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Explore the Rainforest at Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale

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I'm on a business trip in Scottsdale, Arizona and promised my twins I'd stop by the city's new Butterfly Wonderland complex. At 10,000 square feet, it's the largest indoor rainforest in the US, home to Silver Spotted Flambeaus, Peacocks Pansys, Tailed Jays (pictured), and hundreds more. I'm no science-buff (and this would not have been at the top of my to-do list), but once you promise your kids something, there's really no going back. So my mommy-guilt made me go—and I'm glad. I only wish I had the kids with me. The place is incredible (even if insects aren't your thing), with a 3D theater, a live ant colony, an aquatic center with Motoro stingrays you can touch, and my favorite part, a gallery where you can witness the metamorphosis of a Blue Morpho Butterfly. If you're headed to the Southwest with the family, it's definitely worth checking out.

Clara Sedlak


Clara Sedlak is a mother of two and Special Projects Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @csedlak1.

Photo courtesy of Butterfly Wonderland

Family-Friendly Getaway Ideas in Punta Cana

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I'm just back from a much-needed weekend getaway with the family. Our destination: Cap Cana, Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. Total travel time: 7 hours, round-trip. The mission: Do absolutely nothing.

All in all, our trip was a success (minus a couple of meltdowns at the airport and a nearly missed flight on the way back). If you're looking to stay put at a resort, Cap Cana is the perfect family getaway: there are beautiful beaches, countless water activities, and lush, tropical forests to explore.  But it's not a destination for culture-seekers—it's a place for fruity cocktails, sun, and sand. Here, the highlights:

Stay: There are tons of resorts to choose from, but the newest (and where we stayed) is Eden Roc Cap Cana. The hotel's small, coral sand beach looks like something out of the Blue Lagoon, with perfectly placed palm trees and crystal blue water, and there's a great kids club onsite. The boys' favorite part: Every guest has access to a golf cart for getting around.

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Disney Magic Cruise Relaunches With Super Heroes On-Board

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I’m not an experienced cruiser, but when I heard there was a ship that has Iron Man’s armor, Thor’s hammer, and Captain America’s shield, I knew my kids would be the perfect passengers.

With twin 4-year-old boys in the house, superhero talk starts at 6:30 a.m. and ends at bedtime. Disney’s relaunched Disney Magic has a new Marvels Avengers Academy program to give the short-cape set a sneak peek into the Avengers’ world.

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Family-Friendly Thanksgiving Getaways

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Among the many words used to describe the holidays, for me, "exhausting" somehow supercedes all that giving and thanks business. As much as I enjoy the tradition of it all, there’s part of me that wants to run far, far away. This is because a) The hours and hours of shopping and re-shopping and clean up and re-clean up and b) Thanksgiving means I have exactly 28 days left to get my act together for Christmas. This year, I'm going to my husband's parents house...again. But there's no harm in daydreaming, right? Here's where I'd take my kids if I ever get the courage to say no to the family mafia.

Avalon, Catalina Island
Biking. Kayaking. Lying on the sand doing absolutely nothing. Catalina Island, off the coast of California, is a postcard-perfect beach escape for families. Make Avalon your base and rent a cottage or waterfront villa for the long weekend. In town, Seaport Bistro and Villa Portofino restaurants are both serving traditional Thanksgiving meals, but you could always hole up in your house and skip it altogether.

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ZÜCA's New Kid-Friendly Carry-On Lets Tykes Take a Seat

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I've always struggled to find a great carry-on—sturdy but not too heavy, functional but not ugly. But finding one to fit my kids' ever-expanding pile of provisions has proven even harder. It's got to be light enough to catch up with a 4-year-old, somewhat attractive, and seriously stain-water-slobber resistant. The new Mini-Carry All by California-based ZÜCA might be just right. Besides the adorable designs, a washable interior, and snack pouch, it has a cozy, built-in seat. This last tricked-out feature is what sold me. How many times have you begged your kid to get up off the airport floor and ended up with a loudly protesting forty-pound carry-on? I'm hoping this won't be the case on our next trip.

