Awesome amenity for kids who lose teeth on the road

Mmmm, cupcakes

Mmmm, cupcakes

Spend enough time traveling with youngsters and it’s bound to happen sooner or later: Your little one loses a tooth (naturally) away from home.

Of course if your kids believe in the Tooth Fairy, this occurrence puts a burden on mom and dad—how do you perpetuate the rituals you’ve established around celebrating or commemorating these sort of life events at home?

A recent Twitter post from the folks at Four Seasons Orlando answered this question in a fun way. The post, which was accompanied by a picture of adorable cupcakes (see above), read: “Our pastry team created this adorable amenity for little guests who lost a tooth during their stay & await a visit from the tooth fairy!”

In other words, the swanky resort hotel gives sugary cupcakes to kids who just lost teeth.

This is awesome for a number of reasons:

  • CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES.
  • It totally takes that aforementioned burden off Mom and Dad, providing a kick-ass option/reward to ascribe to the Tooth Fairy herself (that crafty minx).
  • That little tooth character is bound to make little ones smile, which could come in handy if your kid is like my oldest child and *freaks out* at the sight or thought or idea of blood.
  • DID WE MENTION CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES?

Our little family never has visited this particular property but hope to get there the next time we visit the Walt Disney World Resort. Sure, the place has a bunch of other pretty swanky attractions. But this particularly amenity is one of my faves, and it makes me kind of hope one of the girls loses a tooth (the old-fashioned way; not like this) when we go.

What are the most creative in-room amenities you’ve encountered on your travels?

Recapping a November to remember

Dadbods, unite!

Dadbods, unite!

Early last month, I published a post introducing you dear readers to my idea of participating in Movember, a social media campaign dubbed The Dadbod Challenge. The campaign aimed to celebrate the male body—especially the dad body—with daily photos (by the illustrious Kim Carroll) of yours truly in various forms of undress.

Thirty days later, the campaign ended yesterday. It was a smashing success.

First, we raised more than $6,500 for The Movember Foundation, the only charity solely dedicated to raising money to support and raising awareness for men’s health. Second, because I vowed to match all donations made on my 41st birthday (Nov. 14, for those of you scoring at home) and send the matches to Planned Parenthood, we raised an additional $2,600 for PPFA. Third, we scored some pretty sick media hits (like this one and this one).

Do the math and we raised about $9,000 overall. In 30 days. With a bunch of Speedo pix and some witty captions.

On the most basic level, I am BLOWN AWAY by the generous support of my friends, colleagues, and family members. On another level, however, I’m super-proud of each and every person who got involved. Thanks to all of you.

I’m also excited about how the campaign paid homage to family travel. Because I’m the primary childcare solution for our family, I was forced to drag Baby G with me on a number of shoots. That means many of the images were snapshots of family travel—the Villanos in a vineyard, the Villanos at a luxury hotel, the Villanos at a boutique hotel’s pool (see picture above).

Whether your star-spangled Speedo is literal or metaphoric, I hope these pictures—and the success of the campaign in general—will inspire you to support men’s health and get out there to explore the world.

Remembering holidays abroad

Thanksgiving dinner. In England.

Thanksgiving dinner. In England.

As Thanksgiving 2016 approaches, I can’t help but think back to Thanksgiving 2013—when our family (then there were only four of us) was in England.

We took a long weekend from our apartment in London for Thanksgiving that year, vacationing at Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire while I completed an assignment there. We didn’t expect much of a traditional American Thanksgiving because we were abroad.

Then the chef at the on-site restaurant learned of our visit, and made us a feast with all the trimmings.

Turkey. Stuffing. Brussels Sprouts. Cranberry sauce. Dinner rolls. You name the Thanksgiving staple, we ate it then and there. Chef even made the girls a little marzipan turkey, and filled the rest of the plate with jelly beans. While the food wasn’t as good as it is when we cook it here at home, it *was* delicious. And it made us feel welcome in a way for which we were incredibly thankful (see what I did there?).

Remembering the wonderful Thanksgiving meal got me thinking about some of the other factors that contributed to a successful Thanksgiving-away-from-home celebration that year. Here, then, in no particular order, are three of them.

Decorations from home

When we left for London that summer, we remembered to bring with us decorations for all the holidays we’d be celebrating abroad. This meant bringing birthday decorations for our September and November birthdays. It meant bringing Halloween decorations. It also meant bringing construction-paper turkeys and pilgrim hats. (We also brought stockings and Xmas decorations, FWIW.)

For the girls, seeing the very same decorations they knew and loved from home helped make the holiday seem more “typical.” L went so far as to declare that her decorations made everything feel exactly the same.

Traditions

Most specifics of individual holidays don’t matter as much as the traditions. I’m not talking about the “tradition” of having turkey with all the fixings; instead I’m talking about traditions such as sharing what you’re thankful for, watching the live broadcast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from New York, engaging in a post-meal walkabout, and so on. For us, THESE were the activities that we strived to replicate abroad. We did a decent job. For the kids, that was more than good enough.

Family touchstones

Extended family is a big part of our annual Thanksgiving ritual when we’re home, and Powerwoman and I were worried about how we’d replicate that for the girls while we were away. Thanks to Skype, we didn’t have to worry at all. On the actual day of Thanksgiving (back in California), we Skyped over to my sister-in-law’s house and had a fabulous conversation with everybody who was there. The technology was nothing new at the time and it’s nothing new now. But it works. And it’s made a HUGE difference.

The bottom line: A little familiarity goes a long way, especially when you’re traveling with young kids. If you plan to be abroad—or just away from home—for a major holiday, go out of your way to make the kids feel like nothing is out of the ordinary. Even if they don’t seem appreciative in the moment, they’ll appreciate it. As parents, that’s all we can really ask for anyway.

What are the most far-flung places you’ve spent holidays?

Celebrating travel, fatherhood with #dadbod

The #dadbod

The #dadbod

For better or for worse, dads’ bodies—with all our love handles, all their blemishes—are the vessels through which we live our busy lives. As much as these bodies have changed over the years, they’re still ours, still us. And they still can help us accomplish incredible things, such as raising awareness and money for an important cause.

That’s why I developed The #Dadbod Challenge—a fun social media campaign that kicked off this week as part of Movember.

You know Movember—the annual month-long effort to raise awareness of and money for a variety of men’s health issues specifically prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention. Well, the #Dadbod Challenge directly supports the Movember Foundation, the only global charity focused solely on men’s health.

The #Dadbod Challenge is a campaign in which any dad can participate. Inspired by travel selfies (here’s the family travel connection, people), #Dadbod aims to celebrate the male body in all of its forms—a self-deprecating mash-up between Alicia Keys’ campaign to embrace her make-up free self and the Ice Bucket Challenge from 2014.

The rules of engagement are simple.

  1. Don a Speedo or another outfit that shows off a dad bod
  2. Snap a pic (it can be a selfie or someone else can take it)
  3. Share the pic on social media with the #Dadbod hashtag
  4. Tag other people to accept the #Dadbod Challenge
  5. Donate to the Movember Foundation

While the pictures themselves will help spread the message, the donation part is the most important step on the #Dadbod list. Since 2003, the Movember community has raised more than $710 million and has funded more than 1,200 men’s health projects in 21 countries.

With this in mind, the primary goals of the #Dadbod Challenge are no different from the goal of Movember as a whole: To spark conversations and raise vital funds and awareness for men’s health. By sharing pictures of our imperfect selves, dads will broaden those conversations and raising awareness in new (and admittedly sometimes ridiculous) ways. Hopefully they’ll also inspire people to give.

To follow the campaign through my images on Instagram, which will chronicle everything. You also can visit the official Movember #Dadbod launch page. To donate, click here. Thanks in advance for supporting this great cause.

Portland, Big Girl-style

20160909_135115One of my favorite writing treatments these days is to craft a travel story about a destination in the words and images of our Big Girl, L. She’s a phenomenal writer for her age (Exhibit A right here), she makes incredibly poignant observations, and she’s really learning how to wield the camera on a Smartphone.

I find her perspective innocent, fresh, and fun. It also usually elicits something I, alone, would not.

That’s the backstory behind my latest post for the Expedia Viewfinder blog from Expedia – a 7-year-old’s take on Portland. The piece is part of a series I’m writing for Expedia, and it presents a handful of pictures L took during our visit there earlier this fall. Interspersed with these images are glorified captions that set each scene and provide context for why she decided to take the pic. As a set, the images provide a colorful look at L’s impressions of the city, and her evolving artistic eye.

They also just make me damn proud.

You can read the piece by clicking here. Please share your feedback in the comments!

FTA Summit a smashing success

My mind is still spinning from this week’s Family Travel Association summit. The event was an overwhelming success.

I could regale you with hour-by-hour recaps of what we did and how it went, but I’ve already done that for the FTA blog here and here. I also could sum up the best and biggest moments of the week, but I’ve done that for AFAR.com here. Heck, if you really wanted to, you could check out the FTA’s Facebook page and listen to archived versions of my Facebook Live interviews with keynote speakers there.

Whatever you do, please follow up and read and listen and think more about family travel. The girls and I are headed to the coast for storm-watching and some R&R. Check back next week for more targeted impressions and more specific action items for the weeks and months ahead.

FTA Board of Advisors. I love these peeps.

FTA Board of Advisors. I love these peeps.

Showtime for FTA Summit

FTA, here we come!

FTA, here we come!

Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls! It’s time for the second annual Family Travel Association (FTA) summit, to be held over the next four days at the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona.

I’m filing this post from the Oakland International Airport, which means I’m en route to the summit right now. My excitement is palpable—I’m on the Board of Advisors of the FTA, and we’ve been planning this summit for the better part of the last 10 months. I cannot wait to see this thing kick butt.

The agenda for the event is jam-packed with goodness. Keynote speakers. Breakout sessions (including one in which I’m speaking). Networking activities. Even some cookouts and other fun get-togethers. Because the La Paloma is in the hinterlands of Tucson, I’m sure I’ll round up some of my colleagues and drag them to Saguaro National Park, as well.

