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Archive for April, 2009

Family Travel Tip Tuesday: Make Custom CD’s with Your Kids

April 27th, 2009 by bsmith | 4 Comments | Filed in Family Travel, Road Trips, Travel Tips

The Smith Family makes at least two eight hour roadtrips per year.  Sometimes Dad tags along sometimes I travel solo with kids in tow.  I have even carpooled all the way from Carlsbad to Santa Cruz with my former neighbor and his 11 year old son.  Pre-tricked out SUV, we did not have much success with DVD’s.  We have a little portable DVD player, but it was too small and there was no place to mount it.  Even today, I prefer listening to music.  It’s more fun for the driver and the kids seem to get less bored.

Here are my tips for the perfect road trip CD:

  1. Keep the songs loud and lively.  I love the sweet folk ballads of Kate Wolf, but they bug my kids and make me sleepy on the long drive.  Perhaps bring the slow songs along to listen to on your ipod at the beach.
  2. Include something for everyone.  We usually make at least 3-5 CD’s they are all an eclectic mix, but each usually slants to a particular age group in our family. The more CD’s the better, it is always nice to have something fresh to listen to on the way home.
  3. Give each CD a distinctive title using  genre, family member,  trip etc.  For example, Country Music/Santa Barbara, or Justin’s CD/ Disneyland.
  4. Involve your kids in the process.  We have taught my ten year old how to select his own songs and burn his own CD’s.  I also make some mixes because his tastes tend to run toward heavy metal, but I have also really enjoyed some of his choices.  He does surprising things like include Christmas carols in the middle of a summer road trip CD.
  5. Driver has the final say in choosing the CD.  If there is a particular track that bugs you, feel free to skip it.  You can also select CD’s by mood.  Be sure to override your kids if there is something that you can’t drive to at that particular moment.

Here is a Top 10 Hit List from the Smith Family Travels:

  1. “We Will Rock You”, Queen
  2. “I Get Around” , Beach Boys
  3. “Who Let The Dogs Out”, Baja Men
  4. “Schools Out for Summer”, AC/DC
  5. “Taking Care of Business”, Bachman Turner Overdrive
  6. “Dancing Queen”, Abba
  7. “California Girls” Beach Boys
  8. “Star Wars American Pie Parody” Weird Al Yankovic
  9. “Hamster Dance”,  Hampton the Hamster?
  10. “We Are the Champions” , Queen

 

Off course for a multi hour road trip, you need more than 10 songs.  Feel free to comment with some of your road trip favorites.   I would love to add to my list!

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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Best Legoland Bargain of the Year: Celebrate Carlsbad Day Discount Tickets for $15

April 26th, 2009 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Legoland, theme parks, Travel Discounts
Jared on His Way to a Joust, Legoland California

Jared on His Way to a Joust, Legoland California

The Carlsbad Educational Foundation is hosting its annual Celebrate Carlsbad Day Fundraiser at Legoland California on May 2, 2009 from 1pm-9pm and includes evening fireworks.   Tickets are only $15  dollars and must be purchased in advance at several locations throughout North County.  The Sheraton Carlsbad is even offering special Celebrate Carlsbad Day discounts for guests visiting on May 1st and 2nd.

These are by far the cheapest Legoland tickets you can purchase, and they are for a great cause.  All proceeds benefit enrichment programs at the Carlsbad Schools.  Like all districts here in California, Carlsbad has been hit hard by budget cuts.  The grants distributed by the Carlsbad Educational foundation are key to maintaining a high quality engaging education for Carlsbad students.  You can catch a glimpse of some of the great performing arts and music programs funded by the foundation as several student acts including the award winning Carlsbad High dancers perform throughout the day. 

This is a great bargain, and in general you get the same level of Legoland experience available to visitors on any give day.  There are, however, two big differences.  The Big Test Show in Fun Town is cancelled to make room for student performances.  Also it is CROWDED!  We attended last year because it was the day that our Legoland passes were expiring.  We followed some of the strategies in my book that allowed us to have fun without waiting in too many lines.    It definately took longer to get around and we skipped some of the rides that were too busy.  I am guessing that early evening may be somewhat less crowded, so consider staying late if you go.

Still, if you think this will be one of your only Legoland experiences ever, and you did not have a chance to buy a $15 dollar ticket, I would plan to visit another day.  The crowds might not be worth the visit, although the fireworks will be fun.

Here’s the information for obtaining advance tickets http://www.carlsbaded.org/events_telethon.php .  If you decide to go, I thank you in advance.  My kids will benefit from your generosity.

