Chillax Like A Local In Jamaica

The authentic counterpart to Beaches and Sandals

Jamaica is touristy. No doubt. But there’s an authentic side, too. Soak it up at the lesser-known FDR Resort in Runaway Bay.

 

Nice Digs And A Nanny, Too.

Gated on all sides with private access to a pristine Caribbean beach, the all-inclusive FDR Resort has been privately owned for 26 years—by a friendly local named Frank. A family of four can comfortably stay in a two-bedroom, two-bath garden/pool-view suite (from $304 per adult, per night; kids under 6 are free and kids 6-15 are $30 per night). Request a room away from the main bar area—it’s quieter at night. Most suites are equipped with a kitchen and living room and all rooms come with a vacation nanny (!) who’s available to cook, clean, babysit, and book activities for your family from 9am to 4:30pm daily (she’ll stay later for a fee). 

Traveling with a baby? Tell them you need a crib or bed rails, and it will be there on arrival. All outlets are child proofed; the entire resort is stroller accessible; and the gift shop is stocked with diapers, wipes, and various sunscreens.

Count Us In For Rain Dances, Jungle Golf, And Crab Races.

Beyond the usual kayaking, snorkeling, and tennis offerings, FDR offers Jamaican activities like hair-braiding, barefoot beach soccer, and jungle mini golf. Kids can also take a glass-bottom boat ride, drop down a 100-foot water slide, and try a “Rain Dance” in a black-lit room where it actually rains as they boogie to Jamaican tunes. Many head to the kids’ club during the hottest hours of the day, and everyone gathers for goat and crab races in the late afternoon.

The staff can arrange excursions, too. Dolphin Cove tops our list. Spring for the dolphin encounter or swim ($99-$200) if your kids are older; for the littles, consider just paying the $50 entrance fee to interact with exotic birds, snakes, and iguanas on the jungle walk, meet some pirates, and watch the shark show.

Try The Ackee.

All meals (even alcohol) are included in the room price. Menus have a heavy Jamaican bent—fresh fruit smoothies for breakfast with sweet porridge on the side; lunch buffets of fresh veggies, cheeses, and local fare like saltfish and ackee (a lychee-like fruit). With five dining venues, dinner is held in a new location with a fun theme each night. If your kids aren’t into pumpkin soup (it’s a little spicy) or oxtail, there are plenty of chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, and meatballs to go around.

Smart Toys For Long Flights

Easy, mile-high fun to keep toddlers in their seats.

Tegu Original Pocket Pouch, $25

These 6-8 piece eco-friendly block sets include enough cubes and planks to enable little hands to build just about anything. Plus the pieces stay put even in turbulence, thanks to the magic of magnets.

Crayola Wonder Stow & Go, $11.49

Crayola’s portable travel studio converts into its own coloring surface—perfect for tots who can't reach the tray. The four markers work only on the 12-page activity book, keeping hands, clothing, and seatmates marker-free.

Fran Newman-D'Amico Reusable Sticker Books, $1.99

With titles like Funny Animal Faces and Make Your Own Ice Cream Sundae, these reusable sticker books keep interest up and frustration down.

Bucket List: Nicaragua

Nicaragua is swiftly building a rep as “the new Costa Rica.” An influx of luxury resorts and boutique hotels—plus new direct flights from major U.S. cities—is making it tough to keep this tropical-adventure spot on the back burner. Translation: we’re dying to go. And this is how we’d do it.

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Everyone Deserves A Great Carry-On

Flight-friendly bags with equal parts function and style.

For Her: The LifeChanger by Anna & Eve, $124.99

Wear this versatile wonder like a shoulder bag, backpack, or messenger-style. Easily stash diapers, wipes, bottles,  plus your own haul, and never have an awkward-in-the-air change again—it unfolds into a portable changing table with a cotton change pad.

For Him: Under Armour Excursion Road Tote Bag, $150

Perfectly sized to squish under the seat or in an overhead compartment, Under Armour’s black nylon tote has plenty of interior room and pockets, including a fleece-lined section for electronics and a tape-sealed pocket in back to contain wet diapers and bibs.

