Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Renting Baby and Toddler Gear

Packing for a family getaway can be overwhelming, particularly if you have toddlers and young children in tow. Even if you successfully manage to remember everything you will need, fitting it all into a vehicle or lugging it all through an airport and checking it for a flight can be difficult, expensive, and time consuming.

Instead of bringing along everything you will need, consider renting large items (strollers, car seats, high chairs, etc.) when you arrive at your destination. The largest baby and child equipment rental service in the US today is Baby’s Away. You can also find an extensive list of independent local vendors here (covers all 50 states and Washington DC as well as Canada). An additional benefit of renting equipment is that it gives you an opportunity to try out items you may not yet own, but are thinking of purchasing (such as premium jogging strollers, exersaucers, or jumpers). Some hotels actually provide cribs, bedding, and collapsible play yards upon request as well. Check with your hotel to see what custom accommodations are available!
image courtesy of Keerati/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For the ultimate in convenience, consider using a company like Jet Set Babies to have your baby essentials (diapers, wipes, bath essentials, food, booster seats, portable beds, etc.) shipped directly to your hotel. This will reduce your luggage load which could save you on excessive airline baggage fees!

Gear Recommendations by Age:

This checklist is courtesy of Baby Travel Pros and is meant only to be a guide, use your judgment when determining what items you will require and always check that the child using the equipment meets all height an weight requirements of the manufacturer:

Birth to 4 months
  • infant car seat and compatible stroller,
  • pack-n-play or crib,
  • glider or rocking chair,
  • bouncer or swing,
  • infant tub
 4 months to 1 year
  • infant car seat, or rear facing car seat (check weight & height recommendations),
  • stroller,
  • pack-n-play or crib,
  • mobile,
  • exersaucer, jumper, or walker,
  • infant or toddler tub,
  • room monitor,
  • high chair or bumbo with tray
 1 year to 2 years
  • forward or rear facing toddler car seat (the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends leaving children in rear-facing car seats until 2 years of age),
  • stroller,
  • crib,
  • safety gates,
  • room monitor,
  • high chair
 2+ years
  • forward facing car seat or booster seat (3+ years),
  • stroller,
  • crib, toddler bed or bed rails,
  • safety gates,
  • room monitor,
  • step stool or potty chair,
  • high chair or booster seat
 - Destination Mom

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Memorial Day Salute to Military Families!

As I sent my best wishes to a dear friend who was recently deployed to Afghanistan, it struck me how very much we owe all those brave men and women, and their families, who serve in the armed forces. Our military families make tremendous sacrifices in the name of our national defense; in my friend's case, her deployment meant leaving behind her husband and year-old twin daughters.  It can be easy to forget that many brave service-people are spouses, children, parents, and siblings to loved ones they leave behind when stationed far from home.

As Memorial Day approaches, we encourage you (and your children!) to reach out and show your gratitude by finding a way to support our troops and their families.  There are many phenomenal organizations that provide support and services to soldiers and their families during deployments; below are three that offer numerous simple ways you and your family can help touch the lives of our country's military families:

image courtesy of Ohmega 1982/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Homefront Hugs

Homefront Hugs is a national volunteer organization in its 10th year, and a proud recipient of the Four Chaplains Award!  With a clearly stated mission "to offer unconditional support to our troops.veterans and families and make sure no hero is or feels forgotten," Homefront Hugs strives to make sure all Americans know they can make a difference (even from home!) in numerous ways thanking those who serve. Homefront Hugs promotes stewardship in communities across the USA reaching out to all regardless of ability, religion, age, or ethnicity.

Homefront Hugs needs volunteers urgently to thank our heroes by adopting a deployed soldier, adopting a brave military family, writing our wounded troops, or donating funds or supplies! You can help from home and become one of our awesome volunteers.

For more information, check out their page on Facebook!

