How NOT to Visit Boston with Family

Boston rocks.  There is so much to see and do, it should be fun & exciting…if you have planned your visit.

I have to chalk this trip up to “How NOT to visit BOSTON”.  A wonderful opportunity to experience lack of planning in action.  A solid list of Don’t’s.  The CARDINAL SINS OF TRAVELING…all in ONE trip!

DON’T:

  • Pack for the entire family the night before without checking the weather  (this paved the way for the other disasters)
  • Check to see if lodging is comfortable (and quiet…but HOW do you check that??)
  • Have a lodging back up plan in place
  • Study the subway lines to know where to go
  • Make a list of the “Don’t Miss These” places, and make them a priority
  • Have sanity, confidence, & rational thinking

This trip was a great example of how lack of planning can create “I wish we were home” type statements…which for me is like a traveling death sentence.

Why was this trip was not our favorite?  Partly because of the cold April weather and mostly because this was the least prepared I have ever been for travel in my life.

I was off my game.

It may have been because of last year’s bombing at the Boston Marathon, or maybe the unexpected cold weather in Spring…I’m not sure, but I was in SLOW MOTION!    It was weird.

First of all, I rolled the dice to save money with lodging, using Airbnb.com for the first time, and choosing a small condo outside of Boston Proper, in Jamaica Plain. I booked months ahead of time.   The condo was charming and a great choice to save money by taking the “T” (subway) into town instead of dealing with pricey parking and LOTS of traffic.  All that was true and money saving.

But…it was loud for our family.  It was ON a main street with traffic noise 24/7,  we didn’t sleep much.  By the 2nd day (out of 8 nights), it was like pulling teeth just to get out of bed…much less go walking for 15+ miles each day in the freezing cold to see Boston.  At 2 AM I was surfing the net to find a different place to stay…but everything was $500+ per night because of the Boston Marathon.  Lesson Learned.

Add 35-45 degree weather with freezing winds…and our family dressed for 65 degree weather (MY FAULT-I KNOOWW) then looking for/at those brass signs “of historical importance” becomes not so important.

Hot chocolate, warm feet and pasta become important.

DSCN1107So, we got to see many Italian restaurants in North End, which we could find, instead of the site of the Boston Tea Party or the Tour of Fenway Park.  We DID get to Fenway park, where we bought $35/each hats because of freezing weather for which we were under-dressed, (And a whopping $150 off budget with one purchase). But, we didn’t get to go on the tour because it was sold out.  This describes our typical luck of this trip:

  • Get up tired from nooo sleep, dreaming of getting hit by the numerous busses that pass by each hour
  • Dress the kids with pants on pants, shirts on shirts, while they grumble, tired & hungry
  • Eat out because our “budget condo” has a vegetarian kitchen…
  • Walk to the “T”, trying to find Fenway Park
  • Get lost.  Ask for directions, get lost. Walk all the way around Fenway Park to find the “tour gate”, which, btw, was RIGHT next to the “T” doors.
  • Miss our chance to go on the Fenway Park tour because of for said “Walk AROUND the OUTSIDE of Fenway Park”
  • Take the wrong “T” train, get lost, ask for directions, realize the directions are wrong
  • Have Pasta, Thank Goodness we could find THAT!
  • Get home, exhausted, to another night of no sleep.  “Yay.” whispers my daughter…

    Boston Subway... Jake dropped his new hat... it was gone in a flash. :(

    Boston Subway… Jake dropped his new hat… it was gone in a flash. 😦

For the Fenway Park Tours, fyi, noon is a popular time, so try for 11 or 1:00.  They leave on the hour, so plan for that.

Just to keep the positive of Boston positive, I separated what worked during our trip to a different post in this post 3 Days in Boston with Family.

If you have any questions about this trip, let me know.  🙂

Alaskan Cruise Family Packing List

Alaskan Cruise State Room unpacking

Alaskan Cruise State Room unpacking

What to Pack for Kids & Parents 

Think less is more.  Really.  There isn’t much room, plus it’s just lighter to carry.  We moved from hotel to hotel for a few days before the cruise, and this is especially a time for LESS luggage!

