My friends, I did it. As I shared recently on the blog, I was really determined to not leave back-to-school shopping to the very last minute. In years past, I was the mom staring at empty racks of school uniform clothing, going to multiple stores to try and find Bento box lunch boxes because everyone was sold out- and you’d think I would learn from past mistakes but nope! Every Labour Day weekend you would find me in the exact same spot, scratching my head as to how it happened yet again #lol.
So this year, I wanted to make it simple for myself and happy to report that it was a grand success- I took my four school aged kids (and the baby) and we were done in an hour and a half. #momwin
If you are curious what we picked up, check out my newest video below! I share in it all the goodies and seriously- this year’s haul was awesome.
If this was helpful, I’ve compiled where I got everything, plus some other fun treats I found in my travels in this neat little download below. Just enter your email and the list will be sent over! Happy back-to-school shopping!
We recently returned from a week long Caribbean adventure on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas. The ship was spectacular and my children had a pretty epic adventure. In my son John’s words, “it was literally the best thing ever!”
My husband and I, while we enjoyed various aspects of the experience a great deal, aren’t convinced that cruising is for us. There are things that I think every family should know before making what can be a fairly expensive investment- so I thought I would round up some of the things to consider if you’re planning a cruise experience. (And if you are looking for my candid thoughts both good and bad, check out my YouTube video here).
To you decide if a cruise is right for you, here are some things to consider:
1. DO CROWDS MAKE YOU ANXIOUS?
With six kids, getting from point A to point B anywhere in life is an accomplishment. So I really don’t like crowds and try my best to avoid them. By the nature of how a cruise ship is designed (like a mini city on water), crowds are inevitable, and I think unless you spend a ton of money and go for the exclusive level rooms / clubs / restaurants, expect to wait in line, deal with crowded elevators, etc. wherever you go.
My husband is an introvert and I kind of feel like cruises are designed for extroverts! So do keep in mind your tolerance for crowds when you pick a ship- look for smaller ships for a less crowded experience.
2. ARE YOU A BUFFET PERSON, OR A SIT DOWN RESTAURANT PERSON?
Many cruises offer incredible buffets included with your ticket fee, with a great mix of healthy foods, treat foods, and cultural foods.
I love me a good buffet, don’t get me wrong, but what I really enjoy is being able to converse at a languid pace with my family at the table and really just be present and have great conversation. It’s just not the same with a buffet with everyone getting up and down (and of course trying to balance kids plates and your own plates is a logistical experience).
While many ships have beautiful sit down restaurants, the sit down restaurants are often at an additional fee, so if you value a sit down experience be prepared to spend. Some ships offer value packages when you pre-pay for these specialty restaurants, so do look into that to save some money.
3. DO YOU LIKE TO EXPLORE CULTURAL HIGHLIGHTS OR GO OFF THE BEATEN PATH?
While at port at a destination, you typically have one or two days, depending on your length of cruise. The ships do a great job of curating various experiences you can do while on land within these cultures, but they are definitely the “highlight reel” so to speak- definitely offering value, but you can only experience so much in a few hours.
If exploring off the beaten path is more your jam, I think you could still do that within a cruise experience, but there is something to be said of slow travel days, spending time with locals like other resort or Eco-tourist type experiences can gain you.
4. DO YOU GET OVERWHELMED IN MESSY, SMALL SPACES?
As an interior designer, the space I sleep in, and having a tidy space, is really important to me. I knew it was going to be a challenge to live in smaller quarters than we are used to at home, but thought that we would be ok for a week.
We were not. Clutter really impacts my anxiety level and I found it challenging to keep our room clean and our stuff organized. I would definitely advise looking into the cost difference between a standard room and upgrading to a suite, as this can have a large impact on the way you relax.
As I mention pretty candidly in this video, I am not convinced a cruise is the right fit for our family, but I would be interested to see what a smaller ship experience would be like, or if we returned to a larger ship, if the cost of upgrading to larger accommodations would be worth it to me.
What about you? Do you cruise and love it? Or are cruises not for you? Love to know in the comments below and for more of my thoughts traveling with family, check out these posts here and here. And for lots more thoughts on cruising, hit play below.
I literally cannot believe I just typed the words back-to-school [SUMMER DO NOT LEAVE ME], but if I am really honest, this is the year I finally learn from previous years mistakes and actually buy back to school stuff EARLY. [Side note: don't try to buy school uniform stuff the weekend before Labour Day because sizes are LONG gone thanks to organized moms who shop in May and June, no joke. All I am thinking in May and June is summer here I come lol].
This is THE YEAR I do my back-to-school shopping early in a calm, organized, not last minute manner [ok let’s get real again it will probably be last minute but a girl can dream].
On the list for me include new bento-box style lunch boxes [times four as I have a new little darling starting JK for the first time], all the pencils, sharpeners and erasers I can get my hands on as I swear my kids backpacks eat them, and this year a new addition on the list is Play-Doh.
As a child, I recall spending HOURS with my Play-Doh sets, loving that I got to use a plastic knife like a grown-up and having contests with my sister to create the longest rolled noodle ever.
Now that I have six kids, revisiting aspects of my childhood is just simply the best. And let me tell you, Play-Doh has evolved quite a bit from what I remember in my childhood. From dentist sets to elaborate pasta makers, there are so many options to spark a child’s imagination.
The number one reason that Play-Doh is on my list this back to school season is that it gives me an opportunity to interact with all my kids, at their various stages, at the same time, in a truly unplugged manner. It’s not always easy to find an activity that my toddler and my six year old can enjoy at the same time- but with Play-Doh, my kids can open their own cans of imagination and create based on their own level and interest.
And did I mention it involves no screen time? I myself can become so consumed in my own phone and my laptop that to truly unplug, and be with my children as we create is just wonderful.
My kids and I were invited to participate in this fun video where I share more about the benefits of Play-Doh and why it's a win for my family. Love for you to check it out and let me know what you think.
You guys- we did it again. My husband Josh and packed our six kids into our van and drove 1,946 km to Southwest Florida from our home in Toronto, Canada. You can read about our past trips to Ave Maria and Naples, Florida here, and read my family travel tips here! Like in past years, driving that far, with so many children, including a nursing baby, is equal parts crazy, grueling, fun and exciting. With experience under our belt we know to expect the unexpected and just enjoy the ride as much as we can.
We got back yesterday and while it is all still fresh in my mind, I wanted to share some new ideas we tried out this road trip that made the experience of traveling with kids so much easier.
1. ESSENTIAL OILS IN A CAR DIFFUSER
I have written about my love of essential oils in the past and how they help me with stress, anxiety and energy- and this little product was a game changer! I picked up this inexpensive unit that simply plugs into your car charger. You place a few drops of your favourite oil on a reusable pad and your car smells heavenly and you get all the benefits of the oil. When everyone is stinky, smelly, grimy, tired and grumpy, small things like this can make a big difference!
2. A PLUG IN CAR COOLER
This was a new addition to our car this year and I am so thankful for it. We purchased off Amazon this car cooler– and it was so helpful for keeping milks for the kids, monster colas for when we do the drive through the night, and putting used baby bottles in so that they don’t smell like death after a few hours left in a parked hot car!!! This particular one we got was smaller than I was hoping for so we’ll probably upgrade to a larger one at some point- but I did like that the compact size, and carrying strap, made it really easy to bring out for picnics, day trips etc. We attended a minor league baseball game on one of our breaks during the drive and Josh was able to take the entire cooler in to the park which made keeping cool and hydrated super easy.
3. A WATERPROOF PICNIC BLANKET
This one was another new addition to our packing list. When you are in the car for a zillion hours (our journey home was 36 hours with no hotel stay- that is a lot of hours in a small space!) the ability to stretch and lie down is so nice. Along the highways to Florida there are so many beautiful rest stops like this with tons of green space- and to lie down real quick while the kids explore is so refreshing. I like the waterproof backing as it just makes things easier- and this one folds up super small and is so compact.
Also- can I just add how much I love it when kids are just kids and do things like this? In this rest stop in Ohio my kids foraged the forest for every possible stray stick and made an un-lit campire that I think Bear Grylls would have been proud of.
4. AN ATTITUDE OF FLEXIBILITY
This is probably the most important item to “bring with you” on a road trip with kids, whether it’s an hour long or 36 hours long. The same way the rain in Florida did not stop my two year old from kicking off his shoes and literally walking in the rain, it’s most helpful when you can go into a trip knowing that some aspects of travel are going to be uncomfortable and challenging, but to embrace them with humour and joy where possible. I find it helpful to picture where I am going to be one hour from now, two hours from now, three hours from now, etc. in especially tiring moments for a little motivation and push to get through!
And of course, picturing the destination is a really motivating factor too. I just love this colourful bike parked in the middle of the town square where we vacation.
What are your road trip essentials? Come back next week when I’ll share a bit more of our Southwest Florida adventure and how we also survived a family CRUISE! Yes, we are officially crazy, lol. I had about a zillion fears surrounding going on a cruise with my 6 kids but we made it out ok, with lots of learning that I can’t wait to share with you.
Wherever the summer is taking you, I hope it’s great!