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Family Travel Guide - Tips for families on the move
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In this day and age, when vacations are few and far between, planning a vacation with the entire family can be both be economical and a lot of fun.  Once the hard part is over (the vacation is planned), you can sit back and soak it in because the memories made will deepen the bond between generations. Why is this important? In the busy world we live in, it’s easy to forget, “our lives, both start and end with family.” And this is certainly something to celebrate – but that doesn’t mean that planning a trip for a dozen people with different agendas and ages’ ranging from 6 to 76 is an easy task (something I recently did).

 

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Multi-generation travel is growing in popularity as families are now spread across countries. Getting everyone together can be made easy when you meet in a neutral zone – a vacation destination. By booking a vacation rental you can easily find a home that comfortably sleeps everyone and boasts communal spaces – decks, patios, living rooms, spacious kitchens and private bathrooms and sleeping rooms that everyone craves.  Below are three strategies to keeping the entire family happy on your next multi-generation trip from toddler to elders.

 

Pictured on the left: this is the youngest on our trip trying out synthetic skating. It was ideal after a long walk to the park because there were food trucks and picnic benches for my grandmother to watch the kids while resting their feet!

 

Plan ahead – but don’t plan too much

 

While the planning stage can be overwhelming, it’s important that you take the time to ask questions – who wants to go, what’s the destination that would work for everyone (while limiting layovers) and what are people looking for…the beach, mountains, city, or even history? A fun way to get everyone involved in the planning practice is to create a Pinterest account where everyone can pin his or her favorite images and ideas of the ultimate vacation.

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For those less tech savvy or too little to participate in Pinterest, they could cut out of magazines to create a vision board of their dream vacation. From there you can start to craft something that will meet in the middle and please everyone. I always find the pre- vacation work helps to amplify the excitement of the actual vacation!

 

Don’t plan too much. Once you have the destination and the long list of what everyone hopes to accomplish, be realistic with what you can get done in a day and be mindful of what people can physically do. For example – a 12-hour day at Disney might be ideal for some but is too much for little ones and great grandparents.


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It’s also important to leave a piece of the day un-planned so that everyone in the group can choose to relax or keep going. This is a sure-fire way to keep everyone refreshed, happy and satisfied with the vacation. For example, the boys in our group wanted to try a wild boar hunt. So while they went hunting, the ladies in the family visited a spa.

 

Mindful of Money

 

Planning a multi-generation trip can be economical as there are opportunities to share costs and even get group discounts. Before booking your destination and accommodations set a budget that is within everyone’s means.

 

Have conversations ahead of time about how many meals you will go out for versus eating in and share the tasks of grocery shopping and cooking so that everyone has the opportunity to both participate and save.

 

Many vacation rental owners offer services that will have the groceries stocked at the home before you arrive to take away the stress of shopping for a large group. If you want to make dinner interesting, my family is a fan of playing “Chopped” where another person chooses ingredients and the Chef is surprised but has to make a meal in about an hour with what they are presented.

 

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Celebrate Togetherness

Planning a vacation with multiple generations in tow can feel more stressful then a bad day for an air traffic controller. Remember – it’s about bringing everyone together and enjoying the uninterrupted time.

 

So don’t stress the small hiccups of travel, be sure to power down electronics when everyone’s together and celebrate the down time. With my family our best times on vacation is when we have nothing planned and aren’t spending money. We are simply hanging around the kitchen or living room sharing stories, laughing and eating…which is what makes renting a vacation rental perfect for gatherings.

 

Let’s be honest, how often do you get everyone under one roof? Get planning and get ready to enjoy every minute of it!

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I’ll admit it, checking into a hotel and having daily maid service is a luxury I look forward to when travelling with my family. As a Mom, there is nothing better than having someone else make your bed, bring you fresh towels and turndown your bed each night. After all, isn’t vacation is supposed to be a break from your normal routine at home? The prospect of my family of four bunking together in one room for a week never bothered me. I actually looked forward to it. The kids were little, and were just going to be sleeping in our hotel room, right? Wrong.

 

Somewhere around the ages of 8 and 11 it stopped being fun to share one room with our kids.  No longer did the two of them want to sleep in the same bed. Once we added a rollaway into the mix our already small room, with two double beds, suddenly just got a whole lot smaller. Pile in everyone’s clothes, shoes, electronics and toiletries and suddenly we were cramped and cranky. We needed more space. When we considered the price of a one-bedroom suite, or even two connecting rooms, it just made sense to look at renting a home instead.

