Books to Inspire Family Travel

We are a family of readers for the most part.  We read books to escape with characters and join them in their fantasy worlds.  We read books to learn about real cultures and environments or to find answers to questions we have.  Before every trip, we always look for a book that goes along with the theme or location of the trip.  I am so excited to announce that I have joined A Traveler’s Library where once a month I will be sharing books that encourage family travel on Family Travel Friday!

This month, I shared our love for aquariums and the one book that we read before every aquarium trip!

Callaway Gardens and Museum Tips

Today, I am in two places at once.  Er…three places at once if you count here too!

I am over at Trekaroo sharing why we enjoyed Callaway Gardens so much and  I am also over at Traveling Mom sharing some of my favorite tips that we have picked up along the way about how to keep the kids entertained at a museum that is not a children’s museum.

Stop by tomorrow to see more pictures from the Navarre Sand Sculpting Festival for my Photo Friday submission!  Have a happy day!

Travel Blogger Tuesday – The Posting Other Places Edition

travel-blogger-tuesdayEven though things have been a little quiet here this week, I have been a busy bee.  Besides getting sick, my daughter getting sick, going out of town, coming back in town, going out of town and coming back in town again, hanging with friend’s visiting and so much more, I have been writing.  Sort of.  I should say I have been catching up but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel…school starts in a few weeks and I will have more time to devote to the projects that I have been working on.  Meanwhile, I would appreciate it if you give these friends a little visit!

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On page 99 of the August/September 2011 issue of Southern Child Magazine, I have a little article about a few family-friendly things to do in Myrtle Beach, SC.  We had so much fun checking out all the different activities and I was glad to share some of our favorites!

If you haven’t found my pal Traci’s blog, Go Big or Go Home, you are missing out!  She packs her family up and travels to some of the BIGGEST places this world has to offer!  I was so excited when I got to guest post for her…luckily I actually got it written and sent to her though my pictures leave much to be desired.  For something that we visit on a regular basis, apparently it has been awhile since we visited as tourists with camera in hand!  See my post about the World’s Largest Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.

Over at Traveling Mom, I am still writing as Southern Traveling Mom!  I wrote about our travel planning style (here is a hint…we don’t have one!).  I also shared a book review of Kids Love Interstate 95, a handy book that guides down I-95 all the way from Pennsylvania to the bottom tip of Florida! 

Speaking of Trekaroo, could you take a moment and vote for Sharlene and Michelle of Team Trekaroo?  They participated in the Race to the Alamo this past week but voting is still going on.  You can vote once a day and you even have a chance to win a trip to San Antonio for yourself!

7 Links from the Past

Thanks to Wandering Off and Pitstops for Kids, I have been nominated to continue the virtual chain letter by Tripbase called 7 Links.  This exercise is to help you resurrect some posts from the archives that you would like to share with the world again.  This post is my 452nd post so it was interesting to go back through several years of my family travels in the form of hundreds of blog posts. 

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Most Beautiful Post

Traveling Mom, Traveling Daughter is a tribute to my mother and our love of travel.  This post epitomizes the very reasons why I love all things travel.  It is why Two Kids and a Map is here!

Most Popular Travel Post

I don’t pay attention to my site analytics as much as I should.  Awhile back I started to obsess over how many people were visiting the site, how much time they spent, etc so I had to stop looking before I went nuts!  While preparing for this, I logged in to Google Analytics and was surprised that A Day Trip: Five Things to Do in Mobile, Alabama with Your Kids is my most viewed post to date. 

Most Controversial

Like many of my other fellow family travel bloggers, I don’t really do controversial here.  I try to keep things positive around these parts.  I am honest but I don’t want to be negative and this showed even when I typed up Monday Dreaming: Clean Beaches on the Gulf Coast.  We had just spent the day participating in a beach cleanup to prepare for oil spill that was bound to hit our beaches. 

Most Helpful

I chose Traveling with Kids – Mishaps and Disasters as my most helpful post.  It didn’t really help anyone per say but as I mentioned above, I try to keep things upbeat andhappy around here.  The truth is that family travel can get ugly…fast.  And we have had our fair share of mishaps, disasters, and bizarre incidents.  In this post, I shared six disasters that were pretty traumatic at the time as family travel goes.  Not only did I get some hilarious comments, it was tweeted numerous times, and I got some great personal messages about how nice it was to read that it is ok to laugh when family travel disasters strike!  We laugh, we go home, and then we start planning the next trip!

A Surprise Success

Even though it has only been up since June 30th, the second most viewed post to date is Trip Expenses – 5 Day Road Trip to Asheville, North Carolina.  I wrote this post and then held on to it for awhile debating whether it was braggy, annoying, tacky or all of the above to share our trip expenses.  I finally decided to hit publish and was so surprised at how much attention it got.  I think that a lot of times we read these travel blogs and think that there is no way I could ever afford a trip like that.  I think it too when I read posts from fellow travel bloggers and we travel a lot!  This post helped show that a five day road trip for a family of four can be done for less than 1000 dollars (which is no paltry sum).  The post was such a success that we kept track of our Disney World expenses from our trip last week andI will be sharing that here later this month.     

Didn’t Get the Attention it Deserved

The post that I wish got more attention was Hurricane Ivan: 5 Years Later.  I wrote this on the five year anniversary of Hurricane Ivan, a hurricane that blew through and devastated the Gulf Coast in 2004.  One year later, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the devastation of Ivan is often overshadowed by that. 

Post I’m Most Proud Of

So I played by the rules up until this point but I couldn’t decide on just one post that I am most proud of.  The first, titled Appreciating What I Have in Front of Me, was a quick post I typed up during the time period when we were waiting for the oil to roll on to the Pensacola shore.  I was mesmerized by a post by Lucia at Dim Sum, Bagels and Crawfish where she shared some beautiful little shells she found.  We go to the beach and see these types of shells all the time but don’t really notice them.  I made sure to look for them on our next trip.  I think that as a lover of all things travel, I also need to make sure that I take time to appreciate the things that my own area has to offer.  It was one of the posts that caught the eye of Southern Living and got me nominated for Southern Living Mama Blogger of the Week…an accomplishment I am quite proud of!

The other post is titled I am a Southern Transplant.  I wrote this post as part of a Gulf Coast Blog Carnival, Hope Remains.  I reminisced on my move, my college days, and why we have stayed in the south so far.

Now it is your turn!  I am nominating Go Explore Nature, Outdoor Gulf Coast, Dim Sum, Bagels and Crawfish, Find and Go Seek, and Atlanta with Kid!

Are you looking for family travel advice?

BFTB_logo_75x75Best Family Travel Advice is the place to go if you need an answer to a question about travel with your family.  It is a question and answer database that will help you plan a trip with your family whether this is your first trip or you are a family of seasoned travelers.  You can search the Best Family Travel Advice website for answers to your question but if the answer isn’t there, submit your question and one (or more) of the 24 family travel bloggers who have been there and done that will answer your question. 

I am excited to announce that Two Kids and a Map has joined Best Family Travel Advice.  I am so honored to be a part of this group of amazing family travel writers and bloggers that include:

Next time you have a question about family travel, stop by Best Family Travel Advice!

Welcome!

**We are taking a break from our regularly scheduled travel posts to participate in the Ultimate Blog Party over at 5 Minutes for Mom.  If you are just here to read about travel scroll down to the bottom of this post where I will list some of my favorite posts from the past few months.**

I am so happy to be participating in the Ultimate Blog Party for the second year in a row.  Last year, I made some connections that have lasted.  I found blogs that were new to me and I still love reading posts from them. 

Welcome to Two Kids and a Map!  We are a family travel blog.  I mostly write about traveling all over with my husband and two children, ages 4 and 6.   

This is me and the husband, Daddy J, on our first real vacation without the kids.  We spent a week in Oahu and it was lovely!

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These are my two loves, Big S and Little S, during a Mardi Gras parade last month!

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I also write about solo travel, girlfriend getaways, travel with other families, and traveling around our own town.  I am by no means an expert, but I love to share our experiences, tips we have learned along the way and so much more.  Sometimes, I just journal, sometimes I list or I will share favorite travel posts from around the travel blogging world.

You can find me in several other places as well.  I blog as Southern Traveling Mom over at Traveling Mom.  I share my family’s explorations in our own town at Pensacola with Kids.  Recently I became a Destination Guroo over at Trekaroo, a travel review site.  I love to guest post about our travels too!

I am looking forward to getting to know you!

Some of mylatest favorite posts include:

Thanks so much for stopping by! 

Jen

An Article in Southern Child Magazine

It has been over two months since I wrote my 33 Things I Want to See and Do the Year I Turn 33 post and I haven’t done a single update.  I have actually already checked a few things off my list and I will write about those things in the next few weeks (I have been such a blogging slacker!) but today I want to share with you the completion of a HUGE goal!

I have an article in the latest issue of Southern Child Magazine, an online publication.  EEEEEEEEKKKKKK! 

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A screenshot of my article!

When I started this site three years ago, I wasn’t really sure where I wanted to go with it.  Deep down inside, I knew that one of my goals was to get published in some format…book, magazine, pamphlet, other online sites.  As I have continued this journey, I have learned a lot and met some amazing writers, editors, and publishers.  Amazing men and women who have given me opportunities that I would never have had.  Amazing men and women who are quick to offer advice to help me become a better writer.  I still have a LONG way to go, but I am so honored that my first published article is in such a great magazine.

I love Southern Child Magazine and their mission.  Not only do they provide information about many topics to help educate parents, they also provide affordable advertising.  If you have a product that would be a good fit with Southern Child Magazine, drop them a line.  They wonderful to work with! 

That isn’t all they do though.  Their main mission to help place foster children with their forever, or permanent, families.  They share photos and bios of children who are waiting to connect with families. 

I would be grateful if you stopped by to check out my article titled Pensacola with Kids in the Seeing the South section.  You can find it on page 113-115.  While you are there, take some time to read those bios as well as some of the other great articles.  There is a Savvy Stroller Guide where they reviewed a ton of strollers so you don’t have to go nuts trying to find the perfect stroller.  There are articles about Easter crafts and treats, and teaching children about sustainability.

Spring Break in the South

It is time to start thinking about spring break destinations!  Our spring break is not until late April but we start seeing spring breakers from all over the place heading down south as early as February.  I wrote about a few of our favorite spring break spots on Traveling Mom yesterday. 

What are your spring break plans?  Are you spending it at home, the beach or the mountains?

Christmas Ornaments Around the World

A few weeks ago, I posted about Christmas ornaments that we have collected and I loved all the comments and tweets I got about it.  I asked some of my travel blogger buddies if they would share their favorite ornaments with us! 

LoveBaby LoveTravel Tree DecorationThis decoration was bought in Bellagio, Lake Como. Since getting married my husband and I have bought a new decoration each time we go on holiday.  This one is particularly special to me because it was the first holiday abroad my husband and I took with our son Euan. He was five months old and we were on a driving holiday of Europe.  The trip was really special and it was actually while travelling that I decided to start my blog. I’m looking forward to hanging this decoration for the first time this year. It’s Euan’s first Christmas and I can’t wait!
Mother of all trips Christmas ornamentsI had a hard time choosing which ornament was my favorite! Ultimately I picked the newest two from our trip to Bath this past summer. We bought them at the gift shop at the Roman Baths Museum. I love them because they remind me of all the realities of traveling with kids. Our day in Bath was a little bit trying because Tommy was overtired and spazzy and we’d been no the road for over a week and were all just a smidge sick of each other. But the museum was such a gorgeous and interesting place (and had such a great audioguide for kids) that we all enjoyed ourselves anyway. It’s the only place on our two week trip where we bought any souvenirs and I think that’s because we wanted to remember how cool it was to stand among the remains of an ancient civilization. I also love what the ornaments say about the boys and their personalities. Teddy loved the bling of the crown jewels when we were at the Tower of London and knew that he had to have the crown. But Tommy, being eight, couldn’t choose anything “pretty” and had to pick the Roman centurion (although I know he really enjoyed the crown jewels too).
-Mara, Mother of All Trips

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While it’s not the most festive ornament on our tree, I love this little canoe ornament that my husband and I purchased in Manchester, Vermont two years ago. We had just finished a 9-mile canoe ride down the Battenkill River. It’s the exact same canoe trip I went on countless times as a child. We were even camping at the very same camping site I spent a week at every summer growing up. And to make things full circle, just a few days earlier I learned I was pregnant with our son. So this meant it was our first trip as family with our own child. 
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I own at least 200 unique Christmas ornaments — that’s a moderate guess. Some of them are favorites from childhood my mom has given me. And our family collection grows every time we travel. I *love* buying inexpensive Christmas ornaments as souvenirs from our travels. Every time we open the Christmas ornament box in December, we’re reminded of great family vacations. This tradition actually started when I was a kid! In this photo is a star with “1979” embroidered on it — that was the ornament my mom bought in New York City during a trip to the Big Apple when I was just 10; brings back GREAT memories of seeing Manhattan for the first time. The toucan is from Costa Rica, a trip my husband and I went on before we were married. The tropical fish with the nativity scene is from 1999’s honeymoon in Puerto Rico. The bear has a lei and hula skirt on — from our family’s most recent trip to Hawaii. All good stuff!

I’ve always enjoyed visiting the northern Michigan studio and store of the late Gwen Frostic. I’ve purchased greeting cards, wrapping paper, tote bags, and signed prints featuring Gwen’s beautiful nature images, and this little chickadee ornament features one of my favorite images from Gwen. Word filtered out early this year that the owners who acquired Gwen’s studio and wood-block images after her death lost the business to foreclosure, and many of Gwen’s fans feared the studio/store and her iconic images were lost forever. The story has a happy ending, though. New owners purchased the rights to Gwen’s artwork, bought the business, and reopened one of my favorite “Up North” destinations at the beginning of this past summer. So hanging my ornament again this year brought happy memories and anticipation of yet another visit to Gwen’s!

-Dominique, Midwest Guest

 
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And my favorite ornaments?  This year I have two favorite ones.  This Mardi Gras crawfish  is the very first ornament my husband and I picked out together.  We got this little guy on our honeymoon to New Orleans in 2000.  Ever year since, this ornament has a place of honor on our tree.  It is the last ornament that we hang up and it is the last ornament that we take down!

 
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We got this ornament at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum last year or the year before.  It is one of my favorite ornaments this year because everytime the kids walk by it they ask about it.  They want to know where we got it and why outer space is on it.  Everytime I tell them the story, they quickly remember that this was a trip they took with their cousins and they loved seeing the gigantic space shuttles!

Thanks so much to all of my awesome blogging buddies for sharing their special ornaments!

Stop by Delicious Baby to see Photo Friday posts!

Have you donated yet?

Have you donated to Passports with Purpose yet?  You might not have noticed that little green sign on the side of my blog.  That is the Passports with Purpose widget that tells us how much money has been raised so far.  At the time I am writing this post it is saying that they have raised forty one thousand dollars already…41K!!!  That is so great! 

Have you donated?  If you haven’t yet head over there and look at all of the great prizes up for grabs.  We are so excited to be partnering with The Gracious Basket and donating a $75 gift certificate for our prize.  Be sure to stop by The Gracious Basket and see all of the amazing gift baskets you can order.  Some of my favorites include:

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What are you waiting for? Now head over to Passports with Purpose to donate and be entered into the raffle!