Tag Archive for: fun

The best hotel-room diversion of all time

The morning ritual.

The morning ritual.

We just got home from a week in Hawaii—a week that included some early mornings in some pretty fabulous family-friendly hotels (including this one).

We could have passed the time by having the girls draw or paint or play dress-up. Technically, I guess we also could have let them watch TV (though that’s not our style). Instead, we put them in a position to entertain themselves with another diversion: Perler beads.

If you’re not familiar with Perler beads, they’re fusible plastic beads, each about the size of a chocolate chip. You can do a whole bunch of things with the beads—such as string them and weave them and melt them. We usually go for the third option; the girls arrange beads in particular patterns on a variety of different peg-boards, and when the arrangements are finished, we (parents) melt the beads together with a clothes iron (and wax paper in between).

The iron is what makes Perlers such a fun activity for hotels; every hotel room in America has one, and it’s totally free to use. We rolled into Hawaii with 3,000 beads and six peg boards in different shapes. We rolled out of Hawaii with a few hundred beads and more than two dozen original creations in various forms.

It doesn’t really matter what we do with the finished products (though most of them likely will end up as Christmas tree ornaments); what matters is the fun we all have while making them.

L took her designs incredibly seriously, inventing elaborate patterns every time. R crafted hers with more whimsy, frequently spilling her designs back into the master (gallon-sized) Ziploc to start again. In case you’re wondering, I’m big into color-blocking mine. And Powerwoman really likes symmetry.

As a family, we Villanos became so obsessed that Perlers became a morning ritual—the kids would wake up, Powerwoman and I would set them up with Perlers, and the three or four of us would create designs until breakfast (and sometimes beyond). We couldn’t go to the beach until each of us had made a design. And we couldn’t eat lunch until my wife or I had ironed the creations to make them whole.

Trust me: If your kids like art, try the Perlers. You’ll be surprised how addicting and engaging they are.

What are your go-to hotel-room diversions on a family vacation?

Wanderlust, Sesame Street Style

The song that sparked decades of wanderlust.

The song that sparked decades of wanderlust.

We humans never are too young to experience wanderlust. Which means it’s perfectly understandable that Sesame Street incorporated “Travel Tips” segments into its shows from the 1980s and 1990s. And that it’s perfectly reasonable for a modern-day family travel blogger to play them for his kids.

This, of course, is what led me this week to share with the girls “Antarctica,” a classic Sesame Street jingle off the “We Are All Earthlings” record from 1990.

I admit it, I’m a HUGE fan of old-school (Jim) Henson stuff. So when the girls expressed interest in them after we got back from London, I hit the archives to find some of the best bits I remembered from my childhood. “Earthlings” was No. 1 on the list. A close No. 2: The tune about the continent at the South Pole, a ditty that originally was advertised as part of the “Sesame Street Travel Tips” series.

Think of the song as a kid-oriented advertisement for a trip to Antarctica. In it, two Anything Muppets team up with a group of penguins to sing about the snowy, icy, and chilly destination where people “dine on blubber spread on toast” and “nights…are six months long.”

All the while, Wolfgang the Seal provides background trumpet music.

In the end, after the warning to not “be left out OF the cold,” all of the characters are blown away by cold arctic winds.

While this may not be a perfect picture of what life on Antarctica is really like, it certainly teaches kids about the destination, and certainly will pique their interest. Just like all age-appropriate travel stories should.

In any event, my girls have heard the song and they love it. Here (embedded) is the video. And below that, in all of their glory, are the lyrics.

If you’re sick of being hot,
Why not try a place that’s not: Antarctica.
Where all you see is snow and ice
The new vacation paradise: Antarctica.
Let seals and penguins be your hosts
And dine on blubber spread on toast
You’ll love the icy barren coasts of Antarctica
Don’t get much sun, it doesn’t matter,
You’ll love the way your teeth will chatter in Antarctica
Nightlife’s great, you can’t go wrong
‘Cause nights down here are six months long in Antarctica
If you like it when it’s snowing
And the icy winds are blowing
Just head south and keep on going to Antarctica
Well there’s no hotel here, hey, just bring a tent
It’s really swell here on the frozen continent.
Want to shudder, shake, and shiver
Come to us, ‘cause we deliver…Antarctica
Put your summer plans on hold
Don’t be left out of the cold of Antarctica
You say the kids are out of school
Forget the beach, forget the pool
It’s really, really, really cool in Antarctica!

Soaking Up the Holiday Spirit

Little R, mesmerized by a window display at Selfie's.

Little R, mesmerized by a window display at Selfie’s.

You don’t need much of a sightseeing itinerary when traveling during holiday season; all you need is time to explore.

I’ve been reminded of this simple fact numerous times over the last week or so here in London. Every time I head into the city for a day of big plans with L and R, we are sidetracked by a bunch of decorations.

One day, we spent two hours watching a carousel in front of the Natural History Museum. Another day, we spent 75 minutes admiring the windows in front of Selfridges. Today, little R and I counted giant ornaments in St. Christopher’s Place (which, by the way, has the best shopping in the West End). I’ve already blogged about some of the fun we had with my folks at a decked-out Covent Garden Market.

Later this week, our plan includes dragging Grandma and Grandpa with us to South Kensington to marvel at decorations at Harrods and Harvey Nichols.

Throw in ice-skating rinks, Christmas trees, caroling extravaganzas and holiday lights pretty much anywhere around the city and I’d say we’ve got enough to keep us busy from now until we head home Dec. 23.

Oh, and unless we ride the carousels or do the ice skating, all of the stuff is free.

The lesson here, of course, is that especially when kids are young, it doesn’t take much to create a fun day of experiencing a new place during the holidays. I like to think the equation looks like this:

Spectacle + Snacks + Public Transit + Downtime (when necessary) = Smiles

I know this equation isn’t universal. And I’ve been doing this family travel thing too long to know that this equation isn’t going to work all the time. But with the right weather and the right attitude (and the right snacks, I guess, and no public transport delays), it sure puts family travelers in a good position for a day that everyone will remember for all the right reasons. And it hasn’t failed us Villanos yet.

What is your equation for a good family travel when traveling during the holidays?