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Family Travel Hub

Star Light Star Bright… Family Travel and Hotel Ratings

Let’s talk hotels and stars, shall we? I read a lot of guides and websites that rate hotels by this system (or something similar). while traveling as an adult, I find this system efficient and pretty easy to use but when kids are involved…. well that’s a totally different family travel rating system!

For example, Great Wolfe Lodge ( found in Virginia among other places) deserved an F. F for Family! Take all your rugrats ! This place is a convention center for the little ones! It has everything including a magical scavenger hunt and an indoor water park. Consider GWL your one stop kid friendly get away extravaganza.

Now let’s think about the average hotel. We all know that we want a clean, moderately priced family hotel that serves a particular purpose and this is basically the type of hotel that any good guide book or website is going to recommend anyway, right? I mean who in their right mind is going to recommend a dump?! So let’s change it up and view our rating system differently!

To continue, hotels that have a B rating, work hard to provide the basics. There will be portable cribs but don’t expect Disney themed rooms. An establishment can have grade if a C for convenience (close to an airport for example) not much is offered at the hotel but you get what you need easily. How about D for destination? This hotel may not have a playroom but it does a great job of connecting you with the local area. Perhaps the hotel offers bike rentals or can set you up with tickets to a local show. Family Friendly Fabulous!

So how about this hotel I recently stayed in? The Martins Chateau du Lac gets a family travel rating of B. Not many kids in the hotel but they are willing to point out a few things in the area to do!

Chateau Du Lac : a family hotel? Maybe...

Join us at TGC for lots more travel talk about family friendly hotels, how things are changing in this industry and how you can enjoy it!

Family Travel Hub, Travel Dreaming

Travel to the library? Oh, yes!!!

Admit it, you haven’t thought about it in a long time. It’s been hectic and there was just no way to fit it into your all too busy schedule. Then, the whole Corona Virus thing brought everything to a standstill. Between dance class and self-quarantine, there is just no room in your schedule for yet another activity anyway. I know, I know! Me too! But the reality is that your local library offers so much more than just a good book selection. There are so many more activities and opportunities at community libraries than we even realize! So, in order to support all those hard working, book loving librarians out there during National Love Your Librarian Month, here is my best pitch to get you in those doors! Let’s travel to the library!

I recently looked at the August schedule for our local library and I was so impressed with the amazing array of events and activities that they are offering. There was everything from science to tax prep. I even saw YOGA! I don’t know about you but yoga may have been my favorite thing on the schedule! Yoga at the library! Seriously?! Absolutely. Libraries are so much more than the books that they keep. Monthly book clubs for adults and weekly story times for kids of all types and ages are just the start of how innovative this underused resource is.

There’s more….

Lots of libraries are involved with programs that incorporate and support STEM initiatives. They provide spaces for people to gather for all kinds of community interests and there is ALWAYS a reading incentive program. (That’s right, they are not just in the summer!) Looking for a class on sign language for babies? Check. How about a veteran’s book group? Yup. Like gardening? Yep, they meet once a month too! The library even offers a class called Pizza and Picasso! I’m in!

Two great resources for getting your kids ready to go to the library are “Between The Lions” (younger) and “Reading Rainbow” (older)- both products of PBS and both available in some way through YouTube. Together, they do a wonderful job of making the library exciting and interesting.

Library Lowdown

As for the global citizen, let me direct you right to the non-fiction stacks. The section you are looking for is all the way at the end. According to Mr. Dewey, you can travel the world in the 900’s. Specifically, section 910 is full of travel and geography. (Did you see my last post on maps?) and just next door in section 914, you will find a bit more about genealogy. That’s right! There is no better place to get started then at the library! Now, hop right on over to fiction and pick up a great European mystery or a Tokyo love story. So, c’mon! What are you waiting for?! Make the time and visit your local library now. Better yet! Make one of these fascinating libraries a bucket list stop on your next travel adventure:

New York Public Library

Located on iconic 5th Avenue, there is no better library in the world, hands down. Check out events and storytimes here.

The London Library

Located in historic St. James’ Square, check out the amazing collection and seriously good events on their calendar here.

The Chicago Library: The Harold Washington Library Center

Located on State Street, check out all of the cool STEM activities that are offered here.

The Central Branch Library of Kansas City

Located in downtown on 10th Street, the library is worth the visit just to see the outside. Check out their events here.

So, let’s travel to the library and discover a new place to find adventures right in your own neighborhood. The library can take you anywhere! Like this and want to see more? Join us at TGC!

Travel Think Tank

TSA Travel Troubles

A few months ago, I was flying within the states and had to, of course, get through TSA travel line. Like everyone else, I prepared to stand in line and wait out the inevitable. The longer I waited, the more irritable I got with the people who were obviously not ready to effortlessly glide through the TSA line well prepared and not holding up the burden of waiting in the never ending cue. I rolled my eyes when computers and cell phones were not boxed separately. Then I made a snide comment to the couple who didn’t remove their belts. I even had a bit of a temper tantrum when there was a question about whether or not shoes needed to be taken off. Yes! That’s the answer! We all do it!

Then it was my turn. Shoes, check. ipad and cell phone, check. No liquids in my bag thank you very much. I was ready to zip through the screening machine when the unthinkable happened! I was PULLED to the side to be WANDED!!!! How on earth could this have happened! I should already be finding my way to the terminal bar!

I had no chance!

It turns out that I was pegged to be pulled over from the moment I entered the line because my pants were cuffed at the bottom! CUFFED AT THE BOTTOM!!! I had no chance of evading the detainment. I had been defeated by the very system I had been out to beat. Now, your first question to me is why didn’t you go through the pre-check line? Don’t you have pre-check?!

The answer is no. I have not paid for pre-check or global entry and I don’t intend to. Those lines, take a look, are getting to be just as long as others and TSA is coming up with ways to better control line waits all the time. Even at Reagan National, I have only waited a maximum of 5 minutes for the regular TSA line, other airports are much longer though. Additionally, I also get a complementary pre-check on my ticket with participating airlines, so I gamble on the chance that I will win the pre-check lottery.

More important than all of that is what can you do to make the TSA shuffle a little easier and less painless the next time you are off on an adventure. Here are some basics:

Plan your carry-on.

Take the time to ensure that what is in your carry-on is what you really need. If you check your bags (I am a big believer in the checked bag) then you shouldn’t need much.  Your basic electronics, your plane needs, and your paperwork. I also carry a change of clothes (leggings and a shirt plus undergarments) that don’t take up much space, a solid shampoo and conditioner bar, and a disposable bamboo toothbrush.

Be liquid ready.

If you do plan to carry on everything, you need to ensure that your liquids meet all of those TSA requirements and are in the TSA approved clear bag. You also should put them in a convenient place so you can easily put them through the scanning machine on their own.

Leave the kitchen sink…

… and everything else you don’t need. If I’m flying from Montana to Arizona, I’m going to leave my winter coat and boots in the car. I can make it to the terminal in my flats thank you very much! While, I’m at it, I change purses to ensure that my Mary Poppins purse doesn’t provide me any TSA surprises. You never do know what you’ll find at the bottom of your bag.

Minimize the accessorize.

I love to wear jewelry and I want to look nice but TSA is not interested in nice or my cute new bracelets. Instead, I just put all my bling into a little zip bag in my purse and put it on when I get through. It’s one less reason to get pulled over.

Time your line.

TSA is usually a much bigger deal for people who are running late. A much bigger deal. The best advice for timing your trip comes down to three things. First, gauge your lead time based on the BOARDING time of your flight. You should be inside the airport one and a half hours before that time at a minimum. Next, use the MyTSA app to adjust this lead time based on the airport you are flying out of.

MyTSA does a great job of communicating the busy times and the down times from coast to coast. Simply, choose your airport and check out all the 411 on your pre-boarding experience. Last, check your gate location. While this may seem not necessary, trust me, it is. In some bigger airports have gate A1 compared to gate ZZ-99 can be a difference of walking 20 or 30 minutes more than you could have planned.                                                                                                                                         

Get the kids ready before you leave.

Choose clothing that makes them comfy on the plane and will get through that security check quickly. Remember, no cuffed pants! Ensure that their in flight entertainment is easy to scan and that they haven’t hidden any extras that can hold you up. Personally, I don’t think that every kid needs their own personal backpack to go on a plane. The less stuff the better. For super young ones, go online and scout out the easiest places to take care of diaper changes, feedings, and play space once you are in the terminal. And yes, breast milk  and formula are both permitted through TSA just be prepared to take a few extra minutes to look through that bag.

Follow the nonsense.

One of my favorite Instagram feeds is TSA. They have a great instahumor to their posts and often use the ridiculous to showcase what is and is not allowed.  Giant teddy bears that take up an entire seat? I think not. While you are at it, follow them on Twitter as well. You can get to them quickly if you have lost anything or you have left anything behind.

My TSA Travel App
TSA travel lines can be a breeze or a nightmare
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