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Travel Turtle Road Trip, Summer 2013: Introduction

For some reason, other than an annual trip to Amsterdam which we decided to skip this year, we don’t travel too much over the summer. This year, however, we decided to venture outside of our immediate state and see something new. I wanted to take you along for the adventure. And while I wish I meant that literally, I mean via this blog.

I’m always interested in how people plan their trips. When there are a million options out there, how do people pick one choice over another? So, I thought I’d bring people into my planning process for our Summer 2013 road trip.

This picture has nothing to do with the post, except I like having pictures in my posts...

This picture has nothing to do with the post, except I like having pictures in my posts…

Right now I’m at the beginning stages

Not too much has been confirmed.

What we think we are doing so far

  • Nürburgring Race Track: Back in May I found a post on JDombs Travels. Her husband was a race car driver for the day. I was familiar with this race track because I lived near it in high school, but never thought of driving it. I’m still not going to, but my husband is… I even tweeted about it:
  • Traben-Trarbach: Nurburgring is in the Mosel area of Germany. We’ve stayed in Cochem in the past and in looking for places to stay this time, my initial thought was to go back to Cochem. Then I saw a post on Google+ that changed my mind. The Traveling Canucks suggested 9 European cities worth visiting, and one was Traben-Trarbach. This village is also on the Mosel and will be an ideal place to stop. We’ll either be there while the vines are ripe with grapes or during wine festivals, either way we’re happy. 
  • Zurich, Switzerland: Our good friends have recently moved to Zürich. This will be the final stop for our roadtrip before we turn around and head back home.
  • Rhine Falls: Realizing there’s quite a bit of Europe between Traben-Trarbach and Zürich, I took to social media again. This time, I asked my Facebook followers for any suggestions. Selena from Oh, the Places We will Go! linked me to her posts about Switzerland, but highlighted Rhine Falls. BINGO! I love waterfalls, so this is a must-do.

Our next parts of the planning process

We still have to settle on dates. Once we know when and for how long, we’ll be able to fill in the blanks: figure out our route, learn more about the specific destinations, find activities for kids and adults, and book accommodations, that’s it!

I also want to try some of the great “occupying kids on road trips” pins I’ve seen on pinterest. I’ve been pinnig some of my favorites and will put a lot of those into practice, maybe creating something to cater to our trip.

More about this series

The primary reason I’m doing this series is to show how I plan travel. Not just for you, but for myself. I’m curious to see how much we think we’re going to do (this post), how much we plan for (probably the next post), what we actually do (the third post), and how our family felt about it all (the last posts).

Any tips of places to go or things to do that you want to suggest? I’d love to hear them!where is kilimanjaro located in africavibromasseur achatLed Lenser P7ze binary signals review

Guest post at Wonderful Wanderings

Looking to travel? Sometimes it makes sense to use a travel agent.

Looking to travel? Sometimes it makes sense to use a travel agent.

I was a travel agent for many years, right around the time that people started migrating to the internet to book their travel. I tend to book my personal travel, but some times it makes sense to go to a travel agent. When should you use a travel agent? Visit Wonderful Wanderings to see my tips.click here now

Amsterdam’s Science Center NEMO

The first thing my 20 month old noticed when we walk into the NEMO science center in Amsterdam was the bubbles stations. He forgot the year before when my husband tried to stand inside the a large bubble and it popped. My poor baby cried until we distracted him with all the buttons in the next area. (Poor baby being my son, not my husband)

This time, my toddler wanted to try it for himself. The problem? Too many big kids. So, while we tried to get him to use some of the other bubble making tools he eventually lost interest. Which was ok because there were many new and exciting activities waiting for him. (Side note: they import their soap used in the bubbles from the USA!)

Fact: The only time you can take a picture of an excited toddler inside a science center, the moment he sits down on one of the exhibits.

Fact: The only time you can take a picture of an excited toddler inside a science center, the moment he sits down on one of the exhibits.

Of course there were tons of exhibits waiting. Science Center NEMO is huge. I would soon rediscover its five floors by chasing my little boy. He ran from exhibit to exhibit to exhibit. Between my husband and the grandparents, someone was always trying to rein him in. Since I was super-pregnant with our daughter, I got out of a lot chasing duties.

TIP: don’t want to be responsible for chasing a toddler around? Go during your third trimester!

He was worse than a pinball because of all the other pinballs running around him.

This place is great for all ages!

