10 Spring Break Staycation Ideas for Families

If a big trip isn’t on the calendar this year, you might be looking for Spring Break staycation ideas to keep the kids entertained for 10 consecutive, school-free days. Fear not! There are tons of fun activities that feel special enough for a school vacation, and will keep you or the sitter and your kids happily entertained at or near home.

10 Fun, Family Activities for a Spring Break Staycation

  1. Go camping in your own backyard. If the temps aren’t feeling sub-zero, pitch a tent in the backyard or on the back deck and have a family night under the stars. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, check out our round-up of family-friendly camping spots and hit the road!
  2. Turn your home into a restaurant for a day. With kids to feed, you might already feel like a short order cook, but why not get the kids in on the action by pretending to run a restaurant. You can divvy up duties – setting the table, prep, cooking, serving, being the customer and clean up. It’s a fun way to get little ones involved in menu planning, and hands on in the kitchen, which has been shown to open their minds to trying new foods and appreciating the value of good, whole foods. It’s also a nice opportunity to work on table manners and to talk about money.
  3. Dive in! Just because you aren’t at the beach, doesn’t mean you can’t take a swim. Bust out your beach bags and head to a pool for the day. Your kids will love it!
  4. Take a local hike or bike ride. Get outside and get moving with a family hike or bike ride through a familiar or waiting-to-be-discovered part of town. If you don’t already have one, think of investing in a quality baby seat for your bike. You’ll open up tons of opportunities for getting fresh air and exercise with baby in tow.
  5. Play tourist in your own town. Visit a local attraction you’ve never seen before, whether it be a little known museum, a school or neighborhood park in another area, or even an unfamiliar library branch.
  6. Wake up in “Paris” or any other foreign land you’d like to visit. With a little advance planning, you can have make-believe feel quite real by greeting your kids with “Bonjour!” and a croissant, sharing books or stories about the land you are visiting (maybe a Madeline story), doing a foreign craft, watching a movie, and making an easy meal together. It’s a fun way to open their minds to new cultures.
  7. Host a lemonade stand. Even if you don’t live on a street with many passersby, you might be able to recruit some neighbors or friends to come by to buy a cup or two. It takes some time to make a sign, mix up a pitcher of lemonade, set up a stand and wait for your customers!
  8. Do good. A day off is a fine time to volunteer for a local cause, together as a family. Clean-up a favorite park, help out at a food bank or visit a nursery home to teach your kids the value of giving back.
  9. Have a family movie night and sleepover. With no early morning alarms to set, you might feel a little more lax about bedtime. Pile the family in front of the TV for a movie or find a fun family-friendly game to play together. Make it more  fun with a big batch of popcorn or a special sweet treat. If your kids are past the crib stage, try gathering your sleeping bags and sleeping together sleep-over style.
  10. Set up a BBQ. Our last Spring Break staycation idea really sizzles! Nothing says spring like firing up the grill for burgers and hot dogs. Get the kids involved in the cooking, helping prepare the sides, drinks and desserts. It’s a great way to enjoy a spring break together after a long week.

No matter how  you spend your Spring Break staycation, remember there’s always a sitter available on UrbanSitter to give you a break! 

Tips for Packing a Cooler for the Family Road Trip

Whether your family’s headed to the beach, on a road trip or doing a bit of camping this summer, you need to master the art of safely and effectively packing the family cooler. Not properly preparing or packing your food for the trip can mean more than just disappointing food. It can mean exposing your kids to harmful, possibly deadly bacteria. Here are helpful tips for packing the cooler and keeping it cool while your family enjoys some R & R in the great outdoors.

Preparing Food to Pack for the Road Trip

  • Consider pre-cooking food prior to your trip so you only need to reheat on the fire or camping stove. Better to avoid packing totally raw perishables, if you can.
  • Cool any food you’ll be putting in your cooler beforehand. It’s best to keep it refrigerated overnight so it’s good and cold before it hits the cooler.
  • Freeze items like juice boxes, meat and hot dogs so they can slowly thaw in your cooler.
  • Keep everything double-wrapped in plastic wrap and zipped in a Ziploc bag or in watertight containers to keep from cross contaminating.
  • If you are traveling with a bottle-fed baby, it’s safest to prepare and pack bottles of sterile water and have powdered formula pre-portioned so you can mix a bottle without fuss. You won’t have to worry about premixed bottles spoiling.
  • Whole fresh fruits and vegetables don’t need to be packed in the cooler, nor do pouches of baby food. You can throw them in a tote, saving room in the cooler.

