Road Trips: Traveling with a Pet

Happy Thursday!  Before I head off to a morning of painting drying racks, I thought I would do a quick Throwback Thursday post.  Here is a look back at our epic road trip from North Carolina to Utah last summer – with the dog!

Two adults, two kids, and an enthusiastic golden retriever “puppy.”  2200 miles, three days on the road.  Twice.  That pretty much sums up our road trip this summer from North Carolina to Utah and back again this summer.  Quite frankly there were times in the planning where I thought it was going to be torture.  In the end, it all went fairly smoothly and most of it was even enjoyable.

Road Trip Tips for Traveling with a Pet

So what are the biggest concerns when taking a pet on a long trip?  Our first consideration was where she was going to travel.  She’s big and she’s energetic and her “manners” just aren’t where we want them to be yet.  We have a big gaz-guzzling SUV (because I like the extra space and flexibility, and in Utah we needed something that could handle the snow) so it made sense that the dog would ride in the back.  We debated about leaving the third row seats home but were glad we kept them as we made good use of them quite a bit while we were on vacation.  We also knew that we wanted to take her crate with us so we decided to prop it between the second row and the folded-up third row seats, figuring it would act as a good screen to keep her in the back.  In our trial run in the driveway she showed no indication of trying to get past it.  On the road, before the sun was up and we had gone less than 20 miles we had pulled over TWICE to deal with the dog.  We had put her in the back and she was whining and pacing and wanting attention and pretty soon she had found a way around it and was in the kids’ laps.  Fine.  We just pulled out a leash and tied it to one of the metal rings in the back.  Mistake in that the leash was too long and she was once again in the kids’ laps.  Ok.  We got out a different leash, making sure she had only enough length to stand up and lie down.  She was still agitated and we thought we would have to stop a third time but eventually she did calm down (10 minutes?  20 minutes later?)  And we were surprised at how well she did for the rest of the trip, even showing she was happy to jump into the back of the vehicle at rest stops when we thought she would be anxious to stretch her legs and run around longer.

Tip #1 – make sure your pet has a safe place to ride and is restricted well enough not to bother/hurt passengers if she gets agitated.

Tip #2 – do a trial run and make sure you actually get out on the road to work out the kinks instead of just staying in the driveway.  That would have been a good idea 😉

Tip #3 – plan/pack for as many eventualities as you can.  We pretty much devoted an entire backpack to things for the dog.  We measured out her meals ahead of time and put them each in plastic baggies (we left the big bag of dog food home and bought a new one once we were in Utah since we would be spending 3 weeks there and knew she would eat most of while we were there).  We of course had food and water bowls, leashes, a brush, poop bags, toys, dog treats, and a case of bottled water.  We also made sure to get her a brand new bone and bring her favorite chew toys to keep her busy in the back and at night in the hotel.  We discovered that she doesn’t want to eat much when we are on the road and the chew toys and bone got almost no use but it’s better to be safe than sorry.  She did drink plenty and since we still give her some peanut butter in her Kong at bedtime every night we figured she wouldn’t exactly starve.  Our daughter would also feed her the small treats over the seat when she was being particularly calm in order to encourage the good behavior.
Tip #4 – at rest stops Divide and Conquer.  It didn’t take us long to figure out a system for dealing with the kids and the dog at rest stops.  Since it was very hot, we didn’t want to leave the dog alone in the car for even a short amount of time.  So I would take the kids in to the restroom while my husband would get the dog out and let her walk around and take her own potty break.  When the kids and I were finished we would give the dog some water and the kids would give her some love while the husband went to the restroom.
We used the same method when stopping for the night, though it was a little harder.  The husband would usually go check into the hotel and the kids would either go in with him or stay outside with me while I walked the dog.  And here’s where it got hard because the dog loves to meet people and likes to get right up in their space and she’s big enough that for the most part we don’t trust the kids’ strength to control her if they really needed to.  Sam would bring a luggage cart back out with him and we would re-latch the dog into the back while we unloaded the luggage from the top of the vehicle, usually while dealing with excited and fully energized kids while we, the parents were nearing the end of our patience for the day.  We got through it though, with Sam taking the leash while we walked into the hotel and the kids “helping” me get the luggage cart where we needed it to go.  Once we were settled in the room one of us would go for take out.  Then I would ususally take the kids to the pool to work off some energy while Sam took the dog for a long walk or if the hotel had a fenced in area for pets he would throw the ball for her there.
Tip #5 – research and book hotels ahead of time.  When we drove out here four years ago with just the kids we took the “we’ll stop when we feel like we need to and just find a place as we go” approach.  That doesn’t work so well with pets.  Many hotels don’t welcome pets and the ones that do often charge extra for pets and have restrictions as to the size of the dog and things like what entrance you can use with a pet (they usually want you to enter and exit only through the back/side door).  And not all hotels are created equal – the first night the “pet room” we got was well, gross.  It was dank and smelled funky and the carpet looked clean but felt wet, as if they steam cleaned it but it didn’t dry completely and we insisted the kids not walk on it without their shoes.  I’m sure there are a number of good chains, but we quickly decided on one we are comfortable with and stuck to it for the rest of the trip.
Tip #6 – roll with it.  I mean this in all senses of the phrase, good and bad.  Everyone is better off when you deal with things with patience and try to see the humor in things when they go awry.  For instance, as the sun was getting lower in the sky on the first day, Bambi started getting really fidgety and loud.  Once she had settled in originally she had ridden most of the trip without incident and it hadn’t been that long since our last stop so we knew she probably didn’t need a break yet.  I think it was Sam that spotted the patch of light being reflected onto the ceiling of the car just out of her reach that she was trying to get at.  See, she loves chasing the light from flashlights or what I used to call “Tinkerbell” as a kid – the reflected light that bounces off watches or mirrors when the sun hits it just right.  And the angle of the sun had found the screen of a cell phone that was sitting on the console causing a band of light to reflect onto the ceiling and drive her nuts.  It didn’t take us long to figure out that as long as we kept the reflective surfaces covered from about 6-7 PM she would be able to remain calm.

