Happy Campers, We Got an RV

CamperRVTravelMy family and I love to take trips and we always try to keep it affordable.  So, after spending some time at local campgrounds with some friends we decided to buy a camper.    I had no idea the amount of activities and amenities they offer at the campgrounds.   Previously my camping experiences consisted of damp tents, long walks to the bathrooms and bad sleep.  I don’t hate tent camping but RV camping is more desirable.  I spent a few months reading about RVs and learning the difference between, popups, hybrids and travel trailers.  I searched Craigslist, went to an RV show, and finally found one I really liked on Bargain News.  We took a look at it and we made an offer.  A few weeks later we became the proud owners of a cute Cruiser Fun Finder.

RV TV Stereo amenities

RV amenities, microwave, gas stove

The Fun Finder is currently parked in our yard.  We are getting to know all of the systems in it and enjoying just hanging out in it.  The first day we had it we watched a Garfield movie and had snacks in our home on wheels.  The three of us, my husband, son and I, are ready for some new adventures.  We love to see new places, be outdoors, hike, ride bikes and be together.  We are all excited to hitch the RV up and head to some new campgrounds.  We will start off staying pretty close to home as we get used to towing it.  There are some really great campgrounds in CT that offer daily activities for the kids, heated pools, large playgrounds and restaurants.  We also want to try out some of the state parks.  We won’t always be traveling alone.  Our dog, Beta will be an RVer soon too.

RV camping with a pet

Check out this great game for camping or backyard fun.    http://mamalovesherbargains.com/2012/07/snipe-hunt-family-game/

Have you ever been camping in a tent, RV, Yurt or small cottage?  What is your favorite thing about camping?

Kids School Vacation Package at the Westin Copley Place

The Westin Copley Place in Boston is offering  a special Kids School Vacation Package with rates from $199 per night!  Not sure what to do with the kids this break?  Or, do you have a short vacation like we do, and don’t have a full week to get away?  The kids and I are heading up to Boston for a few days for some fun in the city!

westin copley place boston

WHO: Families looking for a fun getaway during February school vacation (whether it’s in the form of a vacation or a staycation) are welcome to enjoy a special Kids Vacation Package at one of Boston’s most celebrated hotels, The Westin Copley Place.

WHAT: The Westin Copley Place has put together a special February Kids Vacation Package, now available for booking. Children 12 years old and under will be given special discounts and have a number of exciting activities to participate in during their stay. With rates from $199 per night, the family vacation package includes:

· Kids (under 12) eat breakfast free each morning of their stay in the breakfast restaurant, The Huntington ($26 value)
· Kids (under 12) eat free with the purchase of an adult entrée in Turner Fisheries, from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday (up to $25 value)
· Milk and cookie sent to room at check in ($15 value)
· Complimentary in room movie each day (up to $16 value)
· Complimentary in room high speed Internet access ($12.95 value)
· Complimentary parking ($47 value)

Guests and kids can wind down or start the day by enjoying one of the Westin’s daily activities. The list, available upon check-in, may include, but is not limited to:

· Story time
· Postcard decorating
· Movie night
· Cookie decorating / tour of kitchen

Book this special package online today, or call (866) 716-8121 and reference KIDSCLUB.

I can promise you we’ll be frequenting the pool- swimming in Feburary up here in New England? YES please!

westin copley place hotel pool

WHEN: Friday, Feb. 15 through Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013

WHERE: The Westin Copley Place
10 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 262-9600

 

We will be staying at the Westin Copley Place and sharing a review in a few weeks about our experience.  Opinions are and will be my own! 

Little Passports Encourage Curiosity and Travel (Giveaway)

One of my 7 year old ‘s favorite gifts this Christmas was the subscription she received to Little Passports USA Edition. I knew she’d like it, but I honestly believe it has been her favorite gift. She’s been talking about it nonstop. All of the components of the introductory kit, called the Discovery Kit, plus the first monthly envelope that followed soon after. Little Passports is helping kids learn and understand about all different cultures in the world and right here in the USA. Helping them in so many ways, too. Kids love to get mail- but mail comes from someplace, so that right there is fun to check out- my daughter always wants to know where the postmark will be from on things that come to the house. The contents of the packages from Little Passports are never the same twice so that makes things super exciting too- mail that has surprises early on in each month of the subscription! Plus, they get to learn and discover new, fun exciting things and also experience some of the adventures that Sam and Sofia have. I can’t say enough good about this program. Little Passports has us hooked.

