Posts Tagged ‘ family travel ’

Save Time and Money on Holiday Travel

Friday, December 20th, 2013

With Christmas on its way and New Year’s soon after, we bet there’s one thing you’re in for this season: travel. We had the chance to learn some expert tips from Bob Diener, president of Whether you’re flying or driving in the weeks to come, these strategies will help make your journey hassle-free now and for the future.

1. When in doubt, over-plan.

Making stops along the way might be necessary, but it doesn’t hurt to stock up on supplies beforehand. “Shop for food in advance at your local store. You can get much better prices than trying to pick things up at a convenient store,” Diener says. His trick to avoid paying $3 for water? Pack empty sports bottles to fill up at airports or rest stops.

 2. Search for unconventional options.

Don’t be afraid to look outside the traditional hotel. “People gravitate toward big name chains, but those have more demand and higher prices,” Diener says. You can book vacation rentals for almost the same as a hotel with the bonus of having a kitchen and extra space. Though independent hotels may not seem as glamorous, reading customer reviews can help you find one just as nice as the usual.

3. Take advantage of surprise offers.

Flash sales also exist on travel sites and can offer rates 10 to 60 percent lower. The trick is booking within the sale window, anywhere from 2 to 24 hours. “Most people take a week to make plans, but flash sales require you to make a decision right away because the rate is so good,” Diener says. also has unpublished rates from 30,000 participating hotels; just give them a call to find deals 20 to 60 percent less than what’s listed.

4. Be on the lookout for free stuff.

It’s important to consider amenities in your overall cost. Hotels or resort packages that include breakfast or internet can go a long way in saving . One low-cost way to keep kids entertained: Find a place to stay with a pool. “After a rough day of activities, you can take them there for hours,” Diener says.

5. Keep things sane with technology.

Yes, adding movies to your tablets prior to leaving guarantees entertainment. But it’s also good to download apps that will make your journey smoother. Diener uses the app of his preferred airport to keep track of delays and store boarding passes. His other favorite, Kayak, allows users to search multiple vendors at once to find deals on-the-go. Plus, you’ll need a weather app to know when rain or snow might dampen your day, or give you a white Christmas.

Top Tips for Better Family Roadtrips
Top Tips for Better Family Roadtrips
Top Tips for Better Family Roadtrips

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A Crafty Kid’s Paradise (Plus An Exclusive Discount)

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Last weekend, I took my daughter, her cousin, and two friends to check out the Crayola Experience in Easton, Pennsylvania, about an hour north of Philadelphia and 90 minutes or so from New York City. Formerly known as The Crayola Factory, the children’s museum-like space closed its doors last winter for a complete makeover. The once-snoozy story about how crayons are made got an animated twist, a two-story play structure was constructed, and the arts and crafts became way cooler.

Our group loved the machines that molded a crayon into a shape—like a heart or a fish—and the ones where crayons are melted and spun to create funky spin-art designs shown in the picture. (For the record, the Crayola Experience supplied the image, but our “non-professional” versions looked almost as good.)

The kids also enjoyed drawing a picture and then turning it into a puzzle, doodling on glow-in-the-dark boards mounted to the wall (I want one for my family room), and personalizing a crayon label. Call me dorky, but I couldn’t resist making Parents Magazine Pink and Goodyblog Green to take home. We ran out of time to do the Coloring Page Photobooth (where kids get an image of themselves to color) and Modeling Madness (featuring Model Magic), but they looked cool.

While my crafting foursome ranged in age from 8 to 11, I think the “sweet spot” for visiting the Crayola Experience is 5 to 9, though kids from age 2 to 12 would certainly enjoy it. After five hours, each of the girls left with a bag stuffed with their creations as well as free crayons and markers. Sound like fun? The Crayola Experience is offering Parents an exclusive discount of $4 off each admission if you buy tickets by August 23, 2013 using this link. With the discount, tickets cost $11.99 for visitors age 2 and up. Kids 1 and under are free. Maybe I’ll see you there. My daughter and her friends are already asking to visit again!

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Save $1,500 with Exclusive Hotel Discounts

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Thinking about taking a trip with the kids this summer, but don’t have anything booked yet? Then read my new story on the 10 best cities for families to visit. Not only will you get a list of must-see attractions, you’ll also find exclusive deals and perks for hotels in many of the top cities. $1,500 worth of savings! To make it more convenient for you, we’ve put the details on all the offers below. Which place are you dying to visit? Chicago is on my bucket list for this summer!    

