Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cruising with Family: Older Kids and Teens

Cruise Ship Family Vacation
Family Cruise Vacations are wonderful for families with Teens
We've covered kids, toddlers and babies in previous posts of the Cruising with Family series, now let's look at the opposite end of the childhood spectrum: the t(w)eenagers.  Family vacations can be a challenge when some family members are (ahem) less than thrilled with the idea of never-ending family togetherness.  A cruise allows for a nice balance of fun, kid-centric activities with just enough of family time.  Plus, the relatively safe confines of a cruise ship can be a wonderful place for an older kid or teen to experience some independence.  

Preparing for a Cruise with Older Kids and Teenagers:   

  • Well before your vacation, determine how long their leash will be and talk it through, so kids and parents all have the same expectations. 
  • How will you stay in touch when kids are off doing their own thing?  One option is to set a meeting place, and meet up at predetermined times throughout the day.  Another idea is to bring a set of walkie-talkies for easy communication. 
  • Research the kids program options for their age group; depending on your teen’s personality and interests it may – or may not – be a good fit. 
  • The kids program may allow kids over a certain age to sign themselves in and out.  Determine if this is appropriate for your child.
  • Establish ground rules for safety: for example, you may require that they don’t go into staterooms other than your own. 
  • Be sure your kids are familiar with the ship’s safety procedures.  Point out crew members that they could go to, if they’re lost, in trouble, or simply have a question. 
 What does your tween or teen enjoy doing while on a family cruise vacation?

Want to know more about preparing for a family cruise vacation?  Check out the other posts in our Cruising with Family series:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Beach of the Week: Cenang Beach, Langkawi, Malaysia

Cenang Beach, Langkawi, Malaysia
Cenang Beach; a beautiful place to play

Langkawai, an archipelago off of Malaysia, is officially known as the Langkawi Jewel of Kedah – and for good reason!  This beautiful group of islands is host to miles and miles of – you guessed it – gorgeous beaches.  Take Cenang Beach, for example – its white sand and warm turquoise water are bordered by swaying coconut palms.  This is a beach, not only of beauty, but also of action packed fun.  Take your pick of water sports, jet skiing, volley ball, and the like.  Go for a swim, then pick from a wide variety of bars and restaurants for some snacks and libations.  Be sure to stay for the glorious sunset.

What’s your favorite beach activity?

Beach bound?  Stop at SolEscapes.com to stock up on chic sun hats, quick drying swim shirts, travel beach towels, and all those must-haves for your sunny destination!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cruising with Family: Babies (and Toddlers) on Board

Cruise Ship in Tropical Waters with Beach
Cruising is a great way for kids to get a taste of the Tropics

Our last post of the Cruising with Family series talked about packing for a cruise with kids.  Let's take that a step further: if you have an infant or toddler, packing for a family cruise has the extra challenge of dealing with the “big gear”.  Babies may be small, but they sure require a lot of stuff!  Luckily, you don't have to tote all of it along, here are some pointers for packing for your cruise:

A Stroller on a Cruise?

Many suggest bringing a stroller for younger children, as it will come in handy for shore excursions, walking through airport and cruise terminal and even for naps on the cruise ship.  An umbrella stroller may be your best bet, since it’s lightweight and compact (a large stroller may be difficult to get in and out of stateroom, and is bulkier to store).  Find out if the cruise ship rents strollers by the day, this could be ideal if you’ll just need one for shore excursions.

Sleeping Arrangements On Board

Cruise ships will have several options, depending on the age of your child.  For infants and toddlers, contact the cruise line beforehand to reserve a crib or pack n’ play for your stateroom.  For preschoolers, find out how tall the bed is, and if it has a bed-rail.  Some parents feel comfortable placing a rolled up blanket at the edge of the bed (underneath the fitted sheet) to act as a quasi-bed-rail.  Some family staterooms have bunk beds, so be sure that such an arrangement is appropriate to the age of your child.

Bathing your Little One

Does your stateroom have a bathtub, or just a shower?  For the tub-less, a small inflatable bathtub is useful for bathing infants and tots.

Feeding Baby on a Cruise

Baby food availability and guidelines vary by cruiseline and even by cruise ship, so do your homework.  Find out if your cruise line permits baby food to brought on board, if they sell baby food on board, or if the kitchens will puree or mash food for infants.  Formula and breast milk are allowed; find out if your ship will have bottle warmers available, or if you’re able to bring your own.

Basic Baby Necessities on a Cruise Vacation

Some cruise lines sell diapers and formula on board, others don’t.  Find out what your ship will stock, and be sure to pack accordingly (when in doubt, pack more diapers!).  Many cruise lines contract with services that will deliver diapers and other baby gear to your stateroom before you board. 

Do you have a favorite trick for cruising with an infant or toddler?

Want to know more about preparing for a family cruise vacation?  Check out the other posts in our Cruising with Family series:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Beach of the Week: Palm Beach, Aruba

Palm Beach Aruba
Palm Beach, Aruba: perfect place for a fun day in Paradise

Aruba is more than the first word in the chorus of a famous (and earworm-y, sorry) Beach Boys song.  It’s a beautiful destination, full of gorgeous and fun beaches.  

Take Palm Beach, for instance, it’s a 2 mile stretch of sugar white sand, calm aqua water, luxury accommodations, and activities galore.  It would be a wonderful place for a family vacation; the calm waters are suitable for swimming and snorkeling, and the range of water activities and beach amusements keep everyone happy. 

What’s your favorite family beach destination?

SolEscapes gets your family resort vacation ready! 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Cruising with Family: Packing!

Girl sitting on suitcase
Pack Smart for your Cruise Vacation with Kids!

In the first installment of our Cruising with Family series, we discussed some of the initial research you'll do when preparing for a family cruise.  Now let's dive into the nitty-gritty of any vacation preparation: packing!

Packing for a cruise is, in many ways, just like packing for any other vacation (and we have some great tips for packing for vacation!).  But when packing for a family cruise there are some special considerations.  

Necessary Items for a Family Cruise Vacation

  • Any cruise will include a lot of time outdoors, so pack plenty of sun protection for the whole family.  Sun hats are key, as well as a high quality broad spectrum sunscreen.
  • Many cruises have one or two formal dining nights.  Determine how this will impact your family and if you’ll need to pack some fancy duds for your kids.
  • With the popularity of the ship’s pool and the potential for beachy shore excursions, be sure to update your kids’ swimwear.  For cute comfort and great sun protection, a children's swim shirt or rash guard is ideal. 
  • If your child takes medication, be sure to bring a proper amount in its original packaging (with labels).  Medication and medical equipment should be hand carried on-board (not checked in luggage).  Be sure to check with your cruiseline for specific regulations regarding medications.

Fitting All Your Stuff into a Cruise Ship Stateroom

  • Cruise ship staterooms can be small, and will feel smaller yet when filled with a family and its belongings.  Pack light where it makes sense, and use suitcases that aren't exceptionally large, so you can stow them out of the way under a bed or in a closet.
  • Related: your cruise ship probably offers laundry service and/or has laundry facilities on-board.  It can be worthwhile to take advantage of this so you can pack less clothing.
  • It’s probably common sense, but be aware of items that you may not bring on board.  Kid-related items that aren’t typically allowed on a cruise ship include toy weapons, wheeled shoes, sporting equipment, pool toys, coolers over a certain size and certain electronics (such as gaming systems). 

 Kids and Cruising; Helpful Advice

  • Prepare for downtime.  Getting to the ship may be a voyage unto itself.  Plan plenty of entertainment for your kids for downtime at the airport, on the airplane and at the cruise terminal (here are some helpful ideas for entertaining kids while traveling).
  • Similarly, prepare for quiet time while on the ship.  Many kids (and parents) will need breaks from all the activity and commotion of a cruise ship.  Bring small toys and books that they can quietly enjoy while in your stateroom. 
  • Bringing food on board is regulated, for example, opened food packages and homemade food are not permitted.  If your family has particular requirements due to food allergies or a special diet, be sure you know the guidelines, contacting the cruise line for clarification.

Seasickness and Kids

As you're packing, don't forget this unsavory issue: seasickness.  Motion sickness is no fun for anyone, so plan ahead.  Even kids that don’t typically get carsick may have a different reaction to the motion of a ship at sea. 
  • A popular seasickness remedy is Sea Bands; wrist bands that apply pressure to a certain point on the wrist.  They do not contain any medication, are sold over the counter, and considered safe for anyone to use.
  • There are many other seasickness medications available, both prescription and over the counter.  If you feel seasickness will be an issue for your child, be sure to discuss options with your Pediatrician.    
  • Ginger, in all its forms, is a popular seasickness remedy.  Ginger ale, gingersnap cookies, ginger candy, ginger gum, etc. are easy to find and may provide some yummy relief.

What must-have item do you include on your family cruise packing list?

Want to know more about preparing for a family cruise vacation?  Check out the other posts in our Cruising with Family series:

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Beach of the Week: Anse Lazio, Seychelles

Anse Lazio Beach, Seychelles
Spectacular Anse Lazio Beach in the Seychelles

2015 is off to a (relatively) chilly start here in Northern California, so spectacular Anse Lazio is awfully tempting.  This beach, on Praslin Island of the Seychelles, is a tropical haven.  The white sands are bordered on one side by the turquoise sea, on the other side by dense, leafy jungle, and on the two ends by huge granite boulders.  Strolling on the sand, swimming, relaxing, and soaking in the beauty are all wonderful ways to spend the day at Anse Lazio.

Where would you like to be today?    

SolEscapes and Winter Getaways go hand in hand!  Stock up on all of your resort and cruise vacation necessities!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Cruising with Family: Planning Your Adventure

Cruising with Family
Family Cruises are the best!
A cruise vacation is such a wonderful way to travel with family.  There is, quite literally, something for everyone on a cruise.  Activities, food and accommodations – it’s all covered.  

Preparing for a cruise – especially when the kids are coming along - can be a big task, but we’d like to help you out by offering some information to help you prepare for a family cruise with our Cruising with Family series.

For our first installment, let's talk about the planning you'll do well before you embark.  Do some research about your cruise, to find out what they offer for kids, and what the restrictions are.  Share your findings with your kids, so they can start to form a picture of the fun activities they’ll get to be involved in.  

Planning a family cruise; what to look for:

  • Most cruise lines have a minimum age for infants, and this age may vary by destination (for example, voyages that have more days at sea may have a higher minimum age).
  • Familiarize yourself with the age guidelines for your cruise line’s kids program.  Some cruise lines offer nurseries for infants, while others start at age 2 or 3.  
  • Kids programs are broken into age groups, so find out which group(s) your children will be eligible for.  
  • The age requirements for nighttime babysitting may differ from the daytime program, so look into that as well.
  • Dining options abound on any cruise, some will cater to families, others may be a better fit for adults.  
  • Not all shore excursions are appropriate for younger children, so be sure to read the fine print when booking them.
  • Most cruise lines offer adult-only areas where kids under a certain age are not permitted.
  • Pool access may not be limited by age, but U.S. regulations prohibit children that aren’t toilet trained from using pools or spas on cruise ships.  However, some ships offer splash pad facilities where tots in swim diapers are welcome.

What research did you find most helpful when planning for a cruise with kids?

Want to know more about preparing for a family cruise vacation?  Check out the other posts in our Cruising with Family series: