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#DisneyCreatorDays #DisneySMMC Walt Disney creator, Disney social media moms celebration, Disney Creator Days, What is Disney Creator Days, Walt Disney World, Disney Corporation, cinderella's castle

Wondering what Disney Creator Days is? If you’re an influencer, especially if you’re one who loves Disney, your dream collaboration is to partner with the Walt Disney Company. For years, the most coveted influencer invitation was to be invited to the annual Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, #DSMMC. This year that celebration is on hiatus. Enter Disney Creator Days. But what is it? It’s a new immersive influencer event. It’s not the same as Disney Social Media Moms Celebration.

I’ve been very fortunate and been invited to Disney events and, for me, it felt like winning the lottery. We visit Disney World yearly so being invited to Disney hosted events is icing on the cake. Disney World is the first place we visited as a couple (on our honeymoon) and have continued to do so as a family for the past 20 years. 20-year anniversary coming at you this May.

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READ ALSO: Tips from Disney on how to get Invited to Disney Social Media Moms Celebration

Growing up, my family loved Disney but visiting Walt Disney World was never an option for us. My mom stayed home with us and my father worked a blue collar job. They had 6 kids. Our vacations consisted of saving everything we could to visit grandparents in Tennessee and Mexico. I’m not complaining, we saw lots of states on our drives to these places (in fact, I’ve seen most of the United States and Mexico by car) but Florida was never “on the way.”

Every time I step foot on the grounds at WDW resorts, it feels special. I’m sure it has a lot to do with who I’m with but where I’m at makes it absolutely magical and has secured Walt Disney World as one of our favorite places to visit as a family. Disney is a feeling for me and I know I’m not the only one. Walt Disney World means dreams coming true, in so many different ways, for so many of its visitors.

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READ ALSO: Free Tips for Maximizing Your WDW Vacation

When I’ve been invited to Disney events, my whole family celebrates because, for us, it is a big deal. The Disney Social Media Moms Celebration was particularly exciting for me as an influencer because not only was I invited, which is an honor in itself, I was able to bring my family along with me. While there, I heard some of the most talented people in my field speak. Not only did my family get to share this experience with me, but Disney also provided me with tools to grow my website and brand. And on top of all of that, I had the opportunity to meet and network with some of my fellow influencers and their families.

This year, when Disney announced that Disney Social Media Moms Celebration was going on a “hiatus” of course I was disappointed because last year’s event was so meaningful to me but, in our field, stopping, reassessing and changing to fit the evolution of social media is what has to be done to stay current. It’s doing what’s best in the long run.

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READ ALSO: Is Disney Vacation Club for You?

When I heard they were hosting an event called Disney Creator Days I had no idea what that was because it’s a brand new adventure but I was excited to find out more. There wasn’t a lot of information out there but there was a lot of speculation. I don’t like to gossip so I did what I always do, I went directly to the source. I asked my contacts at Disney.

#DisneyCreatorDays #DisneySMMC Walt Disney creator, Disney social media moms celebration, Disney Creator Days, What is Disney Creator Days, Walt Disney World, Disney Corporation, mickey mouse, minnie mouse

What is Disney Creator Days?

Disney Creator Days is an invitation-only event being held at Walt Disney World Resort and Disney Cruise Line in March.  It is a familiarization type experience for influencers to showcase these incredible Disney vacation experiences.   

Disney Creator Days is not the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration.

It is something completely new. From my research online, reading posts by those invited, Disney Creator Days is a week-long land and sea adventure that will be hosted by Walt Disney World Resort and Disney Cruise Lines. It’s a very small event for just a few select influencers and their families. It will be on March 5-11, 2019.

It sounds like it’s going to be awesome and include everything you could ever need for the ultimate Walt Disney World vacation.

  • 4 Days at Walt Disney World including park hopper passes and media Fast Passes.
  • 3 Night stay at a Walt Disney World Resort
  • 3 Night cruise with Disney Cruise Line
  • All Flights and Transportation
  • Unlimited internet both on land and sea
  • Most meals
  • Exclusive access, first-looks, events, one-of-a-kind special experiences, and surprises.
  • All of the above 100% paid for by Disney.

It seems to me that the key difference between the Disney Creator Days and Disney Social Media Moms Celebration is that Disney Creator Days is to showcase the Disney vacation experience.

#DisneyCreatorDays #DisneySMMC Walt Disney creator, Disney social media moms celebration, Disney Creator Days, What is Disney Creator Days, Walt Disney World, Disney Corporation

Whereas when at Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, influencers attend a conference to grow their brand but are allowed time and encouraged to experience the Disney magic with their families in the parks. The focus is different for each event.

Another key difference, when you attend #DSMMC you pay a very reduced rate for the experience including the conference, lodging and parks. Disney Creator Days is 100% paid for by Disney. Either way, totally worth it.

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READ ALSO: Tips to Rock Your Disney World Vacation

Last difference, when you attend #DSMMC there are no clearly defined sharing obligations. Most influencers in attendance share a lot while we are there because the nuggets of wisdom are so great. Why wouldn’t we? Also, we’re are Walt Disney World and who doesn’t love to share family and travel adventures? So when you attend #DSMMC sharing is encouraged. When you attend Disney Creator Days there is a clearly defined expectation to create unique and engaging content about The Walt Disney Company and the experience itself before, during and after on all channels. Each influencer is expected to use their voice to provide a unique and honest perspective on the event. This is typical expectations of any press event with any company.

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The next question on everyone’s mind is how do I get invited to Disney Creator Days?

As I mentioned earlier, those invited were hand selected. Here are the tips that I have gathered over the years from Disney on how to be considered for any Disney press event.

Go to conferences where Disney will be at and connect/network with Disney PR. Write strong, engaging content about Disney and send the links to the WDW PR department.

Qualities that Disney looks for in the influencers they work with?

It really depends on the initiative that they have going on. But it is helpful if bloggers have an up-to-date blog, have great social reach and engagement across the different social platforms, Disney-friendly content on social and their blogs, and a good Travel section.

How does Disney choose who to partner with for press events? Do bloggers need a certain amount of traffic to be invited to hosted events? How important is the audience fit?

Disney does not host very many influencer events so they have to be super selective with invitations. A lot of it is based on a variety of things such as brand fit, reach, audience, specialty, engagement, niche, diversity, quality of followers and whatever product Disney is promoting, etc.

#DisneyCreatorDays #DisneySMMC Walt Disney creator, Disney social media moms celebration, Disney Creator Days, What is Disney Creator Days, Walt Disney World, Disney Corporation, space mountainThere you have it, everything I know about Disney Creator Days.

 

Disney Creator Days sounds absolutely amazing and I’m thrilled for everyone who got the invite. I can’t wait to follow along on the inaugural event. Who knows, if they continue this event, maybe one of these days I’ll get some pixie dust. Either way, my love for family travel and Walt Disney World will keep my family coming back year after year. See ya real soon!

