Secrets and Confessions: Our Family Adventure to Disney World

I last visited Disney World 17 years ago on spring break from my second year of college.  So you can imagine how different it was when my husband and I flew to Orlando for a 48-hour visit this past May with our three-year old and four-year old.  Disney always brings the magic, there is no denying that.  But it’s a whole new ball game when you bring your young ones to experience the magic with you for the first time.

So here are some secrets we have to spill, and some confessions from our trip – things that I was surprised by, things that might surprise you, things that would surprise everyone . . . but at the end of the day, Disney is amazing.  It is always amazing.  On that note, when can we go back?

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Logan and the Plutomeister

1. Disney’s FastPass+:  Completely awesome and great for families.  Gone are the days when you have to wait in line for 45 minutes for your favorite ride.  With the advent of Disney FastPass+,  each ticketed family member can choose up to three rides per day at one park to “FastPass+.”  Fastpassing a ride allows you to to get in an expedited line for the ride of your choice at a designated time of day and, in our experience, wait no more than 15 minutes.  This changes the game completely with little kids!  No patience for lines?  No problem.  Got places to be (like a melting-down toddler who needs a bed)?  You’re in luck (more than you would be otherwise, anyway).  By taking advantage of Disney’s FastPass+ system, you and your little ones can get to the rides of your your choice, experience them without the long wait time, and be on your way.  A few tips on how to use the FastPass+ system:

  • Book your FastPass+ reservations as far in advance as you are allowed, which is up to 60 days in advance of your check-in if you are staying at a Disney Resort and up to 30 days in advance of your visit if you are staying at a non-Disney property.
  • Do you research ahead of time.  Did you know that Peter Pan’s Flight has wait times that exceed 150-180 minutes during peak season?  Yes, that is ridiculous.  Completely ridiculous.  If your kids are Peter Pan fans, then you better be FastPassing+ that one.  Also immensely popular rides that tend to have long lines?  Big Thunder, Splash Mountain and Space Mountain.  Good ones to FastPass+.  And what’s that?  You want to meet Elsa and Anna?  Well, stay at a Disney Resort and FastPass+ that sh*t right now.  Because there is no getting in to see Anna and Elsa unless you reserve a FastPass+ at 12:01am on the night you are 60 days away from check-in.  That is one hot ticket, my friend.  This list of ride wait times might come in handy when you are working out which rides to Fastpass+.  It seems accurate based on our visit, however I would say that you should definitely also Fastpass+ the Seven Dwarves Mine Train if that interests you.  Wait times always exceeded 90 minutes during our visit and no FastPasses+ were available at the time of our visit (they had all been pre-booked).
  • Showing up at your FastPass+ ride and realize the regular line is just as short as the FastPass+ line?  Take a minute to open the My Disney Experience app (more on this below) on your phone and change your FastPass+ selection to another ride for a later time.  Hop in the regular line of the ride you had originally chosen to FastPass+.  FastPass+ selections are precious; you don’t want to waste them.
  • Used all of your pre-booked FastPass+ activities for the day?  Use one of the FastPass+ kiosks in the park to create a new FastPass+ selection (yes, you can obtain more FastPass+ selections after your original three have expired; it just requires you to do so via the kiosks in the park – an awesome bit of information that many other park-goers will know nothing about).
  • Do you know how good it feels to pass people waiting in long lines for old favorites like Thunder Mountain, The Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, It’s a Small World, etc?  So good.  Did I feel guilty for using our FastPass+ activities the way they were intended to be used?  Not at all.  So get on it people, study the FastPass+ system, learn it, and use it!  It makes the Disney experience all that more enjoyable with kids.

