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    9 Must-Try Foods in the Outer Banks, NC

    Best Food in OBX

    If you ask me to choose my utmost idyllic, perfectly perfect beach vacation spot, I’m pretty much guaranteed to say the Outer Banks, NC.  There are many reasons that I would pick this chain of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina as my favorite beach destination.  The reasons begin with happy memories from my childhood when my parents would take us almost annually for a week in Rodanthe, NC.  The reasons then continue from memories of wonderful trips with my own family over the last few years.  It is a wonderful land where sun meets surf meets sand.  The beaches are not nearly as crowded as we have come to expect at the close-by Jersey Shore and there is plenty to see and do for young and old.  Oh… there is also plenty to EAT in the Outer Banks (OBX for short).  

    Yes, there are so many incredible meals and treats, from fresh caught seafood to delectable sweets for dessert.  Last summer we set out to round up as many of these delicious foods as we could in our one week in Nags Head, NC.

    Here are the 9 foods that we highly recommend you try during a trip to OBX! Read more

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    5 Important Things to Consider When Planning a Vacation

    The 5 Important Things to Consider When Planning a Vacation

    Who loves a vacation?  ME!  I love a vacation!  You know by now that we love traveling, and I know that many of you do too!  I’m not super picky about my travels – as long as we get to go somewhere fun as a family, I’m usually up for it.  This could mean a simple day trip to an amusement park or a long week at a theme park, or it could very well also be a camping adventure.  Bob and I traveled a lot before we had kids.  I remember being pregnant with Lily and having a lot of doubt that we’d travel much with a baby in tow.  I laugh now at my former self, because we travel WAY more with kids than we ever did without them.  Sure, our destinations may be a little different these days now that they’re along for the ride, but not as much as you might think.  The camping, the road trips, the cruises – these were all things that we enjoyed pre-kid and continue to enjoy as a family of four.

    While we almost always have at least one future trip in the works, I find that the winter months are a great time to really lay out the framework for big vacations on the horizon.  We currently have a couple of trips planned, including one massively huge undertaking for the summer (you’ll hear more about that one in months to come).  Having planned so many of our trips on my own for the most part, I have amassed a collection of helpful travel tips.

    Today I want to suggest 5 Important Things to Consider When Planning a Vacation: Read more

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    2017 Free Admission to National Parks Dates

    National Parks Free Admission Dates

    2017 Free Admission to National Parks Dates: Get ready for another year of select free entrance dates to the National Parks that regularly charge an admission fee.  When you visit any National Park on the dates below, you will gain free entry!

    2017 National Parks Free Admission Dates:

    January 16: Martin Luther King Jr. Day

    February 20: Presidents’ Day

    April 15-16 and 22-23: Weekends of National Park Week

    August 25: National Park Service Birthday

    September 30: National Public Lands Day

    November 11-12: Veterans Day Weekend

    This is a wonderful way to get out and explore with your family without spending a fortune! Read more

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    Disney World One Day Memory Maker – Is It Worth It? What Do You Get?

    Disney World Memory Maker Package Deal

    So you’re heading to Disney World!! You might remember this piece that I wrote a couple years ago about how important it is to be present in your family vacation. This absolutely includes jumping right in for pictures with the kids! Of course, the hardest thing about taking pictures on vacation can be trying to get everyone in a single picture – afterall, someone has to take the picture, right?  With Disney’s Memory Maker you can get everyone in front of the camera and get a digital download of every single image.  Memory Maker pictures are all linked to your My Disney Experience account and pictures include candids from rides that offer them and any images snapped by park photographers.  (Make sure you swipe your MagicBand or park ticket after taking these pics to ensure they end up in your account!)

    Memory Maker images are high resolution downloads and include copyright release.

    For years, Disney World has offered photography services that make it easier to get everyone in the picture, but of course they come with a price.  Did you know that Park Photographers are more than happy to take a picture with YOUR camera after they snap one with theirs?  That’s always a nice option, and even nicer, FREE.  Park photographers can be found ALL OVER the Parks and you can locate them on the My Disney Experience app. Read more

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    Disney Cruise Line Vacation REVEAL Video – Surprise Scavenger Hunt – Halloween on the High Seas NYC

    DCL trip reveal

    Every year as the deal season craziness gives way to the January blahs, I find myself with so much time to work on travel pieces, DIY project posts, new recipes and more.  The difference this year is that we JUST completed our most recent Disney trip in November.  It’s still FRESH in my mind and I have SO MUCH to share with you!

    This year we managed to keep our vacation a secret from the kids for almost 1.5 YEARS after we booked it.  Think about it: Lily is now in 2nd grade.  We booked this cruise in MAY of her KINDERGARTEN year.  That’s a long time to keep such a huge secret under wraps!!  But somehow we succeeded and just 3 weeks before we set sail, we made up a fun scavenger hunt to reveal our surprise.

    Check out the video below, then take a look at all of the Disney tips and tricks that I have posted over the years.  I’d recommend bookmarking or pinning that link – it’s where I will be posting a whole lot of new Disney posts over the coming months!  Oh – and my YouTube Channel has LOTS of Disney videos with more to come!

    PIN THIS POST TO PINTEREST!

    Disney Cruise Surprise Vacation Reveal Video

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    25 Dollar Store MUST-BUY Items for a Disney Cruise

    Dollar Store Disney Cruise Must Buy Items

    When one of your family’s most favorite hobbies is to travel, and you find yourself packing your bags every month or two for the next adventure, you get pretty good at shopping for (and/or stockpiling) supplies.  One of my most popular travel posts of all time is this list of Dollar Store Must-Buy Items for a Disney World vacation.  Ever since I published that post, it had been on my to-do list to write a Disney CRUISE specific shopping list.  And here it is!

    As I gather supplies for an upcoming trip, I usually make a mega packing list in my life planner.  If necessary, I place an order for supplies with Amazon and then I usually stop at ALDI for food/snacks and ALWAYS make a trip to the Dollar Tree for random particulars.  The dollar store tends to be overlooked by some for vacation necessities, but I am here to tell you: DON’T OVERLOOK THE DOLLAR STORE.  Whether you’re heading to a beach, a theme park, going by plane or by car or in this case, BY SHIP, the dollar store is a traveler’s best friend.

    Check out the 25 items that I always stock up on at the dollar store before we board a Disney Cruise Ship.

    1. Pirate Costume Accessories – If you’re heading on a Disney Cruise in the Caribbean, chances of a Pirate Night on your sailing are pretty good!  Before our last cruise (and near Halloween) we found all sorts of pirate accessories (eye patches, bandannas, hooks, etc) at the dollar store.

    dollar store pirate costumes

    Red Bandana

    2.  PonchosBad weather can blow in almost without warning when you’re out on the ocean.  The same holds true if you’re cruise ship is stopping at a tropical port (Florida included!).  We have yet to take a trip to Florida and not get rained out at least one afternoon during our stay.  Rain showers and storms blow up over the theme parks frequently.  Sometimes they literally build on top of the parks and you have little-to-no-warning to take cover.  You can absolutely find ponchos in every theme park gift shop or hotel store.  And I guaranteed you that you will absolutely NOT find them for $1.  Stock up at the dollar store before you leave town.  Get one for every member of your family and also consider picking up extras to throw over strollers, luggage, etc.  We gave ponchos to the adults in our Fish Extender group on our last cruise!

    Rain poncho

    3. Dry Erase Board – If you have never cruised before, get ready to find dry erase boards on many cabin doors on the ship!  Dry erase boards are a great way to communicate plans and current locations for friends and family on your cruise.  Don’t forget – your cell phones won’t work on board and that includes text messaging.  Slap a dry erase board on your door and enjoy this antiquated-yet-effective communication method (most cabins on Disney ships are magnetic, minus Concierge level cabins on the Dream and Fantasy).

    dry erase board

    4.  ToothbrushesUnless you’re a couponer and you work the drugstore and/or coupon deals to get free toothbrushes, you know that buying toothbrushes for the whole family can add up.  I tend to replace our travel toothbrushes after most trips because the thought of them rolling around the toiletry bag for months grosses me out.  Pick up toothbrushes on the cheap at the dollar store for trips.  You won’t feel terrible throwing them out at the end of vacation because they didn’t cost much.  Save the costlier toothbrushes for your home bathroom. For a week or so away most of us can settle for a simplistic model.

    Toothbrushes

    5. Glow Sticks –  Glow sticks are so much fun for pirate night on the ship!  Stock up for less at the dollar store and let the kids load up on glowing jewelry before you head to the Pirate Deck Party!  We gave glow sticks to the tweens/teens in our Fish Extenders group!

    Glow Sticks

    6. Cups, Tumblers, Water Bottles – All of your drinks (minus alcohol) on a Disney Cruise are INCLUDED in your cruise fare.  Disposable cups are offered at most beverage stations, but they tend to be small and don’t keep your hot drinks warm for too long.  Throw a cup or two in your luggage – I love the water bottles and plastic tumblers for the kids and Bob and I always bring a travel mug for coffee!

    Cups and tumblers

    7. Snack Containers and Plastic Snack Bags – These are great for tossing random snacks in for the kids to eat during shows, down time in your cabin, whenever.  Toss some dry cereal or baked goods in snack containers or bags while you’re at the buffet – you never know when you might need a snack to throw at the kids.

    I also use plastic bags throughout my packing routine.  I use gallon sized bags for packing individual outfits, toiletries that I am worried might leak, etc.  I ALWAYS pack an extra gallon bag into the diaper bag for holding dirty diapers, clothes that diapers have leaked on, wet clothes and bathing suits, emergency barf bags, you get the idea.  Bumps and bruises can be soothed with instant ice packs – just put ice from the beverage station or your cabin steward into a sandwich bag.  I pack individual road trip activities in different sized bags as well – this would come in handy if you’re driving or flying to your port.

    I recommend buying a box or two in sandwich, quart and gallon sizes.

    snack containers plastic bags

    8. Popcorn Containers – Oh!  One of my favorite items from the dollar store that I totally just grabbed on a whim before our last cruise.  I LOVE (like, in an obsessive way) fresh popped popcorn.  I can’t seem to turn it down!  On a Disney Cruise, you can buy a big souvenir popcorn tub and then enjoy really cheap refills throughout your trip.  I bought my souvenir tub on the first day on the ship.  Before each show, we got the tub refilled, then dumped that refill into these cute popcorn containers – one for each kid and another for Bob.  Then I went and got a second refill well, just for me.  I told you – I LOVE POPCORN!!

    Mickey Mouse Snack Boxes

    Kids with Popcorn

    9. Trash Bags – It’s always a great idea to pick up a box or two of trash bags.  They are so helpful for collecting that unavoidable mountain of dirty wash throughout your trip.  Disney Cruise Ships all have coin operated laundry facilities on various decks.  Trash bags make great laundry bags in a pinch.

    Trash Bags

    10. Plates and Napkins – Room service is FREE on Disney Cruises and is available pretty much around the clock. We found it super handy to have some extra plates and napkins in our cabin so that we could divvy up the food to the kids!

    plates and napkins

    11.  Tissues, Hand Sanitizer, and Wet WipesBoogers, snot, phlegm, poop, pee.  Add dirt, blood, excess suntan lotion and more to that list.  You can never have enough tissues, wipes or sanitizer!!  Stock up at the dollar store.

    For tissues, I like to get a couple big packs of the smaller travel packs.  I stick the smaller packs EVERYWHERE – one in the diaper bag, purse, car, different luggage pieces, etc.

    Soap and water are always going to be your best line of defense against germs, including the dreaded norovirus that likes to fly around ships.  In a pinch, hand sanitizer will do the job.

    tissues sanitizer wipes

    12.  Mesh Laundry Bags While I tend to use trash bags to gather my dirty laundry on vacation, mesh laundry bags work wonderfully too.  ALSO – if you are going on a BEACH trip… grab a mesh bag or two.  Use it to toss the sandy toys in at the end of the day.  Much of the sand will fall off the toys and out of the bag BEFORE you get back on the ship, keeping the majority of the sand OUT of your cabin.

    mesh laundry bags

    13.  Batteries You probably make sure that you have packed your eleventy billion charging cords for everything from phones to tablets to Kindle Readers.  But don’t forget to throw some extra batteries in your bag for any random electronics that you might want to run and not be near an outlet.

    batteries

    14. Bubbles – Love ’em or hate ’em (and most kids LOVEEEEE them), bubbles make great boredom busters with minimal mess.  They are also lots of fun for Pirate Night Party and your Sail Away Party!

    bubbles

    15. Over-The-Door-Hooks – These hooks are sanity savers!  They help give our towels, bathing suits, backpacks, camera bags, WHATEVER, a spot OFF of the floor.  Pick up a few and toss them on the bathroom doors!

    Over the Door Hook

    16.  Travel Bottles – Always a good idea to grab some of these for trips, even if you’re not flying (and thus bound by airline restrictions).  These bottles make it easy to portion out shampoo, etc in smaller increments.  Most, if not all, Disney Cruise ship cabins have two bathrooms so this is an easy way to split up your toiletries.

    Travel Bottles

    17. Earplugs Earplugs come in handy for fireworks, loud shows, or even when you end up in a cabin with a very loud SNORER.   At just $1 for a multi-pack it’s smart to grab a pack just in case they are needed.

    earplugs

    18. Sponges and Washcloths – Half of my family prefers bar soap and washcloths… the other half prefers sponges and body wash.  Pick up a couple of each and toss ’em out at the end of the trip.  At just $1 each they will work great during your trip, but they are totally disposable and there’s no lugging anything wet home in your luggage.

    sponges and washcloths

    19. Nightlights and FlashlightsMaybe you have a kid who is afraid of the dark, maybe you don’t.  If you do, pick up a little nightlight before you head out on vacation so you’re not scrambling at bedtime in your cabin.  If you DON’T have a kid who is afraid of the dark, consider picking up a small flashlight.  These are nice to leave on the nightstand in the event that your kid wakes up and needs to get to the bathroom, etc. in the middle of the night.  Unfamiliar surroundings and furniture can lead to bumps and stubbed toes!

    flashlights and nightlights

    20. First Aid This and That – Extra thermometer, bandages, triple antibiotic cream… all are good ideas to toss in your toiletry bag.  Pick up many of these standard items at the dollar store at a super low price.

    first aid dollar store

    21. Chapstick – Keep those lips moisturized!  I hate how dry my lips tend to get when we stay in hotels or cruise cabins thanks to the dry air.  I always take a least one chapstick or lip balm with me!

    chapstick dollar store

    22.  Reusable Bags – Bags are great for pool and beach bags to carry on and souvenir bags. I found a bunch of Disney branded bags at the Dollar Tree that would be perfect for your cruise.

    Disney bags

    23. Playing Cards – Hopefully you are able to carve out some time to relax while you’re on board… I know this can actually be tricky at times because there is SO MUCH to do on a Disney Cruise!  Take along a pack or two of cards – always fun to grab a table in the lounge and watch the ocean as you play some card games!

    playing cards

    24. Pill OrganizerGreat for vitamins and other medications, but think beyond that!  These little boxes are wonderful for things like safety pins, travel sewing kit pieces, etc.  They also come in handy for kids’ crafts you might be packing for boredom busters.  Rainbow loom bands, beads, Shopkins and other little novelties will fit in these compartments.

    pill organizer

    25. Souvenirs It’s so easy to fall prey to pricey Disney gift shops.  Souvenir prices run steep so I like to bring souvenirs with us that I have gathered at clearance sales, consignment sales, etc in the months leading up to our trip!  Saves at TON of money and the kids are every bit as excited.  I found little figurines at Dollar Tree, along with a bunch of other character-laden merch.

    disney toys at dollar tree

    Copy this list and take it with you to the dollar store!

    1. Pirate Costume Accessories
    2. Ponchos
    3. Dry Erase Board
    4. Toothbrushes
    5. Glow Sticks
    6. Cups, Tumblers, Water Bottles
    7. Snack containers and plastic snack bags
    8. Popcorn containers
    9. Trash bags
    10. Plates and napkins
    11. Tissues, hand sanitzier, wet wipes
    12. Mesh laundry bags
    13. Batteries
    14. Bubbles
    15. Over-the-Door Hooks
    16. Travel bottles
    17. Earplugs
    18. Sponges and Washcloths
    19. Nightlights and flashlights
    20. First Aid Supplies
    21. Chapstick
    22. Reusable bags
    23. Playing cards
    24. Pill organizer
    25. Souvenirs

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    Dollar Store Disney Cruise Must Buys

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