Friday, October 24, 2014

Nature Preserves: Perfect Spots for Amazing Adventures!

This past week, my family and I had the good fortune to visit the Lakota Wolf Preserve in Columbia, NJ.  It is a beautiful wildlife preserve located on a dedicated parcel of land owned by the Camp Taylor Campground.  At present, 17 wolves of varying species, several foxes, and a few bobcats reside in vast, separated, fenced enclosures where they have plenty of room to roam and socialize.  

I just couldn't wait to share this gem; not only because it is such an outstanding preserve, but also to draw attention to the many charitable organizations dedicated to truly helping to endangered species and abandoned domesticated wild creatures. Locations like these are perfect spots for families to see endangered species and talk about preserving habitat and wildlife; and they are often self-supporting, relying on visitors and benefactors for income enough to ensure they can continue to provide for these beautiful animals.

The facility is owned and operated by Jim Stein and Becky Mace, who raise and care for all the animals at the preserve. Each day (except Mondays!), they lead two Wolf Tours (for details on booking, check their website!). During their presentations, you learn about the social structure of wolf packs, their eating habits, their interaction with man, and many other interesting facts. They make every effort to educate visitors about the true behavior of wolves and field any and all questions with infinite patience and good-humor! 

While in the observation area you can watch the wolves play, interact with each other, and (if you're lucky!) maybe even hear them howl! A visit is truly an experience of a lifetime. Just down a ways from the wolves' areas you will be treated to an informative presentation as well as views, and adorable antics of the preserve's other residents; foxes and bobcats. Visitors are permitted to take photos on the wolf watch tour and they have some fantastic fund-raising items (zip-up hoodies), and opportunities (donations and the Lakota Wolf Dinner and Night Howl event), and well as sponsorship programs for patrons wishing to become more involved.

So if you live in the area, do yourself a favor and visit the Lakota Wolf Preserve; and if you don't live nearby, do a little research and look for preserves in your area!  Safe and happy travels!
-Destination Mom

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Handprints!

Crafting can be a great way to enjoy time with your kids, and what says 'love' more than capturing your child(ren)'s handprint(s) to create truly personal mementos?  But how do you decide what method is most appropriate for your child(ren)'s age range and abilities?  Here are two of our favorite ideas that can work for any age:

image courtesy of Idea go/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Stepping Stones:  There are many stepping stone kits that can be used to capture handprints or footprints; they're perfect for the yard or garden and make beautiful gifts!  All instructions are included and the craft does not require a long attention span, though some kits offer mosaic tiles that the child can place onto the stone along with their print, if desired.

Paint Print Stack: Using white card stock and several different color acrylic paints, capture your whole family's handprints, one inside the other!  Start with a dark color paint for the family member with the largest hand, allow that print to dry. Then, use a light color paint and the next size down hand and carefully align that print with the first print.  Continue alternating dark and light paint until all prints are captured (works best with five or fewer prints).  Makes a beautiful wall-
hanging and keepsake framed with a simple matte!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Halloween: Spook-tacular Safety Reminders!

image courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Halloween is traditionally a time for costumes, parties, parades, and treats; as parents, however, safety is never far from our minds! Sadly, CDC data shows that almost four times as many children (age 5-14) are killed while walking on Halloween evening compared to other evenings of the year.  In addition, many children are injured every Halloween; particularly by slips and falls. The good news is that most Halloween-related injuries are preventable if parents closely supervise school-aged children during trick-or-treating and remember these basic tips adapted from the National Safety Council:

Remind your children that they should:

  • Go only to well-lit houses and never enter houses.
  • Travel in small groups, with an adult.
  • Carry a cell phone and know how to reach a parent and call 911.
  • Have their name & phone number printed on their costume (or use a SafetyTat).
  • Bring treats home prior to eating so they can be inspected for tainting/spoilage.
  • Wear well-fitting, reflective, flame-retardant clothing and shoes.
  • Use face paint instead of masks.
  • Avoid wearing hats that will slide over their eyes. 
  • Avoid carrying sharp or rigid costume knives or swords.
  • Use flashlights, stay on sidewalks, and avoid crossing yards.
  • Cross streets at the corner, use crosswalks, and avoid crossing between parked cars.
  • Stop at all corners and stay together in a group before crossing.
  • Always look left, right, and left again before crossing the street.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!
-Destination Mom

