July 14, 2017travelComments Off on Family Travel Guides From Around the World
Do you love to travel with your family? Are you raising little world explorers? Here is an enormous collection of family travel guides featuring destinations from around the world, so spin the globe and see where your next destination will be!
To see the full list of family travel guides, just go to Multicultural Kid Blogs to read my guest post there! We will be adding content all the time, so check back frequently!
This content has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #PureLife35pk #CollectiveBias
It’s that time of year! The weather is finally warming up, and there are more and more beautiful days to get outside and enjoy with our kids. We love going to the playground, but I also love to take the kids hiking, where they can breathe in the fresh air and really reconnect with the natural world. Even if your children are very young, you don’t have to miss out on this fun activity, as many parks and recreational areas have paths that are easy for strollers and little legs. Here are our favorite kid-friendly hikes in Northern California.
Before You Go
Have a plan. Exploring can be so much fun, especially in the great outdoors, but if you have little ones in tow, don’t waste all their energy wandering around looking for the trailhead. Most parks have detailed information and maps of kid-friendly hikes available on their websites, or you can talk to a ranger once you arrive.
Use good shoes. Bring home good memories, not sore feet! Make sure everyone has well-fitting, supportive shoes to wear. Remember that ordinary sneakers often don’t have good grip for outdoor trails, so use hiking shoes when possible.
Wear layers. The weather may be cool when you start, but you will quickly warm up as you walk, so be prepared by dressing in layers. This will also help if you are going to be hiking on a densely forested trail, where it may be significantly cooler than in sunnier areas.
Pack high-energy snacks. Nuts or trail mix are great snacks to keep you and your kiddos going on kid-friendly hikes.
Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, especially when you are active outdoors! My relatives are always surprised at how much my kids love to drink water, but it’s a habit that we have instilled in them from a very young age. My boys love to run and play, so it’s important to make sure they stay hydrated. And now it’s even easier, with the new 35 pack of Nestlé® Pure Life® water now available at Walmart. It’s such a great value, because it’s the same price as the old 32 pack – that’s 3 extra bottles for free! Find out more about this great offer at the end of this post.
10 Kid-Friendly Hikes in Northern California
Muir Woods National Monument: Muir Woods is simply a classic spot to visit in Northern California, a lush forest of old growth redwood trees that has been federally protected for more than a century. It also boosts easy trail loops that are accessible for strollers and wheelchairs. There are also moderate to strenuous hikes if your children are older, but even if you stay on the easy trails, don’t worry that you are missing out – the views are still spectacular! Be aware that it is usually quite chilly inside the forest, even on warm days, so bring layers.
Lassen Volcanic National Park: Lassen is another area that has been protected for more than 100 years and today is enjoyed by nearly half a million visitors a year. And frankly it is one of the most unusual spots we have visited in California: an active volcano, a gigantic steam vent, a cold boiling lake, and bubbling mud that smells like rotten eggs – it’s a kid’s dream! The most accessible site is the Sulphur Works, and the Devastated Area (its actual name!) has a half-mile hard surface trail with wonderful views. Please be extra cautious not to let your children wander off the trails, especially in the hydrothermal areas, as it could be dangerous.
Mount Shasta area: Mount Shasta is the second highest peak in the Cascade Range (which also include Lassen, see above). The mountain itself is awe-inspiring, and while most of its trails are more rugged, its Panther Meadows trail is relatively short and easy (approx 1 mile). But don’t neglect area at the base of the mountain, which has many beautiful areas for families to enjoy nature. The walk to Hedge Creek Falls in Dunsmuir, for example, is just over half a mile from the picnic area, and is accessible even during the winter, when many trails on the mountain are closed. McCloud River and Falls also has kid-friendly hikes, and you can enjoy a walk around Siskiyou Lake using the new Wagon Trail.
Point Reyes National Seashore: Often when we think of Point Reyes we think of the beaches – picnicking or flying kites among the dunes, or climbing the steep steps to the lighthouse – yet the park is actually much more extensive than just the coastline. There are plenty of paved or well-packed dirt trails that are relatively flat and easy for little legs. Earthquake Trail in particular is paved and just over half a mile. And if the beach is what you are looking for, North and South Beach also have short paved paths in the dunes that offer beautiful views of the ocean.
Lake Tahoe: The famously clear waters of Lake Tahoe – the second deepest lake in the United States – and the rugged Sierra Mountains that surround it attract visitors from all over the world. It is actually a cluster of state parks and recreational areas, such as Emerald Bay State Park. Some of the trails around Lake Tahoe are quite strenuous, but it is easy to find ones to match your family’s abilities. For example, the Rubicon Trail is a flat, easy trail that goes right along the shoreline. Don’t miss the historic Vikingsholm Mansion!
Russian River: The Russian River is one of those areas in Northern California that I feel are underappreciated. It is a gorgeous area with beaches and wilderness areas for families to explore and has miles of trails for a range of abilities. The best known area for kid-friendly hikes is Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve. Just north of Santa Rosa, this is an old-growth redwood forest with an easy self-guided trail through the grove.
Effie Yeaw Nature Center: This beautiful area near Sacramento encompasses 100 acres of woodland to explore along the American River. All of the nature trails are easy and include interpretive signs. You are sure to see wildlife during your walk, and there is always something to explore at the Nature Center. I love the natural playground and butterfly garden!
Cosumnes River Preserve: This preserve – more than 50,000 acres – is a wonderful place in the Sacramento area to explore nature with your kids. There are two easy trails to choose from, one dirt and one paved. It is a quiet, pristine area, great for spotting wildlife along the trail. Even the shorter, paved trail offers close up views of marshes and wetland plants.
American River Parkway: This 23 mile parkway is accessible at various points along Highway 50. There are a number of parks inside the parkway, including Effie Yeaw (see above). The Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail is popular with bicyclists and pedestrians alike. It is paved and can be accessed from most of the parks within the American River Parkway.
UC Davis Arboretum: I am quite partial to the UC Davis Arboretum, as I used to study there when I was a grad student, and my husband and I would go for walks along its trails when we were newly married (eons ago!). Located on the campus of UC Davis, the Arboretum is open to the public 24 hours a day, with no fee for admission. The main path is a 3.5 mile paved loop. There are also plenty of open areas along the way where you can relax with a picnic or play catch. As you walk, you can enjoy plants from around the world, such as the Australia Collection or the East Asia Collection.
A New Reason to Enjoy Great-Tasting Water
As with any type of outdoor activity, it is essential to keep you and your little ones well hydrated when you are headed out on kid-friendly hikes. That is why I was excited to find out that Nestle Pure Life is now available in a 35 pack at Walmart – at the same price as the old 32 pack! The packaging for Pure Life is also new, so look for it in the water aisle or in a special display.
I want only the best for my kids, which is why I choose Nestle Pure Life, since it is filtered through a 12 step quality process and enhanced with a unique blend of minerals. You can tell the difference because of its great taste!
I keep a pack in the trunk of my car so we are ready any time we want to go for a hike or just head to the playground! Even just running errands on a warm day can make you dehydrated, so I make sure that the kids and I drink plenty of water. This new 35 pack makes it even easier to keep everyone healthy on those special days and everyday!
Please note: Only the 24 pack is available online, so if the 35 pack of Nestle Pure Life is not available in your local Walmart, please ask a store manager about getting the product in your area.
We love to travel with our kids, and though this often includes international travel, we have found that when traveling with young children it can be much easier to travel locally. Luckily for us, we live in Northern California, a beautiful, varied region that attracts travelers from all over the world – and we’re lucky enough to have all these scenic places right in our backyard! So if you are in our neck of the woods, here are our picks for the most beautiful places to visit in Northern California with your family. Share your favorites in the comments!
18 Most Picturesque Places to Visit in Northern California
2. Lake Tahoe: Truly a gorgeous place to visit, one that will win over even the most “indoorsy” child. In addition to lake itself (one of the largest in the country), there are also lots of fun places to play, hike, and picnic in the surrounding area. And in the winter, it is a great place for skiing and playing in the snow! Tip: If Lake Tahoe itself is crowded, try exploring one of the smaller lakes in the area, such as Dicks Lake or Eagle Lake.
