Holiday Travel on a Budget

Holiday Travel on a Budget

online safety for kids

‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,’ (as the song goes) and that means we have holiday decorating, lots of shopping, to-do’s that go on for miles, holiday menus to plan, parties, and some will be planning their holiday travel on a budget to visit their friends and loved ones. If you are one of the lucky ones who will be singing that tune called ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’ this holiday season, you might also be wondering how you can afford it.

Traveling during the holidays to visit friends, relatives and loved ones can be super expensive, and sometimes just that extra dose of stress that we don’t need during this time of year. Don’t get me wrong, I look forward to this magical season, but I also think it’s important to be prepared and plan accordingly to stick to our family budget while we have fun at the same time.

If your family will be traveling for the holidays, here are some helpful tips to make it an unforgettable holiday that you will want to ‘remember’ instead of ‘forget.’

online safety for kids
online safety for kids

1. Book Last Minute

This might sound strange, but it’s already December and a little too late to be thinking about booking your last-minute travel plans in advance. The good news is that it might be better for your wallet.  A local hotel owner or Bed & Breakfast, will be much more likely to agree to a discount if they are unlikely to sell the last bed to someone else. Or, while they may not drop the price, perhaps you can persuade them to upgrade your room or throw in a free spa experience that every mom can use this time of year. 

The same goes for booking flights, rental cars, and tickets for special attractions at your destination of choice. I know friends who have found last-minute $300 flights from NYC to Paris for the holidays, while others have been upgraded to a Mercedes convertible rental car for the same price as a minivan. Winning! So it can be done!

2. Take Advantage of Apps

Gone are the days of sorting through individual hotel or airport websites. Now, aggregator apps can do most of the work for you. Find your lodging through Hipmunk https://www.hipmunk.com/, which searches hundreds of major travel sites. Figure out your fuel coast with Gasbuddy’s trip calculator  https://www.gasbuddy.com/. And find the best airline deals and the best times to fly and buy with Hopper https://www.hopper.com/.

3. Think of Your Trip as a Gift in Itself

If you have older kids and teens, they should be able to appreciate that a family trip during the holidays costs money and can really be considered a gift in its own right. Help your kids understand the gift of travel, and allow them to plan a portion of your vacation and pick one special activity each. If possible, try to spend a day doing each child’s special outing of their choice. Another option is to gift kids souvenir money instead, (in the currency of your destination if traveling abroad) and don’t put any restrictions on how they spend it.

4. Consider Gift-Giving in a New Way:

Let’s be real.  Chances are you won’t have a lot of room in your carry-on luggage to bring gifts if you will be opting for air travel, or you may not even have enough room if traveling by car. You can always try gift-giving on the go! Simply draw a family member’s name and shop for them while you’re traveling. 

Try to focus on smaller, stocking-stuffer type gifts and gift your kids with one smaller gift each day during your trip, instead of giving all gifts on Christmas morning. Small toys, crafts, goodies, and games they’ll use during your travels, are excellent ideas.  For those celebrating Hanukkah, this ‘new’ system will feel even easier to implement. 

5. Ship Your Presents

If you can’t get around buying everyone on your list a smaller gift, then thank goodness for‘Santa’s Magic Sleigh.’ Instead of paying annoying baggage fees or renting a semi-truck to hold all of your stuff, take advantage of free shipping deals as soon as possible to send the presents to your destination. Your suitcases will be smiling, and your kids won’t be sitting on the floor of your car trying to find a place to sit for the road trip.

6. Use Gift Cards and Points

Cardpool https://www.cardpool.com/ and Raise https://www.raise.com/ are great sites for finding discounted gift cards with leftover cash on them. Buy several and use them to pay for your flight, hotel, rental car or a few restaurant meals while you’re on the road. 

7. Let Santa Know

A recent study by HomeAway has shown that 84% of families will spend the holidays together. But traveling to be with family can have its difficulties. Kids worry that Santa won’t find them, which causes unnecessary stress during a festive vacation. Check out: Message from Santa!https://apps.apple.com/us/app/a-call-from-santa/id933921849! They have solved this problem for parents. Just download the app with your iPhone and let your child leave Santa a voicemail telling him where you’ll be for the holidays and Santa will find you!. This app also comes with a lot of different cool features such as personal video messages from Santa, a phone call from Santa, and even send a text message and he’ll reply instantly! Even Santa needs to take a break once in a while from the elves.

