Are we there yet?
Those four words make any parents’ shoulders rise and their molars grind. Whether they're still in the car seat phase or not quite a teenager, taking your youngsters on trips can be tricky. I have two girls, five and eight, and I've been traveling with them since before they could walk. Over the years, I've found that the key is to keep them entertained. Follow these steps, and with a little luck, the vacation will go smoothly…for EVERYONE.
Let Everyone Have a Say
At all cost, get in the planning process early. Not only is it important to pick a destination the drivers will enjoy, allow the little ones to have a say too. Narrow the search down to three options, preferably the favorites and then make the final decision. This way everyone is happy.
Birds of a Feather
The next step is to stress the importance of sticking together. Now, I'm not suggesting having family shirts made. You know, the ones that are color-coded and have the last name at the top like a football jersey (unless your family is major sports fans). Instead, I like to take the ‘wolf pack' approach, clarifying that mom and dad are the leaders, but no cub goes unnoticed.
Food, no matter what age your kids are, is essential for any trip. Smart meal options can lead to saved time and money. Stopping at a grocery store when you first arrive at a destination is a good rule of thumb. Purchase what I like to call "cry snacks," (don't we all get upset when we're hungry?) like granola, gold fish, cereal or even yogurt.
Book a Hotel with Breakfast Included
The Grand Floridian is a great example of a family-friendly hotel, which worked well for my family on our last Walt Disney World vacation. However, if it's a smaller trip, I'd suggest looking for a Holiday Inn option, where breakfast is included. Essentially, it was killing two birds with one stone since I was able to earn more IHG points, while also having the expense of breakfast covered before even departing for the day.
Tips to Keep Kids Engaged
Keeping kids engaged while sightseeing has a lot to do with getting them involved early in the planning. Highlight a few points of interest either before departure. This way, you can make a checklist of items that you know they will see on the trip. If your children are anything like mine, they usually love seeing new things that I get excited about, therefore include spots that appeal to you too.
One thing that helps keep my kids more occupied are the small notebooks I bring along. Decoration is encouraged and so is a list of attractions they liked to see at each place. This way, they can actively cross out the things we've seen. The notebooks can also be used to write down things they would like to buy. Instead of just "buying the souvenirs to keep them quiet," I say that there will be many items they'll want to buy, but set some limits. I give them a daily budget. For the things outside of their price range, I suggest they just write them down. This way it's easy to keep the items in mind for the next holiday or birthday (which I promise is right around the corner).
Traveling with Teenagers
The only thing different about traveling with teenagers is the additional ‘slack’ parents are willing to give. Even though my girls aren't at that stage yet, my friends who do have teens say they want more free time to explore on their own. Society considers them young adults, so parents should keep the "embarrassing" moments to a minimum. If you can gain approval points from the older ones, you can bank on more precious Kodak moments in the years to come.
Bottom line: plan, plan, plan! I can't say it enough and with the holidays fast approaching, a "Clark Griswald" persona is always appreciated, just make sure to not go overboard.
The outcome of air travel has a lot to do with the attitudes of the parents. Visiting an airport and flying can be fun…if you make it so. Flight delays can happen but if the parents remain in a good mood, chances are the kids will too. Keep it positive and follow these tips to reduce the stress of flying with kids!
Don’t Over Schedule
Getting from point A to point B can be long, so I try not to schedule any important events during a travel day.
Book transportation as early as possible
This includes the flight and car service (both ways). Making reservations in advance, not only allows you to budget the expenses beforehand but also eliminates walking time. Seeing a driver dressed in suit and tie, holding a sign with your name on it would make anyone feel special, including your kids. Maybe the driver will even let one of them wear his shiny black hat. If this happens, parents are awarded bonus points.
Plan for Security
If you haven't done TSA pre-check before, traveling with children is the time to do it. Lines are shorter through airport security, eliminating the hassle of standing for long periods of time, which is helpful when the kids are getting too big for that handy-dandy stroller. Slip-on shoes for everyone are also a good idea, especially if you're asked to remove them.
