How To Plan The Perfect Staycation

I have received information and materials from ©Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. 2017.The opinions stated are my own. This is a sponsored post. #ForWhatMattersMost #CollectiveBias

Don’t look now, but the summer is rrriiiiight behind you! It’s coming fast, and if you don’t stop right now and plan to make the most of it, it’s going rush past you! It’s always my goal to squeeze every precious ounce of fun, time together, and memory making out of those quick spring & summer days. Through the years I’ve become the master of staycations. The concept is one that’s quite popular now, so I’m sure you’ve heard of it before. I’m always amazed, however, to find out how many people have never been to the wonderful places close to where they live.

We were blessed with getting to live in areas that are truly vacation destinations for a good chunk of our marriage. Washington DC, the beaches of North Carolina, and Boston. We tried to take advantage of the time we were stationed at each and loved playing tourist on the weekends. This concept doesn’t just work if you live near a vacation area, however. Growing up in Wyoming and now here in Texas there are still tons of ways to staycation! So whether you’re sticking around for the summer or have out of state guests coming in, use these tips to make the most of your summer!

How To Plan The Perfect Staycation

Make a Bucket List

The first thing to do is to start a running list of all the places you love or want to visit. Start off by listing off all the places you’ve seen or heard about locally that you’ve said…”We really need to go there someday.” Next, make another list of things that you’d love to discover in your state, but you’re not sure of the exact location. Research these to see if there are any nearby. Finally, go online and crowdsource.

An easy to way to do this is to ask local friends on Facebook for their favorite way to spend a summer weekend locally. During one conversation in Boston, I discovered the fact that a strip mall near us had acrobats, delicious ice cream, and water fountains that everyone called “liquid fireworks” because they went off to music and lights on the hour. It’s one of those little gems I would never have found out about except through word of mouth! Pinterest is also amazing for finding fun and hidden gem locations in your area, just search by your state’s name and maybe even region.

Stumped at where to get started? Here are some great ideas of my favorite Staycation destinations:

  • Zoo
  • Museum
  • Nature or Wildlife Preserve
  • Drive Through Safari or Wildlife Loop
  • Amusement Park
  • Monuments & Historic Sites
  • National Parks
  • State Parks
  • Local Parks
  • Pick Your Own Farms
  • Butterfly Garden
  • Public Garden
  • Lakes, Reservoir, or Public Ponds
  • Beach, Splash Park, Swimming Pool

Don’t forget to check your local area calendar or chamber for limited time events like Carnivals, Fairs, Movie & Music at the Park, Rodeos, etc. As you research add the items and the information to your list or board. This way anytime a free weekend comes up you can easily look at it and see what adventure your family wants to tackle!

Be Prepared

Now that you have your list prepped it’s time to make sure everything else is good to go for your staycation! Stock up on easy to bring along snacks, water bottles, sunscreen, and Extra Strength TYLENOL® and TYLENOL® 8 HR Muscle Aches & Pain. Nothing is worse than a staycation getting ruined from muscle aches after a day of hiking or having to postpone the day’s plan because of a nasty headache in the morning. Make sure you have all the essentials at home so that you can get back to the things you love!

I grabbed Extra Strength TYLENOL® and TYLENOL® 8 HR Muscle Aches & Pain at Target. They both temporarily relieve minor aches and pains due to: the common cold, headache, backache, minor pain of arthritis, toothache, muscular aches, premenstrual and menstrual cramps; temporarily reduces fever. As always, they’re for adults and children 12 years and older, and you should always use only as directed.

Plan Strategically

Finally, you’re ready to plan! When you’re stocked up it’ll be easy to be flexible so you can go have fun a moments notice.  If you’re like me, though, you know life just works better if you plan ahead. For staycations, I love to vary the price and the tempo of the items that we’re doing. I know everyone has experienced a vacation that was anything but relaxing because of the frantic pace of trying to do.all.the.things.

