Category Archives: Summer Travel Tips

Summer Fun 2013: Day Trip it to Dutch Wonderland

I am going to do a few things this summer. First, I’m going to blog less, unwind more and enjoy outings with the kids. I am vowing to this one. I trust that if you only hear from me once a week, it doesn’t mean everyone will go away, it just means you, too, are enjoying your summer. Yes?

Second, I am going to sporadically bring your summer outings ideas. In fact, I had intended to write about my summer bucket list by now after a friend texted me hers but I’m still finalizing that list. It’s been really fun to think about.

With that, I bring you one day trip idea: a day trip to Dutch Wonderland, nestled in the heart of Lancaster, PA. If you haven’t been yet, and you have young kids, then I suggest you add it to the top of your list….and for those of you who are wondering if you can make it a day trip my answer is…absolutely…positively..without a doubt..YES.

Last summer, right around this exact same weekend, on a Sunday morning, we loaded up the kids into the car, I shoved a big breakfast down their throats and made innumerable threats that I was not providing them with snacks for the entire duration of our drive to DW…so don’t ask…..and we pulled out of our driveway around 8:20AM. DW opens at 10AM and it was promising to be sunny and scorching hot all day, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Also, as a general rule of thumb, as much as I love my own sweet oppressors children, I pretty much loathe other people’s complaining children and annoying adults in large public spaces…so normally I would attempt a DW trip in the middle of the week – assuming I would be facing less crowds than on a lovely weekend when school is out for summer. Obviously I packed my own patience along with snacks for the kiddos.

Happy park-goers at Dutch Wonderland. Photo Credit: WM

Just under two hours later (and plenty of complains for snacks and “are we there yet?” pleas), we rounded the corner and saw the shining gates of the castle and Duke the smiling purple dragon…and cries of jubilee erupted from the back seat of the vehicle. All prior trauma from .02 seconds ago was forgotten. Suddenly no one was hungry. Suddenly no one’s tummy’s hurt…and miraculously…..suddenly no one was crying. Thank you, Duke the Dragon, where have you been all my life?

Check one for Dutch Wonderland, Mr. WM elatedly noted as we pulled into the parking lot because…parking is FREE unless you want priority parking right next to the gates and that will run you $10. As any avid fans of Mr. WM know, and there are millions of you, he’s not paying for priority parking when free is a few feet further from the gate (note: if I were alone without him, you better believe I would have paid the extra $10 for priority parking. #princess).

We mapped out our strategy in advance – we being moi and Mr. WM. We knew that we were not letting the tykes know of the water park option until we exhausted the rides, our logic being we didn’t want to deal with them complaining about being wet, plus by later in the day, it was likely to be too hot to be standing in line for rides. Mr. WM actually wore his swim trunks all day, I packed mine in the backpack with the girls’ – as much as I considered parading around in my string bikini all day long. Also important to note – on this sort of outing – I forgo fashion for practicality. I am not likely to be seen sporting a backpack much any other time of the year, typically preferring a more stylish messenger bag to tote all the crap for the kids – but for an outing like this one – a backpack stuffed to the brim  -with towels, extra plastic bags for wet clothes, extra underpants, sunscreen and water bottles – is the only option. Just as Mr WM carrying said backpack was really the only option for moi. #princess

DW’s brilliance in making you enter and exit the park through the gift shop overflowing with happy, smiling, soft cute stuffed animals is genius on their part but another hassle for the parents. We handled it by continuing my series of morning threats….this time reminding them multiple times as we approached the gates “Coming here is your present today. You are not BUYING ANYTHING. DO NOT ASK.”

No one has ever accused me of being sweet. #BitchyPrincess

Their eyes filled with longing and tear water tears as we paraded them through the gift shop with tunnel vision for the main entrance. There were no lines to speak of to enter the park and we immediately veered left to ride the Sky Ride to the back of the park, soaking in the aerial view of the other rides.  We started off with the kids enjoying the Bear Ride – my then 6-year-old claiming she’s too old and sophisticated for such a ride and then barely able to contain her smiles during the ride. Then off to the bike maze and the bumper cars, which all four of us rode, with the singular goal of ramming into the other two as much as humanly possible for the duration of the ride.

Check two for DW – so far – the lines were nothing to speak of – as in – we would walk up to a ride and get on it right away. I kept waiting for the shoe to drop. Also, we’d made a pit stop to the restroom and they are in impeccable shape, very clean with the added perk of a step stool under the sinks for the little ones to stand on to wash their hands. I also noted an ongoing stream of stroller traffic and parents parking the strollers with ease around rides, along with many many very pregnant women, who easily found shaded seating on benches throughout the park. Again, this place is really geared for families with young kids and even the smallest detail wasn’t overlooked, in my opinion.

Power hungry older sister proudly noting her higher status at the ride height chart. Note – she did this each time we passed one.

After some negotiation, my older one agreed to ride Huck Finn’s Leapin’ Frogs with her younger sister (I think she became power-hungry from the color coded chart dictating the height requirements for the rides…being that she was in the second to tallest category, this filled her with pride and a false sense of worldly sophistication. Truth is, she enjoyed the toddler geared rides just as much, if not more, than her then 3-year-old sister).

Next we hit the Double splash flume in logs ride…which quickly became the WM top favorite ride of the day. Mr. WM and the eldest WM sat in the front of the log, me and WM’ette rode in the back…and my youngest in particular has a need for speed – so they laughed and squealed as we rushed down the slope with water rushing into the log. On that ride, we actually waited the longest amount of all the rides that day – which was a grand total of about 5 minutes. I think our youngest would have ridden that ride until darkness fell and they kicked us out, if we’d let her.  We rode a few more rides, played a few games, admired the cute little chicks in the cages and then hit the Frog Prince water show. We were conned into spending $8 on lemonade and popcorn but both were delicious and the water show was excellent entertainment and a nice break from the increasingly hot sun.

Before we knew it, it was 1pm and the kids were hungry for lunch and it was time for the big reveal – water park time. If your kids are like mine, then you are familiar with having a sand kid and a water kid. My oldest has always been the water kid – doesn’t matter if the ocean is 40 degrees, she’s in it until she turns blue and has no interest in the sand. My youngest has always been extremely sensitive to temperature and would much rather build a sand castle. As such, the water park was a thrill for our oldest. There are three sections of the water park and even the section for the youngest, smallest kids, with some water gently spraying around little mini-slides, held little appeal for her. Meanwhile, the oldest was tearing through all the options and rode each of the three water slides multiple times over. This is the part of the day that presents a challenge if you are planning a day trip to DW without your partner or spouse….I’d recommend you go with another set of friends then because it is extremely difficult to keep an eye on more than one child -unless they both want to do the exact same thing at the exact same time – and when does that ever happen except in the movies?

One side of the DW water park

Divide and conquer was the approach that worked best for us, along with scoring a seat in the shade, which still was quite easy despite how crowded the water park side of the park was by early afternoon. I noticed they have cabana rentals and we totally enjoyed the Beach Boys blaring through the speakers – it just added to the fun, summer atmosphere of the entire afternoon.

We probably lasted about 45 minutes in the water park because of our younger one…and lunch time hunger. DW has many options for lunch but because of the convenience, we opted for lunch by the water park, and dropped $23 on two orders of chicken strips, a hot dog and a bottle of water. One order of chicken strips would have been sufficient because the portion size was so large.

After lunch and slurpees, the girls were starting to drag, so we soaked in another one of the multiple shows DW offers throughout the day (options include Curious George, story time with a Princess and a Knight, and a Dragon water show, among others), the Badland Bears music show. Again, these animated moving bears sing country songs, the Beaver was mine and Mr. WM’s favorite, while our oldest liked Foxy on the keyboards, and more than anything, it was a 20 minute rest under a shady tree.

