The Bible and Storybranding: Esther—The Girl Who Became Queen

Written for my Masters of Art in Communication

School of Communication and The Arts, Liberty University


God’s sovereignty and His loving care for His people is displayed throughout the story of Esther in the Old Testament. Although the author is unknown, the audience is the people of Israel, and the story is set in the Persian Empire where most of the details take place in the king’s palace in Susa. The ruler was King Xerxes, Persia’s fifth king. Even though God does not appear in this book of the Bible, His sovereign presence is witnessed throughout the story of Esther.

“The book of Esther tells of the circumstances that were essential to the survival of God’s people in Persia” (Life Application Study Bible, NIV). Due to the racial hatred of Jews, God uses Esther to intercede on His behalf and deliver His people from death. Many obstacles were overcome which led to trusting God and what He was ultimately fulfilling by His will through an ordinary Jewish girl named Esther—who ultimately, became Queen and served God.

Defining the Brand’s Inner Layer and Outer Layer

In the book of Esther, we can define the brand as God’s sovereignty (supreme power) and how He loved and cared for His people. When looking into the inner layer of the story of Esther, we see a belief system that starts at a point of difference but leads to something that has a point of view (Signorelli, 2014). Following the act of Queen Vashi refusing to obey King Xerxes’ order, King Xerxes began a search for a new queen. Since Esther’s parents both had died, she was raised by her cousin Mordecai. Hearing the news of the King’s request to search for a new queen, Mordecai relayed this information to Esther and took her to the palace to be considered. King Xerxes was pleased with Esther and found favor on her (Esther, NIV).

Esther was an ordinary Jewish girl with beauty, character, and was filled with courage and willingness to trust God and his will for her life. Esther had more concern for her (Jewish) people rather than her own security. These traits help us understand the values and beliefs that unfold throughout this story. The brand’s inner layer for the book of Esther is compiled of real values and encourages others who have the same. After unraveling the fact that Haman, an arrogant leader under King Xerxes, proposed to assassinate all the Jewish people, Esther was placed into a time to face the king with courage and fight against the evil plot to save God’s people. In the end, through hatred, Haman fell to his death, and Esther being a Jew herself was used by God to convince King Xerxes and ultimately save the Jewish population.

Understanding how brands have the need to solve problems and provide opportunities (Signorelli, n.d.), we can see how God uses Esther’s courage to show us how we, too, can understand that God has a purpose for our life. God will guide and lead us through every situation, just as he led Esther “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14, NIV).

 “A brand’s outer layer should be a function of the brand and not the brand itself” (Signorelli, 2014). The brand’s outer layer of the story of Esther is how God uses Esther to save His people. Mordecai persuaded Esther to help by going before the King. “Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: ‘Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish’” (Esther 4:16, NIV). God was in control of the situation and used Esther to go before King Xerxes. Esther and Mordecai had to plan and act, but also trust that God would deliver.

 Signorelli tells us about “I Am” statements to help provide a purpose to provoke empathy about the brand’s outer layer. (Signorelli, 2014). When writing an ‘I am’ statement for the story of Esther, it could be written as “I Am God and I am sovereign.” God is always in control of every situation, and as Christians, we must remember to rely on him, as He chooses to work through us daily.

Connecting the Soul of the Brand to the Soul of the Prospect

Like Esther, oftentimes we feel powerless and need to seek courage from God to help us fight life’s battles. One of the conflicts we face daily is seeking wisdom in a non-believing world. Having an understanding of the biblical worldview versus the secular worldview is key in how God uses us to do His will in our life. The soul of the brand of Esther, God’s sovereignty over our lives, is a direct connection to our soul as a Christian.  

As a Christian, I find myself depending on God to take me through challenging times. Esther is a reminder that as an ordinary person, God can use me also to face challenges as He leads the way. Esther’s courage teaches us to obey and to allow God to pave the way to do His will. The book of Esther shows us the difference between a person’s will and God’s will. When we serve God, we realize we risk our own security, but we also are not placed into situations for our benefit. We must realize God uses us to do His work.

In this life we rely on security as we know that relationships can become broken, possessions can be lost, and beauty eventually fades away (Life Application Study Bible, NIV). Knowing that our security rests on God alone is how we can face challenges in life. We do not always know what is going on behind the scenes, but we must find security in knowing God always has a plan for our lives. I have a connection with Esther and how she allowed God to use her to face challenges that ultimately glorified Him as I know I am placed on this earth to glorify God in all I do. I realize I have fallen short, but know Jesus has given me eternal life and leads me every day to do his will. I find courage in knowing He is here for me every step of the way.

We must trust and obey, and know God puts us in the right place at the right time. God’s timing is perfect as we witness in the life of Esther. She was placed to face the greatest challenge of her life—to save herself along with the Jewish population. We must also be willing to be open to receive advice and be willing to act. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5, NIV). When we have God’s guidance and follow His plan for our lives, we are placed in such a time as this, giving all glory to God.


Life Application Study Bible. Third Edition. New International Version. (2019). Tyndall House Publishers. Carol Stream, IL., and Zondervan Grand Rapids, Michigan.

New International Version Bible. (1908/1983). Thompson Chain-Reference Bible. Indianapolis, IN: Kirkbride Bible Co.

Signorelli, J. (n.d.). Find your brand’s inner layer to ensure growth and longevity. Medium. Retrieved November 28, 2020 from

Signorelli, J. (2014). StoryBranding 2.0. Story-Lab Publications. Illinois.

How to make royal icing sugar cookies, even if you’re not a baker.

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, here’s  a creative way to show love to your family — beautifully handcrafted decorated sugar cookies. Or team up with your kiddos in the kitchen for a family baking session!


While living in London, England about 10 years ago, I purchased a cookie decorating book titled “Biscuiteers Book of Iced Biscuits” and dreamed of making beautiful cookies like the photos in the book. I loved looking at all the pretty cookie photos and wondered how hard it really is to decorate sugar cookies with royal icing. Well, I am definitely not a cookie artist, but I decided one Christmas to jump all in and see what this is really like, and how difficult this process is. Here is what I learned, and if I can do it, so can you!

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Getting started — Before you begin, purchase and organize all your supplies you will need. Here is a list of the supplies that I used:

  • mixer (I used my KitchenAid mixer)
  • cookie cutters
  • icing bags/ bottles (I used Wilton)
  • icing tips (I used Wilton size 1, 2, 3, 4)
  • icing color (I used Wilton gel)
  • baking cookie sheet/pan
  • spatula
  • scissors (for cutting icing bags)
  • cellophane/cling wrap
  • parchment paper (I used Wilton brand)
  • roll-n-cut mat (I used Wilton brand), or countertop
  • rolling pin (I used a wooden one)
  • cookie dough and icing ingredients (see recipe)
  • cake tester (I used Pampered Chef), or tooth pick
  • cooling rack

Cookie Dough recipe:

  • 1 1/2 C Sugar
  • 1 C butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 4 C all purpose flour

Royal Icing:

  • 4 lbs powdered sugar
  • 3/4 C meringue powder (I used Wilton brand and purchased at Michaels)
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla (or you can use other flavorings)
  • 1 1/3 C warm water

Let’s Go!


  • In a separate bowl combine salt, baking powder and flour. Set aside.
  • Cream together sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time. Beat well between each egg.
  • Add vanilla and mix well.
  • Gradually add the salt, baking powder and flour combination to the creamed mixture.
  • Once mixed well, roll out dough onto floured surface. (I use the Wilton roll-n-cut mat, but parchment paper also works, or clean countertops.) Use a little sprinkle of flour on the surface, and add flour to the rolling pin.
  • Cut into shapes. Unused dough can be “re-rolled” out to make more cut outs.
  • Bake on cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.
  • Allow to cool on a cooling rack.

Once your cookies have cooled, you are ready to decorate! Practice makes “perfect” is the way the saying goes. There are plenty of “how to decorate cookie” videos out there, so take some time to watch and learn tips on decorating with royal icing! It takes patience, but it is so much fun~!

Once the royal icing has hardened, you are ready to package them and share with others! Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Wait, what did you say? — How are you communicating?

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19, New International Version, 1986). God gave us two ears and one mouth — could that be a reminder for us to do more listening than speaking? People are social beings and are made to communicate with one another and ultimately process information. However, with differing perceptions conflicts can arise.

