In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need white noise.  There would be no excess noise, and we would all be able to work, relax, and sleep without any trouble at all because of it.  But we don’t live in an ideal world, do we?  And we have endless troubles working, relaxing, and sleeping because of what’s going on around us.  For some, it’s the sheer existence of noise that’s the problem; for others, it’s noise that grabs our attention and teases our minds into not focusing on what we should {work} or focusing on what we shouldn’t {anything other than sleep}.  Thus, I thought I’d show how different kinds of white noise work for different situations.

  1. A portable sound machine covers all of your needs.

    For work.  I like a plain jane sound machine for work.  I don’t mean that it’s not a great machine, but that I don’t need a ton of bells and whistles because I just want something to help me tune out noisy co-workers.

  2. For relaxation.  To relax, I prefer a nature sounds sound machine.  Lapping waves, running water, and waterfalls really help channel a vacation feel that puts the mind at ease.
  3. For sleep.  I definitely do NOT want erratic nature sounds for sleep.  Chirping birds keep me on edge, though a consistent waterfall is nicely relaxing and helps me stay asleep.  If you’re having trouble falling sleep, though, I would recommend a sleep aid.
  4. For travel.  I definitely have a portable sound machine available at all times.  I use it on the road for work and for sleep, both for us as parents and for the kids in new places.

Since we don’t live a perfect, noise-free world, having a sound machine helps us still be productive and sleep well in the midst of it all.

Ever since being a child, I love the holidays!  Maybe it’s part of being a Texan and having the opportunity to feel cold and maybe see a snowflake or two, or maybe the present,s or maybe the time off school…whatever, it was, I definitely anticipated November and December like no other time of year.  We were very blessed to live close to family and have our grandparents come visit us for the holidays and Christmas morning specifically.

Now, as an adult, and a mother of 3, it’s not so simple.  While I do still adore Christmas and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, I have a lot more on my mind, too.  We no longer live in Texas, but our families do.  Since we have had kids, we have had to either fly across several states or transatlantically to get back home for the holidays- all with kids in tow!  This is the first year we are not flying “home” but are staying “home” in Scotland.  Both grandmothers are flying out to meet our new little girl, though, so travel is still on the books, as is a lot of advance planning and online shopping since there are so many restrictions on luggage these days!  We are all making online wish lists so we can pay the right currency and ship to the right country for an affordable gift.

This has been by far the easiest Christmas season for me as an adult, so here are some helpful tips I adhered to in order to make it with a new baby even!

5 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Stress

  1. Make lists and prioritize daily.  Make a to-do list of activities you must compete for the holidays.  This list should be specific and date oriented. For example, instead of listing “get for the Christmas party at my house”, break down each aspect of your party with a target date for completion.  The more specific your tasks, the better. Making a general list sets you up to leave something out. Always set the dates early so you’re not in a frenzy to get the task complete.  Review and update your list on a daily basis.
  2. Shop online.  A lot of time is spent driving all over town as you shop.  Make your shopping list early.  Almost anything on your list can be found online. Sit down one evening, take your list, get focused only on shopping, and begin. You’ll be amazed just how much shopping you can get done in only one evening.
  3. Make time for yourself. Even if it is only one or two hours per week, take time for yourself.  Make a list of things you’d like to do that relax and refresh you. Read a book.  Get a massage. Watch a movie.  Whatever it takes to clear your mind and refresh you… do it!  You’ll be rewarded with more energy and a peaceful attitude.
  4. Don’t over-commit.  During the holiday season there are lots of things to do and many organizations and groups clamoring for your time. Choose your activities wisely and commit only to the ones you consider most important. Otherwise you’ll be anxious for the holidays to be over so you can get some rest.
  5. Get a portable sound machine.  Whether you’re the one traveling or you’re hosting, be sure to have a portable sound machine so everyone can sleep.  I find it makes even jet lag more bearable if privacy and boundaries are kept and no one is worrying about how much noise they’re making.

By following these simple tips, like shopping online and having a portable sound machine, you can avoid a lot of unnecessary holiday stress.

