Happy Monday and MLK Day everyone! I have the day off of work today and am just embracing my time at home with Kai. We didn't do a whole lot this weekend because we got hit with a huge blizzard on Friday/Saturday, so we've pretty much just been cozied up at home all weekend. We ventured out for a little bit yesterday to go to the Garfield Park Conservatory in the city to do Kai's 1 year old photos! I seriously can't wait to get them back, I just know they are going to be the most gorgeous set of photos. We did make a lot of progress on organizing our office though and it finally feels like a place I can work and be inspired in. In fact, I'm actually typing this at our desk in our office right now and it feels so good! I can't wait to show you all the full transformation of it soon!
Today I want to share with you all my most used travel apps I use on my phone. Using resources like books and apps are some of my best ways for planning and having a great time on our trips. I keep a little EXPLORE folder on my phone with all of my travel apps in it to keep them organized in a place where I can easily find them. And as an FYI, all these apps are free. Alright, so here we go!
I prefer Google Maps to Apple Maps (I have an iPhone), especially when we are traveling. Reason being is that I like to favorite all of the places we are planning on going when we are traveling and they show up as little yellow stars on my map when I open the app. This makes it so easy to find everything and map out routes on how to get from place to place, especially if you're walking. I can also just tap the star and the place will pop up for me to click for directions, too.
I do most of my hotel bookings through Expedia. I personally like the layout of the app the most compared to all the other ones out there like Kayak of Booking.com. I also just feel like I get the best deals through Expedia.
This app is Chicago specific. In order to get around Chicago via public transport, you need to have a Ventra card. This app allows me to refill my account and look up train schedules for all of the lines on the CTA. If you don't live in Chicago and are visiting, I highly suggest this one!
This app is a lifesaver and probably my favorite travel app ever. We use this app all the time to finding parking spots everywhere. We use it every time we drive in to Chicago or Milwaukee, we've used it in Portland and Seattle, etc. The way it works is you type in your destination and it finds you all the available parking lots or garages near your destination and gives you pricing for the time slot you've filled in. We've saved so much money using this app with parking in Chicago. They always have discounted rates for garages in Chicago...I'm talking like we pay $18 for a spot that would normally be $40! Best app ever.
This app is a little specific to us because we always fly Southwest. We personally feel like we always get the best rates through Southwest and like that there are no baggage fees or change of flight fees. I like having their app on my phone especially for checking in for our flights since we have to do it 24 hours in advance to get a good seat (well we don't HAVE to now thanks to family boarding). I also like it just simply for looking up flights for upcoming trips. However, whatever airline you prefer the most, I suggest downloading their app and having it in your travel folder on your phone so you can easily look up flights and check in for your flights on your phone, too.
Skyscanner is another cool one. This app helps you find the cheapest possible flights out there (including Southwest flights!) Apps like Expedia never include Southwest which is always a bummer since that's who we fly with the most! A lot of times though if I'm traveling alone I like to just look up the cheapest airfare and will deal with flying something else besides Southwest since they only fly out of Midway and we live a lot closer to O'Hare. But anyways, you can find some insane deals on this app. Another cool feature of it too is you can pick a date range or a month and "fly anywhere" and it will show you the cheapest rates to everywhere in the US. So if you're in the mood for a little getaway but you don't know where to go, this is a fun little feature to try out! It might spark an idea for a place you didn't even have on your radar.
We're more of a rent a car or take public transit people but if you need to hire a car, Lyft is great. We use Lyft over Uber because you have to go through Lyft for the Minnie vans at Disney World. (A Minnie van is those cute red with polk dot cars at Disney that take you from resort to resort or to the parks so you don't have to use the bus system). This is a great option to save time at Disney because their bus system doesn't take you from resort to resort.
Disney World (My Experience App)
Speaking of Disney...I always have the Disney World My Experience App on my phone. This app shows you everything for your Disney World trips from your hotel reservation, FastPasses, photos from your trip, and dining reservations. You can update all your trip info on the app, too, and make FastPass selections on it. One of the coolest things about the app too is you can see ride wait times! Plus there is a great map of all the parks on the app for easy navigating.