8. Pack Snacks

We all know the minute you get everyone in the car for a road trip, someone is going to get the munchies. If you start filling up on snacks at every gas station or pit-stop, you’re going to run low on travel funds quickly.  Instead of buying those unhealthy snacks like chips, candy, and soda at convenience store prices, make sure to pack your snacks before you hit the road. Bring popcorn, pretzels, juice packs, bottled water etc., so everyone can snack healthy and be less cranky at a fraction of the price.

9. Be Flexible

The secret is out! We all know that flying or driving on Christmas Day, can be a great budget-saver. Not only does it reduce stress, but it means cheaper flights and fewer gas-depleting traffic jams! Entertain the idea of traveling on this day if possible, and give your loved ones a ‘Christmas Miracle’ when you ring their doorbell on Christmas Day!

10. Buy Less Stuff

Even though we may not want to hear it, in order to save money…you have to buy less stuff. Always remember, the most important thing about the holidays is spending quality time with our friends, family and loved ones. No amount of gifts, decorations, or fancy hotels will ever replace that. Your presence alone will be the most memorable gift you could ever give.

Enjoy the holidays this year, while implementing these ten budget-friendly holiday travel tips. When you do, you’ll enjoy the holidays and your much-needed family vacation!

Safe Travels.

Help Your Kids Be Prepared for Accidents!

At the park or playing ball – your kids can be prepared for the sun AND accidents with a first aid kit designed exclusively with you and your kids in mind.   Check out PreparaKit.com for kits and tools created for busy parents who want to be ready for the unexpected.
Preparing Kids For Online Gaming

Preparing Kids For Online Gaming

online safety for kids

It can be very difficult at times to pull your child away from that special video game that they love so much, and this is why it’s so important to prepare your children for the ‘online gaming world.’  A recent study from the Pew Research Center indicates that 59 percent of girls and 84 percent of boys ages 13-17 regularly play video games. Many of these games are played online and may involve multiple players. 

In addition to safety and privacy concerns, parents must ensure that their child’s gaming activities do not become an addiction. When a gaming addiction develops, children may become detached from reality, resulting in negative consequences regarding their ability to socialize and regulate their emotions.  In extreme cases, parents may need to look to a professional for help. However, there are steps you can take to help prevent this. 

Setting healthy boundaries for your kids can help to guard against extreme gaming behavior.  For example, ensure that children have their homework finished before allowing them to engage in gaming.  Also, limit gaming sessions to a set time period of time. When finished playing video games, children should move on to other activities, engaging in active movement and social interaction with others.  

Parents should also know the ratings on games, talk to their children about how they feel when they play, and even play these games along with their children to experience them first-hand. I know I do this quite often with my children, so I can see the kind of activity that is taking place within the game.

online safety for kids

Here are some helpful talking points to help start the conversation with your child about video games and online gaming:

1. Can you show me your favorite game?

It is a good idea to get to know the games yourself and sit down with your child to let them show you how the game is played.  Talk to your child about what they can do in the game they’re playing. What is the overall objective of the game? What do they like most about playing it?  Is there anything about the game that they don’t like?

2. Can you play against other kids?

Some games have optional multi-player modes where your child can play with and against others.  Make sure you’re clear on whether you are happy for your child to play with others. If you are, ask them who they are playing with.  Establish rules around this that you can both agree on. Most games have a rating you can check to see if they are age-appropriate.

3. How much time should you spend playing?

It makes life a lot easier if you bring this subject up early on; it can be tricky to change well-established practices. Talk about why it’s important to have limits.  It’s a good opportunity to talk about the importance of being active, being outdoors, and spending time in the company of other children, and striking that suitable balance is key.

Remember, it can be hard to enforce restrictions.  It can also be difficult to accurately track the amount of time they are spending playing the game.  Some devices allow you to use parental controls to strictly enforce daily or weekly limits. In many cases, the device simply switches off once the allocated time has been exceeded.  While this is handy; it can be very frustrating for a child who is just about to reach a landmark in the game after a great deal of effort. We recommend not relying exclusively on parental controls, but use them to support your usual parenting approaches.

4. Can you chat with the other kids you are playing?

Many games allow players to chat with each other.  Be sure to agree on rules around this, and ask your child about who they think it is okay to talk to online.  Discuss your expectations around the type of language they should not use and how they treat others. Be very clear on the consequences of using bad language, being disrespectful, or not following the other agreed rules.  The threat of withdrawing access to the game can be a good deterrent to bad behavior.

Check if the game gives the option of disabling chat and if there is a safe chat mode. Some games allow limited forms of chatting where gamers can communicate with each other by selecting from a menu of phrases.  

5. What sort of information is NOT okay to share when gaming?

Explain to them the importance of not giving away any personal information online.  In the case of online gaming, it is a good idea not to use real names for game profiles and not to share passwords with friends.

6. What would you do if something inappropriate happens when you are playing a game online?

It’s important that your child is familiar with safety settings, privacy and reporting tools. It is equally important that your child understands they can talk to you if they experience anything inappropriate online.  This is also a good opportunity to encourage your child to play fairly and treat other gamers with respect.

Whether we like it or not, the online gaming world is here to stay so it’s best to be proactive and responsible when navigating this with your children.  As much as we may think some of the games in this ‘virtual world’ are disturbing or are indoctrinating our children with bad behavior, these games are here to stay.  We have to teach our children how to play and use these games responsibly.  

After all, I can still remember when Nintendo & Atari were the ‘new gaming devices.’  There was a time when people thought a game called ‘Donkey Kong’ was violent because they hit each other.  Nowadays kids are seeing things in these newer games that are a lot more disturbing than that, and in ten years those same people will be saying the same thing about the games of today.  

Ultimately, the responsibility lies with us as parents.  We have to teach our kids right from wrong, so when they are out in the ‘real world’ they will know the difference.

 

For more information, check out these resources:

Help Your Kids Be Prepared for Accidents!

At the park or playing ball – your kids can be prepared for the sun AND accidents with a first aid kit designed exclusively with you and your kids in mind.  

Check out PreparaKit.com for kits and tools created for busy parents who want to be ready for the unexpected.

Save Kids from ‘Cranky Time’ During Daylight Savings

Save Kids from ‘Cranky Time’ During Daylight Savings

It’s that daylight savings time of year again, and you know what that means…cranky kids, temper tantrums, and no sleep for you, right?  Well, not necessarily…we’ve got you covered. The ‘spring ahead, fall back’ time changes can mix up everyone’s schedule.  The loss of just one hour can really affect a child’s attention span, appetite, and overall mood. You can minimize the effects of daylight savings time by being prepared.

Here are some helpful tips on how to get kids back on track so everyone can get a good night’s sleep. 

Allow Time for Gradual Adjustment:

It takes some time to adapt to a loss of sleep.  So if your child normally goes to bed at 8 p.m., put him/her to bed at 7:45 p.m., then 7:30 p.m., and so on, until they are going to bed as close to 7 p.m. as possible.  This step-by-step process is not as much a shock to the system, as it is when you abruptly expect your child to fall asleep an hour earlier after the time change. If you’re having trouble getting your child to bed earlier, which is often the case in older kids, then just focus on getting them up in the morning a bit earlier instead.  When daylight savings time ends in the fall, this gradual approach can still help — follow the same guidelines — just push the wake-up times and bedtimes a little later rather than earlier.

To Make Bedtime Easier, Control the Lights:

Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your body’s internal clock. The levels of this hormone increase in the evening as it becomes dark to help induce sleep. Melatonin levels decrease when it’s light out to assist with wakefulness and alertness.  Daylight savings time alters your natural cycle, and the results can be particularly difficult for kids. I recommend dimming the lights in your child’s bedroom and turning off all electronics about 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. According to The National Sleep Foundation, these devices can reduce sleep time, sleep quality, and daytime alertness because of light exposure and brain engagement right before bedtime. 

In the morning, you should try to get your child into the light as much as possible. Natural sunlight is best, so if weather permits, make sure there is sunlight entering your home, or turn on the lights so it’s nice and bright! To help when you “fall back,” make sure your child has some light exposure in the early evening.  Be careful to ensure that your child’s room doesn’t become too bright too soon in the early morning.

Establish a Routine:

When daylight savings time begins or ends, it’s especially important to stick with a bedtime routine.  Your child is now dealing with a change in schedule that might throw him off.  It’s absolutely critical that they have a routine during bedtime because that’s what helps create a powerful signal for sleep. One option is giving your child a warm bath, reading him a book, and snuggling together before lights out.

Get Enough Sleep Beforehand:

In the days before you change your clocks, make sure your child is getting plenty of shut-eye. Sleep results in more sleep, so going into daylight savings time well-rested will greatly help your child because he won’t be cranky and overtired, which can make falling asleep even harder.

