City Guide Featured Our Travels seattle

Beyond Fish Throwing – Exploring Pike Place Market in Seattle

pike place market in seattlePike Place Market

Pike Place Market in Seattle is one of those places where you feel alive just being there. If you want to experience some of the diversity that I love so much about the puget sound area you don’t have to look much further than this one place.

At any given time you are surrounded by what feels like every race, creed, age, religion and people group. Every socioeconomic status represented. I’m a people watcher — obviously less so now that I have three kids underfoot — but this is a place where you can learn a lot about humanity just by being mindful of what others are responding to and what they are doing.

Beyond Fish Throwing

Pike Place is best known for the fish throwing, and I gotta tell you, if you haven’t seen it before it is quite amusing. Large slimy fish being hurled many yards from one man to another who is tasked with the chore of not letting the scaled creatures fall to the floor.

That’s raw talent my friends.

Besides the enjoyment of guessing whether or not these fish hands will be able the snag the catch of the day mid air, vibrant produce, samples, street performers, and hand made jewelry are also a few of the things you can look forward to at the Market. I am always shocked how cheap the big beautiful bouquets are.

pike place fish market pike place market seattle pikes place market flowersstreet performer pike place market Biggie eating his first figPike Place Market

Pike Place Market in Seattle is one of those places where you feel alive just being there.  If you want to experience some of the diversity that I love so much about the puget sound area you don’t have to look much further than this one place.

At any given time you are surrounded by what feels like every race, creed, age, religion and people group.  Every socioeconomic status represented.  I’m a people watcher — obviously less so now that I have three kids underfoot — but this is a place where you can learn a lot about humanity just by being mindful of what others are responding to and what they are doing.

Beyond Fish Throwing

Pike Place is best known for the fish throwing, and I gotta tell you, if you haven’t seen it before it is quite amusing.  Large slimy fish being hurled many yards from one man to another who is tasked with the chore of not letting the scaled creatures fall to the floor.

That’s raw talent my friends.

Besides the enjoyment of guessing whether or not these fish hands will be able the snag the catch of the day mid air, vibrant produce, samples, street performers, and hand made jewelry are also a few of the things you can look forward to at the Market.  I am always shocked how cheap the big beautiful bouquets are.

The Gum Wall

Just below Pike Place — in the belly of the beast — is a rather odd attraction that you should at least swing by when you are there. And don’t forget to bring some chewing gum so you can add to the artwork on the brick wall! Yeah, it’s a little unsanitary but too fun to pass up!


For other fun stuff to do while you are down at the Pike Place Market in Seattle, consider hacking a dinner cruise like we did!

Emily Oak Home Sweet Road

Featured Our Travels

Our Epic Road Trip from Start to Finish

family road trip

I wanted to do a post that made it easy to follow the trip that got Home Sweet Road started.  This is an outline of where we went and what we saw.  I will link new posts to this master list as I publish them.  Hope you enjoy what I have up so far:)

The Dream is Hatched

Remember we Sold Our House in Kansas City after an unforgettable 5 years of making some of the best friends you could ask for.  From there we planned on a whim – and under the influence of a sugar high – to take the real long way to our final destination, in the Boulder, CO area.  And that is when the idea of an open ended road trip was birthed.

The Road Trip Begins

  •  Our Adventure Begins.  After dropping our stuff in a Denver storage unit we headed to our first stop in Bozeman, MT.
  • From Bozeman we drove to the Seattle area (where we are originally from) to visit our families, attend my brothers wedding and throw my dad his 60th birthday party.  We didn’t know when we would be back so we made sure to do lots of fun stuff while we were there.

A Few Highlights from Seattle

 Oregon, Northern California & Nevada

 Living the Dream in California

  • From Lake Tahoe we Drove Through the Basin to Yosemite
  • Completely Missed the Redwoods.  Twice.
  • Became Convinced that I Got Pregnant – by Accident
  • Reconnected with Dear Friends in Fresno
  • Took Girlr to the Beach for First Time
  • Explored Pismo
  • Stayed in a Little Danish Town
  • Almost got our Hands Bit off Feeding the Ostriches
  • Blasted past LA on our way to San Diego
  • Almost got Ran Over on our Bikes
  • Hit up LEGOLAND & the (Lame) Aquarium – Sorry, not Impressed – Other than Brick-or-Treat, of Coarse
  • Toured the Taylor Guitar Factory
  • Went to Joshua Tree

On the Road in Arizona

  • Seriously LOVED Scottsdale
  • Had the Best Enchiladas of our Lives in Sedona
  • Went to the Grand Canyon

Oh How I Love Utah

  • Enjoyed Zion National Park in Utah
  • Hung out in Park City
  • Visited Family and had the Best Pizza of my Entire Life [made by my cousin who owns a food truck] – On the heals of Sedona’s enchiladas, it sounds like I’m exaggerating — I’m Not!
  • Learned what it Takes to Become an Olympian
  • Celebrated Howl-O-Ween in a Dog Lovers Town
  • Walked with the Dinosaurs

