Planning a Road Trip

One of my favorite things is to plan trips. I love dreaming about places to go and making lists. Each summer we take a big road trip, sometimes it involves camping, sometimes not. This year it does. We will be taking 3 weeks to travel and camp. My oldest child will be in Austin, TX for the month of July, and we are going to roadtrip from Seattle to Austin to pick her up, then come home again.

When planning a road trip the first thing I do is decide where to go. This year we have a particular place to go already built in, so this was easy for us. A couple years ago we just decided to go to the Grand Canyon because we never had before, and then visit all the other National Parks in the areas along the way. Cost can make a big difference in where you go. Disneyland is going to be a bigger budget trip than camping in Yosemite. Both are awesome, but very different.

Once you have a destination(s) in mind, you have to choose a route. Depending on how far away your destination is, you may need to decide how long to take to get there. Sometimes we roadtrip for just a couple hours and stay in that area for a whole week (like a trip to Ocean Shores). For this years trip to Texas the most direct route is well over 2,000 miles. I know I will not be attempting to do this in 2 days.

This is where I usually start a trip on Roadtrippers. I put in my starting point and destination, then start exploring things to do/see along the way. I like camping, and there are lots of national parks between Seattle and Austin, so I put them into my route. It makes the trip take longer, but then we get to spend time outdoors in some of the most beautiful places in the country.

While figuring out the route, you have to decide how much travel to do each day, and where to stay each night. Last year we went with hotels the whole trip. It made packing easier. It made the kids a little happier. It made things more expensive. This year my kids are a little older. We haven’t camped in a while, so they are more enthusiastic. And we are saving a ton on money. A $15 campsite is much cheaper than a $75+ hotel room (especially when you have a family of 6 and need 2 rooms).

Knowing these things can help you make a definite budget and determine packing and meals. I have a packing list that combines camping and long road trips. When camping close to home the list is pretty much the same, but maybe fewer car entertainment items. When camping we do most meals in-camp, so having a food planner is important. I use these every time we take a trip and find them invaluable, so I’m sharing them with you (yay free printables!)

                                                         Camp Roadtrip Packing List

                                                         Camp Meal Planner

Ballerina Party

Both of my girls have danced for a number of years. One still does, and loves it! Most of her friends are dancers. So we have seen our share of ballerina birthday parties. One of the dance teachers recently had a baby, so we even went to a ballerina baby shower.

Since I like printing my own things for parties, here is a Ballerina Party Invitation. I am sharing 2 versions, one with the silhouette of an actual ballerina I photographed, and one without. Perfect free printable for your next party. Just right-click and “save as”.

I have a whole set of coordinating ballerina party printables in my Etsy shop (PrakashStudio). Enjoy!

Favorite Non-Candy Valentines

My kids go to a school where candy Valentines are discouraged. I get it, but I am also a little disappointed. But, I over the years we have done some pretty fun non-candy things (that I found on Pinterest of course). Here are links to these awesome free printables for Valentine’s Day gifts.

Yoda Best



Make my Heart Bounce

exSTRAW special

All That and a Bag of Chips

S’More friends like you

You A-Maze Me


Dance Competitions

Getting Ready for Dance CompetitionsThis post may contain affiliate links

Now that it’s the new year, it’s the start of dance competition season. Several weekends in the next couple months will be spent watching my oldest dance. While I do love seeing her on stage, because she loves being there, it can be exhausting and a lot of work for dance parents.

I use Cozi, which is an awesome app for keeping me organized (there is a free version, or click on the link for a free trial of the paid version). I use it for a calendar as well as having shopping lists and to do lists. I have one list on mine that is a checklist for packing. It has all the usual dance related items like hair stuff, costumes, makeup, and snacks. Some competitions have master classes or a convention, so you may also need class dancewear and different shoes. So much stuff! Cozi keeps me organized and ready for any competition.

I am excellent at packing bags, and here are 2 that we use for everything dance related

Dance Bag (we got it in teal, her favorite color):

Toiletry Bag (with removable sections!):


Because my daughter is in several competition groups as well as doing solos, she has a lot of costumes and sometimes needs to change very quickly. We bring a rack like this to hang them from because I haven’t spent the money to get one of those dream duffles. It folds down and comes in 2 pieces for easy transport. It fits into my rolling carry-on bag.

This is my competition checklist (click to view larger or save it)

I keep each costume in separate garment bags and label them with these hanging tags I made


What do you bring to competitions?

Roadtrip – Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore and the whole Keystone, SD area were our last big stop before getting home from our road trip. There are lots of interesting things to see and do near Mount Rushmore. We started off by turning of the main freeway and onto SD-79, which was scenic and less traveled. There were still plenty of cars around, but it felt less crowded. After traveling down that for a little while we turned to Wind Cave National Park. You can’t reserve a tour online before you go, so we had to just go and hope there was something available. There was, but by the time we got there the kids were not into going on it. So instead we checked out the visitor center, got our stamp, looked at all the displays, and kept on driving. Just north of the national park is Custer State Park. This park has some cool views, wildlife, and a fun windy road to go on, with some small tunnels my husband liked.

We drove through part of the park and got sticker to place in our windshield, the remnants of which stayed there for months because of the glue 😦  We happened to be there at the same time as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, so we shared the roadway with TONS of motorcycles. We took the Needle Highway, a national scenic byway, and it was so pretty. There are turnouts for viewpoints all along the way, as well as tight little tunnels that only 1 car at a time can go through (no RVs allowed for some).

After threading the Needle Eye, we headed to the Crazy Horse Monument. It was so cool to see such a large ‘statue’ being built. We watched a movie about it, looked through the displays, watched some Native American dancers, and had a lovely time there. I liked this monument better than Mt Rushmore.

Speaking of which, after Crazy Horse, we headed back through Custer State Park to take a different long windy road out toward Mount Rushmore, because why use the big highways when there are fun smaller roads to drive on.

At Mount Rushmore we saw the video, took photos, used the bathrooms, checked out the museum displays, and then were pretty much done in half and hour. Not really worth the cost of parking in my opinion, even if the faces are impressive. But it was nice to see, and I do love a museum. I read there are more museums in the US than McDonald’s’ and Starbucks’ combined, I hope it’s true.


We spent the night in a crowded hotel in Keystone, almost didn’t find parking because of all the motorcycles (seriously, so many!), but it worked just fine in the end. The main part of the city is small enough to walk around to find places to eat and buy souvenirs, so once we found a parking spot at the hotel we didn’t have to give it up to go get food. We didn’t have cell reception the whole time we were in the area, so that was a drawback, my parents got a little worried in the morning, but we were fine. And after that we made our way home, with a quick pit stop at Devils Tower and an overnight in Montana, then we were home before we knew it.

Can you spot the climbers scaling the tower?