Ready, Aim, Fire! How to Stock a Campfire Box

by Amber Dickson
Roaring campfire
Photo: Amber Dickson

Whether at the beach, the woods, or your own backyard, a campfire is a guaranteed way to relax and enjoy your favorite people.  Take a little time to stock a campfire box with a few of the following fire-starting supplies.  It will make lighting a campfire quick and easy and therefore more likely to happen. Your future (smoke-scented) self will thank you.        

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19 Things to Do Before Going on Vacation This Summer

by M.E. Gray

How to prep your home before going on vacation

Summer is synonymous with vacation time! Are you planning a big trip this year? Maybe it's a road trip across the country, or maybe it's a cruise. Perhaps an outdoor camping getaway or you're headed to a cabin by the lake. What ever the reason, if you're leaving your home unattended for a few days or even weeks. While your house can't actually get lonely without you, it will miss your maintenance. A few things need to happen inside and out so you can rest easy while you're gone. Here are 19 things you should do before going on vacation:           

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The Ultimate Guide to Road Trip Games

by Joel Selby

Road trip games: playing tic-tac-toe in the car.

Road trip games are a lifesaver, whether you're trekking cross country to sight-see or simply cross-county to see the grandparents, you're a college student on a butt-numbing quest to see how many states you can pin in a single weekend, or you're simply idling in traffic on the way to the airport.

Sure, you can flip through Facebook or have the kids watch Frozen for the 1,000th time, but why not use some of that road time to have a little fun while fostering a deeper connection with your fellow travelers? 

Read on for our ultimate guide to road trip games to get started!      



Observation Road Trip Games

Let's begin with a couple of classic road trip games that have their basis in the boredom of staring out the window!


Road trip games: the game of I Spy

• I Spy

Player 1 picks an object and starts out with the phrase "I spy, with my little eye, something..." and completes the phrase with a description of the object. Remaining players try to guess the object, either by asking elimination questions—Is it in the car? Is it edible? Is it purple? Is it reactive with water?—until they're able to directly guess.


• Counting Cows

If you're driving through a particularly rural area, players divide into teams based on the side of the car, i.e. left side team versus right side team. Each team tallies points as it observes cows. If the car passes a cemetery, the team opposite shouts "your cows are buried!" and the cemetery-side team loses its points. Part of the fun is attempting to distract the other team.


Verbal Road Trip Games

For this category of road trip games, the only equipment you need is your brain, your vocal chords, and your ears! The great thing about verbal games is that the driver gets to be involved as well.

I. Alphabet Road Trip Games

For all of these alphabet road trip games variations, the one restriction is that you can't re-use words.

Road trip games: the alphabet game

• The Classic Alphabet Game 

The group goes through the alphabet, one letter per player, and lists a surrounding object starting with that letter. If you're a bilingual family or you're learning a language together, add other languages into the mix.


• Hawaiian Alphabet Game

For an added challenge, restrict your choices to the 12 letters of the Hawaiian alphabet: A, B, D, E, H, I, K, L, M, N, O, P, R, T, U, V, and W.


• Alphabet Categories Game

Instead of using surroundings, try to confine your words to a category à la Scattergories: foods, movie titles, medical terms, etc.


• Freestyle Blitz Alphabet Game

Drop the categories and go free-for-all. To make it challenging, players have to come up with the word as quickly as possible. The group can decide on a time limit—5 seconds, 3 seconds, etc., so when a player begins to stall, the shot clock-style countdown begins. (Believe me, it's a lot harder than it sounds!)


• Word Chain

The group decides on a starting word. Players then take turns listing a word starting with the last letter of the previous word. Example word chain with the starting word "car": roommow wonkyyo-yoorangutan.


II. Word and Number Road Trip Games

Road trip games: the game of Word Ladders

• Word Ladder

Also called doublets or word golf, this was originally invented by Lewis Carroll. Players choose two random four-letter words and attempt to link the two step by step by changing one letter at a time.


• Ghost

Players take turns adding letters to the fragment of a valid word, in a "hot potato" style attempt to avoid being the one to complete the word for that round. Players complete the word in a round earn one letter from the word "ghost" and, like the basketball game Horse, are are out when they complete the word.

Here's a sample round with three players and some commentary:

— Player 1: H-

The word can go in any number of directions at this point.