I packed all of our clothes into 1 large suitcase & 3 smaller suitcases which would fit in the plane’s carry-on compartments if needed.  The big suitcase held the winter clothes, hats, etc, while the smaller 3 had all of our clothes. The kids shared a suitcase. Each of us had a backpack.

In the backpacks were extra outfits, swimsuits, kids toys, books, electronics, important papers/passports, & snacks.  This way, in the hotels, we didn’t need to even open the suitcases, and instead live out of the backpacks.  Though this was the way it was supposed to work, we did end up riffling through my daughters suitcase for dinner clothes before the cruise.

The backpacks were helpful when first on the ship because our luggage was not in the rooms until after lunch and we had some things to change into before the luggage arrived.  Once unpacked, I emptied the backpacks and used them to carry cameras, sunscreen and water on the shore excursions.

In the suite, there are 3 large drawers for each person, plus 4 hanging closet spaces, under the bed storage & other cubbies around the room.  In the suite, full laundry service is provided!! (Awesome!) So, you’ll be able to recycle some clothes several times. Also, we had the types of suitcases that can fit into one another, so after I unpacked, I was able to fit them all together and store them under the bed.

Our suggested packing list:

  • Power strip & extension cord: we used this immediately; there are only a few outlets, so if you have a phone, computer and other things to plug in, a power strip will be helpful
  • Comfy clothes.. for me this means t-shirts, sweats, yoga pants, slacks…I never wore my jeans or shorts
  • Comfy shoes.. for me this means tennis/running shoes, flip-flops, sandals (I wish I had brought my uggs!! they would have been perfect for around the boat or on the verandah!)
  • PJ’s & slippers (I missed having my slippers!) robes are provided in the room
  • Lounge around the pool clothes… don’t mind getting them wet, play ping-pong, play large chess, but there are several people out, so not looking too casual in PJs or yoga pants. 🙂
  • Swim suit & cover up with pool sandals or flip flops
  • Workout clothes for those who workout (kids have to be 16 to be in the gym)
  • 2 Formal outfits: I brought 2 dresses for me/daughter, easily packed (I twisted them, then hung up immediately…worked great) a nice black heel sandal. For my son I brought  1 nice button down shirt with a tie, 2 dress sweaters and a vest with black pants/shoes.  He wore the sweaters alone on the “smart” nights, and the button down/tie on formal nights.
  • 5 smart dinner shirts/blouses for Mom/daughter: I brought black slacks, floral & blue slacks, then 5 shirts, all worn with the black heels. Several of the shirts I doubled to use for dinner out in Vancouver & Seattle, at the pool for the days on the ship, and for the High Teas several times.  My daughter loved this option and liked to “dress up” the simpler shirts with scarves/jewelry. I wore my black scarf 3 nights to dinner because it was chilly in the dinning room.
  • Sweatshirts, hoodies or sweaters: this was worn each day…it’s chilly…I brought a thick sweatshirt for each family member, except my son, and we bought his at one of the ports for $19. The sweatshirt option is especially nice when you are on the verandah or on deck for longer periods of time.
  • Rain/winter coats.  We brought the thicker rain coats which we could also wear skiing, to give you an idea of the thickness.  We wore these at Glacier Bay, sitting out on our verandah for hours at a time and whale watching
  • Hats, gloves, scarves:  We wore these a few times and were glad we brought them.  I run cold, so do my kids.  My hubby runs hot, so he didn’t wear his.  Though, he did wear his rain jacket on the verandah.
  • For each shore excursion I wore my Lulu yoga pants with tennis shoes, and my kids wore comfy sweats & flip-flops. We didn’t do much walking, so if you are walking, the tennis shoe route is best.

Were we missing anything? Yes, my son’s shoes, which I was hoping to buy along the way, with no luck.  He wore flip-flops the entire trip except for formal nights. 🙂

I brought too many books & journals, so think before packing…these are heavy!

