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Wednesday, March 5th, 2014
* Guest-edited by Laura Manske, travel expert
This is the first in a weekly series of travel deals we’re offering our Parents.com fans! For the first few months we’ll focus exclusively on babymoons. About half of expectant couples say they take a pre-baby vacay; we’ll help you be one of them.
Any of these hip hotels can serve as your springboard to the excitement of the Big Apple, whether you want to see a Broadway show, shop SoHo, dine in Tribeca, check out the view from the top of a skyscraper, or just people-watch in this amazing city.
BOOK IT! From about $380 to $500 per night; check your dates for any location at starwoodhotels.com
HERE’S OUR SPECIAL: NYC Best of the Bump presented by Forty Weeks and W Hotels, New York Pregnancy-marketing experts at Forty Weeks have put together a package that gets you a room, late check-out so you can enjoy every moment of precious sleep while you still can, mocktails, a gift from Bliss Spa, a chemise and gift card from Belabumbum, and a Skip-Hop diaper bag. For your cravings, you’ll get a snack from Keep It Sweet and a gift card to Empire Biscuits. Plus, you’ll be fitted at NYC’s Yummy Mummy for a bra and tank by Bravado Designs and a Medela Accessory Pack. You’ll event get a $100 shopping credit from the Belly Dance maternity boutique, all for about the same cost as a regular night (which starts between about $350 and $500, depending on the property). Restrictions apply and this offer won’t be good forever. Call 877-946-8357 for full details and to book a Best of the Bump stay; if booking online, the code you want to use is BESTBUMP. Have fun!
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Monday, February 3rd, 2014
Moms, try not to bear a grudge over this one. You can now send Teddy abroad with Unagi Travel, a Tokyo, Japan, tourism agency catering to your child’s plush pal. That’s right: You can book that special stuffed animal for a tour through Tokyo or Kyoto—or send it to a “mystery” location—and you and your child can follow the toy’s worldly adventures through photos on Facebook. No passport needed. $35 to $95 per tour; unagi-travel.net
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Monday, December 16th, 2013
When I said, in a Parents.com post on holiday traditions
, that my favorite is taking a one-on-one holiday date with each of my kids, some people complained that my kids need more than one
day a year of my attention. But of course, those two get my attention all day, every day. Here’s what makes a holiday time-out so special:
* They get me all to themselves with no sibling, no daddy, and no friends around. You’d think this would happen more often than it does, but I, like most mommies, have to work to be completely alone with any member of my family (the exception being my firstborn’s babyhood…we had plenty of alone time together!) Being with one kid usually means doing homework, walking to a playdate, shopping, or any number of mundane things, as opposed to just enjoying each other.
* I don’t cheat and do anything I “have” to do.
That includes running by a bank or post office, etc., because then it wouldn’t feel like a date, right?
* They get to skip school! At least as long as they are in preschool or elementary school. I try to keep our holiday date off of Saturday or Sunday, when we’re already off-duty. I take a vacation day from work, I excuse them from school, and we both take a break from responsibilities. On a weekday! It feels a little scandalous.
* I follow each kid’s lead.
Joe is a nut about penguins, so this year’s date was to the Central Park Zoo
where we spent maybe 45 minutes in the penguin room. After, I started to make an argument for seeing other animals (to make that entrance fee worth it!), but Joe wanted to eat a hot dog and then go look at Christmas decorations. So that’s what we did.
* Each kid gets something special, and I don’t fret about making things even.
Grace is now in middle school so, for the first time, I chickened out about taking her out all day. Her special mama date was a sleepover at the Conrad Hotel in lower Manhattan
. (It’s not as pricey as it looks, at least by Manhattan-hotel standards, and it’s kid-friendly.) In the morning Grace ordered room-service breakfast, which to her represents the pinnacle of luxury. The fact that I didn’t have to fix breakfast, make the bed, or launder the towels was my own pinnacle of luxury. Joe didn’t get a hotel stay, and Grace didn’t get to miss an entire day of school, but they accept that they can have things that are different and equally special.
* Obviously, we do holiday things.
When the kids were preschoolers I took them to St Patrick’s Cathedral
a few years in a row, where they have a beautiful nativity scene with a crib that stays empty until Christmas. It felt more meaningful to discuss what Christmas is, mama-to-child, outside of church service (and outside of some lecture about asking for too many gifts, lol). Now that they get it, we more often view the Rockefeller Center Tree, or join activities like the cookie-decorating that the Conrad Hotel puts on. (Happening this Saturday, December 21st, from 3pm to 5pm, if you happen to be in NYC!)
Maybe I am just getting old, but it feels like the world is spinning so fast these days that taking a time-out with these little people is the best tradition I’ve ever come up with. I hope you all get a real rest and respite with loved ones in the next few weeks, before we’re on to new-year resolutions and a busy 2014. Happy Holidays!
We’ve put together a helpful email full of our best holiday projects, recipes, and more! To get your copy click here.
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Monday, September 23rd, 2013
I just got back from an amazing trip with my family (husband and two kids, ages 4 and 6) to Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone is like no other place in America, or even on earth. It’s a wonderland for parents and kids alike. But it does require a lot of planning.
1. There’s no TV, radio, or (gulp) wifi in Yellowstone inns, hotels, and lodges. Likely you are going to Yellowstone to get away from your crazy busy life and will welcome being off the grid. (I did manage to get Verizon and AT&T cell connection at Old Faithful Inn, but it was spotty at best.) Even if you are welcoming connecting with nature, it can be a challenge to travel with kids without a little help from Netflix or their favorite wifi based apps, especially during long car trips to and from attractions (Yellowstone is a big place!). Consider bringing portable DVD players, game systems, or downloading movies and apps in advance on your devices so you’re prepared. And you can never have too many crayons or colored pencils– the Park hands out Junior Ranger booklets and other pamphlets to kids frequently and having them on hand makes for a great distraction while waiting for dinner. (We found that the hotel dining rooms were short on crayons outside of brown and black which makes it a challenge to color in the Prismatic Spring!)
2. Weather changes can be drastic. We woke up our first day to 40 degree weather (see pic at right); by noon we had stripped off our hats, gloves and jackets and were wearing our tee shirts on the Mammoth Terraces. The next day it snowed — a few inches fell in a couple hours, leaving the Park covered in blanket of white and even closing roads. We were still nursing our sunburns from the day before! We traveled in mid-September when it can be cooler, but everyone I spoke with says that the weather can change from super hot to freezing, even in the summer. Dress in layers and carry a backpack with hats and gloves and plenty of water when hiking. Even in a few hours the weather can change 20 degrees.
3. You’ll spend a lot of time in the car. Yellowstone is more than 3,000 square miles and there’s only one major figure eight highway connecting it all with a speed limit of 45 miles per hour. We found the drive from attraction to attraction breathtaking — every mile has something to see whether it’s a herd of bison on the side of the road, a giant cavern dipping before you, or a bald eagle flying overhead –even my kids put down their headphones to look out the windows and shriek at the amazing nature on the other side of the glass several times a day. But still, you are in the car a lot. It can take 2-3 hours to get from Old Faithful to the Yellowstone Canyon or to Mammoth Terraces to Yellowstone Lake … or wherever you want to go depending on road closures, animal jams, and just plain distance. So if you have the option, bring or rent the bigger car with ample leg room and/or amenities. We spent the week in a new Buick Enclave and it was perfect — we had a DVD player for the kids when they were tired of the view (or just tired period) and plenty of space for all our hiking gear and snacks. (The sunroof also came in handy for snaps of grazing animals — see us at right!)
