Friday, March 28, 2014

Vacations Unpacked #1

Today, I'm starting a new series called Vacations Unpacked.  

I get so many questions about traveling, planning trips, packing for trips, saving for trips, kids on trips, where to go on trips...seriously, so many questions!  Since this is a fun topic for you guys and since vacation season is upon us, I thought my new series was very timely!

Each post in this series will be different and focus on different aspects of, I'm answering some of your most pressing (and frequent) questions.

And please note, as of January 1, 2014, I am not accepting any new vacations as a travel agent.  I am booked up for the remainder of the year and possibly next year too.  This post is purely informational.

1. What are some good big city destinations with kids? know me, I love traveling with my kids...and I love big cities, so this is a great question!  I think cities like San Diego are great because even though it's a nice "big" city, it has the beach and water activities too.  I'm also a huge fan of Chicago, Boston and NYC.  My best advice?  Bring a stroller.  Big cities usually mean a lot of walking, so bring comfy shoes for everyone and a good stroller.  Check out zoos, museums and parks in each city too!

Here we are in 3 big cities...London, LA and Boston.

2. What should I wear when going through security?  What should my kids wear?
Layers, little jewelry and easy on shoes.

Those are the three big things whether you're a kid or a grownup.  I dress in layers because you just never know what the temperature on the plane will be.  Sometimes, it's cold and sometimes, it's stuffy and hot.

And you know how much I adore jewelry...well, that being said, when traveling, I keep it to a minimum because I don't want to keep removing lots of bangles and big earrings every time I go through security.  I wear my wedding rings, a watch and studs.  Keep it simple.

As for shoes, I always pick shoes that come off and on without me using my hands.  Children 12 years and younger, do not have to remove their shoes when going through security, but if your kids are older, I would recommend the same shoe strategy.

Grab a scarf (these are only $8), a light jacket, some stud earrings, and Toms

3. What are my carry-on essentials for a long flight?
This was me right before boarding a flight over the summer.  I have my crossbody bag, a book and magazines.  Not pictured is my big tote with my i-Pad, headphones, big scarf, neck pillow, camera, phone, phone chargers, and wallet (inside crossbody).  I also keep toiletries in my bag...we'll get to that in a minute.

I bring a big tote on board the flight that carries all of my essentials but I love a crossbody for securely carrying my wallet and passport and then for once I arrive at my destination.  I also love that once on board the flight, I can tuck my crossbody into my tote.  I always have at least one book and 4 magazines for long flights in my carry-on and then I pack another book and 4 more magazines in my suitcase for me to read on my return flight home (no sense lugging that in my carry-on!).
I really do use my Stella & Dot totes when traveling.  I love that they zip up all the way (so nothing falls out!) and that they're nylon and clean off really well.  Plus, they're just so cute!  If you're looking at my online trunk show (going on now!), don't forget to check out their totes too!

4. I've never flown and I'm scared to fly, what should I do?
I receive this question a lot!  Many of you have never flown and are nervous about your first flight.  My tips would be to bring several things to occupy you...a good book, magazines, a i-Pad or something where you can watch a movie or listen to music (with headphones!), a snack and then purchase a drink to carry on board with you (you can't bring liquids in from outside of the airport).

Arrive to the airport early...there is nothing worse than rushing to board a flight.  I always try and get to the airport 2 hours in advance.  This will give you plenty of time to check your bags, get through security and find your gate without rushing around.

Always remember that thousands of planes fly millions of people every single day.  You're going to be just fine.  Get on board, get cozy, read your book, maybe nap a bit and focus on your destination.  The destination is always the best part :).

5. Can stuff get stolen from my checked baggage?
Unfortunately, yes.  I've only had one thing stolen from my luggage and it was years was a Chi flat iron.  Some airport person had really nice and straight hair courtesy of my Chi.

TSA does have some approved locks for luggage but let's all be real...where there's a will, there is a way.  If someone really wants your valuables, they'll take them.  That being said, try to carry on as many valuables as you can (cameras, phones and such) and then discreetly pack the rest.  I find the insides of shoes and boots a great place to put stuff in my checked luggage.  It stays out of the way, it stays protected from breakage and it's not in plain sight for just anyone to see.

6. When do I start packing for trips?
I start making my lists for trips at least two weeks out.  I write out a list of everything I'll need to pack and then make a second list of everything I'll need to purchase before I leave.  Throughout those two weeks, I try and grab as many of those items as possible and then keep them grouped together in one spot.

I don't start packing until the day before I leave.  I find that I pack more efficiently and forget less when it's the day before.  If I pack too far in advance, then inevitably, I will go back into my luggage to retrieve something I need and I may or may not remember to put it back for my trip.  As long as I have everything on my lists, then I know my luggage will be packed properly and quickly the day before.

I've had many of you comment on my fancy and fun can check it out here!

7. What are my carry-on essentials for long flights?
If I'm on a flight that's longer than 6 hours, I go into full sleep mode.  Like...the kind of rest you get at home.  (And FYI...the longest single flight I've ever been on was from LA to China...16 straight hours...with my two kids...and we survived.)

In order to get into full sleep mode, this is what I carry on with me...
After our "meal" is served and the lights are dimmed (which happens on long flights), I go into the lavatory and brush my teeth, take off all of my makeup, apply lotion to my face and hands, add lots of lip balm and then return to my seat.  Then I put on my fuzzy socks, neck pillow, eye mask and go to sleep.  Long flights usually start "waking up" about an hour before landing...the lights come back on, flight attendants come around with more drinks or a snack and everyone starts to stir.  I put on some eyeliner and lipstick in my seat and call it a day until we land and I'm at my destination.

As for my kids...we started teaching them as babies that this is when they sleep too.  We turn off their TVs, brush their teeth, cover them up with blankets and tell them that it's time to sleep.  And eventually...they always do.  You just have to eliminate the distractions (if their TV is on, they won't sleep).  We also tell them when the flight starts that at some point after our meal, it will be bed time.  Set that expectation early.

8. How far in advance do you start saving for a trip?
This depends on where you're going, how much you're spending and how much you can save each month.

 For our family, we plan our trips at least two years in advance.  We know where we're going this year and next year.  Because we've been doing this for 10 years, we know how to gauge the trip and the cost and then how to financially prepare for it.  I would start thinking long term...if you want to go to France but don't have any money, then I would first find out about how much it will cost you (do some research).  Then, divide that by the amount each month you are able to set aside and then count how many months that will take you.  It might take you three years...and that's fine!  In three years, you'll be so happy to have your trip paid for!

Vacations Unpacked is just beginning!  I have so many other questions to answer! Stay tuned for more in this series...things like...
1. Traveling with kids
2. How much should you save?
3. Why should you use a travel agent?
4. Best beach destinations
5. Best European destinations
6. Navigating Disney World

And so much more!

Don't forget to check out my foodie blog this weekend!
Today, I'm featuring my BBQ Chicken and Corn Burritos!
Yummy and so simple!

And the winner of my Stella & Dot Giveaway is...

Erica A. Ladwig!

Congratulations Erica!!

Please email me at to claim your prize!

My trunk show is still going on!  Click here to shop Stella and Dot!

Right now, they're having some great sales...

Happy Friday!


  1. SHAY! This post ROCKS! I mean, seriously. GMA needs to book you so you can do a segment on this. Such practical information!!!! Seriously, George and Robin need to call you. And you're suggested flying outfit? IT'S PERFECTION.

  2. Shay, this is a really good post with so many golden nuggets. I'm going to have to read it AGAIN! Thanks for doing this series.

    Re: airport snacks- I wanted to add a small point for those who do not travel often- even canned/sealed "snacks" in liquid will be thrown away at security. We once brought breakfast food. My yogurt made it through security but my canned/sealed pineapple did not.

    Also, we always bring a coffee tumbler on vacation with us. A portable coffee mug (with a lid) is cheaper to get refills, easy to fill with tap water, and easy to carry free coffee or tea from the hotel room each morning before you go out to explore.

    I'm small but always have trouble getting comfortable enough to sleep on a flight. Maybe your ideas about changing into fuzzy socks and having a bedtime routine on the plane will help. As I get older I find it harder to get comfortable on long flights.

    Thanks again-- great ideas!

  3. We have travelled extensively and always use key rings to "lock" our zippers. They don't need keys, but seem to deter rifling through our bags due to logistics of getting them off. You can buy them in packs at Michael's.

  4. Great advice! My biggest go-to when I travel is packing a few extra zip loc bags in the outside pocket of my suitcase. You never know when you'll need one for your ride home (I put all of my toiletries in a plastic bag to prevent leaking) or use in your hotel room.

  5. Would it be too much trouble to ask you to write my list of what I'll need?? Haha!! Love this new series!!!

  6. I travel frequently for business and would add a pair of socks for the TSA line. I get icked out thinking of all those feet trampling through. I just pop a pair of socks on before I go through.

  7. Hi Shay,
    I have more of a practical question concerning air travel with 3 kids. We have 2 in car seats and 1 in a booster. How do you handle their seats? We have not traveled yet with the baby, but before we would gate check the car seats to ensure they were on the plane, but we had to carry them through security, to the actual gate (which was a pain since I was on my own.)What do you typically do?

  8. Great post! Love all of the travel tips! Too bad you are not accepting any new vacations as a travel agent. :( My mother in law wants to take her family of 26 somewhere next year.

  9. Omg! I can't believe I won! I am so excited! Emailing you now, thank you!!

  10. Hi! I love your travel ideas--my kids are 14, 12 and 7, so we are all old enough to "do" travel pretty easily! May I offer to the poster who has small kids with car seats- we invested in a car seat from a kids' comany that had wheels and a handle that made it into a stroller. It was also sized to fit in the coach seats on airplanes. A real lifesaver for us when we traveled. I'm sorry I can't remember the name of the company. I know they still make them since we see them at the airport all the time.

  11. Another tip is when you take your shoes off at the security line, put your phone and any jewelry IN YOUR SHOES (which you place in a tub) that way they are contained and slightly hidden. This works great at keeping things all in one place. I LOVE the makeup remover wipes. I ALWAYS have those with me on long flights.

  12. Love, love, love this!! Thanks for sharing!

  13. So excited for this series! I love hearing tips from an expert. We have kept our vacations fairly simple up to this point, but the plan from this point forward is to take a big trip every other year, and a smaller trip on the in between years. Can't wait to read more!\

  14. Such a great post! You are definitely the expert on traveling with kids. At some point I think you should add up how many miles your kids have flown - I think that would be totally interesting! :)

  15. Fabulous post! Agree with everything you said. Now can we all go on a trip together? ;)

  16. Great post! Lots of good information. :)

  17. This is good advice! I'd like to add a note that always, whatever you do, pack all of your electronics and jewelry in your carry-on. In case your checked-in bag goes missing, these are not compensated for. I know most bags that go mia do find their way back, but not always. I lost one of mine 4 years ago and not a peep! This is when I discovered certain items are not paid for, and should only be carried with you, inside the aircraft.

  18. Have you heard of Sanuk shoes? You should check them out as an option for walking shoes!

  19. I'm so glad you posted this! In fact last night I was reading your shayeveryday post about traveling with kids and you said you were going to do a post about disneyworld but, then I don't think you ever did. We are going to disneyland in october so I'm excited to read that one! You are a pro traveler love reading your travel posts!

    1. Hey! She did do a Disney World post soon after the traveling with kids post, although if I remember correctly it was not an official Shade of Shay post. I remember this because I pinned both posts and have referred back to them. If you go back to the traveling with kids post and then just look through her next posts in order you'll find it after not too long!

  20. I agree with Elz's comment about wearing socks while going through security. Also, I try to wear my heavier/bulkier items on the flight, if possible, in order to better utilize space in my suitcase. And I always take a refillable water bottle (empty of course!) on any trip so that I can fill it up at the hotel before going out sightseeing. Also, if I didn't have the luxury of sitting in first class, I try to snag some unopened water bottles from the first class cabin when I de-board the plane upon arriving at my destination. Great tips, Shay! Thanks for sharing!

  21. Love this! And WHERE was that beach picture taken?! Bora Bora? Think that needs to go on my travel bucket list. ;)

  22. Love the new series Shay! These tips are great and I am looking forward to future posts :)

  23. Great tips!!
    I need to have Kevin read these posts. Our vacations with our kids are basically just here in California...Lake Tahoe, LA, Carmel, etc. Which is great that we live in an awesome state with lots to do & see, BUT...I want to go somewhere far away! Kevin thinks it would be a pain to travel far with our kids....I need to change his mind on this :)

  24. This post was awesome Shay thank you! We've traveled with my daughter (who's 2 1/2) a bit, but nothing very far. I'm super nervous too, but I know it's only a moment in time and she'll get over it.
    I think you've talked about it before, but how do you get your kids to sleep in different time zones? I worry that my daughter would just be a hot mess the whole time and get no sleep. Thanks!

  25. This is such a good series, I'm really looking forward to it. I'm planning a surprise trip to NYC for my husbands 30th birthday next year so I'll be using these tips for sure!!!!

  26. If you did a post on "what's inside your bags"- mixing and matching for a 2 week vacation that would be fabulous. I'm doing a trip to the British Isles (half city/half countryside) for 2 weeks this summer and would love to see your packing recommendations for a trip!

  27. Such great tips!! I'm right there with you on all of them! I'm dying without our next trip, seriously. I'm thinking hawaii or amalfi!!! Now I'm dying to know what your next year trip is!

  28. Great tips! What kind of travel pillow do you recommend? I have not had luck with the U shaped pillows

  29. I was reading through your comments and a few things are so true….I shove a variety of plastic bags in both my suitcase and carry on and always end up needing a few. When I fly on a flight that is over five hours I take on my night time/wake up routine….my skin does not do well when I get out of routine. I do not wear jewelry until I go through security either. I put my jewelry in a ziplock in my purse and after I watch it go through security I put it on. I NEVER take good jewelry on trips unless I wear it during traveling. I usually travel without socks on, so I take socks in my carry on and put them on during the flight. (Also use lots of cheap socks I can toss in hotel rooms or flip flops.)

  30. Hi, Shay! I love your blog so much. You and your family are such a shining example of faith and love. Unlike most of your readers (I'm guessing!), my husband and I are the parents of five grown children and we are newly retired. We are still young at heart (early 60s), and have never been to Disney World. When you do your post about navigating the Magic Kingdom, might you please put in some tips for a trip that might be perfect for two? In other words, if just you and Andrew were to head to Disney World, how might you navigate the park differently than you would when you go with your precious kiddos? Many thanks from a faithful reader in Oregon.

  31. After reading your 50 Shades on pregnancy and now this post, I'm just curious on how traveling to Europe while pregnant went. Do you ever think about rescheduling since you were pregnant? Or how did you feel comfortable scheduling big trips like that knowing you could potentially be pregnant. That's my big issue at this point because I'm dying to get back to Europe, but I'm also hoping to be pregnant, and it's hard to mesh the two.

  32. I see that you posted a sleep mask and CANNOT seem to find one. Where did you get yours...and if somewhere like Target or Wal-Mart, where in the world is it in the store??? I swear they are hidden from me. :-(

  33. I always buy sleep masks and neck pillows at the airport! They have the best selection!

  34. I just hopped over here from Sheaffer's blog and I am so glad I did! We have traveled with our daughter since she was an infant and she is pretty seasoned 13 year old now. But you provided some tips that I still needed! I love that tote!! Thanks for the great ideas! Susan

  35. I love this post! I'm a new reader, but love to travel with my kids, too. Right now, our trips (with kids) are of the road trip variety, but I want to eventually get them to every state. Looking forward to your next post in this series.

  36. Very fun post!! Happy for you that your travel agent site is doing so well!!

  37. Such great advice! Thank you sharing it! I really want to go back to Mexico and I'm thinking about a trip to Cabo. So I already started saving for it :)

  38. This post is really helpful, Shay! I love the Stella & Dot tote and am considering buying it, but I have a question for you. Does it hold a decent amount of weight? Nothing crazy, but a couple books, iPad, toiletries, snacks, etc? Thank you!

  39. Yes! The Stella & Dot totes hold quite a bit of weight! I carry my books, iPad and toiletries in there when flying.

  40. Hi Shay!! This is a random question but I've been curious... what do you take on vacation to take pictures?? Do you take an actual camera or just use your iPhone to save space. Also, what kind of camera do you use to take all the photos throughout the blog?


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