Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Quick Update

July 31, 2013 Comments off


Wow how fast did those 10 days go between now and my last post? I think everyone knows that I am on my family holiday in the USA?

We are all having a blast and I have some highs and lows to share re my gluten free challenges but importantly I have not been glutened. Thank goodness.

We went to LA first for Disneyland and it was such fun. 4 days of go go go but the boys held up remarkably well and now we are in New York City. It is as amazing as we remember and having lots of fun. I shall be sharing photos and stories soon.

{The above image is a photo my husband took. It is a window display of a souvenir‎ store. Pretty much sums up how we feel about the place}

Categories: me, travel

Preparing the House for a Housesitter

July 18, 2013 4 comments

House Sitting

Back in my early twenties oh so long along, I used to house sit for family friends while they were on holidays. I got to stay in a couple of really nice places, while looking after the owners house and pets.

Now I am a home owner, I can definitely see the advantage of having a housesitter. Lucky for us we have such a huge family that there is usually someone available to come and stay for us.

Getting the house ready and knowing what to do can be a bit daunting when you haven’t done it before. As I can draw experience on being both the sitter and owner, I thought I’d share what I do to prepare the house.

Once you have figured out where to pop your guest/s, be sure that you let them know where you stand on them having any overnight guests of their own.

Clean out the wardrobe and and drawer – don’t forget to leave some hangers.

Clear off the bedside tables

Towels – leave some out and let them know where there are more.

Car – do they have a car? Where can they park it?

Eating – let them know what they can have from your pantry. I clear a couple of shelve’s for them, as well as leave the fridge pretty much empty. I also clear out a bit of the freezer so they can use that also.

Since pretty much everything in my pantry is gluten free, I have all my containers labelled as such. (I get labels from places like Stuck on You and Bright Star Kids for mine) and I explain if they need to use the gluten free flour or the like, please use clean utensils.

Local Takeaway Menus

Kitchen appliances – leave the instructions for the appliances like the dishwasher, oven, coffee machine

Closest supermarket or shops – especially if your house sitter is not local

Phone – make sure they know the number and if you expect them to pay for STD or mobile calls.

Internet – we have a huge download limit so we are happy for them to use our internet. We leave the wireless password as they will be bringing their own laptop.

Heating – leave instructions on how to work the heater. Plus any quirky tips like how to reset it or relight it.

Washing Machine – ah you see where I am going? Leave instructions on how to use this too. Plus any quirky tips.

Iron and ironing – where are they and where are they kept.

Leave all your holiday details, like where you are staying and when. Also leave them contact details of a neighbour or family member if they need help.

If you need plants watered, be sure to let them know how often.

Rubbish – have to let them know when to leave the council bins out.

TV/DVD/Foxtel – leave instructions on how to work these units

and leave the cleaning goodies in an easy, accessible spot so it encourages use of them.


So if your housesitter is also a pet sitter, consider leaving them instructions on:

  • feeding
  • cleaning (ie litter)
  • quirks your pet house, ie likes to run around the house at 4am or likes a particular chair to sleep on
  • number of your vet
  • exercise requests and where the lead etc is kept

For me specifically, this is what I like to also do:

  • Put the boys toys away
  • Leave extra blankets out
  • Mow the lawn
  • Put a hold on the mail
  • Clean and tidy the house
  • Leave some books and magazines out
  • Leave milk and bread in the fridge, some chocolate biscuits in the pantry

and the most important thing – leave them the keys!

Have you house sat? Do you have house sitters when you go away?

Image courtesy of njaj /

Categories: travel Tags: ,

What’s In My Toddler’s Carry On Bag for International Travel

July 11, 2013 4 comments

Our trip away is not too far away and packing the suitcases has been the forefront of my mind.

Oh and the carry on bag for the plane. Our trip from Melbourne, Australia to Los Angeles, USA is 14 1/2 hours long. Plus the time at the gate waiting to get on there. The first time we went long haul it stressed me out, a toddler, in nappies for that long? What do I pack? How much is too much? What if I don’t pack what I need?


This time around it has been a little easier in the planing (hopefully the execution too!) and I did learn so things from our first time.

