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About the author  ⁄ Keryn

Keryn is an East Coast native living life as a freelance writer in Seattle surrounded by her two little boys and one incredible husband. When not dragging the men in her life across the globe you can find Keryn writing on her blog Walking On Travels, a site that gives hope to today’s modern parent that doesn’t see kids as a roadblock to travel, but an excuse to get out the door and explore. Keryn has laughed at the naysayers by bringing her boys to far off lands like China, Hong Kong, Japan, Hawaii, back and forth across the USA, Mexico, Canada, and even across Europe. Keryn loves to encourage families to take that first step out the door, the hardest step of all.

Issian

Photo credit: Keryn Means

Remember when you used to go out for a long meal with friends, savoring every last bite and sip of wine? Now that you are a parent you get to sit through nuggets, fries and happy meals, right? Wrong! Just because we are parents doesn’t mean we can’t eat well, and there is no better place to eat than Seattle restaurants. Fresh fish, fluffy pastries, salted caramel chocolates, pork products of every shape and size; we have it all. There are few places in Seattle that you can’t bring your kids, but here are a few of my favorites when it comes to dining out with the toddler (baby and older kid) set.

raspberries

Photo credit: Keryn Means

Breakfast

Pancakes are a staple in many children’s diets here in the USA, and you just can’t go wrong with the blueberry pancakes at the Hi-Life. Order up a platter with eggs and bacon and you will have one of the best breakfasts in town.

If you are looking for a few toppings, head to Portage Bay Cafe for their toppings bar. It comes with every order of pancakes, French toast or waffles. You can also order it on its own to dive into those bowls of berries, pears, syrup and more.

Traveling outside of the city isn’t always on everyone’s agenda, but you will want to visit Malty’s Café in Maltby, WA, about 20 minutes northeast of the city. The California scramble is what breakfast dreams are made of, with a side of raisin toast and gigantic cinnamon buns (I’m not kidding. They are bigger than my kid’s head!) to share with your table.

Salmon-Burger

Photo credit: Keryn Means

Lunch

The noon meal is all about food trucks, burgers and Farmers Markets here in Seattle. If you are visiting on a Sunday, make sure you head to the Ballard Farmers Market where you can find tamales, salmon burgers, wood fire pizza and crepes on any given Sunday throughout the year. Pick up some fresh produce and a bouquet of flowers for $5 and you will be good to go.

If tacos are what you crave, you can pop over to one of El Camion’s two taco trucks in the city, or their brick and mortar establishment in Ballard. The fish tacos are a must, and your kids will devour the carnitas burrito with black beans. My five-year old has been eating them since he started solids as a baby.

Redmill Burger has been featured on multiple food and travel shows and for good reason. That pile of bacon they show off is worth every minute you will wait in line. The Bacon Deluxe with Cheese is a family favorite, along with a side of fries, onion rings and Oreo shake.

La-Isla-Cuisine

Photo credit: Ben Lindbloom

Happy Hour

La Isla is the place for mojitos and all things pernil (slow roasted pig). Their happy hour is especially great for parents and kids because almost all of their appetizers are discounted and you can easily make a meal of the pork wings, pernil sliders, maduros (sweet plantains), sweet potato frieds and empanadillas. You don’t need to save room for dessert here, just more pernil!

For those who enjoy meat on a stick, Issian has got you covered. Their $1 Yakitori and Yakiton will have your kids begging for more. Select appetizers are also discounted, and it is worth a look at the dinner menu so you can sample a few hot stone grilled dishes.

Oto Sushi does not mess around with their happy hour menu. All of our favorite rolls are discounted, along with appetizers like gyoza, spring rolls, and hot bowls of udon. Kids are welcome in this little east side joint, and parents will love that an order of edamame comes out as soon as you sit down. This place knows that kids need to eat pronto!

Veraci-pizza

Photo credit: Keryn Means

Dinner

Veraci Pizza has been the reason people move to Seattle. OK, well maybe that is just my family. Their woodfired ovens have been carted to the farmers markets of Seattle for over 8 years, and they finally got a brick and mortar location a few years back. They aren’t afraid to play with toppings (artichokes, olives, clams, etc.), but also make one heck of a cheese pizza for the picky eaters in your family.

Head to I Love Sushi for views of Lake Union and a few tasty rolls your family will adore. We always order the Marin Roll (cream cheese, crab, scallions, avocado and cucumber topped with seared salmon and wasabi aioli) plus tempura, miso and a snow crab salad. There are loads of teriyaki dishes if your crew isn’t into raw fish, but try to slip some onto their plate to try either way.

Cupcake-Royale

Photo credit: Keryn Means

Dessert

You can’t come to Seattle without trying a cupcake. We have more than a few spots to choose from, but Trophy Cupcakes and Cupcake Royale have been in a battle for the top spot in this city’s heart for years. You will never find a group of people who can agree. Trophy has their epic s’mores cupcake and a seasonal strawberry lemonade that will have you gobbling up two in under five minutes. Cupcake Royale has a heart stopping salted caramel and a lavender vanilla cupcake that have us saying “more please!”

If you don’t like cupcakes (gasp!) Hot Cakes can give you your sugar fix in a variety of ways. Their chocolate cakes baked in mini mason jars are their signature item, especially when paired with a homemade marshmallow and graham cracker. Mom and dad can slurp up boozy shakes while the kids eat grilled nutella sandwiches (that counts as dinner, right?) or sip on drinking chocolate or caramel. Can you say sugar rush? Sure you can.

As you can see, there is no end to the dining possibilities with your kids in Seattle. I’ve only scratched the surface of the spots we love. If you don’t like the same old food at chain restaurants, Seattle is the place for you. We have more independent restaurants than chain shops in the city than you could imagine, and I can only think of a handful I wouldn’t feel comfortable walking into with my kids. So what are you waiting for? Bon appetit!

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walking-on-travelsTraveling with kids is great. It’s amazing! It’s easy! It’s perfect in every way! Ummm… no. Travel with kids, just like anything you do as a parent, is far from perfect or easy, and is sometimes just not that much fun. There are missteps, accidents, local snafus and a few awkward moments to say the least.

Stranger danger

While traveling in China on business with my son, then 20-months-old, I had an odd encounter with a woman outside of the local Wal-Mart (yes, even China has giant box stores). As I approached the entrance a she came towards us and started reaching for my son.

Normally the locals would just pat his cheek and gesture that he was adorable. This is something I was more than used to after two trips to this part of the world. However, her objective was more than a simple hello. I used every hand gesture and Chinese word I knew (I know three words total) to convey to her that no, she could not unstrap my child from his stroller and pick him up. This crossed a line that my jet-lagged brain just couldn’t handle at that moment.

Thankfully the woman quickly backed off, and understood my concerns. The people I met in China were extremely friendly, and I will say that my blue-eyed son may be a minor celebrity at this point since he had his picture taken multiple times a day. Rarely did anyone make me feel uncomfortable with his or her attention. It was a nuisance to stop so much for photos, but it was a fun experience that allowed us to meet more people than we would have on our own without my son.

Embarrassing moments

Speaking of uncomfortable, sometimes you will come across situations that you just might not be ready to explain to your kids. Jessica from Suitcases and Sippy Cups begged her boys to stop pestering her when their family was lost in Athens trying to find their hotel.

One of her sons suggested they ask the ladies standing on the corner for help. Little did her son know, although Jessica certainly did, that these were women on the night looking for their next job. Jessica’s sons were too young to understand what was going on, but Jessica was mortified and begged her husband to figure it out and get them to their hotel. Jessica looks back on this story now and laughs, but I’m sure it will go down in history as “that time we saw hookers in Greece and mom wouldn’t let us stop to ask them for directions cause she was too embarrassed.”

Walking On Travels
Accidents

Unfortunately not every travel snafu is hilarious. During our 5-week trip around Europe we were visiting Tuscany with a few friends. Our kids were playing. I repeatedly asked my oldest, who was 3 at the time, to stop playing with the gate by the steps. Apparently his ears were not working no matter how much I yelled.

A few minutes later I heard my friend gasped and I turned around. Never have I heard such a guttural cry come out of my mouth. I watch my son roll head over feet down the stone steps of the agritourismo we were staying at. I saw his neck breaking in my mind, bones shattering and losing my son forever. My heart still clenches just thinking about this moment.

I ran past him on the steps so I could catch him before he fell anymore. I scooped him up and was convinced I would never ever let him go. I got him to a chair and started feeling every bone in his body. He was fine. He had a gash on the side of his head from where he had clipped a stone edge, but other than that he was perfectly fine. He screamed more while I tried to clean the gash and figure out if he needed stitches than he did after the fall. Promises of gelato calmed everyone down. I got him bandaged up and we all headed into town. I kept a careful watch on my son to make sure he didn’t have a concussion, and yes, I woke up every hour that night to make sure he was still breathing.

Life with kids is crazy, whether you are at home or exploring a distant land. Accidents happen, cultural snafus occur and you will meet people from every walk of life. Roll with what your travels bring you, pack a first aid kit and maybe pray a little extra hard while on the road. These things can happen anywhere.

Parenthood isn’t perfect, so you better figure out where you want to do it. I prefer the back roads of Tuscany, ladies of the night and friendly strangers myself.

What crazy traveling-with-kids story do you have?
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LEGO planes, books and travel-sized toys can have your child zooming off to Paris, New York or Tokyo. Grab toys and activities that will inspire the imagination and have your child begging to go on their next adventure. Here are just a few of our favorite toys that will make you want to pack your bags, or at least grab get out to explore. 

Travel toys

LEGO City Airport Cargo

Inspire travel AND keep your kids busy for hours building an airplane? Yes, please! What mother wouldn’t want that kind of creative break? Don’t feel guilty though, your child will love you for this super set airport LEGO set and make you proud as they click in that final piece. Be prepared to help younger travelers put it together though. It’s not as easy as you would think.

Fisher Price Little People Lil’ Movers Airplane

For those not quite ready for LEGOs you can grab the Little People Lil’ Movers Airplane. My oldest was playing with this by 2 years old and hasn’t stopped. Best of all (and warning to parents)—it makes airplane sounds!

Thomas the Tank Engine

Yes mom, Thomas can inspire your child’s wanderlust. First of all he speaks with a British accent. Time to talk about where that accent actually comes from, and no, it is not just the Isle of Sodor. Help your child build an epic train track that will take them out of their bedroom and into a world of imaginary play as you chug up into the Alps and down into the valleys of El Salvador.