Operation Military Kids

Operation Military Kids the U.S. Army's collaborative effort with America's communities to support children and youth impacted by deployment. Regardless of whether families are experiencing deployment for the first time, the second time or another in a series of multiple deployments, OMK’s goal is to connect military children and youth with local resources in order to achieve a sense of community support and enhance their well-being.

Through a network of National, State and Local Partners, Operation: Military Kids provides access to youth programs and support services where military children live. OMK Partners organize special events, provide transportation to military kids to sporting events or other extracurricular activities, and participate in the Hero Pack initiative.

For more information on how you can help, check their website!

Soldiers' Angels

"May No Soldier Go Unloved," encapsulates the motivation behind Soldiers' Angels. The volunteers of Soldiers' Angels work tirelessly to demonstrate active care and concern for veterans, the wounded, deployed service members and their families. 

To date, their volunteers have sent hundreds of thousands of care packages and letters to "adopted" deployed service members; with the assistance of their generous supporters , the many volunteers of Soldiers' Angels have accomplished this and much, much more on behalf of the grateful citizens of the United States of America.

For more information on donations and how you can help, check out their website!

In honor of Memorial Day, Travel-Tot will be offering a discount of 20% on their Travel Childproofing Kit (off the retail price of $24.95) from today through July 4th, 2011 to all customers who use the code TT4USA. Travel-Tot wishes to thank all the brave soldiers and their families for all they do to keep our country safe; we hope that all those deployed return home safely as soon as possible.  Warmest wishes for a very safe and happy Memorial Day.   

- Destination Mom

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Destination: Hilton Head, SC!

Most famous for its miles of uninterrupted beaches, Hilton Head, South Carolina is a "must-see" family vacation destination. This 55 square-mile island has a world of adventure to offer the travelling family, from its beaches, to its museums and attractions!  Below are a few of our favorite family activities and fun-spots:

The Coastal Discovery Museum

A perfect spot for children ages 5 and up, this museum offers visitors a chance to get a close-up look at the wildlife of Hilton Head.  The museum offers natural outdoor exhibits as well as coastal tours and cruises to explore the flora and fauna of the area! The museum is located at 70 Honey Horn Drive, and is open year-round Monday through Saturday 9am to 4:30pm and Sundays 11am to 3pm - hours of operation vary on holidays, so be sure to call before you go!

pictured above: "Holiday"
Adventure Cruises

Also terrific for families with children 5 and up, Dolphin Cruises on the boat "Holiday" afford visitors the opportunity to see dolphins close-up, while enjoying many of the other water-loving wildlife (waterfowl, mink, otters, turtles).   There is also a fantastic crabbing excursion on the "Crabber J II" for more adventurous souls who wish to bring their family crabbing!  The berths are centrally located and easy to access, for more information check their website.

Sandbox Children's Museum

For those travelling with babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers, the Children's Museum is a "don't-miss!"  Located at 18 A Pope Avenue, it has everything from magic sand to bank-teller play stations and even has an indoor ship-themed play station and a T-Rex rock-wall climbing adventure! For more information on times and pricing (and directions!) check their website.

Adventure Cove Family Fun Center

Kids of all ages will enjoy some playtime at the arcade or a round of mini-golf on one of Adventure Cove's two Caribbean-themed courses.  Each course is 18 holes and features a variety of fun obstacles and entertaining characters!  Fun for the whole family, you can find the Family Fun Center at 18 Folly Field Road. For more information and a valuable coupon, check their website!

In addition to these great family-friendly spots, the island is largely accessible by bike, so if you are travelling with older children, renting bikes to explore the island can be exciting and fun.  And don't miss the family-friendly musical and comedic stylings of island local, Gregg Russell; he puts on nightly concerts/shows/sing-a-longs in the summer under the old oak tree in Harbour Town!  Hilton Head truly is a virtual family paradise with something for visitors of all ages!  Happy travels!
-Destination Mom

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sanity and the Single Parent!