The first time we visited NEMO Science Center our son was only 8 months. Since he wasn’t walking yet, we tried the Age Machine. We took a picture of ourselves, then moved a dial to see what we looked like as a kid and what we will look as we age. My husband as a kid was eerily accurate. If this is any indication, that means my son will not be the best looking old man.

I loved this exhibit. You take a picture of yourself and then you can see what you like like as a kid and as you age. This is my husband as a kid. It looks exactly like him.

I loved this exhibit. You take a picture of yourself and then you can see what you look like as a kid and as you age. This is my husband as a kid. It looks exactly like him.

Unfortunately, if it's accurate this is what my little boy will look like when he's old. (He kind of reminds me of my mom!)

Unfortunately, if it’s accurate this is what my little boy will look like when he’s old. (He kind of reminds me of my mom!)

My son’s favorite exhibits had one thing in common: buttons. Still, there was one button that stood out in a room of buttons. He’d spot this button from far away and we knew what was about to happen. Arm extended in front of him, raised with his finger ready to push, he’d start running. Then the four adults in our group would look at each other. Using just our eyes for communication we would assess who was closest, fastest, and who he was most likely to listen to. Most likely it was grandpa. So, grandpa would go after W before W got to his favorite button of them all: the elevator button.

Fortunately the elevator button “exhibit” wasn’t his favorite. I think that honor goes to a ball exhibit called Machine Park. I’m not entirely sure what the point was since there were several stations, each doing something different. At the one my son picked he had to grab a ball and push a button. The ball would eventually make its way around, get dropped into a bucket, and the process would start again. You could even get a progress report. He’s going to make a great line worker some day.

He also loved one so popular with kids, it was hard to read what it was about. The kids were covering a lot of the explanation and doing the experiment. I think it was about water purification. Warning: toddlers don’t care about purification as much as they care about water. He ran in and minutess later, after his grandfather caught up with him, they both came back to us soaked.

Addressing sexuality in a science center

As for the adults in our group, we got the biggest kick out of the Teen Facts floor. It’s about sexuality and the changes teens experience during puberty. You know you’re in a science center in Amsterdam when…

Within this area a separate area restricted to 18 year olds. I’m too much of a prude to go into details, but I will say that it was a discrete area. A staff member kept young kids out.

Back to the unrestricted area. Along one wall there was a cartoon showing the development of a boy and girl from baby to teenager and repeat. It was really cute and a reminder of that awkward puberty stage. You can watch the video here, I highly recommend it.

The funniest exhibit definitely goes to the French kissing booth. Here you tongue battled with anyone you wanted, but not how you think.

French kiss strangers!

French kiss strangers!

Take a break from it all

The highlight at NEMO was the rooftop. Along one side of the building there’s stadium style seating with views of Amsterdam. When we were there in 2011 the rainy weather kept people away. In 2012 I left the grandparents with my son so I could enjoy some quiet time alone. Not going to happen. The sun was out and my peaceful city-escape was crowded with school kids running around and enjoying themselves. When I noticed the water fountain that all the kids were jumping in I texted the family: hey, don’t bother meeting me up here, no way W will ever leave. Meet you downstairs.

Amsterdam views from the rooftop. This was a rainy day, but you can see the potential if it was sunny.

Amsterdam views from the rooftop. This was a rainy day, but you can see the potential if it was sunny.

There are even fun learning opportunities up here!

There are even fun learning opportunities up here!

Practical information:

  • NEMO Science Center is a 15 minute walk from Centraal Station, next to the public library
  • Hours of Operation: Open Daily from June to September (10:00 am – 5:00 pm), closed on Mondays the rest of the year. Also closed on New Year’s Day, Queen’s Day, Christmas Day
  • Admission: Free for kids 3 & Under. As of this post, it is EUR13.50 for everyone else, more details here.
  • There are restaurants and cafes in the museum. You can also bring your own food and eat in designated areas.
  • There are lockers for visitors, available for a small fee.


  • I recommend buying a ticket online to avoid the line, there is a small fee to do so.
  • Weekdays are busy with school trips and weekends are busy with local families. It’s big enough that you can still enjoy yourself.
  • Bring an extra pair of clothes so your kids can enjoy the water exhibits without hesitation.

I recommend this to: anyone with the slightest interest in science or fun, regardless of age. Yes, we are even taking out childless friends who are visiting from the states. I’ll let you know how they like it.

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How paperclips make organizing passports easier

I used to fumble around airports and immigration offices looking through our stack of passports to find the one they needed at the moment. Not as fun as it looks with crying babies, disgruntled customs employees, and a line of people whispering about your obvious disorganization.

