10 Things To Bring When Exploring The National Parks

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Planning on visiting a National Park soon and not sure what to pack? 

Our family has recently explored several of America’s National Parks while on our 22 week RV road trip across the USA and into Western Canada. Once we had gone to several we realized that we had come up with a mental packing list of essentials we needed to explore the National Parks each day.

Planning to take a road trip to one of the USA National Parks? Here is a list of what to pack for a day of exploring.

Below is our list of essential day exploring items, but first let me tell you about one essential you are going to want to buy if you plan to visit more than two National Parks this year–a National Parks pass. A National Parks pass is good for one year and currently costs $80. Considering most National Parks cost around $30 for entry, if you visit just three in a year you are starting to save money. By the time our trip is over our family will have visited at least a dozen National Parks, making our pass purchase a huge money saver.

10 Things To Bring When Exploring The National Parks

1. A Map And A Plan

National parks are often very large in size and if you go into them without a plan you are going to waste precious time.

My husband and I spend a bit of time researching online what there is to see at each National Park before we arrive. We enter into Google “top 10 things to do at…” and usually a listing from the website TripAdvisor will come up and we are able to see pictures and reviews of top hikes and sights in the park.

We have found it very helpful to head first to the visitors center upon arrival at the park we are visiting and ask the rangers for  suggestions. Generally they will give you a map and highlight features that best suit your group’s wants, such as length of hike or desire to see a certain geographical feature.

Craters of the Moo National Monument

Craters Of The Moon National Monument

2. Good Hiking/Walking Shoes

Even if you just plan on doing the driving loop around a National Park, you are still going to do a lot of walking. Many of the best sites are not available right on the road, instead you have to walk a 1/2 mile or so to them. These paths are generally very user-friendly, but the walking does add up and if you are not wearing good footwear you are going to end up with tired and achy legs very quickly.

Our family didn’t invest in hiking shoes, although there are days that we wish we did. Instead knowing that we would be sticking to beginner/moderate hikes we purchased everyone in the family a good pair of walking shoes. My husband and daughter have Asics, I have Brooks, and my sons have Nike brand, These are not the “fashion” grade, lower cost footwear, but instead their higher grade walking/running shoes that come with more support.

Good socks are also another great investment. Ill fitting socks can cause blisters, our family likes the ones that hug the arches (like these ones) leaving less chance for a sock to bunch and create the perfect environment for a blister.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

3. A Weather Appropriate Hat

On cold and windy days a winter hat that covers the ears (we have one in this brand and find it very warm) is such a blessing on short walks out to see the sites. On a hot and sunny day a good summer hat that shades the eyes can make it easier on your eyes  and will help you avoid heat stroke (a simple ball cap will do, but if you want a bit more sun protection a hat like this is perfect).

Death Valley

Death Valley

4. Sunglasses

Protect your eyes not just from the sun, but from snow and water glare with a pair of good quality sunglasses. Our family has several tifosi brand sunglasses and we find them to be good quality at a fair price.

The Grand Canyon, South Rim

The Grand Canyon, South Rim

5. Sunscreen

A sunburn after a day of exploring is a painful souvenir. Avoid it by applying sunscreen before you leave and make sure to slip a small bottle of it in your backpack for reapplying. A chapstick with SPF is also a good idea.

Petrified Forest

Petrified Forest

6. A Small Backpack

My husband and I both have small, sling style backpacks that have come in super handy for day hiking through the parks. This is the one my husband has (his is tan in color), and this is the one I have.

Packed in mine is our Canon digital SLR camera, my iPhone, my wallet, a few first aid items (more on that later), a water bottle, a snack bar for each of us and a travel sized container of wipes. I also like to slip in a hair elastic and/or a yoga headband so that I put my hair up if it is a windy day. The yoga headbands I buy can also cover my ears to keep them just a bit warmer if a cool breeze is blowing.

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings

7. A Good Camera Or Smartphone Camera Accessories

If you can afford it, I highly recommend investing in a good digital SLR camera and a zoom lens. Our family has a Canon Rebel and find it to be a great camera. Also make sure you bring along an extra camera card in case you either forgot yours in the laptop in your travel trailer (yep, I have done that several times) or in case you should fill your card before you finish exploring for the day (I have also done that).

If you can’t afford to invest in a digital SLR camera, you can still get really good pictures using your smartphone. I suggest investing in a selfie stick, but not primarily for selfies; the stick allows you to get that much closer to what you are snapping a picture of much like a zoom lens does on a camera. You might also want to look into purchasing a set of zoom lenses for your smartphone. I have not tested these attachable smartphone lenses, but the reviews on them seem to say that they work fairly well.

Two other smartphone accessories to bring along are a car charger and a portable battery charger so that you never miss a shot because you smartphone died.

Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad Caverns

8. A Small Cooler or Backpack Cooler

With five of us on our trip across North America we have both a small cooler and a backpack cooler. We keep the cooler in the truck packed with drinks for the day. This not only saves us money, but it also means we have something to drink even if we are miles from the National Park facilities offering food and drinks.

We use our backpack cooler to pack a lunch for the day. We really like it because it makes transporting our lunch to a great view so simple.

We have about half a dozen small freezer packs that we rotate between the coolers and the freezer so we are never without something to keep our drinks and food cool for the day.

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

9. A Few First Aid Essentials

Blisters happen, bugs bite, brambles scratch and all can be taken care of quickly if you pack the right supplies.

In my day pack I keep a few band-aids for blister and scratches. I also keep after bite cream to quickly soothe a bee sting. In our vehicle we keep a larger first aid kit that includes numerous items–seriously, it is huge–but my husband is an RN so he likes to be prepared for anything. What we have used most out of this huge first aid kit is pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, and anti-nausea medications, such as Dramamine (roads can get really rough in some areas of National Parks).

Yellowstone

Yellowstone

10. Snacks

When exploring a National Park to its fullest, you tend to walk a lot! All that physical activity can make you a little more hungry than usual.

Our family is ready for hiking hunger with a gallon sized bag full of various granola bars and trail mix sleeves in the truck as well as one for everyone in my day pack.

Here is a list of our favorites

psst…all of these bars are include in Prime Pantry, one of many services available to Amazon Prime members. You can try Amazon Prime for free with their 30-Day Free Trial. I really enjoy the convenience of having essential, everyday items delivered right to my door at good prices.

A bonus item for wildlife and bird lovers

If you love watching wildlife and/or birds, make sure to pack a small pair of binoculars.

Experienced explores of National Parks, what would you add to my list?

See pictures of our 22 week RV road trip here.

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RV Trip Update Week 19: Craters Of The Moon, Yellowstone, Grand Teton

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We saw so many wonderful things this week it was really hard to pick just 10 pictures. I have a feeling that is going to be the case for these last few weeks of our trip. Looking at our agenda, we have crammed these final weeks with a lot of travel and sightseeing.

Craters Of The Moon: seen during week 19 of a 22 week RV road trip.

We started our week with an incredibly long drive from Polson, Montana on the shores of Flathead Lake to Arco, Idaho–just a short drive from Craters of the Moon.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect at Craters of the Moon National Monument, but once again I fell in love with yet another National Park–or monument, I should say.

The area was full of different types of volcanic features. From the Inferno Cone Mountain pictured above to the caves created by lava tubes such as Indian Tunnel Cave pictured below.

Indian Tunnel Cave In Craters of The Moon: Seen during week 19 of a 22 week RV road trip.

Indian Tunnel cave went on for quite a while and turned out to be a bit of a climbing adventure in parts as we maneuvered around piles of rubble and snow.

Buffalo seen just outside Yellowstone during week 19 of a 22 week RV road trip.

Tuesday we moved to a KOA just outside the West gate of Yellowstone. We woke up Wednesday morning to snow! My mind had a little trouble wrapping itself around the idea of snow in mid May. Thank goodness for the long johns we bought everyone before we entered the Grand Canyon area back in February where we got over a foot of snow. They have come in handy several times now as we have faced exploring in freezing temperatures.

The morning brought more surprises than snow though, as we also got to see our first Bison–or Buffalo–whatever you prefer.

Later in the week we also saw bears (seen here), and even moose (seen here).

Sapphire Pool in Yellowstone: Week 19 of 22 week RV road trip.

After a leisurely morning at the campsite we bundled up and headed out to explore the portion of Yellowstone that was open that day. Several roads were closed, but we were still able to see many basins, geysers and of course–Old Faithful.

The basin above was called Sapphire Pool and it was my favorite because of its beautiful color and clear water.

Canyon Falls in Yellowstone: Seen during week 19 of 22 week RV road trip.

Yellowstone has several beautiful waterfalls. Pictured is the upper fall at Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon.

I am a HUGE lover of waterfalls, and so of course we had to check them all out.

Mud pots in Yellowstone: Seen during week 19 of 22 week RV road trip.

Yellowstone is such a geographically diverse park with canyons, waterfalls, geysers, basins and more.

I liked pretty much all we saw, but the spitting mud pots I found most entertaining. I don’t know why, but it just made me giggle watching them spit mud up into the area–and oh, the sounds they make as they do it. Yeah, perhaps I am still not beyond 5 year-old potty humor.

Old Faithful: Seen during week 19 of 22 week road trip.

We stood for 20 minutes waiting for Old Faithful to put on a show. It was worth it in the end. Because it was so cold there was a lot of steam mixed in with the water so our pictures really don’t do it justice.

Norris Basin in Yellowstone: Seen during week 19 of 22 week RV trip.

WARNING: If you ever go to Yellowstone on a wet day, be prepared to end up with really smelly shoes. As in so smelly that you can barely stand the smell on the ride home and when you get home you throw them outside so they won’t smell up your home.

My guess is they pick up smells because you are walking on these wooden paths directly over ground that has a high concentration of sulfur. The ground is also steaming, making your shoes even wetter and helping the smell permeate further into them.

Grand Teton National Park: Seen during week 19 of 22 week RV road trip.

Friday we headed to Grand Teton National Park where we have been soaking up mountain views.

Anter Arches in Jackson: Seen during week 19 of 22 week roadtrip

We also headed into nearby Jackson for just a few minutes. Just long enough to grab a few pictures of the famous antler arches and grab some belated Mother’s Day frappuccinos from Starbucks.

My daughter and I have gone out every Mother’s Day for years to Starbucks for the 1/2 price frappuccino sale but this year we were not near one on Mother’s day so when I saw one in Jackson, she and I indulged in our ritual a few days late–and unfortunately at full price, but it put a smile on her face and mine so it was worth it.

Come back next Monday to see what we got up to this week.

Join me on Instagram for daily updates. I am doing my best to post one photo update a day on Facebook too.

First time hearing about our trip? You can catch up on our all our trip updates on the RV trip page.

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15 Ways Busy Moms Can Find The Time To Create A Successful Blog

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Blogging can be a great job for moms because it is so flexible. You can work whenever you want from pretty much wherever you want. However, the flexibility only stretches so far; you still need to carve out a certain amount of hours each week to work on your blog if you want it to be successful–and if you are like most moms you are probably already feeling like you are constantly busy.

I totally get that. I am a homeschooling mom of three and if it were not for the time management tricks I carry in my homemaking tool belt, I would never be able to fit in time to run a blog that now earns a full time income. Today I am going to share those tricks with you.

Struggling to find time to blog? This post can really help!

15 Ways Busy Moms Can Find The Time To Create A Successful Blog

 1. Perform a Time Audit

Before you can manage your time well, you need to know how you are currently spending it. In order to do that you need to perform a time audit

Related article: How To Perform A Time Audit

2. Figure Out When You Do Your Best Work

Do you work better at night or in the morning? Save the blog work that requires the most concentration for the time of the day you work best and do the no-brainer tasks when you are at your lowest energy levels.

Related article: Are You A Night Owl Or A Morning Bird?

15 Ways Busy Moms Can Find The Time To Create A Successful Blog

3. Plan In Advance For Bigger Windows Of Work Time

Working hours for moms are all over the place. One day you might be able to have 2 hours to yourself while one child is at band practice and the other is at gymnastics. Another day you husband might come home earlier than expected and tell you he can manage the kids if you want to go to the coffee shop and work on your blog for a few hours. When these type of “bigger windows” of work time come up you can use them more efficiently if you already have a plan for them in advance.

Related article: Making The Most Of Large Windows Of Uninterrupted Time

4. Keep A List Of Small Blogging Tasks For Small Windows

The job of being mom comes with small breaks here and there throughout the day that you can use to advance your blog. Got five minutes? Repin a few pins. Got 10 minutes? Write and schedule a few Facebook statuses. Got 15 minutes? Get out a pad of paper and a pen and brainstorm ideas for future posts.

Related article: Making the Most of Small Windows

15 Ways Busy Moms Can Find The Time To Create A Successful Blog

5. Always Write Out A Daily To-Do List

You have probably heard the saying “aim at nothing and you will hit it every time”. That is what happens to a day where you don’t take the five minutes to write a to-do list: you end up with little done.  To-do lists don’t have to be fancy. I create mine on a small yellow legal pad (like these ones), circling the top three things on my list so that I get the most important things done and if the rest doesn’t get done there is always tomorrow.

Related article: How I Create My Daily To Do List

6. Say NO Often

If you want to carve out enough time around motherhood responsibilities  to create a successful blog, you need to keep outside activities to a minimum and the only way to do that is to say no to the good so you can say yes to the best.

Related article: Say No

Great book that covers this topic: The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands

15 Ways Busy Moms Can Find The Time To Create A Successful Blog7. Eliminate Your Ill Fitting Yes Choices

Some “yes choices” might have been good choices at the time, but they are not now that your stage of life changed. Perhaps you said yes to helping out with an activity your child was in at one time, but now the child is not involved and you are still helping out. If so, it’s time to find someone to take your place so you can say yes to other things.

