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Family Travel

Our Top Tips for Making Flying with Kids a Breeze

For so many people, flying with kids can be this intimidating (dare we say terrifying) thing. BUT we’re here to say…it doesn’t have to be! We’ve been flying with our kids as often as we can since they were infants. And now we are to the point where flying with our family is a true breeze (for the most part :)). Here’s our top tips for helping you go from fear to flying with confidence!

Traveling with your little ones as often as we can is SO important (IMO)! Cheers to you Mama, you got this!

Set some expectations (for you and them)

Coming from a background in elementary education I know the MASSIVE value in setting expectations. The undeniable MVP for how they can help avoid meltdowns and unnecessarily stressful situations…especially while traveling with kids.

Before flying with kids, we always lay out the day of travel for them weeks, days, and then hours in advance of a flight. What will they expect on the day of travel? Will they be waking up super early and just be carried to the car in PJs? Will you head to the airport after lunch? Will you have a layover somewhere? What is the plan once your arrive at your destination?

We also always give them heads up/reminder about all the waiting that happens when flying. Waiting during check in, waiting during security, waiting at the gate, waiting on the flight. Telling them “things might not go perfectly smoothly, we might run into x y and z problems.” And as my mom always tells the girls, “Be ready to pack your patience!”

Setting all these expectations ahead of time will save you SO many meltdowns. Kids are able to navigate unknown situations with so much more ease if they have a little heads up and picture of how the travel day might go in advance.

…and that goes for you too mama! Setting expectations for myself the day of a flight does wonders. There will be moments of stress. There will be things that don’t go as planned. Kids are going to get fussy (at the worst possible time). Your patience will wain in difficult moments. BUT just expecting these things to happen are half the battle! Flying with kids can dare I say…be fun!

Tire them out before boarding

One our easiest tips for flying with kids is to get them up and walking as much as possible before take off! Go walk to get your meal, walk to go check out the different shops, look out at all the airplanes outside. Burning a bit of physical energy before sitting on an airplane for a few hours can do wonders for content little kiddos through a flight.

So many airports now have play areas too! We always try to seek out those kids friendly areas where we can, because expending some physical energy before flying leads to much happier little ones mid-flight.

Choose your flights wisely

Although we do know budget is a huge factor here (don’t miss how we find dirt cheap flight in this post!), when we are able we are very intentional about the flights we chose when flying with kids. I would say our unicorn of a flight is probably mid morning or afternoon. That way we don’t have to wake the kids up crazy early and throw off their schedules for the day, but also arrive before their normal bedtime and gives us time to settle in.

You can absolutely still have flights that are a breeze with kids that are at less than ideal times! And at the end of the day YOU know your kids best, and when they will most likely be happiest in transit.

If we get the pick of the best, we are choosing a mid morning or afternoon flight (and non-stop if at all possible). Now when flying internationally on a budget, that obviously is next to impossible. However, we will always choose the least number of flights that fits our budget. It is always worth it to us to spend just a little bit more money to get one flight instead of two. Less time in the air = less opportunities for meltdowns.

Reserve your seats in advance or take advantage of family boarding

Again, if budget allows reserve your seats in advance when flying with kids. With our kids current ages (7 and 4.5), our pick is window seats for them because they love looking outside during take off and landing. I.E. read, something super easy to hold their attention during a chunk of the flight. If you have a toddler, you may chose the aisle seat so you can get out easily to walk around.

Some people like the back of the plane because it is more “family-friendly,” coupled with the louder white noise sound at the rear. Some prefer the front so they can get off that plane ASAP at landing! Completely personal preference!

Don’t forget (with Southwest) about family boarding! Just by flying with a child 6 years or younger, you get early family boarding between the A and B groups…without early bird check in!

Less is (SO) much more

…now don’t get me on my soap box, but if I feel passionately about one thing, it is this. Traveling with less when flying with kids, means more hands free for wrangling kiddos, a lighter load for a less stressed mama, and less mess to clean up. Packing as minimally as possible for flights is one of our most important tips for flying with kids.

Whether it’s using the most compact headphones (you won’t believe the price on these- our favorite headphones to travel with!) or just picking a few select, intentional activities. The less you have in your bag and the less you have in your hands, the happier of a traveler you will be. The happier of a traveler you are, the happier of a traveler your kids will be. Our packing list for traveling with a baby (for the minimal mama) is a great resource if you have super little ones!

Pack minimal, mess-free activities

Here’s my criteria for what activities make it on the plane when we are flying as a family:

  • Not a ton of parts that can be lost
  • Easy and not too bulky to pack
  • Can hold their attention for a long period of time (has multiple iterations, reusable etc)

When going on a plane with little ones, we pack a few intentional activities. More is not more when traveling with kids, we are convinced. I don’t even love bringing something like markers on a flight honestly, because good lord knows I don’t want to go searching under those seats for a marker cap.

Our go-to’s for older kids are Puzzle Sticker books, and for younger kids we love these reusable water coloring books. Anything that is minimal, mess free, not too difficult to pack, and will hold their attention! We also find our littles tire more easily of an activity they’ve seen before, so when possible I like to surprise them with a brand new activity once we have boarded.

Fill their bellies with protein heavy snacks

Truly full bellies = less fussy children (the goal here right?!). I personally have found if I am handing over more “empty” snacks, that just leave them hungry 30 minutes later, my kids are much more easily on edge. So one of our top tips for flying with kids is to try to make sure and pack compact, plane friendly, protein heavy snacks for all of your flights. And when traveling with little ones, lots of normal “rules” go out the window. They can have a snack whenever they want, however often they want.

Some of our go-to snacks higher in protein are:

  • Duke’s Meat Sticks
  • RX Kids Bar
  • Any sort of Nut Bar (Kind)
  • Protein heavy pouches

Plan for ALL the movies

Let me tell you, there is no award for the mom who has the most successful screen free flight with kids.

We are pretty intentional about the amount of technology our little ones get at home. However, when we travel that really goes out the window. Now, they don’t have their faces glued to the pad literally the entire trip. BUT bring onnnnn the movies! We personally prefer movies over any games, because it seems games always need some kind of intervention or help. The more hands off the better!

Best tips for flying with kids = without a question a little help from your trusty friend the iPad.