Omni San Diego Hotel
Get 10 percent off and free parking with promo code PARENTS; Book from June 30, 2013 to January 20, 2014. Subject to availability.

Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel (shown at right)
Enter promo code PMAG for free kids’ meals with the purchase of an adult meal at Vela Restaurant. The offer is valid July 1, 2013 to September 30, 2013. Based on availability. Certain restrictions apply.

Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa
Use promo code P15 for a 15 percent discount; book by August 1, 2013 for stays that occur between July 8, 2013 and September 30, 2013. Offer is not available August 30, 2013 through September 1, 2013. Subject to availability.

Hotel Rouge
Use the promo code PARENT for a 10 percent discount; book by December 31, 2013. Subject to availability.

Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek
Book at for 15 percent off a two-night stay plus a $50 resort credit. Book by September 1, 2013 for stays between August 1, 2013 and October 31, 2013. Subject to availability.

Hotel Lincoln
Call the hotel at 855-514-8112 and mention Parents for a 10 percent discount. Book by December 31, 2013 for rooms from September 1, 2013 to April 30, 2014. Subject to availability.

Hyatt Chicago Magnificent Mile
Use promo code PARENTS to receive a 10 percent discount for stays between July 1, 2013 and September 6, 2013. Subject to availability.

Radisson Fisherman’s Wharf
Stay 3 nights or more and receive 2 percent off your room rate using promo code PARMAG. Promotion is available for select dates between July 1, 2013 and December 30, 2013. Subject to availability, black-out dates apply. Advance reservations are required. Maximum occupancy is 4 guests per room with 2 double beds and 2 guests in a room with 1 king bed. Not valid with any other discounts or promotions. Cancellations must be made 24 hours or more before arrival. Cancellations made less than 24 hours prior to arrival will be charged one nights room and tax charges.

Hotel Diva
Mention Parents magazine when you check in at Hotel Diva from July 1, 2013 to September 30, 2013. Your kids will receive a goody bag while you’ll snag a special welcome amenity. Subject to availability.

Hotel Beacon
When making a reservation, use the code PARENTS to get Jacques Torres chocolates at check-in. Valid for stays between July 1, 2013 and September 30, 2013. Subject to availability.

Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa
Rooms with two queen beds start at $169 per night with promo code PARENT. You also receive a free breakfast daily for 4. Book by August 31, 2013 for stays between August 1, 2013 and October 31, 2013. Subject to availability.

Embassy Suites San Antonio Riverwalk-Downtown
Go to to book a room with a 10 percent discount. Book by December 31, 2013 for rooms from June 12, 2013 to December 31, 2013. Subject to availability.

SpringHill Suites Indianapolis Downtown
Book at room at for a 15 percent discount. Book by December 30, 2013 for rooms from August 1, 2013 to December 30, 2013.

Loews Philadelphia Hotel
Get a 10 percent discount by using the promo code READER; book and use between now and December 30, 2013. Subject to availability.

The Rittenhouse Hotel
Use the promo code N28C between July 1, 2013 and September 8, 2013 to receive a 10 percent discount. Subject to availability.

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My Name is Jessica, and I’m a Disney Addict

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

With such a big, fantastic country to travel, why would anyone keep taking Disney trips? That’s what I ask myself every time I start fantasizing about our next Disney vacation, which is pretty much daily. Here’s my answer: I don’t much care, because I want to go back to Disney.

Four reasons I keep giving my vacation dollars to the mouse:

#1 Disney employees are so nice to my kids. I really got that when I began traveling with babies. If your kid is freaking out, which he’s going to do at some point each day of his young life, someone offers a sticker, or an “awww,” or at least shoots you a sympathetic look. It’s such relief from other places, where kids have to be shushed and hustled out of site. I relax on a Disney vacay (I’m talking about DisneyWorld in Florida, and Disneyland in California, and the Disney Cruise ships) because my kids are going to “have moments” but thank goodness everyone understands. The hotels expect kids. The restaurants are ready for kids. It’s all good. 

