Two Kids and a Map Has a New Look

It has been quiet around here for the past week or so, but that is because there was a lot of work going on in the background…well, a lot of work by a fantastic designer!

I am thrilled with the results. Over the next few days, I will be making some more adjustments but I just had to present it to you tonight since it was up and running! If you are reading this in a reader, I would love it if you popped over to the site to check it out.

Let me know what you think!

~Jen

 

Two Kids and a Map: 500 Posts Later

This post marks the 500th post on Two Kids and a Map.

500 posts!

That is almost 4 years of writing.

For the past week or so, I have been trying to think of something profound to write about in my 500th post.  I thought about waxing poetic about how travel has changed me and my family.   I thought about sharing how keeping up this site has helped me prioritize my life and spending habits.  It has enabled us to do things we might not have done otherwise and has opened up some great opportunities for me.  I am proud to share how we travel on a budget because, let’s face it, just about everyone is on a budget these days.

This is the 500th post and I felt it should be something special.   As I paged through the posts, it was great remembering each travel moment I wrote about.  Some of the writing I am so proud of…other posts remind me of how far I have come since I started sharing my words on the Internet.  After all that, I decided that I was going to be a little selfish and I am going to share some of my favorite posts from the past three and a half years of blogging.

Bear with me…it was hard to choose!  It has been a long road!

I am a Southern Transplant – In which I admit to the entire world and myself that I am a California girl turned southern belle who accepts her CA/southern accent, love for men who wear their baseball hats properly turned to the front, and sweet tea.

Traveling with Kids – Travel Mishaps and Disasters – I can’t believe I wrote this post almost two years ago.  It is time to fess up about some of the disastrous moments we have had since then!

The Prettiest Place I Know – We made a trip up to Ashland, TN to visit a dear family member who was very ill.  I cried the entire time I wrote this post about arriving at one of my husband’s favorite childhood spots and rereading it still brings tears to my eyes.

Clean Beaches on the Gulf Coast – I don’t typically get controversial around here.  I don’t voice my political opinion and I realize that everyone has a different experience.  I may have loved something you hated and vice versa.  I try to always find the good in something but when I wrote this post about the BP oil spill washing up on our beautiful sands, my heart was heavy.

Photo Opportunities – This was a Photo Friday in which I share my family’s love for photo cutouts!

The Power of the Grocery Store – In all of our traveling, we have discovered that a stop at a grocery store or market can teach us a lot about a city.  It is also a great place to pick up souvenirs.

Photo Session in a Hotel Room – No…not that kind of photo session! We found that a hotel room with big bright windows and a beautiful headboard was the perfect setting for a family photo shoot.

Zermatt, Switzerland and the Matterhorn: Living out #4 of my Bucket List – I have been fascinated with the Matterhorn since teaching Banner in the Sky to a group of 7th graders.  After several years of reading everything I could about it, I finally got to see the Matterhorn for myself.

Traveling Mom, Traveling Daughter – I look back on my childhood and share how my mother influenced me and my love for travel, all things road trip, and getting lost along the way.

New Orleans As Seen Through My 6 Year Old’s Eyes – The last time we were in New Orleans, I turned the camera over to my son.  He caught some great pictures and took my favorite picture of myself.

A Visit to Haunama Bay 21 Years Apart – I get to revisit one of my favorite memories from living in Hawaii (even though I wasn’t a big fan of swimming with the fishies back then or now!).

A Quiet Moment at Manoa Falls – My husband and I wandered on a hike in the middle of a rainforest and for the most part, we were completely alone.

Priceline – Our Experience – It had been years since I tried Priceline.  We got a great hotel room at an even better rate and I share how it happened.

Trip Expenses – 5 Day Road Trip to Asheville, North Carolina – I kept a running tally of every dime we spent on our trip int his hugely popular post.  I have been meaning to do this again, but just haven’t gotten around to it.  I am going to add posts like this to my calendar.

Logo Nerds

Recently, I read an article titled Three Problems that Make Me Leave Your Blog in Three Seconds over at ProBlogger.  One of the suggestions to improve the look of your blog was to “at least get a logo designed” if you couldn’t afford a custom theme.  As I said the other day, this blog has just been sitting unfinished…updated posts but unfinished look partly because I couldn’t afford a new logo or look that I liked.  The article suggested googling cheap logos so I did.  Go figure…lots of cheap logo places popped up on the list.

