Iconic New York City Hotel & Classic Board Game Inspire Plaza-opoly

July 24th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »


The famous Plaza Hotel in New York City recently teamed up with Hasbro’s legendary board game Monopoly to create a one-of-a-kind experience for hotel guests and families alike. The new Plaza-opoly board game takes traditional Monopoly details to new heights, with board spaces, game pieces and cards all revolving around the iconic hotel. And with historical facts throughout, parents and kids can both learn something new about the historical hotel that originally opened its doors in 1907.

Players “check in” at the front desk with their game pieces, which include a tea cup, a luxury car, Eloise’s dog, Weenie, and an apple (in honor of the Big Apple, of course), before competing for the title of the wealthiest at the hotel. Hotel spaces for rent or sale include The Fitzgerald Suite, The Grand Ballroom, The Great Gatsby and The Terrace Room. Players will even learn a bit of history when landing on Now and Then spaces, which include references to the Beatles Press Conference that took place at the Plaza in 1964 and Truman Capote’s famous Black and White Ball that took place at the Plaza in 1966. If players can stay away from Hotel Security (otherwise known as Jail), then they might be able to order room service, visit Central Park and even buy The Royal Plaza Suite.

Plaza-opoly costs $60 and is only for sale at the Plaza Hotel’s gift shop.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

For First Time, All DCL Ships Offer Halloween on the High Seas

July 23rd, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Disney Cruise Line’s Halloween on the High Seas will be available on all ships — Fantasy, Dream, Magic, and Wonder — for the first time in 2014. The program debuted on the Disney Dream in 2013.

Celebrations feature themed parties, entertainment and décor, which includes elaborate Pumpkin Trees. Displayed in each ship’s lobby, the trees transform to talk (and tell spooky stories), light up and even “grow” Jack-O-Lanterns.

Halloween on the High Seas will take place on most sailings in September and October.

Disney Cruise Line is currently offering a 20-percent discount on select 7-night Southern Caribbean voyages this fall.



– Amanda Geronikos

Cozumel with Kids: Popular Attractions in Town

July 22nd, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

On our family’s recent trip to Cozumel, Mexico, we enjoyed a variety of activities, on land and in the water. We stayed in town, as well as got off the beaten path. Here are some of the most popular things to do and see in town.

Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park
The closest thing Cozumel has to a theme park is also the most popular local attraction — Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park. You can easily spend an entire day here, enjoying activities on land and in the water. We took a guided tour of Mayan ruin replicas to learn more about this major part of the local history. There is also a crocodile exhibit, sea lion shows, gardens, a spa, and even a tequila–tasting exhibit for adults.

You can cool off in the pool, or in the calm saltwater inlet. Cozumel is known as a scuba diving destination for a reason, and you can get a better look at its beautiful underwater marine life here by renting snorkel equipment, or taking a guided scuba diving or “snuba” excursion.
Chankanaab Park is home to more than 20 bottlenose dolphins, and there are several daily dolphin shows included in the admission fee. However, for an additional fee, you can also cross “kiss a dolphin” off your bucket list by participating in the dolphin encounter, managed by the onsite Dolphin Discovery.

Dolphin Discovery
This experience was easily the highlight of our entire trip. We were separated into small groups, and Gustavo, one of the dolphin trainers, brought us onto a submerged platform within one of the dolphin pens where “Noel” and “Chek” were swimming. He provided a lot of facts about dolphins in a way our 7-year-old daughter would understand. They average 500 pounds, and have about 78 conical teeth they use to grab onto their food, although they swallow it whole. They can swim up to 25 mph, and make a variety of sounds through their blowholes.

There are different levels of “experiences” at various price points. For younger children, you may want to try the “Encounter.” The dolphins will let you rub their bellies and give them kisses. During the “Swim” experience, you get to hold on to the dorsal fins of dolphins to your left and right, and let them pull you through the water. Our daughter was just old enough to do this, with a life jacket and a lifeguard in the water nearby. You can also let them push your feet up and across the surface of the water while you balance upright for the ride of your life! Our 14-year-old loved this.

Cozumel Island Museum
I think it’s important on any family trip, even when we’re visiting a leisurely tropical island, to work in some educational attraction so my kids can appreciate the local history and culture. The Museo de Isla Cozumel (Cozumel Island Museum) in downtown San Miguel is a small, two-story museum in a beautiful historic building. The exhibits, with signage in both English and Spanish, include the island’s history, from Mayan to present time, as well as work by Mexican artists. The section my kids enjoyed the most was about the native eco-system, and featured a wide, black light diorama of underwater marine life.

You’ll only really need about an hour here, and plan for the morning or late afternoon when it’s still relatively cool, as there’s no air conditioning in most of the building. The museum also includes an onsite café with specials, so you can have lunch or dinner there.

From the museum, you’re just a few blocks away from San Miguel’s main plaza. From the square with its historic yellow clock tower, several good shopping streets fan out in all directions. You’ll find all types of arts and crafts, silver jewelry, apparel, local specialties like vanilla and habanero hot sauce, and all the typical souvenirs. You can pay in either U.S. dollars or Mexican pesos. On slow days, when there are no cruise ship passengers in town, the market vendors may be willing to negotiate prices with you.

– Traci L. Suppa

Traci L. Suppa drags her small-town family to see a quirky array of the world’s largest, longest, or tallest things, and blogs about it at Go BIG or Go Home.

FVC Members Weigh In: Friendliest Airlines for Families

July 21st, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Prior to the start of the summer, Airlines for America predicted that 210 million people would travel by plane for their summer vacations — about 1.5 percent more than last summer and the most in the past six years. Now halfway through the hot season, we wanted to know which airlines our Family Vacation Critic and Facebook members thought were the friendliest for families. Here’s what they told us on our Facebook page:

“Free TV, good snacks for kids and one free bag at check-in.” – Christine S.

The airline also offers Fly-Fi, broadband Internet that allows fliers to surf the web while flying the sky. Currently in its beta stage, this service is free for everyone and is great for young children. Play games on tablets or laptops and watch kid-friendly programs rather than the in-flight movie.

“United has always been my pick when traveling with my three crazy kids. Bring the ear buds, ensure Wi-Fi service of some sort and be able to plan ahead where we sit.” – Lyndsey G.

The airline also offers a Young Travelers Club for children traveling alone. Children have their own designated area at airports to sit and wait for flights or for their parties to pick them up. While waiting, kids will be supervised by United employees and will have books, TV’s, games and toys to play with and keep themselves entertained. Plus, snacks will be provided so they’ll never go hungry. The Young Travelers Club is available at select airports and children must be at least 5 years old.

“WestJet has the friendliest staff.” – Shelley S.

The airline also offers a tablet rental program. Now families flying for more than three hours and 20 minutes have the option of renting a tablet pre-loaded with early-release movies and popular TV shows for both adults and kids, like Disney’s “Frozen” and Disney Channel’s “Jessie.” Rental prices range from $5 to $5.75 (tax not included) and all tablets come with basic ear bud headphones.

For more information on family-friendly flights and airlines, see our Air Travel section.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

6 Extraordinary Experiences for Families at the Four Seasons

July 20th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Do something new and exciting on your next vacation. Stray from the annual family trip to the beach and make memories that will last forever with a once-in-a-lifetime adventure at a Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts. The Extraordinary Experiences program at Four Seasons located across the globe allows families and travelers alike a chance to do something they’ve never done before. Exercise with Olympic athletes, fly above a national park or ride off into the sunset on your own horse. Here are just six of the many experiences that families can sign up for at the Four Seasons.

Row Like a Pro
At the Four Seasons Hotel Boston, visitors can race down the Charles River in a rowboat besides an Olympic athlete. Enjoy a custom-designed rowing uniform and join in on the Head of the Charles Regatta two-day rowing event. The private, two-hour row experience will easily leave lasting impressions. After working up an appetite, enjoy a private gourmet lunch and bonding session with your Olympic guide.

The Row Like a Pro experience is available Sept. 7, 13, 21 and 28, 2014. Call 617-338-4400 to book.

Glacier Tee-Off
If you’ve got a budding golfer in the family, or a husband or wife who loves to get on the green, give them a chance to experience the game in a whole new way. The Glacier Tee-Off experience at the Four Seasons Resort Whistler allows guests to tee off from a mountaintop. Enjoy a round on one of three championship courses before joining your own personal PGA pro on a helicopter ride to the 19th hole, located 8,000 feet above the ground. Enjoy snacks and beverages before teeing off and seeing how far you can send the biodegradable golf balls into the incredible environment that surrounds you.

The Glacier Tee-Off experience is available now through Oct. 15, 2014. Call 604-935-3400 to book.

