In between overdoing it

Posts tagged ‘travel’

Moderating Family Vacations


cruiseIf you are like me, you love the idea of family vacations. Then you realize all the work you have to do as the mom and primary planner/packer/ organizer of said vacation. As I am writing this, I’m getting ready to head off on vacation and have a mountain of laundry, packing and cleaning to do before we leave. However, I take comfort in knowing  this time,  I can actually get to relax and be on vacation!

The only vacation where Mom’s get pampered

This vacation we are going on a cruise!  I have found cruises to be truly restful and restorative. Unlike other vacations where meal planning, itinerary and accommodations are still mom’s domain. With a cruise, once you set foot on the ship, you are received of your typical mom duties. There is an entire staff of people who will cook, clean, and do your laundry. For a few days you are relieved of meal planning, activity itinerary, and chauffeur responsibilities. All you have to do is step out of your room and well…nothing, you are already there. Go get dinner, see a show or sit in the sun.

I you are like me and have difficulty getting a babysitter. The child care services for most cruises are available for no additional fee. Trust me, the kids don’t want to leave their “Kid’s Club.” Everything in these areas are designed to cater to and occupy your children, giving you some needed free time. Not in a guilty stealing five minutes to run to the store without the kids sort of way. You are free to do absolutely nothing.

Once this concept hits, you it is life changing. Yes, some cruises, like Disney, can be pricy. However, you are almost guaranteed a great, restful experience and some quality family time with limited distractions. To me these days are worth their weight in gold.wp-1451440231899.jpg

There are a few things to keep in mind when cruising to make your trip as enjoyable as possible.

Don’t be bothered by the motion of the ocean

If you are prone to motion sickness, (like I am when my husband drives) you will want to pack some medication like Dramamine or Bonine. I like Bonine, you only need a half or a quarter of a pill to work effectively and it doesn’t make you as drowsy as Dramamine. Most large ships have powerful stabilizers that will prevent severe rocking. Also your body adjusts after about a day, so you might only need medication for day 1 of your cruise.

Research shore excursions

Depending on your itinerary, there are several shore exclusions to choose from. In some travel destinations going it alone can leave you victim to locals looking to pray on tourists. The cruise approved trips might cost more but they are backed by the cruise line. This also relieves you from the responsibility of having to find a way to get back to the ship after the excursion, which may be a problem if you go it alone.

That being said there are some good options for non-cruise shore excursions. Based of reviews some of these are offered at a lower price and can offer more than those from a cruise line. However, I would caution you to thoroughly research these offerings before booking anything. Likewise, keep in mind the political and economic state of the location where the excursion is offered.

Participate in theme or formal night

I know this adds a lot of extra items to pack but how often do you get the opportunity to dress like a pirate?  If your cruise has a formal night this is a great opportunity to get professional formal pictures. Let’s be honest, who has time to get this done at home? Not only are you creating  a special memory but you get a chance to get all dolled up and maybe even visit the ship spa in preparation!

Disney cruises have a pirate-themed night, and other lines offer Black & White nights or Tropical theme nights. These will vary depending on length, itinerary and cruise line.  If your cruise has a theme night have fun with it. It might seem strange at first to dress up as an adult, but it is a great way to make memories and have some awesome pictures to boot. Take the chance to channel your inner pirate and have fun with it. You won’t be sorry.

Don’t have to stay stuck in your cabin

There are plenty of activities throughout the ship. Plus, you can use it as a learning opportunity for your children. Ask about scheduling a ship tour. Some cruises will offer “a meet the captain” or “tour the bridge” event. It is amazing experience to see what a coordinated effort it takes to make the ship run efficiently.

Don’t feel guilty about the Kids Club

On our first cruise we felt guilty about putting our daughter in the nursery so we can have one dinner as a couple. Don’t. You need a vacation too and on board their babysitter at your disposable. They are specifically trained to care for your children and even if you are at dinner or the spa you are never more then a few decks away. If you have older kids they are in for a treat. There are fun activities and events every hour to keep your kids have a blast. Just don’t be hurt when they ask to go back to the Kids Club the next night.

Remember you don’t have to do anything

This is the only vacation that I know of where you don’t have to do anything if you choose and no one will be disappointed in you. No driving to visit remote relatives, trying to work around other peoples schedule and getting the guilty phone call when you didn’t visit your cousin Jim your last visit.

Take the pressure off yourself, don’t worry about pleasing everyone or seeing everything and just chill. On one of our cruises after having our son I was in such a mommy mode that I kept doing everything for everyone. That was until the wait staff stepped in and cut food up FOR ME! That was my cue to relax and let them handle it.