I explored several of the logo sites and decided to go with Logo Nerds because I liked some of their logos and was pleased with the price: $27.  If I hated the logo and was not able to get a refund, then $27 would not be that big of a deal (it would still make me sad though!). 

When you purchase a logo design, you fill out their form and pay immediately.  I had an idea of what I wanted but I still wasn’t entirely sure.  I would write one thing and then contradict myself in another section of the form.  For example, I knew that I didn’t like cartoon characters (you know…the caricature looking ones?) but I was okay with cartoon characters as long as you couldn’t see their face.  In my mind, I was picturing two kids holding a map where all you could see was the map and the kids’ feet.  After submitting your form and payment, you will receive three logo concepts to choose one from in 3-5 business days.  I received mine on the 5th business day.

All three concepts were great.  The first concept was exactly what I wanted…two kids holding a map.  I was surprised though when my eye was drawn to the second choice.  I loved the second one (which is the logo I have now) but I just couldn’t get past the yellow color that they used.  I sent it back for revision (free revisions are included in the $27 price) with the request to change the yellow words to the green used in another concept.  It took about four days to get the revisions back but I am SO pleased with the final product.

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Overall, I would recommend Logo Nerds to anyone who is looking for a logo at a cheap price.  I was so pleased with the final product and the steps it took to get there that I am planning on having them design a logo for my Pensacola with Kids blog.

All Grown Up (This site that is…)

Thanks for stopping by Two Kids and a Map!  If you are not really interested in the business of blogging and my blogging journey, today’s Travel Blogger Tuesday feature is a great blog called Arrows Sent Forth.  Please head over to see my write-up about Arrows Sent Forth!

Back in January, I changed the Two Kids and a Map theme to a free WordPress theme that I thought I liked.  Turned out that I wasn’t a big fan but then life happened and I never continued to work on the look of the site.  I continued to post about our trips and adventures with my family but I could never get the motivation to finish the website.  I realized at the Type A Mom conference sessions that there were serious issues with my site.  The site has been sitting here unfinished…until now! 

Welcome to the new and improved Two Kids and a Map! 

I am still tweaking some of the issues and learning as I go but I am so excited to unveil the site that I can’t wait another minute.  I am most excited about my new logo!  Isn’t it fabulous?!?

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Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for the logo.  It was designed by Logo Nerds and I will be reviewing my experience later this week. 

What do you think about the new look so far?  I would love a comment on what you think, how I can improve the site, and what you think of the new logo!

Wait! Don’t leave!

You are in the right place…it just might look different…or it might look the same…it just depends on what we are doing at the moment!  We are still Two Kids and a Map but we are working on our new look (and making a mess in the process!).  When trying to decide on a new look , I have been acting like I am trying to find the perfect pair of jeans.  We are updating the look, waiting on our finished logo, and making it fit just right.  Please excuse any mess we might make in the process and hopefully we will be finished soon!

The Travel Blogger Show – Orlando, Florida

This weekend I attended The Travel Blogger Show in Orlando, FL.  I wasn’t going to write about the trip, but I figured that my husband might be interested in knowing I actually learned something and did not just use it as a weekend to get away with a friend!  These are my thoughts, questions and things I took away from the experience.  If you aren’t interested in the business of blogging, come back later today or tomorrow when I will be reviewing the amazing hotel we stayed at and comparing an Orlando trip with kids to one without! 

The Travel Blogger Show was attached to the beginning of The Tradeshow, a travel retailing and destination expo, which is why it was scheduled on a Sunday morning from 9am to 12!  

Things I Loved:

  • Sitting in a room with 165 other bloggers or travel industry people who want to start a blog
  • Listening and getting to meet 2 speakers that I have read and admired long before I started my own blog
  • The fact that with the exception of a minor mic issue during the niche panel, there was little to no technical difficulty that I noticed and I could hear the speakers.
  • Listening to real bloggers tell what they do and how they do it

Things I Did Not Love:

