Family Fun at the 23rd Annual North Country Moose Festival in New Hampshire

August 22nd, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Moose in the wildLooking for something fun to do with the kids this weekend? Today kicks off the start of the 23rd Annual North Country Moose Festival in New Hampshire. Yes, you read that right — Moose Festival! Festivities begin today with the Street Fair in downtown Colebrook, NH., and continues tomorrow and Sunday with a Moose Stew Cook Off, Moose Calling Contest, live music, food and craft vendors, and more. Plus, plan a weeklong vacation in the area and enjoy the 144th Annual Lancaster Fair, which runs from Aug. 27 to Sept. 1, for rides, food, live music, contests and more.

The 23rd Annual Moose Festival offers families free admission with the donation of a non-perishable food item and then three days of family fun. Start your weekend with the Street Fair at 3 p.m. and check out the various local vendors, the Uncommon Folk Band, Moose Cruise Classic Car Parade and more. A free Kidz Korner will be set up at the Tillotson Center on Carriage Lane from 3 to 6 p.m. and a ventriloquist and magic show will take place at 4 p.m.

On Saturday, families can enjoy activities across two towns — Canaan, V.T., and Colebrook, N.H. Enjoy a Moose Watchers Breakfast between 7 and 10 a.m. in Canaan and then head to the Country Fair. Admission to the fair is $12 for a family of four (two kids under 15) and will host craft and food vendors, a Kidz Korner, the Moose Stew Cook Off, a Maple Syrup Tasting Contest, and more. In Colebrook, N.H., families can wake up with the Murphy the Moose’s Trail Run at 9 a.m. and then wind down in the evening with a performance by Alex Smith of the Mountain Folk Band.

Sunday marks the last day of the festival with events and activities across three towns — Pittsburg, N.H., West Stewartstown, N.H., and Colebrook, N.H. Fuel up for the day in West Stewartstown with a breakfast at St. Albert’s Hall. Then visit the Maple Ridge Farm in Pittsburg for animal visits, live music, the farm museum and more between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Finally, bring the family to Colebrook for a summer picnic ($5 per meal) and a concert at 7 p.m.

If your family decides to stick around for the Lancaster Fair be sure to check out the horse shows, pig scramble, truck pull, demolition derby, food vendors, live music and more. Admission is $15 per adult and free for children under 42 inches tall. Parking is free. The festival runs from Wednesday, Aug. 27 to Monday, Sept. 1, 2014

For more information on the Moose Festival, visit the North Country Chamber of Commerce website. For more information on the Lancaster Festival, visit the Lancaster Fair website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Four Hotel Packages for Families in the U.S. and Europe

August 21st, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Exterior view of the Omni Rancho Las PalmasAre your kids bummed about going back to school? Surprise them with a family vacation — plan a two-night stay in Palm Springs, Calif., during a long weekend in October or a trip to Europe in December when they’re off from school. Start planning it now and have something to look forward to!

Omni Rancho Las Palmas
Enjoy Palm Springs, Calif., into the fall with the Stay Cool Package at the Omni Rancho Las Palmas. Package includes a one-night stay with a $50 breakfast credit, two inner tubes to use in the resort’s lazy river and access to a personal concierge. Enjoy Dive-In Movies every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night, too. Rates start from $189 per night. Offer valid now through Sept. 30, 2014.

Hotel Plaza Athenee
Explore Paris with the kids and then retreat to the Hotel Plaza Athenee and book the Family Package. Enjoy two connecting guestrooms or suites, a daily children’s breakfast, a daily breakfast for the parents, a special gift for each child from the Plaza Athenee’s Red Collection and cookies in your room upon arrival. Rates start from 1,630 EURO per night. Offer valid now through Dec. 28, 2014.

Hotel Eden
When in Rome, stay at the Hotel Eden. This year, book the Family Time Package and enjoy a 30 percent discount on connecting rooms, a daily buffet breakfast for the family, a welcome gift for the children, complimentary Wi-Fi access, a choice of a family lunch or three hours or babysitting, milk and cookies at turndown and the choice of two complimentary tickets to the Bioparco Zoo or the children’s museum, Explora. Rates start from 390 EURO per night. Offer valid now through Dec. 28, 2014.

Omni Homestead Resort & Canyon Ranch SpaClub
Book the Adventure Package at the Omni Homestead Resort & Canyon Ranch SpaClub this year and enjoy a Southeast getaway that will keep the kids active. Package includes a lazy river inner tube to keep, a round of mini-golf for the family, a 30-minute trail ride, skating tickets, access to the historic Jefferson pools, and archery lessons. Plus, receive up to 50 percent off admission to the KidsClub and an additional 15 percent off any extra outdoor activities not included. Rates start from $245 per night. Offer valid now through Dec. 31, 2014.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Fine Tuning the Great American Road Trip With the National Park Service

August 20th, 2014 by Lissa Poirot No comments »

My family is about to embark on our Great American Road Trip. We will be driving the Wild West and visiting Dinosaur Monument, Canyonlands, Arches and Moab, Mesa Verde, Monument Valley, Canyon de Chely, Petrified Forest, Meteor Crater, the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Capital Reef and Timpanogos national parks and monuments – in 9 days!

Earlier in the year, I documented some of the discoveries I made trying to plan our adventure. (See Great American Road Trip blogs.) Originally, we wanted to rent an RV but the cost of the rental, the mileage and the gas turned us off that dream and instead we have booked hotels and rented a minivan – our version of the Griswold Family Truckster.

As we approach our departure date, I’ve been doing some last-minute planning. To save on the price of admission to the parks, we purchased an America the Beautiful annual pass for $80. Not only is it good for our trip, but it’s good for all parks for the next year. However, in reviewing park admissions, I’m learning that some parks are not on the program and we’ll still need to pay. I’ve also discovered that some of the parks are on Navajo land. While we are excited to be on the land of Native Americans (especially the Navajos, as my partner’s grandmother was Navajo), we have learned that the Navajos required permits to hike and camp on their land, and they have sacred areas that are off-limits.

We’re also booking as many tours in advance as we can. We did learn earlier that some of the more popular hikes require advanced reservations. For example, The Wave in Zion, we learned by reviewing the National Park website, is long and strenuous hike not suitable to the kids. It also requires advanced reservations and takes a very limited number of hikers on a lottery basis. We will be skipping The Wave this year. However, we have booked a cave tour in Timpanogos, which was available to book a month in advance of our trip, so we won’t have to drive all the way there and discover its sold out.

Planning this trip has become quite detailed for us. I’m glad I’ve been researching because we were all under the assumption that parks are parks and we just drive to each one and we’re good. There are so many little details we’re discovering on the U.S. National Park Service website that we’re thankful they are so detailed.

We are also preparing the kids for what will be a lot of driving by getting them excited for the Junior Ranger programs offered at the parks. The kids will pick up booklets available at the Visitors Centers, complete a series of challenges, and receive a badge from each park once they have completed the tasks. There are also coloring pages, activity pages and more for kids on the parks website.

If you’re planning to tour any of the national parks, be sure to visit the U.S. National Park Service website for all the tips. Family Vacation Critic also has destination guides for National Parks to help you plan your trip. (I’ll be adding more guides after visiting the parks!)

We’ll be hitting the road Sunday, and blogging about our experiences – even the kids will be writing to give their perspective. Keep your eyes peeled!

– Lissa Poirot

Beachfront Hotels Host Family Events for National Sandcastle and Sculpture Day

August 19th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Two young children looking at sandcastle on beachIn honor of today’s holiday — National Sandcastle and Sculpture Day — beachfront resorts all over are hosting fun events that have families getting down in sand. Whether it’s building something big, dining on the sand or just soaking up the sun, celebrate with a day at the beach. Here are four resorts to visit today for National Sandcastle and Sculpture Day:

Sandos Playacar
If you’re on vacation with your family in the Riviera Maya today — or lucky enough to live in the beautiful area of Mexico year-round — be sure to visit the Sandos Playacar, a family-friendly resort that will have a 7-foot sandcastle onsite today. Enter to win a Sandcastle Diploma and Dinner on the beach by attempting to replicate the sculpture with your family. Festive food and cocktails will be served throughout the day at the resort, as well.

The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa
Visit Hilton Head today and pick up a beach bag filled with everything you need for a day at the beach at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa. The resort prides itself for being located on sand that is great for building and sculpting sandcastles. If your family doesn’t want to spend a day in the sand, they can enjoy decorating sand dollars, making sand art and eating sand candy at the resort all day long.

CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa
Located along the beach in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, the CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa is both luxurious and family-friendly. Pick up your complimentary pale, shovel and everything else you will need to build a sandcastle at the resort today before heading to the beach. A Sandcastle Building Contest will take place today, too!

Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort
Located on a swimmer-friendly beach in Los Cabos, the Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort knows that sandcastles are part of the fun in the sand. Watch a sculptor create a customized event insignia into the sand and enjoy pirate-themed events on the beachfront property today — all in honor of National Sandcastle & Sculpture Day!

Have a photo or a story of your own experience with sandcastles? Comment below or post and share it on our Facebook page!