Staycations are wonderful because you don’t feel any pressure to be rushed since you live close by. They also usually allow you to be flexible in your planning. One weekend pick a pricier, more structured location, the next pick one that’s affordable and low key. For example, one weekend you might hit up that amazing Nature Museum that the whole family will love exploring all day. The next weekend you might head to a local park and pond you’ve never been to before.

A big part of planning strategically also involves planning out food options. Just like unexpected aches and pains, not planning out your food needs can quickly derail a fun time. No one is happy when you’re miles from anywhere with nothing to eat.

If you’re going to eat out, pick a place that you’ve never tried before. This adds a bigger sense of adventure and vacation. So go ahead and opt for that mom & pop diner instead of reaching for cross country favorites. Packing a lunch for a picnic  for trips to the park or the lake makes the day feel even more special. I also always bring along some Extra Strength TYLENOL® with my things. This ensures that if one of us adults has a twinging back or throbbing head they don’t have to wait till we get home.

Another thing you want to consider and plan ahead is working with schedules. It’s always a great idea to always take things like naptime, bedtimes, and transit times into consideration. If you’re taking public transportation be sure to account for the time to park, walk, purchase tickets, etc. Also, when you’re staycationing it’s a great idea to pick just one place or event per time outing. This allows you to really enjoy it to its full potential and not feel rushed.

There are my top tips for planning the perfect Staycation! Now it’s time to pick a few local areas you’ve heard about but never been to, stock up on essentials, and schedule it on the calendar to do this summer!

Where is your very favorite spot to staycation? Leave me a comment below and let me know! Also, don’t forget to stock up at Target for all your staycation needs!

 

I am not a medical expert, and this post is not medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. ©Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. 2017. The third party trademarks used herein are trademarks of their respective owners.

Things To Do In Dallas, TX : LEGOLAND Discovery Center

Things To Do In Dallas, TX : LEGOLAND Discovery Center
Legalese Disclosure Nonsense: I was provided with tickets in exchange for an honest portrayal of our day at LEGOLAND Discovery Center. All happy children, fun on rides, and mom tips are my own.

What: LEGOLAND Discovery Center

Where: 3000 Grapevine Mills Parkway
Grapevine, Texas 76051

It’s located in the Grapevine Mills Mall. I pulled it up easily on my maps app and it was easy to locate inside the mall using the signs both outside and inside.

 How Much: Admission at the door is $21 per person, but you can save if you make a reservation online 24 hours in advance. Children 2 & under visit FREE. (but see my note on the best ages to bring later)

When: Year Round!

I especially love that it’s indoors and outdoors with the splash park–absolutely perfect for this HOT Texas summer we’ve been having!

Things To Do In Dallas, TX : LEGOLAND Discovery Center

For the past few years, Tyler has been absolutely in love with LEGOs.  For his birthday this month, different LEGO sets were literally the only things on his wish list. Because of this, when we were trying to decide what to do to celebrate his birthday the first thing that came to mind was a trip to the LEGOLAND Discovery Center. I’d heard glowing things about it from a local friend who had taken her boys several times. Because of this I knew it would be the perfect experience for him and Amber as a part of his celebration. When I reached out to the LEGOLAND Discovery Center and they offered to give us tickets so that we could share our awesome experience with you all, we were ALL super excited!

We chose to go on a Monday, and I’m glad that we did! LEGOLAND Discovery Center ensures that everyone has the best experience by limiting the number of visitors that can be in the Center at one time. This means that if you don’t purchase your tickets in advance you may have a short wait time to get in. We were able to get in within 10 minutes of arrival.

Things To Do In Dallas, TX : LEGOLAND Discovery Center

The first part of your visit takes you through the LEGO Factory where you get a presentation on where those awesome LEGO Bricks are made! Both Amber & Tyler got selected as volunteers (fun!) and the presentation was the “just right” length for kids (and parents) anxious to get into the fun!

