Have You Heard Of Little Passports?

I am so excited.  Okay, so you guys all know that I love to travel.  Lucky for me, my 5 year old son found his love of travel and thirst for knowledge of the world too!

 I was a little worried when he was a baby all the way through age 2.  He always seemed to get sick whenever we traveled and didn’t seem to thrive to well on change.  So we stopped traveling for quite some time (he kept getting ear infections but a simple procedure changed all of that and he is finally healthy when we travel!).  When we started back up again, he ended up loving it!

 My son now has a love of maps and is always asking what certain cities and countries are, what it’s like there, what it looks like, and what you do there.  I for one will foster this obsession of  his, lol. So I was so excited when I found out about “Little Passports”!

Jaxson in Barnes and Noble travel section 🙂

Little Passports is this wonderful monthly service where they send your child a package in the mail.  (For all of my Stitch Fix lovers, you know how much we love our monthly surprise packages!).  It is filled with information about a new destination, pictures, little souvenirs, stickers, activities to get you learning about other countries or cities.

                                               

They have a  US version where you will get information about two states each month, or a world version (which is what I’m getting my son) where you learn about a new country every month!  He is going to LOVE this!  I can’t wait to see his little face each month when this comes in the mail.

They have an option called the Early Explorers which is great for kids aged 3-5, they suggest the World Edition for ages 6-10, and their US Edition for children aged 7-12.  It is priced at about $16 per month (including shipping) if you choose to pay by the month (cancel anytime) or it is a few dollars less each month if you choose to pay for a 6 or 12 month package upfront.  You can Sign up here!

I’ll be doing the monthly package and I can’t wait to show you guys when it comes in the mail!  This would also be a great idea to bring to keep your kids busy on road trips or on the plane for any upcoming travels as well!  Do your kids get Little Passports?  What do they think??



*Some of the above links may be affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase through them, the company may provide me a small compensation AT NO COST TO YOU.  Thank you for supporting the blog in this way!*

How To Keep Kids Busy During Holiday Travel

Do you have a long road trip coming up for the holidays?  Planning to spend some time on an airplane?  This is the time of year when most people will have some sort of traveling to do to visit family and friends from out of town.  While it’s a fun and exciting time, it may also invoke feelings of panic in parents with younger children.

I’ve taken many trips with my son- since he was 2 months old all the way through now- he’ll turn 6 in January.  Come to find out, for us, the early baby stage was the easiest because he just slept on the planes or was happy looking out the window (be sure to get a window seat).  For car rides, even still today, if we have a long road trip ahead of us, we usually prefer to leave at his bedtime and drive through the night.  It makes the whole trip a lot easier and peaceful on everyone.

Now that he’s getting older, we’ve found some other ways to keep the sanity on our road trips that need to happen during daylight hours.  I’ll share some things that have worked for us:

License Plate Game and other travel games–  The one we bought my son comes with stickers to put on the map whenever you find a new state.  If your child cannot pull the stickers off themselves- save yourself the sanity and either get a book that doesn’t do stickers, or do what I did and let them put an “X” across the sticker or state on the map when they find it.  We got this one that we thought was pretty good.  You could also bring travel Bingo and I-Spy games.  Why not make up your own before you leave for the trip?  There are many sites that give you ideas on what to use for your own travel bingo games.

Mad Libs- Who doesn’t remember playing this game as kids?  I don’t know about you, but I could play it for hours.  Even if your kids are younger (like my son) and haven’t really learned what a noun, verb, etc mean…you can always give them suggestions.  Like: noun: “Okay, give me the name of someone we know, a place we’ve been to or want to go, etc”.  Verb: “Tell me something you do to get somewhere, like: run, walk, drive, skip, etc.  You get the idea.


                                                                     


Have surprise snacks that you give out every couple of hours (or some other interval of time) during the road trip.  Have them pre-packaged and ready to go in zip lock bags.  Snacks such as gold fish, teddy grahams, pretzels, or other easy foods to help themselves to work great.  Hide them in your purse and bust them out when the kids get cranky.

Along the same lines- bring a wrapped cheap toy (being wrapped adds to the excitement and suspense and takes more time for the kids to open, lol) as your incentive for good behavior.   If you have a boy, Hot Wheels are perfect for this!  I don’t know about you, but my kid LOVES them.  They are $1, and even though he has over 100 of these things, he always begs for more.  You can do the same thing with those little travel coloring books, tiny travel games, a new book, doll, etc.  Anything cheap, but new, that you can pull out to distract them during tougher moments.  These also work great on airplanes.  Kid getting a little antsy?  Whip out one of these bad boys and you’re sure to calm them down and keep them happy.