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Keeps Germs at Bay This Cold and Flu Season!

image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
With the scary uptick of incidences of Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), and the onset of cold and flu season, dodging germs is a major priority for many families!  While it's impossible to completely "virus-proof" the world around you, this fall, stay vigilant about avoiding germs with these tips:

Avoid "germy" hot-spots: We can't keep kids home from school or in a hermetically-sealed bubble, but avoiding unnecessary places where germs are more common (i.e. playgrounds and play areas, public restrooms, shopping centers, restaurants) can help limit exposure.  If you do go out to one of these venues, come prepared; bring disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer, urge children to keep their hands away from their noses and mouths, and encourage frequent hand-washing.

Vaccinate: Keeping your children's vaccinations up-to-date is critical.  Ideally, the vast majority of people over 6 months of age would also receive a flu vaccination each season to limit outbreaks, but at a minimum the following populations should receive an annual flu vaccination:
  • People who have certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease
  • Pregnant women
  • People younger than 5 years (and especially those younger than 2), and people 65 years and older
  • Household contacts and caregivers of people with certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease
  • Household contacts and caregivers of infants less than 6 months old
  • Health care personnel
The flu shot is NOT approved for infants under 6 months or people with a severe allergy to the vaccine; also, people who have a moderate to severe illness and those with GBS should consult their physicians for information regarding vaccination.

Embrace healthy habits: Ensure that all household members get plenty of rest, eat a healthy diet, drink plenty of fluids, and get plenty of exercise; all of these healthy habits can help boost your immune system and give you an edge this cold and flu season!

Safe and healthy travels!
-Destination Mom

Friday, October 10, 2014

Unaccompanied Minors: Flying Solo!

The unfamiliarity of traveling can be unnerving for young children, even with their parents beside them, so what happens if your child must travel alone? Children between the ages of 5 and 14 who travel without a parent or guardian are referred to as unaccompanied minors. If you intend to send an unaccompanied minor by plane (with or without a connection), all airlines require you to complete a form providing emergency and identification information (such as the child's name, age, medical considerations, etc.). In addition, you will have to agree that the airline is not assuming any special responsibility of guardianship during the flight.

For legal purposes, an unaccompanied minor is treated the same as an adult passenger. However, children are routinely escorted onto and off of the aircraft by a flight attendant and, upon disembarking, released to the person named by you prior to departure.  General guidelines for most domestic carriers can be found below (just remember, rules vary by carrier so be sure to contact your airline, in advance, for specific information!):

Age Guidelines

  • Kids ages 1-4 may fly only when accompanied by an adult. A child must be at least 5 to fly alone.
  • Kids ages 5 - 7 can take a direct flight to a single destination but not connecting flights.
  • Kids 8 and older may change aircraft on most airlines. If they're between 8 and 11, they will be escorted by airline personnel to their connecting flight for an additional charge. Older kids (age 12 and over) are not routinely escorted, but such assistance can be requested.
  • Anyone under 17 who is flying alone on an international flight must have a signed note from a parent or adult guardian giving permission, destination, and length of stay.
  • All minors must be met at their destination by another parent or responsible adult.
To find your airline's policy on unaccompanied minors, select a link below:

  • AirTran   /   American   /   Delta   /   JetBlue   /   Southwest   /   United   /   US Airways

  • Tips and Suggestions To Help The Trip Go Smoothly

    • Always inform the airline, well in advance, that you will be having a minor traveling unaccompanied. It is best to contact your carrier's customer service by phone so that you can discuss all of your options, fees, and special needs, as well as any other questions or concerns you or your child may have.
    • Get to the airport early to ease check-in and get children accustomed to their surroundings. If possible, show them where help desks are located and teach them to recognize uniformed employees.
    • If possible, buy only nonstop tickets for your child. If a change of planes is unavoidable, try to use a smaller, easily navigable airport for the transfer. Also, if possible, book a morning flight, that way if there is a delay or cancellation, you will have the rest of the day to make adjustments and alternate plans. 
    • Rehearse the journey and make sure your child is familiar with the trip itinerary. Ensure that all travel documents are stowed in a safe, secure place, and that they are replaced in the same spot for the return flight.
    • Pack only a single carry-on bag and a personal item. If checked baggage is necessary, check your child's checked bag stubs carefully to be sure that the claim ticket and luggage tag match your child's final destination and that all other information is accurate.
    • Equip your child with plenty of emergency information (i.e., instructions on how to handle flight delays or cancellations, emergency contacts, a means to pay for unforeseen emergencies and necessities, identification, and medical history, if applicable).
    • Make sure your child has a picture of the person meeting him or her once the plane lands. Write the person's full name, address, and phone number on the back. This information will also need to be provided to the airline.  In addition, be certain the adult meeting your child at the destination airport is carrying photo identification and that the escort checks it against the photo the child is traveling with.
    • Pack some basics for your child for the trip.  Good snack choices include: trail mix, chips, grapes, sandwiches, and cheese sticks. You may also want to purchase water for your child after you pass through the security checkpoint. Also, make or buy a travel pack of distractions for the flight. Make sure your child has a little cash on hand to cover in-flight expenses (headphones, etc.). Provide a cell phone to use in an emergency, as well as a list of numbers to call if necessary. 
    • Use your best judgement.  Just because a 5-year-old is legally permitted to fly alone doesn't mean that your 5-year-old will be able to handle doing so, particularly if it is the child's first flight. Parents should use common sense and make arrangements based on the maturity and temperament of their child.

    Safe and happy travels!
    -Destination Mom

    Tuesday, October 7, 2014

    It's In The Cards!

    image courtesy of imagerymajestic/
    FreeDigitalPhotos.net
    During a recent Mom's Night Out, a friend shared a brilliant "Mom Tip": she had business cards printed with her full name, her son's name, and contact information (and, in her case, other vital information, including: her pediatrician's number and a list of her child's allergies/medical conditions on the opposite side). The cards are perfect for any time she leaves her child with a caregiver; they provide peace of mind by easily providing all the information needed in case of any emergency (not to mention, they are adorable and a great way to share information with new friends or playgroup buddies).  We simply adore the ones offered by Vistaprint!  Cute, easy to carry, great for socializing, and infinitely helpful to caregivers - so get carded today! 

    Friday, October 3, 2014

    Fire Safety: Detection and Escape!

    image courtesy of creativedoxfoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    Fires are the fifth most common cause of accidental death in the U.S. (CDC 2005), killing more than 4,000 Americans each year. Sadly, many of these deaths could have been avoided if only a few simple preventative measures had been taken. Well-maintained detection devices, a well-rehearsed escape plan, and the proper equipment needed to evacuate your home could be the difference between life and death, so be sure to share these guidelines with your family:




    Detection:

    Smoke detectors can save lives; but only if they are operational and can be heard.
    • Be sure to place smoke detectors on every level of your home, and especially in sleeping areas.
    • Smoke rises, so alarms should be mounted high on walls or ceilings according to package instructions.
    • Change batteries twice a year; many people do it the weekend of the switch from standard time to daylight-savings time, and vice-versa so they don't forget!
    • Test each smoke alarm in your home on a monthly basis to make sure the device is functioning properly.
    • Smoke detectors are not meant to last forever: detectors should be replaced at least every ten years.
    • When you purchase an alarm, look for the ETL, UL, or CSA mark on the box; this certifies that the alarm has been lab-tested for safety.

    Escape:

    If a fire occurs in your home, detection alone is not enough. Your family should have a Fire Escape Plan to ensure the safety of all family members.
    • Practice your family's escape plan both during daylight hours and after dark.
    • If your residence is more than one story in height, keep a fire escape ladder in or near each bedroom above the ground floor.
    • If you live in a multiple-story dwelling and have an infant or young child who may not be able to negotiate a ladder, you should consider investing in a Baby Rescue; this flame-retardant, ventilated bag with a 60-foot-long tether is designed to allow you to get your kids out of the window and lower them down outside the building to safety. It is patented by Safety International, LLC and approved for children weighing up to 75lbs.
    • Be sure to stress to all family members that in the event of a fire, no one should try to save valuables; doing so could cost them their life.
    Be sure to visit the U.S. Fire Administration homepage for additional information regarding fire safety. They have a vast collection of information, including Kids PagesFire StatisticsPrevention Campaigns, and even a searchable listing of Fire-Safe Hotels/Motels!

    Safe and happy autumn from all of us at Travel-Tot!
    - Destination Mom