Archive for the ‘General’ category

5 Travel-Related Crafts to Make With Kids

September 18th, 2014

Kids often make arts and crafts while in school, from cute fall decorations for the classroom to pictures of what they did this past summer with their families. Have fun with your kids at home and make one of these five travel-related crafts from souvenirs, ticket stubs, photos and more from your most recent family vacation.

Sand Ornaments
What You Will Need: sand, clear glass ornament, funnel, colorful tape, ribbon

Glass ornament filled with sand with blue ribbonIf you visited a beach in the Caribbean or some other exotic area this past summer (or maybe even just the Jersey Shore), hopefully you brought home some sand as a souvenir. If not, then plan to do this on your next trip!

Pick up clear glass ornaments from your local arts and crafts store. Have your children use the funnel to fill them with sand — any amount that they want, but know it may get heavy – and use the colorful tape to close off the top hole when done. Use matching ribbon as the string that will allow the ornament to hang. Cut it to at least 12 inches in length and tape both ends to the top of the ornament, so that it forms a loop. You can stop here and have the craft completed, but feel free to let your kids bedazzle the outside of the ornament with glitter, stickers and other fun decorations. Since the ornament is clear, they’ll be able to see the sand inside!

Ticketed Picture Frames
What You Will Need: ticket stubs, mod podge glue, paint brushes, wooden picture frames

Simple wooden picture frames are available at your local arts and crafts store and are inexpensive. Take all of those ticket stubs from your most recent trip and let the kids mod podge them to the frames. The mod podge glue can be painted right over the ticket stubs onto the frames with paint brushes – it will dry clear and the ticket stubs will be securely “stuck” to the frame. Allow the frame to dry for 24 hours and then place a picture of your family at the attraction, theme park or museum in which you visited and received your tickets from, inside the frame!

Photo Map
What You Will Need: medium-size map of the continental United States, photos of your family, scissors, glue, stickers

Map of United States with photos covering the statesHave you recently visited Florida or California? A fun way to document where your family has traveled is by making a photo map of where you’ve visited! Before passing the photos to the kids, measure them out against the map and cut them into the shape of the states in which you have visited. (Note: If your kids are old enough to use scissors, let them try, too!) Allow the kids to glue the photos to the map, having them match the photo to the state in which it is shaped. They’ll be able to see where the states are located in comparison to where you live, which will also teach them about geography.

Another fun thing to do with this map is to have the kids place stickers on the states in which they would like to visit next! (This will also give you ideas for next summer’s family vacation!)

Travel Journals
What You Will Need: journals or notebooks, stickers, paint, glue, family photos, ticket stubs, glitter, markers, etc.

A great way for kids to really connect with their family vacation is to write about it. Before your next trip, or if you would like them to reflect on this past one, pick up a journal or notebook from your local store. Allow your kids to decorate the covers with markers, glitter, stickers, photos – really anything! Have them personalize it and then allow them to draw pictures of where you’re family has gone or write about where you will be traveling next inside the journal. Travel journals can be taken on the road and will also be a way to keep the kids busy when on the plane or in the car. They’ll enjoy looking back on their family vacations years from now, too.

Homemade Disney Ears
What You Will Need: black headbands, black paper, red ribbon, glue

Black Mickey Mouse Ears and pink Minnie Mouse EarsHave your kids make their own Mickey Mouse ears before your next trip to Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Cut out “ears” from the black paper. They should be an oval or circle shape (like Mickey’s ears!) with about a one-inch rectangle on the bottom — you will need two per headband. Glue the rectangle bottom of the ear to the inside of the headband. Do this again with the other ear and be sure they are spaced well on the headband. One ear should be secured on the upper left side of the headband, and the other ear should be secured to the upper right side of the headband. Bend the paper ears so that they stand up in the appropriate way. You’re all done with your Mickey Mouse ears!

If you want Minnie Mouse ears, use the red ribbon and cut and tie it into a bow. Glue it to the headband directly between the two ears, or make two small bows and place one in front of each ear. Allow the glue to dry before wearing.

What are a few other great travel-related crafts to make with kids? Share your ideas in the comments below!

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

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