Category: travel with kids

10 Tips for Surviving the Family Road Trip

Rules for a Family Road Trip

As Spring Break approaches, I’m reminded of the nostalgic family road trip. As a child, I don’t remember a single vacation that was not taken on the highways of America.

When our holidays rolled around, we rolled out of the driveway in our simulated wood-paneled wagon, which was awkwardly hitched to the pop-up camper. Today, people fly, and the family road trip has slipped in popularity along with the fondue parties and potluck dinners of yesteryear. I say we bring it back.

But first, you need to be prepared. Thus…

Top 10 Tips For Surviving a Modern Day Family Road Trip:

1. Don’t Leave the Directions to Dad, Leave Them to the GPS
The problem with dads isn’t that they don’t have good directional skills. It’s that if they get lost, they have too much pride to admit that they don’t have good directional skills. Your father might knowingly drive 1500 miles in the wrong

Race You to the Bottom!


Two Roads Diverged in a Wood…

snow picture

Once Upon a Time at the Department of Public Safety

This is a true story. (Cue the “Law and Order” music: DUN DUN!!!!)

This is my rendition of our trip to the Department of Public Safety.

Or as I commonly call it: Hades.

My daughter finished Driver’s Ed and had been driving with her permit for about a year. We were ready to take the final road test and get her license.

All my friends had given me advice. Somehow, Friend A just “walked on in” to this office and was out in 20 minutes. Friend B arrived very early to the Supercenter and was one of the first ten “walk-ins” so they were in and out quickly.

Apparently, I am Friend C, because I didn’t have this skip-into-the-office-with-a-basket-of-goodies-and-come-out-with-a-shiny-new-driver’s-license-for-my-child experience.

It began on the phone—not talking to anyone, mind you—just listening to ringing, busy signals and a system that tells you to press this and press that and then transfers you to an office in Botswana that

My Child’s Toys Are Holding Me Hostage

As the mother of a two year old, I’ve accumulated a lot of toys.

When my daughter started favoring a certain toy I thought it was the most adorable thing.

Minnie Mouse was her world. When I heard her in her crib, crying for Minnie, instead of getting annoyed I smiled at how charming it was, and I happily went to reunite them.

Then things took a turn. We went on vacation and God help us if Minnie wasn’t with us every step of the way. We might be halfway across the resort but if it was discovered Minnie was left behind, it was pointless to continue any further; no one was going to have any fun until Minnie was tucked safely into my daughter’s tiny arms.

Minnie had a rough time at the beach. She returned home with a ripped bow, covered in dirt, and I had to sneak her into the washer

How David Cassidy Influenced My Children’s Bilingual Education


When I was in Junior High I read Tiger Beat (think People Magazine for 12-year-olds) cover to cover, going over the David Cassidy features at least three times before flipping through the rest.

I remember one article, though, about Jodie  Foster. It said she went to a school where they spoke only French. All reading assignments, testing, lunchtime conversation, etc. were in a foreign language.

Having taken a year or so of French—45 minutes every other day—I did not  believe this was possible. I assumed the story was as realistic as my shot at winning the Tiger Beat Dream Date with David Cassidy.

Actually, at 12, I likely thought I had a better chance of a date with David then Jodie did of speaking French all day, every day.

 When our oldest was getting ready for elementary school, I was surprised one of  our options was a Spanish Immersion program. All day,

And to All a Good Night

No Way!

Pop Quiz: Flying With Kids

Now that summer break has come to a speedy halt and my mother’s heart is a mixed drink of one-part elation and three-parts homework hell, I finally have a moment to reflect on the memories from the summer.

The biggest accomplishment, by far, was surviving a plane ride with the kids. It’s a monumental feat that will test your marriage and prove exactly what your “for better or for worse” is truly made of.

Take this pop quiz to see if your union can withstand this crucial test.

1. When riding on a plane with a 15 month old, do you:

A) Apologize to the other passengers ahead of time because, lets face it, they are trapped with you on this hellish journey.

B) Try to watch a movie. This could be your only chance for another two years.

C) Collect all the cartons of milk from the flight attendant

Depths of a Mother’s Love

When my two older children became capable swimmers and no longer needed me to hover over them in the water, I created a new parenting rule for myself. I decided I would wear a swimsuit whenever I accompanied them to the pool or the lake, even if I didn’t plan to get into the water. Being prepared to play the role of lifeguard was a way to hedge my bets and ward off the unthinkable.

One morning, I broke my own rule. We had traveled from Minnesota to Phoenix so my husband could attend a work conference and we could soak up some sun. When seven-year-old Louisa and five-year-old Sebastian made their request—could they “please, please go to the pool” for a quick swim before lunch?—I was already dressed. It seemed like a hassle to put on my faded swimsuit, only to change back into regular clothes an hour later. Besides, their

Disappointment: the Family Vacations Guide

• The idea: Brooklyn Bridge, New York City, June 2007
Steve: Here’s a “must-do” activity this guidebook recommends. We walk 1.1 miles across the bridge’s pedestrian walkway to Brooklyn, eat lunch at a fun pizza place and take the subway back to Manhattan. What do you think?

Me (distracted by our three kids and their more immediate needs): Sure, sounds fun.

The reality: We get a late start and decide to instead take the subway to Brooklyn, eat a quick lunch at a boring diner (no pizza) and walk across the bridge back to Manhattan. The kids take 20 energetic paces forward, then realize that the Brooklyn Bridge is just a bridge. A very long bridge. A bridge that seems twice as long when you are trudging across it with an 11 year old, a 9 year old and a 6 year old.