 

We turned to HomeAway to find our prefect rental. With over 625,000 listings worldwide, we were sure we’d find the right home to suit our needs. When we started looking at the advantages vs. the disadvantages, the reasons to rent a home just started to stack up.

 

Benefits

 

Size/Cost Ratio – The last 2-bedroom house we rented in the Caribbean averaged $392/night for 1900 sq. ft. A 1-bedroom suite at hotel* on the same island averages $1399/night and has only 950 sq. ft.

 

Multiple bedrooms and bathrooms – Hooray for space! Renting a house also allows for traveling with another family. This brings the cost down even further and actually lets you vacation together. Visiting with friends while staying in individual hotel rooms really just isn’t the same.

 

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Full Kitchen – No more emptying out the hotel mini-fridge to make room for a quart of milk or getting dinged every time your kid wants something to eat from the over priced ‘munchie box’. Plus having your own kitchen allows you to make your own inexpensive meals. I don’t know about you, but paying $20 for a bagel, cereal and juice at a hotel drives me nuts --especially when the kids don't even finish it.

 

Dishwasher – When our children were little, I used to spend hours washing bottles, sippy cups and snack containers in the hotel sink. Having a dishwasher eliminates that task.

 

Laundry – We pack less and for Mom there is nothing better than going home with a suitcase full of clean clothes.

 

Games  –  Most homes come stocked with board games, books and some even have video game players.

 

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Privacy – No more loud voices or slamming doors coming from the hotel hallways. Plus, depending on the type of property you rent, you don’t have to share a hot tub or pool with other guests.

 

Wi-fi – Don’t even get me started on how many hotels still charge for Internet access.

 

DVD players – When is the last time you relented and let your kids charge an $18 movie to the room?

 

Parking – Ok, so there is no valet, but there is no fee with a home rental either.

 

Kid friendly amenities – Lots of homes come with cribs, highchairs, pack-n-plays, beach toys, bikes and more.  Less you need to lug from home!

 

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Room For RoverHomeAway has a “pets considered” option right in the search filters. Sure, you can find a few hotel chains now that will allow you to bring you dog, but HomeAway has 168,467 properties where your hound is welcome.

 

 

 

Drawbacks

 

No daily maid service – However with many you can rentals you can pay for extra for this option.

 

No room service – Some rentals offer private chef services and grocery delivery at an extra cost.

 

No Concierge – In all of our rentals thus far we have had a concierge binder filled with dinning options, attractions, maps and more. Also many times the homeowner is available to answer these types of questions.

 

Minimum Stay - Some rentals require minimum number of nights.

 

 

Bottom Line: If you are a whatever, whenever kind of traveler then staying in a hotel is going to be a better option for you. Or if you are in town for only 1-2 nights, staying in a hotel might be more desirable. But if you want to spend less, have more room for your family and likely a better property, then look into home rental for your next vacation. Don’t let the fluffy bathrobe and mini toiletries sway you.

 

*The Cove – Eleuthera, Bahamas

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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!

Erin

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Hidden Wine Country

Posted by jennifer.boden Sep 24, 2013

Napa and Sonoma are kind of like Disneyland for adults – there’s almost too much to enjoy. Wineries, restaurants, museums and castles…you can’t go ten feet without tripping over some new fun thing to do. It’s a good problem to have, but you still need to make choices, and a good way to start is to find out what the locals do. There are hidden treasures all over wine country; you just have to know where to look.

 

Wineries

There is no wine country without wineries, so let’s start there. I’m always looking for that perfect combination of great wine and beautiful surroundings. While there are many wineries in Napa and Sonoma that easily meet these requirements, here are a few I’m particularly fond of.Chateau St. Jean.jpg.jpeg

 

If you want the chateau experience but don’t want to go all the way to France, let me recommend Chateau St. Jean. This winery offers a couple of different ways to sample their excellent wines. The main tasting room, in the visitor center, offers the widest variety. However, for a little bit more, you can taste some of their reserve and limited release wines in the chateau. 

 

Another must-see wine country vineyard is Ledson winery. Their gorgeous castle features several tasting rooms, multiple reds and whites to choose from and even a hotel. Ledson Winery.jpg.jpeg

 

You can book a room, set up a private tasting or attend one of their many events. This Fall will be the 6th annual Corvettes at the Castle event where you can drink wine, mingle with other Corvette lovers and enjoy a picnic under the Oak trees. Another memorable event that’s coming up is Ledson’s Holiday Open House. Cozy up to their fireplaces with your favorite glass of wine and take in the joy of season in the most royal manner.

