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Posts Tagged ‘Family vacation’

Five Benefits of Taking a Staycation

StaycationTaking a vacation with your family can be challenging, so try taking a staycation instead. Here are five benefits of enjoying time off at home.

  1. Give your wallet a break. The beauty of a staycation is that you don’t have to spend money on gas, air travel or hotels. An added bonus is that you can use some of that cash on day trips or activities, instead.
  2. Get to know your town. Taking a staycation gives you the chance to explore your community. Take your child to a local restaurant you haven’t tried yet, visit a nearby park or simply go for a stroll through your neighborhood.
  3. Reduce your stress. Staying at home means you and your child don’t have to sit in traffic, wait in line at the airport or adjust to different lodgings. You can simply relax.
  4. Enjoy the comfort of your own home. You and your child can sleep in your own beds, lounge on your own couch and cook up some treats in your own kitchen. The comforts of home are what make it “home, sweet home,” after all.
  5. Maximize your vacation time. Staycations reduce the amount of time spent traveling, checking into and out of hotels and planning an itinerary. The minute you’re home, you’re on vacation.

Family Vacations: Keeping Your Child Occupied While Traveling

For many of us, summer means family vacations, which often include long car rides.

When we talk about our destination and all the fun activities we have planned, everyone gets very excited and counts the Little Travelerdays until departure. Finally, the day arrives, and our whole family is finished packing and is getting ready to leave the house. The car is loaded and we pile inside. Half an hour later, we hear the inevitable: “I’m bored,” “I’m hungry” and “Are we there yet?”

It is normal for children to feel this way. Sitting in the back seat with little to do can make a long trip seem endless. If we, as adults, sometimes have a hard time sitting in the car for too long, how can we expect children to enjoy it? The answer is to plan fun activities that will help pass the time.

Keep your child occupied for the duration of the car ride by bringing headphones for music and movies, books, stuffed animals, coloring books, crayons, pillows and blankets. Bring a variety of snacks and drinks. Depending on how long the ride will be, you should make a few rest stops along the way so your child can stretch and use the restroom. This breaks up the journey so the ride does not seem as long.

Interact with your child so she does not feel isolated in the back seat. Talk about how much fun she is going to have and what she is going to do when you arrive. Child-friendly podcasts can encourage conversations among all family members and help pass time quickly.

You can also practice the alphabet. Ask your child to point out signs with words that start with each letter of the alphabet in order, such as A for Applebee’s, B for bus stop and C for church. This game is fun and challenging, and it takes up a lot of time.

What are some ways you pass the time with your little ones on long car rides?

Ten Things to Do During a Staycation

A staycation is a simple, cost-effective way of taking a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life without the stress of travel. Here are some fun things you can do during your staycation.

  1. Visit a museum. Walking around a museum can be a great way for you and your child to get some exercise while learning something new. The museum may also be less crowded during the week.Staycation
  2. Go to the zoo or aquarium. As with museums, a zoo or aquarium provides an excellent opportunity to learn about wildlife while enjoying a nice stroll with your child.
  3. Have a game day. Spend a day playing board games, word games or sports you and your children like. You could even keep track of who wins each game and award a prize or treat to the person who wins the most games.
  4. Create a vacation spot. Set up an umbrella in your sandbox to make a mini beach in your backyard and prepare crabs for dinner. Or set up a tent in your backyard and go camping. Just don’t forget the s’mores!
  5. See a movie. Visit your local movie theater to catch a flick with your child, or cuddle up with your child on the couch at home and watch a movie.
  6. Get together with relatives. If your child’s grandparents or cousins live nearby, make plans to have them visit for a day or meet up with them for lunch.
  7. Plan a day trip. Do you live close to the beach or a state park? Pack some snacks, water and any other supplies you might need, and enjoy the wonders of nature with your little one.
  8. Celebrate “pajama day.” Spend a day just lounging around in your pajamas with your child. You can also play games, read a few books or put on some music and have a pajama dance party. Do whatever you want…in your pajamas.
  9. Bake some goodies with your little one. Give your child a bunch of different treat options and ask him to pick one. Then work together to gather the ingredients, mix them together and cook something special.
  10. Go for a drive. Lay out a map and ask your child to choose a nearby destination to visit. You can also encourage her to keep an eye out for attractions along the way.

Focus On: Traveling with Children

Whether traveling via plane, train or car, the following here are some traveling tips for your next family vacation:

INFANT TO ONE YEAR

  • Plan for an active stretch. A rest stop break or a playground – let them walk or toddle for twenty or so minutes before climbing back in the car.
  • Bring music, mobiles, bubbles and books.
  • Pre-measure formula into bottles and carry a room temperature bottle of water to mix on the go.
  • Be prepared for a mess – snacks, diapers, spit-up, etc. – small trash bag, wipes, hand sanitizer (for the adults), spare water, tissues, bib and a blanket.
  • Even if you are traveling by plane, a car seat can double as a feeding chair or nap location. Call ahead for a crib to be added to your hotel room.
  • Be prepared and do not overload yourself. If time allows, buy what you can when you get to your destination.

FIRST STEPS (12-18 MONTHS)

  • Many of the Infant travel tips apply here.
  • Use “links” to keep toys within your child’s reach.
  • Even in the cool weather, crack a window for fresh air. Stale air may make your little one grumpy. Remove heavy jackets and shoes for comfort.
  • Bring music, books, stuffed animal, play mirror and foam shapes that will “stick” to the car seat. In an airplane – bring/purchase headphones for music and rest it on your child’s shoulders instead of over their ears.
  • Have some active playtime just before leaving and plan for frequent stops. In an airplane, let children walk down the aisle periodically at their own pace.
  • Airports can be a bustling place. This may be the one time you check your luggage at the curb. This way you can focus on your little one’s needs without the hassle of luggage in tow.

TODDLER AND GET SET (18-36 MONTHS)

  • Many of the First Steps travel tips apply here.
  • Play window games – count the silos, trucks or red lights.
  • Attach a mirror to the front passenger visor so you can see and interact with your toddler without having to spin around.
  • Buckle up a toy bin right next to the children so they can help themselves – books, links, stuffed animals and puppets.
  • Have your child help you pack a picnic lunch or snack and then serve it to everyone.
  • A blanket can make a quick play space in any lobby, airport, etc.

PRESCHOOL TO PRE-K (36 MONTHS +)

  • ‘I Spy’ a blue car, a white truck and other objects you can see while moving.
  • Laptop desk for drawing with paper and crayons.
  • Car-Ride Checklist – make a picture itinerary of landmarks you will see along the way.
  • Ask your child to keep score – gas prices, mileage or count out toll money.
  • Play “I’m thinking of an animal.” Provide age-appropriate hints to help your child guess a particular animal.
  • If you’re using a hotel babysitter: 1– Check the sitter’s credentials, including criminal and/or child abuse clearances. 2 – Check the room and the equipment in the room. 3 – Carry your phone and check your phone service when you arrive at your destination.

Planning a Mini Vacation

Planning a child-friendly mini vacation can be a difficult task; you will want to choose a destination that will be memorable, safe and fun. With young and energetic children, families should choose destinations that offer a wide array of activities. Comprehensive research, via the Internet or your local travel agent, is integral to a safe and smart mini vacation for your family. Consider the following tips when arranging your next family trip:

Zoo or Aquarium

Zoos and aquariums introduce children to thousands of new animals and species. The majority of zoos and aquariums use creative ways to involve young children in what is usually considered a ‘look-but-don’t-touch’ environment.

  • Opportunities to pet and feed the animals will allow your child to explore and discover in a hands-on way. Children may or may not recall something that is told to them, but if you allow them to do it and touch it, it will make a lasting impression.
  • Make sure the zoo or aquarium offers educational programs that target young children.
  • Ensure that the zoo or aquarium has a strong commitment to safety, including several first aid stations and ample security.
  • Visit the zoo or aquarium Web site before finalizing your trip to make sure that it will be an appropriate fit for your young child.
  • If your child is a journal writer, encourage them to journal their experiences and feelings.

TIP Read a book about animals/aquatic life with your child before your zoo or aquarium visit – this helps build excitement about the upcoming trip. Providing children with a little background regarding animals they may experience may produce a higher probability of knowledge and experiential retention.

Beach or Lake

If you are near a beach or lake, make it a day! Children love to explore sand and water–let them play in it!

  • Bring a plastic magnifying glass so your little trekker can become a geologist, analyzing the sand and shells.
  • If the beach you are planning to visit has a bay area, or if you are visiting a lake, rent a canoe for an afternoon and take your child for an aquatic adventure. This is a great opportunity to teach your child the importance of water safety and aquatic life – always wear life jackets.
  • It is imperative to re-apply your child’s sunscreen every two hours. Shade your child from extra rays and use an umbrella and hats.
  • Maintain eye contact on your child at all times, regardless of the presence of lifeguards.
  • Consider painting your seashell treasures when you get home. These personalized memories are wonderful gifts for grandparents, aunts and uncles.

TIP Bring a large make-up or powder brush (with talc) for an easy, pain-free way to remove sand before sunscreen application or at the end of the day.

Museum

Museums are a great attraction for family trips.  Children’s museums focus on learning through play, where children are encouraged to explore with their senses.

  • Museums generally allow your little explorers to participate in activities such as working with fossils, climbing tree houses and even performing on a TV set or an opera house stage.
  • Exploration centers, imagination factories, sensory stations and education-based play spaces are common attributes in many museums. Even your infant will enjoy learning.
  • If it looks like a mini-supermarket, understand that to your toddler or preschooler it is a supermarket. Allow you little one to explore this environment as if it was a ‘research and development’ project.
  • Does your museum display art? If it does, ask your child open-ended questions: What do you see? What colors did the artist use? How would you change this painting/sculpture?
  • After your museum adventure, take a few moments with your child and draw or sculpt (with dough or clay) a memory.

TIP Allow your child to explore every facet of the museum. The museum’s design is based upon research in child development; even the ‘silliest’ activity may improve a developmental skill.

Stress-less Summer Travel with Kids

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I was recently asked about my favorite kid-friendly travel items, and that sparked the idea for this next post about traveling with children.

Traveling with the family is fun, but it can also be overwhelming. Long gone are the days of just tossing a few belongings into a suitcase and heading out on the open road. It’s important to be prepared and to keep kids happy and healthy during family adventures.

Whether traveling via plane, train or car, the following is a guide on creating the ultimate travel survival kit for minimal stress and maximum fun:

JUST IN CASE…

  • Pre-measure formula into bottles and carry a room temperature bottle of water to mix on the go.
  • Be prepared for a mess – snacks, diapers, spit-up, etc. – with a small trash bag, wipes, hand sanitizer (for the adults), spare water, tissues, bib and a blanket.
  • Even if you are traveling by plane, a car seat can double as a feeding chair or nap location. If you’re staying at a hotel, call ahead for a crib for your room.
  • Bring along a spare set of clothes for everyone (parents included)

KEEPING YOUR BABY OR TODDLER ENTERTAINED

  • Bring music, mobiles, bubbles and books, stuffed animal, play mirror and foam shapes that will “stick” to the car seat. In an airplane, purchase headphones for music and rest them on your child’s shoulders instead of over their ears.
  • Use “links” to keep toys within your child’s reach.
  • Play window games – count the signs, trucks or red lights. “I Spy” a blue car, a white truck and other objects you can see while moving.
  • Bring a laptop desk for drawing with paper and crayons.
  • Play “I’m thinking of an animal.” Provide age-appropriate hints to help your child guess a particular animal.

CAR TRAVEL

  • Plan for an active stretch. At a rest-stop break or a playground, let the children walk or toddle for 20 or so minutes before climbing back in the car.
  • Attach a mirror to the front passenger visor so you can see and interact with your toddler without having to spin around.
  • Buckle up a toy bin right next to the children so they can help themselves – books, links, stuffed animals and puppets.
  • Create a car-ride checklist – make a picture itinerary of landmarks you will see along the way.
  • Ask your child to keep score – gas prices, mileage — or count out toll money.

PLANE TRAVEL

  • In an airplane, let children walk down the aisle periodically at their own pace.
  • Airports can be a bustling place. Consider checking your luggage at the curb. This way you can focus on your little one’s needs without the hassle of luggage in tow.
  • A blanket can make a quick play space in any lobby, airport, etc.