Cowboy for a Day
Slide on your boots, grab your hat and head to the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale for a ride into the Wild West. The Cowboy for a Day experience offers guests a chance to learn how to rope, shoe, groom and saddle horses from Country Music Television’s very own Rocco Wachman. Get outfitted in custom gear, including a hat, belt buckle and boots and ride through the Scottsdale and Rio Verde region. At the end of the day, sit by the campfire for dinner and listen to stories of the Old West.

The Cowboy for a Day experience is available by reservation only. Call 480-513-5039 to book.

Train with an Olympic Athlete
Think you have what it takes to be on the Olympic volleyball team? Spend a day with two-time Olympian and gold medalist Todd Rogers at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara and test your skills. Face off in a friendly match before enjoying a beach picnic with your new coach, catered by the hotel. Participate alone or with the whole family.

The Train with an Olympic Athlete experience is available upon Todd Rogers schedule. Call 805-565-8291 to schedule and book.

Meet NBA Star Hakeem Olajuwon
Shoot hoops with legendary NBA player Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon. Named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history, Olajuwon will teach guests of the Four Seasons Houston the secrets to making a basket every time. Play on the court of the Houston Toyota Center and tour the facilities. Afterwards, sit down for a private lunch before visiting The West Mansion, Olajuwon’s business headquarters for DR34M.

The Meet NBA Star Hakeem Olajuwon experience is available now through Sept. 31, 2014. Call 713-650-1300 to book.

Soar Above the Wild
Experience the great outdoors in a whole new way with the Soar Above the Wild experience at the Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole. Board a luxurious Bell 407 helicopter and fly high above Yellowstone National Park. The Resort’s in-house biologist will be your tour guide, describing and pointing out wildlife, hot springs, waterfalls and more below. During the summer, guests can even land and take a tour of the park via SUV.

The Soar Above the Wild experience is available by reservation only. Call 307-732-5000 to book.

For more information on the Extraordinary Experiences at the Four Seasons Hotels, see the chain’s website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Classic vs. Contemporary: Poconos Resorts for Families

July 19th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

I’ve always been a beach girl. Growing up, summer day trips consisted of driving to the Jersey Shore. It never meant a hike in the mountains or a canoe trip down the Delaware River. Luckily though, this past week I was able to spend a night in the Poconos and experience the quiet environment and outdoor adventure that comes with the territory.

While in the area, I visited two family-friendly resorts, both of which offered fun for all ages, yet each was unique in its own way. With historical charm spread throughout the entirety of the classic Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort, and modern, contemporary (and luxurious) touches at the Bushkill Inn & Conference Center, it could be difficult to choose which to book for your mountain getaway. Either way, a stay in the Poconos is sure to please everyone in the family and is something every beachgoer (like me) should see at least once in their life.

Upon entering the grounds of the Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort, which was built in 1911, families will find a 27-hole golf course, tennis courts, a beach volleyball court, large green areas for lounging, fire pits for campfires and a grand, double-door entrance lined with a porch that stretches in both directions and can seat many during sunsets. Inside, black and white photos of legendary actors and celebrities like Jackie Gleason decorate the walls and the fireplace, leather chairs and dark wood floors give it a traditional mountain resort feel. Parents will fall in love with the décor and the easiness of the entire property (all of which is walkable) and kids will enjoy swimming in the indoor pool or the Delaware River; learning how to shoot an arrow during the archery lesson; or cooking S’mores over the campfire each night. The simplicity of the inn adds to its charm and families can’t go wrong with the Shawnee Inn.

At the Bushkill Inn & Conference Center, opened in 2012, the modern entrance, with its sleek colors and textures, caught my eye immediately. Guestrooms can sleep up to eight and all have mini-fridges and free Wi-Fi, not to mention a TV embedded in the bathroom mirror. With complimentary amenities lining the hotel’s property, such as paddleboats, a large pond for fishing, basketball and tennis courts, a sand volleyball court, archery area, a playground and its indoor and outdoor pools (which are right next to each other, making a sudden storm nothing to worry about), families will have everything they need to have fun. Plus, the Inn is just minutes from the popular hiking area, Bushkill Falls (“The Niagara of Pennsylvania”) and kids can enjoy S’mores by the fire pits, ice cream socials in the rec room and movie nights. For those families who want to enjoy outdoor activities and return to luxury accommodations for a good night’s sleep, the contemporary Bushkill Inn might be for you.

Regardless of where you stay in the Poconos, enjoy the outdoors and its beauty, which can be seen and experienced at both the classic and contemporary resorts. And if you’ve never been there before, expand your horizons like I did — you (and your family) won’t regret it.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz