How To Stick To Your Diet on a Cruise

How To Stick To Your Diet On a Cruise

You have figured out how to afford a cruise and even decided which cruise is right for you. Now it is time to talk about one of the biggest issues with a cruise – not gaining 25 pounds in a week!

For food lovers, a cruise is a dream come true. With a nearly endless buffet of offerings, plenty of specialty restaurants, and snack options at every turn – not to mention 24-hour room service, you never have to be hungry. But if you’re more interested in watching your weight than going on a food-binge it can be a struggle. Today most cruise lines recognize that they have people on board with special diets whether that is by choice or necessity. They do their best to meet the needs of their passengers with a wide variety of options. If you’re planning a cruise there are many ways that you can stick to your diet on-board.

One of the quickest ways to use up your daily calorie allotment is through empty calories in things like alcoholic beverages. Some drinks can total over 1000 calories each! Avoid indulging in too many drinks while on vacation or stick with lower calorie options. Ask for a skinny or lite version if available. While sipping on your beverage it’s easy to succumb to snacking. Before you know it you can finish off a bowl of nuts of chips. Instead ask for fresh fruit or a pick up a tray of vegetables and low fat dressing off the buffet. These options will help you stay on track.

Do you love dining in restaurants on board or participating in the formal dinner evenings? Did you know that you can ask for half portions of the meals? Or that you don’t have to order one of each course on the menu? Ask your server what low calorie options they have. You can skip dessert or the appetizer if you want to eliminate some extra calories.

If you just can’t avoid the buffet line don’t feel like you have to load up your plate. Pick the things that you truly want to eat and put together a plate that is made up of normal sized portions. Resist the urge to go back for seconds and take your time eating. This gives your stomach time to digest and then you can see if you’re really full or not. Try to stick to three main meals a day and a small, healthy snack or two during the day (avoid the unlimited pizza and fries that always seem to be available in the pool area!). You’ll also want to drink plenty of water as it will help keep you full and avoid dehydration.

If you really want to treat yourself to a special meal, do it! You’re on vacation and shouldn’t completely limit yourself from enjoying your time. If you plan to have a big breakfast, keep the rest of the day light and vice versa. Don’t forget cruise ships usually have some amazing exercise facilities and group exercise classes. Sure – working out might not be your idea of vacationing but even taking a few laps around the top deck can help you offset extra calories.

It may be difficult to avoid temptation when it’s around every corner but with a little bit of planning and making smart swaps you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything!

Do you have any tips for how to stick to your diet on a cruise?

How To Choose The Right Cruise For You!

How To Choose The Right Cruise For Your Family

When it comes time to choose the right cruise there are many considerations that come into play. We already talked about how you can afford a cruise for the same cost as other vacations, but now it it time to make some serious plans.

Start planning your cruise at least 12 months in advance and as many as 24 months ahead of time. This will give you plenty of time to find the best cruise, make a reservation, and pay for your vacation. With so many options available today, picking the right cruise for you can seem overwhelming.

Budget

Before you start planning you need to set a rough budget. Be sure to include what you can spend not only on the cruise but on transportation to get to the port, gratuities, shore excursions, and any other incidental costs you may experience. There are more costs involved than just the ship reservation. Once you have a general idea of what you can spend it’s time to consider where to go.

Destinations

If you have a small budget you may be limited as to where you can go. Caribbean cruises are plentiful and you can often find really inexpensive deals for vacations. Look at alternative departure ports for a bigger discount. Not only may the cruise itself be cheaper but you can save on airfare in some cases. But don’t’ just go with what you think may save you money. Think that cruising from Miami will be less expensive than San Juan, Puerto Rico? You may be surprised to find in many cases this isn’t true. Not only can flights to San Juan be more affordable but the cruise itself can cost less and go to islands a cruise from mainland Florida doesn’t.

Sail Days vs. Port Days

This question comes into play when you look at the length of cruise you want to take. Many times a cruise can be longer (7 or 9 days) but have the same number of port stops as a 5 day cruise. If visiting as many ports as possible is important to you, then you’ll want to consider not just how long the cruise is but how many places it stops. There is much to be said for picking a cruise with “at sea days” (you can spend time on ship taking advantage of all those amenities for which you are already paying) vs. a cruise with a new port every day (all those port excursions can add up and bust your vacation budget!)