little passports florida

I also have a map of the world and a map of the US on my wainscotting in my dining room courtesy of Little Passports. I’m not allowed to take them down. MOM, I hear(with a side of exasperation), we can’t take them down. I need to have them up all the time so I can keep finding out more facts and information and cool stuff about where Sam and Sofia are visiting next! She also goes on to explain that they are “way more fun” to look at than boring family photos and add a splash of color to the room. How can I say no to that? So they stay. It’s gotten all five of us talking about places on both of the maps, which is never a bad thing. The kids want to know where my husband and I have travelled, and they share places they’d like to go. They want to know so much and I’m sitting here wondering why it is that we never thought to have a map hanging up before! What a great idea!

little passports starter

My daughter LOVES this kit, and the envelopes that are coming to bring her new places. The first “month” we got was Florida & Nebraska- perfect timing since we have our first big family trip this month- TO Florida. She’s been showing her little brother and sister all of the things she’s learning about thanks to Sam and Sofia quite proudly, both on the map and reading things aloud to them at meals. It’s pretty cool, how excited she is about learning where these places are!

With your USA Edition subscription, Sam and Sofia travel to and experience the wonders of all 50 states. Kick-off your USA adventure with the first month’s Discovery Kit which includes a letter from Sam and Sofia, a USA Field Guide, a USA scratch book, a map, and a camera. Sam and Sofia then travel to two new states every month and send an activity-packed travel journal with stickers, postcards, pop-out models and access to online activities.

When you first start your Little Passports adventure USA Edition, you will receive the Discovery Kit which comes in a custom Sam and Sofia USA (durable) Portfolio and includes:

  • An introductory letter from Sam and Sofia
  • USA Field Guide
  • USA Scratch Book (If your kids haven’t discovered scratch books, they are a ton of fun, and a big mess. Have them do it outside or on a table so you can (carefully) sweep the scratch ‘dust’ as I call it neatly into the trash can.)
  • USA Wall Map
  • Disposable Camera and Photo Scavenger Hunt

Every month thereafter, your child will visit 2 new states and receive:

  • A 32-page activity-packed journal covering 2 states
  • Stickers
  • Pop-out Models
  • Postcards
  • Access to more information and activities online (Boarding Pass)

The recommended age range for our USA Edition is 7 to 12 years old.

After signing up, you will receive your first package with our Discovery Kit in about 4 to 5 weeks. New packages will arrive around the beginning of every month thereafter.

There are 4 options to subscribe- 3, 6 and 12 month memberships, each including a Discovery Kit to begin, and also a monthly membership which will get your child all 26 monthly envelopes and the Discovery Kit. If you want this to be a gift for a child in your life, planning ahead by about 5-6 weeks will mean the Discovery Kit is in your hands (or theirs) on the occasion you want to gift it for and they can have that to open and begin exploring and learning.

This is an amazing gift. It’s going to be at least $11.95 a month, up to $14 a month, but it’s going to give your child all kinds of knowledge, crafts and ideas, and keep them occupied each month for the duration of your subscription. I’m guessing most of us will spend close to that on some kind of entertainment or activities for our kids anyway- this is a way to pull those activities together and put them into a fun package so kids have a thematic curriculum that they don’t even know teaches them things. It’s just a lot of fun. One thing I really like is that it isn’t just a one time thing that comes in the mail and gets tossed aside- my daughter goes back to it over and over again to look something up or to try another part of the journal activities. Math, science, social studies, language arts are all components cleverly disguised as fun facts and information- and a wonderful way to get your child excited to learn about other parts of the country (or world if you do the world edition- which I’ve already been told is next on the list).

One reader will win a 2 month subscription to Little Passports USA Edition!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We received a sample of this product to facilitate our review. Opinions are our own.

 

Guest Post: The traveller’s guide to frugal living

Travel on a budget

There are many ways in which you can save money while travelling; and we don’t just mean by sleeping under the stars!
If you’re savvy about your shopping and planning you can make your money go further, which may even mean that you’re able to go further too.
Flying
If you know how flight providers work, you can save a huge amount on probably your biggest expense. If possible fly off peak, it’s no secret that flights are more expensive in the summer and during school holidays.
If you need to travel during peak times try to book as far in advance as possible, even up to a year if you can. If you do book in advance and the price seems too high don’t be afraid to ask for a discount. One way that is becoming more popular is to “go standby”.
If you do this the airports will inform you of a seat minutes or hours in advance. If you’re free to go on that flight they tend to offer large discounts for filling their empty seats.
Shopping
When shopping for anything, whether it be flights, tents or insurance be sure to look online for the best deal. Try Netvouchercodes.co.uk to see if you’re able to get your necessities for a bargain.
Also look out for comparison websites for your insurance. Sometimes a less obvious choice may be the better deal.
Working
Whether this is to save before your trip, or if you’re planning on volunteering while you’re out there; there are many ways in which you could save money. By volunteering you could save on you food and board.
Some lucky travellers even make money while they’re away through blogging or websites. If you want to use your laptop as a source of income ensure that you set up your site before you go to make sure everything’s in place and while you’re away you can concentrate on where you are, and not your screen!

 

This post is brought to you by our travel loving friends at NetVoucherCodes. 

Grab a bargain with a spa break when travelling (Guest Post)

turbo fire virginia beach

The main reason why anyone goes on holiday is to get away from the stresses of day-to-day living. Whether it’s fun, relaxation or a combination of the two, as long as you come back home feeling refreshed, going away was the right thing to do. When you’re away, you’ll be tempted to go sightseeing, visit attractions and, if you’re an adventure seeker, you’ll want to do something physical like go walking, swimming or climb a mountain, but there comes a time when, for at least a day, you’ll want to rest your feet.

When you want to unwind during your holiday, what can you do? Spending all day in your hotel room might sound relaxing to some, but it can be a little boring, as there’s only such much time you can spend reading a book or watching TV. This is where visiting a spa could come in, especially if you know of some spa day offers that you can take advantage of. A spa day might sound expensive, but there are special offers that could help entice you to visit one. Before I went on holiday recently, I decided that I would spend at least one day of my week-long vacation at a spa. I wanted to receive massage treatment, be surrounded by scented candles in a mud bath and take advantage of any alternative treatments that were on offer. I wanted at least one day where I wouldn’t worry about not being able to see this amazing landmark. Luckily, I discovered that spabreaks.com offer spa breaks abroad, so I went there to look for a spa near to my holiday destination. There are a number of benefits that come with spending even a few hours at a spa. You can exfoliate and iron out any wrinkles on your skin, spend a couple of hours soaking in a Jacuzzi or swimming pool, receive massages given by fully-qualified masseurs, and come out of it feeling much better both physically and mentally. Every time I go abroad, I plan on spending at least one day at a spa, and know that with discounts being available, I won’t have to spend as much as I think. This post is brought to you by our friends at SpaBreaks.com.

South Seas Island Resort and Captiva Cruises

I recently returned from a 2 week vacation on Captiva Island, Florida.  If you have never heard of Captiva it is a small barrier island located on the gulf coast of Florida, near Fort Myers.  It is world renowned for it’s fabulous shelling, gorgeous white sand beaches, laid back atmosphere and it’s fantastic South Seas Island Resort.  I highly recommend that you visit this unique and beautiful island at least once in your life.  My family had a FABULOUS time.  It was the perfect mix of adventure and relaxation.

The generous people at South Seas allowed my family access to all of their ammenities while we visited the island, and WOW do they have a lot of ammenities!

South Seas is a resort village and wildlife sanctuary with the motto of:  Family. Nature. Comfort.  It certainly doesn’t dissapoint and lives up to it’s motto.  Here is a little bit of information about the resort:

“For decades, generations of families have made South Seas Island Resort the destination of choice in which to share treasured moments and make lasting memories. This iconic 330-acre wildlife preserve spans two and a half miles of shell-laden beaches framing the tranquil waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

All amenities and accommodations are designed to take full advantage of the existing landscape. This Captiva Island resort allows you to discover native Florida in all its wondrous beauty, while relaxing at a Parents Magazines Top 10 Beach Resort for Families.”

AMENITIES & RECREATION

  • Two main pools overlook Pine Island Sound and H2Whoa! family water park
  • Skullys Family Interactive Center includes award-winning toddlers, kids, tweens and teens programs
  • GO! Programs including GO! Fish with resident fishing experts, and GO! Sail with Offshore Sailing School
  • Bicycle, golf cart and boat rentals
  • Water sports include jet skis, parasailing and hydro bikes
  • Guided kayak tours and nature walks
  • World-famous shelling
  • The Yacht Harbour Marina and Bayside Marina
  • Fishing charters, surf casting and shore casting
  • Daily cruises in the Gulf of Mexico
  • Gulf-front par 3 executive golf course
  • Fitness center
  • Tennis complex

Our family had a fabulous time visiting the resort.  We were so impressed with the friendliness of the staff and the beautiful grounds.  We will definitely be coming back again.  My family particularly enjoyed the beautiful white sand beaches, relaxing pools, waterslides, parsailing and kayak tour.  This vacation really was the perfect mix of adventure and relaxation.

In addition to spending time on the resort, we were also able to take the famous Captiva Cruises Dolphin and Wildlife Adventure Tour.  This tour leaves from the South Seas Island Resort and from  McCarthy’s Marina.

This 90 minute cruise of the Pine Island Sounds was informative and exciting!  We all enjoyed learning about the Atlantic Bottle Nose Dolphin and getting to see several up close and personal as they followed close by our ship.  Along the way the friendly captain and crew showed us some of the wildlife and history surrounding the area.  It was a great way to spend the afternoon.  It was also great to see the island from the water.  Such a beautiful place!  If you travel to Captiva Island you MUST check out Captiva Cruises!!

“5 day resort access and discounted dolphin cruise rates were offered in exchange for this review.  All opinoins expressed are my own.”

Sand Free Beach Sheet Review

I am sure many of you are getting ready to take a summer road trip or a visit to the beach. If so, you are going to LOVE this! I recently returned from a 2 week road trip with my family of 5. We spent a large portion of our vacation at a beach house. I am not a huge beach/sand person, so I researched products to make this excursion more convenient and a little less messy. One item that I HAD to try out was the Sand Free Beach Sheet. Check out these great features:

  • It’s better than an ordinary heavy bulky beach blanket or towel!
  • There’s no need to shake out like a beach towel, sand sticks all over a beach towel, not to this beach sheet!
  • You won’t have to put your flip flops or beach bags on the corners to keep it from blowing away.
  • Sand Free Beach Sheet will not blow away – it stakes down into the sand
  • It’s lightweight, made of soft natural fibers not plastic so it stays cool to lie on, dries quickly, and the sand just blows away!
  • Comes with matching inflatable pillows that snap to the sheet.
  • The only thing blowing away in the ocean breeze is the sand!
  • The pillows make it comfortable to sunbath or nap on the beach.
  • Folds compactly in re-sealable plastic bag, easy to carry and store away in.

The Sand Free Beach Sheet comes in 4 sizes:

Single Size = 84″ L x 42″ W

Double Size = 84″ L x 56″ W

Family Size = 84″ L x 84″ W

Extra Large = 84″ L x 106″ W

I tried out the family size sheet in Pink Polka Dot. The sheet came packaged in a great compact plastic bag. It was easy to pack away in the car with all of our other gear and took up very little space. We pulled out this sheet on the first day of vacation and never put it away again! It worked like a charm. I don’t think I can ever go back to the old beach towel on the sand setup again. This family size sheet worked great for my family of 5. My husband and I, along with our 3 little ones fit comfortably on the Sand Free Sheet with room for our bags and gear. What made this sheet so great was the ability to stake it into the sand at the four corners. This held the sheet firmly in place, even on windy days. The inflatable pillows worked like a charm too. They easily snapped to the sheet and made a great setup for impromptu naps on the beach! At the end of the day we simply un-staked the sheet, shook it out and folded it up. That’s it! No sandy mess at all! The sand slid easily from the sheet with a single shake. I highly recommend this product for your next trip to the beach. The sheet is easy to wash and will be

used for years to come! You can check out all of the great patterns at www.SandFreeBeachSheet.com “A sample of this product was provided to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.”

