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The Transition to Travel with Kids

If you’re making the transition to travel with kids, here are some of the things you need to think about:

1. Packing

If you’ve previously been a carryon only traveler and traveled very light then there can be a bit of mourning associated with packing for family travel. Kids need lots of changes of clothes and at least a few toys. You’ll often also need to bring both a car seat and a stroller. You’ll need to practice pack long before the night prior to your departure. Family travel blogger Keryn from Walking on Travels has some great packing tips and lists for traveling with babies and toddlers. She’s an inspiration because she often travels solo with her two little ones.

2. At the airport

Packing itself is often easier than figuring out how you are going to manuever all that stuff plus your child/ren through the airport. Sometimes it’s like you never have enough hands, and even getting all or stuff onto one trolley takes a bit of practice. This is of course much easier if there are two adults traveling or if you have another adult (such as Grandma) who can at least help you get checked in. Of course, even when you’re one adult with one or more kids, it can be done. Just expect there to be a learning curve. Allow time and bring plenty of snacks and drinks to keep the kids happy.

3. Is the place you want to book even child friendly?

Do they allow children? Do they have extra fees for kids in the room? When you’re not a parent, you typically don’t even think about whether somewhere is child friendly or not. Some sites allow you to easily see that information. For example, if you booking a trip in Europe, Neilson holidays has a “family friendly” tick box so they will only show you family friendly resorts. Therefore you don’t have to sort through to find that out yourself. They have holidays to Greece and Turkey, which are ex-UK so if you’re coming from the US, you could have some city time in London and some play time in the sun. Yes, you can still take that dream trip to Greece or Turkey if you’re a parent!

4. Are there enough activities for my child’s energy level?

Especially if you have a little guy who NEEDS to go to the playground every day to burn off excess energy then you might consider an all-inclusive that has kids play options right there. You might find the idea of the beach relaxing but your kids might find it too boring unless there is more to play with than just water and sand.

5. What gear do I need to buy?

It’s far easier to travel with bedding for little kids rather than . Things like this Nap and Go Bed for babies under 18 months is a good place to start.

6. Who am I going to travel with?

You might be used to traveling alone but when you have kids, it can often make sense to try to coordinate trips with “babysitters” and by this I mean free babysitters like Grandparents or dotting aunties. A big carrot can be if you’re renting an apartment or villa and can provide your free babysitter with some accommodation for their stay. This often works out great for all concerned.

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What to Pack for a Trip to Barbados

Packing is always a difficult thing to do because you never know how many things you should bring with you. It’s hard to predict what you’ll be doing in Barbados or what you might need for an emergency, but hopefully this list can help you sort out some of the more important details.

First of all, the obvious thing is that you should bring your passport, plane tickets, and other important documents. However, don’t forget to make some copies in case the originals get lost or stolen. Also, don’t forget to bring the necessary paperwork for the hotel room you’ve booked, or the other activities you have planned, and include copies of those papers just in case. Better be safe than sorry!

If you’re thinking of packing some medication with you, you have to bring the prescription note from the doctor as well. Whether you’re bringing sleeping pills or eye drops, it’s always good to be prepared.

Now that the obvious issues are out of the way, it’s time for you to think of what clothes you should pack. You’ll most likely end up sunbathing or relaxing by the hotel’s swimming pool, so bringing a few pairs of swimsuits is a must. Also, temperatures in Barbados are on the high side, so make sure you have some light-weight and light-colored clothes: shirts, skirts, dresses, shorts. Light-colored clothes won’t overheat you, and light-weight clothes will allow you to cool off. If you plan on doing some shopping in Barbados, you can only bring enough clothes for the first two or three days and just buy something from the local stores.

As for shoes, stick to sandals, flats, flip flops and athletic shoes. If you’re certain you’re going hiking, then bring a pair of hiking boots. Otherwise, don’t pack things you’re not sure you’ll need. Save the extra space for souvenirs! Also, if you’re going to a restaurant for dinner, make sure you have a cocktail dress and some heels or elegant flats. Barbados is still very formal as far as clothing etiquette is concerned. And if you’re going out in the evening, bring a wrap to protect you against cool weather and an umbrella to protect you against the rain. Don’t panic if you forget those last two items, since you can easily purchase them in Barbados.

Toiletries are also essential for anyone who is travelling, so you should also think about what you want to take with you or leave at home. While most resorts will provide you with shampoo and soap, you can also use your own. However, don’t bring large bottles that will take up a lot of space in your bags. You can purchase sample bottles from beauty stores and use them to keep your favorite shampoo, shower gel, face cream, or body lotion. Also, items such as toothpaste and deodorant can be purchased in travel size containers. However, you can always wait until you arrive in Barbados to purchase some toiletries.

You should also make sure to include some sunscreen and bug spray to help you deal with sun rays and mosquitoes, but also some medication for potential bug bites. Finally, don’t bring your entire make up kit, especially since you won’t even use half of what you have. Limit yourself to packing a small cosmetics bag with some mascara, your favorite lipstick, and some basic skincare products. Temperatures are high and you don’t want make up dripping all over your face.

This is just a couple of tips that can help you figure out what to bring to Barbados. Also, don’t worry if you’re an over-packer. Simply try and limit yourself to bringing simple clothes which you can easily mix and match. Also, you can always pick up something you’ve left at home when you arrive to your destination. Sometimes, it’s better to do that, rather than carry around a heavy bag.

Barbados might be a long flight but once you’ve booked your flights to Barbados, planning the rest is fairly easy. Hopefully this list will have kickstarted your packing list and got you dreaming of your holiday. If you’re still looking for travel packing tips, try Travel Fashion Girl’s blog. Her guide to packing for a Mexico trip is also very applicable to Barbados.

photo credit: Ben124. via photopin cc

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Educational Travel Games for Kids

Passing the time during a long journey, or even a short one, can be a nightmare when you have kids in tow. “Are we nearly there yet?” – how often do you hear this throughout the course of a journey?

You might want to shout “not yet!” but you have to understand that travelling for little ones, or even big ones, isn’t the same as it is for adults. We understand that it takes time to get somewhere, and that the waiting is worth it, but they don’t, they just want to get where they’re going, and are usually over-excited as a result. The key? Stay calm, take deep breaths, and your serene exterior will hopefully seep its way to your children.

Despite that, the key is also to keep them entertained, and thanks to modern technology, with iPads and tablets now owned by most families, games with an educational twist can be played on the go quite easily.

There’s no excuse not to instil a bit of learning into a journey, after all, you might as well put the waiting to good use. Age plays a part in what kind of games you can play, so let’s check out a few suggestions.

Younger children (ages 0 to 6)

Bingo – a quick internet search will give you plenty of worksheets you can print out, and a fun child-friendly game of bingo is a great pass-the-time idea, which also helps children recognise numbers. You can also play this with shapes for the younger children in this bracket. The winner gets to pick a treat!

Match colours and shapes – again matching colours and shapes is a game of repetition, which is how we learn best. You can easily print out some shapes and colour blocks before you leave and put them in your travel bag, whipping them out when boredom kicks in, and this is also a different twist on a game of snap!

Words that start with… – Practising the alphabet and developing vocabulary is easily done on the go, simply say a letter, and get your little ones to give you a word that begins with that letter. Again, a prize for the best suggestions.

Eye spy – I’ve put this in the younger age range, but its great for any age really, and also helps develop awareness of surroundings and the alphabet again. You can pass hours with this one!

Older children (ages 6 plus)

iPad – Older kids do tend to turn towards technology for keeping their minds active. Whilst the iPad is great for playing games, you can also download some educational apps and play them together. Even games such as Candy Crush Saga can be used to help develop matching skills, but why not download a language app and learn some of the language of the country you’re heading to, together as a family?

Carmen San Diego – The famous computer programmes aimed at children of around 8-12 years will pass hours, and they won’t even realise they’re learning. Cleverly using characters and plots, weaving in word play and using alliteration, this is a good way to learn language skills and vocabulary, and can be done on the go.

Country’s flags and currencies – Weave learning into where you’re going, by matching flags and currencies, flags and languages etc.

As you can see, all our suggestions take away the focus of learning, yet sneakily kids will develop skills whilst they’re doing them. That’s the best way to do it in my opinion! Imagination games, word play, using awareness of space and surroundings, asking questions on what they think things are, and discussing it – these are all ways to pass the time and learn something along the way.

 

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Managing Your Digital Life Made Simple

Life these days is lived increasingly in mid-air, somewhere we can’t see, in the ether if you will. It can be easier paper-wise, so you don’t have a drawer full of receipts and files, but whilst you can’t see all this information, it can feel like you have no reins on it, no control. This is all a bit of a recipe for stress.

So, how can we organise our digital life, so to speak, to make it less stressful, more streamlined, and less destructive on those forests by cutting down the paper?

Be password savvy – Any secure website will require a password, and it’s never advisable to use the same password for them all. If you get hacked then you’re running a huge security risk if you don’t mix it up a little. Variety is the spice of life, after all. Having said that, you don’t want to be remembering a head full of different passwords, and you certainly don’t want to be writing them down. A good way to use a password manager like Last Pass. Always generate important passwords using a strong password generator, rather than using real words.