We wrapped up the day with a few more rides and headed home around 4pm. The park remains open until 8:30pm but the heat was zapping everyone’s energy and we figured, we should just leave while we’re ahead, no sense in waiting for an epic breakdown to taint our otherwise happy, relaxing and fun day trip. We barely left the gates of DW and my youngest was fast asleep and remained that way for the entire 2 hour ride home.

Overall, we give DW a huge thumbs up. There are outlets across the street and plenty of hotel/motel options if you’re looking to explore Lancaster, PA  but I think it’s an easy day trip for anyone from the DC or Baltimore area. Admission is $35.99 per person ages 3 on up. The park is beautifully maintained and landscaped. The bathrooms are clean and the staff are eager and ready to help. The youngest I would take a kid- to actually ride rides and participate in the fun – is about 2.5 years old and I saw kids as old as 9-12 there having fun. To me, it’s a great way to introduce younger kids to the idea of an amusement park without all the noise and chaos and lines that come with the bigger parks. The variety and frequency of shows throughout the day also offer a great reprieve for tired little feet or short-on-patience parents, so definitely grab a show schedule on your way into the park.

For more on my Summer Fun 2013 series, be sure to “Like” the Wired Momma community page on FB, it will be the most fun you ever did have.

Disclosure: DW granted me free admission to the park last year but my opinions here are all my own.

 

Summer travel with kids & fashion for moms?

Today’s post isn’t going to solve world peace, resolve hunger crises or help reach a consensus on the sequester. But it will  – or rather should  – solve some last-minute packing crises that most women face when prepping for a trip. Especially summer travel with children. Particularly if your summer travel has you going on a physical endeavor. Example – are you headed to Walt Disney World?  Prior to our trip last month I am not ashamed to admit I put quite a bit of effort into assessing my shoe choices.  I knew we were going to be walking miles a day. I knew it was going to be humid. I knew I was going to be sweaty and grumpy and need comfort. But I just couldn’t toss my running kicks in my suitcase with a pair of white socks and call it a day.

#QuelleHorror

I also knew that the kind of bag needed for such a trip was a dilemma. When one is hot and walking and dealing with hungry kids, you can’t have the added weight of a shoulder bag on your body. Yet you also need to pack water bottles, snacks, cameras, phones and the inevitable swag the kids make off with in the stores.

What does a gal do?

Here’s what I did.

I first raided DSW. I went to the biggest one I could find. And I went alone. I needed razor like focus and time to deliberate. I knew I wanted to look somewhat stylish during the day and I knew I couldn’t deal with lame looking sneakers. I also knew that if my feet hurt, then that is just stupid. If you know you are going to walk a ton, and you have small children, and it’s going to be super hot and humid, your feet need support and your feet need comfort. I was hoping to find a brown sandal that offered some cushioning and support but didn’t have any straps between my toes. Those bother me unless I am in flip flops. And flip flops do not meet the criteria of offering support all day long unless you are sitting in a beach chair.

For reasons that escape me entirely, it is not easy to find the kind of brown sandal I was looking for but  when life gives you lemons……I found what worked out better for moi. I found these New Balance ballet sneaker flats. They have remarkable cushioning and support, they slip on and off easily (read: airport security), and they pretty much go with everything. You can wear them with a casual summer skirt or shorts. Since purchasing and wearing them almost daily, I regularly am given compliments on them and asked where I got them from. Good old DSW.

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But if you share the following trait with moi: packing lightly is not in your vocabulary – then obviously you need more than one pair of shoes. Again, today’s post is about pairing comfort with style, and without realizing, it’s also quickly becoming an ad for DSW and New Balance because I also stumbled upon these kicks:

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They are trendy with their neon brights, they are incredibly light weight and take up little room in a suitcase and they meet my criteria of offering much needed support for hours of walking and crowds.

Moving away from shoes, now what about the purse? I settled on two choices. My daytime purse and my evening purse. The evening option required I pack fewer things, which really is a challenge for moi (again: packing lightly is not something I do. Ever).

For the daytime, I went with a Camelbak backpack. First, the reality is, if you are trekking around all day with children, you need a backpack, like it or not. And if you find one that looks somewhat gender neutral, your husband will carry the load as well. Also, if you are headed in the heat, you need water, lots of it. The Camelbak gives you not only padded shoulders for the backpack, but the ultra convenient zip down the middle so the other person can access whatever is needed without you taking the damn thing off is really a brilliant idea, and then there is the easy access of the water in the back. True, I felt a bit like people in my family were milking off me when they would stop to access the water from the Camelbak but this pack was the saving grace for me every day. Also, I suffer from migraines and dehydration is a serious trigger for me – so the truth is – I need an obscene amount of water on any given day, but especially so when wandering the humidity of Florida for hours on end.

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Back to the theme of me never packing lightly – however – clearly when we headed out the door in the evening for dinners, I wasn’t going to toss the Camelbak over my dress. The question was – what sort of purse would suit evening summer dresses? I am beginning to worry you’re thinking I’ve transformed into Sporty Spice between the sneakers and the backpack. Fear not.

As luck would have it, when shopping alone with my hawk-like focus at DSW, I stumbled upon a super fun bright yellow Betsey Johnson purse. I could wear it across my chest with the long strap, it was small enough that it packed easily and it forced me to put only essentials inside for evening outings. Never one to settle on practical colors when shopping for purses, I was tempted by the lovely cream colored one but reasoned that the bright yellow is just more fun and would add a great accent color to really anything I was wearing – and it certainly did.

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I also liked the small exterior pocket for storing a hotel key card or a cell phone for easy access. Naturally, I am also a sucker for interior design and you can be sure a Betsey Johnson purse never disappoints:

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Right? It was a most excellent score.

While these are my most triumphant purchases, there’s more. What about the mom headed to the beach and pool this summer? What if your travels take you water bound instead of walking bound?  Look, I am a HUGE fan of the Scout beach bags. Why, you ask? Simple – they are super stylish, come in a great array of colors and patterns and have 6 exterior pockets for easy access to sunblock, water bottles, sunglasses, phone, whatever you need – without losing time wading through the big deep bag.

photo(80)Finally, how about communications with families during your trip? And photo documentation?

My sister went away last summer and all of a sudden, these adorable postcards with pictures of her and her husband started arriving in my mail box, including a different return stamp style picture of themselves, and then their personalized messages – all sent from her phone. It’s brilliant. Don’t send postcards in 2012, instead send a Postagram. 

The app will send pictures from your phone or Facebook straight to your family or friends – an easy and fun way to personalize your trip and share it with friends! Even my mom used the Postagram app during our Disney trip.

My other new fav app is Story by Disney. We first learned about it last month at the Disney Social Media Moms conference and it’s a beautiful app. It’s free to download and offers you a quick, convenient and simple way to transform an experience into a photo album and share it via email or post it on Facebook. You can add video, change the text, change the background color and then post it on Facebook and share via email. It’s that simple and it really does make anyone a storyteller. I tried it out a few times after our Disney trip and loved the results. It’s a fabulous way to pair a series of pictures or an entire afternoon and share it with family and friends with pizzaz and personality instead of just posting individual pictures on Facebook.

There you have it — I believe you can pair some style with comfort while traveling this summer with the kids. Not a deep or profound topic today but a great way to kick-off a rainy Monday, right? For the “best time you ever did have” be sure to hit “Like” on the Wired Momma Facebook page.

Walt Disney World Tips: The WM Experience

2012-Spring 2013 2098How do you even begin a post about a trip to Walt Disney World?
I have been belaboring this dilemma for about a week now.

