Faith Coming to Life: Holy Land Exploration

In the past five years, we have traveled to so many destinations. My favorite destination due to history and faith was the Holy Land. On this trip, we spent time in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, a few hours in Nazareth, and in the Tiberias (Sea of Galilee) area. The total time in Israel was eight days. The flight to Israel is quite long, so we paired it with a layover in Amsterdam on the way there and a few days in Istanbul, Turkey on the return leg.

Check out our post on how to spend a short layover in Amsterdam!

I researched more for this trip than any other destination. My research for this trip included both logistical items but also a refresh on several bible stories. I grew up in the church, as did my husband and we still regularly attend. When planning this trip, it was surreal to be able to see all of these locations discussed in the scripture readings. This trip was logistically complex but worth the extra planning time.

Holy Land Adventure Map
Map of our Holy Land Adventure

Stop 1: Tel Aviv

Our flight landed at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv at 3:00 AM local time on a Wednesday. Mind you, we left Chicago on a Monday at 4:30 PM. While we were able to sleep a little on the plane, we also spent the day exploring Amsterdam and then boarded another flight. Needless to say, we planned for our first day to be a blur. Our main priority for the trip was the Holy Land adventure and therefore waisting one day in Tel Aviv to recuperate and prepare for traveling to Jerusalem was welcomed.

We hit the ground in Tel Aviv ready to explore around 12:00 PM. One of our main priorities was to explore Israeli cuisine. This is where my husband fell in love with Shakshuka. This tomato dish with peppers, paprika, and poached eggs is delightful! We also embraced the fresh salads and doner kababs.

Stop 2: Jerusalem of the Holy Land Exploration

Arrival Day: Day 0 in Jerusalem

We decided to rent a car for the remainder of our trip. If we were only going to Jerusalem, we could have booked bus transport, however, since we’re traveling to several additional places, the car was the best option. We traveled back to Ben Gurion Airport to pick up the rental car and then traveled to Jerusalem. The drive is about an hour, however, plan for traffic. Once we got into the outskirts of Jerusalem, we hit bumper-to-bumper traffic.

We arrived at our Airbnb around 3:00 PM to find a massive water leak running through the main family room. We have used Airbnb many times, so we alerted the owner of the concern. Unfortunately, we were not able to get in touch with him so we escalated to AirBnB. Due to the water damage, we were not able to stay in the location, so quickly needed to find a plan B. Shortly after escalating, we received a refund and ended up finding another hotel. This added a little stress to the day in the Holy Land, but we ended up in a sufficient, safe, and clean hotel. The hotel also had free parking. Parking is insane in Jerusalem, so be prepared to find a lot far away and pay per day or feed meters regularly.

Exploration Begins: Day 1 in Jerusalem

On our first day in Jerusalem for our Holy Land adventure, we purchased a guided tour through Viator. The agenda consisted of:

  • Old Jerusalem and Bethlehem
  • Mount of Olives
  • Western (Wailing) Wall and site of the Crucifixion (Church of the Holy Sepulchre)
  • King David’s Tomb – the site of the last supper
  • Old City of Jerusalem
  • Scenes of the Nativity in Bethlehem

On day one, it was important for us to get a general lay of the land from an expert and then to determine where we want to spend more time. The tour was a full day and it was money well spent. If you are new to Viator.com, sign up for their email club, wait a few days and you’ll most likely get a coupon. Patience friends.

Exploration Continues: Day 2 in Jerusalem

The rest of our time in Jerusalem was filled with further exploration. We spent one day traveling to Masada National Park and swimming in the Dead Sea. When researching Dead Sea locations, be mindful of hours and seasonality. Based on our research and recommendations from our hotel concierge we visited Kalia Beach. I recommend tackling both locations in one day, but make sure you start your adventure around 8:00/8:30 AM to allow an appropriate time. It will take you approximately an hour and a half to get to Masada and then on the way home, you can indulge in the spa of the Dead Sea at Kalia Beach.

  • Book tickets in advance.
  • Parking is plentiful, but you will encounter several tour buses.
  • Food and beverage are available.
  • Plan to visit during daylight hours.
  • Wear sturdy shoes. The Masada campus is uneven.
  • Plan for a 3-hour visit if you take the tram. If you plan to hike up to Masada plan for 5 hours.
  • The visitors center is ADA accessible, the Masada itself is not.
Kalia Beach
  • Plan to visit during daylight hours.
  • Parking is plentiful, but you will encounter several tour buses.
  • Book tickets in advance.
  • Food and beverage are available.
  • Showers and lockers and changing rooms are available.
  • Plan for a 2-hour visit.
  • Swimming in the Dead Sea at this location is not ADA accessible.

Exploring Jerusalem: Day 3

We explored Jerusalem, the Holy Land, by foot on Day 3. We were close to 20,000 steps of exploration. This included going back to the Old City, The Garden of Gethsemane, Temple Mount, Dome of the Rock, Grotto of Gethsemane, Tomb of the Virgin Mary, and Church of Mary Magdalene.

Our day started at the Garden Tomb. This beautiful garden area overlooks a big bus depot. We then walked around the Old City, retraced our steps on the Via Dolorosa, and made our way to the Dome of the Rock and Temple Mount. For reference, the entire Old City is about .5 square miles and divided into the Muslim, Christian, Armenian and Jewish quarters. If you do not participate in a guided tour, when exploring the Old City, make sure to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Western Wall.

We then walked over to the Grotto Gethsemane, Tomb of the Virgin Mary, and Garden of Gethsemane are all located in the same 1/4 mile area. This whole Old City Holy Land day of exploration took us about five hours. This allowed just enough time to go back to our hotel and do some laundry prior to dinner. Check out our post about travel tips, which include why doing laundry is key on longer trips.

Holy Land Jerusalem map

Stop 3: Pulling into Nazareth

Plan for a 2-hour drive between Jerusalem and Nazareth. I was excited to see the landscape of Israel on this road trip and was honestly quite disappointed. Most of the drive is highway and there is not much to see. You will not pass any large exciting shopping malls or nice restaurants. Instead, you will see highway pull-offs with a gas station and a dinner that may or may not be open. I recommend waiting to eat your next meal until you reach Nazareth. Nazareth is a large city with many restaurants and shops.

Our rationale for visiting Nazareth was to tour the Basilica of the Annunciation. This is where the angel appeared to Mary. The Basilica was beautiful and definitely worth the trip to Nazareth. After grabbing a coffee and darting under shop awnings due to extreme downpour, we started making our way to Tiberias.

We arrived in Tiberias and I highly recommend our hotel, the Royal Hotel Tiberias. The hotel was under renovation when we stayed in 2019 and appears to be fully remodeled. When we arrived we realized it was primarily a tour bus stop and had a meal plan available. I recommend getting the meal plan for breakfast and dinner. The buffet has a variety of options and allows you to focus on your purpose of the visit, the Holy Land sites. Tiberias itself does not have a nightlife or a significant restaurant scene.

A Full Day of Holy Land Sites in Tiberias

We only had one day to explore the entire Tiberias area and definitely made the most of it. All sites require a car. You will not be able to taxi, train or bus through the Tiberias Holy Land sites. We visited:

  • Capernaum National Park known as the “Town of Jesus”
  • Bethsaida, the birthplace of apostles Peter, Andrew, and Philip
  • Tabgha, where Jesus fed 5,000 people
  • Church of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, where Jesus exorcised demons from two possessed men
  • Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount
  • The place of Jesus’ Baptism on the River Jordan. For this site, you will literally stop on the side of the highway to view the Jordan River.

Wrapping Up the Holy Land Exploration

On our final day in Israel, we traveled from Tiberias back to the Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport. The drive was an uneventful two hours. You will travel on the highway and there are not any significant sites to see along the way. We left Tiberias five hours prior to our flight to allow for a lunch stop, rental car drop-off, and time to relax prior to catching our flight. For our return leg, we stopped in Istanbul for three nights and also did a day Viator trip to Ephesus. Our Holy Land exploration trip was more than we could have imagined and encourage everyone to take this trip.

Overall Holy Land Recommendations

  • Research extensively and prioritize sites for this trip. There is so much to see and you will not have time to visit every site.
  • Recommend 8-9 nights in the Holy Land.
  • Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Tiberias are must-see areas for Holy Land trips.
  • Masada is a stunning historical phenomenon, however, you will need to dedicate a day to the visit.
  • The Dead Sea is a unique experience but is not ideal for the elderly or anyone with mobility concerns.
  • Overall, the Holy Land is not ADA accessible.
  • Accommodations outside of Tel Aviv are quite different than US flag hotels. Unless you are prepared to spend $600 per night, expect older hotels with limited amenities.
  • You will not experience a significant variety of food. Hummus, falafel, doner, and a variety of salads will be your primary diet.

To best prepare for this trip, check out my blog post 6 Crucial Tips for Traveling Internationally.

Happy Traveling!

Emily M

Instructional Design: eLearning Storyboard Template

When starting your Instructional Design process, templates are crucial to transition focus from structure to creative development. While each project varies and has different requirements, I created a basic Instructional Design: eLearning Storyboard template for you to further customize for your individual needs. This post includes a free downloadable template, with an example of the template in use below.

Download the template here!

Using the eLearning Storyboard Template

Section and Screen #

The section and screen number is the sequential numbering system for your storyboard. In the storyboard, you will divide up your content into sections. This could be to align with the learning objectives or by overall larger topic within the course. Within each topic, you will create various screens to walk through the content. Let’s put this into action using the simple topic of weekly meal planning for a family of four.

This could break down into several sections and screens. The sections for the weekly meal planning include, eLearning course introduction, meal planning, and meal prepping. Within each section we have divided the content into screens.

eLearning storyboard

Voiceover Code

Most eLearning course will use voiceover talent to professionally record the course audio. It is the Instructional Designers responsibility to create all voiceover scripts, written precisely as they should be recorded. The voiceover talent will not take any liberties with the content.

When creating the voiceover code, this should be a unique identifier. Be mindful that you may also need to create unique identifiers for any photos/images or videos also referenced in your eLearning course. I recommend, using the screen number + V for the voiceover code. This process can be used for photos/images, screen number + P, and for videos, screen number + D.

eLearning storyboard

Narration Script

The next aspect of the eLearning storyboard is the eLearning script. This is the copy that the voiceover artist will read verbatim. When creating narration script, you might find the need to divide the content into additional screens. Developing eLearning courses is a balance of screen movement and learner engagements without exhausting the learner.

Onscreen Text and Graphics

The items in the Onscreen Text and Graphics column are the visual elements that will appear on the screen. Some of the visuals, you, the Instructional Designer will create, and others you may need expertise from a graphic designer. If you are requesting visuals or engagements to be created, use extreme specificity when detailing the elements required.

eLearning storyboard template

Programming Notes

The last section of the eLearning Storyboard template is programming notes. Items included in this column are anything the eLearning developers/programmers need to know in order to create the course. I typically include items such as, animation requirements for bullets, automatic advance vs. click to advance, active vs. passive states for clicking, and interactive requirements.

eLearning storyboard

Beaches Resorts: Turks and Caicos

Beaches Resorts: Turks and Caicos is a great family vacation! Vacations at Beaches Resorts are always all-inclusive from the meals, drinks, kids camp, select water sports, and most activities. Last year was our first experience with a Beaches Resort, and this year decided to go a bigger resort for a longer period of time. I highly recommend spending one-full week at a resort the size of Beaches Turks and Caicos. Spoiler alert, we already booked to return to Beaches Resorts: Turks and Caicos next year. If you enjoy your stay, I recommend booking your next trip on-site and receive a discount. Here are some of the reasons why we love Beaches Resorts.

Kids Camp

Family time is the primary driver for our vacations; however, Kids Camp is a big reason why we continue to choose Beaches Resorts. Kids Camp at Beaches Resorts: Turks and Caicos has several different camp options based on the age of the child. The hours of Kids Camp vary from Camp Sesame to Trench Town Teens.

  • Camp Sesame: Infants through 4 years
  • Pirates and Mermaids: Ages 5-10 years
  • TEENtivity (Trench Town Teens): Open to ages 11-17;11-14 and 15-17 are divided into separate groups
Beaches: Turks and Caicos Camp Sesame
Camp Sesame: Ages 1- 2 1/2

Activities at Beaches Resorts: Turks and Caicos

At Beaches Resort: Turks and Caicos, there is always something to do. The Beaches app allows you to plan activities for the day, from certain Kids Camp events, pool activities, and evening shows. Our stay occurred over Valentine’s Day and Super Bowl Sunday and therefore we had even more events, such a Super Bowl watch party and flowers and chocolates to purchase for your partner. Each day you will receive a flyer in your room highlighting activities for the next day and special events for the next several days.

Beaches: Turks and Caicos activities

Restaurants at Beaches Resorts Turks and Caicos

Dining at Beaches Resorts: Turks and Caicos offers a variety of dining options and food choices. I highly recommend reviewing all dining options in the Beaches app. The app guides shares hours of operation, dress code, and menus. Even if you stay a full week at Beaches Turks and Caicos, you may not have the opportunity to eat at each restaurant. Prioritization is key.

  • Each Village (Caribbean, French, Italian, Key West) has a buffet location
  • You can go to any restaurant in any village
  • The only restaurant requiring a reservation is Kimonos
  • There are several adults only restaurants: Le Petit Chateau, Sopadillas, and Sky
  • Dinos Pizzeria is exceptionally busy all the time; I recommend venturing to the Caribbean Village and getting pizza from Bella Napoli.
  • Bobby Dee’s has a great smash burger and philly cheesesteak sandwich, however, you will wait a long time for your food. Order at least 45 minutes prior to the time you want to eat.
  • Soy was our favorite late-night treat. Grab and early 5pm sensible dinner and then indulge in late night sushi at 8:30 pm!

Booking your first Beaches Vacation?

There are several Beaches Resorts for you to enjoy. We have spent time at Negril and Turks and Caicos, and have another trip booked to Turks and Caicos this winter.

  • Beaches Ocho Rios, Jamaica (smallest)
  • Beaches Negril, Jamaica (mid-size)
  • Beaches Turks and Caicos, Providenciales(largest)
  • Coming soon: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (opening date TBD)
Beaches Resorts: Turks and Caicos vs. Negril

Seasonal Rental: Fort Myers, Florida

Looking to rent a beautiful two bedroom plus den, two-bathroom single family home in the Gateway area of Fort Myers, Florida? Nestled between Daniels Parkway and Colonial off Treeline in a resort style gated neighborhood, this home can be your winter paradise.

This rental is available for a minimum 30-day, maximum 60-day rental period. No move-ins are permitted on Sunday’s, holidays, or observed holidays; the onsite property management office is closed.

Smoking is not permitted in the home.

Currently available:

  • Winter 2025

Location: 30 minutes to downtown Fort Myers Beach, 10 minutes north of the RSW airport, 5 minutes from I-75. Less than 10 minutes from the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins spring training stadiums.

Community Amenities:

  • Gated entrance
  • Two heated pools
  • Hot tub
  • Exercise center
  • Amenities center featuring an indoor and outdoor kitchen, library, and banquet space
  • Pickleball courts
  • Tennis courts
  • Playground
  • Bocce ball courts
  • Multiple ponds
  • Walking trails
  • Regularly scheduled resident activities such as potluck dinners, bingo, crafting, book club, tennis club, pickleball club, wine and dine and more.

Home Amenities:

  • Single family home built in 2020
  • Two bedrooms + den: King bed in the master, queen in the second bedroom, and single bunk beds in the den
  • Two full bathrooms
  • Lanai with gas grill
  • 2 car garage
  • Pool and beach toys available
  • Cable TV, WiFi, and all utilities included
  • Washer and dryer
  • Tile floor throughout
  • Quartz counter tops with stainless steel appliances
  • Kitchen is equip with all cooking/baking necessities
  • Pack and Play and miscellaneous baby items available

Rental Process:

  • Rental application
  • Rental agreement with a non-refundable 50% deposit
  • Balance due upon first day of rental

Rental and Fees covered by the renter:

  • Application fee: $75 for criminal background and credit report check
  • Departure cleaning fee: $250
  • Pet deposit: $500 (1 dog maximum, weighing under 30 pounds)
  • Amenity center key fob: $15 (per fob)
  • Vehicle sticker: $15 (per vehicle, max 2). No recreational vehicles are permitted on the property
  • Seasonal rental rate (December – March): $5,000 per month
  • Off season rental rate (April – November): $3,750 per month

Need additional information or ready to request a rental application?

Email: MeyerFamilyRentals@gmail.com

Beaches Resorts Negril: A Luxury All-Inclusive Family Getaway

To start with, the Beaches Resorts brand is renowned for crafting unforgettable and enjoyable family vacations. While our usual travel destination has always been Europe, however, this time I shared with my husband, “I’d love to relax on the beach, sipping mojitos and enjoy family time together.” My husband embraced the idea and began exploring options. After several weeks of diligent research, we discovered Beaches Resorts, which stood out for several reasons.

What attracted us to Beaches Resorts Negril? Here are the key factors:

  • Kids Camp: Beaches Resorts Negril offers an exceptional Kids Camp, providing children with a perfect opportunity for children to have fun and learn in a safe and engaging environment.
  • All-Inclusive Features: The resort’s all-inclusive offerings ensure that every member of the family can enjoy an engaging and memorable vacation without worrying about additional expenses.
  • Prime Location: The resort is situated in a beautiful area of Jamacia, and we found it easy to access with direct and relatively short flights.

Furthermore, for a comprehensive review of our experience at Beaches Resorts Negril, we invite you to watch our YouTube video.

Kids Camp at Beaches Resorts Negril: A Parent’s Oasis

To start with, one of the main reasons we chose Beaches Resort Negril was the Kids Camp. Our daughter was just 9 months old during this trip, and while we wanted to spend quality family time together, we also needed some moments to relax by the pool.

Convenient Operating Hours: The Kids Camp operates from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM, with a brief closure between 5:00 PM and 6:00 PM. Next, upon arrival at the resort, you’ll find the Kids Camp area, where you can register your child. Registration includes basic information about your child, you, and authorized individuals for pick-up, along with a security phrase for pick-up.

Diverse Age-Appropriate Activities: In addition, Kids Camp caters to children of various age groups, from infants to teens. Each age group has dedicated caregivers. Infants and toddlers enjoy an air-conditioned play area equipped with cribs for naps and an array of toys. Notably, potty training is not required for this age group. Older kids engage in arts and crafts, dine with their caregivers, have fun in the children’s pool, and enjoy the XBox lounge.

Visit the Beaches, Negril website for more information on Kids Camp.

Our Kids Camp Schedule

The camp doesn’t provide meals for infants beyond the bottles you provide. During our week-long stay, we established a comfortable schedule that allowed us to enjoy our time. For instance, we had a regular schedule for most days and, on one evening, treated ourselves to a date night. As a result, these schedules provided us with the relaxation we needed while our daughter had a great time at Kids Camp.

Beaches Resorts Negril

All-Inclusive Bliss at Beaches Resorts Negril

Having experienced various all-inclusive resorts, we found Beaches Resorts Negril to be the epitome of true inclusivity. Upon our arrival, we noticed something remarkable – almost every staff member sported a “no tips” button. To clarify, we have identified items included in the package.

Included in Our All-Inclusive Package:

  • Airport Transportation
  • All Food and Beverages (Including Alcoholic Drinks)
  • In-Room Fridge Stocked with Beverages
  • Access to All Sesame Street Shows and Evening Entertainment
  • Nightly Live Music Throughout the Resort
  • Non-Motorized Water Sports
  • Glass-Bottom Boat Excursion
  • Kids Camp for the Young Ones

For a comprehensive breakdown of these all-inclusive aspects, you can refer to the Beaches Negril website. Beaches Negril website

Be prepared to tip off the resort

In addition, tipping is a part of the experience both before you arrive at Beaches Resorts Negril and after you leave. During your arrival and departure, you’ll encounter opportunities to provide tips. While some situations may warrant a tip in my review, others might feel like overkill. Nevertheless, it’s important to be prepared to tip either way.

Here’s a breakdown of when and whom to tip:

  • Arrival Airport Concierge Service: I strongly recommend that you secure your spot with Club Mobay for a smoother arrival experience.
  • Airport Lounge Wait Staff: You’ll find Beaches and Club Mobay lounges available while waiting for resort transportation. Tipping here is a kind gesture.
  • Airport Baggage Transport to Your Resort Bus: Those assisting with your luggage at the airport deserve a tip for their service.
  • Bus Driver: Remember to show your appreciation to the bus driver who ensures you reach the resort safely.


We chose Jamaica for its proximity and the availability of direct flights from our home location. Traveling with an infant brings its share of uncertainties, so reducing layovers and keeping flight duration under five hours was our preferred choice.

In summary, our vacation at Beaches Resorts Negril, Jamaica, was a delightful experience, and we eagerly anticipate exploring all the other Beaches Resorts in the future.

If traveling with a baby makes you anxious, check out our quick tips on “Traveling with a Baby: Airplanes.” While we don’t claim to have mastered air travel with a baby, we’ve found several helpful tips that have worked for us.

On the Blog: Anxiety Free Air Travel with a Baby

On YouTube:

Anxiety free air travel with a baby

Air travel with a baby does not need to be anxiety-ridden! My husband and I are seasoned travelers and recently started air travel with our 6-month-old baby. There is no right or wrong way to travel with a baby because every baby’s needs differ. This blog post specifically targets air travel with a baby and what has worked best and worst for us and my observations of watching other parents navigate traveling with a baby.

This post focuses on air travel with a baby. If you are planning for a road trip with a baby, check out “Effortless Road Trips with an Infant“.

Flight Planning for Air Travel with a Baby

1. Time of day to travel

I recommend booking the first flight or close to the first flight out for the day. With this method, you will hopefully avoid a progressive delay situation. Indicate that your baby will be a lap child when booking your flight.

TSA Policy on Traveling with Children

Various airline baby procedures:

2. Seat Location

Select seats towards the back of the plane. This will allow you to get to the washroom easily, without having to carry your baby through twenty rows of passengers. Sitting near the back of the plane will contain the noise. If you sit in the middle of the plane, when your baby cries, the front and back of the plane are disrupted. If you sit in one section, front or back, you will minimize the number of passengers to potentially disrupt.

You might be thinking, “babies cry, if someone has an issue, that is their problem”. While many passengers are empathetic to the scared feelings our baby might have, it is our responsibility to proactively minimize disruption.

3. Seat Arrangement

Always make sure you select an aisle seat for air travel with your baby. This allows you to easily exit the row, for diaper changes and walks up and down the aisle to calm your baby. Book seats next to each other, when traveling with a companion. In an ideal world, you both might want aisle seats, however, sitting next to each other will allow you to easily help each other with the baby.

4. Seat Type

If your baby will be under two years old at the time of flying, your baby can be a lap child. A lap child must sit on your lap the entire time. There will be no additional room/set available for them. The lap child process worked well for our six-month-old. We anticipate having our baby fly as a lap child up through twelve months. From observations, once the baby hits fourteen-fifteen months, a coach seat is cramped with a lap child.

Air travel with a baby

If you are going to hold your older baby, I recommend upgrading to an economy plus seat. Depending on your airline, airplane, and destination, if you have some flexibility in your travel budget, explore a business or first-class seat. When determining the upgrade cost, also run the costs with getting your baby their own seat. You find it cheaper to get your baby their own coach seat than to upgrade your seat to business or first.

Plan Carry-on versus Checked Items

In the United States, airlines will allow you to check your stroller and car seat for free. Take advantage of this option.

Check as much as you can. The one must for carry-on is your diaper bag, the rest can be up to your discretion.

air travel with a baby

We checked:

  • We checked a travel stroller, and purchased a carseat bag in which we put our car seat and base. Now, this carseat bag isn’t weighed. If you can find one, get one with a zipper and put a few more big things in that carseat bag.
  • We checked one large bag, which included everything for my husband, me and the baby.

We carried on:

I carried on my backpack-style diaper bag and my husband also carried a backpack, with some of my items and some rescue items for the baby.

Now, you’ll notice we checked the stroller. I am really happy with that decision. Looking around the airport, seeing parents trying to maneuver a stroller, kids wanting in and out of the stroller, plus carry-on bags, it just looked miserable. Lucky for us, our baby is still willing to be held in a wearable. I wore her the entire time in the airport and she loved the people watching! If you plan on wearing your baby, get your baby comfortably in the wearable by using it daily the week prior.

Day of flight preparation

The most important item in your day of flight preparation is the diaper bag. Check the bag multiple times to make sure you have everything your baby needs.

air travel with a baby

Other day of preparation items include:

  • Some airlines may require identification for your baby. This can be a birth certificate or passport. Check your airlines policy to make sure you are prepared.
  • Make sure you have a boarding pass for your baby. Lap babies still need a boarding pass. Even with listing your baby as a lap child when booking, the boarding pass may not print out. Allow for extra time to visit the counter at the airline check-in.
  • Pre-boarding will be an option for air travel with a baby. If you have assigned seats, I do not feel this is necessary. Our mindset was the less time on the plane the better.

Enjoy air travel with your baby! Plan effectively and your trip will be anxiety-free.

Creating a Minimalist Baby Registry

I’ve walked into so many houses with “baby supplies” encapsulating the entire first floor of the home. When preparing for our baby, I wanted to adhere to a minimalist baby mindset. One of the most overwhelming things during my pregnancy was walking into Buy Buy Baby with the goal to create a registry. There is a booklet that walks you through every baby category from eating, diapering, medicines, sleeping, traveling, playing, and more. That booklet guides you to register for bibs, but there are ten different types of bibs! Which one should you select? Well, each mom will have a different answer there. The main lesson is only you will know what ends up working best for your baby.

Everything is overwhelming when creating a baby registry. This blog will walk you through preparing for a minimalist baby registry experience. Even if you are not planning to have a baby shower, I still recommend creating a registry. I did not have a formal baby shower but did use our registry as a way to track items I still needed.

Why create a registry?

  1. You get a free gift for creating your registry.
    • I created an Amazon registry and one with Buy Buy Baby. I then just reguarly checked each registry and updated them based on any purchases.
  2. Extra coupons start coming your way.
  3. If anyone did want to get something for you, they’ll hunt down your list. Why not share what you need?

Why focus on a Minimalist Baby Registry?

  1. Minimizes clutter.
  2. Allows you to get comfortable and confident taking care of baby without bells and whistles.
  3. Focuses dollars on safety

Now, each baby will gravitate to different things, perhaps one baby loves laying in a rocker while another baby just wants to be held. This minimalist baby registry should be looked at for the basics; what are the necessities for my baby to be comfortable and safe. As you and your baby grow and find a routine, you will most definitely add baby supplies, however, my guidance is to hold off initially.

The Minimalist Baby Registry

The minimalist baby mindset still comes with some significant costs. If you are looking to save on some of the necessities, check out my post “Buying new versus Used. What does your baby really need“.

Minimalist baby registry

Diving into each category for a Minimalist Baby Registry

Travel System:

This includes a carrier, base, and stroller. Travel systems range in price but are well worth the investment. Stalk these travel systems, wait for sales, coupons, and look for floor models that are no longer being stocked. If you are patient, you can significantly save. All the carriers on the market are safe, or they wouldn’t be sold in reputable stores. Focus on needs for your daily life.

Items to consider:

  • Size – How easily will this fit in your car?
  • Weight – Style is nice, but make sure you can easily lift the carrier and stroller.
  • Amenities – How will you use the stroller? Look at wheels based on the terrain you typically encounter.
  • Growth – How does the travel system transition as your child grows? Will the travel system accomodate more than one child?
Stroller travel systems
Images provided by: Maternity Miracles, Chicco, and Evenflo
Diapering Items:

This includes wipes, diapers (cloth or disposable), diaper bag, diaper creams. You might think, “I don’t want to stock up on diapers until I know which my baby likes.” Momma or Dad, you will go through so many diapers and fast! Register for size 1 and size 2 diapers. Depending on the size of your baby, you may quickly move out of newborn diapers. The hospital will most likely send you home with newborn diapers and you may only need one package before you move to size 1, which happens around 8 pounds.

  • I love Huggies, due to the high absorbency and blow out flap on the back of the diaper. Pampers also worked well for us for absorbency. The only diapers that did not work for us at all were the Target brand. Our daughter needed a higher level of absorbency.
  • You will go through roughly 8 diapers a day. I recommend registering for two large boxes of size 1 and size 2 diapers. Feel free to mix up the brands, so you can determine which brand works best for your baby.
  • I have diaper rash cream, but have not used it. Only register for one tube, in case you are in my situation and are four months in without a rash.
Clothing and Swaddles:

You will find yourself doing a lot of laundry with a baby. I always like our daughter to have clean bibs, burb cloths, swaddles, and clothes. Budget the time to do small loads of laundry every three days. I use All baby detergent and just wash my husband and my clothes along with our daughters. All is more cost-effective than draft and works well for us. I use the liquid for home and have the pods for travel.

  • Swaddles – Register for a minimum of two swaddles. Try to get different brands in case your baby prefers one over the other.
  • Clothes – As a newborn, our baby was dressed in onsies with leggings more of the time. Purchase a going home outfit and place in your hospital bag (newborn and 0-3 month sizes). This might sound odd but beyond the going home outfit, hold off registering for clothing. People love buying baby clothes and you will most likely end up getting a lot of baby clothes. If you are two weeks out from your due date and baby clothes haven’t started to arrive, pick up five newborn outfits and five 0-3 month outfits.
Nursery Essentials:

These are items for the nursery. If you are planning on the baby sleeping in your room initially, some of these items might move to your room and then back to the nursery once baby transitions to their own room.

  • Crib with sheets – Get at least two sheets. Your baby will sleep in the crib with only a fitted sheet, no additional blankets.
  • Changing table and pad – I have a dresser changing table combo. It works great! I did spend money on changing pad covers, but after two months stopped using them. I just clean the changing pad with baby safe cleaner regularly.
  • Sound machine – This was essential for us. We purchased a plug in basic sound machine, however, these range in capability and price.
  • Baby monitor – I recommend a baby monitor where you can hear and see baby. Our monitor has two cameras and then a hand held monitor and phone app. The battery life on our hand held monitor is horrible (60 minutes max), so I will not recommend our brand. I do encourage you to explore monitors with the visual display.
Eating Items:
Minimalist baby

This category includes bottles, nipples, bibs, burp cloths, breast pump, pump supplies, and milk storage. Eating items for a minimalist baby registry differ based on your desired feeding method. Remember, fed is best. I had a desire to exclusively breastfeed, however, that vision did not fully actualize due to a variety of uncontrollable items. Although you may have a strong desire, either way, I urge you to plan your minimalist registry with both aspects in mind.

If you end up exclusively breastfeeding, you may also pump, and therefore bottles and nipples will still be useful.

  • Bottles – New mom gifts bags from stores typically include a bottle or two. Through free store gifts, I ended up with six, four ounce bottles. This allowed me to figure out which nipples and bottles worked best for our baby and me! I recommend keeping these off your registry until you know your babies preference. If getting one package makes you more comfortable, I recommend Avent natural with nipple size 0 for a newborn.
  • Nipples – There are various flow speed and nipple shapes. Nipples will be included with the free bottles you receive. Do not register for nipples until you experiment with the free bottles and nipples.
  • Burp cloths and bibs – If you give bottles, formula or breastmilk bottles, you will want bibs. I love greensprout bibs with the milk catcher collar. I recommend registering for a minimum of 12 bibs and 12 burp cloths.
  • Formula – Do not register for formula. Sign up for samples from Enfamil and Similac. Our daughter likes the Kirkland brand formula from Costco. The Kirkland formula runs about $18 per 42 ounces, however, make sure to keep an eye out for deals. Several times a year you can purchase formula for ~$3.00-$4.00 the retail price.


Talk to your Pediatrician about Pacifiers if you have questions on when and if to use them. Our Pediatrician is supportive of their use and we started using them when our daughter was about a week old. Pacifiers are something you should buy new and there are so many varieties. Register for a variety of 2-pack pacifier styles and types. I recommend registering for two separate styles. Take note that pacifiers are designed for different age groups. Our daughter will take any pacifier from Avent, Medela, Nuk, and Talbots.

Pack ‘n’ Play:

Before you register for a Pack ‘n’ Play determine your purpose. We purchased a Pack ‘n’ Play with a bassinet and changing table attachment. In lieu of a stand-alone bassinet, we decided to use the bassinet within the Pack ‘n’ Play to avoid another piece of furniture in the house. This system worked well for us and if we have another child I will use the same set-up. The Pack ‘n’ Play will also be used in the future to create a safe area for her to sleep when we are at a friend’s or relative’s house. Whether you plan on using your Pack ‘n’ Play as a bassinet or not, I recommend this as a registry item. If you are not using as a bassinet, you will want to register for a traditional bassinet.

Pack 'n Play
Follow this QR code to find the Pack ‘n’ Play we purchased from Buy Buy Baby.

Talk to your Pediatrician about best practices for babies when sleeping.

Swing versus Rocker

There will be times that you need to put your baby down. Many times this will happen when you are in your main living area, perhaps cooking or cleaning. I recommend registering for either a baby rocker (lounger) or swing. This is a safe place to lay baby, although, you should always be watching them even when in the lounger or swing. When exploring these items, make sure you can buckle in your baby. As your baby continues to grow, the wiggles start to appear and you will be grateful for those buckles.

Buying new versus used. What does your baby really need?

Help! What do you buy new versus used for your new baby?

When preparing for a new baby, I initially thought “Of course, we will purchase all new items for her.” Now even if you are comfortable setting aside $2,500-$3,500 for the initial big item purchases, I still recommend identifying areas to save money. Some of those areas are buying used items, waiting to purchase items based on seasonal sales, borrowing from a friend, or hand-me-downs.

The great things thing about used baby items is that the usage is pretty minimal. Why is the use minimal? Well, babies grow fast and they might have only been able to use the item for a month or two. This post shares the items I recommend buying new versus borrowing and or buying new.

What to Buy New For Baby

buy new versus used

This is not an all-inclusive list, however, gives you an example of the buy new versus used mindset. As a rule of thumb, you will want to buy new anything that will receive significant wear, is a hygiene or food item, or has expiration dates. Based on my experience items I heavily use are burb cloths, bibs, changing pads, diaper bag, and pacifiers.