If everyone in the world agreed on everything, think about how boring our world would be. With that said, people have different views, opinions, values, and beliefs which can cause conflict in communication. Many people disagree with one another based solely on their culture, background, and where they are from geographically. However, according to Barnett Pearce, coordinated management of meaning can be learned. “It’s learnable, it’s teachable and it’s contagious” (Barnett Pearce, 2014).

I think about the “masked world” we are living in these days and I can’t help but notice how our communication with one another has changed. Sometimes I just don’t understand how we are made to communicate with one another behind a piece of cloth. We lose sight of body languages such as a smile or a grimace. I live in Hawaii and we are [still] under a stay at home order. I get the feeling of being trapped on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Our beaches and parks are shut off and no one is allowed to gather together. Although there are varying views on the Covid_19 pandemic and how our local, state, and federal government have handled the issues, we can all agree that we are creatures of socialization. When communicating with others regarding the “do’s and don’ts” of mask-wearing, people are quick to voice their opinions.

How we go about listening (with an open mind) to others while still staying true to our own beliefs is a balance. Sometimes “agreeing to disagree” is the best way to leave the subject and move on. One recommendation when you have such differences in beliefs is accepting and agreeing with the fact that each person has a very different viewpoint. As Christians, we are told, “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). If we choose to follow the truth, the Word of God, we will find solutions on how best to communicate effectively with one another, even with the differences of opinions on wearing a mask, or not. It is up to us to self-reflect on how we are listening to others, and ultimately be aware of our own communication and delivery.

*Journal entry written for my Masters in Communication at Liberty University


Pearce, Barnett (January 29, 2014) Coordinated Management of Meaning [Video]. YouTube.

New International Version Bible, Version. (1908/1983). Thompson chain-reference Bible Indianapolis, IN: Kirkbride Bible.

How I made a lei from my daily walk in Hawaii Kai.

I know I have said it before, but, I love Hawaii. I love living here (especially since my kids are home!) I am continuously surrounded by such incredible views of the mauka (mountains) and makai (ocean). And since we moved here in December, despite the craziness with covid, I have enjoyed daily walks to reset and take in all the views and fresh air.

I started out walking to get exercise and to spend time with my hubby. On our walks I always noticed all the beautiful plumeria trees and all the petals that had fallen on the ground. Many were fresh and were screaming at me to “pick me up, and take me home!!” So, I did! Now, it’s become a thing in our home where we have beautiful petals we place floating in water to bring joy to our little cozy space.

Hawaii really is a special place and the aloha spirit is real. A lei is a symbol of friendship, love, celebration, honor, and many receive and give them to their family and friends upon arrival to Hawaii. I love greeting my family with one at the airport. It really is a symbol of love, and each time I receive one, even if I never will meet the person who made it, I can still feel the love of the hands who crafted it.

Of course with the quarantine and more time on my hands, I decided to learn to make a lei! Why not? I am by no means a pro it it, but with a little research, I gathered my materials that I had around the home and gave it a try.

Here’s a simple way to make a lei from fallen petals:

Step one: Gather your family and head outdoors for a nature walk. To make one lei, gather 30-50 flowers that have fallen to the ground, in public space (make sure not to infringe on someone else’s property). Be creative with what is blooming in your neighborhood, and try to mix blooms! There are endless possibilities!

Step two: Soak the blooms in cold water to rinse off. And then lay them out to dry off. You may have to toss out a few of the ones that begin to brown and wilt.

Step three: Find string to use such as embroidery thread; dental floss works too! Get a needle that will fit through the center of your petals, and grab a pair of scissors! That’s all you need.

Step four: Thread the needle, tie a knot in the thread, and begin threading the flowers one at a time. Once you get the length you like, then all you need to do is cut the thread and tie ends together! Wa-lah, you have a lei!

They say stop and smell the roses, or in my case, plumeria. I believe that by doing a craft like this, you will also experience the same as I did — calmness, peacefulness, thankfulness, and realize that it really is the simple things in life that are free and allow us to reflect on God’s beauty and all He provides us daily.

If you decide to make one, please let me know how it turned out! This would be a great summer craft for the littles too!

Aloha from Hawaii Kai!



