Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Car Seat Safety Away from Home

It's no secret that we at Travel-Tot feel strongly about childproofing hotel rooms and other away-from-home lodging accommodations; but what about keeping your child safe while you are in transit?  Often families get so caught up in the planning, packing, and preparations for a family getaway that they don't remember that their mode of transportation may not already be child-safe.  Airplanes, taxis, and loaner vehicles are rarely equipped with properly installed safety devices; so what is a parent to do?

Bringing your own car seat or booster is one option!  There have been great strides made in developing safety seats that can be easily transported when not in use.  For example, The Car Seat Lady recommends several fabulous options ranging from infant carriers that easily snap to compact strollers to combination stroller car seat/booster options.  These are great because they not only offer a safer seating option for flights or other vehicular transport, but they can be rolled (with a child it in!) through expansive airports or along sidewalks to taxi or bus depots; freeing up parental hands, and saving backs and sanity! 

If you forget or cannot bring your own car seat or booster, rental car seats are another option.  If the taxi or rental car agency offers to provide a safety restraint seat for your child, be certain to check that it is appropriate for your child's age, weight, and height.  Also be certain it is properly installed and that it is in working order with no broken straps or latches.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website provides a fabulous page with age-appropriate safety seat guidelines if you are unsure of what type of seat to request.

The emergency-only option for families travelling with a child is to use whatever safety feature is available (usually a lap and/or shoulder belt).  While it is true that any restraint is better than no restraint at all, using a safety belt alone on a young child is a last resort option and should never be done if an appropriate car seat or booster seat can be obtained.  If you are in a situation where there is no option other than to use a standard seat belt, there are several important steps you can take to ensure that the restraint offers the best protection it can:
  • Never buckle more than one person into a car seat belt.  Buckling more than once person into a car seat presents the risk of the top person being fatally crushed in the event of a crash. 
  • Never put the shoulder belt behind the back or under the arm of a passenger.
  • Be vigilant about seat belt use for everyone riding in the vehicle; studies have shown that restrained passengers are 4 times more likely to die if someone else in the car is not restrained.
Used properly, car seats and seatbelts save lives... a little planning and research can provide you with the knowledge you need to determine which option will best suit your unique needs. Safe travels!

- Destination Mom

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Boutique of the Week: USA Baby & Child Space!

This week, we're heading down to the Lone Star State for our featured boutique: USA Baby & Child Space, Houston!   With two locations in the greater Houston area, USA Baby & Child Space is a specialty baby and teen furniture store, and so much more!  From nurseries to children's furniture, they offer affordable and elite designer styles that fit any family budget.  But USA Baby & Child Space is more than just a furniture store; it's one-stop super shop!  With a broad range of products, from strollers and car seats to solutions for childproofing and fussy sleepers; they are a parent's dream!

Part of a nationwide chain (with 60 locations throughout the US, Mexico and Puerto Rico), USA Baby & Child Space, Houston is family owned and operated.  As part of a larger organization, they are able to expand their reach by offering a convenient nationwide shower registry and a centralized return policy.  They take great pride in their expertly trained sales team and strive to deliver the kind of customer service that new parents expect; and to be the low price leader with the best choices in products from around the world!

With so many years of experience, such a wide variety of furniture in stock, and so much product knowledge, their sales staff is able to find a solution for almost every need; but they do acknowledge that sometimes ordering delays are beyond their control.  To avoid frustration and headache, they offer the below advice:
  1. Start shopping for furniture well in advance.  The more time on your side, the less worries you will have if you need to order pieces.
  2. Have a back up plan! Pick a bassinet, cradle or mini-crib to use for the first few weeks. Doing so, may save you time if any problems arise with your furniture order.
  3. Consider taking advantage of the furniture available in stock; 80% of the time, USA Baby & Child Space has full collections available for purchase and same day take home.
  4. Keep an open mind! There are many different styles of furniture, in a wide variety of colors and prices. One of their expert sale associates will help you find one that matches your d├ęcor or style.
  5. If you already have some furniture and wish to try and match remaining pieces, bring a drawer or small piece (knob, etc.) to ensure a good color match.
USA Baby & Child Space is open seven days a week, with flexible hours that can accommodate even the most demanding schedule.  What differentiates them most from their competitors, however, is their on-site warehouse, which is also open seven days a week!  They even accept orders via phone!  All this, plus  price matches with local competitors, free six month layaway, and a terrific rewards program makes USA Baby & Child Space a perfect choice for everyone from first-time parents, to growing families!

- Destination Mom

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Destination: Williamsburg, VA!

