Thanksgiving is over and now, it’ time to move on to the next holiday season. If you live in the Midwest or the Northeast parts of the country, you know we are going into rainy/snowy/freezing cold season. Most people in these parts have learned to make the best of the situation and embrace the cold.
Here are some great cold weather destinations, if that is your thing. It’s not mine, I prefer to head south to someplace warm.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is great for the entire family. Kid’s love its impressive Kids Ranch located at the base of the mountain.
Cody House Kids Ranch is an all-inclusive children’s facility with daycare and age-specific activities for kids ages 6 months-17 years old. Once the kids are occupied skiing, snow boarding or doing other fun outdoor programs, you can spend some quality time on the slopes or participate in some of JMHR’s adult programs.
The Canyons Resort, Utah
The Canyons is situated in beautiful Park City, Utah and offers plenty of indoor and outdoor activities. The resort’s clinics offer beginner to advanced ski and snowboard lessons for teens and adults.
For children ages 2-12, The Canyons provide indoor and outdoor childcare plus age appropriate programs at the Perfect Kids Ski School.
Telluride is a great ski mountain that offers all levels of terrain. Everything in Telluride is within walking distance and that makes it an ideal vacation spot for families.
The Mountain Village Activity Center houses lift tickets, rental equipment and a Children’s Center that has a nursery for infants and toddlers years. The Children’s center also houses children’s ski and snowboard schools.
In addition to clinics for the children, Telluride offers adult ski, snowboard and snow biking lessons.
Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont
Located in the heart of the Green Mountains in Northern Vermont, Smugglers’ Notch has consistently been voted one of the top ski resorts for families. It offers several indoor and outdoor activities for all ages. Programs available include children’s ski and snowboard camps with lessons tailored to certain age brackets. Adventures for teens, outdoor ice skating, and adult lessons will keep everyone busy and enjoying the slopes.
Smuggler’s Notch also boasts a certified childcare center for children ages 6 weeks-3 years. This allows plenty of time for Mom and Dad to take advantage of the resorts indoor activities offered such as swimming in a heated pool, sitting in a hot-tub to soothe tired achy muscles after a long day on the slopes, and relaxing with a soothing massage.
I never thought of a cold weather vacation as a viable option for my family before, but with all the childcare available and different activities, it sounds like it could be a lot of fun for the entire family.
What is your family’s favorite cold weather vacation destination?
Photo Source: Jared Eberhardt
If you’ve always wanted to travel but finances just haven’t been in agreement, then voluntourism might be just the thing you are looking for, as an individual or as a family.
Basically, voluntourism is an experience where you volunteer some sort of service somewhere that you would like to experience the culture, geography, history, and sights. You go, not only to enjoy the area, but also to serve the people by sharing your talents, resources, and abilities.
In other words, if you are looking for a vacation where you get to spend 24/7 lying on the beach and drinking Pina Coladas, this is not for you.
You might choose to help clean up wildlife areas or use your medical knowledge to help provide children in third world countries with medical care. The opportunities are nearly endless.
You need to expect to pay for many expenses yourself. You’ll more than likely be responsible for your own transportation, although in many areas food and lodging are provided.
For example, hereâ€™s an opportunity in theÂ Virgin Islands. A group will be working to fix park trails that have been washed out. Days will be spent outside, creating grades, embankments, and moving gravel. You’ll need to get yourself there, find transportation from the airport to the park, and then you’ll get to spend six days sleeping in four person tents and cooking outside.
Your costs for this would be your airfare, transportation to and from the site, and $290.00 for six days on St. John.Â All of your afternoons are free to explore the historic ruins and enjoy the sights and culture of the Virgin Islands.
You’d be lucky to get a hotel room and meals for $290.00 a day in that area. It’s a great way to see the world for a reduced rate, build up your resume and life experiences, and get the personal satisfaction of giving back to humanity.
Does this sound like something you’d do?
I like hiking, but I’m not big on carrying a lot of weight in my backpack. It’s just the basics for me. When I read about a musician by the name of Dotan Negrin who has been backpacking around the country with his piano, the story intrigued me.
Dotan Negrin has been backpacking with his piano since April 2011. He calls the project Piano Across America and at this time he has logged in more than 19,000 miles with his dog Brando and his 500-pound piano. All along the way he plays music for people.
Negrin got the idea for this spectacular undertaking after he graduated from a New York City performing arts college. He worked odd jobs to make it through the sluggish economy, but told Fox News, “It was so frustrating waking up every morning doing the same routine working towards someone elseâ€™s dream instead of my own dream.”