Packing the Cooler for the Family Trip

  • For day trips, many families prefer using soft cooler bags, since they are light and easy to carry. For longer trips, choose heavier duty coolers. It’s a good idea to pack two – one for beverages and one for perishables. Not sure what cooler is for traveling? No worries, Spruce Eats has done all the work for you – here’s their list of the best coolers.
  • Pack your coolers with several inches of ice. You can make your own by filling half-gallon milk containers, large sealable freezer bags or water bottles 2/3 full with water and freezing. Solid ice blocks melt more slowly than ice cubes.
  • Keep loose ice (cubes) you want to use for drinks in a separate container so they don’t become contaminated.
  • Check out this handy infographic from BuzzFeed for smart packing:

    Buzzfeed Infographic
    How to pack a cooler via Buzzfeed

Keeping it Cold

  • Keep what you’re going to eat first at the top of the cooler, so you aren’t digging through the cooler and letting the cold escape.
  • For longer trips, keep a separate cooler for water and drinks. You’ll likely open that cooler more often, leaving the other to stay closed and cold.
  • Keep the cooler closed and in a shaded area for the best insulation.

If we’ve got you itching for a family trip and you could use some help finding a family friendly camping spot, check out our roundup of family camping favorites, which includes spots on both coasts and a few in between, too. The UrbanSitter Family Travel Pinterest Board is filled with pins from our blog and others, providing tips for safe and happy travel with kids. Go ahead – hit the road!

Source: The USDA web site provides valuable info on keeping perishables safe while traveling.

Need a sitter for the adults to go out and enjoy a nice meal while on your road trip? You can find a local sitter through UrbanSitter. 

Have Baby, Will Travel

Traveling with a baby

Whether you’re taking a road trip or facing a long flight together, the thought of traveling with an infant can be daunting, especially for first-timers. But, the trip doesn’t have to be a hairy one.

In fact, infants often make for much better travel companions than their squirmy, mobile, older siblings! Consider these tips from the experts for smooth, stress-free travel with your baby this summer.

Tips for Traveling with Infants

  1. Travel Light. We think babies require a lot of stuff, but whittle down your daily baby care items to the bare essentials, and you’ll be surprised at how little a baby really needs. Unless you’re headed to a remote location, you can lighten the load significantly by renting the big, must-have items and have them waiting for you when you arrive. Rental companies such as Babyquip, Rents 4 Baby and Travelingbaby.com will deliver to your destination, so no need to lug a crib or pack-n-play, jogging stroller, high chair, bicycle baby carrier, swing or baby gates. Verywell has a list of the best baby rental equipment.
    • They’ll also deliver car seats. Another option is to reserve one through your rental car carrier. Just be sure to request one in advance, making sure it’s the appropriate size, since supplies seem to be limited.
    • Another helpful hint for keeping the packing to a minimum –  purchase diapers, formula and extra baby wipes when you arrive, rather than carrying a large supply with you.
  2. Think ahead and be prepared. Ever try to carry a baby through a busy airport, thinking it was easier to check the stroller at baggage claim? Ever try to hold an infant while using a public restroom? Not fun. Make it easier on yourself by becoming one with your stroller while traveling. Not only will it save you from having to carry your precious cargo, it will also provide a place to change a diaper or let a tired little one get some rest. Along with the stroller, be sure you have an especially well-packed diaper bag, carry-on or tote. A diaper bag packed for an infant should include:
    • at least two changes of simple, low-fuss clothes and socks (blow-outs happen when you least expect them!)
    • diapers and plenty of baby wipes
    • a bottle and formula if you are bottle-feeding, a pacifier (especially helpful to combat air-pressure changes while flying)
    • hand sanitizer
    • light blanket to warm a chilly baby, serve as a nursing shield or provide a place to lie your baby down for a stretch.
    • any necessary medications, sunscreen, and diaper rash cream.
  3. Consider applying for TSA PreCheck
    • To make traveling through the airport even easier, you might want to apply for TSA PreCheck.  Children under 12 can go through TSA PreCheck with an adult who has it. With TSA Pre, your family won’t need to remove shoes, belts, toiletries, personal electronics such as an iPad or laptop or jackets, plus the line moves much more quickly. Keep in mind there is a cost to applying, however many credit cards will reimburse you.
  4. Keep to a schedule. Most parents agree with the experts who tell us that babies who stick to a schedule or routine are often the most content.
    • While it’s not always possible to follow the exact routine you have at home, you can typically feed, change and put your baby to sleep with some consistency. You and your baby will have a happier trip if she’s not skipping naps or missing bottles or snacks.
  5. Incorporate time for yourself and time with your spouse or partner. No matter how well you plan and prepare, travel with a baby can be stressful and tiring. Give yourself a break by making time to take care of yourself and your adult relationships. Let Dad do solo duty for a bit while you splurge on a spa treatment, take a nap or simply lounge by the pool with a good book.
    • You can both get a break and a chance to see the sights by taking advantage of a local babysitter. Hotels can often recommend local babysitters, though it’s typically less expensive and more convenient to find and book a trustworthy babysitter on UrbanSitter. You’ll have greater peace of mind leaving your child in a new sitter’s care after reading her profile and other parents’ reviews on the site.

Before long, your tiny travel companion will become an energetic toddler in tow! Check out these tips for happy traveling with tots and little kids.

Looking for a babysitter or nanny while on vacation? Join UrbanSitter to find sitters at your vacation destination. 

Tips for Traveling with a Toddler

Tips for traveling with a toddler, what to pack when traveling with a toddler

Once your baby reaches the toddler stage, typically around the age of 1-3 years old, traveling becomes a whole new experience with its own unique challenges. Your child has become mobile, more expressive and innately curious and anxious to explore his surroundings. Your job is to not only get to and enjoy your destination, but to keep your travel buddy safe, comfortable and entertained. Follow our tips for easier travel with a toddler, and you’ll both have a wonderful trip.

Pack smart (which, unfortunately, doesn’t necessarily mean light).
You think babies require a lot of stuff, but now that you’re in the throes of the toddler stage, you’ll quickly see that the Baby Packing List has nothing on the whopping amount of toys, snacks, clothes and gear you’ll need to travel with your toddler. Here’s a handy pack list for tots we’ve found at BabyCenter and have revised after traveling with toddlers of our own:

  • Diapers – Bring extras in case of emergencies or delays. Potty training? We feel for ya. Regardless of what the experts say, rely on pull-ups, rather than new underpants for the plane ride.
  • Wipes – Not just for changing diapers. You’ll likely use them more for the endless spills, drips, and messy disasters that go hand in hand with toddlers. Also useful for cleaning and de-germing toilet seats, arm rests and restaurant tables.
  • Mat to put under your toddler during diaper changes – You have no idea where you might need to change a diaper.
  • Blanket(s) – Bring a few for comfort, shade, and warmth. Big scarves and wraps can do double duty, serving your needs as well as baby’s.
  • Plastic or reusable bags – Carry a variety of sizes for storing soiled diapers, clothes, and shoes.
  • Small bottles of disinfecting hand gel and toiletries – Buy travel sizes that can be stored in an easy-to-access tote or carry-on.
  • Tissues
  • Toys and books – Your child’s favorites, plus several new toys for surprises along the way. As lovely as it is to have a few books and crayons on hand, nothing beats a fully loaded iPad.
  • Your child’s favorite stuffed animal or blanket – Anything that provides comfort while away from familiar places.
  • Clothes, socks, and shoes – One to two outfits per day is a good guideline. Denim and dark colors are good for hiding dirt and stains. Prepare for weather changes by dressing in layers. Some parents swear by packing each outfit – a full change of clothes – in individual sealed bags for easy access.
  • Bathing suit – Lightweight and easy to pack, and you never know when it will come in handy.
  • Washable bibs
  • Sun hat and sunscreen
  • Sippy cups or bottles – Encourage your toddler to drink plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration, especially when flying.
  • Snack food – Don’t forget high-energy snacks for you, too.
  • Eating utensils
  • Nightlight – Helpful for your toddler and for you to locate him and the bathroom in a dark hotel room.
  • First-aid kit and child-proofing supplies –  Think socket protectors.
  • Portable crib or bed – Think long and hard before planning to have a (squirmy) toddler sleep with you. If he doesn’t have his own bed or crib at your destination, bring a portable one.
  • Car seat for travel by car or plane – If you’re renting a car, you can call ahead and arrange to have one waiting with your rental.
  • Portable stroller – Can usually be gate-checked or stored in the overhead bin of an airplane. It’s extremely helpful, even for toddler’s who think they’ve outgrown the stroller. Plus it’s perfect for holding your bags as you navigate the airport.

