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Tips for Bargain Road Trips

This is a sponsored post partnered with Elliott Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Carthage. All opinions are honest and are my own.

We love to take road trips in our family. Yes, there’s something to be said for the ease of flying, but road trips are where memories are made. The random little stops you find along the way, the silly games you play as a family to pass the time, and the crazy stories that come about after hours together in the car on the road – they’re all a part of the charm, and they’re all things your family will talk about for years to come.

If you’re taking a road trip, you already know one major benefit – it’s typically so much cheaper than flying somewhere. This is especially the case if you have multiple children. The cost of driving two people somewhere (and even staying at a hotel) is pretty much exactly the same as the cost of driving four people.

There are lots of things we’ve discovered as a result of our many road trips that help save even more money, and I thought I’d share some of the tips with you in case they can help you too:

Buy travel-sized bottles at Dollar Tree: You can actually find travel-sized toiletries here, too (and everything is a dollar, so you know you won’t be overcharged), but if you have a pricey shampoo you just adore, package your own travel-sized items instead of shelling out more money to buy small sizes of your favorite products.

While you’re at Dollar Tree… if you’ve got kids, stock up on a few fun little surprises to unveil along the way. You can use these as prizes for road trip games, or as rewards for good behavior, or even just as something to break up the monotony of sitting in the car. Buy some candy (not chocolate! You don’t want it to melt in the heat of summer) to save, too – then, when you stop at gas stations you won’t have to pay higher prices for snacks and trinkets because you’ve already got your own! If you have room for a cooler, bring your own bottled water and other drinks, too.

Check travel sites for hotel deals: Many sites like Hotwire, Priceline, and even Expedia offer mystery hotels for drastically reduced prices. If you’re not super picky about what chain you stay at, you can end up getting a really nice hotel for a truly bargain price. We’ve stayed at hotels before that would typically be way out of our price range, but are totally affordable by taking advantage of these mystery deals.

Research gas prices: There are apps galore out there that let you know what gas prices are down the road so you can plan ahead where to stop and get the best deal in the vicinity. Don’t wait until you’re out in the middle of nowhere and are forced to pay a higher price because it’s your only option.

Plan ahead for activities: Don’t just wing it when you get to your destination city. Look up what activities there are to do, and more importantly, hunt for coupons online. You can typically find discounts for places and end up saving lots of money by buying tickets ahead of time rather than at the door/gate.

Family Road Trip Destination: Portland, Oregon

This is a sponsored post partnered with Legacy Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram. All opinions are honest and are my own.

I’ve traveled to many states around the country, but have never made it to any along the west coast. Portland, Oregon is one city that I’ve always wanted to go to, and it would make a great long weekend road trip from anywhere in the northwest. Here are a few great ideas for things you can do in Portland for a fun, kid-friendly visit:

Pips & Bounce: You might think it’s odd to suggest a bar as a family destination, but this one is definitely a place the whole family will enjoy – and it’ll get you moving, too. How? Ping pong! This bar boasts 10 ping pong tables and a broad menu (kids meals, too) along with craft cocktails. There’s something for everyone and it would make a unique lunch stop, for sure.

• Playdate PDX: This is a family-owned indoor playground and café meant for adults and kids to both enjoy. They boast a three-level jungle gym, ball cannon room, two interactive dance floors, and a toddler room for ages 3 & under. Their cafe serves pizza, salads, paninis, wraps, kombucha, craft beer, local Oregon wine, and espresso drinks – perfect for adults to relax while the kids burn off some energy. 

Oaks Amusement Park: This park has been running since 1905, and is located in a historic neighborhood in Portland. There are 20 rides, a roller skating rink, miniature golf, arcade games, concessions, and more.

Family Road Trip Destination: Philadelphia

This is a sponsored post partnered with Reedman Toll Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Springfield. All opinions are honest and are my own.

It’s summer, and that means vacation time for many families. Sometimes that means jetting across the country – or across the world – and sometimes it means hopping in the car for a road trip. If you’re in the northeast, Philadelphia is a great road trip destination for families. Here are a few of the best kid-friendly activities in Philadelphia to make your road trip a great one:

Please Touch Museum: This museum is just what it sounds like – a place where kids are encouraged to touch and interact with everything inside. There’s a miniature supermarket, a hedge maze that feels like you’re in a fairy tale, a STEAM-friendly water area with lots of opportunities for experimenting, a car room, a rocket room, a camping room, a garden, and much more.

• Franklin Square: This is one of Philadelphia’s five original squares, so there’s a definite historic element to it that’s very cool, but it’s also a super-fun place filled with kid-friendly options. The center of the square is the fountain, which is being updated this summer to include lights, music, and “dancing” water. There’s also a miniature golf course with 18 holes, and there are all sorts of fun nods to history like the Ben Franklin Bridge and the Liberty Bell. The classic carousel is always a hit, and SquareBurger is a place any kid would love to eat, with burgers, hot dogs and more.

