Monthly Archives: April 2010

Today’s Tip: Technology on the Road

I was recently informed by my (currently unemployed) eight-year-old son, that everyone has a Nintendo DSi. He  told me he’s just bored to pieces when he has to wait too long at a restaurant or when we’re in the car too long. Apparently, it’s not fun to “just listen to us (the adults) talk.”

I’m not moved by his pleas. Call me old-fashioned, but I think that being bored is just part of the fun of being a kid. What would a road trip be without the incessant whining from the back seat? It would be unnatural, that’s what it would be. Still, I like to meddle with the natural order of things from time to time. So that’s why I’ve been known to hand my son some techie gadgets to entertain himself in the back seat.

The Portable DVD Player

When he was very young, we had a portable DVD player. He was a bit of tyrant on long road trips, so I was willing to try anything to keep him quiet. An episode of Thomas the Tank Engine usually did the trick. Then it was back to whining. When our DVD player broke, I didn’t bother replacing it because the little amount of quiet time it gave me from the back seat didn’t make it a worthwhile investment. Besides, it was bulky, I had to remember to recharge it, and carry around a whole bunch of discs.

The Portable Wiggles Tape Player

It was red, shiny, and had a built-in microphone. He sang along to his Wiggles tunes for a while, I went to my happy place, but when the tape ran out it was back to whining. I would up the ante, and pop some audiobooks into his big, red boombox. That kept him happy for a lot longer. Long live the audiobooks.

The Discman

Yes, you read it right. As my son got older, I figured he was ready to inherit a family heirloom: my old Discman. He could listen to more audiobooks, but now he had graduated to shiny CDs. I didn’t really care too much if he damaged the Discman, so he could experiment with the buttons as much as he wanted. The good news was that the car did get a whole lot quieter because he was old enough for the headphones. Long live the headphones.

The iPod

One happy Mother’s Day, I decided to spoil myself so I bought an iPod classic. Our family had entered a whole new age of technology. Suddenly there was a whole wide world of music, audiobooks, games, TV shows, and movies at my fingertips. But the iPod was more likely to end up in my son’s fingertips when we traveled. I willingly gave up the luxury of listening to my tunes if it meant I would get some peace and quiet. We still use the iPod and I love that it is so small that I can carry it around everywhere. So long to the bulky DVD player, Discman, and Big, Red Boombox. Technology is indeed a magical thing.
Today I purchased an iPhone. As you can tell from my list, our family doesn’t see a lot of high-tech wizardry in our home. I expect that when I open the box and pull out the shiny object, we are likely to resemble the big, hairy crew of the Planet of the Apes. I’ll keep you updated on how this new technology changes our travels.

I also expect I’ll be visiting the site Best Kids Apps a lot more often now to find iPhone apps for kids. So many apps, so little time. That’s why I’m glad that two savvy traveling moms are reviewing loads of apps to make the job easier for us busy moms. I’m also participating in a little contest they have going on there. They’re giving away an iPad to blogging moms. Now imagine if my son got his paws on a shiny iPad….

Dreaming of a Quiet Place

Things have been kind of noisy around here lately. In some sort of weird serendipity, I hear the police helicopter flying through our neighborhood as I type this. I kept the window open today so that I could hear the crickets and feel a bit of that nighttime tranquility. So I hear the crickets, but sometimes the copters drown them out.

And that’s how it goes around here lately.

The past few days, I’ve been muttering: “I need to get away from people for a while.” Then I wonder if I’m going a bit bonkers. Maybe I’ll start wearing flannel, grow a beard, and take up whittling. But that’s not it, so you can just erase that frightful image from your head. I just need to get away from the problems of every day life, from my neighbor’s roaring car and barking dogs, to a quiet place in some lake or mountain somewhere.

One of the reasons I travel is to get away from the noise and find some quiet places. I know that I’m not the only one who needs some tranquility. My son needs it as well. When I was looking through our photo library, I noticed all of the pictures I have of my son overlooking some quiet place. Often he is laying down in that quiet place. It’s so easy to forget that even kids need some time to rest.

