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Enjoy all the tips, news, insight, and advice on luxury family travel that highlights fun, active, and healthy vacations. Explore how to make the most out of your family vacation without sacrificing luxury.

FreshCruiser.com opens readers’ eyes to new adventures and calms any fears of traveling with children. With a special focus on family cruising, the website includes tips to staying active, eating well, and taking advantage of all the opportunities while on a family vacation.

Entries in family travel (31)

Monday
Jun182018

What to Pack for your kids on an Alaskan Cruise

Items to bring to Alaska to enhance your kids’ overall experience

Getting ready for upcoming Alaskan cruise with your kids this summer?  We will be sailing to Alaska for the second time in two weeks. There’s so much to look forward to and so much to pack! After you’ve finished packing the basics for your kids, check out my list below of items that will enhance your upcoming Alaskan Cruise.  

Binoculars

I love these binoculars for kids as you don’t have to worry about focusing, easy for them to carry, and durable. There is so much to see on an Alaskan cruise and having binoculars really gets the kids involved and interested in what is out there.

Journal

Depending on your child’s age and interests, they can write about their day or draw what they saw in a journal. It’s a great way to look back at the trip through their eyes. I take pictures of some of their drawings to add to our photo album. I plan on having my son write down the wildlife he sees in order to practice his writing skills. My three-year-old daughter will also have a journal. It will mostly be her beautiful scribbles but a fun dinner activity. When she’s done, we’ll make a note at the bottom of what she drew.

Books about Alaska

Grab some books on Alaska to read to the kids before you leave. It gives them an understanding and builds excitement. Pack their favorite ones to bring with you. It’s fun to reread after seeing many of the places in the book. Below are a few of our favorites. 

Activities for the Table

Dinners can be long on a cruise so make sure to bring different activities for them to play with between courses. Grab some new items from the toy section of a Dollar Store. Their tin puzzles, small figurines, and cars keep my kids distracted and happy.

This is our current favorite is Water Wow!

What else?

Other favorite must-haves for cruises includes: cold and warm weather clothes, sunscreen, hats, playing cards, crayons, and bathing suits.

Packing can be frustrating as you are worried about forgetting something important. Make a list and keep adding to it as you remember things that you want to bring. We use packing cubes to help keep things organized and fit everything.

FreshCruiser Tip: Don’t be afraid to get your kids involved in the packing process. Allow a little space for a few clothes or small toys they want to bring.

Note:  All the products were selected by FreshCruiser. The links contain affiliate links.

Wednesday
Mar282018

Journal: Family time in Yosemite National Park

It had been 14 years since my first visit to Yosemite National Park and my first time back since then. Sharing Yosemite with my two young kids was even more amazing then I hoped. On my first visit, my husband planned the trip. He grew up going with his family and couldn't wait to share it with me. I didn't want to go. I wanted to vacation on the beach. I realize now it was because I would be out of my comfort zone. I had never visited a National Park and didn’t know what to expect. I am so grateful to my husband for not only showing me Yosemite but for showing me that glorious experiences can come out of being a little out of your comfort zone.

On my more recent trip in February with my husband and kids, we arrived to the Yosemite Valley Lodge late at night. When we opened the shades in the morning, we found ourselves surrounded by natural beauty including fresh snow on the mountain peaks. There was a chill in the air but nothing hats and gloves couldn’t fix. We enjoyed the day exploring and hiking. Our last few vacations had been to bustling cities. Spending time in nature was exactly what we needed. We all had a hop in our step as we hiked around.

Yosemite with Kids Highlights

Wildlife

Seeing wildlife in its natural habitat is always a treat. I believe it gives our children a profound respect for all things living. During our visit, we saw a blue heron, bugs, deer, a variety of birds, otter poop and a coyote.

Starry Night

One night of our stay we went on a guided tour, called Starry Night. The organized tour, which was through the National Park Service, had a 8:30pm start time.  My 3-year-old daughter fell asleep in the stroller on the way to the meeting spot.