 

If it’s a medieval castle you’re after, then be sure to visit Castello di Amorosa. Owner Dario Sattui spent many years researching medieval architecture, which resulted in the authentically-styled 13th century Tuscan castle and winery. Castello di Amorosa offers tours, barrel tastings and events. Have a glass while getting lost in history. Castello di Amorosa.jpg.jpeg

 

For something more rustic, but equally tasty, I recommend the Long Meadow Ranch Winery and Farmstead in St. Helena. This organic farm produces beef, eggs, honey, fruits, vegetables and, of course, wine. Dine at their restaurant, visit their farmer’s market or take advantage of one of their wine or olive oil tastings.

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And remember, food and wine belong together. St Francis Vineyards offers amazing pairings, gourmet small plates with hand-picked wines. Be sure to make a reservation.

 

For a different experience, I recommend Sterling Vineyards in Calistoga. Their aerial tram is the only one of its kind in Napa Valley, offering stunning panoramic views as visitors are carried up 300 feet to the winery. At the top, guests are greeted with a glass of wine to enjoy while strolling through art galleries, overlooks, and elevated walkways that provide a glimpse into the winemaking process, from grape to glass.

 

Arts

Nothing pairs better with fine wine than fine music. Nestled at the base of the Sonoma Mountains in the heart of wine country, you’ll find The Green Music Center. This world-class complex includes famous performances by Chris Botti, Josh Groban and the San Francisco Symphony.

 

If visual arts and artisanal wines are more your style, be sure to visit Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley. This historic building features a rotating collection of limited-production wines from 20+ esteemed vintner partners, along with internationally renowned art and furnishings to appreciate and acquire.

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History, Shopping and Food

One of the coolest things about wine country is that it’s no one-trick pony. Yes, there are amazing wineries, but there’s also excellent shopping and wonderful restaurants. One of the best places to go is Sonoma Plaza, in the town of Sonoma. At the center of the Plaza is a beautiful park, a great place to relax for a few minutes between destinations. Enjoy a romantic stroll or a family outing. The park is complete with a playground for kids, plenty of picnic benches, fountains, and a duck pond. Concerts, and festivals are also held there along with a Farmer’s Market on Tuesdays. Be sure to stop by the market for local gourmet ice cream, fresh cut flowers, hand-made Sonoma jewelry, and of course the delicious food. The Farmer’s Market runs May through the end of October.

 

Surrounding the park are historic buildings, and lovely boutiques - check out SummerVine and Sonoma Home. If wine is still calling your name, pop by a few of the many wine tasting rooms, I recommend Sigh champagne room, Roche winery, and Highway 12 winery. If you have a sweet tooth, you’re invited to a charming shop on the Plaza called Wine Country Chocolates, for a delightful chocolate tasting.

 

When you work up an appetite, stop by one of my favorite restaurants, the Sonoma-Meritage Martini Oyster Bar & Grille, owned by Executive Chef, Carlo Cavallo, for delicious pasta, fish, beef and an incredible raw bar. The restaurant is reasonably priced and open every evening for dinner. Yountville is another must-see town that offers some amazing activities for visitors. Book a hot air balloon ride, visit on of the fine art galleries, enjoy the Lincoln Theater, or simply savor a nice leisurely lunch or dinner. Yountville is a true culinary destination, with literally dozens of restaurants - from fine dining at Thoma's Keller's The French Laundry to more casual options. I recommend the food at Étoile restaurant, located at the Chandon winery, is spectacular. The heirloom tomatoes are to die for.

 

Relax in Your Vacation Home

The beauty of Napa and Sonoma is that you can do a little bit of everything or a lot of nothing. There are more places to see than you can possibly do in a week, a month, or even a year, so pace yourself. Sometimes it’s best to just grab a nice bottle of wine, some hors d'oeuvres and enjoy the sunset from your patio. There are a lot of beautiful condos and villas for rent that make the perfect home base, especially if traveling with friends or family. It’s nice to have a private pool or spa for soaking at the end of a long day and a kitchen to store the treasures you picked up along the way. If traveling in a group, you can even rent a villa on its own vineyard and prices are often cheaper than a hotel when you split the costs. Let wine country be your relaxing home away from home.

 

Jennifer Boden is a wine and travel expert. Become a fan of her facebook page by visiting California Wine and Travel. 

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It used to be that vacations were supposed to inspire you to unplug. Now, technology has become part of how we relax and it is integral to making travel easier. It is common to get email and text alerts for flight delays, check for traffic snarls and get walking or driving directions through a map app or GPS unit, and many large airports have a dedicated scanner at security for those traveling with truly paperless tickets that reside on their smartphone.

 

Everyone in my family has an “iSomething”: My Hubs is kind of an equipment-obsessed techy on his own, so you can only imagine; this travel-blogging Mommy needs to be able to do a little work even while on vacay; our oldest can run those sweet, chubby fingers across an iPhone faster than I can; and her little sister - who just turned two - is well-versed in the ways of the touch screen and even knows how to play her favorite music (“ABCD’s” on replay anyone?). But how do you keep it all from crashing your vacation?

 

There's an App for That

 

Making your technology travel well means minimizing the number of devices your family packs. Becoming familiar with new apps can turn one device into many with the click of the “install” button.

 

Apps we like for travel include:

 


I also make sure the kids' iPad (and my phone for when I'm in line somewhere with nothing else to entertain them) has their favorite games and shows, and I always add a new surprise or two in there to keep their attention.

 

Foolproof Plan for Happy Travels with Technology

 

Travel can make some people nervous and a busy mom can easily forget to charge the iPad or pack the car charger, so I want to share my foolproof plan for how you can go from tangled wires and dead batteries to a happy family with just a little thought and planning.

 

  • Always remember to charge everything up before you leave home. The night before a trip I stage our technology on the kitchen counter for charging and packing because I’m always afraid that I will forget my charger plugged in next to my bed. Sound familiar?
  • Make sure all of the cords are labeled and corralled (a silver Sharpie shows up great on black and white chargers) so you can match them on the run, and make sure you have enough rubber bands to keep everything manageable in your bag. Hair elastics are good multitaskers for this.
  • Also, make sure everything has its case so you can just toss all the devices in to one big Bag-o-tech for travel.

 

A "Bag-o-tech" might include:

  • 1 laptop (try for just one unless you and your spouse will end up fighting over it)
  • 2 cell phones (or more if your kids have their own)
  • 2 iPads (or one for each child)
  • 1 camera + battery + battery charger
  • 1 Power Strip (see below)
  • Earphones for kids and adults
  • All cases, chargers and extra memory cards for the camera or video recorder

 

We assign one person (usually Hubs) to carry all of our technology through security in one bag when we are flying to make sure things go smoothly. This keeps anyone in the family from being flagged for forgetting to throw his cell phone in to be scanned.

 

Accessorize Your Technology for Success

 

Cindy Richards of TravelingMom.com gave me this great tip: carry a power strip. She says everyone at the airport will love you for it because there are never enough outlets for everyone. She adds, “Use it as your charging station and you'll only have to find one open plug and significantly reduce the chances  you'll leave a charger behind when you check out.

 

Our iPad doubles as “kidertainment,” so we make sure to pack the iGuy when we travel. The iGuy is a super cute, kid-friendly iPad holder that is a lifesaver for keeping expensive technology safe while the kids are using it.

 

Above all else, remember to pack headphones for your kids. It will save both you and the other passengers from having to listen to endless episodes of your kids' favorite shows. If you have multiple children, splitters are a great way for the kids to share the cartoon goodness without having to buy a second device! Headphones are also necessary for anyone in the family who wants to check out the airplane movie or plug in to the car’s audio/video system. 

 

Keeping with the Apple family of devices has really streamlined our technology arsenal because they play together so well, making them ideal for our frequent trips. If Apple products aren't your thing, there are a plethora of great Android deices available. Also, Leap Frog makes great educational versions for kids including the My Own Leaptop and LeapPads for varying ages, which we also love at my house. You can even download special apps from your laptop to your kids LeapFrog devices and personalize them with your child’s name, age, photo, and more. Feeling as if they have their own devices makes my girls feel very special, indeed.

 

Using technology to simplify your travels with helpful apps and for entertainment during down times will help you refresh and recharge. Just make sure it doesn't take over your vacation by letting yourself work too much or not enjoying family time because you're texting, emailing and catching up on Facebook and Twitter. And, by all means, please DO turn all your technology off as much as you can. It will all still be there when your vacation is over.

 

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

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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.

