The Mommyhood Life – Travel, Crafts, Food, and Florida Family Fun

Holiday Tips

The Non-Toy Gift Guide!

This post is sponsored by the Florida Prepaid College Board, through my role as a Believer Blogger. All thoughts are my own.

The Non-Toy Gift Guide!

When you look at most kids wish lists around the holiday, it is jam-packed with toys.  Between commercials on TV, the catalogs in the mail, and of course the unboxing videos on YouTube, the only thing on their mind is the latest and greatest toys.  However, as a mom of 3, I am so sick of the toy mayhem that happens year after year.  Each child gets an endless array of toys from friends, family, and of obviously Santa, only to find those precious toys at the bottom of a toy box 3 months later or shoved under a bed.  My family is starting to move away from the toy giving and starting to give gifts that help us learn something, make memories, or use our imagination, and I think this is going to be the best gift giving experience we’ve had.

The Gift of Fun:

We live in Florida, so there is an endless supply of fun at every corner.  Between the amusement parks, beaches, and one of a kind attractions, Florida has it all.  So, instead of buying a toy that will be used a few times and then likely forgotten about, why not give gift cards to a fun attraction closet by.  There are so many possibilities for every budget, from zoo memberships to museums, aquariums, and even bike rentals.  There is something fun that any kid will love.

The Gift of Travel

Do you know any kids who dream of exploring the world, or even just a certain state?  My kids love to travel, particularly Anthony.  His favorite place to travel to so far is New York City, and he has dreams of living there one day.  When we lived in Massachusetts and New York was just a 3-hour drive away, he would ask to visit Manhattan instead of having a party, to which I would always immediately say absolutely.  He is also my child who looks up countries online and tries to talk me into going, currently, he is begging to go to England.  The twins at 8, are a little less enthused about traveling to countries with big buildings and statues and are more impressed with rides, characters, and animals.  Their top travel requests are usually Great Wolf Lodge or a trip to Orlando. 
We stopped doing birthday parties a few years ago and decided to take trips as a family instead and it has worked out amazingly, so for the holidays, this will likely be in our future.
If you have a little traveler on your list, why not get them a night at a hotel in a local city? 

The Gift of Creativity

Anthony is my Traveler, and Lilly, she’s the one with a creative spirit.  Her Christmas list this year consisted of gel pens, 2 sketchbooks, and puffy paint.  My heart melted at the simplicity of her desires that we ended up visiting the craft store early and having fun creating together.  However, for Christmas, a class at the local paint bar or a jewelry making class at the bead shop would be a perfect gift.

The Gift of Experience

Time fly’s by and when they’ve outgrown the superheroes and Barbie’s, they probably won’t remember which doll they got when they were 8.  However, an awesome experience will stay with them!  Take an indoor skydiving lesson together or a surfing lesson.  How about renting a cozy coupe car down the beach?  Think outside the box and make those memories that last a lifetime.

The Gift of Education

This has to be the best gift of all!  Imagine giving the gift of eliminating the overwhelming amount of student debt a child will likely come across down the road.  It may not be on their radar yet, but Florida Prepaid is a gift that will last a lifetime, and it is open enrollment right now!

The Florida Prepaid College Plan is the largest, most successful, longest-running prepaid tuition program in the nation!  Florida Prepaid is helping parents and students prepare for college and making planning for the future a lot easier.  300,000 students have already attended college using Florida Prepaid!

THE PLANS

Florida Prepaid offers 5 savings plans, giving you the flexibility to choose one that fits your family’s needs. With plans starting as low as $46.61 saving for college is now possible.  Here is some more about these great plans:

2-Year Florida College Plan: Covers tuition and other specified fees for 60 lower division credit hours at a Florida College.

4-Year Florida College Plan: Covers tuition and other specified fees for 60 lower division credit hours and 60 upper division credit hours at a Florida College

2 + 2 Florida Plan: Covers tuition, tuition differential fee and other specified fees for 60 lower division credit hours at a Florida College and 60 credit hours at a State University.

1-YearFlorida University Plan: Covers tuition, tuition differential fee and other specified fees at a State University for 30 credit hours

4-Year Florida University Plan: Covers tuition, tuition differential fee and other specified fees at a State University for 120 credit hours
Learn more about which plan is right for your family here!

OPEN ENROLLMENT!
The Florida Prepaid College Board’s annual Open Enrollment period is Oct. 15, 2017 – Feb. 28, 2018.  Enroll now and use promo code: 
Life1718 to save $25 on your application fee!

 

The Ultimate Holiday Road Trip Planning Guide!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Shell. The opinions and text are all mine.

The Holiday Road Trip Planning Guide

Are you thinking about taking a family vacation this holiday season? My family is. We have made it a family tradition to travel up to Kiawah Island, South Carolina each holiday season. My brother works on a resort up there, and because he is usually the one traveling down to visit us, we make it a plan to spend a week together during either Thanksgiving or Christmas in his world. However, traveling during the holidays is a lot different than any other time of year. From planning out dinners and trying to get gifts to the destination, a lot more goes into a holiday vacation. Here are my top tips for planning a holiday vacation!

Finding a place to stay: During the holiday season, you may want more than just your typical hotel room to stay in. If your extended family is going, you may want connecting rooms or a multi-room villa. Think about if you want to cook holiday meals, decorations and how much space you need for everyone to make magical holiday memories.

During our holiday trips, it is my brother, my family of 5, and my parents staying together. Plus, we host a lot of my brother’s friends for dinner, so it makes sense for us to rent a house for the holiday. This gives us a full kitchen for cooking, a living room to spend time together in and enjoy Christmas morning in, plus we all have our own bedrooms.

If you have seen my last few travel posts, you know I am all about using my Fuel Rewards® card as much as possible! You can earn Fuel Rewards savings when booking your hotel, so make sure you head over to the website or app and check out which hotels are offering great rewards.

If you’re staying with family or friends decide on a great thank you gift and schedule it to be delivered or picked up along the way, the less packing the better.

Consider attractions in the area. We visit Kiawah island which offers a ton of fun activities all week long over the holidays. Check out your locations tourism board or call the hotel to check out what events they have planned, and if advanced reservations or tickets are needed.

Driving:

Driving up to South Carolina from Tampa only takes about 6 hours, which is the perfect amount of time for a fun road trip in my book. It’s enough time that you need to stop and eat, explore a couple welcome centers to stretch your legs, and still not have to break for the night anywhere. However, even when we lived in Massachusetts, we would drive to holiday vacations, and it was about 20 hours of road time.

With a family of 5, driving has always been a cost-effective travel option for us, plus with Shell and the Fuel Rewards® program, we are saving even more at the pump now! Also, with holiday travel there is extra luggage that is easier to transport by driving. When we spend Christmas on Kiawah, we wanted to have a Christmas tree, so that meant packing a tree stand, some ornaments, and of course our elf.

Quick Road Trip Tips to Keep the Kids in the Holiday Spirit: Pack holiday snacks to minimize stops! grab some holiday cookies and treats to keep the kids happy when you hear “I’m hungry” from the backseat.

Keep the kids entertained with small new toys from the dollar store. Wrap them up before you leave, and hand them out every couple hours for the kids to unwrap along the way.

Stop in each state to collect postcards as souvenirs! When we would travel from Massachusetts to Florida, we did this! It was a great way to mark off a chunk of travel and keep the kids excited. In the northern states, we were stopping every hour or two, but once we hit Virginia it is easily a 4 hour of travel time to check off.

Gifts

Are you traveling to visit family? Shop online and have gifts sent to their house instead of having to load your car with gifts, especially if your little ones still believe in Santa. Plus, make sure you check out the Fuel Rewards® site for some awesome stores to shop at for extra Fuel Rewards savings!

No family in the area? Try shopping online at stores that allow store pick up. Order all the gifts you need, and when you arrive at your location head over to the local department stores and pick everything up.

We did this for a Christmas in South Carolina and it was fun having an adult wrapping party after the kids fell asleep.

Also, think about local gifts if you are arriving early enough to go shopping. My son loves golf, so I make it a point to stop at the Kiawah Pro-Shop and grab him a Kiawah branded item.

Holiday Dinner

There are many restaurants and hotels that offer large delicious holiday dinners, however, my family loves cooking together and being around a family table to laugh and talk for as long as we’d like. We enjoy the relaxing feeling of a homey environment and on Thanksgiving, the guys want to be able to watch football.

However, that means shopping for a large meal in a new city. Make sure you’ve looked into the closest grocery stores and know their holiday hours. Plus make a list, and check it twice! A couple years ago, my husband was out looking for brown sugar late Christmas Eve and ended up spending about $10 for it at the resort store.

Also think about bring some extra bowls, mixing spoons, and disposable pans from home. Most hotel rooms with kitchens are advertised as fully stocked, but when it comes to cooking a full holiday meal it’s unlikely they’ll have enough items to cook everything comfortably.

Packing

Packing for a holiday trip requires a lot of items you wouldn’t need on an average road trip. For Christmas, talk with your family and decide how you’re handling a Christmas tree. Some hotels provide them, or you can bring your own fake one, skip it all together if your kids are older, or pack a tree stand and find a local tree farm.

One year we did this along with purchasing a bunch of dollar store decorations and making handmade ornaments. The kids still talk about that being their favorite Christmas tree ever.

Other items such as stockings, traditional holiday books, plus cookies and reindeer food needs to be added to the list along with your normal vacation packing list. Make sure you put a list together of all the holiday essentials you don’t want to make memories without.

Extra Savings with the Fuel Rewards Program!

The easiest way to save right now is by taking advantage of their limited time offer: Instant Gold Status. This savings has helped me stay on a budget during every fuel up. With the Instant Gold Status offer, everyone who joins gets a 5c/gal savings (up to 20 gallons per visit) every time you fuel up at a Shell location for at least the first 6 months from signup.

Plus, there are additional ways to save on fuel with the Fuel Rewards® program. When you link your debit or credit card to your Fuel Rewards® account you earn additional savings each time you shop or dine with participating merchants, like hotels and restaurants.

By stacking all these potential rewards, you can really save at the pump and stay on your holiday travel budget! Best of all it’s free to sign up!

Make sure to head over and sign up for the Fuel Rewards® program and start saving at the pump now!

After signing up send your referral link to friends and family so they can join the Fuel Rewards program. The first time a friend uses the program by earning a reward or using their card at a participating Shell station after registering with your link, you will instantly earn 25¢/gal (up to 20 gal). There’s no limit to how much you can save!

Are you traveling over the holidays? Follow our Thanksgiving road trip adventure this Thanksgiving on Instagram! What is your favorite travel tip?

*Restrictions apply. To qualify for the Gold/Silver Status offers, you must be a Fuel Rewards® member and swipe your Fuel Rewards® card or enter your Alt ID when you fuel at a participating Shell station. With Gold Status, you will receive 5¢/gal in Fuel Rewards® savings on every fill-up. The 5¢/gal reward for Gold Status will be combined with other rewards in your Fuel Rewards® account. If you are an existing Fuel Rewards® member, you will receive Gold Status from 6/5/2017 through 12/31/17, the “Existing Member Introductory Period.” If you are a new Fuel Rewards® member, you will receive Gold Status for the initial month you join through the last day of the month, 6 full calendar months later, the “New Member Introductory Period.” The last 3 months of the Existing Member Introductory Period or the New Member Introductory Period (collectively the “Introductory Period”) is the “Qualification Period.” You will retain your Gold Status during the Qualification Period, but you must make 6 qualifying fuel purchases to qualify for Gold Status for the next 3 months, the “Benefit Period.” During the Benefit Period, you must continue to make 6 qualifying fuel purchases to maintain your Gold Status for the next 3-month Benefit Period. A qualifying fuel purchase is any fuel purchase at a participating Shell station in which you swipe your Fuel Rewards® card or enter your Alt ID and fill up with at least 5-gallons of any grade of fuel. For example, if you are a new Fuel Rewards® member and register on 6/15/2017, you will receive Gold Status through the New Member Introductory Period (i.e., 12/31/2017). You will need to fill up with at least 5 gallons of fuel at least 6 times during the Qualification Period (i.e., 10/1/2017 and 12/31/2017) to maintain Gold Status during the Benefit Period (i.e., from 1/1/2018 to 3/31/2018). Thereafter, if you continue to fill up with at least 5 gallons of fuel at least 6 times during the successive 3 consecutive month Benefit Periods, you will retain your Gold Status. If you do not maintain your Gold Status, you will receive Silver Status. With Silver Status, you will receive 3¢/gal in Fuel Rewards® savings. The 3¢/gal reward for Silver Status will be combined with other rewards in your Fuel Rewards® account. Redeem Fuel Rewards® savings with your Fuel Rewards® card or Alt ID at participating Shell stations. Fuel Rewards® savings are limited to 20 gallons of fuel per purchase, per vehicle, or fraud limits placed by Shell and/or limits placed on your financial card by your financial institution, each of which may be lower. Fuel Rewards® savings must be redeemed in a single transaction. Once you begin to dispense fuel using your Fuel Rewards® savings, you must dispense to the 20-gallon limit or you forfeit any remaining discounted gallons of fuel. For example, if you only pump fifteen (15) gallons of fuel, you would abandon the remaining five (5) gallons of discounted fuel. If you have a rewards balance greater than the current per-gallon price of fuel, the price will roll down to the maximum capability of the fuel equipment, and your remaining rewards will be saved for a future fuel purchase. Dispenser may require a price of up to 10.9¢/gal. It may not be possible to combine multiple discounts and/or rewards in a single transaction. For purchases of $75 or more, please go inside to pay. Unbranded diesel and alternative fuels may not be eligible. The Fuel Rewards® program is owned and operated by Excentus Corporation. Offer may be modified or discontinued at any time without notice. Not valid where prohibited by law. Please see fuelrewards.com for complete Fuel Rewards® program details and Terms and Conditions. Other restrictions may apply. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. To learn more, visit fuelrewards.com/gold or call (888) 603-0473

3 tips for Eating Healthy during the Holiday Season

This post was sponsored by the National 4-H Council as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

It can be easy for many of us to lose track of our healthy eating goals during the holiday season.  With so many sweets and processed foods at every holiday party and event, along with the cravings that can come with the colder weather and holiday movies, it can be hard to resist the foods we normally say no to.

Here are my 3 tips for Eating Healthy during the Holiday Season

Eat something before you go to a holiday party.  If you and your family show up to a holiday function with empty bellies, your more likely to over eat all the tempting treats available.  Instead, eat some fresh fruit or a salad before leaving home, so that you are less likely to over eat at the party and are still getting in some nutritious food.

Eat what is best first.  When you head to the buffet you’ll likely find a table full of veggies, bread, sweets, and turkey.  Eat the veggies and turkey first, and save a little room to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Make your own treats for home, and to bring to holiday functions.  A perfect way to make sure you have a healthy option to eat is to bring one, and keep the foods your family is going to be wanting at home.  Instead of eating a piece of pie that is full of sugar, pastes, and ingredients we don’t know about, my family makes a simple apple pie.  We cut up a few apples and mix them with cinnamon and a drizzle of honey, cook the apples for 10 minutes while making an easy pie crust.  Then use the apples as the filling and bake the crust.  This gives us a delicious sweet treat that I feel better about feeding my kids.
We eat apples like this without the pie crust quite often for a quick and easy sweet treat.

Holiday Spirit of Giving

My kids love to cook with me, and I am blessed to be to have the resources to cook healthy meals with them.  Unfortunately, this is not the case for too many!  Nearly 16 million children live in households that don’t have consistent access to food throughout the year.

However, 4-H Food Smart Families targets families that are eligible for or receiving SNAP/WIC and is helping create more food secure homes by teaching families how to plan, shop and prepare healthy meals on a budget.  
This includes two components, equipping youth and their families by empowering them to make healthy living part of their everyday lives and helping them with things such as cooking skills and food budgeting skills.  While also connecting families with nutrition assistance resources in their community.  Knowledge is power, and this is gives families who are struggling to make ends meet, the knowledge they need to be able to feed their families well.

Since 2011, United Healthcare and 4-H have partnered together to deliver healthy living programs to more than 340,000 youth and their families in 14 states!

The goal is to continue to test the 4-H Food Smart Families program in select states.  With the end goal of replicating and expanding the program across the entire country.