Tag Archives: summer

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).

FamilyFun Magazine Announces Travel Award Winners

FamilyFun magazine announces travel award winners. // (c) 2014 FamilyFun
FamilyFun magazine announces travel award winners. // (c) 2014 FamilyFun

For those who want to know where the best family-friendly travel spots in the U.S. are, FamilyFun magazine has announced the winners of its Travel Awards. Family travel destinations were ranked by families across the U.S. in a variety of categories, including kid-friendly cities, zoos and aquariums, and theme parks.

From Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park to The Strong Museum in New York, locations across the country were selected as the top spots by region. Check out the list of your regional winners below and visit facebook.com/FamilyFun to vote for your area as the “Most Fun Region.”

Top Destinations by Region


1. The Strong, NY

2. Hershey Park, PA

3. Bronx Zoo, NY

4. Acadia National Park, ME

5. New York, NY


1. Disneyland Park, CA

2. Disney California Adventure

3. Yellowstone National Park, WY, MT, & ID

4. Yosemite National Park, CA

5. Sea World, San Diego, CA


1. Magic Kingdom Park, FL

2. Universal’s Islands of Adventure, FL

3. Orlando, FL

4. Universal Studios Florida

5. Disney’s Animal Kingdom, FL


1. Cedar Point Amusement Park, OH

2. Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD

3. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, NE

4. Toledo Zoo, OH

5. Brookfield Zoo, IL

Making Black Bean Tamales

One of my favorite activities on my recent trip to Veracruz, Mexico, was learning to make and wrap black bean tamales. Our experience, orchestrated by tour operator Yambigapan, started at a local farm where we picked the banana leaves that would wrap our tamales for cooking.

We chose the leaves we wanted to wrap our tamales in. // (c) Janeen Christoff
We chose the leaves we wanted to wrap our tamales in. // (c) Janeen Christoff

After a light hike nearby, we headed to Yambigapan’s rural home-stay facility, located on a bluff over looking a small valley.

We hiked through an abandoned textile factory and along a river. // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff
We hiked through an abandoned textile factory and along a river. // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff

From the home, you can walk to the Laguna Encantada for boat rides or hike to a variety of destinations including the Volcan San Martin. Our group was their to experience local culinary traditions – specifically tamale-making.

Tamales are made in a traditional kitchen. // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff
Tamales are made in a traditional kitchen. // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff

We started by chopping chepil, a Mexican herb that is somewhat similar to coriander.

Chepil // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff
Chepil // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff

Then we kneeded the masa (tamale dough). You are gonna need a lot of muscle for this.

Kneeding the masa // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff
Kneeding the masa // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff

Then came the hard part, folding the tamales in the leaves. It’s actually not that hard. You just plop a blob of masa onto the leaf and then fold the tamale like an American flag.

Tamale folding demonstration // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff
Tamale folding demonstration // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff

Pop ‘em in the oven for a while, launch some globos (paper lanterns, which we also learned how to make), listen to some jarocho son music and voila, you have dinner.

The finished product: yummy black bean tamales // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff
The finished product: yummy black bean tamales // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff


Pets Get Their Own Hotel at the Grand Canyon

Traveling with pets is easy at the Grand Canyon // Creative Commons
Traveling with pets is easy at the Grand Canyon // Perry McKenna Creative Commons

Furry friends rejoice, the Grand Canyon’s pet resort means that you can lap up luxury while your humans soak up the scenery.

Nearly everyone who boards the Grand Canyon Railroad (GCR) in Williams, located next to the south rim of the Grand Canyon, arrives by car and many travel with their family dog or cat in tow. While pet parents enjoy a trip into the canyon or an extended stay at the hotel, pets can stay at the GCR Pet Resort, which boasts an entire residential wing for pets: 28 spacious rooms for dogs and 16 condos for felines. Served by a caring and attentive staff, The GCR Pet Resort is a modern retreat for pet parents who want to experience the iconic Route 66 in the town of Williams, a historic train ride and take in the splendor of the Grand Canyon without leaving their four-legged family members at home or in a kennel far away.

The pet resort is located adjacent to the GCR Railway, Hotel and RV Park. Daily rates begin at $16 for cats and $23 for dogs, with the option of adding a second cat or dog to the same kennel for just $12 and $16 respectively. Extended stays of seven nights or more are available for a weekly rate of $98 for cats and $140 for dogs. Pet owners are encouraged to bring their pet’s favorite foods, beds and toys. All animals must have paperwork to provide proof of current shots.


Favorite Family Travel Destination: Alaska Cruise

Cruising with toddlers
Ava, now an avid cruiser, on a Disney cruise

It’s throwback Thursday, and I’m thinking back on some favorite family travel destinations like this Alaska cruise onboard the Disney Wonder in 2011.