Tuesday, November 24, 2015

8 Tips for Traveling with Toddlers

Traveling is definitely different these days with a two year old!  Our recent trip to Dallas was surprisingly smoother than expected.  Looking back on our trip I think a few key factors helped to keep the trip easy going and enjoyable for everyone.  Here are 8 tips we found helpful for traveling with toddlers!

1. Make travel days easy: On the days we spend in the car on the way to and back from our destination, we try to stay pretty chill and not worry about the clock.  With a toddler, you are going to have to stop often so they can get their energy out.  It's better if you just take a whole day for travel and enjoy it, rather than being in a hurry just to arrive an hour or so earlier.

2. Bring a portable DVD player: Regardless of how you feel about screen time in the car, road trips are the one exception where a DVD player is a huge life saver!  We bought a portable DVD player on our way out of town and it ended up being so helpful.  Not just on the long car ride there and back, but also around town each night after dinner when our daughter was tired of being in the car.  It helped prevent those meltdowns that can happen from being on the go 24/7 and living in a hotel for over a week.

3. Pack light and do laundry at hotel: The most overwhelming part of a long trip is the packing involved!  I've learned it is so much less stressful to pack enough basics like pajamas, t-shirts, socks and underwear for a few days and then just wash every 3-4 days in the hotel.  You always have a little downtime either in the afternoon or at night in the hotel to throw a load in.  And then when you get home you have a more manageable amount of dirties and not a mountain of laundry!  Just make sure to bring a stack of quarters with you, a few dryer sheets and some laundry soap.  We brought a travel packet of Tide Pods with us and they worked perfectly!

4. Prepare new activities for car ride and hotel: I always bring a small bag of toys, books and activities on road trips.  New items will hold the attention of your toddler longer so check Pinterest for some ideas.  Then when you get to hotel, set out the activities in plain view so your toddler will feel comfortable and more at home.  My daughter is really into coloring and reading right now, so I made sure to bring enough of each to keep her entertained each morning while I was getting ready.

5. Plan kid-friendly outings ahead of time: A couple weeks before our trip I start researching the most popular things to do with kids in that area.  Then I make a list of each activity including entrance prices, hours of admission and any other special notes like how much parking costs.  Be sure to include both indoor and outdoor activities on your list so you will have several options if the weather is unpredictable.  By preparing ahead of time, I am able to take advantage of some online specials for admission and parking.  Also, be sure to bring any membership cards you have for zoos and botanical gardens.  Most cities will honor your membership by providing free admission or discounted rates.

6. Stick to your toddler's schedule: Even though we are on vacation, I still work around my toddler's meal times and nap times.  Nothing will cause a meltdown like a hungry tot who hasn't napped!  My daughter is currently napping for a couple hours in the afternoon.  So on our recent trip, we just planned all of our activities in the morning and made sure to have some down time each afternoon back at the hotel.  This kept everyone well rested on our busy trip!

7. Be flexible: Even though we aimed to stay on our regular schedule, there were a few nights when the schedule changed a bit.  One night my daughter went down a lot later for her nap so we just stayed in the hotel that night and ordered room service.  Another day she wanted to go back to hotel a little earlier than usual before lunch.  I just rolled with it and we ended up having a picnic lunch in our hotel and she talked about her "picnic on the bed" for the rest of the trip!  Sometimes the spontaneous, unscheduled moments make the best memories.  So don't be too rigid on your trip - allow for some flexibility as everyone is adjusting to being away from home.

8. Meet up with friends: If you know anyone in the area, a playdate is a great time to have some company on your trip and to learn more about the city you are exploring.  We ended up getting together three times with some friends on our last trip!  Just be sure to discuss schedules ahead of time so you can maximize your time together and plan an outing that both you and your children will enjoy (especially if the children are at different ages).

I'd love to know... What are some of your tips for traveling with toddlers?

Monday, November 23, 2015

8 Things to Do with Kids in Dallas

{Cinderella's Carriage at Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden}

Last month, our family spent 8 days in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area.  Last time we were in Dallas, I was pregnant with Sienna!  We had a blast visiting again especially now that Sienna is at an age where she enjoys all of our outings.  Dallas has so many kid-friendly activities - it's definitely a cool place to visit.  We had perfect weather for mid October except for some rare flooding!  Despite a few days of heavy raining where we stuck to indoor activities, we still managed to take advantage of all the great outdoor activities for kids the rest of the week.  Here's a list of 8 things to do with kids in the Dallas area!

1. Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden: This place is absolutely amazing!  If you visit Dallas in the fall, then the arboretum is a must see!  The pumpkin village was my favorite part of the whole trip!  I've never seen so many pumpkins in one place before.  And the rest of the gardens were beautiful!  The walkways were even lined with pumpkins.  You could easily spend a whole day walking through the gardens and enjoy a nice lunch at one of the many outdoor cafes.  