Colorado is Calling

  • Went to Breckenridge
  • Took the Kids to Adventures in Odyssey
  • Got Equipped for Ski Season
  • Wept after Fulfilling a Life Long Dream
  • Fell Asleep in the Snow
  • Broke My Nose
  • Got Medical Attention after Running into a Fence Post (unfortunately unrelated to breaking my nose)
  • Hung out in Vail
  • Unknowingly Booked the Most Horrendous Accommodations.  It was bad my friends!
  • Had Turkey from a Green egg
  • Fell in love with Beaver Creek

The Road Home

Little did we know that God would throw a wrench in our plans to settle down nestled up to the Rockie Mountains because He had something so much better in store for us.  By so much better, I mean, something that we would never have planned for ourselves!!!  Funny how life sneaks up on you sometimes.

Our adventures continue.  They may not be full time, but they are full force and full fun!  Thanks for going on this journey with us!

Emily Oak Home Sweet Road

Featured Our Travels seattle

The Lowdown on the Seattle Museum of Flight with Kids

museum of flightYou don’t always know what you’re in for when you take your kids to a museum.  So, when we were on our way to the Museum of Flight in Seattle, we wondered: Will it be worth the effort?  Will the kids show resistance?  Will we just end up dodging staff who are shushing our rowdy children?

I mean, maybe your kids are saints in these environments, but mine have yet to reach that celestial status, so we tend to hold our breath a bit as we pull up our bootstraps and head for the entrances of these types of establishments.

And you know what?  Other than a meltdown at the end of our tour from our littlest, we had a lot of fun at the Museum of Flight.  There were some parts of the museum that were set up for the kids to play and explore and then others – like the World War exhibits – where they needed to slow down and  show a little more restraint out of respect for the material they were interacting with.

 The Airplanes at the Museum of Flight

The Museum of Flight is basically an aviator aficionado’s paradise.  But, if you are like me & my kids and know nothing about the history of aviation, you will enjoy it too.  The sheer number of airplanes on display is mind blowing.  So many different styles and eras are included.  It’s cool to see how aviation has evolved over time!

The exhibits are hands on and easy to understand for those of us not in the know.

museum of flight planes

museum of flight seattleHop into the cock pit and pretend for a minute that you are in charge of the airplane!

Take a look at this bad boy!  The Blackbird aka the Mother Ship.  The M-21 is a variant of the A-12, which is the earliest Blackbird type. Built for a CIA, this aircraft – the M-21 – carried unpiloted drones to gather intelligence.  I mean, really, this is a thing of beauty!

museum of flight airplanesMuseum of Flight for Kids

Like many museums, the Museum of Flight is an educational goldmine.  They even have an entire portion of the space dedicated to children.  Hands on displays and simulators are just a couple of things that the kids enjoyed while we were there.  Little flyers can test their piloting abilities and strap in for a hang gliding simulation.

C’mon!  That’s cool.

museum of flight educationMuseum of Flight WWI & WWII Wings

With a decidedly somber feel, these exhibits are likely to impact you.  It is just so insane the price people paid and the amount of people that died in those wars.

If you have little ones, you will want to gauge when the best time is to stop in to these wings.  We miscalculated, and by the time we got around to it, our little one was in melt down mode.

It’s a bummer because it is here that you can explore the aircraft, interactive exhibits and history of “the war to end all wars.” And learn what it took to be a fighter pilot and the tactics used during the wars.  My favorite, although I was hurried, were the personal stories of the fallen heroes from around the world.

museum of flight ww1 The Space Exhibit at the Museum of Flight

We especially enjoyed the space exhibit.  It was fascinating to learn how things have changed for astronauts over the last few decades.  From what they eat to what they wear.  The food pouches, suits, and stories really gave us a feel for what it is like for them.
museum of flight seattle

museum of flight astronautI liked the Museum of Flight so much, I’d like to go back.  Actually, it would make for a great date with my man.  That way we could really slow down and read more of the history and take it all in without the chili beans underfoot!

While there is plenty to do for younger kids, if you are looking to benefit from all that the museum has to offer it would be best if your kids were a little older.  Just keeping it real!

Let me know if you decide to go yourself.  I’d love to hear what you thought!  Also, don’t forget to flash your military card or AAA card for a 10% discount when you go. 🙂

Emily Oak Home Sweet Road

family fun Featured Travel With Kids

Scavenger Hunt Ideas – Road Trip

If you read my any of the posts in our Scavenger Hunt Series, you know that we are always racking our brain for some good scavenger hunt ideas.  When you mix our love for road trips and our affinity for a good ol’ treasure hunt together – what you get is perfection!

roadtrip scavenger hunt ideas

Treasure hunting or playing ISpy in one way or another is something we do every time we travel any distance and we usually like to attach a prize to it.  Good healthy competition baby!  It’s a nice way to pass the time cooped up in the car and keep the kids engaged in something other than eating, arguing or complaining for hours on end.

