A Day in the City. 3 More Things to do in Seattle.

Sometimes the hardest part of planning a vacation is figuring out where to go and how to schedule everything you want to do as efficiently as possible. Lucky for you, I’m here to help! Having done all the legwork for you, all you have to do is follow this itinerary, and you will see the highlights of Seattle in the easiest way possible.

So you’re in Seattle for a few days? Lucky you! This will allow plenty of time to take in many of the sites the city has to offer without rushing around trying to fit it all in. When planning your trip, make sure to check out this itinerary you can do on one of your days in the city: A Day in the City. 5 Things to do in Seattle. Of course, there are many more things to do in Seattle. These are merely a few our family found interest in. You could easily spend a week exploring all the city has to offer.

If you have even more time and would like to include some more unusual things in your trip, this post is for you: 11 Weird and Wonderful Things to do in Seattle.

The following can be done in 1 day and could take 4-7 hours depending on the level of interest. These three locations are all located right next to each other so walking between them is very easy.

1. The Space Needle

A person cannot go to Seattle without a visit to the Space Needle. After all, it is iconically Seattle. Even if you merely stand at its base, the Space Needle is an impressive sight to behold.
https://www.spaceneedle.com/home/
Location
Seattle Center
400 Broad Street
(206) 905-2100/(800) 937-9582
Hours
Mon-Sun 8AM-12AM
Price
Adult:$22, senior: $19, child: $14…Blast Pass (skip the line) $54 adults/$39 kids

2. Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)

Love music, television, movies? If so, this is the museum for you! Pop culture abounds here with everything from sci-fi television to famous musician’s guitars, and horror movie memorabilia. The building’s exterior architecture alone is worth the visit. It’s funky, futuristic, and cool.
https://www.mopop.org
Location
325 5th Avenue N.
At Seattle Center, near Space Needle
(206) 770-2700
Hours
Open daily 10am-7pm
Seasonal hours may apply; check the website.
Price
Adult: $31, senior: $28, child:$28

3. Chihuly Garden and Glass

An entire museum comprised of glass-blown works by Chihuly. Vibrant colors and interesting shapes take form in glass flowers, sculpture, orbs, and the like. This museum is a delight to the eyes and an inspiring location to take photographs.
https://www.chihulygardenandglass.com
Location
305 Harrison St.

(206) 753-4940

Next to the Space Needle
Hours
Open daily; hours vary by season. Check website for current hours.
Occasional partial closures for special events.
Price
Adult: $24, senior: $21, child: $14
*Website offers a discount for museum and Space needle (adult: $38, senior: $33, child: $24). If only doing these 3, this is the best deal. Purchase on the website.

An insider tip:

Consider Purchasing a City Pass
www.citypass.com or through Expedia
pass valid for nine consecutive days after first use
Adults: $79, Children $59
If you purchase online, you will receive a one-page voucher. Print it at the time of purchase or later by accessing the .pdf attached to your e-mailed order receipt. One printed voucher per order must be exchanged for CityPASS booklets at the first CityPASS attraction you visit
ATTRACTIONS INCLUDED
Space Needle
Seattle Aquarium
Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour
Chihuly Garden and Glass  OR  Pacific Science Center
Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)  OR  Woodland Park Zoo

We had a great time visiting Seattle. There is much to see and do. I hope these itineraries will help make the planning easy so you can get on with your trip without worrying about the details. Have fun, and let me know how it goes!

A Day in the City. 5 Things to do in Seattle.

11 Weird and Wonderful Things to do in Seattle

Please double check prices and operating hours as they may be subject to change.

11 Weird and Wonderful Things to do in Seattle

Many times when traveling with kids we want to try to include things that will excite them. Stuff they will remember. Let’s be honest, not all kids want to spend a full day in a museum or on a historical tour. No. Kids want weird. They want wonderful. Heck, to be honest, we all want a bit of weird and wonderful on our trips, right? After all, sometimes that’s the stuff that makes them fun.

The city of Seattle offers many weird and wonderful attractions. Not all of them are well-known. One is merely sitting on the side of a busy road, and another is tucked under a bridge. But if you seek them out, you won’t be disappointed. These sites are not merely for the young, but for everyone no matter how old. They may be fascinating, different, and not something you will see every day. Visiting places on a trip that everyone will think is cool? I call that a picture of a pretty awesome family vacation!

1. The Mystery Coke MachineIMG_6384

A mystery indeed. This 1970’s-model Coke machine is said to be haunted. Sitting all alone in front of a hardware store on John Street, it is always full of a variety of delicious flavors of soda, but no one ever sees it get filled. All the selection buttons are “mystery” buttons so you have no idea what delectable drink will clunk it’s way to the bottom. My kids were convinced the machine would give you the soda your heart truly desired. I ended up with a Grape Fanta, so maybe they are right. It was pretty delicious!IMG_6385
Details:
918 East John Street
Cost: $1.00. This machine accepts quarters or dollar bills.
Time needed: 10 minutes

2. Ye Olde Curiosity ShopIMG_6725

Where the weird meets the weirder. This souvenir shop is located right on the water at Pier 54. But souvenirs are not all you will find here. Mummies, shrunken heads (yes, REAL shrunken heads!), swords, and other strange memorabilia line the walls of the store. Kids can grab a book at the front desk and explore the oddities from A-Z while you marvel at the peculiar collections before you.


Details:
1001 Alaskan Way. Pier 54. (walkable from Pike’s Place Market)
Website: https://yeoldecuriosityshop.com/
Cost: free
Hours: 10-6
Time needed: Depends how curious you are. 30 minutes to an hour.

3. Gum WallIMG_6871

Yes, you read that right. This wall has become a Seattle institution. For over 20 years, people from all over the world have come to this colorful location to leave a little gum souvenir for the city. The result is a rainbow alley of small spotted confections. As a mom, all I saw was an alley full of germs (gag), but it was still pretty weird and cool.


Details:
1428 Post Alley (at Pike Place Market)
Cost: A piece of gum 😉
Hours: always open
Time needed: 15 minutes

4. Chihuly Garden and Glass MuseumIMG_6615

A museum full of vivid colors shining through glass blown art? Yes, please! Chihuly found his calling in glass blowing, and the results of his artistic vision are stunning. You will experience beautiful, unique pieces, vibrant colors, and interesting designs. Take a stroll through the garden and look into the orbs that dot the landscape. Have fun taking pictures of the Space Needle through the colorful glass balls.


Details:
305 Harrison Street (you can easily combine this museum with a visit to the Space Needle and/or MoPop). Check out the City Pass for some pretty great savings.
Website: https://www.chihulygardenandglass.com/
Cost: Adult: $24, Senior: $21, Child: $14
Hours: Sun-Thurs: 10-7, Fri, Sat: 10-8
Time needed: 1 hour

5. Beneath the Streets tourIMG_6901

Did you know Seattle is a city built on top of a city? Whaaat?!? It’s true. Back in the 1800’s, the city was built at sea level. As the population grew, people quickly realized having a city at sea level on the water is a pretty terrible idea, because of…well…the sewage situation. When the tide rose, so did the poop. Eww! So city planners decided the best course of action was to merely raise the city up. So, they built the version of Seattle we see today right on top of the old city. It is pretty cool to walk the tunnels and see what became of the old city.IMG_6899
Details:
102 Cherry Street. The tour begins at the corner of 1st Avenue and Cherry Street.
Website: https://www.beneath-the-streets.com
Cost: Adult: $19, Senior: $17, Student: $17, Child (7-12): $10
Hours: Winter tours run 10:30-4:30. Check website for current times.
Time of tour: 1 hour

6. Gas Works ParkIMG_7174

If you are a fan of Steampunk, Gas Works is for you. It is what remains of a coal gasification plant that was in operation from 1906-1956. Industrial yet, dare I say, artsy. You may be inspired to take some pretty unique pictures amongst the old towering structures, or on the “Great Mound” with the Seattle skyline in the background.

IMG_7142IMG_7136
Details:
3300 Meridian Ave. N. Seattle (Lake Union)
Cost: free
Hours: 6am-10pm
Time needed: 1 hour

7. Fremont TrollIMG_7119

Who wouldn’t want to set their eyes upon a massive concrete troll under a bridge? Sometimes finding random things in odd places is what makes traveling fun, right? This troll is huge. 18 feet high, to be exact (thanks, Wikipedia), and is actually clutching a real Volkswagen Beetle! If you’re a planner like me, here’s a side note: it is very easy to combine a visit to both the Fremont Troll and Gas Works Park on the same trip. IMG_7121
Details:
N. 36th Street at Troll Ave.-under the north end of the George Washington Memorial Bridge.
Cost: free
Time needed: 15 minutes

8. Ballard LocksIMG_7077

This is a fascinating location for both the old and young alike. I will try to explain this intriguing lock system as simply as possible. The locks connect the Puget Sound to Lake Washington and Lake Union. Sounds simple, right? Well, hold on a minute. The Puget Sound is salt water and Lake Washington and Union are freshwater Not to mention, the two bodies of water have up to an 8.8 feet height difference. Umm, how in the world does that work you may wonder? That’s where this cool lock system comes into play. So I don’t write a novel trying to explain it all, read more about how the locks work here. Crazy cool, right?


Details:
3015 NW 54th St
Cost: free
Hours: 7am-9pm
Time needed: 1 hour

Other things we ran out of time to explore but look pretty awesome!

9. Seattle Pinball Museum

Pinball anyone? Check out 25 vintage pinball games. The oldest is dated back to 1934!

Website: http://www.seattlepinballmuseum.com/

10. Archie McPhee Catalog Store

According to their website, Archie McPhee’s is, “widely considered to be a Mecca for connoisseurs of the strange and one of Seattle’s top ten weird destinations, it is truly an attraction without a parallel. It’s a one-stop shop for party supplies, crafts, costumes, miniatures and the weirdest collection of toys and candy that you’ve ever seen.” Need I say more?

Website: http://archiemcpheeseattle.com/

11. UP House

The iconic house from the movie Up exists in real life! You read that right folks. A little old woman named Edith Manfield held onto her home despite the city growing around her. Read about her story here. The tiny house still stands although it is now surrounded by a shopping center. Who knew?

As you can see, a plethora of unusual sites can be found in Seattle. Get out there and explore the city the way you will remember. Journey off the beaten path and check out some things that not everyone gets to see. After all, everyone needs a little weird and wonderful in their life, right?

*As operating times or prices may change throughout the year, please double check these details before you go.

12 Things to Bring on Every Trip

Traveling can be tough. It’s stressful to pack your world into a bag and leave home. Don’t get me wrong, I love the whole sightseeing bit of travel, and would never turn down an opportunity to see the world. But the entire packing and living out of a suitcase bit really stinks.

We all want to make traveling easier. For our family, living abroad has led to many travel opportunities. Over the past two years, I have developed some tricks of the travel trade. They have streamlined the whole packing process and even help keep us organized while on the road. I hope they will help you make the tedious job of packing and the frustrating attempts at staying organized while living out of a suitcase more tolerable.

1. A Travel Book

Before you even pull out your suitcase, sit down and organize all your travel details into a book. This makes all of your important information easy to access at a glance. I like to include: an overall itinerary, contact information, confirmation numbers, hotel/airline/house rental/car rental information, things to do in the area, tipping or local customs, etc.

2. Your Medical Information

Similar to the travel book, We have a medical binder complete with passport and visa photos, copies of insurance cards, immunization records, and any allergies or essential medical information. It becomes an easy item to grab in case of an emergency situation, especially when traveling overseas.IMG_6272

3. A Passport Holder

It is always so helpful for us to have a central place to keep all of our passports, entry/exit cards, boarding passes, etc. I develop a bit of OCD when we travel, and tend to check and recheck I have all of our necessary documents. Having all our documents in one easy to carry location makes this process much more manageable.

4. Bag O’ Cords

Successful traveling requires a lot of organization. I have found it very handy to keep all of my charging cords, extra batteries, plugs, adapters, converters (basically anything electronic) together in one bag. It makes it easy to find these items both on the plane and at our destination.

5. Luggage Scale

I cannot tell you how many times we have been on a trip, bought souvenirs, packed them in our suitcase, then wondered if it was overweight. Throwing a luggage scale in your bag will dispel any concerns as to whether or not your suitcase is too heavy.IMG_6254

6. Extra Packable Bag

Along the lines of souvenirs, I also cannot tell you how many times we have been on vacation, bought our souvenirs, then realized they wouldn’t all fit in the suitcases we brought. Or even worse, they would fit, but made our suitcases overweight. So now we just pack an additional duffel bag in our suitcase just in case. I mean, we can’t say no to a perfect memento from our trip!IMG_6258

7. Travel Meds

I get a bit paranoid when we travel, medically speaking. This is especially true if we are going to a foreign country and I don’t know what medications will be available. So I like to think through every illness or injury that could possibly occur and bring every medication we could possibly need. As you can imagine, all the different pills and creams I brought were taking up a lot of precious room and became difficult to find in a pinch. So I streamlined all our pills into small travel pill containers that fit inside one larger case. Although the case fits a lot of different medications, it still fits comfortably in my carry-on, and we have all we could possibly need readily accessible.

8. Travel Toiletries

When possible, buy all of your toiletries in travel sizes. Space and weight are precious commodities in luggage so the lighter, and smaller, the better. Some items like shampoo may be purchased pre-filled, or you can buy empty travel bottles and fill with your own favorite things. For example, I like to fill empty bottles with my brand of hairspray and face wash.IMG_6262

9. Toiletry Bags

Each person in our family gets their own hanging toiletry bag. They are responsible for making sure everything they may need is in their bag. Once we arrive at our destination, I hand out toiletry bags. They hang them in their bathroom, and everyone has their own individual needs taken care of. Of course, the boy’s bags are way smaller than mine. 😉IMG_6256

10. Suction Cup Hooks

These have been so handy if a few of us need to share a bathroom. The worst thing is when you are sharing a shower and can’t figure out who’s washcloth is whose. We bring suction cup hooks with initials on them. They stick right onto a shower wall, and we never get our washcloths confused. Unless of course, my lazy boys don’t follow the rules and leave their washcloths in a ball on the edge of the tub, but that is a different issue entirely.IMG_6264

11. Bags That Stand Out

Pretty much everyone seems to have a black suitcase. To quickly spot your suitcase in the baggage claim, buy one that is an unusual color, and tie a colorful ribbon to the handle. Also, in addition to putting your contact information on a luggage tag, put it inside too. This way if your bag gets lost and the luggage tag falls off, there is still a way for the airline to find you. Finally, take a picture of all your checked bags before they go. I like to do this because I am usually exhausted when we arrive at our destination and appreciate a visual reminder at baggage claim in case I am not thinking clearly.

12. Shacke Paks

I am going to go on a total PSA right now. Shacke Paks have revolutionized the way we travel. I’ll be honest, the first time I looked at these packing cubes, I wondered if they would live up to the hype. I mean, on Amazon.com they have been given 5 stars with over 5,000 reviews. Now that’s saying something! That being said, I felt like I had to give them a try. So at the beginning of last summer, I decided to test them out. By the middle of the summer, I had purchased Shacke Paks for every member of the family. They make packing and staying organized while traveling so much easier. If you are a geeky organizer like me, these things will be right up your alley. When all of your different clothing categories are sitting neatly in little cubes in your suitcase, it is hard not to look at it with a huge sense of pride. In addition, we all have different color Shacke Paks, so I know at a quick glance who’s clothes are who’s. When we arrive at our destination, I hand each person their own Shacke Pak and put them in charge of unpacking and repacking their own things. I’m telling you, you will wonder how you ever lived without these fantastic things! Click on this link for more information and try a few for yourself. If I could be a spokesperson for this company, I would. Pure genius!IMG_6257

There you have it. Use these travel tips, and your trips are bound to be easier and more successful. We’ve done all the hard work for you so you can streamline and organize your trip in no time. Now get out there and enjoy your travel!

Forget Black Friday, Let’s Celebrate Cookie Friday! (Christmas Sugar Cookies)

In America, many people spend the day after Thanksgiving shopping. We call it Black Friday, and it is THE best day to stock up on Christmas gifts by hunting for the best bargains of the year. However, because we are a family who tends to avoid crowds at all costs, we began our own Black Friday tradition. Instead of Black Friday, we participate in Cookie Friday.IMG_7640

The day after we stuff our faces with turkey, we gather as many neighborhood kids as we can rustle up (a.k.a., my minions), and begin getting in the Christmas spirit by decorating sugar cookies. Not just any sugar cookies, mind you. The best sugar cookies you have ever tasted. Thick, chewy and soft. Topped with sweet icing and a lovingly painted design. Well, I do have kids painting these delectable morsels, so I will admit, not every design is lovingly painted. Having as many boys as I do in the house, I should have realized cookies in the shapes of people were bound to get creatively turned into something…ahem…inappropriate. The first year of Cookie Friday led the way to a new tradition quickly adopted by every male participant. The bikini. Not exactly Christmassy, but they sure do get points for creativity.IMG_1986

The yearly gathering for Cookie Friday happened in our home every year for 12 years. None of my immediate family members were allowed to even whisper the word “shopping” until nearly every cookie was decorated. It became a very special tradition not only for us but for our kid’s friends as well. Come to think of it; perhaps I was acting as a babysitter so that other parents could go shopping. Hmmm…maybe I planned that all wrong. That being said, Those 12 years were very special. We welcomed old and new friends, and slowly watched them grow up. But through it all, no matter how old the neighborhood kids got, they always came together on Cookie Friday to usher in the Christmas holiday together.

Since we have moved to Shanghai, Cookie Friday has been put on hold. It is too difficult to execute here. But I’ll be honest, although it was a lot of work (I baked hundreds of cookies, hence the need for my minions), it is one of the things I miss the most about being home.IMG_5111

I hope this recipe makes its way into your family traditions. It is a family recipe that has been passed down through generations. Gather around, call all the kids, put on some Christmas carols, and enjoy making memories of your own. And, if a bikini-clad sugar person makes its way into your traditional Christmas Sugar Cookies, consider yourself all the luckier. 😉

IMG_6013

Christmas Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

3/4 C butter
1 C sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 C flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Preparation

Mix butter, sugar, eggs, & vanilla. Blend in flour, baking powder, & salt. Chill at least 1 hour, or up to 1 week. Roll dough 1/2” thick. Cut with festive cookie cutters and place on ungreased baking sheet.

Bake

400 degrees for 5 minutes.
Make sure the cookies are only slightly browned on the bottom. They taste better when they are thick and chewy.

Decorate

Frosting
2 C confectioners sugar
2 egg whites

Beat to spreadable consistency. Separate into small bowls. Add food coloring. Paint cookies with frosting. Get creative. Top with sprinkles and a big heaping of love.

Enjoy!

21 Tips for a Successful Long-Haul Flight

This is the first in a series helping you navigate your way through a long-haul flight. I hope to help make your trip ahead a bit less daunting by providing tips to help make your journey a success. Feel free to check out: 

How to Survive a Long-Haul Flight with Kids. 

Long-Haul Flight Essentials (22 things to pack in your carry-on)

So you are going to take a long-haul flight. Chances are you are going to someplace exciting or else you wouldn’t be willing to sit on a plane for hours upon end. If you are like me, however, the thought of sitting confined in a tiny seat for an entire day is daunting. Even after I have done it so many times, I still tend to dread the thought of the long journey that lies ahead.

In fact, I have flown the same routes so many times that on certain flights I have begun to see the same flight attendants as well as know what food will be served and when. I was so excited to discover they added a Magnum ice cream bar to the mid-flight snack on Delta’s Shanghai to Detroit leg I could hardly stand it. I always make sure I am ready when the time comes for such a yummy treat. If I am sleeping, I wake up, eat my ice cream, and drift right back off to dreamland (or try to anyway). If my kids happen to refuse the delectable snack, I shoot them a look of daggers. After all, if they don’t want it, they should indeed offer it to me! Hey, it’s the little things that count right? And on a long flight, sometimes those little things are all you have.

IMG_0507
Pre-flight excitement!

 

Although a long-haul flight is never easy, I am here to offer you some tips to make the journey a bit less arduous. I hope they help make your trip pass by quickly so you can enjoy the adventure that awaits on the other end.

Planning your flight

1. Fly direct.

If possible, book a direct flight to your destination. This will save you precious hours on your long journey. The last thing you want to do is have a layover where you sit in an airport for additional hours when you have already been traveling such a long time.

IMG_0065
Sometimes layovers lead to missed connections…which can lead to drinking lots of beer.

 

2. Book business class.

Every time I book a long haul flight I dreamily look at the business class fare. Typically it is 3 times the cost of the coach fair so is not feasible for our large family to book. However, if you can swing it, splurge. The level of service and comfort far exceeds economy class and will make your trip much more enjoyable as well as classy. Ooh-la-la!

IMG_7790
When the company is paying make sure you fly business class!

 

3. Fly overnight

This will hopefully allow you to sleep most of the way. Although if you are like me, it doesn’t matter day or night flight, I can never get comfortable enough to sleep well. I need to be horizontal. Again, another plug for business class. You may sleep like a baby in the awesome flat-bed seats offered on many long flights.

4. Be deliberate about your seat selection

It is essential to try and figure out which location will provide the most comfort for such a long time. Do you need a window on which to rest your head? An aisle so you can get up and move around more freely? Close to the bathroom? A bulkhead for more legroom? These are all significant factors to take into consideration. Make sure you check out Seat Guru here: www.seatguru.com before choosing your all-important seat. This site will tell you which seats are good or bad on your upcoming flight.

5. Take a risk with your seat selection

If traveling with a companion, request a window and aisle so you may have an empty seat between you. If someone happens to book the middle seat, they are usually more than willing to trade you for a window or aisle so you can sit next to your companion.

6. Divide and conquer

Divide carry-on items into Ziplock bags. For example, liquids, change of clothes, toys, medicine, etc.. Organization makes fumbling through your bag both through security and on the plane much more bearable. I can’t tell you how many times I have searched and searched for my lip balm only to find it hidden in the dark depths of my bag. So frustrating.

7. Don’t forget the music

Prior to your flight, download an awesome playlist as well as a relaxing playlist. Music you love will help you pass the time or sleep when you want. Make sure you invest in good noise-canceling headphones to help you drop out the sounds of everything going on around you. It’s difficult to sleep when you constantly hear the sound of the bathroom door opening, closing, and the toilet flushing.

8. Treat yourself

Bring lots of snacks, especially if you don’t like airplane food. Make sure to throw in a few treats because darn it, this is hard and you deserve it.

9. Check out the airport food

If you see a good restaurant in the airport, buy some food to save for later. Whenever we are in the Detroit airport, we hit up Chick-fil-A and buy a couple of chicken sandwiches. Boy, do they taste good a few hours into the flight. It brings a little bit of happiness when you remember you tucked something delicious away for later.IMG_3121

10. Keep it comfortable

I will never understand why some people board a long-haul flight in dresses and high heels. Why?? You are going to be very uncomfortable for the next 8 hours plus so the least you can do is wear appropriate clothing for such a journey. Now I’m not suggesting you wear your pajamas but at least plan on comfortable clothes when selecting your in-flight attire. I wear tennis shoes to help prevent swelling in my feet but suggest you wear shoes that will be comfortable whatever they may be.

IMG_0273
Maybe save your Sunday best for another day.

 

In-flight

11. Use the overhead bins

Keeping the area in front of your seat clear is key. You need to be able to stretch out and move as much as your small space will allow. Before the flight begins, I usually try to take all the essentials out of my carry-on and shove them into the seat pocket in front of me for easy access as needed.

IMG_2700
Fill up those seat pockets baby!

 

12. Sleep smartly

Think about the time change at your destination and plan your in-flight sleep accordingly. But note, if you are going to experience a 12-hour time difference, there is nothing you can do to avoid jet lag. Don’t even bother trying. Trust me, practically every person who has come to Shanghai from the U.S. has a method they think will keep them from getting jet lag, but it never works. Ever.

13. Exhaust yourself before your flight

Some people prefer to give up sleep the night before so they can sleep on the plane. I like my rest too much to employ this method but hey, if it works for you, do it. Another idea is to do a hardcore workout to induce sweet dreams when on the flight. Either that or sore muscles. I don’t know. Again, do what works for you.

IMG_2484
This girl would run a marathon before every flight if she could.

 

14. Figure out the flight schedule

Many times the flight attendants will provide a menu card at the beginning of a flight. Look it over and mentally calculate when meals will be served. This will help you determine how to plan your time spent on the plane accordingly. Best times to sleep, watch a movie, etc. Most often when meals are served, they will turn on the cabin lights while all other times the cabin will be dark.

15. Fly in segments

Split flight time into sections. For example, on a 12-hour flight:
1st 3 hours, read & eat
2nd 3 hours, watch movies
3rd 3 hours, sleep
4th 3 hours, watch movies & eat.
Sometimes structuring your time will help keep the long hours from getting too overwhelming.

16. Stretch it out

Have a good stretch before you get on the plane as well as during your flight. This will help thwart off sore legs and muscles that always tend to occur from sitting too long.

17. Binge watch tv shows

Want to catch up on Modern Family or The Middle? Many airplanes offer seasons of popular shows you can watch on demand. You can also download your favorite shows onto your computer and watch them that way.

18. Read a good book

I would suggest investing in a Kindle. Although I used to be all for reading a book the old-school way, I have become a convert. Kindles are great when traveling because they take up precious little space in your carry-on, are light, and many offer a back-lit screen which keeps you from feeling like a jerk to those around you when you have to turn on your overhead light to read.FullSizeRender

19. Bring a project

I find I can spend a lot of time on a project while on a long flight. After all, what else am I going to do, right? I have written blog posts, organized emails, written letters. You name it. As long as it doesn’t take up a lot of room, feel free to get busy.

20. Drink a lot

While I’ll admit, I have been known to overdo the free flow wine from time to time, this is not the type of drinking I would suggest. Trust me, it never ends well. Instead, drink lots of water, not only to help avoid in-flight swelling but because it will force you to get up and move around thwarting off possible thrombosis and all the other fun side effects that can happen while flying.

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If you have a kid like this on your flight, you have my full permission to hit the whiskey.

 

21. Just relax

If you are like me, when you are at home you never sit down. I am always busy getting things done. A long-haul flight forces you to slow down. Try to enjoy the time. Although it seems like it will last forever, this too shall pass, and you will be running around again like usual. So sit back, relax, and try to enjoy the ride.

There you have it. 21 tips for making your long-haul flight a bit more bearable. It may be difficult, but you can do it. I know you can! I hope you enjoy your trip and the memories made both on and off the plane!

Special thanks to all who offerered their tried and true tips that helped make this post so thourough: Farah Rahim, Wendy Yee, Suzanne Savage, Lilo Buckmeir, Peter Petero, Nataskia, and Elaine F.

 

How to (Mutianyu). The best way to do The Great Wall of China.

So you want to visit The Great Wall of China? Good choice. Being one of the 7 wonders of the world it certainly won’t disappoint. After all, how often can you say you have been to a manmade structure that can be seen from outer space? That in and of itself is pretty cool. In fact, visiting The Great Wall became our family’s favorite trip in China.

However, there are some pretty big mistakes that can be made when visiting The Great Wall. More than 4 million people visit the Wall every year. Trust me, you do not want to get caught up in the throngs of people that cluster in massive groups at various points along the Wall. It will make your visit much less enjoyable fighting your way through crowds as you climb stair after stair after stair after stair. Yes, there are that many stairs. In fact, you will go up and down so many times you will feel as if your legs are going to fall off. Why in the world did they have to include so many stairs in any way? Seriously.IMG_0172

But I digress. If you want to visit The Great Wall and enjoy your experience, you will need to get outside of Beijing. Go to Beijing and see the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. Maybe take in a Kung Fu show or eat some Peking duck, but when you are done take a drive outside the city to Mutianyu.

Mutianyu is a small village situated about 40 miles outside of Beijing. It boasts few crowds and one of the best-preserved areas of the wall. While there is a very nice hotel and one tourist center in Mutianyu, you won’t find very much else in town. Staying overnight is limited but possible and if you stay where we did, you will be treated to a surprisingly relaxing vacation.

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The Village of Mutianyu

 

How to get there

Luckily you have multiple options to get to Mutianyu. If you are using Beijing as a home base, your best bet will be traveling by car or bus. We flew into Beijing, spent the day there taking in the sights, then hired a driver to take us out to the village. You can also take a bus that runs regularly throughout the day.

How long will it take

The answer to that is, how long do you have? We spent the better part of a day hiking along the Wall. It was such a luxury to have much of the Wall to ourselves, and the scenery kept getting more and more beautiful so we just kept going. By the end of our trip, we calculated to have walked 10 miles! I would suggest staying overnight for a night or two so you won’t be rushed.DSCF0879

Where to stay

Our family of 7 stayed at The Schoolhouse at Mutianyu. We all agreed it was by far our favorite place to stay out of all our trips in China. It felt more like a villa in Sonoma Valley than a hotel in China. The Schoolhouse offered a lovely courtyard, open-concept rooms with views of the Wall, and delicious meals. During our stay, we enjoyed a jazz night under the stars complete with a wonderful buffet dinner. Check out their website here: www.theschoolhouseatmutianyu.com for lodging and dining options as well as seasonal offerings and special events.

How to do The Great Wall at MutianyuIMG_0115

One of the highlights of visiting The Great Wall at Mutianyu is the cableway and luge options for getting up and down the mountain, especially when traveling with children. They get a kick out of riding the ski lift to the top and rushing down the luge to the bottom.
Price: adults-single trip CNY 100/round trip CNY 120, children: single trip CNY 50 single trip/CNY 60 round trip.
Service Hours: March 16-November 15: 8am-5pm, November 16-March 15: 8:30am-4:30pm
Of course, The Great Wall itself doesn’t close, but the cableway and luge do. Whatever you do, take note of these hours. When we went we were clueless. If you want to get a kick out of our misadventure with the luge (and more), just click on this link: How to Be a Loner on The Great Wall

Thoughts and Things

  • When we arrived at the top of the cableway, we walked north along the Wall. Eventually, this led us to the “Wild Wall”, a section of the Wall that has not been preserved. This area offered some spectacular views. However, if you go this way use extreme caution. Hiking becomes treacherous at times. At some points, we were literally climbing up slippery sand trails on hands and knees.DSCF0936
  • People sell water and snacks along the way. When we went it was pretty hot and ice-cold popsicles were very welcomed so make sure you bring some cash.IMG_0190
  • You will be walking on some very uneven surfaces and up and down steep steps. Wear comfortable shoes and dress appropriately.
  • Sometimes the air quality is bad so it may be necessary to wear a mask. Make sure you check the AQI before you venture out.
  • The best times of year to visit are; April, May, September, and October as these are the months with the most favorable weather. We went in June and it was really hot but the trees were very green, aiding to the spectacular views.IMG_0211

If you are going to visit The Great Wall, do it right. Get out of Beijing with the millions of others and take a trip to Mutianyu. It will be an incredibly enjoyable experience and one you will never forget!

Fall in Love With Fall. An American’s how-to guide for making the season a success.

I could write a novel about how much I love the fall season. Crisp, fresh air, apple pies, deep vibrant colors dotting the trees. Yep, fall is pretty great. My husband and I like the season so much we decided to name our only daughter after it. It didn’t even matter that she was born in January, we decided Autumn was going to be her name. And yes, we are aware January does not actually occur during the fall season but darn it, Winter just didn’t seem the right name for her.

As you may know, the U.S. does everything big. Holidays, football games, even portions of food. The bigger, the better is our mentality and the fall season is no exception. We love fall in America. Everyone transitions from pansies and American flags to pumpkins and mums. We have parades, seasonal drinks, and even an entire holiday in honor of our beloved season. It’s as if all of the country transforms into orange, red, and yellow. And why shouldn’t we love the season? After all, it is an incredible time of year. If you ever have the privilege of driving through New England when the leaves are ablaze with color, you will know instantly why we love it so. People move to New England just for the fall season. I’m not kidding. That’s how spectacular it is. This time of year makes me nostalgic for our time spent in the Northeast. But that is a post for another day.

Today I am here to spread the word about all things fall in the U.S. Your insider’s guide, so to speak, about everything you should do in order to do the season justice and celebrate it big like us Americans.

√Get your craftiness on

First of all, start decorating early. After all, you want to take full advantage of all the season has to offer. I always decorate my house before the school year begins which is usually towards the end of August. I always justify decorating rather early by saying the start of school is the unofficial entrance of the fall season, so why not decorate accordingly? My entire house becomes a fall wonderland…wait, is that even a thing? Pumpkins, apples, and mums can typically be found both inside and out. I have boxes and boxes of decorations. Ok, I’ll admit I may get a bit carried away when I even add decorations to my bathrooms but come on, fall is just so great I don’t want to miss it anywhere I go.IMG_4972

√Treat yourself

Since all that decorating takes so much time and energy, make sure you recharge yourself with a pumpkin spice latte. In America, you can pretty much find pumpkin-flavored anything this time of year so finding a festive drink should be pretty easy to do. And go ahead, pile the whipped cream on top of that baby. It’s like a bonus treat when the coffee is all gone, and we all deserve a treat every once in a while, right?IMG_4758

√Shop!

Now that you are all sugared up, it’s time to hit your local farmer’s market. Now listen to this bit of advice very carefully. BUY EVERYTHING! I fill my car with pumpkins, hay bales, mums, you name it, and it never seems to be enough. Make sure you buy a variety. Big pumpkins, small pumpkins, green pumpkins, orange pumpkins. This is essential stuff people, don’t limit yourself by only one type of decoration. Just remember, you are doing like the Americans do…the bigger, the better.IMG_3093

√Become Betty Crocker

When you are done transforming your house into a red and gold Pinterest perfect picture, it’s time to turn to your sense of smell. Your home shouldn’t just look like fall, it should smell like fall. So get in the kitchen, flip on that oven, and fill your house with the scents of cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. Yummm! You really can’t go wrong as long as you stick to the primary food groups of fall-pumpkin or apple. Bake anything that contains either of these two fall “superfoods,” and you will succeed immensely in pleasing your nose (and your tummy). Here’s an extra bonus! Click on this link for a delicious fall recipe: Fall Favorite Apple Crisp

√Get your hands dirty

Ok, your house is ready inside and out. Now what? It’s time to rake up a pile of leaves, of course. Take your time and get a big pile together right in the middle of your front yard. Then do as all self-respecting Americans would do. Walk to the end of your yard, turn around, and run full speed towards your leaf mountain. Lose all your abandon and leap into that pile of red, green and gold happiness. It’s ok if your neighbors watch you. Let them talk. After all, you know they secretly wish they were doing the same thing.IMG_1979

√Stuff yourself

Well, here you go again. You have worked so hard your stomach is rumbling. Now is the time to drop everything you are doing and head to an apple orchard. If you are like me, you will think, “I am not going to make an effort to go all the way out to an apple orchard just to pick a few apples.” No way. Instead, make this trip worth your while. When you leave your car (and your stomach) should be full of apples, apple cider donuts, and (most importantly), apple cider. In other words, your wallet should be empty, and you should feel as if you are going to throw up in order to know you have done the apple orchard justice.

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Sharing apple cider with someone you love makes it even more special.

√Eat your veggies

Next, you have two stops to make on your way home. Bath and Body Works, and the grocery store. Whew, this day is getting exhausting! I genuinely believe Bath and Body Works makes all of their money from August to December. Remember I told you the importance of things smelling like fall? Well, that’s where this store comes in. Grab a bag and fill it with soaps and candles to bring the smell of the season into your house. Yay for more apple, pumpkin, and cinnamon. I mean really, could you ever have too much of those smells floating through every room of your house? Next, hit the grocery store for a big old bag of candy corn. I go crazy over the stuff and usually have over candy-corned within a week or two so just remember to pace yourself!IMG_0536

√Get in the game

Another very important fall past-time in the States is football. This is typically the men’s favorite aspect of fall although I have known quite a few women who get more worked up over the game than the men. My favorite part of a football game is the snacks we eat while watching. You may remember the winning touchdown of the game, but I am going to remember that delicious queso and chips I couldn’t get into my belly fast enough. To each his own.IMG_7076

√Run!

To us, fall means cross country races. We loved getting up and out on a crisp fall morning to cheer our kids onto the finish line of a race. So go check out a cross-country race. If that isn’t your thing, sign up to run a race yourself. Fall is the perfect time to train for and run a race. Although if you are like me, you would rather cheer loudly from the sidelines. No judgment that works too. However, perhaps I should be running more races considering all the lattes and candy corn I have consumed. Hmm…

√Pick a pumpkin

And finally, visit a pumpkin patch. Who knows, perhaps you will get a visit from the Great Pumpkin. Haha. As if you didn’t have enough pumpkins from the farmer’s market already, right? Speaking of which, make sure you go home and watch It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. That’s a must if you want to do as the Americans do.IMG_4824

There you have it, an American’s guide to fall. You’ve got a lot to do! So what are you waiting for? Now get out there and get festive. Oh, and on a side note, if you think this guide is extensive, just wait until Christmas. That season is in a league of its own!