Oh, I’m also stoked to explore downtown Tucson, which recently was named a UNESCO World City of Gastronomy.

Anyway, here’s a preview post I wrote about the event for the Expedia Viewfinder. I’m doing a ton of social media for the FTA during the summit, so I probably won’t be able to blog about it again until I’m home. Until then, watch my Twitter and Instagram for updates from the field.

Why family travel is not a waste of money

This was worth every penny

This was worth every penny

Family travel haters love to complain about vacations with kids as a waste of money. The kids won’t remember it, they say, or they’re too young to appreciate it.

Naturally, I think these arguments are a bunch of horsefeathers. And I’m not alone.

To that end, my colleagues at the Family Travel Association (FTA) this week published a wonderful blog post with insights from 33 of our members about why family travel is NOT a waste of money. The post is the kind of work that will make you stand up and clap. It might even inspire you to book a trip just to show those haters they’re wrong.

As I’ve mentioned previously, the FTA’s post comes just before our annual summit, which kicks off THIS WEEKEND in Tucson, Arizona. I’ll be handling the organization’s social media from the event, so please be sure to follow along. I’ll publish updates here when I can as well.

Join me at the 2016 Family Travel Association summit

Westin La Paloma. PARTY!

Westin La Paloma. PARTY!

I take great pride in my involvement with the Family Travel Association (FTA)—I was one of the founding board members, and have been an active participant ever since.

With this in mind, I invite you to join me and my FTA colleagues at our annual summit next month.

The shindig takes place Oct. 23-26 at the Westin La Paloma in Tucson, Arizona. It comprises three days of inspiring presentations, interactive workshops, enlightening research, and a diverse array of networking opportunities. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun.

This year, I won’t just be attending the summit, I’ll be delivering some of the content. On Monday, Oct. 24, I’ll be delivering a talk about understanding millennial parents—what makes them tick, what sort of experiences they seek, and how they approach family trips once they set out to experience them. My talk will be engaging and fun! I might even make emu noises.

(Also, it’s likely that during my talk I’ll be giving away travel vouchers from Expedia, a client of mine and an FTA sponsor.)

Registration for the event is $650 for members and $950 for non-members. Considering all of the information we’re primed to share, I’d say that’s a bargain. And I’ll sweeten the deal: BOOK NOW AND DRINKS THE NIGHT OF MY TALK ARE ON ME.

If family travel is something you love, this is an event you won’t want to miss. See you in Tucson!

Smiling about rocks in Portland

14203305_10155274339786632_312131353204661656_nTravel is at its best when it’s serendipitous—when magical coincidences make seemingly ordinary happenings feel extraordinary.

Such was the case this weekend when I traveled to Portland with my biggest girl, L.

We were in town for a number of reasons: 1) To attend the bar mitzvah of a cousin, 2) To see one of my closest pals, 4) To report a story in Washington Park, and 4) To poke around one of the weirdest and coolest cities in the West. But the best part of our trip happened when both of us least expected it.

It was mere hours after we landed. L and I had checked into our room at the Hotel Lucia downtown and were on our way to find a place to eat lunch. L spotted some steps and sat down so I could take her picture. After the snap, she looked to her left and spotted a silver dollar-sized white rock painted with a cute design. The rest is a part of history we’ll remember forever.

There on the rock was a cartoon drawing of a kitty cat. Normally this would be just another detail. But for L, who is cat-obsessed, it was a HUGE DEAL. Immediately I started thinking of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca waxing poetic about how there were all the public steps in the city, and we had to find a cat rock on that one. Even L was skeptical at the serendipity of it all. She kept asking me if I had put the rock there. She kept wondering aloud whether “somebody” knew how much she loved cats. At one point I think she convinced herself SAR was her grandmother.

Of course the artist had no idea who’d be finding the rock after he or she put it there. We found an Instagram address on the back of the rock, and three minutes on that page made it clear that the artist—a person who goes by the name Smiling About Rocks, or SAR—painted dozens of these rocks and placed them all over the city. (FWIW, our rock had the number 221 on it, which probably meant the artist has made at least 221 of these things.)

Instructions on the Instagram page were simple: “If you found a rock, take a picture of it and send it direct to me. I will post it on my feed.”

So we did. I had L pose holding the rock and snapped the shot you see atop this page. We sent it to SAR. SAR reposted our image the following day with full caption (and note that spoke directly to my kid). For my daughter, this only made the experience seem more serendipitous. Upon seeing the repost she exclaimed: “It’s like a fairy tale!”

Would we have had fun in Portland without our run-in with SAR? Of course. But this run-in made the trip even richer, and provided us with an instant memory I’m sure we both will have for many years to come.

The experience also served as an inspiration. When we got back to our hometown L reached out to a friend about doing a similar project here. The two have been talking about painting rocks all week. To be honest, I hope they follow-through. It’d be nice to pay the serendipity forward for a change.

What is the most serendipitous experience you’ve had on the road?

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