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Sometimes I wish we could flash forward and talk to our grown children asking them about their favorite family vacation memories. Then go back into real time and do more of that.

It’s not always the big things that are the most memorable. Sometimes we create the most awesome memories when we allow ourselves to leave an event early that is not working for us and just head back to the pool or to give ourselves more time when the planets have aligned and everyone is relaxed, laughing and having a good time.

One of our favorite family memories was a day spent in a tropical rainforest. On that vacation we spent a lot of time body surfing in the ocean and swimming in the pool. We played ping-pong, ate great food, and had a lot of laughs. One day we rented a car and went out to explore waterfalls and botanical gardens. This was the day that I thought the kids would have to just endure because it was something that my husband and I wanted to do. But we didn’t want to make it too painful for them so we figured we would just stop by, check these places out and then we could get back to the water.

It turns out we had picked a less frequented garden on the off season. We got to the entrance, paid our fee and the person at the gate quietly gave us a map. My daughter took the map and immediately went into tour guide mode. The kids pretended they were the experts and explained every plant we passed. Most of the information was either on the map or on a plaque located near the plant. If there was no information about something we were looking at, then the kids would just make it up.

They followed the map as it guided us up a steep hillside to what was supposed to be the ruins of the Old Fort. When we finally reached the top of the hill I looked around and saw what looked like some old volcanic rock that sort of ( sort of ) formed the outline of what could have been a house. The rocks didn’t go up any higher than 6 inches at any one place. In my mind I was thinking “Ugh! We have just walked all this way and there is really nothing here. The kids are going to hate this”. All of a sudden my son says in an enthusiastic voice “This is Great! Look at this! They had to carry everything by hand all the way up that hill. This must have been their lookout point. Wow! No one could get past anyone here.”

We spent hours that day at the Botanical Garden. It was completely unexpected. It was beautiful. It was educational. It was a ton of laughs. It was everything a parent could want out of a day on vacation. And there was ice cream.

Our favorite travel memories have been the most unexpected. Our happiest travel memories have been on those adventures when the kids imaginations were our tour guides.

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Join the fun on Monday November 28 for another amazing TravelingMom.com Twitter Party.

Want another chance to win big? Enter the Holiday Travel Double Take Giveaway courtesy of Venture on TravelingMom for a chance to repeat that perfect vacation. Tell us your great holiday vacation story there to be entered to win. Starts 11/28 on #TMOM so be on the lookout!

Party Details:

WHEN:  Nov. 28, 9-10 pm ET (8-9 pm CT; 7-8 pm MT; 6-7 pm PT) #TMOM on Twitter  Be sure and visit TravelingMom.com for all of the details and be sure to RSVP for a chance to win some amazing prizes.

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Yes, Thanksgiving is just days away and then we’re full on into the holidays.  So, why am I even talking about New Years?

Two reasons:

1. I just re-watched While You Were Sleeping.

Great chick flick where Sandra Bullocks character saves someone’s life and then is mistaken for his fiance and the hilarity ensues.  But the point is that she has a passport that has never been stamped.

2. I was just reading a news article online about how people are already lining up for Black Friday.

While I love supporting our local retailers and I am all for a great deal, the thought of camping out through Thanksgiving and missing out on family time to save a few dollars on a gift to give to a family member seems a little out of alignment to me.

The time to get your passport is when you don’t need it.  If you have the opportunity to travel somewhere you don’t want the added stress of wondering if your passport will arrive in time before you are scheduled to leave on your grand adventure.  While you are out and about these next couple of weeks pop into a photo center and get a handful of 2 x 2 pictures of yourself and your family members.  They can come in handy for alot of things not just passports.  Then go online and fill out the passport form and print it off.

Even if you have no plans right now for any grand adventure in 2012 it is a good thing to have and you save money by giving yourself the money to go through the standard Passport processing time.  It will take about six weeks to process.  If you find you need a passport faster than that they are happy to help you for additional charges.  Save that money for yourself and get your passport now while you don’t need it.

Then on New Year’s Eve you can dream big and think about that vacation to Paris.

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On a recent trip across the country we made a couple of stops that were essentially going to be bathroom breaks. First a quick visit to Old Faithful and then on to Cody Wyoming. The next day we worked our way over to Rapid City South Dakota where we had planned to make a quick stop at Mt. Rushmore.