I allow my kids to pack a small carry on (yes, mine have the Frozen backpacks), for a change of clothes, their swimsuits, coloring books, iPad, a deck of cards…etc. If it fits, pack it. If I'm on my game, I sometimes prepare a route map for them and even an itinerary, so they can follow the course. Don't forget anti-bacterial wipes for the tray tables and chewing gum to help with the altitude changes (ear popping) often experienced during take-off.
Seat Kids Near the Windows
Not only do little ones like to look out the window, but you also keep them away from the food and beverage cart, where hot coffee and water could easily spill.
Budget or Bring Snacks
A budget for snacks or light meal on the plane is my usual protocol. Kids love to order from the menu, especially if it's out of their routine, so give them some freedom to the items you know they'll like and most importantly eat. Other parents I know pack easy, low-sugar finger food such as string cheese, Cheerios, pretzels, carrot sticks, and granola. You don’t want to bring anything too messy, but boys are these options helpful when your kids are hungry.
Do you have other tips for air travel with kids? Let me know in the comments below!
I love fireworks for any holiday, and I am incredibly excited how Colonial Williamsburg has packed an entire day with music, tradition, and fireworks in the unique way only this iconic American city can do. Join me in Colonial Williamsburg to enjoy the holiday festivities of Grand Illumination on Sunday, Dec. 3. After a morning of the town’s special activities and an afternoon of music, the events will conclude with “A Festival of Light and Thunder,” a free fireworks demonstration. Trust me, it’s going to be epic.
First, what is an illumination? In the 18th century, illuminations involved the firing of guns and lighting of fireworks. These guns and fireworks announced major events such as the birthday of a reigning sovereign, military victories, or the arrival of a new colonial governor.
Grand Illumination festivities begin at 4 p.m. when a town crier (of course Colonial Williamsburg begins the festivities with a town crier) officially opens the holiday season from the Courthouse steps. I’ve listed the highlights of the city's December 3rd events below. Visit colonialwilliamsburg.com for tickets and even more details.
Until 6:30 p.m., themed musical performances will be showcased on four Historic Area stages:
At the same time, the William & Mary a Capella group the Gentlemen of the College will sing on the new porch of the Raleigh Tavern.
Fireworks and Parade
The celebration culminates in “A Festival of Light and Thunder” at 7 p.m. with simultaneous free fireworks demonstrations above the Capitol, the Magazine and the Governor’s Palace, followed by a torch-lit procession of the Fifes & Drums down Duke of Gloucester Street. Visit colonialwilliamsburg.com for complete programming details.
The day’s dining highlights include:
Guest parking is available at the Colonial Williamsburg Regional Visitor Center.
Daytime programs included with Colonial Williamsburg admission
Good Neighbor Passes to the Governor’s Palace
Also on Dec. 3, Colonial Williamsburg is offering a single-site ticket to the iconic Governor’s Palace, available in limited quantities exclusively via the Colonial Williamsburg Explorer mobile app for $15. The ticket will only be available on Dec. 3. For just $10, residents of Williamsburg, James City County and the Bruton District of York County can visit the Governor’s Palace and other sites daily and enjoy other benefits with a Good Neighbor Annual Pass. For additional information and to purchase a Good Neighbor Annual Pass visit colonialwilliamsburg.com/good-neighbor.
Tickets and program information are available by visiting colonialwilliamsburg.com. Tickets, reservations and information are available by calling 855-296-6627, toll-free. Information, dining reservations and same-day program tickets are available via the free Colonial Williamsburg Explorer app, which can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play. Information is also available by following Colonial Williamsburg on Facebook and @colonialwmsburg on Twitter and Instagram.
Knoxville Market Square is just about the perfect sliver of American civic and community life I’ve ever experienced. Located in the center of downtown, the square covers over one acre, with storefronts lining the east and west. The site became popular in the early 1800s, when farmers gathered to sell their produce. Now, you can still visit the local farmers’ market as well as people watch, see street performers, shop in unique boutiques, and eat at some of the best food trucks and restaurants in the area. For ideas for your next visit, check out my top-ten list below!