I recently talked about how glad we were that we brought one of our portable sound machines on a family holiday to the Lake District in northern England, which got me thinking about traveling as a family in general.  It’s challenging and expensive enough to travel as a family, and since we’ve done it so much the past 5 years, I’d like to share a few tips we’ve learned for traveling as a family with small children on a budget.  I gave a few pointers last post and will continue with part 3 today.

Tips for Traveling as a Family on a Budget

I mentioned planning ahead is actually two-fold- booking ahead of time to get the best deals {see last post}, as well as thinking through every item that should be in your suitcase.  Thus, today we’ll focus on specific items to bring.

Adults.  

 

  • You know what you need as a parent: clothing for every day, pajamas, toiletries, a good book…all the stuff you require.
  • Do not forget identification, including driver’s licenses as well as passports.
  • You may want an under-clothing pouch to keep your money, IDs, and cards safe.
  • GPS/Sat Nav.  They really help you navigate foreign places and even help you get back on track when hiking off-trail.

Kids.  This is where it gets trickier.  You have to bring their everyday essentials and then some.

  • They will need more than 1 outfit a day because you won’t be able to do laundry.  Do NOT count on them staying clean and re-wearing garments.
  •  Bring extra underwear, as well as more than enough diapers.  Though you can probably buy them at your destination, bring enough for the travel time as well as at least a day’s worth in case it takes you a while to find a store.
  • Anything they require to sleep with- paci’s, toys, books, etc.  Because of this, we have intentionally not let our kids get too attached to any larger items- too big to pack!  They each have a small handheld “lovey” that goes on every trip.  It’s also smart to have a backup at home in case said lovey gets left anywhere.
  • Sippy cups.  I can’t tell you how annoying it is to have spilled drinks everywhere.  Just pack some take n toss cups from Walmart or Target and rinse them out at night or between beverages.  They’re clutch for the airplane or car.
  • Lots of snacks.  You can save a bundle by bringing snacks your kids will enjoy and not paying exorbitant prices overseas.
  • Portable DVD player and a couple of movies- while you can get around it on an airplane that provides in-flight entertainment, these are great for a road trip or for a rental car.
  • Sound machines/ear plugs.  Hotels and tossing/turning kids are noisy.  Whether your kids have their own room or are sharing with you, protect their sleep {and yours!} with a portable sound machine that will block disturbing noises.  I promise you will still hear their needs…you’re just blocking out moans and groans and turn-overs.
Don’t be afraid to travel as a family!  Traveling with kids can be budget-friendly if you plan ahead, even share a room with the aid of a portable sound machine.

I recently talked about how glad we were that we brought one of our portable sound machines on a family holiday to the Lake District in northern England, which got me thinking about traveling as a family in general.  It’s challenging and expensive enough to travel as a family, and since we’ve done it so much the past 5 years, I’d like to share a few tips we’ve learned for traveling as a family with small children on a budget.  I gave a few pointers last post and will continue with part 2 today.

Tips for Traveling as a Family on a Budget

I mentioned planning ahead  last time, focusing on packing.  Planning ahead is actually two-fold, however.  So, for the sake of not giving too much information at once, I’ll do a 3rd part for what should be in your suitcase for almost all trips with small children in a few days.  Today,though, planning ahead will refer to the trip in general and not specific items to bring.

  • I briefly mentioned travelling off-season.  By planning ahead, you can usually find cheaper rates months in advance, as long as you aren’t trying to come in the summer.  Air fare and hotels are always more expensive, or at least not discounted, May-September.  They know this is peak travel season and will take advantage of your kids’ summer break to make you spend more money.  Thus, I think a nice way around this is to travel during off-peak breaks, such as Easter, Spring Break, fall break, or Thanksgiving.  It may be that your kids will have to take a little time off school, so make sure to okay it with their teachers and try to get any work done ahead of time.  Just by way of reminder, for the UK and Europe, try Ryanair and Easy Jet for flights and  Travel Lodge for hotel deals.
  • I would also advise making a physical budget for the trip that includes air fare/fuel costs, renting a car, bus, metro, etc…, meals, lodging, sightseeing, etc.  This will keep you aware of what costs what and you will be less likely to be over-indulgent in the moment.  Spreadsheets are great, as is Quicken.
  • See if your lodging provides meals.  We’ve found Bed & Breakfasts to be cheaper than most hotels, plus they provide a substantial breakfast which will free you up to spend money on 2 meals instead of 3.  Some places provide less expensive meals than you’ll find out.  We often try to eat cheap at lunch so we can spend more for dinner at a nicer place.  We either find local sandwich places or go by a grocery store and pick out stuff we like.  This is nice for picky eaters, too!
Maximizing deals and traveling off-season are key in saving money on a family holiday.  Check back next time for a detailed list of what should be in your suitcase{s}…you might be surprised how much you’ll appreciate a sippy cup or a good sound machine!

