Archive for February 2010
February 26th, 2010
Anne from Hip Travel Mama
Photo Friday this week features a guest post from Anne Taylor Hartzell, a mom of two young children and the founder of HipTravelMama.com, a new travel blog that offers hip tips for maximizing value, style and fun on luxury family travel. Welcome to the family travel blog world Anne!
Palm Springs is the perfect long weekend getaway for the winter weary. Steeped in old Hollywood charm, (think Frank Sinatra), this desert oasis located 111 miles east of Los Angeles promises vistas of majestic mountains and miles of incredible bright blue sky year round. Palm Springs also offers families lots of hip house rentals and activities to get outdoors during the winter and soak up the sun.
Here are our top five favorite sun-loving tips for Palm Springs with kids:
Rent a Hip, Mid-Century Modern House with a Pool
Unless you already live in Southern California, or a warm southern climate, chances are you don’t have a shiny pool out back that glistens in the sunshine. It’s always been a dream of mine to live in a climate where my kids can don their suits and go for a swim anytime during the year. On our vacations to sunny destinations, the pool is the main attraction and having a private property with pool onsite provides ample time for mom and dad to relax in the sun while the kids play or little ones take a nap.. Tip: Make a stop off at the toy store Mr. G’s for Kids on N. Palm Canyon Drive to grab a few kid-friendly pool toys and floaties.
Houses here are straight out of an old Hollywood movie. With little effort, you can find a house that meets your budget and may also hold a little history. Search around for the type of property and location you want on Homeaway.com or VRBO.com and then contact a property management company to help you find the exact property for your family. We often get a larger property and share with another family to increase the fun factor and reduce our overall trip costs. Tip: If you don’t want to filter out properties on your own, check out a service like Beau Monde Villas, specializing in Palm Springs luxury rental properties.
Plan a Morning at the Living Desert Wildlife Park
A short drive to Palm Desert’s 1,200 acre Living Desert Wildlife and Botanical Park will provide endless entertainment and education on the creatures of the desert. There is something for everyone in the family here, from a play park with unique desert-themed equipment, to a butterfly house and elaborate model train exhibit. This park will keep the interest of younger children and adults alike. Tip: Head over in the morning when the park opens at 9am (8am in summer) to explore before it gets too hot.
Take in the view on the Palm Springs Aerial Tram
The vistas atop the Palm Springs Aerial Tram can be breathtaking and a welcome change to the mid-day heat of the desert. Ride the tram to cool off and grab lunch at the Peaks Restaurant, or for lighter fare you can grab a quick bite with a great view at the Pines Café. Hip Tip: As temperatures can vary more than 30 degrees from the valley below, check the TramWeather station to know if you should bring a sweater.
Spend an Evening out at Villagefest
Every Thursday evening, Villagefest comes alive as they block the streets in Downtown Palm Springs to display a diverse array of artists, entertainers and shops, providing a great evening activity out for families to peruse the great shops, restaurants, and entertainment along Palm Canyon Drive. Tip: Stop by Palm Springs Fudge and Chocolates for lots of decadent sweet treats for the whole family.
Leave Time to Play at the Airport
Yes, you heard me right. One of the coolest things about Palm Springs ends at the airport – a sandy outdoor playground for kids inside of security, so you can wait for your flight and soak up the sun at the same time. A great way to run off energy before the flight home!
No family trip is complete without some fun for the parents. Hip mom fashionistas will find bliss in the endless mid-century modern furniture stores, shopping in the El Paseo Shopping District, or finding bargains on luxury goods and brands at the Desert Hills Premium Outlets. Finally, take in a spa treatment at the Viceroy Hotel and Spa to pamper yourself for a family trip well done.
For more Photo Friday fun, head over to Delicious Baby.
Ciao Bambino recommended Palm Springs family hotels
, Palm Springs
, Palm Springs and Coachella Valley
, Photo Friday
February 25th, 2010
Amie from Ciao Bambino
Before my 2010 ski season came to an abrupt end on Valentine’s Day (no fun sledding accident), my plan was to scout a few new ski venues by following my own advice from my how to find kid-friendly ski resorts post. The good news is that I made it to Steamboat, Colorado before my luck changed.
It’s been ski week so far on CB with the best family ski resorts in Europe post and family-friendly recipes for ski weekends by Amanda Haas yesterday. Given that the end of ski season is not far away, it’s time to share why I like Steamboat for families.
Steamboat Springs is in Northwestern Colorado. Located 3.5 to 4 hours from the Denver Airport without weather and traffic, I learned the hard way that the isolated location makes it a much better destination for a 4-7+ day trip than a weekend ski venue. You can fly into the nearby airport of Hayden—reducing drive time to 25 minutes—although, you are likely to have to change planes in Denver and total travel time may be a wash.
