Tuesday, December 31, 2013

4 Ideas for Family New Years Fun!



image courtesy of Vlado/
FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Before we started our family, my husband and I used to go away or go out to parties on New Year's Eve; but once our daughter was born, we found we didn't want to celebrate without her, so we started some fun family year-end traditions that have become really precious to us!  Now that she has moved into her school-age years, our traditions have become even more enjoyable and special, particularly to her, so here are four of our favorite ways to ring in the New Year as a family:

Looking Back and Ahead:  This is one of our favorites, and one that has only become more fun as our daughter has grown.  While my husband and I enjoy sharing our favorite memories from the year past and our hopes and plans for the year to come, the real fun is hearing about the past year from the point of view of our daughter and hearing what she is most looking forward to in the new year.  This past few years I wrote down our memories and hopes for the new year, but I'm looking forward to having her write her own entry this year!!!

Game Night: We play a lot of family games even without a holiday, but we try to jazz up the event with fun appetizers and drinks!  Everyone picks their own favorites and we each take turns picking what we will play next (our favorites are Settlers of Catan, Dixit, Coup, Life, and Yahtzee).

Special Meal: Every year we plan our New Year's dinner around our favorite foods; historically it has included a lot of macaroni and cheese, but we've also introduce some more exotic fare, such as enchiladas, chicken korma, home-made pork fried rice, lamb kabobs, and even chicken and shrimp etouffe!

Movie Night: Always fun and relaxing!  Again, we each pick our favorite movie and then take turns watching each one with popcorn and other indulgent movie snack goodies (M&Ms, pretzel bites, peanuts, etc.).  May be hard to do in larger families, and beware the favorite movie syndrome; after three consecutive years watching the same Harry Potter movie, we had to institute a no re-runs rule from year to year!

However you choose to ring in the new year, we at Travel-Tot wish you and your family a safe, happy, and healthy 2014!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Snow Day Fun; 3 Great Activities!


image courtesy of
Tina Phillips/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Remember the magic of the first big snowfall from childhood?  Heck, remember the excitement of any decent snow accumulation?!  What is it that makes a cold, snowy day so uniquely exciting?  Maybe it's all the fun things you can do in the cold, snowy weather that can't be done any other time during the year!  After all, the snow and biting cold definitely provide an opportunity to create fabulous sweet treats and a rare opportunity to seemingly "freeze time!"  So gear up and get ready to head out into the cold snowy weather and make some fun with these ideas that we love:
 
Embrace Your Inner Candyman!  If your kids are familiar with the Little House on the Prairie series (or even if they're not) making candy from snow and maple syrup is a must try!  The best recipe I've found for this particular activity can be found here.
 
Create Frozen Sweet Creaminess!  If you haven't tried Snow Ice Cream, you haven't lived!  Simple recipe below: 

You will need:

8-10 cups of fresh, clean, snow
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Scoop snow into a large bowl. 
2. Pour condensed milk and vanilla over snow and mix well.
3. Serve immediately!

Freeze Time!  Think bubbles are the domain of Spring and Summer?  Think again! Grab that bubble solution and a bubble wand and head out on those bitter cold days (try to avoid windy days!) and blow some bubbles that will blow your kids' minds!  Watch in awe as the bubbles harden and solidify before they hit the ground - seemingly defying the passage of time!
 
So next time the forecast calls for snow, bundle up and head on out for some magic that can only be made with the help of Mother Nature's snowy, cold goodness!
 
Safe and happy adventuring!
-Destination Mom

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Make Time for Joy!


image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

'Tis the season for racing around frantically tying up loose ends; grabbing forgotten gifts, wrapping until your fingers ache, baking like a maniac, cooking like mad, cleaning, mailing cards, making calls, running your kids all over town!  Its enough to make any parent turn a bah-humbug eye on the whole holiday season.

That's why it is so important to make it a priority to carve out a few moments each day as you prepare for your holiday to remember the joy of the celebration.  It doesn't need to be a formal meditative ritual; just try to find one thing to rejoice in each day; for example, today I rejoiced that my daughter knew all the words to her song in the Christmas Program at church and that she sang with enthusiasm and love.  Some days it's even more basic than that though; some days joy is simply found in making someone smile, or helping out a stranger in need, or just in spending time with friends and family.

So embrace the spirit of the season, and as you head out to finish up everything on your to-do list, remember to leave room for love, laughter, and joy!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Destination: North Pole!

As Destination Mom, I have had the opportunity to report on a number of fantastic family get-away destinations; but this one by far has my vote for most breathtaking and magical!  Now, not everyone can get into Santa's workshop at the North Pole; but luckily, the big man himself just happens to be a loyal Travel-Tot blog reader!  He contacted me via e-mail to ask if I would like to sneak a peek at the busy hustling and bustling going on at the North Pole this time of year in exchange for a blog shout-out!  It was an invitation I couldn't resist!

Santa's workshop
St. Nick was kind enough to pick me up in his amazing sleigh, and after a chilly journey (which seemed to last only a few brief moments!), we hopped out and he took me by the hand as I, in sheer awe, entered the great door of his magnificent workshop mansion, which was flanked by majestic ice sculptures (artist's interpretation see left).  As we entered the great hall, there were scores of elves busily working everywhere; making toys, stocking shelves, wrapping gifts, checking inventory, feeding the reindeer, tidying up, and just generally making merry! 

These cheerful little magic-folk were in almost constant motion, and I noticed right away that they were very safety conscious!  I was very impressed as Santa showed off his workshop's OSHA certification as a permanent SHARP member (an honor granted to small businesses with exemplary illness and injury prevention programs!) and was thrilled to see that Santa had extensive elf-proofing and safety measures in place all throughout the workshop (pinch protectors on that big heavy door, padded hearth around his fireplace, cord guards for the reindeer reins, and even booster seats in his sleigh for his helper elves who accompany him on Christmas Eve)!

the reindeer room (featuring Rudolph)
After I had a full tour of the workshop, Santa invited me into his living area for hot cocoa.  It was a modest space, housing only a large bed, a small table and chairs, and a fireplace.  At the far end of the room was a hallway that led to the more expansive elf and reindeer housing (artist's rendering see left).  We sat and talked a while about Christmas and magic and love, and he explained how important it is to keep the spirit of Christmas always in your heart; especially now, when e-mail, cell phones, texting and social media have replaced so much personal, human contact.

Then, Santa leaned back with a knowing smile and imparted in a hush, that he believed spreading joy, love, and understanding was more than just a job; it was an honor and a responsibility.  "You see," he told me, "I have watched for millennia as humanity slowly grew and matured from fearful, selfish creatures into beings increasingly capable of compassion, kindness, and love." "And," he went on "while not everyone is there yet, I know in my heart that it is possible; for what binds people together is stronger than what divides them." 

We visited for a while longer, but soon it was time to go, so we bundled back into the sleigh and set off.  Before long, we reached my doorstep and he stilled the reindeer.  As I carefully stepped down from the sleigh, I turned and thanked him for our magical visit.  Santa gave me a joyful smile and patted my hand with grandfatherly reassurance, and, with a twinkle in his eye, warmly wished me a Merry Christmas. 

May magic, joy, and peace fill your home this holiday season!  Safe and happy holidays!

-Destination Mom

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Books We Love: Discovering Barcelona - a travel guide for teens!

European vacations with kids in tow can be eye-opening, wonderful adventures, for you and your children!  But sometimes it can be difficult to determine what sites, eateries, museums, etc. are most appropriate and interesting for younger travelers.  That's why we were so excited when Enric Massó reached out to us with his fantastic new travel guide for families travelling with teens (and tweens!) to Barcelona.

As a born and bred Barcelonian who really loves his city, Enric knew a travel guide for younger travelers would help families and teens/tweens to genuinely experience all the amazing things Barcelona has to offer!  As a seasoned professional he has traveled extensively, mostly across Europe, and was frequently asked by acquaintances who would be travelling with kids: "We're visiting your city soon, what family activities would you recommend? where can we...? how...? when...? should we do/take/choose...?".  So, after a few times of compiling brochures, website screenshots, etc. for acquaintances and friends visiting the city, he decided it was time to write a proper paperback guide!  His endeavors resulted in the amazing Discovering Barcelona: A Travel Guide for Teens, which has recently been released through Amazon and Barnes&Noble.

Discovering Barcelona is an extraordinary and comprehensive travel guide, addressing everything from history and landmarks, to snippets of local dialect and metro maps; in addition, it includes an exhaustive (in the best way!) index of all the best spots in Barcelona for young visitors!  The layout is engaging with fantastic graphics, and the guide features entertaining and useful tips, hints, and suggestions for touring the city and beyond.  It provides readers with a concise, comprehensive itinerary of possibilities, featuring everything from historical hot-spots to natural wonders to thrills and adventure.  It is the perfect guide for preparing a young traveller for a trip to Barcelona or for keeping a young traveller occupied during the voyage (preventing the dreaded "are-we-there-yets"!). 

So if you or someone you know is planning a trip to Barcelona with kids - this travel guide is a must-have; and at under $15, it is the perfect stocking stuffer!   For more information on the author, see below:

Enric Massó
BARCELONA

Business consultant (Barcelona, 1969). Enric has always been passionate about European cities and most especially his city, Barcelona: its history, heritage, its vibrant life... With the typical charm of the Mediterraneans he proudly enjoys showing the city to his foreign friends when visiting, many of whom have teenagers. But soon he realised that, although Barcelona ranks 4th in the Euromonitor International’s Top City Destinations (January 2011), there wasn’t much information intended for teens, most guides and travel resources were aimed to grown-up travellers, so he started to gather information and put it in a format aimed just for them: easy to read, fun and entertaining.

email:  enric@discoveringbarcelona.info 

web:  www.discoveringbarcelona.info 


Safe and happy travels!

-Destination Mom

Friday, December 6, 2013

When the Elf Leaves the Shelf!

'Tis the holiday season; time to be heading over the rivers and through the woods to visit far flung family members.  And if you spend time away from home, chances are your Elf will follow!  Now Elves are magical, but they still have basic needs when hitting the road; no self-respecting Elf would leave home without luggage, a passport, tickets, and sometimes other more exotic items, such as skis, a fishing pole, or even a hot air balloon (see material list below for ideas)! 

Luggage: an Altoid's mint tin or small matchbox painted and given a handle is the perfect suitcase!

Passports and Tickets: both are easily crafted out of paper and staples (get as creative as you want!)

Skis: popsicle sticks or candy canes are perfect for hitting the slopes!

Fishing pole: a simple dowel with string is a great way to catch goldfish crackers!

Hot air balloon: a paper Chinese lantern with a plastic cup attached below by string will do - you can decorate as desired! 

In addition to "packing" it is important for your Elf to remember everything he or she may need for any hi-jinks on the road!  Planning ahead for any non-sense is imperative - be sure you have all necessary materials before you go to keep things fun!  If you're looking for ideas for hi-jinks, check out these outstanding videos of Elves caught in action on YouTube!
Safe and happy Elfing!
-Destination Mom

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Car Seat Safety!

image courtesy of kdshutterman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Do you know the best way to keep 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.  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

Friday, November 29, 2013

Deal Alert: Travel-Tot Promo Code!

Use the code BIGDEAL when ordering to get your Travel-Tot Travel Childproofing Kit for $19.95!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving!

image courtesy of nongpimmy/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Thanksgiving is only days away, with all its delicious, decadent holiday treats; and while no one wants to spend their holiday counting calories while they count their blessings, finding a way to build in some activity (family football game, post-feast walk, etc.) can help impress upon our kids that Thanksgiving is more than just an excuse to pig out!  So start a new family tradition this year and make time for a fun family activity; not only will you encourage healthier attitudes toward food, you may just find you even feel more energized and that's something to be truly thankful for!

Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving from all of us at Travel-Tot!

Friday, November 22, 2013

5 Great Travel Reads For Kids!

image courtesy of Phaitoon/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Around the World with Elwood & Ofie - Accessible and heart-"worming", this adorable e-book takes children along on the adventures of earthworm siblings exploring Paris with an enthusiastic, local ant who teaches them all about the beautiful City of Lights!  A great way to introduce your little traveler to a new location; best of all, Thanksgiving weekend (Fri 11/29-Mon 12/2), this e-book will be on sale for only .99¢!  (Available for iPad or Android devices) (Ages 1-5)

A Walk in London - Beautifully illustrated, this book presents readers with a child's eye view of London's top attractions, blending lively artwork with fascinating facts. Join this mother and daughter as they day-trip their way across the city visiting major landmarks like the Tower of London and Big Ben!  (Available in hardcover or paperback.)  (Ages 5-8)

All About Japan - A book for families to treasure together, it offers not only the most important facts about Japan, but also reflects the spirit that makes Japan one-of-a-kind. Dive into stories, try new crafts, play some games from Japan, learn Japanese songs...it's the next best thing to being there! (Available in hardcover of for Kindle.) (Ages 5-10)

101 Places You Gotta See Before You're 12! - An old-school idea in a brand new format!  Books that encourage children to aspire to see the great world great sites are inspiring, but its unrealistic for everyone to see the Pyramids or the Taj Mahal; this book brings adventure and exploration closer to home, and keeps it wonderfully flexible and practical! (Available in paperback.) (Ages 6-12)

National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Roadtrip Atlas - Keeping kids entertained while on a long drive can be a challenge, but the National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Atlas can help! This book includes easy-to-read, simple road maps of each state and Washington, D.C., and a map of the United States. State symbols, cool things to do, boredom busters, fun facts, wacky roadside attractions, and games accompany the maps and provide engaging information with stunning photographs that will keep kids engaged for hours.(Available in paperback.) (Ages 8-12)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Wipe-out!


image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Even if diaper changes are a thing of the past for you, its always a good idea to carry a small pack of baby wipes in your handbag!  They are great for quick clean-ups, sanitizing little hands, surfaces, cleaning up spills, and even just "freshening up" after a long journey!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Safe and Happy Holiday Travels!

The holidays are upon us, and for many families that means traveling to share in joyous celebrations with far-flung friends and family members! As a parent of a toddler or young child, visiting grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, etc. can often pose a bit of a challenge; childless homes frequently contain hazards that keep you hopping up during visits to prevent your little love from breaking low lying treasures or from injuring him- or herself (i.e. candles, decorative breakables, hot serving dishes, and beautiful table linens just begging to be yanked by little hands!).

While vigilant supervision during any visit is irreplaceable as an injury deterrent, there are a few things you can do to make life a bit easier on yourself (and your child!) during holiday visits.  Investing just 15 minutes to create a "safe zone" for your child to play in could facilitate a more relaxed and enjoyable visit.

Start by visually inspecting each room thoroughly from the vantage point of your child.  Get down low: look beneath and behind furniture, drapes, sinks, toilets, and heaters for loose pills, pins, or other overlooked items that could pose a choking or poisoning hazard - you may be surprised what you find. Also, remove tiny, fragile, top-heavy, burning, hot, or sharp objects from reach (table tops, shelves, hearths, etc.). Finally, be sure cords (electrical, blinds, decorative, etc.) are coiled up out of reach and keep doors to laundry rooms, stairways, kitchens, supply closets, and bathrooms closed or gated-off from access during the visit.

To help create an additional layer of protection, invest in a Travel-Tot Childproofing Kit; the kit components (foam corner guards, outlet covers, pinch guards, etc.) can help prevent injury from some of the most common hazards present in living spaces!  Best of all, the Kit's components go on with a strong, temporary, non-damaging adhesive that will not damage furniture or finishes; and Kit components can be reused!  It is a quick, easy solution you can store in your car for wherever you go; or consider picking one up as a gift for your parents, in-laws, or other friends or family you visit during the holidays! 

Creating a safe play zone in a childless home may take a few minutes, but it will result in greater peace of mind for you and a more enjoyable visit for everyone! Safe and happy travels and best wishes from all of us at Travel-Tot for a joyous and blessed Thanksgiving!

-Destination Mom 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Chasing Away the Chill!

image courtesy of Victor Habbick/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Winter is on its way, and that means more time hunkering down indoors and trying to stay warm. But snuggling up with a warm mug of hot chocolate isn’t always going to be enough! According to the CDC, young children and the elderly are disproportionately affected by hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning during the winter months. Often this results from failure to prepare for weather-related emergencies or improper maintenance of heating systems. The checklist below contains a few crucial steps that you can take now to help prepare your family for whatever this winter may bring.





•   Check your home’s heating systems:
    o   Make sure that all heating systems are clean, working properly,
         and vented to the outside.
    o   Inspect and clean fireplaces and chimneys.
    o   Install smoke detectors and test batteries monthly.
    o   Have a safe back-up heating source and fuel.
    o   Prevent carbon monoxide (CO) emergencies by installing a carbon
         monoxide detector, being aware of and alert for the symptoms of
         carbon monoxide poisoning, and keeping generators and grills out 
         of the house.

•   Prepare for weather-related emergencies and power outages:
  o   Stow a broom and a shovel in a handy spot (for clearing away
       leaves/snow from walkways/driveways and low lying vents).
  o   Stock a supply of food that does not require cooking or
       refrigeration and water.
  o   Keep an up-to-date emergency kit, including:
      -   battery-operated flashlights, radios, and lamps;
      -   spare batteries;
      -   a stocked first-aid kit and extra medicine;
      -   baby items (i.e. jar foods, powdered formula, etc.); and
      -   rock salt, cat litter, or sand for icy walkways.

You'll all enjoy snuggling up together indoors a little more if you know you've done everything you can to plan ahead for the safety and comfort of your family, should an emergency arise!

- Destination Mom

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Destination: Dinosaurs!

Located just outside New York City (at 1000 New County Road Secaucus, NJ 07094, (855) 999-9010), Field Station Dinosaurs is an educational and fun animatronic wonderland, set against the backdrop of the New Jersey Meadowlands and the New York City Skyline. Along with seeing (and hearing!) the amazing, life-like dinosaurs (some of them even appear to be breathing!) and learning about the prehistoric age, kids can take part in a variety of demonstrations about reptiles and other kinds of animal life.  

The park features a wide variety of exhibits and activities for visitors of all ages, including;

  • Ampitheater shows, such as: Dino Whodunnit, an exploration of what may have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, and Dragons to Dinosaurs, an interactive show merging myth, mystery, and science!

  • A variety of workshops and games, including: Avian Dinosaurs (an interactive show exploring the link between the birds of today and prehistoric dinosaurs) and Found in New Jersey (an exploration of the state of the state millions of years ago), among others!

  • Dinosaurs Alive: a 3-D adventure about the latest scientific breakthroughs relating to archaeology and prehistoric research.

  • A fossil dig site: a chance for kids to join with paleontologists to see what its like to work on a real expedition!

  • Numerous group discussions along the trail: topics such as alien rocks, ancient energy, bone hunters, and dinosaur eating habits are discussed.  In addition, there are several fun activities along the trail, such as a dinosaur dance party and an interactive painting program entitled, What Color is Your Dinosaur?

  • The T-Rex games: here, teams face-off for pride and prizes! Every event is a dinosaur-themed test of skill, knowledge, or sometimes, just plain luck. Bonus: if you find yourself on the winning team, your team photo will be taken for the Field Station Dinosaur Facebook page!

This park truly has something for everyone!  But if you're going to squeeze in a visit this year, you'll have to hurry - Field Station Dinosaurs closes for the year on November 10th!  So click on over to their website and order tickets for your favorite little explorer today!

Safe and happy travels!

-Destination Mom

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Paying It Forward...



image courtesy of Nutdanai/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

November 1st has come and gone and I'm pleased to find that I am not panicking yet; that the mayhem that is usually the countdown to the holiday season seems to have either passed me by this year, or is laying in wait for a later date!  Usually by now I have ordered my holiday cards, made an infinite number of lists of things I dare not forget, started shopping and squirreling away gifts for my family and friends, and even begun to plan our annual Christmas dinner. This year... not so much.

But for some reason, as I sat in my living room this morning watching the rainbows cast by the prism in my window dance across my walls like the shimmering giggles of children on a crisp autumn breeze, I realized that I really liked having inadvertently having given myself permission to slow down.  I needed to take the time to admire the beauty and blessings of my life.  I needed to show my child the very things I had been taking for granted.  I needed to find a way to share those gifts with the world around me, to pay it forward.

Now, when I hear the phrase "paying it forward" I always think of that guy who paid for my order at Dunkin Donuts one day, just as a random act of kindness.  His explanation was that someone else had paid for his groceries a few days earlier when he had forgotten his wallet and he wanted to pay it forward.  I thanked him profusely and performed a similar act for someone else later in the day, remembering his kindness; but in the days that followed, I returned to my regular, frantic patterns of behavior and slowly, unconsciously let go of the idea of paying it forward.

But this morning, as my personal epiphany came to me, I made myself a promise: to pay it forward in small, meaningful ways every day, or at least whenever I am able  (and not exclusively in ways that involve money, but in ways that can touch the spirit; by greeting people with a smile, paying compliments, being generous with my time and talents, helping those in need, etc.).  More importantly, I vowed to involve my daughter (without announcing or drawing attention to what I am doing), so that she can witness first-hand the immense power of kindness, thoughtfulness, and compassion.  Last year, on Facebook, I posted one thing each day in November that I was thankful for leading up to Thanksgiving; this year, I will write my blessings on my heart and, hopefully, on the impressionable mind and heart of my young daughter. 

Happy beginning-of-the-holiday-season!

Friday, November 1, 2013

6 Ways to Keep Your Children Safe!


image courtesy of greenphile/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

November is Child Safety and Protection Month!  Parents know that the struggle to keep our children safe is an on-going, ever-changing battle.  As children grow and change, so do the types of protection they require; Child Safety and Protection Month is a great opportunity to re-evaluate the safety measures you already have in place, and to look forward to make sure you are prepared for the nest developmental stage!  After all, whether your child is taking his first steps or preparing to take her first spin in the car with her new license, parents always strive to keep their kids safe from harm!  To that end, we would like to offer the following 6 tips with links for keeping your child safe:



Childproof:  Whether you are home or travelling, childproofing is critical, particularly for infants and toddlers who are more likely to encounter hazards that could result in choking, pinches, strangulation, poisoning, or other injury.

Use car/booster seats: While laws differ by state, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following guidelines: rear-facing car seats for all children under 2 years of age (or maximum height and weight requirements for the seat), forward facing car seats until children reach the maximum height and weight requirements, and booster seats for children between the ages of 8 and 12 until they have reached a minimum height of 4 feet 9 inches.

Emergency preparedness: The keys to staving off panic in an emergency are proper preparation and planningFEMA offers numerous fantastic publications for specific different types of natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.).  In addition, having your emergency information centrally located can help reduce the response time in the event of an emergency where you may be separated from other members of your family.

Vigilantly supervise children around water: Drowning is one of the most common hazards for children, whether around open water (lakes, rivers, oceans) or pools.  Vigilant supervision goes a long way toward preventing injury, as does adhering to proper water safety practices (i.e. fences, life-jackets, swimming lessons, approved floatation devices, etc.).

Insist on helmets for bike-riding school-aged kids:  Again, laws vary by state, but all children should wear properly-fitted, protective headgear when riding bikes, scooters, skateboards or other wheeled vehicles.  For more details and statistics, visit the Children's Safety Network.  

Educate high-schoolers about safe driving practices: While our kids wait their whole lives to get that coveted driver's license, we (their parents) are filled with equal parts joy and panic when the big day finally arrives.  In addition to the many dangers that any seasoned driver faces when they get behind the wheel, new, young drivers (whose judgement and experience are less well-developed) face an increased risk of injury from a growing number of distractions.  From over-loud music that can drown out emergency sirens, to cell phones, to intoxication,  new drivers need to know how dangerous distracted driving is, and parents are the key.

Parenting is a constantly morphing landscape of hurdles; by taking time to evaluate what you are doing, you may be able to put better practices into effect and plan ahead for whatever waits around the next corner.

Safe and happy travels!
-Destination Mom

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday Giveaway: Hyland's Taste and Soothe Event!

With the fall and winter holiday seasons approaching, travel is in the cards for many families across the country.  Sadly though, the onset of colder weather also marks an increase in occurrence of colds and flu.  As any parent can tell you, there's nothing more difficult than trying to care for your family when you are on the go and battling a cold; the exhaustion, discomfort, and inability to focus can slow down even the most enthusiastic parent.  So how can you fight back when you feel a cold coming on?  Funny you should ask! 

I was recently approached to do a review of a well-known, homeopathic, all-natural cold and flu remedy and I can honestly say that I wouldn't leave home without it!  From the company with over 100 years of commitment to homeopathy comes Hyland's Defend Severe Cold and Flu, a product designed to combat debilitating cold and flu symptoms including: runny nose, nasal congestion, body aches and headache, sore throat, and fatigue.  My sample arrived with everything you see (though they sent a far more adorable tea cup and yellow fuzzy socks which my daughter absconded with before I could photograph them!). 

I have previously used Hyland's products with mixed results, and was very impressed with the efficacy of this one. Hyland's Defend Severe Cold and Flu hit all the notes I look for in a cold and flu remedy: easy to take (dissolved completely in hot water without leaving behind any funky sediment), great taste (lightly honey-sweet with bright notes of citrus - soothing yet invigorating!), and effective relief of body/head ache, fatigue and congestion.  I should mention I did not have the flu or a sore throat when I sampled this product so I can't comment on its efficacy in managing those symptoms, but I was battling a headcold and was pleasantly surprised at how much better I felt after trying it (dramatic reduction in congestion and fatigue, and rapid relief from a stubborn headache).

That's why I am so excited to announce that as a participant in Hyland's Taste and Soothe Event, we at Travel-Tot would like to invite all of our readers to enter to win a free Hyland's package, including: an 8-packet box of Hyland's Defend Severe Cold and Flu, sweet little jars of honey, an adorable glass teacup, and non-skid fuzzy winter socks!  So whether you are enticed by my review of Hyland's Defend Severe Cold and Flu or simply wish to experience the product yourself, here's how to enter:

And the fun does not stop here! At the end of our contest, Hyland's will be partnering with Sampler to host a Facebook event that will make more than 1,000 lucky winners. Stay tuned to Travel-Tot's blog; details will be shared on Monday, October 28th when contest winners are announced!

Disclosure: Neither Travel-Tot nor Destination Mom was financially compensated for this post. I received a sample for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

Please note: This event open to U.S. only and all entries to the Hyland's giveaway must be received not later than Monday, October 28th at 11:59am EST.

Friday, October 18, 2013

3 Tactics for Dodging Germs!


photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Cold and flu season is rapidly approaching, and dodging germs in a house with school-aged children is harder than trying to find an acorn in a leaf pile!  This fall, try to beat the odds by staying vigilant about avoiding germs with these 3 tips:

Avoid "germy" hot-spots: We can't keep kids home from school or in a hermetically-sealed bubble, but avoiding unnecessary places where germs are more common (i.e. playgrounds and play areas, public restrooms, shopping centers, restaurants) can help limit exposure.  If you do go out to one of these venues, come prepared; bring disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer, urge children to keep their hands away from their noses and mouths, and encourage frequent hand-washing.