We wore each piece of clothing at least once…except my jeans…which is good to have used what we carried.  Good luck!

Alaskan Cruise was Exceptional

Our 7-day cruise to Alaska on Holland America was fabulous.  The ship, Ms. Volendam started in Vancouver; ports of call were Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay & Ketchikan.  We paid extra for a suite which had a nice verandah on which we spent much of our time.  I will blog about the pros/cons of the suite and paying more for that option and family packing in separate blogs… As far as our vacation, here are my opinions in these areas:

  • Motion sickness
  • The boat
  • Room size
  • Kid’s activities
  • The food
  • Shore excursions
  • Cherish your time on board

Motion Sickness…or lack of Motion Sickness!

This was our first cruise and since my husband tends to get motion sickness, we weren’t sure what to expect:  would this be fun & relaxing trip or stressful & agony.  He was a trooper to even try, and I’m so happy he did. It turned out to be fun & relaxing. Phew!

As we went through security to get onto the dock, several other passengers of other ships were wearing the small “patch” behind their ear for motion sickness.  My hubby put his on just as we boarded, and it was like a miracle!  Even through the more movement of the week he was fine.  Thank goodness for this patch!

The first & last nights of this particular cruise have the most motion as it’s on more open ocean between Vancouver and the inner passage into Alaska. This was also fine for him. The boat vibrates a bit, which you get used to. The first night around midnight, my daughter shot up in bed asking firmly that her brother STOP shaking her!! It was cute.

On the last night, we could barley tell nor care that it was vibrating again.

As far as the Whale Watching boat and motion sickness, he was fine.  It was a smaller boat and there was choppy waters with lots of jumping up and down with the waves and he was fine.

The Boat

When you first get on, its fun to look around and get acclimated with all the different areas.  Plus, your bags aren’t in the room to unpack yet, and there are many people in the lunch areas, so this is a good time to discover all the cubbies and areas offered.

For the Ms. Volendam, there is a nice walking track with wooden floors on the third deck which was 1 mile per 3 laps.  No running is allowed as the corners are a bit sharp and a runner could possibly harm those walking.  There is a kids area called “Club HAL” which seemed fun but small, a nice theater, 2 small pools, several restaurants, a shopping area and small casino, lounge areas with different styles of music, a library, a cafe and the decks.

Though there is so much to offer with many planned activities, like Dancing with the Stars, nightly movies in the theater, and shows, we ended up spending most of our time on the pool deck playing ping-pong or in our room on the verandah.  Either way, it’s hard to get bored.

Room Size

We paid extra for a suite with a king size & a queen size bed.  This room had a large verandah, with 2 lounge chairs and a “kitchen table” with 4 chairs where we could sit and watch the incredible views and wildlife.  All the verandahs have glass as the wall to the ocean, so you can sit and still see outside.  There is a large bathroom with a jet tub adjoined to a dressing room with a second sink & vanity.  The sitting table was large enough to hold our Room Service Breakfasts in the morning and High Tea in the afternoon.  With the upgrade price, laundry service was included, which was awesome.  We had our laundry done every day. 🙂 We also had a concierge who made appointments and reservations for us, and checked on all of our shore excursions even though they were not with Holland America. We had quicker luggage service (a vey nice feature), plus the use of the Neptune Lounge, right across from our room, with nice snacks, cakes, drinks, tea, candy & sandwiches! That was very helpful…to making this a “weight gain cruise”.

My cousin’s rooms, which were smaller would have been too tight of a squeeze for a family of 4.  There is enough room to sleep, shower & relax without moving around too much, and there is so much going on the boat, that many people don’t spend much time in their rooms anyway.  I could be in one of the smaller rooms with just my hubby, if there was a verandah.  With kids, though, it would be a tight squeeze for us.

Kid’s Activities

I was concerned that there would not be enough for the kids to do, since this is not a “kid’s boat” like a Disney Cruise.  Holland America is geared for older couples, and we were younger than most of the people there.