For Them: Zuca Mini, $100

Available in several fun themes, Zuca’s Mini case meets FAA carry-on specifications. Kids love its lightweight aluminum frame, light-up wheels, and small snack pouch.

Art, Wine, And Sweet Digs In Provence

The glorious 500-acre Château La Coste in the Luberon region of Provence welcomes families to wander among lush vineyards and dozens of contemporary works by the most famous artists and architects. And it’s only getting more fabulous in 2017, when a Michelin-starred chef takes residence and five-star villas open their doors.

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Tricks For The Trail

Hiking season has arrived. Make the most of what you carry.

BabyBjörn Baby Carrier One Outdoors, $259.95

Trails and strollers don't mix. BabyBjörn’s Baby Carrier One Outdoors keeps the littlest member of the clan comfortably included with its ergonomic design, weight-distributing straps, and water and moisture-proof materials. Bonus points for extra pockets.

 

Bubi Bottle, $16.99

Available in lots of colors, this silicone bottle does it all: use it to carry beverages (it collapses when empty); stash band-aids, small electronics, and other delicate items (it's waterproof); or even fill it with hot or cold water for an instant compress (great for soothing any bumps or boo-boo’s along the way).

 

Baby Boom XLR8 Connect and Go Backpack, $129.99

Part diaper bag, part backpack, and totally tricked out, the XLR8 helps you all go the distance with its changing pad, 20-plus pockets (including bottle-and-snack-friendly insulated pockets), bluetooth speakers, a thumblight, rechargeable power bank, and other thoughtful features.

When Quiet Time Is In Order

Over-excitement, impatience, and anxiety can make family travel a little bumpy for everyone. Here, a few ways to instill chill-time on the go. 

Headspace for Kids, $12.95/month - $419.95/unlimited

When it's time to calm down, focus, or get to sleep, the Headspace app offers exercises and techniques designed for kids. Sorted by age brackets, the sessions are just five minutes (or less).

 

Relax Kids Mood Cards, $23.99

This colorfully illustrated deck is full of age-appropriate mantras; daily affirmations like “Today I will be happy like a bumble bee” are fab for helping kids visualize positive behavior.

 

Sleep Pillow Sounds White Noise Machine App, $2.99

With settings like tropical rain, quiet piano, and row boat, the Sleep Pillow Sounds White Noise Machine app helps everyone tune out. Plus, it has handy settings like a sleep timer and alarm clock.

Good Reads To Inspire Great Adventures

Spark a bit of wanderlust with these just-for-kids travel books.

 

The Tiny Traveler by Misti Kenison

Not only do these sturdy board books transport toddlers to places like Japan ($5.23), Italy ($5.51), and France ($5.95), but they also deliver age-appropriate lessons on colors, numbers, and shapes based on landscapes, landmarks, and culture.

 

This Is… by Miroslav Sasek

With 18 titles to choose from, This Is… picture books walk young readers through the sights, sounds, and history of Paris ($12.95), Ireland ($13.41), Venice ($14.63), and other great countries and cities around the world—with a little humor and beautiful illustrations.

 

Not For Parents by Lonely Planet

Big kids will get a kick out of this series, which takes an “everything you ever wanted to know” approach to exploring the globe from China ($13.41) to Australia ($13.88) to Africa ($12.99). They’re chock-full of fun facts, folklore, and other not-your-average information.

Bliss Out In Carmel Valley

With its rambling hills and sprawling lavender fields, Carmel Valley Ranch claims 500 acres of California’s stunning Central Coast. Whether riding horseback through the property’s glorious trails or Zenning out at the spa, days on the Ranch are wonderfully tranquil. Here’s how to keep the littles entertained while you unplug.

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Germaphobes, These Are For You

Three handy tools to aid the pursuit of clean water, clean air—and a clean toothbrush—on the go.

 

SteriPEN Aqua, $49.95

This hand-held, battery-operated UV purifier obliterates 99.9 percent of the yucky bacteria and other microorganisms found in tap water—in less than a minute. It’ll also save you money on the bottled stuff.

