Tag Archives: Travel

Travel with family is worthwhile enriching, and fun whether you are boarding a plane or traveling down the road to a state park.

How to Travel Internationally with A Large Family

This time last year, my family was altogether for a pretty big moment: my brother Jonathan asked his girlfriend Kelly to marry him. Almost immediately after all the hugs, high-fives, and champagne toasts, Steve pulled out his calculator and started crunching numbers. With my brother and Kelly living in San Diego, a cool 3,000 miles from us on the East Coast, we would be booking airfares and lodging times seven in our near future. Then things got interesting: they were doing a destination wedding in Cancun, Mexico. Yay! And, gulp! Now we weren’t just googling great fares, but how to get a crew our size to another country. The sad truth is that there is not that much help to be found on the internet if your group is more super-sized than travel-sized. Here are some of the things we learned about  how to travel internationally with a large family.

Got a large family? How to do international travel with your kids, tweens, and teens | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

 

1. Plan Ahead

Though this one has been drilled into us from a lifetime of trying to go, well, anywhere, getting a brood the size of a basketball team to a tropical destination meant we had to take our planning game to the next level.

Pace yourself.  Free-wheeling, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants travel is for young adults and moms on the lam. We were making lists and checking them twice from about 10 minutes after we got the first text about the wheres and whens and we didn’t stop double-checking them until we landed safely back home.

One important part of this phase was thinking through the travel process itself. We made sure to download movies and podcasts and create playlists for everybody’s tech. Then we picked out books, magazines, snacks, and gum. We loaded backpacks with all of this and then threw in a deck of cards and some plain sketchbooks. Keeping the campers happy during the not-so-fun parts of travel was key to peace in our moveable kingdom.

Got a large family? How to do international travel with your kids, tweens, and teens | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Give yourself loads of time any time you try to go anywhere. Remember the  “20-per-kid” rule. For every child you are trying to get out the door, you need to add at least 20 minutes to your “out the door” time. Somebody is sure to be faster, but that just gives you back precious minutes for your “slower than molasses but we love him anyway” child. Nothing destroys the memories you are trying to make faster than a screaming mother trying to get everyone out the door in time to meet a flight or dinner reservation.

Pay attention to the details. Like. . .

Passports Everybody needs one obviously BUT what if some of you already have one. We almost got punked with this one. Steve’s passport was set to expire about a month after our trip. While you can use your passport up to the date inside the cover, many countries will deny travelers entry if the passport expires in less than six months. Avoid unfortunate, uncomfortable, and expensive consequences and make sure you renew your passport at least nine months prior to the expiration date.

ALSO, and this is HUGE, find a small regional passport office (often a post office) that will let you schedule your appointment. Even though many passport offices will let you just walk in, these are not for you. Also, have all paperwork filled out, all necessary documents (birth certificates and social security cards), and bring the passport photos with you. We did ours at the local Walgreens. Yes, you can get them at the passport office but this slows the already slow process down to a stultifying crawl. Don’t break your people before you have even left native soil.

Fraud alerts. Steve works for a large bank and he has worked in fraud divisions before, so he clued us into the importance of this one. Let your credit card company’s fraud department know what countries you will be visiting and when including any countries you might be changing planes in. This way, they won’t flag your card as stolen and cut you off from funds just when you need them the most.

Flight restrictions We scoured the website to make sure we understood everything we needed to know about who could bring what, luggage sizes, etc.

Got a large family? How to do international travel with your kids, tweens, and teens | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

No restrictions on taking pictures during flight. The ones my kids took during take-off and landing are among my favorites of the whole trip.

Be the early bird. For dinner, flights, tours, and just about anything, be ready to get that worm. Understand that your group is large, unwieldy, and largely unwelcome in the world of travel packages built for 4. Google and read travel reviews about what time to arrive and then plan on getting there at least thirty minutes before that. For flights, we were there an hour earlier than the recommended time (usually three hours, but at least two for international flights).

Got a large family? How to do international travel with your kids, tweens, and teens | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Be flexible. We met twenty of our relatives in Mexico for the wedding, so meal planning was complicated. We used What’s App to coordinate meals, beach time, and wedding to-dos. Our resort also had a great a la carte restaurant on site which was perfect for trying to get everyone together for meals that accommodated picky 7-year-olds and particular retirees alike.

Decide what you are doing about data. While checking out our cellphone plan to solve our “insane international data charges but Instagram-loving teens” dilemma, we discovered that our resort had a special app that could be downloaded to use social media without incurring international roaming charges.

Got a large family? How to do international travel with your kids, tweens, and teens | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

BEST NEWS EVER!

2. Travel Light and SMART

Consolidate where you can. Despite the fancy clothes we would be bringing for the wedding, the rest of our clothing would be bathing suits, cover-ups, and clothes to go to dinner. This meant that we could pack the two youngest boys together in one suitcase, a worthy goal. Make “less is more” your vacation motto.

Plan on checking at least one bag. The idea of trying to fit all of our liquid needs to TSA standards was stressful. Because we were able to get us all into 2 rooms, we decided that we would bite the fees and check 2 bags, one for each room. This meant that each room would have all the big bottles of sunscreen, medications, and toiletries needed without having to worry about fluid ounces or special baggies.

