Friday, May 29, 2015

Destination: Safari West - Santa Rosa, CA!


Rosa’s Acclaimed Animal Sanctuary and Wildlife Preserve 

Recognized in the 
First-Ever Sunset Travel Awards

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SANTA ROSA, Calif. (May 26, 2015) Garnering national attention for Santa Rosa, Safari West has been declared the “Best Family Fun” destination in the West by Sunset magazine. The acclaimed Santa Rosa attraction is one of 30 award recipients of the first-ever Sunset Travel Awards, which honor the West’s top destinations in lodging, dining, cultural tourism, outdoor adventure, environmental stewardship and other categories.

“To be a finalist for a Sunset Travel Award puts you in extremely good company; to be a winner puts you among a group of elite A-list destinations and experiences,” note the editors at Sunset. “This destination represents an unparalleled experience for any Western traveler.”

Safari West is an accredited zoo, a premier resort and, most importantly, a wildlife preserve committed to conservation through education. Home to 900 birds and mammals and more than 90 unique species, this “Sonoma Serengeti” offers the unique opportunity to see giraffes, cheetahs, wildebeests, flamingos and many other species on three-hour guided safari tours. Today, 10,000 of the 60,000 annual guests are students who visit the Santa Rosa preserve to participate in one of its many educational programs, with subjects that include veterinary, osteology, animal husbandry, physiology, anatomy, and ethnology.

Guests can also embark on private beer or wine tasting safaris, indulge in the gourmet Savannah Grill BBQ, and experience “glamping” with an overnight stay in one of 31 luxurious tents, imported directly from South Africa. Built on high wooden platforms with spacious decks overlooking the animal enclosures, the tents feature plush beds, rustic but elegant decor, hot showers with gleaming copper basins in the private bathrooms and one-of-a kind hand hewn furniture.

Brad Calkins, Executive Director of Visit Santa Rosa, notes: “Safari West truly represents the best of Santa Rosa, bringing together unparalleled natural beauty, adventure, education about the environment, and wine country-inspired food and drink.”

Safari West is among the 30 winners of the 2015 Sunset Travel Awards currently featured in the June issue of Sunset magazine and on, reaching six million consumers per month. A full list of winners from the 2015 Sunset Travel Awards can be found online at

More information on family-friendly activities, dining and lodging in Santa Rosa is available online at For press inquiries, high resolution photos, or interview requests, contact Marcella Thompkins at 213-985-1011 or

About Visit Santa Rosa
Just 55 miles north of San Francisco, Santa Rosa, California has an abundance of recreational activities, epicurean delights and scenic vistas for visitors to enjoy. Situated in the heart of Northern California’s world-famous Wine Country and just 30 minutes from the stunning coast, it is Sonoma County’s largest city, with a small-town feel. Home to superb wineries and craft breweries, some of the country’s best bicycling routes, and the Charles M. Schulz Museum – along with many other attractions – this warm and friendly city is a blend of art and culture, food, wine and recreation.

“Visit Santa Rosa” is the tourism brand administered by the Santa Rosa Convention & Visitors Bureau, a division of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce. The bureau provides assistance to visitors and groups seeking information about lodging, dining and entertainment opportunities in Santa Rosa. It also operates an Official State of California Welcome Center and helps to bring major events to Santa Rosa, such as the Amgen Tour of California. For more information, call (800) 404-7673 or (707) 577-8674 or see

About Sunset
Sunset ( is the leading lifestyle brand in the West. Through magazines and books, events and experiences, and digital and social media, Sunset covers the West's best flavors, destinations, design trends, and innovations. Sunset engages and inspires an audience of over six million educated, active and affluent consumers every month through its five regional print editions—Pacific Northwest, Northern California, Southern California, Southwest and Mountain—as well as via all tablet devices and its website. In addition to its print and digital publication, Sunset showcases the region’s unique lifestyle and noteworthy destinations through its flagship events, established home programs, licensing partners, books and International Wine Competition. Sunset is produced by Time Inc., one of the largest media companies in the world.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Looking for a Great Alternative to Hotels?

Looking to get away but trying to make your dollars go the distance? Consider "vacation rentals by owner" (VRBO)! Not only do private rental properties generally cost less than a hotel room, but most properties can accommodate a larger number of guests than a standard room and most feature a full kitchen, which allows you to save on dining costs as well! Other advantages of renting over hotel stays include: more privacy, greater diversity of accommodation styles and amenities (waterfront, mountain, pool, beach front, etc.), and greater flexibility with respect to accommodating pets. Our favorite resource, with almost 200,000 properties spanning the globe, is Vacation Rentals By Owner; check it out before you book your next getaway!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Make a Memorable Memorial Day!

image courtesy of Ohmega 1982/
As I sent my best wishes this past week to a dear friend who is deployed overseas, it struck me how very much we owe all those brave men and women, and their families, who serve in the armed forces. Our military families make tremendous sacrifices in the name of our national defense; in my friend's case, her deployment meant leaving behind her husband and 3-year old son.  It can be easy to forget that many brave service-people are spouses, children, parents, and siblings to loved ones they leave behind when stationed far from home.

