Friday, August 31, 2012

5 Great Books About Traveling for Kids!

Travel can be an education in itself, even for the youngest child; and one of the best ways to get children excited about taking a trip is by awakening their imaginations through reading!  Below are our top five picks for children's books about travel:

Where is Coco Going?
Author: Sloane Tanen
Ages: 1-4
Sneak peek: To get to her destination, a tiny chick travels by taxi, train, plane, and parachute. She dives into the ocean, bikes through Paris, bounces across the desert on camelback, and zooms into outer space. And where does she arrive after this extensive journey? At Grandma's house in the suburbs.

All Aboard! A Traveling Alphabet

Author: Bill Mayer
Ages: 3-5
Sneak peek: Follow the alphabet as it journeys from the A-shaped walkway of a ship to the B-shaped arches of a bridge all the way to a zeppelin.

Felix Explores Planet Earth
Author: Annette Langen
Ages: 3-6
Sneak peek: A bunny named Felix travels the world, visiting the North Pole, rain forests, deserts and tropical seas. He writes letters to friend, Sophie, as he travels the world. The book includes a special fold out world map to trace and track Felix's travels; kids will enjoy using the map to plan their own trips!

My Picture Atlas
Author: Roger Priddy
Ages: 4-7
Sneak peek: A lively mix of maps, flaps, fact boxes, and photographs.  This is the only children's atlas to give information on every country in the world; includes a laminated pull-out country-finder map.

The Travel Game
Author: John Grandits
Ages: 5-8
Sneak peek: To avoid taking a nap, Tad plays his favorite game with his aunt. They spin the globe and set off on an adventure. Together, their imaginations take them from their home in Buffalo, NY, to Hong Kong.

Obviously, there are thousands of other fantastic books about travel for kids, including a vast number of location specific books!  Got a favorite you'd like to share?  Please comment below - we'd love to hear your suggestions!

Safe and happy travels!
-Destination Mom

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Travel-Tot Tip: Crayon Stain Solution!

Anyone who has had a stray crayon stow away in a load of laundry can attest that it only takes one crayon to ruin an entire load laundry. A friend of mine was generous enough to share the recipe below for a solution that has proven highly effective in almost all instances of such laundry-based "crayon attacks." 

1 cup white vinegar
1 cup OxiClean cleaning agent
1 cup Shout stain remover
1 cup laundry detergent
2-3 tablespoons of Goo Gone household cleaner

Simply combine ingredients in hot water cycle and run clothes through the washing machine.  Check items after washing to ensure stains are gone prior to placing clothes in the dryer. Repeat if necessary.

Friday, August 24, 2012

5 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Camping-Out!

So, my husband and I and our 7-year-old daughter took our first family camping trip this past week; a two night three day adventure in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania!  If I am being honest, it was remarkably fun and very relaxing.  There was plenty to do, and those creature comforts I simply cannot do without were addressed; the picturesque park we stayed in featured a lake with a sand beach, boat rentals, hiking trails, a playground, fields, and public restrooms (some with showers!) that were accessible 24-hours a day.  All in all, everything I could have hoped for!  However, while the park and its facilities were exemplary, there were a few things I wish I had known before we went camping as a family:
  1. Assume you could have some inclement weather (no matter what the forecast says!), and plan accordingly.  We had only two things to do while trapped inside during a 3-hour epic rainstorm.  After the first 15 minutes, we realized we should have packed a few more games or books.  Also, because we were planning to grab lunches and snacks at the beach concession stand, we only had food packed for dinners, no good snack food to tide us over until the storm passed (did I mention the storm conveniently arrived just as we were planning to start setting up the grill for dinner?).
  2. Invest in an extra tarp or covering for your tent (see item #1).  Our tent came with a rain fly - and we had put it on the tent when we set up camp, on the off chance it might rain.  While it performed admirably, an additional tarp might have prevented the small leak we had in the roof from dripping on my husband's sleeping bag!
  3. Pack a first-aid kit.  In all honesty, this one should go without saying, but in our excitement and haste to pack efficiently and bring all the things we wanted for exploring the great outdoors, all we happened to have on hand when my daughter receiver her first bee sting was a band-aid.  I was horror struck when I realized that I hadn't packed benadryl or calamine lotion or anything and we were miles from the nearest pharmacy.  We were lucky, she had no reaction - but we will never again vacation without bringing along a stocked first-aid kit.
  4. If you can, consult a topographical/detailed map of the available campsites before you reserve one.  This was our first time at this park, and our site was idyllically scenic, but was on a down slope which served as a runoff in torrential storms (see item #1).  This may just be a live-and-learn thing, but if you can, try to keep to higher ground!
  5. Interesting fact: in most states children do not require fishing licenses (specific age varies by state) and adults may help them fish (as long as said adults do not fish themselves!).  I wish we had known this before we set out, our daughter loves to fish but we were afraid of incurring a fine so did not pack her pole.
Wishing you all safe and happy travels!
-Destination Mom