Always have a chewy treat on hand

When flying with kids, expect potential ear issues due to air pressure. Although, I will say in all our flying, we have only had one or two instances with ear problems. However, with how much discomfort it puts their little bodies in, I always like to be prepared for the worst.

If they are not old enough for gum yet, I like to keep on hand a chewy treat when flying with kids. This not only helps them pop their little ears, but also provides a helpful distraction.

***And speaking of helpful distractions, my secret weapon when traveling with little ones is to have a surprise treat on hand they don’t know about. Sometimes, if on the verge of a meltdown, a simple distraction can be a LIFESAVER.

Be the thermostat, not the thermometer

Last, but certainly not least. This is one of the most important tips for flying with kids, and making it a SUCCESS. Children are going to 100% feed off your energy and attitude when traveling. So you have to read the temperature of your crew, not set the dominos for an easily stressed, grumbling family of travelers.

Like I mentioned at the start of this post, setting your expectations are a HUGE piece here. Your attitude on travel day is going to set the entire tone for all your little people (and husband!). And to take it a step further, if you can not only try to weather the stress of the day well, but have FUN with it….you are going to be on your way to family flights full of confidence and ease.

We hope these tips for flying with kids are helpful and of value to you! And if you are road tripping and not flying, don’t miss our super comprehensive guide for your next family road trip! You got this Mama 🙂

Family Travel

What I’m Packing, Minis and Me: Family Trip to Cabo

Mexicooo! Beach, sun, sand, and a rich cultural experience…SIGN ME UP. We are heading to Cabo San Lucas for Spring Break and we couldn’t be more excited. Give me all the margaritas on the beach at sunset STAT, please. Mexico is such a great way to dip your toe into international travel with kids. It’s not too far of a plane ride, not TOO foreign of a culture, and is actually very family friendly. Here’s what we’re packing below for our family trip to Cabo (that are Mexico/beach specific)!

1. Passports

This one is a given…but NOT to be forgotten! If you haven’t aquired passports for your kids yet, NO FEAR and no need to be intimidated. The process is quite simple. For the run down check out the easy 3 step process HERE. As well, this helpful article from the Traveling Mom talks through a few FAQ’s and common mistakes.

2. A really good, clean sunscreen

Vacay at the beach = allll the sun protection. Our preference is the sunscreens without all the junk in them; all the protection, without the chemicals…yes please. We have tried many and this is the best clean sunscreen option we have found that 1. actually works, 2. isn’t a million dollars and 3. actually sprays on pretty clear, so you aren’t left looking like Olaf your entire beach vacation.

3. Aloe/Balm

Just *in case* sunburns do happen, I always like to have on hand some after sun relief. This clean Aloe Vera Gel here is great, but if you want the REALLY good stuff and don’t mind spending a bit more, this balm is true GOLD. A little bit goes a really long way and it provides the best, best soothing relief (and a million other purposes away from the beach as well!)

4. Sunglasses- Adults and Kids 🙂

A necessity (for you) and just adorable (for them). Our girls love these adorable sunnies we got just for the trip!

5. Beach Bag

Can’t go to the beach with kids (and their 26586937 things) without a beach bag. I’m bringing along this classic, simple one and I love that I will be able to use it not just in Mexico.

6. Bathing Suits

So many bathing suits. For you Mama, you can’t go wrong with Summersault suits. I am telling you, from a decades long semi-suitaphobic, these will make you feel confident in a way you haven’t in years. Cute and bit sexy, while still allowing you to freely chase your kids in the pool.

For the kids, we love H&M for adorable budget-friendly finds. And Minnow Swim and Coral Reef Swim if you are willing to spend a bit more (the quality and designs can’t be beat!).

7. Rash Guards/Long Sleeve Swimsuits for Kids

I learned this the hard way on our trip to 30A last summer. After 4 days at the beach, our kids were nice and rosy pink and I really wished I would have packed long sleeve swimsuits to protect them for those last few days in the sun. Ill prepared no more for our family trip to Cabo!

This rash guard for toddlers we got for our youngest is so dang cute and an incredible price. Minnow’s collection of rash guards truly is a minimal mama’s dream. For some long sleeve options that won’t break the bank, we love Swim Zip Suits!

8. Sun Hat

A must to protect from those bright afternoon rays. I have literally had this one since our honeymoon 11 years ago and it’s withstood multiple beach trips and countless dress up sessions with the girls 🙂

9. All the Beachy Dresses

Honestly, I’ll be frank and say I hate clothes shopping and just have a hard time spending money on myself in that way. BUT a few cute beachy items were a must. My favorite dress I found here (that definitely can be enjoyed beyond the beach), a fun floral skirt, and this linen jumpsuit were all winners!

10. Sandals for All

Although normally I really wouldn’t pack sandals for an international trip with kids (just due to the impracticality for walking and multi-use), I think for a family trip to Cabo they are a must. These sandals are a fantastic option for durable beach shoes, that are just as cute as they are well made (and not $$$)!

Also these $15 slides (yes $15!) scream family trip to the beach…and I ain’t mad about it 🙂

11. Poloroid Camera

Not beach related at all, but just SUCH a fun addition I knew I wanted to start adding to our travel memory documentation tool belt! Such a unique and simple way to instantly capture little memories from your trips…can’t wait to use this, and the kids will think it’s a blast too! (I can already envision the mullttiipllleee chats that will need to happen about not taking 84731 pictures lol)

12. Goggles

Any one else’s kids somehow become allergic to water unless they have their goggles on?? These CANNOT be forgotten. A high-quality, won’t break after one swim, option for kids here. A family trip to Cabo isn’t complete without goggles.

13. Floaties for the Little One

Our littlest is currently 4 and not *quite* swimming fully independently yet. I know bringing the floaties along will allow us to enjoy pool time with a little less stress. Kortni Jeane (another great find for fantastic on-trend swimwear) has the absolutely most ADORABLE collection of puddle splashers.

14. Small Packable Beach/Pool Toys

Less is 100% more when it comes to traveling internationally with kids (see all of our tips for heading to a new country with babes in tow at that link!). So I say this one cautiously. BUT a few small toys for them to play with at the beach and pool I think will be a nice change of pace at times. Not to mention, providing a good distraction for those times that tensions are high and the siblings are at each other for the 50th time, if you know what I mean :). I love that this set is silicone, for easy folding and easy packing!

