Archive for the ‘General’ category

Four Water Park Events for Guests with Special Needs

August 7th, 2014

Traveling with a special needs child, teen or adult family member may require more advanced planning. Rather than scheduling a weeklong getaway, try a day trip to a water park this summer. Here are four water parks around the country that are hosting special events this month specifically for guests with special needs.

Hawaiian Falls Waterparks
Take part in Champions Day this Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, at one of the seven Hawaiian Falls Waterpark locations in North Texas. Guests with special needs are invited to enjoy the park prior to all other guests from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. During the Champions Day hours, the music at the park will be turned down to a level that is more pleasant for those with special needs and additional staff will be helping all guests enjoy the slides and the various water play areas. Children with special needs will also receive free admission, while family members can get in for just $5 per person with the Champions Day coupon. For more information, visit the Hawaiian Falls Waterparks website.

Whirlin’ Waters Adventure Waterpark
Enjoy the second Special Needs Swim Night at the Whirlin’ Waters Adventure Waterpark in North Charleston, South Carolina on Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, and splash, swim and play on all of the slides and water areas in the park. Only guests with special needs and their family members or friends will be allowed during these hours. The Night Swim will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and all guests receive a discounted admission rate of $9 per person. In case of rain, the Special Needs Swim Night will be rescheduled for Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. For more information, visit the Whirlin’ Waters Adventure Waterpark website.

Lions Junction Water Park
Special Day for Special Needs will take place Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, at the Lions Junction Water Park in Temple, Texas. Enjoy access to the slides, rides and pools at the water park between 9:30 and 11 a.m. before it opens to the public. Children with special needs receive free admission and other guests will pay a discounted price between $4 and $7 per person. For more information, visit the Lions Junction Water Park website.

The Springs Water Park
Have fun in the water during Special Swim hours at the Springs Water Park at the Country Springs Hotel, Water Park and Conference Center in Pewaukee, Wis., just outside of Milwaukee. Every Monday between 4 and 7 p.m. now through Aug. 25, 2014, the water park will host a Special Swim for children and adults with special needs. The Special Swim is just $6.50 per person and includes admission for the special needs individual, as well as two other people. Additional participants are $7.50 each. For more information, visit the The Springs Water Park website.

See our Special Needs Travel section for more information on planning a trip with a special needs child or family member.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

FVC July Contest Winner: How Camping Brought Our Family Closer Together

August 5th, 2014

Group of young girls smiling in front of tents at campsiteOur recent July contest, in partnership with KOA Campgrounds, brought in more than 160 camping stories and tips from families around the United States. Shannon P. of Brockport, N.Y., was randomly selected as our winner and her story made us smile. Although originally not a “camper,” Peterson explained that her heart is now in the outdoor adventure and she cannot wait to experience it again. Here’s her story on how she became a camper and how it brought her family closer together:

“We recently started camping in 2013. I must say my first trip with my husband and two daughters, now 8 and 9 years old, was a disaster. I boldly stated a ‘no camping for me’ rule on the first day of arrival and the nightmare started because we never read the “how to camp” guide. I packed the wrong food, the wrong clothing and the wrong necessary items one should have to survive camping. I wanted to go back home. Our friendly neighbors suggested we keep a journal of every time we camp and that it would make us laugh and help us learn from previous mistakes. ‘Yeah right,’ I thought.

However, after watching my kids make their first S’mores (yes, that’s right, not until they were 7 and 8 years old!), watching their faces as they played laser tag, plus boating, fishing, driving a golf cart, making fires, singing campfire songs and doing so much more together, I decided to do it again.

We have a limited amount of free time, but camping has brought our family closer together. I don’t even allow TV watching while camping. Even when we recently camped a few weeks ago and it rained most of the time, we still swam outside in between lightning, made fires with an umbrella over us, and cooked S’mores (yes, we are now pros at making S’mores!).

I am now a camper. We shower a little (my kids favorite), smell like campfire smoke, proudly sport bed head for a week, eat S’mores, host cook-outs, play and (most importantly) spend quality time together.”

For more information on camping, see our Beginner’s Guide to Family Camping and look for new information on camping and KOA Campgrounds for families coming to Family Vacation Critic soon.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Was Family Rescued at Sea Irresponsible?

April 10th, 2014

Like many who watched the recent story of the Kaufman family who was rescued at sea after a failed attempt to circumnavigate the globe with their two daughters, ages 3 and 1, I was intrigued. I worried for the family and the infant, and was happy to hear they were rescued and that the little girl will be okay.

What has now followed is a storm of parents crying out that the family was foolish and irresponsible, and how could they possibly think to travel the world aboard a sailboat with their children. And I find it disheartening. Would I sail around the world with my two children? No. I would never want to be in the middle of the ocean so far from land and help if I needed it, and actually said so to my partner when the news of the rescue broke. But I followed that with, I’d just sail not too far off of coastlines.

I’ve known people who have taken a year off, having scrimped and saved to do so, and taken their children on world trips, including those who have done it on sailboats. And I’m envious of them for having the chance to do so. Some say it’s easiest when the kids are as young the Kaufman’s because they are not yet in school. Others say taking the kids when they are older means they are easier to travel with and benefit even more from the trip because they are able to learn and retain much about the different cultures and sites they have visited. It is uncommon for families to travel like this, but it is not irresponsible or “crazy.”