Fly fancy. It’s just good travel advice in general to pay attention to the local customs about what is appropriate attire for dinner, visiting churches, holy places, etc. Our resort did not allow flip-flops or t-shirts at dinner which meant everyone needed at least one nice, closed toe shoe and a collared shirt. We made the decision to fly “dressed-up” so that our bags wouldn’t be as heavy.

Got a large family? How to do international travel with your kids, tweens, and teens | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

We usually save the collared shirts and fancy hats for family parties.

Get the good luggage. Ellen knows the sad state of our luggage. As an intrepid traveler, she has many pieces of good luggage perfect for travel and she lent them to us. Good, rolling luggage and carry-ons make a huge difference when herding your cats through an airport or hotel lobby. We loved especially the underseat carry-on which was perfect for our 12-year-old. Roomy enough to fit all the clothes for him and his brother, it also meant I didn’t need to worry about him hitting any seatmates in the head as he tried to stow it overhead, or worse yet, worry about snagging overhead storage at all.

Got a large family? How to do international travel with your kids, tweens, and teens | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Pack smart. We had everybody pack and then take three things out of their bag. Except for the 8 year old who took out three pieces of underwear, this system was solid gold. Ellen also has a great tip that really saved space. We had a goal to only take 6 bags total. By checking 2 of them, we were down to only 4 bags going through the TSA line which was a huge help, especially considering that the college-aged kid forgot he had a water bottle in his backpack and was detained for a bit.

Protect travel documents. We made copies of all travel documents, then we gave all the actual passports to my husband Steve to distribute to each person right before they were needed. He immediately collected everything again after they were no longer immediately needed.

On the way to Mexico, the flight attendants didn’t give us our country entrance documents until we were disembarking, and the scene below ensued. On our way back, we got smart and asked for them while we were on the plane.

Got a large family? How to do international travel with your kids, tweens, and teens | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

No, we aren’t a spectacle at all filling out our country entrance documents.

3. Honor your travelers.

Preserve bedtimes, routines, rituals. As much as you can obviously. All will benefit from happy, well-fed, well-rested kids. This even applies to older kids. Don’t plan a 9am museum visit knowing that punchy teens buck at the mere suggestion of being out the door that early.

When they are done, let them be. A lot of travel is overwhelming. Give them space and time to decompress.

Got a large family? How to do international travel with your kids, tweens, and teens | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Flower girl-ing and vacationing is a lot for a 7-year-old. This baby needs some pool time.

 Let them do vacation their way.

We have teens and young adults, in addition to younger kids. We took the pretty pictures with my fancy DSLR, but I think I might love some of the ones my kids took of the trip even more. Let them show you the trip through their eyes.

Got a large family? How to do international travel with your kids, tweens, and teens | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Snapchat filters aren’t just for stateside fun anymore!

Make the experience of traveling part of the overall fun. Travel is great . . . and boring and confounding and frustrating too sometimes. We tried to make the parts that weren’t as much fun still interesting especially when we saw the troops fading.

Got a large family? How to do international travel with your kids, tweens, and teens | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Long lines getting into the country just meant there was time for cool photo opps.

AND one more piece of advice,

JUST DO IT!

We are ever so grateful not just that we were able to see my brother and his beautiful bride get married, but that we had the chance to create such a wonderful family memory. The truth is that despite all jokes to the contrary, all families are travel-sized. Don’t let your sheer volume deter you. Slow, steady, and steely-eyed will get you and your plentiful peeps over that finish line known as a great international family vacation.

Got a large family? How to do international travel with your kids, tweens, and teens | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

 

-Erin

Hey! Want to buy our new book? I Just Want to Be Perfect brings together 37 hilarious and relatable essays that
showcase the foibles of ordinary women trying to be perfect.

I Just Want to Be Perfect

You can follow us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”

 

Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner

 



Share it real good . . .
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponShare on RedditEmail this to someonePrint this page

Hidden Park Gem in Frederick County, Maryland

This is the part of spring where you start dreaming up what you are going to do with your summer.  If you are looking for a town with lots to offer families of all ages, we think that you should consider pointing that minivan towards the mountains and Frederick County, Maryland.  Full disclosure: I grew up there but with the veritable wealth of great state parks there, the wonderful and walkable downtown area, and so much history everywhere, why haven’t you visited yet? Then you two could have family memories like these . . . Looking for family fun? Summer boredom busters? Great escapes for all ages? We have your parenting solution for great travel. Check out Catoctin Creek Park in Frederick, Maryland | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms and these. . . Looking for family fun? Summer boredom busters? Great escapes for all ages? We have your parenting solution for great travel. Check out Catoctin Creek Park in Frederick, Maryland | Sisterhood of the Sensible Momsand even this . . .

Looking for family fun? Summer boredom busters? Great escapes for all ages? We have your parenting solution for great travel. Check out Catoctin Creek Park in Frederick, Maryland | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

We call this one “Erin, put down the darn camera!” Precious, precious memories all around.