15. Beach Read Books for Mama

Our resort in Cabo has a Kids Club we can drop the girls off to play at as often as they would like. (Can I get an Hallelujah?!) I plan on taking EVERY advantage of some of that quiet time beachside with a book in hand…my idea of heaven. One of my all-time favorite beach books is People We Meet on Vacation, a must read!

If you’re looking for other family friendly beach ideas be sure to check out our round of up the best all-inclusives for families here and dreamy, yet affordable beachfront vacation rentals here. Cheers to margaritas beachside and unforgettable memory making ahead…family trip to Cabo here we come!

Family Travel

10 Reasons Why You NEED to Travel With Your Kids

Ok, ok I know…NEED is a strong word. I know everyone has different budgets, different family situations, different life rhythms. But here to say, even if it is a short roadtrip a few hours drive away…we really do NEED to be adventuring with our littles in tow. Here’s our top ten reasons why you should travel with kids as often as you’re able.

1. It’s just FUN !

YES traveling as a family isn’t going to be easy every second of every trip. There will be meltdowns at the worst possible moments….but most of the time?? It’s just going to be so darn FUN. How often do we truly have fun with our kids? Genuine enjoyment for both you and them? I’d dare to say not incredibly often.

Traveling with our little ones is a way to “get on the ground” and PLAY with them. Adventure, explore, tackle new challenges and places together. Taking our kids on new adventures will absolutely have its stressful moments, but it is going to a blast (for you and them) as well.

2. Making life-changing memories together

I think I probably have vivid memories of almost every single trip I went on as a kid. Traveling as a family while growing up is one of my sweetest childhood memories. We weren’t a family that was super close at home, so travel truly was one of our only opportunities to make those really special memories together.

I want our kids to look back on their childhood and have distinct memories and visions of the fun vacations, adventures, and maybe sometimes trouble we got into while traveling. No, they’re not going to remember everything…but that’s not what it’s about. Those memories as a family will shape and change and grow their little hearts and minds more than you can quantify. We also love being able to look back and reminisce on our favorite trips with our Push Pin Map or our collection of keepsake boxes.

3. Exposes them to new people, cultures, languages, and ways of living

Gosh I love this one. Anyone else on a mission to get your kids around as many people and places that are different than them as possible?? We learn so much about OTHERS and about OURSELVES when we are exposed to cultures and lifestyles that don’t mirror ours. I loveeeee that traveling breaks down their little walls and helps them see allll the different kinds of people and countries in this big beautiful world. Even at times, traveling to a new city in your same state can expose them to a different culture or type of food!

4. Gets them (and you) outside their comfort zone

Can I get an amen for getting outside of our comfort zones?! I know, I know it’s really stinkin’ hard. But when we step outside those carefully guarded boundaries is when we grow the most. I honestly was equal parts terrified and exhilarated to take our kids to Italy at 3 and 8 months. It 100% took us out of our comfort zone. But it is hands down the best decision we ever made as parents.

There were moments we were totally in over our heads, there were moments our 3 year old had no idea what anyone was saying around her on the playground, there were moments the kids really had to willing to try something new. And it grew us and stretched us in ways only getting out of your comfort zone will. If you’re able…we can’t recommend traveling with kids internationally enough!

5. Bonds you as a family – a chance to unplug and connect with EACH OTHER

This is one of my favorite reasons we all need to be traveling with our kids now more than ever. Now and days, our lives are inundated with technology and schedules and rushed passing throughs. Traveling as a family allows you to disconnect, fully unplug, and focus only on each other. Gosh what a rarity! Honestly, when at home are you truly unplugging and connecting with your little ones for an extended period of time?? I know those moments are really hard to fight for in our family when we are in the rhythm of school and activities and the demand of life.

Disconnect to CONNECT.

6. Makes them more flexible

I am such a big believer in traveling with kids for this reason- stretchhinnngggg their ability to be more flexible. Growing their skill of “going with the flow” and increasing their adaptability is a gift they will see the benefits of into adulthood and beyond. We can’t complain about our kids being inflexible if we never give them opportunities to practice using that muscle. Sure, you will meet resistance…but it’s so worth it to help guide them through those road blocks.

The number 6 invaluable reason to travel with kids – it gives them safe (with you) scenarios to stretch that flexibility muscle. We have been traveling often with our kids since they were literally infants and I am telling you they are truly the happiest kids and at their very best when we are on a trip. Flexibility is the name of the game and they know that and are better for it!

7. Allows them to build confidence in a new way

Finding new and authentic ways for your child to gain confidence in themselves can be tough. Our oldest is pretty timid and risk adverse and I am telling you she comes ALIVE when we travel. To see her be the first to say “Hey let’s go explore there,” or try paddling boarding for the first time without hesitation, or effortlessly climb the rocky areas around the Hot Springs….it’s just SO heart-filling. She has gained so much confidence through our adventures and being presented new challenges.

8. Stirs their little hearts for the BEAUTY of this world

Gosh there is so very much to see in this majestic world of ours. And I want to take my kids to see every corner of it I can. To develop an appreciation for beauty at a young age is a completely underrated priority for kids. I want them to revel in the beauty of the Rocky Mountains, listen to the unmatched sounds of the waves of the ocean, be amazed at the colorful homes stacked on top of each other on the coast of Italy. Yes, you’ll 100% need to prompt this wonder in them, but it’s a VERY worthy undertaking!

9. It sparks curiosity and adventure in tangible ways that many other things can’t

Curiosity is one of those things we loose as adults, that we really should learn to hold near to us and protect the rest of our lives. One of the reasons to travel with kids is to spark a curiosity and love for adventure in them that may be harder to do at home. I LOVE the questions that start to flow once we’re off on an adventure. “What in the world is that, why does that look that way, why do they do that?” A curious mind is a GIFT and one that will only enhance and grow their learning, humility, and eagerness for adventure.

10. To show them the world does NOT revolve around them 🙂

Annnddd this is my favorite reason to travel with kids. Our children are self-centered little creatures aren’t they?! Naively having NO clue that there is a huge world, and needs, and people, and differences that exist outside of them. Unless we give them opportunities and gentle guidance to shift this thinking…they are going to be stuck at me, myself, and I. I want to constantly turn my kids’ attention and hearts AWAY from themselves to be aware of others and that their needs are not numero uno priority. Can I get an AMEN??