#2 My husband and I get alone time. We joke that we have to go on a Disney Cruise to have a date, but that’s not really far off. The kids are so occupied with the kids’ clubs-doing the stuff of kid fantasies, like like joining a band of pirates-that we never fail to sneak off to an adult-only bar during some afternoon and an adult-only restaurant for a dinner. The kids are close and happy but we get some couple time too. And can I just point out that when the kids are in camp, the cabin is blissfully kid-free? It’s not hard to get my husband to go on one of the ships. 

#3 You can never see it all. The Florida parks are so vast. The cruise ships have so much going on every hour. And even the California park, with its manageable size, keeps upgrading. There is always something new to see. When I heard that previews of the new FantasyLand in DisneyWorld begin November 19th, it was all I could do to keep from immediately buying plane tickets. (Breathe in, breathe out.)

#4 We always have a good time. I’ve been in Florida when it’s too hot (avoid June!) and I’ve been in DisneyLand during rain (we wore ponchos and made extra trips back to our room). It’s still a blast. We love the food, we love the characters, we love the parades and the swimming pools and the rides. Sigh. 

I am not rich. I have to save and plan like everyone else. (Even if I get sent to Disney for work, I pay to take the family along.) I have a coworker and a couple of Facebook friends who also keep getting drawn back to Disney, which makes me feel like less of a freak. Here in New York City, it’s much more chic to spend vacations in Europe, or at a cottage in Vermont. But I’ll take a Disney trip over anything else. Who’s with me?! 

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Google Street View: Take a Virtual Tour of Family Vacation Spots

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Legoland California Google Street ViewThinking about  a quick getaway for Memorial Day weekend? Before you finalize your plans, explore family-friendly places by using Google Maps Street View.  If you’re not familiar with this free tool, it gives you a 360-degree street level look at popular U.S. and world destinations (zoos, amusement parks, public parks, landmarks, museums, etc.).  From the comfort of your own home computer or smartphone, preview places to determine if you want to visit them in person.

Get a panoramic look at these following U.S. destinations:

For bigger family vacations, you can take a road trip to different U.S. landmarks, discover historic Italy, or even set sail down the Amazon River.

Plus, if you or someone you know manages a unique destination, request a Street View team to visit the location through the Street View Partner Program.

Happy planning!

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Avoid Toddlers Falling from Hotel Balconies By Childproofing Your Room

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

If you’re traveling with a baby or toddler and need to stay for a few nights at a hotel, always look into childproofing the room.

A 16-month-old girl, Jah-Nea Myles, fell from the fourth floor balcony of a hotel in Orlando yesterday before being caught by Helen Beard, a 44-year-old woman visiting from England.  Jah-Nea’s mother had left her in the care of friends who didn’t notice when the toddler left the room and then managed to slip through the balcony rails. 

MyFox Orlando reported hat Beard saw the child dangling from the balcony and ran to a location underneath the child before she fell.  The toddler struck the third floor balcony before being caught by Beard.  The child still slipped through Beard’s arms and landed on the ground, but didn’t suffer any injuries.  The local hospital determined the child to be in good health and the sheriff’s captain deemed Jah-Nea’s rescue to be miraculous.

When taking a trip with your child, Parents suggests calling the hotel beforehand to ask questions and determine if it’s kid-friendly location.  Ask about  renting a crib or stroller, the hotel’s crib safety requirements, and any available child-friendly activities, pools, and playgrounds. Most hotels also offer free childproofing kits or will childproof the room for you upon request.  Just make sure to ask.  Once you’re at the hotel, look for any possible dangers such as open balconies, stairs, and railings, uncovered outlets, sharp furniture, fragile objects, loose curtain or electrical cords, and unlocked cabinets. Above all, keep your child safe no matter where you stay.

Read more about childproofing your hotel room:

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Video Tour of a Disney Cruise, Part 3

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

In the last video postcard from Disney’s Baltic cruise, Sally Lee and her family take in Russia and Finland–and all the fun offered back on the boat. Check out the vid now or the previous installments by clicking here and here.

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Video Tour of a Disney Cruise, Part 2

Friday, November 5th, 2010

In her next video postcard, Sally Lee and her family continue on their awesome Disney cruise through Europe, with a fun stop in Germany. Check it out now:

Don’t forget to watch part 1 here. And come back next week for the final installment.

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