Archive for May 2009
May 31st, 2009
Nancy from Ciao Bambino
When browsing Cookie Magazine’s Going Places Blog I noticed the mention of GOOP, a weekly newsletter by Gwyneth Paltrow. I’m not one to follow celebrities, however I really liked some of her posts and her desire to raise global citizens strikes a chord with me. Her post on Kid-Friendly Dining in NYC, London, Paris, Chicago and LA offered a refreshing mix of restaurants that are sure to please adult and child alike.
Just recently, I was looking at the family dining section in a London guidebook and there was Rainforest Café. A perfect place while in the states, but I’m not going all the way to London to eat at the Rainforest Café! Also, I’m hoping that Gwyneth’s health conscience approach takes me to restaurants that offer children something besides chicken fingers. There’s only so much fried food my kids can take on a trip, especially because we don’t eat that way at home. So, I’ve put my faith in Gwyneth and made a few reservations based on her suggestions.
Beyond restaurants and recipes, she offers health, life and fashion tips. The newsletters are short, easy to read and provide information on one topic at a time. Because she’s not trying to sell anything (beyond her image-of course), the website is noticeably void of flashing “click here” buttons and sidebars listing products. Enjoy!
(Photo courtesy of Philos from Athens on Flickr.com)
Make a Comment
May 29th, 2009
Nancy from Ciao Bambino
This week’s pictures are from our trip to Spring Creek Ranch in Jackson Hole, WY. What a breathtaking family ranch destination! Not only do the Grand Tetons offer spectacular views, but also, the area offers an “American Safari.” Jackson Hole, with Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone in close proximity, hosts an amazing array of wild animals for easy viewing. My kids will never forget when we almost got hit by two fueding bison while parked among a seemingly mellow herd. Being so close to these huge wild animals was truly unforgettable. We saw bears, moose, bald eagles, and elk, just to name a few.
In addition to the wildlife, what made our ranch vacation work well for our family group of 14, was finding an upscale destination with excellent amenities (pool, spa & chef) and entertaining “ranch” activities. Some in our group wanted a more rugged vacation and some wanted a less rugged vacation, so Spring Creek was a great middle ground. You could go rafting, fishing, horseback riding, or hiking or simply read and watch ESPN. Staying in was almost as tempting as the outdoor excursions due to the plush private home that we were able to rent.
For more on Ranch Vacations, take a moment to check out Amie’s very thorough post on Peter Greenberg Worldwide website. Peter Greenberg is commonly known as the travel correspondent for Good Morning American and more recently the Today Show’s Travel Editor. In addition to his multiple books, radio show and frequent reports, Peter also has an informative website and blog. Amie’s article for the blog offers Seven Reasons to Choose a Family Ranch Vacation along with an overview of many properties.
Get our list of Ciao Bambino recommended family ranch vacations.
For more of this week’s Photo Friday posts, check out Delicious Baby.
, North America
, Photo Friday
May 26th, 2009
Nancy from Ciao Bambino
That sums up our Spring Break this year. It just happened that my husband was in the middle of a huge work project; so taking time off was out of the question. Also, because we are planning a big trip this summer, we are trying to be mindful of our travel costs. Earlier this Fall I wrote a post “Keep the Luxury, Cut the Costs,” where I mentioned removing one of the big three travel expenses: car rental, hotel or airfare and exploring your local area.
Keeping those tips in mind, I decided to break up the first week up with day trips and an overnight in Boston. Then for the second week do a 5-day road trip from Boston to D.C. Don’t ask me why, but my kids, have been begging for a road trip. I have no idea how they got that idea in their heads, but you can understand my skepticism about taking four very active kids on a road trip without my husband. However, I figured that four on the go is better than four in the house!
