Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Tag: travel

Parents: Taking Time For Yourself

I just returned from a three-night, four-day girls’ trip to Breckenridge, CO. We had a lot of fun, from sightseeing on Mt. Evans to dog sledding with a golf cart, from Oktoberfest to a winery with an incredible view–we laughed and relaxed; and each one of us took time for ourselves. We are all moms. Some of us are single; some of us are married. I am the only one with a young child; one mom has a special needs son, and others have teenagers, college students, and young adults. All of us have busy lives and jobs, but we made it happen. We took the time for ourselves.

The dog sled adventure

I’m not going to tell you it was easy or without guilt. I had a bit of guilt before I left about how I was taking this trip as a single parent, and two of the nights were my nights with my daughter. The guilt grew worse when KT had a meltdown on the phone with me the second night; and when I called her from the airport on my way home, she was teary eyed and wanted me home right now. My mom’s commentary on how miserable KT was also didn’t help. Grandmas hate to see their grandchildren teary-eyed.

I’m still glad I did it, though; but for a while, I doubted myself. Luckily, my friends are amazing.

One said: You have to let her figure out how to navigate life without you always there. You have to prepare her for the tough stuff. If you don’t, and life gets tough, she will have no idea what to do. (How about that for a smart, great friend?)

Another said: Everybody has to refuel. Everyone does it. There’s nothing wrong with taking care of yourself, mentally and physically, so you are stronger and better for your daughter. (Exactly!)

And there was a handsome police officer…

I mean–this is free advice I got, and I am now sharing it with you. 🙂

KT and I both survived, and the next day when we were together, it was even more special. We appreciated each other more. We hugged a lot, and we told each other how much we loved and missed each other. That is very special and just an extra bonus of going on a fun trip with my friends and also having a beautiful daughter!

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Family Fun in Fort Worth

Contributed article

If you’re looking for an interesting place to take a vacation with the family in the US, Fort Worth, Texas, might not be your first, second or even third thought, but it is actually a great place for family fun.

Just take a look at these amazing family-friendly attractions that are located in the area to see why it’s a great choice when you have kids in tow:

Forest Park Miniature Railroad

For some reasons, kids just love trains, and they’re sure to love the Forest Park Miniature railroad, which has been entertaining families since 1959. When you hop onboard the mini-train for a fun-filled five-mile round trip through the Trinity Park and TCU Zoo area, you’ll be treated to spectacular views the whole family can appreciate.

SeaQuest Interactive Aquarium

The SeaQuest Interactive Aquarium In Fort Worth is an attraction not to be missed thanks to its distinct family vibe and the over 300 species of interesting marine life, exotic animals and tropical birds, many of which you can get up close and personal with. Educational and fun-filled, this is one attraction that, once visited, you will never forget.

Fort Worth Museum of Science and History

Image source

The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History was set up to provide amazing learning experiences for people of all ages. Within its impressive castle-like walls, you’ll find the awe-inspiring Noble Planetarium, where you can explore the expansive cosmos at leisure; the DinoDig, where you can dig for fossils, like a great archaeologist; and the Omni Theater, which has its own immersive IMAX Dome to spark the imagination and teach you about the mysteries of science and history.

Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge

If your kids are animal lovers, they’re sure to enjoy a trip to the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge, which not only goes a long way to creating the Fort Worth of times gone by with its prairies, wetlands and forests, but which is also home to some pretty special animals, including imposing brown bears. You can hike the 26,000 acres (probably not all of it) at your own leisure, immersing yourselves in the beauty of nature on one of the many fantastic hiking trails within the Center.

Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame

Image source

The Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame is sure to be a winner with little boys, in particular. This museum of sorts is dedicated to preserving the memory of the state’s finest cowboys and cowgirls who were amazing at rodeo sports, ranching and basically being tough ole Texans. Of particular interest is the collection of Old West wagons and the Exploratorium, where children can learn a few cowboy skills of their own.

Fort Worth Zoo

Kids love zoos, and the Fort Worth Zoo will not disappoint them with its collection of exotic animals, including primates, rhinos and lesser flamingoes! You can easily spend the whole day here and never get bored.

Fort Worth really is a kid’s paradise. It’s wild, informative, and most importantly lots of fun. The little ones will love it.

Photo at the top from Flickr here.

 

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A Lesson for The First Time at the Ocean: Get to the Root Problem

This summer, Katie and I went on a fabulous little trip to visit one of my best friends, who has a condo in Ocean City, Maryland. And this was Katie’s first time to see the ocean. It was her first time on a beach. It was her first time to go into the ocean. And it was the least favorite part of her trip.

How can this be? I love the ocean. I receive energy and rejuvenation from the sound of the waves and the seagulls. The air feels crisp; and in spite of the sand, which I grant you can be an annoyance, I love the way it feels at the ocean.

And the first night, Katie did, too.

Ironically, there was a storm rolling in, and we only had a few minutes for the girls to play, but this was by far her favorite experience at the ocean.

The next day, when the storm had rolled on through and it was bright and sunny, we were in a different spot on the beach, the waves crested quite high, and they knocked her right off her feet. She didn’t like it. But somehow I convinced her, rather easily, that the next day, nearer to the condo, it would be better, and so she trusted me and stayed excited to go in the ocean.

I probably don’t have to tell you that the next day, nearer to the condo, the waves knocked her over again; and this time, she was done. She had a full-fledged “I hate the beach” meltdown, and I couldn’t get her to do anything. I couldn’t get her to stop crying. I couldn’t get her to walk on the beach and look for seashells. I couldn’t get her to wiggle her toes in the sand or build a sandcastle. The only thing she wanted to do was leave the beach. Luckily, we were only 5 minutes from the condo, so we could easily do this; and after I tried and failed, that’s what we did.

But I was angry. This is not one of my best parenting moments. I didn’t want to leave the beach. I had been waiting for months (since we made these plans) to jump in the ocean with her and experience this with her. I had been waiting to enjoy one of the places I love that I don’t get to visit often, living in the Midwest, and I was ready to relax. None of that happened, and so most of my anger came from frustration that things didn’t work out the way I expected them to.

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! 

Once I calmed down and she did, too, I realized that I wished I would have handled the situation differently. It turns out her meltdown mostly came from fear–she was scared of the ocean. And let’s face it, the ocean is a big, scary place, where a lot can go wrong. And my anger wasn’t anger at her not enjoying the ocean, it was that I was disappointed it didn’t all go as planned–and that, my friends, seems to be where a lot of our anger and unhappiness comes from all the time.

When we decided to be parents, we also decided that a little person is in our care, and their needs come before ours. I made the right decision, of course, to take her back when she wouldn’t calm down, but I wished I would have found out sooner how she was reasoning and how scared she was, and maybe everything would have worked out differently. Maybe I could have convinced her to look for some seashells with me and had a contest to find the biggest or prettiest one.

So what did I learn? First, I learned that my daughter (and probably a lot of your children, too) have a reason for their behavior. Most of the time, they are not difficult for the sake of being difficult. They are scared, tired, hungry, worried, and so on. And if you can get to the root of the problem, maybe you can diffuse the situation somewhat by taking care of that root problem. Second, I have to watch my expectations. I am dealing with a six-year-old, super smart, strong-willed, beautiful child, and she is not going to like the same things I do. I don’t have to sacrifice everything I like because she might not, but I do have to be realistic in that some things adults just like better than kids.

It all goes more smoothly when I let go of expectations and just be.

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Nashville: A Surprisingly Family Friendly Vacation Spot

Contributed post

Straddling the Cumberland River in North Tennessee, Nashville has rightly earned its reputation as a thriving musical hub. The very name is synonymous with country music, gaudy neon, whiskey and downtown’s infamous status as one of the country’s premier party spots. It may not be the first place your subconscious mind would rush to when it comes to an ideal spot for a family vacation. But if you look beyond the shot swilling, guitar strumming Nashvillian stereotypes , you’ll find a whole lot to recommend as one of America’s most family friendly locations.

Image by Pixabay

Nashville has a surprising array of family friendly, fun and educational attractions that are ideally suited to moms, dads and kids of all ages. Here are just a few of the family friendly activities with which you can fill your Nashville Days:

Free Puppet Shows at the Nashville Public Library

If you have young children and a limited budget, then here’s a fun activity that’s completely free. Nashville Public Library is not only the perfect place for imaginative kids to lose themselves in the magical world of books, they also host a range of fun and imaginative puppet shows based on popular kids’ stories that are perfect for kids of all ages.

Experience the Musical “Petting Zoo” at The Country Music Hall of Fame

Whether they’re a little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n’ roll or a little bit hip hop, musically gifted kids can literally get a feel for the music biz by trying out a huge range of new and familiar musical instruments. Aside from its ubiquitous Johnny Cash Museum, The Country Music Hall of Fame offers a fun and interactive experience for the whole family, giving everyone a chance to play instruments, sing, be a DJ or record their own track (a great memento).   

Learn and Have Fun at the Adventure Science Center

Kids learn best when they’re having fun, and there are few places more educational and fun than Musc City’s own Adventure Science Center. Hosting a wide range of year round exhibits that offer a fun and interactive experience for kids of all ages, the center features its popular Little Labs program in which children aged 3-5 can participate in age-appropriate lab activities, experiments and crafts. Kids with their heads in the stars can get to be an astronaut for the day by exploring the outer reaches of the universe in the Space Chase. They can even feel what it’s like to walk on the surface of the moon by taking the Star Walk, followed by a spectacular laser show at the Sudekum Planetarium!

Long Family Walks at the Cheekwood Botanical Garden

What better way to start the day or walk off a delicious meal than strolling the gorgeous grounds of the Cheekwood Botanical Garden? This 55- acre park has a spectacular range of trees and plants as well as hosting an award winning jungle gym.

When it comes to fun activities that the whole family can enjoy, you’ll be surprised at the quality and diversity of Music City’s family friendly attractions.

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4 Money-Saving Resources for Single Parents Looking to Vacation (Guest Post)

Recently, it seems as if I’ve been posting a lot about travel, and this is not a travel blog. But it’s summer, and let’s just pretend I had this in mind as one of my themes ON PURPOSE. Today’s post comes from Julie Morris, who is a life and career coach. She has a nice website with interesting articles, such as “How to Change Your Life For the Better When You Can’t Change Careers” and “How to Give Your Life a Positivity Boost.” Although this guest post is geared toward single parents, any adult could take advantage of some of these tips. So, on to today’s guest post. . .

4 Money-Saving Resources for Single Parents Looking to Vacation by Julie Morris

Traveling and vacationing are exciting, fun, and sometimes life-changing experiences, but for single parents making a solo trip, working it into a tight budget can seem almost impossible. The last thing you want to do is to spend your trip stressing out over money. Pre-planning and using all the money-saving resources at your disposal is the best way to guarantee a stress-free vacation. Here are a few of the best tools for saving money and enjoying your childless trip.

Don’t Over-Pack

Often, it’s tempting to throw in every item you think you could possibly need on your trip, but try to avoid doing so if possible. An over-sized, over-packed suitcase can lead to extra fees at the airport and will simply be a pain to lug from destination to destination. Before you pack, make a list of the core items you’ll need and try to stick to those items only. If you just can’t figure out how to get everything you need into your suitcase, there are many great tutorials available online.

If you will be traveling by car, try to get the car loaded up the night before, so it will be one less thing you have to worry about. Dedicate that morning to getting the kids dropped off where they need to be, securing the house, and making sure everyone has what they need for a few days apart. Make a pre-travel checklist , so you don’t forget to close the garage or turn off the bathroom light. Include a list in your child’s suitcase with any special instructions such as bedtimes, medications, or scheduled activities. You’ll rest easy knowing you covered all your bases.

Take Advantage of Research

Utilize available data to study bookings trends. Studies of these trends have shown that 54 days before your departure is the best time to buy tickets, as they are at their cheapest on that day. This time frame does vary when booking international flights, though. While you may have heard that you can get the best prices by waiting until the last minute, research has shown that tickets cost $150 more when booked two weeks in advance of your trip. Try to snag a departure date in the middle of the week such as Tuesday or Wednesday, as it will often fall in the middle of other people’s trips, making it a prime travel day. As soon as you know the exact date of your travel plans, let your child care know, so they can adjust their schedules accordingly. Nothing will cause more stress than having to scramble to find a sitter at the last minute.

For car trips, save on gas by utilizing gas reward programs or downloading gas saving apps to locate the lowest gas price near your location. Get the most out of your gas mileage by ensuring your car is in tip top shape before hitting the road. Properly inflated tires can increase your gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent, while clean air filters increase it by 7 percent.

Freelance Sitters for Homes and Pets are Cheaper

Freelance pet and home sitters are often more flexible and affordable options than kennels or leaving your home unattended and hoping for the best when you return. If you require additional home services, you can ask your pet sitter or dog walker to water your plants, check your mail, adjust your thermostat, turn your lights on and off, etc. Furthermore, they will provide more personalized care for your pets than a traditional kennel facility will.

Take the Road Less Traveled

Beauty, majesty, culture, and wonders exist in all corners of the world. Just because a destination is not a typical tourist location does not mean it isn’t worth traveling there. In fact, the less tourist traffic a place gets, the cheaper it is to get there, stay there, and shop there. Food, souvenirs for the kids, and lodging will all be at a lower, more local cost as opposed to the increased tourist prices. Most important, the plane ticket costs will be lower if you choose to visit a place that is off the beaten path.

Traveling on a budget does not mean missing out. Sure, you may not be able to decide to hop on a plane to Catalina Island tomorrow, but you will be able to hop onto your computer and start comparing the prices of a trip to St. Petersburg, Florida. With simple tips such as traveling to an uncommon destination or booking your trip in advance, you will be sure to leave your stress at home.

beach photo above by Stevebidmead

Julie Morris is a life and career coach. She thrives on helping others live their best lives. It’s easy for her to relate to clients who feel run over by life because she’s been there. After years in a successful (but unfulfilling) career in finance, Julie busted out of the corner office that had become her prison.