— Player 2: He-

There aren't really any English words that start with H+consonant, so player 2 is pretty much limited to vowels.

— Player 3: Hea-

Adding another vowel to force player 1 onto a consonant.

— Player 1: Hear-

Player 1 chooses a common consonant.

— Player 2: Hears-

Player 2 is closing in on the game by adding an "s" because there really aren't many options to choose from...

— Player 3: Hearse-

A last-ditch effort to stay in the game...

— Player 1: Hearses

Player 1 is at a dead end, and receives the letter "G" for this round.


• Kangaroo Words

Another word game in which players take a larger "kangaroo word" and attempt to find one or more smaller "joey words" from the larger word's letter set. 

Standard version: joey word letters must be in the same sequence as the kangaroo letters, and two words have to have related meaning. For example: "male" from "masculine"; twin joeys "tin" and "can" from "container."

Easier version: letters can be used out of sequence, and words can be unrelated.


• Fizz Buzz

Players take turns counting one letter at a time, substituting "fizz" for multiples of 3 and "buzz" for multiples of 5. (For numbers like 15 which are divisible by both, players say "fizz buzz.")


III. Verbal Guessing Road Trip Games


• Charades

The classic word guessing game where one player tries to get the other players to guess a word or phrase by acting out the words, or its syllables. And of course, you can't say anything. You know, kind of like how Beetlejuice couldn't say his own name:


• DIY Taboo

You don't need the actual game board to play this in the car! At your next rest stop, have a designated non-player (the driver, for example, or the person who can't ever seem to stay awake in the car) jot down a list of words, common phrases, or people onto small pieces of paper. Place the words face down on the stack, divide the car into two teams, and have one person per team attempt to describe the word on the paper for the rest of their team to guess, without saying that word.


• Twenty Questions

A player in the "hot seat" comes up with a subject, and the rest of the group asks questions in an attempt to guess who or what the player is thinking of.


• Who Am I?

Similar to twenty questions, but with a twist. Each player assigns another player a specific person by writing their name on a small strip of paper. Without looking, the player places the paper on his or her forehead so other players can see it. (This is easiest with sticky notes!) Each player then has to ask elimination questions in order to guess their assigned person.


Two Truths and a Lie

• The player in the "hot seat" calls out three statements about him- or herself: two facts and one falsehood. Players take turns trying to guess which fact is false. The more outrageous the truths, the better!


IV. Imagination Road Trip Games

• Walrus (AKA Existential Rock-Paper-Scissors)

Players take turns naming people or things that "beat" the previous player's example, with arguments for their reasoning. Kind of like Apples to Apples, this is a totally subjective game.

Examples: tank beats tricycle, Superman beats Batman (unless Batman has Kryptonite in his utility belt), sharknado beats tornado.


• Would You Rather?

Players take turns by listing uncomfortable situations and attempting to match or beat the previous situation listed, hilariously explored by Mike Myers et al. at the Fog City Diner in the 1993 classic So I Married an Axe Murderer:

• Fortunately-Unfortunately

Players take turns listing off pairs of bad situations and bright sides:

— Player 1: "Unfortunately, there's a man-eating lion in the car..."

— Player 2: "Fortunately, it already ate..."

— Player 3: "Unfortunately, now it has really bad gas..."

— Player 1: "Fortunately, we can roll down the windows..."

— Player 2: "Unfortunately, window buttons are all broken..."


• The Actor Game

For a car full of movie buffs, each player is assigned two actors and must list off how they're connected.

Example: one player gets Jackie Chan and Woody Harrelson.

1. Jackie Chan > Chris Tucker, Rush Hour

2. Chris Tucker > Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

3. Jennifer Lawrence > Woody Harrelson, The Hunger Games


• Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

Similar to the Actor Game, except you try to connect any actor to Kevin Bacon. Can be played using other ubiquitous Hollywood actors. ( has tabulated over 80,000 IMDB entries to create a list of the Center of the Hollywood Universe, of which Mr. Bacon is actually #455.)


• License Plate Acronyms

Players take turns changing the letters on license plates into ridiculous acronyms. For example, a license plate with BDL-3341 could become "Bum Diaper Litigators" or "Burgers of Doom, LLC."


