A Look Back to Family Travel 2011

Although we are a few days into 2012, our recent family trip to Keystone resort is still fresh in our mind, the first ski experience on one of the best family ski resort in Colorado. So to keep up with our tradition, we have our review post looking back to our family travel last year. It was a fun year!

January: Snow in Atlanta

Atlanta Snow 2011 Snow Tubing

It’s not often or should I say NEVER that Atlanta metro area will get seven inches of snow in winter. So it was a real big treat for our kids to enjoy snow tubing (home-made style) at our own backyard. The snow storm in Atlanta shut down the whole city a whole week. For adults, the cabin fever started to set in but for kids it was like an unexpected winter break!

February: Indoor Water Park fun

Wilderness at the Smokies Tube Slides

We went up to Sevierville, Tennessee to help celebrate our friend’s birthday. An indoor water park at Wilderness in the Smokies is a great year round fun where kids (and adults) can enjoy swimming, sliding, surfing and more in the heated environment even in the middle of winter.

March: Mickey Memory with Disney Social Media Mom

Disney Grand Floridian Carriage

This month we drove down to our familiar vacation spot in Orlando to attend the Disney Social Media Mom 2011 where we learned, laughed and connected with bloggers. It was our first time staying at the Disney’s Grand Floridian Spa & Resort and it was an experience we won’t easily forget. Mr. Z also experienced a big kid ride and hooked on the roller coaster now!

April: Fun in Atlanta at Georgia Aquarium

Georgia Aquarium Atlanta

In Spring, we stayed close to home and enjoy local  attractions in Atlanta like the Grand opening of new Dolphin Tale show at the Georgia Aquarium, the beautiful day at Piedmont Park for the Dogwood Festival

May: Birthday Celebration at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Disney Animal Kingdom Expedition Everest With Kids

This year we took another trip down to Orlando to celebrate Mr. Rojo’s birthday at the Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. We hardly stayed at the Disney’s resorts previously because our family has a timeshare in Orlando but year 2011 we stayed in not just one but two property! And I have to say I understand why people keep going back year after year!

June: Summer fun in Seattle & Vancouver

Seattle With Kids - Waterfront

Our big summer trip this year was a two weeks trip to Seattle and Vancouver. It was a business/family trip combo. I attended TBEX 2011, the Travel bloggers conference, in Vancouver and we also enjoyed family vacation in Seattle.

July: Family Reunion in the Ozark & Side trip to St. Louis

St Louis with Kids Enjoy the Arch view

Our first family reunion was planned at the YMCA of the Ozark. It was wonderful for kids to meet and play with their cousins. We also took a little detour to visit St. Louis, MO. A fun day but not nearly enough to discover this gem in the Midwest.

August: Back to School

Summer time flew by when you had so much fun. Before we knew it, the kids were back in school. Yes, here in Atlanta we go back to school in August!

September: Myrtle Beach on Labor Day

Myrtle Beach with Kids: Kayaking with kids

Now, that kids are in school, we have to work around school holidays and take advantage of every holidays we can get. So we planned a short break during Labor Day weekend to visit Myrtle Beach. What a fun place for the whole family! We found that Myrtle Beach is not just a place for fun time at the beach or various family entertainments like MagiQuest but we could also enjoy nature like Kayak tour.

October: Fall Family Camping

In October, we had our first fall family camping trip with a group of our friends at Redtop Mountain Park. It was beautiful even though a bit too cold for this tropical girl. Kids, on the other hand, had no problem with the cold temperature at night when they had the whole park to explore. The water in the lake was too cold for anyone of us to dare going in. But we knew it will be a great place to camp again in the summer.

November: Legoland Florida

During the Thanksgiving break, we went to visit the recently opened Legoland Florida. Mr. Z was beyond happy to be able to ride in EVERY SINGLE ride at his height. Miss J loved being a big kid who could take her little brother on the ride without us. Ah!! A theme park where kids rule!

