 460 days, Amanda converts to Islam as a survival tactic, receives “wife lessons” from one of her captors, and risks a daring escape. Moved between a series of abandoned houses in the desert, she survives on memory—every lush detail of the world she experienced in her life before captivity—and on strategy, fortitude, and hope. When she is most desperate, she visits a house in the sky, high above the woman kept in chains, in the dark, being tortured.

It is impossible to read this book and not be moved by Amanda’s journey. Although it is frustrating to read how naive she is by throwing herself into places that she knows are dangerous to prove the world wrong (which she acknowledges in her story), her ability to transcend the brutality and exit her body is an extraordinary study in survival and her will to live.

If you loved (and could endure) survival stories like Unbroken, I think this one brings new perspective on how women are treated in Somalia every single day and you will be moved by Amanda’s story and what she now gives to Somalia since being held hostage.

This is graphic, brutally graphic. Amanda glosses over much of what she endured probably to save the reader from the imagery, but what she tells is so horrific that you will be thinking of this story long after you close the final pages.

5 Out of 5 Stars

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

(currently available for pre-order, hits stores on June 16th!)

I had this book on my reading list for this summer so I was so excited to get an advanced reader from the publishing house the week before our trip. Mental illness books in the YA category seem to be a growing trend and I think it is a good thing. All the Bright Places, read and shared with you last month,  tackled the issue of bipolar disorder and this book sheds light on the difficulties of being a teen with OCD. Stone illustrates our common misconceptions of OCD (the main character doesn’t even have a tidy room!) and tackles the harder stuff like what it would be like to be obsessive with something like the number 3 and not being able to drive your friends because your odometer must always have that number on it.

Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t turn off.

Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn’t help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she’d be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam’s weekly visits to her psychiatrist.

Caroline introduces Sam to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more “normal” than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.

The camaraderie of friendship and group therapy through writing reminded me of the beautiful friendships in the The Fault In Our Stars

The story is well-written and age-appropriate for teens (there is one sex scene), but I think it would be a great one to read and then talk about with your teens about the struggles of fitting in, how everyone struggles with something, and how important it is to be your own person. Samantha is a character that really blossoms on the page. YA fans who are moms will enjoy this one too as the book brings a satisfying twist at the end.

4 Out of 5 Stars

sundays-with-writers-1

Read With Me This Year:

January 2015 Must-Reads

February 2015 Must-Reads

March 2015 Must-Reads

April 2015 Must-Reads

What should I be adding to my library bag?  Leave your suggestions in the comments below! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

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Choose Your Own Adventure Travel Idea

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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Family Disney Travel Tips

June 4th, 2015

Note: this is a combined post from our first article about the tips-and-tricks to get the most out of a Disney trip and the follow-up I wrote a few years later of all our best Disney tips. Together, they provide the best family Disney travel tips that goes along perfectly with our June M Challenge on Travel! I know a family Disney trip is high on most of your wish lists, so I hope that these things we learned and still use will be helpful to you in planning your own Disney trip!

Family Disney Travel Tips on MomAdvice.com

Our family has LOVED our Disney trips, and one of the reasons we’ve ALL loved them is because we have learned a few things that make the planning, preparation, travel, and time at the park much more enjoyable. Once you take your first trip, you learn a few “insider tips” and my hope is that if you’ve never been to Disney, you can use these family Disney travel tips to make your first time run as smoothly as if you were a seasoned Disney traveler!

Our Best Family Disney Travel Tips:

Preparation is Key

1. Financial Preparation- Set aside money into a separate savings account to prepare for your trip – consider talking with your bank about opening a special account. Have an automatic transfer made for $25 or more each month put into this account all year long and then you will have the money saved when it is time to make your family trip.

Savings can be had when booking your travel through places like AAA and additional savings can be found while visiting in Orlando by printing a free Orlando Magicard to take with you when visiting restaurants and attractions while you are in Orlando.

2. Safety Preparation- I don’t need to tell you that Disney is a big place and safety is very important when visiting theme parks.  Each child was assigned a buddy to be their partner throughout the days and they were to hold their buddy’s hand while we were there.  We took additional safety precautions by printing out recent pictures of our children to keep in our wallet and bags just in case something should happen and they were separated from us. With a handy Sharpie, I wrote my cell phone number on their arms so if they were separated from us, someone could call us and reunite us quickly.

