Archive for the ‘road trip’ Category

iPhone Art Installation Idea

I’m not a veteran business traveller. That’s probably why I get so stressed when getting ready for a trip. I worry that I forgot to pack something, that I’ll have some sort of issue going through secruity, I’ll miss my flight or worst yet, I’ll misplace my iPhone.

Misplacing my iPhone is a worry that hits me every once in a while but the concern was especially on my mind this trip since I was trying Westjet‘s e-boarding pass. This meant I didn’t have to print my boarding pass since it was emailed to me electronically. This also meant that if I misplaced my phone I couldn’t board the plane.

I forgot how many times you actually have to show your boarding pass when at the airport. Every time I pulled my phone out and handed it over, I worried about losing it or leaving it behind.

Which leads me to my art installation idea. (Funny what goes through your mind in high stress situations).

If you found someone’s iPhone unattended your first reaction would probably be to pick it up and see if you can find out who it belongs to, maybe try to call the owner. At least that would probably be my reaction. But you know there are some who would look at this as an opportunity, a free phone to use, even for just one call, maybe try to jailbreak it or sell it for cash.

What if you could trigger the phone to take a picture of the person holding it. As soon as someone touches the screen or presses the button, the phone’s camera is triggered. The image would appear on-screen with a message: ‘ah, ah, ah, you’ve been caught trying to use a phone that isn’t yours. I have your photo and it’s been sent to the authorities.’

As each person’s guilt sets in, they drop the phone, opening the opportunity for another person (and another photo).

Each photo could be uploaded automatically to a website, creating a history of faces and places where the phone travels. Now of course I’m not technically savvy enough to do this. And even if I was, I certainly wouldn’t chance my phone. but I’m tossing this out there for someone else to try. Mean? Mabye. Legal? Maybe not. But wouldn’t you want to who ended up on that website?

Now to start packing and obsession about my trip home. [Breath in. Breath out.]

The Best Vacation and Why

The memories of our recent visit to Hawaii still linger in my mind (excluding the disappointing start with United Airlines). I’m sure most people would agree that any vacation is a good vacation but a good vacation isn’t necessarily the best. As a family we’ve taken quite a few vacations but my husband and I both agree that this last trip was by far our best.

But what makes this trip so much better than our last trips? What should we plan next time to ensure we have one of the best family vacations? Here’s what worked for us:

Time and Timing
We were away on vacation for about 10 days, much longer than our regular vacations. I know with school schedules and work demands, taking an extended vacation can be difficult but if you can swing it, do. Flying to Hawaii took us 15-hours, 3 planes and a 5-hour timezone change. It took the family almost 2 days to really get settled into vacation mode, including adjusting from jet lag and loosing all the stresses of work and home behind. And you know prior to a vacation ending your mind will already start thinking ahead to what has to be accomplished when you get home. An extended vacation ensures you still get quality vacation time after these adjustment days. There’s nothing worse than going away for a week and just getting settled in when you have to head home.

We also like to travel on non-peak times. This usually means during school time but it also means less crowds (and usually less heat). Visiting Hawaii at the end of January, also their winter, is a low season but the weather was perfect, sunny yet not too hot. It can also be their rainy season but we were fortunate and didn’t get hit with one bad weather day; that’s saying a lot for a 10 day trip.

Location, Location, Location
Well you can’t go wrong with visiting Hawaii in general I’m assuming. We had never been before so we just stumbled upon the Island of O’ahu, Waikiki specifically. Most people commented on how we should have planned our trip to the Island of Maui, that Waikiki was a little too touristy. But for a first time visitor I think Waikiki is perfect; it offered a nice transition from the big city to a taste of paradise. Perhaps another time will get a chance to visit Maui but I don’t regret our Waikiki visit at all.

Our hotel, the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach, offered both great access to Waikiki Beach as well as the bustling atmosphere of Waikiki itself. The Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach is located right on Waikiki Beach. We could walk off the elevator right out to the sand. And out the front door of the hotel was Waikiki’s main street, with restaurants and shops and entertaining street life. It was wonderful.

The People
Of course the people in our hotel were amazing, from the front desk to the cleaning and maintenance staff. They always had a smile on their face and a pleasant greeting. Matt, the gentleman who taught the cultural activities at the hotel, remember my kids and was so helpful and friendly; Ryan, our server at Hula Grill, remembered what the kids ordered and always made sure we were happy. But it wasn’t just the hotel staff; cab drivers, police offers walking the streets, shop keepers, everyone seemed very pleasant and happy to be there.

This was our first trip to Hawaii but I think after our amazing experience it won’t be our last. Be sure to visit the Family Travel section on EverythingMom over the next few days as I will be sharing more detailed reviews on the hotel, some of the restaurants we enjoyed as well as activities while visiting O’ahu.