December: Ski & Snow at Keystone Ski Resort

Ski With Kid - Keystone Ski School near Denver

Our last but certainly not least family trip of the year was one of the memorable one for our whole family. It was their first time on ski and my first time learning to ski. One word, AMAZING trip! We certainly enjoyed our whole experience during our trip to Denver & Keystone. This will certainly be a place we would love to revisit again in the future.

Wow! I didn’t realize how much we have traveled this past year until I started this post. It certainly has been a blessing for us to be able to continue our love of travel and adventures. We are thankful for the opportunities we have been given and hope we will continue to be able to travel as a family in 2012. Here to more travel in 2012!

Camping With Kids: What to Bring on Fall Family Camping Trip

Fall Family Camping
Fall is my favorite season because the weather is in perfect temperature and there are so many family friendly activities to do around town. We normally stick closer to home during Fall. Plus now that both kids are in school, it’s harder to plan a vacation trip.

One of fun family activity that we love to do and wish we can do more often is camping. Family camping is an easy, affordable and fun that anyone can enjoy. I would like to put a disclaimer here that I’m not a camping expert. But I love to share our experience from the newbie’s point of view.

Camping in Fall, I think, is the best time to camp, especially for first time camper. I always think it’s easy to warm yourself up in the cold climate than cool yourself down in the heat. Yes, you might pack a little bit more but it’s doable especially if you are not planning a backpacking camping trip.

Here are our list of Essentials on our Fall Camping Trip with Kids

Camping With Kids Family Tent

Family Tent:


We purchased the biggest tent we can afford. For our family of 4 we bought 8 person tent. I think it’s the best thing to do when you have kids. It gives them more space to move around and plenty of space to put all our stuff inside the tent. We didn’t buy the best tent but just cheap version at Walmart. If it’s your first time camping and you are not planning to go camping in extreme weather, I would suggest to buy cheap tent or rent one from REI to try it out.

Sleeping Bag:


You will need a sleeping bag per person in your family. Make sure you choose sleeping bag that is appropriate to your camping style. Again, we are not talking about extreme weather camping in the Q Family so I pick the one that is not too warm for our area. I figure if it gets too cold, we can always bundle up with more clothes.

Sleeping Pad:

A must for  your camping trip. This is one item that I think worth investing in because a good night sleep will make your camping experience so much better. We used to bring inflatable mattress. One word of advice – DON’T! It’s not as good as sleeping pad and much harder to setup and pack.

Flashlight or Lantern:


It’s not only a source of lighting at night time for you but a great toy for kids to entertain themselves at night time. Kids can play with their shadow and explore nearby campsite with their flashlight.

Footprint or Tarp:

In order to protect and prolong the life of your tent, footprint or tarp is highly recommended. It will help keep your tent from rock or branch. We bought a tarp that is a bit larger than our tent and use it as a mat so kids have place to take off their shoes before entering our tent as well.

Camping Stove:


Cooking at the camp can be easy or complicated depends on your style. We have been camping with a friend who didn’t even bring any stove or any cooking items and we have also been camping with a family that brought everything except the kitchen sink with them. For us, the Coleman Two Burner Stove is a perfect middle ground. It is small and compact enough to bring with us and provide us with enough space to make a quick meal like bacon in the morning or boil water for noodle at lunch.

Extra Blanket:

During fall camping, the weather at night can drop to as low as 30-40 degree. So make sure that you bring enough blanket or extra jacket. I found that one of those snuggi blanket that you saw on TV is really great. It helps keep the blanket on the kids throughout the night.

Outdoor Chairs:

At camp, you will be doing a lot of sitting around and enjoy the company of each other and nature. So a camp chair is a must.

There are many items that you can bring with you to camp especially if you just do normal camping that you don’t have to carry all your stuff to the camp sites. These are just essential items that we know we will need on our trip.

What are your essential camping items?

Camping With Kids: The “Somewhat Roughing It” Version

Camping With Kids Family Tent

Over the past weekend, we went on our second family camping trip that wasn’t in our backyard. If you are a long time reader, you will know how big of a deal this is for us and our kids.

We are not the “roughing it” or “outdoor adventure” family. Our version of family camping last time involved a long list of things to pack for camping trip like big tent, pillows, electrical hookup, laptop and Nintendo DS.

Family Camping with Cub Scout

This trip is different. It’s a camping trip with the cub scout. There were no electric hookup, no electronic and no wifi.

I wasn’t sure how we will do during that weekend. One saving grace was that we would not be the only camper there. It’s a group camping so I hoped for the kindness of my neighbor.

And I was not disappointed!

We survived!

The campsite is huge and on the lake!! It’s a private camping ground for Boy Scout of USA and the location is privately guarded.

We got there a little bit late and with a long line to check in we arrived at our site when the Sun already went down.

As soon as we pulled in and unloaded our stuff which I realized that I packed too much (There will be another post about lesson learned on this one.), we were approached by another family and helped us find an empty site to start setting up our tent.

First Test for Us, Setting Up a Tent at Night

I have to say that I was pretty proud of us to be able to setup our tent at night with just lantern and headlamp under 30 minutes. Granted, tents these days are much easier to set it up as long as you follow the instruction.

Our secret weapon was we did our dress rehearsal the previous weekend. We did a backyard camping with our friends who came to Cub Scout camping with us. And I’m glad we did.

No Need for Toys

Camping With Kids - Cub Scout Friends

Another great thing of camping with a group of people is the fun the kids had. We don’t have to worry about finding things to do for kids on family camping trip as they immediately found new friends to run around in the wood while adults were busy unpacking and settling down.

The next morning we were ready for a full fun day of activities. There were many fun activities planned throughout the day for the boys and siblings.

Camping With Kids - Cub Scout Archery

Mr. Z took part in the Archery. I had to say it wasn’t bad for his first time trying. He was able to hit the target 2 out of 3 times.

We then spent the majority of the day waiting in line for more activities. I guess it’s part of learning to be patience. By dinner time, we were so tired and ready to bed. BUT there were more activities after dark!

Trick-or-Treating at Night in the Wood

After a fabulous dinner of hot dog and vegetable soup, kids were ready for yet more fun at night. We started off with joining the Halloween parade where the judges gave out prizes during the costume contest.

Camping With Kids - Cub Scout Halloween

This was our first year attending this event so next year we already talk about new and improve costume.

The trick-or-treating was definitely a highlight of the night for us. We walked along the path to different campsites in the dark with just the light source from our flashlight. The atmosphere made the event more fun for them but not scary because there were so many kids walking at the same time.

As we stepped into our tent for the last night, the kids were hardly up long enough to change themselves into their pajamas before they were fast asleep.

Memory that Last A Lifetime

The next morning was bittersweet. It was one of the best weekend we have had outdoor and one that I know we will remember for a really long time.

Camping With Kids - Cub Scout Happy

It was something as simple as sleeping in the tent and running wild in the wood that create such a long lasting memory for our family. I know that this will be one of the tradition that we will look forward to doing many years to come.

Camping with kids seem like a disaster in a making but once I let go of the type A personality and my camping phobia, it probably is one of the best thing you can do as a family with kids. Back to nature!

5 Baby Steps to Ease Your Camping Phobia

Camp

My long time friend who know me or Mr. Rojo well enough probably do the double take and wonder if this is really our blog. What with all the camping posts! Well, I can’t promise you that this will be my last post about camping because we are already cooking up our Fall camping trip. As I have said it before and will say it again that we are not outdoor type family.

We love going to Walt Disney World, shopping at the outlet mall and hanging out by the pool after a long day. So camping is probably one of the last thing they will think we will do as a family.

It’s not easy to step out of our comfort zone. It’s a work-in-progress. So if we can do it, I think you can do it too. Keep in mind that we are not talking about backpacking and trekking 5 miles to your camp site nor primitive camping. We are talking about camping in style. Hey! At least we are camping.

