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Travel Essentials // For the Minimalist Mama

Traveling with kids is already a challenge right?! What you are packing and bringing along should work for you and not against you…can I get an AMEN?

We are all about less is more in our family. Because the less you bring, the more free hands you have. And the more free hands you have, the more easily you can chase around those wild children, right?

We’ve compiled our list below of the best of the best travel essentials for kids, for the minimalist mama.

Make your next trip more joyful, less stressful. Less stuff, more memories.


Here you go!

  1. Gathre Mat – This mat has SAVED us on so many trips (our favorite size is the Midi). Goodbye disgusting airport floor and hello picnic at any moment. These mats are crazy durable, wipeable, and protect those little babes from any germs you want far, far away…and the beautiful designs don’t hurt either. Who says you can’t travel with little AND keep an ounce of your sense of style?!ChicagoAirport1
  2. Fawn Backpack– Super high quality and exactly the amount of compartments you need, nothing else you don’t. Fits perfectly under the airplane seats, isn’t too bulky for pedestrian adventures. Also, Dad might not be completely opposed to carrying this one as well!
  3. Headphones– These are great. Wonderful price, don’t fall off, fold us compactly.
  4. Water Coloring Book – Our go-to travel activity for kids because there aren’t 165739 pieces to loose or a massive mess to make. Yes, you can absolutely pack ALL the activities to keep kids occupied (themed zippered bags, window clings, and the like)…I am just not that mom. The simpler the better in our family.
  5. Ergo Baby Carrier – Forever and always, more durable, sturdy, easy to throw on baby carrier there is for travel. We attempted to trek around the city in our Solly Baby wrap, and although we love it for at home, it’s just not practical for travel.DSC_0873
  6. Golden Books – Thin and super easy to pack a few of these books without taking over your entire bag!
  7. iPad– Need I say more?
  8. Dirty Diaper trash bags– Because it WILL happen in the worst moment in the worst possible location.
  9. Summer Infant Travel Stroller – This stroller has been with us in the cobblestone streets of Italy, to the hills of San Francisco, to the Redwood Mountains, and countless airports. SO durable, lightweight, easy to fold-up, and has an attachable shade (important for those long sunny travel days), and can lean back for the glorious, coveted stroller nap!DSC_0122
  10. Clip-on High Chair – If your Air BnB or hotel does not provide a high chair (preferable), we love this thing so easy meals with a little while away. Folds up super compact and allows you to eat with a babe ANYWHERE!
  11. JetKids Ride Box – This is the one item on the list we don’t have but is at the TOP of our list for our next big adventure. We tried the more economical blow-up travel foot rest pillow for our eldest to be able to lay down and sleep on longer flights and it was a disaster. This will definitely be worth the investment.
  12. Thermos – Still have a milk drinker and are going to be traveling for long stents? Bring this sippy cup and this one alone?
  13. Travel Journal – Despite the chaos around you, you are going to want to soak up every.single.bit. of your trip…because a year from now looking back at those memories will be so very sweet and you’ll want to somehow transport back in time. A beautiful travel journal with everything you need, and nothing you don’t.



The BEST Day Trip From Rome

Have a bit of an extended stay in Rome? Then you MUST…read you’ll be totally missing out if you don’t make it here…MUST make a point to take a day trip to Sperlonga, Italy. We are 100% convinced it is Italy’s secret hidden gem.

Sperlonga is tiny beach town about 1.5 hours away from the Rome city center. White washed Italian home lined cliffs, bougainvillea covered streets, white sandy beaches overlooking the turquoise blue waters of the Tyrrhenian sea- this place is a MAGIC.



Dating back to the 1950’s, Sperlonga used to be a hidden getaway for movie stars and actors from Rome and we can completely see why.

So if you only are able to take one day trip from Rome, this.is.it.


Take the train from Termini out to Fondi-Sperlonga. You can purchase tickets ahead of time on Tren Italia or GoEuro, or simply use the straightforward self-service stations at Termini. You will most likely be looking for the train headed to Naples. Tickets are 6.50 Euro one way and only a little over an hour ride there….a steal for the beauty you’re about to bathe in.



Hop off at the Fondi stop (Note: the train station is not labeled Sperlonga, pay close attention as many times the Italian trains have no announcement or screen notifying you of each stop) and simply go through the train station exit and immediately head to your right to the bus stop.

From here, you will wait for a bus that takes you to Sperlonga beach. The bus is 1.50 Euro (cash only) and only about a 15 minute drive to the coast.

