Tuesday, September 24, 2013

As Quickly as it came, its over!

We are back, and I'm back at work.

It was a great vacation!  And in the comming days you'll get to see pictures, and learn from our experience.

I have a lot to share!!  Both good and bad!  And once I get caught up here at work, I'll get started on it!!


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Last Minute Thoughts, or "I'm leaving on a Jet Plane"

This is what my phone says right now!  2 Days Left!

Just over 9 hours from now, N, B and I will be boarding a plane headed for Orlando!  I am BEYOND excited!

All the bags are packed, all the arrangements have been made, and everything is set.  At this point, what we've forgotten, we've forgotten!

There is not really much more to say.  I've gone over details, I've reviewed gear, I've ranted about nay-sayers.

Whats left is to enjoy ourselves.  This time tomorrow, we will be at the Kennedy Space Center enjoying the sights.  We've got some... less-than-fun things to do as well, such as a Wal-Mart run for a few things we didn't want to stuff into the suitcase.

Dinner tomorrow night will be at Fishlips Waterfront Bar and Grill where we may get to see a cruise ship or two sail away.

A few other random thoughts last minute:

  • Disney Shows/Movies can't be purchased online and downloaded immediately in most cases.  So if your a Disney family, get the DVD/BluRay with the digital copy!  We ended up having to copy a few Mickeys and Jakes from our DVR to feed B's need for them!
  • Don't try to copy your movies/shows to your device at 9pm the night before you leave.... it takes hours to copy gigabytes of data! (don't ask how I know)
  • Double Check for Passports!
That's it... the next post will be FROM Florida!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Logistics of getting to the Cruise Ship!


How do we get there?

This is one of the more stressful parts of traveling with a toddler.  There is no getting around it, toddlers add a new level of logistics to just leaving the house, let alone traveling half way across the country to get on a boat!  But, fear not, it can be done, and it can be fun!

The Baggage!

In a Herculean feat of pre-planning and sheer force of will, we are PACKED already.  Just finished last night.  And as you can see to the left, we got all 3 of us packed into 2 Large Suitcases, 1 Rolling Carry-On, and 1 "personal item" as Allegiant would describe it.  Also pictured is the Car Seat Cart.
Packing ended up being a bit of a hassle, and I have to put the blame on Allegiant for this one.  As much as I love the price we paid for our flights, some of the restrictions have made this more difficult.
Specifically, we are limited to 40lbs per bag (and none of them free).  We initially tried to get into 1 bag and ship some stuff to the hotel, but that didn't work out, and once we had everything in the 2 bags last night, we were over 40 lbs on BOTH bags!
So, we opted to add a carry-on bag (again, not free) to take our overflow.  Allegiant only allows 1 "Personal Item" per passenger free, and a Thirty-One Cindy tote is just the right size.  So diapers/snacks/toys will go in there, and off we go!
In all honesty, I think 2 big bags, 1 rolling carry on, and a cindy tote for 3 people for an 8 day cruise is pretty awesome!!

The Plane

This is not the first time I'll talk about flying with a toddler, and it won't be the last.  We've done both the LONG drive, and the LONG flight, and we know how this works.  
Faced with the decision between a 14+ hour drive to Florida, or a 2 hour flight direct from the town we work in to Orlando, the decision was easy!
Making it happen, however, is not that simple.  There are many things to  consider, and some of them are specific to this particular flight.
The way this is going to work for us, we are going to leave work about 3 hours before the flight takes off, go get B from the sitter, find some food, and get to the airport.  
We are lucky this time to have a good friend on the flight with us, so that will make the logistics of getting on the plane easier.  My hope is that one or two of us will be able to board early and get the seat in place while B and the 3rd adult wait till the last minute to get on the plane.
Our flight leaves ~6pm and arrives in Florida ~9pm.  This doesn't bode well for a little man who gets hungry around 6:30 local time.  So, he will have to eat early, and we will HAVE to have snacks on the plane.  We are planning to bring:
  • Applesauce Packets
  • Cheese/Peanut Butter Crackers
  • Goldfish
  • Cheerios
Since B is over 2, he gets his own seat (did before he was 2 as well), and that means a car seat.  Our Britax Marathon is coming, along with the Britax Travel Cart.  I am a little apprehensive about the cart on this trip, specifically because Allegiant charges for carry-ons.. I hope they will not consider the cart one when we take the seat off in the cabin.  I will report back for sure!
And the final logistical part of flying with B, or any toddler, is keeping the little one entertained.  A quick rundown of our plan is to distract him with:
  • Movies on the iPad
  • WRAPPED small toys
  • Books
That SHOULD get us through the 2 hour flight easily.  Though, its going to be landing right around normal bed time, so I hope we don't get tired/cranky B!