Keep to your schedule.
Toddlers, like babies, are more content and adjust better to new surroundings when they stick to a familiar schedule or routine. While it’s not always possible to follow the exact routine you have at home, you can typically stick to meal, nap and bedtime schedules with some consistency. You’ll both be happier travelers if you’re well rested and well fed.

Build in extra time for short attention spans.
As much as you’d like to get to your destination as quickly as possible, it’s not reasonable to expect a toddler to sit quietly, strapped into a car seat in a car or waiting in long lines at an airport. Build extra time into your schedule so that you can have little, frequent breaks and distractions.

For instance, let him push a toy around the airport waiting room or ride the escalators a few times. Three-wheeled scooters are great for burning energy, and they are easy to transport. On long car rides, plan to stop frequently. Experts suggest planning the trip so that part of it takes place during nap time –  when your child is awake, make rest stops every hour or two. Let him get out of the car to stretch, blow bubbles or kick a ball.

Incorporate time for yourself and time with your spouse or partner.
No matter how well you plan and prepare, travel with young children can be stressful and tiring. Give yourself a break by making time to take care of yourself and your adult relationships. Let Dad do solo duty for a bit while you take a nap or see the sights. You can both get a break and a chance to see the nightlife by hiring a sitter. Hotels can often recommend local babysitters, though it’s typically less expensive and more convenient to find and book a trustworthy sitter on UrbanSitter. You’ll have greater peace of mind leaving your child in a new sitter’s care after reading her profile and other parents’ reviews on the site.

Travel with your curious, squirmy toddler can be eye-opening and lots of fun if you’re prepared and patient. Before long, your tiny travel companion will become a big kid with a whole new perspective to bring to travel.

Traveling with a baby? Check out these tips for a stress free trip!

Looking for a babysitter or nanny while on vacation? Join UrbanSitter to find sitters at your vacation destination. 

5 Unforgettable & Affordable Family Vacations You Can Take This Summer

Planning the perfect summer family vacation can seem like a daunting—and expensive—endeavor. That’s why we’ve put together this list of five of our favorite fun and affordable destinations for family travel. Bon voyage!

1. Austin, Texas.

via Free Fun in Austin
via Free Fun in Austin

Austin averages around 230 sunny days per year, making it the perfect place for families that want to enjoy the great outdoors! Visit one of the city’s best museums and take a trip to the state capital for an inspiring and educational getaway.

2. Portland, Oregon.

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Portland is a foodie family’s dream come true! Try out dessert hotspots like Voodoo Doughnuts and Salt & Straw, plus get your hands on some of the Pacific Northwest’s very best seafood. Let the kiddos run around by taking in some of Portland’s scenic gardens and outdoor spaces!

3. Washington, DC.

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While your hotel bill might not be the cheapest in DC, you can more than make up for that cost by visiting some of the dozens of free museums and exhibits across the city. And no matter what your little one is interested in—from space to American history to dinosaurs—you’ll find something they’ll love.

4. Santa Cruz, California.

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Between the beautiful beaches, the Boardwalk (which offers free admission!), and the Mystery Spot, your family will find plenty of fun and inexpensive things to do in Santa Cruz. Plus, it’s just a scenic hour and a half drive from the Bay Area!

5. Your own backyard!

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Planning a family staycation is actually the perfect way to get to know your own city, plus it’s extra-budget-friendly because you cut out travel and accommodation costs. Pretend like you’re out-of-towners and visit all the local tourist spots, try a new restaurant or two, and get to know your city better than ever!

Hire fantastic local babysitters and nannies all over the country (even when you’re traveling!) with UrbanSitter.

Last Minute Family Day Trips For the Dog Days of Summer

By Ilene Miller

My two boys, age 10 and 13, love to spend summer “chillaxing” and getting away from the grind of the school year. But typically, by the end of July, we are all burned out on the pool and looking for some family fun in the sun that doesn’t involve a three hour car ride to the beach or the lakes.

Luckily for us, metro DC has an abundance of activities that make for great family day trips. But no matter what age your kids are—and no matter what city you live in—zoos and other places that house animals are a surefire hit. If you live in DC, check out the Leesburg Animal Park in Northern Virginia. My son Max has taken selfies with a goat, a chicken, and a donkey and hopes to cover all farm animals by summer’s end.

The Catoctin Wildlife Preserve & Zoo in Thurmont, MD offers unique animal encounters where you can touch an exotic animal and learn all about it through their terrific education program. To make a day of it, we like to visit the Cunningham Falls for a short hike and picnic. And of course, in the middle of the nation’s capital we have the star gem of the Smithsonian in the National Zoo. Admission is free and you can literally spend an entire day exploring all of the exhibits!  Once you’re tuckered out, be sure to stop by Baked by Yael’s Cake Pops, a newly-opened, woman-founded cake poppery right across the street and tell her Urban Family and Activity Rocket sent you!

New Yorkers can make the drive (or take a scenic Hudson River train ride) to the Stone Barns Center in Pocantico Hills. A center for food and agriculture that’s built on part of the old Rockefeller estate, its 80 rolling acres of wood- and farmland are idyllic for families, even if you’ve got your dog in tow (Fido must be kept leashed at all times, though). You can sign up to collect eggs from the farm’s chickens, visit the pigs, the sheep, and the greenhouse, or just stroll around and take in a breath of fresh air. For lunch, sandwiches, salads and baked good made with the products from the farm are available in the Blue Hill Café. Or, if you feel like getting fancy, make a dinner reservation at Chef Dan Barber’s award-winning Blue Hill restaurant (you’ll also have to tote some snazzy duds—no shorts allowed in the dining room!).

In Chicago’s Brookfield suburb, the Chicago Zoological Park has been a Mecca for families for over 80 years. Built on 216 acres, and housing about 450 species of animals, this is an easy place to wile away the day. If you live in the LA area, the Santa Barbara Zoo is just 90 miles north of the city and is considered one of the most beautiful zoos in the world. Where else can you see more than 500 animals while overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Andree Clark Bird Refuge, and Santa Ynez Mountains? It’s right by the beach so it’s typically chilly—a bonus on a hot summer day. Not to miss: feeding the giraffes and riding the train, which goes all around the zoo.

When it’s downright boiling outside, we head for some water-bound relief. Harper’s Ferry is another short drive from downtown DC, and a great place to go whitewater rafting or tubing. Last summer, we had a blast leisurely tubing down the river and exploring the riverbeds, and the kids got a huge kick out of the floating cooler and waterproof camera.  In the District, at Key Bridge Boathouse, you can rent paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes. Afterwards, it’s fun to walk around Georgetown or people watch on the waterfront. We also love to rent sailboats at the Washington Sailing Marina and classes are available for kids, adults, and even families.

Across the country, on the San Diego Coast, San Elijo State Beach provides all the thrills of camping and a day at the beach, rolled into one easy-to-reach location. By day, families can build sand castles and play in the reef-protected waters. When the sun goes down, build a bonfire, roast marshmallows, and teach your kids some camp songs. If you need a break from nature, Wan Pizza has delicious pizzas and the waiters bring kids dough instead of crayons to play with while you wait for your food. If you’re looking for watery adventure from Los Angeles, try a kayaking daytrip with LA River Kayak Safari, led by local guides and featuring wildlife galore.

Both San Franciscans and Angelenos can take a family road trip on Highway 1 between Los Angeles and San Francisco to piddle around the tidal pools at Montaña de Oro State Park, and watch the gray whales migrate north from lookouts along the steep cliffs of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

This summer, my family adventure bucket list includes Trapeze School New York in Washington and the zip line at the Adventure Park at Sandy Spring. I have done both with my girlfriends but have not experienced them with my sons and husband yet. I can’t wait to settle once and for all who is our family’s biggest daredevil! Adventure parks are hot right now and you’ll have no trouble locating one within striking distance of your own city.

My kids would shoot me if I didn’t mention amusement parks. We try to end every summer with a trip to one that’s nearby. We are a huge rollercoaster family and dare each other to sit in the front seat, not hold on, keep our eyes open.  It’s a great way to celebrate the end of summer and for us, it’s a short drive to Kings DominionHershey ParkDutch Wonderland, and Idlewild from the metro DC area.