Then I learned of the trick to make things easier: using color paperclips on each passport. So simple. Whenever we need a specific passport, we just look at the paperclips. Now my kids don’t cry, customs employees smile and suggest the best local restaurants, and the line behind me breaks out in applause when they see my paperclips. Ok, maybe not, but that’s what I like to think they’re doing.

If you can’t find or don’t want to spend money on color paperclips, just tie a different color string or ribbon on each paperclip. Or attach a cute piece of washi tape to a paperclip. You can also attach nice washi tape directly to the passport, but my husband likes to keep things simple.

Other ways we organize our physical documents for travel:

  • We have a travel wallet for all things travel related. One travel wallet for the family. We keep our passports, membership cards, and local currency to our 2 most travelled areas (in our case we have USD and EUR). If we have tickets that we printed online and need to show, we store it in the travel wallet so we don’t have to look for it later. TIP: Buy a travel wallet in a bright color so it’s easy to spot and zips all the way around so nothing falls out.
  • Most travel wallets I see don’t seem like they can hold more than 4 passports. If your family has more than 4 passports, I hate to tell you, you just might need to buy two wallets.
  • We email copies of our passports and other important documents to ourselves so we know where to go to find them.
  • If, for some reason, we have more documents than what will fit in our travel wallet, we use a folder or binder. We put each document in their own page protector. It’s easier to find things when we flip through the pages.
The easiest solutions are the simplest. Using different colored paperclips to distinguish different family member's passports.

The best solutions are the simplest. (At a glance I can tell you my husband’s passport is not included in this photograph – he was traveling when I took the picture.)

So, this is how I handle paper documents, do you have any tips? Also, I know it’s becoming easier to use apps to organize digital information. Which apps do you recommend?

This post is part of Travel Tip Tuesday at Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walkingon Travels.car battery for 2012 nissan altimadildo discount

Traveling with my son’s security blanket

My son’s blanket was laying way down on the train tracks. THE blanket. I was running to catch the train. Something fell out of my backpack. I wasn’t even going to check, but when someone yelled, “YOU DROPPED A BLANKET” I had to look.

Here's the blanket on a trip to Hamburg.

Here’s the blanket on a trip to Hamburg.


When my son was first-born, 7 months earlier, everyone told me to give him something to associate with sleep. When he gets that item enough at bedtime, they said, he’ll know it’s time to close his eyes. I tried various things without luck.

Until this blanket.

It’s made of two materials, one on each side. Light brown on one side, dark brown on the other.

We never intended for this to be his sleep associate. We wanted something small and easy for our travels. But, as we started using it and he started sleeping better, we knew we were in for it.

We brought it on our trip to the US a month earlier. We used it on the flight over. People on the flight told us they didn’t even realize a baby was on board. We used it at the hotel. He only suffered through one night of jet lag. We used it on our road trip from North Carolina to Florida. He slept most of the way.

It was a magic blanket.

Look how happy this blanket makes him!

Look how happy this blanket makes him!

And now it was about 5 feet down in the train tracks. Laying behind the train that was going to leave Amsterdam Centraal Station any second. The train I needed to get on to get home.

Several people gathered around me, muttering what I could only assume to be their condolences for my lost sleep. Images of my son sleeping peacefully with the blanket intermixed with images of him screaming all night without it. My neighbors were going to love me. None of us would ever sleep again.

I was snapped out of it by one strangers voice. She was a little louder than the others and saying something in Dutch. Another woman, a very tall woman, was bending over the side. Stretching as long as she could, she used her umbrella to pick it up. Then she handed it to me. VICTORY!

I tried to stuff it back into my bag. My face was red with the mixture of rushing, anxiety, adrenaline, relief, and more anxiety. I took off for the train again, but this lady’s voice grew louder and louder. I turned to look at her and she said something in Dutch. I looked around not knowing what she could be saying – did I drop something else, did I care?Then she said it in English, “your train, it doesn’t leave for 10 more minutes.” I looked at the clock and she was right.

Have you ever lost your kids security blanket or toy while on vacation? 

My friend, Farrah, over at The Three Under, is an expat living in the Netherlands. I recently asked her what she thought I should blog about and she immediately said, “why you love the Netherlands so much.” As I started thinking about it, I realized that there were too many reasons for one post. Instead of one post, I’m collecting several stories, tips, and pictures to illustrate our experiences. These should explain, directly or in directly, why we like it there. 

 Olympus 10×25Proline HC-300A