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Travel-Tot Tip: 20 Great Trail Mix Ingredients!

image courtesy of Grant Cochrane/

Need a quick, easy, fun, portable snack idea?  Try making your own trail mix!  Simply decide (with your children's help, if you want!) what ingredients you want to include, combine in a bowl, and transfer to zip-closure storage baggies!  Our favorite ingredient ideas include:

  • Crunchy cereal (i.e., Chex, Cheerios, Grape Nuts, etc.)
  • Granola
  • Mini pretzels
Fruits and other goodies:
  • Craisins (any variety!)
  • Dehydrated fruits (i.e., cherries, apricots, banana chips, etc.)
  • Chopped figs or dates
  • Raisins
  • Shelled sunflower seeds
  • M&Ms
  • Reese's Pieces
  • Chocolate chips (white, dark or milk!)
  • Wasabi peas
  • Crystallized ginger
  • Dry roasted edamame
  • Whole roasted almonds
  • Candied walnuts
  • Shelled pistachios
  • Cashews
  • Peanuts
  • Honey-roasted pecans
One note of caution: Always remember to take into account any food sensitivities or allergies before deciding on what to include in your trail mix!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Family Relocation: Making the Most of the Move!

This week, we are thrilled to feature a first-hand story of one family's international relocation!  Stephanie Whittle, mom of two and creator of the website Boy Mama Teacher Mama, shares the lessons she learned during her family's relocation, as well as tips for making the most of such a momentous family adventure!  Thanks to Stephanie for her helpful pointers and for sharing her family's fantastic story below!

image courtesy of Stephanie Whittle
Over a year ago on Thanksgiving, my husband asked me how I would feel about moving to Australia. Ha! What kind of question is that? My first reaction was no way!  I love where I live, my friends, my son’s school, our pediatrician, our vet - how was I even supposed to think about giving up all that?  But, I did. I thought about it and, in the end, I said, “Sure, let’s give it a go” (that’s Australian for let’s give it a try!). The plan was to leave in January. Let’s see - that left December and January to get a renter, pack the house, get the dogs ready for the trip (a whole other story in itself!) and say goodbye to family and friends. Yeah, that was not going to all happen that fast. I had to PREPARE!  And by prepare I mean three things: 1) prepare our “stuff," 2) prepare the kids, and 3) prepare myself.  None of which were easy tasks.  So, I sent my husband ahead of us.  He left at the end of January and we were scheduled to leave in April.  Phew, some time to prepare….

It turns out the easiest preparation was our stuff - I sorted, donated, sold, stored, and packed all of our things. It was actually a rather cathartic process. I got rid of so much stuff that we just didn’t need anymore.  I scaled down my wardrobe significantly and finally unpacked all my husband’s boxes from our last move that he had yet to unpack.

Next on the list was to prepare the kids.  I have two boys who at the time were 4 and 18 months. The 18 month old was easy - as long as he was with me, he was fine.  As long as he had is stuffed dog, Ruff Ruff and his “blankie,” he was good to go.  My older son, on the other hand, was going to be much harder to deal with.  So, I prepared. I bought maps of the world and maps of Australia. We marked where we live, where our extended family members live and where we would be living. I bought Australian music and ordered a ton of books about Australia and stories from Australia. I hung pictures of the Outback, the Harbor Bridge, and the Opera House on our living room walls.  I hung pictures of kookaburras, rainbow lorikeets, and emus on our walls as well. I completely submerged my children in “Austrailaina.”  And, in retrospect, I did a pretty good job. When we got here, there was so much that was already familiar from the books, pictures, and DVDs, that it didn’t seem all that foreign. It also helps that people here speak English even though it took a long time to get used to the accent.

