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Phone Photography Apps

At the end of every traveling day my kids are exhausted and mellow. And when they go to sleep, I have something I rarely have: time to think.

Sometimes I use this time to read, sometimes I use this time to sleep, but often I want to get crafty. Problem? Have you seem how much the average family with two young kids has to pack when they go on vacation? The one time I have time to play with paper and glue, I don’t have space to pack paper and glue. Fortunately, I always have my phone with me: the indispensable tool that also houses my book collection, recipes, travel plans, and camera. (It’s rumored I can dial numbers and talk to other people with it, too, but I wouldn’t know about that!)

When I started using my phone’s camera, I wanted to stay as true to the original photograph as possible. Eventually, I started playing with Instagram’s filters and wanted more. Then, I discovered the phone camera apps.

I was hooked. While Instagram’s native filters are fun for a quick fix, there are other apps that give you more creative freedom. Then you get to tweak the photo as you want.

Here are my favorite Phone Photography Apps:

Photography Planning

Magic Hour

Any decent photography book, course, or resource will tell you how important light is. The best light happens in what is known as the golden hour. It’s the time right around sunrise and right around sunset. As a traveler, we might not always know when that is going to happen when we’re away from home. As a mom, we might not always want to try to figure it out. Enter Magic Hour app. It lets you know when the magic hour will start and end each day depending on the city you are in. You can plan your day accordingly if you need to. Price: FREE

If you read my last post, you’ll know why this is a great app to have. Paul from A Luxury Travel Blogs encourages parents to go outside while the kids are still sleeping to capture the sites. Instead of trying to guess when you should wake up to catch the right light, this app let’s you know. Sleep in until the last possible minute, please!

Screen shots from iTunes store

Photography App

Magic Hour iTunes App


Editing Photos


This is a free and easy app that not only gives you access to some filters, but controls how strongly you can apply the filter. Most of the time any photos only needs a slight tweak, but Instagram’s filters make you commit completely. VSCO Cam lets you change it just a bit if you want, or a lot if you prefer. You can then export the photo to Instagram. I have one gripe. When exporting, VSCO Cam will automatically crop the photo. If it doesn’t crop the way you want it to there’s still a fix. Just save the updated photo to your camera roll and open in Instagram as normal. Price: FREE

Here’s an Instagram I edited with VSCO Cam:

Please note: Unless you’re a professional, don’t over filter your photos! Just enhance them. Practice as much as you want, but only publish the best!

Adding Details

Rhonna Designs

This app has some filters, but what I really like about it are the other things you can add. There are different designs, sayings, and fonts for you to put on top of your image. You can resize them, change the color, turn them on their side. It’s a lot of fun. The best part is that the app includes a ton of images and fonts. Unlike similar apps, you can do a lot with what’s included without having to buy more upgrades. Price: $1.99 with an extra pack available for $0.99

Here’s an image I recently added on Instagram using Rhonna Designs. There are a a whole section of travel related sayings included.

and here’s a more subtle image where I just added the little doodles in the corner.

and here’s a less subtly edited photo that I did when I first got the app. I tend to keep these types of photos on my phone instead of publishing on Instagram, but you can see where it can be fun if you like this type of stuff – which I do!

Printing Them Out


I don’t use this because I’m not in the US, however, I may try it the next time I go. Every month you can select up to 100 photos taken on your phone (not just Instagram photos) and Groovebook will print them out into a little book and ship it to you. The pages are perforated for easy sharing. You can order extras to send to family and friends. Love this idea. Price: FREE to download. The subscription service is $2.99 a month for processing and handling. You can cancel at anytime.

Other Photo Apps

i haven’t tried these, but I wanted to include more options for you:

Halftone It’s all about the kids. Turn your pictures into a comic strip. Enough said. Price: $0.99

InstaFood This is one of the apps I want to try for the wrong reasons. I laugh at the idea that I have enough time to take a photo of my food while I’m at a restaurant. I laugh at the idea of going to a restaurant. Street food is where it’s at for us most of our trips (which is fine since I love street food, so don’t feel bad for me). One day, though, I will go out on a date with my husband while on vacation, take a photo of our food, and use this app to add the restaurant and the meal. Then I will look at that photo later to remind myself that I do enjoy eating out. I feel like I’m going on a tangent. Price: FREE