Things To Do In Dallas, TX : LEGOLAND Discovery Center

When you walk in you’re greeted by a fun and crazy mix of options! The kids were so excited and it took awhile to decide where we should start! We stayed for over 2 1/2 hours and weren’t able to get to several of the main attractions. Though not huge it’s definitely a perfect location for a whole day trip. If, like us, you’re commuting from several hours away it’s also perfect for an afternoon and well worth the drive. Once you exit LEGOLAND you can’t go back in, so it’s good to plan your visit with that in mind. You can visit over mealtime,though,  because there’s a Coffee Shop that offers food options as well as much needed caffeine to keep up with super excited kids.

Things To Do In Dallas, TX : LEGOLAND Discovery Center

LEGOLAND Discovery Center is designed for ages 3-10, but my kids are definitely in the “sweet spot” for height and ages. At ages 6 & 8 and being between 40-57 inches they were both tall enough to go on all the rides (some needed me to go with Tyler) and they were both short enough to play in the HUGE epic play place. For our trip it was just me and them, which worked out perfectly for us. There’s not as much for the younger/shorter age range (shorter than 40 inches) other than a cute little play area of their own. I’d recommend that if you have a toddler or baby coming along to be sure you have an extra adult and items to keep them happy while the bigger kids play!

Mom Tip: Be sure to have your kids wear socks for the play place! If somehow mysteriously they arrive without them, however, never fear! You can buy socks at the Coffee Shop for a few dollars (ask me how I know).

Things To Do In Dallas, TX : LEGOLAND Discovery Center

LEGOLAND Discovery Center reminded me of a mix between a kids amusement park and a Children’s Museum, with some fun rooms filled with the city of Dallas made out of LEGOs and amazing Star Wars displays thrown in for good measure! The feel of it definitely had a Children’s Museum vibe–think lots of noise, happy kids, and decent sized crowds. There is a nice restroom available and lots of benches and seating for parents to chill on while kids play.

Things To Do In Dallas, TX : LEGOLAND Discovery Center

Things To Do In Dallas, TX : LEGOLAND Discovery Center

For our trip, we focused the majority of our time on the three amusement park like rides and the LEGOLAND® Discovery Center LEGO Play Zone & Fire Academy (that huge play place I mentioned earlier). The rides were a lot of fun, not scary, and we only had to wait in line for about 10 minutes for each (which you’ll know is not bad at all if you frequent amusement parks or even carnivals often). For the first 2 (Merlin’s Apprentice Ride & Kingdom Quest and the Kingdom Quest Laser Ride) I had to ride since Tyler wasn’t tall enough (I wasn’t complaining, they were super fun!) but for the Forest Ranger Pursuit Ride the kids were able to go all on their own. They both loved this ride where they got to drive the cars all on their own, with part of the track even going outside.

Things To Do In Dallas, TX : LEGOLAND Discovery Center

Things To Do In Dallas, TX : LEGOLAND Discovery Center

There is also a Splash Park, and a 4D Theater to visit that we will definitely be checking out on our next visit. The kids were having so much fun in the Play Zone & Fire Academy that we had to leave before getting to discover them, or getting to play on the LEGO Racer build & test track!

We had an amazing time, both kids were thrilled, and we’ll definitely be headed back!

Have you ever been to LEGOLAND Discovery Center? What was your favorite part?

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How to Pack Like a Pro and Never Forget Anything Again

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and Walmart Family Mobile. All opinions are mine alone. #Tips4Trips #CollectiveBias

How to Pack Like a Pro and Never Forget Anything Again

Between Bob’s military career and having family spread out from Texas to Wyoming we have taken many, MANY long trips over the past 10 years. I’ve already given you lots of great tips on Successful Road Trips and Flying With Babies, but the other day when I was packing for our latest trek across the country I realized that I had glossed over one of the most important parts of a successful trip–packing!

Continue reading “How to Pack Like a Pro and Never Forget Anything Again”

Family vacation: Florida

Florida is such a great destination for a family vacation as there is so much to do in a relatively small place. Florida has beaches, space rockets, adventure parks and the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. For many families the most important destination is Walt Disney World.