Books- Bring your kids favorite books and maybe a new one or two that they haven’t read yet.




Paper, crayons, pencils- Can’t go wrong with a little arts and crafts to keep the kids entertained.  Tip: Pack an empty dvd case with paper and colored pencils to hold everything together.  The case also acts as a nice hard surface to write on.  A cookie sheet also works as a nice hard surface and the edges help keep crayons/pencils from rolling away.



rustic-crafts.com



Portable dvd player with kids favorite shows- These are a lifesaver on airplanes or road trips (trains, buses, you name it!).  Don’t forget the charger!  Laptops and Ipads filled with educational games or shows that your kids love work just as well.

Maps and activity books- No more “when are we going to get there”!  (ok, well, maybe still a little of that).  The kids can draw along the map and follow the route to where you’re headed.  Or,  they have these really fun books with games, puzzles, facts and fun information about each state, and other cool things to keep the kids entertained and excited about where they’re going.  National Geographic makes a great one for kids.  This is the one I got for my son for our road trip:

                                                               

String and beads or jewelry kits- for older children (5-10) to make bracelets/necklaces to pass the time.  They should stay focused and occupied for a good while with these sorts of activities.

                                                                





Paper Bag Puppets
– Remember making these as a kid?  Just get some of those brown paper bags that we used to put our lunches in back in the day and some crayons and let the kids go to town.  They will have fun coloring and making the faces….and playing with them after!

auntannie.com




Hopefully some of these ideas will help make your trip a little smoother.  Do you have any ideas to keep your kids busy on the road?  Leave your suggestions in the comments!  I’m always looking for new ideas for this!

Have you heard of Little Passports??  Another great way to get your kids learning about the world around them and would be great to bring on the road!

*Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means if you purchase something from them, the company may provide me a small commission AT NO EXPENSE TO YOU.  Thank you for supporting the blog in this way.*

Planning A Dream Road Trip: Spotlight on Watkins Glen

This is another destination that I  couldn’t wait to talk about with you guys!  Watkins Glen State Park in NY.

 Somehow, this place is only an hour and a half from where I grew up and I never knew about it?!  How did this happen???  It kind of makes me want to call up everyone I ever knew back home in Rochester and ask them if they knew of Watkins Glen– and then yell at those who dare to say yes for never taking me on their (apparently) secret trips. lol.  Just kidding…kind of.

This place is GORGEOUS.  read on…..

This will be about a 6 and half hour drive from Montreal.  One of our biggest driving stretches of the trip.  We plan to spend 2 nights here, so we will leave early in the morning from Montreal in order to get to Watkins Glen with time to relax and look around still.  We’ll probably call it an early night because  the next couple days are going to be filled with outside fun!

Looks like there is an $8 fee per vehicle to enter the park.  Watkins Glen State Park has been listed on so many “Most Beautiful Places You Need To See In Your Lifetime” posts that I’ve come across lately—and after having looked into it, there’s no surprise why.  It boasts over 200 foot cliffs in parts, 19 waterfalls, and paths that are easy even for children to experience this wonderful feat of nature.. The gorge path winds over and under waterfalls, giving you an interesting look that you don’t get to have at a lot of places like this.  You can get close enough to feel the spray of the water.  The rim trails overlook the magnificent gorge.  And this is why I am so distraught, people:

I will now spam you with some more pictures:

Why did I never know this existed?!?  I literally lived an hour and a half away for 18 years and never knew of this place?  Unacceptable, lol.  I can’t wait to be here and take about 30,000 pictures of my own.  ha!

My plan is for us to wake up early the next morning, bring some breakfast on the go and see this majestic place early in the morning when there are less people around, and you can really enjoy the peace and serenity of the place.  Do you ever just look at pictures and feel like you just connect with a place?  That if and when you go, you know it will be a life changing experience?  That’s how I feel about this place (and Scotland, but that’s for another post! lol).  I feel like I will just be breath-taken and speechless here and might not ever want to leave.

