Monthly Archives: May 2010

My Room With a View

When I look out my bedroom window every morning, this is not what I see. But that’s what vacations are for: to visit beautiful places and, hopefully, to get such memorable views.

This is the view from one of the rooms in the historic wing of the Moana Surfrider Hotel in Waikiki. This was the first hotel to be built on Waikiki’s beach in 1901, and I think it’s still the most beautiful. I don’t know if I had the best room in the house, but it felt like that to me. That’s all that matters, really.

Truth be told, I had been wanting to stay the night at this white palace by the sea since I first laid eyes on it. But, I did have to wait over ten years to be able to afford a stay at this luxury hotel. They do say good things come to those who wait. We spent one night at the Moana Surfrider last summer on a layover in Waikiki, and I think we all fell in love.

Because we knew how lucky we were, we squeezed all that we could out of our one day. We sipped Lava Flows and smoothies on the beach, we floated with all the other tourists and their neon inner tubes, we took a ride on an outrigger canoe, and then we brought our take-out dinner back to the balcony of the hotel to enjoy a sunset dinner. It doesn’t get much more perfect than that.

I can still hear the sounds of the slack key guitar playing those mellow tunes under the big banyan tree. I remember laying out on the balcony that night, thinking that there is something intoxicating about all that beauty. I looked out past the hotel courtyard, and saw this lady dancing around in the waves. She wasn’t hard to miss, with her Mumu dress pulled up to her knees as the waves rolled in past her dancing feet. I knew exactly how she felt.

Now there are few hotels that I will write a love letter like this for, but I do enjoy many a stay at hotels while on my travels. They say half the fun is getting there. I say the other half the fun is in the hotel you stay at when you get there. That’s why I’m spending a bit of time writing about hotels this month.

I kicked it off by posting a new page on the site with a list of the hotels I’ve loved and reviewed. I’m also planning to share a bit of the process behind how I choose a hotel for our trips and some of my hotel rants and raves. Come back and check it out, I’d like to hear your thoughts on hotel stays with your family.

I’m linking up my hotel dreams to Mother of all Trips’ Monday Dreaming. There’s always something good going on with Mara, go read all about it.

Honolulu Family Vacation

Today’s Tip: Pop-Out Maps

I know that taking a map on a trip is not a novel thing. It’s pretty much a requirement. But these days, when you have GPS and Google maps readily available at every crossroads, you may think twice about taking a paper map. You shouldn’t.

I say: when traveling with kids, taking paper maps should still be a requirement. Why pass up a chance to give your kids a real-life geography lesson?

I have written about my kid’s map obsession before. Whether we’re visiting Sea World or New York, my kid is going to want to see the map. He just has to know where we are and were we’re going. It may have to do with the fact that on every one of our trips, it’s inevitable that we will get lost. Now that’s a post for a later date, but the point is that he wants to be part of the lively-”Where are we?”-discussions that take place in the middle of busy intersections.

So we make him part of the discussion, by giving him a chance to study the maps right along with us. You can’t do that with the map on your cell phone, it’s just too hard for more than one head at a time to study it. Paper maps are just more communal that way. They also give your family the advantage of looking like flustered tourists.

We love to take out our Pop-Out city maps while deliberating our next move on a street corner. These foldable maps are tiny, but pack a lot of information. They’re also very kid-friendly. The landmarks are easy to find, the streets are all delineated clearly enough for younger kids to be able to read them, and they’re easy for little hands to hold. We take these maps with us, even to cities we visit often. So when I hear the little voice from the back seat ask, “Where are we?”, I just toss him the map and answer (in my calm, maternal voice), “You can help us find out”.

This summer we’re visiting cities we don’t yet have Pop-Out maps for and I was contemplating whether to buy them or not. After writing this very persuasive post, I’ve decided to buy them. I know my kid is going to want to get his hands on one, the minute we hit those city streets.

I have to keep my little Marco Polo happy, after all.

Today’s tip was inspired by a post written by Tech Savvy Mama blogger Leticia Barr, where she writes about all the geographic teachable moments that came from her family walking around NYC with a laminated fold-out map. I couldn’t agree more.

A Little Blog Post Can Go a Long Way

Last summer I participated in a little game of blogger tag, where one blogger shared her travel secrets and then tagged some other of her blogging buddies to share hers. The gave began over at the Tripbase blog and just snowballed from there.

Since then Tripbase has collected over 5oo travel secrets from more than 2oo bloggers and put them together in a collection of Travel Secret eBooks. They are free to download, and for every person that downloads a Travel Secrets eBook, Tripbase will make a $1 donation to Charity: Water.

The goal of Tripbase’s Travel Secret eBook campaign is to build four freshwater wells and provide clean water for an entire school for the next 20 years. Sounds like a solid plan.

Here’s what you can do: Go to the Tripbase eBook site and download a free book or two or more. That’s it.

I’ve been browsing through the collection myself and while I’m very fond of the Family Travel Secrets eBook, I can give the whole collection a big thumbs-up.

Lawrence Hall of Science

What: Lawrence Hall of Science

Where: Berkeley, CA

Why: I had lived in the Bay Area for over 25 years and had never, ever gone. Go figure. Besides, we were looking for another stamp in our science geek passport (which we made ourselves).

My Kid’s Picks: He enjoyed the Kapla exhibit where he built a tower with wooden blocks, the special exhibit (which was all about boogers and other gross things at the time), the outdoor water exhibit, and the animal discovery room. This room was really a classroom downstairs, with a few university students there to talk to the kids about the animals on exhibit. The big whale sculpture just outside the museum entrance was also fun to climb on.

Mom’s Verdict: The view was my favorite part. I loved the outdoor exhibit area-Forces that Shape the Bay. While the kids try their hand at controlling the water flow from the Sierra Nevada, you can take in the views of San Francisco across the bay. Any science museum with a Zen-like outdoor area is a winner in my book. I also liked that the museum was small enough to tackle in a couple of hours and that it did not overwhelm kids with too many exhibits. This makes it much more accessible for younger kids. There is also a small planetarium, but we didn’t have time to take in a show.

Useful Tidbits: The new special exhibit-Scream Machines-is all about the science of roller coasters and will be open from May 22 to January 2, 2011. We may just have to make another visit to check it out. The museum is open daily from 10 to 4, but check the website for the Animal Discovery Room hours and planetarium show times. Admission prices are $12 for adults and $6 dollars for children ages 3 to 6.

We also made a stop at the University of California, Berkeley Museum of Paleontology to take a peek at dinosaur fossils on display there.

Linking up to Trekaroo’s Spotlight Thursday, lots of family travel ideas there. Go check it out.

Berkeley Things To Do