Archive for November 2010
November 29th, 2010
This is a guest post from Camille Spanjaard, founder of baby’tems, a baby equipment rental and supply company in Paris, France. Camille is a French mom with two small children who has lived in Paris for more than 10 years. She decided to start baby’tems after traveling with her children and realizing that baby equipment rental and supply services existed in many cities, but not in Paris! Odd for one of the most visited cities in the world …
Ciao Bambino has many articles offering information about Paris with children, but babies and toddlers require extra attention. We asked Camille to give us 10 insider tips for getting around Paris with babies and toddlers.
Baby and Toddler Vacations in Paris
1. Arrival: Paris CDG airport is 40km away from Paris. There are many transportation options to reach Paris, however, most of them are not easy to manage with young children. I recommend that you book a car prior to arrival. You can request a car seat with many companies. Be sure to tell the driving service the age, weight, and size of your baby to get the appropriate one.
2. Diapers and baby food: You’ll find international diaper brands easily (Huggies and Pampers). Baby food is available in all (even small) supermarkets in Paris. You can also now find organic options in almost any shop selling baby food. Formulas are different than those you can find at home. For questions, simply go to a pharmacy and bring your formula label with you.
3. Stroller: You will need a lightweight stroller as sidewalks can be narrow on some streets. Note, you might need to carry the stroller and baby a few steps to get into museums and restaurants.
4. Public transportation: If you plan to take public transportation (bus or metro), you’ll have to carry your baby and stroller to get up and down the stairs. The metro is definitively not a stroller-friendly place! Only about half of the stations are equipped with escalators and a few have elevators. Buses tend to become more and more accessible (you can get into the bus through the rear door with a stroller—sign the driver and there’s usually a dedicated location inside just for strollers).
Children under 4 don’t pay for metro/bus/train in the Paris area.
5. Public gardens: There are at least 100 parks and public gardens in Paris. You’ll certainly find one close to your hotel. Some are large (and famous) like Jardin du Luxembourg and some are local ones (and can be very tiny). Many parks offer playgrounds for children 18 months to 2 years old.
6. Restaurants: Few Paris restaurants are 100% baby-friendly (with high-chairs, changing table, specific baby food), however, most restaurants will welcome and accommodate you and your baby (leaving space for your stroller, warming up your baby-food etc).
The French usually start having dinner around 8:00p. If you go to restaurant before that time, you’ll be in a quiet place (restaurants usually open between 7:00-7:30p).
7. Accommodations: Hotels usually offer travel cots for babies. This can be suitable with one child. With two kids, it may be less expensive and easier to rent an apartment or to find an apart-hotel with kitchenette facilities.
8. Museums: Museum policies vary on accepting strollers inside the exhibits. You’ll need to check in advance or at the entrance. In museums where strollers are not allowed, you can usually borrow (for free) a baby carrier. In any case, I recommend that you bring a baby carrier with you so you always have one on hand.
9. Public toilets/changing baby: Paris has free and clean public toilets that are easy to use with potty-trained toddlers. For children in diapers, toilets with changing facilities are still quite rare; bring a light portable changing mat, it will allow you to change your baby almost anywhere. Don’t worry, Parisians won’t be bothered by this.
10. Breastfeeding: Even if public breastfeeding is still quite rare, you can feed your baby anywhere.
Baby’tems delivers rental equipment right to your doorstep in Paris. Our products are all recognized brands kept in perfect condition. We also can provide nappies/diapers, milk, baby food, and a range of other childcare accessories. We make it easy to travel to Paris with babies and toddlers!
Photo credit Ciao Bambino
Ciao Bambino recommended France family hotels
Toddler travel, Paris activities with kids
Off-the-beaten-path things to do in Paris with kids
Favorite online resources for Paris with children
Savoring the simple pleasures of Paris with children
Kid-friendly dining in Paris
Toddler travel tips
, Toddler Travel
November 26th, 2010
Amie from Ciao Bambino
An “I’m grateful for …” Photo Friday is in order on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
I’m grateful for those magic moments when we experience a wonderful destination as a family. Those times when we are all present and savoring a locale together will be much-loved memories forever.