2.  Magic bands = the coolest things ever.   It’s so true.  Disney never disappoints.  In fact, they go above and beyond in nearly every respect.  This includes sending you (and each person traveling with you) personalized, color-coded “magic bands”  in the mail before your trip if you’ve made reservations to stay at a Disney resort.  How do magic bands enhance your experience?  Besides just being cool and encouraging excitement about your trip to Disney in advance, you can use them to unlock your hotel room, pay for food, drinks, gifts, and other items in the parks and at your resort, and check-in at your FastPass+ attractions.    Our kids loved the independence of being able to enter our room on their own. Similarly, they enjoyed matching the Mickey ears on the band to the Mickey ears at the FastPass+ ride entrances to get in line.  Wearing and using their bands made them feel in charge of their experience.

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Can you spot our magic bands?

3.  A 48-hour trip to Disney with two kids under the age of 5 = complete hangover.  I know I’m getting older, and I’m okay with that.  But when I tell you I felt like I had a hangover  after two nights and three days of Disney, I’m not kidding.  I think our bed times over the three days averaged to nearly 11pm.  We ran on adrenaline during our time in the park, but when we got back?  Pure exhaustion!  My ability to stay up late and function normally the following day is not what it used to be!

4. I rode Dumbo five times.  Five times, ya’ll, five times.  Let’s just say that my three year old was OBSESSED with the ride and her ability to single-handedly control the flying elephant.  I am a good mom, I really am.  Why?  Because while I was riding Dumbo (five times) my husband and my son were on Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain – two of my absolute favorites!  And did I get to ride them this time?  No.  But guess what, I got to ride Dumbo five times.  I’m not bitter — at all.

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Dumbo enthusiast

5. I have never suffered from whiplash so bad as when my three-year old drove at the Tomorrowland Speedway.  It was brutal.  So if you’re reading this and you’re smart, you’ll send your three-year old on the speedway with your significant other.

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The second time on the Speedway my husband got the whiplash treatment!

6. Breakfast in bed still rocks. Our three year old turned three our second day at Disney.  We promised her breakfast in bed.  When the kids woke up, they placed a very excited call to room service, ordered up breakfast, and fifteen minutes later – voila!  Mickey Mouse waffles with syrup and whip cream in bed in their pjs.  It really doesn’t get much better than that.

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Mickey Mouse waffles and chocolate milk for breakfast – these guys are in heaven!

7. On that note, you can’t go wrong by staying at a Disney Resort.  You can’t get Mickey Mouse waffles at a non-Disney property.  Nor can you ride the monorail or boat to the Magic Kingdom (or other parks) from a non-Disney property.  And you definitely won’t be spotting any characters or indulging in character breakfasts at non-Disney properties.  So, while prices are high, staying at a Disney resort is worth it when you have little kids.  We stayed at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.  It was perfect.  We didn’t have (nor did we need) a rental car for the weekend (we took Disney’s Magical Express bus from the airport to/from the resort). Staying at the resort allowed the kids to live the Disney experience the whole weekend.  And they loved it.  Food at the resort was top-notch and the pools were tons of fun.

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Boating into the Magic Kingdom . . . it doesn’t get any better than that!

8. They weren’t kidding when they said to book dining far in advance.  So here’s the thing:  everything I read on Disney’s sites (and second-hand sights offering tips for Disney World) suggested that you book special dining occasions (say, dinner at the nicest restaurant at your Disney resort or a character breakfast in the Magic Kingdom) far in advance.  In fact, I’ve read that breakfast with the characters can often be completely booked 180 days in advance.  That is A LOT of days in advance.  Unfortunately, we only planned our trip about 50 days in advance and I disregarded all of the online advice about dining.  In the week prior to the trip, I panicked a bit and called several restaurants in the park trying to book a character meal.  Absolutely nothing was available (at a reasonable time, at least).  The best restaurants at our hotel were also fully booked at specific times (breakfast and dinner) when we arrived.  So heed my advice:  if a character meal or a nice meal at your resort is important to you, book it as soon as you know you’re making a trip to Disney.  You can always cancel when you get closer to the date if need be.