• Treetop Quest Philly: This aerial adventure park lets you maneuver from tree to tree through obstacles and zip-lines. There are over 60 to choose from, and safety is a priority so you and your kids (ages 4 and up) can have a blast without worry.

Keep Your Family Safe and Secure with Kaspersky

This post is brought to you by Kaspersky Lab and The Motherhood. All opinions in this blog are my own.

Kids – and families in general – are more digitally connected now than ever before. Whether it’s through computers, tablets, or smart phones, there’s a lot of online activity in most homes. Brian and I try to be vigilant about monitoring what the kids are accessing, but it’s still a good idea to have something more in place for protection. That’s where Kaspersky Lab comes in. They’ve got a gift for keeping families safe, and right now (until January 10, 2017) you can take advantage of  an incredible deal – up to 50% off of all their core products including:

    • Kaspersky Antivirus
    • Kaspersky Internet Security
    • Kaspersky Total Security (best protection for families!)

Kaspersky Total Security is an amazing deal, especially with the discount! You can:

  • Secure computers, smartphones and tablets with multi-device protection
  • Shop and bank safely with award-winning Safe Money technology
  • Protect, monitor and set limits for your kids online with Safe Kids technology
  • Stop webcam hackers from spying into your home
  • Confirm the security of your Wi-Fi connection
  • Easily create, sync and manage your passwords
  • Backup valuable data for free online—including photos and videos

It can be hard sometimes finding the right security to use – You want to make sure you go with a company you can really trust! Kaspersky Lab is a brand you can feel secure (see what I did there?) in using, and here’s why:

  • 1st place in 60 independent tests and reviews
  • 400 million users around the world
  • 800 million threats stopped last year alone—including ransomware
  • AV-Comparatives’ top-rated product—5 straight years

Don’t forget to shop before January 10 to take advantage of savings up to 50% off! Click here to get started on the path to cyber security for your family.

Keep Your Family Connected With This Simple {&Free!} Tool!

Each year I choose a word that’s a theme for my year. After the insanely busy end of 2015, it was crystal clear that my word for 2016 would be connect. My kids are growing up way too quickly, and it’s crucial to me that we connect as a family. We do this at family dinners most nights of the week, focusing on each other and each sharing the best and worst parts of our day (if you haven’t tried this, I highly recommend it – it’s a great way to learn about the highs and lows of your child’s – or spouse’s – day, and our kids typically can’t wait for their turn to share)!

We get a lot of time together as our group of five, and I love it. Game nights, movie nights, bike rides around the neighborhood – or even just all doing separate things in the same room – we spend a lot of quality time as a family.

One-on-one time, however, can be harder to come by. I first thought about this as each of my children ended up grocery shopping with me on various weekends. It was a rare chance to have extended time with just one of our three kids, and I loved the opportunity for conversation with each of them (and oh my, how topics differ from child to child!).

An idea was born from these shopping trips, and I decided I’d implement it in 2016 as a resolution of sorts – a way to have intentional time with each child. I created a chart that allows for purposeful time for my husband and I with each of our children throughout the year. In January, I get a date night with our oldest; my husband gets one with our middle son, and our daughter gets to choose a family activity for us to enjoy together. In February, the names rotate. I get a date night with our daughter, my oldest son is paired with my husband, and our middle son gets to pick the family activity. Each child has a special role for the month, and each parent gets one-on-one time with a child.

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Road Trip Survival Guide

If you’re like millions of other people in the United States, you’re probably gearing up for a road trip in the coming weeks. Although we’ll celebrate Christmas at home, we traveled for Thanksgiving with our three kids. Our trip was relatively short – about three hours – but still, we went into it with a game plan. We’ve learned from experience (a very long trip from Texas to Florida to Georgia and back) that it’s crucial to be prepared in order to make your time in the car as pleasant as possible.

Everyone has a different approach as to what’s important to bring – some people want to be minimalists, and some people pack so much that the car is practically stuffed! I like to think we fall somewhere in between, and we’ve figured out what works well for us to bring. I’ll share one of my must-haves below, and then I hope you’ll go check out my guest post over on the Ames Ford Lincoln blog to see the rest of my tips for road trip survival.

