Friday, June 29, 2012

Destination: Catamount Aerial Adventure Park!

image courtesy of Catamount Adventure Park

Searching for a fantastic adventure for your elementary school-aged, tween, or teen children?  Look no further than Catamount Aerial Adventure Park!  Located approximately 2 hours from New York City on the Massachusettes/NewYork border, Catamount is the first large-scale aerial adventure park in North America!
Designed by Swiss Alpine Mountaineers, Catamount Adventure Park is modeled after popular ropes courses throughout Europe and features 12 aerial rope courses with platforms amid a lush forest setting.  The course features cables, zip lines, rope-and-wood swinging bridges, swinging tubes and tunnels, ladders, trapezes, etc. which afford visitors the challenge of navigating each obstacle to proceed between platforms.  All in all, Catamount's courses feature over 100 different elements; and with the exception of the extremely popular zip lines, each element is unique! 

While their primary focus is on fun, Catamount also espouses a strong emphasis on safety; every participant is fully secured in a harness at all points while on the courses and the park offers courses ranging in difficulty from easy (for beginners and younger visitors) to challenging.  Visitors begin at the main lodge, where they purchase their tickets, get fitted for a harness and gloves, and experience a comprehensive safety and park usage demonstration. Visitors are permitted on different levels of the course according to age and ability; however, each visitor must complete an easy level and an intermediate level before proceeding to more advanced levels.

Notably, younger children are restricted to easier levels, and must be supervised or accompanied by an adult on certain courses; all guests must be at least 7 years old and there are height, and weight requirements (see site for details).  Other important advisories to note include: Athletic shoes or hiking boots are recommended, as is appropriate clothing for the activity (courses can be strenuous, so dress for the weather and consider bringing a change of clothes for the ride home as you may perspire heavily while engaged in the courses).  Speaking of weather, the park will close during periods of high winds, thunderstorms, or heavy rain, so be sure to call ahead if there is any chance of inclement weather.  Details on pricing and hours of operation can be found  here.

Safe and happy travels!
-Destination Mom

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Travel-Tot Tip!

This week's tip: some great uses for baby powder!  Just rub a little on to remove sand from your child before leaving the beach or onto your clothes to minimize the appearance of greasy stains until you can get them laundered (perfect for oily splatters and buttery sauces)!  A few other novel uses: keep playing cards from sticking together by placing them in a baggie with some baby powder and giving them a good shake; or try injecting some between squeaky floorboards to silence their incessant squeals!

*IMPORTANT: Travel-Tot recommends that parents always keep baby powder out of the reach of infants, toddlers, and small children as it can present a hazard if breathed in.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Car Seats: Staying Safe While Travelling

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 the best option!  Thankfully, 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! 

A last resort if you forget or cannot bring your own car seat or booster, is a rental car seat.  Because it is impossible to know for certain if a rental seat has sustained an impact in a crash, it is always best to bring your child's own car seat; but a rental is better than nothing at all!  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 seat belts 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, June 19, 2012

Travel-Tot Tip!

Thinking of travelling with another family or other adults? Before you go, take some time to discuss these important details together:
  • what each person wants to do
  • how chores and childcare will be divided
  • how you'd like to balance spending time together and apart
  • how you'll split the bills
A simple discussion beforehand can help ensure that your trip is enjoyable and that everyone knows what to expect up front!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Destination: Hershey, PA!