When we were in Italy last month, we had one of those moments biking on top of the walls in Lucca. We did this on our last visit too—it’s an activity that does not get old.
San Michele in Foro
Biking is the perfect way to explore Lucca with school age, tweens, and teenage kids. The road on top of the walls is traffic-free so it’s relaxing for all. The roads in the city center have limited traffic, but there are still enough cars that the interior streets are best explored on foot before or after the bike ride.
Piazza dell’Anfiteatro is the perfect venue for lunch on a sunny day with a huge open space for kids to run around if the biking doesn’t burn off enough steam.
Mosaic facade of Church of San Frediano
Lucca has many nooks and crannies to explore (and great shopping). We rented bikes at Cicli Bizzarri and had a good experience. Bikes are available in all sizes and reasonably priced. This is a must-do family activity!
For more of this week’s Photo Friday posts, visit Delicious Baby.
Ciao Bambino recommended Italy family hotels
Climbing the Duomo in Florence
Tuscany attractions with kids
Italy travel tips, creating a family-friendly itinerary
, Photo Friday
November 23rd, 2010
Nancy from Ciao Bambino
As a busy mother of four kids, an avid traveler and a self-proclaimed foodie, I was panicked when the doctor told me that in addition to my 7-year-olds’ nut, shellfish allergy, he also needed to go off all gluten, soy and dairy.
For those of you with children who have allergies, I certainly understand that traveling can be very difficult. That said, even though my son has many allergies, we’re lucky enough that he has never had an anaphylactic reaction. Although I carry EpiPens, we do not have the same level of vigilance as someone who say, has a child with airborne or super sensitive nut allergies might have.
At home it is easy enough to control your exposure to allergens, however, I have found that if you take a few precautions you can still travel in a way that will work for your situation.
Top tips for traveling with children that have allergies:
Call the hotel before booking to determine if they are allergy-friendly
High quality hotels that cater to families address allergy concerns. I have found that if I call the hotel ahead of time and ask about their gluten-free or nut-free options, I get a very quick understanding of their level of commitment. If they embrace allergy safe policies, they can speak in a very helpful and educated manner about what the hotel offers. If they don’t have an idea about what they can do, then I understand that it won’t be an easy place for us.
This past summer we stayed at Basin Harbor Club with my kids and they went above and beyond to make sure my son had safe food. You may want to skip booking the hospitality suites where they offer food that your child won’t be able to have. Not only do you miss on the value, but it can be difficult if your child can’t eat any of the offerings.
Ask for special room preparation
Another big concern is the cleaning of the room, especially since nuts are a very common snack with travelers. Ask the front desk to speak with cleaning staff ahead of time and ask them to take special care with the room. Some hotels even offer special cleaning services like the Boston Seaport Hotel (will be on CB soon), who offers specially cleaned rooms for allergy sensitive clients.
Research meal options ahead of time
This last weekend we stayed in Boston and although the hotel didn’t have a huge allergy-friendly restaurant offering, we were able to find restaurants in the area that identified themselves as allergy friendly. Now, this was still hit and miss. One place was listed for their gluten-free options, and but we found they accomplished that by just turning everything into a salad—not exactly what a 7-year-old wants to eat each meal.
We had better luck with the Fireplace, who had gluten-free pasta, bread and pizza—wow! Blogs for certain areas can be very helpful. Before we went to New York, we had a list of Gluten-Free New York City options, and there was even an iPhone app for that. Chowhound and Yelp have lists for certain areas. Also, Urban Spoon has gluten-free options.
Shop ahead of time and bring food along with you
Letting my son get hungry and not having food that he can eat is a recipe for disaster. I pack food that I’ve cooked and also bring frozen food. The hotels have been great about storing it for us. Having something I know that he can eat, especially for breakfast, has really been helpful. Before we go to meals, I also give him a snack. That way, if he has to end up having a salad, it’s easier if he’s not totally famished.
When we arrive in a destination, I try to find the nearest health food or grocery store. Then by having our room packed with fresh produce, he doesn’t feel deprived. Sometimes, it’s easier to stay somewhere where there is a kitchen so I can prepare some of his meals.
Understand the regional cuisine
If traveling to a foreign or exotic location, it’s helpful to know the ingredients to the most popular dishes, Pesto, for example, has both pine nuts and cheese, but somehow my husband always thinks it “looks” fine. We are thinking about traveling to Turkey where nuts are a common ingredient. I’ll have to do my homework, to know what I’m getting into.
Also, we’ll bring cards in many languages that list allergy information from Select Wisely.
Carry wipes, your emergency plan, EpiPens, anti-hystamines and local hospital information. Wiping your area might make you look a little OCD, but it might avoid some problems. Have your emergency plan in the language of your destination. Having your own EpiPens and antihistamines avoid any issues that you may have if you have to get them abroad. Also, know which hospital is recommended. There are huge differences in the quality of hospitals. The CDC has great information on this.
Choose airlines with nut-free snacks
Airlines that do not serve nuts (although, they will not guarantee a nut-free flight for obvious reasons that they cannot control what others bring on board) are: American Airlines, Air Canada, Continental, United Airlines. (*Referenced: About.com).
You also can notify your carrier ahead of time and some will try to create a buffer zone. Additionally, it’s recommended to fly on earlier flights because the planes are cleaned more thoroughly after the last flight of the night. Some airlines, like Southwest and Jet Blue, will load only nut-free snacks for your specific flight if you call ahead.
Some steps to take are clearly described by MedicineNet.com. Also, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network outlines helpful tips on their site.
Travel Tips from Living Without
Very thorough post by Gluten Free Travel Site
Gluten-Free Travel by Celiac.com
Holiday travel tips
Holiday travel tips, multigenerational travel
, Trip Planning
November 22nd, 2010
Amie from Ciao Bambino
Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season in the US. It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is here Thursday … this also means that the Passports with Purpose travel blogger fundraiser is in full swing.
We announced our incredible Passports with Purpose prize last Monday—a 5-night stay in a suite plus dinner at the Riviera Palm Springs. In addition, we are also thrilled to be part of another truly wonderful prize, a 5-night stay at any of the nine Paradise by Marriott resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico through Best Family Travel Advice!
A huge thank you to Marriott and the Riviera Palm Springs for contributing these generous donations to help build a village in India. We are grateful, the winners will be grateful, and all those families in India that will benefit from this goodness will be thrilled too!
So, if you are looking for ways to give this holiday season, come help our cause by participating in the Passports with Purpose fundraiser. As of today, PWP has raised $37,000, 74% of the goal. Click here learn more about how you can help. Spread the word!
, North America Deals
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November 18th, 2010
The St Regis Punta Mita Resort
The electric blanket came out of the closet the other day. I held off as long as I could. Putting the blanket on my bed is essentially admitting winter is coming, and when it comes to winter I’m a wimp. I live in Northern California: we occasionally get frost, but very rarely get snow, just inches and inches of cold rain.
When the first storm comes into town all I can think about is a warm beach, and I don’t think I’m alone. It doesn’t matter where you live, when winter blows into town, most of us want to run away to somewhere warm and sunny. Make it a little exotic and I’ll be on the computer searching for airplane tickets.
Where you live plays a large part in where you go. East Coasters flock to Florida and the best places for kids in the Caribbean. West Coasters have Hawaii and the often more budget friendly Mexico. But more and more these days, even East Coasters are willing to spend a little more time traveling to head south of the border.
Why Vacation in Mexico?