Have plenty of supplies. Snacks and drinks are key. I can’t even begin to tell you the power of a snack to calm a whiny child! We bring practical things like pretzels and applesauce pouches, but also have some heavy hitters like fruit snacks and candy as a special treat. Also be sure and have a stockpile of inexpensive, wrapped toys that kids can pick from at random points along the trip (if they have good behavior – it’s a great motivator to have a good attitude!). Be sure and bring plenty of blankets and pillows so the kids can get comfy (and hopefully take a nap or two as you travel down the road). See more here.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America Triple Play

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Boys & Girls Club of America. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

Our kids are young – 8, 6, & 3 – and Brian and I think all the time about how this is a time in their lives in which we’re helping them establish habits that might last an entire lifetime. We hope to teach them polite habits, thoughtful habits, and healthy habits. Being healthy, of course, can encompass so much – mind, body, and soul. From a young age, activities such as taking part in school sports, making friends at after school clubs, and maintaining a balanced diet contribute to the health in all three of these areas. The skills and routines practiced as children influence habits well into adulthood, and establishing healthy lifestyle patterns with our children helps them carry these skills forward for the rest of their lives. Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Triple Play program encourages us to continue shaping our children’s future and get out and about with our family.

Triple Play launched in 2005 and has made close to 10 million connections with kids, sharing how important it is to have physical activity and proper nutrition.

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Family Fun at the Thinkery in Austin, Texas

We received passes to the Thinkery to facilitate our review. All opinions are honest and our own! 

We’ve been looking forward to a family getaway ever since school got out. We went on a big vacation last year so we decided to keep it simple with a long weekend road trip this year; the first part of our trip took us to Austin.

We knew we wanted to try something different, and we wanted to look for something that would be a lot of fun for the whole family. We began researching kid-friendly Austin attractions, and when we visited the Thinkery’s website, we read this and knew it was a place we wanted to go:

The Thinkery is Austin’s home for “why” and “how.” A place where science and families play side by side. Where people connect with ideas by doing, making and experiencing. It’s a foundry for a new generation of innovators and creative problem solvers. And it’s a heck of a good time.

When you walk in the doors, you instantly get a vibe for how your experience will be. It’s not a quiet, sterile place. It’s vibrant, colorful, and full of happy noise. This chalkboard in the front part of the museum gave us an idea of all that was going on that day:

Thinkery-Chalkboard

We decided to start out upstairs and work our way back down; the water room was our first stop. First of all, loved that they provide aprons and Crocs for kids and parents to wear, so you’re not wet the rest of the day! The water room was so fun for all three kids.

J-WaterWall

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Discover Boating for Family Summer Fun!

Kids having a blast on a boat!

 

Summer is here, and in Texas we’ve been getting record rainfall. That means lakes are at a great level and people are just itching to get out on the water with their families for some fun summer memories!

I have great memories associated with boating; I can vividly remember going up to visit family and going out on Lake Michigan. Everything seemed so serene, and the cool water breeze on our faces was perfect. I also remember going out to Lake Granbury in Granbury, Texas (go figure, right?) with friends and trying tubing for the first time. SO much fun! Brian has great boating memories, too – many of his include fishing, which is something I’ve actually not tried yet!

As our kids get older and we think about things we want to do with them, I know boating will be a part of our activities. There are just so many ways to have fun out on the water, and we want them to get to experience that! I think it would be a lot of fun to take a picnic out with us, do some fishing and just relax. I know some lakes have fireworks for the Fourth of July – how fun would that be, to watch fireworks from a boat?

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Seven Strategy Games Perfect for Family Game Night

We love game night in our house. Like, love it.

Brian and I started collecting games when we were dating back in college. Rather than going out to dinner and a movie, we’d cook and use the money we would have spent on a board game.

As a result, we have a whole closet in our house dedicated to our collection, and we have a ton of games we really enjoy playing. Here are 7 strategy-based games we enjoy playing as a family that you should try for your next family game night:

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New Huggies Snug & Dry Ultra Diapers: Great Protection at a Great Value

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Huggies® for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

I’m sure most of you have experienced this: you’re out with your child, and you set her in your lap. Suddenly, your leg is wet and you realize that your child’s diaper has leaked. This has happened to us when we were out, which meant she also leaked in her car seat. And every parent knows washing a car seat cover is no easy task.

Huggiesimage

Huggies® Snug & Dry Ultra Diapers (available only at Walmart) are a lifesaver when it comes to preventing leaks. There’s a snug fit around the waist, along the hips, and around each leg, adding up to a strong barrier against leaks.

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Car Seat Safety: Five Tips

CarSeatSafetyTips

There are a million things to figure out when you become a parent, and picking the right baby gear is just one. Car seats make it even more potentially complicated, because not only do you want to select the right car seat, you want to make sure you’re installing it and using it correctly, too. I’ve got five tips to help you navigate the car seat world and keep your little one a little safer. Here’s the first: 

1. Select a car seat based on your child’s age and size. Not every 5-year-old is built the same, so look at weight and height requirements to see which one seems like the best fit. If your child is growing rapidly, you’ll want to select a seat that has a higher limit so you can safely get more use out of it for a longer period of time.

For the rest of these tips, please visit my guest post over at the Holt Alfa Romeo Fiat dealership blog.