As you can see, Frederick has many splendors on display for all visitors, but sometimes the very best things are right off the beaten path and that’s what I’m sharing today. While you are visiting the lovely Frederick, you should most definitely hit up our new favorite place to run children til they drop, the Catoctin Creek Park and Nature Center. This hidden gem has quickly established itself as a favorite with kids, teens, and adults alike. Looking for family fun? Summer boredom busters? Great escapes for all ages? We have your parenting solution for great travel. Check out Catoctin Creek Park in Frederick, Maryland | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms Tucked in Middletown Valley, the park is an easy drive up alternate route 40. Once you are there, prepare to stay for awhile because nobody is going to want to leave and there is a ton to do. From one awesome climbing structure . . . Looking for family fun? Summer boredom busters? Great escapes for all ages? We have your parenting solution for great travel. Check out Catoctin Creek Park in Frederick, Maryland | Sisterhood of the Sensible Momsto the next . . . Looking for family fun? Summer boredom busters? Great escapes for all ages? We have your parenting solution for great travel. Check out Catoctin Creek Park in Frederick, Maryland | Sisterhood of the Sensible MomsAnd with miles of trails surrounding the whole area, including a sensory trail that you actually have to hear, see, taste, and smell to believe, Looking for family fun? Summer boredom busters? Great escapes for all ages? We have your parenting solution for great travel. Check out Catoctin Creek Park in Frederick, Maryland | Sisterhood of the Sensible Momsyour family will be busy and engaged the whole day. Looking for family fun? Summer boredom busters? Great escapes for all ages? We have your parenting solution for great travel. Check out Catoctin Creek Park in Frederick, Maryland | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms Make sure that even if you have gorgeous weather like we did that you plan on spending a good amount of time at the top notch nature center there. Looking for family fun? Summer boredom busters? Great escapes for all ages? We have your parenting solution for great travel. Check out Catoctin Creek Park in Frederick, Maryland | Sisterhood of the Sensible MomsBeautiful inside and out, this nature center has a ton of animals like this one in the newly expanded turtle pond, Looking for family fun? Summer boredom busters? Great escapes for all ages? We have your parenting solution for great travel. Check out Catoctin Creek Park in Frederick, Maryland | Sisterhood of the Sensible Momsand your kids can even dress up like their favorite creatures in the excellent learning resource area full of costumes, games, and science enrichment activities. Looking for family fun? Summer boredom busters? Great escapes for all ages? We have your parenting solution for great travel. Check out Catoctin Creek Park in Frederick, Maryland | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms Through Maryland’s Parkquest program, we have visited a lot of state park nature centers. This county park challenges the best of them with its diverse and varied collection of live creatures available for the kids to see, excellent learning resource area, and knowledgable and available staff. We are hard to impress on this front, and we all were wowed! Some other special reasons to love this place:

  • The roof of the Catoctin Creek Nature Center is covered in plants. From producing  oxygen to providing additional wildlife habitat and collecting rainfall, this thoughtful “green” feature emphasizes environmental stewardship in action. We love it!
  • The playground equipment is 100% recycled.
  • They write their own blog to keep their visitors informed and engaged. Check it out!
  • They partnered with the Potomac Valley Fly Fishers to offer fishing opportunities at the park too! Yay! Even more outdoor fun!

The bottom line is that you should definitely add this hidden park gem in Frederick, Maryland to your to do list this year. Excellent family fun for everyone!

Looking for family fun? Summer boredom busters? Great escapes for all ages? We have your parenting solution for great travel. Check out Catoctin Creek Park in Frederick, Maryland | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

2 happy nieces makes for one happy aunty!

You can follow us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”

Have every post delivered to your inbox! You can opt out at any time, but you won’t want to.

Enter your email address:

 

Share it real good . . .
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponShare on RedditEmail this to someonePrint this page

Why Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is Perfect for Teens

Where you choose to stay for your Disney vacation sets the tone for your whole trip. We have always stayed on Disney properties for the amenities like Extra Magic Hours, getting to choose FastPasses 60 days out, and complimentary parking.

In the past we have stayed at The Contemporary, The Polynesian, The Caribbean Beach Resort, and The Swan. (We try not to rub it in with the kids, but my hubs and I have also stayed at The Boardwalk and The Beach Club Resort.) For my family’s fifth trip to Disney we finally stayed at The Animal Kingdom Lodge.

First of all, we LOVED it and secondly, I am so glad we waited until the kids were teens to stay there. The Animal Kingdom Lodge had always come up when we were discussing resorts, but we always passed on it because it is so much farther out than the other options and it is only serviced by WDW buses. When your kids are little you only have so many “good” minutes awake . . . and let’s not forget naps. We never wanted to waste time on traveling back and forth from the hotel. And honestly, the monorail was just as much of an attraction for our kids as the teacups. It was a fabulous way to start and end each day.

But for our past trip, our girls were 14 and 17 years old so we thought, “Why not? The animals will be cool.” Plus, The Polynesian Resort was all booked. Thank goodness for this happenstance because there is so much about the Animal Kingdom Lodge that makes it perfect for teens.

Staying at a Disney property has all kinds of benefits, but here's why Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is perfect for teens. | Family Travel | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

1. It Complements Teen Sleep Patterns

Teen night owl behavior is great for taking advantage of late Extra Magic Hours, but unless you want growling adolescents on your hands, you’re probably going to be missing those rope drops. Because we booked a savanna view room, I had wonderful entertainment watching the animals while I waited for my kids and husband to get up. Sitting on my balcony with a cup of coffee (and my FastPasses already loaded on my MagicBand),  I didn’t feel like I was missing out on one bit of Disney magic.