4. Food can be hard to find. The Park is vast and if you are between junctions (the intersections where many attractions are located) or stuck in a bear jam (seriously!) you could find yourself hungry and, worse, with hungry whining children. The Park restaurants, grills, and cafeterias (located at most junctions) are first come, first served for breakfast and lunch and there are often long lines, especially in the summer months (we traveled in September and it was hard even then.) Dinner at the few sit-down restaurants are reservation only and they fill up fast — book ém when you book your room. Plus, the food can be pricey — we couldn’t get away with less than $40 for our little family of four for breakfast or lunch at any of the restaurants. (The to-go sandwiches are $10 each!) If you can, bring a cooler and pack lunches and snacks; there are tons of great, well-marked picnic spots and you can always replace your ice and fill up with water at the major junctions.
5. Animals can be dangerous. There are signs everywhere telling you to be careful of the bears, elk, bison, antelope, moose, and other animals that make their home in Yellowstone, but it’s important to note again here and especially for children. Do not let them get close to any animals — we took pictures of bison and elk through our car windows (see my son’s pic, at right!), and out of the top of our sunroof — they can charge and trample children (even adults). People are hurt every year in the Park by getting too close. Also, if you plan to go hiking — and I highly recommend that you do — it’s the best way to see the Park and get away from the crowds — note that the threat of grizzly and black bears are real. Do not let children run ahead of you on trails (bears think something running is food worth catching) and make noise. Luckily making noise is easy for most kids; but on longer hikes it can be harder to keep the conversation rolling. For our hikes on the Fairy Falls, Mystic Falls, and the Yellowstone River Picnic/Speciman Ridge Trails we sang several songs, including “Going on A Bear Hunt” over and over! We never saw a bear on a trail, but we did see a grizzly on a road side pullover through binoculars (how I prefer to see a large mammal that can eat my young). Also consider buying and learning how to use bear spray.
Check out my other post about our trip: What Kids Love Most About Yellowstone. And be sure to share your tips for traveling to Yellowstone and other national parks with kids!
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Thursday, May 9th, 2013
Check out blog posts by multitalented mompreneur Rosie Pope every week at Parents.com!
I am amidst a tour of baby expos, speaking, signing books, pop up stores and my favorite: getting to meet so many amazing moms, moms-to-be, mompreneurs, and Dads from around the country. When I go out on the road like this, I am fortunate to be able to bring one of my three lovely little ones with me. (Okay, that’s my favorite part if I’m being totally honest, but meeting all of you is a very close second!) As a mother of three, having that one-on-one time is invaluable and makes my work trips something for the kids to look forward to.
This time I took my youngest, Vivienne. Now that Vivi is almost one year old, she no longer instantly falls asleep once the sound of the plane engines starts roaring, and life is a little more complicated now that milk alone won’t suffice. Oh yes, how I wish the jubblies could somehow also produce a meal of mac n’ cheese with chopped strawberries on the side as easily as breast milk—wouldn’t that be amazing!
I have become quite adept at traveling with a child in tow after doing it so often and have accumulated a few tips and tricks to make traveling with a child, particularly by plane, easier for both you and your little one. Here’s my list of low-cost, quick fixes for traveling with youngsters:
1. While I recommend traveling in comfy clothes (hello flats, leggings, and a boyfriend sweater), wear as many clinky, costume jewelry pieces around your neck and wrists as possible. I can’t tell you the amount of time that can be passed looking at Mommy’s big jewelry!
2. Never be ashamed to make a shusshing noise near their ears as you try and get them to sleep amidst the hustle and bustle. Shusshing will ultimately sooth, calm, and drown out the noise around you as they try to sleep.
3. Try to book your flights for just after your child’s bedtime or during their regularly scheduled naps for the best chance of them being tired and ready for some zzzz’s once on board.
4. Take as many liquids and baby foods with you as you like. There’s no need to spend extra once you have gone through security to stock up on these must-haves. Just make sure to tell a TSA agent, and they will run the items through their own security check.
5. When the attendant announces early boarding for passengers with children, don’t do it (forgive me airlines of America). You want to minimize the amount of time you are sitting on the plane, and early boarding is a sure fire way to reach the end of your ability to entertain sooner than you’d like. Board at the last possible moment!