When I put this Road Trip Scavenger Hunt together, I wanted to make it pretty generic so it would work for you no matter where you live or travel.  Obviously it won’t suit every location perfectly, but if you know of things your kids are sure to see that aren’t listed on this scavenger hunt, just write them on the back and have them check them off as they spot them.

scavenger hunt ideas road trip


Bonus points for whomever can find a pay phone!  I included that one for an extra challenge! 🙂

I hope your family enjoys this fun little treasure hunt on your next long car ride or road trip. Hopefully it will reduce the “are we there yet” interrogation from the backseat. Fingers crossed!

I am currently putting together several other scavenger hunt ideas for you – specifically for when you are out and about.   A few of them you can keep an eye out for are:

  • AIRPORT Scavenger Hunt
  • BEACH Scavenger Hunt
  • CAMPING Scavenger Hunt
  • CITY Scavenger Hunt
  • ZOO Scavenger Hunt

These are the ones I’ve published so far:

I know they are a little silly, but the kids (and me!) think they are super FUN!  If you think scavenger hunts as cool as we do make sure to check out our “scavenger hunt ideas” board on Pinterest for more great ideas!

And don’t forget about the other post I wrote about games and other ways to keep the kids entertained when you are on the road!!!

Emily Eck Home Sweet Road

City Guide Featured Our Travels state and national parks

Yellowstone National Park with Kids

Yellowstone National park with kidsStretching across Wyoming and into Montana and Idaho, Yellowstone National Park is best known for the popular geyser, Old Faithful, and other geothermal activity.  Made up of mountain ranges, forests, rivers, and lakes, Yellowstone became the first national park in the world after President Ulysses S. Grant signed The Act of Dedication in 1872.

Since then countless millions of people have enjoyed the unique landscape that Yellowstone alone has to offer.  I love the etching in the stone above Yellowstone’s Welcome Arch.  It reads FOR THE BENEFIT AND ENJOYMENT OF THE PEOPLE!

Thanks for that, Ulysses!

yellowstone national park

Yellowstone National Park Sulfur Springs

yellowstone hot springs and geysers

yellowstone with kids

Look at the distressed look on his face!  You may want to plug your nose for this one buddy!

Be prepared for a pungent, rotten egg, smell to greet you from the time you open your car door.  It’s shocking at first but, don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.

yellowstone sulfur rocks yellowstone sulfur

Picturesque Yellowstone Landscape

yellowstone sulfur springs

natural landscape of yellowstone national park all american scene at yellowstoneDoes it get any more Americana than that?  Look at this scene!  You can look forward to miles and miles of peaceful meadows and scenes just like these.

Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake is one of the largest high-altitude lakes in North America and is centered right over the largest supervolcano on the continent known as the Yellowstone Caldera.  Did you know that the caldera is an active volcano?

yellowstone lake yellowstone lake

Lake Village Shopping and General Store

lake village general store yellowstone yellowstone general storeLake Village is the perfect place to stretch your legs and grab some ice cream!

yellowstone with kids father son yellowstone lake father son yellowstone with kids
The Dead Trees of Yellowstone

We were surprised how many dead trees we saw inside of the park.  One of the reasons for so many dead trees in Yellowstone is due to a beetle invasion affecting conifers.  As the trees die off the beetles move to healthy trees and the invasion continues.

Another reason is the volcanic activity underneath the ground.  The sulfuric gases poison the trees.  You can’t help but wonder when you see endless dead, dried up trees whether or not another large fire would result.

dead trees yellowstone
The Bison of Yellowstone

yellowstone buffalo Be careful. These guys get scary close!

The herd of bison at Yellowstone National Park is the largest (public) bison herd in all of the U.S.  Free ranging elk, wolves, and grizzly bears are just a few notable animals that share the terrain. 

The Junior Ranger Program at Yellowstone Park

Want to get the kids familiar with the park before you arrive?  Make sure to download the Jr. Ranger Activity Sheets ahead of time.  [for 5-7 year olds and for 8-12 year olds.]  You certainly don’t have to do any legwork before you get there but it is nice to look over the information and questions with the kids ahead of time so that you can really enjoy and explore the park while you are there.

If you are traveling to the park with children, but are unfamiliar with the Jr. Ranger Program, I gotcha covered!  Check out the post I wrote about everything you need to know about the FREE Program offered to children at most State and National Parks!  Since we learned about the program we never go to a state or national park without participating in it if it is available.  It really amplifies the experience for all of us, but the kids especially!

RV YellowstoneLike with most of the National Parks that we have visited, we definitely want to go back with an RV so we can spend much more time there!  There are so many ways to explore the Yellowstone, but if you are taking a road trip to get there, don’t forget to check out the post I wrote about Road Trip Games & Ways to Keep the Kids Entertained on a Long Drive!

Hope you love Yellowstone as much a we did!!!  Don’t forget to drop me a line and let me know what you thought!

Also, I’d love to connect with you on FB, Google+, Twitter, or Pinterest.  The buttons to find me on all social media are below!

Emily Oak Home Sweet Road

City Guide Featured Our Travels

Lava Beds National Monument with Kids

lava beds national monumentGoing to The Lava Beds National Monument was an unplanned detour for us and one we were happy to have made the time for.  After spending the night in Klamath Falls, OR we were gassing up at the local Albertsons gas station when the friendly attendant suggested we check out Lava Beds on our way to Lake Tahoe.

Since there was no hurry for us to get to Tahoe, we decided to take his word for it and headed for the Lava Beds on the way.  What a GREAT stop it was.

lava beds national monument

lava beds caves

Lava Beds Highlights:

  • Energetic, helpful rangers
  • Short distance from Klamath Falls, OR
  • Relatively close to Crater Lake National Park
  • Unusual terrain
  • The kids loved it!
  • Great visitors center with Native American, US History, and Geological RoadSchooling opportunities
  • Caves for different ages and ability
  • Junior Ranger Program
  • Easy hiking paths
  • Great for bicycling on the park roads

kids at lava beds national monument

 Tips for Visiting The Lava Beds National Monument with kids:

  1. If you plan on doing some serious exploring in the caves bring you own helmets so you don’t have to purchase them there
  2. Make sure to borrow flashlights at the Visitors Center
  3. Pack a lunch so you can stay for the day- there is so much to do!
  4. The caves are chilly so bring long sleeves for layering- even in the summer
  5. Ask about the Junior Ranger Program at the front desk.  Its basically Road Schooling curriculum handed to you for FREE. The kids will be excited about learning when they know they are earning a certificate and badge!

Next time we are in the area, we will definitely make sure to give ourselves plenty of time to explore the different caves at Lava Beds National Monument.  We really just scratched the surface in our short time there.  I think the time was appropriate for the ages of our kids but as they get older it would be nice to give ourselves more time to explore below the surface of the earth!

Emily Eck Home Sweet Road

Featured northwest Our Travels

Mount Rainier National Park – A Family Hike at Sunrise

mount rainier sunrise

Having lived in Kansas City for five years before our extended road trip we didn’t realize how soul starved we were for nature.  God used his brush and painted wondrous landscapes all over the globe for mankind to interact with and enjoy.

In this technological age its easy to forget to make time for ourselves and get away to be refreshed by God’s handiwork.  We had never been so in touch with that need as we were when we set off on our open-ended adventure.

When we lived in the Pacific Northwest before we didn’t appreciate the beauty like we did once we moved away.  It’s true that distance makes the heart grow fonder.  We feel like the lucky ones.  We are in awe of things we wouldn’t even have noticed before – like the way the White River bends and carves out its path along 410 on the way to Mount Rainier National Park.

mount rainier sunrise hikeHow the evergreens tower over the road and frame in glimpses of the layered foothills or the rock faces that stand proudly beside the road.  Seeing others enjoy the beauty of creation makes my heart happy – which is part of the reason I devote so much time to this blog!

As you make your way up the mountain the view just gets better and better.  The dark earth that pushes up in jagged formation at the base of Mt. Rainer will take your breath away.  I’m not being dramatic.  It really will! 

When we went the winter snow had since melted in most of the lower elevations but some of it remained.  All the different textures complemented each other so well making the drive and the hike so enjoyable.  We started our hike at the highest point you can drive on the mountain.  Higher even than Paradise

mount rainier sunrise hike

sunrise lodge mt rainierYou can either start your hike from Sunrise Point or the Sunrise Day Lodge.  We opted for the latter.  We began our afternoon just up from the lodge at a semi private picnic area to enjoy our picnic lunch.  It is just lovely to pause as a family and enjoy lunch with a majestic view.  

It definitely feels like a tourist spot with so many nations represented by the visitors.  We met several different groups of people on the trail that either didn’t speak english or had distinct accents.  It’s fun being around people from places all around the world!

Our kids were able to make the hike.  I did pack/carry Girlr , who was 2 at the time, for about half of the time in my soft pack carrier.  She fussed a lot, which was not completely uncommon, but happily ran down most of the trail on the way back to the van.

hiking mt rainier with baby

hiking sunrise with kids

kids hiking mt rainier We are constantly working on teaching the boys to complain less and complement more.  This is definitely a work in progress.  They started complaining about 10 minutes in.  We stayed 3.5 hours!  It wasn’t a strenuous hike and we had lots of water and snacks.  We moved slowly and stopped frequently.  The boys removed their shoes for part of the trail and commented on enjoying the way Rainier dirt felt under their feet.

boy playing in the dirtBiggie would stop every so often to scratch something in the dirt.  When we asked him what he was doing he announced that he was leaving “targets” along the trail so that we would be able to find our way back.  He didn’t want us to get lost.  LOVE that kid!!!

All in all it was a great family adventure in which we highly recommend.

If you are visiting with kids, don’t forget about the Jr. Ranger Program that most National Parks offer.  If you are familiar with this blog you know that I am basically obsessed with the Jr. Ranger Program!  If you are unfamiliar with what the JRP is make sure to read the post where I explain what it is and how to get the most out of it!

mount rainier day hikeTips when Visiting Mount Rainier National Park – Sunrise with Kids:

  • June through early fall is an ideal time to visit
  • Be prepared to dress warm by bringing a jacket or sweatshirt or layer your clothing so you are comfortable no matter what the weather.
  • Check for road closures/conditions at Mount Rainier National Park Road Status Web Page
  • Leave early in the morning so you have lots of time to explore.
  • Pack a lunch so you can enjoy a picnic.
  • Wear comfortable shoes, sunscreen and sunglasses.
  • Drink lots of water to stay hydrated.  At this elevation you will need it! You and your kiddos can easily get nauseated and feel sick if you don’t drink enough water at the higher elevations.
  • Binoculars are fun to have.

mount rainier with kids

hiking with children

mount rainier with kidsWhat we liked about our visit to Sunrise at Mount Rainier National Park:

  • Beautiful drive
  • Great hiking trails and easy hikes for the kids.
  • Fun to meet people from all over the world who visit the mountian.
  • Relaxing and Rejuvenating
  • Picnic with a view!
  • The standard park pass lasts 7 days from when you purchase it.

What we didn’t like about our visit to Sunrise at Mount Rainier National Park:

  • Sometimes bears are milling around
  • The weather can be unpredictable
  • Occasional road work

I have a related post/review from our visit to Paradise at Mount Rainier National Park, so make sure to check that out if you are planning on a day trip to the mountain.  Hope you feel inspired to take your family to the Mount Rainier sometime soon!

Emily Eck Home Sweet Road

City Guide Featured Our Travels

Where is Crater Lake & Why Should I Go?

where is crater lake

Where is Crater Lake anyway and why should I go?  If you are anything like me, who apparently slept through geography class, you may be asking yourself the same question.  After having been, I can assure you, you don’t want to miss out on this gem!

Crater Lake is located in southwest Oregon in the spectacular Crater Lake National Park View Map.  Besides its immense beauty and crystal clear water, here are some reasons why nearly half a million people flock to the lake each year:

  1. Easy access and open year round – You may get the most out of your visit if you go in the summer, however, in the winter you can snowshoe and cross country ski along the rim!
  1. Air is refreshing and clean at the high elevation.  It’s more exciting than it sounds!
  1. Considered the cleanest large body of water in the WORLD!
  1. At 1,943 feet deep Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States
  1. Jr. Ranger Program– Great for RoadSchooling!  Make sure to stop at the Steel Visitor Center to participate.
  1. Friendly rangers and staff– No, that is not a given!
  1. Nice gift shop with classy, quality merchandise.

crater lake

Here are a few ways you can tailor your visit to Crater Lake to your liking:

  • Take a scenic drive around the lake
  • Hike the rocky peaks
  • Take a Boat Tour
  • Fish the two species that survive in the lake- Rainbow Trout and Kokanee Salmon
  • Swim- The only legal place to swim is at the end of The Cleetwood Cove Trail
  • Watch a film at the Steel Visitors Center about the rich human history of the park
  • Visit the volcanic spires “Pinnacles” at the southeast corner of the lake.
  • Explore the history exhibits for a peak into an earlier era at the Great Hall of Crater Lake Lodge.

Crater Lake was our very first stop on our 4 month road trip.  We didn’t spend much time there but I’m happy we made space in our schedule to visit.  I hope this little post peeks your curiosity and if someone were to ask you now Where is Crater Lake? I hope your answer would be “on my travel bucket list!”

Emily Oak Home Sweet Road

Travel Tips

Airplane Carry-on List

airplane carry-on check list

Here is your extensive list for any & all carry-on items.  Be mindful of the pesky fact that you will indeed be carrying these things for the duration of your trip with child and/or baby in hand.  Have mercy!

Bring only what you know you need!

Airplane Carry-On List:


  • __ Passport and ID’s
  • __ Credit cards, travelers checks, cash (Check the currency exchange rate)
  • __ Travel insurance information
  • __ Plane tickets
  • __ Hotel reservations
  • __ Itinerary
  • __ Vaccination records (Usually a yellow card given by your doctor)


Bring two outfits for everyone. You never know if your bags will get temporarily lost.

  • __ Tops
  • __ Bottoms
  • __ Undergarments

Baby and Children’s Items:

  • __ Diapers and plastic bags for disposal (Bring twice as much as you think you need)
  • __ Wipes
  • __ Toys and entertainment

*Quiet toys work best! Books, coloring books, movies on a portable player… 

  • __ Bottle or sippy cup
  • __ Formula –  Powdered only for your carry on. Otherwise, you must buy it at the airport after security checks you in. (Request a bottle of water for mixing. Never drink the airplanes sink water)
  • __ Baby harness for airplane seat if needed (Careful- CARES seems to be the only FFA approved harness at this time)
  • __ Their favorite PJ’s so they know it’s bedtime on the plane
  • __ Packaged snacks such as cereal and fruit snacks
  • __ Their comfort blanket, stuffed animal, toy


  • __ Medicine (Don’t check this in just in case the bags get lost)
  • __ Camera and other electronics (Don’t take the risk of checking them in)
  • __ Travel guidebook- You can read it on your flight!
  • __ Jackets or sarong/blanket- Planes often get cold

Important points to consider:

  • It’s important to be careful with what liquids you are allowed to bring on the plane. Check out TSA’s website for their official rules.
  • Don’t bring snacks that will make a mess or cause someone nearby any discomfort- A peanut butter snack can cause someone’s allergies to go haywire!

