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10+ Tips for Vacationing with Kids

Going on a vacation with your kids can be stressful, or maybe not even feel like a vacation at all.  Follow these tips to make your next family trip as stress free as possible.

  1. Global Entry/ TSA Precheck – With TSA Precheck, children under the age of 12 are able to go through with adults that have precheck (both parents do need it if all traveling together).  To get TSA Precheck, you must fill out an easy online form, go in for fingerprinting, confirm your information, and pay a fee.  Once you have it, going through security becomes a much easier process, you do not need to remove liquids from your bag (although you must still follow the same 3 oz rules), you can keep your jackets, shoes, buckles on, and you don’t need to take out laptops.  Best part is usually it will save you about 20 minutes since the lines are shorter and go faster.  If you are traveling internationally, pay the extra fee to get global entry and bypass lines when coming back into the US.  If you are going to be taking more than a few trips in the next 5 years, this is completely worth it.  Keep in mind that the process takes about 4 weeks so make sure you leave yourself ample time before your trip.
  2.  Check Passports for expiration dates – Kids passports expire after 5 years while adults last 10.  If you do need to renew, you need to have both parents present during business hours when applying so you need to plan in advance.  Be sure to double check 8 weeks in advance to avoid expedite feeds.
  3. Find the right resort – Staying at the right resort can be the difference of a phenomenal trip vs an OK trip.  After enough trips with little nuisances, I have a list of must haves specific for my family;  Heated Pool or Hot Tub, Poolside Food Service, Elevators to rooms, Kids club, Entertainment on site, Nice Beach, and Good Food.  Read trip advisor reviews to get a feel for the place, and if you can’t figure it out online, pick up the phone and give them a call.  Someone onsite should easily be able to answer your questions.
  4. Renting vs Hotel – Does your family feel squished into 1 hotel room but don’t want to pay double for a 2nd?  Consider renting a place instead of a hotel.  There are several websites dedicated to finding vacation rentals like www. or to match owners with renters.  Some rentals still allow you to utilize hotel amenities and have a maid service so you can’t even tell the difference while still having the benefit of the shared living space with a fraction of the cost.
  5.  Pacifier Clips –  Attach your babies pacifier to their clothing with a paci clip so you aren’t constantly trying to clean it when it falls on that nasty airplane floor.  I recommend using one that doesn’t have the hard to open metal clip.  They are too annoying and you end up tossing them.
    JJ Cole Pacifier Clip for $7.99
  6. Sucking and/or Gum for Ear Pain –  Kids don’t do as well with the air pressure changes as we do so try to plan feedings on the way down as the sucking motion helps to alleviate the air pressure pain.  If you child is not nursing/using bottles, bring a pack of thick gum.  Chewing a thick wad of gum helps for the older ones.
    Big wads of gum alleviate ear pressure for older kids
  7. Devices (with Splitter) Please! – I am a pretty strict about iPad time and limit it to a few hours on the weekend…with exception to being on a plane.  Anything to keep them quiet in an enclosed space that you can’t leave is A-OK with me.  Don’t forget a headphone splitter for when the little ones want to both watch the same thing and are fighting over it.
  8. Children carry their own carry ons/beach bags –  Children over 5 years old should be able to help carry the load.  While traveling to your destination, give them a little backpack that is light weight and easy to carry so they can bring their own entertainment.  At the pool, throw their cover up, sunblock, pool toys and other essentials in so you aren’t overloaded with 1 ginormous bag.
    Drawstring backpack from Land’s End
  9. Bubble bums – These blow up booster chairs are incredibly easy to pack (even in their own bag from #5) and you can fit 3 of them in a row without needing a larger rental car.
    Inflatable Booster Seats
  10. Beach bag AND diaper bag – Pack a beach bag even if you have a diaper bag.  Instead of having to switch out the contents each night, you can keep one for swimming with sun block, sand toys, wet bags, etc. and a separate bag for the evening with diapers, makeup, toys, and your wallet.
  11. Two piece swimsuits –  It doesn’t have to be a bikini but for potty trained girls, opt for a 2 piece top and bottom instead of 1.  While trying to pull off a wet sticky bathing suit, it is much easier to take potty breaks if they only have to get the bottoms off.
    Two Piece Bathing Suit for Potty Breaks
  12. Braids – Not only are they really cute on your kids, but when on vacation you no longer have to do their hair!  Super simple for swimming and showering.
    Beach baby
  13. Restaurant Recommendations – Ask your taxi driver.  They know the hot spots and not contracted like hotels are to suggest only certain places.