6. Always bring a change of clothes for you and your baby, plus something to cover those nasty changing tables they have in public places. I can only imagine what’s on them. Better still, use one of your breast feeding covers to cover your wee one on your lap while you change her diaper in a secluded corner of the airport.
7. Don’t be ashamed to think about the well deserved glass of vino with your name on it once you finally get there.
8. Use microwave steam sterilizing bags for bottles, pacifiers, and so on when traveling. Most places have microwaves, so use one to your advantage since you may encounter a lot of germs during your trip. (That’s right, I’m talking about when the baby’s bottle slips out of your bag and starts rolling around the airplane floor).
9. If your babe is less than 18 months, re-wrap some of their own toys and bring them on the trip for your kid to open. Believe me, they’ll love the element of surprise
So go forth, and travel with confidence. You will arrive…. eventually!
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Wednesday, May 8th, 2013
When Hurricane Sandy blasted the Jersey Shore last fall, my thoughts immediately went to Cape May. I took a family vacation there the summer before and was completely charmed by the town. After seeing news footage and Facebook photos of the devastation of the New Jersey coast, I had assumed the worst had happened. Fast-forward three months: I’m researching a Parents magazine story on the 10 Best Beach Towns for Families. I’ve narrowed my picks to a “short list” of a hundred or so towns that have great water quality. Cape May is on the list. So I made a call to find out what shape the town is in now. And much to my delight, I learned that Sandy largely spared Cape May, taking a last-minute turn in the other direction.
Cape May stayed in the running to be included in the story, and when other factors—like inland family fun and nature activities—were considered, it ended up being number five on Parents best list. Here are a couple of highlights from my family’s long weekend in Cape May, and you’ll find many more family-friendly activities in my story on the town.
My daughter’s favorite memory from the trip was an inexpensive program we signed up for at the Nature Center of Cape May. Staff cast a net in the ocean to see what creatures they could find, and then told the kids about them. The kids got to touch the little critters before safely returning them to the water. By the looks of it, all the kids in the program that day had a blast and learned quite a bit from this hands-on experience.
We went to the beach that was across the street from Congress Hall, where we stayed. Even though we were there in mid-August (peak season!), it didn’t feel crowded. And it was very clean!
At night, we checked out the shops at Washington Street Mall, a three-block outdoor promenade filled with adorable, independent shops like Bath Time (where we bought custom-blend bubble bath). For a treat, we ended up enjoying egg creams (a combo of chocolate syrup and seltzer) from Dellas 5 & 10.
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Monday, November 12th, 2012
Kids (my kids), don’t read this. Because if you do, you’re going to want to go to Palm Beach, Florida, where your mom and I escaped for a rare and well-deserved getaway. Yes, we framed it as a business trip, and there was some “research” involved. But truth be told, it was the type you both love—infinity-edge swimming pools, white-sand beaches, expansive ocean views, fancy restaurant meals. Okay, really. Stop reading.
Our visit took us to two of the nicest resorts in the area. First was The Ritz-Carlton (pool and ocean view pictured to the right), a Spanish-style low-rise that’s quietly elegant, with intimate service (the waiters knew my name by the second evening at Temple Orange, which features local grouper and a wonderful Friday night seafood buffet), terraces so close to the ocean you can sit out and listen to the surf (we did—often), and one of the coolest spas I’ve ever seen. At Eau Spa we were treated to a couples massage and dry float, after which we relaxed in hanging chairs that were reminiscent of baby swings—and just as comforting. The kids wouldn’t have liked our abandoning them to be personally pampered, but they would have been in good hands: Their stay in the kids club, Aquanuts, for ages 5 and up, is complimentary while you’re having your spa treatment. And it looks like a blast: During our visit the kids’ indoor room was decorated like a Halloween fun house, so the little ones could trick or treat when they’re weren’t swimming or playing games. This resort definitely likes families: It recently started a special meal plan for guests 12 and under, including fun-but-healthy choices for $35 a day. And while it’s not cheap, low-season rates start for a relatively modest $199 per night.
To my surprise our second stop, The Breakers (pictured to the right), was equally child-friendly. I had images that this grand dame, built by Henry Flagler in 1896, might be stodgy. But the owners have invested $250 million during the past decade to ensure that it is the very model of a modern luxury resort, with a spa, four pools (some designed for families, some for quiet), yoga and Zumba classes (my wife raved about them), snorkeling right off shore, paddleboarding (it’s a lot harder than it looks!), two golf courses, and 10 tennis courts (I got rained out—frown). But it also has mosaics and tapestries straight out of the gilded age. Our Sunday brunch at The Circle, a gorgeous room with sweeping ocean views, featured a chilled seafood bar with Maine lobster and a dessert bar to die for. It was truly among our most amazing dining experiences ever. Since this wonderful extravagance might have been wasted on our kids (or at least an extra drain on our wallet), we likely would’ve put them in the Coconut Crew Camp (for ages 3 and up). But The Breakers has plenty else to keep young children busy and happy (we saw many of them during our visit). The Family Entertainment Center has a game room, craft room, arcade, movie room, playground, and outdoor sports court. If you eat at the adjacent Italian Restaurant, the kids can run off and play (fully monitored) for no extra charge while you enjoy your meal in peace. While undeniably a splurge, The Breakers is worth it, especially during low season, when rates start at $289 per night, including continental breakfast and kids meals and day camp.
For us, though, it was romantic, and a reminder of how relaxed vacations used to be before kids (sigh). Still, we would have liked them to be there for two off-site activities: Lion Country Safari, a drive-through zoo and safari-themed amusement park; and the Loggerhead Marinelife Center (pictured to the right), where injured sea turtles (which nest by the thousands on the adjacent Juno Beach) are rescued and rehabilitated. My daughter fell in love with Winter the dolphin when we got to meet her a couple of years ago, and I have no doubt that she would have an instant crush on these cute creatures too. Next time we’ll have to bring Matthew and Isabella along. Maybe.
Photo 1: The Ritz Carlton
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Photo 2: The Breakers
Photo 3: Loggerhead Marinelife Center
Friday, July 13th, 2012
Parents teamed up with Embassy Suites to find out how you vacation. According to our survey, more than one half of families, consider themselves “vacation dabblers,” who sporadically take days off throughout the year for shorter, one- to two-night trips. This is a surprisingly high percentage, considering people need at least three days to benefit from time off. On the other end of the spectrum, only a mere 13% are considered “vacation maximizers,” who patiently save up vacation days for one long trip.
So what does this mean? Those two-day mini vacations gaining popularity may seem great in theory, but commonly aren’t rejuvenating enough. To help families “moremize” their vacations, Embassy Suites has started a Facebook contest to give away week-long vacations. All you have to do is go to the page and post a picture of your family’s best “vacation face.” Don’t forget to include a caption to explain how your family plans on getting the most out of your summer vacation before, during, and after.
When the contest ends on July 20th, five lucky winners will receive seven nights at any Embassy Suits Hotel, roundtrip airfare for four, and $10,000 spending cash—the ultimate vacation!
Whether or not your family wins the contest, here are some helpful vacation tips from health and happiness expert, Dr. Susan Biali, to keep in mind the next time you’re contemplating how to spend your days off.
* Looking forward to a vacation actually improves your attitude at work and makes you more productive. This is what Dr. Biali refers to as “vacation anticipation.”
* “Vacation dabblers” should make sure they spend their couple of days off relaxing—not doing errands and running around. Those aren’t real days off and defeat the purpose!
* Post-vacation memories can help to rejuvenate you when you’re stressed. Display vacation photos and keepsakes where you can see them often to serve as pleasant reminders of fun family times.
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