Firstly it’s great having 4 people travelling. That’s alot of luggage and alot carry on. We are flying Qantas so we can take 4 x 7 kilo bags onboard. (within the specific size). I can also have a ‘personal’ bag as a handbag.

Carry On Bag Toddler for Plane

What I do is have a backpack for the toddler stuff and my stuff. It sits at the bottom of toddler’s feet for easy access, in it I put:

Toddler Nappies for Carry On

  • in one ziplock bag – 4 nappies, wipes, bags, hand santiser, cloth towel
  • in one ziplock bag, as above
  • in one ziplock bag – change of clothes for toddler.

Some things in toddler carry on

  • Toddler’s own drink bottle – handy as normal water bottles are still a little hard for him
  • Kids face and hands wipes
  • Tissues
  • Lollipops for sucking on to help ears pop
  • Headphones – these ones are for the iPad as toddler likes using that as well as the onboard entertainment
  • Other activities – books, sticker book, activity pad, pencil roll, ‘Spot That!’ book
  • Mickey Mouse – he is a member of the family!

Plane Activities for Toddler

I haven’t added my own things yet because well, I am not that organised. I will add for me:

  • travel wallet with required travel documents
  • small purse for credit cards and the like
  • passports
  • pens (as one will always run out and you need to fill out different things as you go)
  • iPad
  • iPad charger
  • novel
  • glasses
  • gluten free snacks and hard lollies (for that ear popping)
  • paracetamol
  • plastic bag (for rubbish)
  • and anything else I think of!

A few notes:

I pack more nappies, wipes and nappy bags in another bag. You will always use more than you think. Always.

I separate some into different ziplock bags for the toddler’s carry on as then when it’s time for a nappy change, I can just pull one ziplock bag out and have all I need.

I also put in a few other things like a laptop, changes of clothes, few toiletries, travel pillows and paracetamol for the kids.

I don’t bother changing them into pj’s. Both boys wear comfy clothes on the plane, with another change in case of accidents. I also take shorts so they can change into them before landing as it is hot in LA!

I put all this into another bag which stays in the overhead.

My older son has his own backpack full of his things.

I am almost positive I have forgotten a few things, I think I’ll add them as I remember.

What is your must take item on board?

Categories: family, travel Tags: ,

My Tips On International Travel with Children

June 27, 2013 6 comments


In 3 and a bit weeks my husband and I are taking our 8 and 3 year old boys on a 14 hour plane journey to America. We have done this journey before, well twice before if you include there and back. That was theirs (and ours) first ever international flight.

Like any good over zealous planner, before our first international flight with children, I searched the internet for tips and tricks and answers to the questions I had. I prefer actual blog posts as they tend to give the nitty gritty details and experience instead of the travel magazine’s standard tips of ‘take plenty of toys and snacks to keep them amused’

First, a shout out to those blogs that I read and got ideas from:

Preparing to Go

I am a big believer in preparing toddlers as much as possible for what’s ahead. If my little munchkin went straight onto a plane without hearing about it first, it would have been meltdown city.

Our Holiday Book

I made him up a book, very basic, just outline the steps we would take and what happens on plane. ie “when the plane goes up or down, we have to have our seat belts on. When the lights go out, it’s a good time to sleep” Then we read it to him many times before the big day.

This time around, we are using the book again but also using a countdown calender. Because he is into counting, this is a great tool to keep him from asking, ‘we go today on big plane?’


For my eldest, I got him a book from the library, ‘Not for Parents: New York City, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know’. It is a great book aimed for the primary aged children. There are a few different ones for different cities.

We also found some useful You Tube video’s that showed my eldest what the plane flight would be like. He loved watching it and a love affair with A380’s began.

The Airport and the Flight

Plane at Gate

We spent some time at the gate before we had to board, the boys got to see the Qantas A380 parked at the gate. There was also a little play area which is great for a certain 3 year old to have a play on before being confined to a seat.

For those with babies/toddlers still in nappies, there are baby change tables in the airplane toilets. For some reason I could never find the answer to this question online! I asked the flight attendants when I got on board which toilets they were as they aren’t in all of them. (well in economy, not sure about the other sections)

As for those stinky nappies (you are bound to get one) get the strongest smelling nappy bags you can find. Also fragranced nappy wipes and have extra. Wrap the nappy in wipes then double bag. It seemed to work for me. Also try some scenarios at home (with bagging the smelly nappies) so you know what works. You definitely don’t want to stink out the airplane toilet!

In regards to food, I ordered the special children’s meal for them. This is something you need to do while booking the tickets or if you have a travel agent, check yourself with the airline a few days before you leave. These meals come out first and gets them started.

Child Plane Meal

Generally they have pasta and sauce, (or similar simple dish) some sort of fruit, a sweet treat, juice box, bread roll, water and a couple of other things I cannot remember.

In regards to Qantas, they do bring around a couple of snacks and fruit at different points. The A380’s also have a ‘snack bar’ (again this is economy) at the back of the section which has soft drinks, water, fruit and cookies.

Entertainment wise we are lucky enough to have an iPad so I loaded it up with toddler apps/games on it before we went. Our youngest did play with it for awhile and played the little back of the seat tv’s as well. He also thought turning the overhead light on and off was heaps of fun . Hoping he has grown out of that one. He popped the tray table up and down too, as well as mine.

I did have some colouring books, pencils and cars for him to play with but the pencils went all over the floor and I had to keep reaching down to get them. Very hard when the people in front of you have their seat all the way back the whole trip. I think I’ll try a pencil roll this trip and hope that works better.

My 8 year old (then 7) managed to keep himself busy the whole trip, he loved it. He controlled his own tv, had meals, wrote in his book and read. We had to remind him to have an actual sleep. Which he did. They both did thankfully.

Remember that tip everyone says when you have a newborn? Sleep when the baby is sleeping? Do it on the plane too… sleep when the kids are sleeping.


A Cajun Down Under told me an awesome tip, as she has done many transatlantic flights, is to pick up the routine from the local time. When we arrive in LA it will be 6.30am, so act as if it is 6.30am, don’t worry about what time it is in Australia, just focus on the hear and noew. Of course if your kids are all over the place and need a nap, give them one! But it was a great tip that worked for us on arrival in the States as well as getting home.

Enjoying the Holiday

Kitchen Hotel Beacon

When planning the holiday and where we would stay, I needed to have somewhere with a kitchen, not only for me and my gluten free needs but also for the boys. It was great to have a kitchen and fridge to keep cereal, milk and yoghurt in for quick breakfasts in the morning.

I reminded myself to check my expectations of the boys. Don’t expect them to be on the go sightseeing from 8 am to 10 pm, it just won’t be pleasant for anyone.


Schedule a few free days or kids only days. Couple of times we took the kids to a playground or water park, of course we wouldn’t have done that if we were alone but it breaks things up for them.

The most important tip: have a wonderful time!

Have you got any other tips when travelling overseas with children?

Top image courtesy of potowizard /

All others my own

Categories: family, travel Tags:

How We Saved for a Holiday

March 18, 2013 2 comments

As you may know I am off to the Digital Parents Conference this week and some of the companies sponsoring the conference have donated some prizes for bloggers attending to win. One such company is RAMS and they are asking bloggers in the RAMS Loose Change Round Up to write about how they might budget, save or share ideas to get that loose change in your pocket to build into something bigger. The prize is $500!

Since I love a good giveaway I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring as saving money is something I love to do. When something as awesome as a trip to America come to fruition thanks to our saving money then I say to give it a go. It doesn’t have to be a holiday, it can be a car, pool or something else.

What I Did to Save Money for Our New York City Holiday

Coffee – Don’t go out for coffee or don’t buy coffee.  How much is coffee these days? $4? $5? More if you need something to eat or you are buying for the kids too. Whenever I was tempted to buy a coffee I would think to myself, “Do I want a coffee here in the local shopping mall or do I want coffee at Starbucks in NYC?” Guess where I chose? NYC.

Saving Money

Drinks/Water – I take water bottles from home for all members of the family everywhere I go.

Saving Money

Snacks – Similarly I take a bag of snacks from home  where ever I go. Doesn’t have to be fancy but it means if we are out longer than anticipated then I have something handy for everyone.

Say No – Not only to yourself but to the kids. Say no to the choccy frog or lollipop at the check out. Better still – tell them before you head out that they won’t be getting anything so there are no expectations

Menu Plan and Shop with a List – I do it every week and I share our menu plan here every Monday (or Tuesday) it keeps from the pantry and fridge groaning with food I don’t need and I am not throwing food out at the end of the week.

Shop at Aldi – it is seriously cheaper for the staples at Aldi. Yes I know this means visiting two supermarkets but it saves me so much that I am happy to do it. Plus I went once a week, sometimes once a fortnight as I had a list and I just got everything I needed, which means no ducking to the supermarket multiple time a week.

Shop at Discount/Grocery Clearance Stores – I have mentioned these guys before – very handy if you have a chance to check them out, I have saved lots of money picking up items we need from here.

Stay at Home – don’t go to expensive restaurants or cafe’s to have meals, stay at home and have an indoor picnic for something different. Or fire up the BBQ.

Rebates/Allowances – are you getting everything you can from the government? I saved our rebates/allowances we received after filing our tax return which added a nice lump sum to the holiday budget.

Tiniest Man at Library

Visit the Library – I love books, as do my two boys. Going to the library and borrowing all books, magazines and DVD’s we want is just the same thrill as buying them. Trust me. Even more so as you are not spending any money to get that thrill.


No Magazines – speaking of magazines, I just don’t buy them anymore. I know they are lovely to look at but again I used the line for myself, ‘do I want to buy them here at the local shop or in the Barnes and Noble store in America’ guess which one won out and by the way they are heaps cheaper in the US.

Giveaways – enter giveaways for things you need. Lots of bloggers are doing them now for all sorts of things. Just in the past 2 months I have won $140 in gift cards and last year I won quite a few. (including $1000 gift card from Target!)  While they don’t help for purchases overseas, I use them for groceries or when the boys needed new clothes. Kellie from Three Lil Princesses hosts a blogger giveaway link up every Sunday so it’s easy to see in one spot where the blog giveaways are.

Reward Cards Saving Money

Join Flybuys and Everyday Rewards – I use them for whenever I shop at the places that use them. I don’t go out of my way to shop at those stores, but since I am there anyway I may as well use them. I redeem them for giftcards although the Everyday Rewards through Woolworths I let sit there and accumulate as they are partnered with Qantas and they go towards Frequent Flyer Points. Plus Everyday Rewards sometimes have a special price on items for members so that’s  a bonus too.

Join Frequent Flyers – as members of Everyday Rewards (which is free to join) you can join Qantas Frequent Flyers for free, which if you happen to fly Qantas anywhere especially overseas, can help get those points up.

Money Box Saving

And last but definitely not least, saving your loose change. Get the noisy coins out of your pocket and pop them into a money box. That’s what we did, we popped it into this adorable money box our eldest made us in kinder one year and banked the coins once it’s full.

Doing all of the above helped my little family of four fly across the skies to America and go on an awesome holiday. It is amazing how it all adds up!

Do you have any tried and true money saving tips that got you something you wished for?

Listmania: Reverse Bucket List

March 11, 2013 16 comments

This week’s Listmania prompt is a Reverse Bucket List. ‘Write a list of all the awesome things you have already done’

Apart from getting married to hubby and having two wonderful children, I think the one thing I am most proud of is traveling to America last year. I have been wanting to travel to the US for many many years and when I met hubby, he was happy to share that dream.

You see, it is a little embarrassing to admit this but neither myself or my husband in our 30+ years have been out of the country. Not even to NZ or Fiji or Bali.

So when the BlogHer conference come up, I was determined to ensure that I got there and then we decided we all would go. It would be an amazing thing to share our first trip overseas with our 2 children. So we scrimped and saved and got to NYC last July/August.

To be able to give my children the gift of travelling to America is one I am very proud of. How many 3 and 8 year olds know what this is when they see it?