Staying at a Disney property has all kinds of benefits, but here's why Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is perfect for teens. | Family Travel | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Staying at a Disney property has all kinds of benefits, but here's why Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is perfect for teens. | Family Travel | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

See? They eventually got up.

The breakfast buffet hours at one of the on-site restaurants, Boma, were pretty accommodating too: 7:30 am to 11:00 am. Even if you’re not an early bird, you can still get the Mickey waffle.

Staying at a Disney property has all kinds of benefits, but here's why Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is perfect for teens. | Family Travel | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

2. Speaking of Sleeping

The Animal Lodge is one of the few Disney Resorts where you can get bunk beds. Separate sleep spaces can go a long way toward keeping the peace between siblings.

Bunk Beds | Staying at a Disney property has all kinds of benefits, but here's why Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is perfect for teens. | Family Travel | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

3. And Speaking of the Night

So I already mentioned the animals, but did I mention you can view them at night? Long after the little ones have been tucked in, Disney offers a night safari from 10:00 pm until 11:00 pm exclusively for guests of the Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas. If the $70.00 per person safari price tag feels a little step for you after shelling out the dollars all day long, you can use the free night vision goggles at the public savannas overlooks located throughout the lodge. How cool is that? Check at the front desk for times, location, and availability of night vision viewing.

Staying at a Disney property has all kinds of benefits, but here's why Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is perfect for teens. | Family Travel | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

I couldn’t take a picture through the night vision goggles, but here are some giraffes at dusk.

4. The Tastes Might Be Lost on Younger Kids.

By the time your kids have reached double digits, they may be ready for some culinary adventures. If your teens want to dive into African-inspired cuisine, Jiko will leave them feeling like they traveled around the world. If they just want to take a taste or two of African flavors with things like roasted turkey as a back-up, the buffet at Boma will be more their speed.

Staying at a Disney property has all kinds of benefits, but here's why Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is perfect for teens. | Family Travel | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

5. Teens Can Appreciate the Decor and the Art

There is no cartoon feel in this deluxe resort. The lobby is richly decorated with African art displayed everywhere. While your teen might rush past that gorgeous mask on the first day, I guarantee you he might notice it on the third day. And even if the art is lost on them, they’ll still appreciate the fireplace, and the availability of the conversation areas and overlooks when the togetherness in the room gets to be a wee bit too much.

Staying at a Disney property has all kinds of benefits, but here's why Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is perfect for teens. | Family Travel | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

The expansive lobby.

Staying at a Disney property has all kinds of benefits, but here's why Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is perfect for teens. | Family Travel | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

This is actually a ceremonial mask.

6. Fantastic  Pools

The Uzima pool is an 11,000 square foot tropical oasis. The large size, zero depth entry, and bounty of lounge chairs means teens can find space away from the splashing little ones . . . unless they care to take a go at the 67-foot-long water slide. Then it’s every kid for himself.

Staying at a Disney property has all kinds of benefits, but here's why Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is perfect for teens. | Family Travel | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

One last thing. We still couldn’t get over that the only means of Disney transportation from The Lodge is buses. We rented a car at the airport and drove quite a bit from our hotel to the various parks. With the way the buses ran at the end of the night, we were glad we had the car as an option. Just something to consider.

One last last thing! Don’t forget your binoculars! Animal watching is better with them.

Happy Disney-ing!

Ellen 

 

You can follow us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”

 

Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurner

 



Share it real good . . .
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponShare on RedditEmail this to someonePrint this page

Terrorism and College Dreams

Terrorism and College Dreams: Basic survival and rarefied dreams are all victims at the feet of terrorism. | Parenting | Paris Travel | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Even weeks later, the Paris attacks continue to resonate in my heart and head. I am still working through all the emotions of tragedy: disbelief, shock, sadness, fear, and now, anger. I really thought by now I would be less incensed. I expected my shield of numbness forged from the necessity to deal with the ever-present bombardment of evil to protect me better, but this is proving to be a slow burn. I think this smoldering anger will be my companion for a while.

My husband, two teenage daughters, and I just visited Paris in June, and “what if that had happened while we were there?” fortifies my empathy. The fact that this occurred in a place where I witnessed armed soldiers patrolling on foot and saw them driving the streets in open vehicles fuels my hopelessness. It was harrowing enough when less than sixteen hours before we boarded a plane for home, a man with terrorist motives beheaded his boss and attacked a factory in Lyon, and a bomb threat triggered the evacuation of a terminal in Charles de Gaulle Airport. It was by giving it over to God that we got on our plane.

But those events pale in comparison to the carnage of the November attacks. I am so angry for the people of France, but if I am honest, my outrage lingers on because of what this means for my daughters. This is the first terror attack they have watched unfold in real time in a place where they have been. We all are taken aback remembering our dinners in restaurants open to the bustling streets, and now picturing those places as targets of violence. This is the first time my daughters will remember an act of terrorism instead of recalling a history lesson about it. The gossamer bubble of their innocence has dissolved that much more and their own protective shields have begun to inch their way up.

