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Family Friendly

Repurpose Old Picture Frames with Nautical Burlap Art

Quickly Create a Cool, Coastal Look Inspired by the Waters of Maine Without the Hefty Cost

For under $15 (if you have frames on hand to reuse) you can make your own wall-art using easy to find items like: burlap, paint and stencils.  Without old frames on hand, I purchased new ones by cruising the sales and clearance sections of Home Goods and Kohl’s.  For $25, I found 4 frames that would work great for my project.  Less than an hour after starting these mini masterpieces (including drying time), I had an entire wall of art ready to hang.

Here’s what you need for your wall décor refresh:

  • Burlap Material
  • Stencils of your choice (Martha Stewart has some great templates)
  • Acrylic Paint color of your choice
  • Assorted sized paint brushes
  • Frames (if you do not already have them)

Step 1:

Take out the picture filler from the frame and use that as a template to cut your burlap to fit nicely into your frame.

Step 2:

Take your stencil of choice and place it on top of the burlap piece.  Grab a few heavier objects such as a paper weight, thick book or even a rock to hold the stencil in place while you are painting.

Step 3:

Grab your smallest paint brush, dip the tip into your paint color and then begin painting in your stencil.  I like to use a dabbing motion when painting on burlap because of the different directions of the material, I find that you have more control dabbing as opposing to regular brush strokes.

Step 4:

Once your stencil has been painted onto the burlap, remove the stencil and touch up any areas that you would like.  When you have finished, allow it to dry for at least 30 minutes.

Step 5:

When the paint is dry, take your burlap piece and insert into your frame.  This will look great with or without the glass in the frame.

This burlap art is a great way to create unique art on a budget.  Perfect for party, seasonal or holiday decor, try this project at home and transform your living space without making a dent in your wallet.

– Sharing design inspiration from my home to yours, Thia

Try this project for your home revamp and share your final product with us! Via Facebook: Amazing Matriarch, Instagram: amazingamtriarch or Twitter: @AMatriarch;  Tag us on social using#amazingmatriarch. 

The Terrible Two’s Are Holding Me Hostage

I write this in a state of delirium. Countless nights have passed without quality sleep. Countless battles have been fought,  and lost as my sweet, two year old has waged war against me. Sleep is our main issue, she’s declared both going to sleep and staying in bed beyond 4am impossible. Yet she’ll nap in random spots, at random times when I cannot. I am now a fragile shell of myself who is set off by the slightest struggle, unable to rationalize and too tired to be productive.

This is not a blog of complaint; it’s a realization. Honest, and open; I know I’m not alone. Many have felt this way before me and come out the other side of the age 2. Many are in it with me.

I’ve come out the other side once before, but right now, in this state, the world is tilted. Jagged bits of self remain; mixed in I find who I’ve become and I’m not her biggest fan: a sad housewife who can’t seem to fulfill her job requirements (cook, clean, shop, provide 24/7 care to others, do laundry…) or pretend to enjoy it. I catch glimpses of the other side of 2 and know how great it will be; how I will became myself once again. But right now, I’m a hot mess.

I beg, cry and yell. None of these tactics work on a strong-willed two year old who responds, when locked in her room to clean the mess she inflicted in protest, by intentionally wetting her pants. I melt, truly just melt, into a heap on the floor hating myself for yelling-again, and frustrated that my sassy little lady won’t confirm.

But I’m also proud that she has strong convictions because her spunk will serve her well later in life; so I try not to crush her spirit all the while keeping mine. The contradiction astounding, but real and important in helping us both get through the toddler years.

While I sit here, my cute little lady requests, or should I say demands, yet another snack because beyond refusing sleep she also only eats snacks, not her meals. And I let her because I’m so tired of fighting. Her breakfast, that I consumed moments ago, hours after serving, was deserted just as many meals before.

Now she sits, quietly consuming a bag of sugary cereal (courtesy of a well meaning grandparent). Her teeth unbrushed, her hair wild, because I just don’t have the energy to fight right now. She’s watching  a movie at 9:30am, because playing with her seems like an impossible, miserable experience and I’m trying to avoid her.

I feel like a bad mom; in my irrational head a good mom would have rules she maintains without fail. A good mom’s  kids would behave with her well-planned warning system.  She’d have meal times and snack times set, and she’d be in control of her emotions at all times. Her two year old would sleep.

In moments of clarity I glance at my amazingly helpful, thoughtful, mature (beyond the potty talk) 5 year old son who did most of the caregiving when my husband and I were sick a few days back, and see things for what they are.

This is a stage; it’s called the terrible two’s for a reason. She will outgrow this stage; I may even survive it. And then in a few (not so short years) I’ll enjoy everything quite a bit more. She’ll become the helpful caring kid he is now, and maybe she’ll even let me sleep. Then I’ll look back and be thankful I have no more terrible two’s to get through.

-Keeping motherhood real in a world where perfection is expected, Jess

Find Amazing Matriarch on Facebook: Amazing Matriarch, Instagram: amazingamtriarch or Twitter: @AMatriarch;  Tag us using#amazingmatriarch. 

Family Friendly Scavenger Hunt Activity for National GO Day

The warm weather is in full effect in New England and June is the perfect month to get outdoors and enjoy some active and healthy fun in the sun.  The humidity hasn’t yet set in and the kids are still in school so you are still limited in terms of travel.  Day trips to the beach and family hikes are a favorite pastime for late afternoons and on the weekends in our household.

In recognition of National Get Outdoors Day (GO Day), Saturday, June 13, 2015, plan a family excursion to the beach or an adventurous hike through the great outdoors.  A fun activity to do with your little ones is our Amazing Matriarch scavenger hunt.

Your kids will collect an assortment of natural treasures; they will learn about other habitats and the environment (hello, hands on science), and they’ll work on developing their math skills as they count their treasures.  Best of all they’ll remember what they learned, making this hunt better than any standardized test the powers that be deem a priority.

Here’s what you need:

  • Amazing Matriarch’s Scavenger Hunt List
  • A small bag or pail to collect and store your found items

Print up Amazing Matriarch’s scavenger hunt list (click on the beach edition or forest edition images below to download), cut the page in two and create little booklets so each child has a guide of their own.  For reference, I take a single hole punch and put a hole in the top left corner of the booklet and secure with a ribbon that can then be tied to a bag with handles, or held on their wrists for easy access.  A stapler, tape or glue will work for securing the pages together in your booklet as well.

Amazing Matriarch Beach Scavenger Hunt                              Amazing Matriarch Forest Scavenger Hunt

For a few glorious minutes, you’ll get to relax a bit and enjoy nature at its finest while your kids’ attention is focused on the thrill of the hunt.

– Just one adventurer adding a little learning to Family Fun on your next outdoor excursion, Thia

Try this activity with your family on National GO day and share your experience with us via Facebook:  Amazing Matriarch,  Instagram:  amazingamtriarch or  Twitter:  @AMatriarch;  Tag us using #amazingmatriarch. 

Whole Foods Kids’ Club Brings Sanity to Parents Shopping with Kids

A devout Whole Foods shopper, I thought I knew all their secrets. On May 18, 2015  the fishmonger at my local shop rocked my world with news I’ll not soon forget- Whole Foods has a kids’ club.

Walk into any Whole Foods location with your kids and head directly to the customer service desk; tell them you’re there for the kids’ club and they’ll supply you with the treats needed to make it through the store fuss-free. With a bag of animal cookies in hand, my two year old stopped requesting to eat all the snap peas we had bagged for purchase and focused instead on her goodies.

Shopping done; kid content; mission complete. Thank you Whole Foods!

-One mom on a mission to make grocery shopping glorious, Jess

Share your Whole Food Kids’ Club experiences with us via Facebook: Amazing Matriarch, Instagram: amazingamtriarch or Twitter: @AMatriarch;  Tag us using#amazingmatriarch. 

 

3 Days on Nantucket with Kids During the Off-Season

Amazing Matriarch’s Guide: Off-Season on Nantucket with kids

White Elephant Residences
White Elephant Residences

When you think of Nantucket hot summer days spent seaside followed by warm summer nights mingling outside come to mind. But Nantucket in the off-season is quite spectacular. With few more than the locals on island, you can get a glimpse of real life on Nantucket, see the sites without the crowds enjoy a meal without fighting for a table, and snag a deal on top notch accommodations.

For three days, we packed one suitcase each and set sail for Nantucket Island. My husband, myself, our 5 and 2 year old embarked on the fast ferry from Hyannis to the docks of Nantucket on a chilly spring afternoon. Our adventure began immediately as the unexpected rough seas had the kids referring to Kwazi on Octonauts each time the boat bumped and jumped. Happy to disembark, this final boat arriving for the day (the seas were deemed too rough), we were warmly welcomed to Nantucket and rapidly whisked to our hotel.

The White Elephant is known as a harbor side, high-end, family friendly resort and our stay proved its worth. Located blocks from Downtown Nantucket, this resort is in a prime location for walking, allowing you to leave your car parked (or off island), and without the hassle of navigating traffic (even in mid April it increased as the week wore on) or finding parking. Staying outside of the Hotel and Inn itself, at the White Elephant Residences, our lodging more closely resembled an apartment, ensuring our family could spread out and enjoy our stay on Nantucket, even if the weather kept us inside. The two bedroom unit offered ample space for our family of four, and we sure did make use of it.

Whaling Museum
Whaling Museum

With two bedrooms the kids bunked up, enjoying a sibling sleepover all three evenings: movies in bed, staying up late talking and waking far too early; they had a blast in their shared bedroom. They both used it separately when quiet playtime and rest were on their mind. Best of all, they eagerly awaited the trinket placed on their pillow each night by the White Elephant staff- a stuffed elephant upon arrival, one lobster that evening and a whale the another, and I eagerly awaited watching the giddy excitement when they found their treasures.

Fully opening for the season the week we arrived, the White Elephant proved itself to be a well-oiled machine. Functioning as if it had been at full speed all winter, the concierge offered plenty of suggestions, including a sheet highlighting island events the week we were there, earmarked with ideas for entertaining the kids throughout the week. Best of all, they provided us with two guides geared towards kids about Nantucket.

Library time
Library time

The Nantucket Kids Adventure Guide was invaluable. It offered so many ideas for exploring the island that we could not possibly complete all that appealed to us on this one visit. Listing everything from playground guides to hiking trails to warnings, this book could have entertained us for weeks. The Look Book was a little old for, but still big hit with, my 5 year old son, allowing us to do a treasure hunt of Nantucket’s hot spots.

The library, Atheneum as it’s called, is a short walk from the White Elephant and hosted two activities that my kids still talk about : a sing along and a LEGO challenge. Both free, and requiring tickets or pre-registration,  they were great ways to feel like a part of Nantucket and be indoors. Year-round activities change and are geared towards various ages, but are certainly worth looking into before you head over. I initially came across the Atheneum when doing a Google search in preparation for our trip on the Nantucket Island Events website. Offering a comprehensive calendar listing I was able to simply click on the dates I planned to be on island then further research those of interest.

Children's Beach
Children’s Beach

This website also clued me in on free art projects taking place at the Whaling Museum. A visit to the Whaling Museum, followed by diorama construction and a treasure hunt kept my kids entertained for hours after lunch at the Pharmacy’s old fashioned soda fountain.

Situated right outside the White Elephant, you’ll find a sandy shore for play, Children’s Beach. Home to a seaside playground, and snack shack (which had yet to open) we spent time there each day, sometimes returning multiple times a day. The kids loved digging in the sand, and even testing the still cold from the winter water while the air temp hovered in the mid 50’s. We watched the ferry arrive and lobstermen bring in their haul while climbing, swinging and sliding. Holes were dug, friends were made and the sand in their shoes even made it’s way to the mainland.

Dining on Nantucket is anything but ordinary. A collection of quaint eateries mix with foodie havens bringing locals and visitors a taste of island authenticity as well as trendy tastes. Breakfast was something prepped in our large kitchenette: bagels or cereal, but the rest of the day we dined out. Sandwich shops allowed us to bring back lunch so cranky kids could stick to nap time while the rest of of played games or snuggled on the couch with a movie.

Met on Main
Met on Main

When we dined out, we found ourselves in the midst of a dining culture often reserved for major cities. A family friendly dinner at Nix’s brewpub gave adults a darn good lobster roll while serving kids pizza to their liking. A lunch at Fog Island Cafe had us seated among working locals looking for a great sandwich and even better iced tea.

Hiring a sitter for our final night on Nantucket, we walked around town piping into several popular eateries for drinks and dinner. We kicked off the evening with a drink at Nautilus. With its small dining area, chefs table and bustling bar specializes in small plates and killer drinks. It was difficult to stop at just one cocktail as everything is made fresh and the balance of flavors ensure your cocktail showcases the ingredients within. This pre-reservation pop in gave us a glimpse of the menu and left us planning a return to indulge in dinner.

Dune, was where we found ourselves eating that evening and it lived up to all I’d heard. Overwhelemed by the menu choices, we opted to share what appealed to us. Fresh oysters; perfectly briny and icy cold found their way to our table to start our meal followed by a clam special laced with chorizo in a light and aromatic broth, then came a smoky roast shrimp and grits, fluffily cod and the miso ramen. Glasses of wine were poured and dessert ordered before we walked to our final destination that night.

Cocktail Time
Cocktail Time

LoLa’s hip vibe made their bar extra inviting. Loud music pumping and small groups chatting gave this Nantucket  restaurant the feel of New York City. After a quick nightcap, we turned in for the evening, welcomed back by our sitter who had successfully managed to get our excited kiddos to sleep at a reasonable hour.

Our boat ride home was bittersweet. As we checked out, we saw crowds checking in to take part in Daffodil Weekend. Boarding the fast ferry back to Hyannis, we pledged a return for more off-season fun, maybe in the fall.

 

-Making hot destinations easier to explore with your kiddos, Jess

Let us know how your trip to Nantucket turns out! #amazingmatriarch on social media. Find us on Facebook: at AmazingMatriarch Instagram: amazingamtriarch or Twitter: @AMatriarch;  #amazingmatriarch 

Kidgits is Calling All Young Foodies for 1st Annual Lil Chefs Event

Kidgits

The Simon Malls Kidgits Club is whipping up some creative cuisine and loads of fun with this first annual event for Lil Chefs. On Saturday, May 16th, 2015 from 12pm – 2pm, children will experience, hands-on, the endless possibilities of food pairing. At the end of the day you can expect a new generation foodies to emerge. Hosted in the Macy’s Center Court at the South Shore Plaza (250 Granite Street, Braintree, MA), there will be a variety of food focused activities including:

Never too young to learn to cook
Never too young to learn to cook
  • Healthy Snack Ideas
  • Decorating Desserts
  • Food Samples
  • Disney and Lego Activities
  • Design your own Chefs Hat Craft
  • Kidgits Club Members will receive a Free Chefs Hat & Apron

All Kidgits are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item to the event to be donated to The Braintree Food Pantry to help those in need.

The Kidgits Club, which recently launced at the South Shore Plaza, is a fun and interactive program that focuses on health, wellness, education, safety and entertainment for children ages 3-8. For more information on how to become a member, visit www.simon.com/kidgets.

Make it a Mother’s Day She Won’t Forget

Before my kids came along Mother’s Day meant hosting elaborate feasts for my mother, mother in law and grandmother. Or running from house to house ensuring everyone got equal time on Mother’s Day. But the stress of appeasing everyone, in one day, all about an hour away form one another, became a burden when I became a mother and had two little kids demanding my attention so I switched things up and started a new tradition.

There’s no escape to the spa or ditching the kids in favor of “me time” on my mother’s day menu, but there are two elements I insist upon that fit the stage of life my kids are in: family fun (ideally outdoors), and eating out (even if it is just take out).

Anyone is welcome to join, but I plan a day that works with the weather (last minute) and revolves around my kids naps, keeping them active, avoiding cooking and cleaning for any member of my household, and keeping me sane.

Check out my picks in and around Boston for a Mother’s Day you won’t forget no matter your life stage.

If you’re the mamma of young children and want to skip the stress but keep your kiddos close, here are a few ways to have fun with little ones:

  • Find a local bike path. In the Boston area we often spend Mother’s Day biking Memorial Drive, where  the road is closed and the scenery along the river includes city views. My kids release some energy; I don’t worry about their decible level and  everyone has fun.
  • High tail it to waterfront park. South Boston’s Castle Island let’s you let loose, stroll the pathways or enjoy a picnic. Or skip the advanced preparation and have a kid friendly meal at Sullivan’s where the fried food is legendary and the lobster rolls reasonably priced.
  •  Go for a hike. This Mother’s Day, Boston area favorite Mass Audubon area, Blue Hills is offering a pancake brunch and guided hike
  • Check your local listings of places moms get in free.  Lincoln’s Drumlin Farm offers moms free admission on Mother’s Day.

However, just because my life stage dictates my activities and the idea of anything fancy, contained or controlled is torture with my two and five year old, does not mean this lady can’t dream. Those of you with well-mannered older kids should enjoy a little relaxation (someday this will be my ideal Mother’s Day). And Boston area restaurants have brunch plans with your name on them. Excellent restaurants serving up Mother’s Day meals you’ll remember include:

Legal Harborside
Legal Harborside
  • Legal Harborside serves up seafood treasures that are sure to make the aquatically inclined momma swoon. $65 gets you a customizable prix fixe complete with lavish choices like the (pictured) treasures of the sea. Always welcoming to little ones, Legal’s makes it easy to enjoy your Mother’s Day meal.
  • Hard Rock Cafe teams up with  the New England Aquarium to serve one rockin’ menu this Mother’s Day.  Breakfast is a bargain with a $13.95 price tag for adults and $9.95 for the kids. children under 2 eat free.
  • Head to high tea at Aragosta. Serving brunch earlier in the day, you can do something different and treat mom to high tea served from 2-4:30pm.

If your kids are grown (or close to it), or mom’s treat is eat out without them, then a couple of excellent suggestions include:

  • Pastoral’s monthly cooking class. Cooking with Mama kicks off on Mother’s Day and let’s you and your mama learn a new skill side by side. or simply indulge in brunch, where $42 gets you three courses and a cocktail.
  • The Taj Hotel where the view of the Public Garden is equally as spectacular as what’s on your plate. Sit outside on the rooftop patio or dine in elegance within the ballroom dining area. The buffets will include an impressive seafood tower and seatings are at 11, 11:30, 1:30 and 2:00pm
  • Reserve a table at Bistro du Midi where you’ll find elegance on your plate as well as in the decor. Window tables let you peek at the Public Garden while you sip their signature Bloody Mary that lives up to any hype you may have heard (the champagne cocktail is also delightful). A social occasion spot for sure, Bistro du Midi is a top choice for moms and their adult children.
  • Bergamot is serving three courses for $44 from 11am to 2pm, allowing mom to sleep in then enjoy a special dining experience.

-Because Mother’s Day should be fun for everyone, Jess

Fill us in on your favorite Mother’s Day activities! #amazingmatriarch on social media. Find us on Facebook: at Amazing Matriarch,  Instagram: amazingamtriarch or Twitter: @AMatriarch;  #amazingmatriarch 

April Vacation: Plans in a Pinch

Make the most of your spring break in Boston, without any advanced planning

April may be the height of spring in other parts of the country, but in the northeast, spring’s  just starting. The weather can be fickle making advance planning a bit of a pain when you’ve got the great outdoors on your mind. But don’t fret because there are plenty of plan in advance free options for the matriarch in a pinch.

Check out the Boston Marathon.

The finish line may be the most rowdy and crowded spot along the route with revelers enjoying the lively bar scene that calls Boylston Street home, but the ‘burbs’ offer excellent options for families to sit back, relax and cheer on those completing the 26.2 miles. Pack a picnic (just in case you can’t get food when the wee ones hunger pains kick in), bring a folding chair and set yourself up in one of the town centers that welcome visitors to take in the excitement of the Boston Marathon. Options include:  Ashland, Natick Town Green, Wellesley, or Newton City Hall.

Get cultured at the MFA.

This may not be an outdoor activity, but trekking the kids to a Boston museum from your parking spot, or on the MBTA in the pouring rain is not exactly exciting. Throughout the week of April 20th, 2015, the MFA (Museum of Fine Arts) will welcome early art enthusiasts to explore their inner Picasso with activities that make kids feel welcome and excite them about art. All the while allowing you to enjoy a bit of culture without worrying that their behavior will have you banned for life.

Head to a zoo before the summer crowds arrive.

Courtesy of Zoo New England
Courtesy of Zoo New England

Boston’s sprawling urban animal kingdom, Franklin Park Zoo hosts a variety of activities beyond their usual round-up.

Celebrate Earth day on April 24 with a Party for the Planet.  Along with exciting activities, you will learn what you can do to keep Earth happy. The party kicks off at 10:00 a.m. and continues until 3:00 p.m.

Enjoy animal exploration. You’ll be privy to a lesson about a specific animal in a fun, kid friendly way.  April 20 and 22 will find visitors engaged by Linne’s Two-toed Sloth at 10:00 a.m. and the Camel at 1:30 p.m. While April 21 and 23  showcases Tigers at 10:15 a.m. and Kea at 11:00 a.m.

Teens can get hands-on with Zoo New England’s ZooTeens where fun and educational activities are taking place daily from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Courtesy of Zoo New England
Courtesy of Zoo New England

Enjoy the Aussie Aviary kicking off its season just in time for April school vacation week. Open weather permitting from 10:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. each day this week. Visit with a seedstick in hand (available for purchase); meander through brightly colored budgies in an interactive space and you may just create a landing zone for birds to visit directly with you.

For a mere $5 fee (in addition to zoo admission)  you can head off to Africa, on a motion simulator ride that takes you on a 6D high-speed chase to capture poachers. Making your way amongst wildlife like elephants and wildebeest you’ll work with rangers to return a baby rhino to his mother.

Visit the Stone Zoo April 20 – 24, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. and go beyond learning about the animals who live there to meet those who care for them. Zookeepers will be out and about for meet and greets at scheduled times, scavenger hunts will be set-up and other exciting hands-on activities await you like a very special Princess and Frog Day.

If you’re still seeking last minute things to do; check out USA TODAY’s 10best and find fun family friendly attractions for families with kids of all ages.

Encouraging every Amazing Matriarch to turn an ordinary April vacation extraordinary, Jess

Tell us about your April vacation adventures! Find Amazing Matriarch on Facebook: Amazing Matriarch, Instagram: amazingamtriarch or Twitter: @AMatriarch;  #amazingmatriarch. 

A Tasting Fit For Kids With Jelly Belly

My foodie cousin always comes up with some really creative ways to entertain my kids when she sees them.  Often involving food, Saturday’s activity was no different.  She came to our house equipped with an assorted pack of Jelly Belly jelly beans.  As soon as she asked them if they wanted to play a game that involved eating jelly beans, both kids, without hesitation, ran to the table and patiently waited for the game to begin.

As a sensory based activity, she encouraged the kids to pay attention to each flavor they were tasting and describe it in their own words.  I couldn’t believe that my 2 and 4 year old sat there at the kitchen table engaged for over an hour (this is unheard of especially when there is sugar involved).  Their excitement and anticipation over what jelly bean flavor was next in line really was fun to watch.

My 4 year old son correctly guessed at least 90% of the flavors that he tasted. I didn’t realize his palette had already matured so much (clearly this was a learning experience for me as well).  My 2 year old daughter wasn’t quite there yet but she was thrilled to join in on the fun and get a new jelly bean when everyone else did.

body photoWhy not put your kids Easter candy to good use this Sunday?  All you need is an assorted pack of Jelly Belly jelly beans and your kids.  With 50 distinct flavors (49 included in the assorted pack), this game is something you can do with your kids more than once. The kids get a treat, they learn about their sense of taste and you are able to keep their attention for an entire game.  What’s not to love about this simple activity.  Game on!

3 Tips to Take the Stress Out of Traveling with Kids

Get Ready for a Great Vacation with Your Kids

1. Research

Make your vacation great by researching where you want to go and how you’ll get there well in advance.

You may have a dream vacation in mind, but look into it a little further and realize that what you thought would be loads of fun has you crammed into a tiny hotel room (avoid a standard hotel room at all costs) with no escape when the kids hit the sheets well before your bedtime. The room types and amenities offered at a kid-friendly hotel far outweigh what you’ll find at more refined five star hotels.

Many hotels offer family friendly accommodations. Hilton brands like Double Tree and Hampton Inn are excellent options. Typically affordable, clean, comfortable, modern, and family friendly these brands plan with kids in mind. Some offer suites suited for families, others a single room set up with an area just for kids. Allowing you to kick back and relax when it’s lights out for the little ones. Attached waterparks, movie nights, crafts, complimentary sundae bars and a collection of take out options from area restaurants make for fun within the hotel when the weather does not go your way.

Family friendly resorts offer excellent on-site options for everyone. There’s a reason so many families make their to Walt Disney World on school vacation weeks; there’s lots to do for everyone. Although this trip can be planned yourself, a specialist can ensure this trip is done the way you want. Our personal favorite Disney vacation planner is Kelly Wheeler with Key to the World Travel. She’s FREE, can find you deals and will make your trip magical. Not to mention, she has two kids of her own and loves Walt Disney World; she travels there with her family each year.

Home rentals are a wonderful way to enjoy a popular tourist destination. With so much space, you’ll enjoy not just your time exploring, but also your time relaxing. Your kids can have their own space and you can have yours.

2. Fly direct, working around your kids schedules

The lower fares from multiple stops can be tempting, but when flying with kids, especially those under five, the cost of a direct flight  will pay you dividends in peace of mind.

Having flown many times, with another adult and alone, both direct and with layovers, leaving on time and having been delayed, I always book the most direct flight with the least number of stops possible.

The only time a layover is to your advantage is when the flight is very long. Two options in this situation are to fly overnight (provided your kid’s a good sleeper), or get a layover that allows for one to two hours at a well equipped airport. Think play space, food court, places to run around. The hour or two will be well worth it when your kids can’t watch another show.

On one harrowing nap-time flight home (kids are always at their worst on the way home), alone with a rambunctious two year old, I found myself near tears. My son decided he was done with planes for the day, threw himself on the ground, screaming, while I tried to get him, his stroller and our carry on to our seats. If you’ve ever carried a flailing toddler around, you know this job requires both hands. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers who came to my rescue, because without help I would have had to leave everything (other than my son) behind.

3. Be Early

When an adult misses a flight, train, or other scheduled mode of transportation home it’s not fun, but manageable. If you’re traveling with kids and you miss your transportation, it is a nightmare straight out of Elm Street.

Rescheduling multiple seats can be tough, causing you to be delayed further, and your kids to get seriously cranky. Arrive extra early to the airport or train station, make your way through security let the kids buy some treats at the store and snacks to take along then read a few books or let them run wild before boarding.

And you’ll be headed off for a fantastic time away as a family.

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