I am sure you could find a diaper bag in good condition; although that will be more of a hidden gem situation. You might also run into the same situation with a carrier, although I strongly recommend buying a new one. This recommendation comes from a car seat safety class I took at our local medical center. You will use the carrier more than you may expect. Each time your baby leaves the house, your baby will be in the carrier. If you purchase used, make sure you check the manufactures date to ensure the carrier is still safe to use, also make sure the carrier has never been in the car during an accident.

Other items to buy new are:

  • Wipes
  • Diapers
  • Shampoo, body wash, lotion
  • Diaper rash cream
  • Baby medicines
  • Formula

What to Buy Used or Borrow For Baby

buy new versus used

Patience is key when buying used. You will need to spread your online resale search over several months. There will be easy items to pick up at good prices, but then you might end up waiting a month or two for a lightly used nicely priced walker, swing, or jumper.

The rule of thumb is anything with a hard surface that can be cleaned or a soft surface that can be washed. I saved hundreds of dollars by purchasing items from Facebook Marketplace. I purchased an infant bathtub for $5, a diaper genie for $10, a top-of-the-line swing for $45, the high safety rated Joovy walker for $15, and several clothes and carrier covers for great deals. With any of the online garage sale-type sites, new items are added daily. Patience and quick execution are necessary when you find something that you need and is a great deal. Once my mother-in-law heard I was open to hand-me-downs and garage sale gems, she quickly filled our baby’s closet.

Other buy used or borrow items could be:

  • Baby Monitors
  • Diaper Pail
  • Crib (check safety standards)
  • Carrier covers
  • Stroller (check safety standards)

How much can you really SAVE?

Hundreds! The chart below shows just a small snapshot of some of the items I purchased new, now this does not even cover what some of my girlfriends gave me as hand-me-downs or items to borrow.

Preparing for Baby

When purchasing anything on the Facebook marketplace or similar sites, always use safe pick-up options and pay cash upon arrival.

Please share in the comments other items that you have purchased used vs new!

After the baby arrives, take advantage of the potential time off you have as a family by taking a road trip. This blog post reviews packing and planning tips for an effortless road trip.

Effortless Road Trips with your Infant

Who says maternity leave is for saying home? Not us, it is time to road trip with your infant! My husband and I decided to tackle traveling with an infant while we both enjoyed time away from work and enjoying our expanded family. Our daughter was born in early summer and by the time we both went back to work, our daughter had visited eight states. Prior to having children, my husband and I enjoyed exploring and that is something we are hoping to instill in our daughter at a young age. We want her to crave seeing new things, experiencing different cultures, and tasting the unique foods of the region. Now while she has only traveled domestically at this point; her passport has been ordered.

I’ve captured planning and packing recommendations in this post to make road trips with your infant effortless and enjoyable! For this post, an infant would refer to a baby under six months old.

Dry Runs are Encouraged

Dry runs are encouraged and are a fun way to prepare for a road trip with your infant. Our goal was to travel from Northern Illinois to Southern Florida. This is about a 21-hour drive. First of all, it had been a good 20 years since either of us had done a road trip that far. Second, it was no longer just the two of us. We did two test trips to increase of coincidence of traveling with an infant and our dog. The first trip was 90 minutes to visit my husband’s family and then back. It went well. The second trip was five hours south of our home. We drove down one day, visited a few sites at our destination, stayed at a hotel, and returned home the following day.

On those test trips, I was able to figure out the most comfortable way to pump on the road, store the milk, and get the next bottle ready. We also learned that while we thought we had packed with a minimalist mindset, there was definitely room to improve.

Now, it is always recommended to seek guidance from your pediatrician before taking any trips with your infant.

Plan in advance

Road trip with your infant

When planning ahead, it is key to plan certain items but essential to avoid a plan in other areas. I’ll explain.

Plan your overnight stops

If your trip requires a two-day + drive, plan for the hotels in advance. Not all hotels will have a crib/pack and play available. After making your reservation, call the hotel and verify they have the note in your reservation and verify they have a crib/pack and play available. While you might bring a pack and play with you anyway, it is a hassle to bring it into the hotel for one night. Bring as little as possible into the hotel. We will dive into this more later.

Do not plan your gas/meal stops.

You will need to stop whenever your baby needs to eat, stretch, or have a diaper change. You might be lucky and this could be every three hours or you might end up stopping sooner than that. I strongly encourage you to not go longer than three hours per leg.

Packing for your Road Trip with your Infant

road trip with your infant

Much of what you pack will depend on what is available at your final destination. When traveling with an infant, if your destination will be a regular occurrence, perhaps a family cabin that you plan on visiting several times over the next year, then you will pack differently versus a once or limited-time location. Your packing strategy will also vary based on: washer/dryer availability, stores around you, and the needs of your infant.

Multiple visit destination

Get on the Facebook marketplace! Purchase necessities such as a pack and play, bouncer, bathtub, high chair at a discounted price and keep them at the destination. If you purchase before you leave your home, clean everything thoroughly before your trip. If you are arriving at your destination earlier in the day, then I encourage you to search the Facebook marketplace in the destination location and arrange pick-ups for the day you arrive. Just make sure you allow time to clean everything before your child starts using it.

Other items you bring and leave at the multiple visit destination:

  • Shampoo and body wash
  • Baby towels and washcloths
  • Baby safe laundry detergent
  • Dishsoap and bottle cleaning supplies
  • Bibs and burb cloths
Packing for a hotel stay en route

If your destination requires a hotel stay en route, minimal packing is key. I strongly recommend taking one bag and the diaper bag in the room. The single bag will have toiletries, pajamas, and a change of clothes for everyone in the family. The diaper bag will have extra diapers, bottles, formula, dish soap (if needed). The less you bring into the hotel, the quicker your morning getaway will be. Also, do your best to avoid bath night while at the hotel.

Items to buy at the destination

Diapers can take up significant space, especially if you are planning on spending a week or more at your destination. After your arrival, pick up items such as diapers, formula, baby food, and wipes.

Expert level move: Schedule an Amazon delivery on the day you arrive or trigger an Instacart order.

Expectations when taking a road trip with your Infant

Your main purpose is no longer you exploring, rather an opportunity for everyone in your family to enjoy and explore together. While you might have big dreams for your road trip with your infant; make sure to keep your expectations within reason.

  1. Your road trip will take longer. Budget a 30 minute stop every 2.5-3 hours. Splurge and take a longer stop once, grab a picnic, lay out a thick blanket and allow your infant to stretch and enjoy the fresh air.
  2. Be prepared to climb in the backseat. If you have another child in the back, they might be able to help, but if not, do stretches to prepare your hamstrings for the backseat crawl.
  3. Do not over committ to a schedule. I recommend only planning one outing a day. In my experience, scheduling too many activities overstimulated our infant, which typically made the second outing miserable for all involved.
  4. Make sure your baby is still following a somewhat normal routine.
  5. Anticipate any temperature changes. Come prepared with a fan and hat for warmer weather and a blanket with warm clothes for colder weather.

