travel-section

Category : Family

When your family consists of more than one child, life can oftentimes feel like a survival series. Once school is back in session — with the constant stream of after-school activities, homework and getting ready for the holidays — life can seem like a tornado coming at you full speed ahead. Slow down and connect with each of your children by planning a one-on-one travel date and you’ll be amazed at how much you can learn about your kid and how much fun you can have.

kid travel ideas travel date

I have been lucky enough to take each of my kids on a one-on-one travel date and to some pretty cool spots, too. On these trips, I have had the MOST fun connecting with each of my boys and I hope to make this a regular event.

Planning your one-on-one kid vacation

When you’re coming up with kid travel ideas for your one-on-one travel date, it’s really important to focus on what your kid likes. If your kids are anything like my kids, they have completely different interests. My older one is more adventurous and athletic, while my younger one is inclined to take things more slowly. Needless to say, each of our trips will be completely different, and it’s important to plan accordingly.

Here are some tips:

  • Include your child in the planning process. What activities does he want to do? Where would he want to go? How does he want to spend his one-on-one time with you?
  • Coordinate with school. Your kid will survive a few days out of school – you’ll make it educational anyway, right? Ask your child’s teacher any work you can take along with you on the trip and carve out time daily to complete it.
  • Prep your other child(ren) for your special one-on-one time and simply remind them that their time will soon come, too. You may also need to prep your spouse (you can encourage him/her to enjoy their own special time with the kid who is staying).
  • In fact, you should encourage your spouse to take his own travel date with the kids. He will give them a totally different, completely memorable experience.
  • Choose a destination that will give you a variety of activities, and give you maximum flexibility. I  know in both of my one-on-one travel dates, I had all these grandiose plans for how things would go, but something inevitably happens. Must. Be. Flexible.
  • If you’re heading out of the country (and might I recommend Mexico or the Bahamas?), you should go ahead and order your child’s passport. Actually, go ahead and order their passport anyway (we should all have an up-to-date passport!)
  • Also, when traveling without the other parent, it is required by law to bring a notarized letter acknowledging the trip is ok. Read more about this on the US Border Patrol and Customs Protection website.
  • Record as much as you can; video, photos, journaling. Then, when you get home create a hard copy photo album and an online album, too.

I found that traveling one-on-one with each of my kids incredibly eye-opening. Come to find out my oldest is not nearly as aggravating when his little brother isn’t around, and my youngest is much more self-sufficient than I give him credit for. I was able to get to know my kids individually without the distractions of everyday life.

one on one travel date collage

Getting away with one of your kids is totally fun and incredibly rewarding. Look at that face!

Kid travel ideas

Plan a BIG trip for a particular birthday, such as Hawaii, Europe, or even a long road trip and plan to go on big adventures. (Your spouse may be jealous, but you and your special guy will have the trip of a lifetime!).

Can’t do a big trip? No problem, stay stateside. Our friend Tonya of Letters for Lucas, recently took her guy to Chicago, Keryn of Walking on Travels took her little guy on a boat in Seattle and I was able to spend a few days with my little one here at Snow Mountain Ranch in Colorado. The point is, that there are so many options for adventure when you consider the what kind of stuff your kid is into.

So, what if you don’t have the budget to fly somewhere? Consider a stay-cation in your very own community!  I have not done this yet, but I love the idea of taking one of my boys to a local hotel (that has a pool) and staying the night. We would consider local “adventures” and I would let them run the show.

Really the possibilities are endless when thinking about kid travel ideas. They enjoy the one-on-one time as much as we do.

one on one travel date collage

A one-on-one travel date will create lasting memories. I sure do love this kid!

Your family is a precious commodity and investing in life’s moments not only adds a richness, it also creates a deeper connection when you take the time to create memorable one-on-one moments. It just goes by too quickly!

What are your favorite kid travel ideas for a one-on-one travel date?
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Last week I shared my take on some of the popular Orlando theme parks and what to do with kids in Orlando, but this week is all about the food. Finding fun places to eat in Orlando that both you and the kids will enjoy can be a bit of a challenge. When on a family vacation you should always try to eat out at some restaurants that you might now have back home. There are plenty of fast food and chain restaurants so finding some healthier options is always nice too. So here are my six fun places to eat in Orlando!

