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A comprehensive review of the RIU Plaza Hotel in NYC. Everything you need to know when you go with kids!

The Best Review of the RIU Plaza Times Square

When we were planning our trip to New York City, one of the first things we nailed down was the hotel, the RIU Plaza Times Square, it was an easy decision because it was by far the most affordable hotel we could find and it was brand spankin’ new! Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

The RIU Plaza Times Square only opened in March 2016 and we stayed there the end of April 2016, so there you go!

When we walked in at close to 11:00 p.m. on Wednesday night, we were really impressed with the lobby. It has some fun and funky décor and the whole ambiance of the lobby is hip and contemporary.

A comprehensive review of the RIU Plaza Hotel in NYC. Everything you need to know when you go with kids!

They seemed very efficient with check in. We had people to help us load all of our luggage onto the cart but when we were ready to go to our room they were nowhere around but that wasn’t a big deal and it saved us having to tip them!A comprehensive review of the RIU Plaza Hotel in NYC. Everything you need to know when you go with kids!A comprehensive review of the RIU Plaza Hotel in NYC. Everything you need to know when you go with kids!

We were on the 19th floor. The hallways and floors took us a bit by surprise. The hallways were fairly narrow, especially compared to what we normally see in hotels. It makes sense though, why waste the real estate on a hallway? The decorations in the hallways were very minimal and the walls were stark white.  Honestly the hallways reminded me of a hospital!

It was interesting that the lobby was so chicly decorated but the floors were so minimalistic.

The room, don’t expect roomy accommodations! I didn’t think I was but when we got in it seemed like less room than I expected.  I was really glad that we had decided against bringing the baby’s pack-n- play because there would have been no place to set it up, none, nada, zip!

You walk into the door and are in a hallway with a small closet on one side and the bathroom on the other side. There is a full length mirror on the wall next to the closet with a hook between the two.

closetPro Tip!

Bring some 3M removable hooks with you! We really could have used more places to hang things. There was plenty of wall space that we could have hung up a hook for each of us to keep everything organized and within reach!

The bathroom is small but sufficient, there is no bathtub, which also makes sense but before we went I had the thought that we could let Brigan sleep in the tub…glad I wasn’t planning on it. Also, I am glad that our kids are used to taking showers, verses taking baths.  If we needed a bathtub, the RIU Plaza wouldn’t have worked, at least this family room, room 1903.

I will say this; the bathroom offers little in privacy.  The door is a sliding glass door that is mounted to the outside of the doorway.  It looks really cool but when you shut the door there is a gap between the door and the wall and so if you are in the right spot you can see the person sitting on the toilet!  Not a huge issue if you are a family, but we had my mom with us and that could be a little awkward for her and my husband.bathroom

The other thing about the bathroom is that the wall of the shower was frosted glass. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, until you realize that this wall separates the bathroom from the room, so if you are in the shower, your silhouette is seen in the bedroom. Again, not a big deal since we were all family, but kinda awkward anyway. It also means that when you turn the light on in the bathroom, the bedroom lights up too. Not a big deal for us, my kids will sleep through anything but if you have a light sleeper it may make a difference.shower

The room we were in, 1903, had 2 double beds and a pull out couch, it was what they called a Family Room (a step down and not quite as big as a Family Suite). The beds were pushed together with a nightstand on either side (small nightstands, but they did have drawers in them which we used to put the kids clothes in).  We immediately moved them apart and put one of the nightstands in between the beds, which made it so we weren’t sharing a huge bed! It was super easy to change the arrangement and I took all of a minute.Riu-Plaza-New-York-Times-Square-1

Next to the beds on the wall was the couch that folds out. Opposite to the couch sat a little desk and a small refrigerator. It was big enough for 2 half gallons of milk (laid down) and a half gallon of almond milk and a few yogurts, but not much else. The way our room was set up it was difficult to open the fridge if the pull-out bed was also open, so we had to plan accordingly. This was only an issue when my mom and I went to the store and bought milk for the baby and then when we got home the kids were asleep in the bed…we managed though.

Between the end of the beds and the wall was a two or three foot walkway, it was enough room for our stroller to stay at the end of the bed with a very small amount of room to maneuver around it. There certainly wouldn’t have been room for a pack-n-play!

space between wall and bed

I have to say that the bed and even the pull-out bed were very comfortable (due to our baby having a hard time the first night with no crib, I have personal experience with the pull-out bed!) The first night, we noticed that we only had 3 pillows! One on each bed and one for the pull-out bed! And we didn’t have any bedding for the pull-out. We called them to get more pillows and bedding. And they did bring us more; however they literally brought them at 2 am! What the HUH? And they thought it was weird that we were asleep! “Oh, were you asleep?” Umm, yeah!

Okay, so I get this is kind of weird to mention, but the color scheme of the room presented a slight issue when traveling with kids, especially small kids. Now normally, who cares what the colors they pick for the decor are? Well, the main colors were WHITE and LAVENDAR. Not the best when you have kids. The walls were painted flat white and by the end of 5 days let’s just say the walls were covered with finger prints about 2 feet up and I was washing them with wet wipes! I also had to take a wet wipe to the lavender throw pillows after a small incident with a chocolate cake from Carlo’s Bakery! However, I will say this, the pillows and couch wiped up easily!

