Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Big Family Fun on a Small Budget!

With the recession in full swing, families are getting creative; finding ways to escape the mundane by taking "staycations" and "facations!"  What, you may ask, are staycations and facations?  According to several families we spoke to, they are budget-friendly alternatives to traditional getaways! 

The "staycation" can be anything from a camp-out in your own backyard, to a few days of day-tripping and local touring/sightseeing, or just relaxing and doing nothing at all in the comfort of your own home; the name of the game is having fun without the expense of leaving home for an overnight stay.  Many families set certain rules when they decide to take a staycation, including:
  • turning off the ringer on their home phones,
  • limiting access to the internet for recreational purposes only, 
  • not doing errands or tasks for work,
  • having meals in non-traditional locations (picnics, local restaurants, or a casual TV dinner)
  • allowing time for spontaneous activity (bowling, movies, skating, family game night, etc.).
The "facation" usually has a slightly higher pricetag, but is still far more reasonable than a traditional vacation, especially if you take the time to research such sites as RetailMeNot for great coupons and discounts!  Facations generally include at least one overnight stay at a local hotel or motel, and most of the facationers we spoke to mentioned that they looked for amenities such as an indoor pool, room service, spa, or onsite restaurant.  The facation is a way to indulge and escape the trappings of home, if only for a night or two, and to enjoy the luxury of a meal out, a dip in the pool, or maybe even a spa treatment!  The facation is a popular add-on to the staycation, especially in cold weather months when access to a pool is a true novelty!

Like a traditional vacation, an alternative escape should be carefully planned; ask all family members for ideas, with the understanding that not all ideas will necessarily be feasible.  Budgeting for a facation or staycation is also important; decide ahead of time where you want to use your available funds (a movie, a meal out, sightseeing, a family activity, etc.).  Once you have these details nailed down, get to work planning your adventure!  Remember, no matter what your budget, with a little research and creativity, your family can enjoy a great escape together making fun memories that will last a lifetime!

- Destination Mom

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Boutique of the Week: Magic Beans!

With four locations in the greater Boston area, Magic Beans is the brainchild of husband and wife team Eli and Sheri Gurock. The Gurocks visualized a retail experience "designed for kids and optimized for parents... that would balance the fresh and new with the tried and true."  And so in 2004, they founded Magic Beans, a unique boutique offering everything from baby gear and modern nursery furniture to a handpicked selection of toys for all ages!

The Gurocks understand that their customers represent a broad spectrum of parenting philosophies, and tailor their product selection accordingly.  They actively seek out toys that inspire creative interactions and  imagination.  They also put a great deal of thought into their selection of baby gear and nursery furniture, relying on their own experience and the feedback of other parents to determine what products will best meet the needs of their clientele. 

But Magic Beans is more than just a retail store - it's a community touchstone!  Each Magic Beans location boasts a "Playscape" where their youngest customers can relax and sample the store's wares, and many of the stores offer unique in-store events ranging from storytime to crafts activities to Stroller Speed Dating!

Eli and Sheri are proud of their extensive knowledge of the products they carry; from strollers and car seats, to toys and travel gear.  They carry items from a wide variety of companies and endeavor to help their customers make decisions that will best suit their individual needs.  They believe that customer service is of paramount importance and welcome feedback on customer experience at Magic Beans, as well as ideas for how they can do even better!  Indeed, they are so committed to customer service that they offer personal attention via e-mail regarding consumer's experience and feedback.

So, if you find yourself in the greater Boston area, check out Magic Beans at one of their four fabulous locations: Brookline, Cambridge, Hingham, and Wellesley!  You'll instantly understand why they have garnered so much praise and a reputation for excellence!

- Destination Mom

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Destination - Great Wolf Lodge, Poconos, PA!

Great Wolf Lodge is North America's Largest Family of Indoor Waterpark resorts, with locations in PA, VA, NC, OH, MI, WI, KS, TX, WA, and Niagra Falls, Canada!  Conveniently located about one hour west of New York City, nestled in the beautiful Pocono Mountains, sits one of their fabulous properties, boasting a wide range of activities guaranteed to provide a fun and exciting experience for children and adults alike! 

Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos is best known for its spacious indoor waterpark called Fort Mackenzie™.  The park features a virtual wonderland of water fun; with a wide variety of slides, a lazy river, a tidal pool, a kiddie pool, and activity pool, two hot-tubs, and a four-story structure featuring suspension bridges and cargo nets, spray stations, and soaker buckets. The grand daddy of soaker buckets is the 1,000-gallon tipper that sits atop the Fort - every few minutes, the warning bell clangs, and the bucket dumps its contents over the roof and onto the giggling group below!

But the fun doesn't end there!  The whole Lodge is geared toward providing a spectacular family adventure! 

The cozy lobby of the Lodge features an animatronic show that captures the imagination of young visitors with a 10-minute show during which the characters sing songs about nature.  Gather in front of the Great Clock Tower™ to see the characters magically come to life each morning at 10 a.m. and again at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.; show up in your PJs for the 8 p.m. show and stick around for story time in front of the great fireplace right afterward!

Younger visitors will also enjoy the Cub Club™; offering special programs that teach kids about nature and the creatures of the Northwoods.  The Cub Club™ is also a great place to create a craft or souvenir to take home as a keepsake!

Children of all ages will get a thrill out of Great Wolf Lodge's live-action adventure game, Magic Quest®! Armed with high-tech wands, families race around to solve magical challenges throughout the resort to gain powers (and points) and move to higher levels of the game! 

Older kids will enjoy the Northern Lights Arcade and the gr8_space.  The arcade houses over a hundred games different games, and the gr8-space features computers with teen-conscious internet access, docking stations for ipods and mp3 players, as well as multiple gaming stations for those who strive to win one of the resort's contests. The gr8_space is the premier spot to play games like Guitar Hero, Rock Band and sing some karaoke! 

A new highlight at the Pocono's Great Wolf Lodge is the Race Zone!  Have fun designing and building your own remote control vehicle (choice of color, color of the wheel, and one of three different body styles).  Then test your design by racing it on our indoor race track! You even get to create your own drivers license!  

The Poconos Great Wolf Lodge also features a wide variety of dining options (ranging from take-away and snack bars to sit-down restaurants),  an indoor gym, and two spas; one for the adults and one for kids!  Have a few questions about Great WOlf?  Check out their Ask-A-Mom page, conveniently offering information on a broad range of topics, and organized by location!

The fun never ends at Great Wolf Lodge - check out their website to sign-up for special rates and discounts!

- Destination Mom

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Where There's Smoke...

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 prevented if only a few simple preventative measures had been taken. Detection devices and a well-rehearsed escape plan could be the difference between life and death, so be sure to share these guidelines with your family:


Smoke detectors can save lives; but only if they work 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.
  • Be sure to change batteries twice a year; many people choose to 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.

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 the escape plan during both 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 50-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 Pages, Fire Statistics, Prevention Campaigns, and a searchable listing of Fire-Safe Hotels/Motels

- Destination Mom

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Winter is on its way, and that means more time hunkering down indoors and trying to stay warm. But snuggling up with a warm mug of hot chocolate isn’t always going to be enough! According to the CDC, young children and the elderly are disproportionately affected by hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning during the winter months. Often this results from failure to prepare for weather-related emergencies or improper maintenance of heating systems. The checklist below contains a few crucial steps that you can take now to help prepare your family for whatever this winter may bring.

•   Check your home’s heating systems:
    o   Make sure that all heating systems are clean, working properly,
         and vented to the outside.
    o   Inspect and clean fireplaces and chimneys.
    o   Install smoke detectors and test batteries monthly.
    o   Have a safe back-up heating source and fuel.
    o   Prevent carbon monoxide (CO) emergencies by installing a carbon
         monoxide detector, being aware of and alert for the symptoms of
         carbon monoxide poisoning, and keeping generators and grills out 
         of the house.

•   Prepare for weather-related emergencies and power outages:
  o   Stow a broom and a shovel in a handy spot (for clearing away
       leaves/snow from walkways/driveways and low lying vents).
  o   Stock a supply of food that does not require cooking or
       refrigeration and water.
  o   Keep an up-to-date emergency kit, including:
      -   battery-operated flashlights, radios, and lamps;
      -   spare batteries;
      -   a stocked first-aid kit and extra medicine;
      -   baby items (i.e. jar foods, powdered formula, etc.); and
      -   rock salt, cat litter, or sand for icy walkways.

You'll all enjoy snuggling up together indoors a little more if you know you've done everything you can to plan ahead for the safety and comfort of your family, should an emergency arise!

- Destination Mom