Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Travelling With Kids

Ok I will admit it, traveling with kids is not easy, if you were 6 & 4 would you like hours and hours in the car to get to places and along the way visit stuff that didn't consist of Lego - no, me neither and neither did my two girls some of the time, but I do have to say that most of the time they were good and took the long distances and hours in the car well.

I did go prepared though, ensuring the girls had plenty to do in the car, the most used thing being the white boards we bought for a $1 each from the dollar shop - the girls played tic tac toe, made up menu's and drew on them for hours on end. The other big hit was a clipboard and plain paper - for drawing writing etc and I spy I cannot tell you how many games of I-Spy we played Tilly absolutely loves this game.

My Top Ten Tips for traveling with small kids is......

1) Be prepared - pack toys, games, pens, pencils, paper, your kids favorite things,  make a music CD - our girls love pop music (Taylor Swift etc) and audio books are fab too - makes life in the car easy

2) Stop regularly - 6 hours in the car is a long time for any kid - we can comprehend it, we know we need to spend this time in the car to get to where we are going, but a child who has no time concept does not understand this, therefore breaking it up with the odd coffee/ice cream/park/look around/visit stop is well worth it and breaks the journey up for the kiddlums.

3) Book hotels that offer free breakfasts and if your kids love swimming like ours do - book one with a pool. We found after traveling there was nothing better to the girls than jumping in a pool, and on a morning going for breakfast was a big hit, it was over and done with before we hit the road and we didn't need to worry about looking for places for breakfast.

4) Have a good mixture of kid friendly activities planned as well as enjoying the things you want too see, 6 & 4 year old do not like to be dragged around museums/places that hold no interest to them, mix it up with museums and places that are kid friendly or have kid sections to it for them to play and explore - it's a win win

5) Go exploring - get off the beaten track and explore, take a small short hike around a lake and look for animal tracks, climb rocks, have an unplanned dip in the sea or lake.

6) Pack light - all hotels have washing machines, I followed this great tip I found on pinterest, I packed a set of clothes for each girl into one bag per day, the girls even helped out with what outfits they would like to wear, it was that easy everything for the day for both girls, including underwear was packed into each bag and I took 10 bags with me, 8 of clothes, 1 for pj's and 1 for spares.

7) Pocket Money/Postcards - When we stopped at a place of interest we allowed the girls to pick a postcard to remind them of their holiday and where they went - we planned (as we have not done it yet) to put these in a journal. We also had fun writing and sending some to friends many miles away in Australia and the UK. Or give your kids a $1 a day and let them spend on a little souvenir or fun thing.

8) Relax - remember to take time out and relax, it is so easy to just keep going, and trying to fit everything in, we knew we had a lot of driving to do, and lots of places we wanted to see and explore, but 2 of the best mornings we had, were when we chilled out in the pool for a few hours of fun, rest and relaxation.

9) Keep a towel and baby wipes handy in the car, no matter what age your kids are, baby wipes are essential, what road trip isn't a road trip without a kid in a car seat being sick everywhere - yes it usually happens to us every time with Tilly.

10) Remember your essentials - pack a torch, makes finding things in the car easier when dark, a small first aid kit, trash can/rubbish bin (I use a plastic cereal container with a plastic bag in it - stops smells), toilet roll - well you never know, kitchen roll. We also packed some cutlery including a small sharp knife, a corkscrew, chopping board, and some plates and bowls - useful when you are buying your own food and not relying on takeout all the time.

And that is my top 10 travel tips for a long Road Trip - they made our lives easy, the road trip fun and of course we plan to do it all over again next year.

Monday, 2 September 2013

The End of Summer

Today is Labor Day here in the US, and for us living in Chicago it officially marks the end of the Summer Season which started back in May on Memorial Day (May 27th).

The end of the summer season means the beaches, although open, do not have lifeguards on duty regardless of the weather.

The twice weekly summer fireworks at Navy Pier cease, the tourist season starts to slow down and lots places start closing until next summer - water parks etc.

For us it means school has started again - Ruby has just had her first week back at school as a first grader and she enjoyed her first week back, making new friends and playing with old ones, and she really really likes her new teacher - bonus.

So to celebrate the end of the summer season, with the glorious temperatures of 30c plus, yesterday, the girls and I went to a water park (as they close today too). 

The water park was so much fun, the girls and I had lots of fun, there was a great play area for the kids, with tunnel slides and a big bucket that dumped water onto anyone who was underneath it, there was also a cute splash area for all, but the really little ones loved it, as did my two until Ruby slipped and grazed her knee. Along with the walk in pool there was also another big water slide area, consisting of three tunnel slides, with one you went down on big yellow rubber rings, we all went on the big rubber rings it was so much fun.

We intended to only go for a couple of hours but 5 hours later, hungry and tired we dragged ourselves away, home for pizza and a movie.

Our other big event last week was Mr C's Birthday, we celebrated early on the eve of his birthday with dinner at Mr C's favourite restaurant Spacca Napoli, always a great meal there.

On the morning of his birthday we celebrated with presents and cards, proper English bacon butties for breakfast, coffee out, a game of adventure/crazy golf and of course birthday cake.

Ruby made Mr C a great present - Star Wars inspired, she made it all by herself, with a little help from me ironing the beads and assembling it in the photo frame. I think she did a great job.

 The birthday cake was made by moi and lovingly decorated by the girls - it was delicious too.

And now I am gearing myself up for Tilly starting her pre-k year at preschool on tomorrow. She is doing 4 mornings a week, even though she turns 5 less than a month after preschool starts, as it is after the 1st September she can't start school until next year (here in Illinois, children have to be 5 on or before the 1st September to start school) - bonus is she'll be one of the eldest in her year which I'm pleased with.

I am going to miss having my little friend and helper around, but on the other hand I am looking forward to having some kid free time too.