#FirstWorldProblem

It is overwhelming – and I mean that in a good way. Look, the truth is – I don’t particularly like other people’s crying children, I don’t particularly like crowds, I really don’t like humidity and I rarely have the patience for long lines.

#Scrooge

Initially, it didn’t seem like I was the sort of person who would fall in love with Walt Disney World.  As many of you know, despite these facts, we were initially planning a trip in November but then I was invited to attend the Disney Social Media Moms Conference and well – obviously you don’t turn down such an amazing opportunity.

On Thursday May 9, we sprung it on the girls. Disclosure – they knew we were going to Disney World but we’d kept the specifics on when in May, deliberately vague, and my older one had arbitrarily decided we were going on Monday May 20, so I went with that. We tossed it on them about an hour before departure for the airport time and well, I’m thinking the Disney PR team isn’t going to pick up their reactions for a TV ad:

I still found their reaction to be highly amusing, however, right? I mean, the library? Really? #Nerds.

But – here’s the thing – before I knew it, we were roaming Magic Kingdom and these words fell from my four-year-old’s mouth:  “This is the most fun I ever did have.”

And she was right. I fell in love with Disney, despite the odds, and it was the most fun we ever did have. With that, I give you my top tips on optimizing your Disney experience – in no particular order, mind you. I’m thinking I might do a separate post on shoes & necessary accessories.

1 – “The Parade made me late.” Seriously. It did. There’s one place in the world where you can use this excuse and actually not be lying, when you show up 20 minutes late to your dinner reservation…and that is Disney World. We were warned of the importance of factoring in “getting there time” but I couldn’t fully appreciate it until we were experiencing it first hand – getting where you need to go takes at least 30-45 minutes – so when you are heading out the door – be sure to factor in time for getting through lines, bag check, getting there (monorail, switching monorails, waiting for boats)….navigating through crowds….or the parade blockade. Expect the unexpected and pad your time accordingly.

2012-Spring 2013 21692- Character Meals – yay or nay? Totally YES! Frankly – these were a real highlight of our trip and I wish we’d done more of them. For many of the character meals, you really should make your reservation 180 days in advance to score your seats at your preferred time – but in our case, we had less than a 60 day notice we were going. I was able to book a table at Tusker House Restaurant for Donald’s Safari Breakfast in the Animal Kingdom and our hotel concierge reserved a table for us at 1900 Park Fare in the Grand Floridian hotel for our last night. Cinderella and characters were the hosts of that particular meal and we really loved the boat ride from the Magic Kingdom to the Grand Floridian (where we were totally late for dinner because of the parade….). My seven-year-old discovered a deep love for buffets at these meals and we found the food to be surprisingly good and healthy. The kids also loved the individual time with each of the characters and we appreciated not having to wait in line for those character meet and greets, as you otherwise would at the parks. As you can see here, they also do more than just take pictures and sign autograph books at the character meals. Where else can a gal dance with Cinderella?

3 – Fireworks start LATE. Like 10pm late at the Magic Kingdom on many nights. I hadn’t focused on this until we got there and if you’ve been at it all day with little ones, fighting the crowds and staying up late for Magic Kingdom fireworks is no small feat. I would highly recommend the Illuminations show and fireworks display at Epcot – they start earlier at 9pm – and there is more space to exit the park than Magic Kingdom. Just something to keep in mind. If you are a sucker for fireworks, like I am, then I’d encourage you to watch this riveting video I took of the show – Disney does it right. I should also add that we saw beautiful pink heart shaped fireworks coming from the Magic Kingdom show one night. Did you even know there could be a pink heart shaped firework? #OnlyInDisney

4 – Stay on Disney property. I think one caveat would be if you have your own car. Otherwise, there is a price point for everyone and it is just convenient. And with long days, hot weather and lines in front of you – convenience is your friend.