Back up your files – Whilst they’re not paper-based, computer files still need to be organised and backed up. If your computer dies, you don’t want to be losing all your data, so for that I’d recommend using Dropbox as the cloud-type of storage you read so much about these days. Simply logging into your account will drag your information down from the sky and onto whichever machine you log into. Simple, and much safer.

Organise your files – Creating folders for the month and storing all paperwork relating to that month within it will make it easier to find things on the go. You can easily download your online statements etc and store them in that particular months’ folder. To keep it up to date again, delete folders after, say, three months, and keep it on a rolling system, so you don’t end up with a computer full of useless folders from four years ago!

Spreadsheets – They sound geeky, but they’re really not. If you’re a freelance worker, or undertake any kind of freelance work, then you will of course need to keep records of your work for tax purposes. I find a spreadsheet is a good way to keep a basic running tally, to go alongside the other records you need to keep. A simple tally like this will help you make quick calculations, rather than stressing yourself out with trawling through more complicated records.

Review regularly – When you’re trying to go paperless, you’re basically streamlining your life, so the key is to keep it simple. If it’s not working for you, play around with it a bit, and keep updating everything as you go. I don’t like to leave things to pile up, because that’s what clutters my mind and leads to stress. If you can keep on top of your admin, then you’ll be freer and more organised as a result.

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The Upside of Investing That Spare $100

If you have a spare $100 and put it in into something that returns 6%, in 40 years time it’ll be worth $1096. If you’re older and leave it there 30 years, it’ll be worth $602. Basically anything you spend $100 on now is costing you $602 in future dollars.

If you only have a spare $50, and are prepared to let that money sit there for 40 years, it’ll be worth $548. Just think if you get that money invested and out of sight, out of mind whenever there is extra. Here are just a few ways to save $50-100. As you can see, leaving it there an extra 10 years, is almost the same as saving double now.

The key is making it real.

I’ve found that the key to getting myself to invest is coming up with some numbers that make it real for me.

For example, if I’d invested $1000 a month in the VTI fund, which tracks the US stock market, for the last 10 years, that investment would be worth $205,000 now, compared to $120,000 of contributions. That’s even with the massive crash of 2008.

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The Benefits of Giving Up an Unused Subscription

Let’s imagine that instead of paying $15 a month for a subscription you don’t really use, you’d invested that money for the last 10 years instead. In this case, even starting from $0, you would have over $3000 now after only depositing $1800.

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The calculator I’ve used for coming up with the above tables is http://www.buyupside.com/calculators/dollarcostave.php

What you you have a spare $1000?

I know for some people the idea of having a “spare $1000″ isn’t a reality, but also for many people it is. For example, you get a tax refund or the like.

Here’s what you can expect if you invest an extra $1000 that you have available.

At a moderate 6% rate of return, that money will have grown to

5 years: $1349
10 years: $1819
20 years: $3310

If you only have a spare $500, here’s what you can expected

5 years: $674
10 years: $910
20 years: $1655.

My Personal Long Term Savings Plan Revealed

It’s really hard to talk about money face to face. Different people are in different situations and it makes it awkward. For the sake of public accountability and just to share what I’m doing, I’ve decided to share my personal savings plan.

Calling it “retirement savings” doesn’t work for me. “Retirement” sounds like something that’s going to happen to someone else, not to me. This is what I call my “long term savings plan.” Renaming it in this way makes me feel like it’s me who is going to get to spend this money!!

At the moment I have around $100,000 invested. The two scenarios below involve me saving $200 per week or $300 a week for 20 years, which will put me at almost 54. Now, saving $300 a week consistently is not something I expect is going to be easy. To achieve this I’m going to need to put every bit of spare money into investments as soon as I get it, but as you can see, I think it will be worth it.

I’ve used a medium rate of return of around 6%, something that should be achievable after taxes and fees.

Here’s what my account should like like after the full 20 years. Clicking on the images will expand them.

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This is the much less impressive projection of what it should look like after the first 10 years. As you can see, it really is time and consistent investing that does the magic with compounding returns.

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The Cost of Waiting to Start Investing

People are often really intimidated by investing. In my view, 30 is the absolute latest you should start. Obviously earlier is better but for any people they won’t do that. Starting at 30 still gives you 40 years until your 70, which in my mind is the point where I don’t want to be doing any paid work anymore. I can imagine that between 55-70, I’d want to scale back but not stop completely. Assuming, I’m around and healthy that long of course.

The graph below shows the change in the amount of money you’d have if you invest for 40 years vs. an alternative strategy where you start regular investing 5 years later. As you can see, the difference in the total amount you invest is only $20,000 but the difference in returns is over $250,000. For these calculations, I’ve used a fairly conservative rate of return of 6%, which is around about what a broad stock market ETF (exchange traded fund) will return. This is when you buy a fund that just tracks the whole market rather than selecting stocks.

If you do this within a tax-free account like a ROTH IRA in the US, then you are all set to keep all of your profits. In my view everyone should be saving $100 a week, religiously. If you can’t do this, there are various ways to hustle to earn that level of extra income, just as working online on a site like odesk or fiverr, or helping a friend out in their business.

The calculator I used for this is from https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/

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Traveling for Work Without Your Kids

Torn between your career and your children?

Of course your children will always come first, but you may also have that longing to push yourself professionally and fulfil those career aspirations. Leaving your little ones for a business trip, no matter how long you’re going away for, will break your heart no doubt, but there is some good news, a silver lining on that cloud.

The good news? These days you can do both, and it’s perfectly easy to do once you put a few methods in place

Here’s a few ideas.

Don’t be afraid of lists – Lists are a basic life-saving thing for me. If I think of something, I write it down, and that way I won’t forget it. If you have memory like a sieve, such as I do, then this will be your serious go-to! In the case of heading off on a business trip without your children, then leaving to-do lists and reminders at home will put your mind at rest, that everything is covered, and also inform those left behind at home on what to do. Making checklists is a good idea for things that need to be done at home in your absence. For example, a checklist for the getting out the door to school routine. Here are Sir Richard Branson’s list making tips, which I find quite inspiring.

Skype is your friend – Setting a regular time to Skype video call the kids is the perfect way to stay in touch, both visually and verbally. The phone with just a voice can seem impersonal, don’t you think? Your kids seeing your face will put them at ease, and make you feel better too. Just make sure that you schedule a time that doesn’t disrupt their routine, and maybe just before their go to bed, provided you don’t think it would upset them too much – or you for that matter! Sometimes Skype rates can be very high for calling home from some overseas countries, especially from cell phones. If you’re going to be using an overseas cell phone, then it might be cheaper to use Rebtel. This is an especially simple option for communicating with places like your child’s preschool or technophobe family members who don’t want to deal with phone apps and the like, since you can just call their regular number.

Consider an au pair - If you travel a lot then employing an au pair might be the best way to go. A live-in au pair will mean your kids are with someone they know well and trust when you’re not there, and also for you, this means your little ones are in the hands of someone you trust too. Go through a reputable agency and draw up a list of questions you want to ask before you start interviewing. Picking the right candidate will mean you have utter peace of mind.

Involve the kids – If you have children who are of an age to understand the places you’re travelling to and how you’re getting there, sit down before you go and tell them stories about the place you’re going to, and how you’re going to get there, such as the flight etc. This will help them see your business trip as something positive and fun, and they will be wanting to know all about it when you get home. Take lots of photographs too, which you can email them to show them what you’re doing while you’re away.

Special treats – Create a ritual that only happens when you go away. For example, whoever looks after your children when you’re not there, get them to take the kids to the cinema and make this a recurring thing that happens when you go away on your business trips. Another idea could be a movie night with snacks, popcorn etc. This will help make your going away something for them to look forward to for another reason, and take their minds off the fact that you’re not there.

The important thing to remember is reassurance that you’re only going away for a few days, and that way time will pass much quicker. These days, us women are increasingly business-oriented, as well as being as maternal as we ever have been. Yes, you can do both, and yes, it can work!

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Moms’ break in Barcelona

A holiday with the girls, sans children – does this sound like your dream break right now?

Whilst I’m not going to say that anyone really enjoys leaving behind their little bundle, or bundles, of joy, there are some times when touching base with female friends is just needed, don’t you find? Fun times with the girls can’t be beaten.

Barcelona is a great choice of destination for such a catch up, and there’s lots to do, more than you’ll ever fit into a few days. As with any city break, you need comfortable shoes. Okay, you need fashionable, comfortable shoes, I’ll rephrase that!

Get yourself glammed up, get yourself looking sleek and sophisticated, it’s time to hit the city, Spanish style!

1) Tapas!

The famous Spanish way of eating has to be consumed in Barcelona; I’m sure it’s the law or something, and if it’s not then it should be! The traditional way is to have pintxos which are basically small dishes, tapas, which are served on a slice of bread. Munch whilst you’re gossiping and catching up, and you usually eat them with toothpicks.

