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May 18, 2011

A-to-Z Family Travel Contest: We Have a Winner!

Megan_Worthy_and_Bronte Picking the winner of our A-to-Z Family Travel Contest has been excruciatingly tough. There were a whopping 4,678 entries, at least two dozen of them complete A-to-Z lists, and several hundred offering paragraph upon paragraph of extraordinarily useful advice. In the end, I felt I had to choose the entry that stood out as the most original and creative. It was submitted by one Megan Worthy of Los Angeles. 

Turns out Megan is an Aussie filmmaker who travels the world for her job. Her six-year-old daughter, Bronte, and Bronte's teddy bear, Frank, took their first long-haul flight to Sydney when Bronte was ten weeks old. Bronte celebrated her first birthday in Budapest, turned two in Moscow, three in Milan, four in Los Angeles, and five and six in Paris.

Eragon_set_Hungary Megan's husband is in the film business too and, says Megan, "it's become pretty clear that having two parents working brutal hours all over the planet is not ideal for Bronte" (pictured here on the set of Eragon in Hungary when she was almost one). "So I've recently launched the first of our series of travel books, Bronte & Frank. After a very challenging experience in Moscow when Bronte was a toddler, I wanted to create something to leave behind to help expat families find their feet in new cities. These 'Traveltivity Guides' are based on the true adventures of Bronte and Frank. Bronte is an only child and, because we have no family in the same city (or even on the same side of the country), Frank continues to be her everything."

Megan_and_Bronte_in_Paris Yesterday was a tearful day for Megan: Just hours before I informed her she'd won the contest, she learned that Bronte's great-grandfather Frank, for whom the teddy bear is named, had passed away in Australia. The news that she had won a $16,000 Caribbean vacation brightened her day, and the trip will certainly be a much-needed break. "My husband and I can't remember the last time we had a holiday," says Megan. "I think it was actually our three-night honeymoon in 2002."  

Megan says she learned about our A-to-Z Contest only two days before it ended. Her entry was the fifth from last, in fact, and squeaked in only eight minutes before the deadline. Here it is:

BRONTE & FRANK'S A-to-Z TRAVEL TIPS

A is for ANGRY BIRDS
OK, so I said I would NEVER download it.
But Bronte was throwing a frightful fit.
Moments later she's smiling,
Through levels she's flying...
Oh, bummer, the battery just quit.

B is for BED
Things familiar from home help kids sleep.
B's travel bed's brilliant for sending her deep.
From naptime at school
To friends by the pool,
A hotel room is not such a leap.

C is for CURRENCY
In every new city, B likes to find
A locally made wallet, perhaps even lined.
She'll learn how to count
A foreign amount
And donate coins if feeling inclined.

D is for DUPLICATE FRANKS
Bronte cannot live her life without Frank
Once she thought she'd lost him, her heart cracked and sank.
To prevent such a fate,
Frank says 'DUPLICATE'
So you never end up in a state.

Continue reading "A-to-Z Family Travel Contest: We Have a Winner!" »

May 03, 2011

Family Travel Contest: An Exaltation of A-to-Z Lists

Riding_The_London_Eye I seem to have struck a nerve. My A-to-Z guide to traveling with kids has spawned a collection of A-to-Z lists from parents around the globe.

Check out, for instance, the alphabet of advice offered up by Mara Gorman on her blog The Mother of all Trips. (Her kids, Tommy and Teddy, are pictured here riding the London Eye.) My favorite of Mara's tips? "E is for Enjoying the journey, not just the destination....Think of the hours in the car or on the plane as special family time. You're all together without interruptions and can share music, stories, or play sily games. When else do we have our children's undivided attention or they ours?" Mara is so right.

Or check out the A-to-Z list from Mary Turner, a Boston-based mom of teens, on Travel with Teens and Tweens. Based on Mary's active and outdoorsy recommendations--from G is for Golf to K is for Kayak to Z is for Ziplines--all I can say is that her kids and mine would get along great. I'm hoping for a play date someday. 

Taj_Mahal_India Over at Backpack to Buggy, Meg Keough has dreamed up a list from A is for Acidopholus to Z is for Zinc Oxide. (Pictured here is H is for Hopscotch: That's Meg and her daughter playing "white marble hopscotch" at the Taj Mahal.) I laughed hardest over C is for Cabana boy. 

Another alphabet of advice can be found at Mo Travels, where marathon-running mom Monique Rubin, who has traveled with her daughters everywhere from Amsterdam to Zanzibar, has posted a list from A is for Animals to Z is for Ziploc bags.

There's also Kaamna Bhojwani-Dhawan, whose hard-earned tips can be found at Momaboard. Kaamna's son is only two and already she's taken him to Australia, the Czech Republic, China, Croatia, France, Hungary, India, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, and the United States. Is it any wonder her list includes B is for Bulkhead seats and P is for Priority tags? 