Last time, I talked about how glad we were that we brought one of our portable sound machines on a family holiday to the Lake District in northern England so we could all share a room and save money.  It’s expensive enough to travel as a family, factoring in lodging, food, sightseeing, and air fare or fuel costs, without adding in separate rooms.  In this post, I’d like to share a few tips we’ve learned for traveling as a family with small children on a budget.  That’s right- on a budget- it’s possible!

Tips for Traveling as a Family on a Budget

  • Plan ahead!  I will sound like a broken record with my previous posts over the past 2 years, but planning ahead is crucial!!!  It might be months, weeks, or even days, but thinking through what you will need for each person at each destination cannot be overstated.  There’s nothing quite like arriving without sippy cups, pacifiers, sleepy items, or toothbrushes.  If you have spares, you can even pack ahead, but it’s usually smartest to make a list over the course of a few days and write down everything you might need for each person.  You and your spouse can divide and conquer, or you can just handle it yourself.  We’ve found that my husband is better at planning the trip, the excursions, the costs, and booking the rooms, while I am better at packing and thinking through kid stuff.
  • Look for deals.  We look for cheap air fare {Ryanair and Easy Jet are great for flights in and out of Europe/UK, or you can try looking for deals with a transatlantic provider- the key is to travel off-season} and lodging {we use Travel Lodge a lot because they frequently run super-cheap rates} so we can spend our money on the trip on not getting there or sleeping.  We view our hotel room as a resting place and as long as we can fit and lay down, w’ere good.  No need to spend 4 times as much on a nicer facility when we’re hardly there.
  • Share a room.  I will say that sharing a room as a family in the UK is frowned upon  once you have more than 1 child, regardless of whether you’re willing to sleep them on the floor or in bed with you.  It’s usually wise to be up front when booking reservations so that no one is surprised and you’re sneaking in and out of your hotel.  Typically, they’ll either accommodate your room for up to 2 children free or add a small fee.  Either way, it’s worth it to have extra pillows, blankets, pallets, cribs/cots, and towels without the worry of them not honoring your reservation.
It is possible to travel as a family on a budget, even overseas.  Check back next time for the Part 2 of maximizing your holiday with simple things, like a portable sound machine.

Another Family Holiday

My family and I recently returned from a lovely trip to the Lake District in northern England.  {As a total side note, if you’ve never been and ever, ever have the opportunity, you really must see this stunning part of the world.}  We do a lot of traveling, as we are ex-pats in the UK and figure we will never have this kind of opportunity again.  We’ve been all over Scotland, parts of England and Ireland, as well as France, Germany, and many trips back to the US to visit family over the holidays.  We usually fly to these places, of course, but the Lake District is just a 5-6 hour drive from our northeastern home in Scotland.  It was a nice change, not having to pack in airplane-friendly bags, but we were still limited to our trunk/boot space.  That might seem like a lot of space, but with 2 small children, we had to include a stroller, all our bags, as well as tons of blankets for making pallets for the kids.  We spent our first night in a youth hostel, and while it was truly beautiful aesthetically, the rooms were still spartan and dorm-like as all hostels are.  We had a set of bunk beds for all 4 of us.  I was almost 34 weeks pregnant at the time, so sleeping on the floor was not an option.  Thus, my husband took the top bunk, I took the lower, and the kids had pallets on the bit of floor allotted to us.

The Challenges of Sharing a Room with Your Kids

I’ll admit, we rarely share a room with our children.  We value our sleep and own space far too much.  However, our kids have started sharing a room at home, so this was not as big of a deal as it could have been.  Nevertheless, sharing a room {and not being in a home with other rooms} is complicated in that you can’t keep the lights on and go about your business as usual.  On the contrary, we turned off the light at 8pm and all went to sleep.  Yes, at 32 and 35, we felt like children again with a far too early bed time.

Once again, I will say that having a sound machine made a world of difference.  The amount of shuffling sheets and night time snores and grunts amongst 4 people is quite astounding.  Plus, hostels aren’t exactly known for being particularly quiet, and with most people going to bed after 8pm, there were a lot of slamming doors and hallway chatter.  Having a sound buffer was crucial in any of us getting a full night’s sleep.

And, so, for the millionth time, I say a heartfelt thank you to my trusty sound machine for affording us yet another hard-won night of sleep.

We just moved flats, aka apartments, and once again, I am so happy we held onto our sound machines.  We’re not bad sleepers, and the kids are getting older, so it was tempting to think we might not want them.  However, now that we live next door to {and share a wall with} college-aged students, we’re pretty glad we held onto them.  Music with a strong bass line starts anywhere between 9pm and 2am.  We live on a busy street, so passers-by and cars contribute noise at any time.  In addition to outside noise, the kids are getting used to their new shared room, and to top it off, are getting over jet lag from our last over-seas trip.  That means they wake up at all kind of weird hours for about a week, and since they’re both going to new schools, sleepless nights are not really an option.  For all these reasons in just the past week, I am so incredibly glad we had some white noise to block all the extra noises so we could all get some semi-normal rest.

Sound machines really are clutch in these situations.  I know some people worry that once they get used to using one for sleep purposes, they won’t be able to sleep without one.  I personally have not had that problem, nor have my children.  We just use them to cover noise.  If there’s not noise to cover, we don’t use it.  It’s as simple as that.  I have found that varying sounds at home, and especially on the road when traveling, really mess up sleep.  I am not a woman who can function on too little sleep.  Thus, I will forever keep a sound machine {or two…or three} around for a while.

While I’m at it, I’d like to recommend a portable sound machine- that way you can travel with it for yourself and for your kids, or just move it around the house or to a friend’s place for kids’ naps, etc.  Having a battery option, as well as adapters is great for home, work, and travel.  Most portable machines are quite small and very lightweight, too, making them an easy addition to a carry-on bag or even a handbag.

Sleep is precious- using a sound machine can preserve your night time rest in spite of ambient noise.

If you’ve ever flown, then you know how stressful the whole experience can be.  That experience only gets worse with kids.  It’s not that children are so terrible, but there are so many more factors to consider when adding in little people.  I recently flew across the Atlantic for the first time with my 2 kids.  Well, it was not the first time, not by a long stretch, but it was the first time I did it 7 months pregnant, and the first time I did it without my husband.  I actually had a very pleasant experience and was told by numerous passengers how well-behaved my children are.  Since they are 3 and 5, that’s saying something.  I think most of the compliment is due to the fact that we had good circumstances, so I wanted to share my planning as well as what just happened so you can benefit.

  • As always, talk about the trip with your children before it happens.  It might be weeks or just days, but mentally prepare them for what’s coming.  If there’s a time change or you expect your child to sleep on the plane for a nap or for night time, let them know so they expect it and aren’t surprised.  It is important to know that children never sleep as well on planes as they do in beds, so make sure your own expectations are in check.
  • Call ahead for seating.  It may be that your airline will let you pre-select seats online.  If that’s the case, great!  Most of the time they won’t allow you to pre-book the bulkhead seats- those are the ones that don’t have seats in front of them and are therefore roomier.  Often times, these seats are equipped with a bassinet for infants under a year.  If you have a 12 month old or younger, you should be able to request these seats.   If you are unable to book these seats in advance, arrive early to request them, as they will probably be assigned first come, first serve.
  • If you can’t get the bulkhead, have a back-up plan.  I really liked our seats- they were towards the back which kept us close to the bathroom, as well as the engine noise which served as a nice white noise for my sleeping children.  When I fly with my husband, too, we usually get our own row in that we have 4 seats.  This time I did not have him, so having a 3-seat row was ideal.  If you find yourself with less than 4 in your group, ask if there are 2-seat or 3-seat rows that will work.  This enables you to get out on either side without disturbing another passengers.  For me, it meant that when one child was sleeping, I didn’t have to wake him/her to get the other to the bathroom.