Kidunderroof Totem Teknika Airport

When your baby is tiny this makes a great adornment for their room (great baby shower gift too—hint, hint!). Once you aren’t afraid of your little one swallowing the pieces, bring it down off the shelf so they can set up their own airport and take off for adventure.

Endless City London or Paris

No two street scenes will look alike as you mix the Endless City cards together to create a street scene all your own. Choose from Paris or London and go to town. Bring out the toy cars and people to walk down the lane, buy some flowers and even sit at a café.

Crocodile Creek World and U.S.A placemats

Who said dinner is just for conversations about your day? Let meals become a learning experience with these fabulous placemats from Crocodile Creek. Help your child find where you live and then look at what monuments you want to visit that day during your meal. Get ready for lots of questions and creative answers to why polar bears live in the Artic and not in the Sahara desert.

Little Passports

Everywhere you turn you see an advertisement for Little Passports. This creative monthly subscription gets you started with a suitcase and intro to the characters, Sam and Sophia, who will bring you around the world on their adventures. The monthly price of $10 for a subscription may be a bit high for what you get, but your children will be excited to get mail and start planning their next trip to Brazil, London and Hong Kong.

This is London by Miroslav Sasek

Oh the places you’ll go with this beautifully illustrated series of books by Miroslav Sasek. London, Paris, Rome, Edinburgh, Australia and so many more places are just waiting to invite you into the pages and down the old streets of each new destination. The artist worked in the late 1950s and early 1960w, which makes the retro-style illustrations all the more fun for parents to enjoy along with their kids. Check the back of the book for landmark updates. Some spots that Sasek covered are no longer around, or have changed names. Find out why!

Dodsworth in New York by Tim Egan

Once your child starts to read, or even before then, these books will get your child excited to see the world with Dodsworth and his troublemaking duck friend. These early readers are great for beginners and will make you swell with pride as they read through all four tales and then tell you about each place they learned about.

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baby shower giftsHave a travel-loving soon-to-be mom in your group of friends or family? Grab the cutest garb, decor and resources to help her get out the door and on the road to adventure with her little one. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorites that will have your playgroup talking and asking “where did you get that?!”

Moroccan-dressTea Collection: Moroccan inspiration

I’m not sure I can gush enough about the new destination-inspired Tea Collection. The latest dresses and shirts in the Moroccan collection include beautiful prints and patterns that add a bit of pizazz to your child’s wardrobe. The China collection T-shirts featuring pandas were a welcome addition to my son’s closet over Christmas and we can’t wait to see what new destination they feature next.

MaptoteMaptote Baby one piece

Show your city pride with one of these adorable one pieces by Maptote, a locally owned and operated company run by a Brooklyn, NY-based husband and wife team. Choose from cities across the country and around the globe. Tote bags, reusable grocery bags, beach bags, toddler tees and travel pouches are available to round out your look.

Sir-Bubbadoo
Sir Bubbadoo blankets

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love our Sir Bubbadoo blanket. I was gifted one after my second son was born and it has traveled the world with us. It is small enough to throw in a backpack, but warm enough to use in the stroller on a fall day. Our blanket has world icons all over it, but Kristina — the mom behind this custom line — is constantly changing out her fabrics, finding fabulous new patterns and experimenting with designs that compliment the modern parent’s style.

Globe night light
Goodnight Globe night light

No child’s room is complete without a night light. Why not inspire a few travel dreams with this beautiful Land of Nod Goodnight Globe Night Light that will have your baby running off to Africa, Costa Rica, Japan and more? Once your child gets older you can chat about where you should explore next as you create bedtime stories based on each new destination.

kidsonaroofPeople of the World

Inspire creative play from the start with these beautifully crafted People of the World toys by Kidsonroof. Use the figures as baby room décor while your baby is little, and then bring them off the shelf to have some make-believe fun.

Oh-the-Places-Youll-Go
Oh the places you’ll go map

Dr. Seuss sure had it right when he wrote Oh the Places You’ll Go. Why not encourage your child to push past what they think is possible from the get go? This beautiful poster found on Etsy features a map with overlaid text and comes in a multitude of colors that will fit any nursery décor — sounds like the perfect baby shower gift.

MaptoteMaptote alphabet poster

Teach your little one their ABCs and about the world at the same time with the Maptote Alphabet poster. The simple illustrations will capture your baby’s attention while on the changing table, and start more than a few conversations as they grow and get curious about soccer in Brazil, Australia’s kangaroos and the vikings of Denmark.

PlanesPlanes by Byron Barton

It is never too early to prep your child for air travel. Barton’s Planes board book would make a great baby shower gift, and includes simple illustrations and text that walks your baby and toddler through all types of air travel. His other book, Airport, is the perfect complement, and one that is sure to get worn out as your child marvels over all the steps it takes to get from the outside of the airport and up in the air and on their way.

Mara GormanThe Family Traveler’s Handbook by Mara Gorman

Leave it to a travel veteran to write a practical and informative guide to traveling with kids. Mara Gorman mixes easy tips and ideas for family trips with real-life examples of travel with her own kids in her Family Traveler’s Handbook. She also highlights tips and stories from other traveling parents to balance out her own advice and show that she isn’t the only one hopping across the globe. Gorman covers travels with babies on up to teens. By the end of the story you feel like you know her and her family, but also feel prepared to take that first step and get out the door with your own kids. The best part is that this book isn’t some long manual you will never make it through; it is a short and sweet guide to not letting fear stop you from showing your child the world, no matter how near or far you take them.

What travel-inspired baby shower gifts would you give?

Photo credits: All images are the property of their respective brands. 

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Suitcases

Photo credit via Flickr/ Jenifer Corrêa

I was surrounded by stuff — piles upon piles of clothes, tiny bottles of shampoo, sunscreen and three different kinds of toothpaste. There was a stack of books, toys and snacks. Could this really be for just a one-week trip? Yes, apparently it was. I needed to do better, and that meant we would be paring down and get back to the basics of packing, and we were going to start with a few necessary packing tips for toddlers when it came to my son.

At four years old my son is a seasoned pro when it comes to travel. I pack his clothes, and he packs his little backpack. This is what he is in charge of while we are en route. If he can’t fit it in there, he can’t bring it. My job is a little harder as his mom. I get to think about every eventuality, every puddle jumped in, every shirt with spaghetti dribbled down it — and bathroom accidents that may or may not happen. How do you pack for all of these scenarios? Simple. You don’t.

Know that you will forget something

Once you accept this packing will be much easier.

You can buy it there

Chances are, unless you are traveling into the bush or backcountry, you can buy it when you get there. If you run out of sunscreen, forget toothpaste or need an extra shirt, the place you are visiting will have it stocked in the local store.

Rent a car seat

The car seat is the most annoying and bulky piece of equipment you will have to pack for a toddler, especially if your child isn’t in a crib anymore. Consider renting a car seat once you arrive, or use alternate transportation so you don’t have to deal with it at all. Double check that the rental agency has 5-point harnesses on their car seats. This is hard to come by internationally, but domestically in the U.S. you should insist you get one that is up to current safety standards.

Mickey suitcase

Photo credit via Flickr/Bev Goodwin

Toddler Toys

Everyone worries about keeping their child entertained, but after four years of travel with my children, I know that it doesn’t take much. Here is what my son packs in his bag. Yes, I give lots of direction on this front.

Headphones.

We are partial to Kidz Gear headphones that come in bright colors, are durable and fit kids’ heads better than adult headphones.

1 to 2 small, thin books for your child to read or browse.

We love child-friendly comic books for our boys (super heroes are big in our family right now) and my friends with little girls like the early reader Tinkerbell books or other princess stories. Even if you child can’t read yet these picture-filled books will have them making up their own tales in no time.

The Moose Bag:

This may sound strange, but we have a small felt back, about 6×6 inches in dimension, that a friend gave us a few years back that has traveled the world. It has a drawstring that can keep all of our treasure inside, but is also small enough that it limits the number of toys it can hold.

Figures, airplanes and cars:

Inside our Moose Bag (it has a little picture of a moose on it) we stash Phineas and Ferb figures, small model airplanes, hot wheel cars and a tiny Spiderman. This gives my son ample characters to play with and stories to make up.

Smart phone and tablet.

If you are anti-screen time for your kid you can skip to the next tip. If you are OK with screen time know that when you travel is a good time to pull it out and bend the rules. My toddler knows he can’t play Angry Birds unless he is on a plane. My Kindle Fire also houses movies, storybooks and educational games to entertain my son and help with our bedtime routine. I don’t want to lug a bunch of books around, so my library of Curious George, Bernstein Bears and Cat in the Hat is priceless, especially for long trips.

 Sydney Treasures Photography

Photo credit via Flickr/ Sydney Treasures Photography

Pack extra clothing

I know I told you not to pack the kitchen sink, but you do need to come prepared. How do you choose what to pack when it comes to enough clothing? Here’s my rule of thumb.

• 2 to 3 extra pairs of socks
• 1 to 2 extra pairs of underwear
• 1 extra shirt
• 1 extra pair of pants

This will allow you to do a load of laundry or wash an outfit in the sink if your child gets soaked after jumping in puddles, but will still leave extra clothes for him to wear as you continue your adventures.

Toiletries

Thankfully most kids don’t need much in the way of hair products, but you will need medications, sunscreen, bug spray and anything else that fits your travel situation. When in doubt leave it home though. You can always buy it when you get there. Medications are the only thing you should make sure you have more than enough of.

Diapers and pull ups

If your child is still potty training make sure you bring enough diapers or pull ups to last you three days. If you have room in your suitcase you can bring more, but three days should get you there, settled in and to the store without feeling like you are cutting it too close to your last diaper.

What are your packing essentials for toddlers?
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Adventure-Point-Tubing Keystone

Tubing at Adventure Point

My toddler stood with his tongue pointed to the ski. I was bundled up against the cold in anticipation of our tubing adventure. He just wanted to taste the snow. We’d already hit the slopes of Keystone Resort in Colorado, now it was time to see what else the mountain had to offer families.

Keystone Resort knows that couples, college kids and snow enthusiasts visit their mountain, but they pay particular attention to families through the Kidtopia program. Trust me, I have been to more than one ski resort with my baby and toddler; not all resorts are created equal when it comes to entertaining your little ones. Why was Kidtopia essential to our family vacation success? Here’s just a taste.

Kidtopia Snow Fort

Kidtopia Snow Fort

World’s largest snow fort

Keystone is in its fifth year of building a massive snow fort with slides and a maze for kids to explore with their parents. This was crucial entertainment while we waited for our turn on the tube hill.

Tubing at Adventure Point

At over 11,000 feet up the mountain, this tube run can boast being the highest tubing facility in the world. The drop may be too much for babies (and scaredy-cat moms), but children over 42 inches tall (yes, there is a height restriction) and their parents can have an amazing hour of fun zooming down the mountain.

Dercum Square Ice Rink

Dercum Square Ice Rink

Ice Skating

If you haven’t guessed already, Keystone loves to do things big. Over by the Keystone Lodge you can skate on the largest Zamboni maintained ice rink in North America, which is actually a frozen lake. There is a hockey rink built on the lake for those who want to shoot a puck around. If you want a smaller ice skating experience you can head to the Dercum Square Ice Rink in River Run. They hand out cookies!

Kidtopia

Painting at Kidtopia headquarters

Painting and Pottery

Some days are just too cold and blustery for little ones to play outside, or maybe Mom and Dad need to sit for an hour or two. This is when Kidtopia Headquarters comes in handy. There are daily activities like face painting plus toys for kids to play with, or you can head over to Ready, Paint, Fire pottery shop to paint canvases and ready made ceramics. You will have to let your works of art dry, but they should be ready by the time you head home.

Skiing and snowboarding

Camp Keystone isn’t technically part of Kidtopia, but it really has to be mentioned. Young ski and snowboard students can get dropped off in the morning and picked up in the afternoon for a day filled with snow fun with their peers. Instructors will work on your child’s skills, give you daily progress reports, and make learning more fun than mom and dad could ever make it. Once your kids have their “snow legs” they can join you for night skiing under lights along the family ski trail.

Camp Keystone

Learning to ski at Camp Keystone

Parade and Fireworks

Every Saturday at 4 p.m. Keystone mascot Ripperoo and his band of friends parade their way through River Run Village before ending at the Dercum Square ice rink with complimentary cookies to end the day. Enjoy dancers, horses and a new float as they entertain old and young after a long day on the slopes. Fireworks cap off the night at 7 p.m. as you enjoy dinner, a bit of night skiing or just take in the view by one of the outdoor firepits.

Having enough activities to keep everyone in the family happy is the key to any successful trip. If a resort makes it easy for me that makes it a winner in my book. As my son ate his fill of snowflakes while exploring the snow fort, I basked in the knowledge that I had chosen a destination that not only I could enjoy, but he could too.

What is your favorite winter destination with kids?
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VancouverI watched as my son clung to his father. That shark was so close. A little daddy protection was in order, but not for long. As my toddler realized the sharks and stingrays at the Vancouver Aquarium could not get to him, he warmed up to these salt water creatures, and the real adventure began.

Vancouver, located just over the border in the Canadian province of British Columbia, is one of those cities that those of us living in the Pacific Northwest take for granted, but is really an international destination worth the trek no matter where you live. Why would you drag your family north of the border? Well I’ve got five fantastic reasons why not only your kids will love it, but you will have a fabulous time too.

Science World at TELUS World of Science

For every science geek there is a museum that transforms your interest into an obsession. Science World can do that for you and your child. Incredible exhibits, like the upcoming LEGO Travel Adventure show (starts Feb. 1, 2014), and permanent galleries and programming makes this an all day destination when possible — or just a place to explore for a few hours at a time. Live animals and insects, hourly science shows, physics exhibits that come alive through water, light and sound, and even a special preschool area will help your budding scientist find their calling.

Science World

Food Carts

Food trucks, carts and trailers seem to be all the rage in every major city in North America. If your own town has them, why should you bother checking them out in Vancouver? For one thing they generally offer up cheap eats. Food gets expensive when traveling with a family. They also offer variety, so everyone in your clan can find something they love. But most importantly, Vancouver is a food mecca. You thought you had good sushi back home? Well they have 20 that will beat your best. Like noodles? Pick a cuisine and they will have it. Let’s not even get started on desserts. The food trucks in Vancouver are no different. They offer up quality food with a pride that will put some brick and mortar establishments to shame.

Food Cart

Stanley Park

Any city worth their weight needs to have a spectacular park, or at least that’s my feeling. If you don’t have green spaces to let the kids run and catch up on their vitamin D then you will miss a piece of the vacation puzzle. Stanley Park is Vancouver’s own Central Park. This is where you will find the aquarium, the miniature train, beaches, a waterpark and pool, bike trails, hiking trails and stunning gardens. Really you could spend your entire trip exploring the park and walking the Seawall. It’s that good.

Stanley Park

Fly Over Canada

You know how Disneyland has Fly Over California, but you just can’t get yourself (or bring yourself to go) to Anaheim? Well Vancouver has the answer—Fly Over Canada. This half-hour, multisensory experience shows you why Canada is a country worth exploring. The actual “ride” only lasts eight minutes, but it will take your breath away as you fly through open prairies while a whiff of wildflowers floats past your nose (literally) and you climb the Canadian Rockies into the damp clouds (an actual spray of mist will hit your hair!). This is sure to get your wanderlust flowing and the kids screaming for a trip to Alberta next.

Vancouver Aquarium

Vancouver Aquarium

Aquariums have always been a family favorite in our house. It was the first place my son really got excited as a baby. It was also our little “treat” when exploring the not so kid-friendly spots my husband and I love to visit. The Vancouver Aquarium is the perfect spot to explore on a cold and rainy day in Vancouver. They have more than a few of those — it’s not hard to schedule a trip in. Dolphins, Beluga whales, seals, turtles, clownfish, sharks and stingrays are just a few of the friends you will meet as you walk through the space. There is educational programming, including feedings, scheduled throughout the day. If you have a young oceanographer in your group try to splurge on an animal encounter or behind-the-scenes tour.

Vancouver Aquarium

This list doesn’t even begin to crack the surface of all there is to do in Vancouver, but it will certainly give you a good start. The city is bursting with activity, but like all things in the Pacific Northwest, you can always find a spot to slow down, grab a cup of coffee (or hot cocoa for the kids) and watch the world go by. No one will mind. Not even the sharks.

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bucket list, Paris

Photo credit: melissa via Flickr

We all have one. A list of things we want to do in the New Year. Some call them resolutions, others a wish list or even bucket list. Almost everyone will have a special spot they hope to travel to. Just in case you need a little extra help narrowing down your choices this year, here are a few of our favorite destinations, and a few from our own bucket lists to get you inspired to go, go, go!

bucket list, Iceland

Photo credit: ToNG! via Flickr

Gaze up at the Northern Lights in Iceland

When scientist are predicting that the Northern Lights will be at their best in over a decade, you know it’s an event you won’t want to miss. From now until early April you can catch this natural phenomenon in Iceland as well as other northern countries and even Alaska. There are plenty of easy package deals from Iceland Air and other travel outlets that can get you out exploring the country. Just imagine your child’s face as they see “flashlights” lighting up the night sky. Stay tuned for more as my family knocks this one off our bucket list in March 2014!

pastries

Photo credit: pussnboots via Flickr

People watching and pastries in Paris

Park the stroller and pull up a chair at one of the City of Light’s famous cafes. Sip a glass of wine as you watch Parisians go about their day, making a stunning fashion statement as they stroll past. Order up a coffee with a few handcrafted macaroons as you reflect on this amazing adventure you are on in one of the most beloved cities in the world. You may just find yourself saying “oh la la!”

Flamenco

Photo credit: Ding Yuin Shan via Flickr

Try a little flamenco in Spain

Andalusia, the southern region of Spain, houses Flamenco dance halls, street performers and classes that can get you into the action. While parents will want to sneak out for a late night performance at a café cantante, kids don’t have to be left out. Outfit your little dancers or better yet, head to Sevilla during La Bienal Flamenco Festival, celebrated in April each year, where they can get up close and personal with flamenco enthusiast from across the globe. Any time of year keep an eye out for spontaneous street performances. Hand your budding dancer a few Euros to show their appreciation for the dance and maybe even try out a few steps.

London

Photo credit Music-Radio-Creative via Flickr

Wave hello to Big Ben in London

The famous clock tower with Big Ben housed inside is an iconic feature of the London skyline. Our kids are exposed to it early through movies (Cars 2 anyone?), books and games. Parents get a little giddy as they remember seeing Mary Poppins for the first time in their youth. Although Big Ben is incredible, there is so much more you can pack into your London vacation with your kids. From free museums to tasty meat pies, incredible shopping and a ride on the Tube, you just can’t go wrong in England’s capital city.

African lion

Photo credit: David Berkowitz via Flickr

Big five in Africa

Why take your kids to the zoo to see lions behind bars when you can go searching for them in the wild? South African, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia and Namibia are just a few of the countries that offer safari adventures for families. Stay at an eco-lodge, camp out under the stars, and let your guide lead the way to lions, elephants, Cape buffalo, leopards and rhinoceros. If you aren’t quite ready to hit the bush, Nairobi’s Giraffe Manor may be the perfect stop. This is no ordinary 12-acre private estate. Oh no, guests can expect to dine with these gentle giants when they pop in for breakfast with you…literally.

Great wall of china

Photo credit: -Francisco-Diez via Flickr

Walk along the Great Wall of China

There are very few UNESCO World Heritage sights as long as the Great Wall of China, and I’m here to tell you that the journey is worth it. I watched my oldest practice his walking, just weeks after his first steps, on the Great Wall. No matter how old your child is you will remember every step and have amazing stories to share with them as they get older. Beijing is the perfect spot to set up camp and there are plenty of outfitters ready to take you to several different sections of the Great Wall for the day or even overnight. When it’s that easy you can’t afford to wait!

Thailand Lantern festival

Photo credit: John Shedrick via Flickr

Celebrate Thailand’s Lantern festival

Every little girl (and boy) who has seen Disney’s Tangled dreams about lanterns floating around the night sky. What they may not know is that there is a place that does it every year. At the top of our family travel list this year is the Lanna Yi Peng festival held in Thailand every November. The celebration is meant as a time to obtain Buddist merit. Chiang Mai, the ancient capital of the former Lanna kingdom, holds the most elaborate festival. Hundreds of expats make Chiang Mai their home, making this ancient city an easy spot to take in your first floating lantern experience, and yes, you can launch your own lantern into the sky along with the locals.

Costa-Rica

Photo credit: dog4aday via Flickr

Hang ten in Costa Rica

Our very own savvy sassy commander-in-chief Andrea likes to call the waters off Costa Rica home and many surfers would agree that this is the place to be. Get your feet wet with a lesson or head down with your own board this winter to hang ten, yell “kowabunga” and introduce your kids to the art of one of the coolest watersports around. Even if you aren’t up for surfing there is more than enough to keep you entertained in this Central American country. Ziplining, snorkeling and eating some fab food are just a few of the things this lush country has in store for visitors.

Iguazu-Falls

Photo credit: the Travelista via Flickr

Gaze up at the Iguazu Falls in Argentina

Think Argentina is all tango and beef steaks? Think again. This South American nation has more natural wonders than you can count, and the Iguazu Falls should be at the top of your list. Brazil and Argentina share the falls, as it is on the border of their two countries.. If you are based in Buenos Aires you can catch a nonstop flight up to Iguazu International Airport Krause. Several tour operators out of Buenos Aires can make your trip a no-brainer, or you can go to Puerto Iguazu, the closest town on the Argentinian side of the falls, and head out from there. Either way you are sure to give your family the thrill of a lifetime at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hobbiton

Photo credit sheilaellen via Flickr

Walk with the Hobbits in New Zealand

Tolkien geeks rejoice! You can head down to Matamata, New Zealand to gaze upon Peter Jackson’s Hobbiton. Your kids will get a kick out of the pint-sized hobbit holes. They may even think this was a village built just for them. But this isn’t the only spot you can get a glimpse of the Tolkien world Jackson recreated in his homeland. With filming in over 150 locations, you will have your choice of adventures to satisfy the Hobbit geek in your whole clan. Hike, kayak or even take a helicopter tour over the best locations from the film. No matter what route you take you are bound to stumble across a bit of Middle Earth.

Great Barrier Reef

Photo credit: Paul-from-www.Castaways.com via Flickr

Scuba in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

Babies may have to sit this one out, but mom, dad and older siblings can throw on their scuba gear to see one of the best and largest underwater wonders of the world. Set up camp in Cairns, a sleek, modern city that will give you access to the Reef, Rainforest and Outback. Tour art galleries, gardens, and a bit of boutique shopping as you let your body adjust to the time change, and then head out for why you really came here… to see this natural wonder of the world! Book with a boat tour, there are plenty to choose from. For those a bit wary of the open seas, look into a helicopter tour that can give you a very different perspective of the reefs. 

Keystone, CO

Photo credit: ~ggvic~ via Flickr

Ski the slopes of Keystone, CO

When it comes to skiing in Colorado you really can’t go wrong. Keystone’s Kidtopia program allows kids to ski free and offers up fun activities to keep the whole family entertained. Mom and Dad can drop the kids at ski school while they swish down the slope and their little ones get a taste for winter sports. Of course no ski vacation would be complete without a little après ski. Grab a hot chocolate, glass of wine or a beer — then dig into fondue, specialty chocolates or just some local BBQ as you end your wintery day on the mountain.

Philadelphia

Photo credit: Jim, the Photographer via Flickr

Discover America’s past in Philadelphia, PA

Washington, D.C. gets all the credit when it comes to U.S. history, but don’t forget it all started in Philadelphia with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Let history come alive for your family as you tour Independence Hall, get a peek at the Liberty Bell, explore Betsy Ross’s house and Ben Franklin’s workshop. Stroll past the houses of Elfreth’s Alley, the first residential street in the city and still occupied by residents to this day. Plan a free gallery tour on First Friday, and end your artistic adventure at Franklin Fountain, an old-fashion soda shop that will definitely have your kids sugared up for the night.

Montrea

Photo credit: dicktay 2000 via Flickr

Get a glimpse of Paris in Montreal, Canada

Not everyone can hop a plane to Paris, but you can drive (or fly) up to Montreal in the Canadian province of Quebec. Tour the Notre-Dame Basicilca of Montreal and the Botanical Garden. Devour crepes, cheese, pastries and poutine. Walk over to the Old Port of Montreal on the banks of the St. Lawrence River for loads of family-friendly fun. Ice skate in the winter or hit the beach in the summer. Cirque du Soleil fans be sure to catch a performance in the city the creative team got their start. It is sure to have your kids begging for an encore.

Wherever your wanderlust takes you, whether near or far, we hope you have a merry time with your family, create incredible memories and see something that makes you say “wow” in the new year.

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Joovy Groove Ultralight

As a mom constantly on the go, I just can’t afford to drag around a heavy stroller for my boys. I’m a die-hard umbrella stroller lover. I like that I can open it with one hand while the other is grabbing the baby that just ran away (yes, I see you shaking your head as you picture this scene from your own life). I like that I can carry the stroller under one arm, and a bag and baby in the other, but your basic umbrella stroller has some draw backs. That’s where the Joovy Groove Ultralight comes in.

This sexy little lady is five pounds lighter than its big sister, making it an easier stroller to travel with and explore new lands… or just the farmers market down the street.

Here’s the dirt on the Joovy Ultralight Groove

• Stroller Weight: 12.78 pounds
• Stroller Dimensions Folded (inches): 12.5 H x 13 W x 40 D
• Stroller Dimensions Assembled: 40.75 H x 21 W x 33.5 D
• Min.Age: 3 Months / Max.Weight: 55 pounds
• Safety features: Five-point harness and reflective safety package
• Colors: Blueberry (as pictured), Purpleness, Triple Black and Charcoal

Joovy Groove Ultralight

Stash your stuff

Storage is what you sacrifice when you go for the cheap umbrella stroller. When you are constantly on the go you need a spot to stash your purse, an extra bag of snacks, loose toys, lovies and that left shoe that the baby keeps throwing into the street. You also need to give your back a break. The Joovy Groove Ultralight has enough space to stick all of your kids stuff plus a large purse, diaper bag or camera bag. I even managed to throw the kids’ coats in the storage below the stroller with my Big Buddha purse.

Joovy Groove Ultralight

Nighty-night baby

With your standard umbrella stroller you also lose the ability to recline your tired baby or toddler. This has come to bite me in the bum more than once. The Joovy easily reclines up to 149 degrees with the pull of a tab. The adjustable leg support means even longer babies can relax without their feet falling over the edge. An oversize canopy will block the sun allowing your little bundle of joy to snuggle up without any bright lights blinding him or her as you move about town.

Stand up straight woman!

If you are a savvy mama of a taller stature, you know how hard it is to find a stroller with handlebars high enough that you don’t have to slouch while you walk to reach them. The aerodynamic design of the Joovy handlebars lets you stand tall while you shop and explore the city. The two separate handlebars also make it easier to maneuver your stroller one handed.

Joovy Groove Ultralight

Getting ahead of the curve

One last drawback of your standard umbrella stroller is the wheels. The tred isn’t very good and you can’t cut those corners very easily. Joovy’s wheels spin around allowing you to tackle those tough curves, even one-handed. You can steer around tight spots, avoid pedestrians cutting you off and sprint to catch the train. The handling on uneven ground is similar to other non-jogger strollers. Without heavy-duty wheels you are bound to hit a few bumps in the road, but you won’t be any worse for wear.

Joovy Groove Ultralight

Let’s wrap it up

There is only one spot that your basic umbrella stroller will have the Joovy beat, but not for long with a little practice. Your basic stroller is easier to open and close one-handed, and tuck under your arm. The way to conquer this is to try opening and closing it at home a few times. The auto fold lock is great, but you will need both hands to unlock the stroller until you get the hang of it. You will also have to unlock the wheels before you start rolling, which you can do with your foot.

Closing the stroller also takes a flick of your foot, but you need to do it in two spots — the most obvious being the step tab in the back, but I found I also had to wiggle my foot to the side to make the mental frame collapse all the way. I could still do all this with a baby in one arm, but not as easily. I have a few more test runs to do before I’ve perfected my technique.

What do you think makes the ultimate travel stroller?

Disclaimer: I was sent the Joovy Groove Ultralight for review. The above is my own savvy sassy opinion

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indywriter-via-Flickr

photo credit: indywriter/Flickr

Holiday travel is rarely on the top of anyone’s list when it comes to favorite things to do in life. We love being with family, checking out new destinations and celebrating the season with our loved ones, but getting there? Well that is a different story.

Walk into the holiday travel frenzy with the knowledge you need to sail through security, hit the road with enough snacks and entertainment to last the trip, and keep things simple when everyone else is going insane.

Ship your gifts

We all love to shop… there is no doubt about that! Finding that perfect gift for everyone in the family is a mission you gladly accept. However, once you have the perfect gift, you have to get it to them. If you are flying, ship the gifts out ahead of time. If you are ordering the gifts online ship them directly to your destination and wrap when you get there. If you are driving a long distance, still consider shipping gifts ahead of time so nothing is forgotten or broken in transit.

pSos via Flickr

photo credit: pSos via Flickr

Breeze through airport security

Arrive early at the airport so you don’t panic when you see the line backed up at airport security. Things do and will take longer when a greater influx of travelers hits airport personnel and everyone feels like they need to get where they are going more than everyone else. Have your laptop in its own bag so you don’t have to rummage. Have all liquids in a quart-size bag in your purse so you can throw your tickets and ID in your purse at the same time you are whipping out your liquids to go through the scanner. The less you have to rummage through, the smoother things will go.

-EMR---via-Flickr

photo credit: -EMR- via Flickr

Pack snacks

No mom leaves the house without at least one snack in her purse — but when you travel maybe you take three. Well during the holidays you will want to take five. Have a variety to keep you and the kids entertained. Bring healthy, high-protein snacks that can keep you fueled up for your travel day. Trail mix, granola bars, fruit, cheese and crackers will all get through security without a problem, stay edible in the car and keep your family smiling.

Assume delays will happen

Whether you are in the air or rolling along the road to Grandma’s house you will inevitably hit some sort of delay. Traffic jams, winter storms, accidents, mechanical difficulties and delayed crew can turn your perfectly timed four-hour trip into a day-long event. Make sure you have extra snacks on hand and a little cash for treats if needed. Bring extra entertainment. Games like Spot It can keep the kids laughing while you sit in traffic. A new movie can keep everyone enthralled while you sit at your gate. If your delays become extreme, give everyone a dollar, draw names from a cup and go Secret Santa shopping in the airport or at a local shop. See how creative the family gets with their purchases. It will ease the tension and keep little minds entertained.

Jo@net-via-Flickr

photo credit: Jo@net/Flickr

Smile

Remember that airport staff, construction crew, toll operators and train conductors are people too. Give them a smile. Wish the security guard that just rummaged through your bag a “happy holiday.” Getting disgruntled over delays will not make you any friends or get you to your destination any sooner. With a positive attitude you can show your kids that holiday travel isn’t just about the destination, it is about the journey you take together and the memories you make.

Where are you traveling with your family this holiday season?

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