Ideas For A Spooky, Fun Halloween Party For Kids

Halloween is almost here and you have been tasked with hosting the neighborhood Halloween party. Don’t panic! We have you covered with these 15 themed party ideas and 5 spooky snacks for a fun Halloween kids’ party.

Halloween Themed Parties

1) Scavenger Hunt

Host a Halloween-themed scavenger hunt. Hide Halloween-themed items around the house or yard and have the kids search for them. Be sure to hide enough that every kid gets the chance to find something. You may also want to form teams to add even more fun.

2) Make It A Race

Host a Halloween relay race. Divide the kids into teams and have them race against each other while completing Halloween-themed tasks.

3) Costume Contest

Host a Halloween costume contest. Have the kids show off their Halloween costumes and vote on the best ones. You can make this more fun by creating different themes based on age groups.

4) Dance, Dance, Dance

Host a Halloween dance party. Put on some spooky tunes and let the kids dance their socks off. This may be more fun for older kids than for younger ones.  Get the kids involved by asking them to help with a fun playlist.

5) Get Crafty

Host a Halloween craft time. Get creative with some Halloween crafts like making ghosts out of tissue paper or decorating pumpkins with paint or markers. If you have older kids, enlist their help in maintaining a sense of order with the younger kids.

6) Movie Night

Host a Halloween movie marathon. Pop some popcorn and settle in for a marathon of Halloween movies like Hocus Pocus, The Nightmare Before Christmas, or It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

7) One Word, Two Syllables

Host Halloween-themed charades.  Acting out Halloween characters or scenes is always a fun time. Have the older kids help you come up with the clues.  This is also a great one for creating family teams.

8) Let’s Bake

Host a Halloween baking party.  Get in the kitchen and bake some Halloween-themed treats like spiderweb cookies or monster cupcakes. Enlist the kids to help in decorating the goodies.  Take it a step further by selling these items in a bake sale benefiting the local school.

9) Trivia Night

Host a Halloween trivia party. Test the kids’ knowledge of all things Halloween with a fun trivia game.

10) Game Night

Who doesn’t love a game night?  Host a Halloween-themed board game night.  Break out some Halloween-themed board games like Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate or Monopoly: Nightmare Before Christmas Edition.

11) Let’s Sing

Host a Halloween Karaoke party. Sing your heart out to Halloween classics like “Monster Mash” or “Thriller.”

12) Capture It

Set up a Halloween photo booth for the kids to stop in as they are trick or treating. Be sure to have lots of Halloween props and goodies.

13) Blinding Them With Science

Host a Halloween science experiment party.  Do some spooky science experiments like making magic potions or testing out different types of slime.

14) Party Like A Pirate

Host a Halloween treasure hunt.  Hide Halloween treats around the house or yard, create treasure maps, and have the kids search for the loot.

15) Little Witches Tea  

Have the kids dress up as witches to celebrate the holiday season. Serve fun creepy snacks and Halloween-flavored tea like pumpkin spice or apple cinnamon. 

Halloween Themed Snacks

Is it even a party without Halloween-themed snacks? Here are our five favorite snack ideas for your Halloween party.

1) Mummy Dogs

Simply take hot dogs, wrap them in pre-made croissant dough, and bake. Add ketchup for the eyes.

2) Witch Finger Cookies

This is a Halloween classic. Create cookie dough in the shape of fingers and add green food coloring for an extra eerie effect.

3) Candy Corn Bark

Melt white chocolate and pour it into a glass dish.  Add candy corn and let it set.  Once set, break into pieces and enjoy.

4) Monster Mouths

Slice apples and add peanut butter or almond butter to create the mouth. For the teeth, use mini marshmallows or white chocolate chips.

5) Spider Eggs

Hard-boil some eggs and carefully peel them so that they are mostly white.  Cut a small slit in the top and insert a green olive for the spider’s body. For the legs, use black olives.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. Be sure to have plenty of Halloween candy on hand for when the kiddos come knocking. Happy Halloween!

Need a place to store all of your favorite Halloween ideas? Download our iStratus app today!

Fun Easy Packed Lunch Ideas For Kids

Packing lunches for school can be a slog for you and can become boring for your children pretty quickly. That’s why we decided to do something a little different this month. In this article, we will share 20 ideas for fun and easy, packed lunches.

20 Fun & Easy Lunch Ideas

1. Keep it simple

Use a cookie cutter to make your child’s sandwich into a fun shape. This is such a simple idea.  Make the same lunch but cut the sandwich into a fun shape. It changes everything!