As usual, planning ahead makes for smoother travel, especially with children.  Be sure to call ahead for ideal seats that will keep you close to the bathroom and that will provide good white noise.

If you don’t know how much I love white noise, bless your heart, you must be a new reader.  I love it because it has solved many a sleeping issue for my family.  When we had Rebekah and Luke, we had to learn to sleep through unimportant, yet incredibly annoying noises, while still be attentive to baby noises.  It was a tricky balance and one that caused me much stress and loss of sleep.  I lay awake, anticipating and dreading any noise, wondering if I would ever fall asleep or sleep soundly.  That’s when we started using white noise, and we eventually shifted to portable sound machines for when we roomed the kids togethertraveled, or had to nap our kids elsewhere for any reason, such as Sunday lunch at a friend’s house.

In the last few years, we’ve been to Germany, the States, Paris, London, and all over Scotland.  This summer we’re hitting Ireland, London again, and Rome…then back to the US for some family time.  So, okay, we may travel more than the average family, but most people travel at least a little…right?  Whether you’re visiting family for the holidays, doing some summer travel, or just spending time with friends, more than likely you’ll find yourself in a strange place at bed time.  And chances are, you’ll toss and turn just like we do when we’re not at home.  And while there are worse things than getting poor sleep, a bad night can ruin any day and certainly a vacation.  It only gets worse when kids are involved- you’ve worked so hard to establish a routine at home only to have it wrecked abroad, so to speak.  I’m just gonna say it again- you can use a sound machine at home or not, but it can be a priceless resource on the road.

And when you travel, sleep is frequently in jeopardy, especially when children are involved.  Why not travel with a portable sleep aid?  One that will benefit all of you- because when your kids sleep well, so do you!

 

Tips for Travel

My husband and I travel a lot- most often with kids, but sometimes actually by ourselves {whenever we can con our parents into coming to see us and stay with our 2 kids!}.  Anyway, whether we’re traveling as a family or as a couple, there are certain things we always look for {or even things we look not to be there}.

First, we always consider who all is going.  If it’s just us {meaning no kids}, then we obviously need less space.  While it’s nice to find a great, luxurious, romantic spot, just being by ourselves is reward enough!  Thus, we try to find a cozy, but affordable place to stay- we view it the place we’re going to sleep and shower in.  So, as long as the accommodations cover a decent bed and bathroom, we usually save our vacation money for sight-seeing and really good eating!

This was part of an apartment we stayed at in Paris.

On the other hand, when traveling with our small children, it’s a totally different story. With kids who go to bed hours earlier than we do and who may or may not need a nap or two, we know we’ll be spending more time at the hotel.  Thus, we look for space and are willing to pay for it to a certain degree.  This means we look for at least 2 bedrooms or sleeping areas- this could be a suite or even a small apartment.  We’re pretty creative about how we use the space, so we peruse photos pretty heavily.

Regardless of how we travel, we ALWAYS look for quiet rooms.  This means a room or apartment off the beaten path- no major streets or on the way to the vending machine or elevator.  Sleep is crucial for all 4 of us, and especially for our kids.  Again, we pore over pictures and also guest reviews to see who had a great stay {and who didn’t}.  It’s interesting to read how many guests wished they had brought ear plugs or a sound machine.  We’ve felt that way before, so as a rule, we always bring a portable sound machine for each sleeping area {usually 2}.  We’ve never regretted it.

Whether you’re traveling by yourself or with your family, when you look for a hotel or place to stay, be sure to read guest reviews and pack a portable sound machine.