Summer Vacations

Today I am linking up with Erin for Top 10 on the 10th. This month we are sharing our 10 must haves for summer vacation.  I’ll also be linking up with Shay and Erika for Workin’ It Wednesday to share how we work at planning summer vacations.

So vacation planning was a WHOLE lot easier pre-kids. OBVIOUSLY.  We could pick up and go anywhere that suited us. Now, we not only try to plan for places that are kid friendly but also, we have to consider how much they have going on so know how long it will keep the kids attention. When we were going to Tennessee in September we were like “We know that there is fun stuff for the kids to do, but is there enough to fill up 8 days?” (There was.)

Our boys are close in age so we honestly avoided any big trips while they were babies because it seemed like too much work. We are the king and queen of day trips and even an overnight stay, but anything longer than that seemed like the opposite of a vacation. Now our youngest is two and can finally enjoy family vacations. Our only exception was the Jersey Shore where Kevin and I have spent our summers our whole lives. We love love love the Jersey Shore and try to soak in as much time there as possible. Both our boys have been down the shore since birth. I have post-partum pictures of Hank and I sitting on the couch at the beach house.

So how do I work on planning summer vacations??? It’s totally random. We just go where we go. We are not the type to plan vacations years in advance. The most we have ever planned a vacation in advance is six months (that’s the trip we are doing this year) otherwise it is usually 6 weeks. We made sure we got the boys passports simply so we can just pick up and go and not have to worry about passport processing when the time comes.

Last summer were were down in Gatlinburg, TN for 8 days (you can read about it HERE). It was a fun trip and it really eased us into vacationing as a family of four.

This summer, we have tiered vacations.

Our big trip in September is…

Every time an airplane would fly by overhead Hank would say “Ughhh, more people going to Mickey Mouse’s house. When’s it going to be MY turn?”. He was going around the house collecting change to put in his piggy bank to save for an airplane ticket to Orlando. So when we were deciding on where to go, we knew it had to be Disney.

I haven’t been to Disney in YEARS and honestly, I’m not getting too crazy with it. We will do our fast passes and probably a character meal but I am going to try not to run my kids ragged to see all the things. I want it to be fun but not exhausting. I think slow and steady is going to win the race for this vacation. If any of you tips please send them my way. My biggest question is: What is the best sit down meal for little kids? At breakfast I feel like we will all be off and running to get into the parks. For lunch, it would be nice to get into the air conditioning but do you really want to walk around in the heat afterwards with a full stomach? And by dinner I feel like my kids will be DONE and be whining maniacs the whole time. Parents of littles: please send me your Disney secrets.

Our second tier vacation in June is…

We are driving to Niagara Falls for a few days in June. Not for any reason, just to get out of Jersey and see something different. It’s actually way more affordable than I thought it’d be. My girlfriend Holly over at Pink Lady went recently and was kind enough to share her itinerary on her blog. I am basically just copying her itinerary for myself. Thanks for doing all the legwork on that one Holly!

Third Tier are our weekend trips.

We stayed in Lancaster, PA for a weekend last year and had a really fun time so we are going again this year. We went to an amusement park but also explored amish life. For those of you not from this area, the amish/mennonites are pretty common to see but still incredibly interesting. There is an amish market my town where the amish drive in from Lancaster each weekend so you always see them around but their culture is fascinating! There were some amish communities around my college so you could literally be behind a horse and buggy in the bank line. I also took a course on amish culture in college so I can tell you all about if you want to hear me drone on. One thing I will say though is THE AMISH CAN COOK! And they make EVERYTHING from scratch. It’s not always healthy, but its delicious.


The Jersey Shore

Or as we call it….home. My parents have a place at the shore so we are down there every free weekend (we will be down next weekend lol). We will usually do a couple long weekends too. These are generally not planned trips. Usually on a Friday I’ll call Kevin and say “Hey, you wanna go to the beach?” His answer is ALWAYS yes so we just toss some bathing suits, sunblock, and PJs in a bag and head down. Even though we have been there a million times, it never gets old and we are always finding fun new places to fish or a new restaurant to eat at. We have our favorite haunts down there but will try it all.

Fourth Tier are day trips

We always buy tickets and season passes to area attractions to enjoy throughout the summer. First up on our list this summer is Storybook Land.


Top 10 Vacation Must Haves

A Entirely New Wardrobe

Come on! This can’t just be me! I always want to wear brand new outfits every day that I’m on vacation. When I am thinking about my vacation budget it also includes what it’s going to cost me in new clothes for the trip. I’ve already started stocking up on new matching Disney shirts for the boys.

Portable Charger

Between taking 34934553 pictures and GPSing directions and looking up restaurant reviews, my phone takes a beating on vacations. Chargers are a definite must.

DVD Players for kids

This is one of those things that I was STAUNCHLY against pre-kids. It used to drive me nuts when I’d just be driving through my town and see DVDs playing in the back of cars. Now, I get it. I STILL can’t stand it for everyday use (look out the window or talk to your parents for goodness’ sake!) but when you are road tripping, it is very helpful. We used them on our trip to Tennessee and we will probably use them on the ride to Niagara Falls. And to be truly honest, when I am seeing somewhere new on vacation I love to drive slow and take it all in but after about 10 minutes my kids are whining “Where are we going? Why aren’t we there yet?” A little extra time on the road while the kids are occupied in the backseat helps me relax.


I always have a book with me on a normal day but I’ll probably bring three with me on vacation. Waking up early and having a cup of coffee outside while I read is my definition of a vacation.


As much as a hate wrestling my kids like they’re alligators to get sunblock on them, it’s a part of life. You have to protect their skin, especially my fair skinned, freckle face toddler.


We are pretty active vacationers. We are hiking, or bike riding, just sight seeing from sun-up to sun-down. We can’t have any crew members crashing on our watch so ya gotta have snacks and ya gotta keep ’em coming.

Baby Wipes

Any mom will tell you that baby wipes are not just for tushies. I get out stains, wipe sticky faces and fingers, and remove makeup when I’m in a pinch all with baby wipes.

Ziplock Baggies

For wet clothes, for shampoo bottles, for the toy they bought that comes apart in 4506 little pieces.

Little Toys

I always keep small toys in my purse so times when the kids are getting antsy. If a waiter in a restaurant is taking a long time, I’ll pull out a little toy they haven’t seen in a while to distract them and buy the waitstaff a little more time for the “hangries” kick in.

Tons and tons of socks. And shower shoes.

I am not a germophobe. Not even a little bit. But hotel room floors GROSS ME OUT. My kids know that they are never allowed to put their bare feet on a hotel room floor. They ALWAYS have to be wearing socks or slippers. Same goes in the shower. I have to where shower shoes in a hotel. I usually just bring a cheapy throw away pair like the Old Navy flip flops.


  • Reply Holly Breton at Pink Lady May 10, 2017 at 5:43 am

    Yeah! So glad you are going to Niagara- can’t wait to hear what you think. SO Lancaster? We went with my family when I was a child and I definitely want to bring our kids now- thinking over the next year or two- can you share some tips? activities/must sees? restaurants? Thanks Tara! 🙂

    • Reply xo Tara May 10, 2017 at 6:11 am

      Lancaster isn’t far from us so we’ve been a bunch of times. You can do Dutch Wonderland, Strasbourg Railroad, Hershey Park (short drive away). You have do do the Amish thing and take a horse and buggy ride. Last year we went to a farm of miniature horses where they also make their own root beer. You have to just go with it and eat Amish. Look for an Amish smorgasbord (what they call buffet).

  • Reply Allie @ May 10, 2017 at 7:33 am

    Robert thinks I’m weird but I wear Old Navy flip flops for EVERYTHING- I don’t like bare feet touching any ground and especially not a bathroom/shower floor! I’m so jealous that you have a beach escape close by. The ocean is my happy place! I can’t wait for you to do Disney so I can get even more ideas for our trip!

  • Reply Jenny May 10, 2017 at 11:04 am

    I think you have the right mindset for your Disney trip. 🙂 We kind of just wing it with our kids, even now that they are older. We eat when we’re hungry. We see what we can when we want, and when we are all just “done” we leave. Vacations are supposed to be fun, and if we try to fit too much in or have too high of expectations for our kids, it seems we will be rather disappointed.

  • Reply Andrea Nine May 10, 2017 at 11:14 am

    I absolutely love how you tiered your vacations! I will be on the Canada side of Niagara Falls next week with the blended blog ladies! My husband and I have been to the American side. I want to warn you, we were there seven years ago and the town itself is yucky. The falls are amazing but the area surrounding was not near as beautiful as I thought it would be. However, the boys will be in enamored by the falls and try to take the boat ride if you can, you get a lot of bang for your buck. My husband and I got married years ago in Gatlinburg and have been often, just left that area.

    • Reply xo Tara May 10, 2017 at 2:07 pm

      Thank you for this! We are staying on the Canadian side but I’m glad to know about the town. I won’t get my hopes up and I’ll just try to enjoy the natural beauty. As always, I love your honesty. It’s a breath of fresh air.

  • Reply Erin Port May 10, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    Love this and hotel floors GROSS me out too! I always take socks to hotels – yuck! The comforters gross me out too because I am never sure how often they wash them. I LOVE buying new clothes for vacation and I do it for my kids too! You have so many fun trips planned :). Thanks for linking up!!! xoxo ERIN

  • Reply Whitney Pegram May 10, 2017 at 9:56 pm

    My kiddos are 7 & 4 & I still carry baby wipes in my purse!! 🙈 Such a great list!!

  • Reply Tanya May 11, 2017 at 7:22 am

    Great list! When my kids were little, I thought breakfast or an early lunch was the best character meal at Disney. If you have an early breakfast reservation, you can actually enter the park early.

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