Shore Excursions

Is there some place you’d really love to visit or an experience you want to be sure to have? Choosing your destination based on shore excursions is one way to cut down on your choices. This can be a handy tool when you have dozens of cruises to choose from. When you only have a few hours in port, a white sandy beach is a white sandy beach, no matter which Carribbean island you are visiting. However, if you want to have a “dolphin experience”, not all ports of call will offer that (but be sure to check out our reasoning for skipping the “dolphin experience”)

On Board Features

One final way to choose the right cruise for you is based on what is available on the ship. If you love partying, dancing, or gambling you’ll want to choose a cruise that has plenty of evening entertainment and options for those over 21. If on the other hand you have young children and prefer quieter activities you’ll want to look for cruises without or that only has a little of this. Review several different cruise lines to see what is offered so that you have an idea what to expect, especially if this is your first experience.

If you’re still worried about how to choose the right cruise, consider visiting a travel agent who specializes in cruises. You can let them know what you do and don’t like along with your budget and they can make recommendations based on their experiences. You may pay a little more for this but in the end it will be less costly than a vacation you end up hating!

8 Tips To Make Affording a Cruise Possible

8 Tips To Make Affording a Cruise Possible

Would you love to take a cruise but are afraid it’s just out of reach financially? Cruises are in reality one of the most inexpensive vacations people can take. They are also a ton of fun. We took the family on a Disney Cruise last year and we all still consider it the best vacation that they have ever had!

With a little bit of planning and research you can be on your way to an amazing getaway!  Here are some tips on affording a cruise:

Plan Ahead – You’ve seen lots of lists online stating when the best time is to book airfare or a hotel room to see the best prices. When it comes to cruises, booking far in advance can yield the best savings, especially if you have a family. Even 12-18 months out is not too far in advance to make reservations. Start planning your vacation and doing your research now and you can save a bundle!

Subscribe to Newsletters – Sign up to receive newsletters from cruise lines or travel websites that interest you. They regularly send out specials like “kids sail free” or free onboard credit. If they have any last minute specials you’ll find out about them first through these newsletters. You can also like their Facebook pages to discover promotions.

Pay as you Go – One of the best features of paying for a cruise is that you don’t have to pay the entire balance at once. When you make a reservation you can pay a deposit and then pay as you go. Most final payments are due by 60 days before sailing. This is a great way to space out payments without putting the trip on a credit card and having to pay interest. If you can pay the total at once, you may be able to get a discount as well. Call the cruise line to find out what’s available.

Book an Interior Room – The least expensive rooms on a ship are the interior rooms. The downside is you won’t have a window but if all you plan to do is sleep in the room you won’t really miss out. Before sailing or when you check in ask if there are any complimentary upgrades available. If rooms haven’t sold you may be able to move into a better room for no additional cost!

Be Flexible – You’ll get the best price on a cruise if you can be flexible. Cruising around holidays and school vacations will be the most expensive. Caribbean cruises in the spring will be expensive, but if you can go in summer you’ll likely find better deals. European cruises in the winter will also net a big savings. It may not be ideal but it can save a lot of money.  We went on a cruise to the Bahamas in August and I can honestly say that the only “bad” day that we had was when we were in port at Nassau. We chose not to do a shore excursion (see below for why) and instead spent some time walking around doing some shopping and taking a quick carriage ride, then we went back to the ship to enjoy the pool.  It was HOT (but not miserable).

Seek Alternative Departure Ports – There are numerous ports in the United States to depart from however most cruises leave from Miami or Ft. Lauderdale. Instead consider leaving from Galveston, Texas, New Orleans, or even Puerto Rico. Not only can you save on the cruise but you also may save on airfare to get there.

Limit Shore Excursions – A big cost in cruising is the port activities. When we went on our cruise, most of port excursions were about $150 – $200 per person! With a family of 5, that could have added up to $1000 to our trip for just a single day! Instead of choosing an activity at every port, pick just one or two activities, and spend the other days and time exploring on your own! Check to see if your cruise still has a full itinerary on port days as this is often a great way to do some of the activities on the ship that are often more crowded!

Stick With What’s Included There are lots of ways that cruise lines can add to the cost of your vacation. It’s easy to rack up a bill before you know it. Instead of buying lots of fancy drinks or eating in the specialty restaurants stick to the food and drink choices that are included. You’ll save a lot of money this way. If you know that you will want to have beer or wine on your cruise, check to see if your cruise line will allow you to bring your own (to enjoy in your room or for a corking fee in the restaurants).

With a little bit of planning and enough lead time you can have a wonderful cruise experience without breaking the bank!

Do you have any other tips on affording a cruise to add?

Family Travel Tips | The Family Road Trip (by Car)

Taking a family vacation can be both fun as well as a nightmare. This series will help you get through the family vacation with both your budget and your sanity intact!