  • I doubled this trip as a girl’s weekend away after I wooed my friend with thoughts of poolside drinks sans the 50SPF so we explored Orlando together all day Saturday.  This means I skipped the tweetup at the Rix Lounge Saturday night.  I also have never met anyone who was going on this trip so when I walked in about fifteen minutes before the event was scheduled to begin I felt kind of like I did when I walked into the first staff meeting of the year at a high school that had over 100 faculty members and staff with that deer caught in headlight look/feeling.  
  • My plans were already set in motion when I learned that there were going to be activities throughout the day Sunday.  I am sure it was written somewhere, but I guess it just wasn’t clear to me.  I was disappointed that I had to leave town and miss out on the rest of the evening activities.
  • To me as an outsider looking in, it looked like there were two very distinct groups that morning-the people who had already met in person and said hi and the people that didn’t know anyone and were sitting by themselves.  I wish that there had been some time for a forced mixer of sorts.  I am not normally a shy gal but for some reason, I felt like a wallflower.   
  • The conference room was warm and the tables were tight.  With my broken booted foot, I had to sit on the outside table so I had a little bit more room but not much.  I did notice the room cooling off once things settled down. 
  • Even though the program was put together well, you could tell that it was the first annual event!  Christopher Elliott got up and introduced himself to get everything moving.  There were supposed to be 15 minute breaks in between each part of the program but all three ran right up to the next section.  This meant that bathroom breaks/water and coffee refills had to be taken care of while the speakers were doing their thing.
  • Because I only arrived about 15m before the event started, lots of seats were taken and I had to sit towards the back of the room.  There was lots of talking during the presentations.  There were also lots of people that obviously had somewhere else to be about halfway through the morning because the place cleared out…all while the speakers were presenting.  The teacher in me just has no tolerance for this!
  • There was no family blogger representation on the niche panel.  Granted the niche speakers didn’t necessarily talk about their own niche but it would have been nice if family blogging was represented (I am sure lots of other types of travel bloggers felt the same way).  There are lots of us family bloggers out there but it seems like we are always in the back of the line behind backpackers, solo travelers, and round the world trippers (then again, other types of travel bloggers probably feel the same way about their own niche!).

Things I Learned About Blogging Conferences/Programs in General:

  • Take notes.  There is so much information coming at you in all directions and when you leave the conference you aren’t going to remember much.
  • Get a phone that has data capabilities.  I feel like I missed half of the conference.  After my six hour drive back home, I logged onto Twitter to catch up and it seemed like there were two different conferences going on…the program itself, and all of the #trvlblog10 tweets.  We have been going back and forth on whether or not to take the plunge, but this sealed the deal.  Daddy J and I are going to upgrade our phones this weekend (then maybe I won’t be the last travel blogger with a phone from 2006).
  • Jump in head first.  I was so excited to meet The Mom Maven and because I didn’t jump right out and introduce myself I found out at the end of the presentation I had been sitting one seat away from her the whole time!

Things I Learned at THIS Presentation:

  • Creativity – This blog and my Pensacola with Kids blogs are your basic this is where we went, this is what we did, this is what you can do blogs.  I like it this way.  That was why I started this blog.  I was tired of never being able to find real experiences from families who had been there.  I do some narrative writing but the majority of the posts read on these two sites are places to go, things you can do there, and how much it cost (example: one of my most viewed posts on my Pcola with Kids blog is how to have a successful blueberry picking trip!).  That being said, I can be a little bit more creative with my posts.  A lot of the places we go have been covered 1000 times so I need to come up with a better angle to make it stand out.
  • Advertising – I need to start researching advertising options and look into things like Google Adsense.
  • I learned about the Google Keyword Tool and how to utilize it.
  • Ebooks can be a very effective moneymaker and even a marketing tool.  I have been working on an Ebook…ok…not really…I have an outline and I am not sure where to go with it now…but this has motivated me a bit to get back to work.
  • I learned that I need to clean up my site a bit (well, I already knew that) and add a PR pitch page about what I expect in a PR relationship.
  • Trademark – There were mixed feelings on the niche panel about this, but trademarking is something that I am going to look at doing.  If you have been there done that and would like to share advice with me, please let me know!
  • I need to look at plugins I am not using.  One that was mentioned several times was What Would Seth Godin Do?  I came home, looked it up and realized that this is exactly what I have been looking for but just didn’t know what it was called!

Bottom Line: Would I go again?  I answer that with a resounding yes!

I am sure that there is much more that I can share.  I think I walked away with more questions than answers.  I am glad that I was able to attend this three hour program before I head up to Type A Mom in Asheville, NC at the end of this month.  What about you?  What was your experience at this conference or another?

Welcome, Southern Living Readers!

I wanted to take a moment to say hello to readers stopping by from Southern Living.  I am so honored to have been chosen as the Southern Living Mama Blogger of the Week.    Southern Living has been on the coffee table in my house since I was a little girl.  I am totally starstruck and in awe. 

southernliving

I blog here about our travel all over the place, but we especially love exploring our southern home too! I am also the creator of Pensacola with Kids, a website about exploring my hometown of Pensacola with your family.  I blog at Traveling Mom as what else?  Southern Traveling Mom, of course!  You can find me at Threaded Together too, a family craft blog where we share our love for crafts, cooking and creating!

While you are here, I hope you will grab a sweet tea, some pralines and the front porch rocking chair and sit for a spell!  Here are a few of my favorite Southern posts!

Blueberry Time

Downtown Pensacola in Pictures – Part One and Part Two

Why I Love Living in Florida

A Day Trip: Five Things to do in Mobile, AL with your kids

Dreaming of Beignets at the Cafe Du Monde – New Orleans, Louisiana

100th post!

Today, April 6, marks my 100th post! When I started this blog, it was to journal about all of the trips that we take as a family. If someone saw it and could benefit, great! If not, I would have a great way to backup photos and memories. Once I started blogging, I realized that I enjoyed sharing this info and meeting all of the great travel bloggers and readers out there. Allow me to brag for a second while I showcase a few of those who have helped me get where I am today!

The most exciting accomplishment since starting this blog was to be able to participate in Passports with Purpose. Even though I was just starting out, I was welcomed with open arms by travelbloggers, Beth (Wanderlust and Lipstick), Debbie (Delicious Baby), Michelle (Wandermom), and Pam (Nerd’s Eye View) and was able to participate in this great fundraiser. Travel bloggers all over the world helped to raise over 7000 dollars! Wow!

Since I started this website, the second most exciting accomplishment was being mentioned in the Top 20 Family Travel Blogs and Websites on Have Kids Will Travel. The funniest thing about this was that I was reading the list thinking “Wow…what a great group of people. I love reading all these blogs” and holy cow…there I was….#18!



Travels with Children
has chosen two of my articles for her Finding More Fun column. Once on 12/6/08 for my article titled Thirteen Things to do in New Orleans When Traveling with Small Children and also on 4/1/09 for my article titled Five Things to do in Washington DC with Children Under 5.

I had an article on Things You Should Do about one of my favorite local restaurants, Atlas Oyster House.

I have also been mentioned at SixSuitcaseTravel and am included on lists by Nick Bowditch titled Travellers on Twitter and also on the Travel Tweet Directory compiled by @TravelTweet.

I am following some awesome travelers on Twitter and have 276 followers myself.

Travel Blogger Tuesday is my new favorite thing to post. I love to hunt the web for great travel bloggers to showcase every Tuesday. I have featured 10 great travel bloggers so far and can’t wait to continue!

One of my favorite pictures from our Europe vacation was featured on Bootsnall’s Photo of the Day.

Here are the articles that you and I have liked the best:

Cherry Blossom Festival

Five Things to do in Washington DC with Children Under 5

In which direction is this blog headed? I have purchased the domain name and have set up hosting for my website. In the next few months, I hope to have my new website up, running and ready to launch. I look forward to exchanging articles with other travel bloggers out there. I am also looking forward to my first giveaway!

Do you Twitter?

So Twitter is not very new, but it is definitely new to me. I am still trying to figure it all out! @twokidsandamap has been featured alongside other travel twitter users and bloggers in a comprehensive list called TravelTweet Directory at Travel Notes. Check us out under TravelTweeters/United States/Florida tweeters and make sure you stop by some of our fellow twitter users and bloggers!

Pardon our dust, we are remodeling!

For my daily visitors, you will notice that I have made some changes to the blog today! I have been blogging since October and now that I am consistently posting I have decided to make some changes to my blog.

I have been working on a banner for the top of the blog and I am not sure what I will do…I am working on a second one as well. I have also changed the background color no fewer than ten times while trying to decide what I like!

This week, I started Travel Blogger Tuesday. I will feature a different travel blogger each Tuesday. If you have any suggestions let me know!

I have signed up for a Twitter account. You can follow me at @twokidsandamap. Still trying to figure out how the whole Twitter/tweet/stumble/retweet works! Still not sure what all that means! Leave me a note so I know how to follow you as well!

Thanks so much for dropping by and please pardon my dust as I try to figure out where exactly I would like to take this blog…