Traveling with kids is one of the number one tangible ways we teach our kids that in fact, much to their dismay :), the world actually does not revolve around them

*BONUS REASON 11*

Because YOU want to travel! We’re convinced our bucket list dreams and hopes of adventure shouldn’t have to come to a halt just because we have a family in tow now. One of the reasons we travel with kids so much, is because WE want to travel. No, they won’t remember it all….but we will. And our littles will only be better for us bringing them along for the adventure 🙂

Family Travel

The Absolute BEST All-Inclusive Resorts for Families

…that don’t feel like family resorts at all. We scoured the internet for an obscene number of hours curating a list of the very best all inclusive resorts for families. Here is your ultimate stress-free vacation. Stays that would keep us parents AND kids in beachy all inclusive heaven. I don’t know about you, but my guess is if you’re here on our site you like your family vacation with a side of understated (affordable) luxury too :). Read- you’d rather not have a massive primary-colored pirate ship water park in the middle of your relaxing beach vacay.

So this one is for all the parents that want a little bit of both…like us :). A family-friendly all inclusive resort, that doesn’t feel like a mega family resort at all.

best all inclusive resorts for families

Here’s our criteria for the list (and most of our curated lists for that matter):

  • Well rated resort (we really like to keep our stays to 4.5 stars and above…the reviews just don’t lie)
  • Affordable Luxury (I mean, really, who can afford $1,500/night at the Four Seasons or drop $12k on just one vacation…who knows?!)
  • Beautiful (Call me vain, or maybe I just have an appreciation for beautiful design…but I just know I’ll have a better stay if the resort isn’t covered in tacky tropical florals or a neon green headboard)
  • Accessible location to keep flights affordable (we’re talking Mexico, Costa Rica, Punta Cana….not Fiji or the Maldives)

Unlimited drinks, unlimited snacks (for the kids I mean :)), unlimited room service, a place for the kids to hang out so you can sneak in a few beachside date nights. I mean sounds like straight up HEAVEN to me. Anyone else?!

See our round up below and let us know if you end up booking one of the magical places! (If you’re looking for more of a DIY beach vacation see our list of affordable, and dreamy, beachfront rentals HERE)

Finest Resorts Playa Mujeres- Mexico

Many would agree this is the hands down the best (and most chic) family-friendly all inclusive resort in Mexico. I’m not here to argue with that. Although you’ll pay a bit more for the modern beauty of this little slice of heaven, the reviews say it’s worth every penny. Finest resorts are essentially the family-friendly version of the Excellence resorts. And Excellence resorts are exactly that…EXCELLENT.

Finest Playa Mujeres is right on the beach, outfit with gorgeous minimal rooms. ALL with either a deck and large soaking tub on the deck or a swim out pool (WHOA amazing, I know). The resort has a total of 15 impeccably decorated dining options to choose from, and the reviews say for an all inclusive resort, the food is actually pretty dang good. They also have a kids club that looks like I may want to stay for an hour or two. Get this, they even have kid-friendly treatments at the Spa! “Mom and Dad can sip cocktails under a beachside thatched-roof lounge while junior gives windsurfing a whirl.”…sign me up.

I think what makes this all inclusive for families really soar above the rest is the 5-star service though. You’re going to be treated not only like royalty at Finest Playa Mujeres, but like family as well. No better combination in my mind. Check availability HERE.

The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real- Punta Cana

Located in Punta Cana of the Dominican Republic, this gorgeous resort has direct access to a private beach area. In the all inclusive world, a private beach is key, because if not you’re going to be inundated with people trying to sell you everything under the sun. Not my idea of a relaxing, stress-free beach vacation. There is also large outdoor pool with waterslides, but not a waterpark that makes you feel like you’re in a mega, tacky kids resort.

The suites at The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real and pure beach luxury chic. The rooms include private terraces and a 2-person Jacuzzi® and fully stocked mini-bars. Family suites are also an option if you prefer the kids to have their own bedrooms.

The Reserve has 11 restaurants and also offers a wide range of activities for adults and children. There is a great kids’ club, and the resort offers yoga, pilates and more for Mom and Dad. ALSO, there is also an on-site casino…which no other properties on the list offer. So if laying a bet is your thing, this might be the resort for you. Check Availability HERE.

Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort – St.Lucia

If you can find a killer deal on a flight to St.Lucia, this is the property to book for your all inclusive family vacation. The best all inclusive resorts for families are the ones that don’t feel like all inclusive resorts at all. Windjammer Landing takes the cake on this front. This property is situated in the most idyllic beachy, hillside setting on the coast of St.Lucia. Of all the options on the list the views here are by far the the most dreamy.

Windjammer Landing has a mix of ocean view rooms and spacious stand alone family villas nestled in the surrounding hills. However, all the rooms are just downright GORGEOUS and so tastefully decorated. Zero tacky all inclusive vibes at this one friends.

Theres 4 different restaurants and loads of activities and water sports. Also, the Jacquot Fun Club for your little ones so Mom and Dad can sneak in some uninterrupted time together. Although, Windjammer is one of the pricer options on the list, I think the pictures speak for themselves. Dream Vacation Bucket List FOR SURE. Check Availability HERE.

Dreams Las Mareas Costa Rica

Ok, this was the resort that originally caught my attention and got me going down the best all inclusive resorts for families rabbit hole. Located in La Cruz, Dreams Las Mareas Costa Rica this property is in the mountains AND on a private beach (forever and ever my favorite landscape). The area’s natural beauty can be seen at Area de Conservación Guanacaste and Santa Rosa National Park and you can actually take ecotours to explore the surrounding area.

Although Las Mareas is 1.5 hours from airport, this all Inclusive’s private beach and gorgeous mountain dotted property are very much worth the drive. Enjoy a meal at one of the property’s 7 restaurants or book a relaxing treatment at the luxury spa on site. I also love this property because ALL rooms include a balcony and large soaking tub on the deck. (Honestly is that a such a HUGE win with anyone else’s kids?!). There is a kids pool with a fun water slide, but no massive aesthetically assaulting water park in sight (yay!). Las Mareas has it all, and is at the very top of my list for affordable family luxury. Check availability HERE.

