My Blog http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com Just another WordPress site Tue, 21 Feb 2012 03:42:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.11 Go Back in Time to Galena, Illinois http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2012/02/17/go-back-in-time-to-galena-illinois/ http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2012/02/17/go-back-in-time-to-galena-illinois/#comments Fri, 17 Feb 2012 16:40:08 +0000 http://www.suitcasesandsippycups.com/?p=2608 Post image for Go Back in Time to Galena, Illinois

If it weren’t for the modern vehicles lining the streets and contemporary knick-knacks lining the retail shelves, you might think Galena, Illinois was frozen in another time.   Galena began as a lead mining town, but hit its glory days around the Civil War which left behind striking examples of a huge variety of architecture styles.  85% of the buildings in town are listed on the National Historical Registry, making Galena a history and photo buffs paradise.

Grant Mansion in Galena

General Ulysses S. Grant lived in Galena briefly before heading off to lead the Union troops and then returned, victoriously, to a new mansion built by the town.

Belvedere Mansion visited by President Lincoln during the Civil War

President Lincoln also spent some time in Galena, as he visited the Belvedere Mansion to inquire about Grant’s progress during the war.  This presidential history, along with the scores of French Colonial, Italianate, and Greek Revival buildings, prompted Time Life to place Galena on its list of 100 Places to See in Your Lifetime.

 

Today I am linking up with Photo Friday at Delicious Baby and Friday Daydreaming at R We There Yet Mom where you can see some great travel photos.

Also, I am so honored to be featured at Happily Mother After for my photos of the recycled art in a West Texas field.  Head over there where you can see truely terrific photos from around the blogosphere.

 

Happily Mother After

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The Hidden Island of Marina Cay http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2012/02/15/here-is-another/ Wed, 15 Feb 2012 14:56:52 +0000 http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/?p=31 Post image for The Hidden Island of Marina Cay

Earlier this week, I explored the marked difference between a vacation and a trip. Those of you with children know exactly what I’m talking about. If I was going to take a vacation, I would want to go back to Marina Cay, BVI. Normally, I wouldn’t have a desire to go back to some place I’ve been before. If you are going to see it all, there is no time for backtracking.

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Rules are What you Make Them: Paving Your Own Way Through Family Travel http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2012/02/15/rules-are-what-you-make-them-paving-your-own-way-through-family-travel/ http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2012/02/15/rules-are-what-you-make-them-paving-your-own-way-through-family-travel/#comments Wed, 15 Feb 2012 13:00:06 +0000 http://www.suitcasesandsippycups.com/?p=2553 Post image for Rules are What you Make Them: Paving Your Own Way Through Family Travel

Our Traveling Family

Recently, CNN published an article entitled the 5 Rules of Traveling with Children that touched off quite the kerfuffle among traveling families.  These wandering families, many of whom I consider role models, were appalled and downright offended at the advice given in the article.  Naturally, I trotted off to read the article, confident that I would be as equally offended, but as I read, I realized that these highly offensive rules were rules that I had followed myself when I first began traveling.  In fact, in my early years of traveling with children, CNN’s “rules” were like my ten commandments, and I followed them as staunchly as if an ancient dude with a long white beard had presented them on carved tablets.

My first born and I~Taking our first international trip together

Of course, that was a decade ago, way before this article was penned, and yet these rules (or myths) of traveling with children are prevalent enough that i followed them naturally and  someone even got away with writing them down in a main stream news article.  Wondering about this led me to think about the rules that we have made and broken as we have learned to travel with our kids.   And I couldn’t help but be curious how those rules compared to the rules set out by the CNN article.

So many suitcases, even the baby needs to pull one

CNN Rule #1: The Younger the Child the Bigger the Suitcase

Babies are a horrifying, fear-filled experience that can so easily be botched without repair.  At least that’s what the baby gear industry wants new parents to believe.  They are counting on this feeling of helplessness to sell those wads of wipe warmers, and bouncy, nature sound chairs that promise to make new parenthood breezy and fear free.  And parents generally buy into it, because they don’t want to be seen as neglectful parents and what if they are stuck in the middle of the night with a screaming baby and room temperature wipes?

