Wednesday, September 26, 2012

50 Ways to Entertain a Kid on an Airplane...

Disney Destinations and MSN just published a list 50 Ways to Entertain a Kid on an Airplane.  I am all for travel tips (yup- surprise...) so I checked out the list right away, what a bunch of BUNK.  I don't want to be this kids fellow passenger, let alone her parent!  Ok, ok- in fairness,  there were a couple of good idea on the list- stringing Cherios on dental floss for an edible necklace will probably make it into my long trip repertoire.  But lets take a peek at some of the other suggestions:

Koosh ball catch?  On an airplane?

Popping bubble wrap?  Yes, it is completely satisfying, but not for the person in front of you.

Make a bouncing ball out of three bags of rubber bands?  Ok great, but don't bounce it until you land!

My philosophy to kids travel is pretty clear.  We are trying to teach our kids about the world, show them the world.  And while they are the center of our world- they are not the center of the world.  Some of these activities are just reinforcing the idea that as long as the kids are happy, the world is happy- and some of them are downright rude.

Here is my number one tip for travel with kids- new is priceless.

New snacks, new toys, new books.  The dollar section at Target is my go to spot.  I let my kids pack and carry thier own quiet in air toys, but I also aim for something new every few hours... (this means a quiet flight from SFO to London will cost me about $4 dollars in entertainment.  I buy new little toys, coloring books stories, whatever... as long as my kids have never seen it before.  The novelty alone buys you tons of time.  It only costs $1, so who cares if it gets left behind, and I can pick quiet, play-by-yourself items.  I have stopped some serious meltdowns with an "oh, wait... what is this??"

Bon Voyage

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Travelers vs. Sightseers

One of the things I love most about my husband is his determination to see the world.  We have conversations like "how old do the girls have to be before you will R.V. across Alaska" and "if we start saving now, we could go on Safari for my 50th birthday."  My husband is a traveler.  He loves the journey.  He loves the immersion in something new.  He tolerates the attractions. 

Lots of people are sightseers, there is nothing wrong with that- they want pictures of their family on the Eiffel Tour... they will wait hours for it.  Then, move on to  the Arc De Triomphe.  You can circle the globe collecting holiday card photos and expensive tchotchkes.  That's cool- stay out of our way... we'll be in an alley in the 17th arrondissement eating brain and drinking wine that the bistro owner promises we'll like, or he'll buy us something else.  That is traveling... and we are raising travelers.  I won't lie- there are landmarks that make my heart flutter- things I've read about, and dreamed about and then suddenly see.  It is overwhelming, and wonderful.  It's the reason we drag kids through airports, and color for hours on trains... it's why we go anywhere.  But really traveling means finding that feeling in the joy of shopping in a local market too. 

I'm not going to let my kids look back at a trip and be disappointed that they missed seeing the major sites because I am too faux sophisticated.  But I am going to make sure they experience the actual culture of the places we go.  Starbucks is great- if you are homesick, it tastes like home... it's the same everywhere.  But pain au chocolat from a stand wins out hands down.  N'est-ce pas?

Bon Voyage!

Monday, September 17, 2012

What do you get when you put "kids" and "Strip" in the same sentence?

Las Vegas has dropped it's "family friendly" routine, and is definitely owning it adult playground reputation (it is "Sin City" after all.)  But sometimes it is impossible to avoid towing along the little ones.  My oldest daughter has spent several days in Vegas, on two separate occasions while I traveled for business.  We learned that just wandering around Vegas is almost as exciting for little kids as it is for the big ones.  I had a great situation- a husband who is not afraid of toddlers, and in-laws willing to travel, but we learned a few things that can a stay on the strip more bearable for everyone. 

Remember that even the infants can't be on the casino floor.  Yes, they are clearly too young to gamble, but they are also to young to wander, pause, or push the tempting buttons.  If you like to play... the adults will have to tag out. 

We were asked not to dine in a couple of restaurants.  Lots of parents bristle at this, but lets be honest... if you were on vacation without your kids, would you want to listen to mine banging silverware.  Don't let it get to you- there are tons of loud entertaining restaurants.. you'll have more fun anyway.  Check out:
Rain Forest Cafe in MGM Grand
Max Brenner in Caesar (famed for chocolate concoctions... HELLO!)
Margaritaville in the Flamingo (fair warning, Rita does  provocative little dance in  a margarita glass when the volcano blows... if that's not your thing, eat upstairs.)
Kahunaville at Treasure Island

Water, water, water, water... it seems like a no brainer, but it's easy to forget- little bodies dehydrate fast- this is when I use juice (my daughter NEVER gets juice) and popsicles to bribe my daughter to drink more.  Even in a climate controlled building, the air is dry.