The final preparation was me.  I had to prepare to leave all that I knew and loved outside my immediate family.  I had to leave my comfort zone and my support system for a land unknown.  It wasn’t easy, for more reasons than I care to get into here, it just wasn’t easy. But, I did it. I read about Australia. I learned some of the lingo and made connections with people who had been there and some who were living there. I tearfully said my goodbyes and headed to the airport, my mom with us for the trip to lend a hand and to lend support. 

We have now been here 18 months.  We are settled, My eldest son is in school. My youngest is with me all day. We have made friends, found doctors we like and a veterinarian to care for our dogs. We know people at the local restaurants and coffee shops. We have swim lessons and music lessons.  We have neighbors to say hello to and friends to call for play dates. We know where to get groceries and where to find the other necessities for everyday life.  We even have babysitters! So, I guess all that preparation worked.  We are here. We are okay. We have explored, discovered and laid a foundation for ourselves.  We still have over a year here and lots more to do while here and then, it will be time for another kind of preparation - preparing to go home!

My tips for moving overseas (or, things I wish someone would have told me before I got here!)

*   Learn all you can about where you are going.  Read books, listen to music, watch DVDs and talk to people who know the area.  The internet is a great resource and there are tons of expat sites out there ready and waiting to help.

*   Voltage!  Find out about converting appliances. I brought our vacuum, mixer, shredder and cannot use a single one as I found out when I plugged my son’s music player in and nearly burned down the house.

*   Language. Learn about what is okay to say and what is not. There are some words we use in the States that when said down here have a whole different meaning and are not words you want to be saying in most situations.

*   Medical Care. Figure out how the medical system works before you arrive.  You do not want to be hit by illness or injury and have to figure you way through the system at that time. 

*   Kid Friendly things to do and see. Before leaving I bought a Kid’s Guide to Sydney. I must have read the book 3 or 4 times before leaving the States! When we arrived, I had a general idea of where I wanted to take the kids and what I wanted to do with them.

*   Cell Phone.  Call your provider in the States (or where ever you are coming from) and make sure your phone will work where you are going. I needed a new phone before leaving and was about to buy an iPhone when I learned that I would not have been able to use it here!  Good thing I checked! So I bought an Android and was good to go.

*   Have pets?  Make sure you check, well in advance, if you can bring your pets into the country and, if you can, what steps you have to take for their entrance into the country. Australia has a limited list of animals you can bring into the country and a whole heck of a lot of medical tests and exams you have to complete before your pet can even board the plane! Once here, your pet has a minimum stay of 30 days in quarantine before you can take him home. 

*   Frequent Flyer Miles. Once settled, find out which stores around town offer frequent flyer miles as a perk for shopping there. Our local grocery store has a frequent flyer arrangement with Qantas which will be so great when buying tickets for home or for travel. 

Thanks again to Stephanie for sharing her experience, wit, and wisdom; for more helpful tips and information, be sure to check out her site, Boy Mama Teacher Mama!  Safe and happy travels!

- Destination Mom

Author's bio: Stephanie  "retired" from her career as an elementary school teacher of 14 years to stay home and raise her boys.  She originally hails from the Chicago area and now has a permanent residence in Tacoma, WA, but is currently living in Sydney, Australia with her family.  Her site, Boy Mama Teacher Mama is an amazing resource for parents, teachers, and other caregivers of children; featuring a wide variety of activities that can be done at home or in the classroom, with a special emphasis on raising boys (also on Facebook, Twitter, and Google +)!  In her free time, Stephanie enjoys playing with her boys and her dogs, writing, reading, baking and quilting.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Travel-Tot Tip!

Make budgeting for vacation a family affair!  Get kids involved by encouraging them to save their own allowance or chore money for souveniers and gifts.  Teaching kids fiscal responsibility will not only discourage them from asking to buy every item they see - it will also help them understand the value of money and the work it represents.  Successfully budgeting and saving will leave kids feeling proud of their hard work and patience!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Traveling with Children with Special-Needs

Traveling with children adds a host of extra considerations for all parents; but for parents traveling with children with special-needs, there are an even greater number of elements to be considered.  While the whole process can seem intimidating and overwhelming (particularly those traveling for the first time!); with a little planning and organization, it can be simply a different kind of family vacationing that, much like traveling with infants, toddlers, and tweens, can be both challenging and rewarding!

image courtesy of All About Parenting
This week, I was honored to have the opportunity to pose a few questions on this topic to Princesa Pérez, Editor-in-Chief of All About Parenting magazine; an amazing publication dedicated to being, in her words, "a place where moms can find information, resources, and ideas to become better parents and raise happy and healthy kids, no matter our differences."  Her gracious and informative responses can be found below; my hope is that they inspire you as much as they did me to get informed, get organized, and plan a family adventure!