Today, she is fulfilled by helping busy professionals like her past self get the clarity they need in order to live inspired lives that fill more than just their bank accounts. When Julie isn’t working with clients, she enjoys writing and is currently working on her first book. She also loves spending time outdoors and getting lost in a good book. To contact Julie and find out more, please visit her website at http://juliemorris.org/.

 

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Extreme Travel Gadgets to Improve Your Travel (Guest Post)

Perhaps you saw my post last month: “Practical Moms Unite: Traveling With Your Child” , which provided tips for traveling with a child that did not require breaking the bank or stressing yourself out AND did provide fun for EVERYONE.

Recently, I was contacted by a writer who provided me with the infographic below and I think some of these are pretty practical if you travel a lot with or without children. So, here’s a short, fun guest post courtesy of De Vere.

Extreme Travel Gadgets to Improve Your Travel  (guest post)

The rise of travel gadgets over the past decade has meant that whatever your reason for traveling, some tasks, such as staying in touch with people and recording your journey, should be much simpler than ever before.

But when you’re planning your next trip and wondering what gadgets are worth including, the sheer amount of gadgets available on the market can make it an overwhelming task. Luckily, we trawled through hundreds of potential gadgets to select just a few that we think are worth considering.

We focused on gadgets that should help across your whole trip, from your journey to your actual stay. Check out this great infographic put together by De Vere to discover some great travel gadgets you might not have seen before:

 

 

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Practical Moms Unite: Traveling with Your Child

So the 6-year-old and I went on a trip during spring break, and I’m just now posting about it. No, it’s not because I need to recover–it actually went quite well. But I thought now would be a good time to talk about some practical tips for traveling with your child or children with summer break just around the corner.

First, don’t go to Disneyworld. HA! Just kidding. My friend Camille is planning a huge family trip for her 2 kids and hubby this summer. Did you know you can get someone to help you plan your Disneyworld trip? I don’t mean a travel agent–I mean another mom who likes to figure out where you should eat dinner and what parks you should go to and when! Now, this is practical. If you want more information about this, send me an email, and I’ll put you in contact with Camille. (margolynndill@gmail (dot) com)

KT at Legoland

Anywho, here are my actual practical tips for traveling with a 6-year-old:

  • Don’t overbook your days: If you do, both you and your child will be exhausted and not have fun. In my opinion (since you are reading my blog, you’re gonna hear my opinion), you need one big thing on the trip (like an amusement park) and the rest smaller activities that don’t have a set schedule. Here’s what our itinerary looked like:

Leave St. Louis at 4pm on a Monday night. Drive 2 hours to Columbia, MO. Eat dinner that I packed in the car.

Go to the first hotel  and go swimming that night. (Because this is what kids actually care about –hotels and pools)

On Tuesday, eat breakfast and go swimming. Check out of hotel and drive to Kansas City (2 hours). GO to next hotel and take showers there after check-in. Walk around the Plaza in Kansas City since it is a beautiful day and eat dinner somewhere.  (We didn’t have a specific time we had to be anywhere, so no rushing.) 

On Wednesday, OUR ONE BIG DAY–eat breakfast and go to Legoland. Make the reservation around 10:30 am, so we don’t have to get up early and rush. Eat dinner in the hotel room with food brought from home. Go swimming that night at the hotel pool.

We sat outside here at Crown Center for a while. (photo by Mark Goebel Flickr.com)

On Thursday, eat breakfast, check out of the hotel, and go to Crown Center and Hallmark’s Kaldeioscope, which is free! Eat lunch and drive home. 

  • You need a hotel room with a refrigerator and microwave when traveling with kids. You should also look for hotels that have free breakfasts and indoor swimming pools, so your child can swim regardless of the weather. After a long day at Legoland, being able to eat the food I brought from home and relax in the hotel room, as well as that night just go swimming for an hour, made both of us happy and not so tired or cranky!
  • Schedule activities as much as you can in advance and look for online coupons and deals. We got an amazing deal for Legoland because I had a buy one adult, get one child free Legoland coupon from McDonald’s. We saved $18 on Katie’s admission. We also would’t have been able to get into a session of Kaldeioscope if I hadn’t checked out online first how it all worked. Many children’s activities and events have special deals for people who buy their tickets online in advance. If you are military, you probably already know that you can get all sorts of deals on kids’ admissions to museums and other fun stuff. Check out the Blue Star Family website here.

Remember to ask yourself: What is your big goal (s) for this trip? These were mine:

  1. Take Katie some place for spring break, where she and I can spend quality time together and BOTH have fun.
  2. Don’t exhaust us.
  3. Don’t break the bank.

 

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