This app is a great one for making dining reservations. They have a huge network of restaurants all over! You can easily search for a specific restaurant or you can search in the area you're in and a whole list of restaurants will pop up. They have reviews and information on all restaurants and you can see most menus on the app, too. They give you all available times for reservations and ask if you need any special accommodations. The best part though is with each reservation you make and honor you rack up points, which eventually turns back in to money!
What is your all time favorite travel app that you have on your phone? Share with me below in the comments!
Hello hello! I hope you all are having a great week. It feels like this week is taking forever! We leave for our trip to Salt Lake City tomorrow and I'm so excited for it! It will be Kai's first plane ride so send me allllll your tips and tricks for keeping a baby happy on a plane! It's a 3 hour flight, so not too long but long enough.
On the flip side though, I want to talk to you all today about road tripping with babies! We didn't do a ton of travel with Kai this year but we did do a couple of road trips out to see family in Ohio, which is about a 5 hour drive. The first one when he was 4 months old was a little rough but this last one we took went so much smoother. I believe it's because I thought out way more how to keep him occupied and how to help him nap when he's supposed to during the drive. So here are my biggest tips for road tripping with an infant...
1. Bring # of toys per # of hours
So what I mean by this is if you are going on a 5 hour road trip, bring 5 toys. They don't have to be huge or anything, just small things they can bang, throw, chew on, etc. Just keep rotating them out when you notice them getting bored with them. I honestly think I only ended up using 2 out of the 5 I brought plus his pacifier.
2. Sit in the back seat w/ them
I don't normally sit in the back seat with Kai when we drive around locally, but I did for our road trip out to Ohio the 2nd time. The first time I didn't at first, but had to move back there in the end because he wouldn't stop crying. Just think, they get lonely and bored! I was able to entertain him, plus give him back his toy whenever he would throw it. Which I would encourage because it kept him happy and entertained, ha! I was also able to feed him some solids when he was hungry + kind of guide him in to his nap when he needed to sleep a little. He's usually really good about napping in the car but when he's been in it for hours, he gets restless.
3. Take breaks at least every 2 hours
Our babes are buckled in nice and tight in their car seats so they need to stretch every couple of hours otherwise they are going to get real cranky. When it's time to feed them milk, find a rest stop and feed them. We're forced to do this because I still mostly breastfeed Kai, but he is bottle fed, too. So technically I could just give him a bottle in his seat, but the break is still necessary to give us all a stretch and bathroom break. Plus this is the perfect opportunity to change their diaper.
4. Download a good movie + playlist
We don't usually let Kai watch TV, but a thing like this is an exception. I give him a toy and put on Mickey on my iPad and he's good for at least 30 min to an hour. He mostly plays with the toy but occasionally watches Mickey and gets all excited. We also have an awesome Disney playlist put together for him on Spotify. It's full of the best Disney songs + other kid-friendly movie soundtracks. It's called Kai Tunes, look it up and follow it for your little ones too!
5. Bring all the snacks + the pacifier
When push comes to shove a pacifier or some puffs almost always does the trick. We have these Wubbanub pacifiers for Kai and he loves them so much. They almost always comfort him. Depending on what comforts your little one most besides you holding them, bring that. He is also a huge fan of these puffs from Happy Baby. He could probably eat the whole container in one sitting! They quickly dissolve in their mouth so they aren't a choking hazard and they actually taste so good! So snacks and binkies for the win!
That's all I've got for you all so far! Simple, but useful. I'll keep the tips coming as we travel more and will definitely do a post on all the tips and tricks I learn from flying with an infant soon!
We absolutely love to travel and are so excited to get back in to travel mode in 2019. One of my favorite parts about travel in general though is planning our trips! I find the logistics and anticipation so fun. I get so many questions and comments around how we plan our trips and how it can be very overwhelming. So today I want to share with you all my tips for how to plan out the ultimate travel itinerary for your next dream vacation + show you a little sample of how to build your itinerary!
1. Make a Master List
Make a big list of places you want to see and eat for your destination. I like to use Google Sheets and add everyone that will be going on the trip with me, so they can give their input, too. About a month before the trip, I will go in to the sheet and categorize it by food, attraction, and entertainment. Then I'll sit down with my travel buddies and go through the list and mark down our must visits and take off any items that are not doable or don't have a lot of interest to everyone.