9. All girls don’t want to be (or meet) princesses.  My three-year old loves to watch the movie Cinderella.  She also sings the Frozen soundtrack in the car daily.  But that is where her love of princesses stops (at least for now).  She doesn’t want to dress up like one, she doesn’t like to pretend she’s one, and she really couldn’t care less about Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, or the myriad of other Disney princesses out there.  Since the Elsa and Anna meet and greet is such a hot ticket, I couldn’t get a FastPass+ when I tried (about 40 days out).  What I was able to get was a Cinderella meet and greet FastPass+.  My husband and I had the perfect plan to split forces and he would take our son on roller coasters while I took our daughter to meet Cinderella.  But that never happened – because our daughter never had one iota of interest in meeting Cinderella — or any other princesses in the place, for that matter.  She nearly threw a fit when I told her we were going to meet Cinderella (and not the good kind).  After asking her three times if she was absolutely sure about forgoing the experience, I switched our FastPass+ to Dumbo.  And guess what?  We ended up riding it five times (see number 4).

10. Stroller rental prices are outrageous!  But I guess this is Disney World after all, land of the over-priced lemonade and Mickey Mouse ear balloons.  We paid $31/day for a double stroller.  It was functional, but certainly did not look that comfortable.  If we had done our homework, we could have rented a much better stroller (City Mini or BOB) for a much lower price from an outside party that delivers to the park.  So if you’re looking for options, check out this site – Military Disney Tips – to get some ideas.

11.  Unexpected favorite (new) rides:  Buzz Light Year Shoot and Spin, Astro Orbiter, and The Magic Carpets of Aladdin (with the spitting camels being a bonus) – all super-fun with kids and ones that were new to me.  Of course, all of my old favorites like Pirates, Thunder Mountain, It’s a Small World, etc. still stand — but these were great new additions!

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Astro Orbiter – old school, but so much fun!

12.  My Disney Experience site and app:  Visit the My Disney experience website to plan your visit.  Using the site (and/or the associated mobile app), you can scope out the rides and entertainment schedule, make your FastPass+ selections, and book your dining.  Make sure that you’ve downloaded the app to your phone so that you access your itinerary, view a map of the park (which features ride wait times that seem to be generally accurate), and switch up your FastPass+ selections when you’re in the park.  Using the app while you’re on the go will help you make the most of your visit.

13.  Early May is a sweet time to go.  We avoided the big crowds and although it was in hot, we did not totally melt.

14.  A special shout-out to Disney Parks Moms Panel, which is a fantastic resource and seems to have the answer to almost any question you could ever conceive of about a visit to Disney.

15. No, we did not avoid the meltdown.  

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Nap time!

Now Go!  And enjoy!

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Set a Healthy Example For Your Kids, And They Will Follow

If I’ve learned anything over the past few months, it is this:  if you set an example by eating healthy, exercising, and taking care of yourself, your children will take notice and endeavor to do the same.

Let me rewind a bit.

Fitness

Eight months ago, I decided it was time to lose the post-baby weight.  I began running because it’s something that I’ve always enjoyed, it challenges me, and I am fortunate enough to have a BOB double jogger, so I can do it with two of three kids in tow.  Ivy was born in March 2014.  I started jogging again in August 2014.  By October 2014, I finished my first 10K race.  In November, I completed a second 10K race nearly four minutes faster than my October time.  In December 2014, I enrolled in a distance training program which would prepare me for longer runs.  I followed a schedule of 3-4 runs/week, including a speed/track workout on Wednesday evenings and a long weekend run with colleagues.  Despite 20-degree weather in February 2014, I completed another 10k race, adding two miles pre-race and three miles post-race to achieve an a 11-mile “training” run.  In March 2015, I completed a 15km (9.3 mile) race in the sleet.  Two weeks later, I finished the New York City Half Marathon in 2 hours and 4 minutes.  This was my second half-marathon and I finished it in six minutes less than my first half marathon that was in Sydney, Australia nearly nine years ago, pre-kids (who said motherhood didn’t make mothers faster and fitter)?  This month, I completed the Washington, D.C. Cherry Blossom 10-miler.  And now, I’m working on my spring/summer running schedule, hoping to complete another half and a handful of 5ks and 10ks before our move to Krakow, Poland in August.