The night sky was completely clear and filled with stars. It reminded me of planetarium shows we have been to, only this was the real thing. The guide used a laser pointer to show us which star or group of stars he was explaining. The stories the guide told were memorable and appropriate for all ages. My 5-year-old son learned a lot and talks about specific stars from that night. I enjoy travelling with my children as they can experience so much first hand, and this was another perfect example.

Ranger Talk

We attended a Ranger Talk while at Yosemite. I have to admit, we were pushed a little bit to do it as it was a requirement to complete the Ranger Program for our kids. It is one of the best things I’ve ever done. 

As we walked around the park, the Ranger taught us to move slow, listen, smell, and look. It was a learning experience and a reminder to do this when we returned home.

Nighttime Games

I brought a bag of games to play. It was such good family time and a fun way to end the night while we ate at the Yosemite Valley Lodge Lounge.

Giant Sequoias & Snow

We drove to the Tuolumne Grove which has about two dozen giant Sequoias since the Mariposa Grove is currently closed for renovation and set to reopen on June 15, 2018. Sequoias are only visible after a one-mile hike downhill.

Since we were there in January, the hike was in the snow and ice. We were prepared in our snow gear and the kids had so much fun playing in the snow. When we reached the Sequoia groves the kids had fun throwing snowballs at us. On our way back up the hill, we played hide and seek to make the time go by faster and keep my son from being carried. We headed back to the Yosemite Valley Lodge for some hot chocolate.

Ice Skating

My husband learned how to ice skate in Yosemite as a child so he was looking forward to taking our kids. I was a competitive figure skater growing up and therefore love any opportunity to lace my skates up. After a morning of hiking to Mirror Lake, we decided to go ice skating. It was the perfect afternoon activity. I was pleased to find out that they had skates small enough for my 3-year-old to rent. The sun was still shining as we stepped onto the ice. We were surrounded by a breathtaking backdrop.

The tradition of ice skating in Yosemite dates back to 1928. The Half Dome Village Ice Rink is an outdoor rink with a view of Half Dome. The ice rink in Yosemite is open from mid-November to mid-March.

Final Thoughts

Our time in Yosemite was one of my favorite vacations as a family of four. My husband and I challenge each other to visit new places, however I hope to return to Yosemite every year and make it our family winter tradition. The United States has so many National Parks that I would like to visit. It’s time to start making a list!

Wednesday
Mar072018

Symphony of the Seas Construction Update: Final Steps

Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas is almost ready for its maiden voyage. The video shows the ship coming to life with the decorative aspects being put in place, technology being tested, and the Captain preparing for the inaugural sailing. I’ve been following the progress of the ship since the beginning, and it’s amazing how so different aspects come together in the end to make the vision complete. The Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea, is my type of slide!

Symphony of the Seas, 25th ship in Royal Caribbean’s fleet, will set sail in April 2018. It will spend the summer in the Mediterranean. In the Fall, the ship will make Miami, FL her home port departing on 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean voyages.

According to Royal Caribbean, Symphony of the Seas will span 16 guest decks, encompass more than 230,000 gross registered tons, carry 5,500 guests at double occupancy, and feature 2,759 staterooms.

Monday
Dec042017

Tips for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with Kids

When I was in 8th grade my parents took my sister and I to New York City to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I remember getting up so early that we were one of the first people on the streets.  Our goal was to get as close to Macy’s department store as possible. We watched it on television for so many years that we were hoping to see the performances. As we approached Macy’s Herald Square, it was already packed full of people.  People even brought ladders to see over the crowds. By the end of the parade we were cold and tired but it was worth every second. It is one of my favorite family memories.

Fast-Forward twenty-five years. I now have a family of my own and couldn’t wait to take them to experience the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. My kids are 3-years-old and 5 years-old. Their eyes were as big as bowling balls when they saw the balloons coming down the street. It truly has everything, floats with singers, marching bands, clowns throwing confetti and the giant balloons.  

Get there early

In doing my research before the trip, I read to be on the parade route by 6-6:30am to get a good spot. However, I’d recommend even earlier. By 6:15am all the viewing spots in the front row were taken. The key is to pack correctly as if you are warm and comfortable, the extra 30 minutes or so that I recommend will be worth it.

Restrict Liquids

There is no easy way to get to a bathroom. As the start of the parade approaches, the streets are completely packed and you will not be able to get back to your spot if you do make it out. My kids were fine as we were careful what we gave them. I wanted coffee so I restrained myself to only a little.

Wait

Before the parade starts, there isn’t much to look at. There are lots of police on along the route but no pre-parade entertainment to help make the time go by faster. The best thing to do, especially if you have your kids with you is to get to know your neighbors.

It makes the whole experience better and more exciting. We lucked out with some of the nicest people from around the country and it made the time fly. I brought new activities for my kids to play with while we waited. We also played games like, “I spy” and “Simon says”.

Pack This

  • Warm clothes – I recommend long wool socks. My ankles were cold! Put on one more additional layer than you were planning. You can thank me later.
  • Blankets – For a little extra warmth, I’d recommend bringing a few old blankets with you.
  • Chairs – Bring a camping chair or a weekender seat. I packed the weekender seat in the bottom of my suitcase. I bring it with me on a lot of travels so it's worth the investment. When the parade starts, everyone folds up their chairs so why not be comfortable for the few hours before?
  • Hand Warmers – After a few hours waiting, your hands and feet will thank you. Bring the hand warmers with you so you don't have to pay triple to get one from a street vendor.
  • Protein Bars – I always travel with CLIF Nut Butter Filled Bars. They are compact and keep you full. My kids love them as they combine chocolate and almond butter.
  • Themos – In your suitcase, throw in a themos to use for hot coffee, cocoa or tea. Make it at home before you leave or grab it in your hotel. It will stay warm for hours and you don’t have to worry about it spilling.
  • Something to share - I’d recommend bringing a thermos of coffee to share or hand warmers. Grab this 40 pack of Hand Warmers from Amazon and really make friends! Make nice with your neighbors as it enhances everyone’s experience.

If you follow my tips, you will not only be prepared but also enjoy the experience. The anticipation of the parade starting, meeting new people, and sitting on the streets of NYC are all part of the experience.

Wednesday
Sep202017

5 quick tricks to ensure safety on your family holiday

Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia

We get it – family holidays are hard. There’s simply so much to think about, not only in preparation but also when you arrive. One of the primary concerns is safety, especially when visiting busy cities and risky areas around the world.

With that being said, there are plenty of tried and tested ways to keep you and your kids safe whilst on your holidays. Here are just five quick tricks to consider in order to ensure a smooth trip.

Make a plan in case someone gets lost

In the unlikely case of someone in your party getting lost in a busy, built-up area, it’s important you establish a plan to ensure you’re reunited easily and quickly. If you’re in a city, for example, determine a landmark that can become the meeting point should you become separated, just one of the useful tips recommended by CTI.

And perhaps the most important thing to do in this situation is to not panic and remain calm. Stay level-headed and sensible, and you’ll be able to make more rational decisions. So long as you have an established plan in case of an emergency, you’ll be reunited easily.

Pack some essential supplies…

Remember to bring the things to keep you safe and healthy throughout the trip – medication is always a worthy addition to your suitcase, whether it be paracetamol, allergy medicine or antiseptics for any little scrapes or cuts anyone may suffer during the adventure. This helpful guide outlines what you should pack, and what medicines and dressings are easily available in many countries.

And, of course, don’t forget the lotion. Depending on where you are in the world, it’s paramount you all lather yourselves up with a sufficient amount of suncream in order to avoid any nasty burns, sun stroke or even sun poisoning in the most extreme cases.

…including a safety kit for the little ones

Consider conjuring up a little safety kit to give both yourself and the little ones peace of mind, especially if they’re young. Give them a little backpack to wear with ease when out and about, and put some things inside it that will aid both them and anyone who may help in the case of them being separated from your party.