• Imaginary Hide-and-Seek

The group picks a location well known to all players. One player is seeker, and the other players "hide" by choosing one spot in the location. The seeker then "walks" throughout the location by asking questions like "Is anyone in the living room?" Players can get creative by shrinking or expanding as they like: for example, hiding in the silverware drawer.


• The Singing Game

One player sings a line from a song and each player follows with a line from another song that fits in some way:

— Player 1: "Yes yes, you're gonna lose that girl..." (The Beatles, "You're Going to Lose That Girl")

— Player 2: "...from a land down under..." (Men at Work, "I Come From a Land Down Under")

— Player 3: "...Goodbye Rosie, the Queen of Corona..." (Paul Simon, "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard")

— Player 1: "...all by mysellllllf..." (Eric Carmen, "All By Myself")

...and so on!

Of course, if the game totally devolves into a chorus of the best road trip songs, that's OK too. (I can't think of a time when I've ever been disappointed to belt out "Don't Stop Believin'.")


Hand Road Trip games

You can't beat classics like rock paper scissors as road trip games to play in the car! (Though you may need to be prepared to arbitrate, because competition can get pretty fierce.)

I. Rock-Paper-Scissors Games

• Classic Rock Paper Scissors / Roshambo

Players call off "rock-paper-scissors-shoot" and choose one of the three, with the following winning combinations:

• rock breaks scissors

• scissors cuts paper

• paper covers rock


• Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock

Invented by software developer Sam Kass, popularized by Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory. Same combinations as above, with seven added combinations:

• rock crushes lizard

• lizard eats paper

• paper disproves Spock

• Spock smashes scissors

• scissors decapitate lizard

• lizard poisons Spock

• Spock vaporizes rock


• Odds and Evens

Players call evens or odds, count off "one-two-three-shoot," and either hold up one or two fingers. Players determine whether the sum total of all the fingers is even or odd, and the player who originally called it wins the round. 

It's also a great determiner for who gets to take a friend's apartment:

• Morra

Similar to odds and evens, except that more than two players can play, and players can use more than two fingers. Each player calls out his or her guess of what the sum total will be, players count off "one-two-three-shoot" and hold up anywhere from one to five fingers. Players determine whether sum total of all the fingers and the player closest the the actual amount wins the round.


II. Other Hand Games

• Thumb War

Players lock fingers of opposite hands and attempt to pin their opponent's thumb.


• Mystery Writing

Player 1 uses a finger to "write" a word or phrase on Player 2's hand. Player 2 must guess the word or phrase without looking.


Pencil and Paper Road Trip Games

Some of these road trip games are really quick to learn, so they're great for kids... and some of these can get super complicated, so they're great road trip games for adults as well! 


I. Tic-Tac-Toe Games

• Classical Tic-Tac-Toe

One board of 9 squares, two players take turns respectively duking it out for a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal row of X or O.


• Wild Tic-Tac-Toe

The same as Classic, only players can switch between X and O at will. Two variations exist:

— Standard: the player who completes the row of X or O wins the game.

— Misère: the player who completes the row of X or O loses the game.


Road trip games: the game of meta tic-tac-toe

• Meta Tic-Tac-Toe

Players create a "global board" by stacking 9 "local" tic-tac-toe boards into a 3 x 3 grid. Player X chooses any of the 81 squares to play on, which sends player O to that local board. Player X may then play at any local board he or she chooses.

When a player has won a local board, it acts as a winning tile on the global board. The goal for the global board is just like the classic version with three winning tiles in a row.


• Quantum Tic-Tac-Toe

Here's a fun variation for you physics nerds out there! This version works on the principles of quantum entanglement, what Einstein called "spooky action at a distance." Basically, it operates like classical tic-tac-toe, but changes the amount of marks allowed in a tile: up to 8 smaller "spooky" marks or one large "classical" mark.

— Players X and O take turns making smaller spooky marks in two squares. Each spooky mark gets a subscript number to note the number of the turn, and this number shows that the two squares are now entangled.

— Players continue to play until connected tiles link up into a closed loop, creating a cyclic entanglement.

— The next player may begin to collapse all the tiles in the cycle, meaning that they start a chain reaction where they choose one large classical mark for a tile, which sets off classical marks for all of the linked tiles in the closed loop.