 

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Day 1

 

Ahhh, home sweet home!

 

We arrived at our amazing, contemporary Montauk vacation rental (that we found on HomeAway.com) 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!

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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

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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!

 

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Diana Heather writes at http://www.parentingsatrip.com. She is also the Chief Mom, both at home to her two girls and at Totsy.com. You can follow Diana on Twitter @ParentingsATrip.

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


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In light of the Olympics, I thought it’d be a fun idea to do a series of posts about traveling abroad with your family... 


International travel with a young family can be a bit nerve-wracking, particularly the first time you do it. However, as a mom who’s been to Europe and back more than once with both of my girls (reminder: my oldest is 3 years old), I can say it was absolutely worth it.

 

We love the idea of exposing our children to new countries and cultures early on. Plus, for us, traveling abroad means spending time with Hubs’ parents, which is a total bonus!

 

As with all family travel, a smooth international vacation just comes down to doing your homework and having a game plan.  

Passports rules for children (16 and under) are different than the rules for adults:
Despite what you might think, all children, including babies, are required to have a passport when traveling internationally.


Also, both parents/guardians must be with the child at the passport agency to get the process started. If both can not be present, then the one who is absent must have signed the proper form (DS-3053) and have it notarized giving permission for the child to receive a passport. You can find a link to download Form DS-3053 on travel.state.gov.

 

Check the rules for parents with sole custody or a third parties applying with the child for their passport.

 

Parents/guardians also need to submit sufficient documentation of custody or a ‘permission to travel letter’ at the airport if only one parent intends to travel with their child without the second parent or if grandparents, etc. are traveling abroad with a child without his/her parents.

Don't Forget the Passports by timsackton.jpg
Creative Commons Photo courtesy of timsackton

 

This can get confusing, but it’s very important. No one wants to get to the airport for a major trip just to be turned away by officials for improper documentation.

 

Family Travel Forum has a great article entitled, Required Documents for Travel with Minors. This is a great place to start for more information. Regardless of your plans, when crossing borders with minors always check the Department of Homeland Security site to ensure you have the proper documents with you before you leave home.


The happily-sleeping jetsetter child:
Traveling through time zones and managing jetlag requires counterintuitive thinking because your body will be tired and telling you to sleep; however there are definitely ways to get your family through it with ease. 

World Clock.jpg

 

First, if you're traveling to Europe and other countries east of the US, it's best to do so at night so you wake up at your destination during the day.

 

Also, I recommend switching your clocks to the new time zone as early as possible to help you stay on schedule and force your body to accept what time it is where you are/are going versus where you're coming from.

 

If you have an iPhone, a helpful tool is the “Clock” application (note: it's the same app you use for the alarm or stopwatch). At the bottom of the screen, tap on “World Clock” to easily see and compare time zones. The best part is there’s no need to search for or buy a new app – this one’s part of the phone. Love that!

Maintaining your at-home schedule while traveling will also help ease jet-lag (e.g., eat breakfast at 7 a.m., lunch at noon, dinner at 7 p.m., etc.). Believe it or not, eating your regular meals on the new time schedule will help you sleep better.

Luckily, in my experience, young kids and infants are generally sensitive to light and dark and and often don't need as much coercing as adults when it comes to adjusting to new time zones. Parents with older kids might want to encourage them to go to bed slightly earlier than usual the first few nights to try and wake up on schedule. It’s tempting to go to bed late and wake up late the first few days of an international trip, but the sooner your body gets acclimated to the new schedule, the better.

When traveling home (westward), reverse the process. Travel in the morning so that you arrive home in time to go to bed at home at a regular time. Again, force your body to wake up and eat at regular times.

International travel and family meals:
My experience has taught me to take advantage of the opportunity to try new food ideas offered up by friends and family at destinations abroad, especially when it comes to the kids. People tend to think differently about baby and toddler foods due to cultural differences and experiences. This is actually a good thing. We took their advice and came away with great new options for my kids.

My girls tried foods I would never have dreamed of for them (like salmon and parsnips when they weren't even a year old) and they loved them. My British sister-in-law even convinced me it was ok to give them small portions of pureed casseroles with a little milk and cheese in them. It worked out great! 

 

The world is a large and wonderful place.  Instead of being afraid to explore it because you have kids, think of it as another opportunity to grow closer with your family through each new adventure.    


What was your first international travel experience like and what was the thing you were most nervous about? How did that turn out?

 

Happy travels!

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