Baby’s First Flight~ So many new discoveries

This feeling of uncertainty tags right along when you begin traveling with a baby.  In my early traveling parent experience, I fell victim to this and brought along way more than I actually needed for the baby.  But, all that extra baggage wasn’t really for the baby.  All he needed was a clean tushie, a full tummy, and carte blanche access to raising the airplane window shade over and over.  All that other stuff was for me.  I needed it to feel secure in my ability to handle any situation that might be thrown at me while traveling.

I can easily look back and smirk at my former pack mule self, but over packing for the baby during those early travels was a learning experience all on its own.  It gave me confidence to get on the first overseas flight, and the experience to know which things really could be left behind.

It’s lunch?  I thought it was bedtime!

CNN Rule #2: The younger the child, the harder it is to get over jetlag.

I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t lived it myself, but the younger a child is, the easier they are to bring along on a trip.  And as for jetlag, nobody has it better than the baby.  Babies can and will sleep anywhere.  Just pop them in a carrier or stroller and go.   Getting younger children adjusted to a new time zone may take a little creativity on the part of the parent, but with a bit of patience, you will find a way for everyone to get at least enough sleep to make it through the day.  The excitement of being in a new place and seeing new things will keep both young and old energized.

Pizza for every meal!

CNN Rule #3: Travel to a destination that serves French fries.

It always seems like all the really good travelers are out trying out ethnic delicacies, while we seem to be seeking out the pizza and burger chains.  Part of this has to do with my admittedly limited culinary palate, but much of it had to do with trying to provide some sense of routine for little kids.  Kids thrive on routine, and traveling pretty much throws that right out the window.  Eating familiar food, albeit less adventurous, is one way to give new travelers a taste of home when everything around them is different.  Luckily, even eating fast food can lead to more adventurous tastes.  We found that the kids really enjoyed Croque Brie served at McDonald’s and that led to loving brie en croute in France.  Now that the kids are older, they are more comfortable with traveling in general, so they are willing to branch out into unfamiliar tastes. Still, I don’t regret the days of eating less adventurous meals.  If we had been convinced that we needed to travel a certain way that included only eating local food, we would have missed out on tons of trips.  Passing up pate for a few French fries was worth the memories!

 

CNN Rule #4: You can’t have too much in-flight entertainment for young children.

If you go back to Rule #1, you’ll remember that I used to be a big believer in bringing it all.  I lived by the motto that if I didn’t need to stand on my suitcase to get it to close, then I still had room to stuff one more gee-gaw that might entertain for five minutes.  I’ve since learned that not only can you bring too much stuff, you can bring all the wrong stuff.  This list of the totally wrong stuff includes toys that sing annoying cartoon songs, toys with 5 million parts, and anything that rolls.  I’ve been guilty of packing them all, but luckily the embarrassment of crawling down the aisle of airplane to retrieve all the missing parts and rolling balls triggers a chemical in your brain to start packing smarter.  Older kids can get plenty of entertainment out of a handheld game system, while younger kids are happiest with the simplest of playthings.  Kids of all ages seem most content just to spend time talking and playing with their parents.  Since you’ll be bringing that form of entertainment along without taking up any extra space in your bag, you should take advantage of it.

Double stoller = Double nap tap

CNN Rule #5: Strollers are as much a bane as a boon.

In my travelling world, strollers, like politicians and taxes are a necessary evil.  Once I got to the point where I had more kids than I could carry, I relied on my stroller for safety (and sanity).  Unfortunately for my reality,  there are so many places that just are not stroller friendly, though, like cobblestone streets, places with stairs, and lots of public transportation.  I learned quite the hard way that it was impossible to navigate my giant double stroller through the NYC subways.  But rather than ditch the stroller idea all together, we purchased two umbrella strollers to get us through the trip.  Looking back we probably could have solved that problem a myriad of different ways, but that was the solution that made the most sense to keep us traveling at the time.  

The Rules have Changed and We Have Changed

At the end of the day, hard and fast rules for family travel just don’t work.  Families are too individual and no two trips are the same.  What works for one family would never work for another, and what worked like a charm last year, won’t have any success this year.  As we have traveled, we have evolved and hopefully gotten a bit savvier as we have learned what “rules” work best for us.

The one thing I know with certainty from the years of following the rules, breaking the rules, and making new ones: kids are resilient and capable, way more so than their parents.  Kids can adapt to any environment, any challenge, and any new task.  Traveling serves to teach them to harness this skill and carry it into adulthood.  With that in mind, it doesn’t matter what you have to do to travel, just find a way to travel. Even if you need to tote four suitcases too many and stop at every McDonalds from here to Germany, just do it.  Do it your way and learn in the process. 

As we were (and are) learning, we have relied on the advice of others, some tried and true ideas, and some good old fashioned winging it to keep us exploring.  It was in the experimenting, the trying and failing that we were able to become confident family travelers.  We never could have achieved that by trying to follow someone else’s set of rules.  We had to make our own way.

When I said this article made quite a stir, I wasn’t kidding.  See what these other amazing traveling families thought about these five rules of travel.

A King’s Life: The Surprisingly Easy Truth of Traveling with Kids

The “Secret” to Traveling with Children by Susan @ Family Travel Bucket List

Worst Family Travel Advice I’ve Ever Read by Gabi Klaf @ The Nomadic Family.com

Debunking CNN’s Rules for Traveling with Kids by Mary @Bohemiantravelers

How Do you Travel with Children? by Alisa @ Living Outside of the Box

5 Rules of Travel With Kids: A Traveling Child Responds by Jennifer Miller@Edventure Project

CNN’s Ridiculous Rules About Travel With Kids by Corinne at Have Baby Will Travel

Shocking Tips on Traveling with Kids That Went Unnoticed…It is Time to Demystify The Five Rules of Traveling with Kids by Claudia Looi @travelwritingpr

5 Amazing Reasons To Travel With Your Kids!

French Fries and Chicken Nuggets are Travel Essentials: The Worst Family Travel Advice ever by Nancy Sathre-Vogel @familyonbikes

 

More Than French Fries by Lisa Shusterman

Why “Easy” Travel Options Aren’t Always the Best for Kids- a Rebuttal to CNNGo “5 Rules of Traveling With Kids” by Jody Halsted; Family Rambling @iatraveler

CNNGo Five Rules of Travelling With Kids: Are You For Real? by New Life on the Road

Myths, NOT Rules, of Traveling with Kids by Kate Rehkopf, Experiential Family @experientialfam

My Reality (Not Rules) When Traveling with Kids by Keryn Means/Walkingon Travels (twitter: @walkingontravel)

“Yes ! It is Possible to Travel with Children of all Ages” by Susus 7

Forget the Rules of Travel – Try Backpacking with Kids in Yellowstone National Park by Sandra Foyt @sandrafoyt


5 Rules of Traveling with kids NOT to Follow

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Smart Save Days Out ~I’m Sold http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2012/02/13/smart-save-days-out-im-sold/ http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2012/02/13/smart-save-days-out-im-sold/#comments Tue, 14 Feb 2012 04:31:49 +0000 http://www.suitcasesandsippycups.com/?p=2587 Post image for Smart Save Days Out ~I’m Sold

I think the inventor of email is one of my favorite people on earth.  I just can’t help but get that slight “you’ve got mail” tingle when I open my inbox and see a flag for new messages.  There is type of email that I dread though, and it usually bears some sort of title involving advertising opportunity.  Often they (whoever they is) try to put a creative spin on it, but it all boils down to the same bottom line; we want you to help us sell our product.

The problem with this is that most of these advertising opportunities don’t know anything about my blog and their product isn’t a good match for my goals or my readers.   Yes, I am talking to you makers of adult diapers.  My readers and I have no need for your product…yet!  Let’s circle back around* in about 30 years.