Terrorism and College Dreams: Basic survival and rarefied dreams are all victims at the feet of terrorism. | Parenting | Paris Travel | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

My oldest is a senior in high school and currently applying to colleges. Her top choices are in Boston, Washington, DC, and New York City. A month ago I saw these choices as exciting, adventurous, and full of opportunity. Now I am just reminded anew of the Boston Marathon bombing, the plane crashing into the Pentagon, and the Twin Towers tumbling down. Just like that, the forgetfulness born from time has evaporated.

I mourn that Syrian refugees are hindered and dying in their flights from their nightmare conditions, and my head whirls that my daughter’s college dreams are tarnished with the harsh worry of terrorism. Basic survival and rarefied dreams are all victims at the feet of terrorism. My thoughts ping back and forth between the global and the personal. The unfairness and inequity staggers me.

But just like we boarded that plane to come home, I will support my daughter as she forges ahead with her plans. In reality, my protective shield is made of more than numbness, it is tempered with hope and faith: knowing that bad things can happen, but God will hold us close through them. I have to continue living my life and encouraging my daughter to do the same. I can’t help myself. And let’s face it, danger not only comes from afar, but it is homegrown, too. We only have to think about the shootings at the Oregon community college and Virginia Tech to know it’s true. If I needed assurances of absolute safety for my family and me to leave the house, we would be hermits.

Terrorism and College Dreams: Basic survival and rarefied dreams are all victims at the feet of terrorism. | Parenting | Travel | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

So it is with awareness that we will continue to pray for the people of Paris and Syria, seek out ways to help them, and count our blessings; and it is with faith and hope my daughter will complete her college applications. But because God helps those who help themselves, my daughter may be looking into a matriculation choice that is not located in a city on the terrorist hit list. Who knows what May will bring when it is time to sign her final letter of intent? We’ll expect the best, plan for the worst, and through it all we are going with God.

-Ellen

 

You can follow us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”

 

Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurner

 

Share it real good . . .
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponShare on RedditEmail this to someonePrint this page

Why We Took One More Disney Trip Before Our Family Grew Up

Why We Took One More Disney Trip Before Our Family Grew Up: Our oldest is college bound so we squeezed in one more vacation because Disney is our version of a growth chart. Every time we go it's like I can see the previous ghosts of their childhood overlaid on the current moment. | Travel |Teens | College | Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

My family loves Disney World. Wait, maybe “love” will give you the wrong idea because there are folks who rotate a sizable chuck of their lives around this famous amusement park. Before you start checking my tush for Tinkerbell tattoos and my china cabinet for Mickey Mouse stemware, I should explain that it’s more like a strong attraction that keeps drawing us back every three years . . . until this vacation. This year we cut our intermediary time down to two years. Why? Because next fall our oldest daughter will be a freshman in college.

See, we didn’t plan on being habitual visitors so we didn’t do the math. When our oldest was almost six and our youngest was almost four–and most importantly, potty-trained–we thought “Disney, why not?” I really considered it to be a one and done kind of thing. I had not grown up visiting The Mouse. My first visit was as an adult with my future husband, Frank, when I was twenty-one years old. I thought this trip with our kids would be such an special and singular event that we brought my mother, too, so she could experience the magic.

And that 2004 vacation was special and magical:

Meeting Aurora. Why We Took One More Disney Trip Before Our Family Grew Up: Our oldest is college bound so we squeezed in one more vacation because Disney is our version of a growth chart. Every time we go it's like I can see the previous ghosts of their childhood overlaid on the current moment. | Travel |Teens | College | Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Meeting Aurora was a dream come true.

Why We Took One More Disney Trip Before Our Family Grew Up: Our oldest is college bound so we squeezed in one more vacation because Disney is our version of a growth chart. Every time we go it's like I can see the previous ghosts of their childhood overlaid on the current moment. | Travel |Teens | College | Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

I loved finally going to Disney World with my mom.

And we had such a great time that we did it again in 2007:

Why We Took One More Disney Trip Before Our Family Grew Up: Our oldest is college bound so we squeezed in one more vacation because Disney is our version of a growth chart. Every time we go it's like I can see the previous ghosts of their childhood overlaid on the current moment. | Travel |Teens | College | Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

The Carpets of Aladin.

2007 plus three years gives you 2010:

Why We Took One More Disney Trip Before Our Family Grew Up: Our oldest is college bound so we squeezed in one more vacation because Disney is our version of a growth chart. Every time we go it's like I can see the previous ghosts of their childhood overlaid on the current moment. | Travel |Teens | College | Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

We always end up at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe.

2013 meant they were both teenagers, but they were still up for a good time:

Why We Took One More Disney Trip Before Our Family Grew Up: Our oldest is college bound so we squeezed in one more vacation because Disney is our version of a growth chart. Every time we go it's like I can see the previous ghosts of their childhood overlaid on the current moment. | Travel |Teens | College | Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Rafiki’s Planet Watch in Animal Kingdom. Read all about it here.

And that brings us to 2015, when even at seventeen and fourteen, they’re not too cool for fun:

Why We Took One More Disney Trip Before Our Family Grew Up: Our oldest is college bound so we squeezed in one more vacation because Disney is our version of a growth chart. Every time we go it's like I can see the previous ghosts of their childhood overlaid on the current moment. | Travel |Teens | College | Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Animal Kingdom has lots of good photo ops.