On the other end of that, our dog is very friendly and loves people and she’s “a pretty dog” so she gets a lot of attention.  At one busy rest stop when the husband took the kids inside first I didn’t make it more than 10 steps from the car with her before they got back because multiple families with kids asked to pet her and it was so much fun to watch the kids and make small take with the adults.  At another rest stop a guy we ran into said he trains service dogs and noticing my focus on trying to keep Bambi sitting nicely while he petted her he ended up giving us a mini dog training/tip session.  Despite the desire to get to our destinations as quickly as possible, the entire exprience was more fun because we took the time to enjoy the process, the sights, and the people we met along the way.

The highest point on our journey – elevation 8640

We had to do the whole thing over againa few months later when we moved back to Utah.  And yes – all these trips worked perfectly that time around too!  I’m interested though:  Do you have any tips/tricks for traveling?

*This post is part of a series you can see the other parts here:

1:  Road Trip Activity Binder

Linking to:  Your Turn to Shine, Thursday Favorite Things, BFF Open House, Pin Me Linky Party, Snickerdoodle Sunday, Merry Monday, Blog Hobnob Link Up, Sundays Down Under, Tutorials and Tips Link Party, Something to Talk About, Idea Box, Made By You Monday, Lou Lou Girls,

Just in Case Files – What Do You Need to Keep in Your Car?

It’s official – I have entered the “soccer mom” stage of life.  While neither of my kids is actually playing soccer right now (though Tyler did this spring), I have come to accept that a good chunk of my time is spent ferrying my children from one activity to another.  Todays schedule:  pick up a friend for a 6:30 workout at the gym, 8:40 take the girls up to the pool for swim team practice, quick trip to the grocerie store, 9:40 take the boys up to the pool for pre-comp swim team practice, 11:15 bring everyone home from the pool, 11:45 off to the water park for some summer fun…
Reorganize your car and stock it for summer
That’s a lot of time spent in the car for just one day, and many of my days have similar plans – piano lessons, summer camps, karate, walking the dog, playdates at the skateboard park, night games, family BBQs, trips to the lake, UPS drop offs for drying racks, swim meets, etc etc.  I’ve been grateful many many times for our decision to buy an SUV with the 3rd row seat where I can pile 9 of us in (if necessary) for carpool or a fun outing with friends, drop off a load of drying racks to be shipped out, or pile the dog and the kids’ bikes in the back for a walk.  But the past couple of weeks, in particular, I have noticed just how much STUFF was collecting in the car – towels, jackets, granola bar wrappers, empty water bottles, marbles, tree pruners, that glass wasp trap we bought on a whim at the nursery, and on and on.  I vowed to do something about it, and to get a bit more organized while I was at it.  This past weekend I finally took the time to follow through.  And wouldn’t you know it, I got half-way finished vacuuming out the car and this happens.