It depends on who you ask. Fishing enthusiasts come to reel in the big one. Art lovers come for local handiwork, foodies come for food and drink. Others simply come to play on the beach and have fun in the sun. There’s no denying Mexico is popular with the spring break, party crowd, but don’t let that dissuade you from planning a family vacation there. You’ll miss out on some of the best Mexico has to offer.
Mexico has gotten a bad rap lately. Drug related crime and violence has made headlines across the nation, leaving many travelers, to put it mildly, worried. The U. S. State Department has issued a travel warning for citizens considering a trip Mexico. Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico every year, but if you’re thinking about a Mexican vacation, you owe it to yourself to be informed. Spring Break in Mexico – “Know Before You Go,” gives visitors a good overview of what to expect at more common resort destinations along with a good reminder not to leave your common sense at home on vacation.
Where To Go in Mexico with Kids
Part of the beauty of Mexico is that there are so many options when it comes to picking where to vacation. Think about what you and your family like to do. Decide if you’re looking for an adventurous vacation or a week of doing nothing. Those two things alone should play a huge role in deciding where to go.
Charming and Authentic
Zihuatanejo is one of my favorite Mexico destinations. It’s a charming, old fishing village situated on the Pacific Coast in the area commonly called the Mexican Riviera. For as touristy as it has become, it still holds on to an authentic feel. My girls and I enjoy walking through the small town and shopping for handmade crafts and jewelry. There are plenty of small, old-style places to stay, but no high rise hotels to call home. It’s very common for visitors to stay in nearby Ixtapa.
Build It and They Will Come
Ixtapa was created to attract tourists. In the early 1970s the resort was constructed by the Mexican government on what was once a coconut plantation and mangrove estuary. Whoever came up with the idea was right on the money. Ixtapa boasts over five thousand hotel rooms and villas, with all-inclusives like Club Med being a very popular option for families. While I like to shop in Zihuatanejo, I like to relax on the beach in Ixtapa. With an average temperature of about 79 degrees, it doesn’t take long for me to forget about all the rain at home. If the kids get tired of doing nothing, swimming with dolphins is a family favorite. My girls have swam with dolphins in different places around the world, but the magic never fades.
My friends like to get married in great places: Scotland, France and Puerto Vallarta. Four days wasn’t enough to fit in everything we wanted to do in Puerto Vallarta. It was November, which meant it was chilly at home, so having warm sand and water to play in was fantastic. The highlight of our trip was releasing turtle hatchlings. (Kids and critters always guarantee a great travel memory!)
Done at dusk, we got a quick nature lesson and were allowed to snap some incredible photos before putting our young turtle at the edge of the ocean and watching it head out to sea. You can do a turtle release through a tour, but a number of hotels located on popular turtle nesting beaches also run release programs as an extra perk for their guests.
Cabo is about fun in the sun with an emphasis on getting wet! Kayak on the Sea of Cortez, zip line across stunning canyons, go whale watching, then take a well-deserved nap by the pool. There are plenty of adventures to be had in Cabo San Lucas, just pick the one that fits your family best. Tequila is king in Cabo. You’ll see it at every turn and every parent deserves a good margarita on vacation. English is widely spoken, and many of the bigger U.S. chains like Costco, Walmart and Sam’s Club have stores in town, offering some folks with a comfortable familiarity.
Ready to Go?
Start doing your research, you’ll find a getaway perfect for your family. But don’t stay up too late and don’t forget to turn on your electric blanket.
Ciao Bambino recommended Mexico family hotels
Kid-friendly luxury resort in Mexico
Puerto Vallarta with kids
, North America
November 16th, 2010
Kim of Fodors.com
This is a guest post from Kim Wright Wiley, author of Fodor’s Walt Disney World with Kids 2011 and Fodors.com Family Travel Expert.
