Competitours Takes Your Family on an Amazing Race

October 12th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Family with green shirts runs through the woodsDoes your family have a competitive side? Are you all fans of the TV-show, “The Amazing Race?” Then we’ve found the next family vacation for you. Competitours takes teams on a wild vacation adventure across multiple destinations in Western Europe. And it’s not just about the surprise locations and challenges. Families can win a cash prize at the end of the 11-day adventure, too!

How It Works
Competitours sets up specific tour dates for teams of two (you could do mom and daughter versus dad and son, or any combination you want!). All ages are welcome to participate, though the company advises that all guests be healthy and able to travel easily. The journey is 11 days long and teams will visit seven to eight mystery destinations in Western Europe. At the end, the top three teams to have completed all of the challenges in a timely manner will win up to $3,600.

Teams will be required to tackle challenges throughout the trip. These may include mountain climbing (with a harness and leash), fencing, cooking, arts and crafts, dancing, puzzles, scavenger hunts and other creative and fun tasks. They are all suited for most ages.

What’s Included
During your trip, all lodging, challenges, inter- and intra-city transportation, and some meals (eight breakfasts, two dinner and one dessert reception) are included. However, teams must pay for the rest of their meals, some city transportation, all cell phone, Internet or communication devices, personal expenses (laundry, toiletries, souvenirs, etc.) and some of their airfare.

2015 Tour Dates and Pricing
This year, Competitours is hosting two tours. Tour one will be from June 7 to June 19, 2015. Tour two will run from July 5 to July 17, 2015. Pricing for both tours is $3,850 per person. All participants under the age of 18 must be paired with an adult. A maximum of 12 teams per tour is allowed – so register ASAP!

For more information and to register for the 2015 Competitours tours, visit the company’s website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Photos: Inside Club Med Cancun Yucatan

October 11th, 2014 by Amanda Geronikos No comments »

The Baby Corner at Club Med Resorts offers snacks and essentials for little ones
Baby Corner. Club Med Cancun Yucatan (along with other Club Med Resorts) offers Baby Corner, where parents can find formula, yogurt, and pureed food, along with a “Baby Special of the Day.” Bibs, plastic bowls and a blender are also available.

View from top of cliff looking down on the clear blue water near Club Med Cancun Yucatan
Excursions. Day trips can be arranged at the resort (additional fees apply), and include excursions to Tulum (about an hour away).

Family Suites offer separate bedrooms for kids with two beds and colorful deco
Family Suites. The resort recently opened 60 oceanfront Family Suites, each of which sleep up to six guests, with separate bedrooms and bathrooms just for kids.

Family Suite Cabanas with palm trees, umbrellas and ocean views
Family Suite Cabanas. Request a Family Suite on the first floor of Aguamarina, and a private, luxurious cabana by the ocean is yours.

The Jade infinity pool overlooks the ocean
Jade Pool. Those who stay in Jade, a building that includes more family-specific accommodations, have access to an infinity pool that practically pours into the ocean.

Ocean views from Club Med Cancun Yucatan
Oceanfront Views. Part of the resort fronts Cancun Hotel Zone, and provides spectacular views like this.

The Petit Club Med Activity Room has bean bag chairs, a table for crafts and games, and toys for little ones
Petite Club Med Activity Room. Kids enjoy arts and crafts, games and more in this room, part of Petit Club Med.

The Petit Club Med Nap Room has beds, pillows and blankets for kids
Petit Club Med Nap Room. When it’s time for a nap, Petite Club Med — newly added to the resort — provides a special room just for kids.

Playground with slides, swings, monkey bars and more at Club Med Cancun Yucatan
Playground. Added in 2014, a playground awaits kids by the beach.

Multiple tennis courts are available for guests of Club Med Cancun Yucatan
Tennis Courts. The resort offers a series of tennis courts, with lessons for kids and adults, plus scheduled tournaments.