Vacation Frowns Brought to You by United Airlines

The bags were packed. Boarding passes printed. Kids hyped about heading to Hawaii for the first time. All in all this was turning out to be a great vacation.

I’ll admit I’m not a frequent flyer. Most of my travel is vacation oriented with my family. I had never flown with United Airlines before either but we paid to upgrade to their Economy Plus seats for more leg room and to ensure we were all sitting together (we were travelling with three kids 8 and under). We couldn’t get a non-stop flight to Honolulu from Buffalo, the city we started our journey from, but we were able to book a flight with just one stopover in Chicago. When you’re traveling with kids in tow, the least amount of stopovers is ideal.

The 9-hour second length of our trip would be long but fortunately the 777 plane we were scheduled to fly was equipped with a centre row of 5 seats; I was able to book the whole family to sit together in one row, our own row. We’ve never been able to do that before so I was sort of looking forward to that part of the trip.

Then we arrived at the airport and smiles turned into frowns thanks to United Airlines.

When we arrived early for our 8 a.m. flight, we were told it would be delayed by an hour and half. This of course meant our initial connecting flight, tight but doable in an hour, would be missed. We were rerouted. Now instead of it being a 12-hour flight with a short, single stopover in Chicago, we were now head for a 15-hour journey consisting of a stopover in both Chicago and Las Angeles.

I know what you’re thinking, delays happen when traveling. And sure, if there had been bad weather, such as a snowstorm, I couldn’t fault the airline over that; they have no control over the weather. But snow wasn’t the issue; weather wasn’t the issue. It seems our plane was delayed arriving the night before. Safety regulations require that the crew receive a specific amount of rest before their next flight. This meant that they wouldn’t be able to fly out as originally planned. I have no issue with the regulation. I know how draining flying ca be as a passenger let alone someone who’s flying the plane. No, the issue I have is that United Airlines didn’t schedule another crew. By delaying the initial flight to Chicago, United Airlines inconvenienced hundreds of passengers, their customers. Connections would be missed, flights rerouted; the plane itself, if scheduled for a follow-up flight, would be delayed affecting a whole other set of passengers. It was a ripple effect.

How hard would it have been to schedule a new crew, inconvenience their employees not their customers? Perhaps I’m being naive but if their pilot became sick the night before would they just postpone or cancel all that pilot’s flights for the next day? I’m guessing not. They would have brought a new pilot on so what makes this case different?

Now on the remaining two legs of our trip we would have to negotiate with gate staff and other passengers to ensure we could not only get our Economy Plus seats we paid for but also ensure we could sit together as a family, or at the very least have each child sitting with at least one parent.

To make matters worse, just as we were getting ready to pull away from the docking platform the pilot announced that the tractor used to pull the plane out wasn’t working and they needed to get a new one. Plus the plane needed to be de-iced. This would mean an additional delay of 20-minutes. Now you would think that United Airlines, knowing that their customers already weren’t happy with the delay, would make every effort to ensure there were no further delays on this flight. Now there was concern that our already rescheduled flights would have to be rescheduled, again.

Thankfully our two stopovers were short and since the planes were domestic we didn’t need to worry about checking in again or collecting our bags. The gate attendants were very helpful in ensuring that each child was sitting with a parent. The rest of the trip went without any delays or complications. The extra delay pushed us from an afternoon arrival into an evening one. This made for very tired and cranky kids but at least we were there on the same day and our vacation was about to start.

We head home on United Airlines with the intention of flying with one stopover and sitting together. Hopefully our return journey will go much smoother, ending on a positive note.

Now on the remaining two legs of our trip we would have to negotiate gate staff and other passengers to ensure we could not only get our Economy Plus seats we paid for but also ensure we could sit together as a family, or at the very least have each child sitting with at least one parent.

This thought still fresh in my mind, the pilot made an announcement just as we were preparing to pull away from the docking platform. Now you would think that United Airlines, knowing that their customers already weren’t happy with the delay, would make every effort to ensure there were no further delays on this flight. I guess they forgot this when they announced there would be an additional 20-minute delay due to equipment malfunction (the tractor that pulls the plane away from the docking station wasn’t working) and de-icing. Now there was concern that our already rescheduled flights would have to be rescheduled, again.

Although our vacation started with stress and frowns and yes it could have gotten off on

Was That Gun Fire?

We’ve been cleaning out our basement, our whole house actually. We certainly do accumulate a lot of stuff. Some things have been sitting around forever, waiting for that ‘someday I’ll use this’ kind of day. As I was taking garbage outside I noticed a bag my husband found downstairs. I had assumed it was garbage so I added it to my pile. But something inside me begged me to peek in the bag. Good thing too as the bag has little firecrackers in them. Can you imagine garbage day this week with boxes of these things being crushed in the back of the truck. Okay, maybe part of me wanted to actually see what would happen but my more thought out part vetoed that experiment.

Every time we take a road trip to the United States we pass a proliferation of fireworks warehouse stores. Every time we pass them my husband is drawn to them like a magnet. The problem is of course that we’re not allowed to bring them back over the border. Usually just wondering the fireworks store is enough to fill his need but on occasion he does get the urge to purchase something and it’s usually these small popper like firecrackers. Then they sit at home in our basement.

But what to do with firecrackers if you can’t toss them out (and don’t say soak them in water because that answer in no fun at all). There really is only one logical answer to this question. Set them off of course.

On our walk to the local pub for dinner last night the kids took turns tossing these Nitro Snaps. There sort of like caps; you throw them at a hard surface and they let off an audible pop and spark. The kids tossed them on the sidewalk, on the street at signposts, in the streetcar shelter . Our whole walk to and from the pub was full of POP, SNAP, BANG.

A few pedestrians walking by actually jumped a little and others quickened their pace. Nothing like ending your weekend with a BANG!

Getting Ready For Our Date with Elmo and Friends

I must give my 3-year old credit. Tomorrow the two of us leave for the Beaches Resorts in Turks and Caicos. We’re off to tour and experience what the resort has to offer for the Everything Mom Family Travel Section. One of the features my daughter is really interested in is the Sesame Street characters. Beaches Resorts and Sesame Street have had a partnership for a few years. From baking cookies with Cookie Monster to going on a treasure hunt with Abbie Cadabbie. We received our itinerary for the media event and the first morning we’re scheduled to have breakfast with all the Sesame Street characters.

My daughter’s been talking about the trip every day, counting down the number of sleeps until we go. She’s even been reading her Elmo story book. One more sleep and she’ll be seeing Elmo in person.

Thanksgiving Outing: Leaves, Running and Slide Stunts

Last weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving which we celebrated at my mom’s house north of the city. My sister and her ever increasing family were coming over to celebrate with us on the Sunday so we arrived a day early. This gave me time to spend with my mom and the kids to hang out with grandma.

My mom’s home backs on to the escarpement so it’s like a natural wonderland for the kids when we show up.

Not far from my mom’s house is a park with a modernized playground for kids. It’s one of those parks that are suppose to be more accessible to everyone. I loved the musical playground as we entered. They had steel drums and pipe drums the kids could play but my favourite was the standing pipe instrument made with steel and plastic pipes. Kids could run their hands across the pipes to make sound.

They also had a lot of climbing structures and a triple slide. The competitive side of my son had him setting up races between himself and his little sister. But these slides have their own built-in fun with turns and bumps so when my son tried to do some crazy stunt by sliding down on his feet he ended up riding the rail for a short part. Thank goodness he didn’t fall off. Of course I wasn’t quick enough to stop him but I did capture it on the camera. Funny how these things happen.

Remember merry-go-rounds in school playgrounds when you were growing up? I do. They were one of my favourite, running around to make it spin fast and then jumping on to enjoy the ride. I was saddened to hear that many of these merry-go-rounds were actually removed from playgrounds as they were deemed dangerous. But at this playground they had a super structure merry-go-round. Imagine a rope ladder wrapped around in a cone shape then put on a spinning platform. That’s what this was and my two kids loved it. My 3-year old climbed up near the top and sat there as the thing swung around. My son loved jumping in and out of the cone, swinging out from the top and all sorts of crazy stunts. Sounds so much safer than the merry-go-rounds we use to use right? [snort]

Write a Review Wednesday: The Haunted House that Jack Built

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed World School Day Adventure. This week we’re getting into the Halloween spirit with Scholastic’s The Haunted House that Jack Built (age 3-8), written by Helaine Becker and illustrated by David Parkins. I have to thank Nikole at Scholastic Canada for my review copy.

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Jack invites some friends over: a ghost, a ghoul, a mummy, a beast to name a few. They chased and scared and rattled and prowled throughout Jack’s house one Halloween night. Then a monster popped some corn and a whole new side of the Halloween creatures was revealed.

Based on the familiar children’s nursery rhyme,  Helaine adds a fun Halloween twist in her book The Haunted House that Jack Built. I’ll be honest, I’m a big fan of holiday books; we have a whole shelf devoted just to them. My kids love them too and nothing gets you into the Halloween spirit more than a fun ghost and ghouly book.

Although we’re talking about monsters and things that go bump in the night, the creatures illustrated in The Haunted House that Jack Built are all fun in nature, nothing to scary. Like the original rhyme, kids will quickly catch on to the repetitive nature of the story and enjoy reading along. And the surprise at the end will delight everyone.

If you want to add The Haunted House that Jack Built to your personal library, visit your local bookstore. For other great books for kids, read through some of the previous Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Riding the Subway

Today my 3-year old and I had to head downtown for a media event so what better way to get there than by subway. My daughter enjoyed people watching: the girl dancing with her headphones on in her gold sparkle shoes, the lady with the bright pink and black hair, the man talking to no one.