What steps can parents of special-needs children take to reduce the stress of traveling?
Research. You need to find the best vacation spot for your family. Call them in advanced and let them know everything you need but also ask them lots of questions so that you know what you can expect from them as well.
Create checklists. Make detailed lists of all the things you need to get ready for your vacation.
Create an itinerary of the activities that you would like to do while on vacation. What I do is I create my itinerary in advance with the best date and time to go to each place, the best route and mode of transportation and a specific budget for that particular activity.   
Prepare your child. Explain as much as you can everything that is going to happen while on vacation. Before you go, let them know where they are going and what they can expect.  Try to let them know what is coming next every step of the way if you can.
Give yourself plenty of time. Time is the key to success if you travel with a child with a disability. 
Be prepared for anything. Have with you comfort toys, special foods, lots of activities to keep them entertained, and medications (if needed) at hands reach ALWAYS.
Be flexible and take it slow. Sometimes things don’t go as we plan, but we have to adjust and keep going. Put a smile on your face even if you don’t feel like it and enjoy your trip as much as you can. 

What are some of the best travel-planning resources for families vacationing with children with special-needs?
Parents can get great tips, information, and more by going to:
Autism Speaks
Transportation Security Administration

What do you feel are 3 of the top vacation spots for families with special-needs children, and why?
Disney World offers a “free guest with disabilities passes" that allows holders to avoid long lines. Mobility access is available for park goers in wheelchairs, which they also rent for your convenience. If you let them know in advance they can make special accommodations for guests with visual disabilities, food allergies, and lighting sensitivities.
Cruises have wheelchair access in almost every area of the ship and food allergies can be accommodated in advance. A good thing about cruises is that you can participate in any of the activities that are available but when it’s time to take a break, you can go to your room and relax.
Discovery Cove is a park that truly caters to families of children with special-needs. You swim with dolphins, snorkel, and hand-feed exotic birds. Food allergies are accommodated. Special wheelchairs that have extra space and can be rolled straight into the water are available for rent. They offer different packages based on your needs; you just have to find the one that best fits your family. Unlimited admission to SeaWorld Orlando and Aquatica in Orlando for up to 14 consecutive days is also included with your Discovery Cove Package. At Discovery Cove, a quiet rest spot is never more than a few steps away for you to sit and relax.
Many thanks to Princesa Pérez for her generosity in sharing her invaluable expertise!  Wishing you safe and happy travels, wherever the road may take you!
-Destination Mom

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Travel-Tot Tip!

Looking for a way to get your children more involved on your next family getaway?  Try giving them each a disposable camera (or an old digital camera if you happen to have one laying around!) with which to snap shots of your vacation; you may just be surprised at what develops!

Friday, August 3, 2012

5 Great Places to Use the Travel-Tot Travel Childproofing Kit!

Traveling is one of life’s greatest joys; pair that with the natural curiosity of a child and you have the recipe for a fantastic adventure! But, while sharing the traveling experience with your child can add to the thrill of the journey, it can also be stressful. Investing just a bit of time to make your vacation accommodations safer for your child helps to ensure as restful, relaxing, and enjoyable a vacation as possible, no matter where you are!

You can easily provide a basic level of protection from many common hazards in just minute’s time with a few simple items, like those conveniently provided in the Travel-Tot Childproofing Kit, including; outlet covers, doorknob protectors, corner guards, door pinch guards, multi-purpose straps, and safety latches.  And the components and adhesive are temporary and non-damaging, so they are ideal for just about anywhere!  Here are five fantastic places you can use your Travel-Tot Travel Childproofing Kit:
  1. Hotels, motels, and rental properties - make any lodging space instantly family friendly!
  2. Homes of family or friends - a great way to both create a safer play space and protect homeowners' valuable personal items from curious little explorers!
  3. Private office spaces - lucky enough to be able to bring your children to work from time to time?  The Kit provides the perfect tools to help keep those little fingers safe from pinches and other potential harm!
  4. RVs - great for keeping little travelers safe on the road and anywhere your adventures make take you!
  5. Cruise ships - make your cabin cozier by adding an extra layer of protection from common hazards such as exposed outlets, pinches from doors and drawers, and sharp corners!
Safe and happy travels!
-Destination Mom