Flying with a Toddler {What To Bring With You}

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Flying with a toddler or an infant can be stressful.  

Like really stressful.  I don’t know about you, but I never want to be the parent who’s kid is running around like crazy or worse – screaming the entire flight.  We all know most people are understanding and you’re never going to see them again, but for those hours in you’re in the air it’s torture. No matter how long your flight is your little one will probably not want to be held the entire time, which can be hard to deal with.  Or maybe their ears will pop with take off and landing, which can be hard to comfort them.  Or because they are a toddler they could just be unhappy because of no good reason.

Let’s talk about what you can do to make flying with your infant or flying with your toddler less stressful for them and for you.

Okay, a few weeks ago we traveled to Florida for our family vacation. We flew from St. Louis down to Orlando then had to get in a rental car and drove to Daytona Beach.  It was a long morning, even though the flight was about 2 hours and the drive was less than an hour.  But Moms you get it when I say it was still a long day.  But the 3 hour overall travel day was a lot better than the 12 hour drive it would have been if we didn’t fly.  So I’ll take it.  We drove to St. Louis the night before and stayed with my sister who took us and dropped us off at the airport (hello! No parking fees!).  Staying with her was great because we were able to follow our normal nighttime routine with our little man, which meant he was going to be rested before the flight.  We also picked a pretty early flight hoping we could catch our little guy’s nap time to make it easier on him and us.

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flying with a toddler, traveling with a toddler, flying with a baby

Here’s what I recommend you prep before flying with a toddler:

Do Your Research

Check the TSA guidelines when traveling with children to make sure no changes have been made since I’ve written this post.  TSA does allow you to travel with breast milk, formula, and snacks for your little one.  Since our little guy doesn’t breastfeed and is now on milk, I just poured milk in a bottle and went through.  I had no issues and no question if it wasn’t formula or breast milk.  

You will just have to be prepared to have them taken out of your bag to be scanned by the X-Ray machine.  The worst thing to happen is to have spent time to prepare food, drinks and snacks for your toddler just to have the TSA worker throw it out.  So make sure you follow the guidelines.  For any liquids you’re traveling with they will test it for explosives.  Which means they will probably have you unscrew the bottle, hold a test strip over it and then test it. 

When we were leaving St. Louis the first test came back positive, so after two more negative tests we were good to go.  Not sure how my test came back positive, but oh well.  

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Pack Only What You Need

Try to avoid overpacking so you aren’t trying to wrestle a huge bag that’s spilling over while trying to wrangle your toddler.  Pack only what you need or  think you will need.  I personally hate having a huge diaper bag that’s super heavy filled with items I know deep down I will not need.  Try to keep things light and easy on travel days.

Here’s what we packed in our carry on:

1) diapers and baby wipes
2) one small toy (that didn’t make any sound to be respectful for the other passengers)
3) iPad
4) snacks – see below for list of the snacks we took
5) milk
6) change of clothes
7) blanket

My carry on was my new diaper bag I bought off Amazon.  I love, love this bag.  It worked perfectly.  It zips close, which is great for putting it under the seat in front of me on the plane.  It can be easily carried as a backpack or cross body bag, which was super nice to have.  Plus it has the stroller straps so I could hook it onto the stroller through the airport.  

Here’s my recommendations on the snacks for your toddler: keep it simple.  Try to pack foods that can be easily closed or could be put into a sandwich baggie.  Try no to bring anything for the plan that will melt or be too messy.  Also think about the sticky factor.  You know which snacks your little guy probably loves, but he ends up a sticky mess after eating.  If he ends up sticky the changes of you getting sticky are pretty high.  

The snacks we brought:

individual bags of cheese sandwich crackers
multi-grain Cheerios
sweet potato puffs
baby food pouches
apple sauce pouches

We did bring more snacks and foods with us in our checked luggage to save money.  This vacation was planned on a budget using a technique that helps us save for anything we want.  So we didn’t want to overspend once we got to our destination.  I knew baby food and snacks were going to be a lot more expensive at the beach in Florida than it would be in Southeast Missouri.  We used freezer bags to make sure if anything was busted than it wouldn’t get over everything.

Gate Check Your Stroller

Did you know most airlines do not charge for checking a stroller?  You can strap your little one in and quickly make your way through the airport, which helps a lot when you have a suitcase to get from the baggage area.  Just make sure you put a name tag on the stroller to be safe.  The airline will put their own tag with your name and flight info, but as we found out the hard way that tag can easily fall off.  So by having our name on a bright orange luggage tag we were able to quickly identify our stroller.

Check your Car Seat

Again, most airlines don’t charge for checking a car seat.  You can gate check them, but we just put ours with the luggage.  Actually, we bought a cheaper one that wasn’t as heavy since we knew we wouldn’t be in the car that much during our trip.  Our chicco car seat is amazing, but it can be pretty heavy.  They make car seat travel carts that looked pretty neat, but we just went with the easier option of checking it with our luggage.  