A helpful thing to give them is a family photograph. This will allow anyone who helps your little one to seek you out in a crowd, making the situation a lot less stressful than it could be otherwise.

Be constantly watchful and vigilant

Regardless of where you are in the world, it’s important you remain vigilant of the people and the environment you’re surrounded by. There will always be things you need to look out for, whether it be a dangerous part of terrain or a shady group of people you don’t trust.

Unfortunately, there will be risks wherever you are in the world, even at home. But the added risk of being in an unfamiliar location may be slightly more unsettling – remain watchful of your surroundings and keep a close eye on everyone you’re with to avoid winding up in negative circumstances.

Don’t attempt anything risky

Last but not least, don’t let anyone do anything that isn’t safe. Whether it be swimming in particularly rough waters, playing in a risky area or talking to strangers, make sure there are rules set in place so nobody puts themselves in a dangerous situation.

Sure, it’s important for everyone to be free to enjoy themselves on a family holiday – but make sure there are at least some boundaries set in place.

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Friday
Jul212017

Top kids activities in Maui

Take a break from the beach and pool: Check out these family friendly activities in Maui

Once you arrive in Maui, you’ll be dazzled by the beautiful ocean views and soft sand between your toes. It may be difficult to leave your vacation villa or resort. If you haven’t booked your stay yet, consider forgoing the hotel for Maui beach house rentals. You are able to pick your ideal amount of rooms and location on the island. In addition, renting a beach house come with amenities such as a kitchen that are difficult to come by at a resort hotel. When booking a place to stay, these things are perfect for traveling with kids.

Traveling to Maui with kids is definitely an adventure in more ways than one. After a few days of swimming and playing in the sand, it will be a good time to explore more of the island. Check out the Top Things to do with Kids in Maui.

Atlantis Submarine

Under the Sea is where you’ll be; 125 feet below to be exact. From start to finish, the Atlantis Submarine experience is enjoyable for kids. You start off by riding a shuttle boat to the location of the submarine in the ocean. Next, your guide directs you where to look as the submarine slowly emerges to the surface. The process feels like magic. Minutes later you are off the boat descending down the stairs into the sub.

Atlantis SubmarineShortly after you find your seat, the 48-passenger submarine door is sealed and you are off to explore the world below. The guide points out ocean animals along the way. The viewing windows are wide and therefore my four-year-old son had no issues finding the creatures being discussed.  

The Grandparents, my four-year-old son, and I felt fortunate to experience ocean life without getting wet. During our submarine ride, we saw sharks, eels, rays, a variety of tropical fish, and a shipwreck. My son was intrigued the most by the shipwreck and all the fish that seemed to have found homes there. At the bottom of the shipwreck were 3 white tip reef sharks taking a break. He squealed with delight at this sight.  The ride was the perfect amount of time. Note: Children must be a minimum of 36" in height to ride the submarine.

After the submarine ride, it’s fun to walk around the town of Lahaina. Grab shave ice at our favorite place, Ululani's Hawaiian Shave Ice.

FreshCruiser tip: When you check-in, there is a map of the submarine route at the office. Show this to your children so they get an idea of where the submarine will be traveling and that there is an end.

Zipline

There’s nothing better than that feeling of flying through the air! Maui is an ideal place for ziplining. It is accessible, fun for all ages, the scenery is gorgeous, and safety is a top priority as companies must follow American safety standards.

Every ziplining company has different age and weight requirements. It’s important to check with the company before you book. Some companies allow children as young as 5 can take part in the adventure.

Ziplining in Maui

A little fear may begin to set in as we got harnessed, grabbed a helmet, and listened to the safely rules. We slowly climbed up the bridge to the first ziplining station and waited for our turn to zoom down. I wondered if I made a mistake! However, seconds later the screams of joy and laughter filled the air as we flew. At the bottom, I was met with, “Let’s do that again!” Luckily we were just getting started and the first one was considered “the warm up”.  The views were spectacular. I had to remind Grandpa to keep his eyes open! The first zipline was definitely a memorable part of the experience. My family enjoyed the Piiholo Zipline as it offered Hawaiian history, nature expertise, and adventurous tree top ziplines.

FreshCruiser Tip: Encourage the young-at-heart to participate as well.

Maui Ocean Center

The centrally located Maui Ocean Center educates visitors on the local ecosystem through various exhibitions. It is a fabulous experience to see and learn what is in the local water and beyond. The exhibitions include shallow reefs to the vast open ocean. The Hawaiian viewpoint of the aquarium gives kids an understanding of where they are vacationing.

During our visit to Maui, we spent a relaxing morning visiting the Maui Ocean Center. We were happy to take a break from the beach and took our time wandering through. For toddlers, there was the perfect amount of things to see and was not overwhelming or too crowded. As we walked through the exhibits we stopped to watch the Open Ocean presentation. My children were in awe that there was a scuba driver in the tank! The diver spoke to the kids and answered all questions the audience had.

For an extra special experience, make reservations for The Behind the Scenes Tour. The 1-hour tour takes guests to the Aquarium lab to learn about coral restoration and how marine animals are cared for at the Maui Ocean Center. At the end of the tour, you are given the exclusive opportunity to feed turtles, sharks, and rays. This tour is appropriate for ages 5 and up.

FreshCruiser Tip: Combine a trip to the Maui Ocean Center with a drive to the town of Paia. It’s a cute town to walk around and grab lunch or shave ice.

Wednesday
Jun142017

Headed to Hawaii with your kids? Make room for these must have items in your suitcase

Tips on what to pack when traveling to Hawaii or an island vacation with your kids

Wailea, MauiReady to leave for Hawaii? At this point, you’ve packed bathing suits, shorts, shirts, hats, and tons of sunscreen. Now it’s time to take a step back and find some space for the less obvious must-haves for your trip. 

Big Beach Bag

Throw in a big beach bag, you’ll be glad you did. It’s great for holding your sand toys, snacks, sunscreen, goggles, water, etc. After prepping it the first day of your vacation, you will have all the items you need already in there and can get out of the room quickly. Also, you don’t have to deal with your kids carrying their sand buckets and complaining that it is “too heavy”.

Pool & Beach Toys

It’s essential to have sand and pool toys while in Hawaii. You will be spending most of your time in one of those spots, so buy a few new toys to play with.

For the pool, depending on your children’s swimming abilities bring a mixture of floating toys (bath toys) and dive toys. Of course, buy sand buckets and shovels for the beach. You can stock up on these items at your local dollar store.  

The rule for my kids with all toys is if you bring it to the pool or the beach those items are to be shared. It not only encourages sharing but is an easy way to make new friends. When your vacation is over, there’s no reason to drag them home with you.  Find a family to and have your kids give them the toys, demonstrating kindness to others.

Inflatable Raft

Who doesn’t love floating? An inflatable raft provides hours of fun for all ages.

It’s easy to bring as they are folded up small so it won’t take up much room in your suitcase but you’ll be glad you packed it when you arrive. 

Zip Lock Bags

Treasure Hunting in Wailea, MauiBe prepared by packing a box of Ziplock Bags.  You’ll find yourself glad you have them to reach for throughout the day.

  • Kids love to snack. Easily bring snacks with you to the pool or the beach without having to drag the whole bag. Your kids won’t fight over the bag as they have their own bag.  
  • Protect your cell phone or camera while at the beach
  • Sunscreen goes in a bag in case it opens up and so it doesn’t get covered in sand
  • Wet bathing suits
  • Put the treasures or seashells your children collect
  • Ticket stubs go in one so they are together and ready for scrapbooking. Read the "Top family travel ideas to capture and save memories" article for more tips on easy scrapbooking.

Maui Travels

We recently got back from 8 nights in Wailea on the island of Maui with my 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter. It was our third time traveling to Maui as a family. We spent our days going between the beach and the pool. Every day was a fun and new adventure that we didn’t want to end.

