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Saturday, December 30, 2017

My Portland Coffee Tour - Part 10

December's a lovely month to hit up coffee shops. Everyone's getting all cozied up with a hot beverage and working on their laptops or catching up with friends. I like to people watch while pretending to read emails, and also actually read emails and scroll through Facebook and Instagram

This might be the last coffee post of the year, but that doesn't mean it's the last coffee post for this blog. Absolutely not. I love coffee and I adore doing these posts, but I'll be bringing them to you from my travels as well. There's a coffee shop in Vegas called Illumilatte, and with it's punny name, I'll definitely be checking it out to tell you if I learn any secrets of the Illuminati or The Order of The Coffee or whatever else is going on in there. Here's where I've been visiting around Portland though:

Costello's Travel Caffe

I've been following them for a bit on Instagram. Their photos and reposts are lovely and, of course, I love their travel theme. When you place your order, they give you a little flag for your table instead of a number. I was Canada while I waited for my food and drink.

The inside and outside of Costello's actually has a lot of seating, unlike many of the coffee shops in the Portland area. They serve breakfast and lunch, pastries, and a variety of coffee drinks. I asked for a recommendation, letting them know I pretty much like anything with coffee and milk (or not milk), so the nice man at the counter suggested a double cortado ($3.50), which is basically a hot espresso cut with warm milk to cut the acidity, served in a larger shot glass. I also ordered a ham breakfast croissant ($7.50). While not cheap, was pretty fantastic and worth every penny. 

Costello's resembles a cute European cafe and even has travel videos playing to give you some inspiration. There are daily specials as well, like a soup of the day and a daily sandwich, so you really can't get sick of the menu, even if you tried. This is one of those shops that I'd take friends to, after enjoying a trip to the salt spa a few blocks away, or some unique shopping in the Hollywood District.

Saint Simon Coffee Company 

Sometimes you just find yourself a neighborhood gem. St. Simon is a tiny little shop that has warm woods and a cozy atmosphere. It feels like your typical hipster shop in Portland, but I didn't feel out of place there. I, again, asked for a recommendation and was prompted to get the Salted Caramel Latte ($5.00), as it was one of their seasonal specials. I also looked at their delicious pastries and had to take home a pumpkin apple hand pie ($4.25), because when else will I find such a thing?

While I waited, I looked around at this quaint little shop. Everyone looked so comfortable, even though seating is very limited. The minimalist look is working for them and everyone seemed to be a repeat customer. 

I enjoyed my coffee while walking back to my car and was so surprised by the flavor. It was kind of the perfect combo of salt and caramel, without being overpowered by either. Later in the day, I split the hand pie with Eric and was in love. So much so, that I may consider adding apples to my pumpkin pasties for our annual Harry Potter party. It gives it the sweetness that it needs and complements the taste of pumpkin perfectly in a way that butternut squash puree just can't do on its own. This shop knows how to pick a good pastry that isn't the run of the mill croissant or cookie that you can get at a dozen other shops 3 blocks away.

Edge Coffee

Eric found this shop and wanted to take me there on Small Business Saturday. And who am I to say no to coffee of any sort? I'm also always happy to help out a small business any time of year. Edge is actually in Beaverton (out in the Portland suburbs) and they use local roasters, Sauvie Island Coffee Company, for their beans. In fact, the beans we were getting were roasted only a few days before we showed up. That's fresh! You can't get that at many other shops in the area. 

We stopped by for breakfast, so picked up an English muffin breakfast sandwich and something unique to drink. I found it in The Cure ($5.30 for a large). This latte drink marries three types of chocolate - white chocolate, dark chocolate, Mexican chocolate - with cinnamon and orange zest. I couldn't make that up if I tried and I figured if nothing else, it would boost my immune system. 

The shop is large, but still feels intimate, with different types of seating around the dining area. You can also find local artwork on the walls for your enjoyment, and also for sale. The sandwich I ordered came heated up - The Lumberjack Breakfast sandwich ($4.75) has ham, cage-free eggs, and sharp cheddar on a multigrain muffin. It was really quite delicious, made by Molly's Grown to Eat of Seattle, that uses as much organic, sustainable and humanely-raised foods as possible from farmer co-ops local to them. So if you feel like nearly $5 for a breakfast sandwich is little high (I don't), feel good about spending a few extra pennies for good food from a good company. Since this place isn't too far from my house, I'll absolutely be back. 

Do you have a favorite coffee shop at home or from your travels that you think I should make a point to try? Please let me know in the comments!

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Looking Ahead to 2018

Can you believe that 2017 is already over? I can't. The year seems to have flown by and I've been looking forward to all the good that 2018 is going to have in store. As always, I like to look back at the past year and share some of my favorite pics of our travels.

This past year I ended up in Las Vegas three times and am looking forward to another trip (two, actually) soon. I'll be there in February and July and will hopefully bring you all some awesome travel goodies from my first visit.

In February, my mom and I took a trip to Vegas and did a bunch of sightseeing and eating. Because it wasn't hot, we were able to do more outdoor things than we had in the past. I took her to the Ethel M Chocolate Factory that Eric and I had only ever gotten to see the outside of. The cactus garden is a lot more pleasant when it's not 487 degrees outside.

We ate. A lot. My mom likes the options of a buffet, so there were quite a few plates that looked like this one (don't worry, there was also real food and vegetables).

Some of our outdoor things were taking a bus tour, wandering downtown and hitting up the Neon Museum. There was a lot of art on our short trip, which was awesome. You can't imagine how much free art is all over the city, so keep your eye out when you're wandering around outside.

On our annual July trip to Vegas, we had awesome foods as well. If you're eating crummy food in Sin City, you're definitely doing it wrong. We hit up my favorite coffee shop, Bad Owl Coffee for breakfast more than once. Their waffles are amazing and there are so many delicious coffees to choose from. If you're new, or you missed my last two or more posts on this excellent coffee shop, it's a magical little space that's Harry Potter themed. (See what I did there?) They are opening a second shop in Vegas in March and they also have espresso flights now that come in House colors. Guess who's getting that? 

Our friends found a great Mediterranean joint in a strip mall that we loved so much, we took family back later in the week. It was phenomenal and these stuffed squid were some of the best seafood I've ever had. It was perfect place for a family get together.

Before they had to go back home, our friends did a bit of sightseeing with us. I drove them downtown to check out the Container Park and happened to stumble upon this great free art bus tour sponsored by Lyft and Zappos to promote Las Vegas's downtown art showing called Life Is Beautiful. It was a sweet find for sure.

In October, we were supposed to head to St. Thomas, but the tragic hurricanes brought that to a screeching halt. We would have still gone to do disaster clean up had we still had a place to stay, but our resort was damaged as well and closed until sometime next year. So, after many calls, I was able to change my flights to a new destination. I'd strongly suggest getting travel insurance if you're ever going out of the country, even if it still counts as part of your country.

So, no St. Thomas, but we were able to spend the week in San Diego instead, which was almost just as good. We've never really been to San Diego before, making it a brand new destination for us. We hit up Legoland our first day, and if you've never been, it's really fun with or without kids (I assume, since we don't have any). Because most children are under 5, they have a very short attention span and lines are blessedly short, meaning you can get to a lot of rides in a day. 

This was our first time we've taken a train on vacation in the U.S. We didn't rent a car on this trip, so instead, we took the train to and from Carlsbad from San Diego to visit Legoland and then pretty much walked all over the city, because we were in the middle of it all.

Our vacation rental was right across the street from Balboa park, giving us easy access to all the activities and attractions inside. We hit up quite a few museums, the zoo, and eating establishments. It was an excellent week full of exercise to walk off all the delicious food we found, and seeing the city in a new way, interspersed with getting some insider tips from Uber drivers when we just couldn't walk anymore.

What did you love about your travels in 2017 or are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Have a Harry (Potter) Christmas

You didn't think that you'd get to the end of the year without another Harry Potter post, did you? Well, with my love of the Boy Who Lived, there's no way folks, especially after this last month. While in Vegas in July, we went to Potter Plays, which consisted of 6 mini plays based on fan fiction. It was short, but it was fun and affordable, which is where you're getting this cool fireplace main pic.

This is giving me strong Severus Snape vibes. I love it and the little Dobby is the cutest. This was the first time we'd gone downtown for a show and it was in a tiny theater that made it easy to see everything super close. Only about 100 audience members could fit. I loved it.

You probably already saw my Harry Potter party pics from August. It was a Quidditch World Cup theme, so everyone dressed as Wizards trying to look Muggle. It was hilarious. Here was my Portkey drop station.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time reading, crafting, planning and prepping. It was not disappointing though, except for my lack of chairs, which I have solved for this coming year - a Triwizard theme.

My goodie bags had mini pennants for cheering on their favorite QWC team, their Patronus, Leprechaun coins, the must-have chocolate frog, other candies, and a little something for home Divination.

Our guests got INTO this party and made it way more magical. I was told that my trivia was crazy hard (win!), people inhaled food and we raised money for the Harry Potter Alliance through fun Harry Potter merch raffles that I collected throughout the year. I even ended up with some gifts of my own in honor of Harry's day. My friends are amazing, you guys.

That brings us to December and Yule Ball. Another event put on by the wonderful people of the Harry Potter Alliance in Portland. I can't say enough good things about them, because they outdid themselves with this event and we're already looking forward to next year's Yule Ball. They raise money for various local charities, and they raised thousands of dollars for ChickTech and Girls Build, who teach girls to use technology and power tools respectively. How cool is that?

Tickets went on sale in September and sold out in a matter of days. Like 3 days. I knew it was going to be a hit, so I bought mine as soon as they went on sale as a birthday gift to myself. First round tickets included a sit-down feast. I didn't blink before handing over $75 a ticket. My money was going to charity and a fun time for myself. Once we arrived, I knew that I wasn't going to regret spending any of that money, or the money I spent at the bar or the money we spent at the raffle table.

We dressed as Slytherins, because they don't get enough love. We are a Ravenclaw (me) and a Hufflepuff, but are all for House unity/equality. I had another dress idea that was going to showcase my love of Ravenclaw House, but it fell through, so I put together something quickly that matched Eric and I can't even tell you how many compliments I got on this skirt that had a tulle overlay that I pinned twinkling lights under. It was so easy, but made a big impact. I'd definitely wear it again for other events.

To top it all off, I won this amazing raffle prize that matched my look. It's a Slytherin fascinator hat, a green wrap and a set of lovely perfumes inspired by Slytherin House. What an awesome birthday gift, right? 

But wait! I forgot to talk about the food! It was so good, I can't even explain it. I really felt like I was at the Hogwarts feast: Roast beef (eat your heart out, Ron), roasted potatoes, a winter vegetable salad, warm couscous, a green salad and hot buttered rolls. Everything was served family style, so we spent time eating and chatting with those at our table, oohing and aahing over everyone's magical outfits. It was a good time, and people went all out dressing for this event. I was so happy with all the eye candy. After dinner, we all noshed on Butterbeer cupcakes, because yaaaaasss! I even had an adult Butterbeer during dinner. How can you not?

And now for the crowning jewel of my birthday month. I've been wanting a tattoo for at least a decade, but had no idea what I would love forever. I turned 40 this year. That's a milestone, so I knew this was the year. And I finally knew what I wanted it to be. Behold my new Elder wand. I still can't believe I did it, but I'm so happy with it. I have a genuine wand arm now.

And that's been my life this year. Now I'm looking forward to 2018, where there will be another Harry Potter party, Yule Ball, possible Potter Con, and that Harry Potter festival in Pennsylvania. There will be more visits to Bad Owl Coffee - they'll have a new location in March - in Vegas, too. I can't wait and I'll definitely be sharing it with you all. Happy Holidays to everyone and I hope you have a 2018 full of awesome travel in your future.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Verizon Has This Year's Hot Gifts

Are you still looking for the perfect gift to put under the tree this year? There are still a few days to go and Verizon wants to help you out with some of the most-wanted gifts of the year, which you can order online for shipping or pick up at your nearest Verizon store. As a current customer, I know how awesome they are, but if you aren't, you should know that Verizon’s network gives customers the broadest coverage, best speeds, and unsurpassed reliability.