3. Meal Preparation- You can bring snacks and drinks into the park with no problems. We packed fruit snacks, granola bars, and bottles of water for our day in a bag with no objections. Rely on these snacks and bottles of water to help cut some of the costs. I recommend visiting this MouseSavers page to find the best cheap eats while you are at the parks.  We did get table service for the evening, but you want to call ahead since reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance of your vacation. Since we called the reservation number that morning when we arrived, we ended up at the Plaza. The table service was about twelve dollars more than the fast food service in the park and quite a bit better with a lot more food included with our meal. If you want to explore the menus before you go, you can view all the menus for the parks here.

4. Souvenir Preparation-  Souvenirs are a big expense and children can be plagued with horrible cases of what our family lovingly calls, “a case of the gimmies.” At the same time, I remember the amazing souvenir ears I got and how much I wanted those items when I went to Disney.  I hit the local Disney store for t-shirts and small toys which were a third of the price as they were in the shops and a girlfriend recommended picking up ears at a local party store (only $5.99 each). The kids were thrilled with their ears and shirts which they wore throughout the park and they did not even ask for anything while we walked through thanks to this little bit of preparation.

5. Navigation Preparation- When you pick up your tickets, you can pick up a handy map of the park. Thanks to my iPhone I was able to get some reinforcement on the map with Disney’s Magic Kingdom Tour Guide GPS+ from CXI Gaming (cost was $1.99) that helped us navigate the parks easily and find what we needed quickly. We also had everything in our GPS before we left for getting to the park and how to get back to where we were lodging.

Disney Family Travel Tips

Getting the Most Out of Your Ride Time

1. Make a Plan of Attack- Along with your Navigation Preparation, discuss as a family what rides are most important to you and order them in a list of importance. The rides with the longest wait times we rode first so that we could make sure that we got those out of the way before the crowds and wait times got really long.  If you aren’t’ sure what rides would be best for the age group of your kids, I do recommend buying the Disney’s Magic Kingdom Tour Guide GPS+ from CXI Gaming (cost was $1.99) because this actually gives you a plan for your day based upon your age group. Oh, and one brilliant suggestion from a reader is to start at the back of the park and move forward while most other people will be doing the opposite!

2. Use FASTPASS to Make the Most of Your Day-FASTPASS isn’t anything you need to sign up for, it is simply a way to place a reservation on rides with long wait times. On your map that you receive when you come in, it will have a FASTPASS icon next to the rides that you can FASTPASS. Head to those rides specified and a machine will be available to insert your ticket and a receipt will print out when you can come back to the ride with a one hour window that you can cash in on. Head to other rides with shorter wait times and then come back at the designated time to go through a faster line.

3. Add a free Wait Time App to Your Mobile Phone- No need to invest in a pricey Wait Time App, just the free Disney World Wait Times app will work perfectly since all wait time information is user generated. Check the wait times on the rides and use that to help decide which rides you want to go on.

Disney Family Travel Photo Tips

Capturing the Magic

The last thing you want on your kid’s magical day is terrible pictures that don’t showcase just how amazing the day was.

1. Capture Their View-  When Emily saw the castle for the first time…well, I could start bawling just thinking about it. I wanted to see that moment over and over so I captured her first gaze at the castle and then got to her eye level and took a picture at her level at exactly what she was seeing.  Having pictures of your kids seeing this magical beauty and the magical beauty itself are things that your family will never forget.

2. Capture the Movement- How can you capture the hilarious and dizzy feeling of some of those rides without movement in the picture.  Capturing motion in photography is so much fun especially when riding on moving things like the teacups. My tip is to focus on one thing (like a bag, etc.) as you spin. I recommend this article if you are looking for more tips on how to capture motion blur in your pictures.

3. Take Fun Pictures on the Go-  My camera equipment can get awfully heavy so we took turns with the big camera and I relied on my mobile phone when I wanted to capture details quickly and easily. I love Camera+ and Instagram for sharing fun pictures on the go. It is such a fun way to take a quick photo, add an effect, and send it to family and friends to keep them updated on how your day is going.

Disney Family Travel Tips for Photos

4. Get a Family Photo- I looked for someone who had a camera like ours to take our family picture. If you have a point-and-shoot,  finding someone to snap a picture should be really easy. When I handed off my camera I switched it to Aperture Mode (Av on my Canon) and changed the Aperture to f/7.1. I then used a photo editing tool (like PicMonkey) to crop as many of the background people out of our picture.

They also have people all over the parks taking pictures and you can have them snap your picture for their portrait and then ask them to take one with your camera too. They know the best spots with good lighting and backgrounds for your family photos. Best of all, they know how to work cameras.

Disney Nighttime Photo Tips

5. Capture the Nighttime Magic- Nighttime magic was tricky to photograph and may require a little research on your part. When I took pictures of the castle I was so disappointed. The colors were off and lights were blurry. It was not the magical pictures I had hoped for.

Over dinner, I went on this Disney Photography Blog and found this information how to capture the nighttime parade. I took test shots after our dinner until I was happy with the lighting and able to capture some of the nighttime beauty at Disney!

So, to recap, here is a condensed version of our family disney travel tips (just in case you’d like to print them out to help you prepare!):

1. Advance Preparation Tips

  • Financially: start saving and looking for deals as soon as you start thinking about your trip.
  • Safety: print out current photos to carry of each child, bring a sharpie to write cell phone numbers with, and assign buddies.
  • Meals: plan for snacks and drinks before heading to the park.
  • Souvenirs: buy them at a local Disney store or the party store and pack them with you!
  • Navigation: load all needed GPS info beforehand.

2. Ride Tips

  • Make a family plan: list the rides everyone wants to go on by importance.
  • Visit rides with longest wait times first.
  • Use FASTPASS to get through longer lines faster.
  • Add the Wait Time App to your mobile phone to check ride wait times.

3. Photograph Tips

  • Capture your children’s view – not only of them seeing things, but how they see it (get down to their level).
  • Capture the moment – as many of the hilarious ride moments as you can!
  • Take pictures on the go, too – in the car and at the hotel – using both phone and regular cameras.
  • Remember a family photo: scope out someone who can take a picture of your family in front of something you like.
  • Capture the nighttime magic – do a bit of research in advance to know your camera settings so you can get some good memory shots of the fantastic light displays.

What would you add? (Head to this post and read the comments for even more tips!)

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Amy’s Notebook 06.03.15

June 3rd, 2015

How to make a wine bottle tiki via Julie Blanner

Source: Julie Blanner

DIY wine bottle tiki torch- I love a good 10-minute craft.

Adding this 7-minute egg to my breakfast idea list.

A Marie Kondo decluttering clothing swap party.

I’m saving these makeup tips for teens for my daughter!

It’s time to plan the summer capsule.

Greek yogurt chocolate panna cotta- yes.

I love a good summer book list!

Think of those in Texas (and ways to help!)

Packing for a long trip in a Carry On via Kelly Purkey

Source: Kelly Purkey

 

Packing for a long trip in a carry-on suitcase.

Better mom uniforms- I love these outfit ideas.

Now we can eat apples poolside! Genius.

Bookcase envy.

School’s out party ideas- so cute!

I’m inspired to plan some career days for my kids.

A day in the life of Pinterest.

amys_notebook

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

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Tips for Traveling With Kids

June 2nd, 2015

Tips for Traveling With Kids from MomAdvice.com

 

I am so excited that summer is finally upon us and with the summer months ahead, family vacations are on the horizon. In honor of this season of travel, I wanted to share some fun tips for traveling with kids to help prepare you for this fun time. Those hours to and from your destinations don’t need to be painful ones though thanks to these great ideas we have gathered up for you for your next trip!

Today I am over on the Goodwill Tips blog sharing some ideas for keeping your kids entertained while traveling this summer! Who couldn’t use a few travel tips with kids? Don’t miss this article!

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Apron Full of Giveaways 06.02.15

June 2nd, 2015

linen half apron

Source: Lost in Linen,  $28.63

 

Welcome to our Apron Full of Giveaways! I hope everyone is having a great week this week! As we do each week, here is our round-up of giveaways for our readers. We hope that this is beneficial to you and your family! Please let us know if you guys win anything- I love to hear the success stories!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we are not giving away the aprons just showcasing them! Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, “MomAdvice (Kid’s Movies).”

Good luck to each of you!

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