Though it's not a complete A-through-Z, there's also a fun list from Amy Whitley, Oregon-based mom of three, at Pit Stops for Kids. My favorite? S is for Ski resorts, not just in ski season but in the warmer months too: "Save big on accommodations, enjoy low crowds, and take advantage of off-season activities like mountain biking, horseback riding, zip lining, and bungee jumping!" 

And don't forget the A-to-Z lists already published here on The Perrin Post--those from Hip Travel Mama, The Vacation GalsMy Little Nomads, Gwen Kozlowski of Exeter International, and Michael Kaye of Costa Rica Expeditions.  

Turksandcaicos_hotel_003p That amounts to a helluva lot of advice for traveling with kids. It also wraps up our A-to-Z family travel coverage here on The Perrin Post. That's because today is your last day to enter our A-to-Z Family Travel Contest. You have until 5:00 p.m. E.S.T. to share your best travel-with-kids tip (and no, it needn't be a complete A-to-Z list) for the chance to win a $16,000 family vacation in the Caribbean at the five-star resort pictured here. 

Heartfelt thanks to the thousands of you who participated in our contest. It's going to take a couple of weeks for me to read through every entry and agonize over the big decision, but after that I'll be back to announce the winner. Stay tuned! (If you want email notification of my next post, announcing who's won, you can sign up here.)

May 02, 2011

Family Travel Contest: The X Factor

Turks_Caicos Have you shared your best tip or tips for traveling with kids in our A-to-Z Family Travel Contest yet? You have until 5:00 p.m. E.S.T. tomorrow to enter for the chance to win a $16,000 family vacation at a five-star resort that sits on the 12-mile-long Caribbean white-sand beach pictured here. 

It all started with my A-to-Z list of tips for traveling with kids. Many of you responded with your own alphabetical lists. Michael Kaye could have worked a little harder on finding a tip for the letter X, so today Bob Payne picks up the slack. Bob's hilarious musings about travel make him a must-follow on Twitter, where you'll find him at @BobTravelsWell. His list of tips that start with X:

X is for Xanax: Anti-anxiety drug popular with parents who travel with children still too young to know they should not repeat things about TSA agents they have heard their parents say.

X is for Xanadu: Any exotic, luxurious travel destination you can get your teens interested in by pointing out that it is also the name of a rock band. Or, conversely, a hotel whose ranking of 22 out of 24 on TripAdvisor’s popularity index for Freeport, the Bahamas, is something you might wish to consider before booking.

X is for Xerox: Ancient printing process once used to make copies of tickets, reservations, birth certificates, and health records, when those documents were still in paper form.

X is for Xenophobia: Fear of anything foreign, particularly--among families traveling with young children--vegetables. Often overcome by claiming the vegetable tastes like a French fry.

X is for Xylophone: A percussion instrument children should not be allowed to substitute for electronic games parents have banned from use during meals when traveling.

X is for Xenon: A planet in the French animated television series, Galactik Football, whose distance from earth is how far most kids of middle-school age and above would prefer to be seated from their parents during air travel.

April 29, 2011

Family Travel Contest: B is for Binoculars, C is for Calm, D is for Don't Drag Teenagers...

Turkscaicos_032u
An aerial shot of Providenciales, the Turks and Caicos island where our yet-to-be-determined contest champion will win a family vacation at Grace Bay Club

You've got five days left (well, technically, four and a half) to enter our A-to-Z Family Travel Contest. The challenge? Share your best tip or tips for traveling with kids. The prize? A $16,000 family vacation in the Caribbean.  The competition you're up against? Travel-junkie parents like Michael Kaye, today's featured family-travel tipster. Michael is the founder of Costa Rica Expeditions, a Huffington Post blogger, and a wise and witty guy, as you'll see from the complete A-to-Z List he has submitted. Michael's tips: 

A is for Attitude: It's yours to choose. Which one you choose will make all the difference. Enough said.

B is for Binoculars: One of the great benefits of travel is that it shows you new worlds. Binoculars show you new worlds within new worlds. Binoculars are on virtually all "What to Bring" lists for nature travel, but they are almost as valuable for other kinds of travel as well. They are not of much use inside the Louvre, but they are great for seeing the details of the molding above the cornice on the exterior of the Louvre. The same binoculars that work for bird watching work for people watching.

C is for Calm: Things can go wrong when you travel. Getting excited seldom helps.

D is for Don't Drag Teenagers: The best way I know to ruin a family trip is to drag along a teenager who would rather be home with her friends.

E is for Expectations: Keep them realistic. It is not realistic to expect a family that is not getting along at home to magically bond on vacation---at least, not with each other.

F is for Fun: It is the main point of taking a vacation, especially with kids. Have it.

G is for Guides: If the purpose of the trip is for you and your kids to learn about a culture, natural or human, other than your own, try to find a really good guide. I am not talking about the kind of guide who gives canned speeches. I am talking about the kind of guide who asks the right questions: For example, "How do you think families in ancient Rome were different from modern families in your country?" And then, "How do you think families in modern Rome are different from modern families in your country?" Really great guides who can transform a perfectly good vacation into an extraordinary magical experience are trained professionals and they do not come cheap. If money is a factor, skimp on hotels, but don't skimp on the guide.

