How to Take the Stress Out of Traveling with Kids

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It’s summertime! And with summertime come trips and family vacations. Spending long hours traveling in a car, on a plane, or another mode of transportation can be tiring on both parents and children. But, there are tricks to keeping kids engaged and not asking the typical, “Are we there yet?”

Keep the Activities Coming: Pack a travel bag full of games, puzzles, coloring books, stickers, and more to keep your kids occupied. If you are traveling for several hours, try handing out a new item once per hour. Take the travel bag a step further and create a small bag for each child. This bag can be a pencil pouch or something of a similar size and include items that are interesting to that child. Lastly, play family games along the way. Have printable road bingo or a road trip scavenger hunt. Another classic family game is the license plates game, where everyone competes to see how many different license plates they can find. When traveling by airplane, it can be hard to pack all of these items into your carry-on. Instead, try downloading kid-friendly apps with games and videos on your iPhone or iPad. This way, your children will stay engaged in an activity other than running up and down the aisles of the plane.

Pack a Snack Bag without Sweets: Kids will get hungry going from place to place. Be sure to have their favorite treats to ease their hunger and avoid the hangry mood (hungry plus angry). However, remember one thing: don’t include sweets. There is nothing worse than being in a public tourist attraction with a child having a sugar rush. Include in the bag savory treats like cheese cubes, pretzels, fruit, and veggies. Don’t forget water to drink!

Start a Travel Journal: Put an educational spin on your trip and have your kids start a travel journal. This travel journal can include drawings, lists, and stories about the interesting places you visit, the food you eat, and the various activities you do. Also, collect postcards from different places. With these postcards, you can either write a message on the back and mail them to yourself or include them in the journal. Another way to engage your kids in the travel journal is to give them a camera to take pictures. This child-friendly camera will allow kids to capture their favorite sites and what interests them. Types of cameras can include disposable or Polaroid.

Have a First-Aid Kit and a Clean-up Kit: When you are traveling with kids, anything can happen. Be prepared with a First-Aid kit and a clean-up kit for spills. In the First-Aid kit, include band-aids, gauze pads, a digital thermometer, cold pack, sunscreen, bug spray, aloe vera, saline solution, antibacterial wipes, medicine, and anything else you would normally include. For the clean-up kit, put in antibacterial wipes, paper towels, small garbage bags, zip-lock bags, and extra clothing and diapers.

Plan Ahead: Plan your trip and make your reservations well in advance. Along with hotel and flight reservations, buy tickets for attractions ahead of time. In addition, plan out a schedule for your trip, including the various activities for each day. Check out the websites for the places you’ll visit, see the nearby restaurants, and other sites to help your trip go smoothly. However, one of the most important things to remember is to stay flexible! If you have one attraction planned for a day and end up doing something else, don’t worry! Don’t plan too much or too little. The ultimate goal of the trip is to have fun and make memories with your family. Also, have a plan of what you’re going to pack in regards to clothes for your kids. Have a to-do list and schedule of what needs to be done in the final days leading up to your trip.

Bring Your Child’s Must-need Items: Don’t forget to bring your child’s favorite stuffed animal, toy, or blanket—anything they normally carry around and need to have at home. These items will help kids feel safe and comfortable while exploring new surroundings. Plus, it might help prevent some emotional break-downs.

Traveling with kids can sometimes be stressful. However, use the tips above to ease that stress and create lasting family memories.

xoxo,

Megan

Going Device Free

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It’s the norm now—most people always have some sort of technological device in their hands, most of the day. Whether it is a cell phone, iPad, laptop, or anything else, technological devices are a part of everyday life. People have grown accustomed to using them, and to an extent, are dependent on them. There are many benefits to technology and using these devices, such as writing this article on my laptop. Yes, I could write it by hand, but using a laptop is less time-consuming (and easier to delete mistakes). Other advantages are improved communication. Many people have a cell phone and can easily call family and friends, or call for help, if necessary. Also, technological devices give us instant access to news and information, an opportunity to network socially (individually or for businesses through social media and websites), and the ability to share ideas, pictures, and more through various apps and websites.

However, even with all the advantages of using cell phones, iPods, and other devices, there are also disadvantages. These drawbacks include a feeling of social isolation and distraction when you’re with loved ones, at work, or watching an event. They can also put a strain on your eyes, especially when looking at the screen’s lighting in the dark. While it is always tempting to use some sort of electronic device, it is good to give them a break now and then. Going device-free can be a challenge. You might have to find new ways to communicate and watch movies, for example. However, you’ll be glad you took this challenge and spent some time away from technology. Don’t know how to get started? Below are some ideas for going device-free.

  • Start small and have a device-free meal with your family and friends. Everyone involved makes a commitment to laying down their electronics and putting them in a space away from the table and kitchen. Place a basket or designate a spot for all the devices to go. Then, start talking to get people fully distracted from their devices. Ask questions, play games, or share ideas to get the conversation going. In addition to meal time, take this idea a step further. Try having device-free holidays, device-free small trips, and more. This simple act can help family members and friends get closer and spend more time together.
  • Another tip to easily break up with your device is by seeing how many times you use it. Apps, such as Checky, keep track of how often you use your device. This app helps prevent people from looking at their phones, because it drains the phone’s battery. According to Dr. David Greenfield, with The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, it can seem counterintuitive to check your phone when you are trying to use it less. However, recording how much time you are spending on your phone and how many times a day you’re checking it lets people become aware of how problematic their cell phone use is. Set limits for yourself and your usage. Try to spend no more than 90 minutes per day or 15 minutes at a time.
  • Also, set limits on social media. Determine a time, day, or a full weekend when you don’t post or check your social media accounts. This can be hard at first, but soon it will become a habit. Dr. Greenfield states, “There’s this idea that if other people don’t know you’re doing something, it has no value. This means we spend more time documenting what we’re doing, instead of living our lives.” Instead of Snapchatting your trip to Disney World and Facebooking your pictures of your Friday night concert with friends, take a few pictures to remember the moment, but don’t spend the whole time with a phone in your face. As Ferris Bueller once said, “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” If you’re feeling extra daring, delete your social media apps for a full-on break. Reactivate your accounts when you feel as if you are relaxed and reenergized.

Going device-free gives you the opportunity to focus on things that are important in your life. It gives you the chance to reconnect face-to-face with family members and friends, and experience moments in life through your eyes, instead of a screen. Going device-free will become a habit, and you’ll learn to depend less and less on your electronics to get you through the day.

xoxo,

Megan

Originally published in Forsyth Family Magazine. 

From the Mountains to the Coast of NC

  
My love for North Carolina goes deep. We have the mountains on the West and the coast on the East, with abundance in between. What more could anyone want? Nicknamed the Tar Heel State, NC’s history dates back to the original 13 colonies. It became a state in November 1789 and today, 227 years later, North Carolina is still thriving and has something for everyone.

The Mountains

NC is surrounded by numerous mountains, including the Appalachian and Smokey Mountain ranges. This area can be divided up into three different parts: the Foothills, the High Country, and the Smokey Mountains and Cherokee. Within the Foothills, the city of Asheville is a favorite among many. Visitors can tour the famous Biltmore House and Estates. End the day in the city’s lively downtown with eclectic food and shopping. Looking at the Foothills, other hot spots travelers love are the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest.

The High Country includes the towns Boone and Blowing Rock. Go back in time to the Wild West at Tweetsie Railroad or take a walk on the mile high bridge at Grandfather Mountain. During the winter, Beech and Appalachian Mountains are popular among skiers and fans of winter sports.

As for the Smokey Mountains, Cherokee Indians often referred to them as “the land of the blue mist.” Some areas of interest here are the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and Bryson City.

The Piedmont

Heading inward, the next part of the state is the Piedmont region, home to Charlotte, the Piedmont Triad, and the Triangle.

Located near the border between North and South Carolina, Charlotte lives up to its advertising motto “Charlotte’s Got A Lot.” Visitors can enjoy the thrill rides at the theme park, Carowinds , discover news things at The Discovery Place, or fill their need for speed at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and Charlotte Motor Speedway. In addition, Concord Mills and the American Girl store are ideal places to shop in the city.

Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point create the Piedmont Triad. Animal lovers will dig the Greensboro Science Center and the North Carolina Zoo in nearby Asheboro. In Winston-Salem, see where the Moravian town of Salem started by touring Old Salem, the historical replica of the town. The neighboring city of High Point is known as the furniture capital of the world, full of shops and museums. While there, be sure to take a picture with the World’s Largest Chest of Drawers. Not too far away from the area is the Yadkin Valley, where many wineries are located.

The Triangle consists of our state’s capital Raleigh, as well as, the main cities of Durham and Cary. Visitors can explore Raleigh’s Museum of Art and Museum of History, while sports fan can catch a game of the Carolina Hurricanes or the Durham Bulls in their stadiums.

The Coast

Over 300 miles of beaches, tons of lighthouses, and a chance to see wild horses on the beach make up the perfect place to relax on the coast. In addition, history lovers can visit Revolutionary and Civil War sites. Two favorite spots for travelers: the Outer Banks and Wilmington.

The Outer Banks and Currituck offer new adventures. See where the Wright brothers first took flight and learn about their journey at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills. The Cape Hatteras lighthouse, finding the wild horses in Corolla, or catching a show at the Lost Colony outdoor theater in Manteo are foolproof ways to spend the day.

Lastly, Wilmington, nicknamed Hollywood East, attracts people near and far. Fans can tour various filming locations of movies and TV shows, including Iron Man 3 and One Tree Hill. Aside from the film scene, Wilmington’s Historic District shouldn’t be missed, along with the NC Aquarium and Fort Fisher. A unique experience for all ages is stepping aboard the USS North Carolina Battleship, where you learn about the battleship’s history and more.

Whether you are new to the area or lived here your whole life, the Tar Heel state offers plenty of adventures, fun times, and great memories.

xoxo,

Megan

Article first published in Forsyth Family magazine: http://www.forsythfamilymagazine.com/from-the-mountains-to-the-coast-a-look-at-north-carolinas-favorite-spots/