*circle back around: industry jargon for emailing you again to badger you about helping us sell our product

So, when I received an email from Smart Save Days Out, I was skeptical.  As I began to research the product, I was not only convinced that it was a product that I would use and would happily endorse; I was disappointed that I did not know about it sooner so that I could use it myself.

Smart Save Days Out is a savings program based in the UK that offers discount vouchers for admission to popular attractions around London.  A list of participating locations are available on the website and it is as choosing where you want to go and saving money.

  1. There is no risk or registration.  Unlike other savings programs that require an initial fee, Smart Save is completely free to use and requires no pre registration.  Simply print the voucher and save 20% at the participating attractions.
  2. It is easy to use.  You can print the voucher and use it at the ticket counter, or even show the voucher on your mobile phone and receive the same discount.   Hotels also offer smart save maps which include all the voucher codes for attractions and restaurants.
  3. Savings for up to six people.  With more than the typical 2.3 kids, we often miss out on deals and packages.  Smart Save Days Out offers savings for up to six people-a perfect savings for our family.
  4. Benefits are easy to calculate using the website.  No guessing at the ticket counter.  No need for advanced math while on vacation.  Just plug your ticket needs into the website and see your savings.
  5. It shows me places I’ve never heard of, but want to see.  The top attractions are easy to find in any guidebook, but the off the path attractions are often our favorite stops.   Smart Save gives me a list of not only well known attractions, but hidden gems to enjoy
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An Interview with Nanny in the Clouds http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2012/02/12/an-interview-with-nanny-in-the-clouds/ http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2012/02/12/an-interview-with-nanny-in-the-clouds/#comments Mon, 13 Feb 2012 04:37:34 +0000 http://www.suitcasesandsippycups.com/?p=2566 Post image for An Interview with Nanny in the Clouds

One of the greatest challenges for traveling parents is the airport experience, especially if you are flying alone or you are outnumbered by both kids and suitcases.   The logistics of getting from point A to point B with all the children and luggage, plus the stress of being trapped on a plane with no help is enough to keep many parents from traveling at all.  Julie Melnick was feeling the stress of traveling to see family alone with two kids when she developed Nanny in the Clouds, an online service that matches traveling families with helpers on board the same flight.  I sat down with Julie recently to learn more about Nanny in the Clouds.

What inspired you to start Nanny in the Clouds?

My inspiration to start Nanny in the Clouds was a flight I took last June, where my 2 year old was driving me nuts. I was sitting there, in my seat, thinking about how I loved to travel to see my family in Florida, but also about how I wanted to have another baby. How would I able to travel with more than one kid without help?  Between my son screaming, “I WANT TO GET OFF THE PLANE!” and me not being able to take a bathroom break since I had to watch him, I was at my wit’s end. I looked around the plane and realized that there were definitely nice people on the plane, I just didn’t really know them yet. I was sure that at least one of them would have been happy to help me with my child during the flight, as a babysitter. I just needed to find a way to make that happen. Thus, Nanny in the Clouds was born!  I came home and had an informal focus group with my friends, who all have young children. Every single one of them loved the idea. Their support, along with my desperation to have an extra set of hands on my next flight, was the inspiration to it all.

So, walk me through the process.  How would I use Nanny in the Clouds for my next trip?

Okay, so if you have a trip planned from JFK to LAX, for example, you would go on the site, register for free, and put in your flight information to see if any nannies come up on that same fight. If there are no nannies currently booked on the flight, you can set up an alert so that when one does sign up, you get an email letting you know. Once you see a nanny available, you can pay $10 to get her contact information to set up an interview. After interviewing her, if you decide to hire her, you need to work out her payment directly with her. You will discuss with her where you will meet…it can be at check in or right before boarding. It all depends on how much help you need.

 We have some exciting changes coming to Nanny in the Clouds.  By mid-March, you will be able to go on our site, and put in the approximate dates of your travel along with city pairings to see if there is a nanny available in that date range. This way, it will make it a lot easier to find a match, if your travel dates are flexible. This system will be much like booking a flight based on availability or price…it will just be based on whether there is an extra set of hands available on one of the flights. The same works for the nannies. If there is someone who wants to work as a nanny on a flight, she can put in her approximate trip dates, and she will see if there is a family on that flight that is looking for help. She can then book her flight accordingly.

Wow, that sounds expensive!  Can I afford to use Nanny in Clouds?

Actually, this is the cheapest way to fly with a nanny ever! Normally, if you take a nanny with you on a trip, you will have to pay for her ticket, her time watching your kids, as well as her room and board at your destination. With Nanny in the Clouds, all you have to pay is her hourly rate. That is the beauty of our site! She is already going to the same place as you, so it is a win-win situation for both! The mom gets childcare, and the nanny makes some extra money on a flight she otherwise would have been doing nothing.

Actually, the flight part of the trip seems the easiest.  What I need is someone who can help me manage check in and security with so many kids and bags.  Can you help?

 Absolutely, I agree! I think getting through the security line is one of the most stressful parts of flying with kids. Our nannies are available to help with any or all parts of the air travel process. You just have to work that out with your nanny.

 How do you find nannies to help parents in flight?

 We are looking for nannies in a variety of ways; Word of mouth, facebook, college job board advertising, etc. We believe that anyone with childcare experience and 2 good references to show they are great with kids would be an ideal candidate as a nanny on a flight. They are providing the parent with an extra set of hands and some peace of mind in knowing that they are not alone in getting from point a to point b. And sometimes just knowing that can make all the difference in the world.

What about safety?

Safety is our priority. We ask that all nannies provide two verifiable references on their profile. It is up to the mom or dad to do the research to ensure that they are comfortable with this person helping out with their kids. The difference between our site and other nanny matching sites is that since our service takes place during the air travel experience, the parent is always present with the children as well as the nanny.

You are not just a business owner, you are also a mom.  Tell us about your family and your travels.

 I have a son who is three and a baby on the way! We live in California, where my husband is from, but we go to the East Coast a lot to see my family and friends.   Traveling is a big part of our lives and I am passionate about making Nanny in the Clouds  available to moms everywhere!

 

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There’s Art in Them There Fields http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2012/02/10/theres-art-in-them-there-fields/ http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2012/02/10/theres-art-in-them-there-fields/#comments Fri, 10 Feb 2012 06:12:47 +0000 http://www.suitcasesandsippycups.com/?p=2543 Post image for There’s Art in Them There Fields

The wild, unruly fields of Texas.  When settlers first came to this land, they found an unforgiving, stubborn landscape, and with an equaled stubbornness, they tamed the land.  Trumpeting the determination of the early Texans, those angry fields produced an abundance of wealth and prosperity as cotton and oil sprang forth. But there is something else growing up in the fields of Texas that has nothing to do with wealth or prosperity or even good sense.  The fields of the Running N Ranch in rural Saint Jo are growing art.*

         *read with grit and drawl ala Clint Eastwood.  Try it, it’s fun!

It began as a way for rancher Earl Nunneley to spend his retirement, but when his installations began to draw a cult like following, especially among motorcyclists, he began to think more about his audience.  Using telephone poles and junkyard finds as big boy’s tinker toys, he has constructed a menagerie of works that have been hailed by critics in the genre of folk art, but are considered by neighbors to be just plain crazy. 

As you step through the cattle gate and over the cow patties, you’ll see the most prominent piece in the collection.  Fourteen telephone poles jut dramatically out of the earth in a fan position, creating a single shadow when viewed on the vernal and autumnal equinoxes.   Just beyond that, the expansive view across the field is broken with the protrusion of a giant pair of cacti and what could be the world’s largest weather vane.

Playfully scattered across the pasture are a quintet of VW bugs that are clearly way past their prime, but have been given new life with a coat of ladybug paint and the addition of legs and antennae.   Blooming right alongside the whimsical bugs are a row of giant sunflowers composed of airplane rotary engines.  A new coat of paint each year keeps them looking fresh.

Whether the collection is an applauded contribution to the world of folk art or the creations of a retiree an air bubble off plumb,well, that is in the eye of the beholder.   Standing in the field gazing upward though, you can’t deny the je ne sais quoi that comes over you.  Perhaps Earl’s brother said it best.  “It’s just one of them things.  He wanted to do it, and he done it.”

~To visit Running N Ranch, take Hwy 82 from Gainesville towards Saint Jo.  Turn south on FM 677 and drive about 1 mile toward the middle of nowhere.  If you see the house with the three legged dog on the porch, you’ve gone too far.  You’ll see Earl’s art from the road and you can find parking where Earl moved his fence back for his fans.  Just let yourself in the gate, but be sure to close it behind you so you don’t let the cows out.~

Check out more photos at Photo Friday at Delicious Baby.

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The Unofficial Guide to Great Wolf Lodge http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2012/02/07/the-unoffical-guide-to-great-wolf-lodge/ http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2012/02/07/the-unoffical-guide-to-great-wolf-lodge/#comments Wed, 08 Feb 2012 03:50:40 +0000 http://www.suitcasesandsippycups.com/?p=2534

From the minute you walk in the door, it's obvious that every aspect of Great Wolf Lodge was designed with for fun and families.  A weather-proof waterpark, family designed suites,and tons of family activities make the eleven locations around the country perfect for a family getaway.  You'll want to make the most of all the fun Great Wolf Lodge has to offer.  This guide will help you with choosing your room and planning your day and everything in between. 

Where to Lay Your Head at Great Wolf Lodge

How to Plan the Perfect Day at Great Wolf Lodge

Benefits of Going to Great Wolf Lodge in the Off Season

Saving Money at Great Wolf Lodge

MagiQuest at Great Wolf Lodge

Tips for Becoming a Master Magi at MagiQuest

 

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How to Plan your Day at Great Wolf Lodge http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2012/02/07/how-to-plan-your-day-at-great-wolf-lodge/ Wed, 08 Feb 2012 03:17:15 +0000 http://www.suitcasesandsippycups.com/?p=2523

Great Wolf Lodge is one of my kids’ favorite places to play, and since it is local, they are regularly howling for another trip.   Although we love the fun that GWL has to offer, it is way more than we would usually spend for a single night so we have to enjoy the splurge sparingly.  When we do get a chance to answer the call of the wild, we want to make sure we get the most of our time and our money.  This is how we usually plan a two days and one night at GWL.  Keep in mind, though, we are pinching pennies when we arrive, so consider this the cheapskate’s guide to having a great time at Great Wolf Lodge.

Day One

1: 00 pm-We arrive and check in.  The nightly rate includes two days admission at the waterpark and we want to be sure to enjoy every minute.   Rooms are not expected to be ready until 4:00 pm, but since we almost always travel mid-week and off season, our room is always ready at 1:00 pm.  Just in case, the kids wear their swimming suits, so there is no need to dive into suitcases to hit the waterpark. 

5:00 pm-By now, everyone is waterlogged and starving, so we head to our room to shower and change into normal clothes.  Quickly, people begin clambering for dinner, which we will usually enjoy from a cooler in our room.  Sometimes we leave the hotel and eat a quick dinner somewhere nearby.  Of course, we could also eat at any of the restaurant choices inside GWL, which are wonderful, but not usually in the budget.

6:00-Time to check out the water-free activities at the Lodge, which for my kids means MagiQuest.  We have found this to be a very crowd free time to quest, as most other families are eating dinner or finishing up at the waterpark.   Sometimes the kids want to change into their pajamas before starting on their MagiQuest, because it’s just more fun in slippers.

8:00-The Clock Tower and Story Time starts at 8:00, with kids joining together in jammies to enjoy the show.  When the kids were younger, this was the last activity of the day, but big kids are (sadly) still rarin’ to go at 8:00, so we hit the waterpark for one more hour of water fun.  This is the best hour of the day, as the park is completely quiet and often we have the whole place to ourselves.

9:00 Waterpark closes.  We head back to our room for baths and a sweet snack before climbing into the den for a short hibernation.

Day Two

8:00-Up early and into swimming suits in three seconds flat.  Breakfast is served in the room and I spend a few minutes laying out clothes and packing up suitcases, so we can make a quick getaway at check out time.  When we checked in the day before, I requested a late check out, so we can stay in our room until 1:00 pm.  Late checkout is limited and may not be available during peak season, but be sure to ask.

9:00-Waterpark opens and we try to be the first ones in the door.  Again, the park is very quiet with no lines and freedom to explore wherever we want.  It’s a perfect time to work on our Howlin’ Tornado record.

12:00-Head to the room for a quick shower and get dressed.  Grab all our bags and head for the car.  We always keep a separate bag for wet swimming suits so we can find them later if we want to go to the waterpark again.  The last bag we grab is our sack lunch and then we check out.

1:00-We usually eat lunch in the eating area near the waterpark.  Outside food is not allowed in the waterpark, but we can eat our sack lunch outside with no problem.

1:30-More MagiQuest fun.  You would think they would be tired at this point, but they are not.  After all the stair climbing in the waterpark and during MagiQuest, I wonder to myself why GWL even bothers having a fitness club.

3:00-When we get tired of questing, we give the kids the option of hitting the waterpark one more time.  A couple more hours in the park and they are finally worn out.  We can stay in the waterpark until closing that night, but we never stay that long.

5:00-Head for home for some dinner and hopefully an early bedtime. Well, at least for the parents.

~Great Wolf Lodge hosted our family for a one night stay and offered a substantial discount for our rate.  They did not require that express any particular viewpoint and all opinions are my own~

 

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MagiQuest at Great Wolf Lodge http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2012/02/07/magiquest-at-great-wolf-lodge/ Wed, 08 Feb 2012 02:22:35 +0000 http://www.suitcasesandsippycups.com/?p=2493

MagiQuest. Sounds like a kid’s delight, but what is it? It’s a treasure hunt for the modern seeker with the opportunities to test your powers around every corner. With a literal wave of a magic wand, you set off on fantastical quests that take you around the hotel and into worlds of adventure. Your wand is equipped with a sensor which will activate the game when it is pointed at the various elements throughout the hotel.  Activating elements in the game earns your points that can be used to earn further quests and adventures.  Knowing some of the tips and tricks before you play will make your MagiQuest truly magical.

How to Begin

Start in the Magiquest Store, where you will purchase a wand *($14.99 and up) and a game ($9.99 for four days of play).  This is all you will need to begin your quest, although there are plenty of extras you can purchase to add to the game.   Your name will be registered with your wand, so you can check your progress**on the Magiquest screen and on the TV in your room.  Along with your wand, you will be given a guidebook called the Ancient Book of Wisdom to help you on the way. 

*a note for parents of more than one kid: if at all possible convince your kids that this is a team sport and buy only one wand.  Not only will you save yourself money, but you will save yourself tons of frustration and confusion of which wand activated which element in the game.

**a note for parents of competitive kids: Try to avoid letting your little competitor know that there is a way they can actually “win” this game or you will be tiptoeing through the hotel during  the wee hours of the night to push yourself to the top of the leaderboard.

Starting Your Quest

Your quest begins near the Magiquest store at the giant tree with the computer screen.  Point your wand at the tree to choose and begin your quest.  Read the instructions carefully, especially paying attention to push the button to “Accept your Quest.”  It is very easy to push the wrong buttons in the excitement of the set up process and have to start again. 

After choosing your quest, refer to your guide to help you find the clues complete your quest.  This is where the fun begins!  Completing your quests leads to acquiring runes which will eventually give you enough power to fight and slay the deadly dragon.  Although this is the initial goal of Magiquest, it is only the beginning of the fun.  New quests and adventures are unlocked as you fight the dragon and lead to more opportunities to test your powers.