Known as "The Sweetest Place on Earth," Hershey, PA boasts a world of fun and relaxation for the whole family!  If you haven't been yet, here's a quick overview of some of the many family-friendly sights and attractions you won't want to miss!
Known for their awesome coasters and thrill rides, Hershey has plenty of lower-key rides for the younger set as well, such as Balloon Flite, Dinosaur-Go-Round, and Helicopters. If you're visiting in the summer, cool off on the East Coast Waterworks; the centerpiece attraction to The Boardwalk at Hershey Park. A relatively new feature, the Boardwalk boasts a fun surfer theme and includes 4 huge slides and an enormous water play structure! Hershey Park is immaculately kept and has six large sections devoted entirely to kids. Whether it's small versions of the park's adult rides or miniature sports-cars, young children will have a blast! This summer, spend a day at Hershey Park - you won't be disappointed!  Note: Hershey Park is quite large and does not feature any type of mass-transportation (i.e. monorail, train, etc.), so be sure to wear comfy walking shoes and bring strollers!
Great for a few hours of fun, visitors of all ages will enjoy this re-created factory tour!  Don't miss features the 3D movie and trolley tour! Each trolley tour offers visitors the opportunity to see the Hershey Kiss Streetlights, Mr. Hershey's Mansion, Mr. Hershey's original chocolate factory, and more!

Explore this peaceful spot filled with trees, grasses, herbs, flowers and even a magnificent butterfly garden! The gardens have numerous benches, so it's a great place to stroll or sit and relax. The children's gardens feature awesome exhibits, such as: the ball in the fountain and the misting kisses.

This cozy little zoo offers a great break from the action-packed mayhem of the park. The the zoo is immaculate and the animals are well-cared for; and as an added bonus, zoo entry is free with your Hershey Park admission!  In a short walk, visitors of all ages can view some wild animals they may never otherwise have an opportunity to encounter, such as: mountain lions, grey wolves, bald eagles, and snow owls. Bear in mind, the zoo features North American wildlife exclusively, so you won't find elephants and other exotic animals as you may find in big city zoos, but as long as you manage expectations, Zoo America will be a big hit for even your littlest adventurers!

There are truly an endless number of ways to enjoy a trip to Hershey, PA (bonus tip: if you're travelling with other adults, or children 16 or older, don't miss the Segway Tours!); so, if you're looking for family-friendly fun this summer, check out Hershey, PA - truly the "Sweetest Place on Earth!"

Safe and happy travels!
-Destination Mom

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Travel-Tot Tip!

Travelling with a larger family and looking for budget-friendly lodging options?  Check out - a fantastic resource for larger families featuring a searchable database of hotels that offer "family rooms" which have extra sleeping options (i.e. convertible couches, futons, trundles, etc.), without the cost of an extra room! SixSuitcaseTravel also offers great information on accommodations, trips, cruises, and vacation deals for larger families throughout the USA, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Australia, and the Caribbean (and coming soon, South America!).  Check it out!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Keep Motion-Sickness at Bay!

image courtesy of CNaene/
Motion sickness can quickly take the wind out of the sails of even the best planned family adventure.  If your child is susceptible to motion sickness, there are a multitude of tricks and products for quelling their queasiness; but it helps to understand a bit more about motion sickness first.

The condition is typically the result of conflicting messages being transmitted to the brain by the body’s natural motion detecting detectors (eyes, inner ear, joints, etc.); and it is relatively common. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, approximately 1 in 3 Americans experience motion sickness while travelling by car, plane, train, or boat, though some sources say it may be as common as 1 in 2.  Motion sickness is generally characterized by: feelings of sickness or dizziness, headaches, loss of appetite, or pale or sweaty appearance.

Tactics for Combating Motion Sickness:

1. Place car seats as centrally as possible in the vehicle
  • children feel motion more in the rear-most seats of SUVs and vans
2. Open windows and allow fresh air to circulate

3. Pay attention for early signs and symptoms
  • pay attention if children report feeling ill - quick intervention can prevent full blown sickness.
4. Encourage children to focus on a distant object or horizon outside
     of the vehicle

5. Grab a light snack, like saltine crackers and ginger ale, before
     setting out or when symptoms appear
  • as counter-intuitive as it may seem, an empty stomach can actually aggravate motion sickness.
  • avoid heavy, greasy, or rich foods.
6. Drive as smoothly as possible
  • sudden or hard braking and sharp, fast turns will only agitate motion sickness
7. Make frequent stops and allow everyone to leave the car and
     stretch their legs
image courtesy of Chuckies
8. Be prepared
  • Chuckie's self-sealing motion-sickness bags can be a real lifesaver if motion sickness should strike in transit.  It's also wise to bring along wet wipes and antibacterial surface wipes... just in case!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Travel-Tot Tip!