New Yorkers with little kids in tow will find rides for tots at the world-famous Luna Park at Brooklyn’s Coney Island; and north of the city, in Westchester, historic Rye Playland on the Long Island Sound has something for all ages—including Kiddyland, with rides galore for the just-walking set. Knott’s Berry Farm is a great destination for families in SoCal looking for an alternative to Disney.

So, rather than sit at home in the air conditioning as the summer starts to feel like it’s overstayed its welcome, hop in the car and drive off to a little adventure!

Ilene Miller is co-founder of Activity Rocket in metro DC. 

How to Have Actual Fun on the Family Road Trip

Cars stuck in traffic

By Meghan Khaitan,  MyBuckleMate.com

Pretty much every family takes a road trip by car with their kids during the  holidays. And whether those kids are toddlers or teens, the actual trip itself  can be a wonderful bonding and learning experience for the entire family.  With a little forethought and preparation, you can sidestep the dreaded travel  fiascos and keep everyone content through through those stretches of  highway!

1. Make it a Fun History Lesson. Build some excitement around your trip by getting together as a family a  couple of weeks beforehand to plan your road trip path with an old-school paper map. Talk to kids about  the different cities and states you’ll be driving through. Then jump online together and do a little research  on a few that look interesting. Learn about their history and pick some prime sightseeing destinations.  This opens your trip into a journey of exploration—all the more inspiring if you give kids a disposable  camera they can later use to make a trip scrapbook.

2. Expect the Unexpected. Keeping a first-aid kit and tools for a flat tire in your car is a no-brainer, but also be sure to bring along items like a flashlight, garbage bags, paper towels, big pack of wet wipes, and cell phone car charger. If you have young children that are new to potty training, it’s a smart idea to also pack a portable plastic potty in case your little one can’t wait for the next rest stop. Kids also tend to rest better with a few items from home, like a stuffed animal and blanket. You can also pick up an inexpensive travel pillow to make car-sleeping more comfortable.

3. Pack Healthy Snacks & Drinks. Truck stops, gas stations and fast food joints are okay in a pinch, but if you bring a cooler filled with your own healthy foods, you will save time and money on the road. Think granola bars, sandwiches, fruit and nuts, yogurt tubes, pretzels, cheese and crackers, baby carrots, packs of sliced apples, cereal bars, and any of the (non-sticky) foods your family usually likes to nosh on.

4. Create a Road Trip Adventure. Instead of just looking at the trip in terms of its end destination, make the whole trip an adventure. This will give the kids something to look forward to and break up the travel time. Take a family selfie in each city or state in front of a sign with its name or something it’s famous for. Also look for rest stops with playgrounds where kids that can burn off some pent-up energy.

5. Make Each Child a Travel Activity Kit. To help pass the time, buy inexpensive totes and pack them with things like new crayons, coloring books, story books, white boards, magnetic travel and card games, and other small games or toys, like Matchbox Cars and small dolls. Anything that’s inexpensive and new to your kids is sure to please—both of you.

6. Check Out At Your Local Library. Before you embark,  head to your local library and check out DVDs, books on CD, and chapter book collections for your older reader. They’re free! You’ll have new movies to watch that your kids haven’t seen yet, and when quiet time becomes mandatory for saving your sanity, put in a book on CD for the entire family to enjoy.

7. Don’t Forget the Electronics. If ever there was a perfect time to bust out the electronics, the  car trip is it. Load up iPads and Kindles with new apps, books, and movies, making sure you put different apps on each child’s device so they can swap with for more options. And whatever you do, don’t forget the headphones! A few of my family-favorite apps: Waze (the superhero of navigation apps for parents), RoadsideAmerica (find the weird and wonderful across the U.S.), Tales2Go.com (the Netflix of audio books), MadLibs (old school road trip fun meets the digital age), and VisitedStates (kids can mark the states they’ve been to and upload photos they’ve taken).

8. Pack Classic Travel Games. Electronic games are fun, but don’t forget about the old school travel games to help fight boredom on the road: I Spy, 20 Questions, The Alphabet Game (work together as a family to find things along the road that start with each letter of the alphabet), Who Am I? (take turns trying to guess the famous person in history or pop culture), and the good old License Plate Game.

9. Pick Mile Marker Treats. If you’re okay with a little bribery, plot a few places on the map for the kids to get special surprise treats. Among other things, this will encourage them to learn to read a map. The treat can be something small, like sweets or a little something they can play with in the car. The only requirement to earning them is that kids be kind, get along with each other, and be patient for the trip. You might be handing out fewer of these than you’d feared!

