Trvl Porter is Changing the Travel Game: No More Packing, No More Overweight Luggage Fees

Packing. 

It’s my least favorite thing in the world to do. Ironic, considering how much we travel. This month alone we’ve already been gone two weeks out of three and we still have one more trip to take. We love to travel, whether it’s to Disney for the weekend with the kids or we are hopping on a quick flight somewhere to spend the weekend in one of our favorite cities (hey, NYC) or across the country to spend a long weekend on our favorite coast (Orange County, anyone?).

But I hate packing. It takes me an entire day to pack for a trip, even if it’s just my husband and me going. When we bring all four kids – well, it takes an entire day and evening. I’m precise. I keep our toiletry bag packed all the time, replenished when we get home from any trip with the items I keep in our basket of extras in the bathroom. Extra loofahs, travel shampoo and conditioner, travel body and face wash, deodorant, hairspray, dry shampoo, you name it, I have it in my basket of extras.

But the clothes packing situation is my biggest nightmare.

Thankfully, Trvl Porter just changed the game for me. When Stefanie, the founder of Trvl Porter, reached out to me a few weeks ago to see if I would like to try their brand-new, groundbreaking service, I was all in. My husband had already planned a surprise weekend getaway for my 35th birthday, and I was game.

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{ Dress Halston Heritage via Trvl Porter. Shoes Christian Louboutin}

What is Trvl Porter? 

It’s a game-changer, that’s what. Seriously, imagine packing for any and every trip you take without actually packing anything. You bring your shoes, your undergarments, makeup, and your favorite accessories. That’s all.

You pack nothing else.

Trvl Porter packs the rest for you. No more packing or unpacking. No more overweight baggage fees at the airport (y’all don’t even want to know how much my husband and I pay for that small problem every flight we take). No more taking time out of your already jam-packed schedule to pack for your business trip, vacation, weekend getaway.

How Does it Work?

You create an account online with Trvl Porter. You input your trip details (where, when, what, how, why, whatever). You tell your personal style concierge what you’re doing and where you’re going, along with your sizes. They’ll create a custom wardrobe for you to approve, and they’ll email it to you a week before your trip.

Once you approve or change your designer wardrobe choices, your stylish ships your order to your hotel. You pick up your items upon check in. They’ll be with the concierge. When you check out, you give the items back to the concierge in the pre-addressed, pre-paid envelope provided, and the concierge mails your items back for you.

It’s that simple.

What Do I Wear? 

Anything and everything. You tell your stylist what you need and where you are going. From casual vacation clothing to upscale business attire, you pick. Designers such as Diane von Furstenberg, Halston Heritage, and more provide designer clothing for you to wear – and none of it is your responsibility to pack, unpack, or even launder.

Does it get any better than that?

It does not.

My experience with Trvl Porter was spectacular.

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{Hotel Bathrobe – Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Orlando}

In fact, when there was a small mistake in the shipping process for my items, Stefanie Nissen, the found of Trvl Porter called me herself – from her cell phone – to ask me what she could do to make it right. I still got my clothing in time, and she was amazing. I fell instantly in love with the dress I chose, and I received compliments on in all night long.

The process was simple, streamlined, and easy.

And a total game changer.

Even though I don’t mind unpacking. Honestly, I don’t. I always have our entire family unpacked, laundry going, and everything organized within half an hour of getting home from any trip. It makes life so much easier.

If you want to try Trvl Porter, do it. All of my followers and fans get a special discount for signing up if you enter HEART-TRVL at checkout it. You’ll get your first item free of charge, which is a $200+ value. Try it. You will not regret it!

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Your Next Travel Must-Have: Charcoal Whitening Powder

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Travel is one of my favorite things, but it definitely has a way of taking its toll on my body and my health. It’s so easy to eat fast food, it’s so easy to say yes to that second glass of red wine, and it’s so easy to drink all the coffee. I’m so guilty of using travel as an excuse to treat myself – and who doesn’t? – and then head to the hotel gym for a two-mile run like that’s going to make up for all the room service Belgian waffles and bacon.

However, the biggest problem I have when I travel is the damage I do to my white smile. Red wine and coffee. Coffee and red wine. We’re having fun, so the glasses of vino are flowing, and I’m exhausted being in a different time zone, away from my bed, and away from my carefully crafted routine, which means my coffee consumption becomes a problem. I’m sure I need coffee intervention, but that’s not the point here, right? We travel often, and I need something to keep my smile in check.

I take a lot of photos for social media and tiffanyraiford.com, and that means I need to be sure my smile is always white, which is basically impossible after 200 trips to Starbucks. I don’t always have time to wear whitening trays or head to the dentist for a whitening treatment. I need something fast, easy, convenient, and portable.

When the amazing people from Avistar asked me to try their charcoal whitening powder, I was excited. I’d heard such good things about this easy way of whitening in the past, and I was hoping it was the answer to my travel whitening needs.

The Avistar Natural Teeth Whitener and Detoxifier with Activated Charcoal Powder changed my travel life. I simply bring it with me on my flights, and I use it every day. The difference is immediate, and it helps me feel more confident in my smile when we aren’t home – even after a gallon of coffee.

The best part is that it’s so simple to use. I wet my toothbrush, dip it into the powder, and I brush for two minutes. After rinsing, I brush my teeth as usual – which helps remove the charcoal residue from between my teeth. My teeth are whiter and brighter, and my smile that much more confident.

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Tips for Use

Now that you’re ready to change your travel game face (literally) forever, here are a few things I’ve learned to make your whitening experience a little easier and less of a mess (hello, living and learning).

  • Whiten before you put your makeup on, so you don’t end up with charcoal powder on your lipstick
  • Don’t use a lot on your toothbrush. You only need to dab your brush in the powder for a very small layer. A little of this whitening product goes a LONG way.
  • Brush afterward. You can use it alone or you can put it on top of your toothpaste, but I found the best way to use it to make a smaller mess and to have the brightest smile is by using it first and then brushing afterward.
  • Expect a mess – unless you’re perfect, unlike me. Just grab a baby wipe or a Clorox wipe to have on hand while you brush. The charcoal does make a bit of a mess in the sink if you brush like me, but it wipes right up.

If you’re looking for a quick, efficient, and effective whitening method to use on the road, this is it. And you don’t have to reserve it for travel, either. You can use it at home. It’s easy, and the best part is that it has no effect on sensitive teeth. I have sensitive teeth, and I’m always hesitant to try new products. This one is perfect if you want to have the pearliest whites because you won’t feel anything.

It’s a win, but the fact that it’s sold on Amazon.com and you can have it in two days or less with Prime Shipping is a game-changer, for certain. It’s organic, too, so you needn’t worry about putting anything questionable on your teeth and gums.

You can’t lose, so why are you waiting to order?

Formal and Fabulous in Gold Sequins on Date Night

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Happy Monday, Loves.

Can I let you all in on a little secret? Well, it’s probably not much of a secret, to be quite honest. I was born in the wrong era. I mean, so wrong. I would have lived large and well in the 20s or 30s. I was born to dress for dinner. I was born to live my best life in fancy dresses sipping champagne and listening to beautiful jazz music.

One of my favorite things to do when we are out of town is dine. I love amazing food, and Craig and I seek out the most amazing restaurants in the world when we travel – I can’t tell you how spectacular some of the places we’ve been really are. On the downside, eating anywhere around our home is such a letdown. I want all things fancy. But, that’s why we travel…to find good food and so I don’t waste all these expensive shoes on school pick up and drop off.

When the Jamaica 10 decided to book a cruise for our kid-free trip this year, I knew that I wouldn’t get amazing food (cruise ship food is the worst), but I did know I’d get a spectacular chance to dress up on formal night. And I was not missing a moment to dress up like I was on my way to the Oscars.

Gold.

Sequins.

Boujee.

And I loved Every. Single. Second. of it.

In addition to dressing up like it’s my job, I was in my happiest place right inside my husband’s arms on the dance floor. He is so dapper, and such a beautiful dancer. He also sings to me while we dance, and he couldn’t stop telling me how amazing I looked. Vain Tiffany didn’t hate the moment, at all. In fact, I was reluctant to even leave the dance floor to go to dinner. I could have stayed there all night.

My dress was my favorite dress of all time – and guess what? I rented it! Yep! I rented this gorgeous Badgley Mischka gown from Rent the Runway, and I was so beyond happy with my rental and experience. I have zero need for a formal gown in my life other than on the cruise, and we all know I won’t wear it again anyway, so investing in one seemed pointless. Renting one, however, seemed perfect. And it was.

So here are all the outfit details (including a few you can purchase if you’re not into renting).

Badgley Mischka gold sequin gown – I rented it from Rent the Runway, but you can find the same gown here. Earrings are from Target here, and my white shoes are Manolo Blahnik found here

I also found three more similar gold sequin gowns in a much more affordable price range here, here, and here.

Craig’s Outfit Details Here – Ralph Lauren jacket here, similar here and here. Ted Baker dress pants here and similar here and here. John Varvatos dress shirt here, and similar here and here. Magnanni Gerardo shoes here, more affordable version here and here

 

 

 

 

Mixing High and Low on Vacation

Happy Monday, loves!

It’s an exciting week in the Raiford house. Addison, our oldest, has her favorite week of summer – cheer camp. She’s been going since she was 5, and she’s been with the same group of girls since. This means my schedule is crazy, but she loves it, and her performance at the end of the week is always so much fun! It’s also Father’s Day, and we have so much to celebrate with Craig. He’s the best dad in the world -and we all know it.

It’s also a week for the books, because, you guys…I’ve started packing for our Caribbean vacation. Which isn’t until next week! Anyone who knows me knows I’m in panic mode the night before we leave on vacation because I’ve packed nothing. This time, however, I’ve started packing. Perhaps it’s because my husband and I spent time Saturday coordinating our dinner outfits, or perhaps it’s because things we’ve ordered for vacay have started to arrive, or perhaps it was the post-dinner parking lot fashion show Friday night. Whatever it is, I’ve started packing – and it feels really good to have things crossed off my checklist already (you guys, I’ve created my vacay checklist already, too!).

Caribbean packing is easy for me. Swimsuits, coverups, and dinner attire. And 78 other outfits I don’t need, of course.

My style has always been a good mixture of low and high-end pieces. I prefer certain items high-end (shoes, bags, glasses, jeans, dresses etc.) and some items I don’t care as much about. If they’re trendy and on-style for the current season, they aren’t investment pieces for me. I’m sharing how I mix high and low pieces for a tropical vacay by sharing a few of my favorite new purchases for vacation.

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Shoe Obsession

I’ve been on the fence about a great pair of white pumps for a few months now. I’ve been weighing the idea of white shoes with four kids who love to step on my toes, the rainy Florida weather, and whether I’ll actually wear them. Last week, I decided I’d been thinking about them so much, I needed to have them to wear with the gorgeous gown I ordered for dinner one night. My favorite shoes are always, always, always Manolo Blahnik, so I went with these. They arrived Thursday – and I’ve already worn them to date night Friday night and church on Sunday. Oh, the compliments! I also like to pretend they make my pasty legs look tan. A girl can dream, right?

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Swim Suits

I typically don’t splurge on swimwear. However, I’m very particular about my bottoms. Cheap, trendy bottoms tend to snag and look bad after one or two wears, so I always buy Victoria’s Secret bottoms. I’ve learned they are the ones that last a long time and hold up quite well no matter what I sit on (the dock, the boat, the pool deck, etc.). Tops, however, I don’t care about. I mix and match my tops and bottoms, anyway. These VS cheekie ruffle bottoms are my favorite – I have them in every color ever made over the years, and I wear them season after season after season.

I also recently bought this scalloped suit for a trip we took earlier this month. To be very honest, I hate the bottoms. The scallops don’t hold up, so they end up needing adjustments every 30 seconds. I skipped out wearing them, but I love the top. You can go with this one or this much more affordable version.

I also bought this pink top from Express. Full disclosure – it hasn’t arrived yet, but I’m super excited about it! For only $20, it doesn’t matter too much if I don’t love it.

Swim Coverups

This has been the worst year – ever – for swim coverups. I haven’t found anything I love, anywhere. I always love a good Lilly Pulitzer coverup, but the one I bought is no longer on the website, so I’m linking this one since it’s the same style just a different design. Furthermore, I just ordered a few coverups from….wait for it…Amazon! I found them on Pinterest (looooove Pinterest) and was dying when I realized they were only $16-$17 on Amazon. Naturally, I ordered multiple colors, and I really like them! You can find them here.

I’m not done shopping, yet. But I’m proud of myself for already ordering all my dinner attire, swimwear, and shoes. Now I just need a new beach bag and earrings. We’re going to shop this weekend, so hopefully, I find everything I still need. Because next week, we’re out!

Traveling Without Your Kids: A Must Do For Your Marriage

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I’m going to be late picking the girls up from school if I don’t leave here in approximately 10 minutes, but I’m sitting here at my desk in my bathrobe eating a tablespoon of creamy peanut butter with tiny chocolate chips. And I don’t feel bad. Technically, the line doesn’t even begin moving until 3:40, which is what I’m telling myself even though I’m going inside today so I can give my oldest her gymnastics bag and grabbing my middle before we go get the twins.

I’m distracted this week, and I’m working my behind off trying to get a lot more done in a lot less time. I’m taking Friday off…which means I need to get all my normal Friday work done by Thursday. That’s easier said than done when you consider it’s around 15,000 words. I’m 100 percent so excited about the upcoming weekend!

Three glorious days at one of our favorite hotels in one of our favorite cities to celebrate our anniversary 3 weeks early! No kids. Just us. Date nights, and sleeping in, and getting some sun, and getting my husband all to myself for a few days. What else could a girl want?!

As I’m multitasking (working and making packing notes), I’m thinking about all the conversations we’ve had with people over the years anytime we plan a trip without the kids. “It must be so nice to get time away so often,” (It is). “How can you leave your kids?” (With a cheerful wave and some sweet hugs and kisses). “I’ve never understood people who leave their kids. I could never do it. More power to you,” (PSA: this is not a great veiled attempt at insinuating people who take time to focus on their marriage or not losing their ever-loving minds with their kids are less than amazing parents).

We miss our kids when we aren’t with them, but man-oh-man do we appreciate that time away! We get to come home on Sunday morning rested, fulfilled, happy, and as much better parents. I can’t parent when I’m stressed, on empty, and without some personal space.

Ladies and gentlemen – My husband and I have four kids. Free time is not something we have. We have to schedule free time – and it sometimes takes weeks to get time to do that – and we don’t get much down time. If we don’t take a break from the constant snack-making, lunch-packing, butt-wiping, booger-wiping, bath-giving, boo-boo bandaging, this food touched that food and I need all my food remade-handling, chauffeuring, homeworking-doing, sports-practicing, exhausting, beautiful moments that kind of wipe us out from time to time, things get really ugly, really quickly.

I suck at parenting when I’m exhausted. We all do. It’s why kids have naptimes and bedtimes. So we can recharge overnight and face the next day with a happy heart. And that works…but sometimes I just need to get my husband very naked and very much to myself for a few days. And I’m not even remotely ashamed of that situation.

If you are one of the many people who feels guilt at the thought of leaving your kids, I feel you, sister. I always feel guilty leaving them. But I go. They love their time with their grandparents and their cousins. They sometimes need a break from our faces, too. And that’s the pretty thing about time off. If you can find time to take off and get away from the kids, do it. The benefits are astounding.

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You Get to Have a Real Conversation

I don’t know about your household, but sometimes my husband and I try to carry on the same conversation for an hour before we finally get to the point. “So, I was thinking we could (MOMMY! Can I have some water?) Sure, honey, give me a second. Anyway, I was thinking this weekend we could take the kids down to Dis – (Daddy! Can you help me with my math homework? Oh, sorry. I didn’t know you were talking to mommy, but when you’re done can you help me with my math homework?) (Husband nods) What was I saying? Oh right, I was thinking this weekend we could…” and sometime an hour later, I might get that sentence out.

When we take a weekend without the kids, we get to talk. A lot. And we have meaningful conversation about how amazing it is to have meaningful conversation without being interrupted 87592641614 times. And the sad part is our kids know not to interrupt blatantly….but they’re constant “Excuse me’s” aren’t fun.

You Are Relaxed

What’s more relaxing than knowing you get to go to bed on your own time, you get to sleep all night, and you get to wake up on your own time? Oh, nothing. You’re also relaxed going to dinner because you don’t care if there is a small delay in your reservation. You aren’t eating on the kid timer. When you’re told it will be a few moments, you probably do what we do and say, “No rush! We’ll be at the bar!” You’re relaxed, and relaxed people are happy people.

You’re A Lot More Naked

TMI, I know. But let’s be honest. You are. And he is. And you both are. And that’s always, always, always the best. And I’ll leave it at that.

You’re Focused On One Another

I love nothing more than when my husband is fully focused on me and our time together, and it’s hard to manage that with the kids. I love being able to focus on him, listen to his stories and really hear what he’s saying. I love the focus, and that focus is good for the soul.

You Feel Closer Together

I cannot get enough of my husband when we travel. I feel so close to him when it’s just the two of us. It takes me back a decade before we had kids and we were just newlyweds jetting off to New York City one weekend, California the next weekend, and Hawaii three weeks later. That was our life, and it was so, so good. It’s a million times better now, but it does take me back to that time when we were young and carefree.

You’re A Better Parent

At the end of the day, you’re a much better parent when you have a few days away. I can always tell when my patience is waning, and I know when a timeout is necessary. Sometimes we just need to get away for a few days and recharge. We need to just be us and be reminded how much fun we have. We need to be reminded that we actually do miss our little monsters when we’re away, and we need to be reminded of the little moments so we get to go home and be much better parents to four much better kids (Kidding…the grandparents come stay with our kids when we travel and they don’t know how to pronounce “NO” so our kids are basically evil when we return).

For example, when we wake up in a hotel and room service delivers our coffee, we get to sit on our balcony and overlook the city or the ocean or wherever we are, talk, drink in silence, read the news, savor the sweetness. But we also realize that those sweet little faces that usually climb up next to us on the couch to cuddle when we drink our coffee at home are really sweet moments (because Lord knows in the moment we’re just like “Omg. Could you take up any more of my space?).

You’re A Better Couple

I don’t know about y’all, but I really like my husband – a lot. And I’m pretty sure he mostly likes me, too. Save for about a week every month, but what’s a girl to do about attitude problems when her hormones are like whoa and she has four kids and all that? Anyway, I really like Craig. And I like spending time with him. We are a better couple when we have a few days to ourselves. He makes me laugh. My cheeks always hurt by the end of our trip from laughing so much. He’s always so thoughtful in making reservations at my favorite restaurants, taking my Insta photos, shopping with me, and he always defers to me when it’s time to choose the bottle of wine we order – and I never have to compromise on that. It’s nice.

We are a much better couple when we have time alone, and that makes our marriage that much better. We might be together 24 hours a day save for pick up and drop off at school during the week, but we still need that quality time to focus on our marriage and nothing but one another. And we are so much better for it.

Did I mention all the nakedness?

Travel Recap: NYC With Kids

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We hated, hated, hated New York City the first time we visited.

We spent the weekend of our second wedding anniversary in May 2007 in NYC. It was our first visit, and we did all the things you’re ‘supposed’ to do. We hired a limo to for our airport transfers and both nights we were out on the town for dinner. We made reservations at Tavern on the Green and the Four Seasons to sit in the iconic Pool Room. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt near Grand Central Terminal, we shopped all weekend, and we saw the sites. The 9-11 memorial made us cry. The top of the Empire State Building almost made me cry – omg, that was high.

We visited Times Square, Central Park, 5th Avenue, and all the places you’re ‘supposed’ to go when you’re in the city.

And we hated it.

Tavern on the Green is gorgeous, but I’ve yet to have a good meal there the 4 times we’ve had dinner. The Four Seasons was spectacular – and we’ve had probably a half-dozen diners there, but they moved out of their iconic 52nd street location, and it’s lost its luster as a result (sorry, Four Seasons…but my guess is you’re already aware of this). Times Square is dirty, packed, too commercial, too loud, and filled with nothing worthwhile.

We couldn’t navigate the city, and we just didn’t care for it. We said we’d never go back. In fact, we’d booked a 5-day trip to Orange County in California with a departure only 4 days after we came home from NYC, and we spent our entire trip in NYC wishing it would end so we could fly home and pack for our flight to California. We were never going back to NYC.

We just got home from our 23rd trip in New York City Sunday evening.

Obviously, we are liars.

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Since 2010 when we made our second trip to NYC with some of our best friends, we’ve been going back for date night and other reasons regularly. I spent a year working with the NFL, the CDC, and USA Football on the Heads Up Program as a parenting writer, and that required a trip to the NFL headquarters on Park Avenue every 3 months. My husband and I spent the second half of 2012 and the first half of 2013 visiting the city every three months for a few days, so I could attend my 2-hour luncheons with the NFL commissioner and everyone else involved in the program, and then we’d just have a few date days.

That time spent in the city gave us a chance to fall madly in love. We found our favorite hotel ever on 52nd between 5th Avenue and Park. We found our favorite little wine bar tucked along the side street by Rockefeller Center. We discovered brunch at the Boathouse in Central Park. We found the little café on the shoe floor at Saks with a gorgeous terrace overlooking 5th and Rockefeller. We found Salon De Ning, the rooftop bar at the top of the Peninsula Hotel with breathtaking views of 5th Ave. We developed a serious love of the Champagne Bar at the Plaza Hotel. And we discovered the most amazingly amazing Italian restaurant ever in the history of life – Il Tinello.

We learned how to navigate the city. We know where we’re going, which streets are one-way streets, and we developed a distinct taste for Uber Black anytime we need a ride anywhere. We love the city, and we spend at least 2 weekends a year in NYC for Fashion Week in February and September, and we fit in a 3rd weekend for just a date night if we have time between our other travels.

And this time – we took our two oldest daughters with us. Addison is turning 10 in July and Ava turns 7 in March. Our frequent trips to the city since they’ve been born have piqued their interest in visiting. Watching Kevin live his best life in the Plaza Hotel in Home Alone 2 over Christmas Break created an obsession in Ava.

So….we took the girls to NYC. And I’m going to share how we did the city with little kids in tow (which did not involve any stops at our favorite wine bar, no drinks at the Saks Café, and no after-dinner cocktails at the Plaza).

Where to Stay: The Omni Berkshire

The Omni Berkshire. This is our favorite hotel in the city. It’s located on 52nd between Park and Fifth, only steps from each. A 30-second stroll has you standing on the corner of Fifth Avenue between Ferragamo and Cartier, and only 2 blocks from Saks Fifth Avenue.

The staff is spectacular – particularly Lenny, the amazing @karaokedoorman – who manages to make everyone feel like a VIP when they arrive. The front desk staff is always quick to offer a fun upgrade, send up a bottle of champagne when they see it’s almost your birthday, and they were so fun to offer the girls gifts when we arrived. It’s a 4.5-star hotel with class and elegance, and we cannot get enough. It’s always busy, but you can never tell.

Where to Eat with Kids

We had a tough time with this one having never seen a child in a restaurant in NYC before – in fact, other than our kids, we’ve still never seen a child in a restaurant in NYC before. We ultimately decided to make reservations at the hotel’s restaurant the first night of our visit. It was 34 degrees, sleeting, and cold – and the girls were a little tired. Bob’s Steak and Chop House is the name, and they were spectacular with the girls.

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Ava was in total heaven when she realized the kids’ menu included a 4 oz. filet mignon, which is her favorite meal. We all had filet, and it was one of the best I’ve ever had. The carrot – OMG. The Bob’s famous carrot is everything it’s made out to be. The bottle of Chianti my husband ordered was spectacular, and the ambiance was fabulous. The staff was great with the kids, and we enjoyed ourselves fully.

Il Tinello is where we took the girls our second night in the city. I don’t even have words for the truly remarkable experience we have each time we visit Il Tinello. No matter what we order, it’s flawless. The staff is the same staff we’ve been dining with two or three times a year since our first visit to the restaurant in 2015. They are subtle, enjoyable, and always manage to keep our glasses filled, our table clean, and new treats on the table for us without us even noticing they’re there.

They carry a bottle of Sangiovese we’re obsessed with, the food is always perfection, and they were so delightful with the girls. Our wonderful waiter took it upon himself to cut Ava’s filet for her so we didn’t have to. He offered the girls anything on the menu they wanted even if they don’t make it or carry it – which is how they ended up with ice cream sundaes after dinner. Every single person who walked by our table – including the manager – stopped to tell the girls how beautiful they looked in their fancy dresses, and they served Ava her beverage in a fancy wine glass so she could “cheers” us every 30 second all night.

I cannot say enough about Il Tinello. It’s located on 56th street, it’s very subtle, exceptionally ambient, and utter perfection. I always heard Regis Philbin talk about it on his talk show with Kelly Ripa, which is how we found it the first time – and dined at the table right next to Regis and his wife Joy that night. My life was basically made. Seriously.

As for brunch on Saturday morning, our plan was to take the girls to the Boathouse for the spectacular food and the view of the park and lake. However, they’re currently closed for renovation, so we made reservations at the Plaza Hotel for brunch. Once again, the staff catered so amazingly to the girls, ensuring Ava had the largest bowl of strawberries and raspberries imaginable to go along with her bacon – her favorite meal.

We had lunch at the 2West at the Ritz-Carlton in Battery Park so we could see the Statue of Liberty. It was very good, and the girls enjoyed themselves. We ordered room service the rest of our trip because that’s the girls’ favorite way to eat – picking what they want to eat and someone else bringing it to them in bed.

Activities for Kids

To be honest, we aren’t very touristy – so this might not be the best guide for anyone who is. Our first order of business was a trip to the American Girl doll store near Rockefeller Center. The girls have wanted dolls for some time now, but they only wanted them if they came directly from the store in New York City. So that was the primary reason for our visit.

The store is amazing, the girls had the most wonderful time, and it was a super fun afternoon. We walked right over to the store after we checked in on Friday, and the girls spent some serious time designing their new dolls, choosing additional outfits, and wandering the store to check out all that’s there to see and do.

Following that, we walked around 5th Avenue, stopped for their favorite Starbucks drinks, shopped a bit more, and then we went back to the hotel to shower and get ready for dinner. We had an early dinner –and lingered – and the girls were ready to go up to our room and relax after dinner. They were tired from an early morning and our flight.

On Saturday, the girls wanted to see a bit more of the city. It was a beautiful 40 degrees and sunny, so we walked to the Boathouse (only to realize it was closed for renovation – oops). Our hotel is on 52nd and the Boathouse is just inside the park at 72nd and 5th. It’s a lovely 20-block walk, and the girls loved all the architecture and everything to see on the gorgeous walk.