The room had one wall that was a ceiling to floor window; it was really cool to be able to look out on the city. The one thing I really didn’t understand was there was an openable window at the bottom of this full window. Now, I get it for airflow and all (especially since you have to put your key into a master switch so every time you leave your hotel room the air conditioner gets turned off.) The problem I had with this window was that I have a 2 year old! And while luckily I don’t think he could have fit through and fallen out the window (My husband respectfully disagreed, he was convinced Brigan could fit through the opening and fall 19 floors)…he would be able to throw things out the window. It was definitely nerve wracking considering the age of our kids.

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When we forgot to print out the kids Jr Ranger packets for the Statue of Liberty, the Business Center came in handy, (I wouldn’t so much call it a “center” as a high table with 4-6 computers and a printer, no chairs and no way to do a significant amount of work) we were able to print them out in no time at all and for FREE! It was great having that option!

business center

When we checked in, we got a code to the free WIFI and that was super nice not to have to waste our data when we were checking Facebook and Instagram!

Another thing that was really handy was the little café that was attached to the hotel. They unfortunately didn’t have milk for our little guy but they did have some yummy pastries and cakes. Great place to get a little snack or a quick breakfast before going out on the town…or dessert before bed!stockphoto

We were happy to find out that they will hold your luggage after you check out! This was convenient because check out was at noon and we didn’t have to leave until 3:00. We ended up checking out around 9 and then we were able to still sightsee without having to worry about what to do with our luggage.

PRO TIP: I would bring some 3M removable hooks with me if you are traveling with multiple people like we were.  There was nowhere near enough hooks for coats/bags and even in the bathroom we could’ve use a few more places to hang things. When you are in such a small space staying organized is key!

TO SUM UP:

PROS OF THE RIU PLAZA TIMES SQUAREthegood

Great Price.  We paid about $300 a night all said and done. Not bad for 7 people.

There was a small grocery store within a short walking distance. The Food Emporium was just down 8th Street a few blocks and they had a nice selection of ready-to-eat meals, and in the basement is a grocery store that had milk, yogurt, diapers, etc., pretty much everything we could possibly need for 5 days.

The room was big enough to hold a family of seven

Comfy beds

Nice Staff

Easy check-in and check-out

Free WIFI

Business Center with Computers and Printer

Small Refrigerator

Food on Premises (The Café was open when we went but they were still working on the Restaurant)

Safe in the Room

Luggage holding area

 

CONS OF THE RIU PLAZA TIMES SQUARE

thebad

Very little privacy

The floor level, opening window

The color scheme of the rooms

No Bathtub

No room for a Pack-n-Play (and they don’t offer one even if there was room)

Not a lot of room to unpack your clothes/Not a lot of storage space to keep the room clean

Despite a few negatives at the RIU Plaza Times Square, overall it was really a great experience and we would definitely recommend it.

I give it 4 stars, it was overall a great experience and we would for sure go back and recommend it to all my friends!

Want to stay at the RIU Plaza? Check out more here

Read all about our Transportable Travels to New York! Day One!

 

A travel journal of our first day in New York City

Our First Day in New York City

As a family, we had really wanted to go on a trip to New York City for a while. At Christmas time, I unexpectedly got a few days off and we looked then, but it was WAY out of the budget!

In March, we were talking to my mom about traveling more together, and that got me thinking about going to New York City again.  I realized the kids had a few days off at the end of April. My 40th (oh the HORROR) birthday was also the end of April.

We started looking around and at that time determined that it might not be the right time.  I also had some time off in August and we were thinking that maybe that would end up being a better time. So, we put it on the back burner.

And then, my obsessive husband started looking to “just see what was available.” First, he stumbled across an awesome deal on a brand new hotel, the RIU Plaza New York. We were thinking more and more this could happen and then the kicker came; he found airplane tickets at the end of April for $200! SAY WHAT?!?

We spent one night deciding if we should really do it! Could we, Should we?

By morning, we had decided that we indeed wanted too and after a quick text to my boss to make sure I could have time off, we had the tickets booked and the hotel reserved!

We got my mom on board and we were ready to go.

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We left Denver around 4:00 pm on Wednesday the 27th of April. The flight was generally uneventful: a few tantrums, a few creative solutions and a few pleadings for the baby to sleep and we were there.

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My husband had found a limousine company that would pick us up at the airport for about what it would cost to take 2 taxis (too many of us for just one taxi!)

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I think my kids were more excited about this than anything! They were positively giddy. They were acting like they were famous movie stars. It was so fun to see them so excited. I was really glad that we did it…I am pretty sure my daughter will remember it for the rest of her life.

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We had planned to get up fairly early to get the party started. However, because our little guy had fallen asleep for 30 minutes at the end of the plane ride, getting him to bed proved to be a bit of a challenge, so none of us were very eager to get up too early.

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We started our New York City Adventure with a trip to the Empire State Building.

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I thought the Empire State Building was so impressive. I loved the Art-Deco feel and it was an experience just looking around at the building.

NYC_ (28)editThis about sums it up! Impressive!

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After about an hour of looking at the views and walking around we decided to head to the New York Public Library.

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We decided that it would just as easy to walk as anything, so we enjoyed a stroll down a New York street! Once we got to the library we decided it wasn’t worth it to carry the stroller up all the stairs so my husband stayed out with the littles and the stroller and my mom, my big kids and I went in to look around. NYC_ (36)editNYC_ (33)edit

Every building that we went into was just a smorgasbord of architectural beauty.  My mom said she read that the wealthy of the city were really generous with donating buildings to the less-fortunate masses, and it looked like they spared no expense.

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We didn’t spend a lot of time at the library before we decided we were ready for some grub. I found a place that we wanted to try; but when we got where we thought it was it was nowhere to be found…oh well! We ended up at Panera and despite having a hard time finding a place to sit because we were there during the rush of lunch hour, it was a great lunch and it was nice to rest our barking dogs for a bit!

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Afterwards, we decided to head to Grand Central Terminal. (Is it just me who thought it was called Grand Central Station?)  It was just a short walk from where we were, so we set off again.

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I had read that a fun thing to do was to find the whispering corner at the terminal.  But dang it all! We got so engrossed in looking around that we completely spaced the whispering corner!

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Friends! Seriously the things to see in this building, it was so amazing…I don’t know a better word, it was just jaw dropping.  My kids got a kick out of seeing the area that is represented in Madagascar, when Marty tries to escape.

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We spent about a half an hour there and then decided we had enough time to catch the PATH train to Hoboken to see Carlo’s Bakery, home of the Cake Boss.

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Besides it being nearly impossible to buy a ticket to get on the PATH (You need cash and have to buy a special ticket as it isn’t included on your MetroCard) it was a relatively quick and painless process to get to Hoboken.

After another short walk and the use of the Google maps App on my phone, we arrived at Carlo’s Bakery.

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My husband hates cannoli (side note, did you know that the singular is cannolo and the plural is actually cannoli? Who knew? I mean besides ya know Italian people…) but I really wanted one because on the show they never shut up about them. So I got a cannolo (wow, it is like I am a native Italian speaker!) and it is possible that we might have ended with a few additional goodies.

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We walked around Hoboken, went to Starbucks to get my souvenir mug and some steamed milk for the baby because he was getting crabby and was ready for a bottle.

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On our wanderings, we ran across some workers fixing a cobblestone road and it was interesting to see how they did it.

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After a little wanderlust roaming, we decided to head back so that my mom and I could get ready to go to Wicked!

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We had done quite a bit of walking for people who generally spend most of the day sitting, so it was nice to rest our feet and enjoy a quite ride back.

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Before we went back to our hotel, we decided to pop in to Macy’s…yes…THE Macy’s. It was so crazy! It was like a mall, every brand basically had their own store. We didn’t stay long and we didn’t do more than walk through but it was worth seeing.

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Come along on our first day in New York CityHer face kind of says what we all thought of the Macy’s…Holy Cow!

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We decided to take a little rest before we went to the theater (said in a snotty British accent).

My mom and I were a touch leery of walking to the Gershwin Theater, and we were really concerned about two women walking down the deserted streets at 10:30 at night to get home from the theater.

We knew it wasn’t far and it was only a 5 minute walk. We decided to risk it, especially for the walk down at 8. We made it in no time flat and had time to stop at a convenience store to get a few energy bars because we didn’t have time for dinner.

Justin and the kids ordered a pizza, which turned out to be an expensive meal for 4 but what would a trip to NYC be without trying the pizza?

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The musical was absolutely fantastic, naturally! I mean I have seen it a few times before and knew it would be a great show, but the Gershwin Theater was amazing and honestly, I don’t know that there would be a bad seat in the house, but ours were absolutely perfect.

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It made me happy my mom enjoyed it so much.  I had a hard time deciding which show we should see. It was a toss-up between The King and I and Wicked. My mom had no experience with Wicked but we were both very familiar with The King and I. I opted for Wicked because honestly, it was cheaper and I read that the Lincoln Center where The King and I was playing was a little hoity toity (think tuxedos and ball gowns) so I wasn’t sure we would exactly fit in. In the end, I think we chose wisely!

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Once we got out of the theater and noticed that this truly was the city that doesn’t sleep, we decided it would be ok to walk home as well.

Honestly, no one and I mean no one paid any attention to us.  I never once felt unsafe or even uneasy on that walk home.

We stopped at the Emporium, a little grocery store/deli type place, to get some milk for the bambino and some other essentials. And then we remembered we had to walk a block carrying a couple gallons of milk and water…oops…we made it work by making sure to buy some of the store’s reusable bag. And, while that helped us not worry about bags breaking, it did little to lighten the load.

We got home and crashed! Our feet were sore, our backs were slightly broken and our heads were spinning from all that we had seen and done, but what a great way to start our New York adventure!

Stay tuned for the continuing adventures of Transportable Tribe in New York City…

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A day in the life of a New York vacation with kids.

Cleaning up the aftermath of vacation can be easier, follow these few tips!

Fix It Friday: Vacation Aftermath

We got back from NYC on Monday…IT.IS. FRIDAY.  Let’s just say that our luggage is sitting just inside our door and minus the toiletries that we have need of on a daily basis, NOTHING has been unpacked!Ugh! Nothing worse than the aftermath of vacation. Here are some tips to help ease the pain of the aftermath.

Unpacking has got to be one of my least favorite things to do.  I just find it depressing. It is the tangible realization that the vacation is O.V.E.R. Waaahhh!

But, as much as I would like to avoid this part of traveling, it is a necessary evil and must be dealt with.