HAVE YOU HEARD???  David and I just launched our new blog StrongLuv and we are over there doing experiments to strengthen our Marriage, Family, and Community and working hard at creating resources for those of you who want to strengthen your important relationships.  I hope you’ll connect with us over there and join us in a little LUVolution.  If you’re intrigued, you can learn about the Relationship Experiments here.

Emily Oak Home Sweet Road

Travel Tips

The Ultimate Travel Packing List

ultimate packing checklistHere is your Ultimate Travel Packing List! Check off as you pack and take this list out the door with you to ensure you got it all.  Nobody wants to be caught off-guard without something essential and this is double true if you have the family with you!

Before we get to the actual list let’s go over some things to think about prior to throwing things in your suitcase:

  • What are you doing? Check the weather and think about the possible activities you will be doing and pack appropriately.
  • What country are you going to? Check that a vaccination is not needed. Even some airlines wont let you on without proof of vaccination. It’s important to check the country you have the layover in as well as sometimes it’s necessary even if you don’t leave the airport! (Crazy, I know!)
  • Money: Call your credit card providers well in advanced so they are prepared and know you will be using your cards overseas.
  • Luggage fees: It’s becoming increasingly popular for airlines to spring luggage fees on you. Be sure you know the weight limit and what fees are associated if you go over that limit. Don’t forget this important point if you will be flying around on numerous airlines as well.
  • Space: Effectively pack! One way to do this is to roll the items and separate them in bags. Example: All of your tops go in one bag. Or plan your outfits ahead of time and pack them in bags by outfit.  This way you know exactly which bag to look in for what. This will avoid the suitcase “throwing up” all over the room once you get to the hotel. (Good ‘ol plastic shopping bags will do fine)
  • Necessity?: Strollers, cribs, and other such items are not always a necessity.  Check if the country you’re going to has rental services for these items. They even have delivery for things such as diapers!!  For those programs and services check this site out for Europe and this site for the U.S.

Travel Packing List:


  • ___Passport and ID’s
  • ___Copies of your passport and ID’s stashed elsewhere in case of theft. You can also email these to yourself for extra safe measure.
  • ___Credit cards, traveler checks, cash (Check the currency exchange rate)
  • ___Travel insurance information
  • ___Emergency contact information of someone back home. Just in case!
  • ___Plane tickets
  • ___Hotel reservations
  • ___Calling cards
  • ___Itinerary


  • ___Shampoo and conditioner- travel size
  • ___Body wash and loofa
  • ___Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • ___Floss
  • ___Body lotion
  • ___Deodorant
  • ___Make-up bag (Don’t bring the whole thing ladies!)
  • ___Razor & Shaving Cream
  • ___Insect repellent
  • ___Eye wear: glasses, contacts, sunglasses
  • ___Brush and comb
  • ___Sun lotion
  • ___Tweezers and nail clippers
  • ___Hairdryer and/or straightener
  • ___Hair accessories for you and kids. (clips, bobby-pins, headbands, hair ties)

Children and Baby Items:

  • ___Diapers, as many you might need to at LEAST get you to your destination. (Even then, multiple by two and bring extra bags for disposal.)
  • ___Wipes
  • ___Bottle or sippy cup
  • ___Formula and/or baby food. Don’t forget the spoon!
  • ___Toys and books
  • ___Baby blanket
  • ___Water items such as: swimming wings, toys, and water diapers.
  • ___Changing pad
  • ___Baby sunscreen
  • ___Diaper cream and moisturizer
  • ___Baby carrier (Like Baby Bjorn or Ergo)
  • ___Stroller
  • ___Travel bed
  • ___Travelers high chair
  • ___Other accessories depending on your needs: pacifiers, breast pump, extra bottle nipples, teething toys or creams, bottle bags…


  • ___Phone and its charger (If you’re going abroad make sure your phone will work there.)
  • ___Camera and its charger or extra batteries
  • ___Laptop/ Tablet/ Kindle and charger
  • ___Extra USB stick/ Camera stick so you can take as many pictures as you want!
  • ___Headphones- noise cancelling are the best!


***Please chant the following as you pack clothes: “I will pack light, I will pack light!”

A reasonable amount of the following determined by length of trip:

  • ___Tops
  • ___Bottoms
  • ___Undergarments
  • ___Swimsuits
  • ___Shoes and sandals
  • ___Socks
  • ___PJ’s
  • ___Accessories
  • ___Depending on the weather:
  • ___Hat
  • ___Jacket
  • ___Sweater
  • ___Scarf
  • ___Gloves
  • ___Long sleeves

SEPERATELY pack extra clothes x2 for you, baby and kids for your carry-on. (You never know if your bags will get lost for a day!)

These are the basics and same for each family member. However something to keep in mind besides packing light (you can stop chanting now) is to pack efficiently! Take items that can be used for multiple things. For example bringing tank tops that can be used during the day as well as for bedtime. Another great trick is using a sarong instead of a towel! A sarong is much lighter and takes up less space. Possible uses: towel, beach towel, beach cover up, blanket, scarf…. you get the point! Don’t bring a shirt that ONLY goes with one pair of bottoms. And the same is true for the kids.  Most hotels and resorts have access to washing machines.  If by chance that is not the case, don’t be afraid of a little washing by hand on your vacation. It’s either that or lugging around x10 more than you need!

Extras to have in your purse/ carry-on:

  • ___Antibacterial
  • ___Hand cream
  • ___Pen and paper
  • ___Books- or ebooks on your kindle….even better
  • ___Small quiet toys/ other entertainment for baby
  • ___Feminine hygiene products


  • ___Laundry bag and soap
  • ___Ziplock bags- various sizes. These are so handy and can be used in many different ways
  • ___Mini flash-light
  • ___Prescription medications
  • ___Towel / Sarong  (the better choice)
  • ___Snacks for the ride/flight (Make sure they are packaged if you are going on a flight.)
  • ___Needle and thread
  • ___Travel guidebook & Maps
  • ___Small medical bag:
  • ___Band aids & Gauze
  • ___Cotton swabs
  • ___Alcohol wipes
  • ___Water-resistant Tape
  • ___Antihistamine
  • ___Pain reliever

I sincerely hope this is a useful resource for you in your upcoming vacation!  If you need an airplane carry-on packing list, I created that too!

Emily Oak Home Sweet Road

Featured Travel Tips

How to Save on Theme Park Passes

how to save money on theme park passes

Good BBQ, the smell of funnel cakes, scary rides, and your kids’ ice cream melting all over make for a great day at your favorite theme park- but if you can find a way to throw in savings- it’s PERFECTION!   When it comes to vacationing who doesn’t love a visit to a hair raising, fun theme park?

Whether it’s a day trip or a long weekend with the family, after you add up the costs of the notoriously expensive park passes, you can sometimes fork out as much as a beach getaway without any of the relaxation!

But lets face it, we kissed all dreams of a zen vacation goodbye when we welcomed baby #1… bring on the coasters baby!!!

A family can save ALL YEAR in order to go to Disney for ONE WEEKEND!  That’s insanity Y’all!  These theme parks can come with a colossal price tag.  Here are some tips for making sure you please the kids without putting your house up for sale!

Budget and Savings:

You can save money right off the bat by making sure you use cash.  Why pay interest on this vacation?  It’s easy to get in the debt cycle and end up paying interest for nearly everything – so make sure to avoid that mistake and start your planning off right by making a budget.

Realistically, how much will this trip cost you?  Remember food is always more expensive in theme parks – and don’t forget the trip there with today’s gas prices.  Factor in everything and then give yourself some extra cushion just to be on the safe side.

theme park passes

Have everyone partake in the savings.  Get the kids to donate some money from their allowance each week.  Or encourage them to save their own money for something extra they may want to purchase while they are there.   I have found that my kids are more invested and feel a sense of pride by contributing.

Make a family money jar and get everyone to throw in their days change.  If you do this  6-12 months before your holiday you might be surprised on how much you have put away!

Avoid the Crowds:

Unless you are infinitely patient(and have no children), you definitely do not what to visit a theme park when everyone else is there!  It sounds like a no brainer but it’s easy to forget, and this one mistake can blow your entire experience.   Do you want to deal with sweaty teenagers rubbing up against you in hour long lines?  Or cranky bystanders who have no patience for your toddler?  Theme parks are often packed as it is.

Don’t make life harder on yourself!

Plan on going on a week day or a weekend while school is still in session.  There will be a line but not half as long as when 30 schools in the area are on break.  Speaking of lines, try avoiding them by getting everyone up and going early.  If you get to the park when it opens, you can get the major rides in first and avoid the masses.  The more time you have in the cool of the morning the more time you have to see all the attractions and ride all the rides.

save on theme park passes

Buy Ahead of Time:

If there is anything that you can buy outside of the park, do it! Buy your sunscreen, water bottles, waterproof disposable cameras…whatever it is. Even buying snacks to have on hand to save money on food is a good idea.

Since several members of our family are sensitive to gluten we often bring our own food in.  Even if park policy is no food inside- I have yet to have my bag of food turned away at the gate after throwing out the words “food allergy!”

It’s a fact that everything inside the theme park is far more expensive.  Even souvenirs can be cheaper on the outside! Depending on what you want to buy, you might be able to find souvenirs from the theme park at a nearby local store for a discount.

