Thursday, December 5, 2019

10 Tips for a Successful Holiday Road Trips With Kids

This post is sponsored by Autotrader; however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

My family and I are no strangers to travel. Thanks to my husband's job (he works for a band and travels constantly), we get to take journeys throughout the year to visit or accompany him, both by plane and by car. We also have friends and family throughout the midwest, so it's road trips that end up being the most frequent type of travel for us. And when it comes to road trips, it's the holiday season ones that end up being the most unforgettable. There is something especially sentimental about them (there's a reason "home for the holidays" is such a beloved expression), but they also seem to be the most challenging (which, ultimately, also makes them the most memorable). As we prepare to go visit my sister and her family for the holiday season in a couple of weeks, I thought I'd share some of my tips (from experience!) that make holiday road tripping with kids a success.

1. Prepare your vehicle.
One of the most important tips is something I found via a great article on Autotrader with tips for long holiday road trips: ready your vehicle. This might seem like common sense, but there have been more times than I care to admit that I've been in a rush to hit the road and have neglected getting my car trip-ready, only to have something go wrong on the way. Make sure your vehicle is up to date on maintenance and oil changes, that coolant and windshield wiper fluids are full, and that the tire pressure is correct. Run it through the car wash and vacuum the inside as well. The trip will be so much more comfortable for your whole family in a clean vehicle, I promise. And your stress level will be infinitely lower knowing your car is in good shape for travel, especially during these winter months.

2. Bring an extra phone charger.
Yet another reminder I discovered in the holiday road trip article on Autotrader, this tip is one I wish I had years ago. When my youngest was a baby, I took a solo road trip to Indianapolis and my cell charger broke. It was during the holidays, the roads were bad, and I was in the middle of nowhere. Eventually I came across a town and found a place that carried them, but dragging a toddler and newborn out into a snowstorm to buy it was not fun. Especially in case of emergency, having an extra charger in the car is crucial.

3. Pack coloring and activity books and/or a travel journal.
Yes, screens are an easy way to keep the kids occupied, but bringing along more hands-on activities like coloring books for the little ones or travel journals for older kids will make your holiday road trip so much more memorable for them. We recently got the coolest road trip kit called Joy to the Road box from Autotrader that came with a fun Paint By Sticker book (think paint by number without the mess; perfect for the car), Color & Frame book (the kids can make frame-worthy colored art as holiday gifts for loved ones on the trip!), colored pencils, and a travel journal where my daughter can write about each day of the trip. These types of activities are the perfect way to keep the kids occupied while remaining present for the experience of the trip instead of tuning out.

4. Bring snacks. Lots of snacks. 
Hell hath no fury like a child who is trapped in a car for hours with no snacks. We try to pack healthy, non-messy snacks (apples, strawberries, apple sauce pouches, crackers, and string cheese), and we also pack some fun holiday themed treats like candy canes and holiday cookies. Snacks are an easy solution to a whole lot of road-tripping-with-kids problems, I promise.

5. Take pictures to create visual memories.
We take a lot of pictures on our phones on holiday road trips (okay, so my husband doesn't, but I take enough for both of us), and I'm always so thankful later to be able to look back through the visual memories. But there are other ways to take pictures that can make your holiday road trip even more fun. My kids were so excited to receive an Instax Mini 9 camera and film in our Joy to the Road box from Autotrader, and we can't wait to use it on our trip. We plan to take photos along the way and make a special photo album documenting our journey when we get back.

6. Make the car ride cozy.
If you're going to be spending hours (or even days) in the car, your might as well make sure you're comfortable. My kids and I love creating a cozy holiday environment in our van for trips like this. We bring blankets, cozy slippers (I'm loving the comfy snowflake slippers that were included in our Joy to the Road box from Autotrader; Emmett does too, and has claimed them for his own, as seen in the image above), and hot chocolate and coffee (in my new Autotrader Titan Thermal Mug from our Joy to the Road box, which came filled with yummy holiday sweet treats for our journey). We als listen to holiday music the entire way (or at least until it drives my husband crazy).

7. Put a first aid kit in your car. 
Maybe you already have one in your car (high fives for thinking ahead!), but until I received one in my Joy to the Road box from Autotrader, I never even thought about it. Mine (from Thrive; it's so cute) is the perfect glove box size and features a whole bunch of medical grade supplies, and I will never go on a road trip without it again. Vehicle first aid kits are especially important during holiday road trips when winter weather can create unsafe road conditions. And let's face it, the chances of a kid needing bandage on a road trip are usually pretty high (because they make even the tiniest scratch feel better, right?).

8. Keep hand sanitizer in your vehicle. 
Raise you hand if your child always seems to get sick during holiday travels! It's so easy to pick up germs during the cold months, and travel - whether by road or air - seems to up the chances even more. We keep hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes in our car at all times, and make sure we're constantly cleaning our hands during holiday road trips.

9. Check the weather and road conditions in advance.
I tend to check the weather on my phone when we're stopped during trips, but Autotrader's Long Holiday Road Trip Tips article reminded me of the importance of checking ahead of time, before we hit the road. We've been caught off guard with road closures more than once during holiday travels, and while they're never fun, they're even more stressful when your little ones are with you. So check the weather before you leave, and use the Federal Highway Administration's website (as suggested by Autotrader) for road updates.

10. Take breaks.
Another great trip from Autotrader's Holiday Road Trip Tips article is to take regular breaks. We tend to try to get to our destination as quickly as possible, but it's safer (and more fun!) to stop occasionally and stretch our legs. (This is also a great time to follow tip #4 and take pictures!) Autotrader suggests stopping at least once every two hours or more frequently if it's snowing, which can have a hypnotic effect (who knew?). Autotrader also suggests taking frequent breaks during night driving to prevent fatigue and tunnel vision on the highway. Taking breaks to enjoy the journey makes it more fun for everyone as well!

Wherever your holiday road trips bring you, I hope these tips prove helpful! And for more great tips, check out Autotrader's Holiday Road Trip Tips article and Autotrader's Best Family-Friendly Car Features for Surviving Road Trips article. Autotrader has always been our go-to to help make car shopping easier, but now they're also one of our go-tos for making holiday road travel easier too! From their informative articles to their seriously awesome Joy to the Road box, Autotrader is a true Santa's helper for making holiday road trips stress-free. And as always, Autotrader makes online car buying quick, easy, and trustworthy. They have the widest variety of vehicle options in one place, and they've even added Kelley Blue Book Price Advisor to their car listings, so you get the most trusted pricing. The best!

If you have any tips for making holiday road trips with kids a smooth, enjoyable experience, I'd love to hear. Happy holiday travels!


Monday, December 2, 2019

Peppermint Hot Cocoa

Peppermint Hot Cocoa

Happy December, friends. I know things have been quiet around here lately, especially for this time of year. It seems that most of my content lately has been on Instagram, but don't be fooled; the blog is still the Bubby and Bean mothership, and if I have anything to do with it, always will be. We've also been very busy in real life, with our daughter performing in her first ever professional dance show, as a baby mouse in the Nutcracker. That combined with lots of work (mostly over on IG) and guests over Thanksgiving and the same chaotic holiday season the rest of you are likely experiencing as well, and my beloved Bubby and Bean blog as sort of fallen to the wayside. Thankfully I have lots to share here over the upcoming weeks, so keep checking back!

In the meantime, I wanted to share this ridiculously delicious peppermint hot chocolate recipe. You may remember this was last year, but we've given it some updates and just had to share the new and improved version.

Peppermint Hot Cocoa

Peppermint Hot Chocolate
Serves 4

4 cups 2% milk (soy or almond milk is also delicious in this recipe!)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup sugar
4 candy canes, crushed
pinch of salt
marshmallows for garnish
candy canes for garnish

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk until hot. Stir in the cocoa powder and sugar, and mix until dissolved. Add chocolate chips and crushed candy canes, reduce heat to low, and mix until dissolved. Simmer for 3-4 minutes until hot chocolate slightly thickens. Pour into mugs, and top each one with marshmallows and a candy cane. 

Peppermint Hot Cocoa
Peppermint Hot Cocoa
Peppermint Hot Cocoa

I hope you enjoy this as much as we do. (It's really good with a splash of brandy or rum too, FYI.) Happy holiday sipping!


Wednesday, November 27, 2019

NOT (!!!) My Annual Personal List of This Week's Best Deals (And Why I'm Not Doing It This Year)

graphic via Adria Adams

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my friends here in the states! Every year for the past seven years, I have scoured the internet and Black Friday ad flyers for the best deals and/or coupon codes and recorded them. If any of the agencies I work with give me notice of secret coupon codes, I record those as well. Then I compile a list of favorites, and share them with all of you.

This year, I decided not to do it. And that makes me a little sad, because it's become sort of a tradition. It has just been so busy around here for work (even more than normal for this time of year), my kids have been sick (again), my daughter has had Nutcracker tech week, and it kept getting pushed to the bottom of my list. Then last night around 11:30 PM when I was sitting down to work on it, I saw the graphic above, by Adria Adams (who can also be found here).  It kind of felt like a sign.

Now don't get me wrong - I love a good deal. I love shopping at big stores and tiny shops. I love supporting small businesses with my dollars (Etsy is my shopping haven this week!). A lot of people feel that we shouldn't spend money at all this time of year to make a statement, and I 100% respect that, but I honestly think we should do the opposite. I think we should spend money (if we can and want to), but be intentional on where we spend it. I also think we can show support in ways that don't require money (one of the best parts of social media!), and that's why I think the graphic above is so badass.

Maybe I'll be back with the annual list next year. For now, I'm just going to try to enjoy this week with my family and friends. I hope you are able to do the same. I'll be back next week with lots of goodness. See you then! Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Festive Organic Cranberry Cucumber Vodka Spritzers

Cranberry Cucumber Vodka Spritzers
This post is sponsored by Prairie Organic Spirits, but all opinions are my own. 21+ Drink Responsibly.

Cranberry Cucumber Vodka Spritzers

Thanksgiving and the holiday season are upon us, my friends. I don't like to rush things, but I'd be lying if I said there weren't visions of sugarplums dancing in my head pretty much the second the clock strikes midnight on Halloween night. And by sugarplums, I mean the sheer delights of the food and drink that accompany this time of year.

Last year, I came up with a festive cranberry vodka spritzer that became my go-to cocktail for Thanksgiving and holiday entertaining. This year, I decided to change it up a little and add an ingredient usually reserved for my summer beverages: Prairie Cucumber Flavored Organic Vodka from Prairie Organic Spirits. Maybe this sounds unusual, but adding the crisp taste of cucumber to a cocktail normally reserved for the colder months gives it a delicious freshness that takes the spritzer to a whole new level. And, the spritzer is almost entirely organic! Try it and I think you'll agree it's pretty incredible.

Organic Cranberry Cucumber Vodka Spritzer
Servings: 1

1.5 fluid ounces Prairie Cucumber Flavored Organic Vodka
4 fluid ounces organic cranberry juice, chilled
1 ounce simple syrup (equal parts parts sugar and water; instructions below)
Splash of soda/sparkling water, chilled
Organic cucumber slice (for garnish)
Organic orange slice (for garnish)
Fresh organic mint sprig (for garnish)
Organic cranberries (for garnish)

To make simple syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water in a medium sauce pan. (I recommend one cup of each so you have more on hand than enough for just one spritzer). Bring to a boil, stirring consistently until the sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool.

Combine Prairie Cucumber Flavored Organic Vodka, organic cranberry juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker and shake well. Fill a glass half way with ice cubes, and pour cocktail over ice. Top with a splash or two of soda. Garnish with a cucumber slice, an orange slice, a sprig of fresh mint, and few fresh cranberries. You can also easy quadruple this recipe to make a pitcher for guests.

It's the combination of high quality, organic ingredients in this festive cocktail that make it exceptionally delicious, but the key ingredient for me is the the Prairie Cucumber Flavored Organic Vodka. You might already be familiar with my undying love for Prairie Organic Spirits from a yummy pineapple vodka refresher cocktail recipe I shared over the summer, but if not, allow me to gush for a minute. The company itself is fantastic for many reasons: they are Midwest made (in Minnesota), they have a passion for true craftsmanship and put great care into choosing their ingredients and making their spirits, they're USDA certified organic, and they give 1% back to help more farmers go organic. And truly, their products speak for themselves. Prairie Cucumber Flavored Organic Vodka has a delightfully crisp taste that is refreshing, smooth, and distinctly delicious. (Did I mention that it's gluten free?) I'm also a big fan of Prairie Organic Vodka and Prairie Organic Gin (makes the best martini you'll ever have). It's no wonder that Prairie Organic Spirits is the #1 Organic Spirit.

I can't wait to hear what you guys think about this festive organic spritzer! Happy holiday sipping!