3. Yosemite: We absolutely love going to Yosemite and have visited regularly before and after having kids. There is something for everyone, whether you crave solitude in the woods or more of a camp atmosphere as in Camp Curry. Being originally from the East Coast, witnessing first-hand the enormous stone faces of Yosemite’s peaks really brought home just how different and big everything is out West.
4. Wine Country: This beautiful region – which includes Napa and Sonoma Valleys – is another world-famous spot in Northern California. And even if, like us, you aren’t interested in the wine, you still don’t want to miss the breathtaking views this area has to offer. While much of the area is geared towards adults, you can still find great kid-friendly spots, such as Calistoga, and we had a great time exploring the San Francisco Solano Mission in Sonoma. (For more on Missions throughout California, visit our California Missions page).
5. Point Reyes:Point Reyes has gorgeous beaches as well as its famous lighthouse. There are so many spots to explore and enjoy. Just beware of all those stairs to get down to the lighthouse if you take the kids! And keep in mind that if you are driving from inland, there is a significant drop in temperature when you reach the coast. It is always much colder, so bring a long-sleeve shirt or light jacket, even in the middle of the summer! (If you love the coast, another great spot south of San Francisco is the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve!)
6. Muir Woods: Northern California is renowned for its redwoods, and Muir Woods is one of the premier places to view them. It is easily accessible from San Francisco, and there are very kid-friendly trails through the woods.
7. Big Sur: Located south of Monterey, Big Sur offers some of the most beautiful views of the California coast. You can simply enjoy the scenery from the viewing spots along the highway, or extend your stay with some camping. When I was in college, it was a popular spot for retreats. It contains a number of state parks and a federally protected marine area.
8. Santa Cruz: Despite the fact that Santa Cruz is more accurately part of Central California, it is typically included in Northern California, and in any case is worth a mention as a great place to visit! There are, of course, the beaches, but it is also known for its old-fashioned boardwalk, with carnival rides and games for the kiddos.
9. Monterey: From the beaches and aquarium to Cannery Row, Monterey is not to be missed. There are lots of areas for families to explore, and personally I enjoyed the beautiful drive along the coast almost as much as the destination itself!
10. Mount Shasta: If you drive along I-5 heading to far northern California, you can’t miss Mt. Shasta, which rises up suddenly and dominates the view for miles. This potentially active volcano is at the southern end of the Cascades. Beyond exploring the mountain itself, the surrounding area is beautiful and provides plenty of outdoor activities for the whole family.
11. Sierra Nevadas: This gorgeous mountain range stretches throughout much of Northern California, and includes Lake Tahoe and Yosemite. And thanks to the California Gold Rush that took place in its foothills, it is also dotted with real ghost towns!
12. Apple Hill: For many families in the Sacramento area, it is an annual tradition to visit Apple Hill in the fall. This beautiful collection of orchards and farms offers apple picking, pies, petting zoos, and more! And pie, did I already mention pie?
13. Old Sacramento: This historic part of Sacramento is a fun place to visit with kids, to see what life was like in the time of the Gold Rush. You can take a river cruise, enjoy the old-timey shops, or visit the State Railroad Museum (always a favorite for kids!)
14. UC Davis Arboretum: The 100 acres of gardens included in the Arboretum are open to the public 24 hours a day, free of charge. It is a favorite spot for UCD students to study, for professors to spend their lunch breaks, and for families to enjoy a picnic or leisurely walk. You can also appreciate a great diversity of plants from all over the world included in this wonderful collection.
15. State Capitol and Gardens:The Capitol is an impressive building and has so much history to explore. (Be sure to check out the paintings of the governors, especially Jerry Brown’s first portrait!). But the grounds themselves are also worth the trip, with plants from throughout the state. Our favorite time to visit is at the holidays, when you can enjoy the decorations – including the Christmas tree on the lawn – as well as holiday concerts.