Gun Control is Everyone’s Problem

“Lanza then entered a first-grade classroom where Lauren Rousseau, a substitute teacher, had herded her first grade students to the back of the room, and was trying to hide them in a bathroom, when Lanza forced his way into the classroom.Rousseau, Rachel D’Avino (a behavioral therapist who had been employed for a week at the school to work with a special needs student), and fifteen students in Rousseau’s class were all killed. Fourteen of the children were dead at the scene; one injured child was taken to a hospital for treatment, but was later declared dead.  Most of the teachers and students were found crowded together in the bathroom.”

Those words still haunt me.  The elementary school shooting of December 14, 2012 shook me like it did the rest of the world.  Not only because many of victims were extremely young children, but my oldest child was a 1st grade student at the time like many of the victims.  Her classroom was coincidentally one of the first class rooms when you entered her school and turned left, just as the shooter has done at  Sandy Hook Elementary.  I sent her to school that morning, just as 20 other moms did in Connecticut, trusting that my daughter would be safe.  My daughter fortunately came home to me that day while 20 moms in Connecticut were not so lucky.

The next day, I went to work and could not concentrate.  I could not think about anything except my children.    Were they safe?  How did my child’s school protect against intruders?  At one point during the day, I had to escape because I could not hold back the tears.  How can I go on as if everything is normal when it felt like the whole world was turning upside down?  I started writing emails to schools wondering about safety protocols, joining groups like for Moms who support Gun Control, and researching ways that I could make a difference.

There has been more than 1 mass shooting a day on average in the United States in 2015.  THIS IS EVERYONE’S PROBLEM.  White, Black, Brown, and Yellow; Rich and Poor; Democratic and Republican; Christian, Muslim and Hindu; Old and Young.  There is no explanation that makes sense as why we continue to let this happen.


Finish The Job: Sign the petition and help expand Brady background checks across all gun sales. 

Call Congress: Make an impact on common sense gun legislation. 

Volunteer: Play your part in helping to cut gun deaths in half by 2025.

How the Elf Creates Christmas Doubters

Tomorrow is December 1st.  The official day that the elf arrives from the North Pole.  I am all for Christmas spirit but things have gotten severely out of hand with the “Elf on the Shelf”.  Not only is it a major pain to be trying to figure out new places to move it to every night but it has made my kids completely question Santa all together.

If you have not heard of the elf on the shelf, consider yourself lucky and hope you never have to deal with it.  The idea of it was supposed to be simple.  The elf arrives from the North Pole and keeps an eye on you to report back to Santa whether you have been naughty or nice.  The elf moves around every night to get a new view.

After 2 years of hearing how lucky the other kids at school were, I caved and bought one.  Oh boy have I regretted it.  My kids love waking up in the morning and looking for it.  The initial twinkle in their eyes was priceless.  Overtime however, it has made them question the magic of Christmas.  Each parent handles their elves differently.  For most other Santa related activities, that is fine because the kids are on break and can’t compare notes.  Since the elf comes out while school is in, it becomes the water cooler talk at the playground.  I find myself lying to the kids the entire month of December.  If your kids are old enough (mine were 5 and 7 when we started) and have  a curious mind, these questions are sure to follow.