 

Crane Travel Humidifier, $29.99

Crane’s travel-sized humidifier quietly helps regulate air moisture to reduce the growth of microorganisms by 99.96 percent. Bonus points for an inclusive travel bag and USB/outlet power adaptor.

 

Violife Travel Safe UV Toothbrush Sanitizer and Holder, $29.95

This sleek, battery-operated toothbrush sterilizer not only works as a holder, but it’s also outfitted with a germicidal UV bulb to eliminate 99.9 percent of germs and bacteria in under 6 minutes.

Packable Footwear For The Whole Fam

Bulky shoes can be the difference between carrying on and checking bags. Save room with these squishable, crumpable kicks.

 

 

For Her: Tory Burch Mini Travel Ballet, $225

These lightweight ballet flats have a slip-resistant sole and comfy foam cushioning—plus they fold up neatly into a shoe bag.

 

For Him: Lems Shoes Primal 2, $95

Lems Shoes' Primal 2 style is a sturdy, sporty-looking sneaker made from a super-flexible vegan material that rolls, folds, and weighs in at just 6.9 ounces.

For Them: Natives, $30-$45

Not only do Native shoes stand up to adventures, but they’re also squish-proof when packed, waterproof, and can easily be hand-washed.

Survive The Great Outdoors

Three ways to make the next family campout a little more cushy.

REI KINDERCONE SLEEPING BAG, $59.50

This lightweight mummy-shaped sleeping bag is designed with a hood, adjustable length, and super-soft liner to keep kids cozy—even in damp, cold temps down to 30 degrees.

 

TERRA KIDS CAMPING LAMP, $29.99

Powered by a hand-cranked generator rather than batteries, Terra Kids’ lantern-style Camping Lamp is built to shine long after the campfire’s out. It also comes with a cool alarm whistle and compass—just for fun.

 

SEEDLING THE GREAT ADVENTURE KIT, $49

You can’t bring the whole toy bin with you. But this well-thought-out kit includes a compass, whistle, journal, and colored pencils to boost the fun side of nature exploration.

Smart Luggage For Littles

Convincing a small child to haul her own bag works wonders for airport rage.

Trunki, $68.14

Part hard-case luggage, part distraction, Trunki’s new double-decker Boris The Bus design enables small tots to literally ride on (with horn-shaped steering grips) when little feet grow weary.

Streamline, $695

It’s tough to get your hands on Streamline's light-in-the-hand Correspondent. (At $695, it may be equally tough to get your mind around the price). But, wow. It sure is a gorgeous transition from baby gear to world traveler accessory.

Rockland Luggage, $51.19-$64.99

When the character stage is over, Rockland Luggage has an ergonomic telescope handle and comes in big-kid patterns like Departures and Destinations ($51.19), Owls ($64.99), and this pop-art print ($64.99).

Glamming It Up In Los Angeles

Spare yourselves the teenybopping scene at the city’s “hip hotels” and revel instead in the rich history and glorious Hollywood overtones of the Sunset Tower Hotel. Dramatically perched on the Sunset Strip, the Art Deco gem counts Marilyn Monroe, Truman Capote, Clark Gable, and Frank Sinatra among its former residents—and currently caters to the biggest names in town.

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Don't Leave For The Beach Without These

 

These should help you enjoy the sand, without the mess.

Spending beach time with the family is fun. The clean-up, not so much. Here are a few ways to keep the sand where it belongs.

 

SAND-OFF, $8.99

This multi-use terrycloth mitt is infused with an unscented, talcum-free powder to help dust off stubborn grains of sand from every nook and cranny of your child’s body (and yours, too).

 

F1 GO CLEAN BEACHWEAR ORANGE, $30

A beach bag full of drenched, sandy, stinky bathing suits is gross. Flight100’s nylon pouch fits easily in your beach bag, has an inside divider to separate wet things, and it's odor-proof. It even turns into a tote for a larger haul.

 

PACKABLE PAILS COLLAPSABLE BEACH PAIL WITH SHOVEL, $14.99 

Unlike a regular bucket, this BPA/PVC-free pail collapses into a compact 2-inch square. Genius.