How to avoid texting charges when traveling internationally (or anywhere, really)

June 6th, 2013

What's App for free messaging

This week I am in Canada for the Wine Bloggers Conference (yep, I’m also a wine blogger over at VineSleuth Uncorked) and I want to keep in touch with friends and family back home, but I don’t want to incur hefty data charges for messaging.

App for messaging internationally for FREE

Back when we hosted foreign exchange daughters, one of them introduced me to Whats App, an app you can download for just 99 cents to your smartphone that uses wifi for messaging, rather than cellular data. She used it to keep in touch with friends back home in Germany, and now I use it when travelling internationally myself to stay in touch for FREE, anywhere I can access wifi. I also use it to message her and other friends in other countries from home or anywhere… it’s super convenient, just like text messaging. Whats App is available for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia.

Text, photo, video, group messaging

With Whats App you can send messages, photos, video and even send group messages. Plus, as long as you are connected to wifi, you get notifications on your home screen, just like a text message. And did I mention it is FREE, even when out of the country?

So far, this has definitely worked for me. I love keeping in touch… and I really love not paying extra for it.

Any other Whats App fans out there? Or anyone know of any other great messaging apps for keeping in touch internationally?

Holiday travel tips for familes with young children

December 1st, 2012

Looking for a few tips to make family travel even better this holiday season?

Last year I shared 12 days of travel tips on Moms Travel Tales. Since the advice still rings true, I thought sharing those links might help yet again this year. Plus, you’ll find links in each of those posts to other great Christmas tips from other bloggers, too. Click over and enjoy your journeys this season…

12 Days of Christmas Travel Tips:

Is there  anything I’ve  missed that you’d like to know about? Please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to write about it soon.

Or, if you have your own tip to share, please leave that in the comments, as well.

Thanks! And Bon Voyage!

12 Days of Christmas: My faves

December 10th, 2011

I’ve really enjoyed celebrating the 12 days of Christmas with 7 other bloggers this year. I learned a lot from each blogger’s posts and I had a blast compiling my 12 days of tips, too.

Here are a few of my favorites from each of the other sites participating:

Looking to make some really clever homemade Christmas gifts? The Happy Housewife has rounded up the best 100 of the web for you. One that I really like is the no-sew wine bag. (Of course, the fact that I also write VineSleuth Uncorked, a wine blog for casual wine drinkers, might have made it obvious I’d love that one!!)

My kids and I are going to make some homemade candy bars thanks to Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures. I think we’ll start with the Homemade Crunch Bars! (We might also have to make some of her Cinnamon Sugar Chex Mix this week, too!)

Surviving the Stores offered tons of great money-saving tips and her ideas for saving money during holiday travel were right on!

The Thrifty Mama showed us all sorts of fun ways to serve up fruit and I’m always looking for new, creative (and still simple) ways to keep healthy food interesting at parties and at home.

1+1+1+1 created a fantastic nativity pack for FREE download. The activities are perfect for preschoolers to do at home, whether you homeschool or not. I even sent the link to it to my children’s school (but I plan to use the activities next week at home, too!)

Songbird offered gorgeous Christmas decorating ideas. Her bedroom Christmas decorations are so cozy, but everything she shared was beautiful!!

I love Life as Mom’s clutter-free stocking stuffer ideas. I’m definitely borrowing a few of her ideas for our own stockings.

Miss any days here on MomsTravelTales? Here are my 12 Days of Christmas Travel Tips:

12 Things I’ve learned about travel with kids

December 9th, 2011

1. What you carry on a flight with small children makes a difference. Pack backpacks with the right stuff, and flying is a snap.

2. Using a one-week packing list helps me to be sure I don’t over pack or leave anything behind.

3. And on that note about packing, pack to make unpacking easy. I like to pack clothes on hangers so all I have to do is pop everything out of the suitcase and into the right closet.

4. Making your way through security checkpoints can be a breeze, if you know what to expect.

5. When your luggage is misplaced, ask for a toiletry kit. The airline might forget to offer one to you.

6. Solve the ear pressure problem by nursing or offering a bottle, lollipop, gum or other snacks at takeoff and landing.

7. Don’t be afraid to plan an outing based on only one child’s interest. See if you can plan an activity for each child that way rather than planning 4 activities everyone will only mildly enjoy.

