Tag Archives: Travel

How to Pack Your Life In a Carry-On

Packing for trips from short vacations to long drawn out excursions can be a stressful time. Many find themselves frantically throwing things into a suitcase a few minutes before leaving for the airport. In the past, it used to not matter just how big of suitcase it was because many airlines offered the first checked bag for free.


With airlines everywhere doing away with first-bag flies free policies, checking bags is getting more and more expensive. Hefty fees meet you at airports if you’re thinking of stowing a bag underneath or if your bag is overweight. It is becoming more and more important financially to learn to keep your belongings in check and fit everything into a carry-on size bag.

Not only does packing into a carry-on save you financially, it also saves you stress. It is easy to assume that every traveler has packed something that they didn’t end up using on their trip. Lugging around extra weight and having to unpack and repack excess items just adds unwanted stress to your supposed relaxing vacation.

For these reasons and many others, use these tips to pack your life into a carry-on and alleviate the stress and burden that comes with overpacking.


First and foremost, research the weather in your destination. Don’t bring three pairs of jeans if you’re traveling to a tropical island. Same goes for bringing shorts or short dresses on a winter excursion. If it is the dry season where you’re heading you can skip that clunky rain jacket and extra sweater.

By paying attention to the weather you can easily leave home pieces that would have gone unused anyways.


Toiletries add up quickly when packing for a trip. Not only is it important to keep toiletries in check for security regulations on planes, but it is also important for piece of mind. Leave your liquid shampoos and conditioners and fancy face oils at home. You can find any basic toiletry pretty much anywhere in the world, and hotels typically have most of the necessities. Not only do you save space, and hassle at the airport security lines,  you also save on stress that can arise when a liquid explodes in your suitcase ruining half your wardrobe for the week.


Layers are your best friend on vacations. Even in the hottest of climates, restaurants will probably have their air conditioning on full blast thus requiring a slightly warmer layer. Instead of bringing separate pieces for different climates, pack layering articles that can be mix and matched in a variety of ways.

Practical Items

On the same note as layering, bring pieces that are practical. Leave your 12 pairs of heels at home, or a frilly vest that is only worn on select instances. Weird and quirky pieces that you only wear once in a while at home, are probably not the best things to bring on vacation. Pack comfortable, multi-functional clothes and your vacation is sure to be stress-free.

25 Tips for Happy Family Travel this Summer

Summer is right around the corner, and many families are busy making fun travel plans.

25 Tips for Happy Family Travel

affiliate_disclaimer25 Tips for Happy Family Travel this Summer

Make sure you follow these 25 tips for happy family travel to help avoid common pitfalls or not-so-enjoyable experiences!

Preparing for Your Trip

  1. Finish packing early. Avoid being frazzled with still packing as everyone loads up in the car. Start packing soon enough to finish the day before you are set to leave.
  1. Make a packing list. Create a list of everyone’s belongings needed on the trip. Be specific – include the number of outfits, undergarments, and shoes needed. List all toiletries and medications too, so they aren’t forgotten!  If going on a road trip, download our free Road Trip Car Packing List.

Grab our Car Packing List


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  1. slepp - family TravelGet a good night’s sleep the night before. It’s best to start a family trip when everyone is well rested. When everyone is in a good mood the morning of departure, family travel runs much more smoothly.
  1. Try not to overpack. Though everyone should have the items they need for the journey, packing too much can make it hard for everyone to be comfortable in the car. Plus, too much luggage can raise your costs if you are flying.
  1. Tell someone your travel plans. Give your family member or a loyal friend the important details regarding your trip, including dates of travel, cell phone numbers, and hotel information. If anything tragic were to happen, these people can get in touch with the police and provide any information they need.

On the Trip

  1. Plan enough down time for kids. Even when having a blast, young children will get tired faster than adults. Make sure you plan some naps during your travels, and make sure your kids get enough rest each night.
  1. Don’t plan every detail. Forget creating an overbearing itinerary! Research the best things your destination has to offer, but don’t be afraid to ask locals – the waitress at dinner or the hotel concierge – for recommendations on fun attractions or things to do.
  1. Find where kids eat free. This little perk of family travel will save you money on your trip! Most places that offer free meals for kids serve foods that your children will actually eat, so fewer struggles at dinner!

  1. Utilize travel coupons! This will keep your travel budget happy, and give you more ideas for family entertainment. Pick up brochures or travel booklets when you are at rest stops, restaurants, or even your hotel.
  1. Pack lots of plastic! You don’t realize just how handy plastic bags can be until you are on a trip. Ziploc bags are great for holding jewelry, dirty silverware, or your cell phone during a rainstorm. Consider these great clear mesh travel bags for packing or holding the small stuff you don’t want to lose.  Grocery bags make it easier to toss trash or store wet clothing.

Family Travel in the Car

  1. Pack lots of snacks. You want your kids to be occupied when traveling, and hunger is a common complaint for those stuck in the backseat. Dried cereal, fruit, and crackers with peanut butter are great travel-friendly snacks to have in the car.
  1. Limit beverage intake. If you want to arrive at your destination on time, you want to watch how much your children guzzle on the road trip. Plan to take one or two bathroom stops already, depending on the distance, but reducing how much they drink the car will avoid several extra stops.
  1. Family Travel by carBring the entertainment. Car rides get boring fairly quickly. Pack books, tablets, portable DVD players, and car games so the entire family enjoys the drive to your destination.
  1. Travel during resting times. In the car is where many kids take their best naps. If you can travel in the early afternoon or through the night, your children may arrive at the destination well rested and ready to tackle the day or evening!
  1. Get your car serviced. Take your car in for an oil change and inspection. You will be happy you did if it prevents you from being on the side of the road with unhappy kids!

Family Travel on a Plane

  1. Take a pic before hitting the airport. If a child goes missing in the busy airport, you need a recent photo so he can be located as quickly as possible. Include the bag or carry-on luggage they have with them in the picture as well.
  1. Pack gum. This helps to relieve the pressure in the ears during take off and landing. It is not a fun experience for anyone, but definitely not for children.
  1. Family Travel by planeCreate an order. Daddy, the kids, then Mommy. Utilize this when going through airport security, while boarding, and while exiting the plane. Kids in the middle prevents anyone from becoming lost!
  1. Bring an extra lovey. A special blanket or stuffed toy can comfort a child new to flying. However, make sure you have an extra on hand in case it’s left behind during any of the travels. She will want that same comforting toy on the way home too!
  1. Dress them comfortably. Sitting on a plane for more than 2 hours can feel like days for a rambunctious child. If they get hot or uncomfortable, the ordeal becomes even worse. Dress him in light clothing, layering if possible so he stays cool.

When in the Hotel Room

  1. Book a hotel that’s close to the fun. This makes it easier for you to explore and keep the kids from getting bored. Plus, when things are in walking distance you can save time and effort getting everyone in and out of the car every day.
  1. Check for kid-friendly amenities. Even if you don’t plan to spend lots of time in your room, it doesn’t hurt to have a few fun things for your kiddos to do on site. A pool is probably the most common activity for your kids to enjoy, but some hotels also offer a rental DVDs or an arcade.
  1. Childproof your room. Keep the doors locked and bolted when inside the room. If you have an adventurous toddler, bring along outlet covers and other safety items to prevent a mishap.
  1. Reserve the crib when you book. Don’t wait until you arrive to ask for a cot or crib. There’s a good chance they will all be accounted for by other families. Mention it with your room reservation to ensure your little one has a place to sleep.
  1. Choose a suite. It may be a little more expensive, but everyone in the family will be happier with different sleeping quarters. Kids can go to bed before the adults, and separating the two lets everyone get the rest they need.