Travel Lessons from a Frugal Grandma

travel lessons from a frugal grandmaTraveling is something I have always enjoyed ever since high school. Growing up my family did not travel anywhere but our yearly trip to Florida where we  visited the grandparents. And no unfortunately this trip did not include a theme park visit. However, I still have fond memories of my travels to visit the Grandparents. I think  that is how I got bitten by the traveling bug, one summer when visiting my grandmother Mildred.

My Grandma the World Traveler

Written on the back by my grandma "Peace Treaty Signed 1919 Verselle France"

Written on the back by my grandma “Peace Treaty Signed 1919 Verselle France”

During one of our visits, she showed my some amazing photos of her recent trips. It turns out that grandma was doing more then just playing pinochle and going to the clubhouse during her retirement, she had become a world traveler. Going all over Europe, and Asia.

My grandmother Mildred was a working mom before there were working mom’s. She was fairly serious and never very talkative or emotional but you could tell sharing these pictures was a joy to her. Being able to travel the way she had is something I had wanted to do ever since she described her photos to me.

During that time I asked her a ton of questions about her trips. I asked about how she had planned for traveling, what she would have done different and where she liked to travel best. She gave me some great advice.

Something else I learned was that my grandmother was not only adventurous but she was a frugal planner who was ahead of her time. Her careful handling of finances are what made these trips possible.

My grandmother has long since passed away but many off her lessons stay with me. I realize now, I am a lot like her in that I want to see and explore the world. Also like her handling of the family finances are what will make my dreams of traveling possible.

Written on the back "8/86 Le River Guliane China"

Written on the back “8/86 Le River Guliane China”

She approached life in a frugal way with the end goal being to retire and travel. Although I want to travel, I do not want to wait for retirement to do it. So what does that mean for a working mom with two kids? Planning.

Here are some of the nuggets of wisdom that helped her save enough to travel in retirement.

Plan out your trip cost long before your travel date

She advised me to get as clear an idea of where I wanted to go and estimate how much those visits will cost. Have a long timeline to save for these trips, and break them down into time increments to save for. Credit was should not be an option. It wasn’t for her.

If possible travel Europe when you are young and save the U.S for retirement age

She said it was much easier to travel in the U.S at an advanced age. There were more senior discounts for attractions and travel and it was easier to navigate then Europe. She added due to the age and make-up of most of Europe it is not as easy for older bodies to handle cobblestone streets an centuries old staircases.

Don’t be afraid to have experiences when travel

I will never forget a picture my grandmother showed me of her standing in front a plane. It was taken in Communist China and she admitted that she felt pretty scared when she was there but was grateful she got to see a part of China usually restricted to travelers.

Written on back "Aug 86 Beijing China, Great Wall"

Written on back “Aug 86 Beijing China, Great Wall”

Sacrifice now to reach your travel goals

My grandmother always functioned in a frugal manner with her end goal of travel in mind. Like with any type of goal setting, you want to having a clear picture of what to achieve and formulated plan on how to achieve it. This will probably mean making sacrifices and being creative with your finances in order to free up money for travel. It mean giving up some things now (like those expensive lattes and dinners out.) to save for travel later.


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Who teaches you to Live Boldly?

live boldly

Follow in the footsteps of those who walk boldly through life

Last week, I traveled to Texas to spend some time with family. This may not seem like a big deal except that we have only discovered these family members about 6 years ago. Yes, they were our long lost family.

My husband discovered he had a sister a few years before his father passed away and had never met her. Matter of fact, he wasn’t even sure how to find her, having only her name to go on. But he always felt a compiling feeling in his gut to locate her, as if a piece of who he was had been missing.

After doing some internet research we found a picture we thought had to be her. It was from an online newsletter published a few years earlier and what struck us both were her eyes. They were exactly like my father-in-laws. I told my husband it had to be her.

Without much else to go, my husband reached out to her. Once he attempted contact he was unsure what he would get.

Would she even want to know him? What if she is a wack job? Could she hate him for things he couldn’t have controlled?

To our delight she did none of these things. She was warm and friendly, articulate and secure. An absolutely wonderful, giving and incredible person. Ever since our fist encounter we have felt privileged to get to know her. I had no idea that when we found her picture on the internet and my husband wrote his first email to her that we would receive such as blessing in our lives.

