Friday, August 26, 2011

Safety Alert: Identity Theft and Your Family

I had always thought of myself as a fairly organized and careful person... until this past Monday.  In my haste to remove some beach gear from my car, get my daughter settled in her seat, grab my mail, and head out to a dental appointment, I inadvertently left my purse in my driveway and drove over it leaving it in my wake as I rushed off to the dentist's office.  Of course, five minutes later I realized what must have happened when my bag was nowhere to be found in my car.  I raced home to retrieve it from my driveway only to find it was gone.  To say I was devastated is a gross understatement; I pretty much lost it.  I panicked as I realized I was uncertain exactly what was in my bag.  Which credit cards were in there?  Was my ATM card in there?  How would I replace my license, registration, and insurance cards when I wasn't supposed to drive without them?  And what about things that could potentially create serious problems for other people (i.e., family photos with names, a friend's house-key, my daughter's picture with her name and age on the back, etc.)?  I was a wreck.  Of course I immediately called and cancelled every credit card I could remember having in my wallet, my husband cancelled my ATM card for me and contacted our health insurance carrier to report the cards as stolen.  But as upset as I was, nothing frightened me as much as not knowing what I might have missed.

Now, I am thrilled to report that my story has a happy ending; as it happens, a wonderfully kind man had seen the bag in my driveway near the road and picked it up.  He had been trying to reach me by calling my office number (not realizing I was out of the office that day).  In the end, I went down to my local police department and they were able to contact the gentleman who had found the bag and arrange its immediate return (with everything intact!). 

But not all stories end so happily; identity theft is increasingly common, and stolen credit cards, Social Security cards, and insurance cards can result in disastrous consequences for cardholders who were unaware of their loss. The officer who helped me shared some valuable tips on protecting your family member's identities that every adult, and especially parents, should be aware of; I have summarized his advice below:
  • Carry only what you need in your wallet or purse; store all non-essential information in a safe place at home
  • Never carry spare house or car keys in your wallet or purse (also, never label keys)
  • Make a detailed list of the items you do carry with you and store it in a safe place
  • Keep photocopies of your wallet's important contents (license, registration, credit cards, ATM card, etc.) stored in a safe place
  • Never carry your or your child(ren)'s Social Security numbers or cards in your wallet or purse
  • Never carry birth certificates, passports, or employee ID cards with valuable personal information (Social Security number, date of birth, etc.) in your purse or wallet
  • Never carry account numbers or passwords in your purse or wallet
  • Keep the contact numbers and information for all your financial and personal information in a secure place so they are readily available
  • For PDAs and smartphones: use password protection so that if the device is turned on by an unauthorized user only a log-in screen will appear along with instructions on how to contact you to return the device. You should also keep a backup of your data to use as a starting inventory should it be lost.
If your wallet or purse is stolen or lost, this site features a comprehensive list of the steps you can take to help keep your family safe and deter identity theft, credit fraud, insurance fraud, home invasion or auto theft. 

Safe and happy travels.
-Destination Mom

Friday, August 19, 2011

Back to School: Safety and the Student

With kids heading back to school within the next few weeks, it seemed like a great time to share a few important safety tips!  Many of the helpful hints below are well known by most children, but with the excitement and confusion of returing to school it can be easy for kids to forget, or to be more inclined to inadvertantly put themselves into situations that could be dangerous.  Offering  these simple reminders may help keep safety fresh in their minds as they head off!