Fun places to eat in Orlando with kids

Cafe Tu Tu Tango Orlando Florida

Cafe Tu Tu Tango Restaurant Orlando Florida

Fun Places to eat in Orlando Florida Cafe Tu Tu Tango Tu Tu Tango Pork Sliders Orlando Florida

Cafe Tu Tu Tango

Cafe Tu Tu Tango was hands down my favorite place we ate. It is a very unique restaurant and bar that looks like an artists studio. The vibe is funky, eclectic and creative, and has a great atmosphere. We celebrated my mother-in-laws retirement here, she was an art teacher for 32 years! So clearly this was a perfect place to celebrate the occasion. The food was really fantastic, all small plates meant for family style sharing. The Pork Sliders were by far the family favorite, we ordered another round of those!  All the food was great and even the kids got into sampling most everything that we ordered. They do make small pizzas if your kids are a little pickier.

There was even a fortune teller at a small table and both the Grandma’s went and had their fortunes told! There was also a belly dancer that was dancing around the restaurant later in the night. This restaurant gets pretty busy with large parties and people celebrating Birthdays and other special occasions, so make a reservation!

Dicks Last Resort Orlando Florida
Dicks Last Resort Orlando Florida Party Hats
Dicks Last Resort Beergarita Orlando Florida

Dicks Last Resort

Dick’s Last Resort is a riot. Do not come here unless you are in a good mood. The servers are sarcastic and a little rude, on purpose. The entire restaurant is a party so it is a bit loud and there is a lot going on. At one point they had one of the large groups that was there do a limbo challenge in the middle of the restaurant. Everyone at your table will get a bib and a silly paper hats put on their heads.  They write a funny description of you on the hat that the server randomly makes up or perhaps observes about your personality.

We had to order the Beergarita just for fun. It is a large margarita with a beer dumped inside of it I ended up drinking drank most of it and so my husband drove us all home.The food is a bit expensive for what you get, but you go here more for the obnoxious experience and to have some great laughs. Relax and your family is sure to have a good time at Dick’s Last Resort.

Sea Dog Brewing Company Orlando Florida
Sea Dog Brewing Company Beer Flights

Sea Dog Brewing Company Orlando Florida Connect For

Sea Dog Brewing Company

We stumbled upon Sea Dog Brewing Company by chance. We were ina sea of chain restaurants and then we saw this sign spinner on the corner spinning a sign for the Sea Dog Brewing Company, we turned to give it a try.  We also happened to go on Trivia night and during Happy Hour – so food was a great price and we had a lot of fun testing our knowledge.  We sat in the bar area with our kids, it was totally fine. They have a large

Salad

Photo credit

Sweet Tomatoes

Sweet Tomatoes, yup a salad bar. It’s not exactly “fun” per se but traveling with kids means eating out a lot and when you find a place that has healthy food that everyone likes, you go there, maybe even twice! Farm fresh vegetables and an all you can eat salad bar was rather refreshing to us after a few days of theme park food, i literally had an ice cream cone for lunch one day, so seeing a variety of green vegetables was very exciting. My daughter loves salads so she was thrilled and happy to make her own. Of course my son not a huge fan of veggies we got him chicken noodle and some of the cold pasta salads they offer. And while you can eat very healthy here, there is still a desert station if you want to indulge a little or use that as a bargaining chip with the kids. They liked making their own sundaes.

Winter Park Farmers Market Orlando Florida

Winter Park Florida Park Avenue Shopping Dining

Head to Winter Park

We hit up the Farmers Market in Winter Park on Saturday for some off the beathen path food and local finds and did a little shopping on South Park Ave. There are also plenty of restaurants on South Park Avenue for you to choose from, everything from Panera Bread to trendy restaurants, wine bars and even a Sassafras Sweet Shop. Don’t miss the kids toy store Lighten Up! we spent a long time in there.

Abracadabra Ice Cream Factory Kissimmee Florida
Abracadabra Ice Cream Factory – Kissimmee

Abracadabra Ice Cream Factory is located right before you get into the Old Downtown of Kissimmee, which is right next to Orlando. This is a MUST SEE and EAT. I heard about this ice cream shop via Twitter, so naturally I had to check it out. When you walk in it feels a bit more like a science lab because of all the nitrogen floating around in the air.  They make your custom ice cream flavor in a bowl right in front of you by using nitrogen! If the show isn’t enough to convince you, don’t worry the ice cream will. It is A – mazing! Probably some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had and worth all the calories.  They also have a playground and a few jump houses out back for the kids to run off their sugar high!

Share your Orlando city gems – where did you eat?
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Grand Cypress Hotel Orlando

Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress

A few weeks ago we stayed at the Hyatt Regency Grand Hyatt in Orlando and I cold not have been more impressed! If you are planning a family vacation and are searching for hotels near Disney World, then this is the place to stay. Not only is this the perfect location near many of the theme parks, but there is actually so much to do at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress that you may want to skip some of them and just stay and play at the hotel all day!

Hyatt Regency Pool with Bridge Orlando

The Hyatt Regency Pool and Waterfalls

The Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress has essentially one gigantic continuous pool that is connected through a narrow river-like pool enclosed by a large cave with waterfalls which then opens up to a large pool that has a bridge extending across it. There are a total of twelve waterfalls around the pools and they also have a water slide that empties into an additional pool. For those of you with little toddlers they have a splash pad area as well. You are allowed to bring flotation devices into the pool and they have some for sale at the towel stand for purchase as well. The pool is definitely one of the things that impressed me the most at this hotel.

Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Orlando Pool and Caves
The pool is open 24 hours and I highly recommend a night swim with the kids. The pools are lit up and the caves are even more magical at night. Inside the cave there are lounge chairs for people to get out of the sun and perfect for any napping babies or husbands;) Inside the cave is also where the fitness center is located, probably one of the most unique places to get a workout in I’ve ever seen. They also have a fire pit for roasting marsh mellows and making s’mores. They sell a s’more’s kit, or you can bring your own s’mores ingredients in yourself.

Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Family Activities Orlando

Grand Cypress Water Activities Orlando Florida, hotels near disney world

Plenty of Family Activities

Since this hotel sits on 1,500 acres and there is a small lake there is plenty to do!  They have three jogging trails, tennis courts, and a pitch-and-putt golf course. They have two rock climbing walls, one for smaller kids and one for older children and adults. Down by the water there is a beach with lounge chairs, a volleyball court and tether ball. On the lake you’ll find paddle boats, paddle bikes and paddle big wheels! You can also take out kayaks and canoes. Throughout the day there are also a variety of kids activities to participate in; a scavenger hunt, feeding the ducks, sand castle building, and a treasure hunt.

Other kids’ activities that have an additional fee are sand art, mermaid class, the arcade and Camp Hyatt, which is a drop-off kids’ club. The kids’ club schedule can vary so you’ll just want to call ahead and make a reservation.

hotels near disney world, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Orlando, mermaid school

The Mermaid Academy was an absolute must do for my daughter. It is an hour-long class and could not be any cuter. They do also offer shark fins for the boys to participate as well.

CascadesGrandCypressHotelFood

Dining Options

There is a very nice buffet-style breakfast each morning, but this is not included in your stay. Or you can go to the grab-and-go coffee bar in the morning to pick up pastries, fruit, yogurt, juice, chocolate milk and other lighter options. Cascades is the restaurant that serves lunch and dinner, we ate here twice and were very pleased with our meals each time. I loved my crab cakes and my husband loved his steak but you MUST order the s’mores brownie sundae, it’s pretty much sin in a jar.

There is the Beach Grill outside by the pool for your typical poolside sandwiches, burgers, fish tacos and kids’ meals. Hemingway’s is their fine dining restaurant on the property, if you can get away for a night without the kids then I would suggest this for a little date night.

hotels near disney world, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Orlando
hotels near disney world, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Orlando

The Hotel

The atrium of this hotel is beautiful and even comes with a hotel lobby ambassador, a talking parrot. The lobby has plenty of seating areas for you to lounge, grab a coffee and even get some work done. In the afternoon the lobby bar opens and you can grab a drink as well — and they have a late-night menu, too. The rooms are pretty standard hotel rooms with modern furnishings, we were on the 15th floor and had a great view of the entire property and a lot of Orlando, we even saw a few of the Disney fireworks from our room.

hotels near disney world, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Orlando
I really can’t express enough how much fun my kids had and how much my husband and I enjoyed staying at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. When I vacation with my family I don’t want it to only be about the kids, I want to be on vacation too! This hotel literally has something for everyone no matter the age and is a fantastic place for a family vacation. I am already thinking of a reason to go back to Orlando just so we can stay here again! With so many hotels near Disney World, it can be tricky to find the one that’s perfect. We’re thrilled that we found this fantastic property!

So, where will you be staying for your next family vacation in Orlando?

 

All photos taken by me and should not be used without my consent.

Disclosure:  This was a media stay for me to review the hotel.  I was comped one night and given a media rate for the rest of my stay. This also included one dinner at Cascades.  All of my savvy thoughts and sassy opinions are my own. I share this with you because it is an exceptional property and I would absolutely stay here again.

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So, you hate camping, huh? All those bugs, sleeping on the ground, and eating campfire hot dogs – it could be enough to make a modern girl cringe. If you are not into camping but are getting pressure from friends and family to get out into nature, you’ll appreciate these camping tips guaranteed to take it up a notch… even for the sassiest of all.

Camping hacks

Did you know you could make a refrigerator out of two pots and some sand? Or use foam floor tiles to soften your tent floor? These camping tips will make your summer camping time more fun, more efficient and super awesome (plus, you’ll totally impress the hubs).

glamping hub | camping

Tip #1: Consider Glamping

Glamping is glamorous camping. If you’re slowly working your way into the idea of camping, then luxurious camping could be the way to go. Destinations around the world offer nature-driven lodging options that include all the amenities you just can’t live without. Research Glamping options at GlampingHub.com

Tip #2: Choose your camping destination around the facilities

… the bathroom facilities, that is! Most definitely the least desirable thing about ‘roughing it’ is lack of a toilet, shower, sink and mirror. If getting natural in nature is not in your wheelhouse, chose a spot that will accommodate your needs. Typically, state and national parks offer such facilities. Find one near your desired destination at NPS.gov

Tip #3: Sleep like a queen

Or at least, almost like a queen. Making a comfortable sleeping spot is KEY. Here are my suggestions: soften your floor with foam floor tiles, pack a blow up mattress and use a high-quality sleeping bag.

If space is an issue, ditch the foam tiles and sleeping bag, alternatives are to gather leaves and pack a blow up sleeping pad.

Tip #4: Plan awesome meals

Needless to say, mealtime during camping is awesome time; back to our roots of huddling around the campfire and crafting good chow. Long gone, however, are the simple days of meat and potatoes. Gourmet meals ARE possible with a little preparation.

  • Gather a few key cooking supplies; water, matches, utensils, Dutch oven, heavy-duty foil.
  • Prior to departure, pre-package as many meals as possible. Marinate, and then freeze, your meats in freezer bags (doubles as ice packs!), pre-wrap vegetables in foil (simply toss near the campfire to cook), and add spices to a pillbox.
  • Don’t forget dessert! Sure, you could do s’mores, but why not try Cookie Jar Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting or Campfire Brownies in an Orange?
Tip #5: Keep the kids entertained while you relax by the fire

Camping and kids go together like PB&J, however, there are those rare occasions when they will say those two dreaded words….“I’m bored!” Here are a few camping activities you can have in your back pocket to keep the kids entertained: nature tic-tac-toe (sticks and rocks make for great playing pieces!), hide-n-seek, rock memory game (you’ll need a sharpie for this one), gather sticks for the campfire, sing campfire songs, and/or try to find different types of scat (this one is particularly fascinating to boys!)

camping tips

More great camping tips
  • Keep bugs away by adding Sage to the campfire
  • Don’t let your homey style go by the wayside- consider sprucing up your tent with battery-operated twinkly lights, create a flower arrangement, use table clothes and candles
  • Use one of your fun totes to transfer supplies
  • Pack an easy-to-use Fire Disc (by Coghlan’s) as a fire starter or emergency heat source
  • Coghlan’s also has an inexpensive Bear Bell, attachable to your backpack when hiking (these are genius for peace-of-mind for scared-y camping wimps like myself!)
  • Use a shoe organizer to give your entire supply of kitchen gear a home
  • Consider using a Clean Cube for trash collection
  • Use a French Press for morning coffee
  • Invest in a Kamp Kadi – awesome for keeping the add-ons organized
  • Create an extra, no-electricity-or-ice-needed cooler with two pots and sand (simply place a smaller one inside a larger one, surround with sand and fill with water)

There are a gazillion ways to make camping more enjoyable for even the most naturephobic amongst us. The point is to think outside-the-box and to take advantage of some of the many awesome camping hacks out there. I’ll bet that if given a chance – with a little preparation – you may actually learn to love all the fun that family camping has to offer.

Related: Camping with toddlers 5 things you should haveSummer safety travel tips

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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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Want to plan a family getaway this summer but working with a slim budget? Now is the time to get the ball rolling to find the best deals, destinations and activities.

family travel on a budget

Before you head out

Months before your trip think about where you want to go and how you’re going to get there. Are you flying or driving? This Fly or Drive Calculator is awesome for helping you figure that out.

When flying: Consider signing up for one — or more! — rewards cards to earn miles. Set up a Travel Alert  to track when airline tickets fluctuate and jump when they are low enough. The best time to get the best price when you purchase tickets is at 9:00 pm ET, and the best fares are for flights on Wednesdays. Be otherwise flexible with flight times, days and departure/destination.

When driving: Download the MyMPG app to help you fine-tune your driving habits for better gas mileage. Get your car tuned and serviced prior to departure — and don’t forget to fill your tires to the recommended pressure. Just like with airline rewards, fuel stations are offering their own. Sign up and save at the pump.

For more great road trip tips: How to survive a family road trip without losing your mind and Summer road trip must-haves >>

Saving on lodging

Hotel rooms can add up after a while! But, with a little preparation, you can get the best bang for your buck. Here’s how: Consider going off the beaten path; a downtown Chicago hotel is twice as expensive as staying in one that’s a train ride away. Consider alternatives to hotels, such as HomeAway, VRBO or AirBnB. If you’re feeling brave, you may even try a home swap. Or, save the hassle and stay in a family friendly all-inclusive resort.

Wherever you stay, be sure to get some added perks such as free internet, breakfast and a pool. The pool is a must-have for moms with active kids.

You may enjoy: Best travel apps and websites and Summer safety travel tips with kids >>

Save when you’re there

Getting there is only half the battle — and it’s those little things that add up. So, be prepared. Make a budget then add a 20 percent cushion for activities. Some great ways to save include eating like a local, using deal site apps for local last-minute deals on activities and restaurants, traveling like an eco-tourist by using public transportation and otherwise living like a local.

Let loose

Traveling on a budget with the family is certainly a responsible thing to do, however, don’t be such a stickler that you miss out on fun experiences and opportunities. Trust me, your amazing vacation memories will last a lot longer than a hit to your wallet.

family travel on a budget

What tips do you have for family travel on a budget?
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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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If you think you have to leave the country to have an awesome spring break, think again! Here are ten family friendly destinations that are perfect for a spring break getaway.

Spring Break: Maui

Image Credit: Go Hawaii

Maui, Hawaii

Lush landscape and white sandy beaches — I can’t think of a more ideal family vacation and obviously others agree. Maui is a super family-friendly destination with tons of activities; from snorkeling to an underwater submarine tour, from surfing to hiking to simply hanging out on the beach. LOVE!

Tip: Check out Maui Family Magazine for up-to-date events and happenings.

Spring Break: Coronado

Image Source Hotel Del Coronado

Coronado, California

Want that island feel without the long plane ride? Then Coronado may be the place for you. Just over the bridge from San Diego is the quaint town of Coronado. Even though it’s technically a peninsula, it has that “island feel.” You can walk or ride a bike just about anywhere. Golf, shopping, restaurants, beach and proximity to San Diego amenities make this place a top pick!

Tip: Take a stroll through the historic Hotel Del Coronado, rated one of the top 10 hotels in the world!

 

Spring Break: Arizona Rennaissance Festival

Image Credit: Rick D’Elia

Phoenix, Arizona

Want an off-the-beaten-path spring break experience? Check out The Arizona Renaissance Festival in Phoenix (through March 30.) You won’t tire of this nonstop, day-long family adventure with a medieval amusement park, a 13-stage theater, a 30-acre circus, an arts and crafts fair, a jousting tournament and a feast. Open Saturdays and Sundays February 8 – March 30, 2014.

Tip: Rent a stroller at the event to prolong your experience with little ones.

Spring Break: Heber Valley Utah

Image Source: Go Heber Valley

Heber Valley, Utah

Wouldn’t it be super-awesome to ski and go scuba diving in the same day during spring break? Yeah, I think so too. That’s why Heber Valley, Utah is my next pick. Situated between Deer Valley Ski Resort and Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort is The Homestead Crater, a geothermal spring over 10,000 years in the making. Spend your morning skiing world-class resorts and the evening scuba diving this amazing warm water crater.

Tip: Check out The Zermatt Resort Ski Package: Stay Free, Ski Free, Soak Free

 

Spring Break: Snow Mountain Ranch

Image Source: Snow Mountain Ranch

Snow Mountain Ranch (YMCA of the Rockies), Colorado

Remember all the fun times you had at sleepaway camp when you were a kid? Relive the fun at Snow Mountain Ranch outside of Granby, Colorado. Activities abound, such as tubing, ice skating, roller skating, rock climbing, archery, dog sledding, sleigh riding, Nordic skiing … and that’s just a few! Each month brings new fun geared to delight kids and adults alike. With 5,000 acres of awesomeness in the Rocky Mountains, how could it NOT be fun, right?

Tip: If your spring break is not during “peak time,” there is a Stay 2 nights, Get 1 Free Lodging deal in cabins and lodges through May 31st. (Black out dates are Friday, March 7th through Monday, March 23rd.)

Spring Break: New Orleans

New Orleans, Louisiana

If you think New Orleans is only for Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street and JazzFest, you’re missing out on an awesome family vacation destination. Spring break is the perfect time (not too hot!) to visit attractions such as the Audubon Zoo and Global Wildlife Center, plus the whole family can enjoy a ferry ride, eat beignets at the World Famous Café Du Monde and watch street performers. New Orleans is the greatest city on the planet! (Hyperbolic? Maybe.)

Tip: Skip the Quarter and head to Magazine Street with an abundance of antique shops, impromptu jazz ensembles and mouth-watering po-boys, you’ll never look at New Orleans the same way again (you’re welcome.)

Spring Break: Sandestin

Image Source: Yoloboard.com

Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort, Florida

One of my most favorite family vacations of all time was at the Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort a few years ago. With turquoise water lapping onto soft white sand, not-too-big waves for little ones and a wide array of activities, this is an ideal getaway. We fell in love with The Village of Baytown Wharf in Sandestin, a kid-centric, fun-zone destination. We enjoyed zip-lining, ropes courses, and hitting golf balls onto greens in the bay. Add on old-fashioned ice cream shops, a gazillion restaurants and an open container law (i.e, you can walk around with your fruity cocktail while Jr. runs the ropes), and you’ve made this spot a must-visit.

Tip: Try YOLO Boarding, a stand-up paddleboard sport popular among locals.

Spring Break: Washington DC

That’s me!

Washington DC

Celebrating spring at our nations Capital is a one-of-a-kind experience, especially during the National Cherry Blossom Festival between March 20 and April 13, 2014. Not only do you get to enjoy beautiful cherry blossoms, there is a host of family-friendly activities happening daily on the National Mall. Enjoy free admission to just about everything you can think of (museums, the zoo, performances) during the day, and then hit up world-famous restaurants in the evenings.

Tip: Connect with your inner dork on a Segway Tour of the city. It. Is. Super. Fun (seriously!)

Spring Break: Great Wolf Lodge

Image Source: GreatWolf.com

Great Wolf Lodge Poconos

Going to a Great Wolf Lodge is on my bucket list of things to do. Why? Because my kids are obsessed with water parks and what better way to enjoy one then to stay at one, too? Sounds awesome to me! The Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos is only an hour and a half away from New York City and a whole world away from everything else. Bingo, story time, breakfast with characters  – and let’s not forget the 79,000 square feet of water packed excitement — are sure to keep the kids talking about this one for many months to come.

Tip: The hotel can get noisy with all those over enthused kids running around, consider getting a room on the 4th floor for a quieter downtime.

Spring Break: St. Croix US Virgin Islands

Image Source: Wikipedia

St. Croix, US Virgin Islands

That’s right, this Caribbean island chain (St. John, St. Croix and St. Thomas) does not require a passport. Rich in culture, a vacation in the U.S. Virgin Islands offers much more than a traditional beach vacation. Visitors can immerse themselves in historical tours, artisan fairs, parades and so much more. While you’re soaking up all that culture, you can also snorkel, scuba dive and visit a botanical garden.

Tip: Check out VisitUSVI.com for package deals.

What are your favorite US destinations for a family-focused spring break vacation?
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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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