Since January has been a particularly busy month for many of us, and since there were also so many great posts this month (no bias here), I thought a quick roundup of the ground we’ve covered might be in order. In case you missed any of this earlier this month, including how I earned 4 miles for every dollar I spent on my new washing machine, here’s a summary with links:
How can you fit more travel into your family’s New Year?
Of course this is something very close to many of our hearts, and with 5 of us and two kids officially in school now, I can assure you it doesn’t get any cheaper or easier. Here are the four ways I shared that may help all of us travel a little farther, a little more often, or stay a little longer this year:
- The 5 low-travel long weekends to take advantage of this year
- Earn (at least) one roundtrip flight with a new mileage credit card
- How to earn more frequent flyer miles without even flying (or leaving your desk)
- Why and how to choose a small city for your big vacation
In this latest “Ask Shelly,” I answered a very common question from parents planning travel. If you’ve got big travel with a tot in your future, you’ll want to take a look at this post, and don’t miss the comments that followed (share your own, too, if you didn’t get a chance).
Travels with Baby Traditions: From Epiphany Eve to Chinese New Year
In January, we added two more fun family traditions to the series (and renamed it a more appropriate “Travels with Baby Traditions”). Following the Camels and Kings of Argentina we featured last month (which was chosen for a BlogHer spotlight – yay!), the Befana came riding in on her broom to check on the Children of Rome in this fun guest post by Valeria Spizzichino. Then Amanda Hsiung-Blodgett let us in on the many great traditions and rituals of celebrating Chinese New Year in her native Taiwan. If you missed the earlier Traditions, you can browse them all at their new page here.
>>> And if you live somewhere with a fun, festive, and/or famous tradition celebrated by families, I’d love to hear from you! See “Join us” details on the Traditions page.
The big blog switcheroo:
If you missed the memo, we also packed up the truck and moved this blog into a spacious new address at TravelswithBaby.com/blog (Please bookmark! Like! Visit and tell me what you think so far!). After 4 years with Blogger, I’m working hard to get up to speed on WordPress and the nuances of fitting it into a 7-year-old website without too much confusion. Frankly, I’m tired and I’d rather be traveling and writing than dealing with these technical details. But it’s nice to have enlisted some expert help for this monumental restructuring (“Thousands of links!” has been uttered on more than one occasion), and with any luck I’ll be able to blog blindfolded before we know it.
Before I sign off, I’d like to also say thanks to the newest Travels with Baby Facebook fans! I try to check the page daily and love to answer your quick questions there when I can. In fact, that’s where this month’s Ask Shelly post originated from.
I hope your 2012 and Year of the Dragon are off to a great start! More soon.
I’d originally planned to post a photo fave from my Chinese New Years in Taiwan to follow up with the great guest post on Chinese New Year in Taipei, Taiwan, but the album seems to have gone AWOL this week. So instead I took it as a sign that I should share one of the other big events of the week – my 15th wedding anniversary. (Whoah! How did that happen?!)
Yep, Mr. TravelswithBaby and I managed to sneak out on a school night this week and revisit some of our old stomping grounds in the land where the question was popped. I realized it’s been a long time since I walked around San Francisco holding the hand of a grown up (or not pushing a stroller)! We closed out the night with some of the world’s best espresso brewed at the legendary Caffe Trieste in North Beach, where we used to enjoy listening to Italian Arias sung live as we sipped mochas on a Sunday afternoon.
As you can see, even on a week night, it’s no snooze. This post is part of the Photo Friday fun over at DeliciousBaby.com. Here’s wishing you all a great weekend, and if you’re looking for more fun things to do with the kids (or without!) in San Francisco, don’t miss my many San Francisco recommendations here:
- San Francisco – Driving loop for north central SF – Golden Gate Bridge, Park, Beaches & More
- San Francisco – The Palace of Fine Arts
- San Francisco – Exploring the Exploratorium with kids
- San Francisco – Most beautiful beach to visit – Crissy Field beach and picnic area
- San Francisco – Go Dutch in Golden Gate Park (at the Wilhelmina Windmill)
- San Francisco – To the Lighthouse: Point Bonita (north end of Golden Gate Bridge)
- San Francisco – Fun at Fort Funston – Dog and hang glider paradise
- San Francisco – Bay Area on the Cheap for budget travel to SF
Even if you start your next adventure in a big city—as you’re likely to do if flying in to a major airport, you may be able to extend your family’s vacation by staking a claim for short while in a small town off the beaten path. And it could be well worth it, for more reasons than one.
Think about it: For what you might pay for two nights in Paris or New York City, you might afford to stay a week in an apartment in a smaller city or a cottage in a lesser-known village.
Does that mean you’ll have a less interesting or worthwhile vacation? Not if you play your cards right. Especially with small kids along for the adventure, smaller towns often offer a more relaxed pace and better chances to acquaint yourselves with the culture and locals in residence.
Take Spain as an example, and the small town of Nerja on the Costa del Sol. This April, a 2-bedroom, 1.5 bath apartment where we stayed is 450 Euros for one week (yes, that’s two bedrooms, with more than one toilet, full kitchen, and a washing machine). Surrounded by Andalucían charm? Yes. Walking to any of three beautiful beaches on the Costa del Sol? Yes. Strolling to shops, cafes, and (inexpensive) groceries? You bet.
Which reminds me of another reason you might prefer small cities to big for that next break: Walking to most locations vastly simplifies vacations with a baby or toddler. No loading and unloading and reloading the car, no navigating a crowded subway. Just push that stroller along the street to the next cafe or park.
So how can you find the perfect small city for your family’s next vacation? In addition to these few I’ve highlighted, check out these links:
- America’s Top 10 Coolest Small Towns, from Budget Travel Magazine
- America’s Top 25 Small Cities, from American Style Magazine
- Best Small City Vacation Destinations, from RatesToGo
- 100 Best Midwest Small-Town Getaways, from Midwest Living Magazine
- The Best Small Towns of Spain, TripAdvisor.com
- The Best Small Towns and Villages in Southeast Asia, Frommers.com
Do you have a big crush on a small town you’d love to visit again this year?
Know of a great little city you’d recommend for travelers with kids?
I count myself so lucky to have celebrated two Chinese New Years in Taipei, Taiwan, where the celebrations go strong and last long–and I’ll never forget, as a teenager surviving on traveler’s checks, when someone explained to me the banks would be closed eleven days! As you can imagine Chinese New Year is a “really big deal” in Taiwan, as it is in many cities celebrating Lunar New Year around the world. I was thrilled when Amanda Hsiung-Blodgett – a native of Taiwan and creator of the “Let’s Learn Mandarin Chinese with Miss Panda!” audio CD for young children – agreed to share all about the Chinese New Year traditions in Taiwan in this special guest post.
Chinese New Year – the Biggest of the Chinese Holidays
In addition to marking the beginning of each lunar (moon) year, Chinese New Year represents the most important holiday of the year in traditional Chinese culture. You can find it being celebrated in Chinatowns all over the world. It’s naturally a huge event in my native Taiwan, but even here in my current home of Honolulu, Hawaii, Chinese New Year celebrations are a big event and not to be missed.
Origins of Chinese New Year – The Story of “Nian” Beast
Some people say that Chinese New Year celebrations got their start with the story of the “Nian” beast (“nian” being the Chinese word for “year”). As the legend goes, back in ancient times the “Nian” beast came out on the evening of each New Year to destroy crops and ravage villages. One wise old man came to a village and found its people fleeing to hide from the beast. He told the people to instead post red papers on their front doors, hang up bright red lanterns and set off firecrackers to make loud noises to scare away the beast. The villagers followed his directions and the “Nian” beast went away. People were thrilled to once again have a safe and peaceful village and they began to follow these earlier practices with a feast to celebrate the arrival of the New Year. This legend passed on and in its own way explains many of the traditions we follow today in our celebration of the Chinese New Year.
Chinese New Year’s Eve – the Reunion Feast, Red Envelopes and Firecrackers
Starting off Chinese New Year one hundred percent positively is all-important. In order to begin things properly people begin with a major cleaning of the house. “Out with the old and in with the new” is the idea behind this practice. To bring good luck and prosperity families place so-called “spring scrolls”, red papers with lucky words or phrases, on their front doors. Now is the time for the whole family to reunite – from the oldest great grandparent to the youngest newborn baby. The tradition is to go back to your hometown to join the family reunion feast on Chinese New Year’s eve. Because of its great importance families usually take days to prepare for this abundant dinner. Must-have dishes for the meal include fish (which signifies surplus wealth), sticky rice cake (for promotions at work and good grades in school), noodles (for longevity and long life), and dumplings (for wealth and prosperity). After the main courses pineapple is a favorite dessert fruit in Taiwan because the name for pineapple in Taiwanese sounds like “prosperity arrives!”
After dinner, red envelopes with “lucky money” (cash) in them are given to the children – always in an even number amount like 100, 200, 600, 800 or more to signify good luck. In order to receive their envelopes children are expected to say lucky phrases to their elders such as “gong xi, gong xi” (congratulations), “xin nian kuai le” (Happy New Year), “gong xi fa cai” (congratulations on your prosperity) and “wan shi ru yi” (may everything go as you wish). Parents may also receive red envelopes from their adult children. By doing so, the adult children are showing the parents that they are doing well in their own jobs or businesses.
The excitement keeps climbing through the night. After the red envelopes are distributed, some families play Mahjong, a popular Chinese tile game with four adult players per table. Some families also play card games, Chinese chess, or Chinese checkers. The children go with their parents to set off all kinds of firecrackers. The popping sounds of the firecrackers build all night to the climax at twelve o’clock midnight. Families and business owners set off long strings of red firecrackers at midnight for luck and prosperity in the coming year. You can feel the excitement of the arrival of Chinese New Year by listening to the non-stop crackle of firecrackers throughout the entire city.
Not Just a One-Night Affair – the Fifteen Days of Chinese New Year
Due to its importance, the Chinese New Year celebration lasts not one day, but fifteen. With Chinese New Year allowing people to have five days or more off from work and school, families have time to catch up with each other. Some days of the celebration are associated with special practices. The first day of Chinese New Year finds people enjoying the day savoring New Year’s delicacies, shopping in the special New Year’s marketplaces and having guests over. The second day of the Chinese New Year is the traditional day for married daughters to return to visit their own parents. The fifth day of the Chinese New Year is typically the day for businesses to reopen and for some people to go back to work (but typically not back to school). In any case the Chinese New Year celebration continues for fifteen days with people saying lucky phrases to greet each other during this time and making efforts to avoid any negative thoughts, words and actions. The tradition is to be happy and joyful during this time so that happiness and good luck will follow you for the whole year.
Thanks so much to Amanda “Miss Panda” Hsiung-Blodgett (whose Chinese last name literally means “bear”) for this great guest post on one of the biggest family holiday celebrations in the world. Amanda is the mother of two young bilingual children and the creator of the “Let’s Learn Mandarin Chinese with Miss Panda!” audio CD – the first installment of her Chinese learning series for young children. A native of Taipei, Taiwan with parents from Mainland China, she currently lives in Honolulu, Hawaii. She has travelled to Turkmenistan, England, Thailand, Taiwan, and Bahrain with her two children. For more information about “Miss Panda” visit her at MissPandaChinese.com or on Facebook and Twitter.
Watch here for more about the traditions of Chinese New Year!
Post Script: Eeek! While updating thousands of links (literally) between the old blog and long-standing site and the NEW home of the blog, FeedBurner enthusiastically sunk its teeth into the latest posts as all new! Humble apologies to my subscribers for a repeat update – this note had not been sent before it went out. Nevertheless – good things are afoot. Read on…
While I am usually the first one to leap at the chance of change (moving my furniture on a regular basis – including the baby grand), I have stuck with Blogger as my Travels with Baby Tips platform for ages, you know, like going back to when there were four templates to choose from – and none of them looked a thing like the website I’d created first?
Well big change is in the air this week, along with a lot of dust from moving and web construction! Please take a moment to check out Travels with Baby Tips at its new home and bookmark it with your favorite browser:
As long as you are receiving your email or feed updates through FeedBurner, you shouldn’t see any interruption to your subscription, which reminds me…
TOMORROW: If you’ve been enjoying the Travels with Baby Traditions posts about family celebrations and events around the globe, you won’t want to miss tomorrow’s feature with everything you need to know to welcome the lucky Year of the Dragon with your own family.
- American Airlines AAdvantage Eshopping mall
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping
- Delta’s SkyMilesShopping
To participate in any of these programs, you just need a frequent flyer (or mileage) number with the airline, and then you can simply register online with the mileage shopping portal. The next time you go online to shop, just start at the portal site and click through to the store you want to shop. Done!
The real advantage of this program is how frequently you can earn multiple miles per dollar spent on goods from stores such as Staples.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Overstock.com, and eBags.com. And if you do use a mileage credit card to make your purchase? You’ll just be earning that many more miles to your account for each transaction.
Skeptics: I recently earned 4 miles per dollar spent on my new washing machine and a whopping 16 miles per dollar spent for new laser printer toner. And I’ll come clean with you all right now: I did not hesitate to pad my mileage account with a bit of holiday shopping as well. Since these were things I had to buy anyway… it was great to earn the most miles possible for every dollar spent and get that much closer to my next award flight.
Have you used a shopping portal to earn miles shopping online?
Do you have another easy way to add to your frequent flyer account?
|Up for the sunrise in Phuket, Thailand – your baby might make it easier to get up on time than you expect!|
Since the topic of SLEEP (and its ugly cousin Jet Lag) comes up very frequently when I talk with parents planning travel, I thought this question (posted to the Travels with Baby facebook page) would be a great choice to feature in the blog. Traveling mom Maggie writes:
My husband & I have your book, and we have been reading it eagerly in anticipation of the first international trip with our 8 month old daughter. We have dealt with a 3-hour time change before when she was 3 months old, but this time it will be a 9 hour time difference. Do you have any specific advice for how to adjust a baby to such a big time change? Is there a certain schedule/routine we should start following from day one? Thanks!
My quick answer, which I’ve found to be the most valuable antidote to jet lag in all of our travels, is to let natural daylight work its (biochemical) magic in the mornings by getting outside early.
Even if you arrived in the middle of the night, you may be surprised how forcing yourselves up and out at your regular time to rise can get your biorhythms in synch with the new time zone. Just try to allow for a little nap time together if you can the first couple of days—and keep your baby’s or toddler’s daytime naps as close to their regular duration at home as you can within reason (if naps are usually 2 hours, gently wake at the appropriate time for another dose of sunlight).
I always love hearing back from families, and Maggie was kind enough to include this update to her facebook post:
We have been here four days so far, and she has adjusted super well. I think getting out and letting daylight work its magic has been the absolute best advice. We take her out in the mornings and afternoons, and she has been napping well, eating well, and sleeping through the night!
Hooray for sleep – may we all have more of it on our next family vacation! You’ll find many more sleep and jet lag survival tips in Chapter 4: Preparing for Changes in Travels with Baby and in the “While You’re There” section of Take-Along Travels with Baby.
Have an Ask Shelly question of your own? Click here to see how to contact me with your own travel question!
Related posts and pages:
Tip #14: Sleep in.
|With the right card your family may board its next flight a little faster.|
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