As vacation week started, most of our schoolmates were jetting off to warmer climates. We on the other hand, were droving up a long asphalt driveway in Fitchburg, MA that has signs that read “84 degrees and tropical.” I had to chuckle to myself. Fitchburg, is not exactly the prime vacation locale, however, it is the location of the new CoCo Key Indoor Water Park. We burned energy, ate some junk food and played together- isn’t that the point of a vacation.
The next stop was Boston. We were excited to try the lovely Charles Hotel, in Cambridge. This independently owned and operated boutique hotel is known for their outstanding service, restaurants and accommodations. My kids loved the children’s gift bags and the TV inside the bathroom mirror. I couldn’t understand why they were staying in the bathroom so long, only to discover Sponge Bob was entertaining them. We spent the next few days exploring the local museums and especially enjoyed the ICA’s Shepard Fairey Exhibit. For more Boston activities, see my article on Boston’s Top 5 Family-friendly Excursions.
Now, week two – the road trip. I found a great website, Tripwiser, which enabled me to plug in my destinations and activities to a schedule and then create a map. This site was a bit slow, but the for those of us that need help organizing and planning, this was great. Mostly, I loved the printout and the addresses, so I could plug them into my GPS. With my iPod loaded with audio books to play in the car and a surprising amount of luggage filling my suburban, off we went.
Now, I was a bit nervous, but not about handling all four kids on the trip. It was the little things like, what if I have to use the bathroom when the baby has fallen asleep in the car? Or, cutting up everyone’s food at restaurants when it’s all delivered to our cranky tired group at the same time. And, do I drag my 8 year-old son into the woman’s restroom with me at the rest stop? You get the idea. Basically, I didn’t drink anything and yes, I kept the whole crew with me in the restrooms, making my older ones hold the baby (bathroom floors gross me out and she loves to shimmy on her belly from stall to stall – yuck!).
The trip from Boston to Philadelphia was easy. We didn’t have that much time in Philly, so we stayed in the Historic District (at a hotel that I wouldn’t recommend) and explored Independence Hall. The exhibits were terrific for the kids and my 10 and 8 year-old loved it. My 6 year-old didn’t get it, but loved getting a hat and glasses like Ben Franklin and the baby was just happy to come along. There are so many other kids friendly activities in Philly that we didn’t get to this trip. Next trip, we’ll go to Betsy Ross’ House, Ben Franklin Museum of Science, Please Touch Museum, Aquarium, Camden Yards and South Street. Notice that I said, “next time”. From a historical perspective, this was an amazing stop. Independence Hall is only a few years old and very interactive. We can’t wait to go back.
Next stop was Alexandria, where we stayed at the Lorien Hotel and Spa, my new favorite hotel in the DC area. With easy access to the metro, this is a charming home base while visiting DC. Alexandria’s history and access to the Potomac and Mount Vernon are perfect for our family. We loved Hooray for Books, an independent children’s bookstore. The helpful woman suggested a series for my son that he hasn’t put down. Also, they loved the Torpedo Factory, which is now converted into art studios. Later, we went to the Bureau of Engraving, where the kids were wowed watching millions of dollars being produced.
My husband joined us for the drive back and our stop in New York City. We stumbled upon a great hotel that we booked using miles, The Parker Meridian. The rooms are small and a bit funky, but the kid-friendly amenities made it perfect! First, there’s a pool on the 44th floor with an observatory deck. Then, there happened to be the top rated burger place in NYC, The Burger Joint, and top it off with a 20-foot Wii game that you could play in the gym. The first night we were tired and didn’t leave the hotel. The next morning, we ate at their terrific breakfast place with the Charlotte Hornets basketball team right next to us. I’m not much for star gazing, but it was amazing to see how tall these guys were when they are standing right next to you, let alone how much they ate!
All in all, the trip was great. My older kids were so annoyed with my younger son that they really bonded and found some common interests. That alone is worth the 900 miles in the car. We learned a lot about American history, specifically the American Revolution. I will admit that I was tired at the end of the trip, and boy did I enjoy that first Monday with the kids back in school!