As Memorial Day approaches, we encourage you (and your children!) to reach out and show your gratitude by finding a way to support our troops and their families.  There are many phenomenal organizations that provide support and services to soldiers and their families during deployments; below are two that offer numerous simple ways you and your family can help touch the lives of our country's military families:

Homefront Hugs

Homefront Hugs is a national volunteer organization in its 10th year, and a proud recipient of the Four Chaplains Award!  With a clearly stated mission "to offer unconditional support to our troops.veterans and families and make sure no hero is or feels forgotten," Homefront Hugs strives to make sure all Americans know they can make a difference (even from home!) in numerous ways thanking those who serve. Homefront Hugs promotes stewardship in communities across the USA reaching out to all regardless of ability, religion, age, or ethnicity.

Homefront Hugs needs volunteers urgently to thank our heroes by adopting a deployed soldier, adopting a brave military family, writing our wounded troops, or donating funds or supplies! You can help from home and become one of our awesome volunteers.

For more information, check out their page on Facebook!

Soldiers' Angels

"May No Soldier Go Unloved," encapsulates the motivation behind Soldiers' Angels. The volunteers of Soldiers' Angels work tirelessly to demonstrate active care and concern for veterans, the wounded, deployed service members and their families. 

To date, their volunteers have sent hundreds of thousands of care packages and letters to "adopted" deployed service members; with the assistance of their generous supporters , the many volunteers of Soldiers' Angels have accomplished this and much, much more on behalf of the grateful citizens of the United States of America.

For more information on donations and how you can help, check out their website!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Selecting the Best Sunscreen!

image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/
Sunscreen is a fact of summer! Parents are all too familiar with making sure to slather their little ones with sunscreen anytime they will be outdoors, whether at the beach, at a sporting event, or even just in the backyard! But when it comes to picking out a sunscreen for their children, most parents select a sunscreen for their baby, toddler, or young child based simply on:
  • the highest SPF they can find (typically 50+ or higher)
  • that it is marketed as a kids' brand (Aveeno Baby, Banana Boat Kids, Coppertone Kids, Coppertone Waterbabies, etc.)
While these are great characteristics to look for, there are a few factors parents can take into consideration to simplify:
  • most sunscreen formulations are not dramatically different for children, so it is not always necessary to buy separate sunscreen for your child and yourself
  • the best sunscreens are not necessarily those with the biggest pricetags
The best sunscreens will: 
  • provide broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection
  • have an SPF of at least 30. While there are higher SPFs, most experts acknowledge that the difference become less significant as the SPF exceeds 30 (i.e., SPF 30 offers protection against 97 percent of UVB rays, while SPF 50 which provides protection against 98 percent of UVB rays)
  • be water-resistant. Even if you aren't going swimming, if your children are outside, they will likely be sweating, so a water resistant may offer better protection than a regular sunscreen
  • be hypoallergenic and fragrance free, especially if your children have sensitive skin
  • be easy to use on your child (i.e., formulated as a stick, gel, lotion, or spray, etc.) 
Unfortunately, many sunscreens that say that they are broad-spectrum don't block rays from the full UVA spectrum. To get the best protection from UVA rays, look for sunscreens with the following ingredients: 
  • avobenzone, 
  • titanium dioxide, 
  • or zinc oxide.
If your child has sensitive skin, be sure to review the ingredients, be sure:
  • to choose one that is PABA free
  • it gets its UVA protection from a sunblock (i.e., titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, since they are less irritating than avobenzone)
  • to do a test application on a small area of your child's skin before you need to use it for real

Friday, May 15, 2015

How To Get Your Child Excited For The Trip!

image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/
Travel can be exciting, and sharing the adventure with your child(ren) can make it that much more fun!  But while adults generally have some idea of what will happen on a journey, to many young children travel may be a bit intimidating.  Preparing young travellers for an upcoming adventure can go a long way toward helping them get excited for the journey and enjoying the experience!

Air, water, or rail travel can be unnerving to a child who has never experienced the sounds, vibrations, and motions that adults can take for granted.  Take some time to show your child a model (or the real thing if it is locally available for viewing!) of whatever mode of transportation you will be using.  Discuss what they can expect, keeping things simple and offering them reassurance that you will be with them at all times and that there is nothing they need to be fearful of.

A few weeks before you hit the road, try to get your little adventurers excited about the place you're about to visit. Check out documentaries, maps, books, newspapers, folk tales, advertisements, music; whatever is appropriate. Try not to make it seem like a chore, but rather a journey of it's own that will give them a chance to determine what they'd like to see or do when they actually arrive! 

Picture books or videos can offer a world of information about your vacation destination, as can magazine or Internet photos of local sights they may see! If your children are old enough you can even make a game of looking at the images - asking questions such as "what do you think you can hear (or see or smell) from this spot?" If you can acquire images of actual places you are visiting, it can be great fun to bring them and try to navigate to the exact spot to experience it as a family!

Finally, the journey doesn't have to end when the trip comes to its inevitable conclusion - memories and impressions from the adventure can last a lifetime!  Encourage older children to keep or create a travel journal chronicling their impressions of the places they visited - it doesn't have to be more than a sentence here or there, just something that will remind them of what they saw and experienced.  Young children can do likewise by capturing a favorite spot or activity in a drawing!

A little planning can truly make a big difference when it comes to travelling with children. The few extra minutes you devote to introducing them to what they will be experiencing can help prevent meltdowns, panic, and worry, and the time spent exploring your vacation destination beforehand can enrich the exploration upon arrival! Bonus for Mom and Dad: here's a great little resource for other tips that can help smooth the path for Baby's First Vacation!

Happy Travels!

- Destination Mom

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Safe Driving Saves Lives!

image courtesy of chrisroll/
Just a quick reminder as we move toward summer: with daylight lasting longer, kids are outdoors more often and later into the evening! Please drive with caution; obey speed limits in neighborhood areas and in other areas where children may be active, and be hyper vigilant of children playing near roadways. It only takes a moment for a ball to roll into the street or for a child to run or ride into the road unexpectedly. Extra caution could be the difference between life and death.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Travel Survival Tips: Beating Boredom!

Every parent knows that young children are not generally able to sit still for long. So being restricted or confined in an aircraft for a few hours can be a recipe for disaster culminating in tantrums or crankiness, much to the embarrassment and frustration of their parents. Add to that the discomfort from the change in cabin pressure and the potential for air sickness and you have a nightmare waiting to happen. Sadly, there is no magic potion to prevent meltdowns in flight; there are, however, several things parents can do to help alleviate the severity of these issues while flying with children!

Pack & Play!
Packing a few favorite toys to keep children entertained can provide distraction and activity for several hours! Before leaving home, have each child pack a favorite toy or two. For toddlers, you may want to bring a few toys. By taking the packed items out one at a time you can not only maximize the novelty of each one; you will fill more time with play, and that's the goal!

For older kids, coloring books and crayons or colored pencils can go a long way! Many airlines even offer coloring sets, puzzles, and mini games for children. If the family is visiting friends or relatives, bring along a small photo album filled with pictures of the people they will see; you can even tell stories about their houses, pets, places you will be visiting, etc.

Plug & Play!
Long distance flights generally feature childrens' programs, movies, and games on the TV screen in the back of the seat. Packing headphones will save you a few bucks, and provide hours of entertainment! Also, portable personal gaming systems and tablets (Nintendo DS, Gameboy, iPad, Kindle Fire, etc.) will keep many kids occupied for long stretches of time.

Managing Discomfort or Illness
Once you've provided as much distraction and activity as you can fit into one carry-on, its important to prepare for the other major hurdle you could face; sickness. Air sickness affects some children, so plan to eat far in advance of the flight's departure time. If your child should become ill, simply use the air sickness bags provided, or pack a few of your own.

Some children complain of ear pain during take-off and landing. Providing pacifiers for babies to suck on and liquids for older kids to sip and swallow can help relieve the ear pressure. For older children, chewing gum or sucking on hard candy can also help relieve the pressure. If you don't happen to remember to bring these items, the stewards or stewardesses can often get them for you. You can also purchase soft ear plugs from most pharmacies that can help both with equalizing the air pressure on each side of the ear drum and with reducing some of the noise of flying.

Your mileage with these suggestions may vary, but with a little advance planning, even the longest trip can generally be weathered with reasonably good results; think of it as a whole different way to childproof when travelling!  Happy travels!

- Destination Mom

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Light Up the Night!

One of the items in my travel bag-of-tricks is a small assortment of "glow" bracelets, necklaces, sticks, etc..  I try to pick them up whenever I see them on sale at Target or 5 Below because we have found them infinitely useful and entertaining when we travel (and even for stay-cations!).  Perfect for nightlights or playing games in the dark (in the hotel, camping, on the beach, in the backyard, in the car, etc.); for many years they have been one of my daughter's favorite parts of our family getaways!  They are also fantastic to have in case of emergencies (i.e. blackouts, breakdowns where visibility is important, etc.)!

Warning: Glow sticks are not designed for use by children under age 5.  Glow sticks contain toxic chemicals and should only be used in accordance with packaging directions (consult manufacturer's directions for instructions and warnings).

Friday, May 1, 2015

Destination: National Parks - Five of Our Faves!

Some of the most memorable trips of my youth were the simplest, yet most extraordinary, and what could fit that description better than a visit to one of our country's beautiful National Parks?  We are so fortunate to live in a country with such a diversity of natural wonders; lush forests, geysers, astounding rock formations, even volcanoes! Below is just a sampling of what our National Parks have to offer to visitors of all ages - from coast to coast, whether desert or tropical climate, there are memories waiting to be made in one of our nation's greatest treasures!

South Rim
1. Grand Canyon (Arizona)

Grand Canyon is one of the most celebrated National Parks in the U.S.; but it's easy to make the mistake of driving to one of its many overlooks, gazing out upon its majestic scenery, and then leaving. Why not etch the grandeur of the park into your family's collective memory by truly experiencing the Grand Canyon? Consider taking a hike or even a guided tour (by land, water, or air!) to get a closer look at the canyon; there's the family friendly Bright Angel Trail for hikers or the pricier, but truly extraordinary, "flightseeing" option!  Quick word of warning, because of excessively high temperatures in the summer months, autumn is the best season to visit; also, visitors should always pack adequate water.

2. Arches (Utah)

Arches is one of the smallest and most inviting National Parks; as well as one of the most breathtaking. Along a variety of trails you’ll find astounding stone arches and rock formations, each more spectacular than the last (it is estimated that the park contains upwards of 1,500 arches!). Families travelling with young children should take the easy walks along Balanced Rock path or stop and wander at the overlook point for Delicate Arch.  The park also plays host to a wide variety of flora and fauna, and many trails are paved for accessibility!  Added bonus: Arches National Park is conveniently situated only five miles from Moab, one of the nation’s premier camping, hiking, and mountain biking destinations.

3. Hawaii Volcanoes (Hawaii)

The Big Island offers visitors a chance to experience active volcanoes close-up at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park! This hot spot finds fiery lava flowing from the mouth of one of the world’s most active volcanoes; Kilauea regularly spews molten lava that reshapes the landscape as it flows down into the Pacific. Mauna Loa (the world's largest volcano) is also found here. The parks are accessible by car or foot and feature a multitude of some of the greatest sights volcanism has to offer, including the Thurston Lava Tube! The park also offers several don't-miss favorites for kids, including: Echo Crater and Pu'uloa Petroglyphs!

4. Yellowstone (Wyoming and Montana)

Located on the border of Wyoming and Montana, Yellowstone is the country's first, and arguably best, National Park. Visitors of all ages marvel at the eruption of Old Faithful's towering geyser, the prolific wildlife, and the majestic scenery. With guided tours via bike or horsebackhikingboating, and fishing, Yellowstone offers plenty of activities for families with children of any age!  Don't miss The National Geographic Society's map that highlights historical, environmental, and cultural points of interest in the region!

5. Acadia (Maine)

Rock Formations
at Thunder Hole
Situated just outside of Bar Harbor on the eastern seaboard of Maine, Acadia National Park is considered the jewel of the northeast. From the mystifying forests of Mount Desert Island to the amazing views of the Atlantic from the peak of Cadillac Mountain, Acadia is an outdoor adventure to be savored!  With miles of hiking trails, beautiful overlooks, and tidepool-laden beaches, Acadia has something to offer visitors of any age!  Best in the autumn (when blackflies and mosquitoes are absent and the foliage is spectacular!), Acadia offers a number of activities for kids of all ages, including: Ranger-Narrated Boat Tours and a variety of Children's Programs. After a day outdoors, be sure to recharge with some fantastic local cuisine (our fave: the Maine lobster-bake at Stewman's Lobster Pound complete with  lobster, steamers, corn on the cob, New England clam chowder, and fresh blueberry pie to top it all off!).

From coast to coast, America's National Parks offer a chance to share the phenomenal natural gifts of our country with its next generation of caretakers!  So get on out into the open air and enjoy all the National Parks have to offer!  Happy Travels!

-Destination Mom