Make sure to do the souvenir shopping towards the end of the day so your not lugging everything around.

how to save on theme park passes

Consider an Annual Pass:

Is this theme park close to home?  Do you visit often?  Do the kids have friends with passes?  Do they beg you week after week to let them go with their friend to this theme park?  Get a darn annual pass!

Sometimes going only 2-3 times a year in itself pays for the annual pass.  Your kids can go off and ride every ride they want nearly any day of the year.  Most theme parks, including Disney, offer annual passes.

When we lived in Kansas City we used some of our Christmas money and bought annual passes for the family at Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO.  Even though we only went twice that year, it was still cheaper than paying per day.  Plus we bought them during a promotional time when we got several buddy passes with each annual pass.  We were able to take friends along for FREE and had the best time!

save on theme park passes

It’s worth noting that when you have an annual pass some theme parks will offer further discounts on souvenirs and food. Even parking can come at a discount.  All these things add up and next thing you know, the annual pass has already paid for itself.

If you don’t want an annual pass or don’t think you will use it enough, be sure to check if the theme park is offering a special deal.  For example Disney has an on going deal for you to pre-purchase tickets at todays price with no expiration.  Since Disney raises their prices nearly every year, it might not be a bad idea!

When to Buy:

Purchase your tickets BEFORE getting to the park.  If you wait, you will likely over pay and lose out on time waiting in line.  Buying online is the easiest way to purchase your tickets prior to going.

Make sure you do NOT buy tickets from sites like Craigslist.  Many theme parks make their tickets non-transferable.  When you show up with someone else’s ticket you will be out of luck and out of money.

See if there are any deals going on online for the park you are interested in visiting.  Even discount websites like have deals on tickets sometimes.  Their restrictions are rather reasonable and easy to work around so it doesn’t hurt to try.  The Entertainment Book is a good place to check as well.

Where to Stay:

If the theme park isn’t in your hometown, consider that while many places offer discounts if you stay at their on-site hotels, it is still usually significantly more expensive.

Your best bet is finding a nice place on the outside of the park.  The benefits of staying on-site often include transport and special privileges but you might not care about those small perks and prefer to crash out just a few miles away for half the price!

theme park accommodations

One Last Tip:

After you’ve done all the hard work of planning and saving, let your hair down and have a good time.  Maybe surprise your kids or spouse by joining them on the roller coaster you have been afraid of.  Or sign up for that glass blowing workshop scheduled during the heat of the day.  The element of surprise is sure to make your getaway exciting and memorable for the whole family!

Do you have a trick to saving money at theme parks and attractions?  I’d love to hear from you!  Also, If you found this post helpful, I would be so grateful if you would share it with your friends.  FB and other social buttons are below.  Thanks in advance!!!


Emily Oak Home Sweet Road 

family fun Featured Printables

Resurrection Treasure Hunt – Scavenger Hunt Ideas Series

scavenger hunt ideas

Easter has snuck up on us once again but before we land ourselves in a sugar coma from all those Easter treats, I wanted to share with you a fun and meaningful way to spend some quality time with your kids in the form of a Resurrection Scavenger Hunt!

I’m not anti-Easter eggs and Cadbury bunnies, but growing up my family didn’t celebrate Easter in that way, so despite the successful commercialization of Easter, those things are not what I usually think of when the holiday rolls around.  As a child, Easter Sunday consisted of going to church and heading to my grandparent’s house afterwards to climb trees, play with my cousins, and share a potluck dinner.

Nowadays it’s a bit different but my mother-in-love always spoils us (David and myself included) with lots of candy and dark chocolate!

Easter is special to so many of us because it gives us a dedicated time to meditate on the incredible love of the uncreated God who humbled himself, took on flesh, lived a sinless life and paid the ultimate penalty for our sin.  He didn’t have to do that.  Yet for the sake of love, He did.  

I will never understand that level of humility.

easter scavenger hunt

Our family is big on scavenger hunts and the kids usually like to make a competition of them but for some reason with this one, they always choose to work together.  It’s sweet watching them put their brains together to come up with each item.   *I made this treasure hunt for my family (and first blog) a couple years ago!

Nails to Represent what Secured Jesus to the Cross

easter hunt

A Rock to Represent the Tomb

easter treasure hunt

Something Sour – Represents what Jesus was Given to Drink while He Hung on the Cross

easter activities for kids

Bread – Jesus Broke it and Shared it with His Disciples (&Justice!)

kids learn about resurrection of Jesus

The Something Black Picked to Represent Sin.

Our kids picked a credit card.  How appropriate!

resurrection activities

I hope you have fun with this one.  It’s a creative, interactive way to teach our kids about some of the details surrounding the death and resurrection of Christ.  It really is a meaningful time of year for so many of us and I hope this resource makes it all the more memorable.


easter scavenger hunt printable

CLICK TO PRINT *Please share it with your friends on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest – Thanks in advance!

If you’re looking for another fun family project, that is both meaningful and helpful, consider putting together and distributing blessing bags for the homeless.  It will bless you as much as it does someone in need!

Emily Eck Home Sweet Road