Journeys International Names Top 10 Family Adventure Destinations for 2015

February 26th, 2015 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

A family exploring a cave in Costa RicaJourneys International, an adventure travel company based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has been offering guided tours for travelers since 1978, and earlier this month, it announced its top 10 adventure destinations for families for 2015.

Through first-hand experience, thorough research and feedback from past travelers, Journeys International chose the following 10 destinations as the best for families this year:

“These countries provide unique, safe, hands-on culture and wildlife experiences that will engage explorers of any age,” said Journeys International’s president, Robin Weber Pollak, in a press release.

According to Sally Grimes-Chesak, director of marketing and family programs for Journeys International, the itineraries in these destinations provide activities that interest both kids and adults, while including the much-needed downtime that is a staple for any family trip.

Additionally, Journeys International also has three trips designed specifically for families with teenagers. The Costa Rica Adventure, Wild Indonesia, and Incas and Amazon are all for families with teens, with itineraries that include activities for older children.

Journeys International currently offers families more than 20 itineraries across 18 destinations. Whether you sign up for a scheduled adventure or customize your own, Journeys International is the tour company to help your family have a vacation to remember.

For more information, visit the Journeys International website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

4 Children’s Museums Celebrate Read Across America Day

February 25th, 2015 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

A little boy poses with the Cat in the Hat at the Magic House St. Louis Children's MuseumHave you heard about the brand new Dr. Seuss book that will be on sale July 28, 2015? If you can’t wait until the summer to enjoy “What Pet Should I Get?” just join in on the fun this weekend instead.

In honor of Read Across America Day and Dr. Seuss’s birthday on March 2, museums across the country are celebrating with arts, crafts, readings, writings and more. If your family lives in the Midwest or Mid-Atlantic, visit one of these four children’s museums this weekend for readings of his famous children’s books, as well as other fun activities for all ages.

Magic House St. Louis Children’s Museum
Get ready to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday all weekend long at the Magic House St. Louis Children’s Museum. From 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 28, families can visit for a daylong bash honoring the author’s 111th birthday. On Sunday, March 1, join in on the fun from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Kids will love listening to readings of famous Dr. Seuss books, creating their own Cat in the Hat crafts, and taking pictures with the Cat in the Hat character himself! All Dr. Seuss events are free with admission, which is $10 per person.

Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal
Although a few days early, the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal is honoring Read Across America Day and Dr. Seuss on Saturday, Feb. 28, with activities all day long. Bring gently used books to the museum to donate them to the Adopt-a-Book drive; sing along with Joel the Singing Librarian at 11:30 a.m.; read out loud to a furry and friendly therapy dog at 1 p.m.; dance along to the reading of the Jamie Lee Curtis book, “Today I Feel Silly: and Other Moods That Make My Day” at 1 p.m.; and enjoy author and illustrator Annie Ruth sing and read her book, “My Daddy Reads” at 2:30 p.m. All activities are included with admission, which is $14.50 for adults, $10.50 for children, and $4.50 for toddlers. Children ages 12 and under will get in for free though with a valid library card and the purchase of one adult ticket.

Children’s Museum of Cleveland
On Sunday March 1, and Monday March 2, the Children’s Museum of Cleveland will celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday with hourly readings of his famous books, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on both days. Additionally, kids can create Dr. Seuss-inspired collages to take home. And in true birthday fashion, a cake will be served at 1 p.m. each day to honor Dr. Seuss. All activities are included with museum admission, which is $8 per person. Infants 11 months and under are free.

Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
Read Across America Day is Monday March 2, this year, but the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is celebrating with a special event at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 1. Join former Pittsburgh Steelers player Franco Harris as he reads the classic story of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” by Eric Carle. The event is included with museum admission, which is $14 for adults, $13 for kids between 2 and 18, and free for children under 2 years of age.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

4 Upcoming New York City Museum Exhibits for Families

February 24th, 2015 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York CityNew York City offers families the chance to be a spectator at some of the most prominent art exhibitions in the world. The options are endless – from modern art to abstract work to opportunities to learn about icons. If you’re planning a vacation to the Big Apple with kids, it’s wise to narrow the museums down before your adventure. Here are a few existing and upcoming museum exhibits to put on your agenda in 2015.

Making Music Modern: Design for Ear and Eye
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
Through November 1, you can introduce your young musicians to the art of music and design – from rhythm to tonality to harmony to interaction to improvisation. Drawn entirely from the Museum’s collection, Making Music Modern gathers designs for auditoriums, instruments and equipment for listening to music, along with posters, record sleeves, sheet music and animation. Every Friday at 5:45 p.m., the MoMA offers screenings on the 1963 Scopitone — an early music film jukebox. Admission to the MoMA is $25 for adults, $14 for students and free for children ages 16 and under.