We are thrilled this week to be cross-blogging with Single Parent Travel - a terrific resource for single parents featuring everything from amazing tours to terrific destination ideas and travel tips for the single parent! The sight also offers insight and information on a broad variety of parenting issues (from bullying to piercings)! Single Parent Travel's trips and tours are unique and specially suited to the needs of single parents travelling with their children; with trips ranging from the Berkshires of New York to the Galapagos Islands - there is truly something for everyone!

Single Parent Travel was founded in 1983 by Brenda Elwell, a single mom of two and a world traveler whose dream was to make the travel industry aware of the unique needs of single parents travelling with children and to create trips and tours that would best accommodate those needs. In 1999, it grew to include the blogging masterwork of John Frenaye (a.k.a. Chief Single Dad). A recognized expert on family and single parent travel, John has been a travel columnist for 15 years with MSNBC.com and has been published in many major newspapers across the country. John also worked with Brenda to make her "dream itineraries" a reality by handling all of the trip fulfillment for Single Parent Travel! They officially partnered in 2006, when Brenda made the decision to gradually retire, and Single Parent Travel has been growing and expanding ever since!

With more single parents than ever sharing the joys of travel with their children; it is critical for the travel and tourism industry to recognize the unique challenges facing these travelling families. It can be exhausting to make one set of eyes, ears, and hands available to share the adventure with your little explorers while managing to enjoy the trip yourself. Equally challenging, however, is keeping your attention constantly trained on your rapidly moving little travelers as they flit from place to place unearthing new and exciting things. And the adventures aren’t limited to whatever amazing attractions you might be visiting together; to a young child any new space constitutes an opportunity to explore! For some sanity-saving tips on childproofing hotel or other guest rooms, check out the blog entry below!

With a shared focus of creating amazing family travel memories and keeping young travellers out of danger's way, Single Parent Travel and Travel-Tot wish you safe and happy travels!

-Destination Mom

Childproofing Away from Home!

One of the most unnerving things about travelling with young children is not being able to predict how they will behave in unfamiliar surroundings. Young children are naturally inquisitive, and often quite fearless – a dangerous combination for exploring new spaces without adequate supervision. Take for example the recent near-tragedy of 16-month old Jah-Nea Myles; while vacationing with her mother in Orlando, FL, she was left in an adjoining hotel room under the care of a close friend. In the few moments it took that friend to quickly use the restroom, Jah-Nea managed to escape outside through the unlocked balcony door and wriggle through the balcony rail where she eventually lost her grip and fell four stories. The story has a happy ending; another hotel guest noticed the toddler dangling precariously and ran to the spot beneath the balcony, managing to catch the child and soften what would surely have been a fatal landing. But what if that guest hadn’t been there? Those few, brief, unsupervised moments could have cost Jah-Nea her life.

Stories like Jah-Nea’s were what inspired the founders of Travel-Tot, LLC to create their innovative, temporary, Travel Child-Proofing Kit. The kit contains an assortment of childproofing devices all of which go on strong but can be removed cleanly once it is time to check-out. The kit components that require installation are all secured with strong, temporary, 3M adhesive strips so that they can be removed (without damage to surfaces) and re-used. The extra layer of protection the Travel Child-Proofing Kit offers can be the difference between life and serious injury or death; and can also afford parents some sorely-needed peace-of-mind. While no childproofing measure is a substitute for adequate parental supervision, having your hotel room child-proofed can help relieve the constant stress associated with keeping your child(ren) away from every potential hazard. Below is a quick checklist of steps you can take to help add a layer of protection between your child(ren) and the hazards that await them in hotel rooms, motel rooms, or even grandma’s house.