Oh please – make it stop. I can think of fewer things that I like less than a 14 hour car ride with my family. Needless to say, after several…ahem…”discussions” (where discussions = “I am flying and you can take the kids”), we have worked out some guidelines that finally work for us!

:: Reconsider car trips lasting more than 18 hours each way

With the price of gas these days, and unless you have 2 weeks vacation to spend, consider the cost of travel time, gas, wear & tear on your car vs. the cost of a flight. If your kids are young, you and your spouse may be able to get through a “marathon” driving session, switching off, but if your kids are older, you are going to need to pay for a hotel room. It always seems like driving is the cheaper option, but when you factor everything in, it just may not be!

:: For car trips lasting more than 10 hours, think about driving through the night

Every year, we pack our 3 kids (6, 9 & 11 now) in the car and drive to Savannah, GA or Kokomo, IN to see family. It’s roughly an 11 hour drive. We usually end up leaving at about 7:00pm and taking “shifts”.  The important thing is, we drive, the kids sleep through 75% of the trip and when we wake up, we are officially “on vacation”. The first day kinda stinks for Brad & I (because we are tired), but we get through it!

:: Pack activities for the kids

Books, video games, travel board games…this is not news to most people.  But think of new games that you can play with your children:  the license plate game, the rhyming game, etc

:: Consider a portable DVD player system

If your car doesn’t come equipped with a DVD player, you can buy a portable DVD player with screens that hook on to the front-seat headrests. If your children can agree on a movie, it can give you 1.5 – 2 hours of peace and quiet! We actually have a 2003 minivan that has a VHS player (yes – that’s right…I said VHS), but we have a $50 DVD player that we can plug in the to dashboard that plays DVDs through the overhead screen

:: Buy the “coffee cup charger

If your children are old enough to be using DSi’s, iPads, laptops, etc…this can be an invaluable item.

:: Set clearly defined guidelines about when you will stop for breaks

A 2-4 year old who is just learning to be toilet-trained? Yeah – you stop whenever they SAY “I need to go” (unless the say that every time they see a green sign on the highway, which is a WHOLE other story).  If one of you just wants to “get there” and thinks that a hot dog while pumping gas is a perfectly acceptable meal, and the other wants to go in to a restaurant, sit down and be served a meal….then figure that out BEFORE you leave the house (especially to avoid fighting about the decision to stop in front of your children). Does he like to stop at every outlet mall and you want to stop to see the World’s Largest Ball of Twine?  Plan your route beforehand, along with any possible diversions and agree on them before you hit the road!

:: Think about making the ride the main part of the vacation

If we got in the car, pledged to spend a certain number of hours each day driving in any direction, then a day there, then another few hours driving, then another few hours in a new city…I bet we could see some amazing parts of the country.  I’ll never forget the time that Brad and I decided to come home from Savannah by way of Atlanta (where we spent about 30 hours, did the CNN tour and ending up being in a live audience of one of the shows just hours after the USS Cole Bombing), wound through the south then took the Skyline Drive as we made our way home.  That part of the trip was as much fun as anything else!

What are your best tips for traveling by car with the family?

Family Travel Tips | Traveling By Plane

Taking a family vacation can be both fun as well as a nightmare. This series will help you get through the family vacation with both your budget and your sanity intact!

Of course, the easiest and fastest way to get to most destinations is by plane. If you are lucky enough to live in a major metropolitan area, you can usually score cheap plane tickets to the major family attractions. if you are choosing to travel by plane, here are a few tips for your travels:

Use Online Sites like Travelocity and Orbitz to check fares, but book directly through the airline

We learned this lesson the hard way.  When Brad had to suddenly bump up his trip to visit his dying father, the airline was willing to waive the change fee, but we got penalized about $60 because we booked through a third party.  In all likelihood, you won’t have to change your flight, but if an emergency arises, that $50-$60 fee can add up for a family of 4! Yes – you can find the best rates for your trip through those sites, but in most cases, the rate is the same when you just head to the airline directly to book your ticket.

Just pay the $25 to check a bag

I know that this doesn’t sound frugal, but it will save your sanity.  After too many trips of carefully considering and reconsidering every item that I put in to my carryon, then getting my boarding pass and finding out that I am in Zone 5 and needing to gate-check my bag anyway, I just decided to start checking my bag. You can still take a few carryons in your family and chances are that you STILL might have to gate-check your bag, but knowing that you don’t have to count out the exact number of socks and underwear in order to get everything to fit in a carryon will give you some flexibility in your packing.  To me, that is worth $25!

Arrive early at the airport

Unless you live near the most efficient airport in the country, plan on arriving at LEAST 90 minutes (preferably 2 hours) ahead of your domestic airline departure. You never know when one of the machines is going to break down AND 2 agents called out sick and before you know it, you are standing in the Security line for 2 hours (30 minutes past your flight time) and then traipsing through the airport trying to get reticketed and end up arriving at your destination 5 hours later than you planned.

Ask me how I know this…..I can’t imagine what it would have been like with my entire family in tow!

Pack snacks and make sure the electronics are charged

Of course, you can’t pack juiceboxes and bottled water, but you can pack granola bars, trail mix, fruits, etc.  Did you know that a small can of Blue Diamond almonds costs $8 on the flight, but just about $3 at the grocery stores? Pack some snacks to take to avoid having to pay the airport or in-flight prices

As for electronics, the only thing that saved me when I took a 6 hour flight with my boys was that the iPad and their DS’s were charged.  Make sure everything is completely charged before you leave the house (and don’t forget the chargers so that you can charge them before the trip home!)

If your children are old enough to read by themselves, stock the Kindle, iPad, Android or laptop with free Kindle downloads and let them read for a while!

Remember that not everyone loves your children as much as you do

Flying these days is tough.  Everyone is stressed about how they herd us like cattle in to a metal tube and then shoot us through the air at a kajillion miles per hour.  Add to that a baby crying for 3 hours and you can guarantee that you will be getting the stink-eye from more than a few people.  This is not to say that babies and toddlers don’t get cranky and babies DO cry.  But you need to have a contingency plan for when they do!  Yes – you have a right to take your child on a plane for your vacation…but the other 200 people on that flight have the right to take a plane ride without listening to your little Jeffrey and his mom!

What are your best trips for traveling by plane?

 

 

 

Family Travel Tips | Consider a Staycation!

Sometimes the best solution to your vacation-planning problems (whether they be lack of time or money) is the simplest – consider a Staycation! The term “staycation” has really only been around for a few years, but people have been doing it forever. Simply put, a Staycation is finding things to do (preferably on the cheap) in your own area.

So how do you find inexpensive ways to make your Staycation memorable?

Check out Groupon for local deals: this will depend on your area, but I can always find fun activities for the family on Groupon. Everything from discounted go-kart rides to pottery painting to cheap tickets to local museums and zoos. Just make sure that you check the expiration dates of your Groupon deals as well as any exclusions.

Google “Free Things To Do” for your town as well as surrounding towns and cities: this is going to be “hit or miss”, depending on where you live and many will be outdated, but you might find a few fun things to do.

Head to the lobby of your local hotel: in most cases, there will be a rack SOMEWHERE in the lobby of brochures for things to do in your area. Some will be expensive and some won’t be, but I bet that you will find some things to do in your area that you didn’t realize existed!

Plan on 2-3 Big Fun Days and the rest of the time being low-key fun: My husband gets 3 weeks vacation per year and our budget won’t allow for 3 out-of-town vacations. We ALWAYS do at least 1 of those weeks as a Staycation. One day we may just take the kids fishing (well, actually, Brad takes them fishing…I don’t do that), the next may be a day at Hershey Park (with a coupon code, of course). Another may be heading to the Rennaissance Fair…and yet another may just be having a water balloon fight with the neighbors! Check out some of these budget-friendly amusement parks to see if any are near you!

Check out state parks and local wildlife preserves: many state parks have great websites detailing all the trails, upcoming activities and ideas for you to enjoy the park.

Look for hyper-local blogs for your area: Where I live, we have 2 great blogs (Chester County Moms and Montgomery County Moms – they also happen to be run by a friend of mine) that keep a watchful eye on everything to do in the area. They even have a great calendar of events that list everything from wine-tastings to library events in the area. Google “[Your county or state] Moms” or “[Your county or state] blog” and there is a very good chance that you will find a new resource not just for your Staycation, but for the rest of the year!

Subscribe to local magazines or newspapers (or go their website): Many of the events listed in their “community happenings” section are paid ads, so they will also be on the website as well. In the summer, you will find strawberry festivals, peach festivals, (name your local produce) festivals, but you will also find details on local historic tours, restaurant events and more!

What are your best tips for a Staycation?

Summer Getaway Ideas For Moms!

Summer Getaway Ideas For Moms

Mothers often do most of the heavy lifting in the parenting world in general and are rarely afforded the luxury of taking a vacation. Although there are certainly Fathers out there that do their fair share and more, the Mothers of the world never seem to stop. Finding new and refreshing ways to recharge those batteries is vital to being a good parent. An energized Mom is a Mom that can take on the world!