Planning ahead and following these tips will help you have the best possible summer family travel. Enjoy your vacation!

If you have any tips to add to make family vacations better, please leave them in the comments below.

Winner, Winner – That’s Me!


This post was written in December 2016

I won a Disney Vacation!  Yes, you read that correctly – I won a 3 night vacation in a Disney Resort Hotel and park tickets for 4 people through a contest sponsored by Family Finds Fun and Friends. ( I won this trip in fall of 2016)

Disney Vacation - I won

Have you ever noticed contests online but didn’t enter because you figured you wouldn’t win?  Well, I’m proof that people do win those contests.

Way back in June, I entered several travel contests.   I completed the entry form and even forgot I had entered.   When I did think about them, I thought I hadn’t heard from anyone so I assumed I didn’t win.

And then one day, I got an email…”Do you remember entering a Disney Contest?   You are the winner of a Disney Vacation!”

Now how about that?  At first, I wasn’t sure if it was a joke or if it was true.  Then the person asked me to verify my entry with a copy of the comment I made on Facebook when I entered.   Once I provided the proof, I was confirmed as the winner of the vacation.


Now the interesting part of the story. There were over 17,000 entries and I was NOT the first person selected to win.  In fact, I think I was number 5 or 7.  When they notified people about winning they had 48 hours to respond.  Some people never responded even after a week.   Others just didn’t verify their entry.  So those people forfeited their trip.

I was quick to respond.  Who doesn’t want a free Disney vacation???

My family had visited Disney in July of this year, and I knew the week in Dec. when the trip was planned was around finals for my son at college.  So when I won, I decided to bless some other special people in my life and take my mom, sister, and aunt with me on the trip.    We are making it a girl’s trip!  My mother and aunt have never seen Disney decorated for Christmas.  They are in for a beautiful surprise.

We leave tomorrow.  (Dec. 2016)

The trip did not include airfare, but I found an incredibly great deal on airline tickets out of Latrobe to Orlando on Spirit.   I had flown out of there before and it is an easy drive and free parking, so it was a win.

Our vacation includes staying at Disney’s Old Key West Resort.

Old Key West Resort

We will be visiting the Magic Kingdom, Disney Springs, and either Epcot or Hollywood Studios.

Disney Tickets

We will be posting on social media so feel free to follow along on our trip via Facebook or Instagram.

So the moral of this story is…

  1.  Don’t be afraid to enter online contests.   They do pick a winner and that winner could be YOU!
  2. Check your email on a regular basis, so you don’t miss a winning message.
  3. Respond when they announce the winner.  Don’t let a fantastic trip slip through your fingers.

Going to go pack my suitcase now using my Disney Packing List!

Thank you to Maggie Miller at Family Finds Fun and all her friends who sponsored the Disney Vacation contest.  We can’t wait to get to Disney!

Going to go pack my suitcase now using my Disney Packing List!

This post was  written in December 2016


Top 10 Best Places to See Fall Foliage

Autumn is a beautiful time of year with all of the shades of yellow, orange, and red leaves that can be seen in some states.

Top Ten Fall Foilage
Photo courtesy of Adam Watson

Are you wondering what areas of the country to include on your leaf peeping to-do list? Here are some of the best places to see fall foliage.

Top 10 Best Places to See Fall Foliage

  1. Salem, Massachusetts

    Salem comes alive with vibrant colors during the months of fall! You’ll be able to take in the beautiful fall scenery, all while enjoying a city that’s rich with history and fun fall festivities!

  2. Fall FoilageCatskills, NY

    The Catskill Mountains are one of the most beautiful places to witness the changing leaves! The Kaaterskill Falls, Pepacton Reservoir, and Alder Lake are just a few of the gorgeous places to see here in autumn.

  3. The Poconos, Pennsylvania

    Known for its beautiful fall foliage, the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania are a sight to see in autumn. From the scenic Delaware Water Gap to Bushkill Falls, you will find plenty of photo opportunities in this area!

  4. Portland, Oregon

    While it may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of fall leaves, Portland is a great place to enjoy the autumn season. Downtown Portland and the Hawthorne Bridge over the Willamette River are some of the beautiful places you won’t want to miss!

  5. Eastern Tennessee

    Knoxville, Gatlinburg, and Pigeon Forge, which are all located in Eastern Tennessee, are some of the best places to witness the changing leaves! When you visit in fall, you can experience the Great Smoky Mountains at the most beautiful time of year!

  6. Burlington, Vermont


    Beautiful Fall
    Photo credit: Robin O’Neal Smith

    Undeniably one of the most gorgeous New England cities in fall, there are so many places to witness the scenic fall foliage! Lake Champlain and Church Street Marketplace are just two of the places you will want to include on your to-see list!

  7. Bar Harbor, Maine

    This New England state is known for its beautiful fall foliage! Bar Harbor is a great place to observe the vibrant fall colors. You’ll want to see Cadillac Mountain, which is located within Acadia National Park.

  8. Lake Tahoe, California

    With locations in California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is a great place to enjoy fall! The changing leaves will make a beautiful backdrop against the lake and mountain scenery!

  9. Davis, West Virginia

    When you visit Davis, you’ll get to witness the changing leaves in the gorgeous Allegheny Mountains. You won’t want to miss out on Blackwater Falls State Park, where you will get to see the beautiful fall colors amidst beautiful waterfalls!

  10. Raystown Lake, Pennsylvania


    Fall Adam Watson
    Photo Credit: Adam Watson

    This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning my home area. The beautiful colors reflecting in the lake are a sign to behold.  A hidden treasure of Pennsylvania in the fall.

These are just a few of the best places to see fall foliage! No matter what state you live in, there’s probably a nearby location where you can see the beauty of autumn!



Evening in Paris on the “Love-Lock” Bridges

2014-08-10 19.45.37 TitleOn the day we visited the Louvre, we spent the evening walking from the Louvre through the Tuileries (sort of like an open park) to the Concorde and fountains.  

Then we went  across the pedestrian bridge over the Seine River and walked back along the river to take pictures of the various “Love-Lock” bridges.  

“Love-Lock” Bridges

Lovers take a padlock and write their names, initials, date or message on the locks and then they lock the padlock to the bridge and throw away the key in the Seine River.  It is an act that symbolizes undying love.

This is the primary “Love-lock Bridge.”     It has so many locks on it, there is no room for additional, so they started a second bridge.      Earlier in June, one of the railings of this bridge fell due to the weight of all the locks.    It has since been repaired. The government is discouraging using padlocks but it has stopped the romantic tourists from continuing the tradition.

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Below is the secondary “Love-lock Bridge”  Not quite as many locks yet!  

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You and your sweetie can always visit and add a lock!   That is what is on my list to do the next time we visit.

Yes I said next time.  Hoping to return in two or three years.   Neal plans to study abroad a year, and while he is there we are hoping to visit several countries.

This is the view from one of the bridges.

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These bridges are considered to be some of the most romantic places to stroll with your loved one in Paris.

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Didn’t realize it at the time, but while we were in Paris at these bridges, they were also being featured on the “Bold and the Beautiful” in America.    Liam  was remembering times with Hope as he was on the “Love-Lock” Bridge and Liam and Ivy were seen talking on the bridge.  As a side-note, you can’t even watch the promo’s in Europe.  I’m told they are several months behind the states in viewing soap operas therefore you can’t see any advertisements or spoilers.

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I can tell you it is more fun to be seeing it in person than watching it on TV.  The sites are every bit as beautiful as the shows make them appear.

Lots of walking  that day and we were exhausted. A quick subway ride returned us to our apartment.   It was a great day!

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If you had the opportunity to go to Paris, would you put a lock on the bridge?