Our girls had a list of things they wanted to see and do:

  • American Girl Doll Store Shopping
  • Shoe Shopping at Saks
  • Times Square to see Toys R Us and the M&M store
  • Go to the Plaza Hotel to see if Kevin and/or Donald Trump might be there (from Home Alone 2)
  • See Central Park
  • Look at the horse and carriage rides, but not ride them because “ew, they stink”
  • See the Statue of Liberty
  • See where the Twin Towers once stood
  • Ride in a Limo
  • Eat a lot of dessert
  • Go shopping

So, we did all the above. They had the most spectacular time. Times Square, as I said before, is not a place we enjoy, but they did want to see it. I’d highly recommend you take the quick walk down to 7th to see it yourself and walk around, but you only need to see it once. To be very honest, the screens are cool, but you’ve seen McDonalds and Olive Garden and H&M a million times in cities across the country – so there’s little point in sticking around.

There were the creepiest, most awful Disney characters wandering the street getting a little too touchy-feely with the kids, who thought they were terrifying (They were….though we live an hour from Disney and have been annual passholders since our oldest was born a decade ago, so our kids know their real Disney characters quite well….kids who’ve never been might not know the Times Square Disney characters are creepy AF). And Ava thought the naked cowboy was hysterical and “Gross” and she’s not wrong.

How to Travel in NYC with Kids

You can try a cab, but it’s not how we prefer to travel. We always use a black car or limo to and from the airport – and this time for dinner with the girls Saturday night. Otherwise, we walk everywhere and love it. If we’re not walking or the weather isn’t great, we use Uber – but ONLY Uber Black. It’s all black car service within the Uber app. It’s more expensive than a regular Uber, but I feel so much safer and so much better in a black car. I’m terrified of the Subway, and I’m not a fan of being around so many people, but I hear other people say they love it.

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As for flying, all three airports take about the same amount of time in terms of travel – however, we’ve only every flown out of Newark and it was early on a Sunday morning when there was zero traffic to speak of in the city and in the tunnel. JFK and LaGuardia are both great, and the drive’s not bad even with traffic.

We always fly JetBlue into NYC since it’s a hub and the flights are always timed well throughout the day. Additionally, JetBlue is always good about taking the estimated 2.5 to 3-hour flight time and making it just over an hour and a half. Like I said, we love JetBlue. Additionally, the Even More Space seats in the front are affordable ($28 to $40) so we always have more room and get to sit in the front.

I, nor my kids, enjoy sitting in the first row. It’s where everyone in the front congregates to stand and wait around for the front restroom, and as Miss Ava said – loudly – “It’s so gross sitting in this row with everyone’s butts in my face and in front of the TV,” and she’s not wrong. I have always had a problem with the front row, but any of the other rows in the front are much better. JetBlue is also such a great airline for kids because they have televisions at every seat and the kids can watch DirectTV, not kill any tablet batteries, and they put their earbuds in and never acknowledge us.

If you’re looking to spend any time in the city with your kids, there are so many wonderful things to do, places to go, and things to see. We are admittedly very focused on our favorite places and our favorite area of Midtown, and we only venture out of that area when I’m there for Fashion Week and must attend shows and events. Otherwise, we pick our favorites and enjoy the actual hell out of them the entire time we are there.

The kids loved the city, the city loved the kids, and I’m positive they’re going to be furious the next time my husband and I have a date night in the city and they’re not invited.

Weekend Recap: A Spontaneous Family Getaway at the Gaylord Palms

Monday, Monday, Monday…a new week with some new goals and some new things to conquer. Always welcome, but this weekend did seem to go by a little too fast. We had the best weekend this weekend. We woke up Friday morning at 5 am per usual, we showered, sat down with our coffee, and went about our morning as usual. I read my First 5 app, and my husband browses the news.

Except Friday morning we somehow went from sipping our coffee together while trying to wake up to deciding to book a room at one of our favorite Orlando hotels to surprise the kids with a weekend of fun. The Gaylord was booked, lists were made, secrets were kept. We didn’t want the kids to know, so I was texting our 4th grader’s teacher at 5:30 am to find out what time they were taking their Friday tests (because she’d be horrified to miss them….trust me) and getting into my office to get some work done.

I ended up checking all four kids out of school early, and we came home to finish packing so we could go when Craig was finished with work. The kids were so surprised, and they were even more excited.

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We checked into the Gaylord, and the kids were super excited to find out our rooms were in the Everglades. They love being in the Everglades so we can run down and see the baby alligators and snakes and turtles anytime. It was a super simple night. Dinner. A walk around the atrium to check out the bigger gators, the baby gators, the snakes, the boat, the fort. We finished out with a trip to the ice cream shoppe for “make your own ice cream” creations. Any flavor, any topping, and as much of all of it as you want. You pay based on weight.

And no, you don’t want to know how much it costs when you have four kids heaping piles of ice cream and toppings into those giant bowls.

By 8 pm, the kids were about done after school and an exciting evening, so we retired. The kids got into their beds to watch a movie and Craig and I had a mini date-night on the balcony while we watched them watch their movie. They fell asleep fast, and we were able enjoy ourselves with a bottle of wine and some quiet time before going to bed.

As always, the Gaylord was fabulous. The staff is incredible. The kids love them because they all go out of their way to make sure they feel like royalty. They get down on the floor and play with the kids, they love Carter’s hugs (he actually hugs every single person who delivers room service to our room when we travel – like, “Hey, you bring me bacon, you get my love.”), and they always have something wonderful to say.

For example, we were once there with just the big girls and they were crushed when we arrived and the pool was closed for a few hours because of something I can’t even remember. When we walked back into our room after wandering around a bit, there were two gift bags on their bed. Both bags contained baby dolls, accessories, and cookies from the manager to make their day a little brighter. They really are amazing.

Back to my story.

Saturday looked a lot like room service in bed – an extra-large pot of coffee included. Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, more treats than these kids know what to do with, shopping, dinner, and another movie night.

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Carter’s entire life was made when we went to Hollywood Studios and he got to hug Olaf. He never disappoints. He is never unexcited. He is always so excited to see Olaf you’d think it was the first time. He gives him the biggest squeeze, tells him all his favorite secrets, and basically makes every other kid at Disney wait much longer than necessary to meet their favorite character. He’s a charmer, and all the characters want him to stick around anytime we visit. Maybe it’s the fact that he and Charlotte are twins and they’re so stinking cute, or that they are so open and loving. I don’t know – but they love those babies at Disney.

We rounded out our weekend Sunday getting back to real life before enjoying a fun afternoon celebrating our favorite 1-year-old’s birthday. The kids played in the rain, ate too many cupcakes, and only lasted a few hours before asking if we could go home and rest. They were tired. They passed out in the car, and it was a quiet ride home.

What I Learned This Weekend

I’m not usually big on spontaneity. I don’t like things not on my schedule. I prefer to pre-plan things, to have a plan going into them, and to have ample time to get my life together to make a fun weekend happen. And this weekend was not like that at all. It was so last-minute. It was so unplanned. And it was amazing.

  1. Our kids are awesome – I know this. We never have issues with them when we travel. But I always think it’s because they have weeks’ notice with us constantly reminding them what kind of behavior is expected on our flights, in our hotels, at restaurants, etc. Turns out, it’s not me. It’s them. They are just really well-behaved kids. Who knew?
  2. Going with the flow isn’t so bad – I like plans. I like reservations made in advance. I like to know what I’m going to do. I don’t like not knowing, but it was so much fun. We thought we might go to Disney on Friday night and then just Hollywood on Saturday, but we decided we didn’t feel like going back out after we checked in (you don’t even want to know how congested valet was). And we really enjoyed not having a real plan and only doing what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it.
  3. The babies aren’t babies anymore – I hate this. They just aren’t. They’re going to be four next month, but they are our babies. And they are growing up fast. As soon as we got to our rooms, they immediately chose their beds. Carter wanted to share a bed with Ava (I am positive he thought he might be able to steal her favorite stuffed animal from her while she slept. He’s always after that thing) and Charlotte and Addy wanted to share their bed. They played well, had their own movie night without incident, and fell asleep early. It was like having four big kids.
  4. Our kids only like the idea of ice cream – They didn’t eat a bite of the $2,948,487 ice cream at the Gaylord. Their pleasure came from picking stuff to go into it. They don’t eat their ice cream at Disney – ever – but they ask for it All. Day. Long.
  5. Family time is really good – We spend so much time getting through the day from one activity to the next with four kids, and sometimes it’s hard to focus on how enjoyable our family is. But let me just tell you how crazy it is to have a family of six is nothing compared to how much love there is with four kids. Someone is always offering a hug or a kiss. There is so much laughter – they are so funny – and there is always something sweet going on. As crazy as they might make us every day, they really are amazing.

Isn’t it funny how sometimes it’s the most random, most unexpected things that make you look at things a little differently? We have weekends away with the kids all the time, but they usually include other people, or a packed schedule, and ample notice. Just going with the flow, creating a schedule as we saw fit, and hanging out with just our little family with no distractions was really, really fun. I loved it. And I love starting my week with that feeling.

Orange County, California Travel Review

We are always California dreamin’ in Casa Raiford. I spent a year living in Northern California when I was a teenager, and my husband and I just can’t get enough. It’s probably our favorite place (does it count if we also say that when we talk about that time we spent a week in Hawaii or every few months when we spend a weekend in NYC?) – and we’ve fallen hard for every California city we’ve visited. San Francisco has our hearts, and so does Napa – but it’s SoCal that has our hearts. Why? Not just because some of our very favorite family members call the OC (Orange County) home, but because of every single thing.

It’s barely been two months since we were there last, and I thought I’d bring you an OC travel guide guaranteed to make you never want to leave (including a few places we love and adore in and around LA, too).

There’s just something so beautiful about the mountains on one side of you and the ocean on the other. The beautiful sunsets, the blooming flowers everywhere, and the gorgeous architecture help. A view everywhere you go isn’t the worst way to live. Craig and I live our best life when we are in the OC, and it’s where we will eventually end up calling home – though probably not until the kids are grown and out of the house.

Where to Stay

If you’re in the OC, you want a view – and we have four very favorite places you cannot miss.

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  1. The Balboa Bay Club Resort

It’s situated directly on the bay in Newport Beach, and it’s everything. You get gorgeous views, amazing restaurants, and the most fun staff. And if you want to pick up a Ferrari or a Maserati, you can just cross the PCH and pick one up across the street. It’s seconds from Fashion Island, not far from South Coast Plaza, and an easy drive up or down the PCH anywhere you want to go.

 

  1. The Montage Laguna Beach

Listen, this is THE place to stay. We cannot get enough of the Montage, and it is our first priority every single time we are in the OC. Do not forget you must have lunch at The Loft – and ask to sit outside over the pool, over the ocean. It’s a must.

  1. The Surf and Sand Laguna Beach

You cannot go wrong at the Surf and Sand. It’s centrally located in LB, it’s gorgeous, it’s upscale, and it’s literally on the sandy beaches in Laguna. If you want to be about 7 feet from the Pacific, you want to be at the Surf and Sand.

  1. The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

It’s not really a big secret we are huge RC fans, but this is by far our favorite anywhere in the world. The hotel sits atop a gorgeous cliff overlooking the ocean. There is nothing better than grabbing a glass of vino in the hotel bar and taking it outside to grab a seat in one of the Adirondack chairs in the gorgeous lawn at the edge of the cliff. If you can grab one before the sunsets over the ocean, do it. Bucket list item, for sure.

Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel photos 

Where to Eat

Okay, so I have about a million places on this list, and they’re not all in The OC simply because we do take day trips to LA and have fallen a little bit in love with more than one place there. I’ll break them down for you, however.

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Javier’s Newport Beach If you want a gorgeous view of the setting sun over the ocean, amazing food, and the most spectacular atmosphere with the best prices imaginable, you want Javier’s. It’s chic, it’s fun, and it’s amazing. The décor is to die for.

The Rooftop LoungeYou’ll find this little gem at the top of the La Casa del Camino hotel, but you’re going to want to find parking wherever you can (get your quarters ready for the meters) because you won’t find valet here (major downfall). However, the rooftop bar sits directly above the ocean, it’s spacious, and the drinks are on par.

{Do not forget to order the fresh cinnamon donut bites as a brunch appetizer at Splashes…}

SplashesThis gorgeous Surf and Sand Resort restaurant has the most spectacular Sunday Brunch, and we never miss it. You can make a reservation, but you’re almost always better off just heading downstairs to the bar and taking in the view if you can’t get one of the most spectacular little tables for two directly outside on the deck. The Bloody Mary’s here are everything.

The LoftEvery time we get to Laguna, we check in and head straight to the Loft at the Montage. Sit outside. Enjoy the view – and perhaps you might consider splitting an appetizer and an entrée with the person you love most because the servings here are so big you’ll still never finish if you’re both working on them.

A&OIf you have time for a light lunch, try stopping at the Balboa Bay Club to enjoy bayside dining. The drinks are good, the food is good, and it’s always fun to watch the multi-million dollar yachts go by. If you have time, rent a Duffy Boat and take a few hours (and a bottle of champagne) out into the Newport Harbor to enjoy the most beautiful views.

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(Photo by Geoffrey’s Malibu)

Geoffrey’sIf you’re interested in heading up the PCH into Malibu, make this your stop. Breathtaking views, beautifully crafted cocktails, and inspiring menu-items are everything you love and more.

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(Photo by Dorchester Collection)

Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-AirIn Bel-Air? Eat here. You’re sitting in the garden beneath the gorgeous bougainvillea, by the amazing landscaping, in the gorgeous California weather – you cannot go wrong. Ever.

Honorable mentions – Mozambique and Las Brisas in Laguna Beach are both amazing, but they don’t quite make the cut as far as must-see when we have a quick trip and no additional time. If we do have an additional day, we stop here.

Things To Do

So, I’d totally recommend spending time with some of our most amazingly favorite people on the planet if you’re in the OC, but they’re ours – sorry. If you can’t spend quality time with Action Alan and the gorgeous Helene, however, I’d recommend you ask someone else what to do for fun around here.

We basically find the most beautiful views, sit down and order a cup of coffee or a cocktail, and we drink in the view. Or we go shopping; South Coast Plaza and Fashion Island, please and thank you. Crystal Cove is super cute, too.

It’s also one of our favorite things to do is to park in Corona Del Mar and walk up and down the gorgeous streets looking at the quaint little homes, the amazing oceanfront homes, and stopping in the cutest little boutiques and restaurants. We love the do the same on the Balboa Peninsula and in Laguna Beach, too. Stop, walk, shop, eat and drink, laugh, ask ourselves why we haven’t made the move to California yet, remind ourselves that we need to be near our parents until the kids can babysit themselves, and laugh some more.

Basically, California is always a good idea, especially if it’s Orange County. It’s perfection.

 

{All photos taken by Tiffany Raiford using iPhone 8 Plus except Geoffrey’s Malibu photo by Geoffrey’s Malibu and Wolfgang Puck photo by Dorchester Collection}

2017: The Year of Quality Over Quantity

2017 is over. Can you believe it? I swear the years go by faster every day. I’m still wrapping my mind around the fact that it was New Year 2017 just a minute ago and now we’re mere days away from ringing in 2018 with abandon. Anyone? Just me? No?

2017 was good to us. It had its up and downs of course. Life is far from perfect in the Raiford household, but it’s really good – we’ve worked really hard to build a life of freedom, and we are enjoying every second of it.

It’s been good to us, but we always have room for growth. And that’s what 2017 brought to us. It was a year of growth. We call it the year of quality over quantity. It’s difficult to explain, but we had a moment at the end of 2016 – somewhere before Christmas but definitely after Thanksgiving – when we realized we needed to make some changes in our lives.

We were getting ready to go somewhere and do something with our girls, who were 8 and 5 at the time, and they both sighed. “Can’t we just stay home for once? We always have to go places. We’re tired,” they whined.

Wait. What?

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Their lives are good. Were they really complaining about spending the evening with their friends? Were they really being ungrateful about all the fun we provide them? Weekend after weekend of traveling, of spending time with friends and family, of going to BBQs and pool parties and Christmas events and Disney World. Were they really complaining?

They were. And what made it even worse was that we knew what they were saying. We were also exhausted. We were never home. In 2016 we didn’t even take a trip for our wedding anniversary like we wanted because every weekend was pre-planned with some event, function, party, etc. We had no free time – we were actually scheduling free time in our calendars. We were tired. It wasn’t that we weren’t having a great time – we definitely were. But we were just worn out. Run down. Tired.

We have four kids. My husband has a career he loves, and it keeps him busy. I have my business to run, and it keeps me busier and busier everyday with new growth, projects, and clients. We have four kids. The twins were about to turn three (side note – I’m dying over here thinking they will be four in less than three months. I mean, I was just pregnant with them!), and that many kids doesn’t really provide a lot of opportunity for rest and relaxation.

We knew we had to make some changes. We wanted to be more deliberate with our time. We wanted to learn to say no to being overscheduled. We wanted to start planning things for our family to do together just us so we could really spend some quality time with the kids. The twins were more fun than ever, easier to travel with, easier to take out.

We wanted to be more deliberate, and we wanted to have more time at home. We bought our dream house in 2014, and we’d spent very little time in it – even though we both work from home – just enjoying it. Our kids were tired, we were tired. We needed some change.

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Que New Year’s 2016-2017. We decided we’d learn to say no to things that didn’t work with our schedule instead of saying yes to everything and killing ourselves trying to get everything done. Sundays were a no-no for plans. Sundays would become our day as a family. No plans other than church and relaxation. If we wanted to do something, we’d wake up and make that decision, but we agreed no making Sunday plans.

And I cannot even tell you how good this year was to us. We had more free time – though I am ashamed to say that more free time is still not nearly enough free time – and we were able to schedule so many of the things we were never able to find time for in the past. Sundays became very well spent in a slow, sweet manner. Mondays were so much nicer because we were prepared, organized, and rested because of those slow Sundays.

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The kids are so much happier. They love the quality family time we are spending together, and they love the ability to sometimes get to stay home and enjoy the many things they never got to enjoy before. We took more bike rides and golf cart rides. We took more walks. We played outside a lot. We baked cookies and had family movie nights and spent weekend after weekend at Disney World just enjoying what they wanted to do. We slept in, we made big breakfasts, we took day trips to our favorite places. We traveled.

My husband and I were able to find the time to schedule five long weekends and trips this year. Just the two of us. Just to spend to quality time together (we do have four kids….). From New York to Fort Lauderdale to California to South Carolina to Naples, we earned plenty of frequent flier miles this year. We had another three or four single nights away a little closer to home in Tampa in Orlando. We dated. We laughed. We focused on our marriage a lot more this year. It was good.

We also made it our goal to spend at least one weekend a month out of town with the kids. Tampa and Orlando are easy drives, and we wanted to really get some serious use out of our Disney passes this year. We made sure to schedule a few of those weekends away with just the big girls to spend a little quality time with them, but we made it a point to really enjoy this new stage the twins are in that makes life so much simpler.

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I think the highlight of my year – and I’m so serious – was when we were flying home from a fun vacation in North Carolina and two total strangers came up to us at two separate times in the airport and on our flights and told us what well-behaved, delightful kids we have and how well they travel.

If that’s not a mom’s dream come true…

Quality.

It was all about quality this year. We are getting older. The kids are getting older. We were changing. Maturing a bit, growing up a bit, and our wants and needs were evolving. It was time for us to focus our priority on doing what makes us happy and what makes us feel good rather than making sure every day in our calendar was filled.

As a result of focusing on quality, so much of our life has changed for the better. The kids are less exhausted, and they’re so much easier. We can load them up, take them out, sit down at a nice restaurant, and we don’t have to worry they’re too tired or cranky to behave. We are less exhausted, so we aren’t as grouchy or as impatient as we were in the past.

We are more focused on our work, and it’s shown in both of the advancements we’ve made this year. Craig has never been more ebullient. I’ve been able to find the energy to expand my company and take on some major new clients, as well as focus on a change of direction in some of the services I offer.

It’s hard to explain, but slowing down has really made a change in our lives. It feels good to be in control, and it feels really, really good to spend so much quality time as a family. I didn’t even realize how much I like spending time with these little animals until this year because I’ve been on autopilot for so long.

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Now that I’ve written a small novel, I want to share with you how we made the change to focus more on quality than on quantity in 2017 if it’s something you want to do, too. I’m also working on a post about how we’re getting #backtobasics in 2018 for later.

Be Deliberate with Your Time

Learn to say no. It’s not easy, but sometimes you just have to say no when you’re tired, not feeling well, not up for it, not in the mood, when you have other plans, when you just want to relax. Sometimes you just have to say no. It gets easier each time, and it’s going to change your life. Remember – your time is valuable. It’s too expensive to dish out so frequently on things that aren’t as valuable to you.

Focus on Your Health

Get some sleep. If there’s one thing I’ve always believed, it’s that sleep is too important to miss out. A few late nights here and there are fun, but nothing beats a good night of sleep followed by feeling good the next morning. There just isn’t enough time to waste not felling well or being too tired to function all the time.

Work out and eat good food. Nothing feels as good as being healthy, and nothing feels as good as moving your body and fueling it with things that are good for you. I don’t feel well when I don’t work out. I don’t have energy, I’m crabby, and my body gets really angry with me when I don’t feed it well. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy my favorite unhealthy things; I do. I just do it in moderation (mostly…we all have our moments).

Take a Rest Day

For us, leaving Sundays open and unplanned has been the best decision we’ve ever made. It doesn’t always work out, of course, but doing this most weekends has been amazing. Nothing makes the week more exciting, more productive, and better than being well rested and prepared.

Get Organized

Life is better when it’s organized. I can’t sleep if my house isn’t clean. I can’t leave the house if it’s not clean. I can’t function if things are out of place or order or ignored. It’s not who I am. I know not everyone is such an obsessive neat freak, but it really is easier to get through life when you’re organized and on top of things.

Do What You Want

If there is something you want to do, do it. It’s better to do it now than keep waiting on it. Find the time. Make the time. Do the things.

Thank you, 2017

Thank you for helping us grow, for changing our hearts, and for allowing us to prosper. Our life is so filled with abundance, and we are so grateful and thankful for the opportunities we’ve found, created, and been given this year and the years before. It’s been more than a little exciting to exceed our goals, to surpass our dreams, and to have the opportunity to spend so much time together. Here’s to 2018 and all the blessings, lessons, and new beginnings in store.

 

Travel Tips to Make Packing and Flying Easier With or Without Kids

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Happy Wednesday, darlings!

I’m currently sitting poolside in Hawaii sipping cocktails with my love as we enjoy the sound of the ocean and one another’s company.

Kidding.

I’m currently running around like a madwoman trying to get my house ready for our house-sitters, the last details of our vacation handled, picking up snacks for the kids for our flight, checking into our flights, hoping the scale at the airline ticketing counter is broken…

I’m in vacay mode at the moment. And by vacay mode, I mean we leave today and there are still a million and one things to do, because prepping for vacation does require a vacation. Right?

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That said, I have a few moments (and I made a promise) to share some of my must-dos, haves, and tips for packing for a family of six – or any family or person or cat or whatever, really. I had a lot of questions the other day on my Insta-stories from you guys asking if I have any tips for packing for so many people.

Yes. Don’t.

Kidding. Kind of.

The other question I was asked more than a few times was how I pack for so many people and keep our luggage under-weight.

I don’t.

Not kidding.

I’m a chronic over-packer, and I have no shame in my game, my friends. But I do have a few tips that might help you get packed, organized, and make the most of your time before you leave and when you come home.

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  1. Leave a perfect house: Truth be told, I can’t handle mess at all. I can’t do it. I can’t leave my house to run the kids to school in the morning if my coffee cup is sitting in the sink. I can’t leave my house with anything messy, out of place, unorganized. Before we leave on vacation, I wash all the sheets and remake the beds so we come home to fresh beds, we wash all the laundry so we come home to nothing but vacation laundry, and we stock the fridge so we aren’t worried about shopping. Our house sitters know I need to see absolute perfection when we get home, and they’re SUPER great about making sure everything is perfect. It takes some serious stress off of traveling knowing you get to come home after a trip to a perfect house.
  2. Pack trash bags: I do this, because the little bags hotels leave in closets are not big enough for dirty laundry, and I can’t handle dirty laundry touching clean laundry. This also helps you find a barrier between shoes and clean clothes. Because, ew.
  3. Make use of all space: The best thing I can tell you is to make use of all your luggage space. I like to stick my swimsuits inside my hats and stick my hats on the bottom of luggage. One, it keeps them from becoming deformed while we travel – because you know it’s next to impossible to get a hat back to its original shape once it’s been flattened – and to use that space. I also stick all the kid’s socks and stuff inside their shoes to make more space.

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  1. Buy what you need when you get there: I don’t pack non-essentials. I’m picky about my hair products and bath products at home, but I’m fine using the hotel stuff or picking up diapers and wipes and things when we arrive to avoid packing so much stuff. I never pack swim diapers or sunscreen – that’s what Walgreens and Target are for, right?
  2. Mix and match: I am an over-packer, but I’ve learned that I can pack just a few swim tops and bottoms for all of us and we can mix and match. If we have a four-day trip, I pack two tops and two bottoms that all go together, and I remix them during the trip so I have four suits. Less packing, more style, easy.
  3. Skip the separates: With the exception of my husband and my son, you won’t find any separates in our luggage. It’s all dresses all the time. We just don’t even bother with anything else. Vacay is all about dresses, and it really narrows down what we pack.

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***My absolute favorite tip ever for travel – pack sample items. If you order from Sephora regularly, you know you get three free samples with your purchase. I always choose lotions, hair product, and perfume samples. I throw them in a drawer in my bathroom and go through them when we travel so I have little items that don’t take up much space and that can be thrown away when I run out. It’s less packing and unpacking – and it uses none of my baggage weight allowance!***

If there is anything I highly recommend when you travel, it’s dry shampoo. Always buy good dry shampoo (my favorite is DryBar, linked here at Sephora) because who wants to bother with shampoo on vacation?

I also pack each of the kids their own backpack to use as a carry on through the airport, and I put new coloring books, crayons, little activities, toys, their tablets, and fun snacks in them for the kids. This way they have something to keep them entertained on our flight they’ve never seen before, so it’s all new and exciting for them. You have no idea what a bag of M&Ms can do for my twins – who pretty rarely get any junk food to eat!

travel 4

If you don’t use apps for airlines, use apps. Check your luggage. It’s so much easier to make it through the airport when I can use my watch or phone for boarding passes, and when we don’t have to carry so much stuff. We also always check the kid’s car seats so we don’t have to rent them with a rental car (here’s a fun tip – car seats always fly free with airlines, and you get a fun bag to put them in to keep them from becoming dirty and disgusting).