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Family Friday: Dude Ranches for Little Dudes

 

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Just thinking about my little dudes riding through the wild west on horses makes me smile. No cell phones, iPads, or TV. Just the Great Outdoors before them and me by their side. Where can I live out my country-western fantasies? Check out these great family dude ranches for the quintessential experience of the American frontier.


The secluded Encampement, in Wyoming, is one of the largest dude ranches in the country with more than 100,000 acres of hills and woods to explore. You're not required to ride with a wrangler (but you should know the ropes before venturing out on your own). For those who prefer to stay out of the saddle, there's golf, tennis, hiking, and great food from a Cordon Bleu-trained chef.

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Family Friday: Kids Spa Treatments

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I am a serious massage-junkie. And as a mom, there's nothing I enjoy more than a day at the spa. As it turns out, your kids want to be pampered, too. To meet this need, hotels across the globe are rolling out treatments geared towards teens and their younger siblings.

I'm not sure my 3-year-old twin boys are quite ready for a deep-tissue rub or pedicure, but yours might be. Check out these amazing packages I found, to make your kids can feel and look years younger.

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Affordable Family Getaways: Maine, Carlsbad, Chicago

We’ve gathered five great summer getaways for every kind of family—and all are under $200 a night.

Camp for All Ages: Maine Camp Experience
A growing number of camps provide overnight camp sessions for the whole family—a great chance to have fun all together. Family Camp at Maine Camp Experience offers a range of camp options around the state. There’s plenty to enjoy: waterskiing, fishing, rock climbing, zip lining, archery, tennis lessons, arts and crafts, as well as sunset campfires and games organized by camp staff. Experiences range from specific two-night weekend sessions to lengthier, more flexible stays. Rates from $65/night per person ($55 for ages 6-11 and under 6 is free), includes accommodations, meals and activities. mainecampexperience.com

Related: More Great Family Getaways

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Family Friday: Finally, A Stylish Stroller

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Finding a fashionable stroller is close to impossible. When I had my twins, I spent a month searching for just the right one—something functional that wouldn't sacrifice my already waning style. Who would have guessed that New York's The Mark Hotel, in partnership with Maclaren, would develop what might possibly be the chicest one I've seen?

Check out the black-and-white ride above. Am I right? The Mark Hotel Baby Stroller is available for hotel guests starting April 15. I just hope they roll it out to the public soon. We moms need it.

Clara Sedlak is a mom of two and a senior editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo by Jon Nissenbaum, courtesy of The Mark

Watch: Family Road Trips to Florida, Utah, and Washington

Watch Travel + Leisure's Nilou Motamed on CNN discussing family road-tripping to The Florida Keys where you can stay at Cheeca Lodge & Spa and visit the six-toed cats at Ernest Hemingway's old place. Other recommendations: National Parks in Utah (try the Lodge at Red River Ranch), and Washington for Olympic National Park and a stay at Lake Crescent Lodge.

Related: Best Family Getaways and The Ultimate Florida Beach Road Trip

Family Friday: The Statue of Liberty Reopens

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"Check out the big green lady!"

I looked in the direction my kids were pointing across the New York Harbor and couldn't disagree with their assessment. From the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, the Statue of Liberty loomed large and lovely.

I'm ashamed to admit it, but despite living in New York for more than twenty years, I've never visited. This summer, I'm determined to make that trip. Closed since October due to damage from Hurricane Sandy, Lady Liberty is re-opening July 4. I have no more excuses.

Clara Sedlak is a mom of two and a senior editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo by Michael Briggs

Family Friday: Embracing The All-Inclusive Resort

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Admit it. As a parent, the idea of an all-inclusive is incredibly appealing. I never thought I'd be a fan, but two kids later, things are changing.

It's the easiest kind of travel: non-stop supervised activities for the kids, free time for you, restaurants within walking distance, and of course, nighttime babysitters. And with the new crop of stylish all-inclusive resorts, it's not all blue cocktails and spring breakers. Here, four of my favorite deals for spring and summer.
 
° Club Med: Starting in May, kids under 4 stay free; ages 4 to 12 get 50% off; and teens receive a 40% discount. Clubmed.com; April through October.

° Now Resorts & Spas: With every night at the resort (3 night minimum), you'll get a $50 air credit, per room. Do the math and that could save you $200 for a four-night stay. Bonus: You're eligible for up to $400 in resort coupons. Nowresorts.com; April 1 through December 22.

° Elite Island Resorts: Travelers get a $300 air credit on stays 3 to 6 nights, and $500 for 7 nights-and one child stays free. Eliteislandresorts.com; April 8 through end of August.

° Beaches: If you book a minimum of 3 nights at any Beaches resort, you'll get 65% off. Beaches.com; through 2013.

Clara Sedlak is a mom of two and a senior editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of Club Med

Wake Up and Go: Weekend Getaways From Miami

Travel + Leisure's Sarah Spagnolo presents easy weekend getaways from Miami on the Weather Channel's Wake Up and Go.

ROWDY WEEKEND: Key West, Florida

From Miami, you’ll head south on one of the country’s most scenic highways to get to Key West. The Overseas Highway is 120 miles of incredible bridges that pass over tropical blue water. Bring a camera! WHERE TO STAY The brightly colored Truman Hotel, just a short walk from the bars along Duval Street, has a small pool and balconies on the upper floors. PRICE $299 a night.

GIRLS GETAWAY: Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Love to shop? You can’t do better than Fort Lauderdale, which has the posh boutiques along Las Olas Boulevard and more than 300 outlet boutiques at Sawgrass Mills. WHERE TO STAY B Ocean Fort Lauderdale is just north of some of the pricier hotels, but it’s a much better value: there’s free WiFi, complimentary iPad rental, and ocean views from standard rooms. PRICE $299 a night.

FAMILY TRIP: Orlando, Florida

A visit to the Magic Kingdom is the ultimate trip for every kid, but parents can have a great time, too. WHERE TO STAY The Waldorf-Astoria Orlando is set on a 482-acre nature preserve with jogging paths and golf. Disney-view rooms look onto the park’s nightly fireworks show. PRICE $299 a night.

For more easy escapes from major cities, sign up for Travel + Leisure’s Weekend Getaways newsletter.

Family Friday: The Hotel That Lego Built

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My three-year-old architect uses Legos to build "crazy towers," so I'm used to them reaching three-, four-, even five-feet in height. But now Legoland has built a true to scale version in Carlsbad, Calfornia that functions as an actual hotel. It opens April 15, and it might be incredibly cool—or incredibly weird.

The LEGOLAND Hotel has a dragon-guarded entrance; pirate-themed rooms with Lego skeletons and swords on the walls; several interactive play areas; and for parents, a somewhat Lego-free Skyline Bar.

My kids would love it. Me? I’m not so sure.

Clara Sedlak is a mom of two and a senior editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of LEGOLAND California Resort

French for Beginners: Catherine Crawford's 'French Twist'

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Are French kids really better behaved than their American counterparts? Are Gallic parents just more relaxed American ones? These are some of the questions Catherine Crawford examines in French Twist: An American Mom's Experiment in Parisian Parenting.

Crawford, who lives in Brooklyn with her husband, sought tips and advice from French experts and friends in an effort to turn her young daughters into thoroughly modern mademoiselles. Did it work? And can it work for you? You'll have to read the book, out March 12 from Ballantine, to find out.

T+L sent Crawford (who, it should be noted, is a friend), a few questions. Here's what she had to say.

Q. What drew you to the French style of parenting in the first place?

Curiously, it came to me. Namely, an old, dear friend of my husband's came for dinner with his Parisian wife and their two astonishingly well-behaved children. Everything was so easy and pleasant that night. My first reaction was jealousy--why couldn’t I have that kind of chaos-free rapport with my kids? That envy morphed into resolve, and la grande experiment was born.

Do Americans over-idealize the French? Or do they really have childrearing figured out?

Our relationship with France is so fraught. We love it… and we hate it. What I find fascinating is that we are culturally so competitive yet our societies are so very different. I discovered that the French do have many aspects of childrearing figured out – or rather they haven't over-thought and distorted them in the way many of us parents have done here. However, American parenting has some real upsides, and I’m happy that my kids are still filled with grit, fire and guts. They just needed to learn a little respect and restraint as well.

What things are American parents already doing that's pretty French?

Breathing. No, hmmm, let me think. It really is quite different. American parents are much more likely to put their kids on a level equal with themselves which, I believe, has led to a lot of ineffectual negotiating and bargaining. In France, children are children and their parents are The Chiefs. This distinction did wonders for my family. Still, I often consciously tempered the French lessons because I wanted to maintain that enterprising streak in my kids that is so cool – and common in Americans. Even many of the French parents I interviewed marveled approvingly at this American individualism instilled at such a young age.

What can American parents learn from French parents, especially when traveling with kids?

The best lesson I learned was that, given the chance and some direction, my kids could really hang. After about six months of "French-ifying," we took a beach vacation that was revolutionary. The difference between this trip and our previous vacations is that we didn't plan it around the kids and "kid-friendly" activities. For the first time, they had to adapt into our world (and not the other way around). Instead of spending gobs of money at amusement parks and mini-golf, we hiked, cooked, and communed with both nature and each other.

What's your one can't miss French trick that parents can try right now?

My personal favorite, offered to me by a French friend with whom I was drinking wine and chatting when my youngest daughter launched a tantrum in the other room: "If there is no blood, don't get up."

See: Taking the Kids to Paris and Best Family Getaways.

Photo courtesty of Catherine Crawford.

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