Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Summer Travel

Living in South Florida means we reside in a place where most people come to vacation. Although not every day feels like a vacation, it's nice to know we have a variety of options nearby on Jeff's days off from work.

We love having family over during the summer because we get to plan a couple of trips to local attractions. My parents will be here next month and we've been planning a few things for them to do. Aside from visiting family and friends in different parts of Florida, we'll be stopping by museums and -- of course -- the beaches.

It was no surprise to see that several cities in Florida have made the top 30 list of the WalletHub 2016's Best Summer Travel Destinations. Orlando, Kissimmee and Sanford were among the top three mentioned. Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater were named No. 22, while Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach ranked No. 27.

Traveling Tips For Parents
Planning a vacation takes a lot of forward thinking. From the places you'll be visiting, to the places you'll be staying, it all needs to flow.

My family and friends think I'm nuts because I pack months in advance once I've set the dates for our family trips. Traveling with little ones and a pup is never easy, but always well worth it in the end. To see their smiles and tired faces when it's all over makes this mama proud of all the extra effort (and knowing the things I overpacked came in handy does bring a sigh of relief).

Below are three tips for parents who plan to travel this summer:

1. Pack ahead of time.
I know a few people who might think packing the night before a trip makes perfect sense, but when you have kids, you have to plan ahead. I've experienced last-minute colds and headaches the night before a trip. And we all know how much fun those can be! 

Avoid running into issues by packing your bag in advance. You don't have to pack a month or two in advance like I do, but you should at least make a list of the necessary items just to keep yourself on track.

2. Bring goodies. Call me crazy, but I like comfort when I travel. I love bringing treats for everyone, not just things to eat, but also something that would make someone happy to have. For instance, I've included two sets of blankets for the drive because I know how much our infant gets cold in the car, and how our toddler loves to feel included. There have been times I brought a piece of cheese with us to the beach because our boys (pup included) love snacking on cheese. 

If you have space, add a little something for everyone to enjoy. 
3. Plan for next time.
We're all guilty of forgetting something, or wishing we had forgotten something at home. Instead of complaining about these things, make a note of what you actually used and be sure to add the things you would've loved to bring. 
This is something Jeff and I do on a regular basis. It helps when we need to plan our next trip.

Booking a flight this summer?
Here's a list of the best airlines to fly this summer. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Loving My Chromebook

I'm a former MacBook Air user who fell in love with her HP Chromebook

Purchasing an HP Chromebook has helped me simplify my life. I've been using Google products for years and never thought about looking into a Chromebook until Aaronica over at The Crunchy Mommy told me about her experience.

After more than two years of using her Chromebook, Aaronica said she had a great experience with her laptop. It was inexpensive and it had all the functionalities she needed for a great price.

I was hesitant to purchase a Chromebook because I hadn't heard too much about them. Aaronica's feedback was helpful since she's doing a lot with her blog and side business.

Slowly, I began to do my research.

Bye Bye, MacBook
After a side by side comparison between an HP Chromebook and a MacBook Air, I realized there were many similarities and very few differences.

The more I began to reach out to brands and receive pitch emails from PR reps, the more I realized I needed a better way to get organized. 

For months I spent hours working on my blog from my iPhone. My blogging friends were always shocked to know that I had been doing it all from a smartphone. Creating images, drafting up posts, scheduling social promo, taking photos of props, and connecting with brands and PR reps on a daily basis... nothing was impossible. It amazes me how much you can do from a smartphone these days. I shared a list of apps I had been using to replace my MacBook Air here.

After my toddler spilled water on my laptop, I was very upset. But something about that incident made me realize I had been failing as a mom.

Spilling The Truth

It was dinner time, and I wanted to finish writing a piece for the next day. I was completely ignoring my son and his needs. And in good ole toddler fashion, a tantrum came about. This time, it meant moving the dining table and causing his water to spill onto my laptop.

I wasn't too pleased about what happened, but my toddler was already upset with me for placing this deadline above him. It wasn't the first time I had done this. In fact, I was slowly ignoring my son because I wanted to feel I was still "working".

I missed so many pitch emails while working from my smartphone and I kept getting confused with the back and forth messages between notifications from social media apps that I knew eventually I'd have to invest in a laptop again.

Although I don't talk about my blog with everyone, I worked on it heavily so I could continue to build my portfolio. I reached out to several brands and joined blogging communities. I even landed sponsored posts with four of my favorite brands.

But something wasn't right. 

No matter what I did, I felt I was missing something. I was actually missing out on spending time with my family.

I would attend events with my son, and sometimes while Jeff was home, I'd plan to attend events while he stayed home with our little guy.

Shortly, I realized it wasn't worth it.

I learned two valuable lessons during the time I worked from my smartphone: 

1. Organization is key.  
Opportunities come and go. You can't get upset if you won't be able to make it to an event. You can always make the most out of whatever resources you may have available. Planning ahead always helps, and it gives you back your sanity. 

By working from my phone I was able to prove to myself that if I organize myself and make time for everything that I love, then everything just falls into place. 

2. Nothing should come before family. 
After losing my Macbook Air, my work motto has become "family first, always". It's taught me that the most valuable asset I have is my family.

I made a lot of adjustments in the past year, and it's helped me find the value in things and all the wonderful people in my life.

I'm no longer living for the moments but actually living every moment in my life. I will admit that I do still take photos of my family and I for potential blog posts, but I've toned them down. After a couple of photos, I dive in and enjoy the moment.

Note: I picked up my HP Chromebook for $200 during a Memorial Day sale and paid close to $900 for my MacBook Air in 2013. 


Monday, June 27, 2016

Exploring South Florida: Young At Art Museum

Sometimes things happen and you just have to make the best out it. 

That was the case when we decided a trip to a local museum with my father-in-law and his grandkids would be the perfect remedy to mend a broken heart.

After losing his best friend, my father-in-law was faced with the last-minute decision to take a flight from North Jersey to South Florida. It was an expensive trip that was well-worth it in the end.

As he prepared to say goodbye to his best friend, my father-in-law had a lot on his mind. He stayed with Jeff and I during his trip and shared memories of his best friend with us. Jeff knew the man, but I never got a chance to meet him. I had heard stories in the past about their adventures, but this time, things were different.

I knew there was pain behind my father-in-law's eyes, but there was hope. The morning of the wake, Jeff and I were discussing ideas to help keep his father's mind of off his loss.

We thought about the types of things he enjoys, and among are trips to museums. We also asked Jeff's nieces if they would be interested in coming along, and narrowed it down the Young At Art Museum in Davie.

Thankfully, it's one of the seven local attractions we have access to through our South Florida Adventure passes. We shared our experience after picking up our passes at Jungle Island in recent post.

Although my father-in-law's trip to South Florida may not have been planned, we had such a great time together at the Young At Art museum. He loved spending time with his grandkids and was able to focus on something positive from his trip.

Want to join us next time?
Grab a South Florida Adventure Pass this week so you can start enjoying unlimited access to the seven attractions as well.

Adult passes are $50 (plus tax, ages 13+)
Child passes are $40 (plus tax, ages 3-12)

Already have a seasonal pass to one of the seven locations? No problem.

Existing annual pass holders or members at participating attractions can upgrade to South Florida Adventure Pass for $30 for adults and $20 per child ( plus tax).

Head over to the website for more information.