Five Family Getaways for the End of Summer

School just started and summer is almost over. But lighter crowds and back-to-school travel specials make summer’s end the perfect time to squeeze in a short family trip.Puerto Rico and Mexico are perfect for families looking for a sunny, beach escape. Tired of the sea and sand? Pay a visit to our friendly neighbor to the north, Canada. San Francisco is a fantastic blend of history, city life and nature. Or breakout of your comfort zone in Cuba. So go ahead, steal some time with the kiddies before they are buried under mounds of homework. It’s easier than you think to find a quick family getaway.

Jam-packed with diverse attractions and unique neighborhoods, San Francisco a whirlwind of family fun waiting to be found. (Flickr: Nicolas Raymond )

Jam-packed with diverse attractions and unique neighborhoods, San Francisco a whirlwind of family fun waiting to be found. (Flickr: Nicolas Raymond)

 

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is the perfect Caribbean escape without the hassles of international travel. (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy )

Puerto Rico is the perfect Caribbean escape without the hassles of international travel. (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy )

No time to get passports? No problem! Puerto Rico is the perfect Caribbean summer escape without the hassles of international travel. This US territory uses the American dollar and doesn’t require passports for US citizens. Wander Old San Juan’s cobblestone streets and find handcrafted “treasures.” Discover dungeons, towers and cannons at El Morro, a 16th-century stone fortress built to protect the town from seafaring invaders. Venture into El Yunque Rainforest and hike the only tropical rainforest in North America. Finally, paddle a kayak after dark into the mysterious – and illuminating – Mosquito Bio-Luminescent Bay in Vieques.

Riviera Maya, Mexico

Plan a day trip to Tulum and explore Mayan ruins. (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy )

Plan a day trip to Tulum and explore Mayan ruins. (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy )

Finding a flight to Riviera Maya is a snap, making it an easy choice for last minute summer getaways. Families looking for a jungle adventure will find it at Xcaret. Let the kids play Indiana Jones as they search for secret caves and hidden passageways that lead to a recreated Mayan village. Or swim, snorkel or float your way along an underground river. Plan a day trip to Tulum and explore Mayan ruins. For some serious shopping–and eating–visit the pedestrian friendly la Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue).

Toronto, Canada

Adventures are aplenty in Toronto. (Flickr: Robert )

Adventures are aplenty in Toronto. (Flickr: Robert )

One summer trip to Toronto and Oh, Canada! Trek to the top of CN Tower and gaze down on the city through the Glass Floor. Want more excitement? Take the Edge Walk, an adrenaline pulsing “walk” outside on the roof! Don’t worry, tamer adventures are aplenty too. Set sail for a swashbuckling stint as the kids hunt for treasure aboard a Pirate Ship Adventure cruise. Visit Toronto Zoo, the proud home of Giant Panda Cubs! These little celebrities have their own YouTube channel; have the kids check it out before your visit. Of course, no trip to Canada is complete without a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame, it boasts the largest collection of hockey memorabilia in the world.

Havana, Cuba

Havana may only be 90 miles from Key West, but once your family steps off the plane, you’ll feel worlds away. (Photo: Sandra Foyt )

Havana may only be 90 miles from Key West, but once your family steps off the plane, you’ll feel worlds away. (Photo: Sandra Foyt )

Lost in time is best way to describe Havana. It may only be 90 miles from Key West, but once your family steps off the plane, you’ll feel worlds away. Wander down the cobblestone streets lined with a rainbow of colorful colonial style homes. Have kids keep count of the retro 1950s cars as they cruise by. Savor a sweet treat at Museo del Chocolate, a tiny, air-conditioned chocolate shop. Stop in one of the many small museums peppered throughout the city and learn about Cuba’s rich culture and history. A “must see” is Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña, a 18th-century stone fortress overlooking Havana Harbor. Kids will get a bang out of the cannon firing ceremony every night at 9pm. Off the beaten path lies Gran Parque Metropolitano, an urban forest with a river, bridges, walking trails and other family friendly amenities. Good to know: US travel to Cuba is getting easier, but there are still restrictions. Check with the US Department of Treasury for details.

 

San Francisco

Does your family enjoy “get-up-and-go” getaways? If so, San Francisco is the place for you. Jam-packed with diverse attractions and unique neighborhoods, it’s a whirlwind of family fun waiting to be found. Jog across the sprawling Golden Gate Bridge or admire the view from Coit Tower. Take a ferry to target=”_blank”>Angel Island (the Ellis Island of the West) or explore eerie Alcatraz. Street performers, a mirror maze, carousel, boat rides, aquarium, and of course, oceans of sea lions sunning themselves along Pier 39 can easily fill up an entire day. Slow your pace and walk among towering, ancient giants – redwood trees that is – in Muir Woods. Score a seat at AT&T Stadium – home to San Fran’s “other” Giants. If you’re lucky, you may witness a “Splash Hit,” a homerun slammed into McCovey Cove.

 

Maribeth Pjosek-Durkin contributed this to MiniTime.

 

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Quick Labor Day Getaways for Families with Kids

Safest Cities in the World to Travel with Kids

Midwest Lake Destinations to Visit this Fall

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Family-Friendly Spots in the Cayman Islands That Few Tourists See (But Locals Love)

Little Cayman is one of the Cayman Islands' several spots not many tourists get to see. (Flickr: SF Brit)

Little Cayman is one of the Cayman Islands’ several spots not many tourists get to see. (Flickr: SF Brit)

Without a doubt, Grand Cayman’s Stingray City, Turtle Farm and Seven Mile Beach are exciting family attractions sure to thrill kids. And first-time visitors to the Cayman Islands should definitely check out these popular tourist attractions. But be sure to explore points of interest and attractions off the beaten path as well. It’s worth renting a car for a leisurely drive around Grand Cayman to stop at scenic points and uncrowded beaches away from other tourists. And don’t forget about Grand Cayman’s sister islands, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, as they’re fantastic day trips—only about a 30-minute flight—where more family adventures await.

 

Cemetery Reef

Just as beautiful but much less crowded than Cayman Islands’ touristy Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman, Cemetery Beach has two coral reefs that are a short swim from shore. Bring snorkel gear to see colorful fish, sea turtles and other marine life in the crystal clear water. Relax on the pristine beach and enjoy a family picnic. If possible, visit Cemetery Beach on a day when cruise ships are not in port.

 

Mastic Trail

The Mastic Trail crosses eastern Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands, Caribbean. (Flickr: David Stanley)

The Mastic Trail crosses eastern Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands, Caribbean. (Flickr: David Stanley)

Wear sturdy shoes for a walk on the two-mile, 200 year-old trail in Grand Cayman. The rugged path meanders through a two-million-year-old woodland area with trees, plants and foliage. Along the way look for Mangrove Cuckoo, West Indian woodpecker, Smooth-Billed Ani, Mockingbirds, Caribbean Ground Doves, Bananaquits and Cayman Parrots, which nest in the palms. Beat the heat by making the trek in the early morning or early evening.

 

Bodden Town

Pirates Cave in Bodden Town, Grand Cayman (Flickr: Eoin McNamee)

Pirates Cave in Bodden Town, Grand Cayman (Flickr: Eoin McNamee)

The former capital of Grand Cayman, this sleepy, Cayman Islands town features a museum, art shop and the restored 1840s Mission House. Here you can shop for locally made items, visit an old cemetery (graves with A-frame structures are said to contain the remains of pirates), and see the ruins of a fort and wall built by slaves in the 20th century. Kids will enjoy Pirates Caves, a series of underground tunnels where pirates buried their treasure.

 

Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park

Green Heron at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park (Flickr: H. Michael Miley)

Green Heron at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park (Flickr: H. Michael Miley)

Soak up some Cayman Islands history and see local wildlife at this heritage site located on the north side of Grand Cayman, about 45-minutes by car from George Town. Named after Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the remote park is home to the Cayman Blue Iguana, freshwater ponds and colorful gardens (including a butterfly garden). Stop by the visitor center for park information and to plan a fun outing for both kids and adults. Park highlights include the Heritage Garden, featuring a restored early 20th-century Caymanian wooden cottage, a two-acre lake home to numerous native birds, and wildlife including turtles, lizards, agoutis and land crabs.

 

Cayman Brac

Beach on Cayman Brac (Flickr: Lee Shoal)

Beach on Cayman Brac (Flickr: Lee Shoal)

 

More from MiniTime:

Best Things to Do With Kids in Aruba

Best Snorkeling Spots in Caribbean for Families

Costa Rica’s Best Spots for Families Looking for Adventure

Best Things to Do in Belize with the Kids

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Science Says: Eating THIS Could Change Your Kid’s Social Life

Mom confession:

The idea of sending my kid to school terrifies me. You guys, it’s still four years away, and it’s stressing me the heck out.

And it’s not because I’ll miss him—though I will.

It’s because kids are mean, and the day my son comes home heartbroken because of another child’s cruelty is one I dread beyond description.

Heavy, I know.

BUT, guess what—there is one thing I do every day already that could be helping prevent those grade school problems well in advance. And that’s feeding my son fruits and veggies.

Say what??

A study done in Europe is telling us that not only can a well-balanced diet increase your child’s physical health, but it could help foster better mental and emotional health as well—peer relationships included.