8. Club Med family villages offer fantastic amenities for families. I thought that Club Med was only for singles or adults. How wrong I was! Use their site to enter your youngest child’s age to find the right destinations for your family world-wide. We have been blown away by the childcare, access to baby-friendly food and in-room amenities, as well as all the family and adult activities.

9. Use the concierge! Hotel concierges are not just there for business travelers, they can be a huge help for planning activities, suggesting restaurants, ssecuring tickets to shows and much more. One concierge in France even served as my translator in ordering kid-friendly food from room service.

10. You don’t only have to go to traditionally kid-oriented destinations to have a blast with your kids. There is always something fun to do with your family just about anywhere you go. (And stashing a deck of cards and a few coloring and puzzle books can make boring adult stuff more fun.)

11. Keep your eyes open and be ready to make changes. I am still pumped that we saw a billboard advertising the Jello Museum last month. What a cool detour we took!

12.Yes, all of the extra bags and planning can be a hassle. But it totally pays off when you find a note in the hotel room from your son (who hates to write) like the one I featured above.

And, my bonus thing learned for today:  Sometimes traveling to DisneyWorld without the kids is fun, too. Like this time I got to sleep in Cinderella’s Castle...

Miss any days? Here are all 12 Days of Christmas Travel Tips on MomsTravelTales:

Want to know more than just travel?

Swing by any of the other 7 sites during the 12 Days of Christmas and here’s what you’ll learn: (And these girls know their stuff!)

11 Tried and true ways to beat boredom while waiting

December 8th, 2011

No one likes waiting, but, when you travel, waiting is definitely part of the experience. Of course all that waiting time can also yield some of the best parts of a trip as you meet new people, see new things and get to really talk and listen to your kids uninterrupted and undistracted.

That brings me to my number one way to beat boredom while waiting:

1. Ask your kids all sorts of questions and really, really listen to them. They probably have great stories in them just waiting to come out. Ask them what they expect on the trip, what they might want to do, where else they might want to travel or just about anything else. It’s a perfect time to be goofy, too. My son and I pull out our most ridiculous British accents when we travel.

But let’s just say you’ve asked all you can and need a new strategy. Here are 10 more ways to keep young travelers occupied and happy:

2. Play alphabet games. We love playing these games on short car trips and long ones. That link will give you a list for early readers and more advanced ones, too.

3. Portable car desks help bring fun (and schoolwork) on the road. They make playing with Lego bricks and play-doh possible and they make eating easier.

4. Wrapped treats to open at milestones along the trip make waiting a lot more fun. The treats don’t need to be elaborate, just something little to open each hour or as you cross each state line or whatever milestones you want to celebrate.

5. I always travel with Uno, but other card games work just as well. Most of the time we play by the rules, but I also let my kids make up their own rules here and there.

6. My kids LOVE puzzle books! I was surprised when my husband bought a variety pack of these puzzles by Penny Press, thinking the puzzles were for older kids, but my kids (ages 5, 8 and 10) were mesmerized. They offer puzzle books on a variety of levels and they are pretty inexpensive (and light to carry).

7. Stickers and sticky notes can keep toddlers entertained for a long, long time. Give them a bag of little stickers AND sticky notes and you’ll really be set!

8. Magazines for older kids or photos of family and friends in a cheap photo album for babies and toddlers. Before a long trip we always visit the bookstore to pick up new magazines to save for the trip.

9. Lollipops are a perfect snack. They alleviate ear pressure on a flight and also keep children occupied and typically quiet for quite a long time. Bring wipes to clean up sticky hands.

10. Individual snack mixes including special treats which may be taboo at other times. Let the kids munch at their leisure, provided they understand that once the treats are gone, they are gone.

11. A quart or gallon size bag of Lego bricks has been keeping my boys occupied for years. I let them fill the bag for a trip and I’m always surprised by which blocks or mini-figures they bring. And they can always find new ways to play with them.

Bonus boredom buster: Make your kids entertain themselves. Unless you are traveling with a baby who is crying, don’t jump at the first sign of boredom and solve the problem. Give them time to find out what they want to do and how to occupy themselves using options you already gave them in a handy dandy backpack or bag. This way, they’ll get better and better at waiting and finding something to do without your help.

What are your favorite ways to help your kids beat boredom when traveling?

Miss any days or want to know what’s ahead? Here are all 12 Days of Christmas Travel Tips on MomsTravelTales:

Want to know more than just travel?

Swing by any of the other 7 sites during the 12 Days of Christmas and here’s what you’ll learn: (And these girls know their stuff!)

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