The Westin Reserva Conchal – Costa Rica

Another Costa Rica gem! The Westin Reserva Conchal, is an all inclusive eco-friendly resort in Playa Conchal, Guanacaste, Costa Rica. This property is located between the exotic forests and unspoiled beaches of the North Pacific Riviera….i.e. MAGIC. This secluded vacation spot is a perfect balance between tasteful luxury and local culture, giving you an unforgettable family vacation experience.

The all inclusive experience includes all meals, drinks, use of the fitness center and kids club. As well, the resort provides entertainment options including non motorized water sports, daily activities and nightly events. I like that the Westin Conchal also offers an adult only experience at the Royal Beach Club where guests can have access to a kid-free private pool with concierge service.

If you’ve got a golfer in the family, this is the resort to book- the challenging 18-hole, par 71 Robert Trent Jones Golf Course is sure to be a highlight of your trip. There are 8 restaurants and a bar on sight that are just as beautiful as they are delicious. Note, all restaurants do require dinner reservations at this one though! Check availability for the Conchal HERE.

Dreams Vallarta Bay Resort & Spa – Mexico

Now, “Amber Vallarta Bay” (formerly part of the Dreams network) this is a fantastic option if you don’t want to splurge on your all inclusive family beach vacation. Although, this is one of the larger resorts on the list, it still hits all of our criteria for one of the best all inclusive resorts for families. Dreams Amber Resort & Spa features 327 spacious suites featuring ocean views, as well as ground floor suites with direct swim out access to a pool from a private terrace.

There is an open-air lobby on the third floor boasting bay and mountain views, perfect for watching sunsets and live nightly entertainment. This property is also situated in the heart of Puerto Vallarta and only five minutes from the exciting “El Malecon.” This popular boardwalk is parallel to the beach offering popular shops, restaurants, and bars. There are 7 dining options, including four à la carte restaurants, a buffet, a grill and a café. Th 5 bars serve premium brand domestic and international favorites ranging from swim-up to a nightly music lounge.

The unique dinosaur-themed Explorer’s Club for Kids ages 3-12 gets rave reviews from guests. And that’s the beauty of an all inclusive right?! A little bit of a family time, a little bit of uninterrupted adult time while the kids go off and play. (at no additional charge :)) Check availability for this property HERE.

Barcelo Maya Caribe – Mexico

Ok so this is the most “mega resort” I’d say of all the family all inclusive resorts on the list. BUT I went ahead and included it because of the high reviews combined with the cost and value of the property.

The Barcelo facilities, inspired by Mayan architecture, were fully remodeled in 2014. If booking the Premium Level option, it provides extra luxury and exclusivity. The Premium Level rooms, boast wonderful views, and include direct access to the swimming pool and the facilities and services of Barceló Maya Palace.

The cuisine options include 5 restaurants: a grill-style, an à la carte, and a buffet restaurant. And then there’s the possibility of enjoying brunch or a snack in the pool area (the best during the day with kids pool-side IMO). Parents can relax in the U-Spa on property, while the kids stay entertained at the new Pirates Island Water Park. (don’t worry this one looks pretty cute actually) In addition, there’s even a 18-hole mini-golf course and dolphinarium on site…the perks of a larger resort! Check availability for Barcelo Maya Caribe HERE.

Mahekal Beach Front Resort & Spa – Mexico

I loveeeee this family all inclusive resort option…because it’s super small and doesn’t feel like an all inclusive resort at all 🙂 You can’t get any closer to the water, and the entire hotel has the most perfect laid back, chic beachy vibe.

This is such a unique all inclusive resort for families, and honestly fairly affordable for the one-of-a-kind experience you’d be getting. You can choose between the barefoot elegance of their beachfront houses, bohemian-chic suites, or peaceful treehouses surrounded by lush green foliage. Honestly, I had a very hard time choosing my favorite- all the accommodations look FANTASTIC.

There is 5 restaurants and bars to choose from that all have the most perfect barefoot, beachy elegant vibe. Although, there isn’t a “kids club” at Mahekal, there are activities for children and the option to hire a babysitter. I think the beachfront location and boutique feel of this property more than make up for this though. Check availability for this gem HERE.

Estudio Playa Mujeres – Mexico

The reviews SHINE on this one. Estudio is a 5-Star All-Inclusive Family Resort where Mexican Art blends with the natural beauty of Playa Mujeres. This is more of a boutique all inclusive with only 162 (beautifully decorated) suites…our favorite kind of stay. There are 8 dining options and people say the food is the best they’ve ever had at an all inclusive.

The rooms are just downright gorgeous and so elegantly decorated…and the beds are top notch. (VERY rare in the hotel world) The kids will be begging you to drop them off at Doodle Camp (okkkk pull my arm). Doodle Land is an “innovative concept that triggers creativity in a fun atmosphere.” There are interactive programs, gastronomic workshops and interesting activities immersed in contemporary Mexican art (AMAZING).

I’d say the one unique feature, is the way Estudio is set a bit far back from the beach. It’s a few minute walk down to the water, but the resort also has a golf cart running back and forth during the day. Although, Estudio is a newer property, they are doing everything right. Check availability HERE.

Sensira Resort and Spa Riviera Maya- Mexico

A newer additional to the Riviera Maya all inclusive world…and surely will quickly rise to the top of the pack. Sensira Resort & Spa is tucked away in a secluded setting in a sanctuary of tranquility for families. The resort overlooks a semi-private beach, offering plenty of space for relaxation and watersports. The warm, attentive staff will anticipate every request and ensure an unmatched level of hospitality at every moment.

This resort has “Mexican elegance” DOWN and I am just dreaming of reading the afternoon away in that ocean-view hammock. There is a variety of levels of rooms to choose from, but all the decor already has me feeling more relaxed. There is also a total of 3 pools on the property. One of them an oceanfront infinity pool (YES PLEASE) and another with a small tasteful kids waterpark. (you have to take what you can get right) We love the “Area Extrema” for kids at this resort, that offers zip-lining and rock climbing- how fun!

Sensira Resort & Spa Riviera Maya has stress-free family vacation written all over it. Check availability for Sensira HERE.