For more Legoland bargains as well as tips on how to avoid the crowds, check out my Unauthorized Legoland Guidebook available on LULU.Com

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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Family Adventure Guidebooks:Tips to Travel Green in 2009

April 22nd, 2009 by bsmith | 6 Comments | Filed in Family Adventure Guidebooks, Travel Tips, Uncategorized

A few months ago a friend out there in the blogosphere asked me to be “Green Mom” for her website.  I turned her down, because I am not a paragon of green living…at least not yet.  Sure my recycling bins are overflowing ,  I have solar panels on my roof.  On the other hand, my kids love super long showers and our family adventuremobiles are made up of a minivan and a big honking SUV.  (No hate mail please)

Dear American Car Makers,

The moment that you produce a hybrid minivan that I can afford, I will be at the dealership in a heartbeat (At least as soon as you have used ones for sale.)

Regards,

Wanna be Green Mom Bridget Smith

P.S.  Get a clue! I can’t fit my kids, their friends, and all of their stuff into a Prius.

Anyway,  in honor of Earth Day I wanted to share three ways that our family is trying to travel a little greener in 2009. 

The Smith Kids Clean Up Carlsbad State Beach

The Smith Kids Clean Up Carlsbad State Beach

Save a Shovel…Save The World !

Our family loves to hit the beach in the early evening.  We pack up a dinner picnic, pick up Daddy at the train station, and hit the beach just as everyone else is heading home.  Sunscreen is less important and the sunset is beautiful.  Before we leave  we comb the beach for buckets and shovels left behind by visitors.  We never have to buy beach toys, and  we keep all that plastic from floating out to sea.  This year I plan to bring an extra garbage bag, and do an impromptu beach clean up by picking up any other “safe” trash we find.

The Untimely Demise of the Happy Meal Toy

The Untimely Demise of the Happy Meal Toy

Break The Happy Meal Toy Addiction

I’ll confess…I let my kids eat at fast food restaurants while on vacation.  Every year I make one or more road trips from San Diego to Santa Cruz by myself.  When you are a mom traveling alone with two grumpy toddlers,  a Mc’Donald’s Play Place is paradise.  Usually our stops have included a Happy Meal, but as my former neighbor Larry pointed out, the toys come home and usually end up being thrown away.  Our dog seems to see them as a source of food and entertainment.  See the above photo for our latest victim. 

On our trip to Las Vegas I tried to go cold turkey and  order from the dollar menu for the kids instead of going the Happy Meal route.  Twice I caved as a result of extremely stressful circumstances (the end of the endless drive to Las Vegas and the sensory overload of Circus Circus).  On our trip up to Santa Cruz this year, I will do my best to hold firm to my Happy Meal moratorium. 

If your kids must have those little doo dads for a brief period, find a good home for them when the novelty wears off.  Teachers and Sunday School teachers are always looking for prize giveaways.  One of Justin’s most prized possesions is a Burger King Star Wars watch he won at  a Fun Friday auction.

happy-earth-day-bag

Bring a Bag

On my Las Vegas trip I found my rayon Vons shopping bags to be very useful.  I used them to schlep stuff from the car and to store my sunscreen, key and sunglasses when I headed to the pool.  If you are like me, you will also end up shopping for some snacks and forgetten items.  Bringing your own bag  will help you to keep your shopping green even during your travels. 

My friend Sharon mother and entrepreneur makes chic shopping  bags out of recycled fabric (I’ve been giving her some of those clothes with rips and impossible stains to transform into an amazing creation.)  Your new bag may be Ken’s shirt!  Currently she is selling kid sized versions of these beautiful bags at Dreamy in Encinitas.  They would make a perfect earth friendly place to store your little ones toys and crayons on their travels.  You can also contact me @bridgetasmith at Twitter if you would like to purchase one of Sharon’s adult sized bags, and I’ll post when she has her online shop up and running.

Destiny Models Sharon's Creation

Destiny Models Sharon's Creation

 May all your 2009 adventures be happy and green!

P.S. In non Earth Day related news there is a children’s book party with free books being given away at the Spreckels organ pavillion at Balboa park between 8:30 and 10 am.  Don’t know if I will be up early enough to make it, but I sure wish I could.  Sounds like fun…refreshments and books what more do I need? http://www.childrensbookparty.org/bookparty_2009.htm

Dreaming of travel to fun and exotic places? Ck out Delicious Babies Photo Friday http://www.deliciousbaby.com/journal/2009/apr/23/photo-friday-reading-rome/ .

Love her latest post “Reading in Rome”

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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Family Travel Tip Tuesday: Order an Exotic Drink

April 20th, 2009 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Travel Tips

We arrived exhausted at the Rainforest Cafe at around 7pm.  Waiting at a sit down restaurant with two preschoolers and a grade schooler could have been a very painful experience. 

My husband Ken did some creative ordering that saved the day.  He ordered an exotic drink.  Mind you, it did not contain alcohol…in fact it was the equivalent of a Slurpee.  The waiter thought it a little crazy that a grown man was subsituting cherry flavored ice for a signature margarita, but passing that big jug of icy goodness around the table kept the whole family busy until our food came.  It even came with a great rainforest animal toy in the removeable base.

Here’s a picture of the drink that saved our dinner:

Rainforest Icee Saves the Day!

 

Here’s a picture of Jared, age 4, enjoying it:

Jared Keeping Busy With His Rainforest Cafee Icee

Jared Keeping Busy With His Rainforest Cafee Icee

Sometimes doing something completely unexpected can turn around a challenging day (a few hours earlier, Ken’s cell phone had been stolen at Circus Circus).  Next time the kids get squirrely try ordering an exotic drink or two!

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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First Annual Travel Green in 09 Blog Roundup

April 20th, 2009 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Uncategorized

Dear Reader,

I had a much more elaborate version of this plan worked out, but life got the best of me.  On Friday I am going to post a few tips on how our family plans to travel greener in 09 (Not looking for expensive eco-friendly getaways to Costa Rica, just simple concrete things we do or plan to do.)

If you would like your blog to participate, write your own post then feel free to post a comment on my original post with the URL of your post.  If I have the chance I will also try to give your blog post some twitter love and it it would be great if you would do the same with mine.  The idea is just to get our readers thinking about how they can have fun traveling, but also make the world a little better.  I’m looking forward to reading your ideas.  I’ll post a cute photo of the kids cleaning up the beach and those of us who want to can also use Photo Friday at Delicious  Baby to extend the impact of our posts.  If you want to post earlier, then link back on Friday that’s fine.  I may get this post up a little early, but do the real promotion on Friday.

It might be fun if the posts had a similiar title, but it’s not required.  I was thinking: _____ :tips to travel green in 2009.  For example, mine will be Family Adventure Guidebooks: Tips to Travel Green in 2009

Hope to read some great green travel tips.  Earthday we will actually be cleaning up the local beach with the cubscouts.  Hopefully there is trash this time!

-Bridget

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Sleepless in Las Vegas

April 18th, 2009 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in Smith Family Misadventures

I wrote this post after our first night in Las Vegas.  Things improved somewhat over the week as we got used to our surroundings and tweaked the sleeping arrangements.  This was on of several dark nights of the soul during our Vegas adventure.  Don’t worry, more cheerful posts to follow.

Happy Trails,

Bridget

Three kids, two doubles, two exhausted parents.  What to do?  Last night reminded me about why I love day trip adventures, but am not always fond of overnight ones.  My kids DO NOT SLEEP away from home.  Well, perhaps that is an exaggeration, but getting them to sleep is one of the most brutal things I confront as a parent and hotels make it even harder with the need to whisper and walk softly.  Jared especially is at the elephant stage.  Walking softly or whispering is almost impossible for him even with frequent reminders.

My kids are also very active sleepers.  I woke up last night to find both boys sleeping diagonally on the same bed!  We divvied up the kids.  Ken took one bed and I took the other.  Needless to say no one got too much sleep.  Hopefully we’ll do better tonight.  Usually about mid week the little ones settle down, only to start hyping up as it gets closer to the drive home.

Anyone have some good kids and hotel sleep tips?

Wish us Luck!

 

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Photo Friday: Carlsbad Flower Fields

April 16th, 2009 by bsmith | 9 Comments | Filed in San Diego Day Trips, Spring Adventures
Carlsbad Flower Fields in Bloom, Spring 2009

Carlsbad Flower Fields in Bloom, Spring 2009

I am exhausted.  It has been a very busy week playing tourist with our friends from Watsonville.  Adventures with 5-6 kids are a little harder than with just three.  Still, we’ve had lots of fun, and I have plenty to blog about when I catch my breath. 

In the mean time, I hope that if you live here in Southern California, these pictures will inspire you to visit the Carlsbad Flower fields.  I get to drive by these beauties several days a week. 

The admission is affordable.  Keep your eye out for coupons or bring your AAA card.  While you’re there pick up some discount coupons for Legoland (Free Child admission with paid adult)

There is a fun playground for the kids and a sweet pea maze.  The Poinsettia collection is fascinating  with numerous varieties of this symbol of Carlsbad. The fields themselves are breathtaking.  You can enjoy them by tractor or on foot.  If you go, you are in for a treat.  Stop by soon. The season is very short.

Destiny and a Friend Explore the Sweet Pea Maze

Destiny and a Friend Explore the Sweet Pea Maze

 

See more fun travel photos on Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday http://www.deliciousbaby.com/journal/2009/apr/16/photo-friday-arc-de-triomphe-baby/

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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Family Travel Tip Tuesday: Find a Food Court

April 14th, 2009 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Family Travel, Road Trips, Travel Tips

Sit down restaurants are one of the hardest things to tackle when traveling with kids.  No matter how hard we work on manners, my preschoolers find it difficult to wait for the food to arrive then have good enough to eat in public manners to finish up the meal.  On our trip to Disneyland, we stayed at a The Marriot Newport Coast Villas.  After enduring a time share presentation with two tired preschoolers and a very embarrassed grade schooler, we were rewarded with a gift card to the upscale Fashion Island Mall in Newport Beach.

After a long day at Disneyland, we decided to use the gift card to buy dinner before returning to the hotel.  We weren’t ready to shell out more money for overpriced Disney food!  The kids were tired and grouchy.  Ken and I were at the end of our collective ropes. 

We considered the Cheesecake Factory and other semi kid friendly alternatives at Fashion Valley, but ended up going to the food court.  Good choice!  Everyone feasted on what they wanted to eat.  I was tickled when Justin ordered a salad with his pizza.  The kids got their food right way, then had a chance to walk around nearby while the grownups finished their meal.  The one challenge was keeping Jared away from the fun escalators!  We were able to choose a table away from the other diners, so they could watch my children’s antics from afar with amused looks on their faces rather than scowls.  The food was somewhat healthier than fast food.  We topped off our meal with delicious gelato (unfortunately we discovered that the gelato place does not take Fashion Island gift cards!) 

Even if we had paid full price for our food, it still would have been a good deal.  The food court offered affordable prices on a wide variety of foods, and there was no waste from leftover bags of french fries etc, that I find when we rely on fast food restaurants.

So next time you are traveling with tired hungry kids, find a food court.  It can be an affordable relaxing way to wrap up your day.

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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Don’t Forget Both Shoes…And Your Wallet!

April 12th, 2009 by bsmith | 3 Comments | Filed in Smith Family Misadventures

Ken Cruising to Vegas

Ken Cruising to Vegas

 

 

Here’s my blog from the first day of our Las Vegas adventure.  What is it with the Smith family and shoes?

Well, our little trip got off to a rocky start.  As I have mentioned before, the Smith Family tends to be rather forgetful. This trip we have really outdone ourselves!  This morning Ken is without razor, wallet, and cell phone clip.  Yesterday evening when we got into town we needed to make an emergency run to the Vans outlet, since Justin appeared to be missing one shoe.  (We think it might have fallen out in the Carls Jr. parking lot…long story.)

On the up side, we got a great pair of slip on Vans for about $20 … a steal.  Justin also found the perfect skateboarder hat that should keep the sun off his face in style.  The Target run for the belt, yielded the crucial revelation that Target has very cheap breakfast (Looks like it will be 2-3 dollars a kid.!)  It had the breakfast sandwich that Justin craves, and French toast for those of us that are less inclined to eat eggs.

Thanks to an ever patient grandma who will be putting the wallet in the mail today, Ken should be whisker free and back on track by tomorrow morning!  Are we the only crazy forgetful family out there?

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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Photo Friday: Justin’s MGM Las Vegas Rainforest Cafe Pictures

April 10th, 2009 by bsmith | 4 Comments | Filed in Uncategorized
Justin, Age 9 Took This Photo At the MGM Rainforest Cafe

Justin, Age 9 Took This Photo At the MGM Rainforest Cafe

Hi All,

Sorry this is more a Photo Saturday post.  We got back from Las Vegas at 7pm tonight, and I’m still popping my littlest back in to bed since he had such a satisfying nap in the car.  I’ll have plenty of adventures and misadventures to report later this week.

These photos were taken by my son Justin at the Rainforest Cafe in the MGM Grand Hotel Las Vegas.  We arrived and checked in very late after  having had Ken’s cell phone stolen at the Circus Circus Adventuredome.  The kids were starving as we hit the restaurant after 7pm.  The place is pricey, but the atmosphere was so entertaining it kept almost everyone happy and busy until the food arrived.  (Destiny found the animals a wee to realistic  and scary!) 

What Justin Wanted to Order (Mom and Dad Said it Was Too Expensive)

What Justin Wanted to Order (Mom and Dad Said it Was Too Expensive)

As you can see, Justin kept busy by taking pictures around the restaurant.  I love his perspective.  He took pictures of things that I would never considered as a photo subject.

Rainforest Cafe Ceiling, MGM Las Vegas

Rainforest Cafe Ceiling, MGM Las Vegas

Sometimes a good way to keep a school aged child occupied is to have them take charge of the camera.  Justin’s pictures were better than any I could have taken.   Since he was in charge, he wasn’t trying to pose for pictures with a finger in his nose…Nine is a very fun age :) .

The Humble Photographer, Justin: A Self Portrait

The Humble Photographer, Justin: A Self Portrait

Delicious Baby also has some great tips on keeping kids busy in restaurants this week.  Check out her great post and blog roundup at http://www.deliciousbaby.com/journal/2009/apr/09/photo-friday-no-better-place-sushi-bar/ .

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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