Chatting about Cultural Adventures with Mireya Mayor & Barbie “Dolls Around the World” Giveaway

Mireya Mayor Barbie Dolls of the WorldSchool is almost out for summer and while many consider this season the perfect time for family vacations, your funds may disagree! I know that my funds certainly do- and while we’d love to travel the world with our children to explore and discover other cultures, we simply aren’t able to do that at this stage of our lives. That said, my children are very curious, as most are by nature, and I do like to encourage that curiosity whenever possible.  Learning about other cultures doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, nor does it have to include expensive travel plans, thanks to the creative thinking of people like Mireya Mayor.

On Friday, June 8th, two-time Emmy Award nominee, National Geographic Wildlife correspondent, and mom of four daughters, Mireya Mayor, chatted online with several bloggers about how to take your children on a cultural trip around the world…all from the comfort of home. I wasn’t able to attend the chat live but was able to send my questions in ahead of time so that I could still participate.  According to Ms. Mayor, we can embark on cultural adventures all the time- with the foods we cook, the games we play, doing puzzles with animals or landmarks from an area- all of these things can inspire curiosity in our children.  Even the Barbie “Dolls Around the World” line can help- each box is loaded with information about the country, even with phrases and words used frequently in the culture.  The Barbies come dressed in traditional apparel from the country and each has a small animal friend to go along with her.

As an explorer, Mireya gets to show people parts of the world that they may never get to see. Her goal is to encourage children to appreciate what’s beyond their surroundings, expose them to new places, cultures and the wildlife that live there, so future generations can respect and enjoy them for generations to come.

Mireya will bring viewers tips and ideas to help encourage children to explore the incredible beauty the world has to offer, experience new cultures and learn the significance of diversity which will lead to respect and appreciation for our planet.

Here are a few tips Mireya discussed:
Ways to spark your child’s interest in travel
Make your home inspire your kids to explore
“International night” family dinners and other fun family activities that make different countries more interesting
This summer, Barbie re-launches the largest and longest-running series in their collection – Dolls of the World – Ireland, Australia, China, Argentina, Mexico, India, Chile and Holland.

My questions for Ms. Mayor, which you can see her response to and more in the YouTube video below:

Would you consider doing a book or kit that includes all of these tips and some directional cards for activities, recipes, etc?  My first grader has been doing this exact kind of program this year in school with her teacher but I think a lot of parents would be very receptive to having a kit they can purchase that includes suggestions for crafts, recipes, etc. 
Mireya thinks this would be a great idea but suggested that instead of waiting for a book to come out that parents and teachers work together to each contribute an idea or suggestion to be discovered throughout the year.
I think this is a really fun way to also help our kids discover more about our own families- just thinking about what I could send in to share or suggest with the classroom makes me realize that my own family history includes cultural components that I’ve not really talked in depth about with my children- and reminds me too that all adventures start at home.  In my family, we’re Scottish, Cherokee Indian and Lithuanian.  In my husband’s family, he’s got Polish and Italian roots.  There’s a lot we could share simply about the cultures our ancestors come from…to start.  Holiday traditions and family meals are a great way to get the conversation and interest sparked!
What age did you start travelling with your children?  
Ms. Mayor brought her daughter with her to Madagascar at the age of 9 months!!
What are the must-include items when packing to travel internationally with small children?
Ms. Mayor recommends bringing along familiar toys that will occupy your child on long train, plane or car rides.  Bring along necessities- you may not know how or where to find fever reducers in a foreign country at 2am.  Be prepared.
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I think Ms. Mayor has some really great tips for travelling with young children.  What do you think?
One reader will win a Barbie: Dolls Around the World Doll!
To enter, simply fill out the Giveaway Tools form below.
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I received a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to share this post.  Opinions are my own.

