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Travel Memory Suitcase

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A fun little travel project tonight:

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now, and I finally aligned my brain’s “I’m gonna…” with my efforts.

With excitement brewing for some late summer Michigan adventures, we have good incentive to get this suitcase project done. I’ve always loved the idea of kids having a special suitcase of their own for trips to grandparents’ house or family vacations, and I’m all over any project that involves preserving memories.

1: I found a nice vintage hardtop suitcase on Etsy (try eBay too–happened to find a better deal on Etsy this time).

2: I went to Zazzle.com and searched for postcards from every city in which my kids have had travel adventures. I was so pleased with their selection of cities and the collection of postcards for each, especially the retro styles. Postcards averaged around $1 a piece, and they arrived within a few days.

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3. Did a little trial and error here. The postcards were too thick to adhere nicely to the curves of the suitcase. I had the brilliant idea of scanning all of them and printing them on sticker paper, adhering them to the suitcase like travel labels and then Mod Podge’ing over them (to weatherproof it). I ended up having to brush Mod Podge underneath the labels as well as on top of them to keep them from bubbling. So final advice: Scan postcards and print on regular bright white photo quality paper. Use matte Mod Podge to adhere them to the suitcase, and brush the Mod Podge on top to seal them.

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We added some polaroid-like prints of photos from our travels and placed each near its postcard counterpart. We covered both sides of our suitcase, leaving spaces to add more adventures as we travel.

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This little suitcase makes me smile.

So did our Father’s Day, spent all day on the beach with friends.

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Blue skies to you and you and you.

A Travel Ramble

The first rule of travel, especially when kids are involved, is that you cannot come home from a continental jaunt without stories.  I’m not just talking adventurous oh-the-things-we-saw kind of stories.  Those are, of course, inevitable.  I’m talking funny stories–the ones you’re not thrilled about as they’re happening but rather come to appreciate them later for their humor, their memories and their ability to keep it real–as if we need more of that around here.  Let’s begin by stating some facts.  We’re not exactly savvy travelers, even though before trips I envision our family sauntering through airports in chic travel attire and wheeling beautiful luggage behind us.  “Oh, what’s that, TSA agent?  You need my identification?  Why, of course, let me just pull out my passport from this vintage Italian leather passport clutch.”

No, we are the modern day Griswolds.  We tote broken, beat-up suitcases, we drag blankets, we take our shoes off for security only to be mortified by the state of our socks underneath.  We walk through terminals, oblivious to the fact that people are chasing us down, alerting us that we dropped a bottle, a boarding pass, a baby shoe and half a bag of Doritos three gates back.  Phone chargers dangle from our carry-on pockets and zippers never fail to break as we’re frantically trying to shove clothes into our suitcases, shifting the balance to avoid overweight luggage charges.  This will change as “Become cool savvy traveler and purchase fabulous luggage” just moved up several notches on the bucket list. However, I can say our kids are very good on flights, and we are proud to flaunt that fact given it’s about the only thing we have going for us when we travel.  They are ridiculously good–quiet, calm and happy for hours on end.  I’m so proud of them. 

So stories…

Well, the best I have is that the airport escalator almost pulled my pants off when we arrived in San Diego.  And I realize that “almost” completely robs this story’s “story-ness” because–my, what a tale I’d have to tell if it really happened.  But, for a moment I was sure it was going to as my hands were too full to hoist my very draggy pant legs up only three stairs away from the pants-eating edge of the down escalator.  I balanced my kid and my bags while I strategized my jump, all the while telling myself,  “You are about to lose your pants…in an airport full of people.”   But it didn’t happen, so moving on.

I will share images and thoughts from Everybody Plays on Monday.  San Diego’s Fox 5 News did a great story on the event which you can view here.  It was wonderful to meet so many families with children of all abilities and unique things that make them beautiful.  I am inspired and motivated by the events of this week, and I can’t wait to share more.

Yesterday, after a few days of fulfilling work, Brett and the girls and I explored the city a bit, checking off only a couple stops on our must-see list but completely enjoying a relaxing end to our visit.  We walked the Ocean Beach Pier in the morning, stopping to watch the surfers and take in the view that is so different from our own beach–bigger waves, denser sand and a backdrop of breathtaking hills.

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We continued on to La Jolla where Brett’s built-in Mexican Restaurant GPS directed him to Jose’s on Prospect where we sat under open windows, ate fat burritos and talked about future trips we’ll take someday.

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Brett taught Nella this catchy dance where you put your fingers in the air and say “Ooo, ooo, ooo.” It’s her go-to trick for making us laugh.

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We walked up and down streets, stopping for cappuccino and gelato, admiring art, sampling lotions in soap shops, taking pictures, and watching our girls be silly and inquisitive and entertained by new sights.  This is my favorite way of traveling–making agendas in the morning but allowing lots of cushion for change of plans, staying in one place and leisurely drinking up the hidden gems of a city.

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La Jolla was perfect for hidden gems.  Like an impromptu rendevous with new friends (I met Jora through Instagram, and her family is just lovely)…

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…and some seal watching at a rocky cove.

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And then it happened–the unicorn moment. I walked the girls down to the beach to get a little closer to the cliff where the seals were lounging.  We were listening to them bark and watching from a distance while they rolled around the edge of the cliff when a boy yelled, “MOM!  A seal!  A seal!” as he bolted from the water.  A seal flopped right up on the beach and slowly waddled toward us and stopped (okay, I’m getting comments that it’s a sea lion). Yes, holy shellacked gourd, sweet mother of cornucopia, freaking corn husk garland!

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Our day was highlighted last night with a return to The Station Tavern where friends from the week’s events gathered at picnic tables under strands of twinkly lights and enjoyed burgers and beer and good conversation–a perfect end to our stay.

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We are home, feeling fulfilled and grateful to visit new places and meet new people. Have a wonderful weekend. I have a couple broken suitcases to attend to.

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Friday Faves: Summer Road Trip Guide for Kids

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We finished The Marathon Week–also known as the last week of school–ending with a sleepover last night that included Lainey’s list of “37 Things I Want to Do at Our Sleepover.” Needless to say, I need a nap. We have a few more weeks of Florida fun before we head north to see family, but we’re already planning our road trip which brings me to today’s Friday Faves–our family favorites for car entertainment and convenience on long trips. I made this old road trip guide a few years ago for what still remains as my favorite road trip of all time. Every time I watch this old movie from the trip, I feel all the feels again.

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We do bring iPads and screen entertainment on long trips, but we switch them up a lot with games, drawing and screen breaks because, frankly, we all get bored and tired of screens. Our hittin’ the road favorites this year:

 

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1. We love the Doodle Books series (Boys Doodle Book, Girls Doodle Book) which give kids lots of creative ideas and starters for illustrations. Lainey loves to draw but sometimes gets stuck in the dog/princess/palm tree/flower rut and can’t think of anything else to draw. This book takes care of the rest. A few people asked about the illustrations on my last post and what drawing resources we use. Our most used drawing books are  20 Ways to Draw a Dress for clothes and accessories (series by the same author, Julia Kuo, also includes 20 Ways to Draw a Shoe and 20 Ways to Draw a Tulip) and Let’s Draw Happy People by Sachiko Umoto–both authors are great for kids and adults alike. We use several different brands of art supplies, but I’ve found a great inexpensive line at Michael’s called The Artist Loft. We use their watercolor colored pencils, watercolor paints, chalks, brushes and drawing pads, and most are sold in $5 packs.

2. Kids Thermos. We’ve done the water bottle, juice box, sippy cup–you name it–route on trips, but our best solution has been giving each kid an insulated Thermos for the trip. Everything stays cold, it’s easy to keep track of, no trash to clutter the car, we end up using them later for school lunches (so it’s a good investment), and I can refill them as needed. I bring one small cooler on road trips for milk/water/juice.

3. Mad Libs On the Road. These are a great way to be part of the car games, even if you’re driving. The kids can ask for your answers, fill the stories in and read them out loud from the backseat, brushing up on some language arts skills while they’re playing. Result? Hilarious. I remember Mad Libs when I was a kid. We tried to use as inappropriate words as possible to make the stories funny and then put names of people from our church in them. It was basically a giant rotation of Pastor Pat/Deacon Russ/Brother Bob completing sentences with butt/bra/poop/toot. Toot’s as bad as it gets when you’re a 12-year-old sheltered homeschool girl. And yes, everyone was referred to as Deacon, Brother or Sister. Sometimes I have to stop myself from addressing Brett as “Brother Brett”. Mind games.

4. Find It Games. This will keep ’em busy forever. Tiny treasures are hidden inside this tightly-packed cylinder, and you have to spin it, shake it and twist it to reveal them one by one as you cross off your search list.

5. Hershel Backpack. Instead of dragging suitcases in hotels every night as we make our way north, I pack the things we’ll need for overnight in a backpack so that we can easily make our way in and out of stops. This is especially helpful if we arrive late at night and are carrying sleepy kids in. It also works great for day excursions along the way.

6. Kids U.S. Road Trip Atlas by National Geographic. This kid-friendly activity guide is full of fun facts and information about each state, maps, photos and games that not only entertain kids but teach them some history and geography while you travel.

7. Hardback Blank Books. Stock up! These versatile blank books have so many purposes. Kids can write and illustrate their own stories with them or use them to document their travel adventures. Decorate the cover, tape photos of your trip on the inside pages and add fun travel stickers to transform it into a road trip scrapbook.

8. Fuji Instax Mini Camera. A great kid camera with instant gratification–pictures that print out as soon as you take them. Kids can document their own favorite memories from the road trip and use the above blank book to preserve it all.

9. Road Trip Stickers ( 3-D fun ones from Jolee’s Boutique or these road sign ones) for your scrapbook

10. Cheap flip-flops. On long drives, my kids kick off their shoes and get comfortable. When we’re stopping to quickly use the restroom or grab food and the backseat’s covered with pillows and blankets and travel games, it’s nice to have flip-flops stuffed in the seat pockets for a quick grab-and-run so we aren’t frustrated searching for that one lost sandal. These cute stars & stripes ones from Old Navy are only $3.

11. Travel Lap Desk This one folds and stores flat plus the lid lifts up to store crayons, books, etc. Last year, we got cheaper ones from Joann’s that worked great but didn’t fold up or store things. Either way, it’s nice to have a lap desk for coloring and games or to use as a tray for meals on the go.

12. License Plate Game. We had so much fun with this last summer, and the game is so well made with attached pieces that won’t get lost. It’s a great way for kids to learn some US geography and a fun challege to pass the time.

13. Travel Scavenger Hunt. Another fun way to involve everyone in the car. We used these cards on our Tampa Spring Break trip this year, and it was a blast–searching out cars to find a dog, a person with red hair, someone singing while they drive. :o)

14. Pass the Pigs. It’s kind of like Yatzee, but simplified with cute pigs. One of our family’s favorites–even the little kids can roll and keep score–Pass the Pigs is an easy game to play in the car (you’ll need that lap desk or something flat to roll the pigs on).

Hitting the road this summer? Have any lifesavers that have made your travels with kids easier? Do share.

And Happy Friday!