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Beautiful day for a 10-miler. Added bonus: the cherry blossoms were out!

Ramping back up to a level of conditioning and endurance I’ve only mastered once previously has required dedication and time.  My kids watch as I lace up my shoes. They are thrilled each time I bring them post-race goodies.  They vie for spots in the double jogger.  I love that my routine to get back in shape has introduced the concept of running to them – that they understand it, they see that it is healthy, and that they want to do it with me.  Now that the winter weather is behind us, I’d like to do a 1km fun run with my four-year old, so that he can experience the same exhilaration I do when crossing a finish line.

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Ran the March 2015 NYC Half six minutes faster than my first half nine years ago, pre-kids

Food

Regaining my fitness after each pregnancy has been a bear, but I’ve always been motivated to do it because I enjoy working out.  The area where I require more of a push is nutrition.  And it’s taken 36 years, but I think I’ve finally started to figure it out.

Over the past month, I’ve joined one of my friends, who is also a fitness instructor and nutrition coach, in a clean eating challenge.  She provided us with clean eating recipes and suggestions, nutrition tips, and fitness challenges — as well as daily motivation and a system for accountability.  We took pictures of every meal and our workout and posted it to a private Facebook group describing what we ate and the 30+ minutes of exercise we did daily for 21 days.

This challenge changed my life (thank you Sarah Mann)!  The accountability factor really made me watch what I was eating.  Knowing that I would have to share with others what I had eaten at every meal made me put more thought into grocery shopping.  With the right groceries at hand, I was able to prep on Sundays for a whole week of healthy eating.  I figured out a system for myself that worked.  Shop Sundays, food prep Sundays, make it through to Wednesday before buying fresh fruit and vegetables again, and then finish out the week.  All you have to do is put effort into planning.  Plan ahead to assure you have the right type of food in your home; prep to make sure that food is washed and ready-to-go when you need to grab something in a flash (or make four lunches in record time when little ones — and mom — are hungry after a morning out at the playground).

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Accountability: breakfast, lunch, dinner and a post-run selfie

My breakfasts have become immeasurably healthier – nonfat greek yogurt with berries and agave, scrambled eggs with sauteed asparagus, mushrooms, and onions, quinoa and steel cut oats with banana, pumpkin pancakes (yum)!  Seriously.  I feel so much better about eating real food than stumbling out of bed at 5:30am with my one-year old and pouring a bowl of milk and cereal . . . because I hadn’t planned ahead of time.  My lunches have almost always become a salad with an added punch of protein, plus left over vegetables from the night before.  Think spinach salad with grilled chicken, avocado, and strawberries with a sweet potato on the side.  And dinner has become a lean meat – chicken, salmon, tilapia, lean beef – with plenty of colorful vegetables. When I feel a need for something sweet I indulge in a few squares of dark chocolate.  Snacks have also become much healthier – bell pepper strips with hummus, apple slices with almond butter, almonds and cashews, a protein bar.  Gone are the days of snacking on crackers and granola bars.  And to top it all off, I have been drinking a lot of water.  I start first thing in the morning before breakfast and continue through the day until after the kids are asleep.  I notice I’ve been much better about it since I bought a 32-ounce water bottle.