10. Consider an Overnight Stay. If the trip is long enough, consider an overnight stay halfway through at an affordable hotel with a pool. If you book the stay right before you leave or on the way, you’ll find the best deals.

Photograph by Nabeel Syed, via Unsplash

Around the World & Back to Brooklyn with Samantha Brown

Samantha Brown

By Lela Nargi

On October 4, jet-setting TV hostess with the most-est Samantha Brown will launch “50/50,” her latest show on the Travel Channel. In putting the first season together, she spent weeks filming around the world—everywhere from Abu Dhabi to the Philippines—in each episode taking two random folks plucked off the streets on a quest to spend $50,000 in 50 hours, on the getaway of a lifetime. How does this Brooklyn-based mom of 2-1/2-year-old twins juggle her dream job—and her family? We caught up with her to find out.

Obviously, you love to travel. Have you had a chance to do much of that yet with your own kids? The first thing I did after Ellis and Elizabeth were born was sleep for a very long time! But when they were 8 months old, we got them their passports. So far, they’ve been on a cruise, and they’ve been down to Florida many times, and they go on many road trips with my husband and me— anywhere from a nice weekend away to 12 days in various hotels and relatives’ homes. They are already amazing travelers and have lot of patience, which I don’t see when they’re home. I think they love the newness of airports, and running down the hallway of hotels. It’s not too complicated yet, and we don’t have to do much to entertain them.

Where do you think you’ll go to use those passports of theirs for the first time? Probably somewhere close, like Europe. It would be tough to take them on a 15-hour flight to Asia; I wouldn’t want to put them through that yet.

Is there a stand-out trip from your own childhood that made you want to see the world? I think it was going to California when I was 12. It was my first time on plane, and it’s interesting for me to think about that. Now, kids get on a plane almost as soon as they’re born; everyone sees a plane as the main mode of transportation. But when I was growing up, it was the car. We’d think nothing of driving eight hours to Pennsylvania in our station wagon. So going to California, it was a big deal to get on a plane and go to Sea World, and Disneyland, Beverly Hills.

A lot of parents are afraid to travel with their children. Do you have any words of advice for them? I always sympathize with parents who are scared. I was scared the first time, too. Going through the security line can be scary, and it can bring you to another level of stress. But I do think it’s very important not to show them you’re stressed. And it’s important to remember that the purpose of traveling is not to get things right, but to have an experience. Things can go not how you planned: a place is closed, or it’s raining. But then you have the chance to say, What can we do now? It helps kids develop problem-solving skills.

Also, adults can feel weird talking to strangers, but children are conduits to other people. On our cruise, we had a wonderful cabin operator from Indonesia. We asked, How do you say hello in your country? And everyday we greeted him with that. We also learned how to say thank you. It was just two words, that was all we could handle, but that made him feel welcome, and we felt like we were learning.

After all the traveling you do, it must be nice to get home to Brooklyn. I travel all the time so I’m always a cat on the wrong side of the door. I can’t t wait to be home in my comfortable bed. I’ve lived Park Slope for 10 years and we have great neighbors with twins who are in the first grade. Every summer they go to Europe, and they also do a home swap, where they pick a different place and swap homes with another family. It’s a very affordable way to travel, and it’s so important to them to travel with their children. They’re the perfect neighbors for us!

What are you most looking forward to sharing with your kids about traveling as they get older? What I love most about traveling isn’t all the must-sees, like going to Rome or Paris. It’s the chance to spend time in the everyday lives of people around world. It is extraordinary, simply because it’s different from your life, and that’s where I find joy. Shooting the new show was high octane, but I made a point of spending time in the mundane: getting coffee in the same place every day, going to grocery stores and parks, to be with the people who live there. That’s what fills me up.

But also, the U.S. is phenomenal. I would love to take my kids out west to ride horses, wear cowboy hats, and see the big sky.

Photographs courtesy of Travel Channel

UrbanSitter is expanding!

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UrbanSitter is now available in more cities across the US, including Atlanta, Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Las Vegas, Miami, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Raleigh-Durham, and Sacramento!

Just in time for summer break, parents across the country can now find their community’s most trusted babysitters and nannies, on-demand. Whether you’re looking for a sitter to fill in between camps, a full-time summer nanny, or a vacation sitter to take over after a day at the amusement parks, UrbanSitter has you covered!

Sign up for free now and start meeting great babysitters and nannies!

free babysittingOnce you’ve joined UrbanSitter, you can earn free babysitting by referring friends to use UrbanSitter, too!

From Portland to San Francisco: Meet Katherine, A Part-Time Babysitter and Nanny

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Portland-native turned San Francisco-transplant Katherine describes childcare as her “absolute passion.”  She’s been a sitter and nanny on UrbanSitter for the past four years, using babysitting as a way to help her pay her way through college, and has done everything from overnight sitting jobs to traveling internationally with families. She’s worked with over 100 different families in the San Francisco Bay Area, and now nannies part-time for a family with a young daughter.

Katherine graduated from the University of San Francisco with a degree in Media Studies in June and recently joined the UrbanSitter corporate team as a summer intern! Here, she shares a little bit more about her life, time as a babysitter, and experience with UrbanSitter.

When did you first start babysitting?
I started working with kids in high school, as a mother’s helper and teaching Sunday school at my church. When I went into college I didn’t think childcare would be my passion as much as it is has become. I moved from Portland to San Francisco to attend USF, and didn’t start to babysit again until my sophomore year. And it just captured my heart. I was studying Media Studies at the time, and I added Child & Youth Studies as a minor.

How did you discover UrbanSitter?
I found all of my college babysitting jobs via UrbanSitter. I was in a Lyft one day, talking to my driver about my life. I didn’t know if my studies we’re taking me in the right direction, and the driver happened to tell me about UrbanSitter and I signed up. The first family that booked me hired me because I speak French, and from there on [UrbanSitter] felt like home. It felt really intimate and wasn’t a faceless, soulless retail job. It was the best thing, it was like coming home.

What has your experience been like as a sitter on UrbanSitter?
For a lot of college students, the opportunity to shape their own lives is not always afforded to them. So to have the resource of UrbanSitter has been confidence building in a lot of ways, it’s like being my own boss. And the families are so incredibly generous with me, beyond even words. I’ve been able to pay my way through college because of the families [I’ve met on UrbanSitter]. They’ve been so supportive of my college career, as far as working with my schedule, giving me advice, and just supporting me in every way.

What’s the most rewarding thing for you personally about working in childcare?
I really prefer to form relationships with families and with kids, and so it’s rewarding both for myself and for the kids and the families. The family that I work for now, I started when their daughter was 6 weeks old and now she’s turning two, and she continually surprises me and just gets better and better. There are so many things that I could never have predicted about [the child I nanny], that are solely her own making. And so to be an observer of that, fulfills my soul in so many ways. To see the personality traits that are so uniquely her is so special. It gets to be my job that I get to nurture somebody and be a part of somebody’s family. It’s wonderful.

The bonds I have with my bosses just get deeper and deeper, and I don’t feel like an employee but like a member of the family. It’s beyond words. I get to go on vacation with them, I eat all my meals at their house. I get paid for something that I love doing. It’s actually a career for me.

What’s the hardest thing for you about working in childcare?
It’s definitely hard when families move away. It’s hard to emotionally handle it when you’re attached to the children and the family.

What would you consider your philosophy as a nanny/sitter?
My childcare philosophy is somewhat influenced by how I grew up, I went to Waldorf school for the first 8 years of my life. As I was going through college, I decided to take some classes in RIE parenting (Resources for Infant Educarers). I’m a huge fan of it. As far as child care goes, I’m a firm believer in saying ‘no,’ though I wouldn’t never say ‘no’ without a reason. Instead of saying, ‘Don’t touch the stove’ I’ll say, ‘Don’t touch the stove, because the stove is hot’ or that sort of thing. I think discipline is very important to teach children, but I never want to force my opinion on a child. RIE is really about respecting the child, and I like that.

Tell us a little bit about your own childhood.
I’m from Portland, Oregon and we spoke french in my home growing up because my dad is french. I had a really happy childhood. Portland is a really incredible place to grow up, because the people are really, truly kind. I have a really wonderful relationship with my parents and my brother who is six years younger than me.

When you aren’t babysitting, what do you like to do?
Ride my bike! Portland is a pretty bike friendly city, and my parents are avid bikers. My dad built a beautiful bicycle for my mom as a wedding present, so I inherited that when I moved down to San Francisco. Now I bike in Marin and the East Bay. I just love it.