Archive for April 2011
April 28th, 2011
Amsterdam, with its famous canals and gable-roofed buildings, is one of Europe’s most picturesque cities. Flat, small and easy to navigate on foot, Amsterdam is home to numerous parks, attractions and boasts more museums per capita than any other European capital. All of these attributes make it a great destination for a few-night stay with kids.
Day 1: Anne Frank House, Canal Boat Ride, Bloemenmarkt
Though it deals with a heavy subject matter, the Anne Frank House is a must-see. Visitors can tour the actual house, including the hidden rooms upstairs, and get a very vivid portrayal of life and the conditions endured by young Anne and her family and friends.
I highly recommend this museum, particularly for children old enough to read and write creatively. For those concerned about the gravity of the subject matter, the gift shop has several versions of her diary more suitable for younger children. I’d read a picture book about Anne Frank with my younger daughter which helped make the museum more palatable for her.
Tip: Avoid long lines at the Anne Frank House by buying tickets online.
After a morning of grappling with such a lofty subject matter, the girls need something more light–hearted, as do I, and a canal boat ride is the perfect solution. Amsterdam is known as the “Venice of the North” because of the number of canals, and the four main ones Singel, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Prinsengracht are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
An audio guide gives commentary in English and several other languages, we prefer to point at sites we find most interesting, making our own commentary, or take a nap, as my 6-year-old often does when confined to a moving vehicle for a long period of time.
The later part of the day was spent meandering through the Amsterdam Bloemenmarkt (flower market). Walking along the floating flower market situated on barges on the Singel Canal and filled with an impressive array of plants and flowers, including the famous Dutch tulip, was a perfect ending to our first day in Amsterdam.
Tip: For a few euros you can pick up a bunch and liven up your hotel room.
Day 2: Van Gogh Museum, Vondelpark, Rijksmuseum
We start our second day with a visit to the Van Gogh Museum, which not only contains the largest collection of the artist’s works, but also works by some of the Netherlands’ most famous painters. An audio tour that’s available for children aged six to twelve and a scavenger hunt through the museum entertained the girls long enough to allow me ample time to take in the extensive collection. There are also weekend children’s sessions that begin with a tour of the museum and end with your little artists creating their own work of art.
After looking at the sunflowers, we head to Vondelpark, convenientally located right around the corner. Vondelpark is Amsterdam’s most popular and has several play areas, an open-air theater that stages free children’s shows on Wednesday afternoons, a film museum that has performances for children on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons, and several cafés.
Tip: Enjoy a Dutch pannekoek (pancake) at the park’s Restaurant Snoephuise.
The Rijksmuseum is also in the Museum Quarter, but after a morning in the Van Gogh museum and an afternoon in the park, we decided to leave it for another time. Instead we do a little window shopping in Oud Zuid, a posh neighborhood that runs parallel to Vondelpark and P.C. Hoofdstraat, the high end shopping street that is the place to see and be seen, on our way to the square where the I Amsterdam sign is located. The girls loved doing cartwheels on the grassy square and splashing in the small fountain.
Day 3: Science Center NEMO, Artis Royal Zoo
Another day begins with a visit to a museum. This time it’s the kid-friendly NEMO. The Science Center NEMO is the biggest science museum in the Netherlands. Housed in a ship-shaped building, this museum is “all hands on deck”, with five floors full of hands-on activities designed to engage four of the five senses.
It would be easy to spend an entire day here and at € 12,50 from age 4, you’d probably want to. We decided instead to spend half the day at NEMO and the other half at the zoo. As I mentioned before, it’s very easy to get around Amsterdam on foot so we walked to the zoo, which is a few blocks away.
Tip: Enjoy beautiful views of Amsterdam during the summer when the rooftop of NEMO becomes a city beach, with lounge chairs, refreshments and more opportunities to learn about science and technology.
The Artis Royal Zoo is the oldest zoo in continental Europe, and unique in that many of the animals are separated by a moat instead of bars. Artis has an aquarium, botanical garden, planetarium and butterfly pavilion where we spent a large portion of our time.
Though we covered a lot of ground during our 72 hours in Amsterdam, there is still so much more to see. I predict we will be “going Dutch” for another weekend break very soon.
Ciao Bambino recommended family hotels in Amsterdam
72 Hours in Rome with Kids
, The Netherlands
April 27th, 2011
Kristi from Ciao Bambino
Thank you to all of our readers who entered the Sony Reader Getaway Giveaway. While the giveaway is officially over now and the results are being tallied for the $10,000 Dream Vacation Winner, Ciao Bambino has randomly selected our winner (using random.org) and the winner is….Theresa C. from Missouri.
She wrote her dream vacation post card from the Virgin Islands.
I’m on St.Johns Island. Staying at a 5 star Villa that overlooks this amazing beach. Before I came I looked high and low for that perfect book that I knew would pull my vacation trip all together. It’s about the history of this Island and it’s people. Believe I will do some snorkling this week and some shopping, maybe rent a car and travel the Island and get to know the people here. RnR.
Theresa won a SONY Reader Pocket Edition™ and s $25 gift card to SONY Reader Store. Congratulations and happy reading!
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April 25th, 2011
I was in my front yard catching up on everything I didn’t do while I was on vacation when my neighbor asked me about my trip to Costa Rica and if I would go back again. I didn’t even hesitate to answer, “In a heartbeat,” I said. Her next question was of course, why?
And I have to admit I hadn’t really thought about it until she asked. On our trip, there were two parents, one grandparent and two borderline tween girls. We all had different expectations about what a trip to Costa Rica would be like, and the activities it would include. When I did my research to find a family-friendly Costa Rica tour operator, I hunted for a company that offered something for all of us. I’ll admit I was a little worried about trying to make everyone happy.
Now, I know I had no reason to worry. Costa Rica has a little something for everyone. Sure, there were places some of the family liked better than others, but we didn’t go anywhere we didn’t like. That’s a successful vacation in my book.
Nestled between Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica is a relatively small country. Roughly the size of the states of Vermont and New Hampshire combined, the diverse country is comprised of seven provinces. If you drive from one side of the country to the other, you can pass through rainforests, cloud forests, active volcano craters, pineapple, banana and coffee plantations and eventually hit stunning stretches of sandy beaches. As the country’s geography varies, so do the activities offered for travelers.
Our Costa Rica Itinerary
Tortuguero National Park
Tortuguero is located on Costa Rica’s east coast, along the Caribbean Sea. With a population of just 1200, it’s located in the middle of nowhere … rainforest nowhere. A visit there is a trip to the jungle.
It has a small airport, but many visitors opt to make the trip to Tortuguero by boat. The adventure takes about an hour and a half, but luckily there’s plenty to look at along the way. When you speed through Tortuguero National Park keep your eyes peeled for animals like manatees, turtles, howler monkeys, birds of just about every kind and yes, crocodiles.
“The Land of the Turtle” is a place where locals used to make their living killing and selling the green turtles that flock to the black, sandy beaches to nest. In 1959 the Sea Turtle Conservancy was created and now many locals make their living protecting the gentle creatures. The switch is good for the turtles and the locals. If you want a more up close and personal experience with turtle conservation, there are Costa Rica volunteer vacations that cater to kids and families. Some 50,000 tourists visit Tortuguero every year to see nesting turtles and visit the area’s tropical rainforests.
A naturalist led boat tour of Tortuguero National Park is a must, but take the time to head to town and go for a walk. There are no cars in Tortuguero, which is fine, because there are no roads, just rivers. Folks float, walk and ride their bikes to get where they need to go. It’s downtown is comprised of a stretch three to four blocks long dotted with small restaurants and shops. There’s also a small public school. Feel free to poke your head in to say hello. The teachers and kids welcome visitors.
The Arenal Volcano is Costa Rica’s most active and probably most famous volcano. It’s almost perfect shape gives the volcano a dominating presence on the skyline as you make your way toward the town of La Fortuna. The volcano erupts frequently, almost daily, and depending on your location you may even be lucky enough to see lava exploding from Arenal. (No such luck on our part). I’d understand if the thought of staying near an active volcano makes you a little uneasy, but my family and I didn’t fear for our safety at any point during our visit. Popular hotels and tourist attractions are located in low-risk areas.
Thanks to the volcano’s geothermal activity, there are a number of natural hot springs in the area. We spent an afternoon soaking in the warm pools at Baldi Hot Springs. There are beautifully landscaped paths that lead you from one pool to the next. Get a locker to store all the family’s stuff in, but keep the flip flops handy to wear as you wander from pool to pool. I enjoyed just soaking. My kids and husband spent hours slip sliding and screaming their way down the three waterslides.
The Guanacaste province is a great place to go toward the end of your trip, if for no other reason than it’s the perfect kind of place to recharge your family’s batteries. We went to the North Pacific Coast, about 25 minutes south of the city of Tamarindo. Getting there wasn’t the easiest thing to do. The road is long and bumpy, but I realized the payoff the minute we arrived.
Like Tortuguero, it’s another location that qualifies as kind of in the middle of nowhere. But it’s middle of nowhere just happens to be on a stunning stretch of beach. Take a swim in the warm waves or go for a walk on the beach hunting for seashells, coral and driftwood. After one walk I was glad I had some extra room in my suitcase.
Humans share the beach with leatherback turtles that come to nest from October to February. Though we didn’t visit during nesting season, we discovered an old nest on the beach. The tiny turtles were gone, but the shells they once called home were still buried in the sand. The look of amazement on my girls’ faces was almost unexplainable. They realized they had found something special. You can’t plan vacation memories like that. You just consider yourself extremely lucky when they happen.
Turtles aren’t the only cute and cuddly Costa Rica critters to call this stretch of coast home. Howler monkeys make quite a raquet and get plenty of attention here as well. During a morning horseback ride, we came across a family of monkeys playing in the tree tops. They seemed to stop for a brief moment to check us out, than quickly decided we weren’t particularly interesting. Seen one tourist, seen them all I guess.
During our three days on the coast, we swam, played in the sun and slept in. Rest is the best guarantee there is to end a long family trip on a high note.
Our last stop before home was San Jose. Most international flights go through the capital, so there’s a good chance you’ll come through the bustling city. We didn’t spend much time in the actual city, but we did make the trip to the Poas Volcano.
About an hour north of San Jose, it’s an easy trip to do. There are smooth roads and once you arrive, there’s a paved road that takes you straight to the volcano. For families with more energy, there are great trails that lead you through the surrounding cloud forest. It’s worth taking your time and exploring. On a clear day, you can see inside the active crater from an overlook. But know you only have a 30 percent chance of getting a clear view.
Visit in the morning for your best shot. All we could see, was well, clouds. That said, it was still worth the trip. Walking through a cloud forest is what I would consider a once in the lifetime opportunity. We may not have been able to see the volcano, but we did see plants bigger than my 10 and 12 year-old daughters. Hide and seek in a cloud forest. I recommend everyone try it sometime. Bring a poncho or raincoat, and maybe even a dry shirt to put on afterward, because there’s a good chance you will get wet, soaked even.
We spent 10 days exploring Costa Rica, and we could have easily spent 10 more. Give yourself two to three nights in each location. It just seems to help keep family travel chaos under control and you’ll get a better taste of the places you’re visiting. But be warned, you may also wind up with a longer list of places you want to visit again!
Photos courtesy of Dana Rebmann
Ciao Bambino recommended Costa Rica family hotels
Family vacation trip planning, tips for using a tour operator
, Central America
, Costa Rica
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April 21st, 2011
Let’s get one thing straight, before you visit under the assumption that you are about to wander for miles under a tree-top canopy. The New Forest is not a strictly speaking a forest and it’s definitely not new. If you take a horse, bike or just your feet on a wander through any of the 150-odd square miles that make up the New Forest, you’ll find the forest areas broken up by heather-covered heath ground and cute thatch-cottaged villages and laced by streams, brooks and rivers.
It probably wasn’t even new when William the Conqueror designated this area of southern England The New Forest back in 1079, but then he probably wasn’t worried about being sued under any miss-description act. He just wanted a good piece of protected land from where he could play blood sports.
The New Forest National Park
The New Forest is no longer a royal hunting ground, in fact, it is the opposite. One of the aims of what is now The New Forest National Park is to protect the animals and wildlife that inhabit it. And, it is the freedom of animals to roam the park that is now what makes it so special and particularly magical for kids.
Where else in the developed world do you see ponies trotting of their own free will down a village high street, can you be barricaded in a car park because a couple of pigs have sat down across the exit or be sitting down in a pub and have a cow mosey along over?
The animals set the best example of how to enjoy the New Forest. Leave your car behind and roam wherever the fancy takes you.
Forest Trails and Walks
If you want a starting off point though begin from the village of Burley, stop off at one of the many candy shops and stuff the kids pockets with fudge before taking off on one of the forest trails in search of a New Forest pony.
If you doubt the staying power of some in your packs two feet, there are dozens of places across the forest that offer horse riding for all ages and abilities. Cycle hire complete with kiddie seats and trailers is also not hard to find.
There are about 4000 ponies roaming around the forest, so you won’t have to go far to spot one, but although they look cute and most are quite tame, it’s best not to pet or feed them.
If you want something a little more structured head for the Beaulieu Estate and spend the day touring the amazing gardens, exploring the stately home and cruising around the National Motor Museum. The village of Beaulieu is also very pretty and tends to be less busy than some of the other villages in the New Forest. There is also a picturesque walk from here along the banks of the Beaulieu river down to the historic maritime village of Buckler’s Hard, where many of Admiral Nelson’s ships were built. You can really get a taste of what life was like here in the eighteen century by visiting the Maritime Museum and Shipwright’s cottage.
Also not far from Beaulieu are Exbury Gardens,a perfect place for a picnic. The 200-acre Rothschild gardens feature a world-famous collection of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and rare trees and shrubs. Visit during the rhododendron and azalea season and your kids can join in a Rothschild family tradition of collecting fallen petals on twigs and sticks or pieces of string to create floral knicker-bocker glories. They will also enjoy gazing at the fish in the ponds and following the family trail, but keep the best till last. When those little legs have run out of steam, grab them an icecream and jump aboard the miniature railway.
Peppa Pig World
If you have anyone under four in your party, you have to round off your trip to this area with a visit to Peppa Pig World. Now, I am not normally into anything with a whiff of commercialism about it, but this little family of porkers has taken over the British and European psyche in recent years. They’ve just hit Nick Junior in the US, so if you live on the other side of the Atlantic it won’t be long before you’re as familiar with Daddy, Mummy, George and Peppa Pig too.
Peppa Pig World has just opened and is full of very cute rides. It is part of Paulton’s themepark, which would otherwise never be on my to do list, but Peppa has put it on the map and it has some pretty thrilling rides to keep your older kids entertained too. Take a picnic though, the on-sight catering is not appealing.
