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Family Friday: Pack It Up

Portico

I can never pack enough stuff to keep my kids entertained on the road. My bag is usually overflowing with crayons, paper, books... The list goes on, and yet, I almost always forget something. So in a world where fruits and veggies come in squeezable tubes, it's no surprise that a company had come up with pre-packaging packing.

Kidville has recently partnered with luxury travel service Portico to create ready-to-go packs for kids. Crocodile Creek puzzle games? Check. A super cute mini-pillow? Check. Melissa and Doug activity books? Check. Plus, a lot more. What I love most, though, is the actual bag, designed by Skiphop with colorful monkeys and dogs--and just the right size for my 3-year-olds. Care to checkout Portico Travel Pals for yourself? They are free for Portico members during March and on sale at Kidville.com. And no... they haven't bribed me with free products. I just like the idea of someone else packing for me.

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

Image courtesy of Portico

Trip Doctor: Why Can’t My Family and I Find Airplane Seats Together?

airplane seats

Major domestic carriers have put premiums on an increasing number of main-cabin aisle and window seats, making them available only to high-ranking frequent fliers or people willing to add $20 to $60 per trip leg. Though these seats sometimes open up to regular travelers as the flight date approaches, this policy in effect forces families to pay up or risk sitting apart. New York Senator Charles Schumer and others have decried the practice, but their efforts will have little impact in the short term. If you can’t (or won’t) pay the premium, your best bet is to log on to your airline’s website 24 hours before your flight—when carriers begin releasing premium seats to the public.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.

 

Photo by iStockphoto

Family Friday: Italian Fun for Renaissance Kids

Villa San Michele kids cooking class

The hills of Fiesole, Italy are about to be filled with the sounds of toddlers. The Villa San Michele—one of my absolute favorite hotels in the world—is launching a new kids program.

Villa San Michele

If you've ever been to the property, you wouldn't necessarily describe it as "child friendly." The 15th-Century hilltop Renaissance building was in part designed by Michelangelo and has the most breathtaking views of Florence. And while my 3-year-olds could care less about all that, now there's a reason to take them. Starting this May, the hotel is launching the "Smile Club" boutique, a complimentary program for kids ages 4-12 housed in a chapel on the property. There's jewelery- and craft-making, cookie baking, Italian lessons, treasure hunts, hikes, and even a dedicated kids concierge to direct you to the best kid-friendly spots in the city. Botticelli for you. Pizza for them. Need I say more? 

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

Photos courtesy of Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. | Genivs Loci

Family Friday: Affordable Ski Deals

family ski vacation

Is there anything better than spending $500 dollars a day to be clocked in the face by a miniature ski boot? Ah, yes, I'm talking about the joys of a family ski trip. (My back is still killing me from last month's adventure with my sons.) But truth be told, the physical suffering is well worth the ear-to-ear grins. What really gets me is how much I have to shell out for the pleasure. So last weekend, I decided to do some digging for deals. I'm not talking about the "Ski 7 days and get a free hot chocolate" variety. I was in search of some real money savers—and I found them. My three favorites, below:

• It turns out that if you stay at one of Keystone Colorado's mountain resorts, your kid can ski/board for free for the entire season, with no blackout dates. There's no fine print here. Trust me. I triple checked. Even better, you don't have to stay in some hole-in-the-wall condo 20 miles from the slopes. The accommodations are pretty luxe.

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Family Friday: Cozying up to the Catskills

family

The symptoms were reaching dangerous levels. After being cooped up with our twin three-year-old boys in a 900-square-foot NYC apartment in the dead of winter, my husband and I had a serious case of co-op-cabin fever. The cure: Get out of dodge—and burn off some energy—as quickly as possible. My only prerequisite: BRING A FULLY CHARGED iPAD WITH US IN CASE OF A MELTDOWN.

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Trip Doctor: Disney Introduces MyMagic+ RFID Bracelets

Disney's Magic Kingdom

As a native Floridian who spent half her childhood at Walt Disney World, I reacted to the recent announcement of MyMagic+, an RFID-enabled system that lets visitors interact with (and pay for) nearly anything in the Disney village, with a sense of cautious excitement—thrilled by all the possibilities this offers travelers, though wary of the privacy concerns that come with it.

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Kids Fly, Stay, Eat Free at Atlantis

atlantis resort bahamas

Am I the only one who hears Donovan and remembers that scene in Goodfellas everytime I see Atlantis mentioned?

Okay, ridiculous confession aside, there’s good news for families looking for getaway ideas. (And really good news: this one doesn't involve Joe Pesci.) JetBlue is briefly offering a big deal: book at minimum 3-night vacation to Atlantis in the Bahamas, and your kids fly free, stay free, and eat free. Book before midnight Sunday (January 20) for travel before March 7.

There are some restrictions, natch: one kid per paying adult; blackout dates from February 13-26; maximum 2 adults and 2 kids per room; etc. But you KNOW how much it costs to fly the whole family anywhere—the airfare alone represents a big savings.

Hail, Atlantis! And JetBlue.

For more information or to book, please visit JetBlue Getaways.

Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo of Atlantis: Floto+Warner

Insiders Dish on Charleston

201212-b-charleston.jpg

During a one-hour T+L Twitter chat sponsored by the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, T+L editors asked expert locals and Charleston insiders for their favorite places. We took some of the highlights and turned them into this mini-guide.

Where to Stay:

Charleston Place: A 442-room Georgian hotel with 1-to-1 staff-to-guest ratio. charlestonplace.com; doubles from $235
NotSoHostel: This 150-year property on Spring Street is a favorite of the younger crowd. notsohostel.com; doubles from $62
Wentworth Mansion Head up to the cupola for 360-degree views of the Charleston peninsula. wentworthmansion.com; doubles from $420

Where to Eat:

Bowen’s Island: A traditional seafood shack where the all-you-can-eat oyster roast is served with hushpuppies, French fries, and cole slaw. bowensislandrestaurant.com; dinner for two $30
FIG (Food Is Good): Don’t miss brunch at FIG, where the coddled sea island farm egg and ricotta gnocchi get rave reviews. eatatfig.com
HUSK: Order the BBQ plate with Virginia pork, pit beans, and rapini at this buzz-worthy southern restaurant by chef Sean Brock. huskrestaurant.com
Magnolia’s: A street-side grill with the best shrimp & grits in town. magnolias-blossom-cypress.com

What to Do:

Farmer’s Market in Marion Square: Check out this 200-year-old fair for local produce and stone-ground grits.
Firefly Distillery: This distillery is both a tea plantation and liquor manufacturer. Tour the 11-acre facility, then order a Sweet Tea Vodka martini. fireflyvodka.com
Ghost Tour: Book a 90-minute haunted graveyard carriage ride with Bulldog Tours. bulldogtours.com; tours from $18
King Street: Charleston’s three-mile shopping promenade is lined with independent boutiques, including the well-known Heirloom Books. heirloombookcompany.com
Arthur J. Ravenel Bridge: This single cable-stayed bridge opened in 2005; head across for views of the Cooper River.
Sullivan’s Island: At the entrance to Charleston Harbor, Sullivan’s Island is home to sea turtles and tidal creeks, and it’s all just a 15-minute drive from King Street.

To learn more about Twitter Chats hosted by T+L editors, email “yes” to TLSocial@aexp.com.


Wake Up in Paradise: EX-PATS Escapes to Belize

EX-PATS, the Reserve Channel’s new YouTube series, showcases people who've abandoned the home front to pursue their passions in a more exotic culture.

In this next episode of EX-PATS, host Savannah Jane Buffet takes a trip to Placencia, Belize to visit Pam and John Solomon. After living the fast life in New York City, the couple decided to resign to paradise, packing their love for food and drink, and opening RumFish y Vino restaurant in this Belizean fishing village.

Now parents, Pam and John are thrilled to be raising their daughter, Libby, in a country where farm- or sea-to-table is the only way to eat. Press play to catch the island breeze.

Maria Pedone is a digital editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.

Crowdsourcing: What to Do When You're Near the Washington D.C. Mall


View Washington, D.C. Mall in a larger map

We asked true travel pros what to do near the Washington D.C. Mall. Want to share your advice? Join our community on Facebook at facebook.com/travelandleisure and at Twitter @TravlandLeisure.

“Visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is one of the most moving experiences in D.C.” —Gail Goldberg, via Facebook

“I always order the St.-Germain cocktail at POV, on the roof of the W Hotel.” — Elizabeth Conway, via Facebook

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