At this point, I must share a little secret: I barely kept baby books and there are no marks commemorating inches grown on any of my door frames. I don’t like to stroll down memory lane because it makes my heart ache with longing, so I just try to stay in the now and grab the joy in parenting as I see it. But in a way, through no conscious planning, Disney World has become our growth chart, a very expensive and inconveniently located growth chart. But at least we’re getting a little more bang for our buck because this is a childhood record sprinkled with fairy dust.

Disney is not so much a destination to be toured, but an immersion experience. When friends scoff that going to the same place so many times is a waste of money, I can only answer that the focus is not on the things you see, but seeing your family in a place where the only focus is fun. Every time we go it’s like I can see the happy ghosts of their childhood overlaying the current moments, and it doesn’t cause me longing because “the now” is wonderful, too. The kids also experience a sort of childhood muscle memory because they grew up going here. There is nothing like catching that first glimpse of Cinderella’s Castle to wake up the child in a teen on the brink of adulthood.

Why We Took One More Disney Trip Before Our Family Grew Up: Our oldest is college bound so we squeezed in one more vacation because Disney is our version of a growth chart. Every time we go it's like I can see the previous ghosts of their childhood overlaid on the current moment. | Travel |Teens | College | Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Disney might in fact be the closest thing to time travel we have: you can revisit the past while being fully attuned to the present. It was honoring the present that spurred us–almost in a panic–to book a trip before high school graduation. Our daughter plans on attending college, and while that is all good, once she takes that first step to leave, our family as we know it will be changed. She will always be our child, but her childhood will be past tense. It’s about her sister, too. We wanted our youngest to have one more dose of Disney before she learns what being left behind in the nest means; before shared experiences become fewer and far between.

Why We Took One More Disney Trip Before Our Family Grew Up: Our oldest is college bound so we squeezed in one more vacation because Disney is our version of a growth chart. Every time we go it's like I can see the previous ghosts of their childhood overlaid on the current moment. | Travel |Teens | College | Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

So, we took one more trip while our family is still under one roof, while our oldest can only imagine where her future is going to take her. We’ve banked one last entry on her growth chart before the adventure changes.

-Ellen

Why We Took One More Disney Trip Before Our Family Grew Up: Our oldest is college bound so we squeezed in one more vacation because Disney is our version of a growth chart. Every time we go it's like I can see the previous ghosts of their childhood overlaid on the current moment. | Travel |Teens | College | Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Follow_us_on_Pinterest_pic

You can follow us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”

 

Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurner

 

Share it real good . . .
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponShare on RedditEmail this to someonePrint this page

The Best Packing Tip You Never Knew You Needed

 

The Best Packing Tip You Never Knew You Needed! Organized travel can be yours with this simple trick. Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

If you had told me at the beginning of this summer that when it came to packing I could do it better, the nicest thing I would have yelled at you is “Poppycock!”

You see, I have adhered to the “bundle wrapping” method of packing for YEARS. Friends and family are always amazed by how wrinkle-free my clothes are on vacation without ever dragging out an iron. Let’s be real, my kids have outgrown clothes before I’ve managed to iron them for a second wearing, so I’m definitely not wasting vacation time buddy-ing up to an ironing board. Rumor has it, the ironing board is not that into me either, so fair is fair.

I found the perfect video to show you what I’m talking about. I was going to go into my own description, but since bundle wrapping ISN’T EVEN THE MAIN TIP FOR THIS POST, I figured why re-invent the wheel. Plus, it looks like he had a professional production crew and stuff. Whatever.

There is a downside to bundle wrapping.

While bundle wrapping has saved me from creases and wrinkles, there are times when it just isn’t convenient. When you’re on a trip where it doesn’t make sense to unpack your entire suitcase, having your clothes in a big fat origami brick is a big fat pain. You know, like when you’re sharing hotel space with roommates at a conference, or when you are on a multi-stop/multi-hotel trip. Also, if you’re the personality type who wants to jump into the fun immediately–unpacking be damned!–your clothes might end up in a jumbled mess à la college dorm floor. I may or may not be that personality type.

Enter in the product I never knew I needed: packing cubes!

While researching a new suitcase, Amazon suggested I take a look at these bad boys from TravelWise.

TravelWise Packing Cubes: The Packing Tip You Didn't Even Know You Needed | Travel | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

I was all, “Thanks Amazon, but I am an excellent packer and do not need to spend $29.95 to become a better one.”

Amazon insisted, “No, you REALLY should look at my recommendation. Many geniuses have spent many hours coding algorithms to come to the conclusion that you NEED these in your life.”

“Well, when you put it that way, Amazon, I guess I could at least look at the reviews,” I said.

And you know what? The “where have these been all my life” reviews prompted me to plop these in my cart.

Score another one for Amazon because they are AMAZING.

And these packing cubes are amazing for the following reasons.

1. Sorting. Each category of clothes has it’s own discreet cube. For example, instead of cramming your underwear and socks around the periphery of your suitcase, they have their own special nest.

Packing 101: The Best Packing Tip You Never Knew You Needed! Organized travel can be yours with this simple trick. Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

 

2. Still no wrinkles. Inside each cube, I still packed with a modified bundle wrapping/rolling method. The nylon compartments kept everything from sliding around and getting crushed.

The Best Packing Tip You Never Knew You Needed! Organized travel can be yours with this simple trick. Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

 

3. Unpacking is a breeze! You can pop entire cubes into the drawers. Bonus is your drawers never have to be in contact with the drawers. If you know what I mean.

The Best Packing Tip You Never Knew You Needed! Organized travel can be yours with this simple trick. Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

And if you have no place to unpack like in the cabin I stayed in last weekend, the cubes of clothes makes it easy to find your pajamas in the dark. You know, in case you’re in the loft and your kids turn out the lights before you are completely situated.

The Best Packing Tip You Never Knew You Needed! Organized travel can be yours with this simple trick. Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

 

4. Packing back up to go home is a snap. Just zip up whatever clean clothes are left and toss them into your suitcase or duffel. Great for keeping the clean and the dirty from mingling, too.

So basically it’s the perfect addition to your jet-setting ways except for one thing. Why, oh why are they called cubes when they are clearly rectangular prisms? All geometry aside though, they are totally worth the money. They come in five different colors so the entire family can be color-coded. You can buy the packing cubes here.

But I’m not done yet, I have one more packing tip that is absolutely free!

You know how you always need a plastic bag or twenty for wet bathing suits or stinky socks? Well, here’s how to neatly fold them in seconds so they’re worthy to nestle up to your cubes.

How to fold plastic grocery bags to reduce your clutter. | Clean and Organized | Great tip for packing and travel! Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

 

1. Smooth out your bag.

How to fold plastic grocery bags to reduce your clutter. | Clean and Organized | Great tip for packing and travel! Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

 

2. Fold in half lengthwise.

How to fold plastic grocery bags to reduce your clutter. | Clean and Organized | Great tip for packing and travel! Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

 

3. Fold in half lengthwise again.

How to fold plastic grocery bags to reduce your clutter. | Clean and Organized | Great tip for packing and travel! Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

 

4. Begin with a triangular fold at the end like you’re folding up a flag or making a paper football.

How to fold plastic grocery bags to reduce your clutter. | Clean and Organized | Great tip for packing and travel! Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

 

5. Continue folding back and forth in that fashion until you get to the handle.

How to fold plastic grocery bags to reduce your clutter. | Clean and Organized | Great tip for packing and travel! Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

 

6. Fold the handle in half to prepare to tuck it in.

How to fold plastic grocery bags to reduce your clutter. | Clean and Organized | Great tip for packing and travel! Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

 

7. Tuck the tail in. Tuck it real good.

How to fold plastic grocery bags to reduce your clutter. | Clean and Organized | Great tip for packing and travel! Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

 

8. And neatness has been achieved!

How to fold plastic grocery bags to reduce your clutter. | Clean and Organized | Great tip for packing and travel! Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

 

So there you have it. Even if you have nowhere to go, at least your plastic bags can be neat!

What is your favorite packing trick?

-Ellen

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Follow_us_on_Pinterest_pic

You can follow us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”

 

Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurner

 

Share it real good . . .
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponShare on RedditEmail this to someonePrint this page

One Simple Step to Creating A Lasting Easter Memory

Ah, sweet family memories are the golden egg we’re all chasing, no? Fess up, we’ve seen your Pinterest boards. Wanna make certain that this year’s bunny bonanza is forever imprinted on your family’s memory? Well, peel back the foil on that Cadbury and get comfy because we have one simple step to creating a lasting Easter memory. This is one from the Dymowski family vault.

Want to create a lasting holiday memory with your kids? Just add virus--Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

 

Spring Break may look a little different once you’ve traded bikinis for, well, Pittsburgh, but we had high expectations for album-worthy memories despite the less than exotic locale. My sister had a new job, a new baby, and a new town, and we were descending upon her young family and new abode en masse for some hard-core sight-seeing and family bonding. I was already mentally planning the page layouts for my Shutterfly album before we had even unloaded. Fate laughs in the face of such hubris. All of this enthusiastic anticipation could only mean one thing: this minivan was about to go down in flames and spectacularly so.

PittsburghCollage

Ahh, the pretty pictures before the hammer of fate cracked this trip wide open.

We had exactly one picture-perfect day before trouble started brewing on Friday night. The youngest started vomiting like it was his job.  There is no faster way to become persona non grata in someone’s home than to start chewing through their linens. It’s all fun and games until someone needs a bucket. Or three.

My sister looked torn. On the one hand, my sister was super-excited to have us visit. Furthermore, she was deeply worried about my youngest boy who currently seemed possessed by some horrible demon. On the other hand, we had just dropped Patient Zero in the middle of her lovely new home and he was spewing viral missiles far and wide. I could see her mind click through her options: Grab her own child à la Sally Field in “Not Without My Daughter,” kick mine to the curb, or re-create a scene from Outbreak complete with isolation tents and masks.

My sister may or may not have been thinking this!

Too much? You weren’t there. It wasn’t much of a stretch.

Um, we started packing.

In the beginning, I was harboring a fantasy that the exorcism coming from my child really was the result of his excitement and high fructose red no. 49 jellybeans. In fact, I was packaging this spin for my sister and her husband, Dan, when Victim 2 fell. And hard. The siege was underway, but we did what any good soldiers would do, we left to protect the others.

