TAG | traveling with kids
May 10, 2012
Add a little education and generate excitement about your upcoming vacation by using books to spark interest in the destination.
Guidebooks: Traditional guidebooks have little to offer kids – some of them are dry for adults as well! But there are now many guidebooks on the market written just for kids. The Planet Explorers guidebooks by Laura Schaefer are among our favorite. She manages to mix the right balance of trivia, facts and destination tips to allow kids to play a meaningful role in the trip planning. Unfortunately the titles are limited right now but she is always adding new destinations so it is worth a check to see if your vacation spot is on the list.
Puzzle Books: Usborne Publishers makes some great puzzle books that feature the USA or World atlas spread over a series of pages. Kids learn a bit of geography and have fun working puzzles. On our travels we have found many puzzle books not found in the US – our kids still play with them today. In fact, these have been by far the best souvenirs from several of our European adventures.
Magic Tree House books: Far and away my favorite way to spark interest in both the history and geography of a vacation is with this series. Jack and Annie have traveled almost everywhere in the world, visiting historically significant time periods in their journeys. Both the fictional tales and the related research guides offer a rich insight into the culture of a country and/or time period. The short chapters and detailed illustrations make wonderful read-aloud books for young readers. Emerging readers will appreciate the appropriate vocabulary (challenging yet not frustrating) and even older readers can enjoy the quick read filled with interesting details – especially in the research guides.
What are your favorite resources for sparking interest in a new destination?
February 8, 2012
Entertaining kids on long road trips is always a challenge. Movies and hand held electronics only last so long so here are some fun new and classic games to try on your next road trip:
1. Travel Picture Bingo from imaginetics. The small size and convenience of magnetic pieces make this a must have on any road trip. Keep one in the car and play games whenever you ride in the car.
2. Family Dinner Take Out from Melissa & Doug. 42 thought provoking questions will get the conversation going (and the laughter flowing) while riding in the car. It is small enough to fit in the glove compartment.
3. Go Fishing Take ‘n Play game. Fun for kids of all ages – this is great for siblings sitting next to each other in the car.
4. Fidget Puzzle from ToySmith. Manipulative toys are fun for restless kids. This one has 12 block connected by an elastic string and can be manipulated into numerous shapes. Great for kids from 3 to 99.
5. Squiggle On the Go. Stretch imaginations as you pass the hours in the car with Squiggles. With 200 unique pages, there is plenty for even the longest road trip.
What are your favorite travel games?
Let’s face it – family vacations are expensive and the pressure to “have fun” and build “lifelong memories” can be intense. Family vacations are built on magical moments when everyone lets go and enjoys the moment. While you can’t create those moments, tension can and often does squelch them. I am prone to falling apart when things don’t go according to plan or bickering takes over the moment – so here are some tricks my annoyingly patient husband uses to talk me down.
1. Everything is washable (or remember Kate). I vividly remember watching a snippet of the reality show John and Kate Plus 8 where they visited DisneyWorld and Kate had a complete meltdown because the kids were eating ice cream. I NEVER wanted to be that mom – snarky and mean because of ice cream. Talk about killing the joy of the moment! Clothes and kids are washable and if the day is going to be really messy, plan for it. Pack loads of wipes, enjoy the drippy gelato near the hotel, bring along a change of clothes or pop into a local shop and buy a new shirt.
2. Forget about the money. My biggest pet peeve is to spend a small fortune on an extra special excursion only to have it ruined by whiny, unappreciative kids. My husband is quick to step in on these situations with his brand of logic a) the kids have no idea how much things cost and are not deliberately sabotaging the event and b) the only one that can ruin it for me is ME. If I relax and work with him to corral the kids (instead of pouting and making things worse), everything will turn out for the best.
3. Let things happen. Itineraries are wonderful and necessary travel tools – especially when traveling with kids. However; there is a time and place to let things slip and enjoy the moment. If you spy a local park, let the kids run off steam for 15 – 20 minutes (yes, there will be tears when you try to leave but they will quickly be forgotten – playing in the park may be thememory they bring home from the trip).
4. Communicate, communicate, communicate. If there is an activity or site that is particularly important, make sure to let others know. Likewise, respect what they would like to see and do – this includes things that the kids might have a passion about.
5. Starting to lose patience? Take a minute to remove yourself from the situation. Take a bathroom break – ALONE, close you eyes for a minute or just let your spouse know you need to step away for five minutes.
Finally, a class of wine always helps when things start to fall apart!
January 12, 2012
Five Things You Should Never Leave Home Without
I have long marveled at the people that seem to have everything at their fingertips – need a tissue? They have one handy. Need a bandage? No sweat. My mom is one of those people and I always thought that, once I became a mom, it would magically happen for me as well. No such luck! Instead I still rely on mom and my handy list (of which I try to have at least a few of at any given time). Here is my list of must have items.
1. Tissues and wipes for runny noses and sticky fingers.
2. Bandages and antiseptic wipes. Character or design bandages work like magic with my kids and instantly stop tears. They also seem to arrest a meltdown – especially if it isn’t really needed. Remember, they stop meltdowns in other kids so be generous with your supply!
3. Cloth tape measure. This is handy for quick measurements and kids love to play with it. My kids have walked around many stores measuring boxes, chairs, legs, wrists, pretty much anything and everything. You can find fun animal tape measures here but, honestly, my favorite is the blue or white ones from the Container Store. A note of caution – the retraction can be fast and whip the end around towards the face – teach kids to hold the tape away from them and/or turn their head to avoid getting hit with the end.
4. Small notepad, pen and/or crayons. We use our notepad for everything from drawing pictures to playing tic tac toe to practicing math facts. Pick one with perforated pages that are easy to tear out so you can share pages with multiple kids and make sure you have enough writing tools so everyone can have their own.
5. Small toys. You don’t need a toybox in your bag but a few little cars, small animals, bendi dolls or similar items can be a lifesaver!
What are your must have items?
‘Tis the time for resolutions – from losing weight to spending more time with family, it seems everyone is taking the opportunity to refocus on what is important. I still somewhat function on a school year calendar and set business and personal goals when the kids go back to school (because, for our family, that seems like when a new year starts).
This year was somewhat different in that my back-to-school goals were all business focused. I spent the last four months reinventing the business plan, learning new marketing tactics and finding great new vendors to add to the TravelKiddy store. Consequently, it feels like the new year is off to a fresh start – professionally and personally. One of my favorite quotes is “Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda. With that quote in mind I came up with a few New Years Resolutions and, since they don’t count unless you tell someone, I am sharing with all of you:
- I am tired of making excuses for being out of shape – I used to be a great athlete, I used to be a good tennis player…. This is the year I become a good athlete and tennis player again. I am starting the year off with 60 days of Insanity training mixed with regular tennis lessons. Then will move onto running and more tennis as the weather improves.
- No more business excuses. My automatic response to a new marketing idea or business expansion is “No!” – too difficult, I’m too shy, any of 100 other reasons. It is time for me to DO.
- Take time for me. Working out, tennis, running are all things I need to do for my health and sanity. I am a better person when I make activity a priority.
- Focus on the kids. Like many (most?) moms, I have a thousand things running through my head at any given time. I want to work harder at using my time wisely – work when the kids are at school and then shut it down when they get home and spend time being really present with them. Last year I found myself half-focused on business and half on being a mom – as a result I found myself constantly frustrated and doing neither thing very well. This year I strive to focus 100% on work while at work and 100% on family when not at work.
- Be more assertive. I am naturally shy and HATE confrontation. I need to overcome these traits to be successful in life and business. My small step goal is to start reaching out to people via telephone (I have something of a phone phobia, which, combined with being shy, makes me reluctant to use the phone for anything – even simple tasks like making appointments).
- Last but not least is a travel related resolution. I pledge to be more flexible with travel planning and itineraries this year – be open to spontaneous road trips, yet plan enough to make longer trips a success.
What resolutions did you make this year?