2. Enlist help

Get your child involved in packing their own lunch. Let them choose their snacks and help with making their sandwich. This will take some of the load off of you and ensure that they are getting the food they really want.  You may even be able to prep for the lunches over the weekend so there are grab-and-go items ready for their lunches each morning.

3. Add some color

Add some color to your child’s lunchbox with brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Don’t let the ideas go stale.  Carrot sticks every day for a year may be hard to stomach. But if you mix up the variety each week, you will find they are more likely to eat them.

4. Think outside the sandwich

Make a packed lunch Bento box style with different foods divided into compartments. Consider hummus and veggies, or yogurt and fruit.  Rolled-up sandwich meats and crackers are also fun. 

5. Jazzy PB&J

Jazz up a PB&J sandwich by using different flavored jams or swapping out the peanut butter for almond, cashew butter, or even Nutella once in a while.

6. Words matter

Make lunchtime more fun for your child by including a fun note or joke with your child’s packed lunch. You may even create a series of notes that tell a story over several days. This will give your child something to look forward to with their lunch each day.

7. Homemade lunchable

Put together a “lunchable” style packed lunch with crackers, cheese, sliced meats, and grapes. Add homemade cookies for a special treat. These are a fun way to let your child decide what small things they would like in their lunchable.

8. Pizzadilla

Make a mini pizzadilla by combining a flour tortilla, pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, and pepperoni. These are a kid-favorite especially if their school gives them access to a microwave.

9. Lunch cupcakes

Use a muffin tin to make packed lunch cupcakes. Fill the muffin tin with different fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, etc., and then top with a second flour tortilla or pastry dough.

10. Get in shape

Get creative with your child’s fruit by cutting it into fun shapes or adding dips like yogurt or honey.  This is another opportunity to ask for their input.  What would they prefer, apples with honey or strawberries with kiwi?

11. Hit the trail

Put together a trail mix of your child’s favorite cereals, nuts, dried fruits, and chocolate chips for a sweet and crunchy snack.

12. A frozen treat

Create a refreshing packed lunch drink by freezing fruit juices or smoothies overnight and packing them in a thermos.

13. Nachos

Make a healthy-packed lunch version of nachos by using whole wheat tortilla chips, black beans, and salsa.

14. Fruit kebabs

Create a fruit kebab by threading different fruits onto a skewer.

15. Homemade granola bars

Make homemade granola bars for a sweet and nutritious packed lunch snack. There are so many options for these and they often freeze well.

16. Roasted veggies

Pack some roasted vegetables like brussels sprouts or sweet potatoes for a filling and healthy packed lunch option. Consider using a thermos to keep them warm.

17. Plastic mason jars

Use a plastic mason jar to make packed lunch salads that can be eaten on the go. This is actually a great idea for after-school snacks especially if their practice will be running past normal dinner time.

18. Look for no prep lunches

For an easily packed lunch that requires no cooking, pack a cold chicken or tuna salad. Add a side of tomatoes or carrots, a few crackers, and some cheese and you will have hit most of the food groups.

19. Mini quiches

Make packed lunch mini quiches using a muffin tin and your favorite quiche recipe. Simply fill the muffin tin with quiche mixture and bake as directed.

20. Taco bar

Kids love tacos! Surprise them with a bento-style taco bar. Pack guacamole, salsa, cheese, sour cream, a tortilla, and any other toppings they love. Let them be the creators of their taco dreams. 

Planning ahead is an important step to making lunch easy.  

Use iStratus to plan your lunch and dinner menus, create your shopping lists, and keep track of what was a winner and what they hated. Visit and download the iStratus app today!

Time Management Tips For Busy Parents

Fall is coming. Does the very thought make you anxious? The kids are heading back to school. After-school activities will be in full swing. Homework will once again be more of a slog for you than the kids. Dinners will be pushed later and later. How in the world will you manage it all? There are simply not enough hours in the day.

In this article, we will share with you our favorite time management tips just for busy parents.  

Get organized

Make a list of all the things you need to do in a day, week, or month. This will help you prioritize your time and make sure you don’t forget anything important. Our task manager is a great place to organize these lists. 

We encourage you to divide the list into things that must be done by you, things you might be able to delegate to your spouse, your nanny, or even your children, and things that you can simply eliminate from your list.  Too often we add things to our lists by habit.  If there are things that don’t have to be done, take them off your list.

Set a schedule

Having a set schedule will help you stay on track and make the most of your time. Determine when you have free time and block out time for specific tasks. Be sure to schedule the tasks, meals, and exercise as well. If you don’t add them to your schedule, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you add them in.

