Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Shout Out of the Week: Become A Nanny!

image courtesy of Become a Nanny

We are super excited to share this article from Become a Nanny!  It provides some real insight on the difference between engaging and entertaining children; beyond just an eye-opener, this article provides helpful suggestions and ideas for engaging your child! Happy reading!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Guest Post: Feeding Your Family On Vacation

image courtesy of Grant Cochrane/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Travel and healthy eating don't have to be mutually exclusive!  This week we have a fantastic guest post that offers alternative solutions to the typical family travel fare; try some of these ideas on your next trip and you'll not only feel healthier, you'll save some money!  Happy reading!

Feeding Your Family on Vacation
Traveling can be stressful in and of itself, but throw kids into the mix and there’s even more to think about when you’re planning a trip.  Between packing up the car with toys, finding kid-friendly activities at your destination and making sure everyone has his or her favorite stuffed animal buckled in next to them, it can be easy to put thinking about things like meals and snacks on the back burner.
Eating, however, can often end up being one of the most expensive and time-consuming parts of any trip—not to mention that eating out on vacation has the potential to be extremely unhealthy.  Instead of zipping through the drive through or dining out at tourist-traps with gigantic portions and prices, do a little planning to best optimize your time, save some money and help your family eat better.  
On the Road
Road trips have reputations for always involving a couple things: family sing-alongs and greasy fast food.  When you’re on the road and anxious to arrive at your destination, grabbing a large fries at the drive through can seem like the easiest option even if it’s not the most nutritious.  Instead, pack healthier non-perishable snacks to keep in the car so that you’ll be less likely to go crazy on the burgers and fries when you do stop.
In the Hotel
One of the easiest ways to spend an excessive amount of money on vacations is buying food at wherever you’re staying.  Whether you’re raiding the mini fridge, buying a bag of chips from the vending machine in the hallway or dining at the hotel restaurant, any food establishment associated with travel is likely to be a little more expensive than usual because they know travelers don’t have many other options. 
To avoid paying too much, consider packing some frozen or microwave dinners that you can heat up for quick meals for dinner in your hotel room.  Making food for yourself is usually cheaper than dining out, and is especially nice for younger kids who won’t appreciate a nice restaurant yet anyway.
Out on the Town
Don’t feel bad about going out for the occasional meal on your travels, though—it’s called vacation for a reason!  When you do go out to eat, however, keep in mind that restaurant portions are usually extremely large and on the higher end of the fat and calorie spectrum.  If you’re faced with an enormous plate of food, consider splitting dishes with family members or saving leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.  Additionally, try to encourage your family to make healthier choices when you eat out.  Choose whole grain pasta over white pasta or substitute a side of veggies for a side of french fries to keep your eating balanced during your trip.
Don’t let unhealthy meals be the biggest expense of your travels or detract from your trip’s enjoyment.  Eating on vacation should be enjoyable and not stressful, so just be conscious of your eating habits and try to make food choices for your family that are good for them and your wallet at the same time. 
About the Author: Meredith K. writes on behalf of Chef Boyardee®.  For pasta dishes and other products perfect for quick meals both in your home and on the road, visit www.chefboyardee.com.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Shout-out of the Week!

This week we are excited to share a great link!  Our blogging friends at Aupaircare.net have put together a fantastic article that highlights 30 Blogs With Ideas For Making Travel With Kids Fun! It's a don't-miss!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Your Hawaiian Family Vacation; 5 Ways to Have Fun With the Kids and Beat the Crowds!

This week, we are thrilled to feature a guest post by Vincent Stokes, world traveler and freelance travel writer; his tips on experiencing Hawaii as a family without having to weather the crowds are truly invaluable(particularly to those of our readers lucky enough to be headed there sometime soon!).  Enjoy! 

Surf, sand, and sun---they’re the perfect ingredients for family fun. And you’ll find them all in great abundance on a family vacation in Hawaii. Chances are you’ll also find abundant numbers of other folks too. Folks who, just like you, are looking to enjoy the many perks that paradise has to offer. But this doesn’t have to cramp your style. There are a number of things you can do to have maximum fun while avoiding the masses. Here’s a look at 5 simple ways to beat the crowds and have a blast with your kids.

Vacation during the “off” season

Any time of year is a great time to see Hawaii. But if you want to beat the crowds, you should avoid visiting Hawaii during peak times such as major holidays when everyone else has vacation time off from work and school. Although it will take some extra planning on your part, and the kids may have to do make-up work to stay caught up in school, taking your vacation in the “off” season will be worth it in more ways than one---as air and hotel fares are often cheaper during less popular times. 

Rent a beach house or vacation condo

Hawaii Beach House
When it comes to taking that first trip to paradise, many families can’t resist the urge to stay in one of the many beautiful and expansive resort hotels that Hawaii has to offer. However, aside from being expensive, resort hotels tend to be a lot more crowded than other accommodations that might be overlooked. One of the best options for having a less crowded and more local, laid-back experience in Hawaii is to rent a beach house, vacation condo or townhome. Not only do these places come with a smaller price tag than the big resorts---especially during the “off” season---since they come equipped with full kitchens they allow families to avoid the restaurant crowds by eating in. Aside from that, your kids will enjoy outings to shop for groceries with the locals.

Rent a car

Regardless of what island you stay on, there will be tons of things to do and see. But seeing the sights with the masses on a crowded sightseeing tour---and someone else’s timeframe-- -will only diminish the experience for you and the kids. Renting a car gives your family the freedom to explore Hawaii on your own terms and timeline. A rental car will also allow you to access some of the more out of the way places that the tourists on the guided tours will never see. Kauai car rentals by Summit Pacific are a good place to start for car rental services. When you do decide to take in one of the more popular sights you can do it during non-peak hours to cut down on the crowds.

Look for alternative attractions

Although every island has certain must-see attractions that will always be more crowded, you can find alternative spots that can provide your family with the same experience---only with less congestion and more fun. A good example of an alternative spot would be Shark’s Cove, a great snorkeling spot on Oahu. While Shark’s Cove is a little more out of the way than Hanama Bay---a more popular and touristy snorkeling spot---you’ll see almost as many amazing varieties of aquatic life and a lot less people. Plus there’s no admission fee, and parking is free. However, be aware that Shark’s Cove is not as easy to access as Hanama Bay, and it’s waters are not as gentle and accommodating for young swimmers and snorkelers as Hanama Bay’s. When looking into alternative spots for family outings always make sure that they are appropriate for the ages and abilities of your kids.

Eat where the locals eat:

Chicken Katsu Curry - L&L Hawaiian Barbecue - Torrance, CA
On every island in the Hawaiian chain you’ll find plenty of popular restaurants to choose from. But if you want great food, reasonably priced and served up in a relaxed family setting, you need to eat where the locals eat. From catering trucks that frequent the beaches to the little “plate lunch” places not found on any tourist maps, you’ll find foods that you and the kids can enjoy without the crowds. And speaking of crowds, whatever you do, steer clear of the Luaus.

By following these simple tips you’ll be on your way to experiencing a Hawaiian family vacation that you and the kids will remember for many years to come.

About the Author: Vincent Stokes is a Portland native and world traveler.  He also is a freelance travel writer with many years of travel under his belt.  You can connect with Vincent on G+ or twitter (@TravelingGlobal). 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

4 Great Free Edu-taining Game Sites!

It never fails that when you haven't brought a toy or other distraction for your child, you unexpectedly end up waiting somewhere praying that your child won't have a melt-down.  But if you have a smart-phone handy, there are a few great edu-taining "time busters" that can keep your little ones entertained. Here are our four favorite sites to keep 'em busy (and learning!) during down-time; all provide a fun mix of "gaming," characters they know and love, and educational benefit (i.e. reading, shapes, colors, numbers, etc.).

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Destination: Snow!

There's no better time than now to get out and enjoy some family fun in the snow!  As ski resorts across the country ramp up for their big season, many thrill-seeking families are wondering which ski resorts are most “family-friendly?”

Family-friendly resorts typically offer top-notch group and private instruction for children of all ages, plus dedicated teaching areas on the slopes. They also usually have free or discounted lift tickets, equipment rentals, and even lessons for children. If travelling with non-skiing members of the family, look for resorts that offer day care or supervised kid’s camps with a variety of activities.  Most family-friendly ski resorts feature a variety of family entertainment options for evenings, nights, and non-ski days (think mountain coasters, spas, and zip lines!). In addition, the most family-friendly resorts offer reasonably priced family restaurants and lodging designed with families in mind, like condos with multiple bedrooms and a kitchen.

So, which ski resorts are the most family-friendly?  Four of our favorites are highlighted below!

Beaver Creek is a peaceful, self-contained village ski resort; the type of place where parents feel comfortable allowing tweens and teens to ski on their own.  It boasts an amazing pedestrian base village sprinkled liberally with escalators to accommodate those carrying skis (or traveling with little ones in tow!).  There are a myriad of skiing, tubing, skating, and other recreational activities, and for families travelling with infants or toddlers, there is a nursery option. Virtually all Beaver Creek lodging is either ski-in/ski-out or steps from a lift, and the ski school is top notch. Beaver Creek's dedicated children’s instructional area even features a children's gondola, which gives kids a chance to learn on longer runs without having to learn to ride a chairlift! And as a final touch, don't miss the fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookies provided daily at 3pm!

The most family-focused ski resort in the East, family-owned Okemo offers a multitude of lodging options; everything from ski-in/ski-out slopeside condos to rental homes. This picturesque mountain is laid out for beginners and intermediates, and has one of the largest superpipes in the East, as well as six terrain parks. They offer free skiing and riding for children under 6, and boast six free beginner surface lifts. Off the slopes, don't miss such fun family activities as alpine coaster rides, ice skating, and snow tubing! Okemo also features a premier daycare option for its youngest visitors.

A smaller, more intimate family favorite, Loup Loup Ski Bowl features everything from traditional Nordic trails to tubing lanes!  Loup Loup's cozy, rustic day lodge provides spectacular views and food concession offers beer and wine service daily!  Nearby lodging options range from family-friendly hotel accommodations, to inns, to premier resort suites and cabins; and off-slope activities in the nearby town of Winthrop include skating, shopping, and fantastic, reasonably-priced dining options!

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Vail is the largest ski resort in the US and is commonly hailed as one of the best!  Boasting a myriad of lodging and dining options and a decidedly pedestrian-friendly town, Vail tops our family friendly list with its numerous fantastic offerings! From its amazing and widely varied terrain, to its excellent instructors, to its nursery (at Golden Peak), to its shopping and non-ski activities (i.e. gourmet movie theater, bowling alley, multiple ice rinks, and mountaintop Adventure Ridge family area); Vail offers something for everyone!  And don't miss a breathtaking ride in Gondola One - new this year!

Got a favorite family-friendly ski resort you'd like give a shout out to?  We'd love to hear about it in the comments section below! 

Safe and happy travels!
-Destination Mom

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tip of the Week: Jazz Up Your Hot Cocoa!

What's better than family time frolicking in the snow?  How about warming back up with a nice big mug of hot cocoa; and not just any old hot cocoa - why not make it special with these fun, family-friendly ideas!
  • Jazz up the flavor:
    • Looking for something a little different?  Add a spoonful of Nutella to your cup of hot cocoa and stir to dissolve completely - the flavor is simply heavenly!  Another fantastic idea; substitute almond milk for your usual milk or water! 
  • Build your own adventure:
    • Build a little "toppings bar" for your culinary artists!  Some fun toppings that top our list: mini marshmallows, peppermint sprinkles, whipped cream, cinnamon sticks, candy cane stirrers, chocolate shavings, and small cookies for dipping!  Flavored syrups like peppermint, raspberry and orange also go famously with hot chocolate!
  • Cute add-ons:
    • Leave 'em smiling with fun touches like peppermint marshmallows, crushed candy toppings, or glasses rimmed with crushed peppermint, crushed graham crackers, or crushed ginger snaps! 

image courtesy of hyena reality/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, January 4, 2013

10 Sledding Safety Tips!

This week we are thrilled to feature a guest post featuring 10 excellent sledding safety tips you won't want to miss.  The article originally appeared on 4Nannies and was authored by Erin McNeill.  Well worth a quick read (and even a share!), these ten tips could help prevent serious injury and will help keep sledding safe and fun for everyone!

image courtesy of Ventrilock/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Nothing says winter quite like a pile of snow, a child all bundled up, and a sled. Unfortunately, the Consumer Products Safety Commission reports that there are about 46,000 sledding injuries that are seen in emergency rooms each year, most of which include children under the age of 15 who suffer a head injury. Thankfully, there are some simple tips that can follow to help avoid an emergency room visit this winter.

  1. Wear a helmet – We have kids wear helmets while biking and skiing, so it makes sense to also have them wear one while sledding. Wearing a helmet will help prevent head injuries in the unfortunate event of an accident while sledding.
  2. Always sled sitting up – Adults should instruct children to sled sitting up and with their feet facing forward. This will allow the child to see where they are going and be more in control of the sled while going downhill.
  3. Choose a safe location – Choose a hill that is appropriate for the children who are doing the sledding. It should be free of obstacles such as trees, open water, and roads. Make sure that the hill isn’t too steep or large for the children who are participating.
  4. Make sure the sled is safe to use – The sled should have no cracks or other signs of wear and should have handles that children can hold.
  5. Never ride on a sled pulled by a car or snowmobile – Teach children to never ride on a sled that is being pulled by a car or snowmobile, as the injuries that can be sustained by doing so can be severe and even fatal.
  6. Dress in layers – It’s important to dress for the weather. Staying warm is an essential part of participating in outdoor winter activities, and you should have your child dress in layers so that they may be taken off and added back on as necessary. If you are sledding in a highly populated area, it is wise to also dress children in bright colors so that they are visible at all times.
  7. Know the signs of hypothermia and frostbite – Be vigilant about checking on kids for weather related illnesses. Children don’t always recognize that they are getting too cold or that their skin is too exposed for the conditions outside, so it’s your job to make sure that they are well protected.
  8. Be aware of the weather – Be aware of the air temperature outside, as well as the wind-chill factor, and set time limits based on this information.
  9. Make sure an adult is present when sledding – Always have an adult present while sledding. They can help children make good decisions about sledding and be there (with a cell phone) in case of an emergency.
  10. Instruct children how to safely sled – If they fall off the sled while sledding, instruct them to roll to the side and get out of the way of the sled. If they find themselves on an out-of-control sled, they should roll off to the side to safety. Children should observe the hill before beginning their descent to make sure that the path is free of any obstacles, including other children who are sledding.
Sledding is often part of fond memories of childhood and winter days. Safe sledding will ensure that those days are filled with hours of fun and not hours spent in the local hospital emergency room.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Tip of the Week: Share the Love!

With temperatures plummeting and icy conditions developing, hazards such as hypothermia, frozen pipes, and slips and falls can be more common, particularly among at-risk populations.  Be sure to check on family and neighbors who are especially at risk from cold weather hazards: young children, older adults, and the chronically ill. If you have pets, bring them inside. If you cannot bring them inside, provide adequate, warm shelter and unfrozen water for them to drink.