A Guide to Choosing a Suitable Travel Cot For Your ‘Staycation’

With the UK continuing to gradually move out of recessionary times, many parents will be starting to estimate whether they will have the money to spend on travel during their summer holidays. Going abroad with a young child on a budget can often be considerably more strenuous than travelling on your own in the same situation, so for many young families booking a ‘staycation’ in and around England, Scotland or Wales may be the most logical plan for the summer months.

For any family planning on traveling with their baby, a travel cot is a very sensible investment. Yet, for those staying in the UK for summer, they can be more than worthwhile especially if you plan on being away from home for longer than you might have been if you had gone abroad. So where does one start when it comes to choosing the right travel cot?

Although travel cots vary significantly in price, their basic design often consists of the same key attributes, including: lightweight frame, carry bag and soft side panels often made from mesh.

However, despite the key benefit of purchasing a travel cot being that it is easy to carry around, the actual weight of some models can vary quite significantly with mid-range models weighing in at around the 13-15kg mark, and those that are as light as 8kg being available at a slightly higher cost.

Weight may not be the only thing to consider when browsing available travel cots. Although cheaper models are satisfyingly practical and simple, those that cost upwards of £70 typically boast a number of extras that might tempt the travelling parent. Many can act as both a play pen and travel cot, while others include a cot top changer, saving you the need to take a changing mat with you.

Yet to truly travel in style, and to increase the chances that you’ll be able to get a peaceful night’s sleep yourself – an increasing number are hitting the market with in-built night-lights and music-playing mobiles to lull your baby asleep, and to ensure that ‘staycation’ was really worth the money.

Southern California Family Vacation Without the Crowds

If you live in Southern California, you know that summer brings out the crowds-visitors from around the country and around the world.. That means it’s hard to go anywhere without running into lots of people and traffic-two main ingredients that makes kids (and parents) cranky.

One place that seems to have held on to its laid-back California charm and has lots of kid-friendly fun is Ventura, particularly the three cities known as VenturaCountyWest (Camarillo, Oxnard and Ventura). Located up the 101 Freeway north from Los Angeles, VenturaCountyWest features uncrowded beaches (with free parking), ocean adventures and tons of easy-to-get-to kids’ summer activities. Here are some to check out.

Channel Islands National Park

Take a tour boat to the Channel Islands National Park out of either Ventura or Channel Islands (Oxnard) harbors. The islands are only 11 miles off the Ventura County coast. On the way, you can see dolphins, seals, pelicans and other wildlife. Hikes, overnight stays, kayaking are all available once arriving on shore. Tours are booked through Island Packers, http://www.islandpackers.com/.

Ventura Harbor Village

Ventura Harbor Village contains an arcade featuring an old-fashioned indoor carousel, arcade and a candy shop with more than 20 varieties of fudge (made fresh daily). Families can rent paddle and electric boats to tour the quiet harbor channels. Back on shore, plan on eating at one of the casual harbor side restaurants featuring freshly caught seafood. http://www.venturaharborvillage.com.

Ventura County Fairgrounds’ Raceway

“Midget” cars, motorcycles and all sorts of other racing vehicles take to the track almost every weekend at the Ventura County Fairgrounds in Ventura. It’s all good fun as you cheer on your favorite driver.

Gull Wings Children’s Museum

This children’s museum in Oxnard is very unassuming from the outside, but once inside, the eight and under set will have so much to do and see that they won’t know where to begin. They can dress up as firefighters, doctors or pretend they are astronauts landing on the moon in an Apollo spacecraft. There are snakes to hold, treasure to find in a geological dig and plenty of Legos to build whatever they wish. Kids can try their hand at rock wall climbing or let their imaginations go while in the driver’s seat of an actual car.

Sky High Sports

You won’t find a big sign announcing Sky High Sports Camarillo from the freeway. It’s in an industrial park-it has to be-the place is huge. It’s filled with trampolines with super padded floors and walls. Kids can play trampoline dodge ball and other organized games or… just jump. All under supervision. Sky High also has laser tag. Kids are sure to come out sweaty and tired-a perfect way to spend an afternoon.

How to Enjoy Family Staycations in a Recession

Now that the summer solstice has given us more time between sunrise and sunset, Americans are officially in summer mode – using the extra daylight hours to spend with the family. But unemployment rates are above 10% in many states and the recession isn’t showing signs of an early end. A lot of us are cutting way back on expenses. The Auto Club estimates that the traditional vacation costs an average of $244 per day for two people just for lodgings and meals. With plane fares, the kids’ expenses and other costs thrown in, the price of a weeklong family vacation could reach $10,000.

With the effects of the recession hitting government agencies as well as individual families, are you wondering how to entertain your kids this summer? Many cities are cancelling summer school, county governments are cutting down on various services and some state parks are closing. So if you need to engage your children this summer, here are some tips to help you take advantage of free and low-cost alternatives to expensive summer activities – the emerging trend of “staycations:”

1. Make good use of your local library. The hours may be cut back but the library is still a good source of fun for the kids. With a library card, you can take out DVDs and CDs, as well as books, rather than buying them. And many libraries are still sponsoring programs that are informative and interesting for the whole family. Why not create a summer book club for your children, teens or yourself? You can decide to read “beach books” or some classics, settle on best-selling non-fiction, beautifully written novels or award-winning titles. The choice is up to you. Your weekly discussion groups will be engaging and fun for everyone.

2. Check out the museums in your area. Many of them will likely have admission-free days, particularly for local residents. Plan your schedule around these days so that you can introduce your children to art, history, nature, music and crafts. The bonus is that you, too, will learn something from these visits and enjoy the time you spend there. Visit a water park, zoo or aquarium that offers shows for the kids. They’ll find out first hand about the habitats and lifestyles of many species.

3. Enjoy free concerts in the park, community festivals and low cost theater productions. Check the local papers for notices about events near you. You and the kids can informally experience all kinds of ethnic celebrations. Search out public tours of civic buildings and corporate businesses. Educational day trips to government offices and companies give you the chance to view beautiful art work and learn about what goes on behind usually-closed doors. Community playhouses often have revivals of classics, musicals or innovative avant guard shows at reasonable costs. You can explore small theaters in your city or line up for rush, discounted tickets at more well established ones.

4. Go outside with the kids. Locate maps of your community and hike in the hills, walk in areas you haven’t explored before or bike in the flats around a lake. A trip to the community swimming pool is fun for everyone. Plan to picnic on the grass at home or camp out overnight in your own backyard. Take in a baseball game, sitting in the bleachers. If you can, take a drive to a lake or the ocean and spend time with the family enjoying the vastness of the waterscape, the warmth of the sand, the sound of the waves crashing, the smell of sunscreen, the open blue sky. Or drive to the hills or mountains for full days of hiking and camping in the simple beauty of nature. Park Rangers may be available to give you informative talks about the flora and fauna you are seeing.

5. Do some cooking or baking together. It’s always fun to hang out in the kitchen together, even in the summer. Make some tried and true favorites like chocolate chip cookies. Teach the kids some of your old family recipes or try out an interesting new one. Summer can be the time to schedule potluck evenings with family friends. Everyone can pitch in to keep down the costs and create a diverse menu. Bring the recipes to share and you have new dinner ideas to use during the coming year. Cap off the evening with charades and team games or you can set up tournaments for board games, based on your children’s ages.

6. Explore a new area or hobby with the kids. Summer might be just the right time to finally get going on that interest that has been percolating on the back burner. Have you wanted to start a family tree? Now, take the time to get on the Internet and start researching. Organize your snapshots? Get out those photos and arrange them in an attractive scrapbook or e-book. Learn about the universe and star gazing? Visit a planetarium, observatory or the library. Buy an inexpensive fish with the kids – and then teach them how to clean the bowl, how often to feed their pet and even about the life cycle of fish.