Delegate and ask for help

You can’t do everything yourself! Ask your partner, friends, or family members for help with childcare, housework, or errands. Trade time with other parents.  If you are picking up some things at the grocery store, ask a friend if they need something and ask them to do the same for you when they go.  These small tasks add up over time.

Take breaks

It’s important to take time for yourself to relax and recharge. Schedule in some “me time” every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. This time does not have to be productive.  Although you can use it for getting in a workout, it could just as easily be used for taking time to sit and read a book.  Calming your mind for an hour a day will help reduce your stress during this busy season.

Simplify your life

Streamline your schedule and commitments to make time for the things that are truly important to you. We touched on this earlier but it bears repeating.  Look closely at your schedule.  Do you really have to attend that pizza fundraiser for the school?  What can you simply delete from your day?

Get enough sleep

When we are busy it is easy to justify stealing hours from your sleep schedule.  For your health and happiness, we encourage you to avoid doing that. Sleep is essential for time management! When you’re well-rested, you’ll have more energy and focus to get things done.

Eat healthy, nutritious meals

Eating nutritious meals gives you the sustained energy you need to power through your day. Take note of how the food you eat affects your mood and your productivity. You will find that healthier meals generally make you feel better.


Exercise is another thing busy parents are tempted to skip.  Don’t!  Exercise is so important for your future health. Taking time for physical activity can actually help improve your time management skills! Exercise boosts your energy and mood, making it easier to stay on track.

Stay focused

When you’re working on a task, try to minimize distractions and stay focused on the task at hand. This will help you work more efficiently and get things done faster. We encourage you to avoid multitasking because every study shows that multitasking actually slows you down.  Focus on one task at a time and you will complete more tasks in a day without having to steal from sleep or exercise to get it done.

Set priorities

Not everything on your to-do list is equally important. Learn to prioritize your time by setting priorities for each task. Write your priorities down for yourself and then share them with your friends and family.  If your priority this year is making sure the kids get good grades, then maybe you can limit the number of extracurricular activities they have. If your priority is your health, then skipping the workout becomes much harder to do.

Being a parent is hard any time of the year and as the school year begins and after-school activities ramp up, it’s harder than ever to manage your time.  The iStratus app can help with that.  

Learn more at Download the iStratus app now!

Time Management For Teens

As the school year approaches, your teens may begin to feel anxious about the load they will be taking on this fall. Teaching them time management skills is a great way to arm them not just for the school year but for the rest of their lives.  

In this article, we will share 10 of our favorite time management tips for teens but don’t be surprised if you learn something too. 

10 Time Management Tips For Teens

1. Wake up early

Wake up early to get a head start on the day. We know, this is a hard one to convince your teenager of.  But we promise, if you can get them on board with this, everything else is easy.  One way to do this is to help them see the value of using the early hours to practice the things they love.  Mornings are a great time to get in a workout before school, practice guitar, or even sit quietly reading a book. 

This is actually the tip teens tell us they really liked the most. Probably because they were surprised by how effective it was. One teen told us his trick was to get up 5 minutes early every day until he got to a time that felt right for him.

2. Prioritize

One of the reasons people love the iStratus app so much is that they have their task lists right on their phones but best of all they can prioritize the things that need to happen.

Learning to make a to-do list and prioritize your tasks is an important part of maintaining good mental health. Sometimes we get so overwhelmed by our list that we forget there are truly some times we can simply move to another day.

3. Time matters

Set time limits for each task and stick to them. This one seems like magic.  We have had dozens of teenagers describe it that way. 

“It used to take me hours to do a single assignment in history. But when I started setting a one-hour limit I was able to get the entire assignment done in that time.”

What’s the secret?  When there is a limit you are much less likely to let other things distract you. One reason it takes teens so long to do an assignment is usually a distraction like their phone or a game being played in the other room.

4. Avoid burnout

Take breaks in between tasks to avoid burnout. Nobody expects you to sit at a desk for hours at a time.  We encourage students to take time between assignments to get a snack or take an easy walk.  These breaks will allow you to come back refreshed and ready for the next task.  But let us remind you of tip #3.  Time matters. Make sure you set a limit for your break as well.

5. Delegate

Learning to delegate tasks to others is a lifelong skill. We teach this one on a regular basis to adults.  Delegate, automate, or eliminate.  Learning to do this with your task list can save you hours each week.