H is for Help: Ask for it when you need it.

I is for Intolerant: See J.

J is for Judge: Discourage your kids from doing it to other ways of life.

K is for Kite: Bring one. I've never done this or seen anyone who has, but it does not seem like such a bad idea, and I could not think of anything for K.

L is for Loose: Stay it.

Continue reading "Family Travel Contest: B is for Binoculars, C is for Calm, D is for Don't Drag Teenagers... " »

April 28, 2011

Family Travel Contest: Tips for Safaris with Kids

Safari_Kenya_Samburu_tribesmen
Today's family-travel tipster, Julian Harrison, shot this pic of his kids and their friends with a Samburu tribesman in Kenya. 

You've got five days left to enter our A-to-Z Family Travel Contest for the chance to win a $16,000 family vacation. Yes, you read that right: $16,000 family vacation. The winner will be the person who submits the best tip or tips for traveling with kids. (And no, "Stay home!" and "Drop them off with Grandma" don't count.)

To get you inspired, we've been sharing hard-earned wisdom from travel-junkie parents here on The Perrin Post for the past few weeks. Today's advice comes from safari lover Julian Harrison, who took his kids on their first safari when they were three, five, and seven years old. Julian was born and raised in South Africa and is highly connected in the safari world. His tips:

* Choose the right region of Africa. In southern African countries--such as South Africa and Botswana--most safaris are conducted in open vehicles, while in East Africa--Kenya, Tanzania--they are in closed vehicles with an open rooftop viewing hatch. That's why we chose Kenya for our first safari with kids. A closed vehicle greatly reduces the possibility of an excited child tumbling out of the vehicle when viewing animals in close proximity. 

Black_rhino-Kenya * Create your own itinerary rather than settling for a prepackaged one. Instead of purchasing a safari that already has an itinerary in place, customize your own. This does not necessarily cost more money. It allows you to have your own private vehicle and guide, which bodes well for children's schedules because you can make a game drive as long or short as you want. This also gives the children the freedom to be noisy if the occasion warrants it, and they can nap when tired without disturbing other travelers.

* Stick to higher altitudes. Cooler temperatures greatly reduce the possibility of contracting malaria or other diseases. Go during the African winter months for the same reason. When visiting areas where malaria is prevalent, dress children in long pants, long-sleeved shirts, socks, and shoes. Then apply insect repellent to any exposed skin such as the forehead, back of the neck, and back of the hands. 

Kenya_safari_samburu_hut * Vary your activities each day. Children will lose interest if they are subjected to game drives every day. There are many other activities that can be incorporated: camel treks, visiting a chimpanzee sanctuary, fishing on a catch-and-release basis, visiting local villages (pictured: one of my sons in a Samburu village in Kenya), and participating in their daily activities--such as milking goats. 

* Choose child-friendly safari camps and lodges. Some offer a local Masai or Samburu naturalist whose task is to keep kids entertained while educating them about the surrounding ecosystem.  Activities include making bows and arrows and going to a nearby river bed to make plaster casts of animal tracks left the night before. This provides a great reprieve for parents needing a break.

Continue reading "Family Travel Contest: Tips for Safaris with Kids" »

April 27, 2011

Family Travel Contest: Our First A-to-Z List from a Dad!

Grace_Bay_Club_Turks_Caicos
Five-star beach resort Grace Bay Club sits on a 12-mile, white-sand beach in the Caribbean. One lucky contest winner will be heading there for a family vacation. 

You've still got a few days left to enter our A-to-Z Family Travel Contest for the chance to win a $16,000 family vacation. Your deadline? Tuesday, May 3, at 5:00 pm EST. Here are the prize details and helpful hints.

As inspiration, and as a public service to parents who would love to take their kids somewhere exotic but are not sure they can cope, we've been featuring noteworthy contest entries here for the past several weeks. Today's entry is from David Robert Hogg, a Seattle-based father of four- and seven-year-old sons (who are pictured below in a stream in Vietnam). David writes the blog My Little Nomads and has submitted an entire A-to-Z list that is the first to come in from a dad! His tips:  

Stream-in-vietnamA is for Airplane Bassinet (a.k.a. the bulkhead bassinet). This is an incredibly great setup, if you can get these highly coveted seats. The bulkhead bassinet is a sleeper that connects to the wall just in front of the bulkhead seats. It's good for kids up to about 20 lbs. It's not just the ability for your child to sleep that is a bonus; the extra room is great too--it's essentially a free seat. Phone the airline as soon as you've booked your tickets and ask about reserving the bulkhead seats. Depending on the airplane, there can be several different seats with access to a bassinet.

B is for Baby carrier. A great baby carrier allows for hands-free moving about and can be a lifesaver in airports, train stations, cobblestoned streets, and hotels without elevators. Strollers are something to consider, but if you have a little baby with you, a good carrier is close to a necessity.