Tips for Child-Proofing Away from Home:

Investing just fifteen minutes to inspect and childproof your guest room can considerably decrease the odds of your child injuring themselves on unsecured doors, outlets, drawers, sharp corners, or cords. Here are some simple steps you can take to make your home-away-from-home safe and relaxing:
  • Get down on your hands and knees and explore the room from your toddler’s perspective; be sure to thoroughly check under beds and furniture for stray pills, buttons, pins, or other items that could pose a poisoning or choking hazard.
  • Make sure that if you are using a hotel-provided crib that it is up to standards with the Consumer Product Safety Commission: slats should not be more than 2 3/8 inches apart and all sides should be fixed (no drop sides).
  • Whether using a hotel-provided crib or a port-a-crib from home, remove pillows, toys, or blankets that may cause suffocation or strangulation.
  • Never leave your child alone in the bathroom.
  • Unplug electrical appliances (i.e. hairdryer, razor, etc.) and store them in a locked drawer or cabinet.
  • Ensure that the bathtub floor has a non-slip surface or that there are non-slip mats or decals available.
  • Keep hazardous products out of the reach of children (i.e. mouthwash, shampoo, cosmetics, medications, etc.).
  • Bring and install some basic childproofing gear (such as the items found in the Travel-Tot Travel Childproofing Kit). 
    • Secure blind cords.
    • Keep low cabinet doors shut with straps.
    • Secure corner guards onto furniture.
    • Place pinch guards on interior swinging doors.
    • Install guards on interior sliding doors.
    • Insert outlet covers into unused outlets.
    • If your little traveler is curious about the toilet, be sure to place a doorknob protector on the handle or install a locking strap if the door has a lever handle.
  • Ensure that all locks and latches on exterior doors are in working order and secure them to prevent unsupervised access to stairs, balconies, and terraces.
  • Keep furniture away from doors and windows to prevent access to locks and accidental falls.
  • Finally, be sure to arrange the furniture in a way that allows for some play space; a room full of “no-nos” will result in bored and irritated toddlers, which will lead to stressed and anxious parents!
Safe and happy travels!
-Destination Mom

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mother's Day "Peace of Mind" Giveaway!

Mother's Day, in the words of my daughter, is the day "when Mom shouldn't have to worry about doing anything." At first, I will admit, I thought that sounded a bit critical; I wanted to point out that it was actually a day to celebrate Mommy and all she does! But after I gave it some thought, I realized she had actually stumbled upon my definition of the perfect gift! Peace of mind with the knowledge that all things that were necessary to ensure my sanity were still being taken care of!

Now in my little universe today, its the mundane tasks that occupy my energies; things like making sure there's food in the fridge, feeding the dog, picking up the house, replacing the toilet paper when it runs out.. but only a few short years ago, my primary focus was completely different. As few as three years ago, the bulk of my time and energy was spent keeping a close and watchful eye on my young daughter.

Toddlers are like lightning strikes; fast, unpredictable, and capable of leaving considerable damage in their wakes. So I tried to stay one step ahead by limiting her access to dangerous spaces, and providing her with a safe and comfortable spot in which she could play! Sounds easy, right? Sure, its no problem once you have child-proofed the space you spend the majority of your time in everyday and your child learns what is off limits! But what about when you leave the perfect little bubble of safety you have created in your home? Going to visit family? How about vacation? Stymied? I was!

That's why, this Mother's Day, in honor of those Moms whose sanity has been tested by the curiosity of a toddler away from home, we'd like to offer a chance to win a free Travel-Tot Child-Proofing Kit! With everything you need to keep you "safe as home, wherever you roam," the kit affords you peace of mind on the go! The components of the kit that require installation are all affixed with temporary, non-damaging 3M adhesive strips, allowing you to remove them (for later use with new strips!) once your visit has come to an end without fear of incurring extra charges for having inflicted damage to finishes or surfaces!
For your chance to win a free Travel-Tot Childproofing Kit, simply visit us on Facebook and submit a comment under our post about the "Best Mother's Day Gift You Ever Received" and you'll be entered to win! We'll announce the winner on Mother's Day and contact the lucky Mom to arrange delivery! Good luck, and warmest wishes from all of us at Travel-Tot for a very Happy Mother's Day!
-Destination Mom