Pokemon Go requires pants

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Pokemon Go requires pants

Pokemon Go requires pants, which for a child on summer break is the biggest obstacle to catching Pokemon. If you saw my earlier tweet, the Dad spent days trying to get signed up for Pokemon Go, amidst a crush of other Dads (and not dads) attempting to do the same.  Finally, after getting set up, he called down our youngest to let her play on his phone. And there we discovered the problem with the Pokemon Go game.

If you don’t know what this is, this is a virtual reality version of the game that has ebbed and flowed in popularity here in the US since the early 1990s.  A quick run down on the Pokemon Go phone app is:

  • available for iPhone or Android device
  • Walk around to places – no, really.  As the Pokemon Trainer, your job is to hunt down the Pokemon in your area and catch them.  You’ll find them pop up on the app, where you click on them to throw Pokeballs (is that a thing?) at them to “catch” them.  Hence, the reason PokemonGo requires pants – your neighbors and community in general will thank you.
  • Then battle, collect, and have fun.  I haven’t gotten to any of these stages yet, but you will find “gyms” in your area, where you can go and challenge other trainers to help gain experience and level your character up.  But we all know how I feel about gyms, so I haven’t entered one as of now.

As a not so techie type person, it’s so cool when you snag one as you are driving around town, then you see it appear in your car, where you have to catch it into the ball.  It’s even cooler to see one on your front lawn or at some of your favorite community landmarks.  This simple concept of having your camera show the real world in front of you on the screen in which the Pokemon are also shown is so cool to me (as a mom, not a Pokemon guru).

It is fun to see the kids out and about this summer.  It moves them from in front of the TV screen or computer screen and gets them walking, running, and actually interacting with other trainers in public.  Just remember to stay safe, don’t let young children go alone on this endeavor, and make sure you aren’t walking into dangereous situations in an effort to Catch ‘Em All.

Oh, and don’t forget – to catch them all in Pokemon Go requires pants

Pokemon Go requires pants

Pokemon Go requires pants and a sense of humor –  http://owlturd.com/post/147090507219/we-have-arrived-image-twitter-facebook

 

 

An American Kid In London (or Paris or Rome or Dublin…)

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Face it, it’s going to be a pricey vacation to take the family to Europe.  When we told family we were taking our then 3, 6, and 16 year olds on a European tour our family assumed our kids would never remember, we got looks that ranged from “bless their hearts” to “where did I put that straight jacket I always knew she’d need?”  And really, with so many theme parks and destinations in the United States, why take your kids so far from the welcoming hands of their grandparents when they’ve tested your last nerve?  Here’s why.

1 – They LOVE kids in many European cities.  Population is on the decline throughout Italy, for example, and they don’t see as many kids as you might think.  We knew we made the right choice to visit Rome for the first time with our then 9 year old Brighid when she sneezed in the taxi on the way to the hotel, and our cab driver pulled off the highway, got out of the car, and rummaged around in his trunk until he found tissues, a blanket, and vitamin C lozenges “per il bambina!”  Kids were welcomed throughout Europe, and they always got an amazing amount of attention.

Europe with Kids

2 – You might be from there.  If you’re like many Americans, your family may have emigrated to this country from a European country.  No matter how recently your family crossed the pond, your kids can’t get a real feel for where they come from unless you take them there.  Besides, they might enjoy meeting someone who looks like their grandfather.

Europe with Kids 2

3 – They will learn about other cultures.  Even taking your children to places where people speak the same language, there is much to learn by visiting Europe.  They will see things older than their own country, and learn that history goes back way further than we do.  Show them some of the pomp and circumstance they’d never find here – like the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.  See the Pope. Visit museums.

Europe with Kids 7

4 – They will learn to appreciate other cultures.  We have the global community at our fingertips, thanks to the internet.  But to immerse your kids in the culture of another country gives them an understanding of people you can’t get playing Minecraft with a kid from the Bronx.  I am so grateful for the experiences my girls had in Europe, and love it when they remember how people did things differently from the way we do them.  I mostly love it when they want to have afternoon tea.  There is never really a bad time for scones.

Europe With kids 5

 

5- They might learn something about you.  Why are you in love with a simple lunch of fresh crusty bread, incredible cheese, and perfect grapes?  Why do you cry when you stand at the Pieta?  What’s the big deal about the Beatles?  Giving them the experiences that made you who you are might give them a glimpse they wouldn’t have normally had.

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6 – By the time you get home, they’ll know better than to wash their hands in a bidet.  ‘Nuff said.