Songkran-in-bangkok C is for Count your suitcases. Count your backpacks, handbags, and suitcases, and keep the number in your head. This is simple, and maybe painfully obvious, but it sure helps. You hop in a taxi, "Bag count--1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6--yep, they're all here." Easy. (Bigger families may want to conduct a kid count as well.)

D is for Don't do too much, but don't do too little either. The biggest mistake parents traveling with kids make is doing too little, not too much. Get out there. Enjoy. Experience. Wear the kids out and get them tired. Then have great sleeps at night. Pictured above is my older son enjoying Songkran, the water splashing festival, in Bangkok.

Fish-market-in-bali E is for Early (or late). Visit attractions very early before the crowds have arrived or in the late afternoon when they've left to go home. From 11:00am to 2:00pm is nearly always the busiest time at any attraction. Here's my younger son at a fish market in Bali--early in the day, of course.

F is for Flashlight. Street lighting might not be as consistent as in your hometown and you'll probably have a few nights returning to your hotel down a quiet road or path. A flashlight can come in very handy.

Continue reading "Family Travel Contest: Our First A-to-Z List from a Dad!" »

April 26, 2011

Family Travel Contest: H is for Horseback Riding, F is for Fishing

Horseback-riding-Argentina
Vanessa Guibert Heitner and her family exploring Alto Ongamira in the province of Cordoba, Argentina. 

Our A-to-Z Family Travel Contest is yielding a cornucopia of creative tips for traveling with kids. Today's advice comes from Vanessa Guibert Heitner, who has traveled with her six- and nine-year-old boys to every corner of Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. Condé Nast Traveler readers go nuts over the trips that Vanessa has arranged for them. Her tips:

1. Bring on the sports.

Children love physical activity, and any opportunity to engage in a local sport allows them to blend in with the locals and burn off some energy. In Latin America soccer is a passion, and properties will always have a “pelota” (ball) on-hand for the kids.  Hotel staff is invariably very talented at “futbol.” On a recent trip to two estancias in Cordoba, Argentina, my children became close friends with the staff and picked up some tricky footwork.

Alto_Ongamira_Cordoba_Argentina 2. Horseback riding is the great equalizer for children.

Children often have trouble keeping up on a hike or bike ride through the mountains and other landscapes.  Their legs are short; they get tired!   Horseback riding makes everyone equal, and when you visit a place that has tame and well-trained horses, as well as excellent guides, the kids can keep up and have an amazing time. (The stone wall pictured here in Alto Ongamira is about four centuries old, built during the earliest colonial period under the direction of the Jesuits.) 

3. Travel back in time; walk into history.

Visiting large-scale historical sites that tell a story really helps children contextualize information and imagine living at another time in an exotic place.  Unlike a museum, which can often feel passive, stepping into a ruin or a castle awakens children's imagination and allows them to touch, smell, tread, and listen to the story being told by the destination. In a 16th century Jesuit mission in Cordoba, my kids learned all about the missionaries, the indigenous population, and the African slaves who built the mission. They loved how small some of the doors were; they could totally relate! 

Continue reading "Family Travel Contest: H is for Horseback Riding, F is for Fishing" »

April 25, 2011

Family Travel Contest: K is for Kids' Clubs, P is for Peace

Kids_Town_Grace_Bay_Club_Turks_Caicos
Attention, fellow exhausted parents: At the Kids Town clubhouse at Grace Bay Club, a five-star beach resort in the Caribbean, counselors entertain your kids all day so you can get some peace and quiet on vacation. Imagine that!

It's not too late to enter our A-to-Z Family Travel Contest for the chance to win a $16,000 family vacation at Grace Bay Club, a Condé Nast Traveler Gold List honoree located in the Caribbean cluster of islands known as Turks and Caicos. The prize includes membership for two children in the resort's kids program, which offers a daily schedule of educational programs and excursions.

We're sharing some of our favorite contest submissions here throughout April, and today's featured contribution comes from reader Momwithboys. Her tips for traveling with kids:

P is for Pennies. Ten pennies can create many games for long layovers. Place them in a large circle and have kids jump to each: with 2 feet, with 1 foot, backwards, eyes closed. Play find the pennies, Easter-egg-hunt style. Play “toss the pennies” into an empty cup.

E is for Empty sippy cup. Most flight attendants are happy to fill them, or you can pour the served drinks into them yourself. As children get older, you can switch to sports bottles. Nothing is worse for a long flight than a wet seat. Check out Vapur foldable water bottles with an attachable hook.

A is for Album. I love to teach my kids about other cultures but realize that children from other cultures are equally fascinated by us. Create an album with photos of your kids’ schools, hobbies, McDonalds, etc. Include titles in the native language. In Haiti, I had a swarm of children surrounding us, enthralled by our album.

C is for Clothes. When traveling to economically depressed regions, pack wardrobes that can be donated at the end of the trip. Keep only the clothes you’ll be wearing home.

E is for Expectations. Do not expect to read or sleep. They are merely a bonus.

I can certainly attest to that. It's why a supervised kids' club can make such a difference to a family vacation. Children's programs enable parents to recuperate rather than return home more exhausted than when they left. 

I hope you'll share your travel-with-kids tips in our A-to-Z Family Travel Contest. Here are all the contest details. Good luck!

April 22, 2011

Family Travel Contest: Another Alphabet of Advice, from Art to Zoos

Painting-Nesting-Dolls
Kids learning about Russian culture the fun way--by making their own nesting dolls in the Matrioshka Museum in Moscow on an Exeter International trip. 

There's still time to enter our A-to-Z Family Travel Contest and share your best tip(s) for traveling with kids. Why?  Because the prize is a $16,000 family vacation at a five-star resort in the Caribbean.

To get you inspired, we've been sharing some of the more interesting tips as they've been rolling in. Today's entry is another complete A-to-Z list of travel-with-kids advice, courtesy of Gwen Kozlowski, mom to a three-year-old and also an Eastern Europe specialist on Condé Nast Traveler's list of the world's best travel planners. Gwen's advice: 

PrgGlassPaintingLOW

A is for Arts and Crafts. Doing hands-on local art is a great way for children to learn about another culture. (Pictured here are kids on an Exeter International trip who have fired up their own glass art at the Manto glass studio in Prague.) 

B is for Books and Bedtime. We always read before bedtime at home, so we bring a couple of books along so the general routine is the same. Not extending bedtime too late means a happy child wakes up in the morning.

C is for Crayola (or any crayons). Crayons and blank paper open up hours of imagination. From Hangman games to practicing letters to drawing pictures for Mommy and Daddy, they're compact and portable.

D is for Disney. Disney World, Disney Hotels or Disney Cruise Line.  No other company is so child-friendly while also giving adults kid-free fun time.

E is for EATING! We try to keep our son on the same eating schedule--and keep an eye on the sugar intake--throughout the day.

F is for Flexibility. This means having a rainy day backup plan for every trip, just in case. 

G is for Granola Bars. Particularly low-sugar chocolate-chip chewy granola bars.  Just sweet enough to make him think it'    s a treat and a great go-to snack on the road.

H is for Hot Wheels Cars. My favorite toy for my son to pick to bring. Tiny!

I is for Insulated snack pack. Filled with no-sugar-added applesauce, granola bars, fruit cups, an extra juice, an extra water. This goes on every road trip with us.

Making_Candy

J is for Juice. It's so expensive to buy at gas stations during road trips, so  I  separate the "big bottle" of juice at home that I've bought in bulk into smaller, individual bottles for ease of packing in a cooler.

K is for Kindle. So mom and dad can have some "me" time reading without bulky books.  Perfect for sitting on the balcony and enjoying a good book during naptime.

L is for Local parks and playgrounds. Free, fun, and a great way for your kids to meet other kids.

M is for Make your own food. Another easy and fun way for kids to learn about other cultures is in the kitchen. They get such a sense of pride and independence from making a local kid-friendly specialty. They also have a sense of ownership over the final result so that, no matter how foreign the food, they are guaranteed to eat it and love it. (Pictured is a girl on an Exeter International trip using chocolate to cover cookies and marzipan at a chocolatier in Trakai, Lithuania.)

Continue reading "Family Travel Contest: Another Alphabet of Advice, from Art to Zoos" »

April 21, 2011

Family Travel Contest: An A-to-Z List for Traveling with School-Age Kids

Family-Snorkel-on-Maui-Vacation
Jen Miner of The Vacation Gals snorkeling with her family in Maui

Have you entered your best tip(s) for traveling with kids in our A-to-Z Family Travel Contest yet? Don't miss it: The prize is a $16,000 family vacation in the Caribbean.

We've been sharing some of the more notable contest entries here as they come in, and a few peripatetic parents have gone so far as to submit complete A-to-Z lists--yes, one tip for every letter of the alphabet.  Today our featured entry comes from The Vacation Gals--a.k.a. Kara Williams, Jen Miner, and Beth Blair--who hit the road with their kids (ages 5 through 12) every chance they get. Their essentials: 

A is for All-inclusive Resorts--an easy, hassle-free family vacation. Pay one fee up front and your hotel accommodations, meals, and many activities are all arranged. Most have complimentary kids' clubs, where children are entertained with arts and crafts and beach games (yay for Mom and Dad free time). Buffets are prevalent--great for picky palates. For most all-inclusive vacations you'll need a passport: dozens of oceanfront all-inclusive properties are found in Mexico and the Caribbean, but also consider Tyler Place Resort in Vermont and Club Med Sandpiper in Florida.

B is for BestFamilyTravelAdvice.com. This site is chock full of good tips for traveling with kids. The Q&A format delivers quick, specific answers; contributors include some of the best family-travel bloggers on the web--all parents who are eager to share their wealth of tips with other traveling families.

C is for Crocs. These easy slip-on/slip-off rubber shoes make it convenient to get through security quickly; many kids love collecting Jibbitz to decorate their colorful sandals.

D is for Dude Ranches. This is another incredibly fun vacation option for families. Even if you're not huge into horses, guest ranches offer so many different kinds of activities--archery, hiking, fishing, swimming.... Week-long stays are often encouraged, so you can have plenty of time to fall into the easy pace of ranch life, plus you'll get to know other guests--many families form lifelong friendships after dude ranching together for a week. Fresh air, plenty of nature, hearty food...kids will love the freedom they find on an outdoor playground at a western dude ranch.

E is for Eating Local. Introducing the family to local foods and drinks is the ultimate way to experience a new destination. Save the chain restaurants for home.

F is for Flying in the morning. Early flights means planes are likely running on time without delays or frustrating cancellations--always helpful for keeping children (heck, the whole family) happy and on schedule.

G is for Go with the flow. It's a lesson kids learn at an early age if you start traveling with them when they're young. Plane delayed and we'll miss the connection? Okay, let's go to Plan B. Restaurant is closed? No problem, we've got a back-up. Dad read the map wrong and we're lost? That's okay... look, that's a toy store over there! Mom forgot to pack the beloved blankie... yeah you're in deep doo-doo with that one. Mastering "go with the flow" only goes so far...

H is for Historic landmarks. Introducing our children to the events and people of the past during travel helps kids make a personal connection to what they're learning back home in the classroom. Taking time to see the Liberty Bell, the Parthenon, Maya ruins or even not-so-famous landmarks can make a lasting impression.

I is for Ice cream. Just do it on vacation. A lot.

J is for JetBlue. Kara's kids always ask, "Are we flying JetBlue?" whenever she announces a family trip. They got hooked on the individual television sets on the back of the seats on a flight from Denver to NYC, and if they only flew JetBlue for the rest of their lives, they'd be happy flyers.

K is for Klutz activity books. This brilliant, upbeat, irreverent publishing company produces the best travel activity books for school-age children. Books like Kids Travel: A Backseat Survival Kit and TRIPtivities are chock full of games, puzzles, mazes, dot-to-dots, crafts, jokes and coloring pages. Nothing like some engaging, age-appropriate activities to keep the "are we there yet" complaints at bay!

L is for Luggage scale so you don't go over the baggage weight limits when your suitcase is bursting with souvenirs that the kiddos just had to buy with their own allowance.

Delicate-Arch_Arches_National_Park_Moab

M is for Multi-generational trips. Traveling with grandma is the best: built-in babysitter! Not to mention, you're creating lifelong memories across generations.

N is for Natural wonders. Getting up close and personal with our world's most spectacular natural sights embeds a sense of appreciation for our beautiful earth. In the United States start with the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, or Redwood National Forest. We believe exposure to the U.S. National Park System is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children. (Pictured is Kara Williams of The Vacation Gals with her kids at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Moab, Utah.)

Continue reading "Family Travel Contest: An A-to-Z List for Traveling with School-Age Kids" »

April 20, 2011

Family Travel Contest: Tips for International Travel with Kids

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Andrea Ross and her children dining with a local family as part of a homestay in Banteay Mean Chey Province, Cambodia. 

Have you entered our A-to-Z Family Travel Contest yet? It's as easy as sharing your best tip(s) for traveling with kids. Throughout April I'm sharing some of my favorite contest entries here on The Perrin Post, and today's entry comes from Andrea Ross of Journeys Within, a boutique Southeast Asia tour company that Condé Nast Traveler readers love (just read these traveler reviews to see how much). Journeys Within is also the recipient of a Condé Nast Traveler World Savers Award for its projects that alleviate poverty and improve health in the Southeast Asian communities in which it operates. Here are Andrea's tips for traveling internationally with kids: 

1. Arrange airport transfers.  Here is my nightmare: I arrive in a foreign place with my two kids and husband who is terrified of flying, he's taken a valium to get through the flight so I might as well be traveling with just the kids and a large elephant. The kids are hungry and tired, and after we get our luggage we exit the airport and are bombarded with people trying to get us in their taxi/motorbike/tuk tuk! Kids are crying, husband is looking groggy, and I am searching through my bag trying to find the name and address of the hotel and the guidebook to figure out how much a taxi to get there should be. Now, imagine this instead: We exit the airport and my five-year-old shrills out, 'There's our name, Mommy!'  A lovely young man confirms who we are, takes my luggage cart and steers it, and my husband, toward a van, where he offers us cold water and a cool towel before whisking us away to our hotel.  Whatever you want booked for the rest of your trip, be met at the airport. It starts the trip off with minimal stress.

2. Book a hotel room that will fit a family, and check what you're getting BEFORE you get there. In Bangkok we book many of our guests into serviced apartments. These aren't just for business travelers and can be booked for only one or two nights. They offer plenty of space, a kitchen, and often even a washer and dryer, not to mention separate rooms for mom and dad and for the kids!

Trunki_kids_airport 3. The Trunki. This is just the best luggage you can ever get for your kids. You can pull them on it, they can scoot themselves on it, they can pull it themselves! I have pulled both my kids through many an airport when they are tired and grumpy, and it turns into a fun game rather than a boring two-hour transfer. (Pictured here are my kids with their Trunkis in Vietnam. Vietnam Airlines had just told us our flight was delayed, so while my husband and I ran around trying to get moved to an earlier fight, our kids sat on their Trunkis and watched our luggage!) 

4. Don't be afraid of homestays. We have visited homes throughout Southeast Asia, and being able to do it as a family makes it so much fun. There are always other kids around, and kids are instant friends, so it's an immediate ice breaker. While this might put YOU out of your comfort zone, your kids will love the idea of sleeping on the floor, eating with their hands, and playing with new friends. In the end, despite how hard the floor might be, watching them be global citizens will be worth the bruised hip! Here's what to pack for a homestay

5. Travel Bingo! My kids' wonderful Nana gave them a travel bingo game where you find things like schools, a bicycle, a church, etc. Unfortunately, on road trips in Southeast Asia where we usually are, these things can be hard to find, so we make up our own Bingo. On a recent trip to Vietnam we had A Pig, Rice, Safety First (seeing something extremely dangerous), A Cyclo, A Conical Hat...and many more. We made a list with the kids, and they got a point each time they found a bingo item. It kept them watching out the car windows and was a fun way to find all the new things not so scary!

Don't forget to enter your travel-with-kids tips in our A-to-Z Family Travel Contest. The prize is a $16,000 family vacation in the Caribbean!  First read these prize details and helpful hints for how to rock the contest. Good luck!

April 19, 2011

Family Travel Contest: An A-to-Z List for Traveling with Kids Under 6

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When I announced our A-to-Z Family Travel Contest last month, I invited you to submit as many travel-with-kids tips as you like. "Hey, feel free to come up with one tip for every letter of the alphabet," I wrote. Well, a few ambitious parents took me seriously and have done just that. Here's an A-to-Z list entitled "Hip Tips for Travel in Style and Comfort with Kids Under 6" by Anne Taylor Hartzell, who writes the Hip Travel Mama blog, and whose daughters are pictured here on a plane with their travel backpacks (described below):

A is for Antibacterial wipes: I stash several packages of Wet Ones antibacterial wipes in every travel bag to wipe down seat trays, tables, high chairs, dropped toys and little sticky hands.

B is for Backpack: Before each trip, I fill backpacks for each child with age-appropriate toys, activities books and games related to our destination. For example, on a recent trip to DisneyWorld, I packed Disney-themed items from the local Target $1 bins and local toy store including stickers, activity books, pens and other fun trinkets. The #1 rule: They are not allowed to open it up until we get past security.

Funbagsfortwo C  is for Carrier: For hands-free baby carrying and to save your aching arms from heavy toddlers navigating the airport, theme park or city. My favorite carrier is the Beco Carrier. It comes in several super hip patterns and will take you from infant to toddler/preschooler up to 45lbs.

D is for DisneyDream:  This Disney cruise is a dream for families with children of all ages. Endless activities, entertainment, outstanding child care, luxury amenities and adults-only spaces guarantee a great time for the whole family.

E is for Emergency pack: Kids have a knack for getting sick or scraping a knee while traveling. I always pack a small emergency pack including a thermometer, Tylenol, Benadryl, Band-aids and other 'just-in-case' items.

F is for Fairy: The Tooth Fairy that is. Remember that kids can lose teeth while you are on a trip. Be prepared with your tooth fairy routine on the road. If your kids have a few wiggly teeth, consider packing their favorite tooth box in a safe place.

Continue reading "Family Travel Contest: An A-to-Z List for Traveling with Kids Under 6" »

April 18, 2011

Family Travel Contest: I is for I Spy, T is for Treasure Hunts

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Mei Zhang, founder of WildChina, with her 5- and 2-year-old daughters at Ta Prohm, the "jungle temple" at Angkor in Cambodia.

Have you entered our A-to-Z Family Travel Contest yet? Don't miss it: The prize is a five-night, $16,000 family vacation in the Caribbean. Great tips for traveling with kids have been streaming in, and we've been sharing some of them here, to help moms and dads as they gear up for summer trips.

Today's tips come from Mei Zhang, mom of three (ages 8, 5, and 2), founder of travel company WildChina, and one of the China experts on my list (updated and published annually in Condé Nast Traveler) of the world's best travel specialists. Mei's hard-earned wisdom:

1. Slow down the pace and allow kids (and yourself) down time.
We tend to feel pressured to pack too many things into one day's travel plan. The pressure is well justified, as we are often talking about thousands of dollars of plane rides for the family. But, in the end, kids get grumpy, parents get exhausted--a lose/lose situation. So I often plan just one major outing for each day and leave the rest of the time for hanging out. Take Cambodia as an example. The temples can get repetitive really quickly, so I made a deal with the kids: one temple a day! That, plus the time they spent watching monkeys on the temple grounds, would usually take us till noon, then we'd grab a nice lunch in one of the roadside restaurants, then back to the hotel for the baby to nap while the older kids watch an afternoon movie and I get a massage. Then it's pool time, followed by excursions for dinner and ice cream in local markets.

2. Stay put in a place at least 2 to 3 nights before moving.
City hopping is driven by the same pressure--that feeling that you've got to see everything! Wrong. It burns out the kids and you. Stay in a place a little longer so they develop a sense of routine, which calms them down.

3. Try to take 1 or 2 kids on a special "date" trip with mommy or daddy.
We often travel as a whole family entourage for Christmas and spring break, but at other times I try to take the kids on separate trips to match their time and interests. The younger ones could afford missing preschool for long stretches at a time, so I took them to China with me for 6 weeks; we covered Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, then Cambodia. I didn't want the older child to feel left out, so I took him on a cruise to Patagonia, since observing animals and hiking in nature is his love; if we'd had the little ones with us, we wouldn't have been able to do as much.

4. Whenever it's affordable, hire a guide; sometimes he or she can double as a sitter.
Cambodia_temple_guideI've often found this possible on my travels. Most guides in China and Cambodia are so eager to help that they are willing to spend time with the kids. When I had 3 kids with me at the Great Wall, the oldest one ran fast, while the baby was still in my arms, so the guide willingly took the hand of the middle child and helped her up and down those steep stairs. Same thing in Cambodia: I hired a guide for the day (our guide, Jet, whom we hired through Pepy Tours, is pictured at right), but we were done with touring by lunch time, so he happily played games with the children back at the hotel. It's fun to see the kids learning different games from different cultures.

5. Create games for the kids.
Angkor Wat and the Forbidden City are really boring for kids after five minutes. So I've taken what we do at WildChina into my personal trips, playing I Spy games and doing treasure hunts with the kids. At Angkor Thom, for instance, there is a huge fresco/wall carving depicting Buddhist historical stories, so we had the kids look for the Fish, the Monkey, etc. That was their favorite thing!

Don't forget to enter our A-to-Z Family Travel Contest. Your tip(s) could end up featured here on The Perrin Post, and/or you might even win that $16,000 family vacation in the Caribbean.

April 15, 2011

Family Travel Contest: D is for Dramamine

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If only we'd had motion-sickness medicine with us on the ferry from St. Martin to Anguilla. As soon as we pulled into Anguilla's Blowing Point pier, my older son lost it. 

It's not too late to enter our A-to-Z Family Travel Contest and share your best tip(s) for traveling with kids. The grand prize? A $16,000 family vacation at Grace Bay Club in Turks and Caicos!

We're sharing some of the best contest entries as they come in, and today's featured tip comes from Chuck Mardiks, who lives in New York with his 7- and 11-year-old daughters, who--like their dad--were bitten by the travel bug at an early age. Chuck's tip: 

"D is for Dramamine and Z is for Ziploc Bags (for when the Dramamine doesn't work and there's no airline barf bag in sight!)" 

Chuck's tip made me laugh out loud: I go nowhere without Ziploc bags--they're the Swiss Army Knife of my packing system--and I too have had to use them for the aforementioned purpose. Remember that nightmarish 19-seater flight where the only airsickness bag within reach had already been used?  Thank God I had a Ziploc with me.  And hand sanitizer. 

You'll find my personal alphabet of A-to-Z tips for traveling with kids in Condé Nast Traveler's April issue or online here.

April 14, 2011

Family Travel Contest: S is for Suite

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Today's family-travel tipster is Tim Leffel, pictured here with his wife and daughter in Costa Rica. 

Have you submitted your best tip(s) for traveling with kids in our A-to-Z Family Travel Contest yet?  Don't miss out: The grand prize is a $16,000 family vacation in the Caribbean.

We're featuring a different contest entry here every weekday throughout April, in hopes of helping out parents who are itching to hit the road with their kids this summer. Today's tip comes from Tim Leffel, author of Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune and editor of the Cheapest Destinations Blog

"Step down to spread out. Sure, most people know that a vacation rental with plenty of room is often a better bet for families than a hotel room, but what if you're only staying put in one place for a few nights at a time? Internationally, often the smartest move is to forget the big chain hotels and look for a budget or mid-range hotel offering suites for a good price. That way the parents can stay up and watch TV or read with the lights on while the kids are sleeping in another room. I've found family-friendly suites for $60 a night in Antigua, Guatemala, $65 in Merida, Mexico, and a little cottage for $80 in Belize. 

You usually won't find these places on Orbitz or Expedia though. Thumb through some guidebooks or budget-minded websites that offer comprehensive independent hotel listings. I found the first through Moon Handbook Guatemala and the others through Yucatan Today and ToucanTrail." 

As for my own personal tips for hitting the road with children, you'll find some in my A-to-Z Guide to Traveling with Kids, others in my article Ten Easy Ways to Make Traveling with Kids More Fun. Bon voyage! 

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