How it Works

There are 10 Runes to collect and it takes 11 Quests to collect them all.  Collecting these Runes opens up three Adventure Quests to extend the fun.  Consult your Ancient Book of Wisdom for clues on how to proceed with collecting and become a Master Magi.  Follow the clues in the book to find a series elements that unlock the next level.  There are enough levels and ways to play to keep you busy the entire time you are at Great Wolf Lodge, and even come back for more.

Tips for Kids On Becoming Master Magis and Tips for Parents to Not Go Crazy in the Process

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Tips for Becoming a Master Magi at MagiQuest http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2012/02/07/tips-for-becoming-a-master-magi-at-magiquest/ Wed, 08 Feb 2012 02:22:13 +0000 http://www.suitcasesandsippycups.com/?p=2510

MagiQuest is a great family game and appeals to all ages, but there is definitely a learning curve and it can be frustrating in the beginning.    As you play you will become more confident with the nuances of the game, but knowing a few tricks in the beginning can keep you from quitting before it gets fun.

  • Use the stairs.  There is a Hidden Stairway that connects the levels of Magiquest and makes it easier to follow the game. Don’t worry, it’s not really hidden, it’s just down the hall and clearly marked.  Sound mysterious though.    Using the elevator may seem easier, but it makes the game much more confusing.  Many elements are also located in the stairwells, so wear your good shoes.  Good news: eat without guilt during your entire stay at GWL.  You will burn it off!

 

  • Speaking of stairs, if you have a little one, bring along a baby carrier so you can use the stairs.  Your stroller will only slow down your quest.

  • There are two magical trees.  One is on the main floor and one is usually on an upper floor.  You have to visit the tree every time you want to start a new quest.  If you are on one of the upper floors, the tree in the middle is probably closer.

 

  • The magical trees can do more than just start quests.  You can also check your progress and see what elements you are missing to complete your quest.

  • If you are confused, ask for help.  You can ask for help in the Magiquest store, or use the telephone near the second tree to call for assistance.  Feel free to call and ask for help finding a specific element if you have been searching for a while.  There is no shame in it, especially if it saves you from falling in the floor and having a grownup temper tantrum.

 

  • Pace yourself.  You cannot finish everything that Magiquest has to offer in one visit unless you are staying for four or more days.  Wands can be reactivated anytime without losing progress, so bring them back if you visit again.

  • Keep your wands pointed downward unless it is your turn to activate the element, especially if you are on a quest with a group.

 

  • Kids younger than eight will probably need adult supervision.  Older kids can go it alone, checking in with parents between quests, or bring a pair of walkie talkies to stay in contact.

 

  • Quests are ranked in the Ancient Wisdom in order of difficulty.  The difficulty increases as the clues become more vague with each progression.

 

  • Parents, if you want to help your kids out give them back their wand and start taking notes.  As you huff and puff your way up the stairs take note of which floor contains which elements.  It will come in handy later and save you tons of flights of stairs in searching.

 

  • Elements are hidden, but they aren’t hidden too carefully.  All elements are within the general area near the elevators.  You do not need to go down the hallways very far to find them and will not find any near guests’ rooms.  You might need to look on the ceiling though.

  • Some of the quests and all of the adventures require the activation of a Hover Crystal.  These crystals are located near the magic trees and must be charmed (pointed at) before you can continue.  The Hover Crystal will turn green if you have completed all the necessary requirements and will turn red if not. 

 

  • Slaying the dragon is not suitable for children.  It’s not that it is graphic, it is just really, really hard to do.  There is a certain amount of timing involved and several different charms that need to be activated to succeed.  Our kids have never been successful on their own and, I’m not going to lie, there have been tears.  (Don’t worry, I’m okay now.)  If you are having trouble, come back when the area is not busy.  Extra wands flying around can really miss with the system and make it impossible to slay the dragon.

 

  • Your wand will work for four days from the time of activation, but can be reused at any other visit.  Once you get the hang of it, you will want to keep questing again and again.

 

 

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