  • How come all these kids have an elf and we don’t?  – They came home from school everyday retelling the stories their friends told them.  There was a magical elf that appeared on their mantel, they had to look for it every morning.  They were so sad that an elf hadn’t come to visit them.  “Santa already knows that you have been very good and doesn’t need to send anyone to check in on you.”
  • If the elf comes from the North Pole, why is it sold in stores?  – As soon as you walk into many retailers, the elf is sitting there in a box waiting to be purchased.  My sister  told my kids that the elf isn’t bought at a store. “The elf spirit must come down from the North Pole into the elf overnight”.
  • How come Neil has 2 elves? –  If you are going to to bother with 2 elves, beware. “They must be extra naughty so Santa needed to keep 2 sets of eyes on them”.
  • How come the elf didn’t move last night?  When we did finally get one, remembering to move it once we were sure the kids were asleep was so difficult.  Because mommy was tired and forgot?  No.  “She must not have seen what she was looking for there and needed to stay an extra day”
  • How come the elf’s handwriting looks like yours?  The kids started writing letters to the elves since they heard that is what their friends do and the elves wrote back.  I tried to disguise it, I really did.   “I don’t know, must be a coincidence”
  • Jayden’s elf already came before Thanksgiving, how come ours isn’t back yet?  Seriously people, you want to do this for longer?  “Maybe our elf was visiting family for the holiday”
  • It’s past Christmas and I saw Maya’s elf still at her house.  Doesn’t it need to go back to the North Pole?  To their defense, most delinquent parent’s children are too young to know the difference.  But please if you are going to have older kids over, put the thing away!  “Maybe his travel arrangements were delayed”
  • Why is our elf in the back of your closet in June?  Shit.

How to Lose Weight with Old WW Program

In recent years, Weight Watchers revamped their program with PointsPlus.  While I am sure there was years worth of science behind it, I wonder how much had to do with carbs getting a bad rep?   The biggest benefit to the old plan was that you could look at a nutrition label and get a basic idea of the Points value in your head.  The new plan is just way to complex.  If you can do simple math in your head, unlikely to write everything down, but still motivated to lose weight, here is how to follow the old plan.

First figure out your daily points: 

  Once you figure out your points value, that is your daily target plus 35 flex points for the week.

They no longer provide the old program’s point calculator but you maybe able to find some on ebay. 

 To figure out points from a label.

Calories/50 = PTS

For every 4grams of fat, add 1

over 4 grams of fiber, minus 1.

Example – 150 calories = 3 + 4 grams of fat = 4 + 2 Dietary Fiber =4

It is not the perfect formula but it is easy and it works.  I lost 77lbs using this method!

Exercise can also earn you additional points.  Since I don’t have a special calculation for that, for a 30 minute medium intensity, give yourself 2 extra points for the day.

Pottery Barn Style at Ikea Prices

I pride myself on my bargain shopping skills.  I hate spending more when you can get the same thing for less. While I am not an extreme couponer at the grocery store, everything else is game on!

When the time came around to update my daughter to a big girl room, I had a really hard time finding just the right thing.  We finally found the perfect furniture, Pottery Barn’s Hampton Tower Storage Bed, but the price tag  of over $3500 was overwhelming.

Pottery Barn Hampton Tower Storage Bed
Pottery Barn Hampton Tower Storage Bed

I just couldn’t stomach spending that type of money on my little girl, even if it was a birthday present.  Inspired by the pottery barn look, I pieced together Ikea Hemnes Living Room Furniture and Overstock Inspire Q Platform Bed to get an even better look for 30% of the PB Cost.

Ikea Hemnes Living Room with Inspire Q Bed
Ikea Hemnes Living Room with Inspire Q Bed

I decided to switch out the bed headboard to something with a little more sophistication.  That way if we decided to get rid of the unit around it, it would still be a beautiful piece on it’s own.IMG_7011Finally, added lots of inspirational and motivating messages.IMG_7082


To accessorize we used PB Teen Zig and Zag Duvet Cover, Crinkle Puff Sham, and Hi-Light Clip Lamp.  The wall decor and plaques you can get for 50% at Hobby Lobby every other week.  The throw pillow and baskets were from Home Goods.

Next time you fall in love with a look, but don’t want to pay the price tag, achieve the same look for less.

  • Be flexible, it doesn’t have to be exact.  You can find similar pieces that will give it the same feel.
  • Find the large pieces for less while the buy the original  for the smaller accessories.  That way you still achieve the style you were looking for.
  • If you are set on the piece, be patient.  Wait for a sale, look for an outlet center, or try ebay.

What are some of the best bargains you have found?  Please share.