Europe with kids 4

 

 

Last Minute Disney World Trip for Valentine’s Day? What’s a Procrastinator to Do?

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You’ve just realized you have a long weekend over Valentine’s weekend because of the President’s Day holiday, so you’ve decided to take your Sweetheart to Walt Disney World.

What are you, crazy?

No, I didn’t mean that.  You’d be crazy NOT to jump at that last minute trip to the House of Mouse!  But what the heck are you going to do, with no dining reservations, no FastPasses, and no chance to choose the romantic color red for your Magic Bands?  Well, let’s just see what we can do to make this trip not only happen, but happen with many wonderful, romantic memories to boot!

Fantasyland8

 

Let’s start with dining reservations.  I’m going to break this to you gently.  You are not getting into Cinderella’s Royal Table.  And there are probably a few other options not available to you at this late planning stage, but fear not.  You’ll be glad to know that a quick search today, just 9 days in advance, shows dinner reservations available at many Walt Disney World resort restaurants, both inside and outside of the theme parks.  You may not get prime time for V-Day dining, but if you don’t mind eating before six or after 8, options include my favorite Artist Point, the way under talked about Turf Club at Saratoga Springs, Sanaa, Jiko, Paradiso 37, Bongo’s Cuban Cafe, or numerous options at EPCOT.  That romantic dinner can be something intimate and quiet, like Artist Point; or you can opt for fun and rambunctious, like Raglan Road.

And while this may not be the romantic dinner you had in mind, there is all sorts of magical moments dining for lunch at Be Our Guest.  You don’t need reservations to eat there at lunch time, and you can sit in the West Wing with the enchanted rose, or check out the room with the giant music box.  Great memories to be made if you are willing to wait in line a little bit.

FastPass+ encourages you to book your ride times in advance, but you may not have time to do that.  Thankfully, you’ll find locations at each theme park where you can choose your FastPass+ options after you arrive at the park.  I’ve seen pretty good availability last minute so far on rides and attractions, so if you want to steal a smooch with your Sweetie as you kick his butt on Toy Story Midway Mania, you may still find a FastPass+ available.

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How about those plain grey Magic Bands you’ll be stuck with, since you didn’t customize them in advance?  Gotcha covered.  You’ll find virtually every resort and gift shop now stocks a supply of Magic Band covers and Magic Bandits, which are little pins you can stick in the holes on your Magic Bands to make them more personal.  You can choose from solid colors, patterns, favorite characters – any combination of accessories to make the bands ones you love.

There are rooms available, plenty of park passes to hit up the places where you’ll find the most magic, and if you decide to wait until the moment strikes to pick up the perfect gift for your Valentine, you’ll find everything from delicious smelling bath products, watches, jewelry, clothing, accessories, or the gift that keeps on giving – annual passes!

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So pack those bags, book those flights, and get your hiney down there with your honey.  A Valentine’s Day full of love, romance, and magic – what could possibly be better?

Walt Disney World – It’s the Little Things

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It’s a pretty big expense when you start to add up the cost of going with your family on a Walt Disney World vacation.  Once you run the numbers for hotels, transportation, theme park passes, and meals, you’re probably thinking the air in your lungs that you breathe while you’re at the Magic Kingdom is the most expensive souvenir you can afford!

Not so.  This is, of course, a theme park built on a mouse; overrun with dwarves; and with the incessant beat of “It’s a Small World” acting as the soundtrack.  That seems to indicate quite a fondness for the little thing.

So when your kids are looking all around at the gift shops, souvenir kiosks, and merchandise markets, fear not.  You won’t have to say no to every souvenir they find!  Steer them in the direction of these fabulous finds – souvenirs that won’t break the budget, cause Dad to keel over, take up too much room in the luggage that has to go home – oh, and that might inspire a love and a lifelong collection!

VINYLMATION:  Well in reach of the range Grandmom might slip into an envelope for the kids to take on their trip (around $10 – $15), these are currently all the rage.  Shaped like The Mouse, but created to be almost anything but, kids seem to love these things – but adults will hunt you down and murderize you for one they need to complete their collection.  You’ll find Vinylmations that are themed on Disney villains, occupations, theme park treats, Muppets, and even the theme parks themselves.  Some are just differently colored, others are a total surprise until you get the package home and open it up.  Best of all, they’ll fit easily into carry-on luggage!

PINS:  Do you remember Chicken Man?  He’s Everywhere!  He’s Everywhere!  So are the pins at Walt Disney World.  You can find pins that start in the $7 price range and go up from there, but talk about something for everyone – and everything!  There are pins that commemorate seasons, events, attractions, characters – you name it, there’s a pin for it.  Pin trading became so popular, that Walt Disney World cast members are often seen wandering the parks with their own collection, so you can stop them and trade with them as you go through the theme parks.  For a relatively small chunk of your souvenir budget, you can buy a pin starter kit, which usually includes a lanyard to put your pins on and four pins – two each of two different pins – one to keep and one to trade.  Some starter sets are geared more toward girls (princesses), some toward boys (Cars), but there are several gender neutral sets, and kids love them.  This is definitely a lifelong hobby you can get your kids started with for less than $20.

BACKPACK CLIPS:  Currently the souvenir du jour in my house, these also come in all shapes and sizes!  They are pretty self explanatory – they are clips that you can attach to your backpack, and hanging from the clip you’ll find a character or something Disney-fied.  Some are plush (Duffy the bear), some are icons (Minnie hat, hands, and skirt), some are hard rubber.  You can clip them to your backpack, handbag, diaper bag, lanyard, or even (with some of the smaller ones) onto a zipper.  These sweetly priced souvenirs can be had from about $7.

PRESSED PENNIES:  Probably the best souvenir for moms and dads who want to spend the last few dollars of their vacation money on the important stuff – like getting home.  And you know that weight limit your airline imposes on your suitcase?  This is no more than pocket change – literally!

For the bargain basement price of only 51 cents, you’ll get this great souvenir – and you’ll find them throughout the theme parks.  Collect them all!  These smooshed, mashed, squashed pennies commemorate your visit to various parts of the Walt Disney World theme park, and if your kids are seriously loving them, for less than $10 more than the cost of the pressed penny (oh yes, I said only 51 cents!!), you can get a binder in which you can store your pennies.  Best. Cheap. Souvenir. Ever!

I know in this economy, it’s harder to stretch your vacation dollar as far as it needs to go.  But these reasonably priced souvenir options add a little spandex to the budget – and put smiles on your kids faces.  And THAT is what vacation is all about!

Protection from the TSA Full Body Scan

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You may laugh at this, thinking that I’m not serious, because, really, am I ever serious?  But this is serious.

I admit, I’m a little creeped out by the full body scan at the airport.  Not being a Victoria’s Secret Model or a Playboy Playmate, I’m not used to showing my junk to just any old body, and the images I’ve seen of the full body scan seem a little, well, personal.  I am all for protecting our safety, and I think if given the option of the full body scan or the pat down, I’m willing to risk radiation poisoning for not having hands all up in my personal space.

But maybe this is something to help preserve the privacy of all of our junk.

A company called Rocky Flats Gear has come out with drawers that will keep your private parts tucked safely inside of your unmentionables.  That’s right – we’ve gone back to a fig leaf to protect our dignity.  These are lead free, radiation protecting undergarments – made for men, women, and children – that you can wear when you travel to protect your family not only from radiation exposure of the full body scan, but also to help those bashful about your bits being out there.

This is what the TSA will see when they scan you.  Or what your radiologist will see if you have to go for x-rays for something.

I’m not so sure this is a bad idea.  I just can’t think of why it’s a good one.

Check out Rocky Flats Gear for yourself and let me know what you think.

http://www.rockyflatsgear.com/home.php

Bed bugs – The Things You Need to Know Before You Go

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That, my traveling friends, is a hotel mattress suffering from a bed bug infestation.  And it is the absolute FIRST thing you need to know before you enter your hotel room while you are on vacation.  It doesn’t matter if you are staying at a four star luxury hotel in downtown Manhattan, or a roadside motel in small town, USA – bed bugs do not discriminate!  Everyone needs to be concerned.

The biggest impact, both physically and financially, of bed bugs can be completely avoided if you know how to spot the problem before it affects you and your vacation.  When you check in at the front desk of your hotel, you are probably ready to retire to your room, get yourself situated, unpack your things, and relax.

Stop.

Once you are given your key, head to your room.  Bring your bags in only as far as you can to close your door, but don’t bring them all the way into your room.

Pull the covers back off of the mattress, and paying special attention to the corners of the bed and the seams, look for the obvious signs above – the bugs themselves – or the fecal trail that the bugs have left behind.

If you find any telltale evidence of a bed bug infestation, immediately return to the front desk and ask them to assign you to a different room.

Even if there are no immediate signs of bedbugs in your mattress, you will want to still keep your luggage elevated off of the floor.  Use the luggage stand most hotel rooms provide, or place luggage on top of the dresser.

Check inside the dresser and the nightstand for bugs or remnants of bugs (which may be the exoskeleten shed by bugs as they grow).  Don’t put anything inside the dresser or nightstands if you suspect that an infestation exists.

Beware of areas where the wallpaper is peeling away.  The bugs can get behind the wallpaper and become a problem if you place your clothing or luggage near these areas.

Bed bug bites are itchy and extremely uncomfortable, so if you’ve managed to ignore the warning, hop right into bed, and wait until the morning to check out your surroundings, don’t worry about contracting any bug borne illnesses or diseases.  You will know in relatively short order if you’ve encountered an infestation by the raised red bumps that appear on your skin and the itching you suffer.

The best treatment is just a topical cream, such as a triple antibiotic cream (Neosporin).  However, constant scratching can open up the bites, exposing them to secondary infections.  If this happens, you might want to check in with your doctor to seek treatment with medication that can’t be obtained over the counter.

Getting rid of bed bugs once you have them can be a chore, and if you’ve found out your hotel room was infested after you’ve unpacked – or worse, after you’ve gone home – it can be an expensive hassle to get rid of them.  The first thing to address is your laundry.  Everything must be washed at a temperature of at least 120 degrees (oh, the shrinkage of those delcates!!).  If you have items that can’t be washed at that high of a temperature, you can freeze the items (temperature below 32 degrees), but they must remain in freezing temperatures for a minimum of two weeks before you can use them.  There are heaters that will kill the bugs, and may be useful for non-washable garments, but they can be quite expensive to purchase.

An exterminator is a must, and not only your bedroom furniture, but all the furniture in your home must be treated.  Anything that can’t be treated – either by extermination, hot washing, heating, or freezing, should be disposed of.  Vacuum all areas of your home that can be vacuumed, and immediately dispose of the bag.

Your best course of action is to prevent infestation, so be prepared when you travel.  Refuse any room that shows signs of infestation, and check to see if your hotel has been listed at www.bedbugregistry.com so you know to be especially diligent in checking hotels that have already had a problem reported.

Don’t let this put a damper on your vacation.  Just be cautious so it doesn’t end up ruining your trip.

Can I take my baby to Walt Disney World for Christmas?

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Its the holiday season and you are thinking of racing off to Walt Disney World to get the second most wonderful picture of a baby with Satna Claus ever.

Of course the first is this one –

Best Santa Claus baby picture every

In my husband’s humble opinion that is.

But now back to the topic – can you take a baby to Walt Disney World at Christmas?

It’s crowded.

Yep, it’s crowded.  Christmas is the busiest time of year at Walt Disney World.  But guess what?  It’s crowded everywhere at Christmas time!  Have you been to the grocery store?  The mall?  Target?  Packed – all of them.  Unless you have a medically fragile child who should not be exposed to more than a few people, don’t let the crowds stop you!

It’s cold.  No, it’s hot.  No, it’s snowing!

Believe it or not, weather can be a concern in Orlando during the holidays.  December is a very unpredictable month.  One day, you may have temperatures soar into the 80s.  The next day, you may be lucky to get out of the 60s.  And there are even some days in Orlando in December where reaching 50 was a struggle!  Average temperatures are in the low 70s, but if you prepare for cool mornings and cold nights, the baby should be fine.  I always plan for a nice fall day when I visit Orlando in December – wear layers, so when the midday sun warms you up, you can wrap your sweater or sweatshirt around your waist.  For a baby, bring a lighter weight blanket and a heavier one.

It’s almost impossible to get dining reservations!

Dining reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance, and many people planning to be at Walt Disney World for the holidays are on the phone or online as soon as that window opens.  But a baby doesn’t care where they eat!  There is a really good variety of counter service meals available at Walt Disney World – from the theme parks to the hotel food courts.  You will find something to eat.  You may not get a window table at the California Grill during the Magic Kingdom fireworks, but you may even luck into a last minute sit down meal.  Browse the online tool at www.disneyworld.com to see what may be left for your last minute trip.  If you can’t find anything, fear not.  I’ve made more than a few holiday meals out of a turkey leg!

Now that I’ve gotten rid of all the big excuses, why not?  I’ve got way more happy memories of my babies at Walt Disney World than stressful ones.  And as if Walt Disney World isn’t magical enough the entire rest of the year, the holidays at Disney will simply take your breath away!  Everything from the decorations and the gingerbread to the Candlelight Processional and the carolers will instill the holiday spirit in your heart and cement it there throughout the season.

Would I take my baby to Walt Disney World for Christmas?  A thousand times, yes.

Frugal Christmas – A Gift For Your Favorite Traveler

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We’ve got rules now, people!  No longer can I pack up half of my bathroom – the soap, shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, moisturizer and makeup – and pack it all into my carry on luggage to head off on vacation.  Everything has to be small – under three ounces – and it all has to fit in ONE zip top baggie.

If you’ve ever traveled – even just going away for a weekend once a year – you know that the smaller sizes of toiletries don’t last very long.  So if you have a traveler on your holiday gift list, this is the perfect gift for them!

You may collect the soaps and lotions that they give you for free at your hotel when you travel.  We did for a long time to send to my brother-in-law when he was in Iraq.  At one point, I ended up with some spares that weren’t really enough to send.  Wondering what I could do with the few extras I had, I decided to make a small gift for some friends I knew that would be headed to Disney World!  It was an almost entirely free gift, except for the Dollar Store makeup pouch I used as my “basket”, but you can recreate it very inexpensively even if you don’t have access to hotel freebies.

Head to your drug store, Target, or WalMart, and you are likely to find a small section where they sell small size toiletry items.  You’ll find toothpaste, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, shaving cream – pretty much anything you would need to take with you on vacation.  Many of these items are under $1.00 in price.  Theme your colors or your packaging to your traveler’s destination.  If you know they are going to Disney World, for example, pick up a red or black makeup pouch or a black Chinese take away container with some red tissue paper.  Is a tropical destination in the offing?  How about snagging some Garnier Fructis products, which are in lime green bottles, and nesting them in a small plastic basket in bright orange.

You can easily assemble a gift that is under $10 – even cheaper if you use your hotel freebies!  It’s useful, looks beautiful, and you can easily adapt it to an adult, a teenager, a child, or even a baby!

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party 101

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One of my favorite events of all time at Walt Disney World is Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.  The party, which takes place on select nights from September through November 1st, takes place at the Magic Kingdom.  You have to purchase a separate ticket for the event, but I always think it’s well worth the price.

So is it worth it for your family?

Here’s how it works for us.

The day of the party, we spend a leisurely morning having breakfast, lounging at the pool, or doing some souvenir shopping.  There is no wake up call, no time to be out and about.  If you are buying multi-day park passes, this saves you a day.

In years past, your party ticket allowed you to enter the theme park at 4:00 in the afternoon – even though the party doesn’t technically begin until 7:00.  This is not an advertised benefit, and it could be revoked at any time, but for my family, it has always meant going in, having a nice dinner, browsing some shops, and being ready for the fun of the party right when it begins.  You go through specific turnstiles, and you will be given a wristband and trick or treat bag – no need to bring one from home!

Once the party begins, you will usually find that due to the limited number of tickets that are sold for this event, many of the attractions are walk ons.  This is an incredible time saver!  If you go into the theme park at 7:00, by the time midnight rolls around, you could probably  have done all of the attractions you would have wanted to do, and avoided the day time crowds.  As a bonus, you may even have time to hit up a couple of the trick or treat stations.

And here’s a tip about the trick or treat stations – while the lines at the stations move very quickly, you will find towards the end of the evening, there are virtually no lines at all.  You could do all of the attractions you want to do, then go trick or treating, and still come away with a pretty good haul of candy!

There are two parades that take place during the party.  The early parade is the bigger draw, because for some families with young children (or those that spent all day in a theme park and are exhausted), they know they won’t make it to the second parade.  My favorite viewing spot for the second parade?  At the very start of Main Street, on the side by the firehouse.  I am almost always standing down there by myself, and the headless horseman and I are almost BFFs!

The fireworks for the party are not necessarily meant to be seen from in front of Cinderella Castle, so if you happen to be in Liberty Square, you’re still golden in terms of fireworks viewing.

And take it from a mom with experience – your kids won’t know if you wait until they go to sleep and swipe all of the Clark bars!  And if you eat them all before the kids wake up the next morning, you’re doing yourself a favor.  Now they won’t melt on the trip home!

I think the party is a terrific value over the cost of a theme park pass.  We get at least as much – if not more – done during the party than we do in a day at the park, and it comes sprinkled with pixie dust in the form of Smartees and Laffy Taffy!

This is a must do for us every year.