Looking back at the circumstances of how we met and what I have learned from her, there is one reoccurring message I am reminded of with every interaction we have. That is to “Live Boldly.”be bold

She first taught our family this lesson before we ever met her in person. When my husband, for reasons he couldn’t quite articulate, put himself out there and contacted her. He would never admit it but I know it was a risk. It was scary for him. What if she rejected him? What if she blamed him? But he decided to live boldly in that moment and try it anyway.

Once we finally met her and got to know her. We learned she was former military; a breast cancer survivor, a writer, a mother, and she soon became a friend and trusted advisor. She had done things and had experiences in her life that demonstrated a level of strength far beyond anything I had encountered.

What I loved the most about our first encounter was that not only did we take a chance in  first contacting her.  She took a chance and everything she did after was also filled with risk taking.

Meeting us there was a chance of opening old wounds, a chance to re-encounter emotional pains long since put away. In filling us in on the large portion of her life that we missed out on, she had to become vulnerable with us and trust us enough to share this hurt.

She lived boldly in our first encounter and let us get to know her, the real her, in a genuine and meaningful way. Not only was this bold but it was incredibly brave.

Fast forward to our most recent trip we just returned from. Our friendship has moved past the past and into new adventures and experiences together. These experiences included horseback riding. My husband and I have only been once and my children have never been.

I was scared. Scared because I didn’t know how it was going to go. My son and daughter were scared as well since this was something new they had never tried. I even tried to avoid getting on the house by saying I was photographing the event. But almost as if she read my mind, my sister-in-law encouraged me to do it anyway. She did the same with my children.

Sometimes we all need a little push

Later she remarked sometimes all you need is a little push. I might have seemed to everyone else that she was referring to pushing the kids past their fear of getting on the horse but I knew those words were meant for me as well.

It is easy to say the words “do it scared,” and “live boldly” but it is harder to actually live out those words. I know God put my sister-in-law Deb in my life for a myriad of reasons but the biggest one is to show me how to do this.

She has lived it. In beating cancer, serving in the military, in living life everyday to the fullest. In taking the chance to get to know us she “lives boldly” and I am forever grateful she does.

Today, I encourage you to find that family member or friend who walks boldly through life and follow their lead.

Would love it if you shared in the comment area below how someone in your life has helped you “Live boldly.”

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5 Lessons from a Slower Paced Summer

5 Lessons from a Slow Paced Summer

Slowing down to make better memories

When I had children I read all the popular parenting books and magazines. I found they are filled with articles and information about how to stimulate young minds, how to prepare them for the world and how to teach them to achieve. I know I’m not alone in feeling the almost overwhelming pressure to create a prodigy, turn my kid into the next great whatever, and teach them from day one how to achieve success. Yes moms, we all feel the pressure to ensure our child is gifted, special and excelling. But after several years at a forced breakneck pace of activity, I had to question did my children actually want this?

Are they benefiting from rushing from activity to activity. I admit at times I still want to be the “Tiger Mom.” Like most moms we  feel the need to equip our children with every advantage, every possibility. So they can strive to be the best, underbeachstand hard-work and excel. These are all great values to teach our children. However, here is a point were it can get away from us. There is a point when the want for them to succeed outpaces the need to let them just be a kid.

This summer my family has focused on slowing down. This is the first summer we did not have swimming lessons or some sort of scheduled activity to rush to. After a school year with too much to do, I was burnt out. I think my kids and me both needed a break, We needed the downtime to do well…nothing. Or whatever we choose to do. That’s is where this summer’s goal began.

[ctt title=”When the summer started we did not expect to have gained so much by doing nothing. ” tweet=”When the summer started we did not expect to have gained so much by doing nothing. ” coverup=”92aQ9″]Ok, really we did not do “nothing.” We just had nothing on the agenda (expect my daughters birthday at Disney, but event hat was finalized last minute.) We didn’t even plan our trip to see family till the last minute. For a chronic over scheduler this was a test for me. But as it turns we accomplished so much and learned more then we ever expected. Here is some of the lessons to learn from a slower paced summer.

  1. We learned it is ok to just play – There is a lot to be said for just playing the day away. Matter of fact there is a ressurance in the usefulness of unstructured imaginative play. It has been found to foster creativity, and the social and emotional growth of children. Plus spending a day letting the kids just play without feeling the need to make it edulational or “productive” takes the pressure off mom.
  2. We learned about each other – Not having scheduled activity meant less time in the car driving from place to place and more time to spend with each other.  It gave us as parents the opportunity have unhurried, less distracted conversations with our kids. This gave us the chance to discovering my daughter’s newfound love for Betty and Veronica comics and my son’s aptitude in racing games.
  3. We learned to enjoy the season – This summer we really took advantage of all of the things that summer represents. We spent more time swimming, in the pool and at water parks then ever before. It was such a blast.
  4. We learned to go with the flow – A last minute, impromptu trip to visit my sister at a beach front condo became the best trip of the summer. Spending time together ,watched the sunset, and BBQing. It was a relaxing unscheduled time just enjoying family and the summer.
  5. We learned to be in the moment – This summer, more then any other, we savored the moments spent with family, friends and each other. In the past I was so busy planning what we would do next. I was never fully present in the moment. My kids suffered through me shuffling them off to the next thing. Just so I  to check off another accomplishment on to-do list of activities. This was the first summer I went without a to-do list and let things flow as they came up.

This summer we spent day’s running outside with the neighbors, and sometimes we stayed in and played Legos for hours. We spent summer evenings going for long walks around our community and mornings splashing in the pool. We had long talks, cooking experiments and water slides. This summer we made memories, unplanned and unfetter by a schedule. I will admit these lessons probably impacted me more then my kids. But these memories and what we have learned from this summer will shape my approach to the year ahead. In the end it isn’t how much you get done, or even what you are doing. It’s who you spend the time with and the memories you make that matter most.

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Post your Summer Memories and Win a $25 gift card

summer memories giveawayLet’s share out best summer memories of 2016

Summer is coming to an end in a few weeks and it seems like it went by so fast (at least to me it does.) This summer was great. My goal this year was to slowdown. Be a kid again, take more time off, and not schedule so much “responsible adult” stuff to do.


My son having a blast in the pool

For my family we met this summer goal . We creating a ton of memories at a slowed down, summer pace. No scheduled activities to rush to, just summer fun with family and friends. This is what summer is all about. I am so grateful to those who lead me down this path. For someone who is a chronic over-scheduler it was sometimes tough to just go with the flow. But it was totally worth it. I wanted to find a way to reflect on what a freeing,  fun, childlike summer it was. So I thought we could all share our best moments!

To close closeout this summer I want to ask you all to head on over to the Facebook page and post a picture of your best event, activity or time. It can be anything that means summer to you and your family. A jump in the pool or time spent at the beach. Whatever evokes the feeling of summer to you. Each person will be entered into a random drawing for a $25 Visa gift card!

 I am really excited to share these memories together and revisit what a great summer this has been. Look forward to seeing what you guys post.

Gymboree Sale On Now!

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7 Ways to Save While Planning Your Vacation

7 ways to save on your next vacationSo you went on summer vacation.

Had a fantastic time and made a ton of wonderful memories. You arrive home unpack your suitcase and there it is. Staring at you like a dog waiting for dinner( Which mine are doing as I write this)…The credit card bill. You know you need to open it but really don’t want to face the damage you have done.

In your head you run a quick tally of what you think you might have spent on vacation. That souvenir T-shirt, drinks at dinner, the novelty tote bag…did I really spend that much? It is all adding up in your brain and it comes to more then you expected. While we are away it is so easy to lose track of spending. We tell ourselves “I’m on vacation I can spend fast and free.” We live it up and pretend that there is no bill to come home to. It’s fun and freeing for the moment. Then the moment ends and the bill comes.

I’m not saying this to be Debbie Downer, only that I have done this myself. Have spent more on vacation then I should have and had to dig myself out of debt upon returning home. It puts a damper on your happy memories and makes you wary of relaxing the purse strings on your next trip away.

But life shouldn’t be that way. We should be able to enjoy out vacation without the fear of getting in debt hanging over our head. With a little planning this could be the case and believe me you will enjoy your vacation a whole lot more knowing there is no ballooning credit card bill waiting in your mailbox.

Here are 7 ways to plan out your vacation and save a little money in the process.