Van Gogh: Irises and Roses
Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET)
Starting May 12 and running through August 16, the MET is showcasing the work of Vincent Van Gogh. The exhibit will focus on four paintings, which haven’t been shown since his death, each consisting of bouquets of flowers. The exhibit’s vibrant colors and shapes will mesmerize children, and if they have stamina and can endure a half-day or more at the museum, take them to the Egypt and Greece exhibits to take a trip back in time and learn about important periods in history at one of the most famous museums in the world. Admission to the MET is $25 for adults, $12 for students and free for children ages 12 and under.

A Year with Children 2015
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
On May 1, the Guggenheim Museum’s annual exhibition begins. It highlights art created by New York City students in a program called Learning Through Art (LTA), an artist-in-residence program for students in public elementary schools. It’s a collaborative project that pairs artists and teachers in classrooms to explore art and ideas. Children will be excited by the results, and equally inspired by the fact that their peers created the amazing works of art on display. Admission is $25 for adults, $18 for students and seniors, and free for children ages 12 and under.

Revolution of the Eye: Modern Art and the Birth of American Television
The Jewish Museum
Starting May 1 and running through September 15, you can take your children to the first exhibition at the Jewish Museum that explores how avant-garde art influenced and shaped the look and content of network television in its formative years, from the late 1940’s to the mid-1970’s. The exhibit looks at how the dynamic new medium paralleled and embraced cutting-edge art and design. The exhibit includes work of famous artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, television memorabilia and clips from film and TV such as “Batman,” “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “The Ernie Kovacs Show” and “The Twilight Zone.” Admission is $15 for adults, $7.50 for students, and free for children ages 18 years and under.

– Holly Fink

Holly Rosen Fink is a mother, marketing consultant, writer and blogger for a number of sites, as well as her own, The Culture Mom.

Liftopia’s National Play Hooky and Ski Week Deals

February 23rd, 2015 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Families can always buy lift tickets at discounted prices via Liftopia. But in honor of the site’s fourth annual National Play Hooky and Ski Week, families can save even more – up to 75 percent off advance purchase lift tickets, rentals and packages at more than 250 ski resorts across North America. National Play Hooky and Ski Week is from March 2 to 6, 2015, so purchase your lift tickets now to save on your next family ski vacation. Here are a few family-friendly ski resorts participating in this year’s offer:

Family on a ski lift

Colorado Ski Resorts
Up to 52 percent off lift tickets at Arapahoe Basin
Up to 50 percent off lift tickets at Sunlight Mountain
Up to 45 percent off lift tickets at Granby Ranch
Up to 45 percent off lift tickets at Copper Mountain
Up to 41 percent off lift tickets at Loveland
Up to 25 percent off lift tickets at Crested Butte
Up to 20 percent off lift tickets at Winter Park
Up to 20 percent off ski rentals at Keystone
Up to 20 percent off ski rentals at Breckenridge
Up to 19 percent off ski or board packages at Vail
Up to 19 percent off ski or board packages at Beaver Creek
Up to 12 percent off ski packages at Aspen/Snowmass

Lake Tahoe Ski Resorts
Up to 53 percent off lift tickets at Diamond Peak
Up to 44 percent off lift tickets at Sierra-At-Tahoe
Up to 31 percent off ski rental packages at Heavenly
Up to 20 percent off lift tickets at Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows

Mid-Atlantic Ski Resorts
Up to 61 percent off lift tickets at the Omni Homestead Ski Resort
Up to 60 percent off lift tickets at Blue Mountain
Up to 54 percent off lift tickets at Shawnee Mountain
Up to 52 percent off lift tickets at Gore Mountain
Up to 45 percent off lift tickets at Whiteface

Midwest Ski Resorts
Up to 50 percent off lift tickets at Grand Geneva Resort & Spa
Up to 20 percent off flex passes and lift tickets at Boyne Highlands

New England Ski Resorts
Up to 73 percent off at Cranmore Mountain
Up to 67 percent off lift tickets at Jay Peak
Up to 66 percent off lift tickets at Attitash-Wildcat
Up to 64 percent off lift tickets at Smugglers’ Notch
Up to 54 percent off lift tickets at Okemo
Up to 50 percent off lift tickets at Mount Sunapee
Up to 49 percent off lift tickets at Sugarloaf
Up to 47 percent off lift tickets at Killington
Up to 30 percent off lift tickets at Sugarbush
Up to 22 percent off lift tickets at Sunday River
Up to 18 percent off lift tickets at Stowe

Utah Ski Resorts
Up to 61 percent off day and night lift tickets at Sundance Resort
Up to 40 percent off lift tickets at Alta
Up to 38 percent off lift tickets at Solitude
Up to 19 percent off ski or board packages at Park City
Up to 19 percent off ski packages at the Canyons
Lift tickets starting from $114 at Deer Valley

For more information and to purchase tickets and packages, visit Liftopia’s website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

3 Family Fun Packages in Charleston

February 22nd, 2015 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Waterfront park in downtown Charleston, South CarolinaSpend spring break down south with your family in the charming town of Charleston, South Carolina. Beyond the historic sites and soft sand, the town has family fun waiting for kids to explore. Book one of these three packages at family-friendly resorts this spring and save on your vacation to Charleston.

French Quarter Inn
Book the Waves of Family Fun package at the French Quarter Inn and enjoy sightseeing and exploring all that Charleston has to offer. Package includes luxurious accommodations; one-night of free valet parking; two adult and two children tickets to the South Carolina Aquarium and Fort Sumter, with transportation to the latter included; one $50 gift card to Fleet Landing Restaurant; daily continental breakfast; an evening wine and cheese reception; freshly baked cookies and milk before bed; evening turndown service with a treat; and bicycle rentals. Rates start from $406 per night. Offer valid now through April 19, 2015.

King Charles Inn
Book the Family Fun Time package at the King Charles Inn and dig into two days of family fun. Package includes overnight accommodations, two adult and two children tickets to the South Carolina Aquarium, one $50 gift certificate to Sticky Fingers, one $10 gift card to Ben & Jerry’s and one deck of cards. Rates start from $249 per night. Offer valid now through April 19, 2015.

The Cottages on Charleston Harbor
Book the Family Summer Seascapes package at the Cottages on Charleston Harbor and enjoy spacious upscale accommodations in a waterfront retreat. Package includes overnight accommodations for up to six guests; one customized, two-hour water excursion; one Seascape Survival Kit, with sunscreen, bug spray, hat and sunglasses strap; one customized, gourmet picnic lunch; tickets to the South Carolina Aquarium; transportation to the aquarium; a complimentary breakfast each morning; and free parking. Rates start from $179 per person, per night. Offer valid March 1 through June 1, 2015. Two-night minimum stay required for weekdays, and three-night minimum stay required for weekends.

All packages are subject to availability. Additional restrictions and blackout dates may apply.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Flying Southwest Airlines With Kids

February 21st, 2015 by Guest Blogger 1 comment »

Airplane on runway at take offFlying Southwest Airlines with my kids over the holidays was a first for us on two counts. It was the first time we’ve taken this family-friendly airline, and the first time I’ve had to deal with an airline that doesn’t assign seats. The concept was unnerving for me, as I needed to ensure that either my husband or I would be sitting next to our 7-year-old daughter.

Overall, our experience on the Southwest was a positive one, but there are a few things I wish I would have known in advance.

Infant and child fares are available, but not on southwest.com. You have to call the toll-free reservation number and make the purchase with a customer service representative. Lap infants under 2 years can ride free, but lower infant fares are also available if you bring an FAA-approved car seat.

You don’t get a seat assignment. Instead, you get a numbered spot within a boarding group of 60 people. Group A boards, then B, and then C. You have to check in online, up to 24 hours before your flight, to claim your spot in a boarding group.

Tip: The spots in the A group go fast. In order to get in, make sure you’re online exactly 24 hours before your flight. Set an alarm to remind yourself, and have your confirmation number on hand.

Family boarding is available for one adult traveling with a child 4 years or younger. Just one; you can’t bring Grandma along with you. Family boarding takes place after the A group has boarded and before the B group.

Tip: If you’re on a flight to a popular family destination like Orlando, get to the gate early to get the best possible spot on this line.

If you don’t have a child this young, but still want to board with them early so you can sit together, you have the option to purchase Early Bird Check-In for $12.50 per person, per flight. This will usually get you a spot in the A boarding group. This is also convenient because you’re automatically checked-in for the outbound and return flights. You don’t have to worry about finding Wi-Fi to check in on the day before your flight home.

And while I wouldn’t call this a tip, since I wouldn’t do this myself, you can save seats on Southwest. If you have the nerve, gumption, or chutzpah, you could purchase just one Early Bird pass for one adult, who can board early, and then save seats for another adult waiting with the kids.

Each passenger gets an allowance of two free bags, plus your carry-ons, unlike most other airlines that charge for checked bags. Not only that, but car seats and strollers don’t count as checked bags. So, feel free to pack the diapers and other bulky necessities, rather than waiting to buy them at your destination.

Southwest serves complimentary soft drinks and snack bags on board, but nothing more substantial, so bring lunch on board with you. Note: Snack bags contain peanuts, which may be an issue for kids with allergies. Southwest can’t guarantee an allergen-free flight, but they won’t serve peanuts on your flight if you provide enough advance notice. Make your reservation by phone, and tell the customer service representative. Also check in at the departure gate one hour prior to departure and speak with the customer service agent there.

Tip: Southwest suggests that passengers with peanut allergies book early morning flights, since the planes get a thorough cleaning at the end of every day.

– 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.