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Account for your choices by sharing them with friends

So how has my healthier eating influenced the kids?  For starters, they insist on eating greek yogurt with berries and agave with me instead of having the usual toast with jam or bowl of cereal.  They are enamored with agave – that it could taste as good as honey and that it is, in fact, healthier for you.  They have been introduced to quinoa and love it.  Every time I drink from my water bottle, they ask for water of their own.  They ask me questions about what is healthy and what is not.  Our outings are planned around healthier snacks – instead of chocolate-covered granola bars we have moved to nut and dried fruit mixes (thank you Trader Joes), Larabars, Chobani kids greek yogurt, and organic apple slices (thank you Costco).  Taking the time to prepare healthier meals for myself benefits the whole family.  When I make myself a salad for lunch, I make a second one for my husband.  When I prepare hard boiled eggs, bake sweet potatoes, and cut up vegetables, I make enough for the whole family.  If I eat healthy, they eat healthy (because you know I’m not fixing four other meals at each meal to cater to different tastes)!  It’s pretty simple.

I should caveat this by saying that my goal is to eat clean 80 percent of the time, which of course, leaves me the freedom to indulge as I please 20 percent of the time.  I think that is what makes the clean eating doable for me.  It is a lifestyle change which allows for some flexibility during the week, not a strict fad diet that I’m bound to give up on after two days.

I’m in love with our new healthy lifestyle.  I want it to stick.  And I want my kids to grow up happy, active, and healthy.  So here is what I’ve committed to – a new instagram account (@coveredground) that showcases my dedication to fitness, eating clean, and teaching healthy habits to my children.  It will appear in the sidebar of my blog, but you can follow us on this journey directly through instagram as well.  Through @coveredground, I hope not only to keep myself accountable, but to inspire others to find their passion for fitness and nutrition as well.

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Yesterday’s 3-mile jog to the library and back with the BOB doublejogger, 65 lbs of child, books, snacks, water, you name it!

Oh yeah – and I forgot to mention.  The running + the healthy eating over the past few weeks = pre-pregnancy weight.  Bam!

The Not-So-Delicate Art of Avoiding the Minivan

It was definitely not the first, but probably not the last thing I expected my husband to do when I told him we were expecting our third – begin immediate research into upgrading our car, with a particular emphasis on avoiding the minivan.

For weeks – 36, to be exact – we ran through our alternatives. I would receive emails that said, “If we do eventually break down and end up in a minivan, the [insert minivan make and model here] doesn’t look too terrible for what it is . . . “, followed by, “How about a 1976 Porsche 928 for me and 17 Subaru Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporters for you and the kids?” We joked about buying a used super-sedan with a V-10 engine, a mini-minivan (could we get away with calling it a three-row wagon instead of a mini-minivan?), or a wagon with serious horsepower. But did we joke?

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Katelyn admiring one of her favorite cars that lived on our street in Bangkok

I knew when I married my husband that I was marrying a man who came from a long line of car enthusiasts. He was born and bred to love fast, powerful automobiles. One of our first dates was to the Detroit Auto Show. The Detroit Auto Show. Pre-kids, we hosted Top Gear viewing parties. With kids, we frequented auto shows (which, by the way, are an excellent form of entertainment for little ones). Logan was able to name almost every make and model of car by the age of two and a half. Katelyn was close behind. Shameful, I know. Thus, the thought of moving to a power-starved, ghastly unattractive minivan with an abhorrent turning radius nearly physically sickened my husband. Him and me both. The truth is, I am a bit of a car snob myself. I wouldn’t be caught dead in a minivan.

Minivans are family-friendly, sure. Dual-sliding doors, space, captains chairs, reverse-sensing systems, yada yada yada. Plenty of our friends have them. Plenty of our family members have them. So, what does it say about us that we tried so hard to avoid – what is for so many – the inevitable switch to a minivan? Are we just too vain to go the minivan route? Or are we steadfast in our convictions to stick with what we prefer rather than let our family size dictate our automotive choices? Too stubborn to succumb to the pressure of practicality? Or too youthful to drive around a box on wheels? I’m pretty sure all of those explanations describe us.

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Who doesn’t want a Toyota with a giant unicorn on top? At the Washington, D.C. auto show with Uncle Peter and Aunt Katie

So, what did we do in the end? Dual sliding doors be damned. We opted for a sport wagon. The kids are a bit cramped, but they’ve gotten over it.  And guess what the second most popular request, after listening to the Frozen soundtrack ad nauseam, is in our car? “Mommy/Daddy, can you put the car in sport mode?” Now tell me, minivan drivers, do you have a sport mode?

Cultivating a Love of Reading

If there is one thing you can find in nearly every room in our house, it’s a book.  Living room – books.  Bedrooms – books.  Basement – books.  Sun Room – books.  Bathroom – books.  The laundry room is about the only room in the house that doesn’t have reading material of some kind or another.

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We’ve always been really committed to reading to our children.  Most days, we read to them multiple times.  Some nights, we devote an hour to reading to them before bed time.  We read everything from The Adventures of Tintin series to Where’s Spot.  Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, Richard Scarry, Mo Willems, and Julia Donaldson are our signature go-to authors. We always stock the car with books.  We potty train with books — meaning, we put them on the potty with a book — (it makes the success rate so much higher)!  We make sure that their bedroom only has stuffed animals and books.  We go to the library at least once a week.  And we try and hit up every story time (whether it be at one of the nature centers, Smithsonians, or local libraries) that we can.

Our devotion to providing such access to literature has really cultivated a love of reading in our nearly five-year old son, Logan.  He loves to be read to and will stop virtually anything that he is doing to listen to a story.  He is also beginning to read on his own, which, is such an exciting thing to watch as a parent.  Our nearly three-year old daughter, Katelyn, on the other hand, hasn’t been as enthusiastic of a reader – or so we thought.  She seems to rarely pay attention when we read (unless the book is moderately Frozen-related), and when she does take interest, it’s usually only for a few pages.  While we read, she often busies herself with her doctor’s kit or other toys.  Sometimes she’ll pick up a book or two and begin reading her own rendition of the story, which is fun to watch.  Other times, she’ll pick out a book for us to read to her, but she rarely stays around to listen to the whole story – or even more than a few pages.  My husband and I have always been puzzled by why Kate hasn’t quite developed the love of reading Logan has, but we realize that children are individuals and their interests will differ.

And then, after we had put everyone to bed the other night, I heard a little voice reading in the hallway.  It wasn’t Logan – he was fast asleep.  Instead, it was Katelyn, who had snuck out of her room (which she shares with Logan) with one of his books, nonetheless.  Not wanting to ruin the moment, I stayed at the bottom of the stairway and recorded her precious voice reading The Magic Treehouse – Tigers at Twilight.  It was her rendition of the story, of course, but it amazed me how on par her reading of the book was with what we usually read in The Magic Treehouse series (“Jack pulled out his notebook,” etc.)  It made me realize that all this time we thought Katelyn was busy doing other things, she was listening, and processing.  I was so encouraged by this.  Her love of reading might not be as obvious as Logan’s at first glance, but it exists.  She does pay attention.  She is interested.  And, as we’ve recently discovered, she’s a pretty rad storyteller.  Reading to our children is paying off.

So if you’re in a similar place with your child, don’t give up.  Even if they seem not to be paying any attention at all, their little mind is absorbing the stories and taking note of your actions and commitment to reading.  Reading is a gift at every age.  Continue to cultivate their love of reading, and hopefully one day they will thank you for it.

Here are some tips and tricks that we’ve used to allow literature to permeate our daily routine:

1. Library, library, library.  Get a library card and hit up your local libraries to check out new books weekly.  Mix it up by visiting different libraries from time to time.  Let the kids do the check-out scanning and book return – it makes the whole process so much more fun and interactive.  Hang the library story time schedule on your fridge.  Library story times usually feature more than just reading — often, librarians incorporate songs, rhymes, and educational games to teach letters, colors and/or numbers each week.

2. Put books in every room of the house.  Easy access to books = more frequent reading.

3. Instead of outfitting your car with entertainment systems or iPads, stock it with books.  In the absence of any other form of entertainment, books will hold their attention – and what a great thing that is!

4. If they are learning to use the potty, give them a book.  Not only will it relax them and perhaps (and almost always in our case) allow them to do their business, they’ll be reading.

5. Make the bedroom a read and sleep-only zone. We just started this about eight months ago and it has been awesome to see the kids reaching for books first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

6. Find story times near you.  The library isn’t the only jam for story time.  Book stores have weekly story times, nature centres hold story times, playseums hold story times, museums (even some of the Smithsonians in Washington, D.C.) hold story times.  So seek them out!  There are so many fun venues where you can hear stories.  For all of you shopping moms out there, even Pottery Barn hosts story times!

7. Listen to books on CD.  Kids love this!  They can follow along in the book as the CD plays.  Meanwhile, mom or dad can clean the kitchen and maybe even get a load of laundry in!  Books on CD are also great for the car.

8. Opt for books instead of toys when recommending gifts.  Birthdays, Christmas, Easter — whenever your relatives or friends ask what they can get for your child, recommend they get a book.  This helps build your collection.  If you are throwing a baby shower for a friend, a great way to start their child’s collection is to ask everyone who comes to bring a book (in lieu of a card) for the baby.

There are so many great ways to encourage your child to read.  If you have suggestions, please share with all by leaving a comment.

And with that, I leave you with this sweet video of Katelyn’s late-night reading:

Traveling With Young Kids: The Skinny

So we all know that this traveling with young kids thing is not easy.  Any sage advice for how to make it more bearable (dare I say, enjoyable?) is key.  Therefore, I present to you some of our travel tips — all born out of experience.  Some things we learned the hard way; some we got lucky on, but the important thing is that we have learned what works for us (mostly).

1. As you plan your trip, search the web for parenting blogs in your destination city.  They contain fantastic jewels of information about fun things to do with kids locally.

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We learned about this awesome science museum in Perth through the blogosophere

2. Traveling – in and of itself – can be unpredictable, so learn to go with the flow. Pack light. When you have to tote around toddlers, babies and all of their accessories, that extra suitcase of snorkel gear and flip flops no longer seems so important.

3. Do not leave home without a baby carrier or an umbrella stroller.

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Logan backpacking it through the streets of Phnom Penh

4. Do you have a long flight ahead of you with young kids? Book a night flight. Carry PJs and toothbrushes on board. Continue with the same night time routine you have at home. If the children refuse to sleep on the flight, resort to bribery to keep them calm. Allowing them free reign of the kids movies (make sure to buy them kid-sized headphones before the flight) and/or a bag full of M&Ms seems to do the trick.

5. Fly reputable international air carriers, not American ones (sorry America).

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A picture is worth a thousand words

6. Always, always request early check-in and late check-out at your accommodation.

7. Speaking of accommodations, if you have a large family that will require at least two hotel rooms, have you considered booking a rental home on VRBO, Airbnb, or other similar sites instead?  If not, you should.  More space for less money.  Also, more awesome spaces for less money.

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We scored this amazing place on a VRBO-like Australian site.

8. Pre-arrange transportation at your destination.  Trust me, you do not want to be waiting in a long rental car, taxi or bus line after a lengthy flight.  Along these lines, become a [insert rental car company name here] preferred member – it saves so much time, especially at destinations like LAX.

9. If you’re renting a car at your final destination, rent car seats as well.  This is SO MUCH EASIER than lugging car seats through the airport.  Most rental car companies offer this service.

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We rented this Holden wagon — with car seats installed — for our western Australia road trip.

10. And last, but definitely not least, bring a grandparent (or two).  That way, maybe — just maybe — you can get a couple of hours or relaxation in.

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Monkeys! AKA my traveling companions.

If you have things that have worked for you, by all means, please share them in the comments below!