5 – Vintage Disney Still Lives On. What was fabulous when you were a kid is still fabulous. I hadn’t been to Disney World since the mid 1980s. Same with Mr. WM. And I was thrilled to discover that what I loved as a kid is still just as fabulous and completely unchanged: It’s a Small World,The  Enchanted Tiki Room, Country Bear Jamboree, Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountain Railroad, The Haunted House. Fabulous. Just as you remembered them to be.

6 – Disney Customer service is unparalleled. We are all so exposed to this world where children are an annoyance. Some people cringe when they see the shortie’s boarding flights. Others don’t want them in restaurants. And then there is Disney World. Where “cast members” can’t possibly be making very much money to stand and manage the line waiting to see Ariel, for example, and yet they act like each child is the most precious gift given to all of us. The attitude towards children was so refreshing. Sure, I know, it’s a children’s amusement park. But again – it is often the perfect storm for bad behavior – combine long lines, hot weather, hours of screaming children and someone who probably makes minimum wage – and yet every person we came across went out of their way to be helpful. What struck me the most was waiting in line at Ariel’s Grotto in the New Fantasyland. If you haven’t been, it’s built like a cave and the sound echoes. As we were nearing the front of the line, a toddler was screaming and the noise was piercing. The woman working the line asked for the crying baby to walk up front. The dad sheepishly strolled forward with his distraught toddler and the “cast member” asked her why she was crying and noted that no one likes the sound echoing through the cave. So what did she do next? She pulled out a stack of stickers and the little girl started smiling. Problem solved. Everyone was happy. That’s the Disney magic right there. Actually, the real Disney magic is how they motivate the 60,000 “cast members” they employ to all share this attitude. And could they sprinkle that across the country? Particularly in airports.

Asleep..on the red carpet...for the entire night.

Asleep..on the red carpet…for the entire night.

7 – If in doubt – always pack the stroller. Do I need to say more? Especially if you have a child under the age of 6 years old. One book I read in prep for our trip noted that everyone walks an average of 5-9 miles a day in Disney World. In fact, they recommend physical conditioning for the trip. When my 4-year-old was tired, that child just fell asleep in the stroller. And yes, she did sleep through the now infamous parade that was fantastic and blocking our ability to get to our dinner reservations. She also slept through an entire Red Carpet dinner party complete with characters one night of the Disney Social Media Moms conference and several other fun outings but hey – she had somewhere to sleep and not slow us down.

8 – Packing for Disney: if they wear it, they will spill on it. If you think you can pack outfits for your kids to wear again, then they must not eat like mine, or you don’t care about popsicle or ketchup stains (which after a few days, I didn’t either). I’d recommend at least one outfit a day for the kids. Picking the right shoes and bags for comfort and style for the adults warrants an entirely separate blog post – so give me a few days.

The inevitable...but you are always in good company.

The inevitable…but you are always in good company.

9 – Misery loves company. I realize now that my attitude was all wrong going into Disney. It’s not that other people’s crying children bother me, it’s that other people’s crying or argumentative children serve as the perfect reminder – just when you think yours is the only one freaking out at Disney World and you are bleeding cash – that they ALL DO IT. Just seeing it happen around you can bring you inner peace and comfort in knowing that you are, in fact, never alone. Disney World is the one place where we can all come together and let it all hang out, so to speak. It’s not our nudist colony, it’s our “here’s how they really are” colony. Namaste.

10 – The magical surprises make the trip. There’s no other way to say it. Realizing that it’s so cliche, it’s just the truth. There are magical, unexpected moments in Disney that make it “The most fun I ever did have” moment. You can’t plan for it, schedule it or purchase it in advance. You just experience it. For us, it was the talking garbage can in Tomorrowland who approached our oldest. Of course there’s a random talking garbage can in Disney World who charms parents, grandparents and kids alike. Why wouldn’t there be? He reminded me of ET.