, Road Trips
, Travel Stories
May 24th, 2009
Natasha Schlesinger from ArtMuse
May is a very busy month in New York City. There are so many new exhibits to see both in the museums and at the galleries. I have gotten around to seeing some of them and others are just about to open. One of the best art exhibits at the New York galleries is a show of the latest works of Tim Hawkinson, a California artist and inventor at Pace Wildenstein (at 32 East 57th Street). He is one of my favorite contemporary artists because he makes the world out to be a wonderous place filled with all kinds of possibilities and his ideas just burst out of materials as common as eggshells and feathers. The gallery features about 10 new works by Hawkinson.
As you enter you will first notice the motorcycle made entirely out of feathers. Kids will get a kick out of these materials and could speculate on the type of feathers and how many are included in the work. Then ask them to move to the right and find other objects that the artist made out of bird materials. These will be his small sculptures made entirely out of eggshells. See if they can find the “fist” and the “figure of a woman” and the arrow head like sculpture.
The next piece they will be awed by is a bronze sculpture that at first glance looks like a dinosaur but upon closer inspection actually turns out to be many figures in a row sitting and rowing. The mouth of the beast is actually a croching figure as well. Could all this represent the journey of life? There are other fun sculptures to examine: the skinned knee or the “ghost bat” made of bread bags and ties. Definitely worth the trip.
Another awesome exhibit that has just opened is an installation called Anthropodino by the Brazillian artist Ernesto Neto at the 67th street Regiment Armory (67th street and Park Avenue). This is the first such installation commissioned by the armory from a living artist and Ernesto Neto has taken advantage of the enormous, cavernous space to fill it with diaphanous fabric forms through which kids can run and jump. There are other soft structures to interact with. My kids loved diving into the soft plastic bubble pool or jumping on the gigantic cushion filled with some seeds or rice or lying quietly (if they can manage) in a lavender room where the pillows are filled with lavender and camomille for that soothing effect that everyone surely needs after all the jumping and running around. An hour and a half later and I still couldn’t convince my kids to leave!! Visit the Armory until June 14th. Admission: $10 adults, free for children under 18 years.
With the weather warming up, I would recommend to visit the roof of the Metropolitan Museum to view the installation by Roxy Paine called Maelstrom. Roxy Paine’s silver trees have been spotted around the parks before. This time around Roxy Paine has taken over the whole roof of the museum spreading out the silvered dandrite sculpture across the entire space. Kids will be able to run through them and explore where the branches actually meet the museum walls, floor and even enter the pipes. Have the kids find three places where the sculpture actually “enters” the museum (hint, two will look like faucets). On a sunny summer day, this is a fantastic place to combine art and the outdoors.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, until October 25th.
Natasha Schlesinger is the founder of Artkids and Artmuse.
Make a Comment
May 22nd, 2009
Amie from Ciao Bambino
We are one of those lucky families that have grandparents that are willing and able to provide childcare when we are out of town. My in-laws have watched Devon for 7-14 days at a time every year since he was born. We’ve taken full advantage of this and have used this time for parents only getaways to Mexico, Italy, Thailand, Belize, and Tahiti. This year we are heading to Australia and New Zealand—we leave Sunday!
These trips provide an opportunity for us to refresh and reconnect. Yes, it’s a long time to be away, but at the end of the day it makes us better parents, plus it allows our son to closely bond with grandparents that live out of town. Last year was our Tahiti trip. It was fantastic! The scenery is spectacular—an excellent subject for Photo Friday. What differentiates Tahiti is that it is underdeveloped compared to other tourist-oriented beach destinations. The landscape and Polynesian culture is exotic and wonderful—the water is outrageously blue. The shot above is Bora Bora and the shot below was taken on the island of Moorea.
The water is so clear and shallow in parts that a popular tourist activity is swimming with rays. These graceful, gorgeous creatures swim right for you as soon as the boat is anchored. Here’s one coming to say hello.
