Traveling Mamas

Inspiring you to explore our world

  • I recently was able to get my hands on a copy of Walt Disney World with Kids 2009 by Kim Wright Wiley. This Fodor’s guide to Orlando theme parks includes more than just info on Disney, but provides all the information needed to plan and enjoy the vacation of a lifetime.

    It includes time and money saving tips, insider secrets, and scare factors for EVERY ride and venue, including those at Universal Orlando and Seaworld. I brought it around to show a few mom friends, and one gal who is planning a March visit to Disney World with her two year old REFUSED to give it back. She said the guide has answered every question she had about her trip.

    I especially enjoyed the favorite attractions lists for kids of varying ages, the tips for pregnant guests, and suggestions on how to make a special occasion, such as a birthday or anniversary, event that much more memorable.

    I can confidently say that this guide is one of the ultimate planning tools if you are considering a trip to Orlando. Don’t forget about the Disney Moms Panel for planning and that if you visit Disney World on your birthday, you can get in free! That’s why Walt Disney World for Kids 2009 is On the Move Approved.

    How can you get a copy of your own? This book is available at most book stores, online, and five lucky readers can get their own copy right here! Just leave a comment telling us if you’ve ever been to Disney World, and if you have, please share a tip with our readers. Contest ends at midnight, Tuesday, October 28, 2008. Winners will be announced sometime on Winning Wednesday, October 29.

    Regular TravelingMamas.com rules apply (no relatives, must be US citizen and 18 years old, one entry per email address).

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  • When I hear the name Canyon Ranch, I think of THE spa. You know, the spa resort type of place that only the uber-rich are allowed to enter. The place where all the cares of the world are left behind and visitors are treated to days upon end of full body massages. Well, a few years ago I was in Las Vegas for the first time. I stayed at The Venetian with my friend Luanne, and I was very excited to find out that Canyon Ranch had a SpaClub there, but then I looked at the prices. Oh my word, was it expensive!

    Fortunately, I found a lucky slot machine. It was Elvis themed and after watching his hips shake a few times on the machine, I found myself $400 richer. What did that mean to me? Canyon Ranch, baby! Off I went to book a treatment.

    I usually rave about awesome spa treatments and fantastic places to stay, but I just want to state that I walked in to Canyon Ranch SpaClub with my own expectations of what I would find, and I was highly disappointed. It was spacious and open with a massive rock climbing wall. There was a big area of men dressed in black sleeveless shirts and running shorts riding stationary bikes in sync while dripping sweat. It felt sterile and not what I look for in a spa.

    The treatment I wanted, The Royal King’s Bath, was booked for the day. I settled for a hot stone massage, which I had never experienced before. It was okay. Definitely not the best treatment I ever had, but then my mind was already disappointed by the atmosphere and I may have brought that into the treatment room with me. Then I paid my bill and almost choked. The hot stone massage was $250!

    I had to sit down before I had a heart attack, so I settled at the Canyon Grill bar. I really needed a glass of wine, but guess what? No wine. I could have a healthy carrot juice blend. Um, no. I’m a Louisiana girl and I like my wine. I like chocolate, too. I just plain like to eat good food, not good for you food.

    What is the moral of this story, you might ask? Don’t go into a place with a preconceived notion of what your experience will be like. Any other time, if I would have taken the time to do a little research, I would know exactly what Canyon Ranch is.

    • It is a health resort, which offers wonderful benefits for healthier lifestyles.
    • Vegas isn’t exactly the place to find a relaxing vibe. The Tucson Canyon Ranch Resort is more of an area to find that.
    • I wish I would have watched a video like this one available at ExploreCanyonRanch.com. Maybe then I would’ve had a better understanding of the entire Canyon Ranch philosophy that would make my experience better.

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  • I love to scrapbook with pictures taken from all of our family travels and girlfriend getaways, but sometimes it is hard for me to find the time to sit down and place them all in one book. One year, my mother gave me a scrapbook that highlighted parts of my childhood, milestones in my life, and my travel memories. I know she spent months putting all of this together. And she didn’t just do it for me, but for my brother also.

    A collection of photos or a picture slideshow DVD makes a special gift and highlights important life events. Plus, there’s a 75% chance that the recipient will get a little weepy. I know when I put together a DVD of pictures for my brother’s rehearsal dinner, my mom, and the bride’s mom (as well as some various aunts and cousins) had to dab at their eyes while watching pics of the couple.

    When a representative from CVS offered me the opportunity to check out the Kodak Picture Movie DVD process and their in-store photo books, I thought I would see what the big deal was about.

    Personalized Photo Books

    First you bring in your digital pictures on a memory card, CD, or USB flash drive to your local CVS Pharmacy Photo Center photo kiosk. Select “photo book” option. You can rearrange the photos, their sizes, and add text and various backgrounds. Each book is 10 pages long and can showcase up to 54 photos total in the 6” x 8” size. Ten additional pages can be added for an extra charge. I would suggest calling your local CVS Photo Center before driving there. The actual photo processing part takes an hour after you finish designing the book. The binding portion can take a little longer, depending upon if an employee is available for that aspect of the process. I went to my CVS at 12:30 pm and was told the book would be ready after 4:00 pm. That is still not too bad for such a nice gift.

    4 x 6 holds 36 pictures – $5.99

    6 x 8 holds 54 pictures – $12.99

    8 x 10 holds 72 pictures – $14.99

    Kodak Picture Movie DVD

    I’ve made numerous musical slideshow DVDs over the years and I’m just going to let you all know that $14.99 for this product is really worth it. You just bring your digital photos and choose up to 40 to 60 of your favorites, and then add some of the pre-selected songs. The entire design process took me about 30 minutes because I played with it, zooming and panning out from different photos. After the design process, the DVD takes about 10 minutes to be processed and even comes with a personalized cover.

    Either one of these products would make great and affordable Christmas gifts or just that added special something to commemorate a life event. And just as a little tip, if you don’t have a passport yes, CVS takes passport photos for HALF the price of the US Post Office. You can find your nearest CVS Pharmacy here.

    One lucky reader can win a coupon for her (or his) very own 6 x 8 photo book from CVS. Just leave a comment telling us what special time in your life you would like to have documented in a photo book.

    Regular TravelingMamas.com contest rules apply (US Citizen, no TM relatives, one entry per email address). Contest ends Tuesday, October 22, 2008 at midnight. Winner will be announced sometime on Wednesday October 23.

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  • Disclaimer: I bugged the poo out of this poor man until he broke down and graciously agreed to answer these questions. Before you read this, pretend you are Wayne and Garth and repeat to yourselves, “We’re not worthy”.

    Chris Brogan is a Strategist/Advisor of Enterprise Tech and Social Media. In other words, he’s the Shiznit, The Man, or whatever name you want to call him, but I’m pretty sure he prefers Chris. He’s also a Traveling Dad and founder of Dad-o-Matic, a place for dads to share thoughts and ideas about parenting. Chris also educates people about technology and the practices around it with his personal blog, ChrisBrogan.com.

    For those of you in the blogosphere that haven’t heard of Chris, consider this your introduction to one of the Gurus of Social Media. He’s been married since 2000 and has two children that he knows of, one 6 years old and the other almost 3. He and his family make their home in Northern Massachusetts. Chris also travels extensively throughout the year, schooling the masses on all things tech and social media and is working on his next book. He also recently brought up the question of how Tourist Bureaus can reach bloggers during a visit to St. Louis, and this topic has generated some big buzz in the travel industry.

    Do you travel without your family a lot? Does your wife travel without the family?

    Almost never in both cases, at least not in airplanes. Funny timing, as my wife is about to take the kids on a solo trip up to Newfoundland.
     
    What does your wife think about this (you traveling)?

    She and I have a good relationship around my travel. When I’m home, I’m VERY home. I play with the kids a lot. I take my daughter to school often. I take them places and do all that fun dad stuff (plus the hard parts). It ends up being a balance. And this job I love, so I’m overall much happier. When I was home more often but in a crap job, I was a far less engaged dad.

    Do you take family getaways? If so, where is your family’s favorite place to go?

    We haven’t done it a lot. I think I’m a scaredy cat of how it’s going to be to wrangle all the kids in some delightful foreign location. We do lots of day trips and the occasional overnighter up in New England. But then, I haven’t had a “real” vacation in forever.  

    Do you and your wife ever get a chance for a romantic escape?

    We can measure those opportunities in hours, not days.

    Any tips for our female readers on how to make a Dad’s life easier when they travel? Any tips for the dads out there?

    For both sides of the gender, my thought is this: be very clear. If you’re into peace and quiet on a beach, and your spouse is into gambling at casinos, the time to discover these things isn’t while shuffling for the credit card to book a flight, and even worse when you’re at the destination. Another idea: families on vacation are fairly tightly knit. If there’s a way to give mom and dad solo trips of a few hours, where the other spouse wrangles, that’s a nice way to double-dip on the sense of a vacation.
     
    What is your pet travel peeve?

    Power. I’m a business traveler. I need power strips everywhere. Yes, I can bring one (and often do), but I’m frustrated that hotels haven’t rigged themselves even more appropriately for today’s gadget-laden traveler.

    If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

    Newfoundland. I’ve been twice, and it’s like Ireland over on this side of the ocean. It’s a great mix of Canada’s best people, a rustic scenery, cold weather (which I prefer), and a different pace of living.

    Thanks so much to Chris Brogan for taking the time to answer these questions for TravelingMamas.com. After reading through his answers, this man is in SERIOUS need of either a romantic getaway or a family vacation at an all-inclusive resort where he and his wife can relax while the kids have fun. If you are interested in social media, then visit his site at ChrisBrogan.com. He is one of the most awesome Social Media Gurus and is active on Twitter.

    And for those of you who “get it”, Mariska Hargitay.

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  • Voluntourism is one way travelers can make an impact on fighting poverty while on holiday. There are a number of ways to volunteer while on vacation, such as helping maintain US National Parks, working with animals, or even traveling with Airline Ambassadors International to help fight poverty.

    Airline Ambassadors International Logo

    Airline Ambassadors International was founded in 1997 by Nancy Rivard, a San Francisco-based flight attendant. She started this organization after experiencing numerous layovers in parts of the world that are poverty stricken. She realized that as an airline employee, she was in a position to be more focused in her charitable contributions, and realized this dream with AAI.

    The organization initially began as flight attendants using pass privileges to help children, but has grown through the years to 6,000 members. AAI organizes numerous trips each month to various countries in need. Members hand-deliver aid to poverty-stricken areas, they escort children to the US in need of medical assistance, and also has a youth program, that allows children as early as age 7 (accompanied by an adult) to become involved in humanitarian efforts and educational activities.

    So how can you get involved? First, start by joining as a member. For each dollar donated to Airline Ambassadors International, more than $45 in aid is distributed around the world to those in need. Then, find a mission you would like to attend and send a small mission fee to AAI. Members are responsible for the cost of their escorted or member-led trips, but the benefits and rewards of helping others is worth more than the price of the trip. Not all of these trips are international; there are areas of the U.S. in need.

    If this just isn’t the right time in your life for you to travel, consider making a donation to Five & Alive or other outlets such as Kiva and The Global Fund, which help poverty-stricken areas around the globe. – #bad08

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