Tag Archives: summer vacation

Taking the Kids to London? Here Are Some Clues for What to Do

The #letitfly campaign could take you to London.

I’ve been invited to participate in Virgin Atlantic’s #LetItFly challenge (you can participate, too), and I have seven random items in a duffel bag that I’m using to create the perfect London itinerary. Since I’m a mom with two kids, of course we are crafting a spectacular family-friendly journey — but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some action and adventure along the way. We’ve taken each of our items and created a scavenger hunt to help us navigate the British capital. Can you guess what we are going to do next based on these (sometimes) simple clues?

Ready for Take-Off — Day 1

Virgin Atlantic A330 // (c) 2015 Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic A330 // (c) 2015 Virgin Atlantic

Of course, since we are coming from Los Angeles, we are flying and taking Virgin Atlantic because the best way to start a trip is to fly a fun, innovative, friendly airline that understands the needs of the modern-day traveler — even if they happen to be under five feet tall.

The kid-friendly Athenaeum  Hotel
The kid-friendly Athenaeum Hotel

Once we arrive, we will check into The Athenaeum, a luxury, five-star hotel in Mayfair with fully appointed family apartments in the heart of the city. Most likely, we’ll be hitting the sack upon arrival but, in case the kids have energy, the hotel’s dedicated kids’ concierge will already know what their favorite books, movies and snacks are and they will try to have them on hand — making life easier on everyone.

Day 2

It’s our first full day in London so, it’s finally time for our first clue:

Bike Pump PolaroidWhat better way to overcome jet lag than spending a day outdoors?

Hyde Park // (c) VisitBritain
Hyde Park // (c) VisitBritain

The kids’ concierge at The Athenaeum hotel has already helped arrange a day outside, including cycling through the Royal Parks, a boat ride on the Serpentine, a picnic and even kite-flying. Sign us up!

We are taking it easy after our long flight, so that’s it for day one, but before we  call it quits and settle in with a copy of Paddington Bear, a quiet meal close to “home” will hit the spot. Most likely, we are headed to family favorite, Wagamamas. Nothing like a little comfort food when you are tired. Zzzzzz.

Day 3 

And we are ready for our second clue – and this is a tough one:

Jawbone Up

The Jawbone Up monitors heart rate and fitness and, just like your ticker, this ticks, too (tick-tock) …Where are we headed?

Big Ben // (c) VisitBritain
Big Ben // (c) VisitBritain

Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament is our first stop. We need to get the lay of the land and see some of London’s most iconic attractions, so we are joining up with the Original  Tour Hop-On Hop-Off Bus to see the city.

And one special stop will lead us to our third clue.

A gold necklace

Here’s a hint: When you turn this necklace upside down, it looks like a tiny crown. Now, where in London would you go to look at a spectacular collection of jewels?

Tower of London // (c) VisitBritain
Tower of London // (c) VisitBritain

That’s right, we are definitely getting off at the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels. And our visit wouldn’t be complete without a free tour from a Beefeater or Yeoman Warder of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and the Tower of London — boy is that a mouthful. With so much to do at the Tower, it’s good to know that you can come back and continue exploring on another day. And, if we purchase a London Pass, our entrance will be free, as well as the entrance to more than 60 other attractions in the city — definitely picking up one of those.

Afterward, a stop for lunch at a local pub to refuel is probably in order before heading out  for the afternoon. It could be a wild one!

Which leads us to clue number four:

A pink bucket

What are you going to do with a bucket in London? Well, you might need to bail out some water if you take a ride in one of these:

London RIB Ride // (c) Exelement

Blast off on a whirwind, 50-minute ride along the Thames River onboard an RIB powerboat. The high-speed tour takes in some of London’s most recognizable landmarks such as the O2 Arena, the London Eye, the Shard, the Houses of Parliament and more. That’s sure to get our heart rates up — better strap on the Jawbone for this one!

After that, we will travel like true locals and take the “tube” back to our hotel to rest up for an evening on the West End where we can take in a play such as “The Lion King”, “Matilda,” or “Cats.”

Day 4

We begin with another difficult clue:

White shirt

Where do you need to “roll” up your sleeves?

Baking // (c) Wikimedia Commons
Baking // (c) Wikimedia Commons

In the kitchen of course. At Kids in the Kitchen, Sunday morning classes are 2.5 hours long during which time the children will make their own lunch.

And, what’s the best part? Parents will have some down time while the kids are cooking to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee and a spa treatment at the Athenaeum’s beautiful spa. An Elemis deep-tissue massage? Yes, please! Maybe a Moroccan Rose Ritual? We wouldn’t say no.

And that leaves us refreshed to figure out our sixth clue:


So, I’ve always heard that you are not to wear flip-flops in London lest you be mistaken for a Californian. So, if we don’t want to seem like “fish out of water,” maybe we should head to…

London SeaLife Aquarium // (c) VisitLondon
London SeaLife Aquarium // (c) VisitLondon

The SeaLife Aquarium, of course. We are spending the afternoon checking out the sharks and feeding the fish. It’s right across from the London Eye so maybe, after our Behind the Scenes Tour, we will take a turn on the high-flying Ferris wheel, which is among the world’s largest, for fantastic sunset views of the whole city.

As our day concludes, we realize that we have reached our final clue.

The Journal

Is this the end of the journey? Maybe, but what better way to keep our memories alive forever than to write them down.

Want to know what living our London itinerary would look like? Here is a quick preview:

Want to take your own journey to London? Pack your own bag with Virgin Atlantic. When you’re done, don’t forget to tweet (@Virgin_Atlantic) and  share it on Facebook.


Five Family Travel Adventures Perfect for Summer


Family travel at Stowe Mountain Resort, Vermont
Stowe Mountain Resort, Vermont

There has never been a better time to travel with your family. Hotels, resorts, tour operators and more have embraced the idea of multigenerational travel and families are spoiled for choice when it comes to planning a family vacation this summer. These five curated family travel escapes are perfect for summer getaways.

Stowe Mountain Lodge, Stowe, Vermont

The four-season resort boasts the tranquility of New England and enviable access to Stowe Mountain Resort ski area, as well as the charming village of Stowe. Get Out and Go offers families two-night accommodations, a rustic furniture-making class, a guided family hike or snowshoe adventure, dinner at the sophisticated-yet-laid-back Hourglass Lounge and a classic welcome amenity of milk and cookies. Rates begin at $1,254 for two nights, for a family of four. www.stowemountainlodge.com

Lansdowne Resort, Leesburg, Virginia

A true luxury escape, Lansdowne Resort combines impeccable service and urban style with scenic views of the Potomac River. Lansdowne Resort’s Education Package provides overnight accommodations in adjoining guest rooms and dinner at the signature bar, Stonewalls Tavern or the elegant clubhouse, Crooked Billet. Grab your family for a geocaching adventure on the hotel’s grounds for a grown up version of hide and seek. After, hop aboard the shuttle transfer to Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Museum, the home to the largest collection of aircraft and space artifacts in the world including the Space Shuttle Discovery. Rates begin at $174. www.lansdowneresort.com

Suncadia Resort, Cle Elum, Washington

The Pacific Northwest’s famously breathtaking setting and rich history offer an unlimited amount of activities for guests of Suncadia Resort. The Suncadia Family Adventure takes families on a guided Nature Trail Hike to catch the views from Manashtash Ridge, Thorpe Mountain, or to take in the stunning setting of the Cooper Lake hike. Prepare for a downriver adventure on a three-hour guided rafting River Float Trip on the Yakima or Cle Elum River. Return to the hotel’s Portals Restaurant for a home-style dinner followed by a relaxing night in the sumptuous one-bedroom suites. Rates begin at $929. A minimum two-night stay is required. www.suncadiaresort.com

The Embassy Row Hotel, Washington, D.C.

Nicknamed “Millonaires’ Row,” Embassy Row is a street of mansions on Massachusetts Avenue. Nestled between historic embassies and enchanting row homes, The Embassy Row Hotel’s ”Mini-Monet” family vacation package allows families to unleash their inner artist in Dupont Circle. Families start their day at The Phillips Collection, a private art gallery that features permanent exhibitions such as Rothko and Georgia O’Keefe. You’ll leave the gallery inspired to paint your own masterpiece. Walk nearby to ArtJamz for two-hours of studio time, including blank canvases, painting supplies and drinks for four. Continue to explore the nation’s capital with four all-day metro passes, and then retreat to the hotel’s superior room to unwind with stunning city views. Rates begin at $361. www.embassyrowhotel.com

La Cantera Hill Country Resort, San Antonio, Texas

Perched atop one of the highest points in all of San Antonio overlooking the rolling Texas Hill Country sits La Cantera Hill Country Resort. For the ultimate thrill, the Hidden Passages Adventure Tour brings families into one of the most treasured natural attractions Texas has to offer, Natural Bridge Caverns. Once outfitted with caving gear, each guest will be lowered by rope through a 160-foot well shaft. Travel approximately one mile, going down to 230 feet below surface level to the Fault Room which features one of the longest soda straw formations in North America. This three hour adventure will have your teens talking about this vacation for years to come! Rates, based on a family of four, start at $759 for one night. Each additional night starting at $199. www.resortlacantera.com

Visit Destination Hotels & Resorts for more family-friendly offered year-round.

11 Family-Friendly Fourth of July Events Around the U.S.

Fourth of July falls on a Friday this year — the perfect opportunity to take the kids away on a family-friendly vacation to celebrate the three-day weekend. Below are some ideas from around the country on where to go to get away this Fourth of July weekend. From California, New Mexico and Texas to the birthplace of the nation, New England, there are so many fun activities for families to experience this Fourth of July weekend in the U.S.

A three-day weekend makes the Fourth of July the perfect time to travel with the family.
A three-day weekend makes the Fourth of July the perfect time to travel with the family.

Sonoma County, CA

Sonoma County, located about 45 minutes north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, celebrates Fourth of July on the Plaza in true, old-fashioned style. Beginning with a parade at 10:00 a.m. with marching bands and fun floats, visitors will also find live music and games all day long along with food, beer, and wine. Visitors can cap the day off by choosing from an array of fireworks displays including, but not limited to, the 4th of July Celebration at the Green Music Center, the 4th of July celebration and firework display in Petaluma or the Red, White, and Boom in Santa Rosa. For more information, visit www.sonomacounty.com.

Bristol, RI

This summer, Bristol, RI, nicknamed “America’s Most Patriotic Town,” invites residents and travelers alike to join in on the historic port town’s 229th Fourth of July celebration. Established in 1785, Bristol honors our nation’s birthday with the oldest continuous celebration of its kind in the United States. This truly unique American experience brings the people of Bristol and beyond together through a series of patriotic traditions which starts well before the Fourth and culminates with Bristol’s Fourth of July Parade. This major Rhode Island event attracts visitors from all over the country, bringing the small town of 23,000 up to well over 100,000 people eager to celebrate the occasion. For more information on this a fascinating display of American pride, visit www.july4thbristolri.com.

Charleston, SC

Just in time for Independence Day, the Charleston Museum is pleased to announce the opening of its new exhibition Unfurled: Flags  a tribute to the “Stars and Stripes” and more. Throughout history, flags have played an important role as symbols of pride, patriotism and at points, potent reminders of the nation’s darkest days. On display on July 4, 2014 through January 4, 2015, the flag collection will be housed in the museum’s Historic Textiles Gallery and will feature a collection that spans from the early 19th century to the late 20th with a range of styles and functions.  For more information, visit www.charlestonmuseum.org.

Fort Worth, TX

Get a little wild this Fourth of July near the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District at Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic held at Billy Bob’s Texas – the world’s largest honky-tonk. The highly anticipated, all-day outdoor concert announced two main acts, which will feature performances by Dierks Bentley and Mr. Nelson himself. General admission tickets for the 41st annual festival are on sale now. Gates open at 11 a.m. and the music ends at midnight.  For more information, please go to www.forthworth.com.

New Haven, CT

Home to Yale University, New Haven’s remarkable 300-year-old history, cultural offerings and award-winning restaurants create the ideal setting for the Fourth of July Weekend.  This year, travelers can enjoy New Haven’s annual fireworks shot from the highest point in East Rock Park with family-friendly activities, performances and more.  For more information about the fireworks celebration, visit www.cityofnewhaven.com.  For more information on New Haven’s dining options, accommodations and more, visit www.infonewhaven.com

New York, NY

This Fourth of July, Mandarin Oriental, New York is offering an Extra Fun-Day Away package for the holiday weekend. Take some extra time to experience New York City’s celebrations with an Extra Fun-Day Awaywhich gives guests a complimentary third night when booking two consecutive nights or more at Best Available Rates. The Extra Fun-Day Away package begins at $895 per night.  For more information, visitwww.mandarinoriental.com/newyork.com.

Norfolk, VA

Travelers can leave the Fourth of July grilling to Norfolk, Virginia, this summer when they head to Town Point Park on Waterside Drive for the 32nd Annual AT&T Fourth of July Great American Picnic & Fireworks event. Guests will have the opportunity to taste delicious American fare, relax on the lawn and enjoy the fireworks display, all while listening to live music by the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command Band. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.visitnorfolktoday.com or www.festevents.org.

 Panama City Beach, FL

Known for its award-winning beaches and emerald water, Panama City Beach has long been a summertime tradition, and the area’s strong military ties and All-American vibe make it the perfect beach for celebrating America’s independence.  Kicking off July 4th weekend is the Summer Concert Series, an event featuring the Air National Guard Band of the South’s jazz ensemble at Aaron Bessant Park amphitheater on July 3.  On July 4, the destination will host its first ever Color Run, followed by the Star Spangled Spectacular neighborhood-style block party with music and fireworks at Pier Park.  For more information, please visit www.visitpanamacitybeach.com

Providence, RI

As home to original “Yankee Doodle Dandy” composer George M. Cohan, Providence provides the ultimate July 4th experience with the BankRI Independence Day Celebration in India Point Park. Hosted by Mayor Angel Taveras, the City of Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism and the Providence Tourism Council, this celebration will feature entertainment by The Rhode Island Philharmonic Pops Orchestra, beginning at 7:30 p.m.followed by a stunning Fourth of July Fireworks display at 9:15 p.m. A rain date of July 5, 2014 has been set.  For more information, visit www.goprovidence.com.

Santa Fe, NM

The Fourth of July in Santa Fe, New Mexico, means live music, pancakes, performances on the Plaza, and more. Each Independence Day in the City Different, the Santa Fe United Way heads to the Plaza where hundreds of volunteers serve thousands of eaters fresh cooked pancakes for the Annual Pancakes On The Plaza event. This annual event attracts locals and visitors alike with delicious pancakes, a car show, art and craft vendors and plenty of live entertainment. The experience culminates with an evening fireworks show at the Santa Fe High School after guests have had the chance to enjoy performances by local dancers, musicians and singers on the Plaza Bandstand, and of course, platefuls of pancakes. For more information, visit http://www.pancakesontheplaza.comor www.santafe.org.


Long-hailed “The Mother of Presidents,” Virginia is a leading destination for celebrating the birth of our nation with historic hot spots including Monticello, Mount Vernon and Yorktown, as well as informative tours and reenactments offered state-wide. From festivals and parades to firework displays and live musical performances, Virginia has all the resources for an ideal Fourth of July getaway. The state is within a day’s drive or less of 60 percent of the U.S. population, creating an unbeatable weekend retreat for American travelers. Virginia’s annual events includeIndependence Day at MonticelloAn American Celebration at Mount VernonIndependence Day Celebrations at Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest and more. A complete list of Virginia’s Fourth of July festivals, events and packages may be found at www.Virginia.org/July4th.