Vaccinate: Keeping your children's vaccinations up-to-date is critical.  Ideally, the vast majority of people over 6 months of age would also receive a flu vaccination each season to limit outbreaks, but at a minimum the following populations should receive an annual flu vaccination:
  • People who have certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease
  • Pregnant women
  • People younger than 5 years (and especially those younger than 2), and people 65 years and older
  • Household contacts and caregivers of people with certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease
  • Household contacts and caregivers of infants less than 6 months old
  • Health care personnel
The flu shot is NOT approved for infants under 6 months or people with a severe allergy to the vaccine; also, people who have a moderate to severe illness and those with GBS should consult their physicians for information regarding vaccination.

Embrace healthy habits: Ensure that all household members get plenty of rest, eat a healthy diet, drink plenty of fluids, and get plenty of exercise; all of these healthy habits can help boost your immune system and give you an edge this cold and flu season! 
Safe and healthy travels!
-Destination Mom


P.S. - Don't miss our "Monday Giveaway" for a chance to win an amazing homeopathic, all-natural product that can help reduce the discomfort of cold and flu symptoms!!!!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"Scare" Up Some Family Smiles!

Recently, over a cup of tea, a friend confided in me that one of the funniest memories she has from her childhood is of building an autumn scarecrow.  Every year her whole family (she, her parents, and her two sisters) would scour the house for old clothes and props to create their autumn masterpiece!  She said the whole experience routinely involved the family spending an entire day stuffing the body, arms,and legs, carving the pumpkin head, and decorating a "seat" for the scarecrow on their front step.  She recalled that many of their favorite family stories were shared over this bonding activity, and that many entertaining memories rose from it with each successive year.  She offered this fantastic "recipe" for a fun family day: 
 Build A Fall Scarecrow
  • one large shirt (they always used a flannel of their father's)
  • one pair of pants (these varied from year to year - she remembered stuffing tights to make a girl scarecrow one year!)
  • footwear (socks or shoes)
  • gloves (or mittens!)
  • one large pumpkin
  • about 8 hay bales (depending on how big of a scarecrow you are making and how much hay you want to use for the "seat")
  • paint/glitter/props (the props she remembered best were a yellow feather boa, a pitchfork, a fishing pole, a nerf water gun, and potted chrysanthemums - her mother's favorite for decorating around the "seat")
Decide on a theme for your scarecrow - everyone write down an idea and select one at random or hold a vote! Stuff clothes with hay, mingle liberally with laughter and enthusiasm.  Carve (or paint!) face of pumpkin, sprinkle with glitter, giggles, and love.  Arrange your creation together, finishing with shared family stories and seasonal snacks!  Once completed you have a magnificent scarecrow, and memories that will last a lifetime!

She mentioned that she still thought of all those years her family kept up their tradition every time she saw a scarecrow and that she planned to keep the tradition alive with her daughter once she was old enough to participate!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Haunted Halloween Fun: Zoos!


image courtesy of Tina Phillips/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

All across the country, families are gearing up for Halloween and one of the most family-friendly, and increasingly popular ways to celebrate all October has to offer, can be found at your local zoo!  Many zoos have a month-long program or other special seasonal event that combines Halloween's spooky flavor with the natural joy of a day (or night!) at the zoo.

You may want to do a little research first and the AZA website is a great place to start!  From here you can locate any accredited zoo or aquarium in your area, along with contact information and direct links to their websites, which will contain calendars and event notifications for their unique October celebrations. 

Generally speaking, checking out the events and programs at your local zoo ahead of time can be helpful in determining whether the venue's offerings are appropriate for your child's age and emotional maturity; while some facilities offer a cute Boo-at-the-Zoo sort of theme that works for young children, some host more frightening displays or events designed for older kids.  Some even split the events so that daytime is more family friendly, while evening is a bit edgier!

Whatever the age of your little ghouls or goblins, your local zoo has spooky family fun in store!  So get on out there and scare up some smiles!

Safe and happy haunting!

-Destination Mom

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Find a Farm and Family Fun!


image courtesy of Gualberto107/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Autumn is in full swing and one of our family's favorite fall activities is visiting local farms.  If you're new to the area, check out Local Harvest, a fantastic resource that can help you find local farms anywhere in the country (as well as farmer's markets!).  From hunting for that perfect pumpkin, to hayrides, corn mazes, petting animals, apple picking, cider making, and savoring the fresh, local flavors, farms truly have something for everyone!  So jump into the spirit this season and explore your locals farms; it's a great way to spend family fun time and get some fresh air and exercise!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Safety Check: Car Care Month!



image courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
October is Car Care Month, and the perfect time to prepare your car for the coming winter!  The tips below provide suggestions for a few basic preparations that could help ensure that your vehicle is in good working order before winter strikes. These tips may also just save you, and your family, the hassle of a winter breakdown and ensure that you are prepared should an emergency arise:




Inspect the battery: 
Examine the connections to your battery and be sure they are clear of debris. If your battery is near the end of its life, replace it before cold winter weather hits. Extreme cold can tax your battery and a weakened battery may fail to respond properly, leaving you, and possibly your family, stranded in bitter, potentially hazardous, conditions.

Examine belts and hoses:
Visually check all belts and hoses for wear and tear; replace those that are damaged as needed.

Oil and filter changes and fluid level checks:
Consult your vehicle's owner's manual, or a trusted mechanic, to determine the optimal interval between oil changes, and get one before the cold weather sets in. Be sure to have the oil filter changed too and to top off fluids, including: windshield washer fluid, transmission fluid, and brake fluid.

Flush the radiator:
Have the radiator flushed to check for leaks; resolve any problems before cold weather sets in.

Check treads and rotate tires:
Inspect tires for signs of wear, damage, and proper inflation.  Be sure to rotate when necessary to avoid uneven tread wear.  Worn treads can pose a hazard in slippery conditions and improper inflation reduces not only fuel efficiency, but tire life as well. Replace tires if they are worn or over 6 years old. 

Update emergency supplies:
Ensure that all emergency kit supplies are fresh and functional; old flares, water, medicines, batteries, and food should be replaced. If you don't have an emergency kit, consider putting one together (click here for tips on that from Edmund's!) or purchasing one, like this one from AAA (be sure to include a few blankets, some water, and snacks); it could be the difference between life and death if you or your children are trapped in the cold for an extended period.

Roadside assistance:
A roadside assistance plan, like AAA's, is imperative if you travel extensively, particularly with children. In addition, it is advisable to always keep a fully charged cell phone in your vehicle and bring a car charger to keep it fully charged while you're on the road; having a phone available prevents you from having to rely on strangers to call for help!

Safe and happy travels!

-Destination Mom

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Family Safety Sites We Love: The Safe Side


logo is the copyrighted property of The Safe Side, LLC


Any parent can tell you that when it comes to raising children, knowledge is power.  From helping your child take their first steps, to teaching him or her about personal safety, parenting is a learning curve!  That's why we love The Safe Side!  This phenomenal on-line resource is a must-see for teaching children about personal safety in a fun, non-threatening, informative way.   The Safe Side creates fun, effective safety videos for kids, ages 4-10, and study guides for families and schools. They highlight safety information on everything from how your child can keep "smart, cool, and safe," to avoiding potentially dangerous situations with people they "don’t know" or "kinda know," to internet safety.  Check out their site for more great information and free downloads!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Why You Should Never Ignore Product Recalls

This week we are thrilled to feature an infographic from Part Select (in conjunction with Ghergich & Co.) on the importance of heeding product recalls. Keep your family safe by staying abreast of product recalls and disposing of defective products.  For more important information on recalls and safety, check out this great page from Part Select.  Safe and happy travels!

-Destination Mom

infographic used with the express written permission of Part Select
Source: PartSelect.com

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

In Case of Emergency...

September is Child Safety Month!  Until you have a toddler, it is hard to understand how many facets there are to keeping your littlest family members safe; car seats, childproofing (at home and on the go!), infant/child CPR classes, baby monitors, identification tags, cribs, toys, strollers - and the list goes on and on! 

image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

However, one of the most basic things you can do to keep your children safe is to create a comprehensive listing of all medical and emergency contact  information.  Print multiple copies so that you can post one on your refrigerator at home, pack one in your wallet for whenever you go out, and provide a copy to each of your children's caregivers (i.e. pre-school, after care, relatives, etc.).  Be sure to include:

Emergency Numbers:
  • Parent's cell phone numbers;
  • Parent's work phone numbers;
  • 911;
  • Non-emergency Police Department phone number;
  • Poison control phone number;
  • Fire department phone number;
  • Child's doctor's practice, name, and phone number;
  • Off-hours doctor's phone number;
  • Child's chart number;
  • Child's dentist's practice, name, and phone number;
  • Address, phone number, and directions to preferred hospital;
  • Emergency contact information for two people other than parents, including:
    • Name;
    • Phone number(s);
    • Relation.
Emergency Information:
  • Home address;
  • Mom's full name;
  • Dad's full name;
  • Child's full name;
  • Child's date of birth;
  • Any allergies, medications, or special conditions;
  • Insurance provider;
  • Insurance provider phone;
  • Insured name and ID;
  • Group ID;
  • Policy ID.
Travel-Tot is pleased to provide an easy-to-use Emergency Information Form here for our readers!  Having such information available all in one place in an easy-to-distribute format could be the difference between life and death, particularly when your child is under the care of someone who may not have all that information committed to memory!

Safe and happy September!
-Destination Mom