Hotels Near The New Forest
If you want to experience the best of coastal and rural Britain in one go, check into Chewton Glen. This beautiful period hotel is just a few minutes walk from a sandy beach and just on the edge of the New Forest. It is known as being one of the finest hotels in Britain and deservedly so. Unusually for a property of such calibre, it makes children feel as welcome as their parents.
England family hotels
London sightseeing with kids
Kid-friendly luxury at Woolley Grange
Visiting Sandbanks, England with kids
Holidays with kids in The Cotswolds
Visiting Dover Castle and the White Cliffs of Dover
, The New Forest
, United Kingdom
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April 20th, 2011
I live about four hours from some of the best skiing in the country, maybe even the world, and I can’t tell you the last time I was on skis. Sad. I used to ski. When my husband and I first started dating, he actually taught me how to ski. There were some lessons thrown in there too, but for the most part I learned while trying to keep up with him.
Then I got pregnant, had a baby and got pregnant again. Skiing, along with many other things, disappeared from life’s itinerary. I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to be cold. So as the planner of family vacations, I tend to gravitate toward warm water and sandy beaches. The thought of a vacation in snow, well, I guess wasn’t really vacation in my mind.
Snow Fun Takes Work
That said, my family loves the snow. But trips to Lake Tahoe with kids are an incredible amount of work for me. There’s digging out all of the gear and making sure it still fits. Then there’s packing all the stuff and food. (There are plenty of grocery stores in the area, but for some reason there’s always food that has to be packed.)
When we load up the car, it always looks like we’re leaving for a month, not a weekend. We get to Lake Tahoe, unpack the car, then get up early the next morning to re-load the ski gear and get everyone and all their stuff to the mountain. Sound familiar?
So when I was invited to visit Squaw Valley for a spring ski trip, you might understand why I was excited and a bit leery at the same time.
The Village at Squaw Valley
Right from the beginning this trip was different. Since we weren’t renting a cabin, I didn’t have to drag along towels and linens. The two bedroom, two bathroom condo at The Village at Squaw Valley had all the necessities, including the fancy little shampoo bottle my girls love. Not having to cart so much stuff, made packing a dream. The only food I packed was car snacks. We could actually see out the back window.
Our time in the snow was planned out differently as well. My husband wasn’t skiing, in favor of checking out other activities at The Village. We all had new activities we wanted to check out.
Squaw Valley hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics. They were the first Olympics to be fully televised and along with seeing America win its first Gold Medal in hockey, the world was introduced to Lake Tahoe’s beautiful and challenging Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Younger kids may not be as interested, but the Olympic flame burning at the entrance to Squaw Valley really impressed my 10 and 12 year-old girls. They’ve seen the flame before at The Olympic Museum in Amie’s current hometown, Lausanne, Switzerland. But when we entered Squaw Valley it was dark, and the flame combined with the Olympics Rings make a fabulous first impression.
We had two days to do a little bit of everything. Winter has been kind to skiers in Northern California. There’s plenty of snow and plenty of rumors about skiing on Fourth of July.
My 10 year-old wanted to try snowboarding, so Saturday morning I checked her into a group lesson at Squaw Kids Children’s Center. The walk from the condo we were staying in, to the kids ski school was the equivalent of a couple short blocks. No loading the car, no having to get up at the crack of dawn and fight traffic. It doesn’t take long to get spoiled.
Squaw Village Activities
The rest of the family spent the morning exploring The Village at Squaw. There’s a good mix of options to keep non-skiers like my older daughter and I happy. While hunting for the climbing wall my 12 year-old discovered a paint- your-own pottery studio. I checked out the menus of a number of family-friendly restaurants and found Alice’s Mountain Market. The pricey, but fairly well stocked grocery store means you don’t have to spend hours cooking before you come on vacation.
On a nice day, The Village is a great place for kids of all ages to stretch their legs. Along with late risers, you’ll see dogs at every turn. Dogs tied up outside of Starbucks, waiting, usually patiently, outside the market or hanging around one of the many fire pits. Man’s best friend is welcome here.
We waited to go tubing until my daughter finished her snowboarding lesson. I figured it would guarantee a smile, just in case the lessons didn’t go so well. I didn’t need to worry. The first words out of her mouth were “can I come again tomorrow.” She was one of three in her group, and though she admittedly did her fair share of falling, she was ready to take on the mountain again.
Tubing the Lazy Way
Tubing with kids is tiring. Sliding down, fast and furious can’t be beat, but in order to slide down, you have to climb up. Not so much fun for little legs, or their parents who typically wind up lugging everything up to the top. After a few runs, everybody’s usually exhausted and ready to call it quits, so I wasn’t sure how long my kids or I would actually last.
We grabbed our tubes and happily realized there would be no trudging up the mountain. Just have a seat, the attendant hooks you to the tow rope and up you go. I think my family had just as much fun going up as they did coming down. I was really impressed with the attendants on duty. They were friendly, outgoing and paying attention. When my daughter came down one of the runs a little too fast for their comfort, they closed the runs so they could slow down the course. They apologized to all for the inconvenience, but were quick to stress they wanted to make sure the runs were safe.
Swimming at High Camp
Kids love to swim and often judge a hotel by the pool. Squaw has a cool pool. To get there, you take the cable car to High Camp at 8200 feet elevation. The 8 minute ride is itself an attraction worth doing with your family. Once at the top, you can dive in and swim laps with views of the snow capped Sierras. The pool was too cold for my girls, but with snow falling, they ran through some snow and quickly hopped into the hot tub. It was packed with a group of mostly twenty-somethings who’d come for a pool party, so we didn’t stay long, but the concept itself, screams out to kids, especially teens and tweens.
Before you take the plunge, a few words of advice. It is cold, maybe too cold for some kids and their parents. The locker room facilities are what I would describe as adequate. There are towels and showers, but space is tight and lockers are small. My girls and I had to wait just to get close to our lockers, and then finding room to get changed wasn’t easy. Hind sight is twenty-twenty, but I think next time I’d skip getting wet. The Cable Car Ride and views at High Camp offer a huge payoff with little work.
I could see the energy level dropping exponentially as we rode the Cable Car down. I didn’t think we’d make it through dinner in a restaurant, so I’d already planned out what I wanted to grab from the market. (Our condo had a full, well stocked kitchen. Again, feeling spoiled.) The plan was for the girls to head straight to the condo with my husband.
The plan changed when we came off the Cable Car and my girls saw the Skyjump going full force in a heavy shower of snow. The Skyjump is like a trampoline combined with a bungee harness system. Kids of all ages can jump sky high and do all sorts of fun flips and turns. I appreciated the coolness factor and let them go for it. I can’t believe they had the energy to walk the albeit short distance back to the condo.
Dinner was fast and easy. I thought about renting a movie, but quickly realized no one would be able to stay awake to watch it. By 8:30pm the entire family was in bed.
Sunday was a repeat of the family’s favorites. Tubing for my two oldest children (my tween and my husband) and another snowboarding group lesson for my youngest. I spent the morning happily snapping pictures of them all. My 10 year-old daughter is now a level 3 snowboarder, and I was absolutely amazed as I watched her get on the lift and come down the mountain completely on her own.
Next time we head to the snow, she’ll be good company on the slopes for my husband. But my oldest daughter and I won’t be far behind. We’ve already decided, we’re taking a lesson together. If Mother Nature keeps up the good work, that could be how we spend 4th of July.
Squaw Valley Resort provided complimentary accommodations and activities on this trip. They did not ask us to present a particular point of view.
Skiing in Lake Tahoe with kids
Favorite Lake Tahoe summer activities with kids
Ciao Bambino’s family-friendly ski vacation recommendations
, North America
, Squaw Valley
April 19th, 2011
Kristi from Ciao Bambino
Did you send in your dream vacation postcard? You are one step closer to traveling to your dream destination or making someone else’s dream vacation come true. Check out all the entries at the Reader Getaway Giveaway website and vote for your favorite postcard entry – you may find a new destination to add to your vacation bucket list!
Voting and Winner Selection
Beginning on April 20th at 10 AM EST you can vote for your favorite postcard entry. The winner will be selected by voting on the Reader Getaway Giveaway website. You are allowed to vote for favorite entries one time per day per entry over the course of the voting period. The voting period runs from April 20-26, 2011. The person who submitted the postcard that receives the most public votes at the end of the contest will be rewarded with the grand prize: $10,000 travel stipend, 2 Reader ™ Pocket Editions and $100 in Reader ™ Store gift cards.
Ciao Bambino Winner
One eligible participant who enters the contest through Ciao Bambino will be given a SONY Reader Pocket Edition™ and $25 gift card to SONY Reader Store. This winner will be chosen by a sweepstakes-style giveaway using random.org. Winner will be notified by Ciao Bambino.
No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Open to legal residents of the 50 U.S. & D.C., 18 & older. Voting begins 10 a.m. ET on 4/20/11 & ends 3:00 p.m. ET on 4/26/11. For official rules, visit www.readergetawaygiveaway.com. Sony® Reader ™ $10K Getaway Giveaway is sponsored by Sony Electronics Inc.
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April 18th, 2011
Amie from Ciao Bambino
Earth Day is coming up this week on Friday, April 22nd. To help honor this important global event, I’ve put together a list of tips to help make family vacations more eco-friendly.
Solage Calistoga eco-friendly resort in Napa Valley, CA
Carry Portable Water Bottles
Admittedly, I’m bad about drinking tap water when I travel. Clearly, it’s not an option in some destinations, but amazingly, in places where the tap water is perfectly fine, we seek bottled water. Sometimes it’s a matter of taste, but more often this is simply a bad habit.
Hotels contribute to the problem by leaving bottled water around the room. Those bedside bottles make you wonder what they know that you don’t. Regardless, sightseeing is one of those times when everyone gets thirsty, so why not be better about carrying around lightweight, reusable bottles. For a family of four, this will save 4-8 bottles a day!
Recycle on the Road
Every hotel room should have a recycling waste basket in guest rooms, but few do in practice. I never throw bottles in the general garbage in hotels. If I have to, I’ll leave it sitting on the side of the waste basket in hopes that the housekeeping staff will find it easy to recycle the bottles.
Given time, it’s best to carrying the bottles to the nearest recycling trash can, even if you have to leave the hotel to do so. We should all fill out hotel comment cards noting the lack of recycling when this is the case.
What do airlines do with all those little bottles consumed on flights? I don’t know this answer but a quick Google query produced this CNN article about the sorry state of airline recycling. Until we can be sure airlines recycle, bring bottles off the flight with you (many terminals are good about recycling bins).
Take a Train Instead of Flying or Driving
Skyrocketing gas prices will help encourage families to opt for public transportation on vacation. The reality is train travel is not a viable option in many destinations. In places like Europe, it’s readily available and in many cases, much easier than driving anyway!
Do the math before you make final decisions about getting from place to place. Once you add in driving time to the airport, waiting around time, and transportation back into a city — you’ll find that taking the train is nearly equal to flying for those shorter trips.
Unfortunately, train travel in Europe can be very expensive for multiple travelers. Be sure and read my interview with Rail Europe about tips for finding the best deals for families.
Do Laundry Less
Clearly, when you have a crawling baby and toddler who is into everything, it’s much more difficult to have kids wear clothes two times before washing them. For older kids, however, things like dark pants and jeans can easily make it through a few wearings. Pajamas also fall into this category.
If my son is an example, he finds it much easier to throw everything that comes off his body into the laundry basket instead of folding them and putting them back in the drawer. Being on vacation is an excellent opportunity to enforce better habits.
Hotels make it easy to reuse towels. Engage kids in the process of reading those little cards in the bathroom and on the pillow to actively opt out of extra laundry.
El Capitan Canyon Eco-Friendly Resort in Santa Barbara, CA
Choose Eco-Friendly Accommodations
More and more hotels are engaging in eco-friendly practices around the world. Even if you’re not traveling to Costa Rica or Africa where an eco-lodging is plentiful, you can find properties who focus on caring for the environment.
We don’t have a way to search for eco-friendly hotels, but writing this post is a reminder that we should add this. All things being equal, if you had an easy way to identify a hotel with eco-friendly best practices, you’d make decisions accordingly.
Favorite examples from our portfolio include Solage Calistoga in Napa Valley and Cavallo Point Lodge in Sausalito (outside San Francisco). Stay tuned for a post identifying a comprehensive list.
As much as I’m a fan of kid-friendly luxury hotels, I also love camping. Even if you are not a camper, your kids will love it! There is a huge variety of campgrounds with facilities to make it a little less dirty (showers for one thing) and properties like El Capitan Canyon outside of Santa Barbara where you can have a camp-like experience with hotel amenities.
National Parks like Yosemite have tent cabins that allow you to “camp” without as much effort. See my camping tips with kids for key things to consider.
Google Green and Eco Activities for Kids
More and more destinations have green activities for kids. I did a quick “kids green activities” Google query of Chicago and immediately pulled this site for the Chicago Botanic Garden … in San Francisco pulled the Living Roof on Go City Kids and so on. These are just little examples, but the bottom line is that with minimal work, you can easily come up with lists of eco-friendly yet interesting things to do.
Related posts from the Travel Blog Mob:
Celebrate Earth Day with Free Admission at a US National Park on The Vacation Gals
Spring is Here – Get Out Into the World – Or Bring it Home on Wandering Educators
It Might As Well be Spring on Nerds Eye View
Spring Break Travel Questions from Kids on Traveling with MJ
Go Skiing but Not on Snow on Spot Cool Stuff
Green Travel with Travelocity
, Eco-Friendly Travel
April 15th, 2011
Nancy from Ciao Bambino
Spring in Boston is downright fun! Not only are the flowers blooming, but everything seems to come to life, making it a perfect time to visit. Especially after this winter with the endless snow, everyone is ready to come out of hibernation. Like all good things, it should be kicked off with a bang and for Boston, that’s this weekend!
Fenway Park tour
The Boston Marathon is this weekend and the city is buzzing with runners from around the world. Monday’s course takes you through some of Boston’s finest suburbs and this national event that is fun to watch. But wait, this is April in Boston, we have a sports trifecta- the Celtics, the Bruins and the Redsox- are all still playing. Sports fans couldn’t be happier or busier than April in Boston. If you don’t want to fork over the big bucks for a ticket, consider a Fenway Park Tour. We recently did this with a group of boys and they loved it! You learn fun tidbits about the nation’s oldest ballpark.
Patriots Day, Boston in Concord, MA
Unique to this part of the country is Concord’s Patriots Day celebration. Just 20 minutes outside of Boston, this reenactment of the start of the Revolutionary War is a real historical treat. Given these events unfolded right here in Concord and Lexington, the Patriot’s Day celebration is one of the best around. People come from all over the state to participate in the reenactment.
They actually march miles from neighboring towns with their fife and drums to gather in Concord where the Red Coats cross North Bridge. Arrive early, the parade starts at 8:30 am and the surrounding roads close at about 8:00 am. Kids love hearing the cannons fire and watching the men march. Once you are there, you can enjoy Concord, a quintessential New England town. Its historical beauty is matched by its present day charm. There are two newbies in town that are bringing art to kids.
Not to be missed is Barefoot Books, my favorite children’s bookstore. They offer terrific art workshops and story times while showcasing their excellent collection of books that combine global storytelling with fabulous artistry. Additionally, Dabblers just opened. This creative store is a mecca for hobbiest. Initially, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was wowed by its supplies for art, woodworking, models, science, knitting, etc. I love it for travel craft supplies.
I was able to pick up my favorite Clementine natural modeling dough and a great children’s travel art set. If you need a bite to eat, try the historic Colonial Inn for breakfast or Comella’s for great pasta dishes. Have a picnic in mind, The Concord Cheese Shop is one of the best cheese shops in the area and Nashoba Brooks Bakery offers lots of fresh choices.
Experiencing Boston’s rich art scene
The city is full of excitement over the Chihuly Exhibit at the Museum of Fine Art. Chihuly’s blown glass pieces are know throughout the world and will amaze both the kids and adults in your group. The MFA is a renown museum that goes out of its way to make its exhibits accessible for children. Often there are family events on the weekends, so be sure to check their schedule online.
For more ideas, check out 6 Favorite Kid-Friendly Springtime Activities in Boston. Enjoy more fabulous photos at Delicious Baby.
Photos by Nancy Solomon
Favorite kid-friendly hotels in Boston
Family things to do in Boston on Uptake.com
, North America
April 14th, 2011
Amie from Ciao Bambino
The Amalfi Coast is one of Italy’s most popular tourist destinations. We get many requests from our readers requesting advice on exploring this breathtaking part of Southern Italy with young kids. This post is long overdue …
No gym required when staying in Ravello
Everyone who regularly reads this blog knows I love Italy with children of all ages. Ironically, however, the Amalfi Coast is one of the few areas in Italy that is not exceptionally kid-friendly. What makes this coastline so stunning is the sheer vertical nature of the villages and terrain — all steps all the time. The ultimate toddler challenge.
I’m speaking from direct, personal experience on this topic. When our son was 2 1/2, I decided I needed to “conquer” the Amalfi Coast with a toddler. We had a blast, but the trip required extra diligent planning.
Mesmerized by the magic of an Amalfi Coast sunset
Choose Your Home-base Wisely
Amalfi Coast accommodation options are plentiful, but many are not suitable for young children (they either don’t allow them or don’t have a good set-up for them).
Since we were staying in the area for a full week, we opted for a small villa rental as it can be more cost-effective with a better family set up (kitchen facilities and living space). It was the right call for this trip, but there were distinct downsides — no swimming pool, no front desk for help, and no onsite restaurant for meals we didn’t have to cook.
We were there in April so the lack of a pool was not that big of a deal, but in the summer and early fall, I would prioritize accommodations with access to a kid-friendly pool (Hotel Poseidon Positano, Covo dei Saraceni Positano, or Hotel Santa Caterina near Amalfi from our portfolio). Note, this most likely eliminate an affordable villa rental for a single family, not to mention that many pools in this part of Italy are unfenced and close to the house, i.e. unsafe for young kids.
The bottom line is that the time of year, age of your kids, and the number of people traveling will determine if it makes sense to book a hotel or villa.
I’m thrilled to see that the villa we rented — Casa Nina — in Priano is still available. This is a great little house for a single family with a cute garden and wonderful views. Pricing runs from 1,470 to 2,100 Euros a week, making it much more affordable than a hotel of the same standard given the living space and amenities.
As usual when traveling with kids, location matters. You should not rent a car while staying on the Amalfi Coast! Trust me on this one, you don’t want to be navigating thin roads with sheer drops in a place where traffic rules are ignored. The point is that you will be relying on walking, the local bus system (extensive and convenient), or a driving service for exploring the area.
Here are the important points to know:
Select accommodations that are either very near a bus stop or in a town with restaurants and a grocery store. Some villas in particular are in random locations on cliffs with wonderful views, but there is no way to walk with kids on the busy road.
If you are staying in Positano — the most popular of the villages on this part of the coast — choose a location that is relatively close to the water. The village is vertical so if you are on the top of the town, you will have a major schlep to the beach and back.
Neighborly love in Priano
We loved staying in Priano. There was the slight hassle of taking the bus every time we wanted to get into nearby Positano, but we lived next to locals that loved kids. It is truly one of our best “Italians love kids” experiences.
The neighbors around us would wait for us to go outside every day JUST to offer our toddler candy and bananas. While in the US we call people like this stalkers, in Italy it’s all part of the village experience and so wonderful!
