Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Raise a Nature Lover via

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

l 102080311 Raise a Nature Lover via

Skipping stones. Climbing trees. Lying in the grass and looking for patterns in the clouds. They’re among the most iconic images of growing up. Unfortunately, they no longer represent the way most children spend their weekends.

During the past several decades, childhood has largely moved indoors. Instead of building tree forts and chasing butterflies, kids today are far more likely to spend their downtime in front of a screen. According to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, kids use electronics for nearly eight hours a day. Compare that figure with a University of Michigan study, which found that kids are engaged in unstructured outdoor play for less than 30 minutes per week.

That represents a genuine loss for our kids. Humans evolved in the outside world, and we have an inborn affinity for it. “Without fostering a deep connection to nature, we can’t truly flourish as individuals or as a species,” observes Peter Kahn, Jr., Ph.D., director of the Human Interaction With Nature and Technological Systems Lab at the University of Washington, in Seattle.

Being outdoors can help energize and inspire us. A University of Illinois study, for instance, showed that children with ADHD had noticeably… Continue Reading on–>

BuzzFeed’s 41 Camping Hacks That Are Borderline Genius

Sunday, April 13th, 2014


Some of these ideas are so genius, we just had to share. Now get your family out of the house and have some fun!

1. Use foam floor tiles for a softer, more comfortable tent floor.

foam BuzzFeeds 41 Camping Hacks That Are Borderline Genius

2. Point a head lamp into a jug of water for an instant lantern.

lamp BuzzFeeds 41 Camping Hacks That Are Borderline Genius

3. Also: Mountain Dew + baking soda + peroxide = lantern.

lantern BuzzFeeds 41 Camping Hacks That Are Borderline Genius


4. Make tin-can sandwich bread as a portable food option.

bread BuzzFeeds 41 Camping Hacks That Are Borderline Genius

Get the recipe here.

5. Familiarize yourself with what the poisonous plants look like.

poison BuzzFeeds 41 Camping Hacks That Are Borderline Genius

For the full list of 41 genius camping hacks, click here! 



Thursday, October 24th, 2013
“It’s possible for a family to win big in Vegas ”You don’t normally hear the words ‘outdoor family travel’ and ‘Las Vegas’ in the same sentence but here’s a surprise, the two can work together. As a short vacation destination, there’s so much more to do than walk the famous Strip, you just have to think outside the box.The trick is to plan your trip in advance, find the best deals and make sure you book into a hotel that isn’t bursting at the seams with scantily-clad showgirls, cigar-chomping high-rollers and raucous frat boys.

We spent three nights at The Orleans Hotel & Casino because it offered incredible value and was super family friendly. They have a professional baby-sitting service – and not just a girl in clear high heels called Candy – plus a bowling alley, cinema and all the usual casino attractions. It rained during our visit but we didn’t let it put us off enjoying the trip, and the hotel’s indoor play center proved to be a happy distraction for our five-year-old when going outside was impossible.

Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden

Jett loved Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage Hotel. It’s an enchanting hidden playground, and home to majestic white lions, white tigers, panthers, leopards, and a family of bottlenose dolphins, who were more than happy to try to communicate with us humans. Our son really connected with these gentle creatures, and loved getting so close to them. The hotel also features a magnificent indoor coral reef and 20,000-gallon saltwater tank that sits behind the front desk. It’s filled with around 450 fish including angelfish, puffer fish, tangs and other exotic sea creatures. All very bewitching for a five-year-old.

Helicopter Ride Grand Canyon

We decided to splurge on a helicopter trip to the magnificent west rim of the Grand Canyon.We booked with Papillon Airways, and while their website is confusing (review what you are purchasing and double-check your departure times), it was a family highlight. Our four-hour trip consisted of two 35-minute helicopter rides to the Grand Canyon and back. It goes without saying that you get to see one of our most incredible natural landmarks from the most amazing vantage point. As well of the buses we also flew over the volcanic Black Mountains, Grapevine Mesa and the Grand Wash Cliffs. The scale of the canyon is breath-taking but Jett was most impressed with his headset; he loved hearing the captain talk and fly the copter. Once we landed in the canyon, we had a hurried box lunch but the trip was sensational and I’d recommend it to anyone.

Ferrari & Porsche Racing

To make sure boys both big and small were entertained, we decided to book a day at Exotics Racing, which was only a short 20-minutes drive from our hotel. This was boy’s heaven all wrapped up in the shape of red Ferrari. More than six to be exact. First the whole family did two laps in a Porsche Cayenne, and I felt like a super sexy soccer mom. My husband drove two race car laps in a brand new Porsche 991, and wished he had booked more laps. He felt like he’d just got the hang of the car and the track, and then it was time to go. I did two drifting ride-along laps in a Corvette with a trained driver and was truly terrified within 15 seconds. But hey, now I can cross Monaco Grand Prix racer off my bucket list.

We also enjoyed all the outdoor water features along The Strip, as well as a trip on the Monorail. And while you might want to protect your off-spring from the more colorful sights, the reality is that you will see boobs on flyers, as well as showgirls, drag queens and performers in sequins and feather boas walking around. My son certainly noticed all the ‘tushies’ but if you can handle the sights, this is an exciting and affordable vacation. You can book cheap family rooms, food is good value, and if you clip your coupons and search online for the best deals, you can win big – and let’s face it, not everyone who visits Vegas can say that!

Ambassadors of the Environment – Ritz Carlton, Laguna Beach

Thursday, September 19th, 2013
lawn Ambassadors of the Environment   Ritz Carlton, Laguna Beach  Ambassadors of the Environment   Ritz Carlton, Laguna Beach
 Ambassadors of the Environment   Ritz Carlton, Laguna Beach  Ambassadors of the Environment   Ritz Carlton, Laguna Beach
 Ambassadors of the Environment   Ritz Carlton, Laguna Beach  Ambassadors of the Environment   Ritz Carlton, Laguna Beach

“Jacques Cousteau now lives on in our five-year-old, who plans to be an eco-warrior.”

Laguna Beach, the second oldest city in Orange Country, is a perfect weekend getaway location and gloriously child-friendly. The scenery is spectacular, the beaches are endless and there are tons of outdoor activities the entire family can enjoy, including a visit to the nearby Pacific Marine Mammal Center.

We stayed at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Beach, savoring a welcoming cocktail in the hotel’s gorgeous ocean-front lounge, 180blu, which boasts to-die-for views of Salt Creek Beach. The proxmimity of the beach to the hotel was important; not only did it mean that my husband and I could build sand-castles with our five-year-old son, but that we could also enjoy the area around it.

Environmental awareness is key at this resort, which offers many fantastic eco-adventures including whale-watching, a sea hike along the coast and a living green tour. Jean-Michel Cousteau, the eldest son of the legendary diver and explorer Jacques Cousteau, has followed in his father’s foot-steps and encourages wildlife preservation. His programme of tours, classes and events is extensive, and after some family deliberation (we try to be as democratic as possible with or without bribery!) we decided to join the Ambassadors of the Environment Garden Tour the following morning, which introduced us to the local eco-system.


We really enjoyed Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment Biggest Show on Earth whale-watching tour. The Ambassadors programme says it will “open your eyes to Southern California’s unique ecosystems, and open your heart to their connection to the larger global systems. Led by expert naturalists, choose from 15 different excursions on your Laguna vacation, dedicated to showcasing Southern California’s natural wonders.” And it did that…and much, much more.

Although we didn’t see any whales we saw plenty of dolphin pods, and comical seal pups basking on buoys. I was able to completely relax with my five-year-old son onboard our lovely boat, simply because of the extensive genius mesh netting, which in no way hindered our view of the ocean and wildlife.

At the end of the trip the Ambassadors Club presented with a CD loaded with photographs of our day – it was a lovely and unusually thoughtful keepsake from the hotel. Later that night, we ate at Raya, which was named “Restaurant of the Year” by Riviera Orange County in July 2011, and handily located in the hotel, overlooking the ocean. It was our 7th wedding anniversary and we were beside ourselves with delight when our host seated us at a table strewn with rose petals, and a card with a quote about love inscribed on it. A lovely detail.


I love pilates. Specifically, I love watching other people do pilates. And the next morning, after enjoying a hearty breakfast while others exercised, I scooped up my husband and son and we joined the hotel’s complimentary Living Green Tour, where we learned about environmental preservation, the local wildlife and the benefits of sustainable gardening and eating organic produce. (We could also have enjoyed a coastal nature tour, a scavenger hunt, and even filmed our own PSA about environmental issues!). Walking around the Learning Center our enthusiastic naturalist tour guide, gave us a crash course in what it really means to live green, which our son loved, before spending the afternoon relaxing by the pool. He now has a fascination with spiders, whales and sea-shell hunting. While I still enjoy watching other people exercise!

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Friday, August 30th, 2013

“Watching my son and husband splash around in the icy-cold swimming hole in nothing but their underpants, is a sight I will cherish for the rest of my life!”

We were overjoyed when we arrived at lush The Redwoods resort, located in pretty Wawona, just south of Yosemite Valley. This picture postcard resort offers year-round cabin rentals, set against the spectacular backdrop of giant shady sequoias, granite monoliths, waterfalls, and dense forest.

Check-in was quick and easy, and we fell in love with our gorgeous wooden cabin, which had a fully stocked kitchen, beautiful outside deck, complete with a gas barbecue that my Argentinian meat-devouring husband claimed as his own.

Our son explored every inch of the cabin, and inspired by the Olympics, ignored the board games and Disney DVD’s on the shelf, and made the sofa into his own personal gymnasium.

I loved that after a day in the forest or swimming in the watering hole, we could change into our pajamas and hang out as a family, or simply wake up in the morning and drink coffee out of a large mug without having to brave the  hotel breakfast counter.

The forest is absolutely breath-taking; from the Sierra National Forest, to the granite cliffs, sequoia groves and valleys, there’s always a photo-opportunity (although my heart skipped a beat at Glacier Point, when my five-year-old decided to walk high-beam style along a stone wall with a sheer drop on one side!).

Wildlife flourishes here – peregrine falcons yellow-bellied marmots and yes, black bears all call this part of the world home, and there are strict (but not difficult) guidelines to follow about how to store food and the merits of using the forest shuttle instead of your car.  For a full history lesson, head to The Pioneer Yosemite History Center, where you can also enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride around Wawona.


We decided to treat our son to a slice of gentler times and rented a vintage 1929 Model T Ford car, from the Tin Lizzie Hotel. The owner David and his lovely wife, Sheran, gave us some quick instruction and took a happy family photo before we set off for the park. The car was stick shift and my husband proved himself to be a natural vintage car driver, and – miracle of miracles – kept both hands on the wheel all day (a first I can tell you!).

Driving through the Mariposa Grove, located at the park’s south gate, we gazed in awe at the giant sequoia trees, some of which weigh more than two million pounds and have been growing for nearly 3,000 years. The trees are so big, you can literally walk inside them. The setting and the car were a winning combination – and we rounded off our day with a sunset barbecue back at our cabin.


We sadly said goodbye to our retro ride and spent the next day hiking through the stunning Chilnaulna Falls Trails. It was an easy walk, although hot (it was August after all), and our trail took us by a 50-foot fall, a series of pools and breath-taking 100-foot cascade. We cooled down at the Swinging Bridge, where a wooden and rope bridge that hangs across the park’s swimming hole.  It was relatively peaceful compared to other parts of the forest, and here, brave Europeans had stripped down to their underwear to take a dip in the icy water.  (Over the other side of the bridge, the more experienced visitors, including two American couples who’d been vacationing there for 25 years, were better prepared.) We took the plunge, bathing in our underwear, and our son had a ball splashing around in the freezing cold water.

For an all-round outdoor family experience, a trip to the Redwoods and Yosemite, is really hard to beat.

One of our best family trips and one we would definitely do again.


Sierra National Forest

Yosemite National Park

The Redwoods

Tin Lizzie Inn, from $250 a night

Model T, from $400 a day

Chilnaulna Hiking Trails
Pioneer Yosemite History Center