image courtesy of anankkml/

 Getting To and From School:
  • For younger students, parents should always provide supervision to help ensure their safe arrival to and from school.  It is not safe for young children to walk to and from school, even in groups. If your children wait for a bus, wait with them or make arrangements for other trusted adults to provide supervision at the bus stop.
  • For older students, if they take the bus, be certain they know which bus is theirs and remind them to stay with a group while standing at the bus stop.  If they walk or ride a bike to school, remind them to always take a friend with them when walking or biking.  Walk the route to and from school with your children before the start of the year and point out safe places to go if they’re being followed or need help. Teach them never to take short-cuts; to avoid parks, vacant lots, and fields; and to always stay in well-lit areas.
  • All children taking the bus should be taught and reminded to: stay seated at all times, keep their heads and arms inside the bus, and keep their seatbelts fastened during the trip. When exiting the bus, they should wait until the bus comes to a complete stop, exit from the front using the handrail to avoid falls, and cross the street far enough in front of the bus that they can make eye contact with the driver.
  • Students who ride a bicycle or scooter to school should wear an approved safety helmet and should be taught to obey all traffic signals, signs, and traffic officers. Remind them to be extra careful in bad weather.
Stranger Danger:
  • Let your children know that if anyone harasses them or makes them feel scared or uncomfortable that they should trust their feelings and immediately get away from that person and tell a trusted adult. Impress upon them that it is ok to be rude to people who make them uncomfortable and that it is ok to say "no."
  • Teach your children if anyone tries to take them somewhere they should resist by hitting, kicking, and screaming.  Advise them to try to run away and call as much attention to themselves as possible by kicking and screaming “Fire!" or “You are not my father/mother!”
  • Remind your children never to accept a ride, money, candy, or gift from a stanger. Let them know that if anyone follows them in a vehicle they should turn around, put as much distance between themselves and that vehicle as possible, and run to a trusted adult (or the home of a trusted adult) and ask for help.
  • Be sure your children know that grownups should never approach a child to ask for directions, they should ask other adults.  Reassure them that it is ok to ignore a stranger trying to get them to approach a vehicle by attempting to solicit their help. 
Lines of Communication:
  • Be sure the school has current and accurate emergency contact information on file for your children and confirm names of those authorized.
  • Always know where your children will be. Teach your children to always check with you before changing their plans before or after school. Teach your children to never leave school, with anyone unless they ok it with you or another trusted adult, even if someone tells them it is an emergency.
  • Be sure your children know their home phone number and address, your cell number, the number of another trusted adult, and how to call 911 for emergencies.
Safe and happy Back-to-School!
-Destination Mom

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sites We Love: Red Tricycle!

This week we are proud to introduce one of our favorite resources for our West Coast readers: Red Tricycle!   Red Tricycle is a free website and e-mail newsletter that strives to serve its readership by providing tons of ideas for cool things to see, eat, make, and do with their children locally; Red Tricycle is truly an invaluable tool for those who live in or visit the greater Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or San Diego areas!

Established in late 2005, Red Tricycle has been described as "a filter" to refine, review, and highlight the very best in local information of concern to parents.  Offering everything from local newsbites to the best in dining, and kid-friendly attractions and activities, Red Tricycle's goal is obvious; to help parents have more fun with their kids. The free weekly e-mailed newsletter offers a glimpse of great local opportunities for families, while the website offers longer articles, contests, and links to fabulous products and parenting information!  There are also links on each location's site for readers to submit their own photos, stories, and events.

Currently, Red Tricycle is holding their "Most Awesome Awards" (sponsored by, a chance for readers to nominate their favorite products, services, mom's club, deal site, etc.!  In addition to helping to select the most awesome mom, baby and kid-related businesses around, participants are eligible to win some fabulous prizes including the Grand Prize: a $500 Gift Certificate to Giggle, 1st Prize: A Flip Video Camera (value $300) and 2nd Prize: A Large Organic Plush Winnie-the-Pooh (value $110).

We are thrilled to have been recognized by many of our loyal fans as their choice for "Most Awesome Kids Travel Accessory," and greatly appreciate everyone's nominations!  (WARNING: shameless pitch ahead!)  If you haven't already, we'd love to encourage you to visit Red Tricycle's site and cast your nomination for the Travel-Tot Travel Childproofing Kit!  But even if you don't get a chance to nominate us, we highly recommend you check out Red Tricycle; whether you live on the West Coast, or are just visiting, there is a myriad of information that will help you enjoy your time there with your family!

Safe and happy travels!
-Destination Mom

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Where's Wendy! (the final chapter)

Photo courtesy of Mountain Creek website.
So our trip concluded with our final stopoff in Mountain Creek in Vernon, NJ (closer to home!). We decided to "live la vida loca" and sprung for a Treetop Cabana. You can reserve them online for about $75 per day; it comes with a private picnic table, sheltered canopy, lounge chairs, and table service… yes, we were the fancy-pants family of the day, but I have to say it was WONDERFUL! It gave us a place to relax and escape out of the fray and made me feel as though we were truly on vacation.
The kiddie area features a giant pirate ship which, thanks to Jake and the Neverland Pirates, is one of my children’s favorite themes. There was a small lazy river, a manageable water slide called The Hook, and a separate area with all different kinds of fountains. I have to say, I was apprehensive because I wasn’t sure there would be enough variety to keep our 3-year-old engaged for the entire day, but because she had a life vest, she was allowed to ride some of the adult rides that we could ride together. It was fantastic day of safe watery adventure for everyone.

I did see one thing that really caught my attention. You super travelers may already know about these, but I saw a young girl (about 5-years-old) wearing an inflatable swimming vest. I am not ready to endorse them yet; we are still doing our research here at Travel-Tot, but what a fantastic travel safety item! I always pack my life vests for my little ones, but they take up a lot of room in the suitcase;  if these work as well as they seemed to I will be ordering mine for the next trip!

This was a day where I really was able to leave behind the to-do list and really have fun with my family. Obviously, I could not keep my blackberry attached to my hip so I let it go for the day and rode water slides, ate junk food, and laughed like crazy. In fact, I relaxed. I remembered a few things that the daily grind had erased from my memory such as: my kids are awesome, my husband not bad to look at in a bathing suit and I still know how to have fun. We are definitely doing this day trip again!

Thanks for being a part of our family adventure - if you have a story you'd like to share, we'd love to hear about it!  Just drop a note to Destination Mom!  Safe and happy travels!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Where's Wendy! (cont.)

So here's how the first few days went:

First, as someone who frequently travels cross-country by plane, I was thrilled to discover that traveling by car is far more forgiving!  That said, Boston traffic redefines the word horrible. The DVD player was not missed too much, but I would have liked it for the end of the trip... it got a little gritty around hour 3.5.  The big winners for entertainment were the mess free marker color sheets and the Strawberry Shortcake figures they got in the happy meal on the ride up... go figure!?

Our hotel was great - we went through Hotwire and scored a 4 star for $180.00 - a beautiful full service Westin with complimentary Starbucks in room!  It also featured a gorgeous pool; it kept us from the Children's Museum but the kids were having a blast swimming with the piped in music! The buffet was free for kids under 7 (score!!!) and they had a seperate healthy buffet too... yummy; we sat on the outdoor patio and had a wonderful breakfast.

The few obstacles we encountered in the hotel made me thankful I'd decided to bring the Travel-Tot Childproofing Kit (used a hanging costmetic bag which I stored in the closet, so the sliding door lock was invaluable for keeping the kids out of my stuff!).  My one big complaint would be the weight sensor snack buffet in the room... horrendous with kids... if you move it you're charged... and of course it's all chips and M&Ms.

Showered up and headed off to RI - the point of going to RI was to show the girls where we were married. It was just a day trip. Once we arrived in Newport we needed a low key place for the kids to eat. We found a hotdog and cheeseburger hole-in-the wall off of Thames St. (I only wish I'd had my camera).

Few stumbles:
  • Forgot the camera - thank God for cell phones.
  • Forgot towels -ugh. Stopped at a Walmart.
  • For our daytrip to RI - I thought it would be later when we got there, wish now that I had put a mini sunblock in my diaperbag.
All in all - pretty successful!  Stay tuned, there's more to come - we did a waterpark the next day...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Where's Wendy!

Welcome to our new feature: Where’s Wendy? I am Wendy, Co-Founder of Travel-Tot and my family travels frequently; our trips cover a wide range of destinations and budgets.

Today I am at home packing the car.

This week I am taking you on my "Last Minute Road-Trip Adventure!" This evening my family will leave for northern Massachusetts; the trip is three days long. We will leave tonight and be back home on Thursday. So far, all I have are my lists; I am sharing them in the hopes that they may help you walk that difficult line between overpacking and accidentally leaving essentials behind. I have also included some expert tips, to save you from some of the common pitfalls I have encountered!


  1. When packing I start with clothes in case I need to do laundry because it is so irritating to find that out at the last minute.
  2. Always pack for one more day than your trip. This is enough margin for error to get you to a laundromat in case of delay or emergency
  3. Think outfits: pack according to the day. Especially if you are using packing cubes.
  4. Always bring two bathing suits per person so your swimwear has a chance to dry completely.
  5. Organize your packing list by category and not by person. You will save time doing all the clothes, meds, etc. at one time.
  • For my toddler:
    • 3 PJs
    • 6 underpants (because we’re potty training… of course!)
    • socks & sneakers (she'll likely wear the sandals she wears in the car, but if the weather changes or we end up doing something more active, I want her to have proper footwear)
    • 6 outfits (short sleeve shirts and shorts/skirts)
  • For my big girl:
    • 4 outfits
    • 4 underpants
    • 2 swimsuits
    • 1 PJ
    • 2 pairs of socks
    • sandals (just in case she gets too hot, normally she wears her Converse black and white star sneakers everywhere)
  • For myself:
    • 3 outfits
    • 2 extra t-shirts (since I often become the human handiwipe!)
    • 3 underpants
    • Work out stuff: sports bra, sneakers, shorts, socks and blackberry headphones (who knows, maybe I’ll get out for 40 minutes and use the hotel gym and rock out on my Pandora!)
    • 1 PJ (I always think, what would I want to be seen in by other hotel guests if I’m running for my life and we all end up in the parking lot so I always pick something modest).
  • For my husband:
    • I make it a rule not to pack for him. If he leaves out his things I will put them in the suitcase or I will set out the things on his list and he can review and pack them up himself. This has saved us lots of traveling tension during our 10 years of marriage.
On to the next category:  


Tip: Target has an extensive section of travel size products and empty bottles. I tend to buy the empty bottles and fill them myself. It’s just a little more cost effective, but sometimes for the sake of time I’ll just grab what they have off the shelves.
  • Hair Stuff:
    • brush & comb
    • detangler (with two little girls, there is lots of tangly hair)
    • rubber bands & clips (to coordinate with packed outfits)
    • shampoo & conditioner for my kids (I can use the hotel stuff no problem, but it will sting eyes, and my kids have really sensitive skin so they’ll end up with rashes on top of the stingy eyes… not fun)
  • Eyes:
    • contact lenses & solution
  • Teeth:
    • toothbrushes & pastes (I look forward to one toothpaste travel!)
    • mommy and daddy paste
    • big girl paste
    • baby paste
    • my white strips 
  • Face:
    • I (of course) have my entire travel anti-aging regimen, which I will not leave home without any more.
    • make-up
    • travel baby soap for the kids to wash their faces, this way they can do it themselves and not worry about getting it in their eyes.
  • Body:
    • soap (again I’m good with the stuff at the hotel for me, but my kids will get dry skin and other irritations from it so I bring a travel bottle full of their soap from home).
    • deodorant
    • Boys, look away! You’re not going to want to know this. Ok ladies, I’m going to get a little personal. There is a great product called Always Clean. It’s an individually wrapped sanitary wipe. I’m not into these when I’m doing my day to day on the home front, but I love them for travel. It’s just one little way to feel a little fresher when you’ve been sitting in a car, plane or train for hours and hours.
    • razor (let’s face it, two days of summer fun is about as much as I can get away with and not bring my razor).
  • Meds & Sundries:
    • sun block
    • aloe (in case something goes wrong on the sun block front)
    • anti-itch cream
    • children’s antihistamine
    • children’s fever reducer
    • vitamins for all of us
    • diapers
    • wipes
    • mini Desitin (it comes in little packs, which I bring just in case. If I’m going into a trip with a diaper rash I bring the biggest tube I can travel with!)
    • Mommy meds  (Advil, Tylenol, Tums, ect.)
  • Safety:
    • without sounding like a total commercial, I will be packing my Travel-Tot childproofing kit. If you look at my list there are lots of things that my kids should not be handling. In a hotel room, I feel most comfortable when I can hang my toiletries kit in the closet and use one of the items from my kit to lock the closet. This gives me 3 layers of protection between my children and the things I don’t want them to touch.
A few final items:

My girls have special rolling bags just for travel. My toddler has the zebra bag and my big girl has her princess bag. They are required to pick 1 snuggle buddy and I am allowed to pack two activities for each of them. And, they are allowed to pack the rest themselves. I am always tickled to see what goes into the bags after I make my selections. (I secretly have a bag of tricks that I keep with me to help keep them occupied!)
  • My bag of tricks:
    • dinosaur sticker book
    • 2nd Grade (the grade my oldest will be in this fall) workbook
    • Thomas doodle and drawing book
    • 1000 reusable (because they barely stick and will come off anything) animal stickers
    • Disney Fairies Color Wonder Coloring Pad and markers (which I bought unopened at a garage sale for 50 cents…SCORE!)
    • 2 Imaginetics magnet play sets (which I picked up for free after the garage sale because they didn’t sell during the day…SCORE…AGAIN!!)
    • 2 Highlights Puzzlemania magazines for my older one
    • Leapster (which I will hold for extreme circumstances)
    • finger puppets
    • 4 little snacks
    • potty pack (I have an old LancĂ´me make-up bag that I keep a package of Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer, Dora toilet seat covers, and small package of travel wipes).
Tip: I have two girls, so we have different potty needs than we would if we had boys. And after several trips of pee-pee soaked shoes and socks I found “Potty on the Go;” my kids call it “the emergency potty.” It’s a small little fold out seat that comes with special absorbent lined bags. It folds down small so it’s easy to keep in the car and the bags make waste easy to contain and dispose of while you’re on the road. I keep a few gallon size zip lock bag with the potty to toss at the next rest stop.

Two big things are happening on this trip. 1. This is the first trip I am not packing the portable DVD player; I really want to start teaching my kids to find ways to entertain themselves. (I will also be packing extra Advil for myself... I’ll let you know how it goes!) 2. We are not packing the pack-n-play; instead we are using a portable bed rail... it should be interesting.

Stay tuned!