So how did we do it? Here are our 5 Baby Steps to Ease Your Camping Phobia

Backyard

1) Take a baby step:

If you have never gone camping before in your life, don’t go out and book the next campsite at the Smoky Mountain Park that you will have to hike and camp out with no modern amenities like electricity or water.

Start out small like camping in your backyard. And even then, it might still seem scary at first. How about talk to a few friends to do backyard camping together? Camping with a group of friends is fun and their kids will be your kids instant play mates.

Or if you feel like you can step up a bit, you can find local nature center that provide overnight camping at their center. You will be in a good hand and still yet get to enjoy outdoor experience

KidsBed

2) Comfort is everything:

When camping with kids, you want everyone kids or adults to be comfortable. You don’t want to deal with cranky kids after a sleepless night.

The best advice I got from my friend was to get the biggest tent I can get. What a great advice! You want space that you can move around. Don’t just think of tent as a place to go to sleep.

A big enough tent can be a sanctuary for kids at night to play together without being eaten alive by bugs.

A big enough tent will allow you to have separate bed from your kids. I love my kids but I am done sleeping on the same bed. They can move like nobody else. At the end of the day, you want to be able to sleep. Sleeping outdoor out of your own home already hard enough for newbie like us. You don’t want to add the kick factor to the equation.

Toys During Family Camping

3) Bring YOUR comfort toys:

This advice is not only applied to kids. I’m sure each of us adult have something like book, laptop, ipod that keep us sane. Bring them! When things get tough, you can just spend some quiet time relaxing.

For me, I love the kindle application I download on my iphone. I don’t have to bring big, heavy books. Plus I can read them at night without having to use lantern or flashlight.

For Mr. Rojo, it’s a laptop. A few minutes playing computer game helps him to forget about that noise next to the tent.

Location

4) Location, location, location:

Do a research and look for campground with all amenities that suite your need. Here are a few must-have for us on our first camping trip

  • Within driving distance to our house. Just in case it doesn’t work out. We can just pack up and head home.
  • Must be near the water. I think that campground nears water will give us better breeze at night.
  • Must have restroom. We got it and more. The campground also has shower and laundry. Perfect. Next time, I can even pack less.
  • Must have electric hook up. Yes! We need it. We want it and we are not shame of it.

5) Timing is everything

Even though the thought of setting up a campsite and then having to take it down a couple days later doesn’t seem worth while. You also don’t want to plan your first camping trip to be a week long.

Why not try it out for a weekend. If you like it, then next trip you can always extend your trip.

I think camping doesn’t have to fall into the typical stereotype of ‘roughing it’. I hope that these 5 simple steps will help get you outdoor and enjoy nature.

What other tips do you have to help making camping more fun or easier?

The Helping Hands

Miss J helped putting up our tent on our First Family Camping Trip
Miss J helped putting up our tent on our First Family Camping Trip

Mr. Z is also a great helper to put up the tent
Mr. Z is also a great helper to put up the tent

Kids love to help out. And here are a great example during our recent camping trip. They jumped right in to help out in putting up the tent. I think that what make camping fun for the whole family. The sense of togetherness and working together really bond them. Until 10 minutes later when they fight over the flashlights but that’s another story. :)

Putting up a family tent is not as hard as I thought it would be once we have some practicing. It’s a great idea to try it out at home in your backyard for first time camper. The first time I put my tent up at home it took me over an hour to figure things out. Ok.. Maybe because I’m a bit directional challenge when it comes to tent. But every newbie will probably face the same problem. The 2nd time we put up our tent on our first family backyard camping, I did it in under 20 minutes. And this time, it took us about 15 minutes. Once you figured how to do it, it’s that easy. Wonder how fast I can put it up next time? :) Yes.. there will be more camping from The Q Family for sure!

Here is my contribution for this Photo Friday. Head on over to Delicious Baby for more fun photos from travelers around the world.