On our way home we were able to get the last seat in the last car of the subway. My daughter loved watching the subway station disappear to a dot of light and waving at the waiting passengers (even if they didn’t notice her waving).

My daughter noticed me taking pictures of her and loved seeing herself on camera so she asked if she could take pictures herself. Here’s her subway experience as seen through her eyes.

Throwing Rocks isn’t All Bad

Sunday’s weather was beautiful, cool and clear, perfect for a morning at the lake.

The kids love going to the lake. For people who live within walking distance from it we really don’t spend enough time down there appreciating it

It seems in my role as mom I spend a lot of time telling my kids what they can’t do: Don’t do flips over the back of the sofa, stop using the central vac hose as a jump rope, don’t convince your little sister that sliding down the stairs on a piece of cardboard is a good thing.

I know as parents we’re suppose to encourage our kids, offer positive reinforcements, focus on the good, but some days that seems to get lost with all the warnings I seem to dish out. Sometimes we have to make judgement calls as to what really is a Don’t and what the kids can actually get away with.

Sunday morning I gave in and let my kids throw rocks. Not those little tiny peddles I mean big, honkin’, you-can-build-a-house-with-those type of rocks. We drove not far from our house to Mimico (my husband loves to visit Bird’s and Beans coffee-house there) and the lake is right behind the place so we went for a walk. Actually my 3 and 6-year old went for a run. You would think I had kept them penned up all week and they were fleeing for their lives. If only they had that much energy for the walk to and from school. Somehow I think the big boulder wall they ran along helped.

There is a beach area along the path, a beach of rocks. My husband was trying to show the kids how to skip stones but there were those kind of rocks. So stone skipping turned into stone tossing: who could throw the biggest rock? Who could throw the farthest? Who could make the biggest splash? Who could throw the most before counting to 10? It was amazing the number of competitions my kids could think of around tossing rocks into the lake.

Yes, we did have to spread them out to ensure no one accidentally tossed a rock at a sibling standing in front of them, but overall there were no issues and they had fun, I mean real laugh-out-loud fun. From tossing stones to looking for the best stone to climbing the rocks, my kids had a great afternoon at the beach. No one got wet and it didn’t cost us a dime, except my husband’s coffee but we won’t count that.

So many throwing rocks isn’t all bad.

A Day of Firsts

Day 1 at Disney World and we had to visit Magic Kingdom first. When you have young kids Magic Kingdom has to be your first stop. It will probably be one of the resorts we visit more than once on our current trip.

We’ve actually visited Disney World a few times, I think six times, but even with all those visits there are still things we haven’t seen or done. Today was actually a day of a few firsts. Today we checked out Country Bear Jamboree, a show we’ve never seen before. Similar to the Enchanted Tiki Room, this is more an attraction that you sit in an air-conditioned room to watch a themed animal animatronics show. The kids seemed to like it, I felt it was a little dated, especially some of the songs, though I’m sure my six-year old son will start singing the song ‘Blood on the Ground’. Probably not a show we’ll see again (unlike Enchanted Tiki Room which we have to see every time we visit) but I’m glad we did see it; I’m glad we had the chance to try something new at Disney.

We also tried Splash Mountain for the first time, especially after we found out our three-year old met the height restrictions, just. barely. Usually the stand-by wait for Splash Mountain has been up to 1.5 hours but when we walked by it was only 15 minutes. Everyone loved it. Yes we got wet, not too wet but wet enough. And once wasn’t enough; we went on two more times. If given the chance the kids would have kept going on but there were some other rides we wanted to hit before heading back to the hotel.

Since this was our youngest daughter’s big ride, just passing the height requirement, she received her Splash Mountain pin. (The kids like to participate in pin trading, but we also buy a few select pins on each visit, like for the resort we’re staying at and a specific ride pin that really means something to each child on that trip).

My six-year old son’s favourite roller coaster is Thunder Run; he experienced for the first time last year. So this year my eight-year old daughter convinced him that he should try her favourite roller coaster, Space Mountain. He sat in the car between me and my daughter. While we whipped around I asked if he liked it and he said ‘no’. Oh dear. I could say close your eyes and it will pass but the ride takes place in the dark so that wouldn’t accomplish much. As the ride continued he started screaming but not ‘get me off this ride before I jump’. No it was ‘this is awesome’. At the end of the ride I asked how he liked it and he said he loved it. After his initial fear of the lap restraint not holding him in, he relaxed and really loved it. He loved it so much he went again. So he earned his Space Mountain badge.

I love that a visit to Disney World means we can visit the attractions and rides we love but that we always find something new to try; a new resort, ride, food. It makes it a great new experience every time.