 

Be Supportive and Understanding:

In the days following daylight savings time, try to be more forgiving if your child is throwing extra temper tantrums or seems to be particularly frustrated or difficult in any way.  The time change can cause these short-term changes in your child’s mood, but your understanding and support will help them adjust a little better to the new schedule.

 

Take Care of You:

And most importantly, don’t forget to take care of yourself too!  Many adults feel sluggish and cranky themselves after the time switch, so make sure you’re getting the rest you need as well. Thankfully, these effects are all short-lived — within a week or so, everything should be back to normal.

As always, I’d love to hear which blogs resonate most with you!  Feel free to reach out and message me on Facebook & Instagram!

 

For more information, check out these resources:

Help Your Kids Be Prepared for Accidents!

At the park or playing ball – your kids can be prepared for the sun AND accidents with a first aid kit designed exclusively with you and your kids in mind.  

Check out PreparaKit.com for kits and tools created for busy parents who want to be ready for the unexpected.

Paying Off Debt & Losing Weight – There’s No Debate

If you check out people’s New Year’s resolutions, I can almost guarantee that two of them come up at the top of the list—getting out of debt and losing weight. But before you start to think I’m talking about making a different resolution this long before the New Year, I want to point out that there’s actually a lot of similarity in these two goals. 

What does it take to lose weight? 

  • Motivation 
  • Watch what you eat 
  • Develop better habits 
  • Hold yourself accountable 
  • Get the support that you need 
  • Exercise 
  • And eat less than you can burn off 

What does it take to get out of debt? 

  • Motivation 
  • Watch what you buy 
  • Develop better spending/saving habits 
  • Have a good support system 
  • Work extra 
  • And spend less than you make 

It’s basically the same concepts, right? Let’s look at some of the other similarities.

 

It’s Not Going to Happen Overnight  

Anyone who thinks they’re going to lose a ton of weight or pay off all their credit cards in a short time span is being totally unrealistic. Your current financial woes were caused by years of overspending and credit card use. The same is true for your weight—it came from years of poor eating habits and a lack of exercise. So, don’t expect to fix everything all at once. 

Instead, set small goals for yourself. If you need to lose twenty pounds, set a goal of 1-2 pounds per week and work towards meeting that goal. If you need to pay off $10,000 worth of credit card debt, set monthly goals for setting aside the needed amount of money to reach that goal in a reasonable time. This could take a while. Don’t rush it.

The Two Struggles Can Actually Go Hand-in-Hand

One of the biggest expenses for a lot of families is fast food and eating out at restaurants. A fast food meal for one can cost almost $10 and many sandwiches at sit-down restaurants start at the same amount. Added to the problem is the food isn’t that healthy for you. 

Instead, you can save hundreds of dollars a month by not eating out and instead cooking your own meals at home. Then, you can also control the portion size and the healthiness of the food which can, in turn, help you to lose weight.

You’re Going to Have Setbacks

With paying off debt and losing weight, many people get depressed by setbacks and let themselves fall back into some of the older traps. You know how it goes, right? You don’t hit your weight goal, so you get mopey and decide “What’s the point?”. 

The next thing you know, you have a carton of Ben and Jerry’s in your lap and the whole diet is out the window. The same goes for debt. You could be moving along at a good clip for a few months and then get hit with a major medical bill out of nowhere. If you look at this as a roadblock to your success, you could spiral out of control and just give up. Instead, see it as just a speedbump on the path—something that will slow you down but not stop you.

There’s No Debating the Discipline Needed to Meet Your Goals

There’s a lot of similarities when it comes to paying off your debts and losing weight. But one of the biggest is the sense of satisfaction and overall happiness you’ll have if you succeed at both. Living a healthy and debt-free lifestyle should be at the top of every family’s “To Do” list.

Help Your Kids Be Prepared for Accidents!

At the park or playing ball – your kids can be prepared for the sun AND accidents with a first aid kit designed exclusively with you and your kids in mind.  

Check out PreparaKit.com for kits and tools created for busy parents who want to be ready for the unexpected.

Bully Proofing Kids

Bully Proofing Kids

When I was in elementary school, I was made fun of quite a bit because I looked and dressed differently. Thankfully it never went any further than name calling. 

But even with just that, those childhood memories are still ingrained in me. And I’m not the only one. It seems more and more that we’re hearing about people who were bullied in much the same way as children.

Kids can be so mean and hurtful and the bad part is, they may not even realize they are doing it. They either haven’t had someone to teach them that the behavior is unacceptable, or they haven’t learned exactly how to behave properly. 

