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Family Travel Guide - Tips for families on the move

It feels like winter has been sticking around forever, but I know that spring is just around the corner, and with it comes Spring Break. In my family, we look forward to taking this week off all year. We most often go to South Florida to warm up, but two years ago we used HomeAway to rent two condos in Puerto Rico for the week since we were traveling with my in-laws. It worked out perfectly.



If Spring Break is a vacation week that you look forward to all year, don’t let plans get tripped up by decisions like where to go and where to stay. Take the five tips below to heart as you begin to plan out the best vacation week of the year (at least according to every school-aged child).



1. Have a Pre-Vacation Planning Meeting: If your kids are older or you’re planning to travel with extended family (parents, in-laws, aunts, uncles), have a sit-down meeting or a video chat to talk through where you want to go for vacation. You want to make sure that everyone is on board and happy before you begin to book accommodations and firm up travel plans. Consider all factors including costs, travel time, airfares, on-site activities, etc.



2. Give People Space: When you travel, you don’t want to skimp on accommodations. Long gone are the college days when you would book eight people in a room that only sleeps four. Find a place to stay that gives family the room they need to have their own personal space and doors to close at the end of the evening for privacy. I like my own space, which is why we booked two condos in Puerto Rico and have already booked a six-bedroom house through HomeAway for an Orlando vacation in November.



3. Plan Out Your Meals: Decide ahead of time whether you want to cook family meals or eat out at restaurants every day. The first option is certainly cheaper and can give you more flexibility. It’s nice for kids to be able to grab a granola bar or make a bowl of cereal when they first wake up. When we travel, we like to eat breakfast at home, then eat lunch while we’re out during the day. For dinner, sometimes we eat out, sometimes we prepare meals at home in the kitchen available to us in our vacation rental.



4. Make Sure Everyone Feels Happy: What I mean by this is, make sure that everyone feels like they have their say in vacation decisions, even little ones, and that everyone is going to be able to see or visit something they really like during the vacation. You don’t want your disappointed kids and other family members moping around during your vacation, potentially ruining the trip for everyone.



5. Take Time to Relax: I’ve been on many vacations that were spent running around from attraction to attraction all day with little time spent back in the room. Maybe that was because once back in the room there was little space for each person and we were all stuck watching the one TV. Today, all that running around is a prescription for a meltdown. So, don’t rush, make time to relax. When we travel, we like to visit attractions in the morning, then come back mid-afternoon to our vacation rental to relax, read, take a dip in the pool or take a nap. Everyone is definitely happier that way.



Do you have any favorite tips for planning a perfect Spring Break family getaway? Let us know in the comments section below.


Thanks for reading!



While summer is winding down, many still have vacation on their minds. While it’s tough to vacation on a budget with sky-high airfares and fast-rising gas prices, there are a lot of easy ways to save money on your next vacation. You just need to have a few tips and tricks up your sleeve. Take a look at five of my favorite ways to save money without sacrificing any of the fun of a much-deserved vacation.


Set Up Airfare Alerts

Go online to set up airfare alerts so you’re among the first to know about price drops to your destination. Two of my favorite sites for airfare alerts are Kayak and Airfarewatchdog, which can alert you once a day about current airfare prices. I also like Airfarewatchdog’s Anywhere That’s Cheap Alert for a list of the best round-trip fares departing from your home airport. This is fantastic when you’re still considering where to go for your vacation. Also, try FareCompare’s Where-to-Go Getaway Map for the best fares to global destinations that have been found in the last four hours. Since airfare can be such a big chunk of any vacation budget, it’s smart to stay on top of prices.


Book a Vacation Rental

I’m still new to using vacation rentals, but have now used HomeAway three times to book houses and apartments for my family. What I love is that homeaway_france.jpegvacation rentals can often provide twice the space for half the price of a hotel. Most recently, my daughters and I stayed in a beautiful apartment in Prague within easy walking distance of both Prague Castle and Old Town Square. The apartment was quiet, safe and even more affordable and spacious than a hotel room.


There was a kitchen, a washing machine and web access – everything we needed. Plus, it was great to have a door to close between my bedroom and where the girls were sleeping. I love my girls, but after a long day, it’s nice to have a little space of your own, and that’s not always possible in a hotel. HomeAway has more than 775,000 property listings for every budget in 170+ countries, so it’s worth a look as you plan your next family getaway.



Bring Your Own Food

One of the easiest places to trim your vacation budget is through the food and groceries line item. Don’t spend $6 on a cup of coffee and a bagel every morning. Instead, pack a suitcase full of food, like cereals, granola bars, juice boxes and snacks (especially snacks if you have little ones). Also, pack paper plates and plastic utensils if you’ll be staying in a hotel. Even if you end up paying a baggage fee, you’ll still end up better off, especially if you seek out grocery deals and use coupons.

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If you’re staying in a vacation rental, it’s still a good idea to bring food with you, especially if you’ll be arriving late and may not have time to get to a grocery store your first night in town. Before you shop, take stock of what you have and make a list so you can avoid making multiple trips to the supermarket.


Get Hip to Discount Programs

It’s not hard to find discounts on just about every attraction you may plan to visit. The annual Entertainment Book is a great resource for city-specific discounts on local dining, attractions, and even movie passes, which are nice for rainy days. Another worth checking out is the Go City Card program for nine top cities, including San Diego and Chicago. Pay one fee and save on dozens of local attractions. Since you receive so many discounts, these are generally best for multiple-day vacations.activities_hiking_binoculars_kid.jpg


It’s easy to find free coupons as well if you head online to a site like Coupons for Fun, which compiles printable coupons for attractions across the country. Or, check in with your local tourism bureau for offerings like the free Monster Coupon Book, which has discounts for Myrtle Beach attractions. And, of course, don’t forget about AAA if you are a member since they offer loads of deals on theme parks, museums, water parks and more.


Seek Out Free Local Activities

Many zoos, museums, art galleries and aquariums offer free days either once a week or once a month, offering a significant cost savings for a


family of four, for example. It’s also wise do a web search for “free things to do” in the city you plan to visit. You’ll be amazed by how many fun free events and attractions are pulled up for your city. When you arrive at your destination, be sure to also scour the local newspapers for free events you may not have known about otherwise.

Do you have any favorite tips or tricks for saving money on your vacation? Let us know in the comments section below.


The family vacation experts at HomeAway recently surveyed more than 5,000 dads to find out what they really want for Father's Day. To spice things up a bit, HomeAway also checked in with the ladies to see what they think tops their husbands’ wish lists.


So just how in tune are men and women when it comes to picking out the perfect gift for Father's Day? The results just might surprise you, make you giggle, or even blush just a little.


Family vacations top dads’ wish list for Father’s Day

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According to the survey, dads would prefer a family vacation over any other gift for Father’s Day (35%), including new technology (11%), a new set of golf clubs (6%), a luxury watch (3%), home theater equipment (3%), or a riding lawn mower (2%), etc.


Overall, 72 percent of dads said they'd like to receive some sort of vacation or trip for Father's Day. When we asked dads what kind of vacation trip they’d like to take, the majority of dads chose a family vacation (49%) – even over a romantic getaway with their significant other (38%). Only a small group of dads said they'd prefer a guys' trip with their friends (just 13%).


Gift ideas from the kids

We asked dads what they’d like to receive from their children, specifically, for Father’s Day. At the top of the list, 31 percent of dads said the gift they want most from their kids is unplugged time with the family (no texting, social media, iPads, etc.).


Coming in at a close second, dads said they’d also like to get something homemade from their kiddos (25%). Check out the HomeAway Father’s Day Pinterest board for homemade gift ideas and inspiration.


Not surprisingly, only 12 out of 1,097 dads said they’d like to get a neck or bow tie.


And from the significant other…

On the flip side, we asked dads what they want from their significant others for Father’s Day, and then compared it to what women told us they think their husbands want from them for Father’s Day. The result? Women assume husbands want sex as a gift from their wives, when they'd really just prefer a romantic meal, instead.


According to the old saying, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so not surprisingly, 46% (the majority) of men said they’d like a romantic dinner from their wife.


When it comes to gifts in the bedroom, women actually overestimated their husbands’ desire for something more intimate for Father’s Day. The number-one answer women thought their husbands would choose when it comes to a personal gift from their significant other was to “make love” – when actually only 22% of men listed it as their first preference.


The very bottom of the list? Only 19 out of 1,061 dads said they’d like to receive cologne from their wives for Father’s Day.


Where to take dear old dad?

So now that you know what dad wants, what kind of trip should you plan for him this summer? According to the survey, dads want to head for a beach or lake (48%).  Surprisingly, golf (5%), gambling (2%), camping (3%), vineyard (5%), sporting event (3%), theme park (4%), and fishing / hunting (4%) trips came in at the very bottom of dads’ wish list for Father’s Day.


Here are the top 10 destinations dads said they'd like to go for Father's Day:

  1. Florida
  2. Hawaii
  3. France
  4. Italy
  5. California
  6. Colorado
  7. Nevada (Las Vegas)
  8. Mexico
  9. Canada
  10. London


For additional ideas of where to take dad, homemade gifts and crafts, recipes and more to make this year extra special, check out HomeAway's Father's Day board on Pinterest.


beach-1.jpgIt’s no secret vacations are important to families – or that they can be stressful. What is shocking, however, is 40 percent of U.S. travelers admitted to not being able to fully enjoy their vacation because of stress, according to a new survey from HomeAway.


On the other hand, according to the same survey, 78 percent of travelers wouldn’t give up their family vacation for anything – not even permanent weight loss of 20 pounds, housekeeping services for a year or dinner with their favorite celebrity.


So what’s a family to do?


Here are five ways vacation rentals can help travelers RECLAIM their family vacation, ensuring they return from their next trip more relaxed and reconnected than ever before!


- Reclaim your destination. According to research from HomeAway, choosing where to go on vacation is the number one cause of family squabbles.

In order to avoid the arguments, consider including your kids in the destination discussion early on and use sites like for vacation inspiration. By browsing through the inventory, families can get new ideas for places off the beaten path, which they may not have previously considered.


Here’s a list of the most popular family vacation destinations we’re seeing on for summer 2013:

  1. Ocean City, Md.
  2. Gulf Shores, Ala.
  3. Destin, Fla.
  4. Virginia Beach, Va.
  5. Bethany Beach, Del.


- Reclaim where to stay. Where you stay is just as important as where you go.

Most families automatically default to a hotel when planning their vacation. However, 80 percent of travelers agree that staying in a vacation rental helps reduce their vacation stress. That’s not surprising when you consider the amenities and features of a vacation home, which can make life easier and save you money (e.g., kitchen, washer/dryer, private pool, pet-friendly). Eating out three times per day is expensive, especially for larger families, and having the option to do laundry along the way will spare you the headache of facing a zillion loads when you get home. And, because no two rentals are alike, there’s sure to be a perfect match for every family’s styles, preferences and needs.


- Reclaim your budget. It’s always about getting more bang for your buck.

According to the HomeAway survey, the average summer family vacation costs $3,382, with $1,603 (almost 50%) spent solely on accommodations. For that much, you better be getting more than just a bed, a bathroom and a mini bar! Vacation rentals are inherently a great value, typically costing half as much as a hotel, but including twice the space. Thanks to the extra bedrooms and living areas, there’s also more flexibility to invite friends and/or other family members along and split costs. Plus, amenities like kitchens and washer/dryers, as well as free parking and Internet, spare your wallet by saving on the additional fees that tend to add up quickly at a hotel.


- Reclaim your space. While we love our families, everyone knows that too much togetherness is not always a great thing.

The best vacations strike the right balance between time and space – time together as well as time apart. Vacation rentals are ideal for this because they offer both communal areas for spending time together – playing board games in the living room or recounting the day’s adventures around the kitchen table – as well as the benefit of having your own room, and in return, the freedom to stay up and enjoy some adult time after the kids are in bed. The experience just can’t be beat, especially when you consider the alternative – cramming your family of four into one room for a week. Eeek!


- Reclaim your schedule. When staying in a hotel, you’re often forced to vacation on someone else’s schedule.

From having to wait an hour for room service when you’re starving, to just missing the pool or gym hours, to wasting time waiting for the entire family to get ready (with only one bathroom!), it’s not fun having to operate on someone else’s timeline, especially on vacation. In fact, HomeAway’s new family travel survey found that “wasting time” was one of the top causes of stress while on vacation. With vacation rentals, families have the freedom to determine their own schedules (a major plus for families with young children). Go ahead, choose for yourself when and what you’d like to eat, and hit the pool when you’re ready to swim…just maybe not one right after the other!


If you’re one of the 73 percent of travelers planning to get away with your family this summer, consider vacationing outside of the (hotel) box. With only a few vacation days per year, family trips are too precious to waste a single minute stressing over factors that can easily be eliminated by staying (in a) home!


Go on…RECLAIM your family vacation!


Since vacations are expensive and families often only get to take one or two a year, deciding where to go and what to do on your next family trip might feel like as big of a challenge as a presidential debate. Trust me though - it doesn’t have to be. Unlike our next “big election,” with the right voting strategy, everyone can win at the end of this great debate!


To plan the ideal vacation, include everyone in the decision-making process with age-appropriate tasks, use a democratic voting system, and ensure the whole family gets heard in the planning. Put this simple formula to work and enjoy the process as it unfolds:



1. First, have every family member submit destination ideas for the vacation ballot. My girls are too young to participate just yet, but if you have school-aged kids, encourage them to ask friends, do online research (if they are old enough) or just list out some dream destinations! This way, everyone in the family has a chance to participate.


2. From there, mom and dad pick the top three options based on distance, time and budget to make sure the destinations are feasible for their family (i.e. bungee jumping off a bridge in Queenstown, New Zealand probably won’t work for many families). This is also a chance for mom and dad to propose, or "pitch" if you will, options the kids may not be aware of and use their veto power for the good of all.


3. Create mini-itineraries for each of your three choices. You don’t have to spend hours on research, but you’ll want to hit the main points of a destination.


Example: New York


  • Day 1: Statue of Liberty, shopping in the West Village
  • Day 2: Museum of Natural History and boat tour on the Hudson
  • Day 3: Empire State Building and sight-seeing in Times Square
  • Day 4: Explore Central Park, stop in at FAO Schwarz
  • Day 5: Brooklyn – Zoo, Parks, Children’s Museum


4. Finally, based on these mini-itineraries, do a hands up/hands down classroom-style vote so everyone in the family gets an equal say.


Viola! Choosing your next vacation destination was not the act of Congress you thought it would be.


Boy do I wish my parents had used this voting tactic growing up. When I was in junior high, they decided we were taking an educational Spring Break trip to Washington, D.C. My history-buff father packed the schedule with visits to almost every Civil War Battlefield in the area. Looking back on it, I’m very thankful that we went on that trip because I was able to understand the values our country was founded upon, but if a few more shopping excursions had been added to the itinerary, I might have been a happier tween. That’s why doing a little research in the mini-itinerary stage and involving your kids in the process is so important!


Research Tips


Thanks to the Internet, you can quickly and easily find out anything you can possibly want to know about a destination, with the click of a button.


My family uses the following phrases in the search field of our favorite search engine to make sure we’ve covered our bases.

  • “Kids activities in [destination]”
  • “Things to do with kids in [destination]” or “things to do with ‘young’ or ‘little’ kids in [destination]”
  • “Family fun during the summer/winter/fall/spring in [destination]”
  • “Date night in [destination]” 5. “Indoor family activities in [destination]”
  • “Family friendly restaurants in [destination]”
  • “Tourist hot spots in [destination]”


When searching Google, don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path. The top page is populated by sites that are good at playing the marketing game, but there is often interesting, more authentic info to be found if you dig a little deeper to find lesser known sites and bloggers with experience in your destination. Or better yet, people who live there - we all know word of mouth is the best source of information, after all!


Don’t forget to check the date stamp on any article or post you use and call ahead to make sure nothing has changed. When we were in Montauk this summer, we arrived promptly for the free swimming lessons on the beach only to find out that they had ended the week earlier. Oops! Our bad.


At the end of the day, if you follow this vacation planning strategy your family will enjoy being allowed to help with the process, you’ll ensure everyone will be happy with the trip  and you can use the fun of planning a family vacation as an opportunity to show your family democracy in action!


Diana Heather is the Chief Mom, both at home to her two girls and at You can follow Diana on Twitter @ParentingsATrip or read more at her blog:


Image from:


When my Husband suggested Montauk, as in, the beachy tip at the very end of Long Island, for our summer vacation my first reaction was, “That’s too close to home! We can’t go there for vacation.” (We live in Manhattan.)


Then, the beauty of vacationing near home hit me like a ton of bricks: no airport security; no long flight with toddlers; no requirement to stay gone longer than we’d really like - just a perfect family vacation to a place we’ve never been before that is known for being low key!


So, off we went to the perfect vacation rental home, on the perfect family vacation in perfect little Montauk.




Day 1


Ahhh, home sweet home!


We arrived at our amazing, contemporary Montauk vacation rental (that we found on with a sun-drenched deck, huge backyard and children's jungle gym with bikes, ice chest, and other essentials, just before noon. The homeowner met us upon arrival to give us the keys, a tour of the home and tons of advice about the area. It was beautiful. It had tons of room and natural light and was in a great location near everything we had planned.


Meanwhile, my Mom (“Nonna” to my girls) landed at La Guardia and hopped a ride on The Jitney to meet us in Montauk.


Around lunchtime, we drove in to town to pick her up at the bus stop and enjoyed a lovely lunch in the quaint downtown area, sitting outside in the breeze. We finally felt like we were on vacation!


But, it wasn’t long before we realized there’s no time to dally in Montauk! My husband had planned an adventure-packed itinerary so we needed to get started.


Day1.pngMontauk Point Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in New York State, was our first destination. The Lighthouse, authorized by the Second Congress, under President George Washington, is still an active aid to navigation today. Our 3-year-old met the minimum height requirement (41” or more) and was allowed to climb to the top with us to check out the view. It was peaceful and amazing all at once.


After all of that hard work climbing up and down the 137 iron steps, we headed over to the gift shop and restaurant for cocktails and milkshakes. 


Later that day, we headed over to Monday night "Concerts on the Green," a free family event sponsored by the chamber of commerce.  A few lawn chairs, some chilled wine and a pizza from the local pizzeria, and we were all set for one of the best nights we've had all year. The band was singing tunes like “Pretty Woman” and kids, young and old, were swinging to the beat. This is how a sunset was mean to be enjoyed. It was like we were in a TV show or a movie, only better - it was real!


After the Littles had their baths, we all snuggled up on the over-sized couches in the living room of our vacation rental and watched Team USA take the gold in Womens’ Gymnastics. Inspired by the win, the Littles attempted their own acrobatics solidifying a "perfect 10" for our first day of vacation!




Day 2


Our second day in Montauk started with everyone slathering on the sunscreen before we headed out to a sun-filled day of activities – mostly on the beach. (Check out my post “A Parent’s Guide to Pool Time on Vacation” for more tips on sun protection). We always make sure all of us are well-coated before we get dressed and leave for the day.


Our first stop was Gin Beach where we took advantage of gorgeous morning and skipped stones. Then we collected sea shells, driftwood and even sea greenery growing on the sand dunes to fill up three glass globes we bought to remember our vacation.  Day2Stables.png


Lunch had us heading over to Navy Beach, a famous restaurant in Montauk where the fresh seafood is really amazing. Its super kid-friendly since they can run around on the beach while you wait for your food, which makes it worth the pricey fare. After lunch, we took a quick nap at our comfy vacation rental, then we were ready for more!


Rita’s Stables was next on the agenda and the perfect place for the Littles to enjoy something right up their alley. It was so fun watching them experience their first saddle rides. It made my mom and I nostalgic for the first time my brother and I rode horseback with my grandparents in Columbus, MS. The petting zoo at Rita’s was a big hit, too. Of course, our littlest wanted to HOLD the animals (not just pet them).


Next up was a quick game of mini-golf at the local Puff & Putt to fill the gap of time between horse riding and our dinner reservation. Note to self: Toddlers don’t play mini golf. It was fun to watch anyway.



One of the best parts about Montauk is that all of the great restaurants you’re dying to visit are family friendly in the early evening hours. We ALL had a great time at Solé East in their beautifully landscaped backyard dining area. All of the money we saved by staying in a vacation rental allowed us to enjoy some restaurants that wouldn’t have otherwise fit in our budget.

End of Day2.png


I never get to hit up the Momofuko Milk Bar in NYC so I was determined to visit their Montauk outpost for dessert. We got carry-out to enjoy back at the house around the kitchen table together. 


After spotting two bunnies and four deer (that were on their own family vacation, according to the girls) in the backyard, our elated Littles enjoyed a cool nighttime romp on the jungle gym before bath time put an end to our second day.


Day 3


As early risers, we easily made the 10 am ferry to Block Island, Mass., a place I knew nothing about.


Hubs insisted we bring our bikes so we could all bike around the island together. Once I realized that there was only one ferry a day to and from Block Island, and that both directions take at least an hour, I was a little nervous that this might be an ambitious plan for our multigenerational band of merry travelers.


Hubs and the oldest Little had a great time biking all over the island, shopping, eating and hitting up yet another petting zoo. Nonna, Littler, our friend and myself had a less fun day after a series of near fatal biking accidents. Ok, maybe I’m being a tad dramatic. But there was more than one accident and there was blood. And it was mine. Enough said.




We did manage to get ourselves to the Old Town area of Block Island, where Littlest promptly put herself up for sale for fear we might put her on the


back of  another bicycle.


Leaving Block Island was more enjoyable as it included cocktails on the dock and a chance to watch real fishermen cleaning their catch of the day while we waited to board the ferry.


Not a moment too soon, Hubs had arranged for a little vacation romance on our final night!


My husband definitely knows how to plan a date! We indulged at the hottest dinner spot in town, Byron at Surf Lodge and had the best table there. Afterwards, we pretended we were slightly younger than we are and headed to Rushmeyers Electric Eel Bar for Comedy Night with Seth Herzog where we laughed and recovered from the day’s adventures. Perhaps Hubs read my post, "Rest, Relaxation & Romance" about spending quality couple time during a family vacation.


Day 4


After a lazy morning with the girls, Hubs surprised us all with the perfect souvenir t-shirts on our last day. In no time, we were packed and ready to hit the road. Montauk: The End!


The End.png


Diana Heather writes at She is also the Chief Mom, both at home to her two girls and at You can follow Diana on Twitter @ParentingsATrip.


I’m excited so many people are taking advantage of vacation rentals. They are an especially great option for families because they offer much more space for the money than is available in a hotel. That means you can invite the grandparents or family friends to join!


You also have all the luxuries of home in a vacation rental, which is so important when you’re traveling with kids. When a kid wakes up in the middle of the night in a hotel, it is such a pain to try and mix a bottle of formula or get milk. In a vacation rental, you’re able to pop into the kitchen, do your thing and hang out with your babies when they need you without waking up the whole house – everyone will appreciate that!


My family just took a trip to the beach for our summer vacation and stayed in this Montauk vacation rental from  While we loved our home away from home, I have three simple tips that can help make your vacation rental even more comfortable for your family. For more details, watch my video, "How We Made the Most of Our Summer Vacation Rental."



1. Familiar Scents


"Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.'' - Helen Keller


It’s amazing what an impact scents can have on your emotions. For my family, just walking in the door and smelling something familiar can make us feel calm and comfortable when we’re staying someplace new. Often it can be very light, common scents such as vanilla, lemon or cinnamon that create connections to contentment.


To start your vacation off right, pack a few of your favorite scents! One of my favorite ways to do this is with the new Glade® Solid Air Fresheners because they are inexpensive and lightweight for travel or can be picked up locally if traveling by plane.


2. Food


What food you pack will depend on how you travel to your destination. When you fly, you’ll only carry the basics to get you through the flight like favorite snacks and formula. If you’re driving, you can pack an ice chest with additional necessities or even leftovers like we did when we traveled from NYC to Montauk. In any case, you’ll want to locate a grocery store convenient to your vacation rental so you can easily pick up anything else you need for the week. Also, come equipped with a shopping list of basics. You won’t want to sit and explain what you need to a well-meaning husband or friend, let alone think about making a list when you get there, so doing this ahead of time is hugely helpful.


For us, breakfast is the meal we all eat together. Kids wake up hungry – at least mine do – and coffee is an immediate must for this Mommy.  So I make sure we have our favorite cereal, milk, coffee, and the kids’ favorite bowls, bibs and placemats – all of which are lightweight, small and easy to pack, and SO worth having. All in all, the kids’ breakfast-time ritual remains the same as every other day – meaning vacation days start off stress free for mom and dad!


3. Bed and Bath Time


When we get home from a long day of vacation adventures, the last thing we want is to fight the bath/bed battle; so, to ensure things go smoothly, we make sure to have everything the kids love on hand. For example, we always bring our girls’ hooded towels for after bath time - the familiarity of being hooded, wrapped and snuggled after a bath is important to them. Plus, each girl has a favorite blanket they love to sleep with, so it’s a no brainer to bring that with us, as well.


It really doesn’t take much, and a little will go a long way toward making your family comfortable when traveling.


What makes you feel at home when you’re on vacation? I’d love to talk with you about it in the comments section below.


Also, I wanted to share a few fun family photos from our summer vacation. Enjoy!


Collage Big Montauk.jpgCollage.jpg



Diana Heather writes at She is also the Chief Mom, both at home to her two girls and at You can follow Diana on Twitter @ParentingsATrip


Family vacations are usually busy with activities, sightseeing and more. But, another big component of vacationing in the summer in my family is spending time at the pool.



One of the reasons we love vacation rentals so much is because we can have our own private pool. With two small children, privacy is a big advantage. A hotel pool or public pool, for instance, doesn’t offer us the same unique opportunities to play with our kids freely without the worry of getting in the way of other guests. Mostly though, having a private pool is the safest way for us to keep an eye on the Littles while giving us some time for R&R.



Girls in Grandaddy's Pool summer 2011.jpgAny parent can attest lazy pool days aren’t quite as lazy once you have kids. If you’ve ever chased your toddler around a pool trying to rub her down with sunscreen, then you know what I’m talking about. However, Hubs and I both agree we have a lot more fun by the pool now that we have the Littles and there’s nothing we would trade that for.



We have also learned that a little structure can go a long way, so we fill our day with a good mix of games and break times to make sure the Littles don’t get too tired or lose interest. 



One of our favorite pool time activities is encouraging playful physical challenges like, “who can jump into the water the farthest” or “kick your legs like a froggy.” We’ve found this helps them develop new swimming skills and keeps them entertained. 



We also try to bring along a few pool accessories if there’s room in our suitcases. Inflatable items that pack flat are the best and luckily for us, Hubs has big lungs! If we’re road-tripping and have more room, we are huge fans of the PuddleJumper® floatation device. 



Also, even though they may fight the notion of getting out of the pool, we always make it a point to take a few small breaks throughout the day. Grabbing some shade under an umbrella or even going inside for a light snack keeps the Littles energized and ready for more summer fun! Plus, even though the kidlets may be full of pool water, we always make sure to keep them hydrated with actual water or a drink with electrolytes. Pool water, sun and hours of activity can easily dehydrate all of us.



Another thing that’s very important to me is sun protection. I grew up on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and both of my young parents have already had skin cancer spots removed; so I’m a little OCD on the sunscreen front.



Whether we’re playing at a pool or hiking in the mountains, we always pack plenty of sunscreen on our summer vacations since UV exposure is greatest from May-August in the United States.



The Environmental Working Group (EWG) offers an in-depth Sunscreen Guide that keeps parents up-to-date on all the latest guidelines and includes an extensive list of every sunscreen on the market with the EWG’s ranking of each one.


Here are some other good Sunscreen 101 tips:


  • Only use products labeled “Broad Spectrum,” meaning they protect against both harmful UVA rays and sunburn-causing UVB rays
  • You should apply sunscreen every 2 hours and more often if you’re exposed to extreme water or sports activity. Do not let higher SPF numbers give you a false sense as to how long the sun protection will last
  • Be generous in your applications. The recommended amount for an adult body is about the size of a shot-glass and a teaspoon for your face. Obviously this should be less for children, but make sure they’re adequately covered
  • Nothing provides better sunscreen than covering up with a long-sleeved shirt and hat. You can even add SPF to clothes or buy them with SPF already built in. To make your own, wash tightly woven cotton clothes in a UPF rinse, which can raise the SPF value up to a level of SPF 30.




When you travel with your family, how much time do you spend by the pool?


Have fun splashing into summer on your vacation this year! 


Khloe swimming.jpg



Diana Heather writes at She is also the Chief Mom, both at home to her two girls and at You can follow Diana on Twitter @ParentingsATrip.