Here is what I do to make it just slightly less painful!

Use your empty luggage as clothes hampers while on vacation!

Use an empty suitcase as a hamper to save unpacking time when you get home! Read for more solutions to Vacation Aftermath!

 

Plan your unpacking while still on vacation. We use one or two of our bags as a dirty laundry bags (one for colors, one for whites).

This accomplishes two things; one it keeps the dirty clothes of 6 people from taking over the hotel room and two, when we get home the dirty clothes just go straight into the washer.

No need to determine what to do with them (are they clean? Are they dirty?). Just wash them up and put them away.

Have the whole family help with the unpacking!

Enlist help. I had a friend tell me once that she hated going on vacation (blasphemy, I know!) but I got it after she said it was so much work to pack and unpack that it took all the joy out of it.

Have your kids (and husband) each take care of one bag. Many hands make light work and all.  Don’t feel you have to do it all.

I like to have the control when it comes to packing but have no desire to do the unpacking all by myself.

And honestly if you do #1, it really cuts down on the unpacking.

Take a little care when packing so unpacking can be easier!

As you now know, we have two bags devoted to laundry that are filled up as the vacation goes on, that we literally zip up on vacation and unload straight into the washer once we get home.

Another bag is dedicated to all things souvenir. This bag typically gets emptied relatively quickly because everyone wants their souvenirs.

Another bag holds all the clean clothes we didn’t use and outer wear (usually rain coats, which have a dedicated spot in our closet because we really only use them on vacation because on a day to day basis we don’t spend a lot of time out in the rain, ya know?) This is usually a quick bag to open and empty because most of the clothes we bring home are dirty (because ya know, we wore them on the vacay, and all.)

And yet another bag has toiletries and liquids. This bag actually gets emptied first because we need the toiletries and most of the other liquids (think baby food and milk) are used up before we even get home.

We have found taking a little time to sort as we pack, saves a little time as we unpack.

Have a buffer Day!

When we first started traveling, we would always come home from vacation and then the very next day we would go back to work.

Now this is great, in theory, because you want to maximize your vacation time. I get it, who wants to have a buffer day?

Well, you do! A buffer day is one of the best things we do. (And we didn’t do it this time which is why our suitcases remain unpacked and we haven’t had any fresh food in our house all week.)

It really is to your advantage to have a day to catch up before you have to get back into your routine. Totally saves your sanity and gets your week off on the right foot.

Laundry clean, check!

Grocery Shopping done, check!

Mentally prepared to transition from vacay to “real life,” well kinda…

 

So, vacation aftermath isn’t just unpacking. Dealing with the aftermath of vacations extends to getting your kids back on schedule too.  Stay tuned for a future Fix-It Friday where we address this issue!

Use a little forethought my friends, and the aftermath can be relatively painless.

How do you make unpacking easier on yourself? Or do you just grin and bear it?

 

YOU MIGHT WANNA CHECK THESE OUT TOO!

Fix It Friday: Preventing and Surviving Getting Sick on Vacation

15 Easy Ways to Save for a Vacation

Traveling with Kids and Enjoying Both!

Keep Calm and Travel On

Keep Calm and Travel On

We are getting ready to head out on a fun-filled, fast-paced vacation to NYC! We are so excited to have this chance to see the Big Apple.

As an added bonus, my momma is coming with us! A month or so ago we were together and she was talking about how she wanted to build memories with her kids and grandkids and we decided (naturally) that there isn’t a better way to do that, than to travel and spend quality time with individual families. 

Oh my sweet vacation, is there anything you can’t do?

We are stoked to have an extra pair of hands and eyes to help watch the kiddos! Especially when I have a fear one of them will fall onto the train tracks!

 So, it is a busy time at the Transportable Tribe household!

We are in the thick of things, packing, making itineraries, and spending hours on Pinterest researching everything we need to do and see (and of course eat).

 Follow my Pinterest Board for New York and you will see what I mean!

My husband and I went to NYC about 16 years ago, so we are excited to see and experience it again, this time with a new outlook…and a much bigger herd. 

 My mom has never been to NYC and she is excited to see all that the city has to offer.  We have plans to slip away and see Wicked…on freaking BROADWAY! I love that show and I love that I can share it with my momma.

My husband and I are going to try our hand at winning some lottery tickets to either Wicked or She Loves Me (I don’t know much about this show, other than my celebrity crush, Zachary Levi, is staring!) Fingers and toes crossed that we are successful in that endeavor!

 I have planned and re-planned our itinerary so many times that my head is spinning. So much to take into consideration! Day of the week, time of day, weather, reservations, but I am up to the challenge.  Knowing full well that it will likely change a million more times before all is said and done.

 I am so giddy to take the kids to experience this. Ro is studying and writing a paper on Ellis Island as it were for school right now and he was so amazed that we were going there!

 Soph, told me that she needs to memorize three things to say at the Statue of Liberty: One, the pledge of allegiance (easy one, because they do it every day at school.) Two, she informed me that she need to learn the national anthem to sing TO the Statue of Liberty. And, three, the poem inscribed on the Statue’s Pedestal.

Ok, little lady, whatever makes you happy.

 I love this part of any trip; anxious with excitement and possibility. Thinking and dreaming about where we will be each day.

 Follow me on Instagram to see our days in NYC and see how the itinerary changes day by day and moment by moment!

 

And above all, Keep Calm and Travel On!

 

Great tips for preventing and surviving getting sick on vacation. Pin it for later!

Fix-It Friday: What to do when you get sick on Vacation

Welcome to our newest feature on our blog…Fix-It Friday…here we are going to explore common concerns when we travel and how to fix them so you can have a great vacation!

Today, we are looking at how to first avoid getting sick before a vacation and then how to deal with if it happens!

Cough…achoo…sniffle…cough…Ugh is there anything worse than getting sick on vacation?!?

Here are some tips to keep you in tip top shape! And just in case you do get sick, here are some tips to make it a little better!

avoiding the yuck

1.       Try to avoid getting exposed/sick before vacation. Use the sanitizing wipes at the grocery store and stay out of the petri dish as best as you can.

I am not a medical doctor so please don’t take this as medical advice but it was recommended to us to use Elderberry Syrup…Elderberry allegedly stops viruses from reproducing and I SWEAR by this stuff.  Bring some with you and if you are getting a cold, start using it. We usually use it preemptively for one week before our trip, one dose a day for each of us. Again, this is what we do but I would check with your doctor.

Same with Olive Leaf Extract, despite what it seems, I am not a “granola person” but I feel like if things work, use them! Olive Leaf is another thing we use prior to our trips to keep us healthy.  Adults can take pill form and they have liquid for kids…PSA…the kid’s stuff is nasty but our kids are troopers taking it.

There is also Emergen-C and Airborne to prevent stuff…look into your options!

2.       Bring disinfecting wipes on the plane and wipe down EVERYTHING! I read somewhere that the trays and seat and buckles and arm rest are rarely if ever cleaned, so I scrub every surface just so we have less exposure to the yuck.

3.    Same goes for being generous with the hand sanitizer…can’t hurt!

Tips for surviving getting sick on vacation

1.       Bring medicines with you…when we go on a trip my husband brings a veritable pharmacy with us. Most times we don’t have to use it but it sure comes in handy when we need it!

Here are some ideas/must haves: Pepto, Advil, Tylenol, Cold and Cough Medicine, Vicks VapoRub, and  Pain Killers.

Bring AZO and Alkaseltzer for bladder infections.

Bring a thermometer, bring sleeping pills, and probiotics (these are great if you have an upset stomach especially because of something you ate)

Our favorite medicine for colds is nasal spray (like Afrin). Gotta say it just seems to work faster and better when it comes to a stuffy nose!

2.       Keep some Ziploc bags with you to catch throw up or dirty clothes.

3.       Bring your Ask A Nurse number just in case you have something bigger come up.

4.     Before you go on vacation make sure you know where the nearest Urgent Care office is and what the hours are.

So, there you have it! I will tell you we have been sick on vacation and while it dampens the fun it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun still. Do your best to roll with the punches and do what you can!

How about you, what tricks do you have for staying healthy before vacation? What about tips for dealing with sickness when you are on vacation?

What's in Your Carry-on Bag

The Best Things to Have in Your Carry-on When Traveling with Kids

(This post contains affiliate links. If you find this helpful, if you would be so kind as to use the links that would be awesome-sauce! Doesn’t cost you a thing!)

The key to successful flying with kids is to be prepared as much as possible! So today, friends, we are going to take a little peek into my carry-on bag!

    1. GRANOLA BARS, or some sort of snack for the kids and yourself.  You never know what your day holds when you get on a plane. You may get delayed or stranded and it never hurts to have a little sustenance for you and the kiddos.
    2. BABY FOOD POUCHES, same theory as number one. Be prepared. I have found these to be the easiest (and cleanest) way to feed the little ones.
    3. A CHANGE OF CLOTHES. You just never know! Spilled food, overflowing diaper, or motion sickness; it never hurts to have a backup!
    4. PULL UPS. You would be surprised how many times these come in handy. Our 3 year old is fully potty-trained but that doesn’t stop her from needing to go to the bathroom at the exact moment that there is no possible way to take her to the bathroom. We have literally changed her into a pull-up right before takeoff so she can relieve herself. (Yes, you could always put your kiddo in pull-ups preemptively BUT they could also throw a huge fit because they DON’T want to wear pull-ups!)
    5. WIPES. No brainer! You can use these for so many things. You can never have enough.
    6. ELECTRONICS. Having electronics gives you flexibility. This is definitely a favorite with the big kids.
    7. GLOW STICKS. The last time I traveled with our 18 month old, he spent at least an hour taking the glow sticks out of the container and putting them back in. The key is to get the ones that come in a cardboard container.
    8. SUCKERS. I have discussed the joys of suckers previously, but these can really help occupy the kiddos for a bit.
    9. BAND-AIDS. Again, solves a multitude of problems.
    10. FIGURINES. My boys, both old and young can play with figurines for hours. Always worth having in my bag of tricks.
    11. BOTTLES. Absolute must for the baby. One, it is good for takeoff and two; it helps with the ultimate goal of getting him to sleep.
    12. FRUIT SNACKS. Solves a multitude of problems.
    13. SANITIZING WIPES. Wipe EVERYTHING!
    14. INFLATABLE BALL. Good for layovers when you need a distraction.
    15. MILK. It can be hard to find milk on the other side of security so we always bring a little to get us by.
    16. DIAPERS. Obvious choice if you have kids that wear diapers!
    17. HAND SANITIZER. Never know what your kiddos will touch. Use it and use it often.
    18. CRAYONS AND COLORING BOOK. Classic diversion!
    19. LIGHT-UP BALL THINGY. Our baby loves this! I love it because it lights up so you can find it AND it is knobby and doesn’t roll away when he drops it on the floor 18 million times.