Pittsburgh is about five horrible, evil, ugly hours from home when you’re under attack. Within a mere 12 hours, the viral marauders had taken down three family members and cut a swath of destruction along the Pennsylvania turnpike and its rest stops that inspired awe, panic, and a desperate yearning for bleach and hand sanitizer. I’m going to spare you the details, but leave you with this image: Steve pulled the car into the driveway after a looooooooong drive on the Puking Parkway from Pittsburgh and promptly tossed his cookies on the front lawn. This was Saturday night. Easter morning was less than a day away. We were already in the midst of an unholy mess when the other three kids started dropping like flies.

What’s a woman to do in the face of an outbreak that might make an epidemiologist’s palms sweat? Don a Hazmat suit? Grab a quarantine sign and some yellow tape? Wave a white flag? Hellz no, I started wrapping and assembling Easter baskets. It was me against the clock. Just as I nestled that last chocolate egg into its basket, I succumbed too.

Dawn rose that Easter morning with two parents completely incapacitated, but with kids who still believed in a candy-toting Bunny who would brave our viral hell to deliver the goods. In between prayers to the porcelain god, we were sending up hopes for an Easter miracle. We got one.

Ace (12), who not 6 hours earlier had been wrapped around a toilet bowl, had regained his usual pep. This meant one thing: he was getting a huge promotion complete with bunny ears, baskets full of candy, and full-on bragging rights. I felt a little like a stage mom pushing my baby into the spotlight, “You can do it, honey! Just think positive thoughts” but frankly, I was too sick to move so it was probably more like gesturing and mumbling.

No childhood innocence was lost in the making of this memory. At least, I hope not. I actually have no recollection of that day, but Ace even took pictures. It happened.

more plaguemustacheborder

Is this not the most pathetic looking child you have ever seen?

The virus took down my sister’s whole family viciously within hours of our hasty retreat. Dan still uses The Great Pittsburgh Easter Plague as the yardstick to measure all other illnesses. In fact, he was completely unsympathetic when another virus took us all down the next year.

But I did get my fond family Easter memory after all even if it was not Pinterest album-worthy. Mostly because Dan won’t let me forget it.

-Erin

 

You can follow us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”

Have every post delivered to your inbox! You can opt out at any time, but you won’t want to.

Enter your email address:
Share it real good . . .
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponShare on RedditEmail this to someonePrint this page

How Photos Ruin Our Memories

How Photos Ruin Our Memories | Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Memories or Even Just One? | Sensible Moms Soundbites | Parenting Advice We read a lot: novels, textbooks, blogs, billboards, crock pot manuals, tweets, whatever. It takes a ton of material to feed our voracious appetites.

Ellen: So I was reading a book that Erin recommended, as I am wont to do. She recommends books like she breathes: she must do it to survive.

Erin: So which one?

Ellen: This time it was The Fever by Megan Abbott.

Erin: That one put a whole different spin on mean girls. I found the dynamics of group psychology . . .

Ellen: Wait! That’s not what I wanted to talk about! I know you are Queen of the Tangents, but I’m going to borrow your scepter for a moment. I want to talk about an article Megan recommended to me.

Erin: Whoa. Clearly you are excluding me from a group of friends I REALLY want to be a part of. Hook. Me. Up.

Ellen: Well, she recommended it to me and 8,000 of her closest friends on Twitter. I saw her handle in her bio and jumped over to check her out. There I saw a link to this article that has been bouncing around in my head ever since: Shutterbug Parents and Overexposed Lives.

Erin: Those are some interesting points to ponder brought up in that article!

Like: “Are shutterbug parents wiping away their mental databases of experiences with their offspring while bulking up their digital ones?”

Ellen: And this one: “When children grow up reviewing thousands of pictures and hours of video of their young lives, will these images supersede their memories?”

Erin:  So many questions, so much to say. This feels like the perfect time for a podcast.

Ellen: True that! Listen to what we have to say and tell us what you think in the comments. My husband and I are going on a trip of a lifetime to Paris with our kids  and I’m wondering if I will have enough nerve to limit my shutterbug impulses.

So, what level of shutterbug are you?

Would you be able, or even willing , to limit your picture taking??

You can follow us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”

Sensible Moms Soundbites: Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Memories or Even Just One?

Share it real good . . .
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponShare on RedditEmail this to someonePrint this page

If Only Parenting Came With A Crystal Ball

If Only Parenting Came With a Crystal Ball  resisting helicopter parenting would be so much easier.There are plenty of curveballs that come with parenting.  By definition, you don’t see most of them coming. There are also more than a few moments when you find yourself wishing for a crystal ball.

We just shared our big news for blog—that we are now podcasting!

Check out the latest podcast where we discuss a tricky parenting decision and then discuss how you “know” when kids are ready for certain milestones. Come to mention it, a manual wouldn’t be so bad either.

Feel free to continue the conversation in the comments!

Check out what's new in our test lab of parenting--Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

You can follow us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”

Have every post delivered to your inbox! You can opt out at any time, but you won’t want to.

Enter your email address:
Share it real good . . .
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponShare on RedditEmail this to someonePrint this page