Fear is a liar!

Listening to your father fall to the ground with a massive heart attack — at the age of nine. Running to my aunt and uncle’s home through the woods to get help. Arriving back home watching my brother perform CPR on my dad, while hearing the loud sounds of the ambulance arrive.

That is fear, and that was me.

Fear of not really understanding what was going on in that very moment. Fear can come over you like a storm rolling in, in the middle of the night, pitch black outside, blaring with roaring thunder and crackling flashes of lightning hitting trees. That, was what I was fearful of at the age of nine. Storms — not death.

I was nine when my father died of a sudden heart attack and went to be with the Lord. Before him, I had experienced the death of two grandfathers. I faintly remember those times, but I did understand what it was to lose someone you loved. No one can prepare you for loss. Because loss is something personal. No one can “feel” what you’re are “feeling”. They can understand it, possibly, if they have also lost someone near and dear, but they can not actually FEEL what you are going through. Everyone experiences loss differently. We are all different, because God made us that way.

I grew up in the perfect home with a mother and father and older brother. Heck, in my eyes we were the perfect little family. We ate together, played together, prayed together and went to church every Sunday. We ate lunches at my grandmother’s home every Saturday with my extended family. It truly was the best upbringing any little girl could ask for. My mom worked for a bank and my dad was a lineman for the power company. Good, hard working, American, God loving parents. I was lucky. I was (am) blessed.

I see times changing and there is so much fear in the world. Many times fear is driven, honestly, by not being informed or not relying on what really matters in life (and I realize this could be debatable on what really matters). Of course we are all human which makes us fearful. But there is hope in not fearing things that life throws at you. You can gain peace in knowing that we are told in Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” It seems so simple, yet still so hard. To give it all over to God to let him guide you and your thoughts and to be comforted.

I hope this helps someone who is anxious, fearful, or just worrying about what tomorrow brings. God is so good. I share this with you because there have been many times in my life that fear has crept in, but I know fear is a liar and God is bigger than any of my fears.



Never underestimate a Sunset

Daily Sunset off our lanai. No filter needed.

Is this a dream? Am I really living the Hawaii dream?

Listening to the sound of the Avett Brothers playing in the background — watching another beautiful sunset — breezes blowing my hair as I type, while birds fly by chirping.

If you looked out over the ocean water and mountains, you would never know there was a world wide pandemic happening. Many of my neighbors sitting outside watching the sunset, having dinner on their lanai, laughing, talking on the phone, some even paddle boarding and fishing off the dock, and boats buzzing by — it’s like our own little world over here on this tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Life is still going on. People are adjusting to the new normal of the beaches and parks being partially shut down, having to wear masks when running out to the stores, essential work places and picking up take away dinners; and don’t forget the new social distancing practicing! It is real. Changes have happened.

My nightly entertainment is with my husband and sweet Jack Russell, Boone, watching the sun go down over the mountain. When I wake from this Hawaiian dream, I hope I never forget the wonderful feeling of sitting on my lanai watching every. single. sunset. They are so different each evening. The sky dances to put on its own spectacular color show. The colors change like a painter dipping his paintbrush between purple, orange, pink and yellow. Then, slowly and peacefully, the sun tucks away for the night. In addition to my music playing, the sound of the palm trees are sounds that call for an encore. The swaying of each branch is like a tiny musical instrument on a stage waiting to be heard. They have a voice too, ya know. We just have to be still and listen.

Instead of focusing on some of the more challenging issues due to this pandemic, I choose to see every sunset through the lens of gratitude and blessing. I do not negate seeing and understanding the rest of the world news and I continue to pray each day for my family, our country and our world, and those who are suffering. I know it is out there. I understand it is happening. But one thing that will never change throughout this is that our God is greater than any pandemic.

After all, just like the song, He has the whole world in His hands.

Sunset in Hawaii Kai, No filter needed.

The Should be’s…

The “should be’s” of today… there are so many.

I “should be” in Australia today with my hubby.

My Ash “should be” in Switzerland with her 60 other study abroad students.

My oldest “should be” back in Shepherd University getting ready to graduate college…. and on and on.