Yep, that’s hail.  Plus lightning and thunder.  It was kind of crazy but once I had rushed to put the vacuum back in the shop and close all the doors it was peaceful to just sit in the car by myself with the rain drumming on the roof.  Eventually it slacked off enough for me to rush through vacuuming the back seat then I put off the rest of the car cleaning and organization until the next day.  The car mats, which I had put on the ground to vacuum later were entirely soaked and are still in the garage where I left them to dry out.  The rest of the car is looking about as good is it will ever look at over 10 years old and still being used on a daily basis – so of course I felt the need to share! 😉

What should you keep in your car just in case necessities

My 11-year-old daughter came up with the title “Just in Case Files” and I thought it was cute.  It’s also a great lead-in to a series of blog posts on home organization and emergeny prep, isn’t it?

There isn’t a lot of storage space in my vehicle, but I try to make the most of it.  I tend to categorize things by when and where they will need to be used, and how often.
In the glove box:  registration and owners manual, flashlight, and maybe a few spare napkins from the drive through.
In the console:  This is where I keep most of the things I access all the time.  Sunglasses for everyone in the family, hand sanitizer, pens, sunscreen, baby wipes (my #1 Must Have Item, even if you don’t have kids), tissues, spare headphones (all too often I get half-way to the gym and realize I forgot to grab my headphones), car chargers for the phone and/or other handheld tech devices, (for road trips we also have a universal charger than can plug into the cigarette lighter and you can use just as you would any outlet), a compact multi-tool, tire guage, bags to have on hand if we take the dog for a walk and need to clean up after her, a collapsible dog bowl, my coupon organizer (though most of the time I don’t keep that up to date), and my keychain full of store membership cards (so they are on hand if I am anywhere I need one, but they don’t have to all be taking up space in my wallet or on my car keychain).   Oh and those white trianges?  Those are folded up plastic grocery bags which I try to have on hand to use for garbage, wet clothing, etc.
Under the front passenger seat:  first aid kit, umbrella, and a cosmetic bag full of things that I hate to be without if I find myself out and about and needing them including a small bottle with a mixture of meds for headaches, allergies, etc; hair pick and hair elastics, feminine hygiene products, lip balm (be sure it’s in a container that won’t leak if it melts in a hot car!), lotion, nail file, sewing kit, extra bandaids (yes, in addition to the first aid kit I’ve found it’s very useful to keep these stocked for those random playground accidents), and maybe a few of those hand wipes left over from the last time we had wings for dinner.

Just In Case What should you keep in your car Be prepared for summer
Under the back seat:  jumper cables, reusable shopping bags, car window scrapers (not sure why I need THREE, but I wasn’t in the mood to toss one without making sure the other vehicles were stocked).  We are using the third row seats quite often lately so I made sure to leave the space empty under the single seat we fold down to access the back.
In the back: a leash for the dog is kept attached to one of the rings so we don’t have to worry about her jumping out of the car as soon as we open the door.  I also got inspired a couple of months ago and bought a canvas drop cloth that we always keep in the car.  We are in and out so much with bikes, scooters, and the dog’s muddy paws or shedding fur that I decided it would be SO much easier to just spread out the drop cloth when needed then I can just shake it out or even toss it in the washing  machine and not worry about having to vacuum or steam clean the back of the car all the time.
One other item I always keep in the car is an empty water bottle (usually in one of the back cup holders or you know, rolling around on the floor somewhere 😉  )  Typically when we are headed out the door for the day we will grab full water bottles but last year we went out geocaching with cousins and found ourselves in a campground with thirsty kids and only a hydrant for water.  I had a couple of empty water bottles in the back of the car and they were perfect.  Now I keep at least one in the car because you can almost always find a hydrant, bathroom sink, or drinking fountain to fill one up if needed.
One final handy little item we found for the car (and used a lot during our multiple road trips last summer) are these little hooks that can attach to the back of the seat.  They are great for hooking bags to when you want easy access on road trips, to hang backpacks and swim bags to during carpool so the kids can have a little more leg room, or to hook a spare plastic grocery bag to for garbage.

