More tips for road trips with kids

Sleeping beauties. In the car.

Sleeping beauties. In the car.

We take a ton of road trips in this family, and I’m always eager to share some of my tips and lessons learned with the masses. Case in point: My latest piece for the Expedia Viewfinder blog from Expedia, which outlines five can’t-miss tips for road-tripping with kids.

The post was inspired by our recent road trip from Portland, Oregon, to the San Juan Islands, and back down to Seattle. All five of the tips relate directly to the experiences we had on the trip.

At least two of the suggestions echo some of the pointers I laid out in an interview with Juliana Shallcross of Trips + Giggles earlier this month. The other three are brand spanking new, and feature anecdotes that I’ve never shared anywhere else. (Gotta keep you regular readers on your toes, you know.)

We certainly will be calling upon some of our own suggestions again later this month, as we’ll be road-tripping down to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area to report another family travel piece.

(There also is a potential road-trip to LEGOLAND California in the works; stay tuned for details on that.)

We even are open to new road-trip tips; if you’ve got advice to share, please feel free to do so in the comment section below. And in case you missed the link the first time, check out my Expedia Viewfinder piece about road-trip tips here.

Dishing tips for Trips + Giggles

Power, indeed.

Power, indeed.

It’s always fun to share family travel tips with other experts. That’s why I’m especially excited to share a Q&A I did with my buddy, Juliana Shallcross, the gal behind Trips + Giggles.

In the piece, I offer a number of creative options for keeping kids happy and entertained during family trips. Perhaps my favorite hack: Progressive Storytelling, a fun and no-tech game that the four of us played at least once a day on our recent trip to the San Juan Islands.

I also used the opportunity to share some news: Our pod is expanding this November when we welcome another daughter into the mix. (Stay tuned for more on this, obviously.)

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll recognize some of the other tips—Perler beads for hotel rooms, window clings on long plane trips, Dum-Dums for take-offs and landings, and Rory’s Storycubes for more creative fun.  For a complete transcript of the interview, click here. And if you’re not currently reading Trips + Giggles, add it to your list.

Sharing the word about Four Seasons Orlando

The kids club at Four Seasons Orlando (photo courtesy of Trips + Giggles.

Kids’ club at Four Seasons Orlando (photo courtesy of Trips + Giggles).

I’ve lamented since last summer that I wasn’t able to check out the Four Seasons Orlando when we visited Walt Disney World Resort last summer. The new luxury property formally hadn’t opened yet, and I couldn’t find time (or, quite frankly, a rental car from my Disney-owned hotel) to break away and take a tour of the construction site.

Thankfully, Juliana Shallcross, my (former editor at VegasChatter.com and HotelChatter.com, and) buddy over at Trips & Giggles, went recently, and wrote a definitive post about the place, which she published earlier today.

If I may summarize, her post basically says that the Four Seasons Orlando KICKS MAJOR ASS. Especially for family travelers.

I love J’s post for its simplicity—she talks briefly about the design and service that made the hotel so special for her, then gets right into a host of pictures (one of which I pilfered to accompany this post), with descriptions of each. My favorite of her observations: The Four Seasons Orlando is especially great at the end of a hot day when you want to leave the parks and escape the Mouse for a while. My second favorite: Her reminder that the Kids for All Seasons kids club is included in the room rate.

Granted, the price point at a luxury hotel such as this one is way too high for the majority of visitors to Walt Disney World Resort (or Florida, for that matter). Still, if budget is no issue and you’re looking for a property that treats kids—and their families—like royalty, it sounds like this is your place.

Consider yourselves warned.

What are your lodging strategies when you visit Walt Disney World Resort?

Babysitter directory that might change your life

Please. Someone. Come watch these maniacs.

Please. Someone. Come watch these maniacs.

I’m not going to lie: Whenever Powerwoman and I take the kids on vacation, we’re hesitant to use sitters we don’t know.

Most of the time, we talk ourselves OUT of it, allowing our overriding lack of familiarity with the sitters in a particular destination (as well as our own neuroses about who is watching the girls) push us into inaction.

Translation: We rarely go out when we travel with the girls. Ever. And the few times we’ve actually used nanny services, we’ve been basket cases the whole time.

Naturally, then, earlier this week, when one of my favorite family travel blogs, Trips + Giggles, launched a brand new hotel babysitter directory, both my wife and I were stoked.

With the service, Juliana Shallcross, my buddy who runs the site, created a list of babysitting agencies in more than 20 cities across the United States. Her list comprises sitters who are often recommended by luxury hotels; she actually worked with luxury hotels to screen candidates and grow the list. The sitters on there now are people with whom she would trust her two girls (who are roughly the same ages as L and R).

Which puts my mind at ease.

In her announcement post, Juliana was careful to lay out parameters of the service. She notes that, because of liability concerns, most hotels cannot make the sitter reservation for you, so it’s up to you to call the agency and find out their pertinent info. She hipped readers to what rates and cancellation policies they can expect ($20-$25 per hour, 24 hours’ notice, respectively).

She even went so far as to recommend that travelers call the babysitting agencies themselves, at least two weeks in advance, and find out as much as possible about the sitters. A direct quote from her site: “Agency directors understand how nerve-wracking it can be for parents to hire sitters, so a good agency director will take the time to answer all of your questions. All of them.”

The catch (if you want to call it that) to all of this: In order to gain access to the directory, you have to sign up to become a member of Trips + Giggles (which, by the way, is free).

On the fence about joining? I’m a member, and I’ll tell you this: If being a part of the Trips + Giggles community brings you peace of mind the next time you and your partner want to have a date night on a family trip, I say it’s worthwhile. I know we’ll be using the directory the next time the four of us travel together.

Fun new site from an old friend

Great tips, cool insight on Trips & Giggles.

Great tips, cool insight on Trips + Giggles.

As a journalist who spends at least 50 percent of his time and energy on family travel, I’m always looking for great new sources of information, insight and insider knowledge on the subject. That’s precisely why I love the new site, Trips + Giggles.

The site debuted earlier this month with the goal of fun and original content for “parents who just happen to have some kids in tow.” It’s fresh. It’s cool. And it happens to be run by a friend of mine.

Admittedly, as of today, there aren’t many stories on the site. Obviously, though, that will change over time. For now, definitely check out “6 Hotel Brands that Want Your Kids to Stay the Night” (a story with which I can relate after our recent experiences at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe), and “This Airport Really Understands Its Most Frequent Travelers.”

I also really like the piece about what to pack in a travel first-aid kit.

What’s more, heed the plea on the site’s “About” page and sign up or the weekly newsletter. I did. And I can’t wait for my first installment.

In addition to this blog, what are your go-to sites for family travel information and insight?

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