Photo courtesy of Don Nunn on Flickr
There’s no doubt that Walt Disney World is at its most magical during the holidays. The theme parks and resorts are decorated to their jaw-dropping max, and there’s plenty of extra entertainment in the form of special parades, shows, and themed character greetings.
The downside? Crowds. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is generally the busiest of the year. So much so that two-hour waits are common for rides, even casual restaurants require reservations, and you may find yourself standing behind three rows of people, struggling to boost little Kyle and Maggie on your shoulders for a glimpse when that special parade finally does come by.
So how can you have the best of Disney holidays without the drawbacks?
These tips will help.
1. Avoid peak travel times. Decorations begin going up right after Halloween and, with the exception of Thanksgiving weekend, the month of November and the first two weeks of December have light crowds and generally good weather. This is my personal favorite time to visit Disney World!
2. If school schedules dictate you must visit closer to Christmas, aim for the weeks before December 24th or after January 2nd.
3. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas runs in the Magic Kingdom on select dates between November 8-December 19 and is not only very merry but very popular. Advance tickets are a must ($53-60 for adults. $47-54 kids nine and under) and can be purchased by going to disneyworld.com and clicking on “Things to do” and then “Special events.” The Magic Kingdom is closed to regular visitors during these parties; guests holding party tickets can enter around 4 pm, and have the run of the park. Since only a certain number of guests are allowed in, the parties are a great time to ride attractions, meet the characters and enjoy the unique parades and shows with a mug of hot chocolate in hand.
4. If you’re planning to take in Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas, recognize that it’s a late night for little kids. Spend that day just hanging around your resort, taking a swim in the pool, napping and watching movies, so you can stay late and enjoy the full benefit of the party without exhausting the kids – or burning a day on your multiday ticket.
5. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas is geared toward younger kids, primarily those under 9. If you have older kids the nights when they’re holding parties in the Magic Kingdom are a great time to visit the other parks – Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and the Animal Kingdom. They have their own holiday festivities, such as the Candlelight Processional in Epcot and Osborne Lights in Hollywood Studios, which are more geared toward the preteen and up crowd.
6. Make dining reservations as far in advance as possible, especially if you want a holiday-style meal. The Liberty Tree Inn in the Magic Kingdom does a great “dinner at Grandma’s” style feast and many of the sit-down restaurants throughout the Disney resorts and parks run special buffets or limited menus during the weeks around Christmas.This means not only a traditional meal, but they can get you in and out faster than if they were offering full menu service.
7. Trying to get into the theme parks, especially the Magic Kingdom, on Christmas Day is nearly impossible. Christmas Day itself is better spent watching the parade on TV, having a great meal – weren’t you clever to book in advance? – and doing something low stress like playing a game of miniature golf at Fantasia Gardens or Winter Summerland.
8. The resorts are gloriously decorated at Christmas, so save time to visit a few. The gigantic gingerbread houses at the Grand Floridian are great fun for kids and the trees at the Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge are the most uniquely themed and fun on property.
9. Contact your hotel in advance and see what special perks are on tap for the holidays. All the Disney resorts and many off-site resorts in Orlando offer special little goodies for their guests at Christmas.Maybe carolers on Christmas Eve, a stocking hung on a hotel room door Christmas morning, breakfast with Santa….It’s easier to take advantage of these fun extras if you know about them in advance.
10. If you’re traveling at a peak time like Christmas and still want to ride the big-deal rides it’s especially essential that you get to the parks early (at least an hour before their stated opening time) and that you use Fastpass to cut down on wait times in line. A good guidebook and a solid touring plan are always important at Disney but when you’re traveling at Christmas they’re an absolute must. And … relax. You’re not going to see everything, and that’s okay. This is not the time to be a Disney commando, dashing from ride to ride in a mad quest to do it all. This is the time to slow down, take a deep breath, and savor those small special moments Disney does so well.
For more Disney travel tips, you can visit fodors.com or grab a copy of my new book Fodor’s Walt Disney World With Kids 2011!
Visiting Disney World with tweens
Disney Cruise Line tips for families
Disney Cruise Line vacation review
Enjoying Walt Disney World without the rides
Tips for visiting Walt Disney World with kids of all ages
Choosing between Disneyland hotels
, North America
November 15th, 2010
Kristi from Ciao Bambino
We are participating in the Passports with Purpose fundraiser again this year. After last year’s huge success, $30,000 raised and a school built and operating in Cambodia, Passports with Purpose has another good deed in the works—a plan to raise $50,000 to help build housing in India!
Proceeds from the fundraiser will go to LAFTI (Land for Tillers’ Freedom), an independent, nonprofit organization based in India dedicated to improving the lives of the Dalit Caste, India’s poorest of the poor population. LAFTI works with government and private institutions to purchase land for Dalit families which they then farm for a steady income. Proceeds from the fundraiser will go towards constructing housing for these families that have never had a roof over their heads.
We are very fortunate at Ciao Bambino to have a great portfolio of properties that appeal not only to families, but couples and solo travelers as well. With that in mind, we searched for a prize that would be equally interesting to all types of travelers—and we found it! The Riviera Palm Springs in Palm Springs, California donated a tremendous prize …. a 5-night stay in a Mediterranean Suite and a dinner at Circa59 restaurant!
This property has a retro glamour décor that makes parents feel hip while captivating the kids. Although The Riviera Palm Springs is kid-friendly property with things like a family pool, dive-in movies and marshmallow roasts, there’s nightlife too. Guests will feel equally comfortable here for a family vacation or a couples or girlfriends getaway. The large, main pool is stunning and the giant pool “pillow-like” floats are heaven. A trolley service to downtown Palm Springs makes it easy to take a break and check out the local scene.
5 nights in a Mediterranean Suite (1 king bed/1 pullout queen). Taxes and resort fee included.
Dinner for two at Circa59 Restaurant (Max value $100, alcohol and gratuity not included)
Valid for 1 year. Expires 12/17/11.
Blackout dates: 2/18-2/20, 2/28-3/4, 4/1-4/2, 4/15/4/16, 5/27-5/29, 9/2-9/4, 8/9-8/10, 11/24, 12/31
How to Participate
Go to the Passports with Purpose Donation Page to see the complete list of prizes offered this year including our Ciao Bambino’s Riviera Palm Springs. You can buy the $10 raffle tickets here and specify which prize(s) are of interest.
PwP drawing begins: November 15
PwP closes: December 13
Prize winners announced: December 17
Please join us in supporting this important effort. Who knows—you may win one of the fantastic prizes offered this year.
Travel bloggers around the world are hosting giveaways in support of this fundraising effort. For each $10 donation that you make to LAFTI, you will be entered in the giveaway(s) of your choice. The donations for prizes closes on December 13 and all proceeds go directly to LAFTI. Donations will still be accepted after December 13 but you won’t be entered into the giveaway drawings. LAFTI is a501(c)3 charity. Donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.
See what my other family travel experts have donated on Best Family Travel Advice.
Riviera Palm Springs family-friendly review
Riviera Palm Springs website
Palm Springs with kids
, North America
, Palm Springs
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November 12th, 2010
Amie from Ciao Bambino
I wrote about my then-favorite fall travel leaf peeping spots in early October. At the time, Napa and Tuscany got the shout out.
I’ve been spending the fall in and around Lake Geneva with my mouth wide open. The colors came later than expected—mid to late October—but did not disappoint.
As the vines in the UNESCO-protected Lavaux vineyards turned bright yellow, the ivy that is common in this region turned bright red. Spectacular!
For more Photo Friday posts, visit Delicious Baby.
Thanksgiving travel tips
Ciao Bambino recommended Switzerland family hotels
Switzerland tourist attraction resources
Lake Geneva boat tours
, Fall Travel
, Photo Friday
November 9th, 2010
Amie from Ciao Bambino
Planning a family ski vacation is a daunting task given the sheer number of ski destinations. While some are more kid-friendly than others, skiing is an family sport and most ski areas cater to them in one way or another. The planning challenge isn’t identifying family-friendly ski areas, it’s choosing between the long list of seemingly good—i.e. overwhelming—options.
Tips for planning the best ski vacation with kids
As always, step one when choosing a destination is to evaluate your wish list together with any constraints and parameters, noting that this will vary from trip-to-trip.
Number of vacation days
Most ski enthusiasts will want to ski more than for a single week in a season which means you’ll need to plan few-day getaways in addition to week-long trips. Some destinations are better suited for the former, meaning they are relatively easy to access.
Tip: Understand full transportation logistics before any booking commitments are made. Places like Steamboat Springs in Colorado that are more remote are much better suited for a week-long trip than a weekend getaway. Although there is a local airport that may cut down on driving time, these types of airports are more expensive to fly in and out of so you’ll want enough time on the ground to make the expense involved in getting to that kind of venue worthwhile.
The day of the week or period you are traveling will deeply impact the ease of accessing a ski destination. Take Lake Tahoe for example. The main highways that access both shores of the lake are 3-4 hours from the San Francisco Bay Area over summer months. Try this drive on a Friday night from December through April and the drive can take 6-7 hours, and that’s in good weather! The Sunday night drive home is similar.
Tip: If you are driving to any popular ski destination and the access roads are limited to just a few highways, do whatever you can drive on off-peak hours. I’d rather drive on a Saturday morning at dawn and leave Monday at dawn than drive any of the popular ski routes on a Friday or Sunday.
On a related note, there are some ski areas that have very easy to access from an airport. Utah ski areas come to mind. Both Park City/Deer Valley, as well as Snowbird/Alta, are within an hour’s drive of the Salt Lake City airport. If I had to travel on a Friday and Sunday, expense aside, I’d rather fly to Salt Lake City than drive to Lake Tahoe from San Francisco.
Age of kids
Ski school age minimum age requirements vary but for the most part, real ski lessons start at ages 4 and up. Some ski areas will have childcare programs with some snow play time or even a few runs on a magic carpet for potty-trained kids under 4. I wrote a comprehensive post last year on things to consider when evaluating a family ski resort with kids of various ages—a good read as a first step in understanding what you need to consider and questions to ask.
Tip: Understand the exact ski school set up before making final plans. If you want to ski and/or have your heart set on having your kids learn to ski, you’ll need to ensure that the venue you choose has the right infrastructure.
Family ski resorts and hotels
Once you’ve narrowed down the destination, it’s time to choose accommodations. Condo-style hotels like the Resort at Squaw Creek are common in ski venues—an ideal option with kids of all ages. FamilyGetaway has a Top Ski & Snow Destinations page listing discounted packages. Current offers include Sunriver in Oregon, Park City, Whistler, Vail/Beaver Creek—all are in or near tremendous family ski areas. Some of the packages include lift tickets, this is very key!
Last year we published a list of ski resorts where kids ski free. Many of FamilyGetaway’s packages are located in/around these ski areas. We will publish our 2011 list soon but I think it is safe to assume that those resorts offering these kinds of programs do so year-after-year. Bottom line is that if your kids ski free or at a heavily discounted rate and you’ve booked a great package for accommodations, you will have made significant progress in making an expensive sport more affordable.
FamilyGetaway is also running a special where you get $100 off your first purchase when you subscribe to their Family Travel Newsletter.
For younger kids or anyone on the vacation that doesn’t ski, it’s important to find destinations or resorts that offer other activities too. Options may include a year-round heated pool, sledding/tubing, ice skating, dog sledding, and sleigh riding to name a few.
Tip: If you hotel doesn’t offer activities onsite, check the local tourist board website for a list of seasonal special events and things to do.
This post was sponsored by FamilyGetaway.com, the first advertiser on the Family Travel Ad Network, a partnership among Ciao Bambino, Delicious Baby, Travel Savvy Mom, The Vacation Gals, Trekaroo, See Jane Fly, and Traveling Mom.
San Francisco with kids is the first post in November’s FamilyGetaway blog caravan.
Relevant Links from Family Travel Ad Network:
Tips for finding family-friendly ski resorts
Review of Resort at Squaw Creek
Tips for packing for a family ski holiday
San Francisco with kids
, North America
November 8th, 2010
Nancy from Ciao Bambino
Multigenerational family vacation in Ireland
Literally, our best family memories are from the multigenerational vacations we take each year with grandparents, siblings, and cousins. Not only are memories formed, but the lasting bonds between family members who live far away are fortified.
These trips are key in keeping our bi-coastal families very close. But, let’s be real, some of our biggest family blowouts have also been on these vacations. How do you maximize the good time while minimizing tension? After years of traveling with our large extended family, here’s what we’ve found make these trips more enjoyable.
Engage the group in trip planning
Getting everyone’s input from the very beginning is far and above the most important step in making a multigenerational travel enjoyable. This is the discovery phase. I always start with when can we go and progress to where should we go. Getting input at this stage ensures that you are taking into consideration what everyone needs and what people want to get out of a trip.
Be sure to really listen and not push one agenda. Is everyone is tired and needing a break? If you then go and plan a fabulous trip touring throughout Europe, you’ll be left wondering why nobody is appreciative. Next is hammering out the details. Doing the legwork upfront alleviates a lot of stress during the trip. Knowing that one family needs a larger room because their kids have to sleep with them or that another really wants their own bathroom can make a big difference.
Plenty to do or not to do
Having a multitude of things to do with the option of doing nothing at all works well for our family. With multigenerational travel, you need to meet a variety of activity levels. Sometimes the grandparents or over-worked parent simply want to relax, while the younger children need to be run. Providing opportunities for everyone is important. That includes making sure that the kids have ample exercise. Throw some hiking, biking, swimming in and kids become far more pleasant … as do the adults for that matter!
Balance together and apart time
Balance time together with time apart. We usually agree that we’ll just plan to have dinner together. Rarely is that the only time we spend together, however, it sets the stage so that if you do need some time alone as a family, no feelings are hurt. Make sure you don’t just gauge this by the adult feelings, also check in with the kids. My 4 kids absolutely adore their cousins but there are times, usually about the fourth day into the trip, when they all just need a break. After separating for a morning or an afternoon, everyone is excited to reconnect and the evening is much more fun.
Spring Creek Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Our debate is always house or resort? Ideally, I love to combine both categories in a single venue. Examples of properties we enjoy that are set up like this include Spring Creek Ranch, Half Moon Bay, Sun River, and Basin Harbor Club to name a few. This way, you have all the activities, dining and entertainment at your fingertips, which staves off boredom while providing everyone a little autonomy. Also, usually there are plenty of activities to amuse a variety of ages and personalities.
Given that this is something that you’ll be doing three times a day, it’s worth thinking about. In hotels, large family groups can be set up in private dining rooms so that you don’t have to be as worried about the kids’ behavior. My 4 kids can behave nicely while at a restaurant, but if you add another 5 kids and lengthen the meal for all the nice chatting that the adults do—and do it for three meals a day—trouble is likely.
We love having big family dinners throughout our trips. For that, we arrange catering. That way nobody gets stuck doing dishes every night. For breakfast and lunch we have food on hand and keep it pretty simple. Division of work can be a major tension point on family trips. It becomes very apparent and frustrating if someone doesn’t put in their fair share. For that reason, we set general guidelines ahead of time with a clear expectation that we’ll rotate the grocery shopping and cleaning.
Get more tips for managing holiday family travel on Best Family Travel Advice.
Photos courtesy of Nancy Solomon and Spring Creek Ranch
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