Friday, January 31, 2014

Destination: New York City - Westin Grand Central Family Fun Package!

Looking for an amazing NYC travel deal packed with family fun?  Your search is over!  Check out the amazing Family Fun Travel Package at the Westin New York Grand Central below; show your kids the bright lights of the Big Apple with this budget-friendly option!  Safe and happy travels!

-Destination Mom

New York-Themed Experiences and Special Perks: Family Fun Package at Westin New York Grand Central Hotel

All images courtesy of
Westin New York Grand Central
The new Family Fun travel package at the Westin New York Grand Central makes a vacation to New York City even more memorable with amenities including a New York-themed backpack and travel activity kit for junior travelers, a special audio tour of Grand Central Terminal and more. Kids will have fun with the activity kit, which encourages them to record their experiences in a travel journal that includes colorful New York stickers and crayons for sketching the city during their visit.

Guests booking the Family Fun package enjoy:
  • Complimentary room upgrade (based upon availability)
  • Four passes for the “Local” or “Express” audio tour of Grand Central Terminal, to learn fun facts about the rich history, architectural highlights and little known secrets of one of New York’s most famous destinations
  • Westin Kids Club backpack and activity kit, featuring a vacation scrapbook with New York City stickers, maps, a cap, crayons and coloring book for junior travelers up to age 12

Nestled in the heart of midtown Manhattan on 42nd Street, just steps from top attractions including Grand Central Terminal and Bryant Park, The Westin New York Grand Central is an ideal choice for families exploring the Big Apple. The hotel’s spacious guestrooms, all 310+ square feet or larger, are ideal for families. Nightly rates for the Family Fun package start at $229 for stays through March 31, 2014. To reserve online click here or call 866-716-8117.

About The Westin New York Grand Central

Located in the heart of midtown Manhattan, the new Westin New York Grand Central opened in October 2012 after a $75 million complete renovation to reveal a modern design and signature Westin amenities. The hotel features 774 spacious guest rooms and suites, a 3,000 square-foot WestinWORKOUT® fitness studio and THE LCL: Bar & Kitchen, the first bar and food concept from nightlife leader Gerber Group in a Westin property. For events, the hotel offers 15,000 square feet of sophisticated meeting space including the brand new Madison Ballroom, all with open room design and state-of-the-art technology.  The hotel is ideally situated just two blocks from Grand Central and steps from landmarks including the Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Center. Follow the hotel on Twitter @WestinGrandCtrl and Facebook at Westin New York Grand Central.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Big Game: Family-Style Fun!

image courtesy of Stuart Miles/
Nothing is more all-American than football!  And, assuming there are no wardrobe malfunctions at the half-time show, cheering on your team as a family is good, clean fun!  So whether you're having the whole neighborhood over or simply making it a family affair, we have a few tips that'll make your party fun, festive, and family-friendly!


Arrange your viewing area to accommodate all of your guests - and don't forget the little ones!  Bean bag chairs, mats, pillows, or even just clear space on the floor will work for most kids.  Festive decorations also help set the mood, but you don't have to break the bank to create a festive atmosphere; themed plates, napkins, or tablecloths are an inexpensive way to decorate, as are plush (indoor-friendly) footballs.  If your budget doesn't allow splurges on decorations, have your kids make and decorate their own footballs out of paper, felt, or cardboard and display them on the day of the big game!


Let's face it, adults love nachos, hoagies, pizza, spicy chicken wings, chili, and other great "game foods," but for many kids these dishes are too spicy or contain ingredients they don't like.  Problem solved with these great snack and meal ideas for kids: fresh fruit, ants on a log, popcorn, chicken nuggets, pigs in blankets, and tater tots!

Game Time Fun:

Young kids may not last through the whole game, so keeping a few distractions on hand is a wise move. Consider coloring pages, football-themed crafts, plush footballs that can be tossed around indoors, and fun games like Superbowl Bingo.  These fantastic distractions not only keep kids entertained, but they will keep them from becoming bored or disruptive during the game!  Also, if the weather cooperates, consider having an informal touch football game (or even just a game of catch!) before the big event; it'll help run off some of the extra energy the kids have stored up and it's a great way to teach healthy habits!

No matter who you're rooting for or who pulls off the big win, your party will be a big hit if you use these great tips!  Safe and happy memory-making!

