Friday, March 28, 2014

Destination: Charlotte, NC!

image courtesy of digidreamgrafix/
Looking for a family-friendly, fun-filled spot to spend Spring Break with the family?  Charlotte, North Carolina is sure to please!  With typically warm, beautiful spring weather, Charlotte is as ideal for outdoor enthusiasts as it is for lovers of the great indoors!  Home to such popular attractions as the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Discovery Place, and Carowinds Amusement and Water Park, there is truly something for visitors of all ages. 

But with so much to offer, where do you start? Consider what amount of time you have to spend, what common interests your family has, and what your trip budget is, and then just hit the web!  For a good "jumping-off point," here are five of our favorite not-to-be-missed attractions:

Carowinds Amusement and Water Park - One of the area's largest thrill parks, Carowinds has it all, with over 50 rides,  shows and attractions.  Open starting this Saturday!

NASCAR Hall of Fame - Got a NASCAR racing fan?  Then this will be a dream come true!  Enjoy the Hall of Honor where inductees are enshrined and honored, and check out Glory Road where vintage cars and exhibits of famous tracks are on display!  And if they love that, you may want to check out The Pit (an indoor cart racing/laser tag/arcade located about a half-an-hour north on I-77).  For true motorsport junkies, the Hall of Fame website has an extensive list of even more attractions and activities you won't want to miss!

Discovery Place - This kid-friendly science center boasts groundbreaking exhibitions, larger than life IMAX dome films, and hands on activities that are sure to capture your child's imagination and bring science to life!

Carolina Raptor Center - Live Bird Presentations, Vulture Feedings and Meet the Handler programs give parents and children alike a chance to experience the majesty and power of some of the worlds most remarkable avian predators at this amazing non-profit rehabilitative facility and preserve!

ImaginOn: The Joe and Joan Martin Center - What happens when you combine an innovative Children's Theater and a state of the art Public Library?  You get a phenomenal, collaborative venture dedicated to bringing stories to life through extraordinary experiences that challenge, inspire and excite young minds. ImaginOn combines innovative educational programs, cutting edge library collections and services, and award-winning professional theater to create unique and memorable productions!

So think family fun in Charlotte this spring; and safe and happy travels!
-Destination Mom

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Baby Wipes: Beyond Baby!

image courtesy of SOMMAI/

Every parent exults the day they can bid a fond farewell to the bulky, cumbersome diaper bag!  But before you cast off all the trappings of diaper-bag dependency, consider stowing a pack of those handy baby wipes in your purse.  They can be invaluable for:
  1. quick clean-ups (for kids and grown-ups alike - particularly great for make-up removal!),
  2. removing pen/pencil/crayon/paint stains from a variety of surfaces (think walls, furniture, upholstery, clothing, even skin!),
  3. wiping down public toilets, restaurant tables, and shopping carts,
  4. emergency toilet paper (a true lifesaver when you're in a pinch!), and
  5. waterless showers when camping!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Killing Time: 10 Great Distractions for Unexpected Travel Delays

image courtesy of Feelart/
We've all been there; stuck at the airport or bus terminal or train station, or just plain trapped in traffic... waiting.  I'll be the first to admit that patience is not my strong suit, so I can hardly blame agitated or cranky little travelers for fits of frustration or boredom.  That said, when we travel with my (now school-age) daughter, we like to be ready for whatever we may encounter... including delays.  We created what we call the "Busy Bag;" and we NEVER go on a trip without it!  Here are our favorite items/ideas for killing time while waiting in terminals or traffic:


Bag contents:

  • Books - Every child has a favorite, just try and avoid hardcover as they can be heavy to tote around!
  • Travel sized games - Connect Four, Sorry, a deck of cards, Checkers, Chess, Memory, etc. think compact and fun (magnetic versions are the best for preventing lost pieces)!
  • Coloring/sketch books and crayons/colored pencils - 'nuff said.
  • Brainquest Cards - Education disguised as fun - the best of both worlds!
  • Snacks - Individually wrapped granola or energy bars, small water pods, single serve size chips, raisins, etc.
  • Riddles - Whether from a book or just from memory, solving riddles is fun and helps strengthen developing cognitive skills!
  • Mad Libs - Again, edu-taining... and timeless!  A fun way to  enhance vocabulary, spelling, penmanship, and creativity, and laugh yourselves silly!

Other fun ideas that you don't need to pack anything for:

  • I-Spy - Have your children guess what you are looking at by using deductive reasoning (and clues!) to identify the object.
  • Build a Story game - Start with one person beginning with a single sentence and passing it on to the next person to add to; its endless fun and, as an added bonus, it fosters creativity and storytelling ability!
  • Sing-long - Stop cringing, this doesn't have to be Raffi or some PBS-show theme song; teach your child a lullaby, a silly song, or a song about your heritage.  If that isn't your style, just throw on the radio and sing together!

School-aged kids can usually communicate basic needs, but toddlers and infants can sometimes prove a little more challenging to accommodate, so here are a few additional ideas for the younger set (birth to 1 year old):

  • Pacifier - Not good for all the time, but sometimes its just the perfect soother.
  • Stuffed toys/blankies - Comfort items are key - never leave home without them!
  • Plastic keys - Fun, minimally noisy, great for teething; these were a big favorite when our daughter was an infant!
  • Unbreakable plastic mirror - Again, fascinating as s short term distraction; try games with the mirror like Peekaboo from a location that she can only see in the mirror (i.e. behind her or off to the side).
  • Fresh Food Feeders (6 months +) - A great snacking option that can do double duty as a teether!

Safe and happy travels!
-Destination Mom

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Hot Topic Tuesday: Childcare for on the go...

image courtesy of Stuart Miles/
More and more often we are hearing about "travel nanny" services and about parents who use such services for their infants and small children.  The idea is that the "nanny" is available to stay with your child/children if you and your partner wish to embark on an "adult" vacation alone.  And, wow, is it a controversial topic!

According to this piece that appeared in Vanity Fair, the Royal take seems to be in favor of the practice (though certainly their nanny is one with whom wee George is familiar!).  But would you be comfortable leaving your child with a nanny while you were away?  It's a difficult question to answer and there are strong feelings on both sides of the debate!

So this week, we want to know:
  • Have you/would you use a travel nanny service?
  • If you have, what do you like/dislike about the experience?

Looking forward to your responses!
-Destination Mom

Friday, March 14, 2014

Sites We Love: 4 Fantastic Safety Resources!

image courtesy of Jomphong/

As parents we know that we don't have all the answers (shhh... don't tell your kids), and that's why the internet is an invaluable resource.  The world-wide web is truly a gamechanger, providing information and a chance to interact with people anonymously (or in your jammies!) about topics you might otherwise be shy to ask about.  But how can you be certain that you are getting trustworthy information online?   This week we are thrilled to share four outstanding websites (other than ours!), that were brought to our attention by Katie Cook of Safe Sound Family!  Each of these sites provides invaluable, authoritative information from accredited sources on topics such as: age-appropriateness of toys and food, health, and safety for families with infants and young children.

National Association for the Education of the Young (

This is a phenomenal site not only for toy safety, but also for providing information on age-appropriateness; to maximize your child's learning experience through play, toys for young children should correspond with the child's developmental stage and ability.

A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health, Medline Plus features numerous helpful articles on a wide range of health topics, including this fantastic piece regarding age- and stage-appropriate foods for your child.

This site provides a searchable database of doctors that can be used to locate and book an appointment with a physician in your area, as well as a searchable database of medical questions and answers on everything from health concerns for infants to diabetes, heart health, and cancer.  All inquiries are answered by licensed physicians from such renown medical institutions as Boston Hospital, Johns Hopkins, and Beth Israel (among others!).

This amazing site provides a  well-organized collection of high quality, trustworthy articles highlighting information about home security systems and family safety.  This comprehensive information library covers topics ranging from internet safety to family living and crime prevention, and articles are well-written, accessible, and informative.  Safe Sound Family is a true "don't miss" for any parent!

Safe and happy virtual spelunking!
-Destination Mom

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Traveling With Children With Autism: Practice Vacation!

It doesn't feel like it here in the northeast, but Spring and Summer are not far off, and with them, the chance to get away from it all with a fantastic family vacation!  The idea of taking a vacation can be a tempting fantasy, but for families with children with special needs, it can also induce feelings of panic or fear.  If new places, sights, experiences, or sounds are a potential issue for soemone you love, then a getaway to a strange place could seem overwhelming. 

Alan Day of ASD Vacations
Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to decrease the anxiety associated with putting together a vacation.  One of the best resources for families planning to travel with a family member with special needs is the blog at ASD Vacations.  Written by Alan Day, this blog features a world of advice on everything from picky eaters to traveling with your own "village." In particular, this post on taking a Practice Vacation provides invaluable advice, suggestions, and special offers for families seeking ideas for how best to prepare for their family getaway.  We love this blog for its wealth of information on special needs travel, and we know you will too!

Safe and happy travels!
-Destination Mom

Friday, March 7, 2014

Understanding The New 65 Pound LATCH Rule

This week we are thrilled to feature the guest post below, provided by Julie Vallese, Consumer Safety Expert with the Dorel Juvenile Group.  The post addresses information regarding  the new 65 lb. latch rule that was announced recently by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; information that could be  life-saving. We at Travel-Tot offer our thanks to Julie Vallese and everyone at the Dorel Juvenile Group for so generously sharing their knowledge and expertise through this article!  Safe and happy travels!

- Destination Mom

What The New 65 Pound LATCH Rule Means

image courtesy of Keerati/

Statistics for proper car seat installation haven’t changed in more than a decade. Despite changes in federal regulations, the availability of car seat installation checks and ongoing education campaigns, three out of four car seats are installed incorrectly. While some may need minor adjustments for proper installation, others sometimes need to start from ground zero. It may seem like an advanced degree may be needed in “installationology,” but by starting off with the basics, you’re one step closer to success. Here are some easy tips to think about:

The three most important things when choosing a car seat are:
  • One that fits your child
  • One that fits your car
  • One that you will use correctly every time

You can accomplish this by:
  • Have the car you will be using the seat in with you and try it out at the store
  • If possible have your child with you at the time of purchase
  • Follow information in both the car seat manual and vehicle manual for installation
  • Attend a car seat check for assistance in proper installation and use from a certified car seat technician

New rules for car seats using LATCH require understanding of your car seat’s weight and child’s weight:
  • Car seats manufactured after 2-27-14 are required to carry a new label with maximum weight limits for LATCH
  • The combined weight should not exceed 65lbs
  • Look in the manual and label on the car seat to identify the weight of the seat 
  • Look for a weight on the maximum weight for the child
  • Know your child’s weight
  •  If the combined weight of the seat and your child exceeds 65lbs, install the car seat using the vehicle’s belt

It is important to know that installations with the belt or installations with LATCH are equally acceptable. However, car seats should not be installed using both methods at the same time. No matter what method is chosen, be sure to finish off the installation by using the top tether.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Destination: Leprechaun Land!

image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/
St. Patrick's Day is only a few weeks away, and if you have school-aged children, chances are they've heard rumors about mischievous leprechauns wreaking havoc trying to find gold and avoid "traps" in your house the night before St. Patrick's Day!  It's ton of fun (if you don't mind a bit of clean-up the next day!) and can help make the day truly magical!

Each year in our house, we create a new leprechaun trap designed to dazzle leprechauns and lure them in!  One of our favorite lures is fake gold coins (or Monopoly money), though I have spoken with several families who swear by Lucky Charms cereal or gelt chocolate coins!  Once the trap is set, the children go off to bed, because everyone knows leprechauns don't come if you're awake!

Once the kids are asleep, the "leprechauns" sneak into the house and, upon discovering that the loot is fake, trash the place!  Typically, we find over-turned furniture, toilet paper strung about the house, green "pee" in the potty, green hard-boiled eggs in the fridge (and a kitchen full of dirty dishes!), little footprints in the dust on our tables and even fresh little notes making fun of how they outwitted our attempt to capture them!  Once in a while, we get a nice leprechaun who leaves behind a small shamrock plant or other shamrock shaped goody, but not always. 

One year we tried to catch the leprechauns on film - we got some hilarious shots of little legs and one guy mooning the camera... it was a huge hit! That's what really makes it magical; trying to come up with clever tricks and then watching your child's face when you all get outwitted!  It's an inexpensive, fun way to get into the spirit and to share some laughs with your children.  So, give it a shot this year and see what kind of mischief those leprechauns cook up!