But, we were happily surprised by the kid’s area, Club HAL.  It was run by a guy who really loves kids and was very playful with them.  The planned activities were something the kids really looked forward to.  They would watch the time to get to Club HAL right when it opened.

On the rest of the boat, for the kids and adults there is ping-pong, large chess, basketball, tennis & movies available.  There is also a library with board games, and plenty of places to sit quietly or with a group.  Plus, there are plenty of places to sit inside and watch the gorgeous landscapes outside.

My daughter and I took a cooking class together which was spectacular.  She really enjoyed it and the food was fabulous.  There were no other kids, but it was ok, and the Chef was great with her.  That was our favorite part of the cruise.

The Food

Breakfast in the “cafeteria” Lido was ok.  We ended up not eating in there very often, instead we had our food delivered for breakfast.  For lunches, we had been snacking most of the day, so we  didn’t have sit down lunches very often.  The sandwich making area is great.

Instead, there were also High Teas!  Wonderful!  We also had some of these delivered to our room.  These were so fun and delicious.

Dinner is very good.  It’s the only time our little group of family was able to meet altogether.  Plus, the boat takes Dinner very seriously.  They are proud of what they serve and how they serve.  I really enjoyed the dinner’s each night.  The menu is different each night and very yummy.  My kids & I tried all types of different appetizers, soups, entrées & desserts each night.  Chef Alberto would walk around and check on everyone, and we really appreciated his attention.

All in all, we loved the food!

Shore Excursions

I researched shore excursions on TripAdvisor.com to use the local tours instead of the boat tours.   Visit my blogs on “Whale Watching in Juneau”, “Private Tour in Skagway” and “Sea Kayaking in Ketchikan” in these separate blogs.

We were happy that we chose private tours instead of the larger boat offered excursions.  I was limited by my husbands motion sickness & he also didn’t want to fly in a helicopter or float plane.  Also, my son was too light to try any zip-lining. Be sure to check on the ages and what is expected of each participant when you are researching.

Cherish Your Time Onboard

The time goes by very quickly, and I wish I had sat on the verandah just a bit more.  My suggestion is to cherish your time onboard and come back to the boat early and leave late.

Family Car Day-to-Day Summer List

What do you carry in your car day-to-day with kids? It really depends on how big your car is and how much room you might have…and how organized you are. I have been adding and subtracting from my van each year and seasonally. I’d love to hear your ideas of helpful car-hints.  I stay organized for a whopping 5 minutes each season when I re-organize the car.

Year Round:

  • Kleenex
  • Small trash can (as if this matters…)
  • Hand wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Band-aides
  • Neosporin
  • Sunscreen
  • Kids Benadryl
  • First Aid Kit (but, this is so skimpy…a store-bought little box)

For the Summer I add some things:

  • Apis (Homeopathic Remedy for Bee Stings)
  • Water
  • Swim Bag: Towels, Suits, goggles, sunscreen, flip-flops
  • Folder with plain paper, markers & pencils
  • Tennis Bag: tennis requests, tennis balls
  • Golf Bags: clubs, gloves, sunscreen, water (golf stuff is so huge, it only comes in once a week)
  • Soccer Ball
  • Park stuff: frisbee, football
  • Leash, dog water bowl

When we travel in the car:

  • Snacks
  • Lap desks
  • Cards & travel games
  • More water

What are some helpful or cool things you like having in your car?

Happy Almost Summer 🙂

Holland America Cruise to Alaska

We are planning a trip to Alaska!  I’ve never been on a cruise and never been to Alaska.

  • Passports…Check
  • Shore Excursions…Check
  • Port City Travel…Check

The kids are coming and we are traveling with a large family group.  We are very excited.  My cousin is a costumer and she is bringing 1920 costumes for our entire family to wear to one of the dinners.  For some families, this is not ok.  For, us, we’re ready and excited.

To plan the shore excursions I used Trip advisor.

I will let you know how it goes as soon as we get back.

Can Lid-1 Hand-0

We use our hands for so many things. It is very easy to take them for granted!!