2. Use Google Calendar
I make a new Google Calendar for each trip we take and share it with whoever I'm traveling with so everyone has access to it. I will start plugging in entertainment dates and times (baseball game, attraction tours, etc). I usually do the day view in Google Calendar to better visually see length of time for each place we're going to visit. From there, I start filling in the days with the more flexible items from our Google sheet.
3. Explore 1 Area at a Time
When filling in your itinerary, stick to certain locations as much as possible. What I mean by this is if you're going to a museum on a certain day, pick a restaurant for dinner near that museum that you have on your list of places you want to eat at. That way you're not running all over the city to get from place to place and wasting a lot of time on travel. Same thing goes for dessert spots or bars. Pick things within walking distance or a couple of train stops away from your dinner spot whenever possible.
4. Don't Over Do it
Leave room for open exploring, breaks, and traffic jams. Remember that not every day is going to go according to plan, especially if you have kids! I personally like to use our first day of vacation as an explore/rest day. So if you're going on a tropical vacation, use that first day to just lay on the beach with a margarita. For other days throughout your trip, just schedule in "exploring" time. We don't always like to have something specific in every time slot. We always leave room to just explore neighborhoods and go shopping. That way if something comes up where we want to change what we're doing, we're not stuck cancelling a bunch of reservations or tours. It makes for a much more relaxing vacation. We love structure and to know where we're going, but we also really enjoy the freedom of just discovering gems on our own while we walk around while traveling. There's nothing like walking the streets of Rome and just happening upon an amazing restaurant on getting a glimpse of the Colosseum down a quiet alley way!
5. Mix it Up
Have some full days, and have some light days. Have some long meals and have some quick bites to eat. Have some nights where you grab dessert and some nights where you grab a cocktail. See where I'm going with this? I absolutely love trying all different kinds of experiences when we're in a new place from having brunch one morning to grabbing doughnuts the next. Book a spa day one day and then do surf lessons the next. The best way to immerse yourself and have the best time in a new place is to try it all! Do what you love but also get out of your comfort zone.
How to Build Your Itinerary Tutorial:
Step 1: Add the basics - Add your flight information + your hotel details
Step 2: Add it set activities - Add any shows, sporting events, tours, spa appointments, etc in to your calendar since they all have set times and places. You obviously can't change these things so they are a good place to start.
Step 3: Add in other activities - Add in your other activities that have more freedom like exploring a neighborhood, going to a museum, or shopping. Take it easy on day 1. Exploring a couple of areas is always best. Get to bed early on night 1 to recover from traveling and hit the ground running the rest of your trip.
Step 4: Add in Meals - We usually shoot for 1 hour for brunch or lunch and 2 hours for dinner. This way you can take nice breaks throughout the day to unwind and it pads time in case you need to wait for a table. We always do a pre-dinner refresh, too in case we want to take a nap, shower, or change our clothes. For quick bites to eat like getting doughnuts or sandwiches, I'll usually just do a 30 minute block. Be mindful of your set activities though with dinner! If you have somewhere to be in the evening it's best to grab a quick bite to eat like a burger near where you need to be and keep it a short and sweet. Like in my example above, I have a 1 hour block at a burger joint and the same hotel as the The Beatles: Love show is at. It's best to always make reservations if the restaurant takes them, too. This way you're never crunched for time and stressed about your schedule.
Step 5: Add in day trips - Add in any day trips that you want to take on completely open days. These kinds of things tend to take all day and require extra travel so it's best to keep meals quick and simple on these days and allow for a lot of extra time for travel.
That's all I do when planning! Start with the basics and build upon them for each day of our trip. Planning it all out is so helpful for us especially when it comes to food. We don't like to wing it too much when it comes to food because we quite literally travel for food. We want to make sure we're going to have an amazing food experience wherever we travel so we love to plan all that out. As for the exploring bits, we all have in mind what we want to see when we travel somewhere, so picking when and where you're going to go do these things helps you to know when to start your day and where you need to head to! I hope this helps all of you a little bit for planning out your trips, and as always, I'm always here to help if you ever want to reach out! You all know how much I love to plan trips ;)
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Woo sorry I've been a little MIA this week friends, we had a quite the week. We had a minor health scare with Wrigley and I'm not going to lie, I've been kind of a mess. He started acting very strange yesterday morning, so we quickly made an appointment with our vet. Thankfully after a thorough exam, it's been narrowed down to some kind of sprained muscle in his abdomen or back. He's on pain meds and already seems to be better. It was a very scary experience though because he's always been a very healthy pup. Please keep him in your prayers and send him some good vibes to heal up quickly!
