Best Western

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Yes, it's possible: How to have a successful flight with a baby

When you have a baby, you don't need to stuff your suitcases in the very back of the closet. Your travel life can continue.  In fact, newborns are often the best travel companions because they sleep often through flights.

My husband and I brought our first child to Paris when she was only four months old and at the end of the flight a woman sitting in the row in front of us said that she didn't even know we had a baby. Our little girl didn't make a single peep.

That said, before you jump on a plane with your bundle of joy, here are a few tips:

1) Fly at the right age. Airlines will allow babies to fly after 14 days, but your pediatrician will probably tell you to wait until two or three months when your baby's immune system is stronger. If you have a mellow baby, this can be a great time to jet off to see relatives, but if your newborn is fussy my advice is to wait until four months when most babies magically snap out of the colicky stage. This is a beautiful age because your baby will likely be nursing regularly and easily fall asleep at your breast. Once your baby is crawling (often around eight months), he won't want to sit in your lap for hours. Between four and about seven months is the sweet spot for long flights. It won't be easy again until she's about four years old and able to watch a long movie.

2) Fly at the right time. I've flown early in the morning and red eyes and everything in between with babies. The best time to leave is late morning-early afternoon, between 10 a.m. and noon. This allows your baby to get an early nap before you take off for the airport. If she doesn't sleep on the plane at least she has a few hours of rest.

3) Fly in the right seat. The safest place for a baby on a plane is in a car seat, but many parents opt to hold their babies in their laps because airlines allow babies under age 2 to fly without a seat. Some 85 percent of parents choose this option because it's convenient, affordable and generally safe, unless the plane hits sever turbulence. When I fly with a lap child, I always arrive at the airport early to ask the airplane to put me near an open seat if there are any. This way I can set up the car seat and use it when my baby's napping and during turbulence. Airlines always prefer to have babies in car seats so they'll try to accommodate you. Keep in mind that car seats need to be strapped into window seats, so I'll try to book myself a window seat in hopes that the middle remains open.

4) Fly with the right stuff. Start packing your diaper bag for your flight a few days ahead so you don't forget anything important (Read: Wipes!). Here's a list of what I like to include: Diapers, changes of clothes, wipes, disposable changing pads, and plastic bags for dirty diapers. Two- to six-month-olds need teethers; seven months and above need toys. I'll always bring one favorite toy and one new toy -- though keep in mind your baby will be most entertained by tearing apart in-flight magazines. Babies over six months will need solid food. I like the pouches and Happy Puffs. On a recent flight from Los Angeles to Hawaii I kept my baby entertained for a good hour with these rice puffs. Disposable bibs are great.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

60 Healthy Airplane Snacks

Fruits > candies. Sweet little alphabet found here

When it comes to family trips, this isn't my first rodeo, and I like to think I have the prep-work down to a science. But I have to confess, between packing suitcases, repacking suitcases, scrounging around for missing flip-flops, remembering to charge everyone's electronics, and triple-checking tickets, something usually gets left for last minute, which means, of course, that it doesn't happens. Too often, it's figuring out what to bring for the all-important airplane snacking, which leaves us spending half our kids' college fund on M&M's and Chex Mix in airport convenience stores. 

No more! I just came across Dotting The Map's list of, read it, 60 TSA-friendly and oh-so-healthy airplane food ideas, and I'm printing it out to bring to the grocery store before our next trip. She's included loads of simple, delicious, not-too-messy snacks - string cheese, apple slices, dried apricots, mini rice cakes - as well as some tricks I'd never have thought of: want to keep something cold? Just pack it next to frozen yogurt sticks. Genius!

Check out her full list here, and if you have any airplane-friendly snacks to add, leave them below in the comments. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

My Secret to Keeping Babies Safe From Turbulence

Julia en route to Hawaii, in her Baby B'Air vest.

I know you’re probably distracted by that cute-as-a-button face, but please direct your attention to my daughter Julia’s red vest: it’s called the Baby B’Air, and I’ve used it while flying with all three of my kids.

Over 90% of injuries to airplane passengers occur in-flight (that is, not while taxiing, taking off, or landing), a fact that was driven home by last week’s United Airlines Flight 1676, which encountered severe turbulence on its descent into Montana. Five people ended up in the hospital, and in addition, a passenger’s baby was thrown from his parent’s arms, landing (fortunately unhurt!) a seat over. Reading this made me think immediately of our family’s Baby B’Air, stashed next to our suitcases, waiting patiently for our next flight. It could have made a real difference on Flight 1676, and more parents should know it’s an option when traveling with babies.

Children under the age of two can fly on an adult’s lap, no ticket required. While this is fantastic for family travelers’ bank accounts, it’s less than fantastic where safety is concerned; when that “Fasten Seat Belts” sign lights up, the under-two passengers are left unbuckled, and in cases of severe turbulence, can be propelled from their parents’ arms. Enter the Baby B’Air Flight Vest. After we reached cruising altitude on our flight to Hawaii last month, I slipped it over Julia’s head and threaded my seat belt through the loop on the back. Secure baby, free hands, peace of mind. (And doesn’t red suit her?)

While the Baby B’Air hasn’t yet been approved for use during take-offs or landings, it has FAA approval for the cruising portion of any commercial flight. It’s marked as such, but in my experience flying with the Baby B’air, I’ve never run into any problems with flight attendants unfamiliar with the vest -- just a healthy amount of questions from curious fellow passengers!

You can read more about the Baby B’Air here, and let me know in the comments below if you’ve flown with the vest (or something similar), and what you thought.

Happy, peaceful flights to you all!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Take Off With This First Flight-Themed Kids' App

What's brightly colored and cute, keeps your kiddos entertained, and prepares them for their first time flying? The new app from Smart Fish! "Frequent Flyer" guides players through the process of air travel, from packing a suitcase to driving to the airport, going through security, boarding the plane, and beyond. It also takes them on a whirlwind tour of the world, teaching them about different destinations and cultures around
the globe.

First flights (or seconds or thirds) can be an understandable source of anxiety for young travelers; it's unfamiliar territory from start to finish. "Frequent Flyer" seems like it stands a real chance of quelling concerns, by providing a step-by-step (and fun) introduction to the whole affair.

In their review of "Frequent Flyer," Smart Apps For Kids said: "Smart, fun and absolutely the best way to prepare a child for flying... This masterpiece gets it right across the board... I wish all developers designed apps this smart and clever." Sounds good to me! I haven't tried the app myself, but I'd love to hear from any of you who have. Let me know what you thought!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Where Should You Travel? Just Ask Your American Girl Doll

Some travel articles are just too clever to not mention, and Huffington Post has published the cleverest of them all with "Where To Travel, Based On Your American Girl Doll." Whether you had an American Girl doll yourself, or maybe your daughter does now, it turns out all you have to do to plan your next trip is check in with where she would go.

Was Molly your girl? Looks like you'll be winging it to Normany to get your history on. Team Addy? Head to Sydney (because apparently Addy fans are both cosmopolitan and outdoorsy). Did you fall for Kirsten's blue eyes and shiny blond braids? Pack an appetite, because you'll be trying those heavenly-sounding St. Lucia buns in Stockholm.

Call it the slightly more huggable (but nearly as reckless) cousin of setting your finger down on a spinning globe - and hey, if you give us the tickets, my daughter and I are willing to set out to any of the dolls' dream destinations! Check out the full breakdown here.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Thrifty Travel Fun: Northeast Kingdom, VT

Whether you're hiking in the summer, leaf-peeping in the fall, or skiing in the winter, the northeast corner of Vermont is a prime destination for family travelers. The Stowe-Waterbury area is especially delightful - and has some tasty treats for families on a budget!

Get your fill of cider and donuts as the Cold Hollow Cider Mill.

1. I scream, you scream, we all scream, for ICE CREAM. (Even in the middle of a Vermont winter? Of course!) We aren't talking about just any old ice cream outing, though; we're talking about a visit to an ice cream lover's dream - the Ben & Jerry's factory in Waterbury. Taking a tour is optional, but at $4 per adult and kids under 12 free, it's a bargain. Be sure to go on a weekday, when you can stand above the factory floor and see the machines churning out pint after pint of the good stuff - it will make you appreciate your sample at the end even more! (And if you're there in warm weather, the grounds are fun to explore, and ideal for a picnic lunch.)