 

 

What about you? What are your can’t-live-without carry on items?

Other Blog Post that might help you:

Here is my list of 5 things you can’t live without if you are going to travel with kiddos!

 

10 of the best tips to make it easy when you get professional pictures taken on vacation! Pin for Later!

10 of the Best Tips for Family Pictures on a Vacation

We have already been over the reasons WHY you should get your family pictures taken while you are on vacation, here; now let’s go over some tips to make it a smooth and happy experience.

*Warning! Tons of my family photos to follow…don’t say I didn’t warn ya!*

 

1.       Take your family pictures BEFORE the cruise or before your vacation really gets going!

This was the best advice I received from a photographer.  When we went on our cruise in 2013 I really wanted to get a family picture and my plan was to do it in the extra days after the cruise…you know because we would be relaxed, stress-free and we would have more time. 

THANKFULLY, that didn’t work out, because once we were done with the cruise the VERY last thing I wanted to do was take pictures. 

Here is the truth, after a cruise, you are bloated from the food, burnt from the sun (and if not burnt, you are very tan and personally that is not how I live the majority of my life, so I didn’t really want to memorialize that in a family picture that would be on my wall for years.) and really the kids were kind of over getting pictures taken because we had taken 18 million over the course of the cruise

2.       You don’t have to go just for pictures on the beach!

 10 tips for making family pictures on vacation easy and enjoyable.

Personally, I didn’t want to do pictures on the beach.  I wanted something that would fit better in my home in Colorado. 

When I first contact Javier, he suggested a beach scene, but when I told him that I would prefer to use some of the amazing architecture in Puerto Rico he instantly had another recommendation for me and I ended up with my ultimate family picture!

But if you want a beach family picture, it is the (obviously) ideal place!

I have also seen some adorable family pictures taken at Disneyland or WDW, if that is your thing.

3.       Be clear about what pictures you want and what you don’t want!

 Tips for getting professional pictures taken on vacation

So here’s the thing, the photographer we booked with does mostly wedding/engagement pictures with a healthy dose of family portraits but mostly weddings.

 As a result, he took a million pictures of just me and my husband.  I was fine with a few…in fact I wanted some of just us but he by far and away took more of us than of the family or of the kiddos.

The WORST part…kissing photos…ugh…my husband and I aren’t heavy on the PDA and we really hate profile pictures…so these were hard to swallow and we didn’t end up getting any of them so they were a waste of time and resources.

 In hindsight, I wish I would have really thought about what pictures I did want, (like one of the boys, one of the girls, more of just the kids) and told the photographer at the beginning of our correspondence.

4.       Read Reviews and look at their portfolio!

 10 of the best tips for taking professional pictures

I read many reviews and they all RAVED about the photographer, and I 100% agreed with them about him, he was awesome.

 He did have a slightly harder time with the kids, I think because 1. Four small kids are hard to photograph and keep their attention 2. He really does specialize in weddings. 

BUT, I love his pictures…the style of his pictures and in the end I got that look and feel from my pictures.

5.       What does your chosen photographer usually do!

Just to say it again, you may want to take into consideration what their specialty is.  Doesn’t mean you won’t get what you want, but you may not get everything that you want.

 I think if I would have had a photographer specializing in family portraits we would have gotten some more typical family pictures.

6.       See if you can find  photographer where you can have the images and a release!

 The best tips for getting family pictures taken on vacation. Pin for later!

The photographer we chose was a set fee for the 2 hour session (we went longer, no additional fee) and we got to pick our 25 favorite images and we have complete rights to them. 

This allows us to get prints at our own lab at a greatly reduced rate. We could also use them for our Christmas cards at Vista Print instead of going through the photographer, which saved us a lot of money. 

We got all our prints from MPix (highly recommend) for less than $150 dollars and that included a 20×30, that was retouched and mounted, that would easily been $200-300 for just that.

7.       Don’t forget about Island Breeze (lots of wind=messy hair)

Ugh, the “island breeze”, may be nice when you are sitting on the beach on a hot day but at 8:30 in the morning while you are trying to get your family pictures taken…not so fun. Lots of messy hair in some of the photos!

8.       Bring safety pins even if you don’t think you will need them!

 fampictures

Didn’t think I would have any need for safety pins, so when my daughters flower belt fell apart (totally my fault I shouldn’t have hot glued it, next time I would have sewn it) I had no recourse and it was flopping in some of the photos.

(BTW, my sister-in-law makes these adorable felt flower crowns and headbands…check out her amazing Etsy shop…you won’t regret it! I swear!)

 

9.       Don’t forget it may be a lot hotter than you are used too, your kids too!

 fampictures6One of the last pictures we took…We are all melting!

I was sweating like a pig and it showed in some of the later photos. I could have totally benefited from having a tissue or a blotting tissue! I also didn’t bring any makeup or hairspray to touch up…not the brightest of ideas.

10.   Bring snacks and water for you and your kids!

This is a big one, when you have young kids, BRING FOOD and WATER.  I was sleep deprived and rushing around like a mad woman and the kids ended up not eating breakfast and about half way into the shoot they were melting.  They were hungry, hot, thirsty and grumpy and rapidly getting over it.  The three-nager especially, and it shows in some of the later pictures. 

So, there you have it my friends! Now go find yourself some awesome vacation and then top it off with an amazing family portrait!

Shout out to our amazing photographer in San Juan, Puerto Rico…Javier Olivero!

Need convincing on why you should get professional pictures taken on your next vacation? We will give you every reason you need!

Should you have professional pictures taken on vacation? Heck Yeah!

Why should you consider doing family pictures while you are on vacation?

Well, I can think of a few good reasons!1. It is unique! Remember when you were a kid and EVERYONE had a family picture from Olan Mills…same background…same family arrangement…same fugly clothes? Well that is a distant (tramatizing) memory. This will be one of a kind and one you can enjoy for years.

Taking a family portrait at a destination sure beats Olan Mills of yesteryear!

2. It becomes a souvenir. When we went on our cruise, this was the one thing I wanted for a souvenir! Something to stop time where we were and to hang and enjoy in my house for a long time. Not one second have I regretted doing it!
3. You get an opportunity to spend time with a local. Our photographer was great. As a local he showed us, with pride, his island.  He gave us a mini-tour with our session and it was fun to have one-on-one time with a local.
4. A destination family picture will not only make you smile when you see your beautiful family but it will serve as a reminder of a great trip! Double-duty!
5. Becomes a conversation piece. Gives you a good reason to talk about your trip! Remember the good ol’ days when you could invite your friends over and torture them with slides from your trip?!? Well this is the new generation of that, you can tell them about the cool, out-of-the-way place you found to take family pictures and maybe slip in a few other pictures while you are at it.

So, friends, there you have it! I can’t express how much I have enjoyed the pictures we had taken on our vacation! I am in full-on love with them. So next time you plan a trip of a lifetime, sneak a photo shoot in…I doubt you will regret it!

Have you had your family picture taken at a destination? Where is your dream destination for family pictures?

 

Is there a way to travel with your kids and actually enjoy it? Here are some great tips to help you have the best vacation ever with your kids!

How To Travel With Kids AND Enjoy It!

 “I would love to travel with my kids, but I don’t want to go to all that work just to have a miserable trip.”

I have heard this and other variations of this many times talking to other moms.

Guess what friends? I get it! Oh, do I get it! Who wants to go to all the work and expense of traveling with kids, just to have a miserable time and regret it…not me!

I have been on LOTS of trips with our kids and I am not here to tell you that it is all rainbows and unicorns! But I am here to tell you, you can vacation with your kids and have it be gratifying!

I read something once that has stuck with me…It said that it is unrealistic to expect our kids to not be human! Kids will not be good 24/7…on or off vacation! But reality check…neither are we! We get grumpy, we get tired, we get hungry and we get frustrated! Allow your kids to be human but don’t let them be miniature tyrannical dictators!

When Traveling with kids, first and foremost, BE REALISTIC!

Can’t stress this one enough!!

Breakdowns will happen, so plan on it. THEY WILL HAPPEN! Unless someone just handed you a few kids, you know this to be absolute truth!

TIP NUMBER ONE

Try to focus on the positive and go with the flow. If you can keep yourself positive you are better able to keep the littles from melting down. When we went on our cruise, the first night that we were there, at midnight, our 3 year old woke up puking! OH the HORROR! Seriously, we were frantic! We had no idea what that would mean! Would we all get it? Would they quarantine us? Was this going to ruin the whole trip?

As luck would have it, she didn’t throw up more than that one time and with a little creative problem solving and a positive attitude we made it through that little hiccup and we ended up having a wonderful trip.

TIP NUMBER TWO

Vacations can mean that you have a lot of together time, while this is a good thing;I have noticed that sometimes tempers (especially of the older kids) get short.

I mean, think about it, on most days, between daycare, work and school the time we spend together is relatively short, just a few hours in the evening.

So, when you are spending 24/7 with each other, nerves tend to get frayed!

Sometimes a short break from each other (for example girls go and do lunch, boys stay and play games) refreshes everyone.  Even just taking a little break with one kids watching TV in one room and the other in another helps.

TIP NUMBER THREE

Make sure your kids get a nap!

This probably goes without saying but try your best to give your kids down time and/or naps. 

Our kids are really pretty good at taking naps on the go…this isn’t by accident…we train them that way.  I get it that not all parents are like us. But before you take a trip you may want to “sleep train” your kiddos.

I swear by my baby carrier…I have found that most little kids will sleep in those, even if they don’t normally sleep anywhere other than their own beds.  At bare minimum it gives you options.

TIP NUMBER FOUR

Practice.

Not kidding, before we went on our cruise, we literally practiced eating.  Making sure our kids knew what was expected. We practiced staying in our seats and using our quiet voice and not disturbing others.

When we went to Disney World for the first time, we got up at 5 in the morning for about a month before we left.  We knew that it would be 2 hours earlier in Florida so if we had a 8:00 character breakfast, we would need to be up at 6:30 which would be 4:30 our time! Getting the kids used to a new time gave us flexibility during the trip.