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You have to check your airlines reviews for traveling with a car seat.  Some handle them really well and others are a bit more careless.  I had read some horror stories of people traveling with their expensive car seats just for the airline to destroy them.  The airline is obligated to replace any seat that is damaged, but most of the time they give you a cheap version and call it good.  I didn’t want that happening with our big one, so we just packed a less expensive one.

This system worked great for our flight out.  Our little man passed out before our wheels left the ground and slept the entire flight.  We used the same technique on the way home, but our little guy wasn’t tired at all.  Luckily J and I were able to sit in aisle seats so we could let him stand between us. 

 

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Summer Family Activities for Free

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It’s summertime!  Oh how I love Summer.  When I was younger Summer was my least favorite season.   When I was in middle school through high school I would have to help my parents in the yard on summer weekends.  It was always so hot and so miserable.  We would have to pick up sticks on their 5 acres, burn leaves and work around the yard.  I hated it.  I used to beat my sister for volunteering to stay inside to clean the house.  I would much rather have cleaned the entire house and made lunch for everyone than having to sweat outside picking up sticks.  As I’ve gotten older and the yard we have is much, much smaller I don’t mind summer yard work nearly as much.  Now don’t get me wrong I would much rather be having fun on a hot Saturday morning, but I’ll take a hot summer day over n ice-filled winter one. 

Now that I’m older and have a family of my own I like to save those hot days for finding free and fun stuff to do.  I’m bringing you my complete list of free activities you can do with your family this summer.  You may have to be a little creative, but you and your kids can have a blast checking these items off.  In case you missed it, not too long ago I created a list of free activities to do during the fall, but I figured it was time for a season update.  Plus it goes perfect with our spending freeze we’re currently doing.

I love finding fun things to do as a family especially when they are free!  

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Here you are – a complete list of free summer activities for your family:

  1. go swimming – around here most public pools are free or you could always befriend someone with a killer backyard pool!
  2. go to the zoo – we’re lucky because the St. Louis Zoo doesn’t charge for admission and if you get there early enough then parking is free too!
  3. head outside for a picnic
  4. scavenger hunt in the backyard
  5. sprinkler fun!
  6. have a game day where you play board games inside
  7. go to the local park
  8. camping
  9. checkout an outdoor movie
  10. museum free days
  11. explore the public library
  12. host a summer reading challenge

You can print off a PDF of the summer activities, too.

The Easiest To Use Budget Template … EVER

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Are you tired of struggling with your budget?  Having no clue where to start, what categories to use or how much you should be spending?  Well I was!  It was a monthly struggle creating a budget that would actually work for our family.  One that told me if I was overspending or (even better) letting me know if I had extra money left over.  

After years of tweaking and perfecting the budget template our family uses, I have it ready for you.  This is going to be the easiest budget template you’ve ever seen.  Once you know what a budget is and why you need one then it’s time to actually put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to create one that will work for your family.

You can now start paying down debt, saving your money and building the foundation for the life you want.  Each month when the money would run out, you probably felt like you messed up big (maybe even failed), but you didn’t!  

You did not fail!

You just need a system that will actually work for you, not against you.  The budget spreadsheet is the easiest tool you will ever use.  You simply enter in the amount you WANT TO SPEND and then the AMOUNT YOU ACTUALLY SPEND.  The biggest piece of this budget is you can update it on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.  The more you update your budget then the more you will be able to have control over your spending.

You will be able to see right away if you’re getting close to the amount you wanted to spend for the month and if so, you can quickly adjust.  

One of the biggest questions I see is from people not knowing how to setup their budget.  Honestly it can be overwhelming to get it started, that’s why I’m taking the guess work out for you.  

This simple budget template is setup for a year and it has the categories already entered.  The expense categories are listed are home, transportation, daily living, health, personal, entertainment, dues/subscriptions, financial/retirement, and miscellaneous. It’s perfect for you to know where each expense goes and it makes it easier for you to accurately track your spending.

I created a quick video to show you just how this budget spreadsheet works, what you can expect from it and what the goal of budgeting is.  

What if I don’t use that category?

You can simply skip over it or change the wording to fit you better.  This budget template is totally flexible!  This is a template, so you can customize the categories and the amounts to what fits your family.  

How much should I be spending each month?

Well each family is different.  Your family’s needs are going to be different than another’s.  So while I can’t tell you specific numbers, you should be able to come in close by looking over your monthly bills.  Of course you could probably switch internet providers or cable providers for a lower rate, but you may not want to.  I recommend entering in your anticipated income first then your fixed monthly expenses.  Fixed expenses are the one that don’t change from month-to-month.  Such as phone, internet, cable, mortgage, car insurance, etc.

The first thing you should do after paying your fixed expenses is put money into your emergency fund and retirement accounts.  Go ahead and enter that in next.  After you’ve entered your fixed expenses, start looking at how much money you have left.  That is your flexible spending.  A rule of thumb on your grocery budget is to spend $100 per person in your family.  So if you have you, your spouse and two children then you would budget $400 a month.  This goes for no matter the age of your children – newborn on up.  This amount includes paper products for your family, too.

You should then look at your bank statements to get an idea of how much your spending on gas each month.  More than likely this won’t change, unless you took an out of town trip that isn’t the norm.  You may have to look at a few months to get an average.

Afterwards any money left over needs to be spent on paying down debt.  Eating out is a luxury, in my opinion.  It doesn’t mean my family doesn’t eat out, but it should be the last category you budget for.  Because if you don’t have any money left then you need to know before swinging through the fast food drive-thru on your way home.  

What’s great about this budget template is the columns will automatically add for you.  So you don’t have to guess on how you’re doing.  You will see right there on the computer screen.

 

This budget template will only cost you $9 and you will instantly receive an Excel document.  Once you have the Excel file opened you can start entering in your budgeted spending amounts and tracking your actual spending.  No more guessing whether or not you will have enough money at the end of the week.  

You’ll finally be able to start paying down debt, save for anything you want, and build the life you want.

 

DIY Father’s Day Gift

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Father’s Day is about two weeks away and it’s time to treat the special man in your life to something nice.  If your kids Dad is anything like J then they deserve it.  Last year I wanted to create something special for him since it was his first Father’s Day and honestly, money was a little tight.  After NICU bills, physical therapy sessions, and so on I knew the gift needed to be something I could create with what I had on hand.  I thought about doing a DIY Father’s Day gift to add a little personalization to it so it would be special for years to come.  

I went to Canva.com and created a simple image that just said Happy Father’s Day.  Then I printed it out.  I even made it in black and white so I could print it at home on our laser printer.  

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I updated the image to this year’s Father’s Day so feel free to click the image above to print out.

Once I had the image printed, I went to Hobby Lobby to look for a frame.  I had a gift card leftover from my birthday so I used it towards an 8 by 8 frame.

I headed home and dug out some ink I had from our wedding a few years ago.  We did a thumbprint painting as our guest book and I purchased several different color ink pads.  I kept them knowing I would use them one day.  I waited until Baby was sleeping then I pressed the ink pad on his foot then onto the page.  I repeated using his hand, too.

The ink pad made it really easy to use.  I didn’t have to worry about spilling paint everywhere and since it was what we used for people’s thumbs at our wedding I knew the ink would come off easily.  I had a wet wipe ready and as soon as I pressed his foot and hand onto the page I was able to clean him up.

I then made sure the prints were nice and dry before sealing into the frame.  I think the gift turned out great and it will be neat to have such a keepsake for years to come.

Ranch Chicken and Potatoes in the Slow Cooker

Tasty Ranch Chicken in the Slow Cooker, chicken crockpot recipe

Want to know a little something about me?  I could eat chicken pretty much every single day and be happy.  My go-to favorites at any restaurant are the chicken dish or a nice big salad.  Now if you put chicken on that salad that’s always going to be my choice.  Always.  Well… let’s be honest if sushi was an option then my choice would be sushi – hands down.  Since we are living on a budget I don’t get to have sushi everyday.  But I digress…  

Add a little bit of ranch dressing to the mix and I’m in heaven. Now J on the other hand could take it or leave it with the chicken. I think it’s my fault you see we have some sort of chicken dish about 3-4 nights a week in our house.  He gets it too often and he’s burned out.  But this weekend I cooked the meals which means I got to pick what I wanted.  And I wanted an easy chicken dish.  I found this recipe and fell in love.  I adapted it for what I had on hand because of course I didn’t have everything.   I’m going to be a 100% honest with you I ate this chicken on Saturday when I made it, Sunday for lunch, and then I plan to eat it again Monday for lunch and dinner.  It is that good! So maybe it’s not a bad thing J doesn’t love chicken because it means there was more for me.  

Keep reading for the recipe for my Ranch Chicken and Potatoes in the Slow Cooker

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All you have to do is place the potatoes in your slow cooker (I use this one) top it with the chicken.  Then mix the cream of chicken soup, ranch dressing and other ingredients together then pour over the top.  You can cook it on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 5-6 hours.  I topped mine with a little more ranch dressing because I have a problem.  It was delicious!

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Ranch Chicken and Potatoes in the Slow Cooker
Serves 4
An easy to prepare ranch chicken and potatoes meal in the slow cooker
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
8 hr
Total Time
8 hr 15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
8 hr
Total Time
8 hr 15 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 boneless chicken breasts
  2. 1 can (10.75oz) cream of chicken soup
  3. 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  4. 8 baby red potatoes
  5. 1 packet dry ranch mix
  6. 1/2 cup milk
Instructions
  1. Wash the potatoes and then place in the bottom of your slow cooker.
  2. Place the chicken in the slow cooker on top of the potatoes.
  3. In a separate bowl mix the soup, broth and ranch mix together.
  4. Pour mixture over chicken and potatoes.
  5. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 5-6 hours.
Adapted from Life in the Lofthouse
merelynne http://merelynne.com/

How to Afford Paying Off Credit Card Debt

How to Afford Paying Off Credit Card Debt

One of the biggest questions I get when it comes to budgeting and getting out of debt is

How do I pay off my credit card when I’m living paycheck-to-paycheck?

Well I’m here to tell you it’s possible.  You can do it.  You can pay off your credit card even though you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck.  It’s going to be hard and you probably won’t like me very much, but the truth hurts sometimes.  

You should know that this is what my family has done.  J and I have paid off over $10,000 in credit card debt by following these tips.  We did it when we first moved when money was tight and we were just getting our feet planted.  So I know if my family can do it then your family can do it too.  You will just need to be the cheerleader and motivator when things get tought.  

Here’s what you can do to get out of credit card debt when money is tight:

Cut back on spending 

I know it’s easier said then done, but I’m sure you can find a few areas each week to save some money.  Try a spending freeze for a week and you’ll be surprised at the amount of money you can save.  You are going to have to get creative to stop spending money.  Make sure you’re meal planning with what you already have on hand, stop impulse shopping – yes a fountain diet mountain dew counts as an impulse by even if using change from your car’s floorboard!  

Stop using your Credit Card

This one might be a bit hard for you to swallow.  But to pay down debt you have to stop incurring debt.  You’re probably thinking how you only put gas and groceries on your card each month – just the necessities and you do it to earn points.  That’s great!  I love points.  I let mine accumulate until Christmas and use it on presents – it’s like free money!  Here’s the problem with that mentaility – it’s too easy to swipe your card!  It’s too easy to assume you have the money to pay for all of those groceries.  So stop using it.  At least for the next 4-6 weeks because you need to break the mentality and start telling yourself no.  Go back to using cash only or use the flexible debit card budgeting trick that my family uses.  

Even J and I have to stop using our credit card every few months because the norm becomes just to swipe.  It’s too easy to use our credit card instead of looking at our check register and keeping track of our spending.  

How to Afford Paying Off Credit Card Debt

Update your budget

I am a huge fan of quick and easy budgets.  There is no need to make something too complicated for you and your family.  All you need is a simple income less expenses type budget.  That way you know how much your spending and how much you should be spending on every day items – groceries, gas for your cars, eating out, etc.  By spending just a few minutes each day updating your budget you will know how your doing on a day-to-day basis instead of playing a guessing game.  You need to be looking at your money on a regular basis, please.  One of the easiest ways to not overspend is by having money dates and check-ins.  If you realize how close you are to your grocery budget in the middle of the month then you can spend the next few weeks using what you have on hand, making due and getting creative.

Stop eating out

This one may seem like a no brainer to you, but it needs to be said.  If you’re struggling to get out of debt then you need to stop eating out so much.  Now eating out is easy.  It’s quick.  And my favorite – no dishes to clean afterwards!  However, even running through a fast food place can add up night after night.  You need to treat eating out as a date night or special occasion.  Save some money and go once every two weeks or once a month.   This includes eating out for lunch, too.  Don’t try to convince yourself that lunch is cheaper then dinner or how you forgot your lunch and have to eat.  Make sure you’re planning ahead for breakfasts, lunches and dinners so you can save yourself the money.  Just think if you and your spouse go out to eat twice a week with one child you can easily spend $30-45 after tip.  That includes your meal, your spouse’s, a child’s meal and drinks.  Now if instead you go out to eat once a month you are saving anywhere from $210-$315 a month!  A month!?!  That’s crazy!  Just think about the dent you could put into your credit card balance by sending an extra $315 a month.

Increase the amount your sending each month

Once you start saving more money by checking your budget, not eating out as much and staying on track with your impulse shopping then you need to start putting that money towards your credit card balance.  By sending in more then the minimum payment each month you can seriously cut down the amount of time it will take to pay off your balance.  Just think if you could save about $100 a month from doing a week long spending freeze plus $315 from not eating out as much, and by not overspending on groceries anymore you could be putting an additional $500 towards your credit card debt.

So you see it is possible to get out of credit card debt while living paycheck-to-paycheck.  It may not always be fun or pretty, but you can do it.  You just need to be a little creative with your meal planning, shopping and cautious of where your money is going.  I have faith you can do it!

If you’re looking for a great tool to help keep your family on budget, then check out out my budget spreadsheet.  Each month is laid out right in front of you where you can keep track of what you budget and what you actually spend. Now you’ll know in real time how you’re doing each month.

How I Feed My Family For One Week – Aldi Shopping Haul – Coming Home From Vacation

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You asked for it – how do I feed my family on a tight budget with meal planning for one week?

Well I thought today is the day to show you. We just got home this past weekend from our week long vacation and it was time to restock the pantry and freezer.

Now that Walmart has done away with price matching, I thought it was time to show off my new grocery shopping skills. I’ve switched to shopping mainly at Aldi so that I can stay on budget and still get quality produce and other food items. Now I don’t expect Aldi to always have what we need, but I have found that it does a pretty good job. For the items it doesn’t carry I plan on getting from Amazon, because Amazon is Mom’s best friend and from the local Neighborhood Market Walmart.

I also am pretty savvy when it comes to online shopping.  I love certain programs that help me make money just shopping normally.  Ebates is a great resource and I highly recommend it.  You can sign up here (using my referral link).  There are other ways to save money with in-store shopping are using apps.  These are great and I recommend them to everyone.  Even if you only get a few dollars back each trip (or less) the savings can really add up.  

Typically I meal plan for about 2 weeks at a time.  That way I can buy meat in bulk and other foods in larger quantities.  It also helps on the prep time because you can just brown a big pan of ground beef, split it and then use it for two separate nights.  However, we stayed the weekend with J’s family after we got back to Missouri then when we finally got home we had a long lunch with my parents.  So by the time it came to meal plan and grocery shop we were all exhausted.  Our little guy wasn’t going to make it to his bed time so we decided to just use what we had in our freezer and pantry to get us started.  

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We ended up meal planning for only one week this time around and then when we go next weekend I will start back on my 2 week plans.  J and I also decided to clean up our eating a little after our vacation.  It was time to get back to eating healthier and eating at home a lot more.  So we planned to have breakfast, lunch and dinner at home for this whole next week. 

Check out the quick video sharing my best grocery shopping tips for a tight budget, how we meal plan and what all I bought from Aldi.  

Here’s the first step in meal planning:

Go through your pantry and freezer.  Make a list of which meats and other items you already had on hand.  Then from there plan your meals.  

We lucked out by having enough meat for the entire week (lunch included!) so that meant this shopping trip was going to be easy and we were going to be able to stay in our grocery budget.  

The second step in meal planning:

Plan around what you already have.  You may love knowing you have a small stockpile on hand, but you should be rotating through your freezer items and what you have in your cabinets.  So go ahead and create your meal plan based off what you have.  Now if you have the wiggle room in your budget or there is a great sale going on then you can buy new meat to replace your inventory. Make sense?  You don’t want to keep a pound of hamburger meat in the freezer for years when you go through a pound each week.  Make sure you’re rotating your stock.

We looked at what we had on hand then planned our breakfast, lunches and dinners around it.  We knew we would have to buy a few items to go with the meals, but the bulk of each recipe was already bought months ago.

We ended up spending just under $59 for the whole week and honestly some of these items were just restocking our pantry so they will last longer than a week.  We’re going to have tasty meals that are a bit healthier this week, too.

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Here’s what we’re planning for the next week:

Breakfast each day will be eggs, sausage and cheese scrambles.

Monday Lunch: Grilled Chicken Salad with Avocado
Monday Dinner: Grilled Pork Steak (for J) and Grilled Pork Chop (for me) with Parmesan peas

Tuesday Lunch: Shrimp Salad with Avocado
Tuesday Dinner: Hamburgers

Wednesday Lunch: Egg Salad Sandwiches
Wednesday Dinner: leftovers

Thursday Lunch: Chicken Salad
Thursday Dinner: Fajita Chicken Bake

Friday Lunch: leftover Fajita Chicken Bake
Friday Dinner: Chicken Cordon Bleu Bake

Saturday Lunch: left over Chicken Cordon Bleu Bake
Saturday Dinner: out with my family for my Mom’s birthday

Sunday Lunch: Chicken Salad Sandwiches

We’ll go shopping again for our next two weeks on Sunday afternoon so I only planned through lunch.

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If you’re looking for a great tool to help keep your family on budget, then check out out my budget spreadsheet.  Each month is laid out right in front of you where you can keep track of what you budget and what you actually spend. Now you’ll know in real time how you’re doing each month.

Florida Vacation Recap

Florida vacation, travling with a toddler, flying with a toddler, how to travel with a baby

Last week we flew down to the Daytona Beach area for a nice little Florida vacation – just the three of us!  I love the beach and I want to make sure our little man loves the water like his Momma does.  Last year we took him when he was barely two months old.  He loved it!  Never once did he cry when he was in the water and he loved napping on the beach all day.  Then a month later we took him again, this time with J’s family.  Again, he loved it!  At least that’s what I’m telling myself – I mean, he was two and three months old.  So he slept a lot, but he didn’t cry a lot either.  I’ll consider that a win!