6. No is a powerful word

Learn to say “no” when necessary. Sometimes this is for a volunteer opportunity or a favor someone is asking but sometimes it is for something that seems really fun.  But consider the consequences.  If you take the time right now to blow off this task, how much more stressed will you be tomorrow.  Saying no today could mean the difference between being overwhelmed and being done!

7. Avoid procrastination at all costs

The problem with procrastination is that new tasks are added to your list every day.  If you leave them, you won’t come back to the task you left behind yesterday.  You will come back to that one and plus two more.  This is one more reason using a task manager can be so helpful.  Being able to see the tasks and feeling the pleasure of marking one more thing off your list can give you a huge feeling of relief. Getting things off your plate today is an important step to managing your time and in the end, it is an important step in managing your mental health.

8. Track your commitments

Keep a calendar or planner to track your commitments. iStratus is a powerful tool for the student in your life.  You can keep track of upcoming exams and projects and be ahead of the game with one simple app.  Knowing that is coming is part of the battle when it comes to managing your time.  You can also be sure to schedule your social time. Social time is important too.

9. Simplify your schedule as much as possible

One of the easiest ways to simplify your schedule is to batch activities.  Knowing that you are going to work on Spanish, Chemistry, and Geometry on Mondays, spend time with friends on Tuesday and work on History, English, and art on Wednesdays adds some calm to your life. 

10. Don’t forget the fun

Make time for relaxation and fun–it’s important! We believe in fun so much we encourage you to add it to your calendar.  If you know you have something fun to look forward to, it is much easier to make it through the more daunting tasks.

Download the iStratus app today and let us help you manage your time! 

Preparing For A New School Year

Yikes, it’s that time of year again. Schools will be in before you know it. With the school year comes extracurricular activities, packed lunches, and the mom taxi in full force.  Are you and your crew ready for the hustle and bustle of the next season of life? In this article, we will share our favorite tips for getting a head start 

Ten Tips For A Strong Start To The School Year

1. Get organized

One of the best ways to get ready for back to school is to get your family organized. Make a list of what everyone needs and start gathering supplies early. This will help you avoid the last-minute rush and ensure that you have everything you need. Get the kids involved too.  They know what they enjoyed and what they didn’t last year.  Let them have a voice.  It will help you avoid arguments down the road.

2. Create a routine

A good back-to-school routine will help your family transition into the new school year seamlessly. Try to establish a few key routines, such as regular bedtimes and mealtimes, before school starts. This will help everyone adjust to the new schedule more easily. Consider after school routines as well. If you want a regular dinner hour during the school year, get a headstart now.

3. Set priorities

You can’t do everything and nobody should expect you to. With a busy school schedule, it’s important to prioritize your time. Decide what activities are most important to your family and make time for them. This may mean saying no to some invitations or cutting back on extracurricular activities. Showing your kids now that it’s okay to say no may save them a lifetime of people-pleasing.

4. Get involved

Getting involved in your child’s education is a great way to help them succeed. Attend parent-teacher conferences, volunteer in the classroom, and help with homework when you can. Showing your support will make a big difference in your child’s education. But decide which areas are best for you.  We recently read “The Best Yes” and it does a great job of explaining how to decide the things to say yes to and the things to decline.  What is your best yes?

5. Keep communication open

Good communication is key to any successful relationship, including the one between you and your child’s teacher. Make sure you know how to reach your child’s teacher and that they know how to reach you. This will ensure that you are always up-to-date on your child’s progress.

6. Encourage independence

As your child starts back to school, encourage them to be independent. This may mean letting them walk to school or taking care of their own backpack and supplies. Helping your child develop independence will prepare them for the future. It is hard as a parent to let go.  Know they will make some mistakes but it is the mistakes that will help them learn the important lessons.  You are actually being a good parent by teaching them an important life skill.

7. Be positive

It’s important to stay positive when back-to-school time rolls around. This can be a difficult time for some children, so it’s crucial that you show your support. Be encouraging and help your child get excited about the new school year. Talk about all the great parts about going to school. Share stories about school when you were a kid.  Have them share favorite moments from last year.

8. Be patient

Back-to-school time can be stressful for everyone involved. Try to remain patient as you and your family adjust to the new schedule. Things will eventually settle down and everyone will find their groove. Because things tend to start all at once you may find that there are a lot of unexpected bumps in the road, but you will survive this.

9. Take breaks

In the midst of all the back-to-school craziness, don’t forget to take breaks. This is a good time to reconnect as a family and relax before the busyness of the school year takes over. Schedule some fun activities or just enjoy some quality time together. What is the one big thing you meant to do this summer and didn’t get around to?  This is the perfect time to just do it.