Statue of Liberty


or can say they have been in one of these?

NYC Yellow Cab

or walked across the Brooklyn Bridge?

Brooklyn Bridge

or walked in Times Square?

NYC Times Square


Well yes, I know plenty can but I am super proud that my 2 (and me!) can.

There are many more things I am glad I have done:

  • running my own website as well as being published online elsewhere
  • working on Daydream Island for a short time
  • building and owning our own house
  • becoming a stay at home mum – going from 2 incomes to 1 is not easy!
  • being a volunteer
  • sponsoring a child through World Vision for many years
  • knowing how to make the perfect latte and carry 5 dinner plates at once
  • having sons that love reading
  • being able to cook – and share my experiences with others through the blog

What’s on your reverse bucket list?

Categories: blogging, family, travel Tags: ,

Eating Gluten Free in New York City

October 10, 2012 2 comments

When I made the decision to head overseas I knew I was up for some research in what I could eat over there. As I have been following some American gluten free blogs so I knew that there was plenty of gluten free food to buy in the supermarkets over there but as I wanted to eat out, I had to dig a little further.

I reached out to a couple of gluten free bloggers, they were so nice and emailed me to point me in the right direction. I would love to give them a shout out, Marlow at Gluten Hate’s Me and Susan from Divine Secrets of a Domestic Diva (who needs to be gluten free but doesn’t blog gluten free and was nice enough to share some tips with me anyway). Thank you to you both for your reply’s and tips, I really appreciate it.

Even though I researched, when I was there I still felt a little under prepared, I was not aware of just how huge NYC is and that getting to the places we wanted to as a family for the the day and also hitting all the cool gluten free places recommended to me was hard. And disappointing. So next time I will plan things better as now I know NYC a little better.

I didn’t bother trying fast food places, we had Starbucks – but I just had coffee, food courts or anything like that. I just knew there would be nothing or if there was then I would be too scared of cross contamination.

In those circumstances I carried protein bars like Lara Bars and Kind Bars and would just eat them when I was hungry and that just tied me over until I got back to the unit and had something substantial to eat.

I recently posted on the gluten free food I discovered in New York City supermarkets,  Part One is Here and Part Two is Here, so I did not go hungry and I am happy I did get to eat out a few times.

Cafe 82, 2282 Broadway, New York City.

This fabulous Upper West Side diner had a whole gluten free menu for me to choose from. The server knew straight away what gluten free meant and explained to me that the food might take a little longer due to being prepared on clean pans with new ingredients – that didn’t bother me at all! I think I even got to have fries at this cafe as they cooked all fries separately in a dedicated fryer. They were so patient with me and answered all my questions.

I think I remember having a grilled sandwich with fries which was delicious. I am pretty sure there were no dessert options for me, not that it really important.

Bloom’s Cafe, 350 Lexington Ave, New York City

We went here after visiting Grand Central Station, around 5pm which is a great time to go when you have kids with you as it was not very busy. The boys were welcomed with open arms and likewise this gluten free lady. They have a great gluten free menu and I took ages to decide. They also took all my questions and advised they would use clean equipment and new ingredients.

I had yet another grilled sandwich, with fries and an iced coffee. The fries were… different. Not really that tasty. But the sandwich was good. So good to have yummy gluten free bread.

Market Cafe, 496 Ninth Street. New York City

Another great cafe, this time in the Hells Kitchen area. We went around lunchtime and there was plenty of room, a fantastic server that was wonderful with the kids as well as with me. They have a whole gluten free menu and I had a wonderful grilled vegetable sandwich. Delicious.

There we are, the 3 places I got to eat out at. We did try a few others but unfortunately they didn’t do gluten free. We did see another couple that weren’t open and needed to get back to but never did.

And here are the ones on my list that I never got to:

You can also check out these great posts:


You may notice that I did not take any photos of my meals. While eating with a 2 year old, it is a little hard and I just didn’t get a chance to. Plus I often didn’t think of it until too late. Whoops. I usually do not review restaurants, something I might have to change.


Categories: food, gluten free, travel Tags: