Keep the kids active and smiling while on the road this summer.
By Janet Groene, F47166
July 2008 FMC magazine
Whether you travel full-time with children or have little ones on board only occasionally, RVing is a different activity when kids are involved. Safety, always important, takes on new meaning. When traveling with youngsters, you cook differently, and unless you’re around children a lot, you may have forgotten how much energy they have. It’s important to have a full range of age-appropriate activities for indoors, outdoors, and on the go.
Here’s a potpourri of tips, destinations, discoveries, and boredom-busters that might work for you.
- Teddy’s Travels: America’s National Parks by Trefoni Michael Rizzi ($19.95, TdB Press) is one of the best books ever written for children who are curious about nature, travel, and camping. Tedrick de Bear takes youngsters around America’s national parks through a gaily illustrated guidebook, scrapbook, and journal all packaged in one sturdy, spiral-bound volume. Sure to be saved in your family for generations, it’s well worth the price. Order it from any bookstore or online at www.teddystravels.com.
- The best part of travel is the memories. Now a new book titled Scrapbooking with Your Kids ($22.95, Leisure Arts), from the editors of Creating Keepsakes magazine, makes it fun to save photos and other trip mementos. Read it for ideas on what to take along, what to collect and save while on the trip, and what children can do with their keepsakes after they get home. The book is heavily illustrated and gives easy-to-follow directions.
- Get links to more than 1,200 educational Web pages kids will love. Go to www.kids.gov and choose from two sections: one for grades kindergarten through 5, the other for grades 6 through 8. Kids can find help with lessons, games, the diary of a park ranger, a link to NASA, and ideas for group activities. It’s all put together by the government’s Federal Citizen Information Center.
- Opening this summer is the new Civil War Museum in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which honors the contributions made by soldiers from Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Iowa. Some states farthest from the battlegrounds sacrificed the most, and their stories are told here. For more information, call (262) 653-4140 or visit www.kenosha.org/civilwar.
- Two kid-friendly museums are located just 1/2-mile west of Interstate 75 in Fort Myers, Florida. The Southwest Florida Museum of History displays skeletons, footprints, and fossils from the dawn of time. Call (239) 332-5955 or visit www.cityftmyers.com/museum for details. At the Imaginarium Hands-On Museum, kids learn as they touch, handle, puzzle, and play. For more information, call (239) 337-3332; www.cityftmyers.com/imaginarium.
- Headed for the Big Apple? Many outlying campgrounds offer easy access to Manhattan via public transportation. A survey of New York kids revealed that their favorite spots are the Bronx Zoo, the Empire State Building’s observation deck, the Children’s Zoo, Forbes Galleries with its big collection of toy soldiers, John’s Pizza (for murals as well as the food), Cafe Edison for eating while celeb watching, the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory for food and the view, the Kidrobot store for limited-edition vinyl figures, and Times Square for a Broadway show and shopping.
- New at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga is Penguins’ Rock, featuring gentoo and macaroni penguins. While you’re at the aquarium, book an excursion on the River Gorge Explorer, a high-speed catamaran that takes visitors through “Tennessee’s Grand Canyon.” For tickets or more information, call (800) 262-0695 or visit www.tnaqua.org.
- Nature tours depart by boat from the Isle of Palms Marina in South Carolina for the Capers Island Heritage Preserve, located on an undeveloped barrier island. Call (843) 886-5000 for reservations (required) or more information; www.nature-tours.com.
- Cooperstown, New York, is home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum, where children ages 2 to 13 can enter a fun, interactive, educational area called the Sandlot Kids’ Clubhouse. Call (888) 425-5633 or visit www.baseballhalloffame.org. While you’re in town, check out the Cooperstown Farmers Museum (888-547-1450, www.farmersmuseum.org) with its 19th-century living history interpreters in costume.
- Looking at the Wild West for summer travels with children? The Cody Nite Rodeo (www.codyniterodeo.com, 800-207-0744) is held June through August. While you’re in Wyoming’s Cody country, see the Old West Miniature Village and Museum, tour the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, and watch the nightly gunfight on the street outside the Irma Hotel. For more information about the happenings in the Cody and Yellowstone National Park areas, call (800) 393-2639 or visit www.yellowstonecountry.org.
- Fort Wilderness at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, has undergone a massive re-do to accommodate today’s larger RVs. It’s the ideal place for a family reunion, because you can book a campsite for yourself and fully equipped cabins for guests. It’s the only area at Walt Disney World where pets are welcome; it’s on the free transportation system that whisks you anywhere within the complex; and it has its own restaurants and attractions. Visit www.wdwcamp.com or call (407) 939-2267.
- Disaster! is the explosive new movie ride at Universal Studios Orlando. Disaster! replaced the Earthquake ride that closed this past November and the new ride offers an even more techno-scary experience. Visit www.universalorlando.com, or call (407) 224-4233 for information.
- Learn more Civil War history, step into a dungeon-like 1859 jail, meet outlaw Frank James, ride in a covered wagon, and learn about Lewis and Clark when you take kids on a guided tour of Independence, Missouri. While there, see the National Frontier Trails Museum, devoted to the three major routes that took pioneers westward: the Oregon, Santa Fe, and California trails. To discover more things to do in this area, call (800) 748-7323 or go to www.visitindependence.com.
- Now Nickelodeon has its own theme park. See it at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, where thrill rides run indoors all day long, rain or shine. Call (952) 883-8800, or visit www.mallofamerica.com for details about the park and all of the attractions at this complex. Bloomington is not far from FMCA’s 80th International Convention July 14-18 in St. Paul.
- Can’t use DEET insect sprays on your little ones? Natrapel and Natrapel Plus are DEET-free and said to be completely safe for kids. Find these products in grocery stores, pharmacies, and mass merchandise retailers, or visit www.tendercorp.com.
- Log on to www.family.go.com to discover travel attractions listed state by state and according to the best choices for different age groups.
- Hands-on learning programs at Lake George, New York, take place in some of the East’s most historic, scenic outdoor classrooms. Take the aquatic adventure course and do water quality experiments at Up Yonda Farms; immerse yourselves in living history at Fort William Henry and Fort Ticonderoga; go spelunking, or take guided nature hikes. For more information about the Lake George region, call (800) 365-1050, ext. 5100, or visit www.visitlakegeorge.com.
- Alligator Farm Zoological Park in St. Augustine, Florida, has acquired a giant reticulated python. It’s so big that it takes at least seven men to handle it. The 22-footer may be the largest snake in captivity. Call (904) 824-3337 or visit www.alligatorfarm.com for more information.
- Pack all your day needs for a baby or toddler plus a standard laptop in a new carrying bag from O Yikes! Ask for it in local children’s departments or go to www.oyikes.com.
- A rootin’ tootin’ rodeo filled with contests, clowns, and specialty acts takes place during Chief Joseph Days, held this year July 23 through 27 in Joseph, Oregon. Rodeo stars perform at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday evenings. Call (541) 432-1015 or visit www.chiefjosephdays.com for details.
- During Hot August Nights in Reno and Sparks, Nevada, visitors celebrate America’s love affair with cars and rock ‘n roll. Be there August 1 through 10 for cruising, Prom Night, swap meets, music, food, and fun. For more details about this event, call (775) 356-1956 or visit www.hotaugustnights.net.
- Want to cram as much NASCAR sight-seeing as possible into your visit to Charlotte, North Carolina, with the kids? Book a day or two with Adventures in Motorsports. For $69 per person per day, the company will pick you up in their vehicle and take you to all the hot spots: driver garages, museums, restaurants where insiders eat, pit crew practice sessions, and much more. Rates include admissions. Guides know racing inside and out, and they also know all the locations and legends. For more info, call (704) 938-7390 or visit www.adventuresinmotorsports.com.
Motorola Talkabout T9580SAME. I was on a ranger-guided boat tour deep in Florida’s Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge when my backpack rang. Everyone’s jaws dropped as I answered. “Nobody else has ever been able to get a cell phone signal out here,” the ranger marveled as I pulled out my Talkabout and explained that it wasn’t a phone but a high-tech walkie-talkie that my husband, Gordon, and I were testing. While field-testing the unit, we were impressed with its features, including hands-free, voice-activated operation; vibrator alert so the ring can be turned off; channel scanning; 11 weather channels; and new features including a USB charging port, an emergency alert siren, and a built-in LED flashlight.
Clarity was excellent, especially at distances of two miles or less. Between 1/2-mile and five miles, contact can be affected by obstacles between the two units. When communications are needed between family members, the newest Talkabout is a convenience in campgrounds. In areas with no cell phone service, it can be a great communication alternative.
Phil and Carol White, who wrote Live Your Road Trip Dream: Travel For A Year For The Cost Of Staying At Home ($18.95, RLI Press), which is based on their year on the go in an RV, have written an expanded and updated second edition. If you’ve met them at a rally or AARP convention, you know that this personable couple hit the road for a year’s sabbatical, so their approach is different from that of full-timers who sell everything and commit to travel as a lifestyle.
To me, the most puzzling part of their life on the road is that they “lived” in the type B motorhome for only some days of the week and stayed in motels other nights. That’s a lot of packing and unpacking, defeating the purpose of traveling like a turtle in a self-contained shell. Too, their budget of nearly $80,000 for the year is probably far above average.
Nevertheless, their new book brims with useful information for all dreamers who want to make an extended road trip. Because they describe their own travel experiences, the book makes good armchair travel reading, too. Invaluable in their new edition are budgeting information based on today’s prices and updates on using new electronic communications. If you’re a full-time wannabe, this book is no substitute for a how-to on RV full-timing, but it should be added to your list of “must-read” books. It is available through online booksellers or by visiting www.roadtripdream.com.
Many full-timers volunteer at local, state, or national parks throughout the United States, but volunteering opportunities are available in other nations as well. If you seek new horizons, go to www.travel-peopleandplaces.co.uk. Based in England, the organization has short-term volunteer opportunities overseas. Also see www.charityguide.org for lists of North American volunteer vacation projects you can travel to by motorhome.
You Can Take It With You
Carry complete medical records with you on a key-chain-size device called MedicKey, and it could help you avoid health care mistakes, expenses, and duplicate tests. Hospital personnel anywhere can plug the USB device into almost any Windows-based computer, and the program automatically reveals your personal health information. It does not require Internet access. The program enables you to input information about the types of medications you’re taking, your emergency contacts, the names of your “home” physicians, and more. For further information about this device, call (877) 682-5340 or visit www.medickey.com.