*The following ideas are dependent upon finding suitable childcare for the kiddos. Bringing them along would completely discount any benefits.*

Here are three summer getaway ideas for Moms that won’t break the bank, but will do the trick nicely:

Go home secretly

If you were raised in a place other than where you are now, return home for a few days of rest and remembrance. Tell no one there that you are coming and simply book a nice little place to enjoy your stay solo. Being close to home can conjure up all kinds of great feelings and excitement. Revisit your high school or elementary school. Visit with old friends or relatives if you choose. Most of all…remember what it was like to be a kid again. You will gain great insights about how to relate to your own kids when you get back home.

Go on a wine tasting trip with your besties

If you enjoy wine, this can be a ton of great fun. The best kinds will allow you to tour the grounds and take in the grandeur of the winemaking process. Make sure you go either early in the season or late in the season to avoid the oppressive heat. Wine tastings are a wonderful way to enjoy time with friends that is long overdue. Nothing brings old friends together like a nice glass of Merlot and good company. Leave the husband and kids behind and take in the comfort of freedom. Wine tastings are available in most parts of the world for a very reasonable price. Get online and see what is out there!

Road Trip Baby!

Every single Mother out there had some sliver of a wild side. If they didn’t, they probably wanted to. What location have you always dreamed of loading up and driving to? Did you once take that trip and want to revisit it one more time? There are few things more exhilarating than a road trip with someone you enjoy spending time with. In fact, if you are careful and take safety precautions, solo road trips are pretty incredible as well. Rent a nice vehicle and map out your route for some incredibly good times on the open road. Make sure you pack up the perfect soundtrack as well. A road trip without tunes will not be the same.

Although being a Mom is a very rewarding experience, it does require a ton of responsibility. Take a bit of time every year to spend with yourself or your friends and let your hair down. Your kids will benefit as much as you do!

Do you have any other ideas for an inexpensive getaway for Moms?

You might like these other posts about travel:

Best Budget Friendly Theme Parks to Visit

Best Budget Friendly Theme Parks To Visit

When you think of visiting a theme park with your family the term “budget friendly” typically isn’t in your mind. I’ve compiled a list of the Best Budget Friendly Theme Parks to share with you in hopes to change your mind and revolutionize your summer vacations. Not only are these places great to visit and fun, the surrounding areas offer other reasonably priced attractions to build your vacation around. For the cost of one day at some of the larger national theme parks, you can get a season pass for some of these locations that will extend your time for not just one day but a week or even a repeat visit later in the year.

Magic Springs & Crystal Falls, Hot Springs, Arkansas: Nestled in the middle of the “Diamond Lake Community”, is a hidden gem. Not only is this a fully functional theme park with roller coasters, extreme rides and all the traditional rides you would expect, they offer a full fledged water park adjacent to the theme park and it’s all included in one low price. On top of these is their summer weekend concert series which has hosted top names like Phil Vassar, Three Days Grace and even Daughtry in years past. For only $79.99 you can have a season pass that will carry you throughout both parks and any concert you wish to see. The surrounding community has great food, lakes for boating and fishing, camp grounds, resorts and golf courses galore. Nestled in the middle of a National Park you will find an active art community, gallery walk and even traditional old school bath houses.

Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California: Only a short drive from LA this fun family park has been around for years and is a much loved attraction. With all of the roller coasters, food and kid friendly rides you expect, it has become a must visit for anyone in the Southern California area. With adult ticket prices only $42 a day it falls in as one of the lowest priced theme parks in the nation. Live shows, kids rides, family rides, extreme roller coasters and even water rides all make this a wonderful family vacation destination.

Silver Dollar City, Branson Missouri: An experience unlike any other you will find everything from traditional roller coasters, to crafting areas and instructions, amazing food, hillbilly shows and every flavor of homemade candy and ice cream you can imagine. For $59 a day an adult can enter the park and ride and enjoy to their hearts content. Also available are great multi-park packages that include their water park and the local riverboat cruise. Branson is a hot spot for outlet malls and shopping, crafters, musicians and every musical show you can imagine.

Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio: With all of the fun rides, coasters and events you expect at a theme park nestled into the quiet state of Ohio – this location is perfect for families who don’t want to travel as far and want a vacation that is reasonably priced. At $50 or less for a day pass, you can enjoy all of your favorite rides, the local small town feel and reasonable hotel rates that will save your budget and give you a vacation to remember.