 

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Planning a Trip Your Teens Won't Whine About

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Hey Mamas (and Papas!), remember those pre-teen years when vacations meant building sandcastles and begging for ice cream? Those glorious spring breaks where everyone went with the flow? Sure, you had to carry an ass ton of extras to keep them entertained but in the end, it was absolutely worth it. Yeah, those days are officially over. Now, we’re facing a new foe: the dreaded planning a trip your teens won’t whine about and you might actually enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE traveling with my teens (it’s my favorite thing to do) but life would be easier without the “cool, bruh.” 

The mere mention of a family trip can be met with eye rolls, dramatic sighs, and monosyllabic responses.  Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It happens to the best of us. My girls even refer to me as “cool” on occasion and I get all the eye rolls. Planning a trip that appeals to both your inner wanderlust and your teen’s ever-evolving interests can feel like navigating a minefield. But fear not, fellow travelers!  This mama is here to equip you with secret weapons to conquer the Teen Travel Whine and plan a trip EVERYONE will love. Yes, even that youngest, most entitled and champion “cool, bruh” one. 

Embrace the Collaboration (Without Losing Control)

First things first, ditch the “Surprise! We’re going to Disney!” tactic. Just kidding. Maybe for typical teens but my girls are die-hard Disney teens. We go every year and every year it’s.the.best.time.ever! Teens crave a sense of ownership, so ditch the dictator routine and turn trip planning into a collaborative mission. Dust off that dusty world map (or whip out your phone) and gather your little squad. Get their travel vibes flowing by browsing travel blogs, Instagram accounts, and travel magazines together.

Pro Tip: Let them dream big! Even if a trip to the Maldives is out of budget, exploring their wildest travel desires can spark inspiration for more realistic options.

Location, Location, Location:

Now, the fun part! Once you have a general idea of what kind of trip your teen is digging (beach bumming, city exploration, adventure junkie, etc.), start brainstorming destinations that cater to both your interests. Here are some Teen-Approved Hotspots:

  • Adventure Awaits! For the thrill-seekers, consider national parks like Yosemite or Yellowstone, where hiking, camping, and white-water rafting will have them screaming with excitement (in a good way!). If international travel is on the agenda, Costa Rica offers a perfect blend of adventure and relaxation. Ziplining through rainforests, horseback riding on volcanic beaches, and learning to surf – enough adrenaline to keep those teenage spirits soaring.
  • City Slickers Unite! Let your teen unleash their inner urban explorer in a vibrant city like New Orleans, overflowing with live music, historic sites, and mouthwatering food (beignets, anyone?). London, with its iconic landmarks, museums galore, and a thriving theater scene, is another fantastic option. Explore hidden alleyways, catch a West End show, and maybe even take a day trip to explore the magic of Harry Potter Studios.
  • Beach Bums Welcome! Who doesn’t love a relaxing beach getaway? But ditch the all-inclusive resorts and opt for a location with some personality. Tulum, Mexico, offers stunning beaches, ancient Mayan ruins to explore, and a bohemian vibe your teen will love. The Outer Banks in North Carolina boasts beautiful beaches, charming towns, and even wild horses to keep everyone entertained.

Activities: It’s All About the Experiences

Okay, you’ve nailed the destination. Now, let’s make sure there’s enough action to keep everyone from getting bored (especially those with short attention spans cough teenagers cough).

Pro Tip:  Remember, vacations are about creating lasting memories, so prioritize experiences over souvenirs.

Here are some ideas to keep your teens engaged:

  • Food Tours: Turn mealtimes into mini-adventures with a food tour that explores the local cuisine. From chowing down on tacos in Mexico City to sampling dim sum in Hong Kong, these tours offer a delicious way to experience a new culture.
  • Get Creative: Does your teen have an artistic soul? Seek out workshops or classes that allow them to learn a new skill like pottery making, glass blowing, or graffiti art. This is a fantastic way to create a unique souvenir and a fun memory.
  • Volunteer for a Cause: Looking for a way to give back on your trip? Look into volunteer opportunities with local organizations. This could be anything from helping to build a school in a developing country to working at an animal shelter. Not only is it a rewarding experience, but it allows your teen to connect with the local community on a deeper level.

Don’t Forget the “Me Time” Factor

Remember, a vacation is supposed to be relaxing and enjoyable for EVERYONE, including yourself!

Pro Tip: Factor in “me-time” for everyone. Let your teens explore their own interests for a few hours, whether it’s browsing vintage shops or catching a movie. You can head to a museum, get a massage, or simply relax on a beach lounger with a good book.

This isn’t about abandoning your teens on a deserted island (tempting as it may sound sometimes!), but rather creating opportunities for everyone to recharge and pursue their individual interests.

Here are some ideas to create that “me-time” magic:

  • Teen Time: Negotiate a few hours where your teens can explore the city (or beach, or wherever you are) on their own. This could involve browsing vintage shops, catching a local band’s gig, or simply hanging out with friends they may have made on the trip.
  • Adult Adventures: Schedule an activity just for you! Whether it’s a solo museum visit, a relaxing spa treatment, or enjoying a quiet coffee at a local cafe, this dedicated “me-time” allows you to unwind and recharge.

Embrace the Unexpected

Travel is all about creating memories, and sometimes the best ones are the ones you don’t plan. Leave some room for spontaneity on your trip!

Here are some ways to embrace the unexpected:

  • Get Lost (Safely): Instead of sticking rigidly to your itinerary, allow some time to wander and explore. You might stumble upon a hidden gem of a restaurant, a charming local market, or a quirky street performance – these unexpected finds can become the highlights of your trip.
  • Be Open to New Experiences: Don’t shy away from trying something new, even if it’s outside your comfort zone. Whether it’s trying a local dish you can’t pronounce, taking a salsa dancing lesson, or going on a spontaneous hike, embracing new experiences can create lasting memories and stories to tell for years to come.
  • Go with the Flow: Things don’t always go according to plan, especially when traveling. Flights might get delayed, museums might be closed, or the weather might not cooperate. Instead of getting stressed, take a deep breath and roll with the punches. These unexpected hiccups can actually lead to some hilarious stories down the road.
  • The Loss Of Items: It can be tough if you lose things when you’re on your trip. Nobody likes it but it happens nonetheless. Instead of getting stressed out and panicked about it, remember that there’s always a solution. Where there’s a will, there is always a way. If you lose your phone, look for it, track it, see where it is. If you’re like me ( ADHD brain) backtrack and you will find it, even if it take a while. If you lose your travel money card, see if someone back home can do a money transfer to Mexico or wherever you are until you get back. There are always solutions, try not to panic.

**Remember, Mamas (and Papas, too), a successful family vacation isn’t about achieving Instagram-perfect moments. It’s about creating shared experiences, fostering connection, and making memories that will last a lifetime.  So ditch the stress, embrace the chaos, and get ready to have the best family vacation ever!

Bonus Tip:  Don’t forget to document your adventures! Encourage your teens to take photos, capture videos, and jot down their thoughts in a travel journal.  These little mementos will be precious treasures you can all look back on and reminisce about long after the tan lines fade.

Now, go forth and plan that epic trip your whole family (even the teens!) will be raving about!**

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sunrise, travel, traveling alone, traveling without kids

Leaving my children behind when I travel is the hardest thing I do. I travel and I love it. I travel a lot with my kids and the Big Guy. I traveled a lot before I had children. I was born with an insatiable wanderlust and it always begs for more. I don’t se it ever being satisfied. There is an ever growing bucket list of travel destinations because any place can be an adventure if you’re open to it.

Before I had my girls, I had specifically chosen a career path that would allow me the freedom to travel the world. I wanted to see the whole thing; every nook and cranny and hidden treasure of a culture. I still do; now, I just want to do it with my family.

Right now, as I type this, I’m watching the sun come up from 13000 feet. The view is spectacular. I only wish my daughters were here to see it with me. But they were left behind on this trip. Sometimes, we moms have to travel the road less traveled alone and that’s good because it allows us to grow and be better for our children.

I’m headed to New York City this morning. It’s my first trip there, which is ironic because this was the place I’d decided to call home so many years ago. But it wasn’t meant to be. Before my life plan could come together, I met the man I would marry and life took us in other directions, as life often does.

Still, here I am, like Icarus flying too close to the sun, heading for the missed opportunity trying my best to keep my hubris in check. I’m headed to BlogHer 2015. I haven’t been in a couple years but it seems kismet that I would find myself headed to my original destination with a plethora of opportunities before me on this sunny July morning.

We just returned from a family road trip on the east coast in Ogunquit, Maine. It was magical and more relaxing than any vacation I’ve ever had. My girls are turning into quite the junior travelers. I can see in them that the wanderlust is strong and that makes me happy. They are miniature foodies with an insatiable desire to know all the places of the world; to speak the language, eat the food and live amongst the people. This is my legacy.

Of course, this is the part I hate… Leaving them behind when I go on my travels. Since becoming a mother, the world is so much more wonderful and exciting through their eyes. Everything is new and wondrous to them and in so, born again in mine.

When I leave on a trip, we all feel a little sad about the separation. They miss me and I miss them but while I’m in Manhattan hugging necks and chasing dreams they will be with me like a couple tiny handprints on my heart. I hate to leave them but there is something absolutely magical about knowing that I get to return home to all that love.

What is your favorite travel destination to visit without children?

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Things to do in Banff with Teenagers, traveling with teens, travel Tuesday, Banff, Alberta, visit Canada, Visit Alberta, Things to do in Banff with Teenagers and tweens, family travel

If you want to take your children or teens someplace that will leave them speechless, visit Banff, Alberta. If you’re a parent, you already know how rare that can be. Children and teenagers are always in a hurry to get to the next place, the next thing and are easily bored and not afraid to tell you. If you prefer not to be serenaded by choruses of, “Are we there yet?” and “I’m bored” then Banff is for you.

I’m a talker who is easily bored and when I found myself standing at the mouth of Lake Louise, I had no words. I’m a city girl.  Grew up in Chicago. Love the city. I feed off of the hustle and bustle of people in a hurry. Kinetic energy gives me life. Standing in the stillness surrounded by all of that natural beauty, embracing the quiet is an inexplicable kind of breathtaking.

READ ALSO: Things to Do In Portland Maine with Kids and Teens

In my opinion, Banff is one of the most stunningly beautiful places on earth. The moment that I set eyes on Moraine Lake, I knew that I needed to share this place with my girls and the Big Guy. It’s a gift I want to give them.

There are certain things in life that have to be seen with your own eyes, felt with your heart and experienced to be believed. Banff is one of those places. You have to stand there and soak it in to believe this kind of beauty exists. I don’t want to oversell it, but then again I don’t think that is possible.

READ ALSO: Best Things to Do in Boston with Your Tweens and Teenagers

Nestled in the Rocky Mountains in the province of Alberta, Canada, Banff has mountains, rivers, valleys and glaciers. If your family loves exploring new places and going on adventures while being 100 %present, this is the perfect family vacation for the teenager or child who can’t sit still.

Things to do in Banff with Teenagers

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Moraine Lake

This might be my favorite spot in all of Banff. I may or may not have requested upon returning that my ashes be scattered there one day. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of all of that beautiful? Moraine Lake’s blue waters are surrounded by towering mountains, including 11,500-foot Mount Temple, the third highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. Located a 15-minute drive from the quieter more serene Lake Louise, popular Moraine Lake, can be crowded in summer. My suggestion, arrive early to enjoy canoeing and hiking before the crowds arrive.

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Lake Louise

Lake Louise, located within Banff National Park, is absolutely stunning. The emerald green lake is spectacular and the region has a range of hikes from easy lakeside strolls to more difficult ascents. The town of Banff is located 35 miles from the lake, so you will not be immersed in the crowds. The Lake Louise region has a sightseeing gondola and horseback riding.

Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka, the largest lake in Banff National Park, provides classic Canadian Rockies scenery. As the park’s only lake to allow motorized boating, Minnewanka is popular and crowded. Make reservations and arrive early to take a 1, 2, or 3-hour cruise around the lake. Lake Minnewanka is located a 20-minute drive from the town of Banff.

Banff Hot Springs

After a day of adventure seeking with your teens, what’s more relaxing than winding down in the Hot Springs? A natural hot spring provides an invigorating mixture of minerals to soothe your family’s sore muscles after a day of hiking, skiing or mountain biking. The Hot Springs are open seven days a week and well into the evening.

Banff Hiking

With more than 1,000 miles of trail, Banff National Parks offers path options for every level hiker. For an easy hike, try the Tunnel Mountain trail. Accessible from the town of Banff, the 1.4-mile trail leads to the mountain’s summit, with great views of the Bow Valley. Both Emerald Lake and Lake Louise offer additional easy family hikes with little elevation gain but with gorgeous scenery. In July and August wildflowers lace the Garden Path Trail, at Sunshine Village ski area.

Several outfitters offer guided hikes within the park, including the Mountain Heritage Guide Program at the Chateau Lake Louise.

Ice Climbing Banff’s Frozen Waterfalls

If your teen really wants to explore Banff like an adventurer, using an ice ax to climb a frozen waterfall is about the most exciting way to do that. Get yourself a guide for this excursion this winter and impress your teens with your adventurous spirit. You’d be hard pressed to find a cooler way to explore Banff’s creeks and canyon.

Climb Banff’s Majestic Walls

Banff has more than just fresh powder and raging rivers to offer. Being in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Banff has numerous cliffs and crags to rock climb. Hire a guide to bring you along on a multi-pitch trek in Bow Valley or the Ghost River area. Whether you are looking for traditional top roping or pushing your limits with sport climbing, your teens will be safe as you explore. Banff boasts some of the best limestone formations that give you the most accessible and remote areas of Alberta to enjoy.

Ski the “Big Three”

Skiing is a year-round possibility in Banff. I was there in August and it snowed. The big three resorts to go to are Sunshine Village, Mount Norquay, and the Lake Louise Ski Resort. These three mountains, give you access to 8,000+ acres, 26 chair lifts, and 30+ feet of annual snow fall. There is something for everyone, whether your teens are first timer skiers/ snowboarders or black diamond ready or simply want to take in the majestic mountains, Banff is an excellent choice.

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Banff Trail Rides

Biking Banff will give you the ultimate Canadian choose-your-own adventure with all the scenic views and the opportunity to stop at will and take it all in. The best time for cycling through Banff is May through October for milder temperatures.

Banff Horseback Riding

Trail rides are a fun way to take in the scenery for those who prefer horses to hikes. Horses carry riders 2,000 feet up the mountain to the 7,000-foot-high tea house. After a break, you mount up and head back down. More experienced riders can sign on for longer expeditions that takes you through the forest, up mountain trails, to the banks of a waterfall and then high above the tree line for a panoramic view.

Banff Gondola

An eight-minute, enclosed gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain gifts you with panoramic views. At the summit, stroll the Banff Skywalk or try the more difficult South East Ridge Trail hike depending on your family’s skill level.

Snowshoe through the Rocky Mountains

If you want to take your teens on the ultimate backcountry adventure, snowshoeing might be for you. Depending on how outdoorsy you and your teens are and your skill levels, you can choose a half-day to multiple day excursions. These adventures could include climbing the Continental divide, snowshoeing across frozen lakes or seeing Banff from a mountain peak. Possibilities for thrills is endless.

Rafting the Chinook River

Rafting is something that I’ve always wanted to do and that I think my teens would really enjoy. Banff offers several different rafting routes to choose from. Two of the most thrilling river rides are Horseshoe Canyon and Kicking Horse River. These rides will leave you exhilarated and soaked after a day on the rapids. On Horseshoe Canyon, you even have the option of cliff jumping if the rapids are not too fierce. Some excursions offer a BBQ lunch and professional photos of your family in the rapids!

Canoe or Kayak the Bow River

The Bow River is almost magical, born from snowmelt from the peaks of the Canadian Rockies. It winds through Banff flowing south. You can rent a boat and go exploring alone or hire a local guide.

Columbia Icefields

On this adventure, you and your teens will board giant buses with tires the size of adults that can handle moving through the ice on the Athabasca Glacier. You are left atop a glacier where you can stand on ice created by snow that fell 400 years ago. Holy wow! Your children of all ages will love this. Imagine a snowball fight made of centuries-old snowflakes. The Columbia Icefields cover nearly 200 square miles, the Athabasca Glacier is one of the most easily accessible. Tours take place mid-April to mid-October. Reservations are recommended.

Icefields Parkway

This is where you can really get some quiet time, save for some gasps of OMG! Stretching for about 143 miles between Lake Louise and the town of Jasper, the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) delivers breathtaking scenery. You’ll pass forests, river valleys, mountains with peaks reaching 10,000 feet and Peyto Lake, the bluest in the Canadian Rockies. This bluer than blue color is a result of fine particles of ground rock scattering the sun’s rays. Bighorn sheep, elk, mountain goats and ravens can often be seen along this drive.

Sunshine Meadows Gondola

Kids, teenagers and adults will love this scenic summer gondola ride up the Rocky Mountains in Canada’s oldest national park, Banff. Begin your adventure by hopping inside an eight-person gondola at the base of Sunshine Village and enjoy a 20-minute scenic mountain ride. At the top, you will arrive at Sunshine Village.

A short walk from the gondola, visitors can hop on a four-person chairlift to reach the top of the mountain. This brings you to the magnificent viewpoint at the top of the mountain. There is a short, gravel walking trail to reach an elevated viewpoint. As you walk along the trail, you will enter the Canadian Provence of British Columbia and then cross back over into Alberta. The kids will think that’s cool.

Take your time and enjoy the breathtaking mountain and lake views from the summit and take tons of photos. Though I literally took thousands and it still wasn’t enough. Photos cannot accurately capture the magic that is Banff. These views have to be seen to be believed. Several hiking trails begin at the top of the mountain and head back to the village or you can take the chairlift and gondola back down the mountain. It’s up to you.

These are just a few of the things that you can do with tweens and teenagers in Banff. The possibilities are endless. The adventure begins with you and the feeling of experiencing it all together as a family will last a lifetime.

What’s your favorite place to travel as a family and why?

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Wondering if you should be taking more precautions to protect your family from Coronavirus? Don’t want to be an alarmist? But want to take care of your children? Maybe you’re wondering why they named a really shitty virus after a vacation cocktail. Yes, I’d like an ice-cold coronavirus, add lime. Not funny, right? Let’s just talk plainly, what the hell is coronavirus and what should every mom know about it.

Now, while I’m not raiding my local stores of all the cleaning supplies, I am keeping my pantry stocked with Lysol, Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer and toilet paper but I do that all the time anyway. I’m not buying a year’s worth but with 4 people who seem to catch everything that goes around living in the house, we’re always stocked just in case. While I’m not one for screaming the proverbial fire in a crowded theater, I’m also a realist and the fact is that Coronavirus exists and it does not discriminate.

READ ALSO: Parents who send their kids to school sick are the worst

However, being immunosuppressed with an immunosuppressed child, I’m also not taking any unnecessary risks. We won’t be using public transportation; planes, trains, and buses are not on our to-do list. We’re also not going to be going to any large crowded venues if we can avoid it. I’m also considering taking advantage of pick-up for groceries and necessities rather than being in the stores until some of the flu strains and viruses going around are not going around as much.

Here is what I’ve found out and what every mom should know about the coronavirus!

What is the coronavirus?

Coronaviruses (CoV) is not new. They’re a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). The issue with the current novel coronavirus is that it’s a new strain and is zoonotic, meaning it can be transmitted between animals and people. The strains that typically infect humans generally cause symptoms that are no more severe than the common cold. However, sometimes a rogue coronavirus jumps from animals to humans and is more severe than typical.

This new coronavirus is spreading quickly throughout the world and we’re all on edge, especially parents because we’re worried about our children. At last count, more than 92,000 known people have contracted Coronavirus and at least 3,000 people have died since an outbreak began in December in Wuhan, China. While most confirmed cases are still in China, the coronavirus has since spread to at least 71 countries, with at least 100 recorded cases and at least six deaths in the United States.

Previously, the bulk of the cases in the United States were connected to the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was docked in Japan after it was revealed that some guests onboard tested positive for coronavirus. But a growing number of those diagnosed have happened after contact with an infected person or after no known connection to previous cases, suggesting that the virus is spreading among communities. The outbreak is on the verge of being a pandemic if it can’t be contained.

Symptoms of the Coronavirus that Moms should be aware of

  • Common signs of infection include
  • Respiratory symptoms
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
  • In more severe cases, an infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

How to stop the spread of Coronavirus

Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

READ ALSO: Working with Preschoolers and Jumping in the Cootie Pond

To reduce exposure to and transmission of a range of illnesses in the general public do as follows, which include hand and respiratory hygiene, and safe food practices:

  • Wear a cloth face mask that covers your mouth and nose at all times when in public.
  • Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water;
  • When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissues away immediately and wash hands;
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever and cough;
  • If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider;
  • When visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals;
  • The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.

Why are experts so concerned about this new coronavirus?

  1. This is a new illness that doctors have never seen before so there’s still a lot to learn about how it’s transmitted and how it will affect everyone.

  2. The virus is contagious, even before symptoms appear.

The CDC believes the new virus is contagious during the incubation period, which is believed to be 14 days, and symptoms can appear anytime between two and 14 days after exposure. Chinese officials reported person-to-person transmission as the virus spreads. The CDC also has confirmed person-to-person transmission in the U.S.

  1. The 2019 novel coronavirus may be mild but, in some cases, can be very serious

“As with a cold, there is no vaccine for the coronavirus and a flu vaccine won’t protect people from developing it. Washing hands especially after eating, going to the bathroom, and touching your face and avoiding other people who have flu-like symptoms are the best strategies at this point.”

  1. There’s a lot that we don’t know, so precautions are extremely important

Given that the symptoms tend to be mild and the number of people infected worldwide remains small, you may wonder why so much attention is being paid to this particular illness. Extreme caution is warranted because of how little is known about this new virus. For now, spreading awareness, keeping people updated as scientists learn more, and screening people who might be at risk are the best tools available. If you travel or if you visit a health care provider or facility, it may be helpful to know that the coronavirus-related signs you see and questions you may be asked are important.

  1. Guidelines will evolve as doctors learn more

The CDC advises people who travel anywhere, locally or internationally, to:

  • Avoid contact with sick people
  • Avoid animals, whether they are dead or alive, as well as animal markets, and animal products
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

What to do if you think you may have been exposed

Anyone who has traveled to Wuhan and is experiencing fever or respiratory symptoms should:

  • Seek medical care immediately. Call ahead to their doctor or emergency room to let them know about recent travel and symptoms.

  • Avoid contact with others

  • Avoid travel if they are sick

  • Cover their mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve (not hands) if they must cough or sneeze

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

The virus can be spread from animals to people. But it also can be spread by coughing, sneezing and through close contact with an infected person or an object carrying the virus. Experts are still figuring out how long an infected person is contagious as they try to determine a point of transmission.

How different is it from the common cold or flu?

Coronavirus infections, in general, are indistinguishable from other respiratory infections. In most cases, they cause a runny nose, cough, sore throat, fatigue and fever. But with the new coronavirus, patients tend to have a fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Do I need to stockpile N95 face masks?

No.

The C.D.C. recommends that only infected patients and their health care providers wear N95 respirator masks, which are a special type of mask intended to filter out 95 percent of airborne particles. When physicians treat a person infected with the disease caused by the virus, they wear a face shield, gown and gloves.

Standard surgical masks also can’t fully protect you from contracting the virus. However, if, when in public, everyone wears a cloth face mask properly, covering the mouth and nose, it can drastically reduce the amount of spread of the virus.

Should parents be worried?

Right now, no. Be cautious but not crazy. Cases in children have been very rare. Most people infected with coronavirus are between 49 and 56 years old. It appears that when kids do get it, they have milder symptoms. Flu is killing a lot more Americans, including children, but flu is the monster we know.

Update (11/7…129000 new cases today) coronavirus can be contracted by anyone and it affects everyone differently. There are also long term health effects. The 49-56 age group being the highest affected is no longer the case.

What steps should parents take to protect their child from Coronavirus?

You should take the same precautions you would take to protect your child from the common cold or flu.

  • Encourage children to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can work if that’s all you got, but they’re generally not as effective as soap and hot water.
  • Hands should be washed before children eat, after they use the bathroom, come inside from outdoors or touch something dirty like garbage.
  • If you see someone coughing or sneezing, try to keep your kids as far away from them as possible. It’s believed that respiratory secretions don’t travel more than six feet.
  • Travel is also fine but use common sense and caution. For the most part, domestic trips and even most international ones are still OK. Check the CDC guidelines before you plan a trip. If you’re planning a cruise for spring break, the C.D.C. urges you to avoid ones that travel to or from Asia. Personally, as much as I love cruising, it’s a stew of germs in the best conditions.

If there is an outbreak in your town, you should practice what’s known as social distancing. That means staying at home, rather than going out and about to movies, sports events and other activities. Schools could close, at least temporarily, and people who can work from home will be encouraged to do so.

For now, if you and your kids still haven’t gotten a flu shot, get one.

I’m pregnant. Should I be concerned about Coronavirus?

Yes, but no more than you would be about coming down with the flu. During pregnancy, your immune system can be depressed, which makes you more susceptible to complications from viruses like the flu and chickenpox.

There isn’t much information on how the new coronavirus affects pregnancies, though preliminary research suggests it isn’t likely to be transmitted from a mother to her baby through the womb. A study that followed nine pregnant women who were infected in Wuhan found that all of the newborns, who were delivered via cesarean section, tested negative for the coronavirus, and there were no traces of the virus in the mother’s amniotic fluid, cord blood or breast milk.

The C.D.C. does caution that it has observed miscarriage and stillbirth in pregnant women infected with other related coronaviruses (SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV). A high fever during the first trimester of pregnancy which can happen after infection with the new coronavirus and with illnesses such as a cold or flu can also increase the risk of certain birth defects.

Let me be honest with you, mom to mom, I’m not a doctor. This is just a lot of research that I found by scouring the internet. The truth is none of us want our children to catch something that we know so little about but panic is not the way to protect ourselves. In reality, I think there are probably a lot more cases we don’t know about because symptoms are mild and comparable to the viruses that we’re used to. Most cases will probably go undiagnosed. My advice is to be cautious. Practice good hygiene. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Take care of your health and maybe spend more time at home with your family during the cold and flu season. Use your common sense and mama intuition. Don’t ransack the stores and buy out all the TP, Clorox wipes and face masks because then people that need them won’t have them. It’s not the apocalypse people. It’s scary because it’s new. Be careful and be safe.

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travel-family travel-Orlando-Florida-Cirque du Soleil-La Nouba-culture-parenting

When my family and I traveled to Orlando, Florida recently, we had the pleasure of attending Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba at Disney World. We love taking our girls to the theater and letting them enjoy cultural events while they are still young enough to really enjoy the magic because of the infinite possibilities of their imaginations and let them develop a love for the arts naturally.We’ve been taking them to the ballet and the Chicago Shakespeare theater for years; next stop, Broadway. La Nouba tells the fascinating story of the boundless and festive journey of the imagination. The Big Guy and I first saw La Nouba on our honeymoon in 1999. Since then, the Cirque du Soleil and, more specifically, La Nouba have held a special place in our heart. So, imagine how excited we were to share it with our daughters?

travel-family travel-Orlando-Florida-Cirque du Soleil-La Nouba-culture-parenting, Disney World

In case you are unfamiliar with Cirque du Soleil, it is a version of the circus that is humane, uses no animals and captivates the audience, young and old alike, with acrobatic feats that defy the imagination and music that makes your feel like the whole thing is a wonderful, magical dream. Dazzling costumes, dramatic lighting, bizarre choreography and ethereal operatic music set the stage for clownish observations, a human puppet and a host of amazing acrobats that all bend and weave together to create one of the most exciting and engaging shows under the soleil.

travel-family travel-Orlando-Florida-Cirque du Soleil-La Nouba-culture-parenting, Disney World

A door opens and the two worlds collide. Enter the attic of make-believe, where the mundane meets the marvelous. Dreams and nightmares intertwine. La Nouba which calls on both individual and collective memory, is an unforgettable journey into a world at once threatening and exhilarating, frightening and familiar. La Nouba beckons to us, challenges us to uncover passions we thought we had lost long ago; to frolic in our childhood dreams and enter a place where the extraordinary transforms and overcomes the ordinary.

 

travel-family travel-Orlando-Florida-Cirque du Soleil-La Nouba-culture-parenting, Disney World

We took our daughters, ages 6 and 9 at the time, and they both were enthralled with the performers. My 6-year-old LOVED the Titan, especially when he performed on the trampolines and the little girls doing the Diabolos act. In fact, she made me buy her her very own set and plays with them almost daily. My 9-year-old was smitten with the Green Bird and the dancers. The Big Guy finds the power track/ trampoline act to be the big show stopper. Me, I must confess, I am mesmerized by the aerial ballet in silk. The show definitely has something for everyone and I could go on for days talking about La Nouba but as a picture is worth a 1000 words, a production like La Nouba leaves me speechless. La Nouba is something that has to be experienced to be believed and to fully enjoy it.

travel-family travel-Orlando-Florida-Cirque du Soleil-La Nouba-culture-parenting, Disney World

Next time you are at Disney World, and I know you will be if you have kids, if you are on the fence on whether or not to take your children to see La Nouba, I am here to tell you that it will be something they will never forget.

travel-family travel-Orlando-Florida-Cirque du Soleil-La Nouba-culture-parenting

Have you been to a Cirque du Soleil production? What was your favorite act or character?

travel-family travel-Orlando-Florida-Cirque du Soleil-La Nouba-culture-parenting, Disney World

If you’ve seen La Nouba, what was your favorite part of the show?

Photo Cirque du Soleil

Disclosure: I was provided 2 tickets for review purposes, but all opinions and thoughts are my own. I’ve been in love with La Nouba since the first time I saw it on my honeymoon in 1999.

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Tips for Planning Your Family Vacation

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Vacations are a time for family, friends, and fun. It’s about being together, escaping the mundane day-to-day and enjoying not only the destination but the journey too. But, let’s be honest, for a lot of us, the planning process can be daunting sometimes even disastrous and definitely stress-inducing. However, with a little bit of preparation, you can make the most of your time together and create lasting memories that don’t make anyone want to jump off the boat and drown themselves. Here are ten tips to help you plan your family vacation.

10 Tips for Planning Your Family Vacation

Start Early

The earlier you start planning, the less stressed you’ll be. And, you’ll have more time to find great deals and book flights or train tickets, well in advance which should save you money and make you happier.

Create A Budget

One of the most important aspects of any holiday is creating a budget and sticking to it. I know, easier said than done but do as I say, not as I do, friends. Determine how much you can realistically spend on travel, accommodation, food, and activities. This budget will also help decide on a location.

Consider Your Destination Carefully

Think about what kind of vacation you want to have. Do you want to relax on a beach in an RV, explore a new city or go hiking in the mountains? Once you’ve decided on a general location, you can start looking into specific destinations. Don’t forget to factor in travel time. If you’re traveling with young children, it’s essential to factor in travel time when choosing your destination. A long flight or train journey can be tough on little ones (and their parents!). This year, you can visit Devon for a traditional family holiday in the UK r if you’re in the US visit Walt Disney World ( but remember the sunscreen if traveling this summer).

Research Accommodation Options

There are so many different types of accommodation these days, from camping and glamping to Vrbos and luxury hotels. Do some research to find somewhere that will suit your needs and budget. For example, if you’re traveling with young children, it might be worth paying a bit extra for a hotel with a pool or an apartment with a self-catering kitchen.

Make Sure Everyone Is On Board

Before you start booking anything, make sure that everyone in the family is on board with the plans. For example, planning a beach vacation is no use if your partner hates the sun and your teenage girl only wants to go skiing. Once you’ve got everyone’s input, you can narrow down your options.

Make Sure You Have Travel Insurance

This is one of the most important things to remember when planning any trip, especially if you’re traveling with young children. Make sure you’re covered in case of any medical emergencies or cancellations.

Pack Light

Whether you’re traveling by car, train or plane, packing light will make your journey easier. If you’re flying, check the baggage allowance for your airline and try to stick to carry-on luggage if possible. This will save you money (many airlines charge for checked bags), but it will also mean less time waiting at the baggage carousel. And, if you’re traveling with young children, the less luggage you have to) carry, the better.

Don’t Forget the Essentials

When packing for your trip, don’t forget the essential items like passports and travel visas (if required), tickets and boarding passes, medicine and first-aid supplies. It’s also a good idea to make copies of important documents if you lose them while you’re away.

Keep Your Itinerary Flexible

Although it’s essential to plan, it’s also important to be flexible when on vacation. Do not overschedule yourself. It will ruin your vacation. For example, if your child is tired or cranky, don’t force them to sightsee. And if you stumble upon a great restaurant or museum that wasn’t on your list, go for it! The best vacations are often the ones where you go with the flow.

Most Importantly, Have Fun

Above all, remember to have fun! A family vacation is an excellent opportunity to spend time together and create lasting memories. So, relax and enjoy your time away.

Travelling can be one of the best ways to spend time with your family. However, it can also be costly and time-consuming to plan. These ten tips will help you plan your next family vacation on a budget and make the most of your time together.

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The Traveler's Code: Are you a Traveler or a Tourist? , travel, tourism

TEstimated reading time: 4 minutes

Ah, the eternal conundrum of travel – are you a free-spirited traveler or an itinerary-tethered tourist? Me, I like to immerse myself in the sights, sounds, culture and people of where I am traveling. I am a traveler. For me, it’s more than just a matter of labels; it’s a mindset that shapes the very fabric of your journey. Let’s embark on a quest to unravel the mysteries of the traveler-tourist duality and discover how your chosen path transforms the entire tapestry of your adventure. In the travelers code, are you a traveler or a tourist?

Decoding the Labels

First things first, what distinguishes a traveler from a tourist? Well, it’s not about the number of countries stamped in your passport or the hours spent wandering through historical landmarks. It’s a travel state of mind, a philosophy of exploration.

The Tourist:

Picture this – meticulously planned itineraries, guided tours, and a checklist of must-see attractions. Tourists crave the comfort of predictability, relying on familiar routines and iconic sights. They’re armed with guidebooks, maps, and perhaps a pocket translator, ensuring every moment is accounted for. My husband, the Big Guy, is most definitely a tourist. 

The Traveler:

Now, shift your focus to the wanderers, the drifters, the seekers of the offbeat. Travelers thrive on spontaneity, eschewing rigid plans for the thrill of the unknown. They savor the local flavors, embrace serendipitous encounters, and believe that the journey itself is the destination. I am definitely a traveler, and so are our girls, so we are super grateful that the Big Guy takes on the roll of the cruise director on our trips so that we can be more spontaneous. Its easy when we know that he always has our back.

The Mindset Manifesto

1. Seek or Snap:

  • Tourist: Armed with selfie sticks and posed grins, tourists aim for the perfect shot, a visual checklist of conquests. For them, memories are captured in pixels, curated for the envy of social media followers.
  • Traveler: The traveler’s lens captures moments, not postcards. It’s about experiencing the golden hour in a bustling market, feeling the pulse of a city, and letting the essence of a place seep into the soul. The camera is a companion, not a barrier.

2. Path vs. Purpose:

  • Tourist: Following the well-trodden path, tourists stick to the tried-and-tested routes. Their purpose is to cover ground efficiently, ticking off landmarks like items on a shopping list.
  • Traveler: The road less taken beckons the traveler. It’s about embracing detours, getting lost, and stumbling upon hidden gems. The purpose is not just to see but to absorb, to connect with the heartbeat of a locale.

3. Cuisine Conundrum:

  • Tourist: Safe bets and familiar chains dominate the tourist’s culinary journey. They’re more likely to stick to what they know, reluctant to venture into the uncharted territory of local delicacies.
  • Traveler: Food is a gateway to culture for the discerning traveler. From street stalls to hole-in-the-wall eateries, they crave authenticity, savoring the flavors that define a region. Culinary exploration is an adventure in itself.

The Transformative Power of Choice

Now that we’ve dissected the traveler-tourist spectrum, how does this choice shape your travel experience? Let’s delve into the profound impact of embracing one persona over the other.

1. Depth of Connection:

  • Tourist: Surface-level interactions characterize the tourist experience. Engagements with locals are transactional – guided tours, brief exchanges, and fleeting moments devoid of depth.
  • Traveler: The traveler fosters meaningful connections. Conversations with locals become narratives, and chance encounters evolve into shared stories. It’s not just about observing; it’s about becoming a part of the tapestry.

2. Memorabilia vs. Memories:

  • Tourist: Fridge magnets, keychains, and souvenirs encapsulate the tourist’s journey. These mementos are tangible reminders of places visited, but often lack the emotional resonance of true memories.
  • Traveler: Memories are the traveler’s most cherished souvenirs. Each experience etches itself into the traveler’s consciousness – the laughter shared with locals, the challenges overcome, and the unexpected beauty discovered off the beaten path.

3. Flexibility and Adaptability:

  • Tourist: Rigidity defines the tourist’s schedule. Unexpected closures, weather disruptions, or spontaneous invitations can derail the planned agenda, causing frustration.
  • Traveler: Flexibility is the traveler’s ally. Adapting to unforeseen circumstances is not a setback but an opportunity for adventure. The ability to pivot seamlessly adds an element of thrill to the journey.

Embracing the Hybrid: Travelist

In the grand tapestry of travel, is there room for a harmonious blend of both worlds? Indeed, enter the ‘travelist’ – a savvy explorer who combines the structure of a tourist with the spirit of a traveler.

A travelist plans with purpose, choosing destinations that resonate with personal interests but allows for serendipity. They appreciate the convenience of guided tours while relishing the freedom to wander off course. The travelist savors local delicacies but doesn’t shy away from the occasional familiar comfort.

Closing Thoughts: Choose Your Adventure

As you stand at the crossroads of traveler and tourist, remember – there’s no right or wrong way to explore. The essence lies in the journey itself, shaped by the choices you make and the mindset you carry. Whether you’re a meticulous tourist, a free-spirited traveler, or a harmonious travelist, the world awaits your unique perspective.

What’s your travel philosophy? Are you set on a predefined course or ready to let the wind guide you? As you embark on your next adventure, remember – the magic is not just in the destination; it’s in the transformative dance between the traveler and the world.

More Travel posts:

Things to do in Banff with Teens

Top hings to do in Boston

Things to do in New Orleans

Why Every Family should GoRVing

If you enjoyed this post, please like, comment and subscribe! XOXO

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Ways to grow closer to your spouse, ways to grow stronger as a family

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

It’s a little frightening how many people I know my age have gotten divorced recently. I’m sure the pandemic didn’t help. You really get to know someone when you’re trapped in a house with them for 16 months. CoVid was a marital stress of epic proportions. I’m sure even the healthiest couples thought about it at least once during the past few months.

This is why I am constantly trying to think of ways to grow closer to my spouse and ways to grow stronger as a family.

Some of the couples I thought were perfect for one another, called it quits quietly. Divorce is, unfortunately, pretty prevalent these days with about 39% of all marriages ending in an uncoupling. Let’s be honest, no one gets married to get divorced but no one gets married to be unhappy either. Honestly, if the marriage isn’t working out, there are only 3 ways it can go 1) work together to grow together and hope it’s enough 2) do nothing and stay in a miserable marriage (this shouldn’t even be an option) 3) divorce and move on with your life.

The thing is sometimes there is someone to blame, sometimes people just fall out of love and sometimes people grow apart. It’s not a crime but it’s not exactly the happily ever after any of us dreamed of. People are busier than ever before; kids are overscheduled, parents are overworked, overwhelmed and exhausted and no one has time to just be present anymore. This is where things can start to slowly fall through the cracks and no one even notice it.

The best thing we can do as couples is spending quality time together; one-on-one facetime, listening and touching. Hugs, holding hands, kissing and saying I love you may seem trivial because you assume the other person just knows but they don’t. Words and actions matter. It never hurts to speak it into existence. Take the time, say it and do it. It can mean the difference between 2 months and 20 years. This applies to building relationships with your children too.

9 ways to grow closer to your spouse and ways to grow stronger as a family

Eat Together

Every day, everyone is in a hurry to get to work or school. Usually, breakfast is hurried, lunch is spent at work or school so make dinner count. This is something my parents do and something, the Big Guy and I have made a point of doing. Dinner every night at 5, unless there is an extracurricular, in which case, we all wait until we’re all there. Sharing meals is one of the best ways to come together as a family and check in with one another.

Whenever you share a meal, stay focused by implementing a no phone and no television rule. Instead, be present and talk to one another.  

Do the boring stuff together

Chores and errands often feel like a lot of work and no fun. Obviously, kids (and adults alike) would rather spend their days with friends, relaxing, watching movies or doing anything else other than the menial stuff. Everyone who lives in the house should be responsible for doing their part of the chores and if you do it right (we add loud Latin music, lots of dancing and laughing and a definite start and end time) it can be a great way to bond as a family. Have a list of tasks ready and assign them accordingly; you can perform them together at a set time during the week or weekend when you all can do them together.

Doing chores together fosters teamwork; if one experiences a difficult time, those who complete their tasks first can help and that tiny act shows love. If your kids have demanding schedules, give them deadlines to complete their chores. They’ll soon learn that performing duties together makes it more fun and fast than doing them alone. To make it more rewarding, have something to look forward to afterward, like enjoying a special meal or going out to the movies.

One-on-one time

Spending time as a family is great, but don’t forget to have one-on-ones with each other. It’s about quality not quantity. You can spend half an hour with each of your family members on different days. It’s as simple as asking what they’d like to do. Having one-on-ones with parents is crucial for kids; you get to discover what’s going on in their life away from home and their needs or troubles. One-on-ones with your partner is what feeds the intimacy that will get you through the hard times. Give your partner your full attention when there are no distractions; you can discuss issues to do with family and individual hopes, dreams, and aspirations.

Laugh together

Laughter is said to be food for the soul; it makes a bad day better and helps you bond as a family. Laughing stimulates your immune system and reduces stress; it has been proven to actually add to one’s life. Enjoy every moment you get to share in laughter, whether your husband ripped his pants showing off his killer dance moves at an impromptu kitchen dance party or you’re watching funny TikToks with your family (something we do often as an after-dinner activity). Whenever possible, create time to share stories, play games, or just cut up and laugh together. It relieves tensions and models to not take yourself too seriously to your children.

Attitude of gratitude

Family members do a lot for each other without expecting anything in return; saying thank you after a good deed can go a long way in making someone feel valued. Be appreciative by taking the time to surprise a family member with a gift, note of gratitude, or simply say “thank you” when one does something for you. It teaches respect and instills an attitude of gratitude.

Create family traditions

Family traditions and rituals enable you to create time for each other and memories; they shouldn’t just be for the holidays. Create routines like family movie nights, carving out pumpkins, game nights and baking days, weekly or monthly. Suppose there is an activity that you all enjoy doing, such as playing soccer, attending festivals, or picking strawberries during summer, do them together. These traditions ensure that even when the kids move away, they’ll want to make time to attend and be together with the rest of the family because of the fond memories they have of doing them in the past.

Family vacations

For us, travel is top of the list of things to do to ensure our family grows together. Going away on regular trips gives you quality time as a family, away from busy schedules and school. It allows you the space and time to be present with one another while making new memories together. Include everyone in the planning so that no one feels left out, including the kids. If going away on vacation sounds like fun, start planning, say a month earlier. Include it in the family calendar and inform everyone. Weekend getaways with your spouse can really reignite the fires of romance too and it doesn’t have to be far, just a local hotel will do where you can be man and woman and not just mom and dad.

Exercise as a family

Exercise is personal and I love my time alone, if I’m being honest but other times, I love long walks with my husband, bike rides as a family or a fun HIIT dance workout with my teen girls. If your family is into fitness, working up a sweat together is a healthy and fun way to spend time and bond with each other. Exercising together doesn’t require you to sign up for a boot camp, though that’s also a viable idea. Find simple ways to stay active while outdoors or indoors. When it’s warm, take a walk, run or bike around the block or to the park, create an indoor gym or plan workouts and do them together. If you have a furry friend, take him out for a walk together. It’s not about what you do, it’s about moving and being together.

Make time for family meetings

Meeting as a family is essential for you to check in with each other, discuss plans, or air grievances. We do this daily at dinner time. Family meetings also create an excellent time to discuss upcoming events like chores to perform during the weekend, day trips, or vacations. Schedule meetings on your calendar or check in with everyone to know their availability if it’s impromptu. Let everyone send in their items or issues for the agenda so that all grievances are discussed. To make these meetings effective, establish some guidelines.

Family is the most important thing in life, couples, siblings and parents are all a vital role in it. It takes a lot of time and effort to keep everyone together and thriving. We intentionally set an example early on so that our girls would grow up placing a high value on family. The bottom line is that family is everything so enjoy and cherish your family in all the ways. Never lose sight of the fact that marriage and parenting take effort and don’t just happen. Remember to not take one another for granted and tell people how you feel, happy or sad, before things go left unsaid and unheard for too long.

These are just a few of the ways, I work on my family and my marriage every day. It’s not the only way but it is the way that works for us. What are your best tips for ways to grow closer to your family and ways to grow stronger as a family?

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sterling Virginia, GoRVing, Winnebago, Hyatt Place, Road Trips, Traveling with Kids, Mission BBQ, Abbot's Custard

We’re headed to Cape Hatteras for our end of the summer road trip but tonight we’re in Sterling Virginia. We love to travel and there is nothing like one last getaway before school and routines go back into effect. The sad story of it is that our girls are at the age where they really have no free time throughout the school year for travel.

We still travel but it is always at the expense of something else. For us to get away, they have to miss something. Give up something. Forfeit something. That’s mostly been okay. I think it’s good to teach kids about making choices and letting them know that we can’t always get what we want and most of the things worth having come at a sacrifice, a cost.

This year, the wiggle room for sacrifice is even slimmer.  This year, we have confirmation and we’re planning for travel over breaks and we’re preparing for high school and possibly a move. There are a lot of balls in the air so this trip, the four of us, the calm before the storm that is our day to day lives is so special.

Tomorrow we head over to Reston, Virginia to pick up an RV that we will be driving to Cape Hatteras, NC. Not going to lie, the Outer Banks have been on my travel bucket list for many years. We used to live in North Carolina in our 20’s but we were so busy with work and life, we just never made the time to go. We kept thinking, we can go at any time. We live so close. But before we knew it, we didn’t live there anymore. So we’re all very excited about this opportunity to not only go on an adventure someplace that we’ve always wanted to go but to be able to do it the week before school starts back. One last taste of salty air and ocean breezes before the minutia and obligations take over.

Tonight we find ourselves in Sterling, Virginia a quaint, charming, beautiful city about 40 minutes west of Washington D.C. which just so happens to be one of my happy places. By degree, I am a political scientist and all things about politics and history make me ecstatic. D.C. makes me absolutely giddy with delight.

sterling Virginia, GoRVing, Winnebago, Hyatt Place, Road Trips, Traveling with Kids, Mission BBQ, Abbot's Custard

We pick up the RV in the morning and with a 6-hour drive ahead of us to the Cape, I thought Sterling would be the perfect setting for a relaxing night. I used up some points and we are staying at the Hyatt Place at Dulles. Just like last month, when we stayed at the Hyatt Regency, the service is consistently awesome. After a long day of being trapped in the car, it was a welcome relief to be greeted by friendly faces and a room pristine and stocked with the foam pillows that I requested ( allergies to feather pillows make travel a challenge at times).

sterling Virginia, GoRVing, Winnebago, Hyatt Place, Road Trips, Traveling with Kids, Mission BBQ, Abbot's Custard

The room was a very nice size with a separate sitting area big enough to accommodate all 4 of us on a sectional. We unloaded our belongings and set out to find food. We found Mission BBQ and OMG, am I glad we did. The food was delicious and the staff was awesome. Our server was so helpful with picking out sauces to top our BBQs. There were like 8 choices and he even let us taste test them. His recommendations were spot on by the way. The food was melt in your mouth delicious.

Then, after an hour or so of just relaxing (as God intended vacations to be), we decided to go find something sweet and explore the area. That’s when we found Abbott’s frozen custard located in the cutest little shopping center and fell in love. I had the strawberry cream cheese and chocolate almond and it was divine.

sterling Virginia, GoRVing, Winnebago, Hyatt Place, Road Trips, Traveling with Kids, Mission BBQ, Abbot's Custard

I’m convinced I may need to revisit living in Virginia. I’ve never been to Sterling before but we lived in the Richmond area and we loved it. Sterling feels like Matthews NC and Washington D.C. had a beautiful baby and I want to live here.

It was just supposed to be a stop along the way but I’ve got to say, Sterling Virginia, I think I love you.

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