10. Have fun

Ultimately, back-to-school time should be about having fun. Enjoy watching your child grow and learn and relish in the moments that make this time special. Before you know it, they’ll be off to college and you’ll be wishing for those days back. One of our favorite daily activities is our gratitude moments.  At dinner, we each discuss one thing about our days that we are grateful for.

We know it can feel overwhelming but we believe in you.  It’s going to be an outstanding school year!

Get a head start now by downloading the iStratus app! Start creating lists of to-do before school starts and eliminate some stress.

10 Surprising Things About An Empty Nest

So your last child has left home and you find yourself with an empty nest. Now what? Will it be freeing or terrifying?  Will you love it or will you hate it?

In this article, we will share ten things we wish we had known before becoming an empty nester. Some of them you might expect, others could take you by surprise. 

1. Surprisingly Quiet

You will miss the constant noise and bustle of having kids around.  At first, it will be eerily quiet and you may find yourself longing for the days when your house was filled with the sound of laughter and shouting. But believe it or not, you will get used to it and when they come back to visit you will once again be surprised.  But this time you will be surprised by how loud and messy they are.

2. A Plethora Of Free Time

You will have more free time, but you may not know what to do with it.  It can be both liberating and daunting to suddenly have all this extra time on your hands.  Try to use it wisely by taking up a new hobby or reconnecting with old friends. In the beginning, you may find it easiest to fill up your calendar with activities such as volunteering, dinner with friends, or hikes in your state park.  But eventually, you will find that happy medium. 

3. The Emptiness

Your home will feel empty without your kids.  This is natural and normal.  Just give yourself some time to adjust and soon enough you’ll find that you enjoy having your own space again. After a few decades of messiness, you might even enjoy having a place for everything and everything in its place. Or you might find that you were the messy one all along.  We hear this a lot actually 

4. Feeling Unneeded

You may feel like you’re not needed anymore.  This is another common empty nester feeling.  Just remember that your kids still need you, even if they don’t live under your roof anymore.  They will always appreciate your love and support. But to fill that void in your life right now, consider volunteering.  Finding a volunteer spot that you love can be incredibly fulfilling.

5. Show Me The Money

You will have more disposable income.  With the kids out of the house, you’ll find yourself with a little extra money each month.  Use it wisely by saving for retirement or taking a well-deserved vacation.

6. Cooking Is Harder

You will have to get used to cooking for two (or one).  This can be challenging at first, especially if you’re used to cooking big meals for a family.  But it’s also an opportunity to try new recipes and get creative in the kitchen. The danger is that you will pick up the unhealthy habit of eating out more than you eat at home.  One way to avoid this trap is to invite friends over regularly.

7. More Time With Your Partners

You will have more time for your partner.  Once the kids are gone, you and your partner will be able to reconnect and rediscover each other.  Make the most of this time by planning dates, taking trips, and just enjoying each other’s company. It’s also a time when people start to second guess their marriage. By putting more effort into your marriage, you may be able to avoid this pitfall.

8. Losing Touch With Your Children

You may feel like you’re losing touch with your kids.  This is normal, especially if they move away.  But there are plenty of ways to stay connected, even from a distance.  Try video chatting, texting, or even old-fashioned letter writing. Plan vacations near them or invite them on your vacations. There are plenty of ways to stay in touch but for the first few years, you may find you need to be the one making the effort.

9. New Routines

You will have to get used to a new routine.  This can be tough at first, but it’s also an opportunity to create a schedule that works for you.  Whether you want to sleep in or get up early, use this time to do what makes you happy. Suddenly self-care is possible.  Take advantage of that.

10. Don’t Worry

You will always be a parent, no matter what.  This is one of the most important things to remember.  Even though your kids are grown, they will always need your love and support.  Be there for them, no matter what.

Being an empty nest can feel lonely, but we are here to tell you there is so much more fun heading your way.  We know you are going to find ways to make the most of it.

Get started by downloading the iStratus app today and start making a list of volunteer opportunities, new hobbies to explore, or self-care activities.

Help Your Child Be Ready For Freshman Year

You have a child who is ready to head off to college.  It’s a little scary for mom.  But chances are your son or daughter is excited to get started. The freshman year of college is an exciting time for you and your child. But you are invested in making sure they have a successful year when they get to college. 

In this article, we will share 10 tips to help your child have a successful freshman year. 

10 Tips For Success

1. Talk to your child about their expectations for college

What do they hope to accomplish during their freshman year? What are their goals for their education overall? By having these conversations, you can help your child set realistic expectations for themselves and better prepare for the challenges they may face during their first year of college.

It will also help you understand their goals and help manage your expectations. If their goal for the year is to enjoy the freedom of living in a dorm and experiencing all that the college social scene has to offer, then you will know that they are going to spend some time at parties and tailgates and that it will most likely keep them from getting the best grades.  That’s okay as long as you both understand what the goals are.

2. Help your child choose the right college

Not all colleges are created equal. There are a variety of factors to consider when choosing a college, such as size, location, cost, majors offered, and campus culture. You can help your child research different colleges and find the one that is the best fit for them. It is not unusual for a student to change their mind even a few weeks before they leave for college. Make sure you understand what their options are.

3. Encourage your child to get involved on campus

College is more than just academics. It’s also a time to explore new interests and make lifelong friends. Encourage your child to get involved in extracurricular activities and find their niche on campus. It’s usually in these activities that they find their best friends.  But also remind them that it sometimes takes time.  They may not find their favorite activity until their sophomore or even junior year.  Just keep trying.  Most colleges have something for everybody.

4. Help your child budget their time and money

College can be expensive, so it’s important for your child to budget their money wisely. They should also budget their time, as they will need to balance their coursework with their social life and extracurricular activities. You can help your child by teaching them how to create a budget and stick to it.

5. Teach your child how to study effectively

In college, your child will need to study more efficiently than they did in high school. They should create a study schedule and find a quiet place to study where they can focus. You can help your child by teaching them effective studying techniques and providing them with resources, such as flashcards and practice tests. Also, teach them to take advantage of office hours. This is one thing most students don’t take advantage of.

6. Encourage your child to take care of their health

College is a time when students are more likely to develop health problems, such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. It’s important for your child to take care of their physical and mental health. You can help them by teaching them healthy habits, such as exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet. You should also encourage them to seek help if they are struggling with their mental health.

7. Help your child stay organized

In college, your child will have a lot of assignments and deadlines to keep track of. They should create a system for organizing their coursework, such as using a planner, calendar, or creating a to-do list. Many students find the iStratus app helpful because they can keep checklists, notes, and even photos all in one place.

8. Encourage your child to network

College is a great time for your child to make connections that could benefit them in their future career. Encourage them to attend networking events and meet new people. You can also help them by teaching them how to network effectively.

9. Help your child find a job or internship

A part-time job or internship can help your child pay for college and gain experience in their field of interest. Help your child search for jobs and internships that are a good fit for them. You can also help them by teaching them how to write a resume and cover letter. Also, teach them the importance of leaning on the resources the school offers.  The Careers Center at most schools has options you might not even know about.

10. Be there for your child

College can be a difficult time for some students. They may feel homesick, stressed, or overwhelmed. It’s important for you to be there for your child during this time. You can support them by staying in touch, offering words of encouragement, and being understanding of their situation.

In a future post, we will share some ideas for learning to leave as an empty nester.  But for now, remember, this should be an exciting time for you and your child.  But it’s okay to be a little sad as well.  It’s bittersweet, watching your baby leave the nest.

Encourage your child to download the iStratus app to help with their college endeavors. 

10 Tips For Planning A Great Family Vacation

Family vacations are fun for everybody except the one who plans them. Between the planning, the packing, and the traveling, it can be exhausting for the one in charge.  But it doesn’t have to be.  With a few simple tips, you can take the worrying stress out of the planning process.

Here are 10 tips for planning your next vacation

1. Start early

The earlier you start planning your vacation, the better. This will give you more time to research different destinations and find the best deals on flights and hotels. We also suggest getting the family’s input early on.  Getting them excited about the choices and finding out what options are most exciting to each member of the family.

2. Set a budget

Family vacations can be expensive so it’s important to set a budget before you start planning. This will help you determine how much you can afford to spend on airfare, lodging, activities, and more. Knowing what you can spend can help you avoid the stress of worrying about money.  Staying within the budget is one of the easiest ways to set boundaries for yourself and your family.

3. Choose a destination

Once you have a budget in mind, it’s time to start choosing a destination for your family vacation. Consider everyone’s interests when making your decision. If you have young children, a beach destination may be ideal. For older kids or teens, a city with lots of activities may be more appealing. But don’t forget that you count too.  And because you are the one who will be working on vacation, be sure you include plenty of fun activities for yourself as well.

4. Book your flights and lodging

Once you’ve chosen a destination, it’s time to book your travel arrangements. Look for deals on airfare and hotels to save money on your family vacation. Booking early will ensure you get what you want and it may save you money as well.  But be sure to look for refundable options.  Easy cancellation matters when you are planning a vacation for several people. 