The 26-year-old musician decided to follow his own dream by playing piano across the United States â€“ on city streets, small towns, and even the Grand Canyon.
Now he has taken his music on the road beyond the U.S. on a 10,000 mile journey from Manhattan to Panama. He is currently in South America where he has already played in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. He sleeps in his truck and lives on a budget. He shops at grocery stores instead of eating out, and doesn’t do a lot of shopping.
I find Negrin’s story inspiring in this day and age. So many college grads find themselves unemployed or underemployed following graduation. This is one young man who showed ingenuity and didn’t settle for that. He has taken a proactive approach to following his dreams and is filming his journey.
He plans on creating a web series that highlights different types of music. Once he returns to the U.S. he also hopes to initiate a free music workshop for kids and maybe even plan a European tour.
Photo Credits: PianoAcrossAmerica
I grew up in the Midwest. The one thing I love most about living in the Midwest is the people and the seasons. I love that we have four and my favorite, like most people, is autumn.
There is something beautiful about the majestic golds, reds and browns as nature prepares for winter. Crisp air, fall colors and sweaters are just a few of the reasons that I love autumn in the Midwest. I want my daughters to take the same joy in seeing nature evolve, and so here are a few of the best places to take your children to see the leaves change in the Midwest.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Twenty minutes from downtown Cleveland isÂ Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a 33,000-acre preserve. Walkers and bicyclists can stream along the beautiful and scenic 20-mile Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail.
There are also 100 miles of additional trails to choose from. Itâ€™s a beautiful place to bring the family to earn a greater appreciation for the scenic nature that lives right outside the city.
Shawnee Hills Wine Trail
Shawnee Hills Wine Trail is made up of several quaint towns. It is the epitome of fall; fresh-picked apples fill baskets at Rendleman Orchardsâ€™ Farm Market. Walking trails around Cedar Lake cross creek shallows; hikes through Little Grand Canyon and Giant City State Park allow you to see nature in all of its glory up close and personal. And what is not to like about wineries and cabins? Sounds like a perfect autumn weekend getaway to me.
Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway
Near Chicago and St. Louis, theÂ Illinois River Road National Scenic BywayÂ winds through natural areas and past scenic water views, bluffs and brilliant fall foliage that you would hardly expect form Illinois.
Ashtabula County’s Covered Bridges
Benetka Road Covered Bridge, in Ashtabula County Ohio, was built around 1900 and renovated in 1985. It spans the Ashtabula River and is one of 17 historic and reconstructed bridges in northeast Ohio’sÂ Ashtabula County.
In the fall, the Ashtabula County Covered Bridge Festival features tours of the bridges plus country music, a parade and other entertainment. Sounds like a good time to me.
Parke County’s Covered Bridges
Parke County Indiana has thirty-one covered bridges – the highest concentration of covered bridges in the country. Located 55 miles west of Indianapolis in the Wabash River Valley, you’ll find the nation’s highest concentration of covered bridges. In October, tour buses will guide you along the Covered Bridge Festival.
Brown County Indiana
I spent a lot of time hiking in Brown CountyÂ when I lived in Indianapolis. Like me, artists have been drawn to its natural beauty and rolling hills. The area surrounding Brown County, Nashville Indiana, has lots of cool boutiques and an artistic feel. It reminds me a lot of Asheville, North Carolina.
Visitors come from all over to enjoy the arts and the scenery, especially in autumn. Brown County State Park is Indiana’s largest state park and spreads over hills and offers activities for everyone such as horseback-riding, hiking and mountain bike trails.
Where is your favorite place to see the leaves turn this fall?
Photo Source: KimberlyKV
Last month, I had the opportunity to make a quick trip to Florida. It was one of those spontaneous opportunities, and I only had a week to prepare. I pulled out my list of things to take care of when going on vacation and it helped take the stress out of getting ready to leave.
When leaving for more than three days, it’s important to take care of things that don’t broadcast the fact that you’re not home.
I asked my neighbor to take in my mail and to keep an eye on the house. If you don’t have a neighbor you can trust, arrange with the Post Office to hold your mail. Leaving your mail to pile up in the mailbox not only signals you’re not home, but it is also an opportunity for an identity thief to sift through your mail looking for bank records, credit card statements, and other financial information they can use to steal from you.
Know How Much You Can Spend
It’s so easy to spend more than you can afford while away, but I’m a firm believer in following a budget. My husband and I sat down and discussed our spending limits before we ever packed. In my book, if I have to pay on a credit card for the next year to pay off a few days of fun, it’s not worth it.
Make It Look Like Your Home
I have a couple digital programmable timers that turn on lights when I’m not home. These timers make it possible to have lights come on at different times in different rooms making it look like someone is home to passersby.
Pay Your Bills
Unfortunately, bills don’t take a vacation. I looked ahead and saw the electric bill would fall due while I was gone. This is one bill I don’t pay online, so I went in and paid it before I left. I asked for a receipt just in case anything wonky would result because I paid ahead of time.
Don’t Announce Your Trip on Social Medial
While this isn’t on my list, it is worth a reminder not to announce your trip on Facebook or other social media sites. It’s like announcing that your house is empty. Wait until you get home to share the news.
A friend of mine mentioned that she’s going on a week-long vacation with just her husband to celebrate their 10-year anniversary. I was struck by awe and a little bit of jealousy. The last time my husband and I had a “vacation” to ourselves, it was for two nights, not far from home, when our daughter was a year old. Four years ago.
And the only reason we did it was to recuperate after the shock and unusually stressful aftermath surrounding his father’s death. We had to have a break. Especially him. We rented a cabin in the mountains for a couple of nights and attempted to decompress.
To take a kid-free vacation under any other circumstances sounds foreign and heavenly all at the same time. Sure, there’s the mommy (and probably daddy) guilt that goes with leaving your kids behind, feeling obligated to let them go somewhere fun like you are, but the truth is, kids and adults have different ideas of fun, and somebody usually ends up grumpy on a family vacation if the adults never get the time to have couple time.
I think that, though it seems nearly impossible to schedule, a vacation without kids (even a short one!) every couple of years makes the whole family function better. Parents and kids get a break from each other, which is often just as important for the kids as the parents. My daughter sure does welcome a break from my “bossiness,” even if it does mean she’s with her grandma who, “makes her do everything herself.”
Parents get a chance to reconnect as a couple. Even if they’re good as a couple, they finally get a chance to slow down and relax for once. Together. Not one at a time.
Do you ever vacation without your kids?
Photo credit: Monjori
We bought the girls a new puppy for Christmas. I never thought about traveling with her this summer. Sure, you can board your puppy or have someone pet sit, but if you are daring and really like to bring Fido along with your family on vacation, here are a few tips that will make that choice easier.
Make sure that your pup is up to date on all of his or her shots and is licensed.
Just like your car, your family pet must be licensed and registered. It’s also a must to have your contact information attached so that if they do get lost, they can be found and returned.
Make sure your pooch can ride in the car and not freak out.
That is not a problem for our Lola, she loves to ride in the car and has been on several short 4 hour drives. Our problem is that she thinks she is human. We need to make sure to stop her from trying to drive. She’s seen one too many Turner and Hooch movies. Try to drive them to fun destinations around town like the park or some other place, and they can get out and stretch their legs and get a treat for good behavior.
Make sure the dog has enough room to stretch, sit and lie down.
Nothing will make a dog (or a person for that matter) freak out faster than feeling threatened with a lack of space. It sends me into a panic attack myself.
Make sure that your destination is pet friendly.
Do this before you leave. There is nothing quite as disappointing as arriving late at night and tired only to find that your pooch is not welcome on the premises.
Bring the necessities.
You will need a sturdy leash to walk your dog, a towel to lie on, snacks, portable dishes for food and water, food, favorite toys and bottled water. Think of it just like taking your toddler somewhere on vacation, minus the pack and play.
Stay on schedule.
Make sure that you remember to feed your dog at their regular scheduled feeding time or you will ruin their entire schedule and yours, too.
Plan on even more potty breaks.
We have two little girls so we have to stop every two to three hours anyways for little people to potty and stretch their legs. Apply these same rules to your dog, only make sure to not let your dog out of the car without a leash unless you want a spooked dog to run into oncoming traffic and meet its untimely demise. That will ruin a vacation pretty quickly.
Do not let your dog stick their head out of the windows on the highway unless you do want your dog to get ear and eye problems. Dogs DO jump out of moving cars, contrary to popular belief. Also, make sure that you have the child locks on at all times. My dog likes to open the windows herself if I don’t. It’s like she’s trying to escape or something.
Never leave your dog or your kids alone in the car. One word “HEAT” can kill quickly, even if the window is down. Don’t risk it.
Photo Source: Elvissa
Jet setters know how to dress to fly in outfits that are comfortable, cute and more importantly, TSA friendly. Gone are the days of dressing up to fly. Though a snazzy two piece suit in powder blue of the 60’s was nice to look at, it would not be appropriate in today’s world.
Planes are cramped and the air is recycled so you want to go for comfort above all else. If there is one place that fashion takes a back seat, that is at 20,000 feet high. Your main concern when choosing an outfit for flying is comfort and the TSA. I learned this lesson the hard way.
My first flight I chose poorly and wore jeans, lace up boots, a belt, a watch, a tank top and a big comfy sweater. Let’s just say, I was pretty surprised to find myself in nothing but my skimpy tank top and jeans as I held up airport traffic and exposed a great deal of side boob to a PG audience. It was quite embarrassing and I learned a few things that morning.
Don’t put a ring on it. Don’t wear anything with metal. That means no belts, no watches, no buckles, no metal whatsoever.
Slip-on shoes. Uggs, ballerina slippers or flip flops, you want something you can get off in a nano second and have on again without causing a bottleneck like I did, this is especially important in large airports like O’Hare, JFK or LAX.
Layer it up. This is wise advice my mom has extolled all of my life because, “Debi, you never know what the temperature might be inside!” She was right. Don’t tell her okay? I live in the Midwest so I tend to be flying towards warmer weather.
Don’t wear something made for Minnesota in January when you are flying to the Bahamas unless you want to spontaneously catch fire. Also, make sure your last layer is PG rated. My skimpy tank was not. Side boob is not kid friendly, unless you are breast-feeding them.
To dress or not to dress? I love a comfy maxi dress or jersey dress to travel in. There is minimal chance of gust of wind showing the international flight your undies and it’s sort of like flying in your nightgown, which is a bonus.
But be sure not to wear g-strings on flight with a long loose dress lest you want to run the risk of getting up and having the unfortunate luck of your dress being lodged in your crack and you not knowing it because you’ve been asleep on a flight cross country for the past 4 hours. Comfy yoga pants or leggings may be a better choice for comfort on long flights.
If you want to be stylish, comfortable and TSA friendly on your next long flight, here are a few of my recommendations for optimal travel comfort.
What is your go to travel outfit?
Photo Source: Mike Knell
Summer is here and like most moms, I have been racking my brain to figure out how to keep my girls busy this summer. We have lots of things planned around town, but I’d like to do a few things that are not only tons of fun but also maybe just a little mentally stimulating.
I like to throw a few trips to museums, galleries and shows amongst all the bike riding, picnics and swimming of summer.
Here are some of the best family friendly museums in the country.
The Art Institute of Chicago – Chicago, Illinois
Famous for its collections of impressionist, post-impressionist and American paintings, the Art Institute of Chicago is one of the city’s most popular attractions. It houses the world’s largest Monet collection, Japanese art, Picasso, Dali as well as the world-famous Picture book gallery, which features illustrations from popular children’s books and is a favorite among children. Best of all, kids under 14 are admitted for free.
Carnegie Museum of Art – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The Carnegie Museum of art offers a vast array of types of art including impressionists, post-impressionists, plaster casts of ancient buildings and sculptures. It also offers a cute kids audio tour made specifically for children narrated by Art Cat.
The Smithsonian Institution – Washington D.C.
The Smithsonian is the must see group of attractions in the country for families. It’s all completely free and my children’s favorites are the National Zoo and the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. The Smithsonian will not disappoint, everything it does, it does all the way. You will be so glad you made the trip to our nation’s capital. A return visit to D.C. is on our list for this summer.
The California Science Center – Los Angeles, California
Located in Los Angeles, the California Science Center is great for answering the aged old question of how physics and chemistry shape the world that we live in. It is the world’s largest hands-on science center and is free. The museum has an IMAX theater, the opportunity to walk through a living kelp field and discover the relationship between a human and a single-celled bacterium.
National Museum of Play – Rochester, New York
The National Museum of Play is a favorite of any child who has ever been there. It is an entire museum dedicated to play. Exhibits include toys, dolls, games. electronics, books, photos and other historical materials related to play. The museum is completely hands-on and it’s a child and the child-at-heart’s dream come true. This is a must visit for every child.
My daughters love the Art Institute of Chicago and I love sharing it with them. I have fond memories of walking hand in hand with my own mom, perusing the gallery as a small child on field trips.
We’ve never been to the National Museum of Play in Rochester, but it is definitely on our list of must see soon. What could be better than a museum dedicated to all things fun?
What is your child’s favorite museum to visit? What is your fondest memory of a museum with your own parents?
Photo Source: ChicagoGeek