InstaPlace Puts the location directly on the photo. They can even put the altitude on the photo. Wish I had this when I was in Switzerland earlier this month! Price: FREE

InstaWeather Puts the temperature and place on the photo. If I use this the next time I take a photo in Florida, will it subconsciously help me feel warmer when I’m back in Germany in the winter? I’ll let you know! Price: FREE

Lumie Get the “bookah” effect on your photos. Nice effect for those romantic Paris trips, or looking at holiday lights. Price: $1.99

ShakeIt Photo App Take a photo, watch the photo appear like a polaroid pictures. You can even shake the camera to help the picture develop fast. Yes, you can shake it like a polaroid picture! Price: $1.99

Wood Camera This app was developed by professional photographers who wanted more control over editing their phone photography. Price: $3.99

Whew! That’s a lot. Do you have any favorite camera apps that I should look at the next time I have some down time (which will be September 2 at the earliest 🙂 )

This post is part of the new Instagram Travel Thursday linky hosted by Skimbaco LifestyleDestination UnknownChild ModeHines Sight BlogLive.Do.Grow.House of AnaïsLuxury Travel Mom. Click on any of those links to access all Instagram travel posts.

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Travel with Kids: Photography challenges

One of the most challenging aspects of traveling with young kids: taking great photos. I need time to adjust settings on my camera, find an interesting perspective, and snap a photo. I find myself keeping everything on auto and hoping for the best.

I asked some other family blogger friends how they do it, and here’s what they said:

Photography tips from the family travel blogging pros

Get the kids their own camera

“There comes a time when taking pictures with your kids around becomes as inherently difficult as actually taking good pictures of your kids, both of which are important when trying to record memories of trips that you take. It took us a while to figure out that a good way to give ourselves some time to snap pictures that involve more than just a quick click of the camera is to involve our kids in the picture taking themselves! We bought our now 5-year-old his own camera when he was almost 4 and he takes it with us everywhere, snapping away, so not only do I get some time to try to create a photographic masterpiece but he has the opportunity to express himself creatively as well!” – Andrea from Passports and Pushchairs (for more on this topic from Andrea check out her post Through Their Eyes)

Get the kids involved

“Get your kids to take some! I’ve always been pleasantly surprised by our daughter’s photos over the years. and, if they have their own camera, you’ll have time to work on your own photos. You can say, let’s take photos of this beach and then have a few minutes to do it yourself.” – Jessie from Wandering Educations

I took their advice and gave my son the camera. Here he is reflected in the window as he took a picture on Lake Zurich.

I took their advice and gave my son the camera. Here he is reflected in the window as he took a picture on Lake Zürich.

Get professional

“Think like a newspaper photographer. With little kids around, you’re not going to have the time to carefully compose a photo, wait for the perfect lighting or fiddle with your camera’s settings. But then again, neither do professional newspaper photographers. They’ve learned to move quickly, get the shot they need, and then get on with their day. Always have your camera ready, and just grab the shot when it comes around, even if it means carrying your little one on your back while taking the photo on the run.” –  Micki from the Barefoot Nomad Travel Site (for more on this topic from Micki, check out her post Can You Take Good Photos With Little Kids in Tow? Some Tips)

Do what you can to get the shot. Photo courtesy: The Barefoot Nomad Travel Site

Do what you can to get the shot. Photo courtesy: The Barefoot Nomad Travel Site


Get help

“If pictures are of utmost importance at a particular moment, I have someone else with me or ask Munchkin to sit in a stroller with a snack for a minute. That is about to no longer work at 4.5 year old. So, I am investing in a GoPro for me, but it will be ‘his’ when needing to take photos. That way he too feels like part of the action. They have a screen you can add to the GoPro to make this feasible, and it is the perfect size and also fairly indestructible” – Lori from Expedition Mom

Get some time alone

“Taking time out to take photographs and not boring or neglecting your children at the same time isn’t always easy. One way around this – if your children aren’t always up at the crack of dawn or if you have an understanding partner who will watch them for an hour while you go out to play with your camera – is to get up early. The light is at its best either close to sunrise or sunset, so this is actually one of the best times to be out with your camera anyway. It’s also a time when fewer people are about (if you’re wanting some ‘quiet’ shots). Here’s a shot I took in Crete, using this method just after sunrise.” –  Paul from A Luxury Travel Blog (Side note: Tune in on Thursday to get a tip for figuirng that golden hour when you’re in a new destination.)

I wouldn't think photos like this would be possible on a family vacation. Get out early and alone and you can catch the light when it's right. Photo courtesy: A Luxury Travel Blog

I wouldn’t think photos like this would be possible on a family vacation. Get out early and alone and you can catch the light when it’s right. Photo courtesy: A Luxury Travel Blog

Get a sense of humor

“A decent camera with good auto settings helps – when we’re out and about we often leave ours in “sports” which is good for capturing action or, in our case, moving targets. A couple of years ago we were in a promo for Disney World and it was 7am and freezing on Dumbo. Plus, when my kids are enjoying something they make what we call an “all business” face which looks a lot like a scowl. In order to make it look like they actually were having fun, I made up what I call my stage mother song, “pee poo, pee poo fart, pee poo pee poo fart.” The kids burst out laughing, and we get happy pictures ” – Corrine from Have Baby Will Travel

Get surprised

“Can’t get your kids to smile? Give them a little tickle as they sit on your lap. Better yet, don’t go for the smile. Tell them to act surprised. You will get even better faces.” – Keryn from Walking on Travels (for more on this topic from Keryn, check out her post Photo Tricks when Traveling with Kids)

A huge thank you to everyone who helped me not only figure out how to manage this, but to know it is possible to take decent photos with kids in tow. I will definitely have to remind myself before our next trip.

Do you have any more tips you’d like to add?

This post is part of Travel Tip Tuesday with Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walkingon Travels. Check out their links to see more great travel tips.

Tips for taking pictures while traveling with kids - via Travel Turtle

Tips for taking pictures while traveling with kids – via Travel Turtle

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Weekend trip to Zurich and Vaduz

Over the weekend we discovered one of our new favorite places: Zürich, Switzerland.

Here’s a glimpse of some of the things we saw, via Instagram photos. More photos and details to come.

*Note: The prices below are listed in Swiss Francs. The exchange rate between that and the USD is roughly the same. If something is say, 10 Swiss Francs, it’s about $11.

Rheinfalls, Switzerland

Who doesn’t like waterfalls? I love them.

Rheinfalls are Europe’s largest. The area is extremely family friendly, and isn’t a touristy or cheesy place like Niagara Falls is often accused of being. The huge playground was a welcomed site for my son after our long road trip. He also loved the falls. I don’t know if it was because of the clear water (my son does love bath time) or that he’s only two (and a bit of a daredevil), but the little guy just wanted to climb over the railing and jump into the water.

Travel Tip: Switzerland is expensive. Germany is right across the border (10 minutes in traffic), eat there. Oh, we paid 5 Swiss francs to park for 2 hours.

Short Boat Trip on Lake Zürich

The Zürich channel at the hotel told us that Lake Zürich is clean enough to drink from. I believe it. Our trip took us around the lake where we got to see Zürich at its best. It’s tough sitting on a boat watching people having fun in the water. There were other boaters, kids on the lake-side beaches, and people playing water sports. Again, my son wanted to jump into the water. This time, though, I probably would have been happy to jump in after him. It was hot.

Travel Tip: It’s only 8.50 Swiss Francs to take the 1.5 hour trip around the lake. Once on the boat, you can order a meal, snack, and a drink.

Vaduz, Liechtenstein

One of the world’s 25 least visited countries is only 1.5 hours away from Zürich by car. We had to go. As we drove to Liechtenstein, my husband shared some of the things he learned about L-stein: it’s in a valley, there are 5000 residents, there is no official army and the police force is less than 80 people. We talked about how, with such a small police force, did this country keep its sovereignty? Oh, the huge, beautiful mountains surrounding it. My kids weren’t so interested in dad’s facts so they slept.

We arrived in Vaduz with over-tired kids and over-hungry parents. My son whined his way past every shop. I’m sure he was disappointed that there wasn’t a river or lake to try to jump into. Ironically, this was the only time on the trip that he got wet. It rained. A nice heavy rain. We ended up dining at the fine, reliable establishment that is extremely whiny-toddler friendly: McDonald’s. Afterwards, we made our way back to Zürich.

Travel Tip: Liechtenstein might be more expensive than Switzerland, plan accordingly.

The drive between Zürich and Vaduz

If you have no interest in checking Liechtenstein off of your list, it’s still worth a visit. The drive between Zürich and Vaduz is beautiful. As I mentioned earlier, Liechtenstein is in the valley. That means that it’s surrounded by mountains and those are the mountains you’ll drive through to get there. The Alps, Caribbean-like water, and typical Swiss villages made every turn picture worthy. There are many tunnels on the way to Liechtenstein. As we exited each one it was like a little surprise to see how Switzerland could top its previous view. The best happened on the way back, after the rain: a double rainbow.

Travel Tip: The drive is only 1.5 hours, but could easily take all day because you’ll want to either drive slow to take in the view, or stop frequently.

Sattel-Hochstucki, Switzerland

I really enjoyed the city of Zürich, but I wanted more mountains. I mean, seriously, the Alps? How could we resist? We searched for ski-lifts/winter sports on our GPS. Sattel-Hochstucki, 45 minutes away, popped up and we crossed our fingers that the end destination would be worth it. We were happy to see the panoramic gondola cable-car when we arrived and bought ticket to the top just expecting to have nice views. We were wrong. The top was filled with fun activities for the family. There was a place with bouncy castles and trampolines, a very steep and twisty sledge run, and Europe’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge. There were also paths and trails for hikes. I’m sad to admit that my fear of heights won out and I did not cross the bridge. My husband took our daughter while I watched my son jump and bounce on the trampolines. I wish we could have spent all day there, but we had to leave after a few hours.

Travel Tip: The gondola ride is only 19 Swiss Francs round trip for adults, the bouncy castle and trampolines are 7 Swiss Francs for kids, the sledge run is 4 Euros per run, and the suspension bridge is free.

Overall travel tip: Switzerland is expensive. Coming from Germany, I was shocked at how much we spent on food and drinks. For example, a small bottle of coke could easily be around 4 Swiss Francs, and a medium cold drink at Starbucks was more than 7 Swiss Francs. Keep this in mind when budgeting and consider packing small picnics instead.

Have you been to the area? What should I see on my next visit?


This post is part of the new Instagram Travel Thursday linky hosted by Skimbaco LifestyleDestination UnknownChild ModeHines Sight BlogLive.Do.Grow.House of AnaïsLuxury Travel Mom. Click on any of those links to access all Instagram travel posts.commander les stimulateurs de clitorisapple smart case pour ipad airpenguin seo updateGERDA CR-Z W2411binary option investment

Instagram Inspiration: Star Wars Celebration Europe

Last weekend we went to Star Wars Celebration Europe in Germany. Fans from all over the world come and get their Jedi on. I’ll be honest – I’m not a huge Star Wars fan. My husband, however, is. Many of the past SW Celebrations have been in our hometown in Orlando. Our friends have told us it’s always a great time. Since it was so close to home this year, we decided to go.

I’m glad we did. I love being around people who are doing things they are passionate about, and people are definitely passionate about Star Wars. There were replica sets throughout the convention center, people walking up dressed up in costume, autograph signings, a blocked off area dedicated to young kids, shops selling all kinds of memorabilia, and even an area for officially licensed Star Wars tattoo artists to tattoo on the spot. There were different panels, talks, shows, and discussions throughout.

We managed to make it to one panel discussion. As part of the collectors series, we went to the European Food Collectables panel. It was about collecting trinkets in things like cereal boxes, but specific to brands and promotion in Europe. The extent to which people will save original Star Wars branded items is fascinating. What they do with them later is equally fascinating. Apparently several years ago, at one of the SW Celebrations, they held a cereal eating contest. The cereal was C-3PO cereal from 20-30 years ago. And if our crowd was any indication, I’m sure the contestants were just happy to have the chance to eat original Star Wars promotional items.

Enough talk, let’s look at some photos.

Tips for Star Wars Celebration for families

  • The next one will be in Anaheim, CA in April 2015, mark your calendars!
  • Although we didn’t buy our tickets in advance, I suggest you do. The line is a lot shorter for ticket holders.
  • This is a child-friendly event. A lot of the costumed characters walking around are more than happy to pose with your little one. (Click here to see some of the costumed characters.)
  • But to make it even better, dress your kids in costume. There are plenty of other people who will be doing the same.
  • Just prepare for the other attendees who will want to take their photo with your child.
  • It can be a long day, plan ahead. The website will provide a schedule of events and many events you want to attend will overlap. Again, plan ahead.
  • Many attractions have long lines. Don’t hesitate to leave a long line and come back later when the line has shortened.
  • However, if you’re shopping and want to wait to come back later to purchase something, don’t. Unless you happen to be there on the first day, chances are the item you want will sell-out. Get it while you can.
  • Catch up on the series before you go so that your kids can be somewhat familiar with the characters they’ll see.
  • Have your camera ready for some funny costumes and interpretations.
  • Have fun and may the force be with you!


This post is part of the new Instagram Travel Thursday linky hosted by Skimbaco LifestyleDestination UnknownChild ModeHines Sight BlogLive.Do.Grow.House of AnaïsLuxury Travel Mom. Click on any of those links to access all Instagram travel posts.apple smart case mini retina24option review scam

Travel Journal Prompts for Kids (And Adults!)

travel journal prompts for kids

Travel Journal Writing Prompts for kids – Free Download!

This is my 49th post!

In celebration, I want to share 49 travel journal prompts for kids to use on your vacations.

Before leaving: 

  • What do you think the place will be like?
  • What do you think the people will be like?
  • What are you looking forward to the most?
  • What do you know about where we’ll be visiting? (It’s history, climate, language)
  • What’s your itinerary?
  • How do you say:
    • Hello
    • Good-bye
    • Thank you
    • Please
    • Excuse me
    • Do you speak English?

 First Impressions:

  • What are the popular sites that you keep hearing about?
  • What is the landscape like?
  • How is this different from home?
  • How is it the same as home?
  • What is the history of this place? Is it older or younger? How does the architecture give you the feeling of that history?
  • Is it crowded?

 Thoughts about a specific attractions/events/sites:

  • Were there a lot of lines, what were they like?
  • What do you think makes this place special?
  • If your best friend was going to visit this city, would you recommend this attraction, event, site… why?
  • Do you have something similar to this where you live? If not, what do you think is the closest thing to this site?
  • What did you learn about this site?
  • Draw it.

 Everyday things:

  • What was the weather like? What did you have to do to prepare for the weather?
  • Have you tried speaking the local language? What have you said? How do people respond?
  • What kind of money is used here? What’s the exchange rate?
  • Have you watched any television? What types of things have you seen on the commercials?
  • What songs do you hear a lot (whether out and about or on your own mix that you brought with you)?
  • Did you go to a playground? What equipment was different from back home?
  • What did you wear today?
  • Did you get any blisters?


  • What did you eat for breakfast?
  • What did you eat for lunch? How much did it cost?
  • What is something on the menu that you’ve never seen before?
  • What is something on the menu that is similar to back home?
  • Have you visited a grocery store or farmer’s market? What did you think about the food selections? What was in season?

 Public Transportation

  • How do you use the public transportation here? (Where do you buy the tickets, where do you validate the tickets, do you like to look up timetables?)
  • Do you like the public transportation here?

 Things to do while out and about:

  • Draw what’s in front of you right now.
  • Draw something you saw earlier today.
  • Write down street signs.
  • Keep a list of words you think are funny.
  • Count the number of people who walk past you while you are sitting at this spot for exactly one minute and write it down.
  • Borrow a camera for a few minutes, take a picture of: what’s above you, what’s below you, what’s in front of you, what’s behind you, what’s to the left, what’s to the right, and a self-portrait. Write down what you saw.
  • Circle all the places on the map that you have visited.
  • Send yourself a postcard.
  • Write a haiku about something you’re doing right – now!
  • Find a sticker or a small brochure and put it in your journal.

 Last Impressions:

  • How was this place like what you expected it to be?
  • What things surprised you here?
  • What do you want to do if you return?

Questions for the whole family: (I like to do these after a trip to get everyone’s feelings and keep a record of it in my travel journal.)

  • What was your favorite meal and drink?
  • What was one of the funniest moments on the trip?
  • What was your favorite thing to do?

Download the list of prompts here.

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