Family, Surviving Chaos, When in

Road Trip Essentials

Whether your planning your next mini vacation or for the upcoming holidays, many families are considering road trips as their mode of transportation. Road trips can be so much fun, are perfect for family bonding and are a great opportunity for site seeing. But before you leave, be sure to pack the essentials so your road trip doesn’t go south! I’ve compiled a list of essentials to bring on your next road trip.

Car Essentials

  • Car Kit: Spare tire and jack, jumper cables, air pump, gas can, flashlight, etc are some of the essentials you need should anything happen to the car while your on the road. Also, invest in a good roadside assistance service just in case. Many of them have apps that can pinpoint your exact location, notify the provider you need assistance, closet gas station, etc.
  • Blanket/Sarong/Sweater: No matter what you put the temperature setting on, someones either going to be too hot or too cold. Have a blanket or light sweater ready for all the temperature fluctuations each person will go though. Plus, you’ll be saved from any A/C vs heat fights. I’ve listed my favorite travel sarong here. Surviving Chaos Tip: Use the blanket as a makeshift pillow for you car naps.
  • Mask: Currently, each state has a mask mandate that requires masks to be worn in stores. You don’t want to be caught without them because you will be denied entry. Not ideal if your stopping for a bathroom break. Pack at least 2 masks/person so you’ll be ready for pit stops.
  • Hand sanitizer: Perfect for cleaning everyone’s hands after your pit stop when you don’t have access to soap and water. But if there is soap and water…..wash those hands!!

Food Essentials

  • Gum: Perfect for family bubble blowing contests or releasing the pressure in your ears as you travel over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house
  • Snacks: Pack plenty of snacks that will keep you full between meals. Protein bars, granola, raisins, goldfish, etc are perfect options and come in bite sized portions. You definitely don’t sugar meltdowns and HAN-gry kids during your road trip.
  • Water bottle: You still need to stay hydrated while your driving so don’t forget to drink water.
  • Tissues and Toilet Paper: Tissues for the runny nose, to clean hands after snacks or to clean up spills. A roll of toilet paper just in case…you don’t want to be caught without it at during your pit stop.

Entertainment Essentials

  • Portable Device: When you or your kids are looking for some entertainment other than the mountains, rivers and forests. This is the perfect option for music, movies and games. Be sure your subscriptions and up to date and their is an option to download content when data is not readily available.
  • Headphones: 1 for each person and so there won’t be a who can turn up their entertainment volume the loudest competition or I can’t hear my movie argument. Surviving Chaos Tip: Moms…this is your quiet time. Your welcome!!
  • Portable charger: Be sure to get a universal one for your cell phone, tablet, etc and with multiple ports so you can charge multiple devices.
  • Non-tech Activities: If you need a break from screen time, why not sing a song or play “I Spy”. Flash cards, felt activities and game boards are just some activities that will keep your family entertained. A list of our road trip activities with links on how to make them or purchase them are listed below:

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Surviving Chaos, When in

Tips for Surviving Long Haul Flights

Long haul flights can be brutal! These are flights that last 8 or more hours, a full day, from beginning to end in order for you to get from 1 side of the globe to the other, literally. Sitting in the same spot in a small confined spaced can be tough on the body….and mind! Once you finally land, you’ll feel some serious jet-lag that goes far beyond basic exhaustion. Whether your travelling to Australia or Singapore (hello 19 hours!) or Germany, we’ve got some tips and tricks on staying comfortable and sane so you survive your long haul trip.

  • Wear Comfortable Clothing: Forget about those jeans! Bring on the stretchy pants! Wear compression socks to reduce swelling and prevent blood clots. With all the changes in air pressure and temperatures, you’ll want something that’s breathable, easy to move in and stretchy. Your body naturally adjusts to these changes and you don’t want to be bottled up in jeans. Additionally, wear loose fitting layers i.e. a light sweater, light jacket or oversized scarf/pashmina to adjust to temperature fluctuations. Plus, they make great pillows when your ready for some shut eye.
  • Noise Cancelling Headphones: You’ll want these for a number of reasons….to hear the inflight entertainment, to listen to your favorite tunes or podcasts or to drown out the snores of the person sleeping next to you. Don’t forget them, you’ll be miserable without them.
  • A Book: A big long book would be ideal. A trilogy perhaps?? You would be surprised how much time elapses when you get lost in a good book….or two. Here are some recommendations: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (800 pages), The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara, Black Swan Green by David Mitchell.
  • Snacks: The last place you wan to be HAN-gry is on a flight at 30,000 ft in the middle of the ocean. Be sure to pack plenty of snacks but choose them wisely. Peanuts can be unforgiving on the tummy let alone pose an allergy risk to others. Opt for a protein bar, they’re the right portion to keep you satisfied until the inflight meal or after. Avoid alcohol and lots of caffeine (a cup of coffee is fine) as they can dehydrate you and cause more potty breaks. Remember to drink lots of water!
  • Keep Clean Bag: After you’ve travelled for 10 or more hours, you definitely want to freshen up. Travel size toothbrush and toothpaste, facial cleansing wipes, breath mints and lotion are easy to slip into your carry-on. This gives you the opportunity to freshen up mid-flight or right before landing. Plus your skin dehydrates so you’ll want to moisturize frequently. You can find more ideas on what to put in your carry-on bag here.
  • Grace and Patience: Remember to be kind to the person sitting next to you….your new neighbor. They may provide great conversation or snore the entire trip. Depending on what seat your in, EVERYONE has to go to the lavatory at some point. Regardless, be kind, gracious, courteous and friendly….your both in it for the long haul! And don’t forget about the stewardess who will tend to all your needs and requests. Always say thank you!

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What’s in My Carry-On

What’s In My Carry-On

During these unprecedented times, I’ve had to rethink and revamp my carry-on bag for when I travel. As you will see, I have eliminated quite a few things and added some travel necessities. Here’s a sneak peek at my travel bag:

  • Sakroots Tote: These bags are the perfect size for travel and fit perfect under the seat in front of you on the plane. There is also space for additional items needed for long haul flights. You can find my tips and tricks for those flights here.
  • Face Masks: 1 to wear through the airport and on the plane and 1 for just in case….
  • Sunglasses: A pair of “sunnys” are always in style!
  • Tablet: Perfect for inflight entertainment and listening to my favorite jams.
  • Hand Sanitizer: This is a necessity! TSA is now allowing up to a 12oz size bottle of hand sanitizer per person in your carry-on. Don’t leave home without it.
  • GermKey: The perfect tool to keep you from touching dirty surfaces. Use it for door handles, touchscreens, buttons, etc.
  • Earbuds: So you can hear the inflight entertainment or drown our the snoring person next to you.
  • Scarf: This scarf opens up into a shawl which is perfect because it always feels so cold on the plane.

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4 Things We Miss About Home While Travelling

Although we love to travel and we really miss travelling right now, there are some things we miss about home while we’re travelling. You experience so much when you travel like meeting new people, going on uncharted adventures, and exotic food but there are some things we take for granted. We really miss these things when we are away from home. Here a a list of 4 things we miss about home when we are abroad.

  1. Familiar Food: As much as we love to try new and exotic foods, after a while you want to eat something familiar….and that you can identify. After your 5th squid dish, or 3rd hot and spicy meal, your really wanting something more simple. Yes, American food is not as exotic, but its familiar to us and easily recognizable.
  2. Doing Laundry: I’d never thought I would miss this, but I do! Being able to go and wash clothes whenever I need to is a big perk. But when your travelling, this service may not always be available to you or cost quite a bit.
  3. Our Bed: Believe it or not, we really miss our bed. Yes, there are beds at the hotel but its not quite the same. Your own bed has the perfect lumps, nooks and crannies specific to you but its not the same when your in a different bed. There’s no substitute for the 3-4 pillows you use or 1 sheet, 1 quilt and 1 blanket combo that are perfectly setup in your bed. There’s just something about your own bed that’s welcoming.
  4. Not Living Out of a Suitcase: Pack…unpack. Pack….unpack. With my husbands work trips, he typically visits 2-3 countries per trip. This meant that he was constantly packing and then unpacking when he got to his next destination. He never truly felt settled and felt like he was living out of a suitcase. When your at home, all you stuff is just there. No need to move it or pack it up and unpack at. You just feel settled and grounded, literally and figuratively,
Family, When in

Brushy Creek Lake Park, Texas

Brushy Creek Lake Park, Texas

If your looking for place with fresh air, wide open spaces and supports social distancing, then look no further than your local park. Our most recent adventure brought us to Brushy Creek Lake Park in Cedar Park, Texas. This park is absolutely beautiful! There are a ton of hike and bike trails to follow in this 90 acre park and plenty of picturesque landscape views. You’ll definitely need a map to make sure you don’t get lost. Our kids pretended to be wildlife rangers and loved discovering and exploring all the different flora and fauna withing the park. They had a ton of questions, of which we had to consult Google for answers, about all the things they saw. They even created their own sketch book of the flowers they discovered. If you want to get wet, you can rent a kayak and/or canoe to explore they lake or visit the splash pad to cool off. This by far is the most popular activity at the park. If your looking for more fun, check out the volleyball courts, playscape, fishing pier, exercise stations and much more. If your looking for more ways to tour your own city, check out my blog post here for more ideas.

Surviving Chaos

In order to make the most of you time at the park and prevent kid meltdowns, I’ve provided some surviving chaos tips. Have fun exploring at the park.

  • Sunblock: Be sure to put on lots of sunblock to prevent sunburn. This is the first rule of thumb for any outdoor activity.
  • Early Morning: Best time to visit the park is early morning. It’s cooler, less crowded and your kids will have energy to burn. A fun filled morning at the park makes for a well rested and relaxed afternoon (I hope).
  • Backpack: This is the perfect place to keep water, first aid kits, sunblock, snacks, portable potty seat, etc. What ever creature comforts you need. Remember to keep it light weight since you’ll be doing a lot of walking and/or biking.
  • Snacks: Don’t forget the snacks! Apple slices, carrot and celery sticks, granola/protein bars, goldfish or whatever your kids like. You don’t want food meltdowns and HAN-gry kids in the middle of your hiking journey

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The Exotic Resort Zoo – Johnson City, Texas

If your looking for some family fun, something that is social distancing friendly and you happen to be in Texas, then check out the Exotic Resort Zoo! Located in Johnson City, Texas the Exotic Resort Zoo is the perfect getaway for the whole family. This is a full scale zoo with exotic animals and safari cabins available to rent. Before the pandemic, you could hop on any one of the numerous guided tours for a trip around the zoo. While on the tour, you can feed the animals and visit the petting zoo which is a ton of fun. Also, if you wanted to spend more time at the zoo, you can rent a cabin…..even during the pandemic! These cabins are a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city with panoramic views of the Texas Hill Country. Each cabin can sleep 4-8 people and features basic kitchen appliances to a full kitchen depending on the cabin of your choice. These cabins are perfect for couples or the whole family.

Currently, the zoo has switched to a drive-through safari which is perfect for social distancing. You get to experience the zoo right from the comfort your car and still get the chance to feed the animals! First up on our drive-through safari was the petting zoo full of goats, fallow and axis deer. Although we couldn’t go inside, we were able to toss some feed to the animals which the kids loved! Following the petting zoo, we encountered all types of deer. From Sika to Axis to Fallow they were all eager to get some food right out of your hand. These guys definitely weren’t shy and came right up to car…talk about up close and personal! And of course they were accompanied by their friends the antelope and sheep.

Up next we entered the camel pen which was crazy! When you see a camel from far away you don’t truly understand the magnitude of how big they are. But once they get to your car and stick their WHOLE head and neck its a whole new perspective. And whats a camel without an llama or 2. These animals have no fear and enjoy every minute of their visitors.

My favorite part of the safari were the Zebras. They were absolutely beautiful and stunning and we spent the most time their feeding them. You definitely have to be careful with these guys because they bite! Be sure to drop the food on the ground so you can keep all your fingers. On our way out, we visit the Ostrich pen and encounter some Buffalo. To be honest, the ostrich and emu look very mean to me or maybe just angry….. These creatures are gentle giants but are very aggressive when it comes to food. Be prepared to keep your hand sanitizer handy or at least a towel because the buffalo loves to lick the food from your hand. Their tongues are long and EXTRA slimy, it was definitely a gross out moment for the kids.

The Exotic Resort Zoo is a perfect getaway for the whole family, especially now during these unprecedented times. If you plan on making the trip, here are some surviving chaos tips to make the trip smooth, stress free and fun:

  • Buy Ahead: Purchase tickets and at least 2 bags of feed BEFORE the day of your visit online. If your going on a holiday, buy your tickets at least a week in advance. This place sells out quickly.
  • Snacks: Be sure to pack some snacks and water for the road trip! Nothing worse than cranky kids stuck in a car.
  • Restrooms: Due to social distancing, the restrooms at the zoo are closed. Be sure to stop at the nearest gas station, about 4 miles north of the zoo, for your families pit stop.
  • Hand Sanitizer: Be sure to bring plenty of hand sanitizer and wipes since you will be feeding the animals. Their tongues are slimy so you’ll want to have clean hands when your finished.

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Staying Healthy While Flying – Updated!

UPDATED- 6/15/2020

Now that our travel season is underway, I figured this would be the perfect time to share our favorite tips on staying healthy while on the plane. As all travellers know, when your in the airport your focused on getting to (or running) to make your next connection, scouting out the best place to eat, or reading the ever evolving arrival and departure flight board to see which gate your supposed to be at. It’s so easy to forget to put on hand sanitizer or just simply wash your hands. With as much traveling as my husband does all over the world, we’ve managed to determine a good game plan to keep him healthy. We definitely do the basics….hand sanitizer, cover you cough or sneeze, etc but did you know there are other things you can do while your on the plane that will keep you healthy? Lets discuss….

(New) Wear a face mask

The CDC and all airlines are now requiring passengers to wear face masks both in the airport and on the flight. There are a number of companies offering both reusable cloth and disposable face masks; you can even save by bundling. Face masks are key to protecting yourself and others from getting COVID-19 and are essential for travel at this time. When your in the TSA line, expect the TSA officer to ask you to pull down you mask so they can see your whole face for identification purposes. Don’t worry, you don’t have to take it all the way off. If you get ear strain from wearing masks, you can purchase ear extenders. The extenders attach to the ear loops of you face mask and are placed at the back of your head, thus preventing ear loop strain. Invest in a couple pair, they are awesome!

Get digital!

TSA frontline workers will now be wearing face masks and gloves to screen passengers. Additionally, plastic shields are now in place at podiums with a small window to slide ID and tickets for verification. In order to reduce contact, download your ticket to your airlines app! This provides a hands free option for the TSA officer to scan your ticket without them ever having to touch your personal items. There are also a number of different apps that you can use that support digital tickets, check out my favorite travel apps post for some options.

Wash your hands….often!

So this concept isn’t technically new but it is definitely worth saying. It’s so important to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds….yes you can spare 20 seconds!! 20 seconds is equivalent to singing the Happy Birthday song (in your head). Think about all the door handles, bins, armrests,etc you touch in the airport and you will see why you definitely need to wash your hands. Additionally, don’t touch your face (eyes, nose, and mouth) unless your hands are clean. These areas are by far the easiest way to introduce germs into your body. A sleep mask is a great trick for keeping your hands out of your eyes and helps you get more restful sleep.

Hand Sanitizer

Also not a new concept but it needs to be in your carry-on bag….so you can actually use it! Hand sanitizer should be at least 60% alcohol and should be used an as alternative to hand washing. This is quick and effective way to keep your hands clean and with all the wonderful scents they come you will smell lovely to the person sitting next to you. Update: You can now carry up to 12oz of hand sanitizer in your carry-on. This is great because you will need sanitize your hands more often in the absence of soap and water.

Pick the window seat

When flying, choose the window seat instead of the aisle. Once you’ve sat down, stay there and don’t get up. Why? People are pretty much moving/walking around on the flight (unless the fasten seat belt sign in on) which helps spread any possible germs to others. Additionally, people who sit in the window seat don’t get up….which reduces the number of people moving around….and also reduces your chance of coming in contact with any germs. Its a win-win. A word of caution: be sure to use the restroom BEFORE you sit in a window seat….because if you have to get to go to the bathroom it defeats the whole purpose. Update: most airlines are requiring the middle seat be left empty in order to comply with social distancing rules. This will make availability of the window seat smaller so book your seat ASAP!

Open your air vents

Open the air vents above your seat to improve ventilation and angel it to blow air AWAY from you. Basic science: germs can be spread via air circulation. Opening the air vent keeps air ventilation flowing so germs don’t get a chance to “stop” and land. You basically get a wind barrier from germs from an air vent. Clever!

Use Sanitizing Wipes

So this trick may get you some strange faces or raised eyebrows but it is totally worth it. Use sanitizing wipes to wipe down the tray table and arm rest. The tray table is the dirtiest place on the seat…..have you ever seen a flight attendant wipe them down….NO! Wipe it down yourself and save yourself from a headache or cold or whatever else is still hanging around. Sanitizing wipes are cheap ($1) and can be found everywhere so buy more than one and put them in your carry-on.

Stay Hydrated

Be sure to drink plenty of water. Basic science: drinking water allows your body’s natural immune fighting mechanisms to work properly and keep your mucous membranes in your nasal and throat passages from getting dry. It is recommended to drink 8 oz of water for every 1 hour of flight time but be sure to adjust this amount to fit your body’s needs. NOTE: Remember that window seat….in order for all this to work properly follow this process: 1) Drink water before the flight 2) Go to the bathroom before boarding or before take off 3) Sit in the window seat.

BYOE – Bring Your Own Entertainment

The second most germ place is the seat pocket full of magazines in front of you. The seat pocket get used for everything….food, tissues, diapers, trash, etc. Bring your own magazine, movies, games, etc on your next flight so you have don’t even have to touch the seat pocket. Head to the Surviving Chaos->Family section of my blog for easy entertainment ideas that you can make ahead for the whole family! If your looking for book recommendations, head to my Books of 2019 post or my Instagram Stories “Books” for some ideas. I add my latest reads to my Instagram page. Additionally, almost all commercial airlines offer from Wi-fi for movies, T.V shows and games you can stream on you laptop and/or tablet….so put it to good use. Just don’t forget to download their app so you can access it.

We hope you found these tips helpful; we know some of them are not traditional but they have kept us (and my husband) healthy on flights. Do you have any tips or tricks for staying healthy while flying? Let us know!

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Food

Buffalo Chicken Wraps

Here’s an alternative to sandwiches for your next picnic, park trip, work or school lunch: Buffalo Chicken Wraps! These wraps are easy to make, healthy, and a family favorite. This recipe takes 5 minutes to make so some of the ingredients are pre-made and ready to eat. They make the perfect travel snack and/or lunch no matter wear you are going. You can check out our more recent adventure to the park here. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2-3 Iceberg lettuce leaves per wrap
  • 1 slice sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 grilled chicken breast, sliced and warmed
  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1 tablespoon buffalo sauce
  • 1 tablespoon ranch dressing

Let’s Make It!

  1. Cook bacon slices based on number of wraps you will be making. Set aside to cool.
  2. Place 2 lettuce leaves on a clean surface so that they slightly overlap creating a barrier.
  3. Add 1 slice of cheddar cheese in the center.
  4. Top cheese with sliced chicken, bacon and drizzle with buffalo sauce and ranch.
  5. Wrap ingredients tightly like a burrito.
  6. Slice down the center when ready to eat. Note: Add a toothpick in the center if needed to hold wrap together.

Surviving Chaos

  • Switch the Cheese: Switch out the Cheddar cheese with Swiss or Pepper Jack to change up the flavor and add a bit more spice.
  • Tortillas: If your really hungry, swap the lettuce wrap for flour tortillas. This will keep you fuller for longer and won’t make a dent in your daily carbohydrate count.
  • Warm it Up: Cook your bacon 30 minutes before you put together your wrap.
  • Ready To Go: Put wraps in insulated cooler so they will stay warm until you get to your destination.

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