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Playing Tourists on New York City’s Circle Line

August 18th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

People on Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise taking picture of Freedom Tower in New York CityThis past week I joined my son, mother and sister on a tour of Manhattan. You may be wondering why I would do that when I live near New York City and have for many, many years! For one thing, it was a boat tour. I was invited by Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises to go on their Harbor Lights Tour. Who can resist the city at night? For another thing, my mom was visiting from out of town and I knew she would get a real kick out of seeing NYC all lit up at night. In addition, my son is very Instagram-obsessed at the moment, and I knew that he would get a lot of enjoyment out of snapping photos while circling the island. (And I was right!)

Sure enough, we all loved circling the island of Manhattan, getting up-close and personal views of our favorite landmarks. We hopped on the boat at 42nd Street and 12th Avenue. Boarding was easy and efficient. From the Statue of Liberty to the United Nations to the Empire State Building, we saw NYC from what seemed like an “insider’s” view. We rode under bridges, passed the newly built Freedom Tower and rode along side Governor’s Island. We had a professional tour guide share details and wonderful tid-bits about all the sites we passed. Whether you live in NYC or not, you will enjoy the incredible views and history provided by the guide. As the sun went down and the city lit up, the moments on the boat became even more precious and exciting for all of us.

Playing tourist isn’t always easy, though. We arrived 30 minutes before the ride took off and all the good seats were gone. There are a few things I wish I had known beforehand so here are a few tips to make your cruise a success for you and your family:

1. Arrive early, as in one hour before departure. There are a limited number of seats available on the top deck, which is outside and offers the best views. Once those seats are taken, you must sit inside, only peering through windows.

2. The tour guide sits inside most of the time and is resistant to passengers getting up to take photographs. There is more freedom outside and I highly recommend standing outside to capture great images.

3. Concessions are pricy on the boat, so bring a few bottles of water and then head to Gotham Market on 45th Street and 11th Avenue afterwards for amazing, reasonably priced food.

4. Bring a good camera that is fully charged. You won’t want to be camera-less on this ride!

5. Book your tickets online in advance and save money ($5 each, which adds up).

For more information, visit the Circle Line Boat Tours website.

Disclosure: Holly was given complimentary tickets to facilitate this review, but all opinions are her own.

– Holly Fink

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

Wi-Fi: Where to Find Free Wi-Fi When Traveling

August 17th, 2014 by Lissa Poirot No comments »

Young girl playing on a tabletHotels.com revealed in early 2014 the number one hotel amenity guests want is Wi-Fi. For anyone traveling with kids, we can understand why: our teens won’t smile if they cannot Facebook and Instagram their trip and talk to their friends, and our younger kids will “just die” if they cannot keep up with whatever online game is the current craze of their class.

Not all hotels offer free Wi-Fi, something we personally do not understand. It seems the more expensive the hotel, the more likely you’ll have to pay for Wi-Fi. (Doesn’t make sense, does it?) Hotel Chatter compiled a great list of hotels that offer free Wi-Fi, offer loyalty programs with free Wi-Fi and even a list of those that are not providing free Wi-Fi. Here are some of the popular family chains to make the lists.

Free Wi-Fi

  • Aman Resorts
  • B Hotels and Resorts
  • Best Western Hotels
  • Comfort Inn and Suites
  • Country Inn and Suites
  • Courtyard by Marriott
  • Days Inn
  • Element Hotels
  • Fairfield Inn
  • Four Points by Sheraton
  • Hampton Inn
  • Hilton Garden Inn
  • Holiday Inn Hotels and Resorts
  • Home2Suites
  • Homewood Suites
  • Hyatt Place Hotels
  • James Hotels
  • Kimpton Hotels
  • La Quinta Inns and Suites
  • Langham Hotels
  • Loews Hotels
  • Quality Inn
  • Radisson Blu
  • Ramada Hotels
  • Residence Inn
  • Staybridge Suites
  • Wyndham Garden Hotels

May Offer Free Wi-Fi (each hotel can make the determination)

  • Four Seasons Hotels
  • Park Hyatt
  • Trump Hotels

Free to Loyalty Program Members

  • Fairmont Hotels
  • Hilton Hotels
  • Hyatt Hotels
  • International Hotels Group (IHG)
  • Kimpton Hotels
  • Omni Hotels
  • Ritz-Carlton
  • Starwood Hotels
  • Wyndham Hotels

Charges for Wi-Fi

  • Hilton Hotels
  • Hyatt Hotels
  • InterContinental Hotels
  • Marriott Hotels
  • Ritz-Carlton Hotels
  • Sheraton Hotels
  • W Hotels
  • Waldorf Astoria Hotels
  • Westin Hotels
  • Wyndham Hotels

Have you spotted a hotel that offers free Wi-Fi or charges for it? Comment below and let fellow travelers know!

– Lissa Poirot