One thing I knew for sure about having kids of my own was that I was going to make sure they knew how to stand up for themselves and even more important, that they aren’t the ones being the bully.

Some things I emphasize with my kids on an ongoing basis about bullying:

  1. Utilize teachable moments (i.e. tv/movie bullying scenes, real life examples). This is a great way to engage them in a conversation about what their thoughts are when watching these scenes and how it should have been handled.
  2. Ignore the kids that aren’t being nice. Most of the time, bullies will only continue to bother you if they know they can get a reaction from you. If you ignore them, they will move on and leave you alone.
  3. Engage your kids in activities that boosts their confidence and self-esteem. This can include sports and other extra-curriculars that help give them confidence. But it can also be from giving them tasks and jobs around the house, helping them get that boost of accomplishment.

On the other hand, what’s even more important is that my kids know it’s never ok to treat others badly. With that in mind, I ask them to remember that they should always:

  1. Be kind
  2. Be helpful
  3. Be considerate
  4. Stand up for others
  5. Not say anything if they don’t have any nice to say
  6. Put yourself in the shoes of others and ask yourself if you would want that to happen to you

Help Your Kids Be Prepared for Accidents!

At the park or playing ball – your kids can be prepared for the sun AND accidents with a first aid kit designed exclusively with you and your kids in mind.  

Check out PreparaKit.com for kits and tools created for busy parents who want to be ready for the unexpected.

The Importance of Teaching Kids to Be Independent

The Importance of Teaching Kids to Be Independent

Would you agree that kids tend to give up too easily?

 

My kids sure do.

Take my daughter and her homework for example. When she gets stuck on a problem, she gets really frustrated and whines about how she cannot figure it out.

She ends up sitting there, pouting…which leads to no homework being done.

So, what does mommy or daddy do? We come over and tell her how to do it. Which is all fine
and dandy because we do want her to know that we’re there for her when she needs help.

The problem was in how we, as her parents, were helping her.

Instead of guiding her into figuring out the solution to the problem herself, we were essentially giving her the answers.

Instead of having her attempt to talk out loud her thought process to figure out where she is
actually getting stuck and what exactly she doesn’t understand, we tend to jump in a little too early.

Anyone else guilty of jumping in too soon to help their kids?

She was not thinking for herself.  What kids these days are missing is that critical thinking component.  

Here are a few ways we take away from our kids’ independence:

  • Tell them the answer right away
  • Do it for them
  • Tell them how we think the task should be done

 

Ways we let kids think for themselevs and become more independent:

  • Ask your kids to explain what they’re stuck on
  • Give kids questions to think about as a way to guide them on what they need to ask themselves next to figure the problem out

 

One thing I’m working on with my kids is how to manage their time, especially in the morning.

Now this didn’t happen overnight, but we’ve gotten them on a morning routine that they are now used to.

They wake up, brush their teeth, get dressed, make their beds, come downstairs, get their backpacks ready to go, unload the dishwasher and eat breakfast.

My daughter does not like being tardy but she’s probably the one that drags her feet the most.

Most days she is good about getting her list done.  Some days, like today, we’re twenty minutes from needing to leave the house and she has barely walked down the stairs.  

Normally, I would jump in and remind them of the time and how they’ll be late if they don’t hurry up.

Nope!

This time, I just let them be.  

Eventually one of them noticed what time it was, and they got their act together.

We made it to school with 1 minute to spare but the entire time during the car ride there, they were quite nervous.  Especially when we had to stop at each red light.

But the lesson here is that if I don’t let them figure things out for themselves and learn things the hard way, then I am not doing them any favors.

The quicker I let them fail and learn from their mistakes, the better it is for them in the long run.

An excellent example I got from another mom that I’m starting to implement with my own kids now is what I call, the Power of 3.

If they have a problem, they need to figure out for themselves three different ways they can solve that problem before coming to an adult to get help.  

This could be anything.  The key is that when they come asking for help, they need to list out the three things they did to figure it out for themselves.

This promotes independence, self-reliance, critical thinking, problem solving skills, and confidence while preventing co-dependency, low self-esteem and lack of confidence. And who doesn’t want that for our kids?

Help Your Kids Be Prepared for Accidents!

At the park or playing ball – your kids can be prepared for the sun AND accidents with a first aid kit designed exclusively with you and your kids in mind.  

Check out PreparaKit.com for kits and tools created for busy parents who want to be ready for the unexpected.