Filed under: Honest Travel
3 Family Trips That Connect You With Nature

Eco Outdoor Vacations

Fresh air, beautiful scenery, and maybe even some wild animal sightings — the great outdoors offers the most exciting playground ever. Getting back to nature is rejuvenating for adults and a wonderful learning experience for kids that benefits their overall well-being.

Kids today may not get enough outside time as they should. A three-year study out of the UK showed that only 21% of children ages 8-12 were “connected to nature,” with girls more likely than boys to have outdoor experiences. A study from 2009 even suggested that spending time in nature makes people “more caring.”

Numerous groups including The Conservation Fund, Children & Nature Network, and the World Wildlife Fund actively encourage families to experience nature with their kids and enjoy what it has to offer. And it offers a lot of fun!

Check out these three unforgettable trips that will bring your family together and reconnect you with the world outside.

The Ground and Trails - Hotel Belmar

Hotel Belmar, adjacent to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica

Want to experience something you’ll never forget with your family? The eco-friendly Hotel Belmar in Costa Rica sits on nine acres, next to the nearly 26,000 acre Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Spend the day hiking the property, enjoying the spring water pond, waterfall, and private trails. Or take a tour of the nearby forest led by the hotel’s on-staff naturalist. Just in the area, your family can also visit the bat jungle, the butterfly garden, and local coffee and chocolate farms. The outdoor activities in this area are endless—zip lining, horseback riding, biking, and all sorts of guided tours (one at night).

Geyser Viewing at Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park

One quintessential American family vacation is visiting Yellowstone National Park. Spread throughout three states, the park contains the largest collection of geysers, plus stunning views, wildlife, and sulfur pools. Bring your gear and camp, or stay at the one of the lodges in the park.

Out-n-About Treesort

Out’n’About Treesort in Oregon

Sleep among the trees at Out’n’About Treesort in Oregon. Choose from more than a dozen tree-top cabins or closer-to-the-ground wooden structures. The Swiss Family Robinson Complex is the stuff of kid vacation dreams — two on-the-ground treehouses connect by a swinging bridge. You can rent this for $180 for up to four people. Activities at the tree house camp include zip lining in the treetops, horseback riding, river rafting, and arts and crafts.

If a vacation’s not possible right now, hold a family camping night in your own backyard! Sleep under the stars and institute a no-gadgets policy for one evening. Play games, tell stories, roast marshmallows, and enjoy the fresh air!

Even backyard camping can teach your kids about the great outdoors. Incorporate nature in a fun craft project, making things from leaves, sticks, pinecones, and other foliage you find outside (just make sure the plants aren’t poisonous if you have young children).

What is your favorite family vacation? Tell us how you enjoy the great outdoors.

Images via Hotel Belmar, Yellowstone, and Out’n'About Treesort.

Eco-Friendly Romantic Getaways

Valentine’s Day has passed but, really, every day should be a day to celebrate love. Fall in love even deeper by experiencing a new destination together.

Evidence shows that trying new things with your partner keeps a relationship from getting stale. And traveling to a new place with your significant other is a great way to re-connect, laugh, and spend quality time together.

When you travel, you probably want the hotel to be as comfortable (or maybe more comfortable) than your home, but also easy on the environment. Many hotels and resorts now offer to skip the daily laundering of your linens to save water, energy, and soap, while others take the going-green a step further with organic and locally sourced food, eco-friendly room amenities, and sustainable building materials.

For your next getaway, we found a variety of eco-friendly hotels, resorts, and inns to suit your budget and spark some romance.

eco-friendly romantic getaways 1

1. Bardessono in the small town of Yountville in Northern California’s wine country is sleek, modern, and very luxurious. It’s one of three hotels in the U.S. that is LEED Platinum Certified. Non-toxic and non-allergenic materials were used in construction of the hotel, the wood is milled from salvaged trees, and the linens are organic. You can also rent carbon-fiber bicycles to tour wine country or enjoy a complimentary yoga class.

2. Beechwood Inn in Clayton, Georgia located in the Georgia’s mountainous wine country and is committed to eco-friendly practices. The Inn’s guestrooms are stocked with organic linens and bamboo towels, plus biodegradable and dye-free products. Five acres of the property is designated as a bird sanctuary, and the Inn’s habitat is certified by the National Wildlife Federation’s worldwide network as a mini-refuge.

3. Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, Maine sits on Crescent Beach, located outside of Portland. The Inn offers sustainable and local cuisine in its restaurant, while rooms are stocked with eco-friendly items and bath products are packaged with recycled materials. The Inn is heated by biofuel and the pool with solar panels.

4. Sacred Sands Luxury Bed & Breakfast is one mile from Joshua Tree National Park. The structure was built using straw bales—a natural and sustainable building material that provides non-toxic insulation. The stucco and earth-plastered walls give the bed & breakfast an adobe-like feel. Each of the two guest rooms has a private outdoor spa with amazing views of the desert.

5. The Canebrake is Oklahoma’s first eco-friendly resort. Sitting on a 250-acre family farm, the resort offers five miles of hiking trails through a varied landscape that includes marshlands, forests, and rolling hills. Take a yoga class at the resort’s 1,700 square-foot studio constructed of sustainable and recycled materials (and painted with no-VOC paint!), or go fishing on the property’s catch-and-release pond.

6. Fireside Resort in Jackson Hole, Wyoming takes camping to a whole new level. The resort offers romantic “glamping”—camping in style with hotel amenities. These tents help you tread more lightly on the earth than a typical energy-sucking hotel rooms. Sleep in a king-sized bed while listening to the sounds of nature. Step outside your tent and sit by the campfire or relax in the bath house with organic spa products.

7. The Bishop’s Lodge Ranch, Resort & Spa in Santa Fe, New Mexico is naturally sustainable and green. Since it opened in 1916, local organic fruit grown on the property has been a staple of the cuisine served at the on-site restaurant. Water conservation is important at this high-desert ranch. The Lodge’s housekeeping service avoids using cleaning, laundry supplies, or air fresheners containing fragrance. Take a sunset horseback ride while enjoying views of the mesas.

8. The Sandpearl Resort in Clearwater Beach, Florida is the first Silver LEED Certified in the state. Guests’ leftover soap and shampoo is donated to an organization called Clean the World that melts down the soap, sanitizes it, and send it to impoverished countries. The resort uses ozone in its pools in order to sanitize the water while reducing chlorine levels. During your stay rent lounge chairs on the beach or take a kayaking eco-tour.

Have you ever stayed at an eco-friendly hotel? Tell us about it and your experience! 

Holiday Health and Travel Tips for Families

Holiday Travel pic

During the holidays, airports and roads are crowded with travelers hoping to spend time with loved ones and close friends. To help ease impending travel-related stress, continue reading for my family-friendly health and travel tips.

Stay-Healthy Tips

  • Pack Medications. Prior to travel, make sure you refill and pack your child’s prescribed medications and any daily vitamins. If you run out, chances are it may be hard to find your medications somewhere else. Packing some over-the-counter pain medication, nausea medication, or medications for upset stomach and diarrhea is also a good idea.
  • Get up and walk. One thing you shouldn’t forget whether you’re flying or driving is to stretch your legs. If you find yourself in a cramped area or sitting for a long time, you could develop a blood clot in your legs. Take some time to walk around and stretch your arms and legs, especially on an airplane, at least once every hour. Remember to also stay well hydrated!

Help Your Child Combat Ear Pain on Airplanes

Did you know kids experience ear pain on airplanes more than adults? This is because kids have more colds and upper respiratory infections than adults. Kids are also less able to swallow or yawn on demand, which can help relieve ear pain. I learned all this when I read my colleague Gloria’s RN Remedies blog post about managing ear pain on airplanes. Here are ways you can help your child the next time you travel by air:

  • When your child feels fullness in their ear during takeoff or landing, give the baby a bottle and the older child juice or water to drink.
  • If your child is older and can understand and cooperate, encourage them to chew on something, swallow, open the jaw or yawn at least four times during takeoff and landing.
  • Smaller children can also be offered a small straw to blow through or a colorful pinwheel to blow.
  • Wake up your sleeping child or baby during takeoff and landings as the pain can be worse if they are allowed to sleep.
  • Carry a bulb syringe to clear out the nose if the child gets congested.

To provide more helpful tips, Mary Virgallito, RN, clinical administrator, Infection Prevention and Control at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles recommends the following:

  • Pack important phone numbers and information, like your child’s doctor, copy of health insurance cards, and vaccination records.
  • Pack a travel-size first aid kit and hand sanitizer.
  • Your child should ride in an age-appropriate car seat. Most rental car agencies have them available.

I hope this blog post was helpful in preparing you and your family for your holiday travels. For the rest of my family-friendly travel tips, visit WeTreatKidsBetter.org.

~ Megan Summers, BSN, RN II, CPN, CRRN, Float Nurse and RN Remedies Blogger at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Give Bike Sharing a Spin

Give Bike Sharing a Spin

President John F. Kennedy once said, “Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride.” We agree, but we’d throw in, “…especially during the summer.” Whether you’re a native or a tourist, you truly learn the contours of your current destination and make new discoveries that you wouldn’t otherwise experience if you weren’t riding a bicycle.

This sense of adventure, coupled with the health and eco-friendly benefits, make this two-wheeler the perfect mode of summer transportation. And more and more cities around the world are taking note by introducing public bike share programs.  The idea behind bike sharing is to provide accessible and affordable alternatives to public transportation or cars on a short-term basis, alleviating some of the congestion and pollution often associated with commuting.

Because most systems allow people to buy a day pass, renting one for vacation sightseeing seems like the perfect (and leisurely) way to get around. Locals, too, can enjoy these community bikes, as they can coast to a restaurant that’s just out of reach on foot but would be huge hassle to get to by car (has anyone ever tried to find a parking spot in New York City?).

Bike Sharing Benefits

Bike sharing may also be the answer to making cycling and green transportation more mainstream in the United States. BikesBelong.org reports that if we look to Europe where bike sharing is more established, we see that bicycling increased by 70% in Paris and 44% in Lyon, France after the launch of their programs. The good doesn’t stop there, either. Bike sharing promises many advantages for cities, residents, and tourists.

  • Helps protect the planet by reducing car congestion and your carbon footprint
  • Improves the local economy by generating a new source of revenue
  • Encourages cities to develop more eco-friendly public programs
  • Reduces a rider’s worry over bike costs associated with maintenance, storage, and theft
  • Spurs innovation, like the possibility of a recyclable paper helmet for bike share safety
  • Makes exercise fun (Parisians have burned over 19 billion calories in the last 6 years)!

An infographic by the team at Online Masters In Public Health

Want to Give Bike Sharing a Spin?

Where do you imagine taking a summer bike ride? Or do you have any experience with bike share programs in your cities or travels — do you like them? Share with us in the comments below!

5 Tips for a Successful Family Staycation

As my children get older, I have found that my outlook on travel with them has broadened.  When they were toddlers, the mere idea of packing all of their accoutrements was very overwhelming.  It involved many lists, shopping trips, and last minute laps around the house to make sure everything was packed.  Now that two of them are no longer babies at 4 and 5 (we also have a third who is 10 months), we find ourselves traveling more and considering a larger variety of destinations.

5 Tips for a Successful Family Staycation

We’ve found that while we love exploring places far away from our home, some of our very best memories have happened while on vacation in our very own city.  Less commitment both financially and in terms of effort and in the unfortunate event an unexpected illness strikes—as happens often with little ones—home is right around the corner. Staycations are fun, less expensive, and often allow for more quality time with each other.

We happen to live in one of the more touristy places in the country—New York City! So for us, vacationing in our own city is quite easy. Every weekend is an opportunity to explore the Big Apple and introduce the kids to really amazing experiences. But you don’t have to live in or near a big city to check out local attractions as though you are a tourist. And you’ll most likely end up with a greater appreciation for the area in which you live.

Tips for Staycationing

1.     Find a local hotel that offers children’s amenities. There are a few sites, such as Preferred Family, that can help you find a hotel in your area that offers family amenities, activities, and special treats for children.

2.     Find and use public transportation when possible. You won’t worry about spending more on gas, and it’s a great way to explore when your attention isn’t on driving. Many cities have bike rental programs (like Boston’s Hubway) that allow you to check out the area, and the kids will have a blast riding along with you when possible.

3.     Pack lightly. Bring reusable bags that compact easily and water bottles so you stay hydrated on the go and you aren’t buying disposable plastic bottles too frequently

4.     Book a dinner at a restaurant that you might not normally go to. Make it special! You could even get dressed up a bit.

5 Tips for a Family Staycation

5.     Do the touristy/cultural things that you might otherwise not do since you are a local, such as Duck Tours, or cable car rides for example.  Pick at least one and do it!

Make sure to take lots of photos, find new foods, stay up late, and enjoy yourselves without letting the pressures of everyday life interfere.   I know when I’m home, I often can’t let go of the constant nagging of dishes, laundry, dirty floors and bills, but it is also the one place I can really focus on my kids and see them at their most comfortable—in their own element.

Taking a moment to sort of step away from everything else and just enjoy your kids and family is truly priceless. Staycations are a great way to do this when you don’t feel like spending a ton of money or can’t seem to find the time (just head out for even a couple of hours one weekend).  Your children will appreciate it, and you’ll probably learn a little something about yourself and them as well.

~ Jessica Shyba 

Jessica Shyba is the wife of a NYU Dental School student and full-time stay at home mother to Jack,  Zoe, and Beau.  Jessica shares her adventures around Manhattan with the children both through stories and photography on her blog, Momma’s Gone City.  She has been recognized as a Top Mom Blogger at Babble for two years straight, and she was named as Cision’s top influencers in 2012.  Follow her on Twitter @MommasGoneCity.