Beach in Positano
Finding Toddler-Friendly Excursions
Flat open spaces are practically non-existent on the Amalfi Coast and grass is in short supply. The best place for a toddler in and around Positano is the beach. Warning: it’s rocky, not sandy and the water may not be appealing for a swim (at times it’s polluted). That said, you can still have plenty of fun as a family here.
The town of Amalfi is not as vertical, so that makes it easier for strolling, plus there is also a rocky beach for playing. There are ferry boats that go out from the major villages including both Positano and Amalfi for day trips out to Capri or back to Naples and Sorrento. Be sure to ask your hotel or villa rental agency to confirm the best resource for the latest schedule.
Villa Cimbrone is a garden paradise
Given the vertical nature of most the coastline, our favorite toddler-friendly excursion is to Ravello, which is located on the mountainside above Amalfi. While it’s also hilly, it has a few more flat open spaces for running around. The highlight is Villa Cimbrone with an extensive, gorgeous historic garden overlooking the sea.
We treated ourselves to 2 nights at Hotel Villa Cimbrone which is pricey, but spectacular. For something more value-oriented but still walking distance to this glorious garden, check out kid-friendly Hotel Rufolo in our portfolio. Note, while I like Ravello for 2-3 nights, this doesn’t replace the experience of staying right by the water for 4-7 days in/around Positano or Amalfi.
Our son doesn’t have fond memories of his toddler visit to Pompeii … but we do! Pompeii is one of Italy’s most interesting tourist attractions as you really get a feel for how people lived in 79 AD (gulp) when this ancient city was buried by a mountain of volcanic ash from nearby Mount Vesuvius.
Honestly, it can be brutally dry and hot here and the rocky pathways are not fun with a stroller. Your best bet for a visit is a backpack if your child isn’t too heavy.
Note, Pompeii is vast and a visit will take at least 2 to 3 hours. There is no quick stop in and out of here. As Pompeii is located near Naples, it’s also best to visit either on your way in or out of the Amalfi Coast, so plan your day accordingly. Driving services will gladly wait with your luggage in the car while you take a tour.
Bring the Right Gear
A lightweight stroller with a sunshade is a must here. You’ll be folding and unfolding it to get up and down those stairs. Even better is a backpack where you don’t have to worry about those logistics and it will also allow you to do some of the local hikes. A high quality car seat is a must too, i.e. I wouldn’t rely on a 3rd party to provide this for young kids.
When to Visit
Spring, early summer, and fall are all nice times for a visit. Late July and early August are tough! It’s very hot that time of year and traffic and crowds are a nightmare.
Ciao Bambino recommended kid-friendly hotels on the Amalfi Coast
Amalfi Coast sightseeing
Tips for finding toddler-friendly accommodations
Toddler travel tips and advice
Ten Things I love About Ravello – My Melange
, Toddler Travel
April 13th, 2011
Kristi from Ciao Bambino
Have you written your dream vacation postcard yet? It could be worth $10,000 so don’t delay! The entry period ends on April 19 – read on for all the details.
The winner will receive $10,000 to spend on a vacation, plus a Reader Pocket Edition™ for you and one for a friend, and a $100 Reader™ Store Gift Card so you can stock up on the latest bestsellers. Check out Amie’s summer vacation ideas brainstorm for fabulous vacation ideas, now’s your chance to have someone else pay for it! (The best kind of vacation)
How to Enter
The entry period runs from April 5-19, 2011. Entering takes just a wee bit of work — but it’s your chance to get creative and this prize is worth it!
Imagine you’re on your dream vacation and you’re writing a postcard from that special destination. In your postcard, tell us where you are and what you brought along with you to read. Then have some fun telling us what you’re up to on vacation.
Note, after an entry has been submitted it may take a few hours for it to appear as it needs to be validated against the Official Rules. Once approved, entrants will receive an email notifying them that their submission has been approved.
Winners will be selected by voting on the Reader Getaway Giveaway website. You are allowed to vote for favorite entries one time per day over the course of the voting period. The voting period runs from April 20-26, 2011. The person who submitted the postcard that receives the most public votes at the end of the contest will be rewarded with the grand prize: $10,000 travel stipend, 2 Reader ™ Pocket Editions and $100 in Reader ™ Store gift cards.
$10,000 is a very nice vacation budget! There’s some additional incentive to enter the contest … One eligible participant who enters the contest through Ciao Bambino will be given a SONY Reader Pocket Edition™ and $25 gift card to SONY Reader Store. This winner will be chosen by a sweepstakes-style giveaway using random.org.
No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Open to legal residents of the 50 U.S. & D.C., 18 & older. Begins 3:00:01 a.m. ET on 4/5/11 & ends 3:00:01 p.m. ET on 4/19/11. For official rules, visit www.readergetawaygiveaway.com. Sony® Reader ™ $10K Getaway Giveaway is sponsored by Sony Electronics Inc.
A big thank you to BestTravelDeals.net, Sweeptstakes Advantage, CashNet Sweepstakes, Win Prizes Online, and Contest Girl for helping to spread the word about this great giveaway.