5. Plan activities

No family vacation is complete without some fun activities planned. Whether you’re visiting a theme park, going on a nature hike, or exploring a new city, be sure to include some family-friendly activities in your itinerary. If you are looking in a bigger city you may find that a City Pass is a good option.  The one in Philadelphia offers 2, 3, or 4-day options with museums and attractions all over the city included.

6. Pack wisely

When packing for your family vacation, be sure to pack essentials like clothes, toiletries, medications, and any other items you may need while away from home. It’s also a good idea to pack snacks and drinks for the trip. Although you may want to check behind the children, consider letting them pack for themselves as well.  Use a checklist to help them.  You don’t have to take on every task.  Accept the help where you can get it.

7. Travel insurance

Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before your family vacation. This will protect you in case of any unforeseen circumstances, such as lost luggage, medical emergencies, or cancelations. Consider what just happened with the pandemic and you will realize that we never know what might cause our plans to fall through.

8. Do your research

Be sure to do your research before traveling to your family vacation destination. This includes reading up on the local culture, customs, and laws. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the area’s map so you know where you’re going. One of our friends was stuck in Dubai for two days on her way to New Zealand because she didn’t realize she would need a Visa to enter New Zealand.  Knowing these things ahead of time could have saved her time and aggravation.  This is a good time to mention that using a travel agent will not cost you extra and it could save you time and money because their job is to know these things.

9. Stay safe

The most important thing to remember when on vacation is to stay safe. This means being aware of your surroundings, following safety guidelines, and not taking any unnecessary risks.

10. Have fun

Last but not least, make sure to have fun on your family vacation! This is a time to relax, bond with loved ones, and create memories that will last a lifetime. Keep in mind we said have fun.  Yes, you want your family to have fun but you deserve to have fun as well.  Don’t let the whole vacation be about the family.  Make sure you arrange some time for yourself as well.

As always, we have to remind you that the iStratus app can come in handy when planning.  When you put the flights in the calendar, you can insert your tickets and boarding passes right on the appointment so you aren’t hunting around for them each day.  Having a copy of your passports encrypted on your phone might help you in case you were to lose your passports. Also, having each of your activities with reservation numbers right in your calendar can relieve a lot of the stress of your trip.

Download the iStratus app today!

Activities For Summer

June marks the beginning of summer. Schools will be out soon and the kids will be hankering for something to do. Are you already anxious about filling the days? 

Summer is the perfect time to get out and enjoy some quality family time. There are so many great activities to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of our ten favorite summer activities for families.

10 Summer Activities For Families

1. Go camping

Camping is a great way to bond with your kids and enjoy the outdoors. It’s also a great opportunity to teach them about nature and wildlife.

In the past few years, camping has become increasingly more popular.  So, plan ahead.  Reserve your camping spot ahead of time.  Use the iStratus app to plan fun meals by the fire and even keep a list of the campfire songs and stories you want to share with the kids.

2. Visit a local farm

Spending a day at a local farm is a fun way to learn about where food comes from and how it’s grown. Plus, it’s a great excuse to eat lots of delicious fresh produce!

You may find that there are multiple farms to choose from in your community.  That’s great.  Find out what each offers and plan your farm visit based on themes.

3. Have a picnic

Picnics are a classic summer activity for a reason. They’re simple, they’re fun, and they’re a great way to enjoy the warmer weather. Let the kids get involved too.  Give each one a task, making the sandwiches, making the lemonade, or gathering the utensils so they can feel like they are a part of the process.  This will help you avoid the, “Is it time yet?” remarks from the peanut gallery.

4. Go swimming

Swimming is a great way to beat the heat and have some fun at the same time. If you don’t have a pool of your own, many public pools offer family swim times where kids can swim with their parents. If you are lucky enough to live near a lake, ocean, or river, be sure to take advantage of those as well. 

5. Play in the sprinklers

This one is sure to be a hit with the kids! Set up some sprinklers in the yard and let them run through them to cool off. This is a great way to include the neighbors as well.  Is there anything more fun than sitting on the front porch watching all the children run through the sprinkler?  Oh, yes, that’s right.  Running through the sprinkler is way more fun.

6. Make homemade ice cream

Homemade ice cream is a delicious summer treat. It’s also a great activity for kids, as they can help to measure and mix the ingredients. If you really want to involve the kids, consider the Ice Cream Ball

7. Go berry picking

Berry picking is a great way to spend a summer morning or afternoon. Even your littlest ones will love it. The bonus is that after you’ve picked your fill, you can use the berries to make pies and jams, or just eat them plain.