PRO TIP: Make certain to look up the return train and bus times before leaving (and screenshot them on your phone) so you know what your return options are before heading home! We have definitely learned the hard way on some European excursions and were stranded in a town with no way back to the city until the next day…not the WORST problem in the world, right?! But important to note.

*If you can take longer than a day trip, we say go, go, go! We initially went out for just a few hours, but fell in love with the little seaside town so much we decided to go back for an overnight stay. Because goodness THAT view in the morning from the sea facing balcony, cappuccino in hand- WORTH IT. (We recommend Florenza Residence or Hotel Aurora…anything with that view though)






There will be two main stops on the bus to Sperlonga, the first one at the top of the hill in the historic center, and the second at the beach. Do yourself a favor and get off at the top of the city center and meander your way down to the water. The winding pathways of bougainvillea covered doorways and white washed cobblestone paths are pure magic and not to be missed.

Also note- If bringing a stroller, this is also the recommend route, as there really is no easy way to get back up to the city center once down at the beach….trust us we learned the sweaty and exhaustingly hard way 🙂






The beach is split up into various “sections”- a public strip of sand (no umbrellas and free to anyone who chooses) and several private groups of umbrellas. Each private area typically has a resort or hut of some kind associated with it. It is 20 euro to rent an umbrella with two chairs for the day and well worth the comfort and reprieve from the hot Italian sun.

There are showers and places to rinse off your feet at the back of the shore and we even heard waiters come around to take aperitif orders around 5pm daily…What?!





Take a walk down the beach and you’ll find restaurants, cafes, and a nice amusement park type area for little ones- a small playground, trampoline park, a carousel, and train. Keep in mind the rides do not open until 5pm though! (Another reason to book that oversight stay!)






This little hidden gem of a city is still beautifully untouched from the wave of summer escapading Italian tourists and probably one of our very favorite parts of our month long stay in Rome (read how we spent 1 month in Italy for 1k here)!

We’re convinced Sperlonga is Italy’s best kept secret and the perfect way to escape the bustling city of Rome for a day or two. Comment below and let us know if you make it out there, we would love to hear what you think!




Traveling Internationally with Kids

AKA how to travel internationally with kids, and not loose your mind.

No, we are not crazy. Yes, it can be done…dare we say and be the best thing you ever did.

Yes, there will be hard moments, but goodness will it be worth it.

For years, we daydreamed about taking an international trip. We MISSED Europe….but the kids, they’re so little, to take them at this age would be crazy! To go just ourselves and leave them for that long at this age, how could we do that!

All the while daydreaming and booking NOTHING.

After a few years of being stuck in that wanderlusting, never traveling, quicksand we decided NO MORE. We aren’t waiting any longer, we are taking that trip we have been fantasizing about…and we’re taking the kids along with us dang it!

Our girls were 8 months and just about 3 years old, two kids three and under, and we booked a trip to Italy, for a month.


That was our first trip internationally with the girls and we haven’t looked back since.

Hard at moments? YES.

Incredible at moments? YES.

A life-giving adventure with memories we treasure and are SO dear? YES.


Our philosophy on traveling with kids- parenting is hard, really hard, every.single.day. no matter where we are. At the end of most days I am exhausted. So why not be in the place I’ve been dreaming about while doing it all?

We hope these tips for traveling internationally with little ones are empowering and an inspiration to you!


Hope for the best, expect the worse. Although, Luke the undeniable optimist in our marriage, would say to never expect the worse…”You are just setting yourself up for failure!” My mama self says though hope for the best, pray for the best, expect and prepare for the very, very worse.

Traveling with kids internationally is ALL about your expectations. When we flew to Italy with our toddler and infant, we had three flights ahead of us before stepping foot in the land of gelato and pizza. I prepared myself mentally for 24hrs of potential meltdowns, knowing we had a month ahead of us of pure bliss. It could go swimmingly perfect and you have angel babies or it could be a complete disaster, including but not limited to myself getting peed on without a change of clothes (Note- ALWAYS bring a change of clothes for everyone, not just the babes…rookie mistake, I know).

Will you get to go to that romantic restaurant that just looks so hip and trendy and is date night central? Get to go to every single incredible museum in the city? Nope. But you will get to experience a new country with your favorite people in the world, and in this season of life, that requires an adjustment of expectations.

Good, Bad, Great, Horrible…it WILL be worth it.




If at all possible extend your trip for as long as you can possibly afford to time and money wise. It was SO helpful on the days the girls were just.not.having it, that we could say scrap this, let’s head back to the apartment and try again tomorrow. Knowing we had time built in for this was so clutch…because we all know if kids are anything at all, they are unpredictable.

