travel-section

Category : Family

Summer is just around the corner, which is the perfect time to get out into the great outdoors! I love to camp with my family, but having the right gear does make the trip easier and the campers happier.

Must Have Camping Gear for Kids

Your gear will undoubtedly vary a bit based on the type of camping you’re doing (car, tent, van, open air), the age of your children and the conditions you tend to camp in (summer sun, spring winds, fall chill, winter snow), but here are a few of my family’s must-have camping gear for kids.

Sleep tight

Must-have camping gear for kids: The best sleeping bags

No one likes being cold at night and if you have young kids, it can keep parents up wondering if their little one is warm enough. Ensure your kids are as snug as a bug in the Kelty Big Dipper 30 Sleeping Bag for Boys and the Kelty Big Dinner 30 Sleeping Bag for Girls ($80 each). This sleeping bag packs-down small, weighs just 3 lbs., and is rated down to 30-degrees Fahrenheit. But, here’s why it’s one of my favorites — this sleeping bag grows with your child! As your child gets taller, you can unzip the bottom of the sleeping bag to reveal an additional 12-inches of foot space! So smart! The price is an investment, but my son has used this sleeping bag since he was 3-years-old and he’s now 8-years-old with still more space to grow into it.

Keep it light

For Kids: Black Diamond Headlamp

The best light is campfire light, but that doesn’t always extend all the way to the path to the bath(room). To keep your kids safe (and easy to see at night), outfit them with a kid-sized headlamp like the new Gizmo Headlamp ($20) from Black Diamond. This headlamp has an impressive 60-Lumens and three functions (full strength, dimmed and strobe), is reasonably priced, and best of all, powers-off after two-hours if it’s accidentally been left on,  which if your kids are using it, most likely will happen at some point.

 Kid-friendly carries

Dueter Backpacks

It’s never too early to train your kids to carry their own stuff. We’ve become big fans of the Deuter backpacks. My kids all started out the Deuter Junior ($39), a lightweight 1,100-in³ pack that my kids carried from the age of 4+ (also a great backpack for preschool and kindy!). If you want something even smaller, Deuter offers both the Schmusebär ($39) and the Kikki ($45). Once kids are ready for bigger explorations and maybe some overnight backpacking trips, they can move up to the Climber, Fox 30 or Fox 40, which are kid-sized while still providing the support, features and durability you’ll find on Deuter’s adult packs, like back adjustments, compression straps, sternum straps and hydration compartments.

Stay hydrated

Camelbaks for Kids

Speaking of hydration, kids expend a lot of energy — my kids seemingly do all the time, but even more so when they’re rock-hopping, squirrel-chasing and stick-finding out in nature. Fortunately, we can keep our kids hydrated — even on the go — with Camelbak hydration packs. Choose the lightweight Skeeter ($40) for hydration only or the upgraded Trailblazer 15 ($75) which is designed to fit kids ages 9 to 13 and comes with both a 1.5-L hydration bladder and backpack storage for long-sleeves and snacks. Camelbak also has other packs designed for different activities and conditions.

Fun food tools

Camping Food Tools for Kids

For my kids, camping allows for lots of special opportunities — past-bedtime star-gazing and knife-carving on found sticks to name a couple — but many of these special moments also seems to center around food. When camping with kids, I love having a few special kid-suitable cooking and eating tools that help create those special moments. First up is a good cup that is suitable for hot chocolate on a crisp morning, milk and cookies after dinner, or even a rare ice cream float. Before you buy the first fancy cup you see at REI, keep in mind these important rules: The cup must be stackable and easy to wash, as well as ideally insulated and multi-function. I love these Stanley eCycle Infinite Mug/Bowl Set ($10), which are stackable, lidded and can be used for hot chocolate, juice, soup or as a measuring cup. I also like these GSI Outdoors Glacier Pint Set ($30/set of four), which are color-coded so everyone know whose cup is whose and can be doubled-up if a beverage is too cold or hot. We also like to include some hot dog/s’mores skewers ($15) or, in the summer, a fun gadget like this ice cream ball ($27) — activity and treat in one! Plus we’re also sure to bring at least one of these (cheaper at your local grocery store).

What are your favorite must-haves for camping with your kids?
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The Grand Canyon gets all the attention from visitors to Arizona, but once you’re in the area, like I was with my family on our recent spring break travels, it’s worth heading east a bit farther to explore Canyon de Chelly.

Family Travel: Canyon De Chelly in Arizona

Pronounced “d’ shay”, Canyon de Chelly is based on the Navajo word tseyi meaning “place within the rock.” It holds the unique honor of being the only national monument within the Navajo Nation. Also, it’s gorgeous.

Where to stay

Where to stay near Canyon de Chelly in Arizona

Despite the beauty of the area, there is also a fair amount of poverty, similar to the kind you might find in parts of Mexico. Driving through the town of Chinle may have you a bit concerned, but once you make it over a few hills you’ll arrive at the lovely Sacred Canyon Lodge, formally the Thunderbird Lodge. This is an ideal place to stay with kids to explore the area.

Family Travel: Sacred Canyon Lodge in Arizona

The single-story hotel has 70 lodge-style rooms that come with either two queen or two double beds, a bathroom and a sitting area. The rooms feature Navajo-inspired decor, as well as some modern amenities like flat screen TVs, cable and WiFi (sporadic WiFi, I should note). The rooms are on the smaller side, but there is a large grassy area for games of Frisbee or midday picnics, as well as a collection of tables. You can also check out other amenities, like hair dryers and mini fridges, from the front desk.

Family travel in Arizona

Kid-friendly hotels in Arizona

There is a fun gift shop on the premises with arrowheads, rocks and toys for the kids, as well as beautiful jewelry, weavings and artwork for the adults. There’s also a cafeteria-style dining room that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. At least once during your stay, you must try a Navajo taco — a kind of marriage between an open-face taco and a bowl of chili on a piece of fry bread. It’s delicious and filling and definitely big enough to share!