This year we kept it simple and it was just the three of us that went.  We also only had a few days to spend, so we left on Tuesday morning and came home Friday afternoon. Since we weren’t spending a full week we wanted to fly.  We thought a 2 hour one-way flight was a lot better than a 12 hour one-way drive.  I packed a diaper bag full of snacks, milk and the iPad to entertain our guy during the flight.  I was a little nervous traveling with milk through security, but it was a breeze.  All they did was wipe it down for explosives and then send me on my way.  ….Actually the first test on the way there came back positive (what?!!?) so the guy did it two more times and got negative both times.  Whew!  

The flight to Orlando went so smooth, our little guy slept the entire way.  He started fussing a little as we were preparing for take off so I fed him his bottle and he passed out.  He was out before our wheels ever left the ground.  Then he slept the whole flight and I had to wake him up when it was time to get off the plane.  Having a bottle of milked packed and ready to go was the key to such a great flight!

Florida vacation, travling with a toddler, flying with a toddler, how to travel with a baby

When we got to Florida we drove the hour to our hotel room from the airport.  We stayed right on the beach, like right on the beach, which was awesome.  It also made it super handy for nap time and lunch time with our little guy.  We didn’t have to haul too much down to the beach each time.  When we got into town we immediately checked into our room.  It was only noon so we had the first day to run to the grocery store for a few things and then hit the beach for a bit.  

We planned to just buy breakfast for our little guy, a few snack items for the evenings and then quick lunch ideas.  Little guy was being his typical picky eater so he just ate whatever we were eating along with his pouches of food.

The second day we drove to Daytona Beach and toured the speedway.  J has always wanted to visit the racetrack and they offered a 90 minute tour for only $25 a person.  Considering the 30 minute tour was $18 a person, we thought the longer one would be well worth it.  We took the tram out onto the race track, got to stand on the finish line and then take pictures in the winner’s circle.  We even visited the hall of fame and saw last year’s Daytona 500 race car, which was pretty neat.  I’m not really a racing fan, but I’ll do anything for J and since it was a dream of his to see the speedway then that’s what we did!

Florida vacation, travling with a toddler, flying with a toddler, how to travel with a baby

Florida vacation, travling with a toddler, flying with a toddler, how to travel with a baby

Florida vacation, travling with a toddler, flying with a toddler, how to travel with a baby, Daytona speedway

Our boy did great during the whole tour.  He let Momma carry him around most of the time and then when he got too heavy he was happy to go to Daddy.  We did let him walk some of the inside stuff and the stops in the shade, but I have a fear of heights so anything that was too high or required stairs then we carried him.  Afterwards our little guy was exhausted, he napped in the car while we ordered sushi takeout and at in the parking lot…. the life of parents, right?  Order nice takeout you don’t get at home just to eat it in a Lowe’s parking lot while your baby naps. Oh well, it was still tasty!

Once he woke up it was off to play some mini golf by the beach.  We found this great place a block away from the water and the best part was we went on a Wednesday afternoon while school was still in session… no lines!  I beat J by 2 strokes, so it was a pretty great game!  We ended up saving about a $1 on our game just by not being prepared… win!  Okay, mini golf was 13.00 a person, so I handed J $27 thinking that would cover tax and left my wallet in the car.  The guy rang in our games and it was $27.64.  I was so close!  I told him I would run back to the car to grab another dollar and he somehow found a coupon to save us $1.  So weird how that magically appeared… hmmm.  I guess next time we play mini golf I’m going to try not having enough money to see if we can score any more deals!

The final day we spent at the beach and pool.  We played in the sand, let the waves crash into us and tried out our son’s new life jacket in the pool.  He wasn’t too crazy about the life jacket, but he needs to start getting used to it if he’s going to be swimming a lot this summer or on the boat.

Florida vacation, travling with a toddler, flying with a toddler, how to travel with a baby  

Now I want to share how we saved money on food while traveling.

I carried a diaper bag full of snacks, pouches of baby food (well enough to get us through the day) and a bottle of milk.  To keep the milk cold I packed a bottle cooler with an ice pack.  Getting through security was a breeze.  They just inspected the milk and felt the ice pack to make sure it was a real freezer pack.  No question on all of the snacks or baby food.  I even had a baggie full of Cheerios and they went through with no problems.  Honestly, I think I overreact when it comes to flying with food.  I know a  lot of people do it, but every time I’ve tried I end up having to throw it away in security.  So I must have done something right this time around.  

Next, we packed more snacks and pouches of food for our little guy in our checked bag.  I had baby food, snacks for our little guy, snacks for us.  All I did was place them in clear gallon storage bags so in case anything leaked or busted then it wouldn’t get over everything.  Before we packed I went to the store and found food.  I figured how much we would need for the whole trip and made sure to save room for it in the suitcase.  I knew the price of his snacks were going to be a lot higher than my local Aldi and I thought this would be a great way to save money.

We also only ate out once a day.  We went to a grocery store once we landed to get some easy lunch items.  Not every day did we eat lunch in the room, but we at least ate one meal a day in our room.  It probably saved us $60 or more by doing that each day.  We didn’t have to order food, buy drinks and pay for a tip.  We just loaded up on yummy foods we don’t typically eat at home and then used the microwave in the room.  For our one meal out we tried to find fun, local places since we don’t normally get fresh seafood all the way in Missouri.  

Florida vacation, travling with a toddler, flying with a toddler, how to travel with a baby

Then it was time to come home.  The flight home wasn’t as smooth as the flight there.  Our little guy didn’t sleep at all… and all he wanted to do was play.  We thought we were being smart by finding a huge open area at the airport for him to play around in, but I think that just ended up making him more awake and ready to go.  Luckily we sat across from each other in aisle seats so we were able to let him walk back and forth between us.  He actually did really good for being trapped in the same spot for over 2 hours.  We kept him entertained with some snacks I packed in the diaper bag, the iPad and Daddy’s sunglasses.  During take off he drank milk so his ears wouldn’t hurt too bad and then during the landing he ate a pouch of baby food to help his ears.  I think the people around us were pretty grateful he was so well behaved compared to some of the other smaller kids on the flight.  We totally lucked out!

Road Trips With A Baby

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easy road trips with baby, road trips with a baby, what to bring on a road trip with a toddler

J and I love to go.  His family lives about 2 hours away, my sister is about 3 hours and the majority of our friends are in the opposite direction about another 3 hours away.  So we like to travel a lot on the weekends.  

We’re also the crazy people that prefer to take our three dogs with us on road trips.  With such a crazy bunch we’ve learned a few tricks to help us keep our sanity.  

Here’s how we take road trips with our little guy:

Prep your bottles before leaving the house.  Baby Boy was formula fed for the first year so I liked to have at least 3 big bottles filled with water and 2 small ones filled.  We bought these formula dispensers and they have been a lifesaver.  One is for 6 oz. bottles and the other one is for 2 oz. bottles.  Now he’s on milk so I use a small ice chest that is tall enough to hold his bottles.  I fill a bottle (or two) with milk and put it on ice for the road.  Now I don’t have to try to pour while driving and I can quickly grab a filled bottle to soothe a cranky child.

There has been (almost) nothing better than the day our little man could hold his own bottle.  It was a miracle!  Now when he gets hungry, we can just hand him his bottle, he feeds himself.  When he’s done he typically puts the bottle on the side of his car seat so I don’t have to worry about it leaking everywhere.  The only time I have to crawl in the back is when he wants actual food.  We use the pouches, but he hasn’t quite mastered feeding himself those yet.  

A few weeks ago I went to KC to visit a friend and her little boy who’s about the same age as our man.  Her little man can feed himself those pouches, but our guy hasn’t quite gotten it yet.  Anyway… we were driving back to her apartment and we thought they both had fallen asleep.  When we pulled in, I went to get my guy out and noticed this orange liquid all over him, the ceiling, the door, window, inside his car seat and the outside of his friend’s seat.  Yep, her little guy was being nice and handed my boy his pouch of food.  Of course he didn’t know what he was doing so he squirted food everywhere!  It was pretty funny and luckily hadn’t dried yet.  So with a quick wipe down with a bath towel, we were all good to go.

Now we’ve been working on feeding ourselves those pouches ever since that weekend.

Get your diaper bag ready.  I typically like to keep my diaper bag light.  I hate over packing it with things I know I will not need in the car.  So I keep it filled with just the necessities.  Bottles, formula, one toy, a change of clothes, plastic baggie filled with wipes, and 2-3 diapers.  Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?  But trust me, it’s not compared to how I used to pack a diaper bag.

I recently ordered a new diaper bag from Amazon and I’m in love.  It’s big enough to carry what we need, but it’s not too bulky that it drives me crazy.  I had been using a thirty-one bag I bought back in my early twenties, but with flying for our next beach trip I wanted a bag that would zip fully closed.  This bag doubles as a backpack, a messenger bag or has handles on top.  It also came with stroller clips, which has been a huge help.  I always hated shoving the bag in the bottom of the stroller.  I didn’t want my pre-filled bottles to leak or stuff to get unorganized. 

Pack the baby’s food items together in a separate bag.  The first trip we took I packed Baby Boy’s formula in our suitcase.  That was a big mistake!  I had to crawl all the way in the back, balance the suitcase on my leg so I could get the formula out.  I’ve now learned my lesson and keep all of the baby’s items in a separate bag that’s easily reached.  

In this bag I have a tub and soap to wash bottles, pack of formula, baby food, spoon, highchair cover for restaurants, table cover for restaurants, diapers, big pack of wipes, blanket, and a few more toys.  This bag usually goes behind the driver’s seat so the passenger can still reach it.

Baby Boy is usually pretty good in the car, but we’ve learned that it’s important to keep a seat open next time him just in case.  In a past trip we were headed to Springfield, which is about 3 hours away.  We were almost half-way when Baby Boy woke up starving.  He is so much like his Momma when he’s hungry.  There is no appeasing him until there is a bottle or food in his mouth.  J had to pull over along the side of the highway and I had to hop in the back.  Since I had his diaper bag ready to go with filled bottles that boy was happy within seconds and this Momma wasn’t shaken by the screams coming from our little man.  

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Keep a handful of small toys close.  When Baby Boy is bigger then obviously the toys will change, but for now we try to keep a few chew toys and ones that light up in the car.  I also tend to bring a few because sometimes he gets excited and will launch a toy across the car out of arm’s reach.  I started keeping a basket in the backseat that is filled with a few toys – light up ones, rattles, plush toys, and so on.  The basket keeps the toys together and gives them a place so the car doesn’t look a bit junky.

Bring a bath towel with you.  A towel works great if you have to use the backseat as an impromptu changing station or if you pull over at a not-so-nice looking gas station.  We’ve also had to use the towel one time I spilled a completely filled bottle all over the backseat.  Babies aren’t the only ones that make messes! Also, those towels work great on cleaning your car’s ceiling from baby food that gets squirted everywhere (see above for story).

Keep empty plastic bags or grocery sacks in the car.  I hate messes, especially in confined areas.  Nothing feels worse than having stuff everywhere.  So I try to keep things organized as best as possible. Typically I have an empty grocery bag we use for trash, one for dirty bottles and another for any spoiled clothes.  That way we can keep everything together and off the floor.  

Traveling with dogs is a lot easier.  We drive a bigger SUV so we put the dogs in the very back.  Years ago I was given or found (not sure which) a giant dog bed.  It actually fits perfectly in the back of the car.  Now we can put the pillow in the back and all three dogs are able to lay down and be comfortable.  

If we’re going long distance then we use the seat behind the driver for our suitcase and put the dogs’ food and bowls in the back with them.  That way they still have plenty of room to lay down and we still have an open seat in case one of us needs to be closer to our little guy.

If you’re planning on a road trip to a beach, checkout my beach tips post for all the great things to take with you!

What do you do on road trips with a baby?  Leave a comment letting me know, I love to learn more tricks!

 

Getting Your Toddler to Eat Fruit {Without Throwing a Fit}

I don’t know about your little one, but if they are anything like mine you have to be sneaky. I know my guy just turned one and some foods are still a little strange to him.

For instance… most fruits. He doesn’t care for the texture. But I can’t really blame him because I am the exact same way!

The texture of some fruits just throw me off. I like the flavor just fine, but the texture is a whole other story. I’ve been trying hard to get over my weird issue so that I don’t pass it on to my son.

But I’m not being successful. I’ve even eaten the fruit trying to show him it’s good.

For instance.. strawberries. I know it has to be a weird fruit to enjoy because I do not. I have tried it at least once a year since I was a little girl and I still can’t get over the way it feels.

The other day our boy was fighting me on eating strawberries. I cut them up into small pieces, mixed them with fruit and still nothing. He would literally pull the strawberry piece out of his mouth and drop it to the floor… while looking directly at me and laughing.

You can’t make me eat this, Mom!

I resorted to a new tactic. Nothing super scientific or even that clever, but at 7am one morning I was pretty proud of myself.  Here’s how I’m getting my toddler to eat fruit:

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I took the strawberry chunks, put it in my magic bullet with a little bit of milk and pureed them. Not super fine, still some chunks. Then I mixed it with his oatmeal.

Do you know what?

He loved it! He ate the whole bowl!

So the next morning, I added more strawberries and he gobbled that up too!

I knew I was on to something.

Every morning I’ve been taking his fruit and pureeing it a bit less. I’m trying to get him use to the texture of strawberries, blueberries, mangos and melons. If I make them too big, he’s sure to tell me with that direct stare as he feeds it to the dogs, but we’re working on it.

I thought it was pretty ingenious to blend them together with a little milk or water and each week just blend a little less. I’m hoping eventually he’ll like eating them just chopped into smaller pieces over pureed, but at least he’s eating fruit!

What’s one way you have gotten your little ones to eat healthier foods? I’ve been trying to get him more on table foods, but he’s not that interested in all of them yet.