On to happier things though...like trips to Disney! I know from experience that all the things Walt Disney World has to offer can be overwhelming sometimes. They try to make your life easier by having all these perks but sometimes it is just too much if you've never been before or taken advantage of them. Well, I promise you, all the things that WDW offers to vacation goers really does make your life so much easier and ensures you will have the best time ever! There's a lot that goes in to an amazing Disney vacation but today I'm going to break down the travel logistics of getting to Walt Disney World by plane and how to get around WDW.
Disney Magical Express
If you're flying in to Orlando, take advantage of the Disney Magical Express. It is a bus shuttle service that takes you from MCO airport to your WDW resort. The best part about it though is, it's free! No other shuttle/transportation service in the Orlando area is free to other hotels, so for us this is a huge perk and a way to save some cash. This also eliminates needing to rent a car. Sometimes a car is worth it if you want to go explore other parts of Central Florida, but if you are strictly doing Disney, then the Magical Express is the way to go. An added perk for us now is not needing to bring a car seat for Kai, too, since we would just be on the bus with him! The bus picks you up right at the bus depot at the airport and drops you off at your hotel. They also grab all your checked luggage for you from baggage claim, too! So you can get off the plane and go straight to the bus, not having to worry about waiting for your bags. When you book your Disney vacation and if you select using the Magical Express, Disney will mail you luggage tags to put on your bags so that the service knows to grab those bags at baggage claim. Disney will then deliver your bags to your room at your hotel. It's a very similar process for going home, too. You check your bags in at your resort when you're checking out of your room and Disney will bring them to the airport and check them in for you with your airline. You catch the bus at your resort at your designated time that Disney will give you via a slip of paper with your check out information for your room. It's usually around 3 to 4 hours prior to your departure time. The bus drops you off at the airport and you're on your way home. For any additional carry on items you want for your plane ride home, you can just leave them at the concierge desk and get them before you leave for the airport on the bus.
The only downside to this is you will need to pack anything you need for your first day at the parks in your carry on bag. I don't like to wear shorts on airplanes because I get cold, so I pack my outfit for the day and anything else I need for the parks in my backpack that I plan on using at the parks. I use that as my carry on with any additional items I want for the plane. When we get to our resort, I either empty those plane extras out in to our room or leave them at the concierge desk to get later if our room isn't ready yet and get them after we get back from the parks. I personally feel like this is a very minor downside to all the convenience Disney is giving you otherwise.
Disney Ground Transportation
I'm just going to come right out and say this, please don't drive from park to park. You'll waste so much time getting to your car in the parking lots and driving around the resort to another park. The best way to hop from park to park and back to your hotel is by using Disney's bus system. You can catch a bus to all 4 parks, both water parks, and Disney Springs from every resort and every park. So if you start at your resort and you want to go to Magic Kingdom, just go to your bus depot and catch the MK bus. Then if you want to hop over to Animal Kingdom, you can catch a bus to AK at the MK bus depot. Then to get back to your resort you would just simply catch a bus back to your resort from the AK bus depot. Pretty simple right? The buses start picking up for the parks about an hour before they open and run for about an hour after the parks close. Buses to Disney Springs start at 4pm and run till about 3am. The only thing to keep in mind is you can't get buses that go from resort to resort. So if you have a dining reservation at a different resort than the one you are staying at, then you will need to take a bus to a park and then catch another bus to the resort you are dining at or want to visit. I'm not going to sugar coat it, the buses can sometimes take awhile. Plan on about 45 minutes to an hour one way for waiting for the buses to come and driving to wherever you're trying to get to. It is still better than driving around in a car though!
The easiest way to get around Disney though is by using the Monorail. The Monorail stops at 3 resorts, the Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian and goes to Magic Kingdom and Epcot. It is fast and fun. It goes around the lake and has some amazing views while you ride it. This is the best way to get to those 3 resorts from MK and Epcot, which I highly recommend checking them out because they have some of the best restaurants, spas, and things to do outside of the parks. The Monorail will also take you to the MK and Epcot parking lots. There is also the option to take the ferry across the lake, but from experience, the Monorail is much faster.
If you must drive, here is all you need to know about parking. Disney has recently decided to start charging guests for overnight parking. For budget hotels it is $13 per night, moderate hotels it is $19 per night, and deluxe hotels it is $24 per night. It is still free to park at the parks during the day for resort guests. Standard parking for non-resort park goers is $22 per day and $45 for preferred parking. Parking at Disney Springs and ESPN Wide World of Sports is free all day.
That about covers all your transpo options for a vacation at Walt Disney World! When is your next trip to Disney? I'd love to hear about it, so leave me a comment below!
Hi all! Back to the grind of another week, but hopefully you all had a great weekend. We didn't really do much because the weather here was brutal this weekend! We tried to run some errands on Saturday but the wind and rain made it so hard. We ended up just staying home the whole weekend having a Star Wars marathon! Kai is starting to fit in to all his 3 month clothes and one of the things I bought for him for this age was a pair of R2D2 pajamas! I have some R2D2 PJs myself (mine are from last year but here are some similar ones), so we did some major twinning and snuggling in them this weekend and watched most of the saga.
So one thing I get asked all the time is how we can afford to travel as often as we do, and the answer always is because we budget for all of our travels! Seeing the world is our biggest hobby and in order to make that hobby happen we save our money to do it! Today I want to share with you how we budget for our big annual vacations that we take every year. We have a few simple tips that really make all the difference in allowing us to take trips of a lifetime all the time!
Pick One Big Destination a Year
We always settle on one big trip per year and then fit in smaller trips like road trips or trips to go see family and friends in to our travel schedule. Figuring out where you want to go is the first step though because that's how you're going to figure out how much it is going to cost you to go on said trip. I suggest doing this as far in advance as possible. Honestly, we pick where we want to go on our big vacations each year almost a whole year in advance.
Make a Rough Price Outline
After you pick where you want to go, it's time to start figuring out how much it'll cost you. I look up flight prices and hotel prices to the destination we have picked out. I always try to look for the average price as well as good deals and land somewhere in the middle for both flights and hotels. I add those two things up and then I add in around $1,000 in spending money if we are taking a domestic trip or $2,000 for international trips. Those amounts include everything that we would be doing except for renting a car if it's necessary. So I'm talking all food, shopping, and entertainment. If we have to pre-pay for any entertainment, then it comes out of that lump sum. Examples of these kinds of things would be sporting event tickets, theater tickets, and tours.
Input Trip Total in to Budget
Once we've figured out roughly how much it will cost us to go on our chosen vacation, we figure out when we want to go and add that rough price in to our budget. We have a nice spreadsheet budget that we use to track all of our bills that need to be paid each month. We have it extended out by a couple years for any annual bills, big expenses like Christmas or buying a new car, or for vacations, so we can see that any expenses we have this year won't severely effect us in the future. So if we want to take a trip this upcoming December, we would put the trip total in to one our December lines on our spreadsheet under additional expenses. This way we can look and see that we won't be too low in our savings or that it won't cause any issues with having enough money to pay bills around that time. It's a nice visual representation to make sure that we aren't stretching ourselves too thin by going on vacation. If it causes any issues then we go back to the drawing board of either changing the time of year we take the trip or pick a new destination that might not cost as much money. As we get closer to needing to book our vacation, we spread out the total to where we need to pay for our flight and our hotel. So with still using December as an example, we would take out the price of the flight and hotel and move it to October since that is when we would be spending that money to book the flight and hotel. Then all that is left for the vacation in December is the spending money we would need for the trip.
*If you're interested in how we set up our budget please let me know and I can do a post on it or just answer via e-mail on an individual basis. I know budgets can be intimidating!
Look for my next travel tips post about the best way to save money on travel, so you can travel for less more often! Where is your next big vacation to? We're hoping to make it down to Savannah, GA/Charleston, SC this fall! Hope you all have a great week ahead!
I’m Diana; curator & author of Tiny Dapper Fox. Here you’ll find posts on motherhood, home life, travel, & fashion/beauty as well as City Guides for places all around the world. Make yourself cozy and let’s be friends!
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