  1. Book your vacation as far in advance as possible – This give you ample time to save for the trip. You will be completely aware of the true cost of your vacation and can make adjustments in your household spending to put aside for the cost of your travels.
  2. Be as flexible as possible with your travel dates – This will save you money in airfare, car rental and hotel bookings. You can shop around for the lowest prices based on the date.
  3. Monitor your travel bookings to see if the fare goes down in price -With many travel sites and companies if you see that the price is cheaper, they will allow you to rebook the fare at the lower price. If the price drops in the first 24 hours many airlines will allow you to rebook at a lower price and refund the difference without change fees.
  4. Prepay your vacation – This may seem obvious but it is often overlooked. Even if you pay a small amount per month towards your vacation, that small amount overtime adds up! It can take the sting out of the full vacation bill.
  5. Investigate before buying dining, photo, or beverage packages – For some families this may be a savings. However, in most cases there are many stipulations to these programs that prevent them from really saving you anything. Find out before you go and don’t sign up for these programs on a whim or under pressure.
  6. Look for no/low cost souvenirs – Do you really need another fridge magnet or coffee mug? Look for souvenirs that cost little or no money but will hold all the memory of your vacation, like a coaster from your favorite restaurant or postcard of your most beloved attraction.
  7. Have a Staycation – During 2008 when there was massive job loss, and financial uncertainty, the Staycation became the new vacation. Look around your town, your city or your state even. Are there local spots that want to see but never got a chance? Is there a great attraction within a days drive from your home? Explore the world right outside your front yard. Forgo the hotel stay and save yourself a bundle.

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5 Ways To Have A More Enjoyable Disney Vacation

disneyJust recently we came back from a wonderful family vacation to Walt Disney World. It was fantastic! We had fun, family bonding and great food. It was a trip that we will remember all year. Being a South Florida resident, I have made it my missions to travel to Disney at least once a year. I would go more but my husband adamantly refuses.

Why? Why would he not want to visit the happiest place on earth more then once a year. (Crazy I know?) Mainly, the steep price tag. It is not cheap to visit the Mouse. With the price rising year after year, we have had to scale back our Disney travels. For this reason it has become very important to me to make our time the most magical it could be. Here are some tips I have learned in my Disney travels that might improve your stay.

  1. Take advantage of discounts programs

    Most companies and organizations like AAA have a discount program that could save you some money on your trip. Sadly, in my experience it is near impossible to get a discount on tickets. Even Florida residents only save something like $8-9 for a one-day park pass. However, you can save a pretty penny on a resort stay and food using these types of discounts.

  2. Do not go for a high-end hotel if you are spending all you time at the parks

    It is not worth spending $250 a night for a comfy bed if you are spending every vacation day at a theme park. It is much more cost effective to stay at a value resort or off premises, where the per night cost is considerably lower. Don’t get me wrong the more expensive resorts are beautiful and have some great fun things to do like lazy rivers, bonfires, movies under the stars. But if you are spending everyday in the packs you will never get the time to fully take advantage of theme, making the higher price just not worth it. These type of resort are a vacations destination by themselves. If you must stay in a high end hotel, leave one day free for pool, exploring and leisure time at the resort.

  3. Bring or make breakfast in your room

    While you are staying in Orlando you and your children will be waking up bright and early (mine woke up at 5 am) to get to the parks. You can hit the snooze button a bit longer by having a ready-to-eat breakfast in your hotel room. Food such as a protein bar, smoothie or to-go oatmeal cups you can make using hot water from your coffee maker will make breakfast a lot easier quicker, easier and cheaper. A sit down breakfast for four can cost you $30.00 to $50.00 in some cases. Go to a local convenience store like Walgreens or CVS and stock up a cooler for the week. Eat breakfast in. This will save you time and money.

  4. Use Fastpass and plan out your day

    I am someone who likes to have a plan for my day. However, even if you are more of a “fly by the seat of your pants” kind of person, it will make your trip a million times better by mapping out what you really want to do on your Disney trip. Is Disney history your thing, character greetings? Maybe there is a ride or two you just have to go on? Take advantage of the new Fastpass feature to see if you can preschedule the most busy rides, making your time in line much shorter. Also by knowing what you really want to see, you can prioritize where to spend the bulk of your time because lets face it you can not see everything (A lesson I had to come to terms with myself.)

  5. Nap your kids and yourself

    [ctt title=”This is the most important, most vacation changing advice I could give to any would be Disney traveler. NAP!” tweet=”This is the most important, most vacation changing advice I could give to any would be Disney traveler. NAP!” coverup=”Du8Vq”] I can not tell you how many times me and my family have arrived back at the park after an hour nap to witness meltdowns in every corner. It is hard when you want to see everything in a single day. It can be a pain to travel from hotel to park and back again. Disney is a lot of walking, a lot of stimulation, a lot of activity, and a lot of sweating in the heat on lines. You and your kids will benefit greatly from a mid-day rest. It doesn’t have to be long, only an hour will do to reset. Trust me, when you get back into the park you will feel refreshed and ready to enjoy the remainder of the day. Instead of short tempered, irritable and tired. Plan a nap into your Disney schedule. You will not regret it.

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