Confused? Check out this written guide, or listen to this Austrian guy with good comedic timing explain:

• Order and Chaos

On a 6 x 6 board, player X (Order) tries to make a row of 5 squares and player O (Chaos) tries to block it.


• Gomoku (Five-in-a-Row)

Players draw a grid, at least 15 x 15 squares, and take turns placing their X or O to create a sequence of 5 in a row.


II. Connect-or-Fill Games

• Car Bingo

Write up a big list of stuff you're likely to see on your trip, fill them out in a grid, and start looking! Feel free to make the items easy to spot, like road cones or speed limit signs; trip-specific, like state welcome signs or local landmarks; or more rare, like speed traps or tow trucks.


• Dots

Players create a grid of dots and take turns linking one dot at a time with a single line. When a player completes a square, they write their initial inside. Players continue until all of the dots are connected, and the winner is the player with the most initials on the board.


Road trip games: the game of Paper Soccer

• Paper Soccer

Players create a soccer pitch by drawing a 9 x 10 grid of dots, with goals in middle of the short sides of the pitch. Starting in the middle, players "kick the ball" by taking turns connecting dots one at a time. If the line touches the border of the pitch or the previous line of the ball, the ball "bounces," i.e. the player gets to move again. A player wins when either he or she kicks the ball into the opponent's goal or when his or her opponent doesn't have a valid move left.


• Connect Four

Draw a 6 x 8 grid and designate the bottom of the grid as "gravity." Players take turns "dropping pieces" into the columns like the real-life Connect 4 game. The player who, you guessed it, gets 4 pieces in a row wins.


• Nim

This is an ancient game, which we're translating into a paper and pencil game. Players draw several "heaps" of objects—for example, three groups of 4,6, and 7 circles, respectively—and take turns crossing out (i.e. removing) any number of objects from the same heap. The object of the game is to force the opponent to take the last object. 


Road trip games: the game of Sim

• Sim

Players create a board by drawing six dots to create the outline of a hexagon, then drawing a line between every possible dot. Players then take turns coloring the lines one at a time, each player with a different assigned color. The object of the game is for each player to avoid drawing a closed triangle solely composed of his or her own color.


• DIY Sudoku

This one takes a little bit of time to set up, but if you're a sudoku fan, it's kind of cool to reverse engineer a board!

You're essentially creating a solved sudoku puzzle first. As a reminder, the puzzle is a grid of 3 x 3 larger tiles, each tile made of a grid of 3 x 3 squares. Each column of the board contains the numbers 1–9, each row contains the numbers 1–9, and each tile contains the numbers 1–9.

The tricky part is going through your numbers, 1–9, and making sure you're not doubling up anywhere. Then copy your board, leaving a bunch of squares blank in each tile. Next, tou can either give it to someone else to solve, or wait about an hour and play your own board. (I guarantee you're not going to remember the solution you just wrote up!)


III. Pencil and Paper Guessing Games

• Hangman

The classic word guessing game: Player 1 comes up with a word, draws placeholder lines for each letter of the word and a gallows above the spaces, and the group attempts to guess the word as Player 1 draws the poor stick man's body one piece at a time.


• DIY Mad Libs

One player writes down a story 1–2 paragraphs in length and erases nouns, verbs, and adjectives at random. Next, he or she asks the group to fill in the blanks, then reads the story aloud. Hilarity ensues.


• Battleship

Two players draw themselves two 10 x 10 grids, a tracking grid and a primary grid, labeling each grid 1–10 vertically and A–J horizontally. Each player places ships along their primary grid by marking an X to denote the ship's size: a carrier (5), a battleship (4), a cruiser (3), a submarine (3), and a destroyer (2). Players then take turns naming a specific square (e.g. A4, J9, etc.) to place hits on their opponent's board, which they mark on their own tracking grid, and continue until one player sinks the other's entire fleet.


• Drink Cup Battleship

This is a quickie version you can play while waiting at a fast food stop! Each player punches down the button on his or her fountain drink lid and take turns guessing which soda the "battleship" is on. At the end of the round, punch the button back up to reset.


• Pictionary

Break the group into two teams and take turns, with one player drawing a word or phrase and the remaining players guessing what they're drawing.


• Paper Telephone

Player 1 begins with a phrase or word, which he or she writes down on a small piece of paper and passes to Player 2. Player 2 reads the word or phrase, then attempts to draw the word or phrase, and passes it to Player 3. Player 3 then attempts a written description of the drawing. Continue taking turns writing and drawing until it gets back to Player 1, who reads the description or attempts to describe the drawing. Cue raucous laughter.

Note: make sure you've all used the restroom before playing this game, because otherwise it will totally make someone pee their pants.


• Ditloids

Players take turns breaking down a well-known title, phrase, or name into a combination of words and numbers and having the remaining players guess what it is. Smaller parts of speech like conjunctions and articles usually don't get abbreviated. Also, feel free to get creative with representation, like substituting "U" instead of "Y" for "you":

— H P and the H B P = Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

— 24 H in a D = 24 hours in a day

— U C D if U W 2 = "You can dance if you want to..."

Road trip games: tic-tac-toe in the car with a travel mug

What are your favorite road trip games? Let us know in the comments below!

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Summer Bucket List: 10 Things You Should Do Before Summer is Over

by Rachel Jacks

Summer activities that you should make sure not to miss out on. #summer

While you’re suffering through a heat wave, it may seem like summer is lasting forever. But as the back-to-school ads remind us, it’ll be over before we know it. So if you’re determined to make the most of summer while you can, here are ten classic summer activities to make sure you fit in before fall.         



Spotting a meteor in a starry night sky is a summer activity that you should make sure not to miss out on. #summer #stargazing #stars #meteors
Photo: Juskteez Vu 

1. Go Stargazing

The peak of the Perseid meteor shower is coming up in mid-August (the nights of Aug. 11-12 and Aug. 12-13 in 2018). If regular stargazing isn’t exciting enough for you, those are the nights you’re most likely to spot fireballs shooting across the sky. All you need is a dark area, and some patience. More information about the best way to watch the Perseid meteor shower here


Enjoying fruit you've picked yourself is one summer activity that you should make sure not to miss out on. #summer #berries
Photo: andrew welch 

2. Pick fresh fruit 

Berries are a summer mainstay, but peaches or other stone fruit are also ripe for the picking in the summer. If you can resist eating them straight from the source, turn the fruits of your labor into jams, preserves, pies, cobblers, and crumbles.


Going on a road trip is one summer activity that you should make sure not to miss out on. #summer
Photo: Annie Spratt 

3. Take a road trip

Life is busy, so if you don’t have time for a multi-day cross-country road trip, even a day trip counts. There are probably places worth visiting within a few hours drive of where you live.  Bonus points if your trip is to somewhere you’ve never been before! (Be sure to read the ultimate guide to road trip games before you hit the road.)


Eating homemade frozen treats is one summer activity that you should make sure not to miss out on. #summer #icecream
Photo: Mark Cruz 

4. Make frozen treats

If you have an ice cream maker, what are you waiting for? It’s time to fire it up and make some ice cream. Popsicles are a delicious alternative that don’t require any special appliances.


5. Watch movies outdoors

All but five states in the US have at least one drive-in movie theater, and especially if you’ve never done it, it’s a really fun way to see a movie! will tell you the closest drive-in to you. If it’s too far away to be practical, many places have outdoor movie nights in parks, or even on city rooftops. Or you could always throw your own backyard movie night with our guide.


6. Have a picnic

It’s a well-known fact that food just tastes better outdoors. Prepare a meal, pack it up, and eat it on a picnic table or blanket in a park. Make this waterproof picnic blanket to protect against soggy lawns, and follow this guide to packing the perfect picnic.


Swimming is one summer activity that you should make sure not to miss out on. #summer
Photo: Jakob Owens 

7. Go swimming

Whether it’s a manmade pool, lake, river, swimming hole, or the ocean, getting wet is classic summer fun, and a great way to cool down.


Throwing a summer party is one summer activity that you should make sure not to miss out on. #summer
Photo: Eric Nopanen 

8. Throw a Party

If you need a reason, make it a homemade-ice-cream-tasting party, a pool party or an outdoor movie night (see 4-6 above). Otherwise, just put together some drinks and snacks, and invite your favorite people over. You can keep it as simple, or make it as complicated, as you want. Steal ideas from posts on how to throw a backyard summer solstice party, how to throw the ultimate DIY summer party, and the secret that will take your parties to the next level.


Roasting marshmallows  is one summer activity that you should make sure not to miss out on. #summer
Photo: Leon Contreras

9. Roast marshmallows over a fire 

Do it while camping, picnicking, or stargazing. If that's not in the cards, build your own backyard DIY fire pit 


Going camping  is one summer activity that you should make sure not to miss out on. #summer
Photo: Jonathan Forage

10. Go camping

Get back to nature by sleeping in the great outdoors. Bonus: The stargazing is usually great, and every meal is a picnic.


Summer activities you should do before the summer is over
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Did I miss anything you consider a summer must-do? What's on your summer bucket list? 

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9 Ways to Make the Most of Your Summer Using Your Smartphone

by M.E. Gray
Apps to optimize your summer

Summer is fleeting, and you want to make the most of these warmer months. But where to start? Your phone is a great resource, because there are so many free apps out there that can help you optimize your vacation, schedule the myriad of activities you plan on doing, and keep you safe in the sun. We've rounded up 9 of our favorite helpful summer apps, almost all of which are free!         

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How to Go to the Movies for Less This Summer

by M.E. Gray

How to get cheap movies tickets and save money this summer

It's summertime, which means bonus free time, if you're lucky. Going to the movies is a classic way to stay out of the sun while still having fun - the only issue is that outlandish price tag! I had quit going to the movies a few years back, because the cost of admission was higher than I was comfortable with. However, after learning different ways to obtain cheap movie tickets, and figuring out how to keep my costs low, I'm back to seeing flicks on the big screen. It's still a treat when I get to go, but it's not nearly as painful to my wallet. Keep reading for 12 ways to go to the movies for less.          

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Going on a Road Trip? Don't Forget to Grab This from the Drug Store

by M.E. Gray

Going on a road trip? Don't forget to grab this from the drug store

There's a (younger) part of me that loves going on long road trips. I get excited about seeing new places, listening to hours of podcasts, drinking Red Bull - it's a freeing experience like none other. Then there's the (older) side of me that can only handle the open road for so long. Sore back, moody in traffic, yells at slower drivers, and seriously bummed out about how sticky everything feels after being in the car all day. While I can't...

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9 Tips for an Amazing (or at Least Tolerable) Road Trip with Your Pet

by M.E. Gray

Traveling with dogs and cats - 9 tips for a less stressful road trip

Pets. We love them, and sometimes when we're traveling, we don't want to leave them. Whether it's because your boarding situation isn't ideal, or you just can't imagine going on a vacation without them, you want to make sure you and your dog (or cat!) are prepared for a pleasant and non-stressful road trip. I've hit the road a few times with this furry lady pictured here, and after a few hundred hours in the car together, we've learned a thing or two. Here are some tips for traveling with dogs (and cats!) as you head out on your vacation this summer.             

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Why and How I Never Check Luggage, Even for International Trips

by Rachel Jacks

In the last five years or so, I've been fortunate to go on several international trips. Even though it would be free to check a bag on those flights, I never do, and it has saved me so much time and trouble that I can't imagine doing it any other way. If you're doing any air travel, internationally or not, I'm here to tell you why and how you should avoid checking luggage.          


Why to Avoid Checking...

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The One Thing You Should Avoid During Your Next Vacation

by M.E. Gray

Why You Should Do Less During Your Next Vacation

Over the past decade, we've seen a major dip in the prioritization of vacations. After the financial crisis, our work-life balance system was pretty much thrown out the window. As a result, Americans are taking way less vacation time than they accrue. If this is you, you may have struggled with trying to pack your infrequent travel plans with a myriad of activities. Understandably, you want to make the most of your time off. What you really should be doing is almost nothing. The one thing you should avoid doing over your next vacation is

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The One Thing You Should Avoid During Your Next Vacation

by M.E. Gray

Why You Should Do Less During Your Next Vacation

Over the past decade, we've seen a major dip in the prioritization of vacations. After the financial crisis, our work-life balance system was pretty much thrown out the window. As a result, Americans are taking way less vacation time than they accrue. If this is you, you may have struggled with trying to pack your infrequent travel plans with a myriad of activities. Understandably, you want to make the most of your time off. What you really should be doing is almost nothing. The one thing you should avoid doing over your next vacation is

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How To: Pack Your Kid For Summer Camp

by Jennifer Farley

How To Pack for Camp

It's summer time and some of you might be getting your kid ready to go to summer camp. A little-known fact about me: before working with renovations and real estate, I worked at a summer camp ... for over a decade! Random right? This summer my eight-year old is going to that same camp, and I'm excitedly getting him ready. As I was packing I thought I'd share some tips I use to pack up my kiddo, based on my experiences working at camp.         


