Hot topic for sure from the title alone. Amy Williams, a social worker who specializes in teen behavioral health, developed some great tips and a colorful infographic to help parents navigate this area. Having grown up stretching cords on phones to get privacy, this feels like grabbing wet spaghetti! As Williams reports, the digital footprint issue isn’t going away, and the explosion of social media adds a whole new dimension to the risks and the parenting issues associated. Here are her insights on how we can be more aware in this sensitive area.
Cracking the Teen Sexting Code by Amy Williams
Parenting children in the digital age can be difficult. Many families are encountering dramatic issues regarding sexting and their teens. Let’s face it, we came of age during skin mags and hidden VHS tapes. Our sexual exploration didn’t involve social media or the Internet, we struggled through this phase of development without creating a digital footprint.
Experts have said that sexting is normal teenage behavior, it’s just the use of cell phones that have changed. Previous generations were able to keep our explorations private. However, today’s highly connected teens are exposing themselves to far more than a special intimate moment.
Many teens view sexting as a safe alternative to intercourse. Teens might feel that sexting is a smart choice in today’s sexually rich world, but their underdeveloped teenage brains might fail to adequately assess the risks associated with sexting. Whether they are just curious about sex or seeking an outlet for their new feelings, it is a risky behavior.
Decoding The Signs Your Child Is Sexting
Sexting is an easy act to disguise. Most teens rely on their cell phones to sext, because it is portable, has a camera, and easily connects them to other people. In the past, teens utilized text messaging, but today many teens are taking advantage of the ever changing social media platforms to sext.
While many teens are adapting their methods there is no safe way to sext, because everything posted online or digitally has the potential to be saved, forwarded, or retrieved. Teens are discovering new apps to cover their activity that create disguises like calculators to hide online activity.
Listed below are common warning signs your child is sexting:
6 Ways Parents Can Help Curb The Temptation To Sext
The following tips are six ways we can help our children navigate the popular issue of sexting:
Author Bio: Amy Williams is a social worker, specializing in teen behavioral health. As a parent of two teenagers, she is focused on spreading the word on positive parenting techniques and new technologies.
This month’s MomTastic find is a heartwarming back to school story, and what better time to think about realizing potential in each and every kid. Because They Can is an organization looking to close the gap between what students can achieve and what other people believe they can achieve by empowering educators to empower all students to achieve their fullest potential. Education Post had a great article detailing the effects of ignoring kids on performance, self-esteem, and ultimately, being the best they can be.
Unfortunately, not all kids have engaged parents in the home. Research shows that many adults in society have much lower expectations for these kids, and when they underestimate what they’re capable of, it’s called the Belief Gap.
Here’s an example, the story of 8th grader Kim Wilborn, a young girl who, with the help of committed educators, was able to be pushed farther than she ever imagined.
Thanks to Rose Howell, Academic Liaison from Thinking Caps Group, for these timely tips on gearing up for back to school. Based on where you live, you may already have backpacks on :), but the early stages of back to school often include adjustments at home and school.
Here are five simple ways to ease back into school mode.
It is unlikely that your kids will be able to shift from a late summer bedtime to an earlier bedtime right away. About two weeks before school, begin making bedtime about 15 minutes earlier so that they grow accustomed to the new schedule. Explain to your child that sleep is crucial for her health and should not be seen as a bummer, but a welcome relief. If parents begin to wind down at the same time, this will also help send the message that everyone is heading to bed, and they aren’t missing out on the action.
Make a plan for showers, packing lunch, sports bags & homework, and eating breakfast. Have a chalkboard or whiteboard for your kids so they can make checklists about what they need to accomplish each morning. Make sure they know it’s important to come to breakfast right when it’s ready so they are not late. Having a set routine is the best way to combat the grogginess of early mornings.
Sit down with your kids and lay out the rules for the coming school year when it comes to electronic usage, playdates or junk food. Make sure they have an understanding of what you expect of them.
You’ll feel more at ease sending your child off every day if you know the teacher and the class environment that he or she creates. It’s also nice to know a few parents who you can rely on in case of an emergency or for more convenient carpooling. Developing this familiarity with the school community is a great way to start the year, even if you don’t have time to attend as many events as you’d like.
Having a dedicated workspace gives students a sense of purpose and consistency when it’s time to do homework. Make sure they have a space just for them with the proper materials and supplies. If your child has ADHD and/or is especially distracted by noise and movement, ensure that his homework space is removed from any commotion.
Author Bio: Rose Howell works as an Academic Liaison at Thinking Caps, a unique tutoring company that takes a one-on-one, individualized approach to academic support for students of all ages and learning styles.
In light of recent posts on managing the digital age, this article caught my eye. The data is alarming about how connected we are and about how tough it is to disconnect, and I love the way it’s presented. Here’s the scoop from New Theory Magazine, followed by their very well-done infographic. The family stats below, that 70% of families argue about cell phone use, and that 50% of teens admit being “addicted” to their phones, aren’t surprising. New Theory Magazine, dubbed the voice of “mature millenials, of Generation ‘Why’ ” has departments like “locker room” and “nerd alert.” Love it! Here’s their report…
In a recent effort to show the obsession behind cellphone usage, New Theory Magazine released an infographic showcasing the latest data to back up America’s cellphone usage addiction. There is no denying this generation has a problem. Numbers do not lie. To say that we are, “attached”, is officially an alarming understatement. Individuals have become reliant on staying connected.
The average user checks their cellphone 110 times throughout any given day, translating into approximately 3.6 hours every single day and roughly 25.2 hours during the course of a week. It is hard to imagine all of the supplementary, productive accomplishments an individual could be achieving while utilizing their time more efficiently.
Individuals of all ages are finding themselves affected by this epidemic- positively and negatively. However, no matter how an individual is choosing to value their cellphone, there is no argument that it is a daily distraction. Keeping account of continuous job-related and social mobilization can lead to a distressed impact on an individual’s sleeping patterns and overall lifestyle. 77% of parents struggle to monitor their teenagers and younger children’s activity right in the comfort of their own home, including the dinner table. 40% of users interact on their cellphones while on the toilet — keep that in mind next time you’re texting someone! Aside from the indecent visuals, the most problematic form of refusing to put down your cellphone is ‘texting while driving’. With 26% of the car accidents in the United States caused by this situation, up to 75% even admit guilt, although experts can ensure the true numbers would be higher.
Highly-accredited psychologist Dr. Bart Rossi weighs in, “Millennials do not relate to smartphone technology simply as a means of communication. It is culturally much more than that. It is a ‘way of life’. Individuals capitalize on the device as a user-based “network” and essentially apply it to manage their standard of living, both professionally and socially.”
Since relationships are discovered, cultivated, and enhanced through digital pursuits, various aspects of social norms have evolved- even surpassing more traditional platforms of extended reach. Whether business inspired or romantic quests, success can be as easy as a swipe, an email or a DM away.
Despite the focus that individuals have on their own hand-held universe, it is the number one way media is currently being consumed by the mass public. Americans scroll down their news-feed, double-tap and click through countless updates, photos, hash-tags, graphics, videos, and articles, all in a vain attempt to be a part of the trends. This is not perception; this is reality.
Rossi also insights, “Without a person’s phone just for even a few minutes, a millennial’s attitude and behavior may increase in “nervousness”, generating unnecessary anxiety. For this reason, this is the only way they know how to exchange with the rest of their acquaintances and the world. When they do not have that instrument, their goals become obstructed from engaging information and action planning.”
As the numbers steadily climb from each passing year, we are all left wondering, have we gone too far with our cellphones? Can people really learn how to live life again after “disconnecting”?
About New Theory:
New Theory Magazine represents a unique voiced dubbed, “the core of Generation Why?”
The online and print publication provides a daily dose of Mature Millennial principles as told through the eyes of authentic Generation Y staff writers, personalities, influencers, and contributors. As New Theory Magazine delivers exclusive access into the mind of the Mature Millennial covering inspirational business, finances, technology, health, fitness, fashion, beauty, celebrity news, music, trending topics with the most refreshing satire! The evolution of Millennial media promises more than just a generational guide in entertainment leisure, but a lifestyle full of prosperity where your voice can be heard.
As a follow-up to my recent post about the new Screenagers documentary, I asked the film team to share some top tech tips with our readers. These are so spot on, and I hope you find them useful as you navigate online/tech boundaries in your own families.
The reality is, we are attached to our devices for some very good reasons – they are incredibly useful tools in our daily lives. Complaining to our kids about their screen use puts them on the defensive and sets us up to get locked into a parent vs. child power struggle over screen time. Filmmaker Ruston found that when she took a closer look at her daughter’s social media interactions, she found, “there was a lot more positive communication than I had expected.” Recognize and acknowledge the good stuff and you’re more likely to find yourself on the same team with your kids. This sets you up as more friend than foe when you start tackling screen time guidelines together.
It’s part of the teenager’s job to resist limits, but underneath, they appreciate parents enforcing limits to keep them safe. Limits are tangible evidence that parents still care and stay involved. In the film, California State University professor Larry Rosen explains that young brains “have not fully developed to resist the impulse to self-distract. It’s not their fault.” When Ruston asks a group of teens whether they are glad their parents have rules about screen use at home, several respond, “Yes. You would never stop if you didn’t. Until your phone dies.”
In Screenagers we see Ruston fumble on limit-setting before succeeding. Along with a new smart phone for her daughter Tessa, she delivers a contract outlining rules around its use. But a group of teens interviewed in the film enlighten us, explaining that rules work a lot better when they are included in the decision-making and understand the reasons behind the rules. As one boy says, “When my parents actually have that deep conversation, it works a lot better.” Eventually Tessa and her parents develop a screen time contract together that is custom-fit to their family and gets buy-in from all.
4. Make homework and bedtime screen-free time zones
When students in Screenagers share their personal screens-off strategies, one includes, “When I study, I turn off the data on my phone, and that way I can’t get text messages.” A Seattle Children’s Hospital pediatrician shares in the film, “When I talk to parents about taking technology out of a room in the evening so their kids can sleep, they’re sometimes surprised that they can even do that. That it’s okay and other parents are doing it.” You can too! Before phones, we woke up to our alarm clocks…
Sports, creative projects, being outside, music… extracurricular involvements tend to dwindle while screen time takes their place. Return to balance by involving kids in afterschool teams and activities. Screenagers features this observation: kids enrolled in afterschool programs experience increased self-confidence, fewer behavior issues and higher grades. In the film, college student Andrew, a pianist and high-performing student who completes a video game addiction rehab center program after dropping out of college, reflects, “If I had dedicated all my computer time to mastering an instrument or reading or exploring things, I would be way above where I am now.”
“I think dad really really needs restrictions. He’s just hooked,” says a young girl in the film. Ruston ponders, “Can we really tell our kids, ‘Do as we say and not as we do?’”
Screenagers introduces “Tech Talk Tuesdays” as a way for families to have short, regular conversations about how technology fits into their lives. Weekly conversation starters and discussion questions are featured on the film’s website.
A boy in Screenagers talks about his parents’ differing views on video games for example, noting “Mom is a girl and girls don’t like boy things. My dad is fine with it.” Check in on your own views on various screen time topics and discuss them as a family. Find out where you do agree and accept the differences, or gather more facts. The film’s website offers a lot of resources you can use to inform your choices.
“This is one of the most difficult parenting issues we’ve ever faced as a society,” acknowledges the co-founder of an internet addiction rehab center featured in the film. “Video game use, internet consumption. All of that is very difficult to parent around.” Virtually any parent you talk to will acknowledge there are struggles. Screenagers’ Facebook page offers a place to share and get new ideas, for example.
A recently published Common Sense Media poll reports that one of every two teens feels addicted to their mobile devices. But Ruston draws a clear line around what qualifies as a real addiction, and feels it’s important we don’t overuse the term. “We should be careful to stop using the word ‘addiction’ so kids can have an internal sense of control. They have to know that the device does not control them.”
This is SUCH a great idea, and I happen to adore the founder, Debbie Cohen, behind it…Sure, we all “Amazon” and love one-click shopping, but how great would it be if a specially curated bookstore came directly TO YOU! The Story House is a new concept, a bookstore on wheels, much like a food truck with a different kind of nourishment, that will be visiting book fairs, schools, etc., in the coming year. Their online store has lots of great resources, too, along with book ideas for kids to grads, local summer reading lists, ways to bring The Story House to your school or event, and more.
Cohen is an author, educator, mom, and now innovator. You can be part of putting this store on the road. Check out their Kickstarter Campaign to get involved. And happy reading!
Disclosure: No compensation was made for this post, except for the satisfaction that I’m supporting a GREAT cause! The opinions are all my own.
Screenagers, a recently released documentary, is sharing its voice about teens and tech on, ironically, screens nationwide. This is such an important discussion for both parents and teens/tweens, and for any parents who don’t struggle with limit-setting and the effect of tech on family life, consider yourself lucky. I consider this topic so important, both personally, and journalistically, that I’m covering the story in 2 parts. This reminded me of Race to Nowhere, a documentary on the extreme pressure our kids face in schools, in terms of style/approach on a current topic of relevance to tweens/teens.
First, here’s a short trailer on Screenagers:
Here were some of my takeaways from reviewing the film…
The film tells us that kids spend an average of 6.5 hours a day on screens, not including schoolwork. Boys, on average, spend 11.3 hours on video games EACH WEEK. The violent/military style games, the film notes, are designed to desensitize the user. Prosocial games, on the other hand, involve helping others, saving cities. Overstimulation from playing any games tires the brain. The average age that kids are getting a smartphone is now 10 years, 3 months….
The filmmaker, Dr. Delaney Ruston, was motivated to develop this film as a vehicle for social change after realizing how big the decision was to buy her own daughter a Smartphone. She feels strongly about balance in our tech-obsessed world, and she hopes the film will be a catalyst for conversation in schools (digital citizenship education) and in homes (Tech Talk Tuesdays, setting aside time to talk about technology as a family).
I was so intrigued by this film and its mission, that I had to speak with Delaney and learn more…Here are some highlights of our conversation.
What surprised you about reactions to the film?
Kids come to the screenings on the defensive, but leave saying “wow, that spoke to me too.” It gives them insights into how important the discussions are. Parents feel empowered after seeing the film. Delaney also shared with me that developing self-control is not an innate skill, but that we can teach and model self-control techniques, especially as they relate to technology use.
What concerns do you have about the impact of the film?
As a physician who understands long-term change, we’ve got to really stick with something. It takes 6 weeks to 2 months before a new behavior forms. I worry people will feel inundated and lose the enthusiasm and go back to being overwhelmed by the technology.
What are the most important take-aways for parents to have a healthy relationship with kids and electronics?
Make a pledge to have a conversation with your family on a weekly basis about technology that isn’t emotion driven but is curiosity driven. We don’t want anyone on screens during all waking hours, so defining times to NOT be on devices is not only reasonable, but what we need to do. Continually readdress and change guidelines as your child grows up in response to their input.
Delaney shares that teens have a lot to say about technology, and that their input can engage important discussions in our families.
The Screenagers website is awesome – here are some links you may enjoy:
I wanted to give a shout-out to my friends at PEP, the Parent Encouragement Program, who offer some great courses in the DC/MD/VA area around this topic as well, including…
Tackling Technology with Your 5 to 12 Year Old
Tackling Technology with Teens & Tweens
Setting Limits To Promote Cooperation (could relate to screens or general topics)
Click here to see more about PEP’s course offerings locally.
When our kids are young, it’s “easy” to put boundaries on them with social media and screens. Yes, there may be power struggles. Yes, there is a new social channel launching every minute, so it’s sometimes paramount to catching wet spaghetti while you’re learning a foreign language. But parents get it that too many screens aren’t a good thing. So what happens when these kids turn into teens and young adults? As ABC’s Karen Travers learned, the tables turn, and teens start putting limits on their parents about how much and what to post. So fun to have been interviewed with my son Jake for this piece, and love watching one of my Parent Encouragement Program mentors and digital genius Robbye Fox, share some guidelines for this ever-changing landscape. Enjoy, and good luck in your own families! Feel free to comment on this post with any creative ideas that have worked in your own home…
ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos
If you’ve ever found humor in your mom life or misadventures on the parenting path, you’ll LOVE this show. I recently had the pleasure of cracking up with best friends in NYC at the new show fresh on the off-Broadway stage scene, One Funny Mother, while giving each other those knowing looks as we could relate to many of Dena’s stories. Dena Blizzard delivers a one-woman monologue that captures the funny in parenting and families while adding some touching commentary about the challenges we face. She’s funny; she’s brutally honest; and she’s taking a topic anyone can relate to (moms, dads, wives, husbands, kids, friends) and teasing out the hysterical mayhem. She shares some of the things we wish we hadn’t said to our kids at times (ok, she tells her daughter that Zeus the One-Eyed Dog was a “bad listener,” and as we’re laughing, she shrugs her shoulders and says her daughter started listening a lot better after that)…As Laurie Holcomb-Holland wrote in The New York Times, “Motherhood can be messy, unpredictable and full of awkward moments.” Blizzard explores these moments in a rapid-fire monologue that’s going to resonate with moms in a big way.
Here’s a “trailer” of her show:
From her website: Dena is a married mother of three and was Miss New Jersey in 1995 proudly placing in the top 50 at the Miss America Pageant. Dena is the official preliminary host for the Miss America Pageant and was also a correspondent on this year’s Miss America pre-show on ABC. She has hosted the TV Land Red Carpet and was the Host of Real Simple on PBS. She has co-hosted “Anderson Live” with Anderson Cooper and has been an on-air correspondent for The Nate Berkus Show. She is also regular fill-in radio talk show host on NJ 101.5.
Photo above with Dena and some BFF’s from my own childhood and much valued “colleagues” on my own motherhood journey!
Larry Ackerman, Guest Author, is President of The Identity Circle and author of several books on identity. He brings this idea to parenting with some great tips for parents of kids of all ages.
10 Things a Parent Can Do to Honor the Individual Inside Their Child
By Larry Ackerman
As parents, we aren’t naturally conditioned to think about raising children through the lens of identity; that is, deliberately helping them understand themselves and love themselves for who they truly are. Yet, helping a child understand his or her uniqueness and the potential it implies goes a long way towards ensuring that they are well- grounded human beings, that they find the right careers and companions, and are secure in who they are over the course of their lives, despite the challenges they will face.
Here are 10 things a parent can do to honor the individual inside their child.
About the Author: Larry Ackerman is President of The Identity Circle and author of several books. He has given lectures at the Yale School of Management, The Wharton School of Business, Chicago’s Booth School of Business, Pepperdine University, and UCLA’s Anderson School, and has shared his insights in broadcast interviews nationwide.
DC/MD/VA friends – wanted to share a client project with a #MomTastic twist. A Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) Event Food Fight MobilePack Assembly Event is happening this weekend May 13-15 at the Dulles Expo Center (Virginia). Some 30,000 volunteers will pack 5 million meals to feed kids around the world. Plus, volunteers are asked to bring a can of food for the Capital Area Food Bank for local communities. This massive event can feed 14,000 children for a full year.
How can you help?
Here’s the why behind the story…
This video illustrates what the MobilePack event looks like and how you can help kick hunger to the curb:
Disclosure: Story about a Write Ideas, Inc., client, and thrilled to be working on a cause that supports the health of children and families.
Don’t get too put off by the title…This is a really bare-it-all book on the pitfalls (and often realities) of motherhood. As Ybarbo delicately put at a recent book event, “Vacations can be bittersweet, 80% bitter, 20% sweet.” Now do I REALLY think these women think we’re constantly failing as moms? Absolutely NOT. But have they taken a completely brutally honest look at many facets of motherhood with thick skin journalism on board? Absolutely yes!
I met this team of Emmy Award Winning Today Show producers who authored the book at a recent Maryland event, and was laughing along with a room full of women about our misadventures along the path of trying to keep it all together as moms. Through vomit, missed school conferences, getting lost in theme parks, figuring out how to put the fun in vacations, and much more, this book takes us through the seasons with anecdotes, tips, and our mommy road map that makes absolutely no sense at times!
Here are Ybarbo and Zoellner at the event:
After meeting them, I tweeted something to the effect of, “Hey, we’re all in this together!” The audience shared hysterical stories of cramming kids full of sugar cereals to survive a 6am flight without thinking how the sugar high would affect their kids at 8 am to watching their kid make lunch for the first time, realizing the next morning the bread was as moldy as a science experience (hmmmm…who was that?!). Even Ybarbo herself shared a really fun story about taking her own son to work when J Lo was in studio, only to realize in her work frenzy that she was missing her other kid’s parent-teacher conference.
It was like watching stand-up comedy about life as a parent, sharing missteps from our mom life without any judgement whatsoever, and laughing hysterically.
The book: Sh*tty Mom for All Seasons: Half-@ssing It All Year Long by Alicia Ybarbo and Mary Ann Zoellner with Erin Clune
Some non-advice advice from the Sh*tty Moms
Here are some reviews that give you a flavor for the delightful dish in store for you when you pick this book up…
Praise for Sh*tty Mom for All Seasons
“Shitty Moms provides just what we all need at the end of our parenting days: a shot of irreverence with a belly laugh chaser. With Shitty Moms 2, we get to make it a double.” – Jessica Lahey, Author of the Gift of Failure
“Finally, a book that explains why kids are so hard to feed AND so easy to lose in a crowded store. Hilarious and helpful, it will keep you up at night, laugh-crying at the challenges of modern motherhood. ” – Alisyn Camerota, CNN
“A hilarious and heart-warming book that perfectly captures that delicate balance every mom feels, somewhere between “Parenting! #NailedIt!” and “What the F have I done?!?!” – Randi Zuckerberg, Digital Lifestyle Expert, Author and Host of “Dot Complicated” on SiriusXM
“If you’ve never felt like a shitty parent then you’re likely delusional. A brilliant and hilarious guide to make you feel better, or at least in great company.” – Jenni Pulos, Star of Bravo’s Flipping Out
“As a mom your spare time is precious. Spend it laughing with sh*tty moms!” – Wendy Bellissimo, CEO Wendy Bellissimo Inc.
About the Authors
Alicia Ybarbo and Mary Ann Zoellner are Emmy Award–winning producers at NBC’s TODAY show. They are the coauthors of Sh*tty Mom: The Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us and Today’s Moms: Essentials for Surviving Baby’s First Year.
Erin Clune is a journalist and humorist whose blogs include Life After NY, The Mischievous Mixologist, and her advice column, So What? Who Cares? Her work has been featured on NPR, The Rumpus, Thought Catalog, and Medium.
Thanks to our friends at The Washington Nationals for this MomTastic discount code. Go to Nationals.com/VIP, select game, and enter MOMTINI for special discounts at any games! Go Nats!
There’s only one thing I love more than reading books by parents, about parenting, and that’s MEETING the parent behind the venture. Thanks to my dear friend, Lorraine A., I recently attended a funny & insightful book talk with Brett Graff, a well-published writer known as the “Home Economist. Graff put her research and smarts into a new book, “Not Buying It: Stop Overspending, and Start Raising Happier, Healthier, More Successful Kids.” I asked Brett to share some of her favorite learnings from this research here at The Lounge. Enjoy! – Amy
Here’s me, Brett, Lorraine A., and of course, this provocative and thoughtful new book that will make you think twice before overspending on things like cribs, produce (trust me, read on…), and more!
Five Things I Learned About Spending Money to Raise Great Kids
By Brett Graff
I’m a newspaper columnist, mom and now, author of a book that was born after my friend — who happens to be a pediatrician — and I wondered: Is all this money we’re spending on our kids actually messing them up? As parents, we’re competitive, emotional and we’re deeply committed to our cause. This makes us the perfect consumers. For products, yes, but also coaches, teachers, camps. They toss around words such as confidence, self esteem, emotional intelligence and brain-building. And we salivate while reaching for our wallets. So I in turn I looked at every facet of our spending and found research from National Institutes of Health, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Harvard University, Stanford University, Cornell University, the Food & Drug Administration and dozens of other esteemed intuitions and learned – um – a lot of the results were buying are the opposite of what we’d hoped. Where are we not putting our money? Into the rock solid financial foundations that actually can launch our kids into greatness. After all this, I learned…..
About the Author:
Brett Graff is The Home Economist, writing and reporting on the unseen forces affecting our decisions about money. The reasons we spend, save, earn or even discuss finances with our kids and friends aren’t always obvious. And prices, products and circumstances are certainly not always as they seem. We are all economists, making decisions on how to allocate our resources each day. We need to be informed.
Brett’s column THE HOME ECONOMIST is nationally syndicated and published in newspapers all over the country. Her new book, “Not Buying It: Stop Overspending, and Start Raising Happier, Healthier, More Successful Kids,” is available on Amazon.
Thanks to guest author Andrea Woroch, a consumer savings expert who shares these great “trip tips” that will “keep your budget in check” and lead to great family adventures…
Families with school-aged kids are eagerly awaiting the upcoming spring break for a chance to escape the real world and enjoy some extra time together. Since this week-long hiatus typically occurs between mid-March and mid-April, parents have likely confirmed most of the travel arrangements like flights and hotel.
While it’s important to find the best airfare and accommodation deals, keeping costs in mind when you get to your destination is equally crucial. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and spend beyond your means, especially with such temptations as afternoon snacks, unplanned excursions and must-have souvenirs.
To help keep your budget in check this spring break, here are eight travel hacks that will save you money without compromising family fun.
Search daily deals.
Before heading on your trip, start scoping out daily deals offered at the destination you’re visiting. From restaurant savings to discounts on activities and entertainment, you can save a bundle using these vouchers. Sign up at Groupon or LivingSocial to get alerts via email or download the app for instant pop-up notifications so you don’t miss out on limited-time offers. Review the fine print and expiration dates first, though, to ensure the voucher will be valid during your vacation.
Redeem reward points.
If you have reward points saved up on your credit card, consider redeeming them for gift cards to restaurants and activities. For example, you can get cards for SpaFinder Wellness to help cover the cost of a spa day for you and your daughter, or AMC Theater gift cards to cut down on the expense of a family outing to the movies. Alternatively, you can save your reward points for a future family trip and use a site like RewardExpert.com to understand how many points you need for a specific destination, and create a plan to accrue them as quickly as possible!
Take public transportation.
If you’re visiting a city, using your car or renting one can turn into more time spent getting lost or in traffic than actually enjoying the sites. Not only will you reduce fuel and parking costs, but taking public transportation is a great way to get acquainted with a new area while saving you money. Plus, you’re more apt to engage with locals and may end up with great recommendations for restaurants and activities as a result.
Look for restaurant coupons.
Not having to cook is one of the luxuries parents look forward to when traveling. However, eating out for every meal can destroy your budget. Make sandwiches in your hotel room to take along for the day’s adventure and pack snacks to carry with you. For dinner, take advantage of early bird or happy hour discounts (and don’t forget the all important restaurant bag). What’s more, you can access restaurant coupons using the Coupon Sherpa mobile app for deals at both chain favorites and local eateries.
Buy an entertainment book.
You can access two-for-one and 50% off deals on restaurants, activities and more for whatever city you’re visiting through an entertainment book. For instance, buy an entertainment book for Santa Barbara and you’ll get one free child admission with one adult ticket for their popular Zoo, and in Orlando you’ll score one free bowling session when a second one is purchased at AMF Bowling Centers.
Find free activities.
To make the most of your trip, you may want to book an action-packed schedule of activities and tours for the entire family. But, this can get pricey and may also wipe you and your family out! There are likely plenty of free activities that you all will enjoy like swimming, hiking or star gazing. Consult with the hotel concierge or head to the city’s visitor bureau for a guide and list of ideas for free and low-cost things to do and see.
Participate in a volunteer activity.
There’s no better way to experience a community than to volunteer your time on a local project. Plus, any opportunity to show your children the magic of giving should be embraced! Use a site like VolunteerMatch.org to find opportunities in your destination city or town, and filter by those activities you think your family will enjoy most. For example, you can participate in a Clean Your Block Party event in Tampa Bay, Fl., with such projects as garden planting, habitat restoration, tree planting and more.
Snap lots of pictures.
Instead of loading up your suitcase with a bunch of souvenirs, capture the best memories with selfies and group shots using your camera’s timer setting. When you get home, create a digital photo book as your spring break keepsake, or order a custom photo book online from sites like Snapfish and Shutterfly. Reduce your costs with coupon codes from sites like FreeShipping.org, which is currently offering free shipping and 25% off your order from Snapfish.
Author Bio: Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer-finance expert who is passionate about helping families discover simple ways to spend less and save more without sacrificing their lifestyles. She is a frequent contributor to national shows such as Today, Good Morning America and FOX & Friends, and has worked with hundreds of other popular media like Dr. OZ, CNN, MSNBC, ABC World News, Inside Edition, Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, Real Simple, Family Circle, Cosmopolitan and many more. Andrea also writes for various news outlets and her stories have been published on Forbes, AOL Daily Finance, Yahoo!, Huffington Post, LearnVest, New York Daily News “Dollar Stretcher” and ClarkHoward.com. You can read more about Andrea and watch recent TV clips at www.AndreaWoroch.com.