Six Tips for Cruising with Kids

Going on holiday with the kids is as equally rewarding as it can be frustrating. This is especially true if you are trying to travel to a range of different destinations. Corralling little ones onto flights can be tricky at the best of times and this is only exacerbated when you have multiple transfers and connecting flights to make. Fortunately, there’s one way to simplify the process and let the whole family travel to various places with ease – by taking a cruise.

By opting for a family cruise holiday, you just travel to the departure point, get comfy in your cabin and let the world come to you from the comfort of a luxury cruise liner. No longer the preserve of wealthy pensioners, cruise holidays are available to anyone. Whether you fancy touring the Mediterranean, The Caribbean, or even chillier climes – it’s up to you.

Don’t worry if you’ve never cruised before. It’s easy! And to make it even easier we’ve compiled a short list of tips for getting the most out of a cruise with kids. Read on.

Feel free to take the kitchen sink

It is received wisdom these days that it’s best to pack light when traveling. And usually this is the case. However, on a cruise you have the luxury of your cabin as a base of operations throughout the holiday. You don’t have to pack and repack (beyond a day bag for excursions). Combine this with the fact that there are not lots of shopping options on the seven seas, you don’t want to get caught short by forgetting any necessities. So, don’t worry about packing your suitcases a little fuller.

Also, while cruise ships are chock full of entertainment, there can still be a little downtime at sea. Beat the boredom by making sure you have plenty books and gizmos to keep the wee ones amused, as well as yourself.

Arrive at your departure point a day early

Missing a flight is a pain, but there’s always the next one to catch. This isn’t true of cruise ships. And a 60,000 ton luxury liner isn’t going to keep waiting if you’re late! Make sure you have plenty breathing room in case there are any travel hiccups by arriving at the departure point 24 hours before hand. It not only gives you a buffer, it also makes the trip out much less stressful.

Be picky with your cabin

Your cabin is where you’ll be for the duration of the trip, so make sure you pick the right one. Not all rooms are created equally and some may not have the facilities you need for your trip. If you require a room with a bath for example, you need to make sure you book one. If any of your family are prone to seasickness then be careful where the cabin is located. By choosing a room near the center of the ship, the effects of the sea are lessened and everyone will have a less-nauseas time while they get their sealegs.

Read up on the excursions available

Most cruise operators have a full list of excursions and activities posted well before they set sail. It pays to do your homework on these and choose the ones you want to do. Not only does it mean you’re well prepared, it also ensures you don’t miss out before they are fully booked.

Pack walkie talkies

There isn’t much phone reception in the middle of the ocean, so by packing walkie talkies you can keep in regular communication with the family when you’re in different parts of the ship. The kids will love it too!

Check the age requirements

Different cruise operators have different age policies and you need to know these before you head off. This doesn’t just include minimum ages for the cruise itself, but also the age requirements for kids clubs activities and baby sitting services – if the cruise offers them. A good rule of thumb is that if your child is potty trained they should be able to attend most kid focused activities, but make sure and check.

New York’s Lake Placid Holiday Stroll

If you are seeking a great place to get into the holiday spirit, you need look no further then Lake Placid, in upstate New York.   During one magical weekend a year, the area holds a “Holiday Stroll” where the entire town celebrates Christmas with a wide array of activities and festivals, many of which are free, and almost all are family friendly.

dec 16 020

The Lake Placid Holiday Village Stroll is amazing for the holiday season- you will find yourself  in an Adirondack Winter Wonderland. The volunteer run committee plans a wonderful weekend of art, music, gourmet foods, and boutique shopping. It’s a fun and festive alternative to  big box store options, and the intimate setting makes the Village Stroll appealing to couples and families (not to mention you gift the local flavor as well- take home a bit of the Adirondacks and give a taste to your friends and family).

There is much to see and to in the area, well known for winter activities and sports, as well as formerly hosting the Olympics. Families will love the ice skating party and Holiday Story Time at the Mirror Lake Inn. Couples will enjoy the wine tastings and art displays. Children will delight in the matinee showing of the Polar Express, the craft workshops and breakfast with Santa at participating hotels on Sunday morning.
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Portable travel bed for your toddler – critical tips for choosing the best

Any parent that decided to remain active after they world has been turned upside down when they brought a child into the world knows the struggle.