It is best to get around by car; to make the most of your stay renting a car is really the best option, as public transport is not ideally suited for visiting the beaches and exploring the state. You can drive from Orlando to Miami in around three and a halfhours and this route will allow you to take in Florida’s best attractions, which are detailed below.

Continue reading “Family vacation: Florida”

5 Ways to Keep Kids Healthy and Happy While Traveling *Guest Post*

I’m sure you have fond memories of traveling as a child. Those long road trips to grandma’s house or the family road trip every year were fun times. Now you have kids of your own and you want to make sure that their experience is just as fun. Planning ahead can ensure that everyone has a safe, fun and memorable time.

Orlando

5 Ways to Keep Kids Healthy and Happy While Traveling

Continue reading “5 Ways to Keep Kids Healthy and Happy While Traveling *Guest Post*”

Ten Tips for Traveling With Toddlers

Ten Tips for Flying With Kids

As you know I’ve been enjoying the past few weeks with my family up in Wyoming. Soon it will be time to head back to Texas, however, and once more I’ll be faced with the daunting task of flying with both a preschooler and a toddler alone! Here are my top ten tips that I used to help the flight down here go smoothly!

1. Bring a small bag of open end play toys (small dolls, animals, match box cars) for imaginative play on the airplane tray

 
2. Bring disinfecting wipes for hands and heavy duty ones for plane trays
 
 
3. Snacks. Lots, and LOTS of snacks (can’t stress this one enough-was seriously a lifesaver!! Little snacks that take awhile to eat are the best!)
 
4. When going from a warm place to.a cold one wear your coats anyways. Saves tons of packing room and makes great kid pillows during the flight
 
5. If you have an early flight have everyone (including mom!!) Wear no wrinkle comfy clothes to bed. Then just get up and go in the morning! (grab a bagel for a no fuss eat in the car meal)
 
 
6. Crocs are the perfect slip on slip off shoes, no fuss shoes for travelling. *However* be sure to note that as of late last year kids under 12 don’t have to take off shoes at security any more-yey!
 
 
7. Thanks to all the checking fees Bigger *is* better! Invest in a huge suitcase and pack all everyone’s clothes in it, just stay under 50lbs!
 
 
8. Roll your clothes instead of folding for extra space!
 
9. Bring a heavy duty stroller for hauling carry ons w/ a Gripster attatched for bigger kids
 

10. Bring the largest carry on you can for you, (remember heavy duty stroller) pack it with 2 or 3 complete changes of clothes for each person and any time sensitive items (like clothes for a wedding) When you get to the gate see if you can check it there instead of having to put it into the overhead bin.

Happy Travels!

10 Tips When Flying With A Toddler

As a military spouse whose family lives 2,000 miles away I have flown solo with a baby/toddler more than a few times! As I wrote about in The Joys of Flying With a Toddler it can be a pretty harrowing experience! Here are my top 10 tips to help you make it through!

Tips For Flying

1. Know What You Can and Can’t Check  Many airlines will let you bring a stroller, boppy and diaper bag (plus a few various stray items like teddy bear & blankie) and not count them towards your luggage total. They have started to crack down in recent years, however, so double check so you don’t end up scrambling to pay for another bag! Things like pack-n-plays aren’t covered so if you’ll be staying in a hotel use theirs or if you’re staying with family check around and see if anyone has one that you can borrow.

2. Light Up Shoes Set Off Alarms Does your toddler have a pair of those super cute light up shoes that go off when they step-leave them at home! The compound in them that causes the lights sets off the bomb detectors and will result in you both getting patted down.

3. Think Outside the Toy Box While I highly recommend the old standby options of new toys and books to bring along for the flight (a must!) toddlers are usually entertained the most by random objects. Give them a wipe to “clean” everything-the tray, the seat, them, you, etc. Not only will they find this very amusing they’ll also be wiping those nasty germs away! Pens and paper (since they’re usually a big no no) are also guaranteed to be winners!

Flying With a Baby

4. Bring Your Own Snacks The cost of food is ridiculous on flights these days and usually not that great. While liquids are restricted you can still bring your own food along so pack up some of your toddlers favorite treats to sprinkle throughout the flight. This is one time stuffing cookies down their face is totally ok!

5. Don’t Give Juice Thinking that since snacks are good drinks would be better proved catastrophic one flight when we got stuck on the runway and Amber ended up leaking through a diaper after one too many sippy cups of juice. Stick to water only to avoid frequent potty breaks or accidents!

6. Protect Your Things. There are so many things to worry about that you probably won’t be thinking much about your own. Nothing spoils a flight like a scratched iPhone that got thrown and squooshed while in your purse or diaper bag. Even worse is when you arrive at the airport to realize that not only is your luggage lost the little thing tag they gave you got snapped off and who knows when you’ll see or hear of it again? By buying high quality leather items like the Royce Leather iPhone Sleeve and the Royce Leather Big Tag will give you peace of mind to tackle the really important stuff-like quietly miming your child’s favorite action song–for the 50th time in a row.

7. Pack Clothes for You and Baby Always pack a spare set of clothes for yourself as well as your baby. Accidents, spills, blowouts, and throw up will probably ruin both sets of clothing!

8. Ask To Move. If you’re lucky enough to have a flight that’s not completely full see if the stewards will let you move to an empty row or swap with someone who is flying solo-room to stretch and crawl or sit can turn a flight from a nightmare to a breeze!

9. Don’t Be Afraid to ask for Help! Especially if you’re going to be flying solo with baby don’t be shy about asking for help. I’ve found that most people are especially sweet and accommodating-and just ignore those who aren’t!

10. Breathe! Like all else in life-this too shall pass!

I was provided with the pictured case and tag by Shoplet your stop for Office Supplies and more! All opinions, tips, and cute rolly-polly babies are my own.

Ten Tips for Getting Good Travel Deals

As a military family it seems like we’re constantly moving or traveling to see one family or another! As I mentioned in my last blog post (well, several blog posts!) we’ve moved five times in the past five years! It’s basically a necessity for us to find good travel deals and ways to save money while traveling! Here are my top 10 tips!

1.      Make use of all the travel comparing sites! Everyone has heard about all of the different websites out there that compare flights and get you discounts, they really do work! We have had the best luck with Cheaptickets.com and Expedia.
2.      On a second note be sure to shop around and check! We’ve found that the least expensive price will vary from time to time and site to site so it always pays to look around a little bit!
3.      Book flights on Wednesdays – they are cheapest usually so if flexible plan your trip around tips like that. We always try to purchase as far in advance as possible to take advantage of the lower rates.
4.      Don’t skimp on travel insurance! That $15 will be so worth it if plans suddenly change as has happened to several people in our family over the year!
5.      Watch the Luggage. With the new baggage fees for some things it’s more expensive to bring them than to buy them! For example when I was visiting my family last year it would have cost me $50 to fly our pack n play along with us. My mom figured out that she could purchase a decent one for $30 and then just keep it there for future grandbaby visits. Saved us $20 right then and who knows how much down the line!
6.      Know what you can bring, or not! You can check strollers and car seats in for free, however, and bring a diaper bag along as well. Be sure to know these ins and outs so you bring along all you can without spending a bundle!
7.      Watch food prices! 3 meals “out” a day gets ridiculous (not to mention how sick of fast food you get after just a few days of it) To avoid this book hotels that serve a *good* continental breakfast and fill up there before starting your day.
8.       For lunches and snacks on the road buy things at the grocery store ahead of time—so much cheaper than at the gas stations!
9.      This goes for airplanes too, you can’t bring along liquids but you sure can pack a sub sandwhich in your carryon! All the other passengers were drooling at mine while they ate their stale pretzels!
10.  Be watching gas prices and fill up when you see the lowest one regardless of where your tank needle is at.

Little tips like these can go a long way to saving you a whole lot! Happy travels!

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Alamo blogging program, for a gift card worth $25. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”