How to Pack for Camp

1. Buy a sturdy footlocker trunk

Trunks will get opened, closed, pulled, pushed, sat on, and lived out of daily. The trunk needs to be sturdy. Make sure you call the camp to see the recommended size. The camp my son is going to has a requiredment that trunks fit under a bunk and be no more than 15.5" tall. We got ours at Amazon, but I always thought these trunks were the best.

How to Pack for Camp

2. Label Everything

Lost and found at a camp is beastly. Believe me, I once had the job of sorting it. If your things are labeled well then they'll easily get back to your kid. Label clothing, shoes, water bottles, laundry bags, bedding, socks ... basically everything that goes to camp. I use Sharpies for labeling. You can actually buy iron-on or no-iron labels for your clothing too.

Tip: If your kids pass clothes down to siblings then only put your last name on the label so it's not confusing next year when your kid's sibling packs the passed down shirt.

How to Pack for Camp

3. Pack what they need least at the bottom.

For example, I always suggest packing your kid a sweatshirt and pants. Since he or she probably won't need it, it's at the bottom.


How to pack for Camp



How To Pack for Camp


4. Pack fun costumes

Our camp tells us what types of parties the kids will have. I always pack their costumes at the bottom of the trunk because they'll only need them once. 

Cool Mom Tip: Pack your kiddo glow sticks for the entire cabin. It's such a fun thing for camp, and will totally help them make friends. Face paint is a winner too.

How to pack for camp

5. Put their underwear and socks in a tub

Socks and underwear are a daily (or multiple times a day) thing, but if not contained, will fall into different places of the trunk. Your kiddo will dig for them and any semblance of order in the trunk will be destroyed. The chances of them making it neat again ... yeah, pretty low. To set them up for success, place them in a tub.

How to Pack for Camp

6. Pack their clothing in separate stacks

Some moms pack outfits together in bags. This is a great idea, but the reality is that camp means independence. If your kids want to wear a specfic shirt, then they'll just tear apart those cute outfits you've chosen, and make a mess. Separate stacks help them look for their clothing more easily.

Don't Do: Don't pack your kids' clothes in vacuum storage bags to get more stuff to fit. More than likely there will not be a vacuum for your kids to use when packing to come home ... which will be a problem.

How To Pack for Camp

7. Pack toiletries in a shower caddy or tub

First of all, a caddy helps prevent explosive disasters inside your trunk. Also, more than likely, your kiddo will take the caddy out of their trunk and put it in a bathroom cubbie. 

Tip: Don't forget to pack your kid a couple cans of sunscreen and bug spray.


How to Pack for Camp



How to Pack for Camp


8. Pack only a few very good shoes

In my experience, the only shoes you need for camp are two pairs of good tennis shoes and a really good pair of water shoes (must have a strap on the back). Flip flops don't count. The tennis shoes are self explanitory, but most people get the water shoes wrong. Kids will play in the lake and "bad water shoes" get lost. This means your kids might not be able to get in the lake anymore.

Flip flops and crocs will get lost. I have had to call parents countless times to get them to send more. Chacos [left photo] are my absolute favorite because they last forever and can be passed down to siblings. Water shoes like these from Target will work too because they tighten and have a strap.

Packing Tip: Pack your shoes on top of the clothes because your kid will more than likely store their shoes in a cubby. This way they can remove them without digging through their clothes.

How To pack your Kid for camp

9.  Pack fun activity supplies in pouches

Camps usually have a rest period or cabin time. Some good things to pack are cards, string to make bracelets, coloring and writing utensils, and paper. Pouches keep it all collected and organized. I always leave one of the pouches mostly empty for things they will collect during their stay; letters, rocks, and small crafts. I tuck these pouches into the front of the trunk.

Tip: don't pack crayons because in the hot weather they might melt. Sharpened colored pencils work best.

How to Pack for Camp


How to Pack for Camp


10. Pack letter writing supplies in a container

I pack my son's letter supplies in a two sided storage clipboard. On one side I put a journal, paper, pens, stamps and pre-addressed envelopes. For older kids you can pack an address list.

On the other side I put my son's hobby stuff. My son is into origami and drawing so this year his trunk if filled with those books. The closed clipboard gives him a place to draw or write.

Don't Pack Food: There are exceptions, but more than likely it will get thrown away. These days, with all the food allergies out there, over night camps are not allowing food into the cabins. It is safer for them to provide the snacks for your kids.

How to Pack for Camp

11. Pack more than one swimsuit

Your kiddo will be swimming a ton and packing two will give one swimsuit a chance to dry out. Pack it towards the top because (hopefully) it'll be one of the first things to get used on arrival.

How To Pack for Camp

12. Pack cheap flip flops for shower shoes

This is important so your kiddo doesn't get athlete's foot or other creepy crawlies.

How To Pack for Camp

13. Pack a labeled laundry bag

Pack the laundry bag at the top so your kid can get it out the first day and hang it on the side of his bunk. My son's camp does his laundry once during the week, so the laundry bag is important. Even if your camp doesn't provide this service, it will help keep the dirty clothes away from the clean stuff. At the end, he or she can repack the trunk with all the dirties. Have fun opening that trunk!

How to Pack for Camp

13. Pack towels and sheet set at the top of the trunk

The first hour of camp usually consists of getting settled into the cabin. The kids will make their bed and put their towels away in a cubby.

A fun thing for your kiddo to do is choose pictures from home to hang up on the inside of the trunk. Leave some room and pack some washi tape for all those letters you send, or crafts they will create.

Tip: Pack a water bottle for your kiddo and make sure your kid stays hydrated the week before camp. My advice would be to cut back on soda the week before. I have seen many a kid faint on the first day because their body was not hydrated as they were adjusting to being outside more than being in air conditioning.
How tp Pack for Camp
Coleman, Amazon, Amazon

14. Pack a comforter, blankets, a sleeping bag and extra bedding in a duffle

I always pack one twin sized comforter, a blanket (not pictured), a roll-up sleeping bag, and an extra set of sheets for my kiddo in a labeled, medium-large sized duffle. 

For older kids it's nice to have clean sheets if the stay will be more than a week. For younger kids it's always good to have a pair ready just in case of accidents. I always pack two idential sheet sets, so just in case accidents happen, no other camper has to know about it.

In the summer there's no need to pack a sub zero sleeping bag. This Coleman warm weather sleeping bag from Amazon [middle photo] is perfect for summer camp. 

Tip: If your camp has an overnight camping trip on the schedule, don't plan for the sleeping bag to be the bunk bedding. The sleeping bag will get gross and it will be nice for your kid to come back to different bedding in his/her cabin. If you do, however, use the sleeping bag as bedding have your little kiddo unzip it and use it like a blanket. Sleeping bags in bunk beds can be dangerous becuase they can't get their feet out if they fall. 
How to pack for camp
inhaler, Amazon, Target, Amazon

15.  Dont forget ....

A hat ... I always pack a hat in the duffle.

A stuffed animal ... if your kid wants a stuffed animal then maybe convince him or her to pack one that they are okay with losing. Their favorite one needs to stay home. 

A good book ... is one of the best things to have at camp. 

Tip: I usually pack medication in the side pocket of a duffle so is easy to get to if a counselor or you needs to take it to the nurses station. Or, it is easy to get to if you camper needs it. Your camp will probably have instructions about medication so make sure you ask.

What about the pillow?

Pack for Camp

Attach it to your duffle bag by the straps and you're ready to go!

Final Tips:

  • Life Jacket: Call your camp and ask if they provide these. Our camp does for non-swimmers. We also don't pack one because the rule in our family is you can't go unless you are a confident swimmer.
  • Rain jackets are always a good thing to pack at the bottom of the trunk.
  • When I was confident my kiddo was ready for overnight camp, one of my favorite books to prepare me, as the parent, was a book called Homesick and Happy By Micheal Thompson. It is helping my nervous mama heart as we speak.
How to Pack Your Kid for Camp
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Is your kid going to summer camp? Please share any tips you have too. This mama is sending her kiddo this week ... cue the tears.


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