What less-obvious items do you pack for a beach or pool vacation?

Happy Packing!

FreshCruiser Tip:  Stay away from “we’ll just buy it there” phrase. Try to bring as much as possible so you don’t waste previous vacation hours shopping. 

Wednesday
May242017

Capture the Spirit of Aloha at the Te Au Moana Luau in Maui

When on vacation with family, we find ourselves in a constant state of attempting to find that perfect blend of family fun while somehow finding ways to expose the little ones to the local vibe and culture of the destination.

While in Hawaii, the children naturally gravitate to the exciting pools, the beautiful beaches, and the mouth-watering shave ice.  But, how can you find an activity that will be enjoyed by everyone big and small alike that allows your family to surround yourself in the true “Spirit of Aloha?”

The luau has been a Hawaiian custom going back many generations.  It is, in my opinion, the quintessential Hawaiian celebration that is a MUST do activity while in Hawaii.  Sure, the luau is touristy.  Sure, it may even be a bit cheesy at times.  But, in the end, there is no better way to celebrate your family togetherness in a setting that will leave you and your children knowing that you are on the beautiful islands of Hawaii.

I have enjoyed being part of many Hawaiian luaus spread across multiple islands.  No two luau’s are the same – they all have their own character and flavor.  Most recently, my family and I took part in the Te Au Moana Luau on the island of Maui.

The setting of the Te Au Moana Luau truly was spectacular.  Set on the grounds of the newly renovated Wailea Beach Resort - Marriott, just a short walk from the Grand Wailea, Four Seasons, and Andaz properties, the Luau green is set perfectly within the gorgeous palm trees and tiki torches overlooking the sparkling water of the Pacific Ocean.

Upon check-in, all guests are greeted with a Hawaiian flower Lei and then shown to their seat.  Before dinner is served, there are different stations allowing the guests to participate in local Hawaiian customs.  My kids absolutely loved this part as they were able to participate in arts and crafts, get a temporary Hawaiian style tattoo, and flowers pinned to their hair.

It was then time to remove the pig (or piggy as my kids like to call it) from the pit. I thought that my kids would have been a little uneasy watching this part, but, to my surprise, they were intrigued by it! 

After our table was called, we made our way to the buffet.  We found the food to be delicious.  The salad with papaya seed dressing, seafood, poultry, and of course the traditional pork and poi along with many other selections were a big hit.  My 4 year-old went back up to refill his plate with even more pork and poi!  He must have some Hawaiian DNA in there…

Performances

As the sun set below the Pacific casting the most gorgeous Hawaiian sunset across the sky, the performers in their spectacular traditional attire danced, sang, and of course, Hula’d across the stage, leaving the audience, especially my kids with a permanent smile from ear to ear.  The host did a perfect job in extending the local warmth to everyone by telling stories of the past and by explaining the how the local traditions are seen through the various performances.  

One of the highlights of the luau for me was watching both my kids stand up and hula along with the show – they were captivated by the performers.  Accompanying the dancers and singers was a live band playing traditional Hawaiian music and melodies. 

As darkness fell over the luau grounds, the fire dancers left my children in awe as they spun and threw their torches in the air.  When the show wrapped up, my family all new exactly where we were – we were on vacation in beautiful Hawaii.

The Te Au Moana Luau truly is a wonderful way to experience the warmth and beauty of the Hawaiian culture in a way that will keep your entire family happily engaged making it a can’t miss event while on your vacation in Maui.

FreshCruiser Tips for the Te Au Moana Luau

  • Plan to see the luau towards the beginning of your vacation.  There is no better way to kick off your trip. 
  • Book early, before you leave on your vacation – the luau will often sell out.  Keep in mind, the luau is only 4 times each week, so plan accordingly.
  • Arrive a little early to get in line. The seats are first come first serve.  After checking in, you are escorted to the best available open seat.
  • This luau has a 4:30pm start time, which works well for families with younger kids.