Must Haves for the Family Staycation — Toddler/Baby Travel Edition

Families who are going on staycations might not realize it but you really need to pack all of the things that you would be packing if you were going on a full vacation.  One of the things that I have struggled with in the past is leaving a must have item at home.  The following is a short list of the must have items that you need when you are traveling on a family staycation with a toddler or baby.

The Perfect Stroller

…with one kiddo

Finding a great stroller is something that I have always struggled with.  I have tried to find something that would be easy to push and maneuver while still fitting nicely in my car.  Joovy offers a great line of single strollers where you can find a match to meet your specific needs.

…with two or more kiddos

Finding a double stroller that is going to meet your needs for a staycation can be tough.  Let's face it, you want something that is going to work for you and something that is going to be functional.  You want a double stroller that is not too bulky when you are traveling because you have so much to pack when you have a family. 

Well that is a tall bill to fit for a stroller.  Most double strollers fail in one of these areas.  The smaller lightweight models are generally not easy to push or navigate.  The larger models are usually too big to easily be packed along with you.  What are you to do? 

Well look no further, the Joovy Caboose VaryLight double stroller is the perfect choice for you to be able to go on your staycation and have a stroller that you can easily use.  The stroller is easy to push, navigates well, can be changed from a single stroller to a double with a few simple clicks and really works great for your everyday needs and beyond.

Joovy VL

As a mom of four I have owned my fair share of double strollers.  I really have not loved many of them.  In fact, most of the time I have disliked having a double stroller all together.  I have struggled with trying to find one that I could use and one that would be convenient for my family.  The Joovy Caboose VaryLight is all of those things.

An Appropriate Fitting Baby Carrier

Baby carriers are great for those short trips where you do not want to drag out the stroller.  They are also perfect for places where your stroller might not fit, like a mirror maze.

Comfortable Carseats

Your child is going to be happier when they sit in a carseat that they love.  I have learned the hard way that you really need to test out carseats before you purchase them and your child is riding in them. Thankfully stores like Buy Buy Baby and Babies R Us offer you the chance to check them out with your child before you purchase them.

A Great Place to Nap

Your child will need a great place to sleep and nap.  There are a lot of easy portable options out there that are perfect for travel and will keep your little one safe.

Traveling away from home for a staycation does not need to be complicated.  These things will make it a little easier for you if you are traveling away from home with a baby or toddler.

Choosing a Staycation Location — A Look at Our Staycation in The Quad Cities

Finding a great place to take a staycation is not something that is particularly easy.  Recently I was able to take advantage of an amazing opportunity for a staycation close to home in the Quad Cities (IL/IA). 

Here is a little bit about our trip and some great information about where we stayed and what we did.

Tips to Find the Right Staycation for Your Family

Find Comfortable Accomodations


One of the great things about staying in the Quad Cities for this trip was that we were offered comfortable accomodations at the Holiday Inn & Suites (4215 Elmore Ave, Davenport IA).  The rooms were very nice and comfortable.  We had 2 rooms that were connected.  One room was a standard King room and the other was a King one bedroom suite.  I loved being able to have enough space for all four of our kids to have a nice night's sleep.  Plus my husband and I were able to relax in bed in the mornings while the kids watched cartoons and enjoyed some breakfast.

Find Fun and Affordable Things to Do

Moline, IL is home to John Deere tractors.  The John Deere Pavillion (1400 River Drive, Moline IL) offers free attractions for the whole family.  On some days then even offer free family friendly activities that you can take advantage of.  Tractor enthusiasts and little boys will love being able to see all of the different tractors from the classics to the modern.  To be honest, I really love this attraction as it is a lot of fun for the whole family.

Find Attractions That Teach Your Child Something


There are many different attractions that you can find where your child can learn something.  In the Quad Cities the Putnam Museum (1717 W. 12th St, Davenport IA) is one of those places.  I really learned a lot about the areas and there were a ton of hands on exhbists that were fun and interactive for the kids.  We were here for about half of a day and there was definitely a lot more exploring that we could have done.  I really loved that the museum had exhibits that were interesting for my oldest son, Andrew, who is 11 as well as my youngest daughter, Adeline, who is 3. 

Find Family Friendly Attractions


Family friendly attractions are some of the most fun.  The Family Museum (2900 Learning Campus Dr, Bettendorf IA) is one place that my husband and I had previously visited with our children.  We had not been in a few years and it had really been through some great renovations since then.  My 11 year old found the building area to be a lot of fun but the rest seemed to be a bit boring for him.  The younger three were happy to explore the entire museum and had a great time playing and learning wiht the exhibits. 

Find Fun Things That Put the Area On the Map


If you are going to be in the Quad Cities one place that you must visit is Lagomarcino's (1422 5th Ave, Moline IL).  Lagomarcino's is a small candy store and soda fountain that has been around since 1908.  We were treated to some of the most amazing hot fudge sundaes that I have ever eaten.  The kids loved picking out a piece of candy to enjoy later in the day at the hotel as well.  I will admit that I was very impressed with both the chocolate that I tried and the amazing sundae that I ate.  A number of famous foodies have reviewed the hot fudge sundaes and talked about them as well.

Traking a staycation is a great alternative to your standard vacation.  It is also a great way to check out some of the local hot spots that you might not have visited before.  If you are thinking about visiting the Quad Cities then you should definitely check out Visit Quad Cities for more information on what is available.


The Great Smoky Mountains – February 2015 Real Family Travel

smokycoversmallWelcome to the first issue of the all new Real Family Travel. I want to thank you for stopping by to check us out. We really are thrilled that you are here. 


This month we are featuring the Great Smoky Mountains. What a beautiful part of the United States. The Smoky Mountains are located in the eastern part of Tennessee and western portions of North Carolina. 


Inside this months issue you'll find the history of the Smoky Mountains. Lists of where to eat, where to sleep, and even the top attractions of the region.


We also look at getaways for Mom and Dad, what to wear, how to save money and even what happens during Christmas. 


This issue has everything you need for a great adventure in the Smoky Mountains. Check it out. 


Check out the Great Smoky Mountains

What to Look for in a Resort

Being a mom of four means that I have a lot of specifics that I am looking for when I try to find a resort.  One of the things that I loved about our vacation to the Gatlinburg area was being able to stay at the Wilderness at the Smokies was that the resort really did meet all of my personal needs as well as those of my family.

I thought that I would share some of my favorite tips for choosing a resort or hotel.

Tips to Choose the Right Resort

  • Find a resort that is going to offer entertainment for everyone.  The Wilderness at the Smokies offers four different water parks on their property.  While three are outdoors, one is indoors so it allows for gusts to enjoy a waterpark regardless of when they are traveling to the resort.

wilderness 1

  • Look for a resort that features the kinds of food that your family eats on site.  While I do not always eat the hotels/resorts where we stay having the option to eat there is great.  The worst is when you do not want to head out to eat but you have to because there is nothing to eat at the hotel or there is not something that everyone in your family will eat.  The Wilderness at the Smokies offers guests a number of different menus to choose from with eight dining options on site.

wilderness 2

  • Another thing that I always find to be a great service at hotels is comfortable accomodations.  You want to make sure that the rooms are accomodating to your and your family regardless of how many of you there are.  When we stayed at the Wilderness at the Smokies we had great accomodations that were perfect for our family of six.  This is not always the case since we are a family of six, a lot of hotels are not very easy for us to stay in together.

wilderness 3

Things Every Parent Needs to Remember

Of course there are a few things that parents should remember when going to a resort.  Make sure that you know when you are able to check in an check out before you arrive.  It is not a good situation to arrive before check in and try to entertain your kids without having a room.  Pack a few things to entertain your children in your room and make sure that you have some healthy snacks with you as well.  Keeping your hotel room clean and picked up will help ease stress and make it simple for your children to find their things that they might be looking for.

It is possible for any family to choose the right resort and you will be glad that you took the time to make sure that the resort met your needs when you are staying there.

Get more about the Smoky Mountains in our February issue of Real Family Travel.

Beautiful Breckenridge, The Perfect Fall Family Vacation Destination

Breckenridge, Colorado is a fantastic place to take your family for an adventurous fall vacation. A gorgeous Victorian town, steeped in history and culture, Breckenridge provides many opportunities for families to explore, learn, and enjoy themselves. 


As Breckenridge got its start in mining, many of the more popular activities in town are related to the miners, their work, and their daily lives. You can pan for gold and make your way over 1,000 feet below the surface at the Country Boy Mine. The tour takes you down into one of Breckenridge’s most historical mines. Wear a hard hat, listen to the stories of the 19th century miners, and slide down a 55-foot ore chute. When you finally emerge from the mine shafts, pet a soft burro and try your hand at panning for gold!


The Country Boy Mine is just one way to explore Breckenridge’s fascinating history. Breckenridge Stables brings the past to life with Wild West horseback tours. Families with kids of all ages can experience the incredible scenery at the town’s outskirts by taking a guided tour up between the mountain peaks. 


If horse rides aren’t your thing, and your children have a flair for creativity, why not stop by the Arts District? Ready, Paint, Fire is set up for families to enjoy. From pottery and painting to stencils and stickers, Ready, Paint, Fire is a veritable fount of inspiration. 


The Mountain Top Children’s Museum and the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance both provide hands-on activities for kids of all ages, from puppets and telescopes to construction vehicles and dress-up. Not only are the activities fun and interactive, they relate to local history, science, and more. 


Breckenridge has many activities for older kids as well, including the Breck Summer Fun Park and the free Breckenridge Skateboard Park. The Summer Fun Park is everything a small amusement park ought to be, complete with roller coasters and gigantic slides, trampolines and gondola rides; while the Skateboard Park’s main attraction is it’s 9-foot deep bowl. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, whip out your GPS and go on a geo-cache quest! 


Breckenridge has so much to offer, including trail rides, mine tours, museums, and more! Add in the gorgeous hues of fall, and you have a perfect family vacation destination!

Meet The Heddermans


The Heddermans, a family of six, used to live a typical American lifestyle. For years, they worked and played in Eire, Pennsylvania, taking week long annual vacations and spending their days in what Domini Hedderman describes as a “mindless family rut.” Life as they knew it continued, monotonously, until Domini and her husband Kevin both lost parents to cancer. The tragedy was the start of a life-changing sequence of events. “It was,” Domini writes, “as though someone picked our life up and shook it; everything we counted on before, like material possessions, busy schedules, and ego-based activities, became meaningless and inconsequential when viewed through our new lenses of tragic loss.”


Taking a leap of faith, they let go of the routines they’d had for years and slowly adapted to a new on-the-road lifestyle, beginning with a short trip to Costa Rica and then easing into a six month trip to Belize. They did not find it easy, to begin with. Like everyone who sets out upon something new, the Heddermans found themselves confronted with the usual fears. Was traveling safe? What about their business back home? How would they as a family cope with being away for so long? “All of these concerns faded once we were in Belize,” Domini says. “We found that fear is useless and only holds us back. We now use the analogy of fear as a cliff. Most people see the cliff, sense danger, and turn back. But if you take the risk and just commit to going over and trusting yourself, you jump and realize you don’t fall… you learn to fly.” 


The trip to Belize changed the Heddermans’s lives; so much so that Domini decided to write a book about the experience. Exit Normal covers Domini's own adventures with her family, and encourages others to change their own lives, challenge their lifestyles, and live their dreams. The Heddermans are now preparing to start a new journey, this time across America.

Welcome non-iPad readers!

We listened to our friends on Real Family Travel magazine's Facebook page and have now released our 1st non-iPad version of our magazine.

Honestly, it was a LOT of work, but I think the results will speak for themselves.

There is a sample you can check out on our Subscribe page.  This is the same "viewer" we are using to deliver the magazine issues.

I hope those of you who don't own iPads will enjoy reading what we believe is the best family travel magazine available online.

Thanks so much for your support!  We look forward to bringing you lots of great family travel articles throughout 2013.

The December Issue is live!

The December issue of Real Family Travel Magazine is now live on Apple's Newsstand!

Real Family Travel Magazine - Dec 2012

This month, we're zig zagging the planet again!  We've got articles about Vienna, New Zealand, Germany, Santa Fe, and Honduras.  You'll be inspired by one family's trip to Southeast Asia to volunteer with their daughter who is in a wheelchair.  Jenn Miller will encourage you to consider what it really means when you leave it all to travel.  Dr. Jessie Voigts shares why she and her husband love traveling with their daughter.

We also have some great tips about flying as a family…and hopefully it will take away some of the anxiety air travel brings.

Lastly, we have an interview with Justin Mussler of The Great Family Escape.  His family is just embarking on their long term travel plans, so you can get some insight into what has pushed their family to make a dramatic change.

We KNOW you're going to love this issue!