We all have our “should be’s”, right? Mine just happen to be first world should be’s. We had OUR plans. The ones WE made. Then something changed all that. Something earth shattering. Something that moved all the earth in a different direction. Some choose panic, some choose defiance, others choose to tune it out, and others choose and keep to themselves. And others fall on their knees and pray. Prayer is powerful y’all. I have seen God move mountains and He is the ONLY one who can heal us and our land. Keep your focus on what really matters these days. This too shall pass and those “should be’s” will come again… one way or another. In the end God is in control. Just let Him be.

As for now, I will reflect on wonderful memories from our recent trip to Switzerland. My husband and I got to spend 10 days with our daughter! Memories last, y’all. Make them. Cherish them!

Beautiful Zurich, beautiful daughter.
Beautiful city of Zurich
Exploring the city with my girl!
Dinner with friends!
View from our room of The Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland.
Skiing Gornergrat, before it was closed off. It was crazy and visibility was zero!
The next day, skiing Zermatt. Beautiful blue skies!
Enjoyed every. single. snowflake. So much, we added another night’s stay!
Walking to see where Ash goes to class every day. Beautiful walk (hike!).
Classes everyday held at Franklin University.
Lugano, you’re beautiful. Thanks for the memories!

We’re empty nesters! Now what?

I can’t believe how time flies. I mean I think back to the days when my husband was forever traveling and protecting America, and I was a stay at home mom with three little babies– being the nurse, chef (ok, that’s stretching it), cleaner (maybe, this too), room mom, creative director of all projects, and travel agent.  But you get the point! I pause now, and think, where did time even go??? All three are in college. Poof! just like that. They flew from the nest. It’s really surreal when I stop and think about time. It’s so precious and we can never get it back.


So now what? No one to really take care of on a daily basis. No piles of laundry (until they come home and dump in front of the washing machine). No more early morning breakfasts to cook and lunches to be packed. No more volcanos to build and tests to help prepare for, and no more back to school nights. (Try attending back to school nights with three kids in the same high school…impossible to meet all those teachers!) And, get this one… no more ball games to sit and watch while either freezing or dying in heat. Let that sink in for a min!

Well, I will tell you what, it’s you and me, hubby. It was us before kids — and it’s now you and me again.  God knows our paths; we choose to follow his will or not. I think it was never random that I had all three of my children by the time I was 29 years old. I also don’t think it was random that they are so close in age. I am embracing this empty nesting as good as I can… even when we are thousands of miles from our children. God had this plan for our family, and I am trusting him with it!

Now let’s go on a hike!

Hanauma Bay, Oahu Hawaii
Hanauma Bay Ridge Hike, Diamond Head photobombing in the background.
Hanauma Bay Ridge Hike

Destination Birthday — The Inn at Kelly’s Ford: How to throw an overnight sweet 16 birthday party!

Who doesn’t love a good party? And a sweet sixteen at that!

When you add in a short drive to a beautiful and serene setting, what’s not to love! If you are looking to host or throw a destination sweet sixteen birthday party, read on! 

Let’s all face it, turning 16 can be lots of work for mama’s… especially for girls! Coming up with sweet 16 birthday party ideas that will not completely break the bank is tricky! Over the years, as my three kids were celebrating birthdays, many of the parties were done right at home (and even before Pinterest, yikes!). Wonderful memories indeed! But for my daughter’s sweet 16, after brainstorming numerous ideas, we decided to have a quaint destination party that she and her friends could remember for a long time.  We combined her love for horses and the outdoors, with the sun and pool and added in a photo shoot, food and lots of sugar! (What 16-year-old girl doesn’t like taking photos and eating candy?!).

The Inn at Kelly’s Ford was the perfect setting to accomplish all of our ideas. It was basically a two day, all-girl slumber party on steroids (I mean sugar)! Here are some of the highlights from her destination birthday party with ideas, and tips on saving a few bucks.

Choosing the location — The Inn at Kelly’s Ford is less than an hour from our home in the little town of Remmington, VA. Getting there was not an issue and the drive out is so pretty. No planes or trains, just automobiles to transport my daughter and her friends. Since the Inn has accommodations on the property, we booked a cottage for a night’s stay, basically allowing for two day’s worth of activities. The cottage had plenty of room for everyone and also gave my husband and me a room to escape all the girl talk!


Activities, activities and more activities — There was no boredom going on here! Lots to do to keep everyone happy. When we booked our cottage, I also booked reservations for horseback riding and canoeing— one activity for each day. Since we had LOTS of open space, I created a scavenger hunt. They divided into two teams and searched the grounds for clues. The inn has a pool on the property… perfect for swimming and soaking in the sun.  The following morning, while I cleaned and packed away all the decorations and food, my husband made the canoe trek down the Rappahannock. (I wish I would have gone on that trip, but someone had to stay back and get all packed up!)

SAY CHEESE! — Since most girls love getting dressed up, and we had a perfect photo shoot setting, I took time with each girl to take photos as well as fun group shots. This was not only a way for my daughter to capture her party, but the photos were given to each of her friends as a takeaway… (Or to just use as a new profile pic!) It was nice for her brothers to stop by to wish her a happy birthday, which gave me a chance to snap a few of all three of my kiddos.

Dining Al Fresco — In keeping with the theme and not having to spend a fortune on a sit-down meal in the restaurant, we elected to order takeout food from Pelham’s Pub and have our own patio dinner decorated in, you guessed it… pink! I basically was the waitress, but at least I didn’t have to cook the meal! The Inn was nice to help deliver the take out to the patio where I set the table for the girls. The girls decided on a really fancy dinner… chicken tenders, onion rings and fries! I brought in muffins, fruits, juices, etc. for breakfast the next morning. No one’s going hungry around here!

Sixteen Candles — For many of my children’s birthdays, I have attempted to decorate cakes or cupcakes. Most times I even baked them too! (crazy, I know!) Since I wanted to get a little creative, but save time, I ordered a crumb crusted cake from the Harris Teeter bakery along with extra white buttercream frosting that I could color myself. I searched youtube videos on how to decorate.  It was fun and simple and paired perfectly with all the pink accents from the party!

Decorations — Since I envisioned lots of pinks and girly things, I decided to save money and purchase pink roses from Giant instead of ordering from a flower shop. I cut the stems down a bit and used mason jars as my vases. These definitely added a simple, yet dainty touch I was going for. (I picked up a box of mason jars at Walmart and used some for vases as well as drinking glasses.) Keeping cost down but making a big statement, I purchased pink tissue paper to make giant paper flowers. I shopped at Michael’s craft store for colored paper and stickers to make a “Celebrate” banner. They also had cute frames to display and the girls could take for their photos. I also wanted to display some old photos of my daughter along with her friends so I printed photos in various sizes and used ribbon and clothespins to display them throughout the room. For the sweet 16 candy bar, I found plenty of pink candy at Party City. I also purchased a small helium tank and balloons and blew them up once on site. One of my favorites was the personalized cookies from Baked by Rachel. I sent a photo of the invitation (designed by my best friend Jennifer) and Rachel matched them perfectly.  I think we accomplished having enough sugar and pink at this shindig!

Not gonna lie… I worked really hard to pull off this two-day party… Lots of planning and preparation, but in the end, I would do it all over again. (Shout out to the hubby too!) I loved every minute of it and I sure hope my daughter remembers this milestone birthday! It was a fun way to explore with friends, celebrate, and make lifelong memories! Would you plan and host a destination birthday party? If so, I promise it will be worth it!


*no endorsements here—just my opinions and recommendations. All photos property of Elisabeth Bryson Photography.



Traveling with kids? Here’s 10 tips for planning your trip.

While living abroad in England our family had the opportunity to travel right at our fingertips. I  knew I had to take advantage of living close to so many iconic sights. We were creative when it came to budgeting and always looked for deals. Some of the countries we explored as a family (and even visited many a few times!) were Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Spain, Wales, Italy, Austria, France, Sweden, and Poland.