16. American River Parkway: The 23 mile parkway stretching along Sacramento is a wonderful place to enjoy wildlife or recreation and is a favorite place for school field trips as well as family outings.
17. Russian River: The Russian River is a treasure tucked into the redwoods outside Santa Rosa. Kids will enjoy swimming or kayaking in the cool river water. Don’t miss these great tips for your visit.
18. Lassen Volcanic National Park: This park, established nearly 100 years ago, is a cauldron of geologic activity innocently situated in the peaceful wilderness of Northern California. Make sure to hold the little ones’ hands as you cross the plank walkways over boiling mud, evidence of Lassen’s past as an active volcano. And be prepared for that rotten-egg smell from the sulphur – of course, if you have little boys like mine, it will just add to the atmosphere as far as they are concerned!
What are your favorite places to visit in Northern California?
April 12, 2016household, travelComments Off on Great New Stroller for Family Travel
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by @GBChildUsa as part of a Blog Blast Activation for Influence Central.
Making travel plans for the summer? Be sure to check out this great new stroller for family travel!
A stroller is a great item to have on hand when you travel with young children – except that they are usually so bulky! Introducing the new gb Pockit stroller, available from Babies ‘R’ Us, which actually set a world record for being the world’s most compact stroller. When folded, it is only 12 x 7 x 14 inches! What a difference that would have made if we had had one on our last family trip!
It is small and light, but also durable and is designed for kids from 6 months up to 55 lbs. And I loved that it was really designed with busy parents in mind, as it can be easily steered with only one hand and folds in only two steps. It really is the ideal stroller for family travel!
For more on the gb Pockit Stroller – and for a chance to win prizes! – join the Twitter party on April 28!
Date: Thursday, April 28, 2016
Time: 1 – 2 PM ET
Brand Participants: @GBChildUSA
Party hashtags: #gbPockit
Prizes: 2 pre-party winners and 6 party winners will receive $50 Amex gift cards and 1 grand prize winner will receive the gb Pockit Stroller
Party Focus: We’ll be chatting about family adventures, whether a jet-setting vacation or a weekend getaway, the gb Pockit gives on-the-go Moms a portable stroller, ideal for all of our family travels.
I love learning about local history, so since we moved to California years ago I have been fascinated with the Spanish missions that dot the length of the state. I have had the opportunity to visit several of the 21 missions over the years and most recently traveled to the Sonoma Mission (official name, San Francisco Solano) with my family. It is a great place to visit with kids to learn more about California history!
Sonoma Mission (San Francisco Solano)
The Sonoma Mission was:
The last California mission to be built (1823)
The furthest north
The only mission built after Mexico’s independence from Spain
The only mission founded without prior approval from the Church
The only one my kids have visited (so far!)
Why We Loved It
My favorite parts were the chapel and the central courtyard. In the small chapel it is easy to imagine the overlapping prayers and desires of the generations of people who have sat or stood in that very spot. In the courtyard is where they worked. It was so amazing to see the old outdoor “beehive” oven they used for baking. This is a great way for kids to understand how things used to be before electricity.
I loved the central fountain, surrounded by benches and shaded by trees like a little desert oasis. Although not original to the Mission, it is a welcome addition for today’s visitors. If you visit in the summer, you will appreciate this cool, shady spot even more!
You also can’t miss the huge growth of Prickly Pear cactus, which served as a living fence during Mission times.
My boys loved the army barracks, which show you how soldiers from the Mexican era lived. There is even an old canon!
How to Find It
The Sonoma Mission is now part of the Sonoma State Historic Park, which includes the Mission, Barracks, and Vallejo family home. The park is actually six different sites located around the beautiful town of Sonoma, which is in the world famous California Wine Country.
The park is open daily except for major holidays.
While You’re There
We loved La Casa, a wonderful family owned Mexican restaurant right across the street from the Mission. Before heading home, we also stopped at Chocolate Cow, which has great ice cream as well as candy. It is located in a cute little shopping plaza just a short walk away from the Mission.
I participated in an Influencer Activation Program on behalf of Influence-Central for American Express. I received thank you items for my participation.