If these parents only trips are supposed to be romantic, Tahiti fits the bill. We were treated to some amazing sunsets.
Is Tahiti kid-friendly? Most definitely. I think it’s a long way to travel for a beach with young kids, but older kids will appreciate the fantastic ocean activities. We don’t dive, but the snorkeling is incredible. We’ll publish a review or two of some family-friendly hotels in Tahiti in the near future. In the meantime, we’re off on another adventure. Check out more Photo Friday posts on Delicious Baby.
, Photo Friday
, South Pacific
May 21st, 2009
Amie from Ciao Bambino
We had a tremendous response to our April villa giveaway! For good reason, a chance to stay in an amazing villa in Tuscany for free is a very enticing opportunity. The Richardson family from the Bay Area is the lucky winner! They were in Italy a few years ago with their young girls—it will be fun for them to experience Italy again from a different home-base in Tuscany.
Meet the Richardson family …
We are excited to bring our daughter’s Madeleine, 5, and Kate, 3, back to Italy! We have been before as a family several years ago when Kate was only 6 months old. We stayed in a villa outside of Pisa with 2 other families in a town called Casciana Terme, famous for it’s spas. A friend of ours was raised in this town until he was 10 years old, so it was fun to meet his family and friends and have an authentic trip to Italy!
We took lots of great day trips from Casciana Terme with the kids to Siena, Florence, and Pisa. We never took the kids to the beach, which we are excited to do on this trip and plan to hit Forte dei Marmi and Porto Ercole, north of Rome, where we went last summer without the kids (while we were in Italy for a wedding). We are excited to also spend many days by the pool at Villa Le Capanne, which looks amazingly beautiful.
Mom is particularly fond of Italy because she studied in Florence while in college. It is also a terrific place to travel with a family because of the rich family culture and the fact that your kids are welcome and adored anywhere you go. It is also a great country escape for a family like ours who lives in full-time in an urban environment.
Thank you Ciao Bambino for giving us this opportunity to return!!
Deals & Giveaways
Make a Comment
May 19th, 2009
Amie from Ciao Bambino
Rome is an amazing destination with kids of all ages. Nancy explored Rome when she was pregnant with three kids in tow (at the time they were 4, 6, and 8). Everyone had a blast and Nancy’s sightseeing approach is part of what made their trip work so well. Check out her How to Visit Rome with Kids travel tips on Why Go Italy, an informative website published by BootsnAll Travel with comprehensive information and advice about traveling to Italy.
Make a Comment
May 18th, 2009
Amy from The Family Chef
Amy Fothergill contacted Ciao Bambino when she was planning her recent trip to Italy. She is a family-focused chef and I originally invited her to write a food post. When we spoke live after her trip, Amy’s travel tips were so good that I asked if she could do a post on them instead. I particularly like her Survival of the Fittest tip about identifying “vacation” rules instead of following exactly what you do at home … we do this too and it is definitely more relaxing for everyone.
Thanks for the great tips Amy!
Setting expectations when traveling proves to be the best parenting lesson yet
In my five years of parenting, I have finally learned something. When traveling with children, how much I enjoy a trip is completed predicated upon my expectations. The trips I think will be fun, fun, fun can turn out to be a bum, bum, bummer. On the other hand, the trips where I say to myself, “Let’s just relax”, seem to leave me with the best memories.
Such was the case on a 2 ½ week trip to Europe. We went to Spain to see friends, Italy to vacation, and England to see family, spending 5-6 days in each country. Before the trip, I was so nervous about what to bring and what we might need, even though on two of the legs we were staying in a house.
To make things more challenging, one of the flights we were booked on had weight limits for the baggage (a mere 33 lbs each and we only had 2 bags we planned to check). However, the ability to do laundry was a life-saver. Since we were staying on average of 6 days in each place, I counted about 6 days of clothes with a few extras. I also kept the color schemes the same (brown for my son, pink for my daughter, black and brown for me, and my husband was happy with khakis and a polo shirt). And then at some point I realized, well, if I forgot anything, we’d just have to buy it. As long as we have necessary medicine and underwear…we could survive. I was still worried I had forgotten something major.
So, there we were, on the day of departure. We were in NY, between flights, on our way to Madrid. We had our dinner at 7pm and my husband and I ordered beer. When our drinks arrived, he clinked my glass and said “Here’s to our vacation.” I clinked back, took a drink, and realized it was the start of vacation. There was not much to do but have fun and instantly, I relaxed. I realized we were going to three beautiful countries. We were visiting friends and family in places with great food and wine. Ok…ok…ahhh. Time to sit back and enjoy the ride.
Surviving the first day of time change with the children
There are two things I will suggest to you to make your vacation a little more pleasant; don’t plan much for the first day and try to go with the flow of your children as far as their mood and energy level.
When we got to our destination, we were lucky that the children had slept enough on the plane to be able to function. I actually thought they would be more tired and might need a nap. But the children (5 and 3 ½ yrs old) were so excited to be in a new place with our friends, it was like they were on an adrenaline rush. My husband and I were the ones who needed a siesta. Our friends kept them occupied and everyone played happily. Since they seemed to be doing all right, I thought, let’s keep them up as late as possible so that they would sleep all night.
We planned to go out for a relatively early dinner at some tapas restaurants. We took the metro to go downtown. And then, I saw it. That glass-eyed, glazed-over look kids get when they are tired. All I could think was, if they sleep now, we are hosed. One of us will be up with them all night and the thought of legos at 3am was not appealing. My younger one started whining and insisted on being picked up. She fell asleep in my arms as we walked the streets of Madrid. Uh-oh. I started to see the same look on my 5 yr old’s face. By the time we got to the first cafe, he was sitting at the bar, eyes closed, eating potato chips. I yelled to my husband like the way a doctor would to a nurse in the ER “Honey, order him a Coke!”
Although my husband drinks it, our children don’t get a lot of soda, unless it’s on a trip or a special occasion. I watched my son, drinking soda through a straw out of the corner of his mouth, come alive like a dehydrated flower that has been watered for the first time in days. Within minutes, he was awake. My daughter woke up, didn’t want to be left out, had her portion, and also perked up immediately.
As we walked to our next stop, my friend was commending me on my parenting skills for coming up with the idea of giving them the soda to keep them awake. It all comes down to doing what you need to do. They both stayed awake through dinner and fell asleep around 10 or 10:30 pm. They slept until 10:30 the next day. It was very manageable. We did the same thing the next night and within two days, they had adjusted. This honestly made the rest of the trip so much easier. As my friend Christine would say “That was Genius!”.
Packing light can be so freeing
One of the flights from Italy to England was on an airline with lower than normal weight restrictions for the checked bags. The cost of the flight is dependent upon the amount of luggage you bring. My husband had given me strict guidelines. Where at first, I thought this unfair and outright impossible, I soon realized once we landed, it was rather liberating. It became much easier to manage a small amount of “stuff” as opposed to trying to zip a suitcase only if someone sat on it.
We still laugh about the fact that the one flight defined what was in our suitcase. Instead of bringing back wine from Italy, I chose pottery. My souvenir from Spain was a bag of rice (that’s all I wanted!). I brought a mini make-up case instead of everything (again, genius).
It meant there was less of an impulse to bring knick knacks and gifts that sometimes are not appreciated. There was less to lose and less to just keep track of. We stayed in so many places but each time when it was check out day, I could be packed up in an hour.
When we got home and people asked whether we had a good time, I told them yes and told them about the luggage. As someone who normally feels like she has to be ready for anything, the weight restriction ended up being a blessing in disguise. And of course, the other benefit was that we could manage all of the luggage on our own, when necessary, because it wasn’t that heavy. I’m hoping this “A-ha” moment will be repeated on our next trip, even if we don’t fly with luggage restrictions.
Survival of the fittest
The last piece of advice I can give to you is to let loose a bit. When I travel, I just want to survive. I think it’s a good idea to have vacation rules. This I’ve learned through past trips. As I had said, a successful trip has much to do with the expectations. If I expect my children to behave as they do at home or eat vegetables with every meal…well, I might not have such a good time.
I let all of that go. As long as they had some fruit each day and ate a meal before gelato, I just didn’t care. They ate ham sandwiches, pizza, and pasta with an occasional salad and maybe shrimp. They ate lots of bread and drank juice and soda. Instead of negotiating, I just said “Ok”. The combination of letting my standards go a little and keeping my expectations below the norm led to a very satisfying vacation which will be carved in my memory as a pleasant experience.
Amy Fothergill is the owner of “The Family Chef” and the mother of two. She teaches cooking classes and provides consultations for families on how to get creative in the kitchen. She uses her culinary background to create meals that are quick, delicious and good for you. For more information contact her at email@example.com or check out her blog for more ideas and recipes.
, Travel Stories
Make a Comment
May 14th, 2009
Amie from Ciao Bambino
As kids get older, finding an ideal vacation venue often means more than finding functional guest rooms and a kid-friendly attitude. Specifically, many parents seek properties with kids clubs. The best clubs are fun for children and give adults some down time—everyone wins.
When researching a trip, finding properties with kids clubs is a good first step, however, there is more you need to know before booking rooms.
Age Minimums: Every property has them. It would very frustrating to count on using a kids club, only to find that your child is too young to participate … after arrival.
Pricing: Some kids clubs are free, some price by activity, and others by session. The point is that there is that every club is different and you will want to factor this into the trip budget, if necessary.
I have some good news for Ciao Bambino fans—you can now quickly narrow down a list of properties with kids clubs by minimum age and cost.
This can be done using the Quick Search box located on the top of every page on Ciao Bambino or via Extended Search. Note, that the cost part of the search is based on clubs that are free vs. not free; most of our reviews include specific price details in our Families Should Know tab.
We’ve also added the ability to search for properties that have kids pools. This is key for the parents of young children that don’t necessarily want to be IN the pool all the time (like me) …
I’m excited about these changes to Ciao Bambino. There’s never enough time in the day to get things done and these new features will make it easier than ever to quickly narrow down a list of the best accommodation options in a given destination.
We love feedback. Do you have any additional features you’d like to see? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make a Comment
May 14th, 2009
Amie from Ciao Bambino
United Airlines just announced that they are increasing checked baggage fees $5 per bag (will be $20 for the first bag and $30 for the second bag) if you pay the fee at the airport vs. online.
Either way, these additional fees add up. A family of four with just one checked bag could end up paying an additional $160 for checked luggage a round trip flight.
Traveling with kids—particularly young ones—involves a lot of “stuff” so this is frustrating news. Figuring out ways to pack light is now a matter of cost, not just convenience. I checked around the web to see what advice my family travel blog friends have to share on packing with kids.
Delicious Baby – Debbie’s information is the most extensive I found online. Her list includes packing checklists, as well as tips for traveling light.
SimpleMom – 13 tips for packing light. Two important ones here are to bring just enough diapers for the first few days and use the hotel’s crib or pack-and-play (properties featured on Ciao Bambino are required to provide this service). Even if there are fees associated with using them, it’s likely to be less than the $30-40 you’ll pay to check them on the flight.
TravelMuse – This article includes links to travel accessories that help organize and compress clothing, i.e. maximize the space you do have.
Cookie Magazine – Yolanda Edwards, the Travel Editor for Cookie Magazine, did a post about a Pack Me check list on Going Places. It looks like a good tool to ensure you cover all the bases, and then pare excess items down accordingly.
I dread packing for trips and I’m a notorious over-packer, with and without kids. Time for a packing remodel …