Windsurfing in the water near the beach at Club Med Cancun Yucatan
Windsurfing. One of the most popular activities at the resort, windsurfing lessons are offered daily.

For more information on the recent renovations at Club Med Cancun Yucatan, read our review of the resort and Amanda’s blog.

– Amanda Geronikos

Pop-Up Orchard Brings Apples to Boston

October 10th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

When families think of apple picking, they may not think Boston. But this October, kids and parents in the New England area can pick their apples at the pop-up orchard inside The Ritz-Carlton Boston Common on 10 Avery Street.

The pop-up orchard in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton Boston Common has apples, apple cider and baked goodsEvery Saturday from noon to 4 p.m., now through the end of the month, the Ritz-Carlton will have its orchard set up inside its lobby where visitors can purchase apples, apple cider donuts, spices and pastries. All pastries and ciders are made with locally sourced apples, too. The Belkin Family Lookout Farm in South Natick, Massachusetts, delivers the goods to the hotel so that people who are stuck in the city can enjoy some of the country, too.

Additionally, part of the proceeds from this urban orchard will go toward the Food Project. The Food Project is an organization that gathers people and volunteers to farm acres of land in eastern Massachusetts. The food that is grown and harvested is then distributed to local communities in hunger relief efforts, as well as to farmers markets around New England.

The pop-up, urban orchard is open to guests of the Ritz-Carlton Boston Common, as well as Boston residents and city visitors.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

A Day at the Mohonk Mountain House With Kids

October 9th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Exterior aerial view of the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New YorkAs a Hudson Valley resident, one of the items near the top of my bucket list was Sunday brunch at the Mohonk Mountain House in the Catskills in New Paltz, New York. This past weekend, I got to check it off, having spent a wonderful day there with my husband and two kids. Mohonk Mountain House regularly appears on lists of North America’s best all-inclusive properties. However, if overnight accommodations are beyond your budget, you can still enjoy it by purchasing a meal, spa treatment or grounds pass. We ate, did a little hiking, explored the beautiful gardens, and even took a boat ride.

Celebrating its 145th anniversary this year, this National Historic Landmark is a Victorian treasure set into a Shawangunk Mountain ridge. It’s surrounded by thousands of acres of preserved land. Brunch was served in the Main Dining Room, with expansive windows overlooking the mountain ranges. The buffet items were varied and plentiful, with a station for omelets and other breakfast foods, as well as stations for hot foods, salads and desserts. There was a small children’s station with chicken nuggets and fries. This is not an inexpensive meal, but the atmosphere lends itself to special occasions.

The hiking is fantastic, because there are numerous, well-manicured trails. There are choices for all ages and ability levels, and everyone will have their fair share of amazing mountain and lake views. One of the most popular is the steep, 300-foot trek up to Sky Top lookout tower, which takes about 30 minutes. We chose instead the Pine Bluff, which offered my kids the experience of climbing and exploring the interesting nooks and crannies built into the rock cliff, with stops at several rustic wood gazebos.

View of the dock at the Mohonk Mountain House where families can rent boatsWhile only overnight guests are allowed to swim in Lake Mohonk on the property’s small sandy beach, day guests can still enjoy the water by renting a rowboat, paddleboat, canoe, or kayak. We chose a paddleboat, and my daughter and I quickly claimed the back seat, leaving “the boys” to do the paddling. All children 12 and under are required to wear provided lifejackets, and everyone else is required to bring one aboard. We thoroughly enjoyed the views from the lake, and found this to be one of the more affordable activities, at $13 per 30 minutes.

Although our original plan included horseback riding at the property’s stables, we found the scheduling system to be inflexible and disorganized, so we skipped it. Though we weren’t able to fit it in our schedule, there is also a Barn Museum on the property, with items dating back to the 1800s, including farm and kitchen equipment, carriages and automobiles, which families visiting Mohonk should see.

– 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.

