Garanimals Blog

Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

January 27th, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Packing for Children

imagePacking for children isn’t that hard if you are organized. You simply need to face the fact that kids need a lot of stuff and will require your extremely efficient packing skills.

First, you need to go to this site and check out these incredible packing lists. There are lists for packing with children and adults in different circumstances. This is a great way to start before you have even packed an item.

I also wanted to share some of my thoughts on what to bring or not bring and things to think about.

Bathing Suits - If you are going someone where a bathing suit is involved , you truly need more than one per person. Hanging them on the shower curtain rod overnight just doesn’t dry them fast enough. With boys, you can always use trunks as a pair of shorts if needed too!

Washer & Dryer - Lots of people stay in condos that have washer and dryers available. If you will have access to these, take this into account when packing. No one wants to do laundry while on vacation, but it saves a lot of packing room if you do a quick load part way through your trip!

Toys - think about what toys give you the most bang. What will keep the kids attention the longest. My boys have always adored our tablets and phones. These can be a life saver in a airplane ride. Purchase some new games and that will be even more exciting for them! If you are going to visit the beach and want beach toys, visit the local dollar store once you get there to buy some. Leave them with another family on the beach on your last day!

Baby items - leave the jumper, high chair and more at home. A trip may mean more mommy holding time for the baby, but saves you from the gazillion things that you use on a daily basis.

What are your packing tips for traveling with children?

Kim Ross also writes at  A Little Bit of This and That ~ The Adventures of a Stay at Home Mom.

Pin It

August 5th, 2013 at 8:26 am

Car Seat Safety

The car seat is one of the most confusing things I have experienced with my children. I have constantly questioned:

  • Are they in right?
  • Should my child move to the next type of car seat?
  • Where should the seat belt actually be worn?

It may be confusing, but is one of the most important items we purchase as parents. I want to give you some general guidelines on what type of car seat is most appropriate for your child. Be sure to always check the information on the actual seat to determine if that seat is still a good choice for your child.

  • Car seats expire, so be sure to check for the expiration date in the user guide.
  • Car seats are junk after they take part in a moderate or severe crash. Most insurance policies will pay for car seat replacement when an accident occurs.
  • Do not put anything under or behind an infant unless it came with the seat or was made by the manufacturer of the seat.
  • Winter coats and snowsuits can increase injury in infants in a crash. It is a safer choice to tuck blankets over the harness straps.
  • Do not purchase safety seats second-hand. You never know the history or expiration. The integrity of the seat diminishes in crashes and can make the seat unsafe.
  • Look for places that will help you install your seat. Check with your local fire or police station or the following websites:
  • NHTSA (or call NHTSA Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888/327-4236)
  • SeatCheck (or call 866/SEATCHECK [866/732-8243])
  • National Child Passenger Safety Certified Technicians (or call 877/366-8154) This site provides information in Spanish and also provides a list of CPS technicians with enhanced training in protection of children with special needs.

Most importantly – Make sure anyone transporting your child is using the same guidelines you use! 

Kim Ross also writes at  A Little Bit of This and That ~ The Adventures of a Stay at Home Mom.


Pin It

April 23rd, 2013 at 12:07 pm

WAZE – GPS Only Better

Imagine having an app that gives you the shortest route to take on the way to your destination. Of course, we have GPS for that. Now imagine a network of people checking in to let you know what the traffic conditions are on that route, right now, as you head out.

That sounds pretty good to me. And that’s the idea behind the Social GPS app called Waze.

Face it, depending on where you live and travel to, getting there can really test your patience. Construction, accidents and everyday volume can make it more like a nightmare. Waze aims to bring some light into that dark place called the daily commute.

Simply check into the Waze app on your smartphone or tablet and input your destination. It works like any GPS navigation device but takes it to the next level.

With the Waze app open as you drive, your progress, or lack thereof, will be captured (anonymously) along with that of the other Wazers. The result is a crowdsourced traffic feed that lets you know where the pain points are. If there’s a problem, the Waze navigator will suggest an alternate route and tell you how to get to it. How helpful is that?

There are other features to the app that make it even more useful. You can use the Report menu to select preset reasons for the slowdown, be it an accident, police activity, construction or just heavy volume to let the other Wazers know why it’s taking so long. This can help you decide  whether to re-route (construction) or wait it out (accident being cleared). You can even submit a picture of the issue. Genius. No more sitting there wondering WHY you’re just sitting there!

Another nifty feature allows you to check the gas stations along the way and compare prices. Love that! And if you use the app with Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare, you can coordinate with your friends on arrival times. For a quick demo video, click here.

If you thought your current GPS was good, Waze brings in the social functions and takes it up a notch or three. Now, if it could only do the driving for you. Don’t laugh, that feature isn’t so far fetched anymore.

You can also find Paula on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter @techsmart319. Feel free to reach out if you have questions.

Pin It

April 19th, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Entertaining Kids on a Road Trip

Any road trip with children can be interesting, to say the least. The endless cries of “Are we there yet?” are almost as fun as a screaming infant or toddler that has just had enough! Here are a few ideas to make the road trip a little easier.

Movies – What did people do before there was access to watch things in the car? Plus, if you don’t have a tv in your car, it is easy enough to watch on your tablet or phone. Too much of this can’t be a good thing, though. Make sure you save this for down time so it doesn’t lose it entertainment value.

Electronic Games – My kids love to play games in the car on their devices. Make sure to load their Leap pad, DS or other game system and favorite games for the road trip. On our last trip I found that headphones are a must!

License Plate - Print out a sheet of paper with all the states on it. As kids see a license plate they can cross off that state. If you are taking a long road trip see who can find the most!

Toy Bribes - Pack a special toy or activity for every hour of the trip. If they behave they get to open the next surprise. This is great with small cars, a new coloring book, or even small doll they can play with.

Doodling Fun - What’s better than some art fun? Make sure to bring some crayons and paper or go paperless with a Magna Doodle, Etch a Sketch, or Dry Erase Board.

Cameras - Pack disposable cameras for your kids to document their journey along the way. My boys like to use an Ipod to take pictures and video and it is great fun to watch what they do after the trip!

Snacks - Never leave home without your kids favorite snacks!

Audio Books- Pick out a story to listen to on the vehicle’s radio or alone. This is a great way to listen to new stories that can take up a good portion of the trip!

Make a Roadtrip Binder – Fill with worksheets that your kids can work on. There are ones for older kids, also.

Magnetic Travel Activity - If you are crafty this is a great way for little boys o play with their cars and trucks during travel.

These activities just might make you hear a few less “Are we there yet?”

Kim Ross also writes at  A Little Bit of This and That ~ The Adventures of a Stay at Home Mom.


Pin It

January 18th, 2013 at 8:30 am

Planning a Family Vacation

I don’t know about you, but I desperately need a family vacation right about now! Between the craziness of raising kids, the holidays, and the dead of winter in Wisconsin I could go for something warm and relaxing. The task can seem overwhelming though. All the planning, packing, and decision-making sometimes makes a family vacation seem not as much fun as you anticipate. I guarantee it will be fun once you go through with a little organization up front.

First, you want to decide where you are going. Is this a Staycation, or do you want to go on a big trip? This also depends upon budget and how long of a vacation you are taking. If it is just a weekend, you may want to stay closer to home; but for a week, you can definitely travel cross-country. Part of this is deciding the travel arrangements –car, train, airplane, boat? During this time of year, we usually take an extended weekend to a waterpark; a great way to getaway from home.

The next big part of planning the trip is deciding the details. Where will you stay or eat? What exciting activities are in store? I like to narrow these down. I’ve tried to figure it out when we got there, but with kids that doesn’t always work so well. When they are hungry, there isn’t a lot of time to wait; in my family that leads to meltdowns! So, what I do is create a list of options for restaurants with a few extras in case one isn’t what we expected. In this digital age, it is so easy to really delve into what restaurants and activities will work for your family. I usually call myself the “Cruise Director” and have a list of possible activities for each day. This takes the stress off me and lessens decisions that need to be made during the vacation. That means more relaxing for Mom!

Now everything should be pretty much planned! You would think we are onto the fun part, but now comes the packing! Depending upon how big your family is, this could be a hefty task. Gone are the carefree days of throwing a couple of things in a bag and having a weekend away. Now I need to tote teddy bears, sound machines and extra clothes in case of accidents. This step takes as much preparation as the others. I like to start a list a week before I am going to start packing. I write down everything I think I may need. I go over this list every day because I can guarantee as the week goes on I will add a few things (sometimes really important ones) and take a few things away. As that week passes I also think about bags that are needed and have time for shopping for last minute items.

Once the list is done I start to gather. My bed usually becomes suitcase central. Luckily, my husband goes on a lot of business trips so I let him pack himself, but always remember to ask him if he has certain items (like swim trunks) that he would typically forget! I like to involve the boys as much as I can, having them retrieve things or pick out their favorite clothes to wear.  Packing can be a big task, but I feel like it starts to get you excited to go.

Then you are set! Well, as long as you thought about your pets, if you need anyone to watch the house or collect the mail too! These are important details that can be forgotten!  Trust me! Last fall, when we went for a weekend I almost forgot to make arrangements for the dog, which led to a 2 hour vet appointment to update shots. Don’t ask!

Once you leave your house, make it fun! Vacation starts on that first step out the door!

Are you going on a fun family vacation anywhere?

Kim Ross also writes at  A Little Bit of This and That ~ The Adventures of a Stay at Home Mom.



Pin It

December 19th, 2012 at 5:00 am

Holiday Travel with Kids


Whether you’re driving to the next state or flying across the country, holiday travel is just plain stressful, particularly when you’re traveling with kids. Here are some tips to help make your trip less taxing:


Be sure to arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare – at least two to three hours in advance.  Print your boarding passes at home to save even more time. Just go to your airline’s website – and make sure you don’t pack too much as to incur extra luggage fees.  It may be cheaper to ship gifts a week ahead of time. Finally, if you have an active toddler, it’s best to wait until the last minute to board – this is a great way to avoid a restless meltdown.


Make sure your car is ready and safe for travel before you leave, and be prepared for any weather conditions with supplies such as shovels, blankets and flashlights. For the younger kids, have them pack their own toys and books to prevent boredom on the trip and be sure to make rest stops if your trip is going to be longer than two hours. If you don’t have a portable DVD player, now is a great time to invest in one to bring on your trip along with the kids’ favorite movies.

No matter what your means of travel…

Make sure you pack plenty of small snacks (pretzels, string cheese, Cheerios) and water for your kids. And some snacks for the adults is not a bad idea either… you will surely need to keep up your strength.

Also, be sure to involve the whole family in the trip-planning process. Have the older kids help find things to do around your destination, it keeps them busy while you are packing and makes them feel part of the planning. You can even have them help pack… if you have the patience and a lot of time. Give them things to do to feel as if they are contributing and also make them feel more secure about uprooting their lives for a short period of time.

Share any of your stress-reducing travel tips in the comments. Happy travels!

Pin It

September 18th, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Road Trip Apps – Don’t Leave Home Without Them

Hitting the road for a long drive? Used to be you brought along an atlas, some snacks, some music and prayers for a smooth trip.

These days, there are some great tools on your smartphone that can help make the trip easier and more hassle free than ever.

First, there’s Google Maps (Android). For navigation, it’s amazing. Enter your destination, turn on the navigation and get turn by turn instructions either visually or with audio. Turn on the Traffic layer and you can keep an eye on delays and bottlenecks. On our recent trip, we were able to avoid hours sitting in traffic due to a closed interstate by rerouting on some back roads.

Getting low on gas? Type “gas station” in the search box and GMaps will pinpoint all the stations on your route. GasBuddy can help you find the best prices. This is great for avoiding the dreaded “30 miles till next exit” when you’re low on fuel, bladder control, or wakefulness.

For lodging, type in “hotels” and see what’s around. Each map pin has information about the hotels so you can find the brand you want and get additional information. To get rating information, TripAdvisor is great for finding out the particular pros and cons and getting good insight from past travelers. The Travelocity app is also feature rich for this. If you’re a frequent guest at a particular hotel, make sure you’ve downloaded their app for quick and easy reservations. And if you’re near a large city a newer app called HotelTonight can provide deals on last minute hotel reservations.

Hungry? If you’ve got Siri, simply tell her that you are or what you feel like eating and let her come up with some suggestions. Or you can use Yelp, Good Food Near You, or Foodspotting (see my post from a couple of weeks ago) to see what’s nearby.

And if you want to explore the area you’re in beyond gas stations, hotels and restaurants, try Roadside America (iphone $2.99) for tips on finding the fun, funny and absurd attractions nearby. Or let Woofound match you up with your favorite activities away from home.

When I was 15, I went on a family road trip cross country armed with a box full of AAA TripTiks and hotel catalogs and spent a lot of time stopping and checking hotels and restaurants. Before cell phones (forget smartphones), it was a lot of hit or miss, with enough misses to write a book.

My husband, daughter and I recently spent 11 days on the road covering over 2700 miles. As the designated navigator and mission control, I used all of these apps to ensure the trip went as smooth as possible, with mostly hits. It was a blast.


You can also find Paula on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter @techsmart319. Feel free to reach out if you have questions.

Pin It

September 4th, 2012 at 7:10 am

See Food and Eat It With Foodspotting

Where should we eat? If you’ve asked that question and gotten a lot of “I don’t knows”, you know how hard it is to come up with restaurant ideas sometimes.

On my family’s recent road trip, we were faced with this decision in every new place we visited. So of course I turned to my smartphone apps for help. I found a really good one called Foodspotting. It’s a simple to use app that provides menu item photos that people have posted from restaurants near your location. Seeing a luscious plate of ribs or a yummy red velvet cupcake can do wonders in helping you pick a restaurant.

Foodspotting allows you to view your options based on Specials, Best Rated, what’s Nearby, and the Latest Additions. You can participate by choosing items you Want, Tried or Loved. You can also add your own photos to help build up the database. While we were traveling I added a BBQ Taco Plate and a Shrimp Burger that I loved.

You can also do a search on a specific item and see if any local restaurants feature them. Got a yen for sliders? Foodspotting can help you find them.

Foodspotting is not as comprehensive as Yelp, which is a great app that I use all the time. But sometimes I don’t want to read a dozen reviews. I just want a quick look at what’s available. A picture can really get the mouth watering.

Sometimes you don’t know what you want until you see it. I have to go now. I’m heading out to try a breakfast trifle at a local restaurant that I’ve been meaning to try for months. The photo looks so good I just have to try it.

You can also find Paula on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter @techsmart319. Feel free to reach out if you have questions.

Pin It

August 22nd, 2012 at 5:00 am

Big Time Fun at Circus World

Forty miles north of Madison, in Baraboo, Wisconsin, you’ll find the original site of the Ringling Bros. Circus, now home to Circus World—part museum, part circus adventure. Our weekend visit enthralled even my hard-to-impress teens.

In addition to typical museum exhibits, a day at Circus World is sprinkled with interactive things to do and see, including:


  • A live magic show in a brand new “Theatre of Illusion” featuring magician Tristan Crist.
  • Pony and elephant rides.
  • Circus workshop where kids practice tightrope walking and juggling.
  • The largest collection of restored circus wagons in the world.
  • A play park.
  • A working carousel.

We arrived at 1:00 and, when the park closed at 6:00 p.m., we all wished we had more time.

The most exciting part of the day was the big top, an intimate, one-ring circus. The performers pulled volunteers from the audience, and all the kids were invited down to the ring at the end of the show. My kids giggled at the Pekinese puppy show and clowns’ crazy antics. In this age of virtual experiences, seeing live acts with people who have learned their craft over many generations is still a thrill.

A Wisconsin family with three little kids sat right in front of us, on the edge of their seats. Rachael, age four, told me she loved Lady Dancer, the dancing horse, best. “The lady looked like a fairy princess,” she said. Her big brother, Jake (age 5), was much more impressed with the elephants. “I got to ride the old one,” said Jake. “He was really smooth.”

Circus World is open year around and reasonably priced, so next time you’re in the Midwest, add Baraboo to your itinerary. And Jake is right. The elephants are the coolest part.

Related Picture Books
Circus by Lois Ehlert
If I Ran the Circus by Dr. Seuss

Susan Bearman also writes at Two Kinds of PeopleMike&Ollie: 24-weekers Who Beat the Odds and The Animal Store Blogas well as being a regular contributor to The Chicago Moms and Technorati.

Pin It

August 21st, 2012 at 8:46 am

Woofound – A Good Times Concierge on Your Phone

Looking for ideas for something to do today? There’s a nifty new app called Woofound that can offer suggestions for restaurants, fitness, entertainment and other activities based on your user profile and your location.

I’m currently on a road trip with my family we were looking for some daytime activities in a new city. I downloaded this app to my iPad (it’s also available on iPhone, Android is coming soon) to see how it works.

The first step is to create an account and go through the Play function which shows you photos of foods, sports, and other activity types. You simply click on Me or Not Me and the app will then suggest local places to go or things to do that fit your profile. And the more you “Play”, the better it gets at choosing appropriate activities.

This way you can avoid suggestions for jousting, hookah lounges or English cuisine if they’re not your thing.

Once you find an attraction or destination that you like you can then “Plan” it. You can set a day and time, find it on a map, go to the website or call the site. And if you want, you can share it with your friends on Woofound or Facebook.

You can also search by category and price range to narrow your options.

I think this is a very cool app. I found a museum, a bike rental, a designer consignment shop and a restaurant for dinner without having to search various websites or travel guides. Once you’ve established your profile, let Woofound play matchmaker for you. It’s quick and easy.

If you’re the travel agent for your family or the social director for your pals, Woofound is a keeper.

You can also find Paula on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter @techsmart319. Feel free to reach out if you have questions.

Pin It