2. Rory Meyers Children's Adventure Garden:  The Children's Adventure Garden is located at the botanical garden but requires a separate entrance fee.  We went back another day and spent the morning Sticker-treating at the garden (since we were there the week of Halloween).  I was really impressed with all of the hands-on learning experiences at the adventure garden.  We would definitely go back when Sienna could participate in more of the activities.  It would have been nice if there was a restaurant nearby (instead of walking all the way to the arboretum), but we were able to grab a light lunch at the Two Sisters Cafe which overlooked the children's garden.  

3. American Girl Boutique and Bistro: I've been dreaming of the day I could take my daughter to the American Girl Bistro!  I wasn't sure if she would get it being only two years old, but she proved me wrong and absolutely loved it!  It was our second time to an American Girl Store, as our first trip was a couple months ago at the Nashville Franklin Store.  She enjoyed looking around at all the dolls and plopped right down in the store to read her new book.  She loves those American Girl Books!  Lunch at the bistro was such a fun experience.  I almost died of cuteness overload when I saw her giving her babydoll pink lemonade at our table!  I would definitely make time to visit again, especially since the bistro is in the Galleria mall with some other great shops like Nordstrom and Godiva!  I couldn't resist grabbing a few Godiva Candy Cane Truffles to enjoy in our hotel room!

4. Dallas World Aquarium: This was a great indoor activity to do.  It was a unique aquarium as one half of the exhibit was set up like a rainforest.  Our favorite part was the feeding of the sharks - my daughter talked for days about watching the sharks eat lunch!  We spent several hours at the aquarium and ate lunch on the 3rd floor at Cafe Maya.  It was really good, and we had a great view of the flamingos in the rainforest!  The admission was a little pricey since they charged for my two year old to get in.  But on a rainy day, it was a good option for keeping a little one busy!

5. George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum: We have been wanting to visit the Bush Library ever since its opening a few years ago.  While we had to skip over most of the museum with a two year old in tow, I was still glad we got to see it.  There were a few areas for kids - Sienna's favorite was the wall of children's books.  She also got her picture in the oval office! 

6. Texas Discovery Gardens and Butterfly House: Our time at the discovery gardens was better than I expected!  The small gardens were so quaint, definitely a hidden gem in the city!  There was hardly anyone there which made our visit very enjoyable as the kids could run around and go at their own pace.  The butterfly house was beautiful!  It took us about 20 minutes to walk around the house and we stayed for the butterfly release at noon.  Sienna even got to hold a butterfly and watch a few baby butterflies come out of their cocoon.  

7. Northpark Center: Being out of town for over a week, it was nice to have a low-key night just to walk around a nice shopping center and grab a bite to eat for dinner.  The Northpark is the most amazing shopping center I've ever seen!  No wonder it's #1 in the country!  The center itself is like a work of art with their gorgeous displays and decorations.  We saw hundreds of pumpkins throughout the center and were told the displays will be completely new for Thanksgiving and Christmas!  Sienna had fun picking out her  Halloween costume at the Disney Store and her Christmas dress from Hanna Anderson.  I have never seen such an impressive mix of stores in one shopping center.  From children's stores to high end retail, there was something for everyone!  

8. Fort Worth Zoo: I had planned on going to the Dallas Zoo on our last day, but after reading reviews we decided to drive to Fort Worth since they have one of the best zoos in the country.  It was very impressive and worth the drive!  I love zoos that attempt to keep the animals in a natural habitat.  Seeing zebras on a grassy hill surrounded by beautiful trees literally took my breath away.  I feel like the animals look more majestic in their natural environments (or close to it). Sienna loved seeing the baby elephants - one of which was born just a week before her!  On our next visit we will be sure to ride the train throughout the back half of the zoo.  

We had such a great time exploring Dallas!  We will definitely be back for another visit - maybe next time around the Christmas season?!  But if not, autumn in the Big D is pretty amazing!  Until next time, Dallas!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Sienna's 3rd Halloween!


This Halloween was so much fun!  I'm not one that enjoys dressing up, but watching Sienna dress up was one of those moments that are so rewarding as a parent because your child IS SO HAPPY SHE'S WEARING AN ELSA DRESS!  Yes, princess dresses and Disney Stores that let your child try on their princess dress in a castle are a couple things that little girls go crazy over!  I didn't buy an outfit for Sienna's first Halloween since she was just a couple months old. The night of I remembered we had a pumpkin outfit in the closet that used to fit Miles.  But after a few big tears we took it off.  Halloween 2014 we dressed her as a kitty cat and pulled her around our cove in her red wagon.  This year she said she wanted to walk to trick-or-treat and I had a, "You are such a grown up toddler" moment.  It was fun letting her pick out her own costume - a pink ELSA dress - from the Dallas Disney Store.  The hard part is convincing her she cannot nap in it, eat spaghetti in it or wear it to church.  





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