Swim in the desert- chances are your hotel has a pool- USE IT!  Use it to burn of energy and keep you kids cool.  But clear out before the afternoon crowd shows up -a three year old in floaties and a couple hundred drunk 20-somethings isn't a vacation for anyone. 

The Flamingo has a bird sanctuary that you can walk through daily for free- pheasants, swans and (of course) flamingos tucked in little glades between koi filled streams.

Caesar's Palace has tons of entertainment including serious retail therapy in the Forum Shops,  The Fall of Atlantis statue show features animatronic statues, fire and water in the 10 minute show which runs every hour on the hour Sunday - Thursday, 10 a.m. - 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. - midnight.  If that is too much for your little ones, or you need to kill time between shows there is a 50,000 gallon salt water aquarium with plenty of space to sit and relax... we've spent hours there.

Bellagio Fountain Show is always crowded, but with good reason.  Stop when you see it, walk on if you don't... it runs all day.
    Monday - Friday: 3 p.m. - 7 p.m. (with shows every half hour), 7 p.m. - midnight (with shows every 15 minutes).
    Weekends and holidays: Noon - 7 p.m. (with shows every half hour), 7 p.m. - midnight (with shows every 15 minutes).

M&M World runs a  free 10 minute 3-D movie every hour...but beware... you may not get out without candy!

If your budget allows for it, Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay is an amazing aquarium- sharks, jelly fish, sea turtles and so much more
Adults: $18.00
Children (5-12): $12.00
Children (4 & under): free (hooray!)

I'd take a weekend in Vegas with my husband over a weekend in Vegas with my kids any day... But if the littles have to come, I embrace it as an opportunity to continue teaching my kids how to behave in adult environments.  I'm never going to be a Chuck E. Cheese mom.

Bon Voyage!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Rollin' Fisherman's Warf Style

We live outside of San Francisco, so every couple of months we load up our girls and and head into The City.

Travel? Maybe not... but it sure feels that way!

Last night we deviated from our regular neighborhood haunts, and visited San Francisco's ultimate tourist stop... Fisherman's Warf. Truth told, Fisherman's Warf is a tourists TRAP- inflated prices, bad food, and a million things for your kids to beg for. But if you are visiting San Francisco you pretty much have to go, so my suggestion is:

Take advantage of the free entertainment!

Street performers are part of San Francisco's flavor. They aren't the same as the homeless that (sadly) populate the city. They are working the crowds to make a buck- in my opinion, no more threatening than the millions of crappy souvenir vendors. Don't be afraid of them, and if you like what they are doing, drop a few coins in their guitar case (or, whatever)

Check out the seals! Did you know SF's first baseball team was the Seals? The Warf is the perfect place to learn why... Off Pier 39, you can see scores of seals and sea lions playing in the bay. They usually hang out on the West side of the pier- follow your ears, you'll find them...

The stage at Pier 39- jugglers, puppeteers and comedians rule the stage during the day at Pier 39 (at night, it's even more fun for the amateurs)

you can find a schedule at

Fair warning, if you can't say no... The carousel is $3 a ride. It is beautiful, and two stories high, but $3 to ride a carousel is a bit hard for me to swallow. If you do ride, get your tokens before you line up.

Restaurants are hideously expensive on the warf. If you aren't freezing, and can sit outside, head towards Allioto's (you can't miss the huge neon sign) and eat from one of the outdoor stands, in most cases it's exactly the same food that the restaurants serve, but WAY less expensive! This is the best place to enjoy the famed sourdough bread bowl of clam chowder- YUM!

One more hint, SF is known for microclimates- this is one of the cold ones! You may be happily strolling in the sunshine up at Union Square, and still need a scarf and coat down at the warf... bundle up and enjoy!

Bon Voyage!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


My kids travel- shouldn't yours?

I was talking to a group of parents the other morning, when one dad started talking about his fears of flying with his daughter, "I won't take her anywhere we can't drive to until she is five"


Here is my reality- I love to travel.  LOVE it.  My husband loves to travel.  And frankly, if we weren't willing to travel with kids, we might not have them.  It has always seemed clear enough to me; if you want your kids to sleep through noise- make noise while they sleep, if you want them to be comfortable around other people- expose them to other people, and if you want them to travel- travel with them!  My oldest daughter flew for the first time at 9 months old, the little one at 8 weeks... it's stressful, harrowing, exhausting and totally worth it!   So pack a few diapers and lets hit the road!!

Bon Voyage!