‘Frozen’ Package for Families at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

October 8th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Elsa and Anna of Disney's Frozen stand and watch as Elsa lights up the skyDisney’s blockbuster hit ‘Frozen’ has already won over the hearts of families around the world. This year, parents can make the holidays even more special for children who are superfans of the movie with the ‘Frozen’ Holiday Premium Package at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

The package includes reserved seating for the ‘Frozen’ sing-a-long dessert party; a ‘Frozen’ pin for kids to wear; and a holiday lithograph. Plus, families will enjoy reserved seating for the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights event.

The package will be offered on select dates now through 2016, which is when the long-anticipated ‘Frozen’ attraction at Epcot will open in place of the park’s current ride in Norway, Maelstorm.

Tickets for the ‘Frozen’ Holiday Premium Package are $89 for adults and children 10 and older, and $39 for kids between 3 and 9 years. Admission to Disney’s Hollywood Studios is not included in the package. Tickets for the park are $94 for adults and children 10 and older, and $88 for kids between 3 and 9 years. Current available dates for the package include Nov. 7 to 19, 2014, Nov. 21 to Dec. 9, 2014, and Dec. 11 to Jan. 4, 2015.

To book the package, call 407-939-1854. Accommodations are not included with the package. See our list of Disney’s Hollywood Studios hotels for information on where to stay.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

5 Reasons Why You Should Cruise With Your Family

October 7th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Until my family took its first cruise this summer, I wasn’t entirely convinced that it was for us. But ask my kids to tell you about the highlight of their summer, and they will excitedly describe in detail our August Disney cruise. If you haven’t taken your family on a cruise before, I’m telling you – take a chance!

There are certain cruise lines that are more family-friendly than others. We recommend Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival, and, of course, Disney Cruise Line. Plus, our sister site, Cruise Critic, would agree.

Cruising is a great way to vacation with your family – here are just five reasons why:

1. Multiple Ports, One Room
This can’t be underestimated – going on a cruise means you unpack once, yet you get to visit multiple destinations when your cruise stops at each port. When you’re packing for four or more people, this eliminates a lot of hassle. On the flip side, your accommodations in a ship’s cabin are going to be compact in all but the largest of suites.

2. Vacation Value
It’s the same formula that makes all-inclusive resorts on land so appealing. You pay one fee, in advance, and mostly everything is included (gratuities, premium beverages and onshore excursions being the main exceptions). This includes the supervised kids’ club, evening entertainment and all your meals and snacks.

3. Togetherness (To a Point)
The whole point of a family vacation is spending quality time together. Or is it? A cruise ship with a good kids’ club offers the chance to go your separate ways for chunks of time, so grown-ups can relax and do their own thing. I love my kids, but I also love the occasional spa treatment. Not only are the clubs open during the day, but most are open late into the evening, so you can go out for a quiet dinner or dancing.

4. There’s Something for Every Age Group
My kids are 14 and 7 years old; a huge age gap. On our cruise, there were programs appropriate to their specific age ranges, and activities they both enjoyed. There are also options for adults of every age group, from Millennials to Baby Boomers, so cruises naturally suit multigenerational trips with grandparents. I loved that there were kids-only spaces, as well as adults-only areas.

5. Kids are Never an Afterthought
Your kids will never be bored on a cruise. Never. Family-friendly cruise lines incorporate children’s needs and wants into the facilities, entertainment and cuisine. You’ll need to pry them away from the Aqua Park on the Norwegian Breakaway, which includes five multi-story waterslides. In the Oceaneer Club on the Disney Dream, they can play in a life size Andy’s Room, explore the Nemo Sub, or dress up near the pixie dust tree. They can order Green Eggs and Ham or a Belgian Waffle so good it should be unlawful” for breakfast on several Carnival ships with the new Seuss at Sea program introduced this year. And you will always be able to get a photo of your kid with a character – whether it’s Minnie Mouse on the Disney ships or Dora the Explorer on the Norwegian Breakaway.

– 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.