7. If you can, include some staycation plans solely for adults. Schedule a joint massage for you and your partner at a local spa. Take a day cruise or a short train ride – just you two. Splurge and stay at a nearby bed and breakfast. You’ll find that the time alone for a romantic getaway refreshes you and your relationship.

Planning and taking a real staycation gets you out of your everyday rut and creates memories for your family to share throughout the year. Now that you have heard lots of good ideas for taking a staycation without draining your funds, get out there and enjoy yourselves! And don’t forget to take lots of pictures so you won’t forget any of the delightful details.

© 2009, Her Mentor Center

Top Tips for Getting Away From It All, Without Actually Getting Away

I have just booked a holiday, the kind of holiday I have never booked before… an all inclusive week long spa break. I have almost always gone away in search of something; adventure, creativity, exploration (of self and the world), romance, culture, learning… but now I know all this is available on my own doorstep I feel less of a need for a holiday and strangely, I feel like I need to need this kind of holiday!

This got me thinking and in a recent survey I did in my own head, it seems that many people reach a certain point, let’s call it a breaking point, and decide they need a holiday. The ten main reasons for going on holiday, according to the aforementioned survey, were as follows;

1) Need to get away from work/life stress

2) To relax

3) To get quality time with loved ones

4) Habit – “we always get away at this time of year.”

5) A break from the norm

6) A new experience/different culture

7) To have some fun – nightlife, a sporting event, or just an adventure.

8) To get some sun/a tan (so that you can feel happy/look healthy)

9) It’s on my bucket list – “I’ve always wanted to go there.”

10) Facebook is showing that everyone else is doing it and I need some new pics to get everyone jealous.

The funny thing about holidays is that sometimes booking them seems to add stress. For example, people often book their two week break, and then spend months telling others (before and after) that they can’t afford anything else because they have just paid for/been on their holidays (which of course must include a whole new wardrobe and toiletry stock up). There are also those that worry about their work, either before they go, desperately trying to tie up ALL lose ends (they can’t possibly delegate), or whilst away, or when they come back to hundreds of emails. This kind of thinking is what makes some believe they can’t take a break at all.

So how can you get the same results that a holiday gives you, without actually going on holiday?

Here are my top tips for getting away from it all, without actually getting away:

1) Make the most of your free time – don’t just come home on a Friday night and eat dinner in front of the TV. Plan a date night; a quick drink after work or a dinner date does not cut into your chill out time, it’s part of it!

2) Schedule in a couple of hours at the weekend or an evening in the week to do something for you. Get creative, read a book quietly in a cafe, or simply sit in a warm bath. Make sure other people are aware this is happening and it’s for you… not to get away from them, but to reconnect with yourself. Equally, schedule in quality time with loved ones – a lift to football practice or food shopping with your partner does not count!

3) Think good thoughts and you really don’t notice the rain… and share that with others, smile at strangers.

4) Have a themed night in. Mexico, Italy, France, Asia..get everyone to bring a dish using unusual fruit and veg, get dressed up, find some tunes, decorate the dining room, rent a relevant movie… bring the culture to you.

5) Once a month turn a weekend into an adventure – jump on a random bus, stick your finger on a map, make a list of places you want to go and can get to, put the ideas in a hat and pick one, or simply take a walk and get off the beaten track. The key here is to be excited about what you might discover.

6) Have a night out with the girls – slap on some fake tan and bust out the summer time tunes as you get glammed up.

7) Focus on what you have got – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, grateful people are so much happier than those always chasing something else. Write a gratitude dairy every couple of days and reflect when needed.

8) Relax – meditate, swim, do a yoga/mindfulness class, have a lay in… whatever works for you, do it… and do it often.

9) Really look at things around you in wonder – see things differently and you will find many wonders already in your world.

10) Be silly – letting your hair down isn’t just for children or when alcohol is involved. Go dance in the kitchen and sing in the street!