We really didn’t spend enough time in the resort to appreciate all it has to offer in full, but I saw enough to conclude that this is a wonderful resort for family ski trips. The town and resort area are surprisingly big given the middle-of-nowhere location, but in this case, the upside is an unbelievable array of condo-type accommodation options that are ideal with kids.
Moreover, the excessive room inventory combined with the travel slump means there is incredible value for quality right now. Condos that would easily be priced in the $500 per night range at other ski resorts are $200-300 a night in Steamboat.
The skiing, however, is not a cheap date; there are packages available that include lift tickets to help keep costs down.
The other highlight for me is the ski terrain. Family-friendly skiing with young kids is all about logistics involved to get to the beginner hills and ski school, as well as the amount of intermediate terrain available so you can ski together as a family and not get run over by experts. Steamboat has an unbelievable amount of groomed runs that are perfect for skiing with kids. It’s nice to feel like you can relax and go in any direction without worrying about unwillingly getting stuck on a double black diamond run. That said, there is still plenty of room to find increasingly challenging terrain for school-age kids who have skills that grow rapidly over a short period of time.
Steamboat is known for incredible powder—attracting a bit of everybody— but overall, there are kids everywhere and the vibe is more family than party. There are some resorts that have stunning mountain facilities like Sun Valley in Idaho—Steamboat isn’t that for me, but nonetheless, the slope-side facilities here are well done and comfortable.
We stayed at the Lodge at Steamboat in a 2-bedroom condo, a value-oriented option with some nice features including very helpful staff and a free, private shuttle to the ski village. Read my complete family-friendly hotel review for more details.
I also toured the new Trailhead Lodge and loved it. The facilities are gorgeous with loads of appealing onsite places to hang with kids. They are also opening up a gondola right from the lodge to the ski area. If I was going back, this is where I’d stay.
I didn’t have time to see The Steamboat Grand, but it has an excellent reputation as one of the few full service hotels located right in the ski village. My feeling is that practically every accommodation in Steamboat is family-friendly—it’s more a matter of choosing between locations, amenities, and price points.
I’d go back to Steamboat in a heartbeat (over summer months too). If you are still itching for a top notch ski week with kids, add it to your short list.
Family-friendly recipes for ski weekends
, Rocky Mountains
February 24th, 2010
Amie from Ciao Bambino
During my last ski trip over President’s Day weekend, it dawned on my that one of the issues we always face when we rent a home or condo is what to cook for dinner. After a full day of skiing and/or ski school, expecting kids to sit through a restaurant meal is a recipe for disaster. Regardless if you spend the day on the slopes, the logistics alone of getting your kids and their stuff to ski school means elaborate meals if any kind are totally unappealing. Add in the fact that your favorite ski venue is unlikely to have your favorite grocery store and you’ve got a challenge.
What meals are easy, hearty, and doable with basic ingredients that you can get at any grocery store?
I asked Amanda Haas, a cookbook author, cooking instructor, and cookbook producer (ranging from A16 Food & Wine to Williams-Sonoma Roasting) for some help. She recently launched a brilliant new blog called One Family, One Meal where she provides all the weekly menus, shopping lists, and recipes you’ll need to feed a family of four on a budget for $200 a week. The amazing part for me is that she has figured out a way to include organic and locally sourced ingredients in this budget, i.e. this is not about cheap and easy junk food.
Amanda lives in the Bay Area with her husband and two favorite test subjects—her two young sons. These recipes sound perfect!
Amanda’s Favorite Chili
Prep Time: 15 Minutes Cook Time: 2-2 ½ hours Serves: 6-8
Your kids will agree-this chili is perfect for refueling after a big day on the slopes. If you use dried pinto beans, make it a day or two ahead and it reheats really well. Or if you prefer to make this at the last minute, substitute two 15-oz. cans of pinto beans that have been drained and rinsed. Purchase a package of instant cornbread to bake while the chili cooks. With a big salad and a glass of Zinfandel, it doesn’t get any better.
1/3 pound dried pinto beans
28 oz. canned crushed tomatoes (I like San Marzano the best)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 ¼ pounds lean ground beef and ½ pound lean ground pork, or 1 ¾ pound ground turkey
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon black pepper
Place the beans in a large stockpot. Cover with two inches of water and bring to a boil. As soon as the water boils, turn off the heat, then cover the beans and allow them to sit for one hour. (NOTE: You can substitute this method in any recipe that tells you to soak the beans overnight. It works like a charm!)
After one hour, bring the beans to a boil again in the same water, then cover, reduce the heat, and simmer until tender-about 1- 1 ½ hours. (Note: Pick it up from here if you’re using canned beans. Just place the beans in a stockpot with ½ cup of water.) Add the tomatoes and simmer 5 minutes longer.
While the beans are cooking, heat the oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add the peppers and onions and cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and parsley and cook for 1 more minute. Add the meats, the chili powder, salt, cumin, and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until the meat is crumbly and cooked through, about 8-10minutes.
When the beans are cooked through, add the meat mixture to the beans. Simmer over low heat for 10-15 minutes to combine the flavors. Serve immediately or allow to cool before storing in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Recipe adapted by Amanda Haas from “Chasen’s Chili Recipe”
Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 10 minutes Serves: 4-6
I’m obsessed with skirt steak. It’s less expensive than flank, but has all of the flavor and a great texture. After a busy day in the snow, it cooks up really fast for dinner. Even in the smallest ski towns, you should be able to find the ingredients to make this Argentinean herb sauce to go with it. Serve with the roasted potatoes (recipe below) and a glass of Cabernet to complement the sauce.
2-3 lb. Skirt Steak (or substitute with flank or strip steaks)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
2 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 cup lightly packed fresh parsley leaves
2/3 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
2/3 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for the
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Remove the steaks from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking. (Bringing the meat to room temperature before cooking allows it to cook more evenly.)
Meanwhile, make the chimichurri sauce: In the bowl of a food processor or blender, combine the Dijon mustard, sherry vinegar, capers, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Pulse to combine, scraping down the sides once. Add the herbs and pulse for 10 seconds until the herbs are coarsely chopped. With the motor running, pour the oil in a slow, steady stream and process until the herbs are finely chopped but not pureed. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
If pan-frying, preheat the oven to 450˚F. (Or if you have the luxury of grilling outdoors, preheat the grill to high heat.)
If the skirt steak is still in one long piece, cut it into portions 6 to 8 inches long. Pat the steaks dry with a paper towel. Brush them with olive oil on both sides, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Preheat an oven-proof pan on the stove over medium-high heat.(Cast iron works well if you have it.) When the pan is very hot, place the steaks in it and cook for 2 minutes. Flip the steaks and place the entire pan in the oven and cook for 6-8 minutes more. Remove the steaks from the oven, place them on a cutting board, and tent them with aluminum foil to rest for 5 minutes. (To grill the steaks, place the meat on the grill, cover, and grill for 6-10 minutes, flipping once during cooking. Remove it to a cutting board, tent with foil, and allow it to rest for 5 minutes to reabsorb its juices.)
Slice the steak against the grain by cutting slices perpendicular to the lines running across the steaks. Drizzle some of the chimichurri sauce over the top and enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Roasting by Amanda Haas
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 15-20 minutes Serves: 4-6
I love roasted potatoes-they get all crispy and delicious. Improvise with what you mix in with the potatoes. On busy nights, I simply use olive oil, salt and pepper. Or if you can find them, try mixing in some fresh thyme, parsley, or rosemary along with a few minced garlic cloves for extra flavor.
1 pound fingerling, small Yukon Gold, or baby Red potatoes
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped thyme, parsley, or rosemary (optional-you’ll have the herbs already for the pot roast this week)
2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
Preheat the oven to 450˚F. If using fingerling potatoes, slice them on the bias into 1/3” pieces. If using Yukon Gold potatoes, simply quarter them.
Place the sliced potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a generous pinch of salt and grinding of pepper, any herbs, and toss to mix. Spread the potatoes out on a large baking sheet in one layer.
Place the potatoes in the upper half of the oven and roast for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and use a spatula to turn them, scraping up any that have stuck to the pan. If using the garlic, toss it with the potatoes now. Return to the oven and roast for another 5-15 minutes, or until they can be pierced with a fork and look crispy on the outside. Serve immediately.
Recipe by Amanda Haas for www.onefamilyonemeal.com
Hot Apple Cider
Prep Time: 2 minutes Cook Time: 10 minutes Serves: 6-8
While the parents are all enjoying their favorite beverages, here’s a quick one to whip up for the kids.
1 jug apple cider or apple juice (plan on 8 oz. per child)
6-8 cinnamon sticks
Whipped Cream (optional)
Place the apple cider in a large saucepan, along with 2 cinnamon sticks. Heat the cider for 10 minutes over low heat, until the cinnamon has started to infuse the cider and it’s just warm enough to drink. Place a cinnamon stick in each mug. Pour a cup of cider into each mug and garnish with whipped cream if you’d like. Serve warm.
Best family ski resorts in Europe
Where kids ski free in 2010 (North America)
Finding the best kid friendly ski resorts
Ciao Bambino recommended family ski resorts
Vermont family ski resorts
Colorado family ski resorts
Kids ski tips
Make a Comment
February 23rd, 2010
Chris Thompson of Ski Famille
We’ve published a few articles on family ski resorts in North America, but have said nothing about the fun you can have skiing in Europe with kids. Although I’ve skied in France, Italy, and Switzerland (all fabulous)—I haven’t experienced a family ski trip in Europe yet.
I wanted expert advice on the best family-friendly ski venues so I consulted with Chris Thompson, the Editor of Ski Famille, one of the UK’s original family ski specialists. Given the fact that they’ll be celebrating their 20th season in 2010/11, they are an excellent resource for advice and ski trip bookings.
Ski Famille offers catered chalets with inclusive childcare in two popular French resorts. Skiers and boarders with young children are their sole focus, so they don’t have to juggle the conflicting needs of adult groups with those of families.
Europe offers a huge amount of variety and choice for family skiers; there really is something for everyone. Essentially accommodation choices come down to three main categories; self-catering, hotels or catered chalets. All can work well for families if you do you research and between them they cover all budgets.
Picking just five European resorts that work well for families is hard, but we think this selection represents some of the best options on offer.
Top 5 ski resorts for families:
Les Gets, Portes du Soleil ski area, France
Time to declare bias as this has been Ski Famille’s main base for 20 years! However, the reasons we started taking families there in 1990 still stand. There are few French resorts that rival Les Gets for ambience, accessibility and facilities for children.
The resort is very picturesque, there is a huge choice of family friendly accommodation, the vast ski area is well suited to beginners and intermediates and the transfer to Geneva airport is nice and short (just 75 minutes). There is also a range of excellent ski schools and the resort is at the forefront of developments to make skiing a more environmentally friendly holiday.
Reberty Village, Three Valleys ski area, France
Reberty Village is one of a number of satellite developments outside Les Menuires. Les Menuires itself is a classic purpose built French resort (i.e. not very pretty but very functional with all ski in/out accommodation) but many of the newer developments like Reberty are far more attractive.
Reberty Village is largely made up of catered chalets all of which are footsteps from the slopes and offer superb links to the world famous Three Valleys ski area. Two of the UK’s main family ski operators, Ski Famille and Family Ski Company, have operations here that include in-chalet childcare. The resort is high (2000m) so very young babies may not be comfortable.
Montchavin, Paradiski, France
Montchavin is, like Les Gets and Reberty, a small resort that links into a huge ski area. The La Plagne ski area is a paradise for intermediate skiers but La Plagne itself is a bit bleak. A bit further down the valley Montchavin is a picture postcard vision of a French mountain village with winding cobbled streets and interesting shops. The village is small so accommodation is limited, early booking is advised.
Now that the already big La Plagne ski area is linked across to Les Arcs the variety of terrain and facilities on offer is hard to beat. This is a ski area that should be on every keen skiers “must visit” list. If you can’t find accommodation in Montchavin don’t rule out the purpose built resorts that sit higher. They work particularly well if you would like a large variety of self-catered accommodation.
Skiing in Lech is rarely a cheap option but it is unquestionably one of the best resorts in Europe. The resort combines great snowfall with traditional atmosphere, good facilities and a number of high quality independent accommodation providers.
The main nursery slopes are in Oberlech and this traffic-free satellite of the main resort is a great base if you have a family of beginners. A word of warning if you start exploring far and wide – the piste map can be confusing! Booking a guide may be money well spent for skiers who want to get the most from this stunning area.
Selva (Val Gardena), Italy
Selva in Val Gardena is another resort that is part of a big networked ski area (Sella Ronda). Well suited to intermediate skiers as well as cross country enthusiasts, the scenery in this area is stunning. Your accommodation needs to be picked carefully to get it right with young children as some properties can involve a bus ride to the slopes.
A real highlight of this attractive region is the fabulous mountain restaurants. The slopes have numerous huts that offer great food, good service and plenty of character. It would be very easy to enjoy a week of long lunches and leave many of the slopes unexplored!
Where kids ski free in 2010 (North America)
Finding the best kid friendly ski resorts
Ciao Bambino recommended family ski resorts
Vermont family ski resorts
Colorado family ski resorts
Kids ski tips
Make a Comment
February 21st, 2010
Kristi from Ciao Bambino
Help celebrate the launch of our Facebook page by participating in our Family Vacation Photo Contest. The winner of the contest will receive a free week-long stay at one of our favorite resorts in Tuscany – Casa Cornacchi Country House – a $2,000 value!
Casa Cornacchi is located in a spectacular rural setting, 30 minutes East of Siena. The atmosphere here is intimate with 10 apartments. Families have all they need to be comfortable for a week or more with apartment amenities, a gorgeous swimming pool, and an onsite host who provides excellent local guidance. This a perfect home-base for exploring Tuscany with kids!
February 22 to 26: Photo Submissions
E-mail your favorite family vacation photo to firstname.lastname@example.org. The first 50 photos submitted (limit 1 photo per person) will be uploaded to the new Ciao Bambino Facebook page and entered into the contest. Your name will not be listed, but please provide a short caption for your photo including date and location.
February 27 to March 12: Vote with Comments
Vote for your favorite photo by leaving a comment under the photo of your choice. Limit one comment per photo per person. Please note, you must be a Fan of Ciao Bambino to leave a comment. Friends and family are welcome to join in the voting!
The contest ends on Friday, March 12 at 12 PM PST. The photo with the most comments wins!
The winner will receive a week-long stay in a 2-bedroom apartment at Casa Cornacchi Country House for up to 2 adults and 3 children. The trip must be taken between April 1, 2010 and December 31, 2011. Subject to availability. Not available in June, July, and August.
Deals & Giveaways
February 18th, 2010
Nancy from Ciao Bambino
Ready for a refreshing travel resource? Let me introduce Shermans Travel. Not only does this publisher offer a beautiful travel magazine and informative website, but they are now featuring content around family travel.
What I appreciate about Shermans Travel is that they realized the need for value as part of luxury travel long ago. Before portfolios began shrinking, Shermans Travel marketed to customers who weren’t interested in throwing money around—rather, they targeted people looking for an excellent, value-rich experience. Shermans coined the term “Smart Luxury” around this kind of traveler.
Shermans Travel highlights these good values in both traditional and unique venues, not simply pandering to predictable resorts and advertisers. They uncover quaint areas and unusual accommodations too. In each destination they offer “Splurge” and “Great Value” options for accommodations, activities and restaurants. In addition, the gorgeous photography ensures my annual renewal of this magazine.
While most of our travel planning is done online, it’s a joy to peruse printed materials too. Sherman’s coverage of destinations is in-depth and thoughtful. After reading an edition that highlighted Thailand, I was ready to pack my bags. Well, that will have to stay on my wish list a little longer, but I in that same edition they had an excellent article on the Sanibel and Captiva area which I used as a resource for our upcoming beach vacation. You can check out their article on Pine Island Sound—this is one of my favorite vacation venues in Florida.
Value Travel Remains King in 2010
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February 17th, 2010
Nancy from Ciao Bambino
Spring Break for us means sun. Pure and simple, we need a break from the cold and nothing helps break up the long Northeast winter like a little sun. Right after the New Year, friends start asking for recommendations on where to go to warm up.
Now, since “Spring” Break can also include late February, it gets a little tricky because February can still be cold in Florida, so for that guaranteed warmth, head to the Caribbean. How can you beat the white sand and amazingly clear tropical waters? That said, we’ve booked Florida many times and love it. We try to go to South Florida where it’s more likely to be warm.
Kids Haven: For a kid-friendly mega resort, you can look to Atlantis. The slides always tempt me and Nassau is so close. School-age kids love this resort. Note that there are height requirements on some slides, so be sure your younger ones are well-prepped, I have heard of many very disappointed younger siblings.
Relax Luxuriously: If you are looking for a quiet, smaller and absolutely luxurious resort, we loved Grace Bay Club in Turks & Caicos. This resort has family “villas” (aka. condos) that easily fit all six of us. The beach is stark white and the sea, snorkeling and world-renowned service is outstanding.
Learning and Fun: I’ve heard fabulous reviews of The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman. Families were very impressed with the Ambassadors of the Environment program designed by Jean-Michel Cousteau, which offers eco-adventures and hands-on learning. This resort also offers an excellent tennis program for both adults and children.
All of these destinations are within a short flight with direct options from the East Coast. By keeping the traveling to a minimum, you increase your relaxation and avoid the mess that the late winter storms can cause on air travel.
Also, if you are traveling with a child under one, I would check to be sure you are comfortable with the medical options available on each island. Each time we’ve gone, of course, we’ve needed medical care. It was dicey to say the least. Not to mention that we should have had Hepatitis shots and had to wear a ton of bug spray because they have Malaria in Haiti and those damn mosquitoes like to island hop like the best of us!
All of us have different comfort levels with risk. Just check with the CDC to be sure you have all shots needed for the trip and that there is no current malaria issue. You can reference my Healthy Travel with Kids post.
Viva Miami: We have had many excellent trips down to South Florida. Miami is a favorite of ours. You get a great vibe, outstanding food and a gorgeous beach. For the kids, it’s easy to dine out at all the outside restaurants and there’s plenty to do in addition to the beach. The Loews Hotel is a Miami family favorite with a great location right near Lincoln Road and on South Beach.
Comfortable and Relaxed: For a quieter environment, Vero Beach is low-key and beautiful. We just booked Vero Beach Hotel for our March break after many good friends came back raving about the spacious rooms – a key requirement with four kids!
Flip-flop Crowd: (Okay, so nice flip-flops!) We can’t wait to go back to the Keys and just booked a stay at Hawks Cay Resort. My kids love the manatees, the birds, and the shells. I love the sunsets and flip-flop crowd. This resort is a perfect family venue.
Of course there are other Spring Break options. See my posts on the Ice Hotel in Quebec and our Boston to Washington DC family road-trip for other Spring break vacation ideas.
We’re working on adding more moderately priced properties in the Caribbean – stay tuned!
Ciao Bambino recommended Caribbean family hotels
Ciao Bambino recommended Florida family hotels
Florida with kids – Walt Disney World
Spring Break ideas by Trekaroo Moms
, Spring Break
February 15th, 2010
Shelly from Travels with Baby.com
The thought of international travel with a baby is enough to keep many parents at home. Although nightmare flights do happen, most parents are relieved to discover oftentimes things go better than expected. Meticulous planning is essential. Here are 10 sanity-saving tips from the author of the award-winning guidebook and website Travels with Baby, Shelly Rivoli.
Photo Credit Lynn Davis
Get your goodies
If you’re flying a U.S. carrier, you might be lucky to get water in flight. But many foreign carriers will supply you with helpful items in flight such as baby food, infant formula, toddler snacks, and possibly even diapering packs if you contact reservations in advance. (See the airlines comparison chart in Travels with Baby for more details.)
Don’t hold your breath about the bassinet.
While you may assume that flying with an infant overseas entitles you to an airplane bassinet (usually used on the bulkhead row), there’s still a chance it might not work out. There are a limited number of bassinets per airplane, and even with an advanced reservation requesting one, they are assigned on a first-come first-served basis upon check in—and of course only to those with proper seat assignments. Don’t be late.
The bulkhead row isn’t always the best with babies
Aside from the complete lack of privacy for breastfeeding moms, babies over 4 months old, especially, who are more easily distracted and over-stimulated by passersby, galley noise, flashing movies, and other activity may never fall asleep on this row. Consider your child’s temperament and distractibility carefully before committing to a very long flight on this row of seats.
Don’t stopover without a stroller
If you’ll have a layover between flights, chances are you’ll be quite glad to have your stroller meet you at the gate—rather than checking it all the way through to your final destination. If your child had any trouble sleeping on the airplane, or it’s simply time to snooze, it could be a big help. It may also help you make way through an enormous airport in a timely manner, or eat in a restaurant without high chairs along the way.
Paper, please, for international flights with a lap child
A surprising number of people—including some travel agents and most new parents—don’t realize that a baby needs more than a passport to fly out of the USA these days. Although, you may have paid a 10% lap child fare for your baby to fly on your lap, and he is documented in your reservation and noted in your e-ticket, a lap child must also have a physical, paper ticket for international flights. And the check-in line for AirFrance is no place to learn this lesson (trust me). Make sure your lap child’s ticket will come by mail or other arrangements when you make your reservations.
Save time, ask about the changing table
If you’re in a large enough aircraft to cross the ocean, there should be at least one changing table onboard (generally one is included in all airplanes with three or more lavatories). However, it may not be in the first lavatory you access. To save time wandering around with a not-so-fresh baby in your arms or waiting for the wrong loo, ask the flight attendants upon boarding or as they make the first pass by your seats.
Relax about the ears
Of the parents I speak with, painful ear pressure is one of their biggest fears about flying with their babies—and the crying that may go along with it. Most infants’ ears will actually adjust quickly and normally without much to-do, just as yours or mine will, even doing so as they sleep during a descent in most cases. However, since babies can often sense their parents’ anxiety, being nervous about whether or not the ears will be a problem may itself prove a cause for crying. So try to stay as relaxed as possible.
Use the canopy
If your baby is flying in an infant car seat, take full advantage of that canopy to help block reading lights and turbulent air vents as they snooze in flight. One more advantage? Think of it as a portable sneeze guard.
Bring antibacterial hand wipes
Stash travel-size packs of these sanity-savers in the side of your purse or diaper bag and use to wipe down sticky trays and arm rests, help clean up after onboard baby meals, and when you finish changing that diaper? Let’s just say it’s much easier to clean your hands back at your seats than while juggling a baby in your arms at the sink in the lavatory.
Bring ear plugs … and chocolates
Though it’s always good to keep a positive mental attitude as you travel with a baby, it’s also good to be prepared for the Plan B scenario. Whether it’s over-stimulation, gas, or general crankiness that inspires your baby to perform a vocal solo somewhere over the Atlantic, your neighbors will surely appreciate your attempts to help keep them happy till the curtain falls.
Entertaining kids on planes
Family travel Europe – tips for trips with young children
Ciao Bambino recommended Europe family hotels
Ciao Bambino recommended Europe hotel photo gallery
February 12th, 2010
My kids love to travel. As a result, we’ve been able to take some amazing family trips. China was the biggest challenge so far. Taking the family to Europe is one thing, but taking the leap to China … it’s just different.
The 2008 Olympics in Beijing opened up the idea of travel to China for many Americans. And families are no exception. Traveling through China with my kids was an amazing experience. But I recommend doing some homework with your family before you go. It will make the trip better and easier. I just wrote a article for PeterGreenberg.com on experiencing China with kids including tips for traveling so far from home. Here are some highlights:
Learn about where you are going
To get my girls ready for our trip we did some ancient history research. Thanks to internet, the world is at your finger tips.
Speak Their Language
My kids took a spring break Mandarin language camp. In my mind, it was really just for fun. C’mon, how much Mandarin can an 8-year-old learn in a week? But more than once on our trip, my novice speakers came in very handy.
Eat the Food, Or At Least Try It
Chinese food and kids don’t always mix. We went shopping in San Francisco’s Chinatown and did some asian cooking together at home.
It’s OK to Look Like a Tourist
Blending in is not something my kids did well in China. With blonde hair and blue eyes, I anticipated they’d be popular and explained folks might want to take their picture. My girls were all over their unique status and smiled happily in hundreds of photos.
Don’t Leave Home Without Tissues
It’s a bathroom must. Carry tissues everywhere you go. And both my daughters would agree, being able to squat is key to bathroom survival.
So now you know what to do before you go. But what are you going to do once you’re there? The choices are endless, but here are some of my family’s favorites.
The Great Wall
There’s a good chance your flight will bring you into Beijing. You could easily spend a week exploring this crowded city known for its palaces, temples and squares. The Great Wall is an absolute must see. Badaling, about 50 miles from Beijing, is the most popular stretch of the Great Wall. Give yourself time to climb a section of the Wall and get a sense of it’s enormity. There are a good number of steps, but my 8 and 10-year-old didn’t have any problems. Take some snacks and water and you’ll be good to go! If you need a break after, there’s plenty of shops and restaurants close by.
The Summer Palace
Be sure the Summer Palace fits into you Beijing itinerary. The kids will love riding in the “dragon” boat on Kunming Lake. Once on firm ground, walk the 728-yard Long Corridor. At every turn you’ll see vibrant Chinese design, gardens, and temples. The former summer resort for emperors, it a great place to spend a warm afternoon. Grab some ice cream if energy levels start to get low.
Terra Cotta Warriors
Next stop is Xian and the Terra Cotta Warriors. Local farmers made the discovery in 1974, while digging a well. The ongoing archaeological dig has uncovered more than a thousand life-size clay figures from the underground pits. Generals, soldiers, officials, servants, horses and chariots all believed to protect China’s first emperor in the afterlife. They’re lined up in battle formation, as if ready to charge on command. Even more amazing, it estimated 7,000 more are still buried in the dirt.
You can’t visit China and not see pandas. Unfortunately, time and geography constraints usually mean you’ll see them in a zoo. For us it was the Chongqing Zoo. I’m not a fan of zoos, so I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of “wasting” precious travel time in a zoo. I’ll admit it, it was all about the kids. Wow, am I glad I have kids! The pandas were amazing. We spent hours, in awe, watching them munch on bamboo. We were there first thing in the morning, so we had the cuddly critters to ourselves. We basically bought out the souvenir cart on our way out. What young girl doesn’t need a panda purse?
Mountains in the Mist
The China you see in all the classic photographs can be seen on the Li River. Your kids will think it’s just as amazing as you do, for the first hour. Then you may need to do some entertaining. So, I propose a compromise. Go on a Li River Cruise. See the mist shrouded mountains, quiet villages, fisherman and salesmen on bamboo rafts.Then once back on dry land, take the kids to the Reed Flute Cave.
Just few miles outside of Guilin, the Reed Flute Cave is a water-eroded cavern full of stalactites, stalagmites and other various rock formations. High-tech lighting brings the place to life. Plan on about an hour for the tour. At one part in our visit, there was a light show of sorts, and the next thing you know we were surrounded by bubbles.The kids were smiling ear to ear. (So was I.)
The cave gets it’s name from reeds growing outside, that can be made into flutes. Bargain with a vendor and get some reed flutes for the kids and friends back home.
Plan on flying from city to city to optimize travel time. It goes without saying, China is BIG place, with endless possibilities for parents and kids. Go to China with your kids, you won’t regret it. You’ll just want to plan another trip.
Check out more Photo Friday posts on Delicious Baby.
Things to do in Shanghai with kids
Top activities in Hong Kong with kids
Exploring Singapore with kids
Favorite activities in Kyoto with kids
, Photo Friday
February 11th, 2010
Amie from Ciao Bambino
One of the things I cherish about running a mom-owned travel website is the abundant opportunity to meet women who love travel as much as I do and really get why I spend so much time developing Ciao Bambino (my second child). Erica Dublin is the CEO of See Jane Fly, a go-to travel resource for women. Since women DO have travel experiences that are not all about kids, Erica’s editorial team cover topics like wedding and business travel too. Their goal? To be a hip and trusted concierge for Janes everywhere.
We are part of See Jane Fly’s hand-picked Family Fun blogger network and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know their team.
Time for you to meet Erica too.
What inspired you to start See Jane Fly?
As a communications executive with companies including Lucasfilm, Yahoo!, and Time Warner, I spent years crisscrossing the country, sharing travel-planning woes and “what went wrong“ stories with fellow female co-workers and friends along the way. I soon realized that the travel industry’s ‘more is better’ and ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach wasn’t cutting it for today’s busy women, and my travel travails were shared by an infinite number of female travelers. After returning home from another very long trip looking like someone beat me down with my suitcase, I decided it was time to create a solution for my fellow Janes.
Over the course of a year, I found an amazing team and together we put our hard-earned travel know-how and work experience to good use to launch See Jane Fly back in May of 2009. Since then the site has gone through a major re-launch and continues to try and make improvements based on user feedback and SJF team real-life insights, mine being that I am now traveling with a six-month old (business and pleasure), which is giving the site a very family-forward approach.
You just completed a major re-launch of the website. What changed and why?
The design was the biggest change. We were really looking for a clean look that was easy to navigate and made you want to stick around awhile, while at the same time giving users the ability to get the information they were looking for in less than a minute. We also wanted to make sure we had the ability to change and update content on the fly. In addition to the design overhaul, we added the toolbox and blogs, which are category specific and filled with in-depth reviews, itineraries, free downloads, and more.
Last, but not least, we’ll be launching SJF Trips in the next two weeks, which will be trip type and destination specific travel guides and handbooks.
What is the value you are providing for your readers?
Time, which is what I think we all want more of at the end of day. Today’s time-constrained mom is frustrated with standardized guidebooks, unused travel articles, and aggregated websites that provide excessive and irrelevant information, so we try to set ourselves apart from both online and print travel resources by offering customizable guides filled with expert recommendations that are original (never aggregated) that can be created and printed in less than five minutes. In these guides, travelers are also armed with handy, at-your-fingertips information on essential resources including nearby tech support, malls/shopping, drugstores, transport, as well as weather guides and city-specific style tips. With listings changing based upon trip type, the Tots in Tow guide might include babysitting services, while the Girlfriends Getaway guide may feature “plenty of men” cocktail hotspots and top mani-pedi parlors.
What is your favorite travel experience?
While I am a huge fan of global travel, and lucky enough to have traveled far and wide with my family and on business, I think my favorite travel experience to date was our yearly family excursion to Ensenada Mexico when I was growing up.
My Aunt had this amazing 70s style, one-bedroom beach house that was located right on the sand in a darling little community called Corona Beach. We used to pile in at least three to four families in for a week at a time, with us little ones sleeping in tents on the roof or snuggled up next to one another in the loft. The week was filled with clam hunts, frogger at the local pool hall, bike races, and surf fishing with my mom and Aunt Jean, not to mention at least one night of fireworks and daily sandcastle builds with my dad. Just writing this puts a smile on my face and the smell of ocean air lingering on the tip of my nose – that’s how you know you’ve found your favorite travel memory. The house has since been sold, but I hope to one day rent it and bring my own family down to experience the magic of Ensenada.
I know your son is young now, but what are some of the experiences you are dreaming about having with him?
I want Grant to experience the world. And not just an amazing gelato in Italy, even though that can change an afternoon from good to bad<smile>. I hope our family has the ability to travel to a new place each year and immerse ourselves in the culture for the summer. I have also dreamt of going on some big charitable travel trips myself, whether we tag sea turtles or rehabilitate lions, and I would love Grant to experience something like that with just me. We’ll leave Dad at home to take care of our own domestic wildlife – aka the cats.
You provide Travel Tips on SJF. Is there a fun new gadget and/or trick you have to share (with or without kids)?
Get yourself a pair of TravelSox, they combat swelling and discomfort in your feet and legs. Go for the SoftPrim version that have extra padded soles. I’ve got the team so hooked on them that some of us even wear them around the office when we’re having a “puffy day.” I also wore them during the entire second half of my pregnancy. They are amazing.
Bring an empty Klean Kanteen, or any other water container, with you through airport security, and then fill up on the other side. Eco-friendly and pocket-friendly travel at its best!
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