We aimed to see one site a day. Typically between public transportation to get there, making time for wandering, and meals, that was an entire morning in and of itself.

Our days typically looked like a slow breakfast at the apartment, out for adventuring to one activity for that day (Our little one would nap in the Ergo at some point here), and then out to a restaurant, picnicking, or back for a homemade lunch. The afternoons were spent at the apartment- both so the girls could nap and we could take a breather. Once they were up, we were either feeling energized and ready to go explore again or would just stay in our neighborhood for playground plays, after dinner strolls, and of course and always GELATO.



If at all possible, get on the new time zone as quickly as possible. Jump into the new rhythm right away, no matter how tired you are. The first few days everybody will feel groggy and a bit out of it, but being in the new country will completely energize you and quickly mask any jet lag.

Expect sleep patterns to be a bit mixed up for a few days, but the kids will adjust. Just stay consistent and expect nighttime wakings for a few days. It took both of our girls (3 years and 8 months) about 2-3 days to adjust and return to their normal, peaceful sleeping through the entire night schedule.



LESS is so much MORE. Another benefit to booking an AirBnB….LAUNDRY. We packed for a month in Italy for our family of 4 in one large roller suitcase and one carry on (yes- no Pack ‘n Play, no car seats, no high chair or clip on…read more on that below!) Each person got about a week’s worth of outfits and two pairs of shoes. If we were going for less time, I would have paired down on that even more and planned on just one large suitcase for all of us.

The less you pack, the more free hands you have. The more free hands you have, the happier your babies are. The happier your babies are, the more you are not loosing your mind…and actually able to enjoy your traveling- call me crazy, maybe even the transit part 🙂


And all the families traveling internationally with kids said A M E N. Most all major airlines offer the ability to book a bassinet if you are traveling with an infant. This glorious small baby bed hooks onto the wall in front of your seats- meaning you don’t have to hold your child for the entire flight.

Simply call your airline, tell them you are flying with an infant and you would like to reserve the bassinet. They will move you up to the bulkhead row and reserve the bassinet for that little one, FOR FREE! Just make sure to check in with the flight attendants as soon as you arrive to your gate, to ensure they have the bassinet and that answered prayer is YOURS (typically there is only one).

Bonus Hack // Slide your nursing cover over the bassinet and put a portable sound machine in there and it blocks out a lot of the light and sounds that would wake baby up!

Our youngest resisted the bassinet at first because it was a new environment, but with some snuggling, nursing, and the above hack she ended up sleeping almost the entire 6 hours on the overnight flight there….now the rest of us, not so much. But, HALLELUJAH.



This was hands down what made traveling with our girls in Italy doable and enjoyable. One in the stroller, one in the carrier…free hands for us. Our little one (8 months at the time) would nap in the carrier daily, allowing us to still adventure and not miss out on a thing.

Our favorite carrier by far while traveling is the Ergo. We also have the Solly Wrap and love, love that for when the babies are super little, but the Ergo was sturdy, quick to take on and off, and allowed for easy naps while on the go.

Traveling Internationally with Babies


The best of the best travel stroller right here. This beast of a stroller has lived through a month of cobblestone streets in Italy, the beaches of California, the hills of San Francisco, planes, trains, and automobiles, and it is still going strong. Durable, lightweight, easy to fold up quickly, comfortable for baby, and doesn’t break the bank.



Gosh, the dreaded car seats while traveling with kids. Why is there not a better solution for this yet?! For years Luke and I have been brainstorming up a Shark Tank worthy idea to solve this problem…alas it continues to be a hiccup, an essential and important one all be it,  but a hiccup in every adventure with little ones.

Our personal preference is to avoid bringing the car seats whenever we can, because that just makes us and the kids happier travelers 🙂 We will either opt to reserve one if we are already renting a car (although our experience with that has not been fabulous) or if heading to a major city were we can rely on public transportation just leave those massive things AT HOME. In Rome, as we stayed in the city the entire month besides one day trip, we simply booked a driver through Sixt MyDriver to and from the airport, as they had an option to request car seats.

When in the city- trains, buses, trams, metro, you name it and we are on it. Our older daughter loveeedddd riding all the public transportation, in fact she would meltdown if she found out we weren’t going on the tram that day. Every country will be different, but in Italy we experienced that people were polite and willing to give up their seats for the kids or mama with the Ergo about 75% of the time.



By and far our favorite way to travel with kids. Booking an apartment instead of a hotel provides SO much more flexibility and room to breathe. We booked a two bedroom, two bath apartment in Italy- us in the master, our toddler in the smaller bedroom, and our infant in the large bathroom (crazy or genius? We say genius, but this is a no judgement zone here- it’s dark, quiet, and a baby sleep inducing cave).

The AirBnb not only was less expensive than a hotel room, but we also had a kitchen AND the ability to do laundry. This way we didn’t have to eat out for every single meal, save money, have a cozy home base, and pack less.

The game changer for us was finding an AirBnb specifically catered to families (This one in Rome). Our host had a toddler bed, crib for the baby, high chair, kids dishes and utensils, and children’s toys and books…yes, I know. What?! Just about the best thing this mama ever heard. On AirBnb there is a Family Friendly search option; when at all possible we book apartments with these amenities already there for us. The kids can enjoy their new “home” more and so can we, win-win 🙂

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To get $40 off your first reservation, book through this link HERE.


We knew we had three flights to get through and approximately 24 hours of travel. So we needed something to keep the transit exciting and everyone reasonably well behaved. Enter wrapped up airplane surprises.

We bought 3-5 small, packable “presents” for our toddler that we wrapped prior to leaving (read- I wrapped them with old Christmas paper on the way to the airport): A sticker book, a bag of gummies, a few Golden Books (thin and light!), and a water coloring book (our very favorite activity for traveling with kids- no mess, no stray parts, and reusable over and over).

Before taking off on each flight or if we had a longer layover, she got to unwrap one gift. SO much excitement, SO much anticipation, SO many new gifts to explore, SO much leverage 🙂


Traveling with littles is so enjoyable for the whole family if you have the right attitude. And so many activities were both exciting for the girls and a joy for us- city parks, new restaurants and food to try, huge monuments, fountains and piazzas, riding the trains and buses, the list goes on.

However, believe it or not the kids were not thrilllledddd with going to see say St.Peter’s Basilica. We weren’t living in Rome for a month without going to see the Vatican though, right?

One for you, one for me. We go to see St.Peter’s that morning, so after nap time we go play at the playground down the street for the 1000th time and go browse around that kid’s bookstore she had been eyeing. And really as a parent, it’s all a joy- because like we said you are in a beautiful new country, exploring new places, with your favorite people in the world, what could be better?

Bonus Hack // We would also implement this concept with each other! There was a few things both Luke and I really wanted to do, but knew it just was not best for the kids. Luke was dying to go visit this Monastery (die hard theology nerd that husband of mine), but it was a mile hike uphill with no means to take a taxi, the opposite of child friendly. So one day I stayed in Rome with the girls and he got to take his dream day trip, and visa versa.




I think what really made our international travel with little ones so enjoyable was that we stayed in the same destination the entire trip. We weren’t trekking from Venice to Florence to Rome to Naples…we stayed in Rome the entire time, and it was beautiful.

The transit, we think, is the hardest part of traveling with kids. So we cut down on that as much as possible. With all future international trips, we plan to visit one, maybe two, cities if we have more time. This really allowed us to settle in, take it slow, and not have the stress of packing up and moving from one city to another with babies in tow.


It is that simple. Just book the trip. You will figure out the details as you go and everything will fall into place. But stop just dreaming, and start GOING. You won’t regret it.



Italy: 1 Month for $1k

“We can’t travel now, not with the kids at this age”

“We don’t have the money, we could never afford it.”

Sound familiar? We dreamed FOR YEARS of taking anniversary trips to Europe, but to leave the kids for that long? Could we really afford to invest thousands of dollars on just a week or two?

Finally, after way too many hours spent wanderlusting and booking nothing, we said ENOUGH. Europe was going to happen, with kids in tow. Because life is way too short and we didn’t want to wait 10 years to get back there!

It is possible and hopefully we can share with you a bit of our story and the helpful how’s to stop merely Insta-Wasting so much time and start booking, traveling, and if you have children, bringing them into that passion of yours too!

Being self-employed with Wayfaren, we absolutely know we have some of the flexibility others do not, and we do not take that for granted one second. But how we made it possible to spend 1 month in Italy for 1k (not including the cost of food and transportation within the city) can absolutely be applied to anyone, in any stage of life, in any situation.



Meet your new best friend…your really fun, dangerous best friend.

Scott’s Cheap Flights is a website that finds incredible deals on international flights. When an airline makes a mistake (error in the system, typo, etc) or offers a great sale, Scott finds it and emails you with instructions on how to book- then boom, you go on that trip you have been dreaming about for way less than you ever thought possible.