2) Get cultural

When you have your kids in tow, it’s not always easy to really explore what you’re seeing, because you’re too busy keeping an eye on everyone and seeing to their needs. This is your chance to immerse yourself! Barcelona is one of Europe’s most cultural cities, and if you head to one of the many museums or galleries, such as the Fundacio Joan Miro, then you’ll really be in for a treat. A girly cultural few hours, with a few drinks afterwards maybe?

History-wise, the Museu d’Historia is the perfect choice.

3) Chow down some paella

Someone else cooking for you? Yes please! Seafood is famous in Spain as a whole, but it is especially fresh and delicious in Barcelona. Paella is practically the national dish, so it would be a crime not to eat it whilst on your visit. It’s like going to Rome and not eating pizza!

4) Indulge in your sweet tooth

There are some serious top-quality confectionery stores in Barcelona, and some, like Papabubble, let you watch demonstrations whilst they make their mouth-watering products! Tired of buying sweets for the kids but never getting any for yourself? This is for you! Of course, you could also purchase a few to take home as a treat for your children.

5) Beach time

A girly day on the beach is just the ticket! Escape the hustle and bustle of the city to one of Barcelona’s close-by beaches. There are several, but Sant Sebastia is a popular one.

6) Retail therapy!

The ultimate girls’ activity! You’ll find high street stores, such as Mango, and designer labels lining the streets of the city, but Passeig de Gracia is the most famous shopping district of the city. This is where you’ll find the most affordable stores too, so perhaps start there and leave the window shopping to the designer stores, that’s certainly what I’d be doing!

7) Girl’s night out

Freedom, your friends, a new city – this all adds up to a delicious recipe. Cocktails on one of the outdoor terraces on the La Ramblas, followed by clubbing it up at one of the many destinations around the city. There are countless clubs, but Razzmatazz is one of the most popular, and oldest – perfect for dancing around your handbags. Cabs in Europe tend to be pricey so if you’re going to be heading out on the town, pick a centrally located hotel. Barcelona hotels tend to be modern European in style e.g., HCCHotels.

Just seven suggestions there for a moms’ break in the Spanish city of Barcelona. Catching up on gossip, enjoying freedom time with friends, and basically catching up on YOU – the perfect time you could spend, before returning home to the ones you truly can’t do without.

photo credit: Luis Hernandez – D2k6.es cc

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Just cruising along

Cruises are huge news at the moment, and rightly so – what better way to see lots, in a short space of time, in luxurious surroundings, without having to budget for food and drink?

Sounds like heaven to me!

Of course, seeing a lot without much time involved means a recipe for tiredness, however if you pace yourself, plan well, and take care of the extra details, it is possible to come out of the other end of a cruise without needing another holiday to get over it.

Booking airport parking as soon as you know your flight details will go a long way to making sure you don’t begin your break tired. Building on an exhausted foundation will just lead to further bleary eyes, and by the time you reach the halfway mark, you’ll be spending most of your time onboard asleep! Driving yourself to the airport means you don’t need to get up at stupid o’clock to meet a coach that leaves way before you need it to, or put yourself through packed train hell. Check out the facilities for parking at your airport, and I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the cost. I regularly book Luton Airport parking and have always found a budget-busting deal. More money saved on what is essentially a bargain holiday anyway!

Building on a rested beginning will enable you to truly appreciate what you’re seeing, but you need to try and continue in that vein if possible. For sea days, why not treat yourself to a relaxing massage or take advantage of any spa facilities on board, to rest any tired muscles from busy excursion and land days. Swim in the pool and chill out as much possible, and of an evening, certainly enjoy yourself, but try and have a couple of early nights. I know, I know, you’re on holiday, but you want to try and enjoy the days when you have land excursions, because that’s the whole point of cruising.

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For those days when you’re visiting your itinerary destinations, do your research beforehand and identify the things you want to see. If you are planning on doing excursions to particular historic or tourist sites, then look at booking them beforehand, and organising any necessary transport. Having to do it on a rush once you arrive will be time consuming and stressful, and you may find that the tours your ship tries to sell you will be more expensive, however this does come with the safety net that you’re not going to miss your sailing should you arrive back late!

Seeing a lot will take it out of you, so take advantage of your free time to recoup and recharge your batteries, which gives you more time to explore as much of your destinations as possible, within a short period of time. If you can do this, you’ll find you’ll not only survive your cruise without needing extra sleep when you return home, but you’ll have seen everything you wanted to, and probably more.