So, let's look at two of this season's must-have phones that can work for the electronic lover on your list. Both have the most advanced messaging and photo capabilities, so they'll be at the top of their phone game and the envy of everyone.

Samsung Galaxy S8 

The hubs has the S7 and loves it. He's a firm Samsung user and he has a lot of fun with his phone. This new version is even better. The Samsung Galaxy S8 has a 5.8-inch infinity screen so you can watch movies and shows while on the go on the world’s first HDR-certified smartphone display. It has a VR app that lets you watch any video in virtual reality when you have the VR headset. The older version only allows you to do this with Netflix streaming. 

The screen on this phone is bright and vibrant and the menus are simple for me to use, which is saying something, because I am a Motorola girl and they tend to work a bit different, making it difficult to move from one to the other. I like the additional features this phone comes equipped with: video making and editing, texting that allows you to draw on the screen, a huge battery (3000 mAh) that gives you even more talk and play time, as well as split screen ability - perfect for those working on-the-go.

Are they a budding photographer or just use their phone as their main camera? Samsung Galaxy S8 and Bixby, Samsung’s new intelligent interface, makes taking pictures even more fun. With Bixby Vision, Galaxy S8's camera isn't just better, it's smarter. Just point your camera and Bixby will recognize landmarks, and even translate text. Gone are the days of grainy phone photos, the 12MP camera will take crisp, clear pics they'll want to share. Their travels aren't just going to be cool, are going to be freaking amazing! They won't even miss their traditional camera, especially considering how easily they can take, store and share pics, plus the phone itself is easy to hold, even for those of us with smaller hands.

If you buy an S8 now, you can get a second one for free! 

Moto Z2 Play

I have the previous Moto Z Play that allows for Moto Mods, which I have not upgraded to yet. I accidentally washed my phone before that and needed something right away. I wasn't sold on the large size, because my hands are small and I do actually use my phone to make phone calls. It didn't take much time for me to adore it though and I kind of can't wait to get this next version.

This is the phone you need when on the move. Get up to 30 hours on a single charge and receive 8 hours of power in just 15 minutes with TurboPower™ charging. Who wants to wait forever for their phone to charge? Especially if you're traveling and need it for navigation, communication and entertainment. 

You know that I'm constantly taking photos everywhere I go. It's hard to share crap, blurry photos to social media and my blog, but this phone doesn't have that issue. A 12MP camera with laser autofocus and dual pixel technology lets you take faster, clearer pictures, so you don’t miss the moment. Want to take awesome selfies, too? Brighten up your subject with a front and back flash. It's a great way to get a clear pic during those low-light holiday parties. 

And while you can't prevent the weather and rain happens, the Moto Z2 Play is a hardy phone for all occasions. It features an elegant aluminum unibody construction for a premium look and feel. For any potential travel water hazards, the phone is protected with a water-repellant nano-coating to help protect against splashes and weather. It won't help when you accidentally throw your phone in the washing machine (don't do that), but it will still allow you to text and photograph your life if rain happens or you're tromping through the rainforest.

Either of these phones would be welcomed by just about anyone on your holiday list, but Verizon also has other selections, including the new iPhone and the Ionic Fitbit, which not only tracks your exercise and fitness goals, but stores a ton of music, acts as a watch, has built-in GPS and personal coaching. Keep on top of those new year's resolutions, so you look and feel your best and fit into that awesome swimsuit on your next vacay. 

We've traveled the world with our Verizon phones. They have wonderful international plans and you can switch to one when you go outside the country in order to keep your phone number and not have to mess with limited minutes and other country mobile plans. This makes one less thing to stress out about when traveling. 

Verizon even has accessories for all your gear, including phone cases, headphones and those mods that go with both of these phones. If you don't get what you want on Christmas morning, head over to the store and get your own. You won't be sorry. 

Want to shop these gifts and more? 
Find them on the Verizon site or you local store. You can even order online and pick up in store!
How much are they? The Samsung Galaxy S8: from $31.50/month | The Moto Z2 Play: From just $10/month

Just love Verizon and want to follow them everywhere? 
Check them out on Facebook and Twitter

Disclaimer: Verizon loaned me the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Moto Z2 Play for the purposes of this review, but all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Last-Minute Holiday Travel Tips

The holidays are almost upon us and that means many people will be flying or driving to destinations to see friends and family. Luckily, all our immediate family lives in town, so we don't have to go anywhere to get our jolly on. We do skip the making of a big holiday dinner in favor of going to the local-ish casino buffet on Christmas day and we do a potluck for the get together on Christmas Eve, so we have a pretty laid back couple of days to look forward to.

If you're traveling, you probably want a few tips to make sure you don't lose your mind, either on the way there or once you've arrived.

Pack light

Your family knows what you look like. Pack only the essentials and mix and match if you can. That way you don't have to pay baggage fees and potentially have your luggage get lost. Here's how to do it, even for winter

If you're trying to also pack gifts, I'd suggest small ones that aren't wrapped that you can wrap or bag when you arrive (paper and bags are easy to stash in the bottom of your carry-on or in a side pocket). TSA won't always let wrapped gifts through, and you'll be mad if you spent all your time on wrapping and they rip it open. If you don't mind paying, shipping them ahead works too, and is still probably cheaper than baggage fees. 

Bring a back-up bag

When coming back from the holidays, you're probably going to have more than you started with. Throw a back-up bag in your carry-on that you can then bring those back with you on the plane. I have several different ones that work to carry purchases I've made when traveling. I love this full-size bag (which will fit under the airplane seat) and also this bright tote bag. Both can be packed away and are sturdy enough to hold a large load of goodies.

Pack electronic and tangible entertainment

Whether that be books, magazines, card games or whatever. Bring a small selection of things that aren't digital, because you never know what can happen on your travels and batteries don't last forever. That said, don't forget your chargers and a small power strip. A portable back-up battery is also a lifesaver. 

Be chill

Count to 10. Go to your happy place. Get to the airport 3 hours early and have a drink at the bar. Whatever you need to do, but please don't take out your stress and crankiness on everyone else. These times are hard on everyone. The security and flight crew don't need to get yelled at for no reason. There's only such much within their control too, so chill out and sit down and try to ask yourself if it's really that important. Smile at others and maybe the holiday spirit will spread.

Also bring snacks

I get cranky and mean if I don't eat. It's not often, because I get to the airport early and eat there and am prepared for my flight. I always have snacks though, because you never know. Being hangry can be avoided, which is why I bring more food than shoes when I travel. Snag a bottle of water once you're through security too, because being dehydrated can lead to getting sick, and that sucks worse than being hungry.

Look for Lyft/Uber promo codes

If you've not used either of these car sharing services before, then you can probably sign up with a hefty promo added to your account. Make those I-gotta-get-out-of-this-house-and-away-from-family trips a little cheaper and less guilt inducing.

When you simply need to release your cabin fever, splurge on a city scavenger hunt like Stray Boots or Urban Adventure Quest. This is great for kids that have all that pent up energy too.

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Get a tune up

Are you driving to your destination? Millions of people are. If you'll be driving your own car, then make sure it's safe for the road before you go. Right now, many mechanics are running specials for road-worthiness. It's very important. 

The holidays can be stressful, but that doesn't mean you can't make the best of it. If you want to be even more prepared, download some of these great apps to your phone and then plan, plan, plan, but assume things may not go as you expect.

Are you all set for your holiday travels?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Give Them the Gift of Style With Visionworks

I'm just gonna say it. I love sunglasses. I routinely have between 2-4 pair at any given time. They are all good pairs from good brands that I like. Perhaps you have someone on your holiday list that is like me. They enjoy being stylish and not having to squint wherever they go. If that sounds like someone you know, then Visionworks has you covered. Whether you're looking for just a straight-forward pair of shades or ones that have prescription lenses, there are styles for everyone.