Explore my blog post on Buying New versus Used for your baby!

Thank you for reading! Please post your road trip tips with an infant in the comments.

Mastering Travel: Tips for a Smooth International Journey

It’s time to dust off that passport and put those idle frequent flyer miles to good use during your next international journey. Think of international travel as a skill that, like a muscle, benefits from regular use. This blog post will refresh your travel know-how and provides a close look at the top six aspects you should focus on for a smooth international journey.

  1. Thorough Research
  2. Crafting and Following an Itinerary
  3. Mindful Luggage Management
  4. Adapting to Different Transportation
  5. Money Matters
  6. Optimizing Your Mobile Device

Thorough Research for a Smooth International Journey

Research is the first step when traveling, internationally or domestically. Jumping into your itinerary without research is similar to writing a book on photosynthesis with only knowing the basic definition.

When researching, always visit reputable and current websites. I recommend starting with facts about a certain item, and then exploring reviews from others as a secondary research option. For example, when looking to research an Eiffel Tower experience, go directly to the Eiffel Tower website. That site provides factual information versus reviews. Use that information as a starting point, then, if you want to lean more explore sites like Viator. Viator provides information on private or semi-private tours of the Eiffel tower or other tours available in the area. When researching, include items such as the following.

Research checklist for a smooth international journey

Timing of Travel

  • Seasonality: Is the location you’re considering subject to distinct seasons or weather patterns? Understanding the climate during your travel dates can greatly impact your experience.
  • Travel Restrictions: Are there specific timeframes when you can or can’t travel due to factors like weather, visa requirements, or local events? For example, unless you desire to go to the Oktoberfest, avoid Munich Germany in September.
  • Peak vs. Off-Peak: Decide whether you prefer to visit during the destination’s peak tourist season or during the off-season. Each has its pros and cons, such as crowd levels and pricing. For example, you would not want to travel to Santorini Greece in October or wine country in Spain in December. While you might find a hotel or two open, the area is relatively closed to tourism for the winter.

Available Activities and Sightseeing Opportunities

  • Attraction Prioritization: Determine what draws you to the destination and prioritize the activities and attractions you most want to experience.
  • Booking Timelines: Depending on your travel dates, find out how far in advance you need to book tickets or reservations for popular activities or attractions. Some places may have limited availability, especially during peak times.
  • Operating Hours: Confirm that the activities and attractions you’re interested in visiting will be open during your intended travel dates. Some may have seasonal closures or varying hours.

Accommodation Options

  • Hotel vs. Alternative Rentals: Explore the variety of accommodation options available, including hotels, AirBnB, VRBO, and other rental platforms. Consider which type best suits your preferences, duration of stay and budget.
  • Amenities and Services: Assess the amenities and services offered by the accommodation. Depending on your needs, you may prioritize factors like proximity to transportation hubs, on-site dining, or specific room features. For longer trips, we typically plan to do laundry. While you may not have laundry amenities available at your accommodation, laundry mats are common in large international cities.
  • Proximity to Activities: Take into account how far your chosen accommodation is from the activities and attractions you plan to visit. Opting for a central location can save you time and transportation costs.
  • Accessibility: Consider the ease of access to public transportation from your accommodation. Staying near well-connected transit options can make getting around the city more convenient.


Prior to traveling, download transportation apps such as Uber, Lyft, country specific Taxi apps, country specific local and long-distance train applications to your mobile device.

  • Distance to Transport Hubs: Determine the distance between your chosen accommodation and the nearest airport or train station. This information will help you plan your arrival and departure logistics.
  • Baggage Considerations: Think about how you’ll transport your luggage from the airport or train station to your accommodation. If it’s a significant distance, you may want to plan for convenient baggage transport options. Not all public transportation stations have elevator access or escalators.
  • Transportation Costs: Understand the costs associated with public transportation, such as tickets, passes, and schedules. Using public transportation as your sol method of transportation is the most cost effective. Multi-day group passes are available for local public transportation options.


  • Airlines Serving Your Destination: Identify which airlines operate flights to your chosen destination. This information can help you compare prices, schedules, frequent flyer and mile generation opportunities, and amenities.
  • Number of Connecting Flights: Decide how many connecting flights you’re willing to take. Direct flights are often more convenient but may come at a higher price, while connecting flights can be more affordable but involve layovers. If traveling with small children, or anyone requiring additional assistance, direct flights, are worth the higher cost in my opinion.
  • Best Cost Options: To find the best cost options, consider using flight comparison websites or apps to compare airline fares. If you are a frequent traveler, always explore frequent flyer perks. Be flexible with your travel dates. Prices can vary significantly based on the time of year, day of the week, and trip length.
  • Economy Plus Option: Don’t forget to explore the “Economy Plus” or similar options offered by airlines. These may provide more comfortable seating and additional amenities for a slightly higher cost. International Economy Plus is similar to domestic first-class travel.

Crafting and Following an Itinerary for a Smooth Interntional Journey

Now that you have completed your basic research for traveling internationally, it is time to start plotting how that looks on your itinerary. When setting your itinerary, be mindful that you may need to compromise on everything you want to do or see. Prior to starting, keep in mind the purpose of your trip. Is the purpose relaxation and exploration or focused solely on one or the other. You want to enjoy your international experience and therefore be aware of overscheduling.

Tips for Planning your Itinerary

  1. Plan your itinerary based on the activities/sights you MUST see.
    • Plan one structured item each day unless there are multiple activities in the same walkable area.
    • Book your structured activities in advance. If there is a skip-the-line option, pay the extra amount.
    • Double the expected commute time to each activity from your accommodations. You are staying in an unfamiliar area. It might take longer to determine the correct train, or your morning breakfast may take longer than the Dunkin Donuts drive-through.
  2. Fill in activity gaps.
    • These are items that you would like to see if time permits. Do not purchase tickets in advance for these items.
    • Add filler activities based on their location to your MUST see items..
    • Provide options: Give yourself two possible activities per day. At times your must-see item may take far less time than you anticipated. Instead of sitting at a cafe to determine your next plan, your filler activities are already lined up. If your must-see takes a long time or are just tired after, you already identified that not seeing the filler activities was ok with you. That’s one less decision you need to make while relaxing and exploring when traveling internationally.
  3. Document all logistics on your itinerary
    • Activities: Address, date and time reserved, transportation route, cost, the confirmation number
    • Airfare or Train: Provider, date and time reserved, confirmation number, seat numbers, cost
    • At destination transportation: train lines closest to your location and address of train station, cost of a single ticket or multiple-day tickets
    • Accommodations: Provider, address, phone number, confirmation number, check-in/check-out, cost
  4. Share your itinerary
    • Print a copy.
    • Email yourself a copy of your itinerary plus a copy of your passport.
    • Send a copy of your itinerary and passport to someone at home.

Mindful Luggage Management for a Smooth International Journey

You may have dreams of dressing in your most stylish outfits while walking through the streets of Paris. While that vision may lead to great photo ops, I highly recommend you re-think that clothing strategy. Unless you work in fashion, have a lifestyle blog, or will only move luggage between the hotel and airport, a more minimalist strategy is recommended for a smooth international journey.

When traveling internationally, bring a carry-on for plane essentials and check your luggage. We’ve never had problems with checking luggage or missing luggage when traveling internationally. To avoid hiccups, always get to the airport early. Some international airports have multiple checkpoints, or the check-in process itself is longer than I have typically experienced at US airports. When leaving Istanbul, we waited at the initial check-in line for almost an hour. At that same airport, we had the initial security screening and then at the gate, we went through another screening. We were thankful we got to the airport a little over two hours before our flight.

Recommended luggage type:

Each time we travel internationally, I commit to downsizing for our next trip. Thankfully, each time I pack less, and it is easier to maneuver my suitcase. The rule when traveling is that you should be able to lift your own luggage. If you can’t, then reassess.

Select luggage on rollers or a large backpack that you carry. Avoid multiple suitcases or a suitcase without rollers or without a back strap. Purchasing the most convenient luggage will aid in a smooth international journey.

A smooth international journey
Check out these options from Amazon, if you are searching for a new suitcase:

This is the new version of the luggage set I own. I take the small carry-on for domestic trips that are less than a week in length. The large one comes on international trips. I’ve used this set for four years and it still works great.

This is the luggage, my husband owns. He’s used this for the past six years and still in great shape. This piece is slightly taller than my large luggage piece. With both of these options, due to the side be mindful of weight. In recent trips, we now only take one of our large bags and a smaller checked bag.

This is a great example of a travel backpack. I haven’t used this, however, it has received over 1,800 ratings and averages 4.5 stars on Amazon. There are less expensive items out there, but the star rating is far less.

Please note, the above luggage recommendations are linked using the Amazon affiliate program. When purchases for these items are made, I receive a small commission.

When packing, keep the following in mind for a smooth international journey:

  • Pack based on the climate at your destination. Track the weather several weeks before your trip to determine if any oddities in the weather pattern may occur.
  • Footwear
    • Avoid brand new shoes; break them in for at least one month prior to travel.
    • Treat your feet well: You will most likely do far more walking than you expect. Plan for comfort not style on high step count days.
    • Fight the urge to overpack shoes. Bring comfortable shoes that compliment your several outfits.
  • If you are staying for longer than a week, plan a trip to the laundromat. Search laundromats around your hotel and plan the time in your itinerary. Always bring your own soap and dryer sheets to eliminate the risk of a rash breakout due to unfamiliar detergent.
  • Pack clothes within a similar color scheme. Ideally, all tops you bring should also match all bottoms.
  • Bring a jacket. Depending on the weather, this can be a jean jacket or a winter jacket. Make sure the jacket can go with all your outfits, including a nice evening out casual dress.
  • Bring one nice outfit that you can dress up or down with various accessories. To dress up, add jewelry, and to dress down add a light jacket (jean jacket or similar).
traveling internationally

Adapting to Different Transportation

Transporation options differ based on where you are traveling internationally. In Europe, most large cities have a commuter train, local buses, and access to the Eurail. When planning for a smooth international journey it is key to determine how you plan to get around the city and leave the city, if you have multiple cities on your agenda.

Jump on the Eurail for a smooth international journey

When visiting locations where the Eurail is available between locations, we use that as our first option. We used the Eurail when traveling in Italy. We flew into Venice, and then took the train to Florence, and ended our trip in Madrid. The train stations are typically centrally located in the large metropolitan cities, are relatively easy to get tickets and the schedule is consistent and relatively on time. The cost of traveling by train is also quite economical.

We have also taken the Eurail for day trips. When traveling in Munich, we took the Eurail down to Fusen to see Neuschwanstein Castle. It was a great way to see the countryside and allowed us time to relax versus renting a car and navigating on our own.

Check out our blog on the Oktoberfest in Munich!

Don’t be afraid to rent a car

We have rented cars in Ireland, Spain, Greece, and Israel. Each was a slightly different experience and there are specific ways to prepare. When traveling internationally, manual cars are less expensive to rent. When we traveled in Spain, Greece, and Ireland, I was completely comfortable with the manual car. In Israel, I recommend getting an automatic car if traveling in cities like Jerusalem and Nazareth. Those cities are exceptionally hilly, and you will encounter traffic. Unless your daily driver at home is a manual, to avoid headaches in Israel, get an automatic.

If renting a car, I recommend only renting when you are traveling outside of the large metropolitan city. For example, when renting a car in Spain. We picked the car up after our allocated time in Madrid, drove through the wine country, and spent a few days in the vineyards, and then once we arrived in Barcelona, we dropped off the car. This minimized the car rental time and eliminated the need to pay for parking in the large metropolitan cities.

When renting a car internationally, bring a printed copy of your insurance stating you are covered for international driving. We have protection through the Chase credit card program to cover international car insurance. This is key, without this printed documentation, you may end up spending quite a bit on the insurance policy offered by the rental agency.

Money Matters

Making sure we have access to funds has always caused me anxiety when traveling internationally. Over many trips I have found that the following money matters tips work for me for a smooth international journey.

  • Review policies with your credit cards regarding international transaction fees. Chase Reserve is a great option if your card charges international transaction fees.
  • Call your credit card agency and debit card bank prior to your trip. Let them know where and when you are traveling. Many banks allow you to do this online.
  • I always have a minimum of three cards with me when traveling, a debit and then two credit cards (from different financial institutions). The different financial institutions are a must. If you run into fraud issues while abroad and your card is shut down, you will then have access to the other credit card from the other institution.
  • Order cash in the local currency of your destination from your bank prior to travel. You may need cash immediately upon arrival for food, taxi, luggage tips, or public transportation. Many times, there are cash stations, however, they could be out of order. We ran into this situation in Ireland.
  • Determine the cash versus credit culture. In Munich, cash is used primarily at all restaurants and really exclusively in the Oktoberfest beer tents. For retail shops in Munich, a credit card is accepted and widely used.

Optimize Your Mobile Device

Our mobile devices are our third appendage these days! We use them for talking, texting, googling, directions, social media and so many other purposes. For a smooth international journey, review your phone plan in depth. You may even want to call your provider to make sure you have a clear understanding of how and when you are able to use your phone.

Your phone will play a large role with identifying bus, train, and walking routes. Google maps is recommended for walking directions, while apple maps is ideal for bus and train routes.

Many provides will offer international packages, where you pay by day or week for international access. Purchasing this extended coverage in advance is highly recommended for all individuals traveling in your group.

Download WhatsApp, a free mobile phone application, and asking your loved ones at home to do the same. WhatsApp allows you to call using the WiFi connection at your hotel or other location versus using data. If you entire traveling party uses iPhones, then you can also take advantage of iMessage and FaceTime calling to avoid long distance calling fees.

Even though you may upgrade your phone plan, be aware that the speed will most likely differ. We have traveled with newly released phones and then older phones and each time, we have still experienced slower connections. There will also be times when a connection is not available.