My kids attended the American School in London and luckily for us we had many breaks throughout the school year. Being a stay at home mom (gosh I was so lucky) allowed me time to research, plan and act as the family travel agent! Of course my kids did often moan and groan about seeing one. more. castle. But I knew in the end, one day, they would appreciate these experiences. Here are some things I learned while planning a trip with kids:

  1. Do your research. With so many options on where you can travel and sightsee, research and know what it is you actually want to see. Will it be good for kids? Will they also enjoy? Is there a lot of walking — will you have access to public transportation or will you need to rent a car? Do you need tickets for a particular site? Can you buy them in advance online, cheaper? I would research and read travel books from our library, but today all you have to do is google and read on!
  2. Don’t forget your Passport or Visa? Do you need a passport or a special visa? Be sure to check State Department for more information on what exactly the requirements are for your particular destination.  Also check to see if you need special medical treatments, shots, etc.
  3. Determine the best location for hotels. Location, Location, Location. —Finding that perfect hotel is sometimes difficult to pin point. Read reviews on how other guests liked (or disliked) the property. But in the end, find a good and safe location. Sometimes staying a little further away from the main sites is best, but also know how you plan to get around.
  4. What type hotel accommodations works best for your family size? Finding accommodations for a family of over four is sometimes tricky, especially in Europe where they typically have smaller rooms. Most hotels only have 2 beds. There were many trips where we chose to stay in apartment style accommodations over a typical hotel room. This allowed for more bedrooms and many times came with a kitchen, which helped save on food cost. Typically, I found this option was also less expensive than major chain hotels.
  5. Determine your mode of transportation. Planes, Trains and Automobiles —How will you plan on getting to your destination? Will you jump on a train, plane or drive? Depending on how many days you have for your trip may determine your means of travel. If you are going somewhere close, is it best to all jump in the car, or do you need to fly? If budget is a concern, price out all the various travel options, and remember to include gas price and any road tolls. Sometimes you can fly cheaper than driving! (Ryan Air was our go to for cheap European flights). Also, don’t forget to price out additional fees for flying (ex. extra baggage). We had it down to a science when we traveled in Europe… we all had one carry on, and we wore our heaviest coat and winter boots, saving space in our luggage! There were times when we were spotted at the airport shifting things in and out to meet the weight requirements for that checked piece of luggage. If I could go back I would have purchased a luggage scale to have on hand while packing.
  6. Make an itinerary. What is it that you want to see? Many times, there are so many things to see, but if you don’t have a plan, you spend time during your trip thinking, discussing, and wasting time! If you have three kids like me, chances are you will not please them all! They will appreciate seeing the Leaning Tower, or Changing of the Guards, etc., one day! Spend time planning out approximately how much time you need to see each sight, taking into consideration the time for commuting. But remember, if you don’t get to see everything, don’t fret. The main goal is to have fun while making memories with your family.
  7. A game plan reduces stress. Once you have an itinerary… congratulations, you now have a game plan! Gather everyone and have a quick family meeting and review the plan. This will give your kids an overview of the trip and help build excitement while keeping stress to a minimum.
  8. Let your kids pack for themselves. One of the things I always did was allow (or make, ha!) my kids pack for themselves for every trip. I would give them a detailed check list with all the items they would need for the trip and they would gather each necessity and set it out. We reviewed together and then they would pack their bags. And guess what? Once we arrived, they knew exactly what options they had! (plus I could not get blamed for not packing the right items!) Each person always included a rain coat for every trip, and they always came in handy while sightseeing. Our favorite brand was always LLBean, similar to this one here.


    Posing for a photo in Brussels Belgium with the Manneken Pis. You can see our LLBean jackets here! They had to cross their arms to cover the reflective patch for the flash.

  9. Add ribbon to your luggage. Many bags are black so tying a colorful ribbon on your luggage makes it stand out. Also be sure to place a secure and sturdy luggage tag in case your luggage is misplaced. I also added a sheet of paper inside luggage with name and phone number in case all else fails, the airport would have a contact from inside the luggage.
  10. Carry a back back. Stock the backpack with snacks and water bottles. (I mean kids are always hungry and buying snacks adds up!) Depending on how small your children are, you can also throw in the necessities (diapers, etc.). BUT be careful with your backpacks! Do not put anything on the outside, like wallets, where you can get pick pocketed. (trust me…) Back packs are great for allowing you to keep your hands free so you can grab your kids hands to help keep them safe while moving about.

Traveling with kiddos is always an adventure (and sometimes challenging). As they get older, they share these special memories together and will talk about the “remember when’s” for a lifetime. Making a plan is key and leads down a path to a successful travel journey wherever you may go!