Monday, December 16th, 2013
Posts Tagged ‘ Travel ’
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!Add a Comment
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.Add a Comment
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
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.Add a Comment
Thursday, May 24th, 2012
Thinking 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:
- San Diego Zoo
- Legoland California
- Universal Studios Orlando
- Time Square New York
- More U.S. Summer Attractions
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!Add a Comment
Wednesday, March 28th, 2012
You know how a typical vacation glow tends to vanish as soon as you dump all the dirty laundry from the trip on your basement floor and begin sorting it? Or maybe that’s just me. But not this time! It’s been two weeks since my five-year-old son, Julian and I headed to Grand Bahama Island, courtesy of the kind folks at the Grand Lucayan, and we’re still feeling chill. Julian has declared that he won’t remove his orange resort wristband (“until I’m an old man and die”—yipes!) and I’m still smiling thinking of all the happy little moments over our three-day trip that I hope I never forget.
Julian’s beach experience so far had been limited to summers at the Jersey Shore, so with all due respect for Snooki, he was totally blown away when I pointed to that backdrop of blue beyond our resort and told him it was the ocean. “What? Are you kidding me?” he yelled. I’ve seen my share of islandy-beaches, but the view made me as giddy as my little guy. As soon as we unpacked in our spacious, marina-view room (one of 519 at this huge yet totally low-key haven) we quickly switched into a slow-as-honey pace that was such a departure from the daycare-work-home-bath-dinner-bed routine of our usual weekdays that the whole getaway now feels kind of like a dream. After dinner at Irie’s Restaurant, where I had a yummy mahi mahi stuffed with crabmeat and Julian split the lobster-topped pasta with one of two little boys on the trip who were nearly his age (two vacay playmates? jackpot!), we returned to our room to find giant chocolate chip cookies and milk had been delivered with the turndown service. Sweet! This place clearly knows kids (and carb-loving moms!).
The next morning, we experienced one of the highlights of our trip: the Unexso Dolphin Experience. We dangled our feet in a lagoon while two incredibly charming bottlenose dolphins performed like Broadway stars with fins for us. Julian laughed his head off every time they flipped or dove, yet when it was our turn to enter the water and pet the adorable Andros, my guy simply shook his head. Not happening. After the encore though, as we headed off the dock, he spotted a macaw, ran to it, and even dared allow his little arms to be used as a perch (see the pic?). Then he looked at me and said, “Do you want to live here? Because I’m serious, I want to move here.” Me too.
The next day, more water fun. We had a picnic on Gold Rock Beach, a little slice of paradise where Pirates of the Carribbean was filmed. Mother nature seems to have made this place for kids. You can walk into the aquamarine sea for the length of a football field and still the water only comes up to a tot’s waist. Exquisite. But the water at Grand Lucayan was pretty amazing too—four pools, including two infinity pools. Julian loved sitting on a chaise lounge in our favorite of the bunch (yes, a lounger in the pool—how fantastic is that?).
We didn’t want to leave. No, that is a massive understatement. There were big, fat tears and hysterics involved. Our last night, after an outrageous Asian pupu (queue the laughter from three little boys) platter feast at China Beach, we finished packing up. Which is when a crying Julian proceeded to try to hide the boogie board we couldn’t fit in his suitcase under the bed, “so I can find it when we come back with Daddy and Celeste!”
I kind of wanted to cry, too—it was just so special to have a few unhurried days together. Time to float in beautiful waters and meet sea critters, yes. But also time to answer my son’s 42-questions-an-hour (like, “Hey, why did those people put their dishes on the floor in this hallway? That’s not nice!” “That’s called room service, Julian” and “What is this cereal? It’s so good! Is it Cheerios with colors in them?” “They’re Froot Loops, my friend, and they’re only for special occasions!” “What’s occasions?”) without being distracted by the concerns/smartphones/chaos of our inland life. And I hope we return, because the Grand Lucayan’s kids’ club, anchored by an open-air classroom and boasting an area for babies called Grandma Lucaya’s, opens after renovations in a couple months and looks fantastic. But in the meantime, I need your help: How will I ever get this kid back to the Jersey Shore?!
Grand Lucayan, Rates in season start at $259; off-season start at $159.Add a Comment