Halloween on Disney Cruise Line

August 14th, 2015 by Amanda Geronikos No comments »

It’s fun to sail with Disney Cruise Line no matter the time of year, but Halloween is extra special… or shall we say, spooky. Consider an autumn cruise in the future to take advantage of ghoulish parties, parades and more.

Minnie and Little Girl in Halloween Costumes on Disney Cruise Line

A Nightmare Before Christmas – Sing and Scream
This is a unique, interactive movie experience. After the show, families can meet Jack and Sally!

Haunted Stories of the Sea
Gather under to the stars to hear a mysterious captain share folklore of the sea.

Creepy Cabaret
Performers offer spooky music in the atrium.

Mickey’s Mouse-querade Party
Characters (and guests!) wear costumes at this party, which includes music, games, dancing and, of course, candy!

Spooky Movies
Halloween movies are presented in the ships’ movie theaters and cabins.

Ghoulish Delights
The chefs on Disney Cruise Line concoct magical potions and treats, including “Spooky Juice.”

Halloween Isn’t Just for Kids
Parents can participate in costume contests in each ship’s entertainment district.

Disney Magic: Oct. 4-28, 2015
Disney Wonder: Oct. 1-23, 2015
Disney Dream: Sept. 7-Oct. 30, 2015
Disney Fantasy: Sept. 5-Oct. 30, 2015

For information about each ship’s accommodations, activities, restaurants and more, visit Disney Cruises.

–Amanda Geronikos

Cross-Country Road Trip Tips for Families

August 13th, 2015 by Guest Blogger No comments »

You can prepare for months like we did, plotting and planning and thinking of every possible situation, but until you get out there on the road with your kids, it’s all hypothetical.

Most everything we had intended to do on our road trip did actually happen, which is a feat onto itself, but not everything happened perfectly. Here are some of the lessons we learned during our epic cross-country family road trip. May these guide you and your family when you’re ready to go coast to coast with kids!

National Parks Pass On Steering Wheel of Toyota

Use Up the Downtime You Planned
If you’ve built downtime into your schedule – a whole day or even just a few hours of relaxation — do that! Because afterward, when you’re back behind the wheel staring at a few hundred more miles of highway, you’ll regret not maximizing the opportunity you had to unwind.

Schedule Enough Time to See Friends and Family
If you have Facebook friends or other long lost acquaintances in the areas you’re planning to visit, be prepared to not see them for any significant period of time… or at all. I have so many dad blogger buddies who live in the greater L.A. area and I saw only two of them — the one who kindly let us crash at his Burbank home and another who so graciously stopped by with his family to say hello on his way to his Hollywood TV gig. Not reconnecting with the people I respect, admire and enjoy the company of is my biggest regret of the entire trip.

Get a National Parks Pass
Invest in the National Parks Pass. It set us back $80 before the trip started, but after visits to Yosemite, Bryce, Zion, Arches, Mono Lake, and Colorado National Monument, it ended up saving us over $40, and will ultimately save us even more as we use our pass for the next 11 months!

Download Music and Podcasts Before the Trip
If you use Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Prime Music or podcast streaming, be sure to download some listening material directly to your device before you hit one of the many dead cell patches that exist from coast to coast!

Pack Reusable Water Bottles
Bring your own reusable water bottles. All of the national parks and many urban spots have refill stations that’ll save you money and help a little bit to save the planet.

Invest in Memorable Souvenirs
Find something you love in every place you visit to enjoy while there, collect for later, or both. My wife and I love really good craft root beer so we sought out the local brews, sipped each (hers chilled or with ice cream, mine at room temperature so I could taste all those rich flavors) and collected them, too, to enjoy with our friends in California. By the time we reached the left coast, we’d amassed a full case to share!

Choose a Sturdy Vehicle
Pick the right vehicle! We went with a Toyota Sienna because of the reliability of the brand (important for drives over 12,000-foot mountains and through the 117 Fahrenheit temperatues of Death Valley!) and also because a minivan affords us tons of space inside while still being nimble enough to navigate national parks and big cities alike. That’s something an RV just cannot do.

Embrace the Unexpected
When the opportunity for an “off track” adventure presents itself, grab it with both hands! My youngest daughter’s second grade teacher had a habit of going off track, and the kids loved it. She’d lose the plot mid-lesson and wind up teaching the class far more than was ever intended, plus they would have so much fun! This is true of road trips as well. Take a local route, like 128 in Utah, and find an accessible point to get your feet wet in the Colorado River, or pull over for a strange desert sculpture park; in short, make time to do the unexpected. Your kids will remember those moments above all else you do on your road trip.

Consider a One-Way Trip
Finally, consider making your cross-country journey a one-way affair. Sure, the rental car companies hefty one-way drop off fee is a bitter pill to swallow, but driving only one coast to coast leg will afford you more time in each place and take away the dread of having to turn around and go back. Beware, though, of the stuff you put in the car and accumulate along the way, for all of that must then get into bags and onto an airplane! We ended up buying a seventh piece of luggage to bring back with us all the books, toys, souvenirs and our kids’ rocks-from-the-entire-country collections.

Follow the Bogle Family’s Road Trip:
Touring Indiana With Kids
A Weekend in Denver With Kids
48 Hours in St. Louis With Kids
Seeing Southern Utah for the First Time
Death Valley, Yosemite and a Hollywood Ending to a Cross-Country Road Trip

— Jeff Bogle

Jeff Bogle is an at-home dad of two pre-tween daughters. He writes about parenthood, family travel and all things childhood on his site OutWithTheKids.com. He considers himself one of the luckiest guys in the world. Jeff also writes for PBS.

Visiting the Met With Kids

August 12th, 2015 by Guest Blogger 1 comment »

When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was “From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwiler” by E.L. Konigsburg. I was thrilled when my 8-year old daughter loved it, too. The story revolves around a pair of siblings who run away and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City for a week, and an ensuing art mystery. It’s a great adventure, and it inspired us to recently visit the “Met” ourselves.

Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Visits to museums and historic sites can be hit-or-miss with kids. I’ve found that they enjoy it more if they can relate to it through a book they’ve read. Other popular sites related to books include the Green Gables Heritage Site on Prince Edward Island in Canada, and the Ingalls Homestead in South Dakota, former home of the “Little House on the Prairie” author.

It turns out that the Met embraces its ties to the book, and you can find a section called “A Mixed-Up” Journey on the children’s section of its website. There is a description of several places that were pivotal to the story, such as the fountain where they bathed, and the cafeteria. It also tells you where to find specific pieces of art, such as a bronze cat sculpture that impressed Claudia, the main character.

In some cases, the places and artworks are no longer on display, but they suggest close alternatives. We were able to see the jewelry of Princess Sit Hathor Yunet in the Egyptian galleries, and the Arms and Armor rooms that thrilled Claudia’s younger brother. We got to eat in the cafeteria, as they did, although the price of a sandwich is no longer 75 cents!

Even if you haven’t read this book, the Met is a fun museum to visit as a family. It’s also one of the largest art museums in the world, with more than three million pieces of art and antiquities in its permanent collection. Suffice it to say, you won’t see everything in one day, so it’s smart to choose one or two sections to cover. The Egyptian Art wing is a sure bet, with a highlight being the large Temple of Dendur. Arms and Armor, with its extensive weapons displays, is likely to be a hit, too.

Although we didn’t get to the Costume Institute on this visit, I’m pretty sure my fashion-savvy daughter would have enjoyed it. The small gallery of musical instruments is also on our list for next time. There are family programs worth looking for online prior to your visit, like story times, “Art Trek” tours, and Sunday Studio art-making workshops.

Strollers are permitted in most parts of the museum, and there are several places to buy snacks. The cafeteria even features a kids’ gallery wall, where they can color and hang their own works.

— 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.

Crossing Rainbow Bridge to Niagara Falls, Canada

August 11th, 2015 by Amanda Geronikos No comments »

It’s easy to visit both sides of Niagara Falls — you can literally walk right into Canada from the U.S. You just need a passport, and a little preparation — especially if you’re driving. Both sides are connected by Rainbow Bridge, which quickly becomes laden with traffic. Before your trip, consider these tips—provided by a boarder patrol agent—to speed up the process.

Rainbow Bridge to Niagara Falls, Canada

1. Have Money for the Toll to Canada
There’s a small fee you’ll have to pay to cross Rainbow Bridge into Canada (under $5). You don’t have to pay a fee when you return to the U.S.

2. Wait Behind Designated Lines
Be aware of the signs that advise drivers to wait behind designated lines just before meeting with boarder patrol. Once another car is in the boarder patrol area, you can’t drive past the line behind it until it’s your turn.

3. Get Your Passports Ready
Have all passports or other valid travel documents ready and open to the page where your photo and personal information is provided.

4. Take Your Sunglasses Off
Take your sunglasses off just before it’s your turn to meet with a boarder patrol agent. It’s one less request he or she will have for you.

5. Prepare to Answer Questions
You’ll more than likely be asked why you’re visiting Canada, how long you’ll be there and where you’ll be staying. You will be asked a few questions when you return to the U.S., as well, and will again need to present proper travel documentation.

Visit Niagara Falls, USA vs. Niagara Falls, Canada to decide which side is best for your family in terms of accommodations and things to do.

–Amanda Geronikos