We picked up a Jr. Ranger handbook at the rangers station and the kids set off in search of the the clues to complete the tasks outlined in the book. They spent hours in the museum and walking along the pathways under the faces. They loved every second of their search. It cooled down pretty quickly as it began to get dark. Fortunately we were ready for that. We bundled up and continued exploring the park. Not long after sunset there was a flag ceremony in the main amphitheater to retire the colors. For several hours it had seemed like it was just us and a dozen or so other people at the park but all of a sudden the seating area was packed with what must have been over 1000 people. I’m not sure where they had all come from but apparently the park is more spread out than I had thought. We sat there and watched as members of the military that were visiting that day walked onto the stage and a troop of Boy Scouts from Minnesota filed in to provide the manpower for the actual lowering and folding of the flag for the evening. A slide show played above the stage and the lights on the faces came began to glow. As the flag was lowered the entire audience joined together in singing the national anthem. There were people there from all over the country and possibly even the world. We had never met. We had never sung together. But on this evening it was one of the most beautiful choruses I had ever heard. I could feel tears start to well up and I almost wasn’t able to sing the whole song because it was so moving.

Later that fall, when my kids, who were 11 and 13 at the time, would tell people about their summer they would talk about their favorite day at Mt. Rushmore. There were no roller coasters, there were no video games, and this was their favorite stop on the trip.

Sometimes we have to remember that one of the best gifts we can give to our kids is the time for us to be together in a place where their imaginations can run wild.

Join the team at TravelingMom.com on Monday October 24 for a twitter party all about meaningful travel. I’ll be there! You can Win an iPad2 and talk meaningful travel on #TMOM Twitter party RSVP HERE http://bit.ly/nwVFbm #TAUCK

I’m looking forward to talking with the folks at Tauck travel and other moms about the Cowboy Country Northbound adventure which covers Yellowstone to Mt. Rushmore. CLICK HERE  for more details.

For more information on Mt. Rushmore visit the National Park Service Page

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Do you have a “Let’s Make a Deal” purse – one like Mary Poppins or Hermione Granger?  You know the purse.  It has EVERYTHING in there.  For me this was a carry over of the diaper bag.  It was easier to carry way more than I needed just in case there was that one most unlikely moment when I did actually need one obscure item in my purse.   But now my baby is in middle school and those moments of urgency are far fewer.

This summer I traveled with my friend Carissa Rogers to the Blogher conference in San Diego.  This is where I learned exactly what is on my new essential list of the top 14 things I never leave home without:

1. Wallet

2. Sunglasses

3. Cell phone

4. Keys – I have the keys on a lanyard which makes them easier to grab when they are loose in my purse.  It also makes it easy to hang them around my neck when I am just running into the store quickly and don’t want to take my entire purse in with me.  Wearing your keys around your neck sort of is a Grandma move – the equivalent of wearing socks with sandals – but I am finding the efficiency is worth the looks from much younger people.

5. Passport – I usually carry this with me as my form of identification.  It is government issued but doesn’t display my home address.  Besides that, you never know when you might have the chance to dash off to some exotic foreign destination.

6. Reading glasses – once you need them you really need them and now I don’t travel anywhere without them.

7. A great red lipstick and some waterproof mascara – This was really the main thing I learned at the conference.  A girl should really not go anywhere without a great lipstick and her mascara.

8. Watch – yes, your cellphone displays the time but I absolutely adore my watch ( also waterproof ).  It’s important to be on time and a great looking watch is a good way to make sure you do that.

9. Skanz bracelet –  a square code on the bracelet can be scanned by other smart phones and will load all of my contact information on to that phone.  Love this. Thanks Zebra Partners  – more on this later.

10. Business Cards – in case I run into someone who doesn’t have a smart phone OR if someone needs a note about something I will write it down on my business card and then that reminds them of my conversation along with giving them the information they wanted.

11. (Not pictured but critical) a Black Sharpie and a Silver Sharpie – you should never leave home without one of each in your purse.  You never know when you might have the opportunity to have Jane Lynch sign the Glee Tshirt you just happen to be carrying with you at the time.  Also, if you are at a Broadway show the playbills are often dark and if you happen to run into a former Miss America who is playing the lead you can have her sign your playbill with the silver Sharpie (that shows up much better on black).

12. Earrings – I make sure to have a great pair of earrings with me.  The pair in this picture was a gift from my mother after a trip she took to India.  They are my Default Earrings.  I wear them everywhere.  Yes, the watch is gold and the earrings are silver.  It might be like wearing white after Labor day but I’m OK with that.  The watch and the earrings both have sentimental meaning to me and so make me feel more confident when I’m wearing them.

13. Blue Tooth

14. Lucky Nickel – Several years back they started making nickels with an ocean scene on one side with the immortal words of Lewis and Clark “Ocean in view, Oh the joy!”.  My youngest brother had been saying this phrase for years every time he returned home from one of his great adventures and it had become a symbol to me too.  I love traveling but there is also a great joy that comes when I finally return home.  In my case this does happen to be very close to that same point where Lewis and Clark penned those famous words.  So, I carry my lucky nickel with me to remind me about the way home.

What are the items you can’t leave home without?

Disclosure: HTC, LG, and Skanz did give me these products while I was at Blogher.  They did not ask me to write this follow up post. The opinions and the fact that these products ended up in my top list of can’t leave home without them items are all my own.   I am an affiliate with Amazon and links from this article serve to provide more information about the items on my list but also link to my affiliate pages.

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– by Mary

There was a time when we traveled without cell phones. We didn’t have GPS. And somehow we got to where we were going. I have been a traveler my entire life and have driven across the United States more times than I can count now.

So, when I got a chance to take a few days and drive with my two little boys to see Grandma I hardly gave it a second thought. The boys were both very little and fastened securely into their car seats so I didn’t have to worry about any hijinx going on in the back seat. So, without much ado we said bye bye daddy (who had to stay home and work), tossed a few things in the trunk, and took off for an all day drive to Grandmas.

Things were going along great. Tunes on the radio, juice boxes all around, great weather for traveling. But then it happened. We had to make a potty break. This was the biggest challenge of the day. Mike was sound asleep in the car and Matt had to go. So, we pulled in to a rest stop and I assessed the situation and decided to just lock the car with Mike still asleep in his car seat and run quickly in to the bathroom. It was not too hot outside and we would just be a couple of minutes. What could go wrong?

Everything went great until we got back to the car. Mike was still sound asleep in his car seat. Matt stood quietly by my side while I checked every pocket for the keys to the car. A sort of panicky feeling starting welling up – where were the keys. I finally looked in the car and yes, there they were, safely and securely waiting for me in the car. I had turned the car off but then left the keys in the ignition and jumped out with Matt, locking Mike and the keys in the car. There didn’t seem to be a phone booth anywhere. I didn’t know what to do.

Finally, people started to realize I was getting a little frantic trying to think about what to do. One couple offered to go find a phone booth and call a the police to come and assist. Several people had gathered around the car and we were all talking about what to do. A man stepped up to talk to me. To this day I can remember every detail of the events of this unlucky situation except what the man looked like. He just sort of appeared and asked me quietly if I cared if he scratched my car a bit. I said “No – Go ahead”.

Out of nowhere he pulled this long metal thing from somewhere and slipped it between the window of the drivers side and the door and yanked it up releasing the door lock. I was watching Mike the whole time and when I turned around to say thanks to our rescuer he had vanished. Another lady standing next to me noticed his quick departure too and said “Wow. That was super lucky that there was a professional car thief in the parking lot today”.

Yes, I was Very lucky that day for a number of reasons. And I never ever left a kid in a car again even for a second.

Do you have an unlucky story. Was there someone who came to your rescue. CLICK HERE to enter the TravelGuard’s Unluckiest Traveler 2: The Rescue contest sponsored by @travelguard. Then join @TravelingMoms on Monday August 1, 2011 at 9PM EST for a super fun #TMOM #WUT2 Twitter party to share your stories with a few unlucky / and many lucky travelers.

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This post is part of a Travelingmom campaign and sponsored by TravelGuard. That’s the lucky part. The part where I locked the keys in the car was all me.

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Best Part of Travel

I love traveling.  Back in the mid 90’s I started the Stayathomemom.com website and my friends all laughed because they said “But you’re never at home”.

This last round of adventures found us traveling in 2009 for a year before returning home for a couple of months and then taking off for another one year adventure in 2010.  This morning I am back sitting at my desk in my office.  I am still unpacking from our year on the road and have cleaned off the inch thick layer of dust that was on everything but it is wonderful.

One of the best parts of going somewhere is coming home again.  My kids ran right to the kitchen door where we have made marks along the door frame marking growth and checked out how much they had grown in the past year.  Somehow, someone along the way, decided that we needed to not only mark the height but add the person’s name and the date.  This has been great because my youngest now found out he is exactly the same height as his older brother was at the same age.  Very fun.

I love drinking coffee out of my favorite coffee mug.

The only thing about coming back is that the house is exactly as we left it – there was no magical renovation fairy that came in and finished the bathroom renovation that has been underway for 4 years now.   But it is my bathroom and so its wonderful.

 

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