The struggle of trying to balance between the needs and wants of your child and Sisyphean efforts to keep doing what you love doing. Traveling, hiking, whatever it is, chances are your schedule has suffered.

But when the moment comes and you can finally start bringing your toddler on trips, it’s crucial that you know what you’re doing when preparing for the trip.

So, instead of learning from your mistakes, in this guide will address one of the most important aspects to plan – SLEEP.

sleeping while traveling

It’s hard enough getting them to sleep as is, let alone in strange new place on a different bed.

But if you play your cards right, they might end up liking the new bed more then they like the one at home.

So, let’s dive right in and talk about the one thing that can make or break your trip – the choice of travel bed for your kid.

We’ll be analyzing the pros and cons of three main styles of travel beds for toddlers:

  1. Air mattresses

  2. Foam folding travel beds

  3. Cots for toddlers

So, let’s dive right in, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover.

Airbeds for kids

One of the most popular options, mainly because of its convenience, is a toddler air mattress or a blow-up bed as you might hear people calling it.

blow up mattress

Three main fortes of this choice include:

  • Easy to use, practical and pack small – they usually come with a pump that also deflates the bed, so they pretty much pack to the original size. They pack neatly and can easily be carried in a suitcase, which makes them convenient for air travel.

  • Safety – when we say safety here, we refer to two aspects. The first one comes from the fact that airbeds for kids usually come with side rails (see the image above) and that keeps even the restless sleepers from rolling over during the night. The other safety aspect is the concern about the chemicals – the industry of inflatable furniture has changed a lot during the last few decades and no hazardous substances are used in the production (the bed in the image above – Shrunks Tuckaire toddler is an extreme example of that – it is eco-friendly and chemical-free and it comes with an optional sleeping bag).

  • Easy to clean, doesn’t hold smell – if your little one is still prone to accidents, an air mattress without a flocked top but with a fitted cover (Aerobed usually makes this type of inflatables) is your best bet. That way, if a wet mishap happens, you can just throw the cover into the washing machine and clean the smooth surface of the PVC (something you can’t do with the two other styles we’ll talk about in a minute).

Potential negatives:

  • Plastic smell – not a big issue per se, you can resolve it by airing the bed out for a few hours ( a day in extreme cases) until the smell of plastic is gone. But it can be worrisome if you don’t know the facts, the plastic smell will be there (it’s PVC after all), but what’s important is to pick a product that explicitly says that it is free of phthalates and BPAs (the mentioned Shrunks Tuckaire is a good example of that)

  • Potential air leaks – you don’t want to see your child waking up on the ground if the bed deflates during the night and you certainly don’t want that kind of trouble on a trip.

There are three pieces of advice we can give you here:

One – don’t buy the bed a day before you go on a trip. Getting it a few days or weeks before will both give your child a chance to get used to it and give you a chance to see how the bed works and if it loses air.

Two – don’t rely on the patch kit that usually comes included. Instead, get yourself a PVC patch kit from your local store.

Three – go to the websites that carry them and read the air mattress reviews – who could be a better source of information than the people using the products today. Spending some time on websites dedicated to reviewing the airbed and chose the ones that are top-rated. A half an hour extra of your time here will mean night of your child being sound asleep.

Conclusions about inflatables mattresses for kids

An airbed is the most popular choice among portable travel beds for kids, and for a few good reasons that we listed above.

Still, before deciding to go with it, think about the nature of your situation and needs.

For example, if you need it for a night or two and will probably never use it again, a simple cot might do the trick. Also, if you can spare the extra bucks for the comfort of your child and they are accident-free, a foam folding bed might be your best bet.

Folding travel beds – foam-based

Hands down the most comfortable choice, a foldable travel bed is made entirely out of foam and designed with side rails. Having said that, the foam is very soft and the sides are not that high, so there’s a chance or rolling over the edges.

kid sleepovers

Who is it for?

  • Families who have resolved the issue of nightly mishaps – cleaning this bed after an accident will prove to be quite a job and you’ll never get the smell completely out of the foam. If you still want the unparalleled comfort of the folding foam bed, it’s a good idea pairing it with a waterproof cover.

  • Families who are not on a tight budget, it’s the most expensive choice of the three

  • Families who don’t plan to take the bed on trips that involve air travel – it’s great for basking around the house, but it is bulky and can only be carried as a separate piece of luggage. Still a good option for camping.

If you do decide to go with this style, make sure that you choose quality (the bed in the image above, LeachCo BumpZZZ, is the one product that stands alone in the category).

Cots for toddlers – the budget solution

As we mentioned, a cot will most likely be a good choice if you need it for a sleep-over and you’re not very likely to use it often.

child's cot

It’s made of steel and plastic and a lightly padded canvas on top. The canvas is not tight or padded enough and, unless your kid is still very light, chances are they’re going to feel the beams that run across the surface underneath.

It’s still comfortable enough for it not to be problem for most kids, but if your little one is a particularly choosy sleeper, you won’t get much peace.

If you choose a cot, the plus side is that they are so inexpensive that you can easily choose quality – the cot in the image above “Regalo My Cot” is a safe bet.

Packing – the cot folds up like a folding chair. It packs smaller than a foam folding bed but not as small as an air mattress. It packs just small enough for air travel to be an option.

Summing it all up

The purpose of this guide was not to tell you which portable bed to choose for your kid.

It was to give you guidelines about the right questions to ask yourself before you make the decision.

If we managed to do that, our work is done.

Happy trails.

Orlando Vacations Off the Beaten Path

Millions of tourists flock to Orlando, Florida every year with one of several popular vacation destinations in mind. While a trip to the “Happiest Place on Earth” is certainly a draw for couples and families alike, if you’re looking for a totally different experience, there’s plenty to find in the area. Next time you visit the city, opt for one of many Orlando vacation rentals and venture out to one of these off-the-beaten-path attractions.

Bask in Nature at Harry P. Leu Gardens

If you have an affinity for nature and for history, you won’t want to miss the Harry P. Leu Gardens. The estate sprawls across 50 acres of land, with beautiful trees and colorful flowers. The purpose of Leu Gardens is to educate visitors about the plants through interactive experiences. Local residents can learn even more by signing up for classes or by participating in one of the many events onsite. Located on the grounds is a historic 19th-century home that’s been fully restored, where visitors can get a taste of how people lived in the 1800s.

Explore at the Orlando Science Center

Planets, kinetics, and dinos, oh my! Take a trip to the Orlando Science Center and inspire learning and discover the continents in a new way. There are plenty of attractions for children and adults, to keep you busy throughout the entire day. Participate in hands-on exhibits to keep the kids busy, take in a laser light show or watch one of several movies on giant screens.

Get Up Close with an Airboat Ride

If you’re looking for something truly unique to do with the family, consider hopping on an airboat and taking a wild ride through the swamps and walking through a Native Village. Boggy Creek is located in Kissimmee, just minutes away from the theme parks, and it offers an up-close look at the way Native Americans lived many years ago. Airboat rides are available during the day and evening. Take a sunset tour and end your day on a romantic note or opt for late-night expeditions where you can see the alligators at work in their natural habitat.

Shop and Have Fun at Downtown Springs

If you simply can’t miss a chance to do something, anything Disney, you can have lots of fun at Disney Springs, formerly known as Downtown Disney. Here, you can shop for souvenirs, take in several impromptu performances and eat food from around the world. You can try Coca-Cola flavors from several different countries and satisfy your sweet tooth at one of many candy stores. There’s more than just shopping and eating, too. Head to the bowling alley or Dine and Watch a movie at the onsite cinemas.

Kick Back and Relax at the Spa

While centered on attractions, Orlando is also a popular lover’s retreat. That’s why you can find several spas where you can get a massage, enjoy a wrap and just simply indulge yourself like you deserve. While some do accommodate walk-ins, this is the type of activity that you’ll want to book weeks in advance.

Whether you’re looking for romantic or adventurous adult outings, or want to spend the day doing an activity that leaves your children awe-inspired, there’s no limit to the fun you can find. These are just some ideas to get you started, and if you’re interested in more check out Visit Orlando for more trip planning ideas.

A Sweet and Spooky Halloween in Hershey, PA

hershey park halloween

Halloween isn’t quite the way it was years ago, but in some ways — in some places — it’s better! Today, when it comes to the little ones, parents are hesitant to let them wander throughout the neighborhood at night. City dwellers and those who live in remote areas can’t trick or treat. As for older kids – and these days, they’re growing up faster and faster – the holiday should be celebrated on a larger, more exciting and engaging level. What more memorable way for the whole family to get into the spirit (!) than a stay in Hershey, PA. Hersheypark After Dark is the epicenter of all the festivities.

hotel hershey park

Accommodations: There are two different excellent choices to stay, adding to your immersion in the Hershey experience. For that super comfy, homey feeling, there’s Hershey Lodge. High wood beams, warm candy ambient fragrance as you enter, a crackling fire to welcome you and relaxing environment adds to home away from home feeling. The brand new indoor pool complex has two interactive indoor pools, Twizzlers Twists Slides, Reese’s Water Walk, water play structures and the Cocoa Cabana dining location with a full bar. To that end, complimentary shuttle service to all Hershey attractions, the spa and dining spots takes away the stress of driving.

hershey park rides

For an elegant and sophisticated experience, The Hotel Hershey is considered a world-class resort. The tints and hues of the hotel’s “soft goods” harken back to the colors of fine chocolates and caramels. Inside the main building is a shopping arcade that has everything from candies, souvenirs, as well as chic clothing and luxury items. Different themes can be seen in the interior, reflecting upon different aspects of Milton Hershey’s life. An indoor courtyard with recessed bar, lounging areas, Moorish architecture, warm lighting and plants hint at old Spain and the Havana, Cuba to which the Hersheys traveled and conducted business. The hotel has daily activities for both children and adults, incorporating chocolate tastings, making things and other fun past times. Complimentary transportation to all Hershey attractions and local destinations is easy to arrange.

hotel hershey



What to do: There’s a delicious, cinematic-like thrill in getting to experience an amusement park “after hours”. HersheyPark After Dark really pulls out all the stops for the spookiest of holidays! You’ll find lots of rides – including 13 roller coasters. The three classic wooden roller coasters, complete with naturally rickety sound, even run without lights during the last hour the park is open. And, of course, what’s Halloween without candy! Throughout the park, you’ll find cute shops selling unusual sizes and collections of your favorite Hershey candies, along with chocolate-themed gifts.

theme park


If Hershey is the “Sweetest Place on Earth”, then Hershey’s Chocolate World must be its capital! Learn how West African cocoa and the rich milk of Central Pennsylvania come together to make one of the world’s favorite treats. Design your own fancy chocolate bar to take home. The gigantic candy store-emporium will create sensory overload, for sure!

hershey park

The Hershey Story – The Museum on Chocolate Avenue is educational on many levels. You’ll learn the inspiring story of Milton Hershey’s life along with the business and philanthropic perseverance he had. Foodies will appreciate fine chocolate tastings and making treats in the Chocolate Lab.

hershey garden

Hershey Gardens was created in honor of Mrs. Hershey’s love of botanicals. They get all into Halloween, with over 150 awesome and cool carved and lit pumpkins. You can pick up candy treats – just like at home – at stops along the way. This part of the celebration is geared towards kids 12 and younger, who are encouraged to wear costumes. It might be October, but the garden is still in bloom, and the roses are both lovely and fragrant.  The butterflies are ready to see and be seen as well- even if they aren’t all decked out for Halloween.
butterfly gardens

Save On Your New York Vacation With The New York Pass

museum of natural history

New York is definitely a spot that should be on your vacation bucket list – and great things are coming to New York! With a newly updated New York Pass, the City’s largest attraction pass card – the first of which is the inclusion of a free double-decker bus tour with every New York Pass purchased (thanks to a new partnership with the Big Bus New York) – now is the time to start planning that New York vacation you have always talked about.  With the New York pass it will make your Big Apple visit fast and easy as your ride along on the double-decker bus and enjoy the sights and sounds.

visit new york

Not only will you get to ride the double decker bus and tour the Big Apple, but you also get admission and discounts to over 90 must-see New York attractions. You can hop-on or hop-off at any attraction or sight that catches your eye, and then be back on your way in a matter of minutes to a new and wonderful destination of your choosing. With the New York pass, you will get more bang for your buck by saving up to 70% all while skipping the lines at several of the busiest attractions in the Big Apple area.

dinosaur museum

American Museum of Natural History

“The New York Pass is quickly becoming a mobile metro card for tourists,” said Ken Barrows, Vice President of Leisure Pass North America LLC, the parent company of New York Pass.  “Our exciting new venture with Big Bus New York will allow our customers to maximize their use of each pass by giving tourists and locals the option of using Big Bus to have a seat with a view, or to simply travel between attractions.”

Madame Tussauds New York

Madame Tussauds – New York Celebrity Wax Attraction

Whether you are planning on staying in the Big Apple one day or 10 days, there are New York passes for both and everything in between.  In 2015, New York Pass launched a new “10-Day Pass” to cater to tourists staying in the Big Apple for lengthier periods of time and added new attractions such as the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and Fashion Windows Walking Tour. Every New York Pass includes a free 200-page guidebook with detailed maps, hours of operation, tips and directions to every New York Pass attraction featured.

St. Patrick's Cathedral New York

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

There has never been a better time to vacation to New York. What will your first New York attraction destination be?

For more information and a complete list of attractions where the pass can be used, please visit  

Disclosure statement Disclosure- This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own. For more information, please see “I Disclose”.

The Iowa State Fair

The Iowa State Fair was described to me as “our Disneyland. Well, not really- but it is”. It’s something people look forward to every year, and it’s easy to see why.

iowa state fair

I had never been- and if you, like me, don’t live in Iowa, I suggest you make the pilgrimage at least once in your lifetime. You may have a state fair where you live- and I do as well. But this is different. It’s….well, it’s the Disneyland of state fairs, if you would.

iowa state fair

The largest state fair in America, there was more to see, do, and eat then one was able to take in during a single day. It was a feast for the senses, with something new around every corner, and more tucked away in corners and in buildings and down the side over there. An explosion of festival. A few times, I thought we had seen “all the things”, but a local would point out a spot we had missed. We very nearly didn’t see the agricultural showcase, where people showcased their best flowers, centerpieces, small bushes, etc and submitted them for judging. Who would want to miss the blue ribbon gladiola? Not to mention this year’s butter sculptures, such as the Star Trek Enterprise as well as the essential butter cow. Yes, really. These sculptures were made entirely of butter, and people would line up to see them in their refrigerated enclosures through window panes. They never would make it in room temperatures, where it was nearing 100.

blue ribbon winners

Every year, there is a butter cow, dating back to 1911. These butter bovines have a long history- so while I was amused, there is a lot that goes into their creation. There are now companion pieces that are sculpted along with the cow each year, and this year it is Star Trek, which celebrates it’s 50th birthday. Not to be outdone, the butter cow is celebrating her 105th birthday. Good thing we are in corn country- what else would you do with 600 pounds of butter after the fair?

butter cow

The Iowa State Fair is a great place for the whole family- there is face painting, balloons, and many booths have free temporary tattoos for the kids. We saw a few children with very little “real estate” left from their growing collection. There is one area, known as “the concourse”, that was for carnival rides, games of chance, and of course a few food and drink booths. Buy tickets singly, by the bunch, or an all day wristband that lets them on unlimited times.

kiddie rides

More then one person mentioned the “Giant Slide” to us, and that it was something they looked forward to every year, or that they had been doing since they were kids and now do with their own children. It requires it’s own ticket, but seems to be something you “must do” when at the fair.

giant slide

In one building, local art and artists were showcased. You could buy items locally made and handcrafted, and some locally made foods to take home as well.

Outside, kids could make several different kinds of crafts, including decorative mobiles, bracelets, and pottery spun on wheels or sculpted by hand.

Then there was the food.

Fair food.

In a class all on it’s own, the fried, greasy goodness that is fair food was available in an abundance I can’t exaggerate.

state fair food

You could get everything your heart desired- as long as your heart desired fried foods. From classics like funnel cakes and corn dogs, to the more healthy (ish) fried pineapple or pickle dawgs- if it can be fried, it can be found at the Iowa State Fair.

Our fair favorites include cheese curds- nothing fancy, but how do you go wrong with fried cheese? Cheese curds are the solid parts of sour milk, sometimes called “squeaky cheese”, and are quite popular in the midwest. Also, the aforementioned “pickle dawgs” are, in my opinion, a must try. A pickle is wrapped in either pastrami or ham and smothered in cream cheese, then deep fried. Sounds strange? Definitely. But it’s also delicious.

fair food

Food on a stick is king at the fair, and so are pork products. Of the highest nobility, then, are the bacon wrapped ribs and bacon wrapped pork chops.

My son devoured them with gusto, regardless of the fact that we had just been to the petting zoo and the agricultural center, where we learned about the life cycle of pigs and other animals, and saw 10 hour old piglets nursing their mother. Iowans explain this phenomenon as understanding where your food comes from, and how hard it is to get them from farm to table. It’s gaining an appreciation for your meals and the people who bring them to you. It’s learning to be grateful. He declared them his favorite food ever. How much was an Iowa lesson learned, and how much was the meat on a stick, is open to interpretation.

fried snickers

For dessert, there are endless ice cream stands, and with the summer heat being no joke right now, you will want to make use of one or two of those. But if you’ve never had fried oreos or fried candy bars, try them. We are going to recommend the fried Snickers bars, which are (honestly) battered and deep fried, then have powdered sugar dusted on them before they are delivered to you via paper boat. The 9 year old was in sugar Heaven. He wanted another, but even I’m only so indulgent.

fair rides

Any time is a good time to visit Iowa, but if you haven’t made plans yet, you might want to plan around the state fair dates.

The Condado Plaza Hilton in Puerto Rico

Visiting the capital city of Puerto Rico, San Juan, is a must.  There are many things to see and it has many things to offer any tourist. In the heart of it all is the Condado strip. It is a short walk to beaches, shopping and nightlife or to the colonial charms of Old San Juan. It is also where the Condado Plaza Hilton is located.


Condado Plaza Hilton has the distinct privilege of being the only hotel to overlook the Atlantic Ocean and the tranquil Candado Lagoon. Constructed in 1963, Condado Plaza Hilton is a landmark hotel that features 571 Leo-Daly designed deluxe guest rooms and suites. Each room has a sleek contemporary design and many feature private balconies and gorgeous water views.
While visiting Condado Plaza Hilton, there is dining for every taste and preference. With 8 restaurants, bars and lounges (including an award winning fine dining restaurant, Pikayo) you will want to try them all, and I can personally tell you the food is fantastic.

Besides the amazing food choices, there is plenty to do while visiting the resort. Enjoy the protected cove-like beach, perfect for kayacking in the Condado Lagoon, or enjoy snorkeling at the underwater artificial, indigenous-themed reef trail. There are plenty of watersports available in the  Condado Lagoon. Besides kayaks and snorkeling, there are also stand up paddle boards, boats and floats available- some in the lagoon, some in the cove. With a reservation, you can get lessons for wind surfing and kayaking. 


If you are looking for water fun but do not want to be in the ocean, swim in one of the 4 outdoor pools.  These include an activity pool with a waterslide and swim-up bar, a lap/lounge pool overlooking the Condado Lagoon, a toddler’s pool, and the only saltwater pool in Puerto Rico. The pools are beautiful and wonderfully clean, you will want to stay in them all day.  There is even a rooftop pool, which is pretty neat.

20151213_094938One of the pools also has a really fun castle themed waterslide, that kids and adults can both use.  My son really loved it.  There is a swim up bar as well, where you can get adult or “virgin” drinks to cool off in the hot sun should you want to.


If you are looking for something a little different to do with the kids, look into the ScoutAbout children’s activity program. Kids love scavenger hunts, and this will take their vacation to a whole new level of adventure. Throughout the hotel, little scavengers can find hidden Points of Discovery. Kids read the map and explore different areas, then they receive a color-coded ScoutAbout Band. If they collect them all, the kids can join the Wall of Fame.

For reservations or further information about The Condado Plaza Hilton, call 787-721-1000 or visit

Rooftop pool at the hotel

Rooftop pool at the hotel