When we were in Hawaii last summer, he loved floating out on his Boogie board. My little Huck Finn would still be floating out in the waters off Kauai if I hadn’t dragged his raft in to shore. It must have been nice and quiet out there.

Some of my favorite moments have been spent with my son, in a quiet corner of our world, overlooking a lake, or a meadow, or the waves. So I’m dreaming of those peaceful places, even though I’m not likely to find one today.

Go check out Mara’s Monday Dream at Mother of All Trips.

Pictured above (from top to bottom): Lake Tahoe, CA; Santa Cruz, CA; a nice quiet beach (I won’t tell you where) in Kauai

My Green Travel Resolutions (Revisited)

A year ago, I wrote about how I was hoping to change some of my wasteful, Earth-harming ways. So I made some resolutions and promised to revisit them a year later. Here I am, a year wiser, but am I a year greener?

I put my teacher skills to use and gave myself some grades. Here’s my Traveling Green Report Card:

Resolution #1: I will tame my love affair with plastic bags. Grade: B+

I admit that I use too many Ziplock bags when I’m packing for a trip. It’s just that they are so good for organizing all the kid stuff I need to bring along. I bag my kid’s snack, and his toys, and his clothes, and…just about everything. There has to be a better way.

Well it turns out there is a better way. I bought packing cubes, bags, and pouches in many shapes, colors, and sizes. It was a bit more expensive than a box of Ziplock bags initially, but it is a good investment. Besides, these nifty packing cubes make it super easy to keep all of our clothes organized and I can cram more into our suitcases. More cramming, means less laundry. Love.

Resolution #2: I will bring along my own refillable water bottles. Grade: C

I also hate to admit I take along, or buy, cases of plastic water bottles when I’m on a trip. It’s hard to get away from the plastic bottles at most hotel rooms, but easy to refill my reusable bottles at restaurants when we’re out sightseeing.

I’m great with refillable bottles at home and work, but still not great while traveling. We have gotten better at using refillable bottles on road trips, but not while were out sightseeing. It’s just one more thing to schlep along, and I hate to shlep any more than I have to. I’ll keep working on ways to use less plastic for my hydrating needs.

Resolution #3: I will spend my travel dollars at places that have good environmental practices. Grade: C

In all my days of travel, I have only stayed at one “green” hotel. It was The Ambrose Hotel, in Santa Monica. I loved that I could recycle in my room, that they had a water-saving shower, and that they served all local, organic food. I stayed there, because of their sustainable practices. That, and the reviewers keep raving about their chocolate croissants at breakfast.

So I’ve only stayed in a couple of “green” hotels this year. Mostly, because there aren’t always many to choose from. When you’re traveling with kids you have to consider many things when choosing accommodations, and sometimes choosing a hotel with a kitchen, trumps choosing one that is LEED-certified. Traveling with a kid, doesn’t mean I need a bunch of goodie bags with junk that will eventually just end up in a landfill. I would like to recycle in my room, have local organic meals to choose from, and still enjoy the luxury of a suite room. Hey there hotel industry, are you listening?

I would have liked a better report card this year. But some progress is better than none. I will keep working on some of these resolutions, while making some new ones for this year. However I manage to improve my green travel practices, I’ll come back to share my progress.

Point Lobos State Reserve

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Sometimes you stand on a windy cliff, overlooking glassy blue waters, and you forget that this beauty has already been discovered a million times over. You don’t remember all the others who have stood on that same cliff  (or are standing right behind you trying to snap the same picture). You forget that you’ve already seen these scenes before. The sight of these beautiful places will erase all memory and let you experience their grandeur all over again. I don’t know about you, but I need to experience a bit of grandeur every once in a while.

To experience all this beauty head over to Point Lobos State Reserve just off Highway 1, past Carmel-by-the-Sea, at the beginning of the Big Sur coastline.

I’m trying out this new slideshow feature, just in time for Photo Friday at Delicious Baby. Let me know what you think. Is it easy to view the pictures? Do they load quickly enough? All comments are appreciated.

Monterey Family Vacation