Great Wolf Lodge, various locations: While it isn’t a theme park like some, it is a great place to go for a fun water park adventure. The themed rooms, fun filled indoor water parks and great staff at these locations make it one we can’t leave off of our list. Shopping sites like Groupon have routine sales on overnight stays that will help make this a reasonable vacation that is located all in one place. Pack your bags, arrive at the lodge and enjoy your stay without even needing to leave the building.

Just because it is a theme park doesn’t mean it can’t fit into your budget. Rather than paying $125 per person per day for a ticket, why not pay $150 for the entire family to visit a smaller but still great theme park. These are the best budget friendly theme parks we have been to and found to be clean, well laid out, quality and worth our money. Create a fun family adventure this year at one or more of these locations that your entire family will enjoy.

What parks do you have to add to the list?

6 Tips For Basic Water Safety For Kids

Basic Water Safety For Kids Tips

Nothing screams “Summer Vacation” quite like time spent at the beach with your family.  With Memorial Day just around the corner, many people are already heading to the beaches and pools!

If children are along for the trip, then basic water safety for kids is of the utmost importance.  While it would seem to be all fun and games when going to the beach for the first time, there are many things a parent should be aware of for the safety of their family.  At the same time these simple tips should help you to relax and enjoy the time without being constantly plagued with fear about what could potentially happen.

Invest in swim lessons:  While not every person can afford this, many local YMCA’s offer very inexpensive swim lessons year round.  Not only will your child have a basic understanding of how to say afloat, swim, hold their breath underwater and do the simple strokes of a beginning swimmer, they will have confidence in the water rather than fear that is often found in younger kids on a beach for the first itme.

Take the appropriate gear with you:  Swim “floaties” are very popular with the younger kids at pools but reality is they are not quality flotation devices.  A properly fitted life vest for those traveling on a boat, swimming for the first time or uncertain about their swim skills is the best choice.  For a few dollars you can rent vests at many local beach destinations or purchase at stores like Walmart, Target or Sam’s Club.  The fit of the vest is just as important as the vest itself so make sure to measure and follow instructions on the vest rather than simply snapping it on and letting your child run for the water.

Always swim with a buddy:  Whether it’s just the adults or a mix of kids and adults together it is imperative to have a “swim buddy”.  Find someone who will watch out for you, check in on your and always be aware of each others locations in the water.  Not only can this person come to the rescue should an accident occur, but they are also more likely to be aware if you are struggling or in danger and prevent accidents from happening.

Never leave children unattended:  Even turning to grab a bottle of water out of a cooler is an instant too long.  If you must turn away from the water to gather belongs, grab a towel or answer a question take the time to grab your child and bring them with you.  It only takes a few seconds for a child to drown.  Never leave children unattended in or near water.

Always use UV Protecting Sunscreen:  A “little burn” is still a bad burn.  Don’t take chances.  Always use UV protecting sunscreen on all exposed areas.  It is also recommended to put sunscreen under swim trunks and suits for extra protection to your skin.  SPF 50 or above is the minimum you should use.  Children should use higher SPF and if possible wear hats to cover ears and nose, loose light weight t-shirts or cover ups to cover when out of water as well.  It is much better to be pale and safe than tan and dead.

Stay Hydrated: Many forget to drink water because they are in the water.  Swimming and playing in the water does not hydrate your body.  Make sure to take along plenty of water and drink often.  Many public beaches and pools will have public water fountains available for refills but if uncertain always take extra.  Dehydration and Sunstroke can be fatal if not taken care of quickly.  It is best to stay hydrated and avoid illness and side effects of thirst

There are many things to remember when taking your kids to the beach or the local pool but these tips on basic water safety for kids are a wonderful starting point toward making your water time fun and easy.  Locating areas to swim that have lifeguards on duty is a great way to go, especially for moms juggling multiple kids alone at the pool.  Regardless of lifeguards or pool attendees on duty your children are your responsibility so always keep a watchful eye on them.

Most of all relax and have fun with your kids!

5 Ways To Make Your Business Trip a Vacation

5 Ways To Make Your Business Trip A Vacation

If you find yourself on the road frequently for work you have a unique opportunity to see new areas that many do not. Unfortunately, those of us who travel for business know that many times you don’t even get to see the area you are visiting. You land in the airport, go to your meetings, maybe have dinner at a local restaurant (or more likely, a banquet hall in the hotel with all the same people you talked to all day), try to get some work done in your hotel that night, more meetings in the morning and then it is back to the airport you go!