A family vacation doesn't have to break the bank; for a ridiculously budget-friendly family adventure, try camping!  Whether you decide to simply spend a night under the stars in the backyard or a week at a National Park, camping can be a unique, affordable, educational, and inspirational opportunity to spend quality family time together.  For great tips for family camping, check out this fantastic article by Love the Outdoors!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Destination: Niagra Falls!

image courtesy of George Stojkovic/
Niagra Falls, Ontario is more than just a spectacular natural wonder; it's a fantastic place to relax and enjoy some quality family time exploring our great neighbor to the north, Canada!  For those who have never seen the Falls themselves, there are a multitude of ways to enjoy the amazing spectacle of this aquatic phenom; whether you take a ride on the Maid of the Mist, or go in for an even closer look at the Table Rock Center's Journey Behind the Falls, there is a family-friendly adventure around every corner.  For the very daring, Niagra's Fury offers a 4-D sense-surround experience, complete with trembling ground underfoot, a blizzard, and a virtually instantaneous temperature drop from 75°F to 40°F (warning: this ride is not recommended for young children or those with neck or back injuries or heart problems).  For those who prefer a less up-close and personal view, the Skylon Tower Observation Deck with its glass elevator ride provides a breathtaking view from 775 feet above the Falls! 

No matter how you choose to experience their majesty, the Falls are a not-to-be-missed, bucket-list worthy experience; but the fun doesn't stop there - check out these other great family-friendly local attractions:

Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens and School of Horticulture: Explore the vast gardens and check out the massive Floral Clock, made up of over 20,000 plants!  The new Animals of the Rainforest exhibit is located here as is the Butterfly Conservatory. More than 2,000 breathtaking butterflies of 50 species flutter among beautiful flowers; and there are a variety of programs and presentations offered in the facility's auditorium and two theaters. Visitors are encouraged to wear brightly colored clothing to attract the butterflies! Open daily September through June 9:00am to 5:00pm, July and August 9:00am to 7:00pm.

Bird Kingdom: A tropical adventure located right in Niagara Falls, Ontario!  Visit the largest free-flying indoor aviary in the world; over 400 birds make their home in this amazing multi-level rainforest setting! Featuring a 40-foot waterfall, tropical plants, and hundreds of birds from around the world; this aviary offers visitors a chance to see some of the world's rarest birds, many of which are endangered or threatened in the wild.   In addition to birds, Bird Kingdom's aviary features collections of saltwater fish, spiders, bats, snakes, and reptiles who live happily within the indoor tropical paradise!  Open Daily from September through June 9:30am to 5:00pm and July through August 9:30am to 6:30pm.

Dinosaur Adventure Mini-Golf: Children of all ages will get a kick out of this fantastic mini-golf course! Life size dinosaurs, realistic sound effects, lush tropical foliage, and a volcano that erupts with real fire are just a few of the fun highlights of this mini putt course. Don't miss the $1.00 per person discount coupons in the widely available coupon books! Open seasonally - call ahead for hours: (905) 358-3676.

Marineland: Explore this park's multiple aquariums, featuring a walrus mascot, dolphins, sea lions, and freshwater fish. The aquarium's Friendship Cove affords even the littlest visitors a fantastic up-close view of killer whales and its Arctic Cove hosts an interactive beluga whale exhibit!  Marineland also has rides, including a spectacular Ferris wheel, Dragon Boat rides, and even a roller coaster!  The park is open daily mid-May through June and September through mid-October 10:00am to 5:00pm, July and August 9:00am to 6:00pm (closed mid-October through mid-May).

Whether you spend a weekend or a week exploring, Niagra Falls, Ontario is a great place to make fun family memories that will last a lifetime!

Safe and happy travels!
-Destination Mom