Family fun is in large supply in Williamsburg, Virginia!  Located approximately 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., Williamsburg boasts two major theme parks (Busch Gardens and Water Country USA) and a world of historical attractions.  With so much to see and do, it's no wonder that it has become a family hot-spot!

With over twenty rides, loads of shows and attractions, a variety of dining options and impeccably kept grounds, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is a veritable paradise for travelling families!  Divided into multiple European-themed sections, Busch Gardens features a variety of attractions from cultural experiences and animal encounters, to seasonal shows and rides for children of all ages! Their newest addition, "Sesame Street: Forest of Fun" features family-friendly rides, playgrounds and even a 4-D Sesame Street movie!  Also, each year from late November through New Year's Eve, Busch Gardens transforms the park for its annual Christmas Town Celebration; featuring special holiday shows, attractions, and  rides!  Opening hours and offerings vary seasonally, so be sure to check the website for details!

If you're looking for a water park adventure during the warmer weather months, Water Country USA is nothing short of a watery fantasy land!  From May to early September, slide, splash and swim at this great water park featuring acres of rides for children and families. Shoot down any number of adrenaline-rush-inducing slides, relax at the Aquabatics high-dive and gymnastics show, splash and play in your choice of three water play stations designed for younger children, or just float around in the lazy river.  There's something for everyone!  Again, opening hours vary seasonally, so check the website for more details.

For a glimpse of colonial America, don't miss downtown Colonial Williamsburg.  Offering a variety of family-oriented programs year-round, the historical district features a tour with many stops designed especially to appeal to families with young children; from the Wig Maker's Shop to the Blacksmith, you'll be treated to numerous demonstrations and programs by actors bedecked in colonial garb!  History truly springs to life in Williamsburg, in ways that get little minds working!   Check out their Family Fun Itinerary for some great ideas and must-see attractions!

Williamsburg is within easy driving distance from most mid-Atlantic states, and can be reached via air or rail for families travelling from more remote locations.  The area also features a variety of lodging options, from Bed and Breakfasts to hotels and motels - there's something for every budget and comfort need!  Discover Williamsburg - a charming, timeless, fun-filled family vacation spot!

- Destination Mom

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Travel for Kids – Know Before You Go!

Planning a family trip can often seem overwhelming.  Between the logistics of determining where to go, how to get there, what to be pack, where to stay, and what activities will work for everyone, it can be difficult to remember that the ultimate goal is family fun!  Thankfully, there is Travel for Kids, the premier site for planning family trips! 

Whether you plan to drive to a neighboring state, take the train cross country, or visit a foreign land - Travel for Kids can provide you with invaluable trip planning information.  From tips and hotel recommendations to must-see attractions and travel-specific book recommendations for kids, Travel for Kids is your one-stop-information shop!  They have even recently added a mobile version of the site offering easy access and navigation for small-screen devices such as smartphones (Blackberry, Droid, iPhone, etc.), just enter the URL and bookmark: travelforkids.mobi.

Founded by Elizabeth Young, Travel for Kids is a wealth of information for the travelling family!  With her experience and passion for travel, as well as a background in technology, Elizabeth felt that blogging was the most logical outlet for sharing the benefit of her experience, and those of others, with the world of travelling families!

As a graduate student in anthropology, Elizabeth travelled extensively throughout the world; her first trip abroad with her boys was to Bali, where she had lived and done research. From there they went to India, Machu Picchu and the Galapagos; they visited Maya ruins in Central America, wildlife in Costa Rica, and Panama. Indeed, Elizabeth is so passionate about travel that one fall when her kids were in elementary school, she took them out to live in Amsterdam and travel throughout Europe!

Travel for Kids marries Elizabeth's personal knowledge and experiences with the resources of a variety of partners, including: Amazon.com, Italy Perfect, Advanced Reservations Systems, Hotels.com, Best Western Hotels, HotelClub, Backroads, Journeys International, Booking.com, Paris Muse, CityPass, ReserveAmerica, Classic Journeys, Thomson Family Adventures, Conciergerie.com, Venere, G.A.P Adventures, Wildland Adventures, and Go Card USA.  This amalgam is made even more valuable by the inclusion of hand-selected staff-recommended children's books for each featured destination, as well as monthly-selected "books for everywhere," which reach beyond a single country!

Combining fun things to do with practical tips, best bets for family hotels, and recommendations for children's books about destinations all over the world, Travel for Kids is a must-read blog for any family planning a trip... or even those just dreaming of one! 

- Destination Mom