To try in Arizona: Najavo Taco

The staff is friendly and helpful, but it is important to note that they are limited in their ability to recommend specific excursions, tour guides or activities over others — I’m not sure if it is an actual law or just a code of ethics, but they couldn’t (and adamantly wouldn’t) recommend one tour provider over another. So, if you like to make decisions on the recommendations of others, it’s worth visiting Yelp, TripAdvisor and the like to find out some fan favorites.

Must-do excursion

The only way to explore the canyon is via a guided tour, which are offered via Jeeps (2-3 people, some take 4), Suburbans (3+ people), horseback or hiking. Yes, it’s a little strange driving right through the river of this sacred canyon in a 4-wheel drive Suburban! There are a handful of approved tour guide companies (we used AZ Canyon Jeep Tours) and you can find customer feedback if you look on travel sites like TripAdvisor.com.

Jeep tours through Canyon de Chelly in Arizona

The canyon offers a wealth of history of the Anasazi, Hopi and Navajo people dating back to roughly 700 A.D. In addition to the history and legends a good guide will talk about during the tour, you’ll also get to see the ruins (many still intact) of ancient cliff dwellings and an amazing collection of pictographs and petroglyphs.

Check these out….

Must-visit with kids: Canyon de Chelly in Arizona Must-visit with kids: Canyon de Chelly in Arizona Must-visit with kids: Canyon de Chelly in Arizona Must-visit with kids: Hotel de Chelley in Arizona

It’s one thing to read about the history of a people. It’s another thing to see a picture, a hand print that a person left on a wall almost 2,000 years ago!

And then there are the cliff dwellings…

Must-visit with kids: Canyon de Chelly in Arizona Must-visit with kids: Canyon de Chelly in Arizona Must-visit with kids: Canyon de Chelly in Arizona

Built directly in the sandstone cliff, these dwellings provided rooms for shelter, storage and ceremonies for the Anasazi.

A standard guide takes about three-hours, is filled with lots of history and stories, has a handful of get-out-and-walk-around stops, and is a pretty good length for families. If you have older children, you can sign up for longer half- or full-day tours. We took the first tour of the day (usually around 10 a.m.) and our guide mentioned that this is an ideal time of day to see many of the pictographs and cave dwellings.

Be sure to note: We read online and talked to other hotel guest who had experience with tour guide no-shows in this area, so be sure to call and confirm your pick-up time and location.

Other kid-friendly activities

Before or after your canyon tour, you’ll want to leave time to check out the Canyon de Chelly Visitor Center, which is just a short drive from the Sacred Canyon Lodge, as well as time to explore the canyon from above with the North and South Rim self-guided tours. There are a number of lookouts and vistas and some also have hiking trails. And, if you’re lucky, you can even grab a gorgeous DIY sunset dinner with canyon views!

Canyon de Chelly in Arizona Family-friendly travel to Canyon de Chelly in Arizona

 

For more information on the area visit National Park Service website and the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation website.

We were not paid for this post. We did received a complimentary stay at the Sacred Canyon Lodge to help facilitate this post. All opinions expressed are my own.

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I love to travel with my family and while exotic new destinations are fun, it’s also good to remember that any new town can be full of adventure, experiences and opportunities. On our recent spring break travels to the Grand Canyon, my family stopped by to explore some family fun in Flagstaff, Arizona and found some hidden gems in the city you’ll definitely want to try.

Family-friendly accommodations

Courtyard Marriott in Flagstaff, Arizona

When I’m traveling with my family, I’m looking less for outlandish luxury and more for family-friendly features. And the Courtyard Marriott delivers. Families will enjoy the large dual-queen bedrooms or a king suite that includes a sofa bed in a separate living room. Our balcony room gave us a chance to check out the city from above and the in-room mini-fridge ensured our dinner leftovers lasted until morning. My kids immediately hit the pool and jacuzzi to burn off some of their roadtrip energy while I checked out the gorgeous outdoor patio with couches and fire pits.

Family-Friendly Courtyard Marriott in Flagstaff, Arizona

In addition to an evening bar and morning buffet breakfast, the large lobby has plenty of couches and tables which are perfect for planning your day, Uno tournaments or a pre-dinner drink. The lobby also has an over-sized touchscreen with details about the hotel, weather, and local restaurants and attractions.

Eat (& be entertained!)

Black Bart's Steakhouse  in Flagstaff

First, a warning: The exterior of Black Bart’s Steakhouse place is not easy on the eyes. The property includes both an RV park and an overnight parking for 18-wheelers next door that will have you reconsidering pulling into the driveway. This is literally what you see from the street:

Black Bart's Steak House in Flagstaff

This is not the kind of place you would drive by and decide to try out. Nearly everyone I talked to in the restaurant had heard about Black Bart’s from a friend, family member or travel blog. But believe me… inside the run-down facade, you’ll find an eye-catching, stomach-pleasing, smile-producing steakhouse that features delicious entrees and — wait for it — singing servers.

Black Bart's Steak House in Flagstaff, Arizona

The first thing you’ll notice is the decor. Layers upon layers of antiques, animal heads and vintage finds cover the walls. You can spend the whole evening just taking in the sights….until you get to the singing waitstaff.

Black Bart's Steak House in Flagstaff, Arizona That’s right — from group numbers with props to solos on stage, the evening is dotted with musical performances as varied as Broadway show tunes, Disney favorites, hits from the ’60s, ’70s and more. We heard everything from Aladdin to Elton John, Frozen to Hello Dolly. The staff is hired first on their ability to sing so the talent was good. Many are drama or theater students at the nearby Northern Arizona University.

Black Bart's Steak House in Flagstaff, Arizona

Finally, and really, most importantly… the food. It’s basic steakhouse fare, but it’s goooood. Juicy ribs, bacon-wrapped tenderloin, salmon and burgers with plenty of sides to round out the meal. Adult meals range from $25-$35, but most kid plates are just $6-9. And, it’s a lot of food for the money. In hindsight, our kids probably could have split a kid’s plate and we certainly didn’t need the apps we ordered which left us with no room for dessert (the horror!). It really is dinner and a show, so we found it quite reasonable and definitely worth the stop. While the Black Bart’s doesn’t require reservations, it was packed on a Monday night so it wouldn’t hurt to make them — especially if you’re coming with a large family or group.

Must-do day trip

Bearizona in Flagstaff, Arizona

About half an hour outside of Flagstaff (and on the way to the Grand Canyon if you’re continuing on), you’ll find Bearizona Wildlife Park, a drive-thru wildlife park. Bearizona has the goal of connecting visitors to animals and the land they inhabit. The design of the park allows you to see the natural behaviors of pack and herd animals. Depending on when you visit, you may even get to see courting rituals, mating or births!

Bearizona Wildlife Park

You can either drive your own car through the park or hop on the open-air bus. After a few reminders about keeping your windows closed and driving away if the animals get too close to the car, you’re off! The two-mile drive takes you past big horn sheep and deer, arctic wolves and brown and white bison among other animals. At the end are the much-anticipated bears! I presumed the place would have a couple of bears which would probably be hard to see or find, but I was impressed that we saw six or seven different bears, some of which were eating, resting or playing and many of which were just a few feet away from our car!

Bearizona Wildlife Park

There are fences that separate the different animals, but you drive your car right into the fenced areas, giving you an up close and personal view of the animals as they eat, sleep, play and cross the road right in front of you!

After the driving tour, you park your car and can continue to explore the walk-through portion of the park which includes smaller and baby animals, the Bearizona Barnyard petting zoo and a cool Birds of Prey show. Here you can find bobcats, foxes, otters, baby bears and more!

Bearizona Wildlife Park in Arizona

Check out Bearizona’s Instagram page for even more adorable animal pics. A worthwhile outing if your kids are animal lovers!

Heading to Arizona? Visit the Flagstaff Visitor Bureau for even more to see, do, and eat in Flagstaff!

Savvy Sassy Moms was not paid for this post. All opinions expressed are my own. Thanks to the Flagstaff Visitors Bureau for helping to coordinate our visit.

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Last summer when we took our seven city road trip around the South our fourth stop along the way was Myrtle Beach. After a whirlwind in Orlando, soaking up the southern charm in Savannah, Georgia and Charleston – I wasn’t sure what to expect from Myrtle Beach, other than – the beach.

As we headed into Myrtle Beach the traffic started to build up and I could see that it had a lot going on. It reminded me a little like the old Las Vegas strip, there were a lot of neon signs and large red signs advertising seafood buffets. We made our way to our hotel which was a very tall building along a stretch of other hotel towers known as the “Grand Strand”.

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Where we stayed

We stayed at the Crown Reef Resort, which is an oceanfront hotel that just had a 7.5 million dollar renovation which included a brand new waterpark. We were there just a week after this water park opened, they were literally still laying down some of the carpet on the stairs going up to the waterslides and paint was still drying.

The hotel already had two pools and a lazy river but the new water park consists of two large waterslides and a splash park with two smaller slides for younger children. For the new large slides you grabbed your tube at the bottom and then walked up three flights of stairs to the entrance of the slides. I was happy to know that there were lifeguards at the top controlling when the kids went down. You could go down on a solo tube or a tandem double tube or the other slide without a tube at all. This feature of the hotel was a big hit with our kids!

Crown Reef Resort Waterslide

The pool deck area gets very crowded and it is very hard to find chairs, you have to get down there pretty early to grab one. Smoking is allowed around the pool deck, which really shocked me. I was not used to this and neither were my children. Standing in line for a snow cone with your kids and having smoke blown in your face was not exactly ideal.

The parking garage is right next to the pool and lazy river area which I found to be distracting and sometimes very loud. The pool deck area is not a relaxing place that you might hope to find when on vacation and the view from most angles is a lot of stone colored concrete and now giant waterslides overhead.

The new restaurant on the property is the Loco Gecko and the food and service here was good. There is also a brand new arcade, but the games are pretty expensive. Through the arcade you’ll also find a small cafe where you can grab some coffee or pastries in the morning.
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Our room was an ocean view suite with two queen size beds, a kitchenette and a living room area that had a murphy bed in the wall. This was the highlight for the kids, pulling down the murphy bed! It was clean but very basic. Our view of the ocean was nice and it was only a short walk to get to the beach but it was packed with people. Summer in Myrtle Beach, I guess I shouldn’t have been so shocked.

We had very slow internet in our room, which actually made me get up really early and go to the Starbucks in the Piggly Wiggly at The Market Common so I could get some work done in the morning. Usually when we travel my husband and I are always working a bit too and so we like to hang out in a lobby outside of the room, but there was no real lobby area or comfortable working space for me here.

Sweet Frog Yogurt Myrtle Beach

Sweet Frog Yogurt

Chances are you’ll want to cool off and get some ice cream while in Myrtle Beach. You’ll want to head to Sweet Frog Yogurt, maybe even twice! Grab your cup and fill it up with a variety of yogurt flavors and an endless buffet of toppings. This is located on the main street of North Ocean Drive in a small strip mall.

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Nacho Hippo

Hands down the best thing I ate in Myrtle Beach was this buffalo shrimp fish taco at Nacho Hippo. This is a fun restaurant and the food is excellent. The Nacho Hippo located in The Market Common, which I mentioned before. This is a great area if you need to do some shopping or want to have a nice dinner.

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Myrtle Beach Sky Wheel

The one thing I was looking forward to riding as a family was the Sky Wheel but unfortunately it was stuck by lightening and was not working the day we went to ride it. Not their fault of course, but a bummer for us. Even though we didn’t get to ride, I am sure I would have liked the view from the top. I would have enjoyed seeing  my kids’ nervous faces as we got higher and higher too.

If you need to grab some lunch, Landshark Bar & Grill sits right next to the Sky Wheel and has a nice patio and view of the ocean. The food was good and the beer tasted even better!;)

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Arcades & Mini Golf

My son LOVES arcades and playing games. So we spent a lot of time in the arcade, winning tickets and picking out prizes.  Arcades definitely make for some old school fun and I can never resist a few games of Ski Ball. Another plus for the arcades is that they are air conditioned!

Myrtle beach has more mini golf courses per mile than any other city. So if you are a mini golf fan, you won’t have any problem spotting a course, they’re everywhere! This is a great activity once the sun starts to go down and it’s not so hot outside.

Skip it: The Myrtle Beach Helicopter ride was a a waste of time and money. We waited to go on the helicopter ride for 45 minutes and then the ride was about 8 minutes long and we paid almost $300 for the four of us. Sure, it was cool to be up in a helicopter, but not worth the cost or the wait for a view of hotels on a beach. I’ve honestly seen better views out my airplane window that lasted longer.

Myrtle Beach no doubt has a lot to offer families and is a great alternative to those other expensive theme parks  but it is not for everyone. As someone who travels a lot and with budgets big and small I can see how Myrtle Beach appeals to families looking to get a lot of bang for their buck. Myrtle Beach is a giant playground for kids, however when I go on vacation I am a little selfish and want just as much for me to do as there is for the kids. If I ever went back I would do some more research and try to find more hidden gems and a place to stay away from the crowds.

Have you been to Myrtle Beach? Did you love it? What did I miss?

 

Disclosure: I was hosted for three nights at the Crown Reef Resort. All my savvy thoughts and sassy opinions are my own. 

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San Diego has so much to offer for a family vacation — Legoland, SeaWorld, San Diego Zoo, Birch Aquarium and more. But, let’s be honest, it can also have a lot of traffic and driving and general busyness that might be overwhelming after a long day exploring one of the city’s many attractions. So, I want to introduce you to the Lakehouse Hotel and Resort — a serene, lakeside getaway that is close to all that San Diego has to offer without the hustle-and-bustle of the big city.

Lakehouse Hotel & Resort

The Lakehouse Hotel and Resort is located on beautiful Lake San Marcos, a 30-minute drive in-land from Encinitas, and was named one of TripAdvisor’s 25 Top Hotels in the United States in 2014. The recently remodeled hotel offers 142 gorgeous rooms, half of which are right on the lake (most of the rest have a view of it). The rooms were large with plenty of room for our family of five. They boast features like Serenity memory foam beds, complimentary wireless internet, a soothing spa-like color scheme, and balconies that are just begging you to take a load off and watch the sun set.

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They also have a collection of larger one and two-bedroom waterfront cottages that provide more space and amenities like a living area, personal fire pits and refrigerators.

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I’m sure this was lost on my children, but I really liked their bathrooms. A mix of modern and rustic, I admit that once during our stay, I did leave my kids and husband at the pool to go take a “nap”  —AKA a luxurious shower alone complete with Pandora, herbal body wash and a robe. Shhhh

Lakehouse Bathrooms

The grounds are small, but lovely and include two pools and hot tubs, hammocks, fire pits and a waterfront promenade. The kids had a blast at the pools and had fun checking out all the watercraft docked on the lake. It wasn’t quite warm enough during out visit to want to venture out on Lake San Marcos, but the Lakehouse offers kayak, water bikes and stand-up paddleboard rentals just steps from your room.

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The hotel also has a great lobby area with a fireplace, library, and board games you can check out. (Even LEGOS!)

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There is no on-site restaurant which is a bit strange, but guests of the resort can visit the St. Mark Golf Country Club (a one-minute complimentary golf cart ride away) which offers a fitness center, driving range, two golf courses and the Grill restaurant open for breakfast, Sunday brunch, lunch and dinner. It’s typical country club fare, so while it might be worth a dinner or brunch, families are likely better off seeking out some of the great restaurants in Encinitas (we LOVE this breakfast spot!) or closer to your San Diego attractions.

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All in all, the Lakehouse provides relaxing, family-friendly accommodations for your Southern California adventures. And amazing morning coffee views.

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 Visit lakehousehotelandresort.com to learn more and book your stay!

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The spring break countdown is ON!

Who’s counting the days until spring break? We are! If you’re headed somewhere warm for spring break, or if you’re lucky enough to already live in paradise, these spring break essentials from One Step Ahead are must-haves when you’re making plans. Not only will they make your time in the sun much easier to manage with little ones, but these spring break essentials are all travel-friendly, making them easy to pack, to stash in your suitcase or to ship ahead of time to wherever you’re spring break bound.

8 Spring break essentials from One Step Ahead

8 Spring break essentials from One Step Ahead

1. Sand-Away Beach Sheet, $28
No more reminding the kids to keep their sandy feet off of the beach blanket! This innovative beach sheet allows the sand to sift right through, keeping your snacks and gear sand-free while you’re taking breaks from playing in the water.

2. Sand-Off! Sand Removal Mitt, $10
You’ve probably pinned a million different ways to remove the sand from your little ones, because the last thing you need in your car at the end of a long day at the beach is sand! Just slip on the mitt, wipe down your kiddos and you’re good to go.

3. Sun Care Travel Kit, $10
Grab one of these kits for every car, every beach bag and every purse you’re bringing on spring break this year. It will save your life when you’ve forgotten the sunscreen at the hotel… not that would ever happen, right?

4. Waterproof Case for iPhone, $20
You’ve protected your kids, but what about your devices? One Step Ahead has an entire line of waterproof cases to make sure your tech is safe at the beach or the pool and down to 33-feet undewater! Also available for smartphones and iPads.

5. Family Beach Bag, $25
Leave your beloved purse at home when you’re traveling to the beach and pool over spring break and trade it in for one of these beach bags. Not only does it have pockets for days, but it has mesh along the bottom and sides so that you can shake out the sand before you unpack. And, we can’t resist that monogram!

6. Sun Smarties Infant Cabana, $50
Having a baby at the beach can be tricky because as much as they look adorable in that cute little bathing suit you bought them, sun and babies just don’t mix. Keep her protected in the One Step Ahead Infant Cabana which offers UPF 50+, keeping 98 percent of harmful UV rays off of her precious skin.

7. Collapse a Pail Sand Bucket, $13
Okay, now let’s talk about how to have fun on spring break! Sure, you could just buy a cheapie sand bucket when you get to your destination, but we thing that this collapsible pail is a better option that will last much longer and build much bigger sand castles!

8. Kids Swim Goggles, $13
You’ve probably realized by now that just like bathing suits and flip-flops, goggles are a spring break essential that needs to be refreshed every season. These from One Step Ahead are famous for actually staying on and for being easy to adjust.

One Step Ahead giveaway

One winner will win a spring break essentials gift pack from One Step Ahead.
Includes: Sun Smarties Family Beach Cabana Tent, Sand-Away Beach Bag, Sand-Away Beach Sheet, Family Beach Bag. Total value of over $150.
U.S residents only. Must be 18 or older to enter and win.
Please enter using the Rafflecopter form below.
Giveaway ends 3/24/2015 at 11:59 p.m.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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MckEnna Hudson Ready Paint Fire Keystone Art Camp
Art Camp at Keystone Resort

While we were visiting Keystone Resort over the holidays last year we did a lot more than just snowboard. This is exactly why I loved Keystone so much — you don’t have to feel bad about not being on the mountain when there are so many other fun activities. When our kids saw the sign for Art Camp they both stopped in their tracks and begged us to sign them up!

Let the kids work their creative muscle at Ready, Paint, Fire!‘s two locations: one at Keystone and the original location at Breckenridge. Our kids went to the Art Camp from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on a Saturday morning, which was perfect timing for us to drop them off, allowing my husband and me to get some more snowboarding time in!

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Ready, Paint, Fire!

When we entered the Ready, Paint, Fire! art studio I think my kids thought they had died and gone to heaven. Since we live out of the country, it is hard to take any sort of art classes and both my kids love arts and crafts. They also have an art teacher for a grandma, so they have been lucky to learn a love of art from her.

The first room at Ready, Paint, Fire! was set up with wall-to-wall canvas with drawings and the kids got to choose which one they wanted to paint. They also molded Christmas ornaments (for Grandma, of course), a panda pinch pot and a monster out of clay and painted them. After camp was over they put the pottery in the kiln to be fired and you can return the next day to pick them up.

ready paint fire Art Studio Ketystone Colorado

Hudson LEGO painting at Ready Paint Fire Keystone
Hudson picked out a LEGO canvas to paint (obviously).

McKenna Ready Paint Fire Keystone Resort Colorado

McKenna choose this cute bear fishing in a boat.

Keystone Art Camp Ready Paint Fire
Classes and Special Events

If you are lucky enough to live in Summit County, or if you are visiting Keystone or Breckenridge, you can check the website for even more classes and special events. They also have studio drop-in sessions where you can pay an hourly fee, plus the cost of your pottery or canvas. Check the Ready, Paint Fire! website for more details.

Find them on Facebook

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The Springs at River Run Keystone Colorado Family Travel Vacation Lodging

The Springs Keystone Colorado

Keystone Resort Lodging

Keystone makes for one exceptional family ski vacation there is not doubt about that. The mountain itself will impress you and the kid friendly amenities and all the activities will keep your family very busy on and off the mountain. Keystone is also only about a two hour drive from Denver and very easy to get to which is another reason it’s a perfect choice.

When choosing your Keystone Resort lodging you have many options available, however the Mountain House neighborhood is a great option for families because of it’s proximity to the Ski & Ride school. We stayed at The Springs, which is a part of the Keystone Resort managed properties and one of the biggest benefits of staying within the Keystone Resort properties is when you book at least two nights, your kids ski free!

Kids Ski Free at Keystone

The Springs Keystone Resort Waterslide and Pool

The Springs at Keyatone Resort Condo Vacation Rentals The Springs Keystone Colorado Lodging

The Springs at Keystone Resort Colorado Hotels
The Springs, Keystone Colorado

The Springs at Keystone is located near the base of the Keystone Gondola and right next to the Keystone Ski & Ride school, which makes it very convenient for parents getting their kids to and from ski school. Keystone also has little red wagons to haul kids ski equipment back to the condos and there are storage lockers assigned for each condo in the garage, so you do not need to bring all that gear into the condo.

Another reason why the The Springs is so popular with families is the outdoor jacuzzi’s and the only outdoor pool with a waterslide! The pool is lukewarm but when it is -10 degrees outside it feels a bit colder. My kids loved sliding down the slide, swimming across the pool and then jumping into the hot tub. I didn’t want to do it, but they finally convinced me and so even I took the waterslide plunge!

The Springs is also just a short walk across a bridge that takes you right to the center of the main village. The Village is where you will find plenty of dining options, coffee shops, shopping, and a mini market. There is also a free Keystone shuttle that will pick you up and take you anywhere within the Keystone Resort as well so getting to the Village and the slopes is never a problem no matter where you stay!

The Springs Condo Kitchen Keystone Colorado Vacation Rental

The Springs Living Room Keystone Colorado

The Springs Condo Bedroom One Keystone Colorado The Springs two bedroom condo Keystone Colorado Vacation Rental

Inside the Condos at The Springs, Keystone Colorado

We stayed in a two bedroom condo and it was very nicely furnished, just as you would expect a Colorado mountain ski condo to be furnished and decorated. It was cozy and felt very comfortable, as if it was our own families condo. The kitchen was large and had plenty of seating for everyone, either around the huge countertop bar or at the kitchen table that had chairs and a long bench to sit at. The living room area had a large leather sofa that had a pull out bed, which is great if you have more than two children or are traveling with grandparents.

The Springs as a very nice lobby area for lounging around with a large fireplace, couches and even a pool table. They have separate playroom for smaller children and toddlers with a fun house, toys, books and games. There is a private theatre room too!  We stumbled upon this by accident and made the most of our discovery and immediately put in the move Elf and settled in for a lazy afternoon in the big leather chairs.  This might have been one of my favorite moments just because it was unexpected and such a sweet surprise.

The Springs is a luxury priced property but with all the amenities and conveniences it may be worth it to you and your family. The Keystone Resort itself has done an incredible job making Keystone very family friendly and staying at The Springs was really the icing on the cake!

Keystone The Springs at River Run Frozen RiverKeystone Colorado Top of Mountain Snow Fort
Disclosure:  A portion of my stay at The Springs was a part of a Media Stay with Keystone Resort for the purpose of a review. My opinions are always my own. I share this with you so it may help you decide on your next family adventure!

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Standing at the top of Keystone and looking out over this spectacular view, I felt like I was floating outside my boots. I may have ten reasons to take the family to Keystone, Colorado, but truth be told, the breathtaking view is reason enough.

If I am being honest, the mountain itself overwhelmed me. I was a bit intimidated. Our first run down, I was feeling my 37 year old aging body a bit and things were stiffer than they had been in years past. The ski runs at Keystone are long and some of them are very steep. The longest run is School Marm, which is 3.5 miles long! My legs got quite the workout at Keystone. Luckily, I found the Spring Dipper, which was my favorite run — it was a little more gentle on my legs and let me enjoy the ride a bit more.

If you came strictly for the mountain, you are sure to be completely satisfied. However, there are so many more family-friendly activities off the mountain, which is why Keystone Resort makes for one of the best family ski vacations.

The Springs Keystone Colorado Outside Hot Tub and waterslide WaterslideThe Springs at Keystone Resort Colorado Hotels
1. The Springs

We were fortunate to stay at one of the Keystone condos at The Springs, and I have to say this was the perfect location and ideal family lodging.The condos are well-equipped with everything you need and include a large kitchen and living room with a pull-out sofa and fireplace. The Springs is just a short walk to the village and as close as you can get to the kids Ski & Ride school, which is located right next to the main Gondola. There are several hot tubs and a pool with a waterslide if you feel like taking the chilling plunge! Watching my kids run through the steam to the top of the waterslide, swimming across the pool and then jumping into the hot tub was one of my favorite memories during our stay. We also discovered the private theatre room and spent an afternoon snuggled up watching the movie Elf, another favorite Keystone moment of mine.

Epic Mix Kids Photo Keystone 2014

2.  The Epic Mix

Lift tickets have gone digital. When you purchase your lift tickets, you will receive a hotel-key-like card. This card can simply be put in your pocket, and you’ll never have to take it out to be scanned. Vail Resorts are using a ground breaking technology that embeds RFID chip into your card, and it tracks everywhere you go on the mountain!  You can log into EpicMix.com using the code on the back of your card to see your mountain stats for the day as well as mountain conditions. It will show how many vertical feet you rode that day, and you can earn special mountain pins. You can take photos on the mountain from the Epic Mix photographers and download, share and send them to family and friends. You can also follow your family and friends and communicate with them on the mountain — it’s like your own mountain social network!

Keystone Village Fire Pit and Shops

Keystone Village ice Sculptures

3. The Keystone Village

One of the things I love most about snowboarding and ski vacations is walking around the village. The main village at any resort usually gives the mountain it’s personality and adds to the experience. As parents, we appreciated the kids activities scattered throughout the village: a giant checker board and chess board, corn hole, connect four and an ice skating rink. We loved the family ice sculpture, too! The village has plenty of dining options, clothing boutiques and ski gear shops. Keystone Sports is where you will be able to pick up your ski or snowboard rentals. The Snack Shack is a great place for some frozen yogurt or let them fill up a bag of candy. The village also has a small market to pick up any essentials you may have forgotten, stock up on some groceries, wine and beer or grab a few souveniers.

Kestone Ski and Ride School Colorado family travel

Kestone Wagon for Kids Ski Gear

4. Kids’ Ski & Ride School

Unlike many ski & ride schools found at the base of the mountain, Keystone’s learning area is at the top, so your kids will get to ride the Gondola up to start their day. Keystone has an entire learning area called The Schoolyard Family Ski & Ride Zone, which is where ski & ride school takes place and is great area for riding along with your kids. Ski & Ride school starts at 9:00 am and goes until 3:00 pm; the instructors are very professional and will give you a full report on what your child did that day and what they worked on. They’ll also take your kids’ photos, and you can track where on the mountain they went through the EpicMix.

The little red wagons reserved for hauling kids’ equipment may be a small feature, but they’re definitely sanity-saving. We all know that at the end of the day everyone is exhausted, and this is when meltdowns can happen, so having a wagon to haul all the stuff was super helpful.

**Kids Ski Free**

Yes, at Keystone KIDS SKI FREE. Book any two nights, and your child skis free!

Keystone Colorado Snow FortKestone Snow Fort
5. The Largest Snow Fort

One of the most unique features of Keystone is the snow fort on top of the mountain, and they like to boast that it is the largest snow fort in North America. You will need to take the Gondola up to get to the snow fort, which is fun for the whole family, even if you have a wee little one that is not participating in ski & ride school. We did this one afternoon to take a break from the boards for a bit. The snow fort has a snow cubed maze, a few slides for the kids to go down, and don’t be afraid to stage your own family snowball fight… that’s what a snow fort is for!

Sleigh Ride Dinner Keystone Colorado
6.  Dinner Sleigh Ride

The Scenic Dinner Sleigh Ride is a great family dining experience that takes you to a small, tucked-away cabin deep in the heart of Colorado’s back country. The moment you load the sled, they offer you warm blankets for your family to get cozy and cuddle up under the stars. It happened to be snowing the night we went, so it was the perfect winter night for a sleigh ride. The little log cabin is filled with family style picnic tables set with red and white gingham napkins, mason jar drinking glasses and small cast iron pot bowls for your chili. It is a traditional Colorado cowboy dinner, with your choice of beef or chicken served on a skillet. The live entertainment is from a Willy Nelson type music man and his guitar. It’s a very fun night, and I would highly recommend it.

Another dining experience for families is Fondue on top of Keystone’s North Peak Mountain. Foundue Der Chessel

Xpot Keystone Colorado Coffee

7. Inxpot Coffee

Coffee is always important to me. Inxpot Coffee is more than just a coffee joint — it’s a locals’ favorite hang out to grab coffee, a cocktail or a cup of soup. Inside it is a cozy little cave with couches, tables, a fireplace and wall-to-wall book shelves filled with books.  So leave the kids with your spouse and settle in for an afternoon by yourself! There is a Starbucks in the village, too, but whenever you can have a local favorite cup of coffee, do it. It’s a traveling shame if you don’t.

8. Dining Options

Zuma Restaurant Keystone ColoradoZuma Roadhouse Food in Keystone Village
The first night we ate at Zuma, which is new to Keystone and had just recently opened. This is very family friendly and has a cool, chic, diner vibe. I loved the decor, plenty of room for families, a nice kids menu and great food. They also have a small game room for the kids!

Kickapoos Restaurant Keystone Colorado VillageKickapoos Tavern Food Keystone Colorado

My favorite food in the Village was at Kickapoo Tavern — we ate here twice. We had the tortilla soup, chicken lettuce wraps and the BBQ salad and all three were fantastic!  it gets crowded and can be a bit loud, but that is also what i liked about it. Everyone brings their energy from the mountain inside with them!

Keystone Colorado Snow Tubing

9. More Mountain Family Adventures

Snow tubing, ice skating, night skiing and Mountain-Top Snowcat Tours are all available for families and let you take a break from all the skiing or snowboarding. I know my kids have a hard time doing back-to-back ski and snowboard days, so it’s great when there are other family activities to try.  Snow tubing is always a favorite; it’s a lot less work but still a lot of fun. Keystone’s tubing hill is just off the Gondola and has a covered conveyor belt that brings you back up the mountain. You do need to make reservation, and you are scheduled for one hour. There are two ice skating rinks, one in the village and another one right outside the Adventure Center.

We were scheduled to do a snowcat tour, but because of the zero visibility on the top of the mountain that day, we were unable to go.

Keystone Kidtopia Ready Paint Fire Art Camp

10. Kidtopia & Art Camp

Kidtopia at Keystone is what makes both the kids and parents happy!  Kidtopia activities run daily and vary each day but include things like scavenger hunts, cookie hour, ice cream socials, giant snowball launch, face painting, fort building, disco tubing and art camp! When I asked our kids what their favorite thing at Keystone was, they both shouted,  “Art Camp”. I realize our kids were there to snowboard first, but this was by far their absolute favorite thing they did at Keystone. Even I wanted to stay and paint with them!  Ready, Paint Fire is the art studio that offers pottery and canvas painting classes during the week and has an art camp on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 9:00am – 12:00pm. This was a huge hit with our kids.

Keystone has really thought of everything when engaging families both on and off the mountain. There is so much to do that it was hard to get it all in in just four days. We could have definitely stayed longer and still had plenty to do. Keystone has all the key pieces that make a family ski vacation not just great but really quite exceptional.

*I also know I have fallen in love with a place when my husband and I talk about possibly living there, and I buy a coffee mug to take home. The coffee mug is my official “travel tell”. It means I liked a place so much that I want to sit and think about it as I sip my coffee in the morning long after I have left.

Keystone Colorado Coffee Mug

 

Disclosure: This was a media stay for the purpose of my honest review of Keystone. Parts of my accommodations and activities were comped. We paid for all our travel to and from Keystone. I share this with you to help you make the best travel decisions for your family.

 

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Copper Mountain Family Ski Vacation Savvy Sassy Moms Travel
Copper Mountain Family Ski Vacation

If you are planning a family ski vacation in Colorado, there are plenty of options. I was a little overwhelmed when looking online at all mountains and resorts. Luckily, we have some friends from Colorado who gave us some suggestions and steered us to the two they thought we would like the most — the first one being Copper Mountain.  So after flying into Denver and staying two nights in the Mile-High City, we hit the road! Copper Mountain is a just a short, two-hour drive from Denver (depending on weather conditions, of course,) which was also one of the reasons it was recommended to us.

Ten Mile Haus Copper Mountain Condo near the VillageCopper Mountain Lodging

There are several options for lodging at Copper Mountain. We stayed at Ten Mile Haus, which is in the Ten Mile Neighborhood and very close to the Center Village. I highly recommend staying near the Center Village if you are traveling with kids. It is close to the slopes, ski & ride school, and shopping, and it has plenty of dining options. Two other accommodations that are very close to the Center Village are Passage Point and Tucker Mountain Lodge.

Our two bedroom condo was two floors and had a nice size living room, kitchen and dining area with all the amenities of a vacation rental. We also had a garage for parking and free wireless internet. All Copper Mountain Lodging guests have access to the Athletic Club, which has an indoor pool, hot tubs, saunas and the Copper Spa. We were a very short walk over to the Center Village and were very happy with the Ten Mile Haus condo. It was cozy and had everything we needed.

Family Travel Tip:

There are three main villages, East, Center and West. Copper Mountain has a free shuttle that will take you to the different areas of the mountain. However, staying near the Center Village is ideal if you are traveling with small children.

Copper Mountain Ski & Ride School Rentals
Ski and Snowboard Rentals

The first time our kids had snowboards on was two years ago at Mammoth Mountain, so getting them back on boards was long overdue!

You can rent skis and snowboards for the entire family at Copper Sports. We picked up all of our rentals the night before — this is a huge time saver in the morning, and I highly recommend doing this. The rental process always takes a little while, so make sure the kids are well fed or it can be a painful process! You will have to take your things back to your condo, so if you can bring a large bag for the boots it might help lessen the load.There is an overnight equipment storage option if you’d prefer.

Family Travel Tip:

Copper Sports is also where you will purchase your lift tickets, get your rentals and enroll in ski or snowboard lessons. They sell clothing, ski masks, toe warmers and lots of ski gear  It’s a one-stop shop for everything you need to get yourself on the mountain.

Ski and Snowboard Rentals Copper Mountain Colorado Burton Snowboards

My husband and I were able to rent demo boards, which was great!  I checked out the Burton Snowboard Lip Stick and I loved it.

McKenna Snowboardning Copper Mountain Ski & Ride School Family Travel

Ski & Ride School

Our kids spent two days of Ski & Ride School. They had the same instructor both days, which I really liked. She was able to see their skill level and carry over things they learned from the day before. You child’s lesson includes rentals, lift ticket, lunch and a GPS tracking system. Lessons are from 9:30 – 3:00, and they will be grouped with other children their age and skill level. They also have a Ski and Ride School shuttle that takes the kids over to the Green Acres where they start their lessons. Parents can also ski or ride down to Green Acres to watch some of the lesson if they want, too!

Family Travel Tip:

Be sure to pick up your kids on time and tip your instructor.

Copper Mountain Ski Gear Winter Shopping

Copper Mountain Shopping

If you forget your hat, face mask, goggles or just need a new pair of warm socks, the Copper Sports has plenty of gear and warm clothing to choose from. We actually had to buy goggles and warm socks for our kids, and we found some great options here. Kelly’s Closet is a cute shop for stylish clothing and accessories for women and kids, and the store Kokomo is a fun shop for souvenirs and Colorado inspired gifts.

Camp Hale Coffee at Copper Mountain
Copper Mountain Coffee

I know a lot of families stay in condos that have kitchens so it is easier to just make breakfast and coffee right away before heading out, but there are two great coffee options right near the Center Village chair lifts. Camp Hale is inside Copper Sports and a great place to grab a cup of coffee and a quick breakfast before the kids go to ski school, or if you need another cup of coffee after all that work just getting the kids off to ski school in the morning!  Camp Hale has two other locations on the mountain: one at the East Village in Copper Station and in Solitude Station at the top of the American Eagle chair lift.

Belgian Bean Waffles and Coffee Copper Mountain Colorado
Another place to grab great coffee is the Belgian Bean. They also make waffles with a variety of toppings, oatmeal and a selection of pastries.

Copper Mountain Center Village Shopping Family Travel

Mccoys Mountain Market Copper Mountain Groceries

Through out the Center Village there are plenty of other retail shops and McCoy’s Mountain Market, which is the only place to pick up some basic groceries, snacks and beer. The market is small and might not have all the items you need depending on how long you are staying.

Family Travel Tip:

Stop at the grocery store before getting to Copper Mountain or plan on going into the town of Dillon the first day for all your grocery shopping needs.The prices will be better, and there are more options.

Village at Copper Mountain Colorado Family Travel Savvy Sassy Moms

Copper Mountain Family Ski Vacation
Copper Mountain Center Village

The Center Village is the hub of the mountain and very easy to walk around, with plenty of dining options. At night they have a few fires going for people to hang out around. There is also a rock climbing wall and ice skating rink — the ice skate rentals are $10. There is also the Alpine Zip Line, which is 300 feet in the air and goes across the frozen lake. Cost is $10 and open 2:00pm – 6:00pm.

Kids Night Out

When you spend $30 (per child) in the Village you receive 3 hours of FREE childcare from 5:30pm – 10:00pm. This service is for children who are potty trained to the age of 12 years old. You must make a reservation 48 hours in advance and show your receipts of purchases made at the Village shops or restaurants. For more details go to Kids Night Out.

Copper Mountain Colorado View Family Ski Vacation

I found Copper Mountain to be very easy to navigate, and it has a very laid back vibe. We were there early in the season, so it wasn’t too crowded and luckily we never had to wait in any long chair lift lines. It seems to be a bit younger of a crowd, but it was also very family friendly. We felt like we belonged here. It was a even mix of skiers and snowboarders, which is always nice to see. A lot of times, at other mountains, I feel more like the minority.

Copper Mountain is known for its naturally-divided terrain, which is really nice to keep people with the same skill level on certain sections of the mountain. It progressively gets harder as you make your way from the West Village over to the East Village.

The West Village has the Kokomo Chair lift that is great for families and beginners. This is where you will find most of the green runs.  Since we were there in early season this section was not open for us, so we were unable to take the kids up the chair lift with us, which was a bummer, but more reason to go back!  My husband and I loved all the blue runs and felt really comfortable on this mountain. We hadn’t snowboarded in almost two years and Copper was the perfect mountain to pick back up again!

Have you been  to Copper Mountain?


Disclosure: This was a media stay and parts of this trip was comped for the purpose of reviewing the mountain and all it has to offer families. All my thoughts are my own and I share this with you to help you find your next family ski vacation.

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