Also when we got up at 5 in the AM, we went on a walk (the kids were little so they rode in the stroller) but we conditioned ourselves to be on our feet for hours and this resulted in us being happier which makes us better able to deal with meltdowns.

TIP NUMBER FIVE

Keep a supply of band-aids on hand! It is AMAZING what a band-aid can fix. Keep them with you at all times. If your three-year-old falls down and is in full-on hysterics (with no noticeable injury) a well –placed band-aid will diffuse it faster than you can roll your eyes!

TIP NUMBER SIX

Fruit Snacks and Suckers. These little babies will buy you time.  They take a few minutes to eat and they get the kids down off the ledge. Now, as a Dental Hygienist I can’t in good conscience  recommended this on a regular basis but if you need to calm the natives this may give you 30 seconds to regroup and make a better plan!

TIP NUMBER SEVEN

Prepare the best you can!

When we travel, my husband  takes a veritable pharmacy with us! No joke! He takes two full gallon Ziploc bags with all different sorts of medicine. He is ready if he gets kidney stones…again, if the kids have stomach issues, someone gets a toothache or if I get a bladder infection, he’s got us all covered!

Now, you may not want to go full pharmacy, but bringing some medicine is a good idea, just in case.

TIP NUMBER EIGHT

Be flexible, be unbreakable and you can do anything for 10 seconds!

Have you watched Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? Seriously if you haven’t you need to! If you haven’t here are the cliff notes, a girl, Kimmy Schmidt, gets kidnapped and held captive in a fall-out shelter. Her captor tells her that the world has ended. The show goes through her readjusting to life outside the bunker.

While she was in the bunker, the captive girls had to take turns turning a knob. She got through it by saying she just has to get through the next 10 seconds, and then the next 10 seconds.

Isn’t that parenthood in a nutshell!

Just remember this; no matter how bad it is…a horrible plane ride, a temper tantrum in line, or a break down at security, it cannot last forever!

Just take a deep breath and get through the next ten seconds

So it may not be rainbows and butterflies but traveling with kids and enjoying doesn’t have to be as rare as a unicorn…it can happen. I promise!

What do you do to make it enjoyable when you travel with your kids? What keeps you from traveling with your kids?

Best Excursion for kids in St Kitts

Best Excursion for Kids in St. Kitts

I love traveling with my kids, I really do! And I love going on cruises with our kids! The only down side is what to do when you get to ports of call?

The truth is most excursions just aren’t made for kids, let alone 4 kids, let alone two toddlers.  So we make our own fun when we go on cruises!

Remember how I told you that my husband is the travel planner in our house? Or more accurately, the travel obsessed!  As such, he has found us some unique, fun things to do at our ports, just by scouring the Internet.

In October, we went on a cruise that left from Puerto Rico and one of the stops was St. Kitts.

My husband, through all his research and obsessing, found out that you can get a Day Use Pass to the St. Kitts Marriott Resort.

We thought it might be fun to have access to the beach AND a pool for the day.  We took a taxi to the Hotel from the port and then spent the day in the SUN having FUN!

playing in St Kitts

Here are our thoughts:

The Beach: Nice and clean with really handy cabanas with comfortable beach chairs, that were included in the cost. St. Kitts is like most beaches in the Caribbean, it has the fine white sand, making it a beach heaven and an ultimate kids’ playground.

The Water: There was a little rock break where we were at that made the water not too rough and St. Kitts of course delivers on warm and beautiful ocean water.

Can you keep a secret? Here’s the thing…I don’t really like to go to the beach! I mean it is kinda a Mom’s Worst Nightmare, unknown creatures, salt water that dries to a sticky coating and the S.A.N.D…EVERYWHERE!

So the fact that we could enjoy the beach (for literally like 20 minutes) and then enjoy the pool was my idea of the perfect day!

St Kitts Marriott Resort Pool

The Pool Area: Clean and beautiful, with both natural and man-made shade that was plentiful (in fact all the chairs poolside had built-in shade) with nice restrooms easily accessible.

The Food: They actually have some good options available. We got a full pizza (for about what pizza at home cost) to eat for lunch. And although we didn’t use it, there was also a bar that serves food and drinks.

The Hotel, Itself: Obviously we didn’t stay the night at the St. Kitts Marriott, so I can’t speak to the rooms but they have a fun open air lobby, that was nice to explore when we wanted to take a little break from the sun. Inside there were a few stores where you could buy many things ranging from clothes to jewelry to candy and souvenirs.

All in all: this was a great day excursion, in fact by far one of my favorite days during the cruise and we would totally do it again. St Kitts is a beautiful, green, clean island and in fact, we would love to go and stay there for a whole week one of these days!

Kid Friendly? Heck yeah! I never got the feeling that people (either that worked there or guests there were annoyed by the kids…that being said we always try to realize that not everyone thinks our kids are as cute as we do, so we did try to keep them in an area as to not annoy people.)

Expensive? Well, I guess that is all relative, if you are comparing it to other excursions you can do on a cruise, well it was cheap. If you are comparing it to a free day at the beach, not so much. Honestly, I think it was about $35 a person. (But don’t quote me on that!)

St Kitts Marriott Resort Pool

Tip: It would probably be worth your time to just give them a call and make sure they are still offering the Day Pass! It would really be a bum deal to get out there to find out they don’t do it anymore.

How about you, any must do excursions in St. Kitts? Any treasures you have found?

 

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