Clara Sedlak


Clara Sedlak is a mother of two and Special Projects Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @csedlak1.

Photo courtesy of ZÜCA

JetBlue's Family Pooling Program Lets You Combine Airline Miles

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Every year, I make it a point to ditch the loves of my life—and husband—to escape for a long-weekend with my college friends. Last year, it was Tulum. “How much was your flight here?” l remember asking them. “Oh we used points.” Again??? I never seem to have enough to get me anywhere—but with JetBlue’s new Family Pooling plan, I could do some serious damage this year. Under the new program, families and small groups can share their True Blue points in a group account. The definition of family here is pretty loose, which is why this is actually REAL news. It can consist of up to two adults and up to five children under the age of 21. That can include family members, same sex partners or a couple of friends. No doubt, I’ll be flying gratis to Vieques this spring.

Clara Sedlak


Clara Sedlak is a mother of two and Special Projects Editor at
Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @csedlak1.

Photo courtesy of JetBlue Airways

Guthrie Theater Announces New Playcare Program for Kids

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I think the last time I went to the theater was in 2010. (Slightly embarrassing given I live in New York City.) But every parent knows how it goes; somehow paying a sitter an hourly rate equivalent to the price of a ticket doesn't seem worth it. Well, the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis is on to something. It just announced a new playcare program—I believe the first of its kind—for kids ages 4 to 11. You drop your little ones off at the theater's Level Eight Education Suite, head down to catch a matinee, then pick them up after the show, all for $10 an hour. Unfortunately, I'm not headed to Minneapolis anytime soon, but I'm hoping the Guthrie's idea catches on. It's genius.

Clara Sedlak


Clara Sedlak is a mother of two and Special Projects Editor at
Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @csedlak1.

Photo courtesy of the Guthrie Theater

Family Pie-Making at Paws Up Resort in Montana

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I have a confession: I've never made a pie in my life. Not apple, not pumpkin, not cranberry. Not even for the holidays. So when I heard that the glamping retreat Paws Up, in Montana, is hosting its first ever pie making weekend (October 11-14) for families, I began to fantasize about the Martha Stewart me—the one that makes crafts for her kids and whips up delicious meals from scratch. (I have yet to see her appear.)

The resort tapped master pie maker Kate McDermott to teach her baking secrets, while New York Times photographer Andrew Scrivani shows guests how to take great food photos. On the menu: Huckleberry and savory bison or elk pie. Maybe this year, I'll make my fantasy reality.

Clara Sedlak


Clara Sedlak is a mother of two and Special Projects Editor at
Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @csedlak1.

Photo Courtesy of Upper Crust

Cruise the Amazon with Your Family on an Aqua Expeditions

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Ever since my kids watched a TV show about Piranhas, they've been obsessed with the Amazon. “It's the biggest river in the world, full of scary fishes!” Sebastian told me one day. For any parent who's dreamed of traveling down this exotic waterway with family in tow, now is the perfect time to do it: Luxury cruise line Aqua Expeditions is offering free sailings on its ultra-luxe Aqua Amazon or Aria Amazon for kids under 12, through November 2014. Along the way, you'll spot sloths, caimans, pink dolphins (maybe a piranha), and more. It's the ultimate adventure for a family of wildlife lovers.

Clara Sedlak


Clara Sedlak is a mother of two and Special Projects Editor at
Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @csedlak1.

Photo courtesy of Aqua Expeditions

Family Friday: Etihad Airlines Offers In-Flight Nanny

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Can you imagine having a real live Mary Poppins on your next flight? Someone to entertain your kids (origami anyone?), serve them meals, and help you fill milk bottles—and all this done with a smile? Well Etihad Airlines has made this dream a reality. Known for over-the-top amenities and service, the Persian Gulf carrier just announced a Flying Nanny program for all its long-haul flights. More than 300 "nannies" trained in child psychology and sociology will be available to help frazzled parents survive their trip whether they're sitting in economy, business, or first. Yes, it sounds a tad extreme, but think of all the magazines you could read, movies you could watch, and naps you could take.

Clara O. Sedlak is a mother of two and Special Projects Editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo Courtesy of Etihad Airways

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