Traveling with our children is one of the best gifts we can give to them. Recent studies have shown that traveling with our children strengthens family bonds and actually leads to higher education and better-paying careers for the children. Seeing new places and learning about the world around us ignites a passion to learn more and seek out more knowledge. I know, personally, that once I started to travel, I became more aware of how small the world can be, discovering that people everywhere are similar in that they love their families and work hard to provide the best for their children. I became eager to see more because with every new place I visited, I learned so much.

Do I think the Kaufman family was irresponsible? No, I don’t. They were very experienced sailors and planned their trip in great detail. Like any parent knows, the best laid plans can mean nothing when traveling with our kids. The Kaufman’s infant was sick from salmonella. I’m sure the family was prepared for their children to get a cold or cough, or cuts and bruises. But she wasn’t recovering, and the family called for help, just as any family would do. Granted they were out at sea, but luckily, they were able to get the help they needed. Those who rescued them are not charging them for the rescue, because they also believe the parents were experienced and prepared.

I hope their bad luck does not deter families from traveling with their kids. I’ve been saddened to read comments by parents saying they would never travel abroad with their children because they do not see the value in it. There is value, as the studies show. And after I show my kids America, I look forward to showing them more of the world and traveling with them as much as I can before they grow up and settle down and become restricted to their own family schedules.

What do you think? Was the Kaufman family wrong to take their young children on such a large sailing adventure? Do you feel infants and young toddlers should travel abroad? I’d love to hear from you!

–Lissa Poirot

Finding Childcare When Traveling

March 27th, 2014

For many parents who plan vacations, all-inclusive resorts are one of the top choices because they provide kids’ clubs and childcare services so mom and dad can get a little one-on-one time during the trip. But what about vacations that don’t have all-inclusive resort options, such as a visit to San Diego or a getaway to the Jersey Shore? There are a crop of childcare service providers available now, to help parents find childcare options while traveling.
This service provider helps connects parents to childcare providers in destinations across the country, many with background checks. Parents can post a job and receive applications from a number of providers who will come to the hotel at a rate you choose. Providers have profiles you can review, including photographs, and can provide references. The site also provides pet sitters, to care for your pets back home while you’re traveling.
Similar to, parents can connect to sitters in the destination of their choice and review caregiver profiles, see references and review background checks. The site also provides pet sitters.
Also a site where parents can sitters across the country, SitterCity provides access to caregiver profiles and background checks.

Destination Sitters
With offices up and down California’s coast, parents can find childcare providers in San Diego, Palm Springs, Orange County, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Jose and San Francisco. Sitters are fully screened and vetted, so when you make a request, you’ll receive someone who has already gone through personal interviews, full background checks, drug screenings and reference verification — to sum it up, they have done the work for you!

American Childcare
This service provides hotel babysitting options in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, and can even connect families with travel nannies to accompany you on a trip. Babysitters have three already-screened references, while nannies undergo a criminal background check and are certified in CPR and First Aid.

Kid’s Nite Out
If you’re visiting a Walt Disney World resort, Disney Babysitting Services are available for in-room sitters. These sitters have been interviewed by and recommended by Disney, and are certified in CPR and basic First Aid. The service is available resorts such as Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Yacht Club and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.

–Lissa Poirot

FamilyFun Magazine Travel Awards Winners

March 26th, 2014

FamilyFun Magazine recently revealed its winners of its annual travel awards, surveying families across the nation on their favorite attractions. Here are the winners — see any surprises?

1. The Strong, New York
2. Hershey Park, Pennsylvania
3. Bronx Zoo, New York
4. Acadia National Park, Maine
5. New York, New York

1. Disneyland, California
2. Disney’s California Adventure, California
3. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming/Montana/Idaho
4. Yosemite National Park, California
5. SeaWorld San Diego, California

1. Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Florida
2. Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Florida
3. Orlando, Florida
4. Universal Studios, Florida
5. Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Florida

1. Cedar Point Amusement Park, Ohio
2. Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota
3. Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Nebraska
4. Toledo Zoo, Ohio
5. Brookfield Zoo, Illinois

Tell us: What’s your favorite destination!

–Lissa Poirot

What’s New at the Jersey Shore

March 23rd, 2014

After Hurricane Sandy devastated the Jersey Shore in the fall of 2012, you may be wondering how the rebuild is continuing and what’s new on the Jersey Shore. Here’s a look:

Seaside Heights
A new and improved 600-foot Boardwalk replaces Seaside Heights‘ old boardwalk, which was originally 20 feet wide. It will now be 65 feet wide with plenty of room for families. Casino Pier will reopens April 12th with new rides like the Air Race, where riders pilot planes up to 25 feet in height, and Jump Around, a Baja Buggy-themed ride.

Seaside Park
Seaside Park lost its pier, but the beach town will open a pop-up Carnival in its place in August. From August 1 to 15, the Carnival will have games and fun, as well as drive-in movies on the marina lawn and concerts by the beach; a sand sculpture of the boardwalk past, present and future; and activities for the kids.

Six Flags Great Adventure
Near the shore, Six Flags Great Adventure is reopening April 12 for its 40th season. The amusement park will celebrate its anniversary with the opening of Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom. The ride will connect to the 456-foot Kingda Ka roller coaster, with Zumanjaro lifting riders 41 stories before dropping them at 90 miles per hour as the roller coaster speeds by at 128 miles per hour. There will be three drop towers with gondolas holding eight riders.

Wildwood’s Morey’s Piers is also reopening on April 12 with a grand opening celebration. New this year is the Wave Swinger ride that will spin and swing riders 50 feet above the beach. Morey’s Piers operates three boardwalk amusement piers and two water parks, as well dining options.

–Lissa Poirot