2. Did you save room for another tour (and perhaps one more tiny treat)? Just up the road from Ben and Jerry's is the Cold Hollow Cider Mill. This legendary mill presses cider year-round, and has been doing so since 1974. On the free, self-guided tour, kids will trace the process of cider-making from apple tree all the way to the cup in your hand. Be sure to check out the live Bee Observation Hive along the way. (And did I mention the bakery?)

3. Tracking down a local parenting website is a fantastic way to find out about kid-friendly events when you're traveling, and the Northern Vermont area has a stellar site called Find and Go Seek. Check it out for listings for everything from library story hours to ice skating times to theater performances; you'll find reviews of local, kid-friendly restaurants and businesses, too.

Accommodation Tip: Hunker down at the Best Western Plus Waterbury Stowe-Waterbury; rest up within arm's reach of all that fresh air and good, New England-style fun waiting for you in the morning!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Travel Dreams From The Silver Screen

Does Mother Nature have you snowed in? Might be time for a family movie night! Pop some popcorn, pull out extra blankets, and get your travel inspiration on - because movies can be just the ticket to get kids dreaming of travel to faraway lands.

Over at Adventure Collection, Jamie Pearson of Travel Savvy Mom just posted a great list of eight child-friendly films that will inspire travel dreams - in the kids and in you, too. From classics like "The Secret of Roan Inish" to newer releases like "Ponyo" and "National Treasure," this list has me adding a delightful collection to my Netflix queue; bring on the travel bug!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Lesser Known / Equally Grand

New York's "Grand Canyon" (Photo via Flickr)

If you're lucky enough to have visited, then you know that Arizona's Grand Canyon National Park deserves all the glory that comes with its name. What you may not know, however, is that you can experience nearly the same sort of awe at other grand canyons across the country. If a trip to Arizona isn't an option (or if you made one with an older child and don't want to retrace your steps with the younger set), consider planning a family vacation around one of the Grand Canyon's namesakes in a different state.

MiniTime has a great write-up on the quartet of alternate grand canyons - take a read through, and see if one might inspire this year's family trip!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Where Will You Go In 2014?

Endless rolling hills in Scotland. Photo via NYT.

2014: 52 fresh new weeks for exploring the world. The New York Times just published a jubilant celebration of the globe with "52 Places to Go in 2014." From Cape Town, South Africa to Siem Reap, Cambodia to downtown Los Angeles, well-written vignettes and gorgeous photography have me adding rows of new entries to my "Visit Someday" list. (And who knows, maybe this will be the year to cross one or two off.)

Whether you're actively searching for a 2014 travel destination or simply need a reminder of the vastness and beauty of the world, this is a truly inspirational piece. Make yourself a cup of tea and get dreaming (and let me know in the comments what's topping your list!).

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Kid-Friendly World Heritage Sites

This year marks the 40th anniversary of UNESCO's World Heritage List, and National Geographic had the brilliant idea of sifting through the full list to highlight 10 destinations of particular interest to children. (This was no small undertaking: the list boasts 936 treasures from around globe.)

I love the idea of opening our children's eyes to the very best our planet has to offer, and now I'm dreaming of whisking my family off to a playground forged 60 million years ago by volcanoes along Northern Ireland's coast, to the Roman Empire's largest amphitheater (you think the Super Bowl is impressive? think again), or to view the mind-blowing animal migration across Serengeti National Park.

Take a scroll through the full list - it lists basic info for each entry, as well as what makes them so kid-friendly. Then, get dreaming: it's January, the time for making big, crazy plans!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Expert Tips For Hitting The Slopes

New year, new adventure: the family ski trip. Worth it? Oh, you bet! There's nothing like that crisp blue sky, glittering blanket of snow, and ear-to-ear grins after a successful run down the slopes. Rosy cheeks over mugs of hot chocolate after a full afternoon of skiing? Bring it on.

That being said, not all family ski trips are created equal, and parents who have been there, done that are valuable resources on how to avoid a weekend getaway wipe-out.

Pint Size Pilot posted a must-read list of tips for a successful first (or fifth) ski trip with toddlers and kids. From the planning stages (don't be too easily seduced by "kids ski free" deals - kids under six are often free anyway) to picking out gear (here's some new vocabulary: taped seams, grow cuffs, and powder guards) to packing (bring extra gloves and plenty of handwarmers) to actually hitting the slopes ("pizza" and "french fries" apply), they've covered all the bases, with plenty of new-even-to-me advice.

Check out their post, and I wish you fresh powder and short lines at the lifts!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy 2014!

Photo via Pinterest

Wishing you and your family a shiny new year full of adventures down unfamiliar roads, across unexplored states, and over uncharted waters. Happy Trails, and Happy New Year! 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Lanai: A quick trip from Maui

We traveled to Maui with another family and spent a week together building sand castles at the beach, playing in the waves and drinking Mai-Tais at sunset.

On Thanksgiving morning, our friends flew home. We were sad to say goodbye. I was feeling a little anxious about spending the holiday without family and friends and was in search of an adventure to distract us.

We'd spent the week looking out over the Pacific at Lanai. The tiny little island that's actually the smallest and least visited in the Hawaiian archipelago intrigued me. With sheer volcanic cliffs and lush tropical vegetation, it looked like the sort of place Gilligan and his crew might be stranded. I'd heard there were few roads, no traffic lights, no malls, only a tiny town of 3,000 and families of wild turkey and deer.  the smallest of the Hawaiian islands. Why don't we visit for a day?

Taking a day trip to Lanai from Maui is actually quite easy. You catch the Expeditions ferry in Lahaina. Boats leave five times a day and it's a 45-minute ride. It's $60 round-trip for adults and $40 for kids; not a bargain but the trip is more than just a ferry ride. You can spot silvery fish flying in the boat's sprays, and, if you're lucky, whales and dolphins. We saw one whale spout shoot high into the air, followed by a tail flopping down onto the water.

When you arrive in Lanai, you can hop on a shuttle (about $10 a person) and head into town with a handful of restaurants, art galleries and shops, or you can adventure out on foot.

We opted to walk 10 minutes to the Four Seasons Manele Bay for a late lunch. On the pool-side patio overlooking the Pacific we enjoyed plates of fresh fish tacos and glasses of lemonade and sangria. A man wearing a colorful Hawaiian shirt played upbeat tunes on a ukulele. We were all delighted by our Thanksgiving feast.

After our leisurely meal, we walked about five minutes to Hulopoe Beach, a crescent shaped stretch of sugary sand. The kids and I swam in the gentle surf while my husband dozed with our baby on the beach. We peered into the tiny living worlds at some nearby tide pools. I grabbed hold of a sea cucumber and the kids shouted out "gross."

By dusk, we'd made friends with a group of local guys barbecuing a Thanksgiving feast on the beach. They offered us samples of their steak teriyaki and gave my husband a beer. One of the guys was flying a drone off over the sea and he let me 9-year-old son fly it.

"I want one of these for Christmas," my son said.

After the sun dipped into the ocean, turning the sky and shimmering waters orange and red, we walked back to the ferry. This time we weren't looked out into the ocean, but up into the sky filled with stars. The perfect ending to a perfect day.

State Parks Host January 1st Hikes

America's State Parks are making a New Year's Day toast to good health by hosting hikes on January 1st. The tradition began over twenty years ago in Massachusetts, and this year marks the third in a row that at least one park in all fifty states will be participating. Last year's First Day Hikes brought out 22,000 hikers, who covered more than 44,000 miles of State Park trails across the country.

Nothing like a family outing in the fresh air to start out the year on the very best (hiking boot-clad) foot! Many of the parks even offer guided hikes of varying difficulty levels - check out this article from Skift for more details, including links to each of the fifty State Parks' websites.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Family holiday travel tip: Bring gifts for fellow passengers

My dear friend Rosanna is vacationing in the Bahamas this holiday. After boarding her flight and finding her seat she was greeted with a sweet surprise. A family sitting with a baby nearby left a goodie bag filled with candy and ear plugs on her seat. A hand-written note read: "Baby's first flight: Thanks for your patience." I love this idea. The next time we fly with our baby (we're going to Tokyo in March!) I'm passing out treats to fellow passengers. This is an unnecessary gesture but thoughtful and kind.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Merry, Bright, and Stress-Free

Look at that face! Photo via USA Today.

This USA Today article has some great tips on keeping the stress to a minimum as you set out on your travels this coming week. From what not to forget (hand sanitizer - no colds, please!) to what to ask when you get there (is Aunt Sally ok with snacks in the living room?), it's the little things that keep the adventure rolling smoothly. The most important tip in the whole piece, in my opinion? Maintain your sense of humor!

Click through to check out the rest of their suggestions - and may your holiday travels be merry, bright, and stress-free!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

When Wintry Weather Hinders Travel

Photo via Daily Mail UK. 

Winter travel can mean a welcome change of scenery, an escape to sun and warmth, and a chance to recharge in the middle of a long, cold season - but, unfortunately, it can also bring unwelcome travel glitches. Hindered business travel plans  are bad enough, but when wintry weather gets in the way of a long-planned family vacation, frustration and disappointment levels are even higher.

This post over at Traveling Moms should be required reading before you pack your final snack bag and head out the door; hopefully you won't need 'em, but it's chock full of tips on what to do if you hit a bad weather travel snag, from placing blame (or not) to making the most of the time you do have. Read on!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

11 Family Travel Dream Spots

What dreams are made of: The Great Elephant in Nantes

It's that wishlist-making time of year, so how about dreaming up some oh-maybe-someday family vacations? Cheap Flights gathered up a tantalizing collection of travel destinations the kids (and you) will never forget - Nantes, France? The Galapagos Islands? Sign us up!

Have you been to any of these locations? Anything you would add to the list?

Ice skating in London's Trafalger Square. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Life-Sized Gingerbread Houses Across the Country

No witch in sight! The Fairmont Hotel's gingerbread house is just sugar and spice and everything nice.

Can you feel it? That festive buzz is in the air! I love traveling at this time of year, because each city puts their own special spin on celebrating the holidays. What's one December tradition sure to make your kiddos' sparkling eyes as big as saucers? Life-sized gingerbread houses! From Florida to Texas to California, a visit to these towering, good-enough-to-eat creations makes for a wonderfully festive holiday afternoon (and the perfect inspiration to make your own slightly smaller version when you get home).

From Kidventurous, here's a list of locations across the country. (And, psst, if you're here in San Francisco, you have a few options.)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"Walk This World"

No surprise here, but one thing Thanksgiving has me feeling especially grateful for is travel and our big, beautiful world. It also has me feeling like that gift-giving time of year is just around the corner! Here's one for the list, then: this richly detailed, just-published children's book celebrating the marvels to be found in every little corner of the globe. Walk This World, from Finnish illustrator and graphic designer Lotta Nieminen, follows a wide-eyed explorer across the pages and around the world, from New York through Europe, Africa, and onward. Limited text lets the colorful illustrations shine, and the best part? Over 80 hidden flaps can be folded down to reveal surprises behind.

Bookmarked as a gift to give! What's on your list for travel-themed holiday gifts?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Print Yourself Some Thanksgiving Road Trip Sanity

Thanksgiving is a week off, and whether we're driving two towns away to the cousins', an hour upstate to the airport, or over the river and through the woods (and around the rotary and left onto the highway and 45 exits to the turn you always miss) to grandmother's house...most of us will be spending at least a bit of family time packed into the car.

What's one thing you can be thankful for? Free road trip activity printables! Road trips, no matter the length, are a great time to get the family doing a shared activity, and who has time to squabble when there are license plates to hunt down?! (Ok, ok, in a perfect world...) They may be the oldest tricks in the road trip book, but classics like roadside bingo, hangman, word searches, and license plate checklists are still some of my favorite ways to pass miles on the road. MiniTime has a great library of games, all free for the printing; stick a stack in the glovebox, and pull one out as soon as the first round of snacks is done.

One more thing: have an extra slice of pumpkin pie for me! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thrifty Travel Fun: Tacoma, WA

Ranked one of the most walkable AND most liveable cities in the country, Tacoma, WA, is also a great destination for a family vacation. Read on for three thrifty family fun tips in this Puget Sound port city. 

Pure, vibrant magic at the Chihuly Bridge of Glass

1. Wright Park encompasses 27 beautifully maintained acres just begging to be explored. Home to a rich collection of more than 100 native and exotic species of trees, it's the ideal place to pass an afternoon. Be sure to stop by the playground (and the sprayground too, if you have warm weather), and leave time for a walk through the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory, a gorgeous glass-paned greenhouse housing up to 500 blooming plants at any time.

2. Sometimes all it takes is the basics: kids will love taking a ride on the Tacoma Link Light Rail, which runs from the Tacoma Dome Station to the Theater District. And how much is it? It's free, it's free!

3. The Chuhuly Bridge of Glass, a one-of-a-kind gift to the city of Tacoma, is not to be missed. This covered pedestrian bridge connects the Museum of Glass to the downtown area, and is decorated with works by the world-renowned (and Tacoma-born) glass sculptor Dale Chihuly. Prepare to be drawn into a magical, whimsical world of cherubs, sea creatures, swirls and whirls, all blown from candy-hued glass.

Accommodation Tip: After a busy day of sight-seeing, lay your head down at the Best Western Plus Tacoma Dome Hotel; you'll be close to the action for Day Two (just don't forget to fuel up on a delicious, complimentary breakfast first). 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Best U.S. Aquariums By Region

A beautiful underwater world at the Georgia Aquarium

It's hard to beat the magic of a really top-notch aquarium, and from stroller-bound toddlers to teenagers to the grandparents, it's an activity everyone in the family will love (and a lifesaver on surprise rainy days). The Travel Channel pulled together a list of the best U.S. aquariums by region: if you end up near one, consider a family vacation splurge - it's sure to be a talked-about experience long after you leave.

Here's the full Travel Channel list - would you make any additions?

Friday, November 8, 2013

8 Tips For Healthy Eating On The Road

Staying on top of healthy eating is hard enough in your own kitchen, but when the whole family's on the road, keeping the kids (and you, too) on a healthy diet becomes much more challenging. In my opinion, though, it's well worth the effort: healthy, nutritious snacks and meals  make for more energetic, less meltdown-prone little travelers, and they need the fuel for all the extra walking, learning, and processing that traveling to new places asks of them.

Judy Robbins, a Colorado-based family travel expert, wrote up a great list of 8 Tips for Healthy Eating for Travel Mamas (a fantastic resource itself). While I already had some of her tips and tricks in my repertoire, many of them made me say "Why didn't I think of that?". For example: start your good-health campaign before you set out; sneak immune-boosting foods into your family's meals to help them stay healthy once you hit the road. And if you're flying, don't limit the healthy snacks to what you can fit in your carry-on: pack an extra stash of nutritious snacks you know the kiddos like in your checked luggage, and they'll be snack-happy the whole trip.

Check out the rest of the Healthy Eating Tips here, and if you have any tricks of your own, leave them in the comments!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

One Year After Hurricane Sandy, NYC Best Western Thrives

A year after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, one extra-spectacular New York City business provides us with the opportunity both to remember the loss and struggle following the Super Storm, and also to celebrate the hard work residents of the area have exhibited in the past year. The Best Western Plus Seaport Inn suffered severe flooding and damage from high tides following the hurricane, but through the exceptional hard work of the Seaport Inn crew, they were able to reopen their doors to guests in a little over a month, thus playing an important role in the repair and revitalization of the neighborhood.

For their efforts and commitment to doing what they do best (that's providing a place to rest your head, top-notch customer service, and yummy DIY waffles, of course), the Best Western Plus Seaport Inn was awarded with a whopping three prestigious awards at the Best Western International Convention: the M.K. Guertin Award, the Champion Customer Care Award and the Best Western Green Award. 

The next time you're looking for a place to stay in the Big Apple, check for rooms at the Best Western Plus Seaport Inn; when my family stayed with them a few years ago we fully enjoyed our visit, and what a hard-working, resilient place!