Notable wildlife spotted: Seagulls, lots of seagulls.

The bright side: We sing

Naked and Afraid in Amsterdam

“Mama, why is that lady in the window naked?”

This is not one of my proudest parenting moments. Being a savvy traveler, living overseas, I consider myself fairly street wise and seasoned. We spent a week in the Netherlands wandering the tulips at Keukenhof, seeing the windmills in Kinderdijk and watching pottery hand-painted in Delft.

Our pièce de résistance would be the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.

I’d spent two weeks prior to our visit to the Netherlands preparing our daughter to see the Anne Frank House. She’s only six, so I kept the discussion fairly simple but direct: “There were bad people, called Nazis, and they didn’t like certain people here. They took them to concentration camps and treated them badly. Some of them hid, one of them was Anne Frank and her family.”

Our daughter was fascinated with the idea that a little girl was hiding from “bad guys” in a secret

She’s Going to Graceland

Graceland: The only place on earth where a Mom gives her child encouragement to mark on walls.

How I Won the Morning School Rush

It’s Thursday morning. I’m in the bathroom doing my morning things. Time to flush and mush!

My kids haven’t had a full day of school since last Friday thanks to winter storm Wilfred or whatever. Today’s the day, though. They are back in session, baby. A productive day awaits. I might even get a chance to scrub the tub. I’ve got ricotta cheese and turkey meat. I’ll be making lasagna for dinner. Cheese. Oh yeah.

I flush, wash my hands and go pour coffee. The radiators are scorching. But outside, it’s five flipping degrees. I tell my middle child to “put on freaking coat.”

BAM! Middle child slams the door as he leaves to catch the bus telling me how horrible I am for making him wear a jacket.

And returns through the same door three minutes later to tell older brother, who’s standing there with three pieces of bread clenched between his teeth,

Course Correction

I was at least ten miles along when I realized my mistake.

I was supposed to go east, but in a distracted moment, I took the west ramp onto the freeway instead. It was a familiar route, one I traveled often, so it was awhile before I realized the exits I was flying past were all going in the wrong direction.

My stomach tightened as it occurred to me that a fairly quick 20-minute drive had instantly transformed into an hour-long ordeal. And we hadn’t even arrived yet.

I let out a very mature “AAAAUUUUUURRRGGGGHHHHH!” which naturally got the attention of my four-year-old son in the back seat.

“What’s wrong, Mommy?” he asked. He was so excited for our destination, a local attraction to which we have season tickets.

“I went the wrong way,” I growled, as the dreary winter sky darkened another shade.

I wanted to turn around and go home. As usual, I had

Thank You Stepmothers

To all stepmothers. Well, most, because some of you really may be wicked, but for the rest of you, those just beginning your role, those who have been doing it for years and those who put in the time and continue to be an endearing part our lives:

Thank you.

Thanks for not running for the hills when I glared at you like you were a monster. I was just confused, scared and shell shocked. Here was some strange woman coming into my life at a time when I didn’t know who to trust in my own house. And man, I didn’t make your job easy, that’s for sure. But you hung in there. And now look at us, we can laugh about it. Right?

Thanks for loving me. After all, I was just extra baggage that came with that man you were dating. You didn’t have to be so nice to me

How A Stingray Saved My Vacation

I will admit I did terrible job packing for my family’s week-long Thanksgiving vacation. As the designated momager to four small children and a husband, I am in charge of wardrobe planning and activity bag packing. Along with clothes and shoes, there are medications, special blankies and outdoor activity gear.

If you’re a mom, you know this packing job sucks.

I was utterly uninspired for the packing tasks that lie ahead for this trip. I shoved long-sleeved clothes in for everyone. I packed those imitation Uggs. There were winter coats, sweaters and jeans included. I even packed myself these ridiculous flannel leggings and a wool sweater instead of my bathing suit.

The problem was, we weren’t going to Minnesota for Thanksgiving–we were going to Los Angeles. The weather was supposed to be in the 80’s all week. The sad part is that I was privy to the weather report for the week and

Strength Training: What Travel and Adventure Did For Our Family

Ten years ago, as a young couple, we lived in Germany. Our first child was born there just ten days before we wrapped her up and returned to the U.S.A.

Ten years later we found the perfect time to go back and introduce our daughter to her birthplace, and show her and her seven-year-old brother our favorite haunts.

I confess, I had hoped our kids would enjoy stepping squarely into the footprints my husband and I had left years ago. Instead, a huge dancing mess of little prints grew around the larger ones.  And not surprisingly, they insisted on making their own footprints.

They transformed our time in Germany into an adventure of conquering towers.

Any signage with “Schloss” (castle), “Feste” (stronghold), or “Burg” (fortress) sent our car careening in that direction as if driven by the giggling youth in the backseat. Without exception we would climb to the upmost height of the ruin,

Museum Fatigue

Returning to Kabul

In days I will say goodbye to Sabira at Logan Airport in Boston. She will have a long journey ahead, with a 24-hour stopover in Dubai before boarding the flight to Kabul.

“Will you be able to sleep in the Dubai airport?” I ask.

“No, Liz, it is too dangerous. I could get raped,” is her response.

I am Sabira’s host mother in the U.S. She just graduated from a girls’ boarding school in Massachusetts, and in August she will begin college on full scholarship at Trinity College.

Our relationship began with both of us wary. After volunteering with a non-profit that supports educating Afghan women, I took on the responsibility for a real live girl. It was one thing to be a Skype tutor for girls in Kabul, quite another to bring one into my home.

According to my adopted 20-year-old Chinese daughter, Lili, I went crazy when she went away to college.

“Yes,” she