I hurt my right hand in October 2011, and I’m right handed. Not only was it hard to do normal things like brush my teeth with my left hand, put my hair in a pony tail, put on a shirt, but I use my hand in massage daily…until…I changed my hand forever…

My family had been planning a trip to see my brother across the country for several months. Let me rephrase that…”I” had been planning for months for my family to see my brother and his family. In the past, it was like pulling teeth to get my husband to travel or communicate about it happily. So, I was extremely excited when we had decided on a time/date etc, to see the Zimmerman family.

I got everything squared away…a rental house, a car, plane tickets, etc. If you do any travel planning, you know how many hours this takes. Plus, we were taking the kids out of school for 4 days, and their teacher’s had spent extra time packing them their homework to do while we were away.

Here I am in my house, alone, all packed, dog ready for the dog sitters, the house is clean for the house sitter, it’s 11:30 am and we are leaving at 2:30, my husband is doing last minute errands and the kids are at school waiting to be picked up. I have gathered everything by the back door, ready for the car. All I need to do is take out the trash. All is moving smoothly.

I’m telling you all of this history to better defend and justify my next stubborn move… (and there is detail of the injury, to warn you if this might bother you…skip down a bit)

I’m moving fast organizing this and that, so with quite a bit of force, I push my hand as hard as I can into the trash…right into a metal lid which is still attached to it’s can.

“Sh@#$”, was my first reaction as I pull my hand back out of the trash with the lid stuck in my palm. There wasn’t very much pain at first, more of a absolute shock…and a tinge of kicking myself in the a@#. “Really?? Did I just thrust my hand into a can lid?? Really?? WE ARE NOT MISSING THIS TRIP!!”

As soon as I pulled the lid out, with it came lots of blood, which almost made me pass out. I immediately grabbed my wrist to put pressure on the blood supply and looked for a phone. When I find the phone, I can’t push the buttons because my hands are married in a weird tourniquet.

All I could think about was, “Great, I’m going to pass out and my wrist will bleed and bleed and I’m going to die here on the floor…”

I wasn’t panicky or rushing, but realized I needed help. I opened the garage door with my chin and checked to see if my neighbor, Chris, was home. He’s an EMT and a fireman, so I figured he could help. He was home, he bandaged my hand and I was able to call John.

John jumped right into action. He called our Doctor/surgeon friend to see if he could stitch me up right away. We knew that if we went to the ER that we would miss our flight.

So, Dr. Steve Gough, said to come right over. The halls were lined with his nurses, watching me pass with great curiosity of the retarded woman with blood on my shirt and the open hand wound.

I was hoping that Steve would look at the cut and say, “oh this is no big deal, here’s a band aide.” But…no. He warned John that this could get loud, and John quietly left the building.

Steve prepared three numbing shots and put them right into my palm. OOOUUUCCHH! Man! That was WAY worse than the can lid pain!! I screamed and screamed and cried and cried. John was right to leave.

Steve’s nurse, Mary, held my other hand, or I should say, I gripped her hand with my left hand. She was very encouraging and calming as Steve stitched it up the hole.

Some Tylenol, Percocet and a big bandage later, we drop off the dog, pick up the kids and head to the airport. We made it.  The security officers decided that I may have a knife in my huge hand bandage and proceeded to pat it down with much force…so fun.  My “I’m killing you with my eyes” glare didn’t work to lessen the pressure.  And then some more officers decided to join the party of the huge hand bandage.  I was perfectly willing to share, but we were almost about to miss the flight.  We were with the family for 9 days and had a wonderful time.

The stitches healed and I was able to massage a few days after we returned. There was a bit of pain, but nothing serious, and I didn’t think anything of it. I assumed that the pain would get better in time.

But, massage after massage it didn’t get better, and here I am, 6 months later with pain that doesn’t go away for days if I don’t rest. And, I mean REST…no use of the hand at ALL. No gardening, no arts and crafts, no golf. Total Bummer.

I don’t rest well. Maybe that is my lesson this time….to rest.