Other things you may want to consider keeping in the car may include a few toys or books for the kids, a spare change of clothes for potty training (or because I found my kids wanting to have water fights with their cousins every time we saw them in June), or maybe a towel.

Let’s see…have I missed anything?  What do you keep in your car?

I guess I’m off to tackle the husband’s truck – as soon as I finish with today’s carpool duties and running around! 😉
Want more ideas for your road trip?  Check out my Road Trip Activities Binder idea!

Linking to:  Made By You Monday, Wow Me Wednesday,  Lou Lou Girls, Thursday Favorite Things, Your Turn to Shine, What To Do Weekends, Merry Monday, Lifestyle Link Up, DIY Sunday Showcase, Snickerdoodle Sunday,

Top 7 Tips for Your Disney Vacation

Top 7 Tips for Your Disney Vacation

Summer, summer, summertime!  And I’ve got vacation on the brain – probably due to seeing so many friends’ vacation fun on Instagram and Facebook, right?  We are having a great time so far this summer, but I’m afraid this is the busy season at my husband’s job so we don’t have any real plans for vacation until maybe this fall.  So for Flashback Friday (I’ve decided that may be the best way to slowly move my best posts from the old blog over here to the new format) I thought I would revisit my Tips post from our last Disney Vacation (in February of 2013).

Where have I been?!  If you look back through most of my recent posts I’m starting to sound like a broken record.  “Ooops, sorry, neglected the blog.”  “Crazy busy.  Neglected the blog.”  “Wow time is just flying by – neglected the blog.”  So I’ll refrain from saying it again.  But guess what we’ve been up to?!!  VACATION!  WOOHOO!

We kind of rushed into it and basically squished the vacation in among the craziness but when the boss says “if you want any vacation time this spring you’d better get it on the schedule!” you kind of just jump on the opportunity.  So where did we go?  Disney World!

And it was Awesome!  Amazing!  Fantastic!  Oh so much fun!

I won’t get into the Play by Play of our vacation, but I would like to share a few of my take-aways from the trip.

#1 – it’s vacation so splurge a bit!  Sure we could have gone the dirt cheap route and still had a lot of fun (and trust me there are tons of blogs out there with many many tips on how to do so).  But going the rock bottom route feels (to me) like it takes a little bit of the fun out of the vacation.  The trick is finding the good deals that still allow you to have fun without worrying too much about the money.  Having done this a time or two before now, we went straight to the military travel office.  We explored a few options, then knowing that it was a good price we went with a “moderate” Disney Resort instead of a “value” hotel or time share off the property.  I’ve been stuck in a low priced hotel room before trying to squeeze into a double bed with the husband and hope to never try it again! 😉

And oh, how worth the small price of the upgrade it was. It was beautiful and magical, the service was fantastic, and the convenience of having everything right there…
#2 – Stay at one of the Disney Resorts if at all possible.  We stayed at the Port Orleans Riverside and loved it.  Every Disney hotel has it’s own character and theme and there is no one that pays more attention to detail than Disney.  From the landscaping to the tiny Mickey ears on top of the shampoo bottles – everywhere you turned there were special touches.  And the convenience.  Sure you have to ride a bus to whatever park you want to visit, but even if you drove your own vehicle you’d have to pay an arm and a leg for parking then take the shuttle in to the park.  And figuring out which road leads back to the hotel after 10 hours at the park – not my idea of fun.  Plus you get all the added amenities like the fancy pools and the early Magic Hours at the parks.  And there is always something fun going on there too.  They had nightly movies outside, campfires and smores, random activities for the kids, etc.

#3 – When it comes to souvenirs there are a million options, including buying inexpensive ones ahead of time.  If you’re going to spring for a fancy pair of Mickey Ears (and I highly recommend it), make sure you do so on the first day so they get plenty of time to wear them.  My kids were in love with their ears and wore them almost the entire time.  And once they had the ears they pretty much ignored all the other things offered at the shops so we didn’t have to explain to them over and over that we weren’t going to buy anything.

I also thought ahead and bought everyone Tshirts from the Disney Store online (they always have plenty of things on clearance or good sales), which we all got for Valentines Day (we went on vacation on Feb 18 so the timing was perfect AND I didn’t have to think too hard about Vday gifts hehe).  They also offer free shipping if you spend $50 or something so I added in a pair of Disney pjs for Ty and a bracelet for Kate.

I lucked into finding some Mickey themed journals in the after Valentines section a few days before the trip so I grabbed them and stuck them in my bag of tricks.  I ended up pulling them out on the car ride home when the kids got a little fidgety and got a “mom, you know me so well!” as a Thank You from Tyler 🙂

Our kids have started keychain collections so before heading home on our final day, we surprised them by detouring to the gift shop and letting them pick out a keychain.  I’m not a “collections” person myself, but both of my kids seem to be and this is a rather inexpensive and compact option.

#4 – The meal plan is absolutely worth it – at least it is if you plan to eat very many of your meals at the park (again, we got a deal through the military travel office.  I’m not sure how the regular prices stack up, but it’s still probably a better deal than paying out of pocket for every meal).  Otherwise even the snack shacks are PRICEY.  But when you’ve paid for it all ahead of time and you see that $90 or $100 meal not cost you anything more than the tip – it’s actually pretty fun.  There is no way I would have opted to pay that much for a meal, especially not twice a day every day.  So with the meal plan not only did we get a TON of really good food (including desserts and snacks), we had the opportunity to try a lot of restaurants we wouldn’t have given a second look at based on price.  Like the character dining – so fun!  (We went to Tusker House in Animal Kingdom which is buffet style and that works well for our picky kids.)  With all the extras we truly felt like we were spoiled – and that’s partially what being on vacation is all about.  We also found it useful because with the kids now old enough not to need strollers we only wanted to carry the bare minimum of supplies and not tote around a cooler full of snacks.

#5 – Go in with a Plan, but only a very small plan.  I found a lot of useful tips and websites before leaving on the trip (my favorite one is here) that helped with the planning.  We spent some time looking at menus and setting up reservations for the fancier restaurants (trust me – you NEED reservations well ahead of time for those, like, as soon as you get the dates nailed down for your trip) and deciding which day we would visit each park.  We looked up the times for the parades, shows and fireworks and picked a few that we didn’t want to miss (the Cars Lights Action stunt show at Hollywood Studios is impressive).  And we picked our top 2-3 rides at each park. Otherwise we played it by ear as there is no telling how busy you will find it, how long the lines may be, when you might get tired and be ready to go home, what rides may seem too scary for the kids once you get there, etc etc.  Sam found a phone app that told wait times for all the rides, character greetings and events – that was really helpful.  Also make sure to hit the park first thing in the morning, getting there before the gates open if possible.  There is never a time with shorter lines so hit your #1 ride right away and Fast Pass your #2 choice immediately.

#6 – You will get absolutely, completely, thoroughly sick of lines and crowds.  Plan on it and be patient.  But take advantage of the time you are standing around to make it fun.  Look for Hidden Mickeys.  Strike up conversations.  I was amazed by how many friendly and kind people we met and how fun it was to chat with different people once we got the ball rolling.  You never know when they may offer up a great tip or favorite thing that you may have otherwise missed seeing at the park.  Take advantage of the Fast Passes and Parent Swap options.  Know when splitting up will reduce wait time – like sending one person for Fast Passes while the other parent waits in line with the kids to see Mickey.  But be aware that a lot of time can be wasted trying to meet up again if you aren’t careful – and don’t let the Fast Pass person go running off with the Autograph books! 🙂

#7 – I could go on and on but I will end with a few notes about the car ride.  We had an 8 hour drive to get the parks and I was surprised at how quickly and smoothly it went.  Part of that is because our kids are old enough now that they don’t require too many things for entertainment and part of it is due to planning – and luck.  We of course stocked up on snacks and drinks for the car, then stopped for a potty break pretty much every hour or so.  We added new apps and music to the kids’ Ipods and made sure both the Ipods and the Nintendo Dsi’s were fully charged.  Between those, the mini DVD player (and a brand new copy of Brave which they were surprised to find in the case the first time they opened it), and some books and coloring/writing implements they were pretty well set up.  I did make sure I had a few surprises to pull out when I felt they were getting fidgety.  I already mentioned the Mickey journals.  I also ran across some Lego sticker puzzle valentines that I grabbed and the kids happily put together the entire box of 16.  I had found and printed out a car scavenger hunt (printable found here) that the kids enjoyed.  And a “how to draw stick animals” instruction sheet that I never had to use.  I’m also patting myself on the back for taking up a good chunk of the ride home typing up some journaling points about the trip which I can later just copy and paste when I scrapbook everything.  Plus it allowed me to get input and impressions from the kids and Sam that I wouldn’t normally have been able to include in the journaling.

So there you have it – my little collection of Tips for Disney Trips.  I’m pretty proud of myself for getting it all on the blog within less than 48 hours of returning from our trip, especially considering the huge Catching Up to do list for the weekend.  I’m also itching to get into Crafting Mode so fingers crossed I can carve out some time for that (and blog it!) soon!

Linking to:  BFF Open House, Home Matters Linky Party, Frugal Friday, Pin Me Link Party, Thursday Favorites, Something to Talk About, Made By You Monday,  DIY Sunday Showcase, Lifestyle Link Up, Snickerdoodle Sunday,

Road Trips: Travel Activity Binder for Kids

Road Trip Activity Binder For Kids Lots of Ideas to Keep Children Entertained in the Car
‘Tis the Season for Road Trips!  At least it was for our family.  Typically we plan one big vacation every year to go back to Utah and see our families.  This year we wanted to be there for a few weeks, and not wanting to leave the pup with anyone for that length of time, we decided to road trip it.  Oh yes we did! LOL  Three full days in the car (each way!) with two kids and a dog.  I’ll blog about how we survived that one soon.  But for today, I just wanted to do a quick round-up of some of the activities I prepped to keep the kids busy while we were on the road.  Because let’s face it, while technology is awesome and we used it a lot, I didn’t exactly want to see this every time I looked in the back seat.

Yes, we did pack the mini DVD player (and a brand new movie), the tablet (with a couple new free apps) and the Ipods (with updated playlists).  We also uploaded an audio book the whole family could listen to (we highly recommend the Heros of Olympus series by Rick Riordan) and that served to keep us entertained for the majority of the time.  For variety’s sake – and to get the kids to look out the window or carry on a conversation with us once in a while – I prepped quite a few activities ahead of time and put them in a couple of binders.

I found quite a few cute printables (like the Slug Bug one) here  and you can check my pinterest board for other ideas.  Each child got their own folder full of printables and I packed some dry erase markers so they could write directly on the page protectors then wipe them off to use again.  I also kept another folder in my bag full of more activities so I could change it up if I needed to when they got bored.  This included things like Lego instructions for the little guy (a couple sets in his binder and more ideas in mine) and origami folding instructions for Miss Kate.

Of course I also printed out maps for each day of our route.  One of the most exciting parts of the trip was anticipating when we would cross a state line and we would start counting down the miles 5-10 miles out from each one.  Kaitlyn even marked her map with the times we crossed each one so we could really see our progress.

Trip Journal Page found here.

Origami instructions found here.

Road Trip Activity Binder for Kids Printable State Activity Pages

Printable State Activity Pages found here.  I thought these were absolutely fantastic.  I kept them in my folder as well and handed them back to the kids as we entered each new state.

Of course, best laid plans and all – they did a few of them but often the kids were busy with other things and most of the state pages went into their folders unused.  No worries – we will be making the trip again in a couple of months (EEEK!  The move is coming so quickly!) so I kept it all together in their folders and my activity prep will already be done.

Another activity they enjoyed was making duct tape projects.  Again, I printed a few instructions (pinterest and google are amazing resources, aren’t they?) ahead of time and Kaitlyn was able to use the techniques and make up her own design for a wallet.

I also printed off some very detailed abstract coloring pages and packed a set of colored pencils for us to use (crayons and hot cars sounded like a bad idea) and found that even I liked to pull them out and color a bit while listening to the audio book.  (now that is something we should all blog tips about – forget about entertaining the kids, how do we adults pass the long hours in the car?!)

All in all, an hour or two on the computer and a small collection of office supplies and we were all set.  If only all of my projects were that easy…

*Reposted.  Originally posted on my old blog Aug 2014

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