Family travel is not for the faint of heart. Among the more difficult phases of a family trip is flying itself. Children naturally rebel against so unnatural an act as sitting in a confined space for long stretches of time – especially when parents restrain them from exploring all of the wonderful new places on the airplane and in the airport that are begging to be discovered!
That is why I was so excited to learn about the brand-new Centurion Lounge from American Express in San Francisco’s International Airport. This 8,200 foot lounge is located in Terminal 3 of SFO and is truly an oasis for family travel.
I had the pleasure of previewing it recently with the Monkeys, and we had a blast!
As a parent, it was so relaxing to be in a safe, clean, beautiful space where I could let my children play without worrying about what exactly they might find in their explorations! Also, anyone who has traveled with young children will appreciate how heavenly it is to have a space large enough for the kids to stretch their legs – but one that ultimately has boundaries so they don’t run off from you!
A Family Travel Oasis
s1. Engaging, colorful play space
In addition to the general spaces – filled with soft, inviting couches – where kids can play, The Centurion Lounge also has a Family Room dedicated just to them!
The Family Room is equipped with fun toys for a range of ages and soft kid-sized cushioned chairs, plus a large screen TV and a collection of children’s books. It’s also sound-proof – brilliant!
2. Wonderful food!
A big perk for families with little mouths to feed is the buffet at The Centurion Lounge, filled with delicious, healthy foods. But don’t worry, there are also lots of treats for the kids and grownups!
Photo courtesy of American Express
The offerings are inspired by the cuisine of the Napa Valley and curated by renowned chef Christopher Kostow.
Little Monkey clutching the balloon animal he received at the reception; photo courtesy of American Express
3. Luxury service
For weary travelers, it is a real treat to receive such incredible service. When you enter, you are greeted by American Express Member Service professionals, happy to answer any questions and help you get settled in. And throughout your stay there is always someone discreetly available to bring you a drink or help you with your things. For parents accustomed to doing all the fetching, it is heavenly to have someone taking care of you for a change.
4. Spaces to rest and relax
Families on the move will appreciate having comfortable spaces to recharge. There are plenty of couches in spacious open areas, as well as cozy nooks to snuggle with your babes or catch some zzz’s.
5. Tech space
Of course, one characteristic of travel is being less connected to your networks. The Centurion Lounge’s high speed wi-fi , as well as the outlets near every seat, make recharging your gear and getting in touch with your loved ones (or your office, or your travel information…) easy to do.
6. Spaces to refresh
Finally, one of my favorite features of The Centurion Lounge is the shower! Now isn’t that a great idea?? It is tucked discreetly into a quiet corner of the lounge, back around a corner, so you don’t feel like you are freshening up in front of everyone! The ability to clean up is a great feature for any traveler but especially for those traveling with children, who seem to attract dirt and mess. For once, it would be nice to arrive at our final destination not feeling like we were wearing an inch of grime for every leg of our trip!
If you are looking for a place to unwind and relax with your kids during your next trip, be sure to visit The Centurion Lounge for American Express members! The new lounge is the first on the West Coast and the fourth in a network that is expanding to major airports across the US. Entrance to The Centurion Lounge is complimentary for consumer, Business and Corporate Platinum Card and Centurion® members, and their immediate family or up to two travel companions. All other American Express Credit and Charge Card members can purchase a one-day pass for $50.
August 21, 2014family, travelComments Off on Family Travel: Benefits and Challenges of Traveling with Young Children
Traveling with young children presents particular challenges: You have to figure out what to pack and how to keep them occupied on long plane rides and car trips. But it also offers certain benefits, such as experiencing the wonder of new places through your child’s eyes. Many parents of little ones debate whether it is worth the trouble or if it is better to simply wait until their kids are older. What should you do?
Today on Kid World Citizen I am sharing some factors to consider as you make a decision: Is travel with young children worth it? What do you think?
This post is part of the Second Annual Sunshine Kids Blog Hop. This year we are focusing on great places to visit in California with kids! Be sure to link up your family-friendly California posts below, and visit my post on Native California from last year’s blog hop!
