FamilyFun Magazine Travel Awards Winners

March 26th, 2014 by Lissa No comments »

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

Bumps in the Road: Planning an Overseas Trip with Toddlers

March 25th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Having never planned an overseas trip family-style before, I didn’t really know what to expect throughout process. I decided to approach it the way I do every trip, and to try very hard not to psych myself out. I figured I would handle each unknown as it presented itself and thankfully, that has worked out just fine so far. Of course there are sure to be a number of unexpected issues that crop up once we arrive in Ireland — with four adults and two toddlers from two different families all traveling together, there are bound to be a few hiccups — but the extra layers involved in traveling with small children that we’ve encountered so far, may have caught us off guard, but were easily managed once discovered.

They’ll be even easier for you to deal with, since you’re reading this blog. Here are the planning challenges we’ve encountered so far:

Passport photos. Not every place that takes passport photos is actually equipped or skilled enough to photograph infants and toddlers. While me and my husband were lucky and got several great recommendations for the same place and were able to get our son’s photo taken in less than a minute, with great results, our friends were not so lucky. Scheduling was an issue, and several of the places that were open when they were available, flat out said they could not take pictures of a baby. What?! I think that’s rather ludicrous, but all the same. They ended up finding a local public library that has applications on hand, takes the photos and sends off the entire passport package all from one location.

And the applications. Most post offices and many public libraries are passport acceptance facilities, but hours are limited, which is more of an issue when you are applying for a child and it’s mandatory that the child along with both parents be present. That usually means both parents taking the day off or leaving work early and pulling the child out of daycare or school. Not only that, but you usually have to make the appointment in advance — you can’t just walk in on a day you happen to all be home. And those appointment dates and times are dependent on the facilities availability, not your own.

Airplane seat assignments. This may not be the case with all airlines, but when we booked online with Aer Lingus, we received a message that said that because we were traveling with lap infants we needed to call the service center for assistance choosing our seats. Not a big deal in the long run, but it is less convenient than simply clicking an online map of the plane. I ended up on hold for quite a while and by the time everything was done, naptime was over!

TSA regulations. I actually still haven’t really solved this mini-dilemma. I’ve checked both the TSA web site and the web sites of the airports we will be traveling from, for information regarding milk for our toddlers, and found really unclear information. Some sites say simply “milk” for babies and toddlers is fine, while others specify “breast milk or formula,” so I’m not sure whether bringing sippy cups of regular organic whole milk is a good idea. The stuff is expensive, so we’d rather not seen it get thrown out. I’ve had a lot of trouble finding milk that is not low-fat, let alone organic, in convenience stores and airports, so I’m not sure what the situation will be as far as purchasing milk after we go through security. At this point, we’ve decided to just wait and see, and hopefully we’ll find something suitable at the airport. If not, we really might be in for a VERY long flight.

For more on traveling with baby, see Travel with Infants.

–Shayne Rodriguez Thompson

Shayne is an adventurous 20-something mom to a toddler, freelance travel writer and part-time mommy blogger at Mamas Latinas.

Off the Beaten Path in Daytona Beach

March 24th, 2014 by Lissa No comments »

Families heading to the Florida shores for spring break already know the waters are warm, the sun is shining, and the beach has plenty of room for visitors. When visiting Daytona Beach for spring break or as a side trip from Orlando, there is more than just the beach to enjoy. Take a look at the places the locals like to visit:

Sun Splash Park
Local families have come to enjoy this 4-acre splash park at the southern end of Daytona Beach. Beat the heat with an interactive water fountain, shaded playground, picnic areas, Coca Cola-sponsored “cool zone” and more. Sun Splash Park is FREE and open from sunrise to sunset.

Cracker Creek
Cracker Creek is an environmental and historical treasure just south of Daytona Beach in Port Orange. Located on the western side of scenic Spruce Creek, this 20-acre sanctuary is a natural home for a variety of endangered plants and animals best seen by boat or on foot. Visitors can paddle or tour the Creek on a variety of boat tours and sunset cruises, or via hydro bike, canoe and kayak rentals.

Dunn’s Attic & Auction House
When on the hunt for one-of-a-kind finds, visit Dunn’s Attic & Auction House. Newly opened by one of the Daytona Beach area’s staple retailers, the Dunn Family welcomes you to 12,000 square feet of shopping excitement featuring everything from furniture and jewelry to handmade gifts and collectibles. Make sure to visit Rosie’s Café brimming with breakfast and lunch items, old fashioned sodas, beer and wine. And, stop by on Saturday for Mimosa Saturdays – all mimosas just $1. Dunn’s also includes a special Artist’s Corner, featuring local artists year-round. It’s a great way to find a truly special piece to remember a vacation.

Bonfires on the Beach
If you are a true beach bum, sunset should not automatically halt fun on the sand. Bonfires on the beach offer an alternative to family bonding in a hotel room. Open to residents and visitors, Volusia County provides fire rings for bonfires free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. Wood for the fire is not provided. Beach visitors are also allowed to bring their own bonfire pit. Fire rings are available November through April during non-sea turtle nesting seasons. The last day for a fire ring this year is April 28.

Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail
Interested in exploring some of the most beautiful natural scenery in Florida? The Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail is a must-do experience – ride, cycle or hike along 30 miles of roadways with direct access to the Intracoastal Waterway, Atlantic Ocean, Tomoka State Park and Bulow Creek State Park. The Loop also includes museums, historic public buildings and private homes.

Cinematique Theater
For a cultural night out, follow the locals to Daytona Beach’s only art-house cinema, the Cinematique Theater of Daytona. This unique cinema serves food, beer and wine while movie-goers enjoy “hard-to-find” foreign and/or independent films. As a nonprofit organization, their mission is to bring the best international, national and local independent films to Daytona Beach.

Click here to find Family-Friendly Daytona Beach Hotels.

What’s New at the Jersey Shore

March 23rd, 2014 by Lissa No comments »

After Hurricane Sandy devastated the Jersey Shore in the fall of 2012, you may be wondering how the rebuild is continuing and what’s new on the Jersey Shore. Here’s a look:

Seaside Heights
A new and improved 600-foot Boardwalk replaces Seaside Heights‘ old boardwalk, which was originally 20 feet wide. It will now be 65 feet wide with plenty of room for families. Casino Pier will reopens April 12th with new rides like the Air Race, where riders pilot planes up to 25 feet in height, and Jump Around, a Baja Buggy-themed ride.

Seaside Park
Seaside Park lost its pier, but the beach town will open a pop-up Carnival in its place in August. From August 1 to 15, the Carnival will have games and fun, as well as drive-in movies on the marina lawn and concerts by the beach; a sand sculpture of the boardwalk past, present and future; and activities for the kids.

Six Flags Great Adventure
Near the shore, Six Flags Great Adventure is reopening April 12 for its 40th season. The amusement park will celebrate its anniversary with the opening of Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom. The ride will connect to the 456-foot Kingda Ka roller coaster, with Zumanjaro lifting riders 41 stories before dropping them at 90 miles per hour as the roller coaster speeds by at 128 miles per hour. There will be three drop towers with gondolas holding eight riders.

Wildwood’s Morey’s Piers is also reopening on April 12 with a grand opening celebration. New this year is the Wave Swinger ride that will spin and swing riders 50 feet above the beach. Morey’s Piers operates three boardwalk amusement piers and two water parks, as well dining options.

–Lissa Poirot

New Travel Products We Want For Our Families: Travel Gear

March 22nd, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Today I’m continuing my review and recommendation of intriguing new travel-related products which I spotted on the trade show floor at NY NOW in New York City last month. These accessories are really useful and/or entertaining while you’re on the road or in the air.

WHAT: SiliMap by Silikids
Perfect for: Giving kids a geography lesson while dining out

When my kids were little, their food rarely stayed on their plates, so I was neurotic about covering restaurant tables. This portable placemat is the newest product in a line of safe silicone feeding accessories for kids, and has pre-sectioned panels which fold easily for compact storage. The map design is great on a road trip when you want to track your progress. Color it with non-permanent marker, then wipe it clean. Silicone is durable, non-toxic, and hypo allergenic. It doesn’t promote bacteria or fungus growth, or transmit taste to food.

WHAT: Snap lantern by Zelco
Perfect for: A compact light source for RV and camping trips

This one lantern handles different types of lighting needs—spot, flood, and area—because it can be re-positioned as a flashlight, an area light or a hanging lantern. In the open position, the lantern measures 7 inches tall and provides 360 degrees of light. Snap it closed, and the next two settings are for the high powered flashlight and area light. The battery-powered light is provided by 11 super bright, long-lasting LED bulbs. It is rubber-coated for an easy grip in harsh weather conditions.

WHAT: Play Scenes by Mudpuppy
Perfect for: Portable, tech-free play on the plane or in the car

This collection of 12 different sticker play sets makes the perfect take-along toy to encourage free play and storytelling. The two newest designs are Trainyard and The Friendly Forest.
The Trainyard Play Scene features a portable background scene and over 35 reusable vinyl stickers with plenty of cute characters. The sets have built-in handles and are packaged in clear plastic pouches.

WHAT: Buggygear stroller accessories
Perfect for:
Your next trip to the boardwalk or a theme park on a hot summer day

I wish these were around when my kids were still in strollers! The UPF50 SunChaser Buggy Shade offers maximum sun protection because it absorbs 99% of UVA and UVB rays. The multi-position flexible arm easily twists, turns and adjusts shade to any angle. The battery-operated fan produces a steady stream of cool air. The safety blades were designed to be extra gentle on little fingers and toes. It’s available in multiple colors to match your gear. Both products have a universal clamp which attach to any stroller, car seat, tricycle, or swing.

–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.

New Travel Products We Want For Our Families: Packing Gear

March 21st, 2014 by Guest Blogger 1 comment »

I’m all for any product which makes it easier to travel with my husband and two kids. Make the process faster, keep me organized, and add a little style on top of it all, and you have my business. Last month, while product scouting at the NY NOW trade show for home and lifestyle products, I found several new products I love, and I wanted to pass along my finds.

Today, it’s all about packing. Tomorrow, I’ll share travel accessories and “on the go” entertainment.

WHAT: “Free Like Birdie” Travel System
Perfect for: Uber-organized parents who still pack for their kids

To expedite packing for your kids, this set of various sizes of waterproof bags includes a diaper pouch with changing pad, a clothes bag, and a “weekender” travel bag with shoulder strap. You can refer to the chart on the inside to remember basics like socks and pajamas. Even better, there are two sections to separate clean and dirty items. I also love the “green” qualities of this reusable and eco-friendly product; the bags are free from phalates, PVC, lead and chlorine.

WHAT: Cargo luggage from Flight 001
Perfect for: A traveling family of four, or a family with four kids

With this stackable and virtually indestructible set, each member of the family can get their own color-coded piece of luggage. The candy-hued polypropylene exterior hard shells are available in yellow, blue, pink and charcoal. Each piece weighs less than 8 pounds, and is transported easily on two wheels with a retractable handle. Inside, mesh organization pockets make it easy for your kids to organize their own stuff.

WHAT: Bag Tags by Mudpuppy
Perfect for: Kids who want to express their personalities when traveling

These colorful I.D. tags give a utilitarian product expressive flair. Your kids can choose their favorite from the collection, which includes the airplane, taxi, robot, owl, cupcake, and the Madeline book series character. The tags are made of bright, durable felt with decorative contrast stitching, and the address slot includes a personal information card. A metal buckle and felt strap secures the tag to any backpack or suitcase, and the transparent backing protects the written information from the elements.

WHAT: “Mini Avery” accessory cases from Lolo
Perfect for: The tween or teen traveler in your family

To be honest, even my divatastic six-year old daughter would love this light blue vinyl zippered pouch with pink “OMG” letters stitched on the front. The diminutive dimensions — 3.5″ tall and 4.5″ wide — make it work perfectly as a mini make-up case or coin purse. Other fun styles sport a peace sign, the Eiffel Tower, an airplane, and the words “Surf” and “Beach.”

–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.