We love coming home from a totally soul-filling vacation and continuing to reminisce on those sweet adventures for years to come . It just makes the memories that much sweeter and special to reminisce on in the future! If you book any of these dreamy all-inclusive family vacations- let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear!

Family Travel

Road Trip with Kids: The Ultimate Packing List

Alright, we’ve done our far share of road trips this last year (with babies in tow of course), anywhere from 3hrs to 24 hrs! So we’re here to let you know packing for a road trip with kids is definitely something you DON’T want to mess up. Don’t worry though, we’ve handled all the #parentingfails for you and experienced first hand what to pack and not pack – check out below our road trip essentials for kids that will make those hours in the car…dare we say FUN!

road tripping with kids

A go-with-the flow, PATIENT attitude

Alright I know, cheesy to start with this right? But this is hands down the number one thing that stands between you and having a really fun, memorable time on your next family road trip.

You must expect disasters.

Things will NOT go as planned.

There without a doubt will be whining.

Expectation is everything. That way when chaos and meltdowns do happen (because they 100% will, and most likely at the worst possible time…as we all know painfully well when it comes to parenting)- you can just say “Oh yes, ok I knew there was going to be a disaster or two…here it is happening now!” A road trip with kids can be challenging at moments, but it’s going to be one of those distinct memories your kid brings up when they’re 20 I’m sure… have fun!!

This portable potty (the less gas station bathrooms the better, amirite?)

Alright this is definitely at the top of the list for a reason. Please PLEASE don’t waste a minute with those portable potties where you have to clean basin…just gross.

This is the best portable potty for kids hands down. No mess, no germs, easy set up and disposal. (This is actually our go-to not just on road trips but ALL the time)

One more gas station bathroom I can avoid in my lifetime is a WIN 🙂 Just don’t forget the extra bags! If there’s one thing those earth-destroying plastic grocery bags are good for…we start stashing bags for a few months before a trip and you’ll be set for your time on the road (and free! absolutely no need to buy the overpriced bags made for potty IMO)

family road trip

These Carseat Trays

We’ve gone the cheap route on these (see below) and these really are the way to go. They fold up, which is key, and provide a surface for your little ones to actually do all the activities and games they want while in their car seat.

i.e. read– your kids staying occupied longer 🙂

I’ve also been eyeing this car seat organizer for our road trip with the kids to Idaho this summer…seems like it could make this organizing-loving mama’s heart VERY happy.

Podcasts and Audio Books to the rescue!

This is the number one thing that keep our kids occupied and happy on those long stints on the road. Here’s a few of our favorites that seem to hold the kids’ attention the best!

Circle Round Podcast

The Bookmarked Podcast

But Why Podcast

The Libby App (we use this to download full audiobooks through our local library before traveling – free!)

Mess-free activities to keep little hands and minds busy

Road trip essentials for kids 101- easy and mess-free activities is the name of the game. We learned the hard way on our 24hr trek to Italy with the kids (read all about traveling internationally with kids here!)…the less pieces and small parts the better.

My criteria for thinking through packing for a road trip with kids is – How many pieces are there? Will it be frustrating if it spills all over the car floor? Can we lose a bunch of parts?

Our older one’s favorite is definitely these Sticker puzzles. And the little one tends to gravitate towards these water coloring books.

Keep reading below for the one activity that just does not live up to the hype and we never bring anymore on the road.

traveling with a baby

The ultimate kid-friendly road trip playlist

Is it a road trip without a dance party?!

Put together a Spotify list of your favorite road trip songs that won’t require ear muffs if you know what I mean. It will be a highlight of the trip for sure…and break up all those hours of activities and movies.

This Visual Timer

Are we there yet???

Here is my answer to that inevitable and incessant question. We use this on road trips (and at home) for a tangible visual for kids to see how much time they have left to the next stop or maybe their next surprise…more on that below! This timer brings us more sanity than we realize I am sure of it 🙂

Roadtrip games (that require minimal effort on your part Mom)

In between the dance party and the movies and the hours of (hopefully) calm activities, you may want to have some intentional time as a family to connect…because hey you are stuck in a small, enclosed space together for hours on end!

Our two favorite road trip games are Would You Rather and any sort of 20 Questions style game. If you need a little bit of Would You Rather inspiration there’s a few apps for that and for 20 Questions, this handheld game with question cards is seriously so fun with the little ones.

road tripping with a toddler

Slip-on shoes for the babes

Such a simple thing that makes a big difference.

The kids will 100% want to take their shoes off on the road. Which is GREAT. But when you stop 50 times (which you inevitably will) your life is going to be soooo much easier when your little one can just slip those shoes on themselves before hopping out of the car. An underrated road trip essential for kids for sure.

Nothing beats Natives– indestructible and even the littlest ones can slip them on themselves!

Blanket & Jammies

Comfortable kiddos means happier kiddos…and that’s really what we’re going for here with all this right?!

If we are on the road at night, we make sure to change into their jammies before “bedtime” and do the whole shebang routine just like we would at home….brush teeth, change into jammies, get back on the road, read a book, “lights out” and time for bed.

A cozy blanket is a must for them feeling comfortable (because really, who likes falling asleep sitting up?). Our very favorite blankets are these Saranoni ones, a splurge but truly worth EVERY penny. Trust us, you’ll agree once you feel them 🙂

A single accessible bag with a change of clothes

You’re going to be kicking yourself you didn’t pack this when you have to get out your whole dang suitcase from the very back of the trunk when the littlest babe has an epic spill.

Packing for a road trip with kids means being prepared for the worst.

I like having one small bag, super accessible, with a change of clothes for each kid. That way when disaster strikes, you don’t even bat an eye!

road trip with shoes on the dash

Movie Entertainment (a given)

Alright this one is clearly an obvious in roadtrip essentials for kids 101, BUT a few things to note:

  • Make sure you have some really good quality headphones. We went with the Target dollar spot ones on last summer’s road trip and it led to more meltdowns than one (and not just the kids). These are our favorite here that don’t break the bank and if you can spring for wireless ones these are awesome.
  • If you only have one device like us, a splitter is a MUST. This way both kids are able to watch the same movie! When all the kids have headphones on, it’s almost like a little mini-date in the car…I’ll take it.
  • Do not make the same mistake we did (BIG #parentingfail) and make sure your movies/shows are ALREADY downloaded on your device prior to hitting the road!

Allllll the snacks

If I am REALLY killing it in the supermom, on-top-of-things department…I like packing a small cooler with nourishing, real-food snacks already cut up for the road. But if not (let’s be honest, usually the later), low-mess snacks are the way to go.

I think I am still cleaning up tiny crumbs from last summer’s gold-fish explosion on our National Parks road trip.

These snack cups and snack spinner have proved VERY helpful.

What NOT to pack on your next family road trip

And as far as #parentingfails go, here’s a few things we recommend avoiding at all costs if you can. They seem like a great idea in theory, but these turned out to be road trip NON-essentials with kids in the end.

  • Window clings – They always seem like such a cute idea for a road trip, right?! But just NO. They never fully stick, they end up all over the floor, and the little ones can’t even reach the window most of the time!
  • These trays – We originally went the cheap route on trays for our road trips and it was a fail. They are just so big, take up the entire back seat, and had a hard time fitting on top of the car seat with a good push.
  • Too many toys for the kids – When road tripping with kids, and traveling with kids in general really, less is SO MUCH MORE. We bring one container of toys for our destination and that’s it. They always, always find ways to entertain themselves and it forces them to actually get more creative and imaginative (a win, win in my book)
  • Snacks of the drive you insane variety- As you’re packing snacks for the road, here’s your criteria for if the snack makes the road trip success cut…can it easily spill? If a kid dropped it, would it be all over the car? Does it require all the wipes?

We so hope this round up of road trip essentials for kids is useful to you and serves you well on your next family road trip! We’re fully convinced traveling with kids is never easy but always 100% worth it! Where are you going next?!

Family Travel

15 Dreamy (and Affordable!) Beachfront Family Vacation Rentals

Anyone else just think being near the water, of any kind, is soul-filling?? An oceanside vacation can be difficult with kids (read: ALL the sand)…but always worth it 100% of the time once your set eyes on that view and those waves are crashing over your feet. SO, we’ve done all the researching for you and rounded up 10 of the *most* magical beachfront family vacation rentals for your next vacay.

Here was our criteria: all directly on the beach, all at least 4.7 stars on Airbnb, all guaranteed to be a little slice of heaven annnndddd even better, all around $300/night or less.

Yes, you read that right- a beachfront family vacation that’s actually reasonably affordable.

Check out the list below, and let us know in the comments if you book any of these dreamy stays!

FLORIDA FAMILY VACATION RENTALS

Flagler Beach House – Flagler Beach, FL (from $185/night)

Wake up to a beautiful sunrise each morning and let the waves lull you to sleep at night. This rare, direct oceanfront property is a wonderful place to relax and unwind. 2 bedrooms and 2 baths and sleeps 6, and bonus the master bedroom has a king bed and ensuite bathroom. You will fall in love with the breathtaking views from the large windows overlooking the ocean. Sip your morning coffee and eat your meals on the private deck or just enjoy the warm ocean breeze outside. No need to bring beach chairs, boogie boards or sand toys for the little ones, these are provided too…now that’s a WIN.

What a view!

Sunset Beach Cottage – Placida, FL (from $300/night)

These views…that sunset. Wow take me there. Spectacular panoramic views of what feels like your own private pristine 7 mile sugar sand beach. 2 master bedrooms with balconies overlooking the beach. There is a restaurant on the island along with a recreation center which offers golf cart and bicycle rentals. And get this – 2 kayaks are provided at the cottage! Access to Palm Island only 3 minutes away, which ensures a relaxing and tropical getaway. Incredible wildlife. This has magical beachfront family vacation written allllllll over it.

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Onda Dolce Blue // Beachfront house with Ocean Views – Fort Meyers, FL (from $268/night)

The Onda Dolce Blue Beach house is an oasis of calm, steps from the Gulf, with a private beach, volleyball court and views you can get lost in. If you are looking to relax in comfort, take in the sunset with a cocktail, or grill and dine ‘al fresco’ on your deck, then this is the perfect vacation home. It’s been recently remodeled and fully equipped, you will find everything you need. It is located on a gorgeous plot – the two beach houses share this private beach – in a quieter area of Fort Myers Beach (now you are talking our language)

Dining table that seats 6 with views of the ocean.

Private Beachfront Home W/ Stunning Views of Gulf – Englewood, FL (from $300/night)

Let the healing smell of the salt air and the soothing sounds of the ocean help you just relax. Because of all the modern comforts in place, this is the perfect retreat for a short beachfront family vacation or an extended stay. Located on Manasota Key, you have the Gulf of Mexico to your front and Lemon Bay at your back. Simply walk around back and your private beach awaits. Pull out a beach chair, pour your favorite spirit and relax, certainly the most important part of the trip. Time to trade in the ties and heels for flops and bermudas….YES PLEASE.

Still stressed about the finances involved with taking a trip like this?? You’ve got to check out our favorite travel hack we use to actually MAKE MONEY while we travel (…really though). See our popular post here and start making regular family trips a reality.

YES PLEASE I WANT TO LEARN HOW TO MAKE MONEY WHILE I TRAVEL!

CALIFORNIA FAMILY VACATION RENTALS

Ocean Front Beach Cottage on the Sand- Newport Beach, CA (from $283/night)

If you’re a small crew looking for a delightful beach adventure full of muddy feet, sandcastles and sunny smiles, this is the place for you. This home is right on the sand in Newport Beach with no boardwalk in front of it. Newport Beach is a coveted vacation location along the Southern California coastline. It, and the surrounding Balboa peninsula, have a huge variety of land and sea-based activities for you and the kids too. Here you are about half-way between greater Los Angeles and San Diego areas, so it’s an ideal location for a few day trips as well as soaking up that family beach rental

Relaxing place to watch the ever-changing colors of the western sunsets.

Modern Beach Front Bungalow – Oxnard, CA (starting at $317/night)

This direct oceanfront home is nicely renovated and professionally decorated, an upscale beach cottage that is the perfect vacation spot. The master bedroom’s stunning ocean views will start your day off beautifully. And then at night enjoy the uncrowded beaches and walk for miles combing the beach for sea glass and shells. Also to note, this one is big at 4 bedrooms and 3 baths!