They even have an Olympic size pool in the park for you to swim in while you’re there.  So I’m sure the afternoon may have some swimming involved if the little guy has anything to say about it 🙂

On our last day, we’ll check out the Farm Sanctuary which is about 30 minutes away from Watkins Glen State Park.  It is home to more than 500 rescued farm animals. The Sanctuary was made to protect farm animals against abuse they face in factory farming. Here they are free to roam about, feel the sun and fresh air, dig in the dirt, and enjoy life as they are supposed to.  They have chickens, pigs, goats, cows, ducks, turkeys and more.    It is open Wed-Sun in June from 10:30am-5pm. They have 1 hour guided walks offered every hour.  Adults are $10 while children under 12 are $5  (3 and under free).

image from justinpluslauren.com

image from  justinpluslauren.com

I can tell you now, I’m pretty certain this will be one of my favorite stops on our road trip.  Have any of you been to this secret spot before???  Tell me everything you know!  🙂  


Check back next week,  when we’ll talk about my hometown- Rochester, NY.

How I use Ebates To Help Me Travel

I wrote an article a couple months ago about the ways I save money to travel more often.  One of the easiest things I do throughout the year is use Ebates.  Have you guys ever used it before?  Well, if you ever shop online you NEED to.  It’s free money for everyone who shops on line-at virtually any store.

What you do once you’re signed up as a member, is visit www.ebates.com first, before you know you’re going to buy something.  “Search” for the store you’re planning to shop at, and then just follow Ebates link to your store.

(or just download their handy dandy toolbar that has a little E blink in the top corner of your screen to let you know if you’re about to buy something you can save on–then you don’t have to visit Ebates website at all, which is what I love and use)

Then, when you make a purchase, they give a certain percentage of that money back to you!  I think of it as like using a promo code or getting a coupon for the items I shop for (which by the way, you can totally still use promo codes and ebates for higher savings!).

Ebates pays out once every 3 months to your paypal account (or you can get a check).  When you first sign up, they give you a  $10 bonus once you make a $25 purchase from any store through them- more free money!

Now that we know how it works, this is how it helps me with my travel budget.

 Whenever I get a payment from them, it goes straight to my “travel money”.  Some months it’s not much, because I didn’t do much online shopping- but even $15 is a meal or entry into a cool historic attraction somewhere we visit- all just for buying things online that I was already going to do.

But some other months, it’s much higher- especially around now when I start doing all of my Christmas shopping.  I try my best to avoid malls and stores, especially this time of year.  So, all of my Christmas shopping is pretty much done online- that always adds up to a big Ebates payback for me the first part of the year!  And that can pay for hotel stays or whatever else we want to spend it on.

But besides being diligent about only spending the money on our travels, Ebates is great for additional savings on all of the travel websites I use anyways!  I always use it for:

Priceline- I usually book hotels and car rentals through Priceline to get a good deal, so any additional                  savings that Ebates wants to give me back is awesome.  It even works with Priceline’s                          Name Your Own Price deal.  You can usually find me on their website before any trip we                    take- big or small, lol.

Bookit.com-  Is another site I use if I ever want to book an all inclusive hotel deal (especially to                               Mexico- they’ve got great AI prices!).  Bookit also does cars and cruises, but I’ve found                       the best savings on hotels, myself.  We used it when we went to Playa del Carmen,                               Mexico a few years ago.  We got a great deal for a week all inclusive.

Any airline’s website-  If you prefer to book directly with the Airline itself- pretty much all of the                                            airline’s are partnered with Ebates.  Discounts on airfare??  That can add up!

Travel Gear-  If I need something like a new backpack, outlet converters, a new camera- anything                            for my trip- I make sure to go to an Ebates affiliated store to save even more.  REI,                              even Target, Amazon–really anywhere you can think of.

My favorite stores to use Ebates at (besides my travel “stores”) are Living Social, Groupon, Target, and ThredUp.

Don’t forget, if you haven’t signed up for Ebates yet, they’re giving you a $10 bonus when you spend your first $25 at any affiliated store! Just make sure you go through them first!  (*I can’t tell you how many times that’s happened to me.  Where I made a purchase but forgot to go through ebates first–that’s why I downloaded the little toolbar to alert me, lol.)

Where do you use it at?  What do you like to do with your savings?  Tell me in the comments!

*Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means if you use them to make a purchase, the company may give me a small amount of compensation AT NO COST TO YOU.  Thank you for supporting the blog in this way.

Site Under Construction

Hi Everyone!

Just a quick note to let you know that the website is currently under construction, but posting will continue as normal!  As the site changes it’s name from “Pieces of Me” to “Live Simple, Travel Well”, there are a few minor issues that still need fixing.  It seems a lot of your comments have been lost in transit and we are currently working on getting everything loaded back in.  You should still be able to access the site as you usually do.  You will still see your regular Travel and Stitch Fix posts even though the site has now changed names!  Let me know if you have any issues while the site is in transit!  Hope you all have a great week!!!