Or it’s watching the kids’ faces as a random street parade comes tooling down Main Street. In those  moments, they suspend their desire to be practical and grown up, Disney World May 2013 083they stop crushing the dreams of their little sisters, and they believe that those princesses and characters are REAL and they are so happy. And you are happy. It’s what the whole thing is about and I had forgotten that until suddenly, there was a trash can talking to my kids.

11- You can find healthy meals. I heard the news last spring that Disney World was going healthier. I read the articles. But I still didn’t believe it. Guess what – it is true. There were healthy options for adults and kids most places we visited. In particular, I really loved a parsnip spinach salad at a buffet dinner at a character meal. Would you ever have guessed that’s where I’d find that one? Seriously. The girls munched on grapes and apple slices, had apple sauce instead of french fries. I was duly impressed and not fully expecting it.

12 – Magic Hours are not to be missed. If you are staying at a Disney resort, then pay attention to the magic hours and use those to your advantage. For example, we had a 9:15 character breakfast in Animal Kingdom. Despite all the odds, we managed to get up, get out the door and get into the park and onto the Safari by 8:30am to enjoy it before the crowds and lines – all before our scheduled breakfast. It wasn’t easy because it seems every night is a late night at Disney but it was so worth it.

2012-Spring 2013 212913 – I left my heart in Epcot. Epcot was just lovely. I don’t know what else to say. Somehow, by some cruel and evil twist of fate, I never got to France in Epcot. Personally, I could have spent a week just at Epcot. My older one also really loved Epcot. Bottom line – Disney World is about so much more than the Magic Kingdom.

I could keep going and going and going. Seriously. Instead, I will end here. These are my top tips and insights from the trip. I have a few more Disney related posts coming though. One will be dedicated entirely to the inside scoop I learned at the Disney Social Media Moms conference on what’s coming later this year and in the future from Disney and to the parks.  Clearly you come to moi for the scoop. And one post will be dedicated to mom-fashion at Disney World. It is possible. But one must be practical.

In the meantime, be sure to share anything I missed, that you thing is extra special about WDW and as always, hit “Like” on the old Wired Momma Facebook page.  It will be the most fun you ever did have.

Disclosure: I was invited to attend the Disney Social Media Moms Conference. I paid a conference fee to attend and we were given discounts to the parks and meals during the conference. All the opinions here are my own.

 

Summer 2013: The Staycation Must-Do

With the unofficial start to summer 2013 just days away, I’ve seen so much traffic on local listservs about where to go this summer that doesn’t require airfare and doesn’t involve the inevitable traffic that comes with crossing the Bay Bridge. So no better time than right now to tip you off to my absolute favorite spot for a weekend away – Maryland’s Deep Creek Lake.

Maryland’s Deep Creek Lake – pure bliss

If you haven’t been, I urge you to put it on the top of your list. If you’ve been, then I am certain you are nodding your head in agreement. Here’s why:

1. It’s only three hours away

2. The drive is lovely – you probably had no idea Maryland is so mountainous

3. You don’t have to worry about the horrid Bay Bridge traffic

4. You don’t have to worry about fighting someone for a parking spot or waiting in line at a restaurant.

5. You just might have great hair for a weekend. Sure, we all love the tousled beach look but does it ever look in reality how you picture it in your head? Meanwhile up in Deep Creek, it could be 15 degrees cooler and no humidity. Your hair will thank you. To your hair, I say: You’re Welcome.

6. There’s a year-round Mountain Coaster – along with a totally cool newly done man-made white water rafting course, a chipmunk challenge course for kids and hiking on top of Wisp Mountain and obviously boating, jet skiing and general lake happiness – on the lake.

7. The Honi-Honi Bar. There is no better people watching and general lounging on the east coast. Trust moi. C’est vrai. You can dock your boat, let the kids play on the grassy area, and enjoy a beverage while you relax and soak in some live music.

Should I keep going or are you sold?