With Scott’s deal alerts, we ended up getting peak summer season tickets to Europe for $490/each. Normally they are $1000-1200! Yes, three tickets for the price of what would normally be ONE ticket…unreal right?!

To sign up and get the basic alerts is free. Or you can upgrade to the Premium Service (3x the deals sent directly to your inbox) which we would recommend. At $30 annually this more than makes up for itself even if you end up booking just one flight. Ever.


Simply set your departure city/cities and the deal alerts are catered specifically to you, straight to your inbox. Filter out the noise and only get deal alerts departing from your favorite airports, but consider opening your departure city to more than just your hometown. For example, if we were to see a $350 ticket from Denver to Greece, we would jump on that immediately because we know we can find a $100-200 ticket from Dallas (our departure airport) to Denver…or better yet cover the Dallas to Denver loop with points (more on that below).

PRO TIP: Always use an Incognito window when researching flights, that way you know you are getting the absolute lowest price! Airlines, hotels, search engines will adjust prices based on time of day, how many times you’ve viewed certain routes etc…Incognito always!

Know you want to head to Paris sometime in the Fall? Sign up for the alerts and keep you eye peeled on your inbox for notifications to Paris, if you can be a bit flexible on your dates and departures I can guarantee you you will snag a killer deal that will make booking that trip no question! For example, just today I received an email about NY to Paris flight for $270!

Currently, Scott’s Cheap Flights caters to international travel, however weekly we see deals come through for Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean. Their website advertises they hope to add domestic options soon.



We use our credit cards for everything, and I mean everything. Maybe a bit unconventional for some, but when you keep a close tab on your bank account and use the credit card like a debit card, paying it off in full every month, you can rack up points pretty.darn.quickly. And points equal FREE CASH, the only time in the world that money actually does grow on trees.

For our trip to Italy, we ended up redeeming $1980+ in credit cards points! Money we earned simply by using our credit card regularly for all personal and Wayfaren business purchases.


We have both the Southwest Chase and the Barclays Arrival credit cards. Many times when signing up, you receive a large amount of points (40,000+) for spending $1000 in the first three months…that alone pays for one airline ticket. The Southwest Card we use for domestic flights, and the Arrival we reserve for international redemptions.

Flights, hotels, Airbnb, car rentals…we’ve redeemed our points for nearly everything travel related over the years.

Signing up for travel geared credit cards from the beginning was a priority for us, as we know travel was something we loved and wanted to do more of, but couldn’t quite afford (can I get an Amen?). By using our credit cards like debit cards, paying them off in full each month, we were able to make our travels dreams a reality.



By now, if you haven’t heard of Airbnb you have been living under one very hard and heavy rock. Far and away our favorite way to travel, especially with kids. A comfortable and familiar home-like setting for little ones, more bang for your buck, the ease of being able to have separate rooms (read: more sleep for all), and what really feels like a more authentic experience in your destination city.

When researching apartments in Italy, even for very cramped accommodation with a poor location in the city, we were STILL looking at $2500-4000 for the month- and that was on the low end!

We knew we didn’t have the cash for that type of investment, yet we also didn’t want to give up on our dream of this Italy trip. So what did we do? We got creative and made it happen. Necessity is the mother of invention, isn’t it?


So, we decided to list our home on Airbnb. A few things fixed around the house, a handful of photos, and two weeks later our house was listed online. (If you are ever in the Dallas area, we would love to have you- book here!)

If we could even cover half of the cost of the apartment in Italy, we knew financially we could make the trip work. Sure enough, someone ended up booking our home for nearly the entire 4 weeks we were in Rome!

  • The nitty gritty- our apartment in Rome for 4 weeks was $3418.55
  • We made $3322.06 from renting our home on Airbnb while we were gone

Unreal right?! If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is. We were so thankful for that clearly divine provision. And we plan on doing this for every trip in the future, wether it be a weekend away or another month abroad. Hosting is not for everyone, but we figured hey, as long as they aren’t sleeping in our sheets and it allows us to spend a month in Italy, I am quite alright with that.

Potentially interested in hosting through Airbnb? Get your listing set up today here!

Ready to book an apartment with Airbnb? Use the link here to get $40 off your first reservation!


We are confident and so excited that this could help enable you to stop just dreaming, and start GOING. We know how vital overcoming some of these major travel hurdles are. Feel free to comment below with any further questions, and if you book a trip, we want to hear!