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*Splurge!* Surfscape Beach House with Private Beach – Bodega Bay, CA (from $495/night)

Alright, no this one is not affordable, but it just felt like it *had* to be included in this list…if you’re up for a splurge vacation that is. This beach house is ideal for the ‘Ultimate Pacific Coast Surf Experience’ because it’s perched atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific (approximately 4 miles north of Bodega Bay). You will have your own private stairs down to a sheltered, secluded beach. I mean really the photos say it all, you’ve got to click through to see this one. Absolutely, tops the list of M-A-G-I-C-A-L beachfront family vacation rentals.

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MEXICO FAMILY VACATION RENTALS

Luxury Flat with stunning view & private beach – Las Jarretaderas, Nayarit, Mexico (from $134/night)

This luxury apartment on the beach has a private swimming pool, terrace with barbecue grill and dining room for 6 people. Internet, Bicycles as well as a fully equipped kitchen. The terrance looks pretty much like heaven and I am already dreaming about having a cup of coffee on that porch every morning. Also, waking up in that sun drenched bedroom (totally makes up for the kids waking you up at 7am on vacation thing right?!) just seems unreal.

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“Tulum Styled” Villa with beach front San Bruno – Merida, Yucatán, Mexico (from $117/night)

This villa is decorated “Tulum” style with luxury finishes and furniture. Perfect for a quiet oceanfront family vacation! Enjoy the terrace and a small swimming pool to cool off outside the sea. In addition, you can nap in a hammock with a spectacular view from the master bedroom and enjoy the sounds of nature. The property is 5 minutes to the village of “Telchac” where you can find regional food and delights such as fresh seafood, as well as tourist service providers. This is the one if you want an immersive cultural experience as well as a beachfront family vacation rental!

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Breathtaking Views on the Beach of Riviera Maya – Chacalal, Quintana Roo, Mexico (from $202/night)

This newly remodeled Luxury condo provides breathtaking views of the beautiful Riviera Maya, & private access to beach area & swimming pools. Simply enjoy a short walk to the marina where you will find restaurants, shopping, dive stores, gym, spa & Dolphin Discovery. Most importantly, the living room and master bedroom have an ocean-view balcony where you can relax, eat, drink and look over the stunning Caribbean sea. You can even snorkel in the famous Great Maya Reef that is a 5 minute swim from your doorstep! SIGN ME UP.

View From private Balcony

Casa Barra Tortuga Beautiful Beach front House – Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico (from $296/night)

Casa Barra Tortuga is a beautiful beach front house located right on one of the most beautiful, secluded beaches near Puerto Escondido. Also, the house is located about 5 km south of the town on a golden sand beach that extends as far as the eye can see. With virtually no commercial development on the beach, you can walk for miles and see only waves, sea turtles, birds and nature. It is close enough to town but with the privacy and tranquility for relaxation and recharging…really what we all are looking for with these beachfront family vacation rentals right?!

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Looking for more tropical destination inspiration (I mean who isn’t right?!) Join us on Pinterest, click below!

PNW FAMILY VACATION RENTALS

Full-view Beachfront with Open Floorplan – Rockaway Beach, Oregon, United States (from $201/night)

This bright cozy family and dog friendly oceanfront home is in the heart of Nadonna Beach. Enjoy unobstructed expansive views while cooking and eating dinner, reading a book by the fire, or playing games in the loft. Just steps from a quiet beach, this is the perfect spot for a family vacation. Furthermore, it’s a 2 bed, 2.5 bath home plus loft can comfortably sleep 8 people and has recently been updated with new paint and new floors. You can step off the deck and walk right onto the beach or watch whales and fishing boats from inside the living room. Also, bonus it’s centrally located between Rockaway Beach (2 miles) and Wheeler/Nehalem/Manzanita (10 miles) where you can visit the cafes and tourist shops.

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West Beach Retreat – Oak Harbor, Washington, United States (from $165/night)

Most importantly, this property is right on the beach. And goodness can you imagine those unbelievable sunsets! Wake up to Eagles and Harbor Seals right outside your door. The San Juan Islands to your right, Olympic Mountain range to your left ocean in the middle. Also, charming Coupeville is 10 minutes away. With this beachfront family vacation rental you get to experience Northwest oceanside living at it’s best! (Also, a triple bonus is they offer a 10% discount off the daily rental fee for all current active duty and former military members!)

Beautiful home on West Beach Whidbey Island! Olympics to your left, San Juan's to your right and gorgeous sunsets in the middle!  The ultimate island getaway!

Walls of Glass Hood Canal Vacation Rental – Union, Washington, United States (from $265/night)

Located at “Hood Canal Resort in Union, WA,” this home is built on the beach and displays stunning views of Hood Canal & the Olympics through floor to ceiling glass (WOW). The home is spacious, comfortable and resort-like with its private hot tub, outdoor furniture and sauna. Also, get this- has heated floors, a gas fireplace, and A/C. It has a shared dock w/ 4 kayaks and 2 paddle boards. There is no other property on Hood Canal that offers the same combination of amazing views, sunsets, comfort, amenities, and proximity to Alderbrook Resort. Lastly, if it couldn’t get any better- it has a private hot tub and sauna (always a big win with our kids).

Walls of Glass Hood Canal Vacation Rental: Private hot tub just steps away from the master bedroom

Beachfront, Ocean View Condo – Neskowin, Oregon, United States (from $189/night)

Rest, relax and rejuvenate in this peaceful 2-floor oceanfront condo with private access to Neskowin Beach. Watch the sunset, crashing surf or migrating whales from the west-facing private deck. Meanwhile, drink your morning coffee or tea from the east deck looking at the Neskowin Hills. Finish your day and cozy up & light a fire in the wood-burning fireplace or take a walk on the beach right outside your door. You can cook a meal in the fully-stocked kitchen or walk to the Café or the Marketplace and Bistro for a meal. What a dreamy beachfront family vacation if you ask me 🙂

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Alright folk that’s it! If you’re feeling super adventurous we’ve rounded up a few crazy gorgeous international beachfront family rentals (as low as $89/night!!) on our Airbnb board here. And on that note, make sure you pin our post on traveling international with kids before you go.

How many of these can we actually make it to?! I want to book them ALL.