We go up every year over Labor Day weekend with three other families – 8 kids in total. It is a summer highlight. Many people have asked – how do we figure out where to stay???? What do you look for in a house? How do you decide?

Fret not kittens, I’m ready to reveal my trade secrets. There are two main realty companies up there for home rentals but I’d urge you to go with Railey Mountain Lake Vacations. They have the biggest inventory in the area and their staff are knowledgeable about each property, can give you specific information, can talk to you about how it might suit your group – for instance, I was zeroing in on one house and the staff were able to tell me that though it wasn’t obvious from the pictures online, there was a steep path down to the dock and the lake that might be hard for tired children to climb after a long day or toddlers. Read: are you prepared to carry the kids up the slope?

The kids LOVE the pontoon boat trip…note – she wasn’t the reason we almost sank it.

I would have never known it from the pictures so I was so glad I picked up the phone and actually called. Another reason to call – they have relationships with vendors in the area – like say boating companies that rent pontoon boats, they can schedule tee times, or reserve other activities and make great suggestions. If you are going, you’ll want to call ahead and reserve a boat in advance, at least that was our experience with the busy Labor Day weekend.

And though we literally almost sank our boat a few summers ago, it is absolutely a must-do when heading to Deep Creek in the summer. (To clarify: the rent a pontoon boat part, not the sinking it part. That, I wouldn’t advise).

When searching for a house, our group’s rules were as follows:

1. Hot tub

2. Fire pit for s’mores

3. Lake front or Lake Access (meaning there is a road between your house and the lake but you still have a dock – these homes are generally cheaper)

4. What happens in Deep Creek, stays in Deep Creek.

#kidding

#I’mABigMouth

One year we looked for a house that had enough bedrooms for the adults and for the kids. Then the kids all ended up in our bedrooms and we had wasted space and wondered what we were paying for. Last summer, we settled on a house with multiplemaster suites and less bedrooms. When the kids are older, we’ll go for the bigger homes again. This summer, we’re again renting a property with a few master suites but now we also are going for an unobstructed view of the lake. In the past, we’ve had a road in between, then tons of trees, last year a bit of a slope down – which frankly is a good thing too because it limits the chances of a rogue kid going running into the lake without adult supervision – but now the kids are older and we are ready for the flatness and the unobstructed view.

Another thing to consider, on the off-chance the adult members of the group might play Flip Cup and other age-inappropriate drinking games get a little rowdy at night, consider the outdoor living space. Is the only outdoor space the deck right off a bunch of rooms where the kids are sleeping? Maybe not the best house (though we’ve done it and the kids slept through it). Instead, is there a lower deck further away from the bedrooms, is there a house where a master suite isn’t right off the hot tub, is there outdoor living space that separates your juvenile adult antics from the sweet innocent sleeping children?

Don’t leave home without the Sister Wives. Note – deck is a few feet from a bedroom door. #badparenting

Strategery, friends.

Speaking of friends, bring your sister wives. Part of the reason the annual Wired Momma get-away to Deep Creek Lake is such a summer treat is because of my rule of thumb: always bring your sisters wives and the manny’s. This way – you have plenty of time relaxing on the deck and gossiping, while the manny’s are on hand should the children need some adult supervision.

Again, strategery.

Finally, we’ve also really enjoyed some time at the Deep Creek State Park – where we docked our boat, had a great picnic lunch and let the kids play on the beach, in the water and on the playground. The other state park we’ve loved is Swallow Falls Park, where you can hike to the tallest waterfall in Maryland, something my kids really enjoyed as they hadn’t yet seen a waterfall.

Bottom line – if your budget doesn’t include a weekly rental at the beach this year or you’ve not yet explored western Maryland, then my advice is to head up to Deep Creek Lake and enjoy it!!

For more of my fav summer must-visits, must-haves and general summer survival tips, be sure to “Like” the Wired Momma FB page. The fun is only just beginning….