Fairy Tale Town has been a favorite destination for families in Sacramento for generations. Opened in 1959, it was one of a wave of storybook parks that opened around the United States during the 1950s and 60s, thanks in large part to the success of Disneyland. Yet Fairy Tale Town is one of the few still in operation today.
Climbing up the beanstalk
It is truly a magical place, where fairy tales and nursery rhymes come to life. Kids can slide down the beanstalk, climb up to Owl’s house in the 1000 Acre Wood, swing on the jungle gym in Sherwood Forest, and stop to pet the animals at Farmer Brown’s Barn.
Even the bathroom breaks are fun!
There are 25 playsets in Fairy Tale Town, each based on a different childhood tale. In addition there are farm animals, two performing arts stages, and several gardens.
Since many of the features were built in the 1950s, there is a lot of concrete, but everything is very well maintained and safe for young visitors. In fact, there are only a few features (several of the high slides) that are not appropriate for very little ones. While older kids will find much to enjoy here, you will also see lots of toddlers moseying around the park.
On a recent visit, my preschooler and my toddler both enjoyed themselves immensely. The little one loved playing in the bright, colorful play areas just his size. My older son enjoyed it on a different level now that he is familiar with the stories on which the play areas are based. We spent an entire morning here and could have easily stayed longer.
In addition to all the fun attractions available on an everyday basis, there are also performances, special events, and summer camps. There is a cafe (the Dish and Spoon) plus plenty of picnic tables if you prefer to bring your own food.
If you visit during the summer, I suggest visiting in the morning to avoid the heat. Thankfully, though, even in the afternoons there is plenty of shade from the many trees in the park.
I highly recommend Fairy Tale Town as part of your California Staycation! It is a whimsical, magical place that you and your kiddos will enjoy. Afterwards you can head next door to beautiful William Land Park or just across the street to visit the Sacramento Zoo! (Combined tickets are available for Fairy Tale Town and the zoo).
Are you taking a staycation this summer?
Places to Visit with Kids in California:
Sunshine Kids Blog Hop 2014
Summer is a great time to explore with your kids – and you don’t have to travel far to do it! California has so much to offer to families. Take a great staycation this summer by visiting your local treasures! In our second annual Sunshine Kids Blog Hop, we are focusing on our favorite places to visit with kids in California. Enjoy! And be sure to add your own family-friendly California posts in our linky at the bottom. You can also check out even more California posts on our collaborative Kid Friendly California Pinterest board!
And now it’s time to see what everyone has been up to:
This post is part of the World Cup for Kids project from Multicultural Kid Blogs. Each time Costa Rica plays, I will be doing a post on some aspect of that country’s culture. Today I am sharing some of our favorite spots to visit in San Jose Costa Rica!
I am been lucky enjoy to visit Costa Rica a number of times since marrying my tico husband, but our visits since we have had kids are been totally different than our earlier trips. For one thing, the places we choose to visit on our trip have changed. If you are headed to Costa Rica and will be spending some time in its capital, San José, here are our top recommendation of places to visit with your kids! (Don’t miss my look at neighborhood life in San José!)
There are lots of great museums in the San José area. For younger kids especially I recommend the Children’s Museum (Museo del Niño). It has tons of exhibits on everything from the solar system to an the human body. Monkey loved the oversized mouth you could climb inside, and he had so much fun at the “archaeological” dig. While most of the exhibits are for preschoolers and older, younger siblings will still have fun toddling around. Baby especially loved climbing into the space “rover.” We also spent a good deal of time in the baby/toddler play area. Plan to spend a whole day here!
The amusement park in San José is tons of fun. There are lots of rides suitable for younger kids, and an indoor play space just for babies and toddlers. There are also plenty of open spaces for them to run around or just relax. I loved the recreated old San José. My favorite part is that it gave us something to do with Monkey’s cousins where language wasn’t a barrier.
3. The Volcanoes! (Irazú and Poás)
You simply can’t go to Costa Rica and not visit a volcano! And luckily for you there are two within an easy day trip of San José: Irazú and Poás. Two pieces of advice: go early and dress warmly! The fog tends to roll in by early afternoon, making it nearly impossible to see anything. And because you are going to a high elevation, it will be chilly, no matter what time of year – As in, I wish we had worn out winter coats!
4. Culture Plaza (Plaza de la Cultura)
At Plaza de la Cultura, you get a glimpse of the old San José, when people still hung out at the plazas. This is a must visit if you want to give your kids a flavor of community life in Costa Rica, as you can find the traditional vendors, and people strolling through or taking a lunch break. Be warned that it is located in a busy section of downtown San José, so if you do visit you should be alert, just as you would be in any large city.
5. Central Market (Mercado Central)
Again, I included this one to give a flavor of the older parts of San José. While the Mercado Central is still an incredibly busy place, these days many people prefer to shop at a mall. Still, there is something about the crowded stalls and requisite haggling over prices that I love. A great place to go people watching!
Sarchí is a beautiful town nearby San José, known as a premier place to shop for artisan goods and souvenirs. There are many different shops to visit, plus great places to eat. This is more for older kids, though younger ones will enjoy a brief visit to look at all the amazing handicrafts.
7. Farmer’s Market Zapote (la Feria)
We had so much fun visiting this enormous Farmer’s Market in Zapote, a part of San José. While there are many farmer’s markets in San José, this one is probably the biggest. You can find so many wonderful fruits and vegetables here – all much bigger (and cheaper!) than you would find in the US. For younger kids, I recommend bringing water, as it can get very hot and there is not much shade. We were also glad to have an umbrella stroller handy, as it can be a lot of walking for younger kids.
INBioparque in Heredia (just outside San José) is just gorgeous. It is an interactive ecological park, designed to bring people in closer contact with Costa Rica’s natural resources. There are many different areas to the park, so plan to spend all day! (By the way, it has a really great cafeteria!) There are plenty of exhibits for little ones, including a petting zoo, plus lots of walking paths through different habitats. We especially loved the butterfly area. This is a really nice break from the hustle and bustle of San José and a great way to see a variety of the very diverse natural life in Costa Rica. Another fun spot for nature lovers is ZooAve, the local zoo. (I apologize if that link isn’t working – as I write they seem to be having trouble with their server!)
9. Terra Mall
Okay, okay, I can hear you groaning. No one really plans to go to the mall when visiting another country, but let’s be real – It’s a great, easy place to cool off and wind down with your kids, especially since it can feel very familiar to them when traveling abroad. So if you do find yourself looking for a mall, I recommend Terra Mall in Escazú (a more upscale part of San José). If your kids need a little break from culture shock, they will feel at home walking around here. Plus little kids will have fun riding on the kids’ train that winds its way through the mall. And then there’s the movie theater – Have you ever heard of VIP seating? I hadn’t, but now I wish we had it here! It costs a bit extra (though still far less than you’d pay in the US), and for that you get an assigned seat, a really comfy seat, lots of leg room – and a waiter! No more waiting in line for popcorn, baby! Downside, of course, is that kids’ movies are all dubbed in Spanish, so this will be challenging for kids that aren’t fluent.
10. A Football Game!
Of course, with the World Cup going on, how could I not mention every Costa Rican’s favorite sport? To really get in touch with Costa Rican community life, just stop by the football pitch, or la cancha. There are easy to find in most any neighborhood in the city, and usually on the weekend this is where you will find the “guys,” hanging out and playing in informal leagues. And if you have the means, you can also go to a game at the new national stadium in the La Sabana area of San José. It is a beautiful modern stadium, where you can catch a battle between rival Costa Rican teams (go Liga!) or international events, such as the women’s soccer under-20 championship this past spring.
Traveling with young children is challenging in many ways (though also rewarding!) For me, one of the hardest parts has always been deciding what to pack.
Young children in particular require a lot of gear, but you don’t want to be lugging around more than you have to – especially since you will also probably be carrying your little ones at some point! There are, however, some things that are worth bringing because they will make your life so much easier, like these great new on-the-go products!
Here is my list of essentials to pack for travel with kids:
1. Favorite Foods and Snacks
Yes, travel is a wonderful time to encourage your child to try new foods, but keep in mind that for young children it can be stressful to be out of their routines, even if it is something they enjoy. Having a few favorite foods from home can help ease the transition. While you don’t want to overdo this, we have found that having a few familiar snacks actually makes Monkey more willing to try new things.
2. Healthy and Specialty Foods
If you have a child on a special diet, you need to consider bringing with you foods you know they can eat. (Here are great tips on for families with food allergies). If you are traveling internationally, specialty foods are increasingly available (especially in large cities/tourist spots), but it is often a question of how much of your vacation time you want to spend searching for these items. The same can be said for all-natural convenience foods. In our travels abroad I have found that often foods labeled “all-natural” contain more sugars and additives than their American counterparts. Again, you can probably find what you want in either the very large chains or the small specialty shops, but why waste valuable vacation time on this endeavor? In your decision try to balance the following factors: destination (and your familiarity with it) and length of stay. If you are not staying for very long, and you are not familiar with the area, you may decide it is worth using the slightly more sugary versions, for example, while for a long stay it might be worth throwing a few healthy snacks in your luggage. Keep in mind that for many international destinations, fresh fruits are available in abundance – the ultimate convenience food!
Babies go through a looooot of diapers. I am so used to using cloth diapers that I often forget how true this is! We do use disposables when we are on the road, and I am constantly surprised by how often we have to go to the store to restock. Usually we pack enough to get us through the first day or so then buy in great quantity once we arrive, to lessen the number of shopping trips we have to make. However, with my older son I had to do a little more planning, as he had very sensitive skin and would break out in a rash if we used generic disposable diapers. Yet all-natural diapers are often difficult to find when traveling abroad – and even when you do find them they are not exactly the same as what you are used to at home. (Not to say they are better or worse, just different, and with a highly sensitive child, “different” often equals “bad”!) So instead what I would do was pack an extra package of diapers from home, and space them out throughout the trip, so he was periodically given a break from the new diapers. Also, it was well worth it to bring plenty of his favorite diaper cream. An extra tube doesn’t take up much room, and that added layer of familiar protection will mean a lot to your baby’s bottom!
Speaking of bottoms, a baby’s isn’t the only one to suffer when you are on the road. Often when you travel you end up using facilities that aren’t exactly up to the standard you are used to, so it’s great to have products that really help you feel fresh. Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths On-The-Go Soft packs and Clean Care Toilet Paper are the perfect wet-and-dry combo for when you are on the go. And I love that the cleansing cloths are flushable – one less mess for me to worry about! The cloths come in soft packs that are easy to throw into the backpack or diaper bag, and it’s easy to stash a roll of the toilet paper in the car. This combo is especially great for summer day trips to the splash park or the beach! Our favorite park, for example, has port-a-potties rather than actual bathrooms, and I feel so much better cleaning my boys (and myself!) off with these convenient products.
5. Emergency Supplies
You never want to be caught in a health emergency without essential supplies. I have a mini-first aid kid in our backpack and a larger one in our car/suitcase. Again, you can find all of these items in pharmacies around the world, but you don’t want to waste precious time searching when someone you love is ill. Here is a great how-to on creating an emergency kit.
6. Strollers and Carriers
Carriers are an essential for babies and young toddlers. Carriers are so easy to pack and allow you to be hands-free. Plus, being so close to you is very comforting for kids when in a new place, and it’s an easy on-the-go way to get them to sleep. Strollers are great but are very bulky, so this is really a personal preference. When Monkey was a baby, it was worth it to us to bring his big stroller because it gave us a break from carrying him, plus it provided a safe, clean place for him to sleep when we were out and about. Once he got older, we switched to an umbrella stroller, which is much lighter and easier to take along. With two kids, now we have opted to bring a foldable double stroller. I thought it would be a pain to bring, but it was well worth it for us to be able to easily push both kids through the airport and on long walks.
What are your essential travel supplies? What do you prefer to leave behind? I’d love to hear your stories!