Hey Dudes, Saddle Up with Your Kids.

As the year comes to an end, it is time to think about next summer and making vacation plans. Given 2016 is an election year and it seems like there will be no end to the absurdities which will likely be super-sized by summer, I think a dude ranch might be the answer. A dude ranch vacation provide opportunities to escape the 24-hour news cycle and to get real. Time on a guest ranch delivers new experiences with every sunrise and no fact checking will be needed.

Dude Ranch Vacation Smile

Smiling comes naturally for kids on a dude ranch vacation.

Our family has enjoyed many Wyoming campfires with sing-a-longs, trail rides in Colorado, Arizona starry nights with coyotes yelping, and cowboy poetry in Alberta. Our daughters learned to saddle and ride, rope and shoot skeet, track and identify scat before they were teens.

I can say honestly no two days on a ranch will ever be the same but every day is guaranteed to be interesting and rewarding. Expect horses, hats, hospitality, heritage, honesty and heart with a little music, a lot of storytelling, and plenty of reasons to smile or laugh out loud. Expect screen-free family fun.

Located in some of the most breathtaking areas of the U.S. and Canada, dude ranches are usually all-inclusive and generally flexible with activities. One of the best resources for planning a family dude ranch vacation is the Dude Ranchers’ Association (DRA). Their website features more than 100 accredited guest ranches.

Browsing is part of the fun.

Happy trails,

Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files

Have a Great Trip – Stay Safe.

Whether it’s a road trip, train trip or plane trip, it is wise to establish your own family travel rules to keep everyone safe and happy. Because we are out the door in the morning, I have just reviewed the trip rules with our-year-old grandson. After some thought his only question was can my mom be my buddy? I replied, “Why, yes she can.”

Naturally rules evolve as families mature and I have learned from experience when children know the rules ahead of time and the backstory for each rule, trips become more predictable, less stressful and safer.

Santa Claus City Limits


Five rules govern the bridge time which begins with our departure from home and concludes when we arrive safely at our vacation destination. Even though our family mix includes strong willed, independent, sometimes stubborn individuals, we choose to travel together and all abide by the same family travel rules.

Leave on time. Safe travel begins with a timely departure from home remains in place until you reach your destination

Make trip leader in charge. To lessen stress caused by situations out of your control, move and act as a group. While traveling one adult needs to be the point person and all travelers need to know who it is.

Use the buddy system. Just like swimming at the lake or in the sea, the buddy system is an invaluable tool to sustain safe, stress-free travels.

Listen and observe. While on the move everyone needs to practice situational awareness. Insist that your children use active listening. Listen to the adult in charge; listen to security staff; listen to the stewardess. Encourage them to keep track of their own possessions and actively observe their surroundings.

Remain flexible. Sometimes travel expectations fall short of the mark. A positive flexible attitude, even if you have to fake it, will keep your family safer.

If this sounds like micro managing, think again. The idea is to travel safely together not just for one trip but for all the subsequent trips and to enjoy the journey and time with each other.

Have a Great Trip – Stay Safe.

Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files.


Boomerang! A Feast for Curious Minds.

How about an audio gift for the whole family? If you have children or grandchildren between the ages of six and 14 obtaining a subscription to Boomerang! is a sneaky way to have more fun with your kids. Imaginative, fast-paced and timely, each Boomerang! episode provides an audio treat for families with curious minds who want to know more about our world, past, present and future.

Boomkids Episode 33

Boomkids report on big ideas in a unique kid-style in a no nonsense way that is informative and entertaining for all ages.

The mix of topics and liveliness of the reporters is what appeals most to the kids. Hearing facts and listening to opinions presented by other kids makes all the difference. The bonus for adults is that the episodes provide platforms for fascinating family discussions. For years our kids spoke of Dave Shmave – the Elevator Man as if he were a long lost uncle.

The innovative series introduces kids to the world of big ideas and makes useful connections to science, current events, economics, history, poetry and geography, jokes, mysteries, music and interviews – think NPR by kids and for kids. Classic episodes, all still available for download, include “Thomas Jefferson and Greed,” “Michelangelo and Dinosaurs,” and “Nikola Tesla and Globalization” and of course Dave Shmave stories which often leave listeners, no matter what age, speechless.

On road trips and plane trips, as well as carpooling to swim practice, Boomerang entertained and informed all of us. In addition to the timely topics, I appreciate the sense of community engendered with each episode.

Whether you download each episode to your I-Phone or listen (old style) from a CD it will be an audio feast which includes dessert.  Boomerang! is engaging, inspirational, screen-free fun for the whole family.

Are you listening?

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files

Kinsa – Cooler Than Ice Cubes at 98.6.

No one plans to become ill while on vacation, but air travel, climate adjustments, food allergies, cruise ship activities, jet lag, and public restrooms all provide the potential to wear down resistance and to allow unwanted germs to wreak havoc. Becoming sick is not an automatic result but as a mom and grand mom, I think being prepared offers peace of mind.

Kinsa is the world’s first smart thermometer.

Kinsa, the world’s first smart thermometer, measures, tracks, and stores temperatures using a user friendly app.

A couple of weeks ago I used Kinsa, the world’s first smart thermometer. I am not the most tech savvy individual but the app enabled device which connects to the headphone jack of a smart phone is easy to install, easy to understand, and though I did not test it on a feverish tyke, it worked like a charm on my 20-something daughter.