Thule Vertex 5-Bike Hitch Rack

Remember a few weeks ago, I shared about the new bike we have for my husband, so that we are able to go on family bike rides?  Well, in keeping with the family bike theme, we realized that we need a bike hitch rack – while my van may be big enough for one adult bike and a kid bike, it definitely will not fit 2 adult bikes plus kid bikes, and 3 children in the back.  We turned to Thule, a name known for quality bike racks.

thule vertex 5 bike hitch rack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We received the Thule Vertex 5-Bike Hitch Rack, which is one of the a new Vertex series from Thule with an arc design and hold fast cradles to protect your bikes on the road.  This is our first bike rack we’ve owned (ever) and we found the rack itself very simple to install and use.  The rack itself has a sleek looking design, with an arc shape that’s meant to make it easier to carry more bikes, and the levers to pull up to release the rack’s position so you can move it up and down are very, very easy to maneuver.  It’s definitely heavy duty and made to hold a lot of weight.  We found it to hold each of our bikes securely that we put on it.

thule vertex 5 hold fast cradle and straps

The straps that come with the rack to secure each bicycle are made of a very strong rubber that really stretches over the bike- so you know that your investment is protected.  From opening the box to having this rack ready to use took all of 10 minutes, and that’s with kids helping.  Very simple instructions, very easy to use.

thule vertex 5thule vertex 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This new hitch rack’s unique arc design makes it easier to load and unload, provides better ground clearance and gives you greater distance between your bikes for easy transport

 

 

 

Features

  • The bold new hitch rack with unique arc design for easier bike loading and carrying performance
  • Increased mast height for improved ground clearance
  • New Hold Fast Cradles™ cushion bike and provide maximum bike security
  • Our largest carrying assortment available: 2 bike (9028), 4 bike (9029) and 5 bike (9030) hitch racks
  • Anti-Sway Cages prevent bike-to-bike and bike-to-vehicle contact
  • New and improved Hitch Switch™ folds arms down when not in use and tilts carrier away from vehicle for trunk, hatch or tailgate access
  • Integrated handle for easy carrying and handling
  • Snug-Tite™ receiver lock (STL2, sold separately) virtually eliminates hitch rack movement in receiver and locks the hitch rack to the vehicle
  • Secure your bikes to the hitch rack with Thule’s 6 ft. Braided Steel Cable (#538XT, sold seperately)
  • 2 bike (9028), 4 bike (9029) fits 1¼” and 2″ receivers, 5 bike (9030) fits 2″ receivers only

You can see how well the Hold Fast Cradles hold your bike in place with the straps- no worry that your bike will slip off.

 

 

 

 

As you can see below, the antisway feature really has a great design to hold your bike steady.  We can drive without worry that the bikes will sway into the back of the van.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have a woman’s bike or child’s bike you may very well need a Frame Adaptor for it to fit properly onto the frame.  These cost about $99 but definitely make a big difference.

We’ve already used our new rack to go on some local family bike rides- I wonder where else our travels will take us along with the Vertex 5? 

The Thule Vertex 5-Bike Hitch Rack retails for about $309.00.  If your family enjoys bike rides, this is definitely a great rack to consider for your vehicle- especially since it holds 5 bikes!

 

I received a sample of this product to facilitate my review. Opinions are my own.

Summer Vacation Plans

I just realized that it’s the 23rd of May and I need to get our summer plans going.  Of course, we don’t actually DO that much, or rather, travel that much, but we still like to have a lot of fun.  I have plans to visit children’s museums and splash parks, the Bronx Zoo, Storyland, and many, many other places local to New England.   We will, of course, leave plenty of time to just have summertime fun, with popsicles and picnics, bike rides and swimming….

My cousin and I are going to take some time to visit her mom up in New Hampshire with the kids- that’ll give my husband a chance to work on gutting our full bathroom.  That will be a lot of fun and I’m sure, many hours of laughter long after the kids go to bed.

For the first time, too, I think we may venture past the New England area and check out Sesame Place, and maybe Dutch Wonderland.  I feel like now that my youngest is turning 3 we can have a bit more freedom to go places and experience things more easily, and not have to worry about diapers, strict nap routines, etc.

My husband’s schedule allows him a weekday off every other week- which is a really nice luxury because we can enjoy some day trips with daddy and not just mom and the kids!  We are going to be saving for a Disney vacation this year so we won’t be travelling far nor for long over the summer months…we’d rather save for the BIG trip next year!!

What do you do for your family holidays? Do you have some big fun vacation plans this summer?  Please feel free to share if you have had any experience or recommendations of places in the NorthEast to visit with small children- I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!