Related article: Eliminate Poor Yes Choices

8. Make Effective Use Of Short Waiting Times

In the day and age of smartphones we are basically walking around with mini computers in our pockets. Take it out while waiting in line at the grocery store and pin a few pins to Pinterest. While waiting for your coffee, create a new Facebook status. When stuck in the car waiting for the soccer coach to wrap it up and release your child, open your favorite notes app and brainstorm some new post ideas.

Related article: Making Effective Use of Waiting Time

15 Ways Busy Moms Can Find The Time To Create A Successful Blog

9. Make Effective Use Of Longer Waiting Times

This tip has been vital to me getting enough time to work each week. After I performed a time audit I realized I was spending a lot of time driving my children back and forth to their practices. I would drive 15 minutes to drop them off and then 15 minutes home then an hour or so later drive 15 minutes to pick them up and then 15 minutes back home again. That equals 30 minutes of time in the car each way. I started packing up all that I needed to work and then dropped them off and stayed in the car and worked. I gained 30 minutes of work time each time I had to drive a child somewhere.

This works for me since my children are all old enough to stay home by themselves while I drive their siblings somewhere–I realize it won’t be as helpful for moms with younger children.

Related article: 7 Wise Ways To Use Waiting Time During Children’s Practices

10. Involve The Kids

You can involve your children in your blog work in two ways. One way is to teach them to perform simple blog tasks . The second way is to get them to do age appropriate household chores that you are still doing for them. The first is only going to work if you have older children interested in your blog work, but the second will work for all ages. Even two-year-old’s can help you pick up their toys. At first it might take longer to get the chore done with them helping, but soon it will take less time than if you never taught them–trust me. As a mom of three children who are now 14, 16 and 21 I am reaping the rewards of those frustratingly slow chore teaching sessions when I so wanted to just say, ” Forget it let me do it.”

Related Article: The Popular Mom Thought That Is Keeping You Busier Than You Have To Be

15 Ways Busy Moms Can Find The Time To Create A Successful Blog

11. Get Help

What type of help you can get is going to depend on your finances and your stage of motherhood. If you have younger children and are able to afford it, you might consider hiring a sitter a few hours a week so you can be 100% focused on blog work. If your budget just won’t stretch that far you could consider a babysitting swap with a friend.

For those of you with older children you still might want to consider getting some outside help, but obviously not in the form of babysitting. Perhaps you can afford to hire a VA to take over a few blog tasks? Or do a talent trade with a blogging friend. You, the grammar queen, can edit her “free for subscriber eBook” and she, the image queen, can make you some image quotes for social media.

12. Own Less Stuff

Owning less stuff might seem like a weird time management tip, but hear me out. When you own less, you spend less time taking care of things. Less time dusting. Less time sorting. Less time repairing. And my personal favorite–less time searching through your piles of stuff to find what you need right now.

Need decluttering help and support? Join my decluttering Facebook group.

15 Ways Busy Moms Can Find The Time To Create A Successful Blog

13. Create A Simple Timer Based Cleaning Routine

If you are like me, you put cleaning tasks off because you figure they are going to take too long. Then when you do get around to doing them the job ends up taking a long time because things have gotten so bad. However, when you give a task a time, you will discover that you not only move faster, but the task somehow seems less daunting. Plus, when you consistently clean an area it stays cleaner and therefore starts to take even less time to clean.

Related Article: How to Create A Simple Timer Based Cleaning Routine Plus a Peek at Mine

14.  Do What You Can To Keep Meal Preparation Simple

There are so many ways to reduce time spent in the kitchen. You can cook a double batch and freeze half for a quick meal another night. You can cook meat in large batches and then freeze it in such a way that you can easily toss it in a stir fry or casserole, significantly cutting your meal prep time. You can make a list of simple meals requiring simple ingredients and keep them on hand for nights that you want to work just a bit longer.

Related Article: My simple meal planning method

The Make Over Your Mornings and Make Over Your Evenings courses by Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom!

15. Take A Few Great Time Management Courses

Two times during the day are critical to being as productive as you can each and every day–morning and evening, which is why I recommend taking Make Over Your Mornings and/or Make Over Your Evenings. These are 15 day, video driven courses that come with a workbook for you to complete. Each day’s lesson consists of a five minute video, five minutes of reading and a five minute workbook activity.

The information I learned in the Make Over Your Evenings course gave me 30 minutes each and every morning without getting up earlier. The Makeover Your Morning course is just as full of great time saving advice that can help you carve out more hours each week to work on your blog.

Related Article: 10 Books To Help You Manage Your Time Well

Got any great time management tips to add to my list? Add them in the comments.

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