Archive for October 2013

Must Have Day Pack for Families on the Go - What? How?

Friday, October 18, 2013

The day pack; Consolidating your family's needs for the day into one small, comfortable to carry, and easy to access bag.

We might not always venture as far away from home as Walt Disney World, but our family of four is often out and about. I always say that we function far better on weekends when we get out of the house together than if we stay home and lazily sit around in our pjs. The adults in our house would probably opt for pjs over an outing, but we are far too sick of cleaning up the playroom to argue this point.

When you have littles, you also become their personal Sherpa. You become the holder of both treasured items and trash. You are the provider of the magic tantrum avoidance snack. You are the keeper of the amusements. There is lots to manage. There are many thoughts of a wreckless youth when you could slip your debit card and ID in your back pocket and walk out the door. (Yes, in the time before cellphones.) Those days are over and you now require a BAG.

Allow me to introduce you to the most amazing day pack ever. The CamelBack Day Star (recently redesigned!). I chose this bag because I knew that I would likely be the one carrying it, otherwise I would be annoying my husband to stop and let me get this or that or tuck this in or having a hissy because he had rummaged through it to get something for me and moved the diapers and WHERE ARE THE DIAPERS? (Yes, you can go with a diapered child with this pack and STILL have room! It is Uh-Mazing!) You could say I am a little Type A. Besides, he would be pushing the children in a stroller through the early fall Florida heat, how could I also ask him to carry the bag?

The Day Star is designed for a woman's body and is extremely lightweight. It is the most comfortable pack I have ever carried and even when it is very full, I never feel strained carrying it (unless a child hops onto my shoulders and then we are VERY uncomfortable). I have this bag on in nearly every photo from our trip in 2011. The only time I am not wearing it was when we might have taken a shot on the Carpets or Dumbo and that is because it so easy to take off and a cinch to stow at your feet.

This bag will meet all your needs; a large main body compartment for organizing bigger items, snacks, and in our case loveys. The zippers for the main section do not zip all the way down the sides which can make it a bit more challenging to get to what you put at the very bottom, but I like that because it also control my overpacking urges. The side pockets are a stretchy breathable mesh for phones, point and shoot cameras, tour maps, Times Guides, water bottles, or wet socks. There is an additional zippered pocket in the front that has a few smaller zippered pockets for other items. Mine always has a mini first aid kit, ibuprofen, and we found it was a good sunglass stash spot.

The best part of this bag by far is the CamelBak water reservoir, which comes included. We had never had any experience with a reservoir before we took this to Disney World and it was easy to use.  Even the world's greatest skeptic ("you spent how much on a BACKPACK?!") was practically attached to the bite valve for the entire trip. We filled it with a mix of ice from the machines at the resort and bottled water we had purchased in the morning and it was cold for most of the morning until we filled it up again. It made for a really easy way to keep the kids hydrated and a distraction in line for everyone. When my not yet two year old son got a little antsy during an attraction, as toddlers will do, this worked 99.99% of the time to keep him occupied. It distracted him from his momentary disinterest enough to bring him back to a place of peace and that made me one very happy Mama.

One note on the Bite Valves. You must bite the valve before it will work and when you are asking small children to bite things, they often do. We have needed some replacement valves which are very easy to find and affordable (recently spent $12 for a pack of 3).

Lest you think this bag would be one and done, we have used this bag for countless other things with great success. This is her third season of college football, third year apple picking, and she continues to meet our family's needs, even as the kids grow. Our Day Star is our go to for every family outing, whether it is an adventure outdoors or in. I could not more highly recommend you check this out.

Now. What to stuff her full of for a day at the parks?

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Lo, the packing - How? What?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Have you ever heard anyone say, "I'm going away and I cannot wait to PACK?!"

Me neither.

As a Mom, I'm not just packing for myself. Moms pack for themselves, the kids, and for things that the family might need on the plane, in the hotel, and in the parks. I'm not knocking Dads. I just don't think that they as a whole take responsibility for the family packing responsibilities.

Packing is my achilles heal. I tend to bring more than I need for fear of not having something I might maybe need. I also tend to overthink my packing strategy. This results in towers of clothes, amusements, toiletries, and various odd items that I edit down to what I deem essentials. Towers. I stare at these towers and wring my hands as my husband "finishes" packing and lounges on the bed while I hold my head in despair. He always asks what he can do to help (true!), but since I don't really know what I am doing either, I just grumble and continue.

Not exactly a resounding endorsement for my packing advice, I know, but I am hopeful this can be useful based on our experience in what we brought vs. what we actually "needed."

Before anything else, check the historical weather conditions for the time frame you will be traveling. For our upcoming trip in January, the weather is a bit more unpredictable, so be sure to check before you begin. (This means that I will ask my other half to bring pants and a jacket and he will ignore me and pack just shorts and t shirts thus refusing to admit he is chilly the entire trip despite potential cool temps.) You know how to dress your family. We traveled to Orlando early fall in 2011 and it was approximately the heat of the surface of the sun while we were there. It was all moisture wicking and workout friendly breathability all the time.

Must Pack Items:

Comfortable Sneakers - flip flops while comfortable are not suitable for walking several miles per day.
Single Use Laundry Detergent & Quarters- I hate doing laundry on vacation, but we were sweaty and the idea of bringing all that home in that state made me sick to my stomach. Bring quarters to save yourself time trying to make change.
Sunscreen and Face Stick Sunscreen - Essential. The glue stick versions will work on the most squirmy toddler
Ponchos - spend pennies at home or $$$ there, just don't leave them in your hotel room the way we did on the night the rain was falling sideways
Hand Sanitzer - it comes in travel sizes for a reason
Autograph Book and Fat Pen (buy ahead!) - I urge you to consider buying this in advance online or at your local Disney Store to save you the crunch searching for one before you head to the parks. Larger barreled sharpies are easier for the characters to use, pick one up before you travel.

Packing Errors:

Too many snacks - I packed lightly on snacks for the flight and we scheduled a grocery delivery which covered most of our snack needs for the time we were vacationing. We spent about $70 and it was delivered right to our door. You can bring food in and we definitely did! More on this later!

Too many amusements- Our kids were pretty happy with the "on-flight entertainment" and though they did dive into the stickers and coloring books a bit, I definitely brought way too many things to do. We picked up things at the parks and they would have been quite happy with just those things to play with. Novelty rules.

* A packing nugget I utilized last time was to use large ziplocs to pack the kids; one bag for each day from head to toe. Grab a bag, apply clothing. It was very easy and I wasn't left searching for clean socks or that random shirt that went with these shorts.

* Little girls love to dress up. We bought a tulle tutu from an Etsy seller with an Ariel t-shirt for my daughter to wear to have breakfast with the Princesses. No hot costume. She looked completely adorable. Every Princess commented on her skirt. I also brought along two tiaras that she wore pretty much everywhere which was a big hit.

While I have some admitted shortcomings in packing the entire family for the trip, I more than make up for that in my park packing. We are a family on the go and I'm going to also share how we have perfected our day trip packing down to the bag your family NEEDS.

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Calendar Olympics - When?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Where do I even begin? I know how you feel, I've been there. You are investing time (valuable) and money (lots) and you want epic memories and there is just so much to do. Where do you even begin to tackle this monster? Take a deep breath and enter my favorite part of planning a trip to Disney; the itinerary.

You must begin at the beginning and that is determining THE WHEN.

There are many resources to help you with the decision of when to visit, what day to visit each park and even look ahead at the park calendars to plan for not to miss things like the evening electric parade or fireworks. Perhaps for example, you are planning a short trip and want to make sure Wishes is happening sometime during your trip.

Note: Crowds are supremely important to me. I need to have a very clear expectation for what we will be up against or better yet, how to avoid the busiest park any given day.

My go to resources for planning THE WHEN

Your First Visit

Touring Plans (there is a small subscription fee to utilize all this site has to offer, but I find it is well worth it)

Just as I have done for my initial trip planning, you will likely spend a couple weeks getting lost online debating travel dates and whether or not you can accomplish your trip goals for the dates you have chosen. You will compare airfare and maybe peek at your favorite ADRs availability if you happen to be planning a trip with under 180 days out.

The order of importance to me in selecting dates to travel:

1. Crowds
2. Weather (heat at this point is a deal breaker for us)
3. Crowds

Maybe you have different planning priorities, but those sites listed above and over there on the sidebar again should help you better determine when you should book your trip to The World. It might take you hours, days, weeks to even get that far and then, you have only just begun. That whole weekend, week, ten days, two weeks exists out there as a blank slate waiting to be filled. I love the planning and even if you don't, utilizing these resources or seeking the assistance of an Authorized Vacation Planner should make it smooth sailing for your daily itinerary.

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