If you have ever been away from home at a resort or in a hotel room with a sick child and needed a thermometer, you will agree with me that this item is cooler than ice cubes.

Kinsa is the world’s first smart thermometer.

Knowledge is power and Kinsa provides guidance about symptoms so action may be taken.

The thermometer stick is lightweight and flexible so it will fit in a carry-on, purse, backpack or even a jacket pocket. It makes tracking a family member’s symptoms and temperatures easy. Kinsa’s new version has the ability to give guidance about what to do when a fever is detected. Stored on your phone, the information is ready to share with your doctor if need be.

Practical, affordable and essential when traveling with kids, I just ordered a second one in the hopes that by having it with us during the holidays we will not have the need for one.

Happy travels,

Nancy Nelson-Duac Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files.

Cyber Monday Vacation Deals – Ready, Set, Go.

It’s Black Friday and rather than participating in the shopping frenzy at the mall I am sipping herbal tea and browsing for family vacation deals and extra savings which are available now or will be available on Cyber Monday. I have discovered some which may serve as inspiration to make plans for spring break or next summer’s family vacation.  The savings are real but the booking window is limited and as always with deals there limited rooms and blackout dates.

Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort Phoenix, Arizona waterpark.

Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort Phoenix, Arizona cyber deal includes a four-acre water park open and heated year-round.

The ones I like best are great destinations for families even without the super savings. And I always like to see deals that actually span the typical family vacation time frame which includes the summer months. For example:  Grand Lucayan in the Bahamas is offering 55 percent off rates (starting at $99) for travel November 27, 2015 through September 1, 2016.

The Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort in Phoenix, Arizona is offering 30 percent off best available rate during the 72-hour booking window November 30 through December 2, 2015s is good through August 31, 2016.  Also in Phoenix, the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort has a similar all-suite deal for families valid from December 20, 2015-August 31, 2016.

One of my favorite spots in Costa Rica, Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort is offering 50% off on Cyber Monday with rates beginning at $150/night. The resort has large suites and the concierge will happily arrange babysitting for a day, a night, or for your entire stay. The deal is valid for stays August 21 – December 17, 2016.

Family vacation deals

Family vacation deals and more fun for less.

We also keep and active folder populated with family vacation deals and ways to save. One of my favorites is Coupons for Fun a location with hundreds of deals available added weekly. It’s best to browse at your leisure, select, download and print.

Happy hunting on Cyber Monday.

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files.


Currier and Ives Family Christmas for 21st Century Families.

The classic Currier and Ives scene looks a bit more chaotic when populated with 21st century families but the idea is timeless – sharing time together. I have searched for and found Christmas holiday escapes which include festively decorated cabins and cozy lodges ideal for sharing adventures, making discoveries, and creating a few classic memories.

Cabins for You Christmas in Gatlinburg

At Cabins for You in Gatlinburg no need to decorate just show up and begin to vacation.

Even though November is almost here, it is not too late to book a vacation cabin for the holidays. This week I have spoken with more than a dozen locations each with options for the upcoming Christmas holiday break. True the choices have diminished since August but great places for fireside chats, stargazing, and holiday festivities still may be snagged.

I have a list of seven locations, each well-suited for a family winter holiday break some in cozy cabins with fireplaces and others in tents with fire rings and one in an awesome winter lodge. My three favorites:

  1. Eagles Ridge Mountain Side Cabins in Pigeon Forge. Appalachian retreats for families.
  2. Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Nashville – Extra magic of holiday lights and music.
  3. Stone Mountain Georgia – Christmas cabins plus extreme snow tubing.

More Christmas vacation ideas may be found in our vacation planning folder “Away for the Holidays.”

It’s not too late to plan an escape, really.

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files

Snag a Ticket to Ride with Santa before It’s Too Late.

Don’t wait to snag a ride with Santa. I know Halloween evets and Thanksgiving dinner precede Santa on the calendar but waiting to make plans diminishes the chance of getting the perfect time on the ideal day. I have just spoken with more than a dozen locations who offer exceptional holiday experiences and all are already selling tickets to ride with the Jolly Old Elf.

Grand Canyon Railway Polar Express

Grand Canyon Railway offers a truly magical Polar Express ride on Engine 29.

For families time is a very precious commodity. So our holiday activity folders suggests oodles of ways to share the gift of time and snag holiday fun with children or grandchildren by creating a personal version of a time share – no condo needed. One of the best ways is to arrange a magical “Polar Express” adventure or a lively Santa train ride either of which makes a terrific yuletide family tradition with huge memory making potential.

From my recent research I know the season is set to sparkle across the country with countless memory making moments possible from riding the rails with Santa to sharing cookies with Mrs. Claus or sipping hot chocolate and singing carols with Christmas elves.

The promising list reveals a plethora of ways to share the magic with young children.  Ride the Polar Express at dozens of spots across the US from New Hampshire and Ohio to Texas and Arizona. Climb aboard a Santa train in Florida or sing along with Santa’s elves in California. The best options may be viewed in our Santa Trains & Holiday Lights folder.

As I write this I realize I do not have our tickets yet. UGH!

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff for theFamilyTravelFiles.com