Experience the 30th Annual Town Point Virginia Wine Festival, Norfolk’s famous wine festival, this October. Wine Enthusiast Magazine has called Virginia one of the 10 best wine travel destinations in the world! According to Norfolk FestEvents, this year’s fall wine festival will showcase more than 30 wineries with over 200 of Virginia’s best wine varieties.
Stroll along the Elizabeth River, sampling and purchasing premier wine vintages. Enjoy live musical performances, along with gourmet foods and specialty wares.
October 21-22, 2017
Town Point Park, Downtown Norfolk Waterfront, Virginia
Saturday: 11am - 6pm
Sunday: 11am - 6pm
General admission tickets (which don’t include tasting privileges nor souvenir glass) are $25 on Saturday and $20 on Sunday. Tasting tickets (which include souvenir glass and tasting privileges) are $35 in advance on Saturday; $30 in advance on Sunday.
While you’re exploring the Downtown Norfolk Waterfront, consider taking the ferry as part of your weekend adventure. The ferry service is also operated by Hampton Roads Transit and offers a great view of the harbor. The ferry only has one route, which travels between Downtown Norfolk at The Waterside, and North Landing and High Street in Portsmouth. For more information, visit Paddlewheel Ferry .
What will the weather be like? Because of its temperate mid-Atlantic climate, Norfolk is a year-round destination. October in Norfolk has ideal warmth, with an average high of 70 degrees Fahrenheit and low of 54 degrees. Pack clothes that layer well, such as a fleece vest if you want to explore the waterfront in the mornings.
For more information about transportation, weather, and my recommendations on restaurants and places to stay, check out our inexpensive Norfolk itinerary.
I love island life.
The last week of August, I spent a week with my family on Hilton Head Island and, well, fell in love with a lifestyle.
Not just any old island will do. You must pick the RIGHT island for you. As with true love, the sensation of falling head-over-heals in love comes out of nowhere; but once you feel it, you can't live without it.
I love Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
Despite the frequent traveling I do, I honestly don't think I understood what “island life” meant until this trip. And I had not been to this part of the country since we shot videos here in 2008. To see the series, you can watch them on the Hilton Head page of my site.
Securing a vacation rental was the best fit for our family. We stayed at Palmetto Dunes at Inverness Village. I loved this community. The white, sandy beach was a five-minute’s bike ride away. Within Inverness Village, I had all the comforts and amenities of a luxury resort. The sand is HOT in August. An hour at the beach every day was enough for my family. Having a private pool off the deck was perfect; my children and I swam every day.
Because of the vacation rental, we could be as active as we were capable. Wherever we went on the island (or off), it was clean. I appreciated not having to pay attention to every step I took.
I decided to rent bikes for the family on the first day.
It was the BEST vacation decision I've made in a long time.
Island life revolves around biking...even when you don't do it in your everyday life. I chose to rent bikes from Pedals. They delivered the bikes to the house and picked them up free of charge. Easy.
I really am not a "sit around the beach and do nothing" sort of guy. I crave things to do. On this trip, I golfed, played tennis, jet-skied, mini-golfed and ate my way through the week.
Speaking of food, Hilton Head has more options than you'll have time to get to. Skull Creek Boathouse was a stand out as were all the restaurants I listed in my downloadable itinerary for Hilton Head Island.
Look for more on this subject in the future as I fully intend to return to Hilton Head and other iconic beach destinations in the future.
Let me know if you have a favorite island in the comments below.
I am on a mission to get you traveling more often. This blog is a reflection of my mission. I travel (on average) 30 weeks per year hosting and producing a television series for PBS. In addition, I host a weekly radio show and produce original travel videos for online distribution. I am very fortunate for these opportunities and it is my hope you will join me on my travels!