The Car

I don't have any snazzy picture to go with this section, oh well.  But once we get to Florida, we are gonna need a car.  We are renting from Avis for our pre-cruise stay.  Since we are traveling with friends, we recently upgraded to a minivan for the 4 adults and B to ride in.  As well, we will be driving from Sanford to Orlando International to pick up our 5th person once we arrive.  All staying at the same hotel.
There is not much to say, other than this warning from past experience:

Always check your car seat fit BEFORE leaving the car rental place or accepting the car.

We made this mistake in Hawaii, and it cost us a few hours of time the next morning to sort it out!

The Hotel

Both pre-and-post cruise, we are staying at the Courtyard Marriott in Cocoa Beach.  We've stayed at many a Marriott property, and many of those have been Courtyards.
A word of appreciation to these guys, we discovered an issue with fraud on our credit card last night, and the Hotel has been very accommodating in letting us have cards mailed to them so we don't have to travel without our Capital One Venture Visa... and a HUGE thanks to Capital One for finding the fraud and getting it resolved!!

Thats really it, we leave tomorrow!!!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

You would take your children on vacation? WHY?

WARNING - This blog post may be a little controversial, but I think this side needs to be shared.  Bear in mind, this is my opinion!

Vacationing with your toddler

I mentioned this once before, but I wanted to get in depth on this one!   I am often taken aback by blog posts and comments on forums and in real life from people who think its crazy to take your young kids on vacation with you.

I think these people are the crazy ones, not me!

There are a number of repeated reasons I hear as excuses to not take your children on vacation with you, and I want to address each of them individually.

Excuse 1 - I need Alone/Adult Time

Of all the excuses, this is really the only one that has any merit.  I completely understand the need to get some alone time... this is important for a number of reasons, and I won't go into those, but to use it as an excuse to NOT vacation with your children is just that, an excuse.
You CAN vacation and still get alone time.  You just have to plan in advance.  The key with ALL of this is that your vacation with a toddler is going to be different (more on that later), and that just requires planning.

EXAMPLE - our upcoming cruise (starting saturday WOOT!).  Carnival (and other cruise lines) have programs for kids.  Activities, meals, babysitting, and more designed to keep your little one occupied while you have some Adult time in the casino, taking a nap, reading a book, or spending time with your Spouse.  Plan your vacation with these kind of amenities, and you can have the best of both worlds.

Now, N  and I have taken weekends away from our little man and left him with his Aunt or other family members, and thats ok occasionally in my opinion.  But, for us, we are missing our little man by the time we get to the hotel.

Excuse 2 - They won't remember it anyway

This excuse is the one that I find the least reasonable, and the WORST reason not to take your kids places.  I mean really, if you only did things when your kids will remember them, then you might as well stay home and sit them in front of the TV 24x7 until they are 5... they won't remember it anyway right?

The REALITY is, that even if your kids won't have specific memories of your Caribbean Cruise when they become adults , they WILL be influenced by it.  Toddler age is a VERY formative time for your kids.  They will learn what it means to travel, how to handle new and different situations, what foods they like or don't like, how to handle new routines, and much more.  By traveling with our little B, we also get to LAVISH time and love on him that he doesn't get as much in our hum-drum lives at work with only evenings and weekends to be a family.

And that doesn't even touch the fact that YOU are going to remember the vacation.  We've been traveling with B since he was 6 weeks old (his first flight), and those are memories I treasure.  And the THOUSANDS of pictures I have will make for great stories and conversations as he grows older.

You don't do things with your kids JUST to ensure they remember it, you do it to enrich their lives, to enrich yours, and to grow as a FAMILY.

Excuse 3 - Kids are a nuisance

This one usually comes from people without kids, though not always.  And the reality, if you don't have kids, and someone asks for advice about traveling with one, STAY OUT!  Your negative attitude is NOT going to make the situation better!

This one usually starts out with a comment like "Leave your kids at home so they don't ruin my vacation".  How selfish do you have to be to demand a FAMILY change their plans and desires so you don't have to see a kid at the pool on deck?  And thats what it is, its selfishness, and completely UNFOUNDED!  The reality is that the VAST majority of families travel with kids with no issues, few tantrums, and NO INTERRUPTION in others vacations.

A great example of this was our last cruise in 2007, before we had kids.  We were on the Carnival Triumph, and during the debarkation talk, the Cruise Direction said (I'm paraphrasing) "If you think the kids program did nothing for you, please understand that there were 700 children on this cruise".  There was a gasp from the crowd, as the kids were almost invisible the entire vacation, caused no disruptions, and MOST of us had no idea there were any kids at all.

When kids are given activities and structure, they get more enjoyment out of their vacation, and cause LESS trouble.  And, for those of you parents who think your KIDS are a nuisance, take this to heart.  Take your kids on vacation, AND spend time with them.  Do activities, make memories, have fun TOGETHER!  Your kids will enjoy it more, and be less of a nuisance!  YOU will enjoy it as well

Excuse 4 - I won't get to relax / drink a lot

This excuse (and number 5) are related, and are part of the fundamental flaw I think happens when people think about vacationing with their kids.  Your vacationing WITH them, they are not just along for the ride.  If you drag your kids somewhere, turn them loose and start chugging beer, trouble is going to rear its ugly head.
This is not to say you can not enjoy an adult beverage or two, nor is it saying that you can't relax.  But you have to remember that your kids are PART of your vacation.  And you ALL will have more fun if you do it together!
As well (as I mentioned earlier) if you do a little advanced planning, you can make this work even better.  Plan a vacation that has kids activities.  These can include (but are not limited to) Cruises and Resorts.  Or, if you can make it a group vacation with other families or friends, you can share the responsibility and schedule some adult time.  But, PLEASE don't drag your kids with you and then do nothing but get drunk while ignoring your kids!

Excuse 5 - I won't get to do the things I used to do on vacation

IF this is what you are thinking, you are 100% right!  However, this is NOT a bad thing.  Your vacation is going to require MORE planning, and a compromise on what you do.  You will have to select age appropriate activities, plan around naps and meals, and maybe even go to bed earlier.  But, trust me, the time you spend will be meaningful, wonderful, and will seem SHORT!

Don't be afraid to slow down as well.  Plan some neat tour or time at a museum or kids discovery center in the morning, then take a family nap after lunch!  If your near a beach, grab some beach toys and just let the kids RUN up and down the sand, and then help them build a sand castle.

With just a little for-thought you can have a GREAT vacation.  And, with the world of the internet, you have no excuse for not having the information and tools needed to plan a GREAT vacation.  As well, as your family grows and the kids get older, your vacations will begin to mature and change to meet the needs of your family.

And there it is - YOUR FAMILY

This is the crux of the entire thing.  You have kids, you have a FAMILY!  You've taken on a great responsibility, and you should embrace it!  Stop thinking in terms of vacationing as a single adult or a couple without kids.  Your kids WANT to spend time with you, and you should WANT to spend time with them.  Take a vacation as an opportunity to do just that, and experience these places and things in a whole new way!

Benefits of vacationing with your Toddler:

  1. Possibly cheaper cost
    1. Free Meals
    2. Discounted travel
    3. Family Discounts
  2. See the world through your Toddlers Eyes!
  3. Amazing Family Pictures
  4. Teach your children how to interact and learn!
  5. YOU can set your schedule
  6. AMAZING Memories for you

In conclusion

Don't let the nay-sayers talk you into leaving your kids with Grandma, take them with you!  Do a little Advanced Planning, and ENJOY the time with your family!  I know we will!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Cruisin with a Toddler - Gear Preview

Cruisin' Gear for a Toddler

As of now, we are less than a week from our big Cruise!  Lets start talking about our plans. What gear are we taking with us, and why?  We hope this will give some interesting insight if we review the items both BEFORE and AFTER the trip, to see if our impressions or experiences change.

So, without further ado, the items:

Belkin Mini Power Strip

One of the things we've experienced both traveling on Cruise Ships, and in hotels, is that we NEVER have enough places to plug in STUFF.
SO, we picked up one of these guys for this next Cruise.
Its a 3 outlet power strip that swivels so it can fit in many places.  Its also got 2 USB ports on it for charging your iPhone, iPod, iPad, Android Phone/Tablet, camera, or any other usb charged item.
As we were throwing this in the suitcase earlier this week, we started to consider how we will use this item.  We realized that we are not bringing a laptop, or alarm clock, or any of the other things we used to bring that needed plugged in.  ALMOST everything we are bringing requires USB to charge.  The only exception is our DSLR Camera, its battery charges from a plug-in charger.  So, we did throw in 2 plug in usb chargers as well.  So we can plug in the DSLR Battery charger, and the 2 usb chargers and have 5 USB ports and 1 plug... in a pretty tiny package. 
We will see how this works!
WE did test out the on-board USB ports on our iPad and my Android (galaxy s3) phone, and both charged great!!

Melaluca Sunblock

To be honest, we have used this one before, in Hawaii, and we have REALLY liked it.  I think, honestly, that we are going to spend more time in water on this trip, so I'm interested in how it holds up and protects B from the sun.
Melaluca sells a series of products that we really like.  This one is gentle, and is supposed to be hypo-allergenic and safe for kids.  The scent is also tropical without being overwhelming. 
Its not overly greasy, and rubs in quickly and does a good job!

GoPro 3 Silver Edition

This may be the item I'm MOST excited about trying on this trip.  GoPro makes "Action" cameras that are very small, full HD, and come with an amazing assortment of mounts and cases for all situations.  
Specifically on this trip, we are going to take advantage of the water-proof housing to capture lots of water moments with B, and lots of amazing marine life while snorkeling.
I've only briefly played with this camera, and it does take some getting used to, but its dead simple once you get the hang of what the buttons do.  
I've also downloaded the GoPro app for my phone  so that I can control/preview it there.
We've got a number of accessories for it, including spare and extended batteries, but most important on this trip will be:

Go Pro "Bobber" handle

This SIMPLE item does a couple of things.  
Number One, it gives you a good place to hold onto the camera.  The GoPro is quite small, and the bobber is a great place to hold it steady!
Number Two is, IT FLOATS!  Since I intend to use this while swimming and snorkeling, I thought it would be important to make sure my investment didn't sink to the bottom of the sea!

Car Seat Tray

One thing I remember from the flight to Hawaii, is that with our Britax Marathon car seat installed, the tray tables didn't really work as they could not be lowered fully.  
As well, items that CAN roll away WILL roll away at the worst times.  We saw this on another blog and are going to give it a try.
Its a strap-on car seat tray.  We hope it will give a secure place for toys or the iPad to sit, provide a little extra storage, and generally be a good thing for little B.
We will see how well it packs and carrys around!

Google Chromecast

This one I'm skeptical about, but we are going to try it!  
Now, don't think I'm skeptical about it working, because we use this guy EVERY DAY at home and it works great!  I'm skeptical about it working while traveling.

I typed the last paragraph (below) and realized, you may not know what the chromecast is!  OOPS.  This little device plugs into an HDMI port on your tv and allows you to stream content from Netflix, Pandora, Youtube, and other apps.  It uses your phone or tablet to search for or initiate the "Cast" and the plays it on the TV.  It works REALLY well!

We took a short weekend trip that involved a hotel stay at the beginning of August, and took it with.  It would not work with the Hotel Wifi due to the wifi requiring a login/confirmation page that you can't get to on the chromecast (known problem), and we were also unable to get it to work using my phone's mobile hotspot due to something called "AP Isolation".  I'm not sure if we will be able to use this or not, but its coming with just in case we can!

Friday, September 6, 2013

FINALLY! On Vacation, live from Florida! (Friday Post)

What an amazing day!  The atlantis exhibit at Kennedy Space center was amazing!
Tomorrow we sail!!!!

Photo Friday! It was a WHALE of a time!

This photo comes from the Maui.  We went on a Whale watching tour, and despite B not being interested in the Whales, he did sit and play with his Aunt and enjoyed that attention!!  WE, however, enjoyed the Whale watching very much!

What is Photo Friday? 

  • Post a travel photo on your site. It can be about any topic, as long as it is G-rated. 
  • The focus of the post should be on your photo. 
  • You don't need to be a professional photographer (I'm not), but do showcase your best work, and make it big enough to see well! 
  • It's nice to include a few sentences about the photo, but it is not required. 
  • Link back here so that your readers can see all the other great Photo Friday posts.
  • Feel free to leave a link to your Friday Photo in the comments!

My Apologies!

I wanted to take a minute to apologize for being a bit absent the last couple of weeks.  Its been EXTREMELY busy at work and home.  And add on top of that the planning and prep for leaving for the cruise is taking up more time!!

Here is my promise... You'll get a  Photo Friday post today, and then I will post EVERY DAY next week (M-F) as we hit the home stretch.  Friday's post will even be FROM FLORIDA!!

So, stick with me, and again, I apologize!