8. Go on a nature hike

Nature hikes are a great way to explore the outdoors and get some exercise at the same time. They’re also perfect for little ones who might not be able to handle a long walk. One fun way to spend your time in the woods is by identifying local birds or plants.

9. Have a water balloon fight

Water balloon fights are always a hit with kids of all ages. They’re perfect for hot summer days when everyone is looking for a way to cool off. And filling the balloons alone can take up a good portion of the day.

10. Build a fort

Forts can be built inside or outside, depending on your preference. They’re a great way to encourage imagination and creativity, and kids will love spending time in their own special space.

You know it wouldn’t be an iStratus article if we didn’t remind you to use our app to schedule these activities.  Having them on your calendar ahead of time will give the kids something to look forward to and it will give you the opportunity to plan ahead.

Here’s to a wonder-filled summer for you and your family. Download the iStratus app today!

Make Your Mental Health A Priority

May is Mental Health Awareness month. At iStratus, we specialize in helping you simplify your life through our 6-in-1 app. But did you know that we are big fans of self-care as well? That’s right. One of our favorite ways to use the app is to schedule our exercise, our meals, and even our downtime. Now, we are going to share 10 mental health self-care tips to help you make your mental health a priority.

1. Get enough sleep

Most people need around eight hours of sleep per night.  Consider going to bed and waking up at the same time each day to help regulate your body’s natural sleep rhythm. If you have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep, consider changing the environment.  Add a white noise machine.  Close your shades to make the room darker.  Turn down the temperature or add a fan.  Do whatever it takes to get to sleep.

2. Eat healthy

Eating nutritious foods helps your body to function at its best.  Make sure to include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet. One of the ways we use the iStratus app to help with this is by tracking our food.  Especially the last meal of the day.  We found that certain foods made sleeping more difficult.  Now we avoid those foods before bedtime.

3. Exercise regularly

Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects.  A moderate amount of exercise is the key to maintaining mental health and well-being. Keep in mind that even a relaxing 30-minute walk can help.  Don’t think you have to get a gym membership, buy fancy spandex outfits, or invest in a coach. Nope. All you need to do is go for a walk.

4. Take breaks 

When you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, take a few minutes to yourself to relax and rejuvenate.  Take a hot bath, read your favorite book, or take a walk outdoors. In our last post, we wrote about meditation.  Spending a few minutes of your break to meditate might be just what you need.

5. Connect with loved ones

Spending time with loved ones can help reduce stress and promote positive mental health.  Whether you stay in touch via text, social media, or in person, quality time with those you care about is crucial for a healthy mind. And might we suggest you avoid those energy vampires.  You know the ones who suck the energy right out of a room.  You deserve people who lift you up, not tear you down.

6. Do something you enjoy

Make time for activities that make you happy.  This could include hobbies, listening to music, playing sports, or anything else that brings joy into your life. Not sure what you love, start being adventurous, and try new activities until you hit exactly the thing for you.  It might surprise you. Underwater basket weaving, anyone?

7. Volunteer

Helping others has been shown to improve mental health and overall satisfaction with life.  Find a cause that is important to you and consider giving your time to make a difference. We recently met a lovely lady at Charity Connect who pairs people with the charity that makes their souls happy. If an organized volunteer position doesn’t suit you, look around.  Find someone who needs your help.  You might be surprised to find the number of people who are just dying for an extra set of hands to help with handyman work, grocery shopping, or mowing the lawn.

8. Reduce stress

Stress can have a negative impact on mental health.  Identify activities that help you relax and make an effort to incorporate them into your daily routine.  This could include yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises. It could also be singing, dancing, or even just saying no to some of the things that are overwhelming you.  Remember, you are worth it. 

9. Seek professional help

If you are struggling with mental health issues, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional for help.  Therapy can be an extremely effective way to address mental health concerns and promote wellbeing. If you had a sore throat or a fever, you would go to the doctor. Mental health is health.  It’s okay to seek help.

10. Take care of your physical health

Physical health and mental health are interconnected.  Make sure to schedule regular checkups with your doctor and get adequate exercise and rest.  By taking care of your physical health, you are also taking care of your mental health.

Mental health month is only one-twelfth of the year.  Don’t let it be the only time you make your mental health a priority.  You deserve to be taken care of.

Live life and roll well with iStratus. Take care of your mental health and download the iStratus app today!