Fourth of July is only a week away, what will you be doing?

Summer Family Getaways

Barcelo Hotels & Resorts are offering summer getaways for families. // (c) 2014 Barcelo Hotels & Resorts

I am so ready to ditch school. I am over packing lunch boxes, putting in pony tails and driving my kids to and fro. Do I sound like a bad mom? Maybe I am just a mom in desperate need of a vacation. If you are like me, then Barcelo Hotels & Resorts is looking for you. They are rolling out the red carpet for moms and dads and children, too, with a variety of summer travel getaways for families. If you are like me, and you want to throw the towel in on busy mom duties, here’s a list of summer travel getaways in Mexico and the Dominican Republic:

Barceló Maya Beach Resort Complex (Riviera Maya, Mexico)

o   U-Spa – Barcelo Maya Caribe features a new U-Spa for kids. The spa is the first of its kind in Mexico and exclusively for children. Services include sophisticated up-dos, fun hair wraps and braids, manicures and pedicures with elaborate nail design, massages, and facials among other treatments.

o   Sacred Mayan Journey – From May 22-24, 2014, families can participate in the Sacred Mayan Journey  at Xcaret. Participants will row in canoes, the same way the Mayan ancestors did, from Pole (Xcaret) by the waters of the Caribbean Sea, to the park of Chankanaab on the Island Kuzamil (Cozumel).

o   Barceló Maya Entertainment Center – As part of a multi-million dollar renovation project, Barcelo Maya Beach Resort complex will boast a new Barceló Maya Entertainment Center complete with a sports bar, bowling alley, teen disco, new kids club, full waterpark, paddle tennis courts and redesign of the 18-hole miniature golf course.

Barceló Bávaro Palace Deluxe (Punta Cana, Dominican Republic)

o   Family Club Services – Family Club services begin immediately upon arrival as kids will be greeted with a welcome bag, including suntan lotion, mini slippers, a mini robe, and a pass to access the water park. Adults can enjoy a welcome cocktail at the Bar Las Olas with entertainment before settling in to a specially designed room, with a specific area for children to play and sleep.

o   Barcy Kids Club – Kids will keep busy with a plethora of activities offered through the Barcy Kids Club, available for children ages 4 to 12 years old. A group of trained staff supervise and keep the children entertained with beach walks, balloon competitions, films, beach volleyball, sandcastles, dance classes, mini disco and afternoons at the children’s waterpark.

o   Merengue Festival – The Merengue Festival, a celebration of the Dominican Republic’s favorite music and dance, will take place July 25 – August 10, 2014 in Santo Domingo. Visitors will celebrate with non-stop music, shows, concerts, parades, fairs and parties in the streets. The festival’s food, art exhibitions, games, and other activities draw thousands of tourists every year.

Seasonal rates start at $215 per room, based on double occupancy, and children 12 and under are only $60. Summer vacations can be booked by calling 1-800-227-2356  (www.barcelo.com).

A Family Adventure Bear Grylls-Style in California

I am going to have to put my adventure pants on — this might be too crazy for me — but I would do it for my family. Bear Grylls, the man behind television shows such as “Man vs. Wild”, has launched an adventure program for families and adults. The Bear Grylls Survival Academy offers a rare chance for a lucky few outdoor enthusiasts from around the globe to learn Bear’s extreme survival techniques. And, lucky for us Californians, it’s not far away. The academy is located in Oakhurst, Calif., near the entrance to Yosemite National Park. 

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First launched in Scotland in 2012, the Bear Grylls Team is bringing the adventure to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and further afield in New York’s Catskills and Colorado’s Rocky Mountains in Spring 2014.  The Academy, designed by Bear Grylls himself, will be run by his close team of highly trained experts and professional mountaineers.

Dates are scheduled from June through August for 24-hour adult, 24-hour family as well as the more intensive five-day course for adults. There’s even time to get that adventurous gift for mom on Mother’s Day — gift certificates are currently available.