Road Trips With Kids Made Easy!

Exploring the Residence Inn in Vancouver, B.C.

Road Trips With Kids Made Easy!

When I went to L.A. to represent Erica/YMC for the opening of the Residence Inn at L.A. Live, the trip was such a treat. My husband just started his Masters in Leadership, which means that he's up until midnight every night reading and working on assignments and papers. The trip occurred a few days before he started and it was a great time for me to recharge before taking on the task of solo parenting.

At dinner on the second night in L.A., I mentioned that the kids and I would be heading to Vancouver to visit Dad while he was on campus, and to see other family members. Nina said that she could talk to the Vancouver Residence Inn and see if they could put us up for a couple of nights. The Vancouver Aquarium had offered us day passes for the Friday, and staying downtown would be such a treat. She did talk to them, and they did host us, and it was so perfect.

I entered our room, and noticed immediately that they had tied three balloons (for my three kids!) and left a small bottle of champagne (and some chocolate), as well as a lovely note. My kids, reading more into the note than I did, discovered that three individual tubs of Haagen Daas had been left in the freezer for them. They were impressed.


The suite reminded me of the one in L.A., in that it was spacious, modern, and came with a complete kitchen. It also had an AMAZING breakfast buffet, which is such a blessing when traveling. Everyone got to pick what they wanted, and we even made waffles! We love waffles. 

For those of you who travel, be it with kids or for a longer stay for business, the Vancouver Residence Inn is exactly what you need. Beds you don't want to leave, suites equipped for you to cook if you want to (you can even have them get your groceries for you!), a fabulous breakfast to start the day, and a swimming pool/fitness centre/laundry room at your disposal.

The view had my kids fascinated.

This hotel also had computers in the lobby for you to use if you wanted to.

The Residence Inn is located a few blocks from the Aquabus that shuttles you over to Granville Island. My daughter and I did a Vancouver girls' trip two years ago while her brothers were at camp, and it included a trip to Granville Market. The boys had never been, though, and I was excited to show it to them. One hundred years ago, when I lived in Vancouver pre-marriage and pre-kids, I lived a ten-minute walk from the market. I love it so.

Now they love it too, and want to go there every time we visit family in the Lower Mainland. 

Thanks so much, Suzanne and the team at the Vancouver Residence Inn! And to Nina, for connecting us. We feel very spoiled.

I spent many hours and days with my kids, and there are things I've learned over the years to make road trips less painful, and less expensive:

1. Pack a lot of water bottles. We do this daily, because it's summer, and it's hot. The A/C can also make you thirsty. I have no desire to spend $5 on a bottle of water at the gas station when I can load up the water bottles we own before we leave home.

2. Stock up on snacks. I'll include extra snack items in my big grocery shop before we leave. Snacks are necessary, and I don't like to pay more than I need to.

3. Pack a lunch. On this past trip, we left mid-morning. I knew that we'd be eating out a bit while in Vancouver, so we packed our regular lunch for the drive instead of hitting a fast food joint along the way.

4. Go to the library before you leave. Or pack a new movie, if your kids are younger. When I had preschoolers/early elementary kids, I would buy the newest cartoon that was released and they'd watch it on repeat for the drive. Now that they're older, the DVD player doesn't come along, and they'll read or colour. We do bring hand-held devices, but they lose interest in them after a short while.

5. Take your time. Stop for bathroom breaks, drop in at a friend's place along the way, eat your lunch outside. When the days are full of driving, the breaks make it bearable. If you aren't in a hurry, those stops relieve stress, instead of increasing it due to an unreasonable timeline.

Do you have any tips you'd like to share with the group?


5 Smartphone Apps That Save You Money

All of your coupons, right at your fingertips

5 Smartphone Apps That Save You Money

I shared my love of using PC Points a few weeks ago in order to knock chunks of money off of my grocery bill. A friend commented on Facebook about two apps she uses to save money on groceries, and I immediately downloaded them. I'm here to tell you that I love them, and I'm sure that you will too.

1. First of all, you need to download the PC Points app if you haven't already. All of your offers, right at your finger tips.

2. Snap Saves. Each week, they update the app to tell you what products are being featured. If you buy any of those products, you take a picture of the receipt and upload it to the app. When you reach $20, they mail you a cheque. I've been pleasantly surprised by how fast the money is adding up.

3. Checkout 51. This is the other app my friend recommended and it works just like Snap Saves. Buy a featured product, upload a photo of your receipt, and watch your savings accumulate. Once your account hits $20, they write you a cheque.

4. Snip Snap. Once I saw how easy the above three apps made it to save money, I went looking for more coupon apps. Snip Snap is a coupon clipping app. It's geared more toward major retailers, but there are stores included that I shop at occasionally, and I'll be using it for sure.

5. Shop To It. This app lets you know about sales, based on your location. Shop To It also aggregates major location-based deals from organizations such as Groupon and others.

I know that there are more apps out there, but I haven't tried them yet. What coupon/savings apps do you use?


Must-Visit: The New Dual-Branded Residence Inn At L.A. Live

Plus 5 Great Packing Tips For Your Next Vacation!

Must-Visit: The New Dual-Branded Residence Inn At L.A. Live

An invitation was extended to YMC for Erica to come to the grand opening of the Courtyard and Residence Inn at L.A. Live, but Erica was out of town with her family. Ali asked if I would be able to represent YMC, and I said yes! How could I not?
The event was a different experience for me on a personal level, because the events I attend are usually full of fellow bloggers who I've connected with beforehand. I went downstairs to meet our group for dinner not knowing anyone, and wondering how it would all play out.
(Spoiler alert: everyone was lovely, and I was giving Twitter and Instagram tips to old-school journalists who are new(er) to social media.)
I made a few new friends, which is lovely, but we were all here to celebrate the opening of the first dual-branded hotel on the West coast. What does dual-branded mean? It means that two tiers of a hotel chain are in one building, and everybody wins. All of the services that are a standard service to the Residence Inn chain are available to the Courtyard guests, and vice versa. There's a swimming pool, a fitness facility, meeting rooms, and even laundry service. The Residence Inn suites are larger and guests on that side of the hotel get a buffet breakfast, but all of the other experiences in the hotel are shared by all guests.
They were gracious enough to put me in one of the Residence Inn suites, which included a Queen bed and a full kitchen. Whenever my family and I travel, we always stay in suites, and the Residence Inn has one- and two-bedroom suites as well, which is perfect for us. I loved that there was a full-sized fridge, a large microwave, and all I would need to cook meals. (I love to cook, even when we go away. We'll eat out once or twice for dinner, but it's healthier [and cheaper] to buy our own groceries.) Having the buffet breakfast, with everything from pancakes and eggs to cereal, is another thing that we look for and enjoy as a family when we stay in hotels. Everyone gets to choose their own adventure and start the day on a good note (and full belly).
I attended the press conference on Tuesday morning (Canada Day!), and it was the first time I'd done so as a member of the media. The atmosphere was electric and you could feel the genuine excitement and pride of the people involved in making the hotel become a reality. The city of Los Angeles is really working at building up its downtown to provide jobs for the locals and bring tourism dollars in to further help their community. The Residence Inn is across the street from its sister hotel the JW Marriott, as well as the Staples Centre, and is a great addition to the entire L.A. Live community.
Here are a few photos of the hotel and my time in L.A.
More to follow soon on my personal site and I've posted a bunch to my Instagram account, as well.
Would I stay there again? Most definitely. In fact, my family and I are heading to Vancouver in a few weeks and are planning to stay in a Residence Inn suite while we're there.
In conversations with my new friends, I shared a few of my packing tips, which they were thankful for. I realized that after as many trips as I've taken, I've learned a few tips that have helped me, and I should pass them along. 
Here are my top 5 packing tips:

1. Package your toiletries in Ziploc bags. Even if you turn them closed and put lids on, all of that bumping around in an airplane can cause havoc. On this trip, my spray lotion went from closed to open and I was left with a (Sealed!) bag full of lotion. I usually put them in a separate compartment as well. See my next point.
2. Pack an empty carry-on bag in your suitcase if you plan on bring things home. One year, at BlogHer in Chicago, I won a Wii Fit (So did Ali!) and it's a miracle that I got my suitcase closed. Now I put items I would pack anyway, such as my toiletries, in the carry-on and then pack it in my suitcase for the trip home.
3. Don't pack your exercise gear unless you're honestly going to use it. I run three times a week and go to the gym a few more, and the first few conferences I went to, I packed my gear thinking I would use the  hotel gym. I did not. I was either in sessions, talking with friends and colleagues, or walking around cities that were new to me. I did participate in the 5K at Mom 2.0 last year, but that's only because it was in my time zone for once. There's no need for gym gear to take up all of that precious pace in your luggage for no reason. I did pack my gear for this trip, but the call of a photo walk was too strong.
4. Wrap each of your necklaces in tissue paper. I learned this one the hard way on my first trip when I got to the hotel and realized I had a nice entertwined ball of metal and fabrics.
5. Pack a change of clothes and necessities in your carry-on luggage. I always pack a little black dress and shoes, my accessories, and my makeup. Toiletries can be replaced, but I don't want to have to drop my entire budget of spending money at MAC if my luggage got lost.
Have you stayed at a Residence Inn before, or do you have any questions about my stay? Do you have any packing tips to share with the rest of us?