Visionworks has a ton of brand name frames to choose from and I chose these black Guess frames with rhinestones, because sparkly! The black is classic and goes with everything, and they style is on the larger side, so they don't let any sun in on the sides. I love that! A good pair of sunnies is really important for eye health and perfect for at home and on vacation. Look awesome in all those sunshine-y travel pics!

If that traveler on your list is always heading off to the beach or bright locales, they might just love to find a new pair of shades under the tree this year. Each pair comes in a lovely box and has a nice soft case to keep them in when you aren't wearing them and avoid any scratches from being thrown around in your carry-on, purse, pocket or glovebox. They have styles for men and women, as well as kids, so nobody is left out. A good pair of sunglasses can last for years, even if they're prescription, because the lenses can just be replaced. Get them ones they'll be excited to wear each time the sun makes an appearance (and even on slightly cloudy days if they are light-sensitive like I am). 

This pair I have make the light more bearable, but also make things easier to see and focus on. These aren't the only Guess style that Visionworks stocks either, so go check out their website, or a nearby location, to browse the others they have to choose from. Perhaps they're more suited for a pair of Nike specs, or Nine West (which my regular glasses our and I adore), or even Lacoste. There's something in every price range, too!

I won't say these that I picked out were cheap. They weren't, but for someting you're going to use nearly every day, they are worth the money. And again, Visionworks accommodates all budgets and you can easily find a pair of shades for under $100. 

Not sure what to buy? Use the Visionworks website to choose the frame shape, face shape, or even the style, like business, trendy or sporty. Buying for yourself? Schedule an appointment online and get one-on-one help in-store, or just walk into your local branch.

While you may only have a few days left to find the perfect gift, anyone on your list is sure to appreciate this stylish and practical choice. While my pair cost $180, you can find a pair for as little as $90. You can't beat good eye care! Visit Visionworks now.

Want to connect with Visionworks elsewhere? 
Get social on Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest

Disclaimer: I was provided with this pair of sunnies by Visionworks for the purposes of this review, but all opinions are my own.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Swago: Holiday Shopping Edition Is Back! (US)

The holidays are here and the online rewards site Swagbucks has a smart and fun way for you to earn and save while you spend. 

Swagbucks is hosting another round of Shopping Swago! What is SWAGO you ask? It's a bingo-inspired promotion run by Swagbucks, a website that rewards you with points (called SB) for completing everyday online activities. You can redeem those SB for free gift cards. If you've never used Swagbucks, participating in SWAGO is a great introduction to the site and an easy way to earn a good amount of points quickly.  

Here’s what you need to know to get your 300 SB ($3) Bonus (and don’t worry, you don’t have to make a purchase to complete a pattern):
  • Shop Swago will begin on Monday, December 18th at 9am PT/12pm ET, make sure you hit “Join” otherwise you won’t get credit for completing the action items. Each square on your Swago Board will contain an action item to complete.
  • Once you complete the action item in a particular square the square will change color signifying the action item is complete.
  • You have a limited amount of time to mark off as many squares as possible so use your time wisely.
  • Be mindful of the patterns and their corresponding bonuses located on the right of your Swago Board. The patterns will vary in difficulty and bonus value - up to 300 SB - enough for your first $3 gift card.
  • Once you’ve achieved a pattern the corresponding “Submit” button will light up. You can have multiple patterns available for submission, however, you can only submit ONE pattern so choose wisely.
  • The game ends Friday, December 22nd at 12pm PDT/3pm EDT. So make sure to hit “Submit” on the pattern you wish to submit. If you don’t hit “Submit” before the game ends you won’t receive your SB bonus. 
Use your Swagbucks to get gift cards you can use on travel or to make your travel better, like for buying new items on Amazon to take with you. You can also earn Swagbucks when you  book travel and make purchases for your trips and everyday (like last-minute holiday gifts!). So, you're saving double and working on making your vacations more affordable!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

How to Survive Plane Travel with Kids

Traveling with your kids can be really rewarding, but it can also be stressful, especially when stuck for hours on a plane with nowhere for them to play and having to convince them to sit still. You need to start planning for your stint on the plane before you even leave your house. You don't need to pack a ton of stuff to keep kids entertained and busy on a plane, so don't resign yourself to splurging on baggage fees already. I mean, you've already shelled out all the money to fly to your destination, so let's look at how to make it as painless as possible.

Tell Them What to Expect

Kids are super-adaptable, but it does help to explain things to them. Traveling is kinda weird when you think about it. You stand in line to go through security, where people judge you and look at all your stuff, then you wait to get herded into a big metal room, where you strap yourself in and the air pressure is all funky and makes your ears hurt on occasion. It's sort of like being in the car, but with 200 other people and you can't get out because you need to stretch your legs. Crazy, right? Explain to your kids what they'll be expecting, and more than once. It's better for them to be excited that they're flying than for them to be freaked out and hate every second of your journey. Not only will you also hate it, so will everyone on the airplane.

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Pack Snacks

Remember that meltdown that happened that one time when your kid was hungry and you didn't have any food in your bag? Imagine that 100 times worse, because you can't pop into 7-11 for almonds or a granola bar and all the airplane food that may or may not be available for purchase is $8. When you're bored, food can be distracting. Pack healthy things they'll eat, like cheese and crackers, fruit, nuts and cereal. Don't forget the beverages either, because having to wait for the drink cart to come around can suck, especially when you're "sooooooo thirsty!" You know how it is. Kids don't want it until they can't have it and then everything is dire. Either bring a bottle that you can fill up once you get through security or snag a few drinks before boarding. You'll be glad you did. (Don't forget the gum!)

Pack Games

There's nothing better to distract your child(ren) than to make the time fly by. Games are a great way to do that. Pack a something they like and then a few other things that are a surprise, like some awesome card games. Depending on their age, this can be anything from Zigity and Old Maid to Fluxx and Uno. I have several travel games that I find fun, but perhaps your kid(s) loves Battleship or Guess Who, or maybe something more sophisticated like Yahtzee or Bananagrams. No matter what, bring an average of three games, so you can cycle through them. Coloring books, electronic games and even plain notebook paper are great ideas, too.

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Bring Your Tablet

Kids are super tech-savvy now. If yous are too, then make sure you load up your tablet with games, videos and books they'll love. A long flight can fly by when they have everything they need at their fingertips. Don't forget a back-up battery to keep it charged and headphones, because as happy as everyone will be that your kids are entertaining themselves, they'll be less happy if they have to hear Dora the Explorer at full blast, because that's how your little one likes to watch it. 

Let Them Pack a Bag For Themselves

Everyone's entitled to a carry-on, and that goes for kids. Their little clothes can be packed into your carry-on, because they don't take up that much space. Allow them to bring stuff they love (within reason) on their trip in a little backpack or a fun roller bag. Even if it's just full of stuffed animals, Legos or play food, they'll feel more comfortable having that piece of home with them and they'll have something to play with on the ride if they want. In fact, here's an awesome way to pack and store Legos when you travel. (You know, so you don't have to pick up 500 of them off the airplane floor.)

Fly Really Early or Really Late

Don't fly when your kids are bound to be super cranky. You won't make any friends that way and you'll just get more stressed out. Fly really early when your kids are bright-eyed and bushy tailed. They'll be happier and excited for the day. Your other option is to fly really late when they will be asleep and can miss most of the flying time. Put them in their PJs (because this is the only time it is acceptable to wear nightclothes on a plane) and bring along a travel blanket and their pillow. 

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Stay On a Schedule

If your kids are used to doing certain things at a certain time (i.e. nap or eat), make sure you stay on that schedule, even if you have to do it in a different setting. Bring the things they have to have to do those things, like I've listed above. You'll be more likely to avoid a meltdown when they're tired or hungry and they'll feel a lot more comfortable, even though they aren't somewhere they're used to.

When you travel with your kids on the plane, how do you make it more fun for everyone involved?
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