-Destination Mom

Friday, January 24, 2014

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Know The Signs

image courtesy of digitalart/

Everyone knows that carbon monoxide is dangerous; that's why we have CO detectors in our homes.  But what about away from home?  How can you help keep your family safe in an environment whose monitoring is beyond your control?  I'll be honest, it was a question I had never considered myself, until I read this eye-opening article.

The truth is, there are a few things you can do as a guest in a commercial property!  For little to no money, you can either pack your own portable CO detector, or establish prior to booking that your room has a one installed. In addition, familiarize yourself  with the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning; recognizing the symptoms early could help save your life and the lives of your children. 

Know the Signs:

Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
As carbon monoxide builds up in your blood, symptoms get worse and may also include:
  • Confusion and drowsiness
  • Fast breathing, fast heartbeat, or chest pain
  • Vision problems
  • Seizures
But carbon monoxide poisoning doesn't always occur very suddenly (as in the above article); it can also build up in your system over a long period of time. So it is vital to recognize the more subtle symptoms of CO poisoning and to know what to do if you think you've been exposed.  You should immediately see a doctor if you notice:
  • You often are short of breath and have mild nausea and headaches when you are indoors.
  • You feel better when you leave the building and worse when you return.
  • Other people you work or live with have the same symptoms you do.

Get Help and Speak Up:

If you or your family members have symptoms that you believe are being caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, leave the area immediately, alert the property owner, and call 911 or go to the emergency room.  Continued exposure could result in unconsciousness and death, as was sadly the case in the above-mentioned article.

As parents, the safety of our family is paramount, whether home or away. By being prepared and informed we can help prevent tragedies like what happened to Jeffrey Williams and his mother.  So know the signs and speak up if you suspect a problem... it might just save a life.

Safe and happy travels.
-Destination Mom

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Vacation Hack: Are We There Yet?

image courtesy of fotographic1980/
Our Tuesday tip may help save your next roadtrip!  Before you hit the road in the family car for your next vacation, ask your kids for some song ideas and create a fun mixed playlist for the drive!  It will stave off some of the "are we there yets" and may result in hilarous family concerts and discussions of different types of music (and who likes what!).  Enjoy the journey!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Destination: Sky's the Limit!

image courtesy of Just2shutter/

Exotic locales and national and state parks are among the top U.S. family travel sites; but did you know that many of these vacation spots also have an added bonus?  Many of these more remote areas have spectacular dark night skies, perfect for star gazing!  The majority of these locations have their relative distance from large cities and towns to thank for this amazing perk, but others are situated near towns with light ordinances to reduce light pollution.

From coast to coast, there are numerous fantastic locations from which to stargaze!  Five of our favorite vacation locations the U.S. that sport amazing dark skies (as well as plenty of daytime draws!) are:

1.      Mauna Kea (Hawaii) - featuring the W.M. Keck Observatory at over 9000 ft. above sea level!
3.      Big Bend National Park (Texas) - don't miss the McDonald Observatory!
4.      Cherry Springs State Park (Pennsylvania) - another IDA-certified Dark Sky Park!
5.      Acadia National Park (Maine) - one of the first places the sun touches the east coast!

And you don't need to be an astronomer to appreciate the awe-inspiring spectacle that is a dark, clear night sky brimming with the distant light of stars and planets far, far away. Simply gazing out into the universe can be a great way to relax and share an appreciation for the beauty of the natural world around us with your kids.  If you want to look like supermom (or dad!) by putting some names to those beautiful celestial wonders, there are a number of fantastic apps you can downoad that will identify many night sky objects (my personal favorite is Google Sky Map for Android).

How and wherever you choose to appreciate the night sky with your family, remember to brush up on basic stargazing etiquette.  Also, pack for the adventure; you (and your kids!) will be amazed how much you can see with just a simple pair of binoculars, and if you've got a telescope, by all means, bring it along!  No matter whether you are an amateur astronomer or are stargazing for the first time, it will be an adventure you and your family will never forget!

Safe and happy travels!
-Destination Mom

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

CPR: How You Can Help Save a Life

image courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot/

CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is an emergency response measure combining mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with chest compressions. CPR may be necessary during many different emergencies, including: accidents, near-drowning, smoke inhalation, suffocation, poisoning, overdose, electrocution, and suspected heart attack or even sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

All parents should know how and when to administer CPR. Performed correctly, CPR can save a child's life by restoring breathing and blood flow until advanced life support can be given by medical professionals.  Anyone responsible for the care of others should take a course to gain hands-on experience and a comprehensive understanding of the technique. If CPR is needed, performing the technique with proper form will give someone the best chance of recovery.

CPR is most successful when administered as soon as possible, but it is important to first determine if it is necessary. CPR should only be performed when a person isn't breathing or circulating blood adequately. In such cases, CPR can restore circulation of oxygen-rich blood to the brain. Without oxygen, permanent brain damage or death can occur in less than 8 minutes.

Nearby hospitals, fire departments, and your local chapters of the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Red Cross are good sources for finding a CPR course in your area. Qualified instructors demonstrate proper technique using a combination of videos, printed materials, and infant-, child-, and adult-sized practice mannequins.

Bottom line: being CPR-trained could help you save your child's - or someone else's - life, so find a course in your area and get certified.

CPR Basics:

Before performing CPR, determine that you can safely approach the victim, quickly evaluate whether the person is responsive, and check if the victim is breathing. If you are unable determine whether someone is breathing, you should begin CPR and continue until help arrives.

The three basic parts of CPR are easily remembered as Call, Blow, and Pump.

1. Call

Check the victim for unresponsiveness. If there is no response, Call 911 and return to the victim. In most locations the emergency dispatcher can assist you with CPR instructions.

2. Blow

Tilt the head back and listen for breathing.  If not breathing normally, check that the airway is clear, pinch nose and cover the mouth with yours and blow until you see the chest rise. Give 2 breaths.  Each breath should take 1 second.

3. Pump

If the victim is still not breathing normally, coughing, or moving, begin chest compressions.  Push down on the chest 1½ to 2 inches 30 times right between the nipples.  Pump at the rate of 100/minute, faster than once per second.

- Destination Mom

Friday, January 10, 2014

3 Deadly Car Seat Mistakes I Didn't Know I Was Making

Epic parental fail.
Car seats save lives; that is the message driven home by pediatricians, first responders, car seat manufacturers, and public service commercials.  And while that message is undoubtedly true, car seats can only save lives when used properly and in accordance with manufacturer specifications.  All car seats come with installation instructions, height and weight limits, and general usage guidelines; but lets face it, once the car seat is properly installed, how often do you really go back and consult the manufacturer's guidelines?  I'll be honest, I never did. 

I knew "everything" I thought I needed to know.  I bought a new, well-rated, five point-harness car seat, installed it rear-facing for my infant daughter, had the installation checked at my local police station to ensure it was done properly and was secure, and educated myself about car-seat basics.  I knew from the instructions and information enclosed with the car seat to keep my child rear-facing as long as possible, how to properly fasten and position the harness as my child grew, and that it should be replaced with a new one in the event of an accident - even if it was only a fender-bender and regardless of whether the child was in the car seat at the time.  I was proud to have done so much research and felt I was doing all I could to keep my daughter safe.  But what I didn't know could have killed her.

Mistake #1:

Machine washing harness straps. 

My daughter was a drooler and, on one memorable occasion, a barfer (I'm sure she'd love that I'm sharing that with you), but it's true.  She was also a typically messy child who was often permitted to snack in the car and who quickly had her car seat looking as filthy as a bathroom at a gas station.  As a parent concerned about germs and general cleanliness, I thought washing the straps to freshen them up would be the right thing to do.  I was wrong.

Washing the straps (that is, removing them from the car seat and immersing them in any liquid for the purposes of cleaning them and then drying them with any heat) can weaken and break the fibers in the stitching which compromises the straps' integrity and can cause them to fail in an accident.  Had I checked the instruction manual for our car seat, I would have discovered this very information, but as I said, once it was installed I thought I could just use "common sense." 

The right course of action would have been to spot clean them with a damp sponge (even to the point of saturation).  Gentle spot cleaning and allowing the straps to air dry completely before re-installing is what is recommended by the manufacturer.

Mistake #2

Dressing children in bulky outwear when using a car seat.

I know it sounds counter-intuitive at first.  We all want our little darlings bundled up against the cold weather and cozy in their little seats; but in an accident, all that bulk compresses, leaving too much room between your child's body and the straps, which can cause him or her to be ejected from the car seat.

I can't tell you how often we took my young daughter out in her winter coat and strapped her in with it on, even going as far as to slightly loosen the straps to accommodate her increased bulk.  I shudder now when I look back and realize how fortunate we were that we were never in an accident.  This mistake was not specifically addressed in our owner's manual, but it was addressed in the FAQs on the manufacturer's website, and I can't emphasize enough how important I think it is to share this information.  There is a fantastic article on this very topic at The Stir.

The proper way to keep your child warm and safely restrained is to dress him or her in a thin coat and then cover with an additional jacket or blanket once all strapped in.  Another great way to avoid exposure to cold is to warm up the car before strapping your baby in.

Mistake #3

Failing to register the car seat with the manufacturer's included postcard.

Again, I am guilty.  We never sent back the postcards for the first two car seats we bought.  I'll be honest, I don't know why; and every excuse from losing the card to just being overwhelmed is possibly the answer.  But please, PLEASE return that little card and get your car seat registered.  It could save your child's life.

And, it really is perfectly simple to do!  Every seat comes with a product registration postcard; simply tear it off and mail it back to the manufacturer. This ensures that if there are any recalls, they quickly contact you to let you know to discontinue using that seat. If you lost the registration card, try calling the manufacturer; often they can register you over the phone, walk you through the process online, or send you a replacement card.

Car seat safety mistakes can be easy to make, but hopefully, by spreading the word and sharing our collective parental experience, we can reduce these errors and prevent potentially fatal and devastating consequences.  Safe and happy travels!

-Destination Mom

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Frozen: Staying Safe in Cold Weather!

image courtesy of Suat Eman/
Frigid winter air 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, and particularly during cold snaps. 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 the cold weather may bring.

•   Avoid/limit exposure:
    o   Limit outdoor excursions as much as possible - especially for children,
         the elderly, pets, and those with compromised health.
    o   If you must be outdoors, dress in layers.
    o   Use hand and foot warmers when venturing outside.  

•   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/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 and low
       lying vents).
  o   Stock a supply of food that does not require cooking or refrigeration and water.
  o   Keep a supply of fuel on hand for snow blowers and generators.
  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.);
      -   rock salt, cat litter, or sand for icy walkways; and
      -   blankets, warm clothing.

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, January 2, 2014

Safe Sledding Tips!


image courtesy of franky242/

Temperatures are dropping and snow is on the way.  As and parent can tell you, nothing says winter quite like watching your child, bundled up, squealing with joy as he goes flying down a pile of snow! Unfortunately, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, serious sledding injuries, most of which include children under the age of 15 who suffer a head injury, are increasingly common during snowy winter months. Following the 4 basic tips below can help avoid such injuries and help prevent sledding-related emergency room visits this winter.

  1. Adult supervision:  An adult should always be present while children are sledding. They can help guide children to make good decisions about sledding and can be there (with a cell phone and first-aid kit) in case of injury or emergency.
  2. Dress for success:  Children don’t always recognize that they are getting too cold or too damp for the conditions outside, so be vigilant about making sure that they are well protected (set time limits based on weather conditions, monitor how damp their clothing becomes, etc.).  Staying warm is an essential part of outdoor winter play; have your child dress in layers that can be removed and added back as necessary. It is also advisable to dress children in bright colors so that they are easily visible at all times.  Finally, wearing a helmet will help prevent head injuries in the unfortunate event of an accident while sledding, so insist on properly fitted head gear.
  3. Equipment and technique: Sleds should be inspected for safety; they should be free from damage and should have handles that children can hold.  Children should be instructed to sled sitting upright with their feet facing forward; allowing better visibility and control.  If they fall off while sledding, make sure they know to roll to the side and get out of the way of the sled and other oncoming traffic. Also, if they find themselves on an out-of-control sled, they should roll off to the side to safety.
  4. Location: Always know the terrain before allowing children to start downhill; make sure that the path is free from obstacles and other children who are sledding and make sure hills are appropriate for the child's age and ability (i.e, not too steep, free of trees and bodies of open water, etc.).
Safe and happy sledding!

-Destination Mom