I have been on so many business trips to “fun cities” where I only saw anything of the city in the cab ride to and from the airport and my hotel…Chicago, Boston, Colorado Springs, Atlanta and more cities than I care to count! As far as I know, Atlanta is an airport and about 3 blocks around the only hotel in town. Colorado Springs is just 1 airport and 1 hotel!

That is sarcasm, but if you travel for business, you understand what I mean (and if you are married to someone who travels, know that may be the most of their “fun” business trips!)

Next time you hear you are heading out on a trip for work keep these ways to make your business trip a vacation in mind and apply as you are able. You may not be able to bring the whole family along or take a full spa day but there are tons of ways to make a quick trip into a fun mini vacation for yourself.

5 Ways to Make Your Business Trip a Vacation

Take in the local night life: If your business trip is mostly going to be in offices and signing contracts then your evenings are likely your own to play. Before you hit the road check out review sites like Yelp for local food and nightlife reviews. If you have friends in the area check with them to see if they want to join you for a great evening out or if they have recommendations. A great way to see real reviews is also to ask on Twitter. You’d be surprised at the number of people who will share their favorites with you.

Book a Spa Treatment in Your Hotel: Depending on your hotel stay, there are often in house spas available you can quickly take advantage of. Book a massage, facial or simple manicure for in between meetings to help you relax. This can be a great way to sit down and relax with a female client as well and push aside the business to get to know each other better. Depending on your business this could actually be an expense you can write off on your taxes.

Book the Early Arrival flight or the Red Eye Return: I always try to do this when I am travelling and, if my husband’s schedule will allow it, I even try to take an additional day in a new city. Booking flights that give you a few extra hours around your meetings allow you to grab the walking shoes and check out the local hot spots. Whether you are in a historical city or a fun city full of coffee houses and open mic nights you are sure to find something unique you can take in before your flight home.

Schedule meetings on a Friday or Monday: If you are able to afford travel for your spouse and kids book your meetings for Friday or Monday allowing yourself the weekend between to explore and have fun as a family. While you are in meetings your family can head out in the city to check out local attractions and meet up with you later in the day.

Skip the plane and hit the road: A leisurely drive to your destination even if only a few hours away can be a great way to see places you haven’t seen before. Check out popular restaurants or stops along the way and start your trip off with a bang.

While a business trip isn’t the ultimate vacation, it can become a great bright spot in your week. Remember these ways to make your business trip a vacation when your boss sends the next memo telling you to head out for a meeting. Planning ahead can make a world of difference in how much you can squeeze in for fun during your trip.

While you can never expect your employer to pay for your vacation expenses, many are more than willing to allow an extra day or two away from the office as long as the extra time comes out of your personal budget.

And of course, many times you just want to get home and that is fine as well! Just make sure that you are balancing your need to have a little “getaway” with no sacrificing time with your family!

Top Travel Safety Tips For Your Vacation

Top Travel Safety Tips For Your Vacation

As summer approaches and you begin planning your vacation, it is also time to think about proper travel safety. It may not seem important, but if you have ever had a bag stolen or a vehicle broken into, you know full well how important it is to be prepared and safe at all times. Here is our list of Travel Safety Tips For Your Vacation that will help you to keep your valuables and yourself safe no matter where your travels take you.

Travel Safety Tips For Your Vacation

Invest in Travel Insurance: It may seem like a waste of money, but if something happens while you are on the road, not all home owners insurance or vehicle insurance will cover the costs of your possessions being replaced. Check with your personal insurance agent or a reputable travel agency for prices on travel insurance that will cover you for accidents and theft while on the road.  Additionally, travel insurance will often cover you if you have to cancel your plans due to an emergency.  I am not a fan of buying insurance plans for electronics, furniture or any other purchase where they try to sell you a plan…but when it comes to pre-paid vacation plans, I WILL buy the insurance!

Know Your Surroundings: If you are going to a new area, do your research on the area and what are considered the risky areas. Read hotel and motel reviews on line in depth to see what other patrons mention about the safety of the area and if it is family friendly. You can also contact the local police department or chamber of commerce for heads up on areas to avoid going after dark or staying in.

Always have an Emergency Plan for your family: This is especially important if traveling with younger children. Make sure everyone in the family knows each others telephone numbers, and if you have small kids make sure they always have an emergency contact list or list of any allergies, etc. on their person while out and about. While you don’t expect to become separated, it can happen and it is best to be fully prepared. Packing your own list of emergency contacts, insurance information and copies of photo ID’s for everyone in your family is a great place to start. Talk to your kids and spouse about where to meet in a theme park or hotel should you get separated.

Leave the valuables at home: While we don’t leave home without our smart phones, gGPS systems and laptops very often, it is a great idea to minimize what you do take along with you on vacation. Expensive jewelry can be left at home and cheap substitutes can be worn instead. If you must take your electronics with you, make sure to take proper precautions to keep them safe while on the road.

Which brings us to…..

If you have to bring them, secure your valuables: If you are staying in a hotel and don’t want to take your phones, laptop, etc. to the beach or attraction with you, check with the hotel for an optional safe to store your items in. Many hotels now have in room safes for this purpose. Others have safes in their main office in which you can store items. If you must take expensive items with you, do not leave them in plain site. Secure items in your trunk well before you arrive at your destination. While it is safest there instead of in the front seat, if you open your trunk in view of a potential thief you are inviting them in to steal. Store valuable items in your trunk (or even are where spare tire fits) before leaving for your destination.

Use your car alarm and buy locks for your luggage: If your vehicle offers an alarm system, make sure to have it armed when leaving your car parked. Pick up locks for luggage and laptops to keep them more secure if and when they are stored in your hotel room.

Take different types of payment/money and store in different places while you are on vacation: While I typically wouldn’t tell you to leave money in a piece of luggage, you never want to keep all of your forms of payment or money in one place while on vacation. Should someone take your bag or purse while you are out and about, and everything is in it, you would lose it all and have no means of even getting replacements while there. Keep a copy of your ID in your luggage separate from your wallet for emergency cases. Travel with at least a little cash that is stored in luggage, glove box of car or trunk of car for an emergency. If traveling with your spouse, make sure you each carry different types of credit or debit cards so you are sure to have at least one account available. Set up a Paypal account that can be linked to a bank account for money transfers if needed. Pick up a prepaid credit card instead of your bank card so you don’t give anyone access directly to your bank account – you can always go online and load that card daily as needed. There are dozens of ways to keep money with you without having all of your “eggs in one basket” which would leave you penniless in seconds should something happen.

No matter what your travel itinerary is, these travel safety tips for your vacation will help to protect what you love. Your own personal well being is of utmost importance. No belongings are important enough to put yourself or your family in jeopardy.

Do you have any travel safety tips to add?

You might want to check out these other travel tips:

The Best Apps For a Road Trip

Best Apps For a Road Trip

Heading out on the open road is a time honored tradition either to escape to nature or just to cross this great country of ours. One of the best things about all the new apps on the market are those that are devoted to road trips. Just think – you need to pee and want to know if you can make it to the next rest stop. USA Rest Stop lists out every rest stop on every state and national highway! Want to camp in state park as you are crossing across Colorado? Check out Oh, Ranger that lists all campsites, state and national parks, and attractions and tells you what you can expect at each location with a link back to where you can get more info.

In addition to the apps that you are going to want to keep you entertained while on your road trip, here are four awesome apps for a road trip that will make your trip easier!

  • GasBuddy. If you haven’t used this app yet, don’t wait. Anytime your car is close to empty, open this app, click the big Find Gas Near Me button and it will load gas stations in a 50-mile radius. You can sort by price or distance or look at in a map view. GasBuddy initially loads sorted by distance and with the last data that you searched. Refresh the app and it pulls up all the gas stations near you.
  • USA Rest Stop. This app lists out all the rest stops in the US based either by State, Map, or Highway. Select which state and highway your on and it shows the rest stops on both sides of the road and how far each is from your current location. If you are visual person, use the Map function and remember that you are the little blue dot. Open and available Rest Stops are blue flags and red flags mean that the rest stop is currently closed. Each rest stop is listed with the distance from your current location, what side of the road it is located on, the mile marker, and what services are available including vending machines.
  • Life360. This app was made so that parents could keep track of their kids and make them check in when they are out and about. It is great while you are traveling because it has a built in GPS that works without a mobile network and lets people know when you have arrived at your destination or if you are in trouble. You can share your location with a select group of people called Circles. If you have been traveling and haven’t checked-in in a while, you can also receive a notice from those in your Circles asking you to check-in. A great safety feature of the app is if you hit the big Red Exclamation Point it notifies the authorities that you are in trouble. It gives you 10 seconds to disable before it sends out the distress call.
  • Oh, Ranger. This app is a traveler’s best kept secret. It lists out all the national and state parks in one easy location app. It will show you what is around your current location and it parks up to 200 miles away! It lists out what services are there such as camping, fishing, sightseeing, wildlife viewing and tons of other activities too. There is an embedded Google Map into the app that gives you driving directions as well.

Do you have any other apps to add?