Researchers found that after studying over 7,500 children ages 2 to 9, and then following up again 2 years later, the kids who practiced better dietary habits (like eating fruits and vegetables, limiting sugar intake, and eating fish multiple times per week) scored better on psychosocial well-being assessments. That meant that self-esteem was higher, parent/child relations were better, and that emotional and peer problems were fewer at baseline as well as follow-up.

Um, I’m on board.

Now, while the research didn’t exactly prove causation—meaning that existing mental and emotional health could have an influence on one’s diet to begin with—I’m thinking there isn’t much to be lost by playing it safe and serving up another scoop of roasted cauliflower.

Because even if my kid is bullied at some point (haven’t we all been??), I’d like to hope I’ll have given him every opportunity to handle it with emotional strength and grace.

 

See More on TodaysMama.com!

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Life After Birth: 5 Ways to Take Care Of Yourself

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Can Goat’s Milk Help Toddlers with Sensitive Tummies?

As a mum, you naturally want the best for your child when it comes to care and nutrition. So, it can be devastating when you find that, despite your best intentions, your baby is not coping with certain food stuffs or has a bad reaction after feeding.

Of course, breast milk provides all the natural vitamins and minerals that your little one needs to develop their body and mind and provide immunity. But it is not always possible for mums to provide (all of) the milk needed, which is when many mums supplement or replace feeds with formula. But what if your child reacts badly to cow’s milk formula?

 

How do you know if your toddler needs to change to goat’s milk?

For some toddlers, cow’s milk can prove hard to digest and can cause mild to moderate symptoms such as colic, constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, chronic congestion, recurrent ear infections, and eczema when they first start drinking it.

If you recognise some of these symptoms, you may want to consider switching to goat’s milk formula which may assist with relieving many of these common concerns.

Baby drinking goat's milk

 

Some of the main benefits of goat’s milk

As well as often being gentler on your toddler’s stomach and easy to digest, goat’s milk also offers the following benefits:

  • Naturally high in Prebiotic Oli’s, these prebiotics are proven to assist the growth of beneficial bacteria and reduce the incidence of pathogens like E. coli
  • High in phospholipids, a fat that assists with brain development
  • Naturally high in many essential vitamins and minerals including
    • Vitamin A for vision and sight
    • Magnesium for development and growth
    • Vitamin C for development and growth
    • Calcium for teeth and bones

But what about the taste?

Some mums may be concerned about switching to goat’s milk as they associate goat’s milk with the strong smell and taste of goat’s cheese. However, most goat’s milk formula has a clean, and natural taste. It also smells very natural unlike many cow milk formulas Experts recommend transitioning your little one gradually over a period of a week rather than in one go, so they can get used to the new product and you can monitor any changes. Here are some tips for transitioning your toddler to goat’s milk.

Mum holding baby drinking goat's milk

 

Why choose Oli6?

Oli6® is a dairy goat formula that has been developed in direct response from talking to Australian mums who are looking for products that are as natural as possible to help their little ones’ growth and development. Oli6 toddler formula has a high percentage of goat milk solids, which makes it naturally rich in many essential vitamins and minerals like magnesium, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C, as well as other beneficial substances like prebiotic oligosaccharides, or Oli’s for short, which assist with gut health and digestion.

As well as providing formula that meets all of Australia’s stringent health and food safety guidelines, you can take advantage of security of supply and a wide range of resources for parents who are considering switching to goat’s milk formula. Handy trial sachets, advice on how and when to introduce the new formula, and much more can all be found on the website to help you make the switch and know that everything you are providing for your toddler is designed to help his or her welfare.

Oli6 goat's milk logo

Want to find out more about the benefits of goat’s milk for your toddler’s tummy? Then take a look at the Oli6, where you can find a lot of information about the various formula products on offer.

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Unforgettable Adventures for Families in the Sea of Cortez

“The Aquarium of the World,” more popularly known as the Sea of Cortez, is a rich, sparkling habitat inundated with many species of local and migratory marine wildlife. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sea of Cortez is home to porpoises, turtles, whales, Humboldt squid, sea lions, Giant manta rays and many kinds of fish; and it is the perfect playground for adventurers, animal lovers and travelers. And it’s easily accessible to those exploring Mexico’s Pacific shores and family-friendly destinations like Los Cabos.  Discover the world-famous Vermilion Sea and its many wonders with some of these breathtaking kid-friendly activities.

Whale watching at sunset in the Sea of Cortez (Flickr: Zach Dischner)

Whale watching at sunset in the Sea of Cortez (Flickr: Zach Dischne

Whale Watching

Four to six species of migrating whales visit the Sea of Cortez every year, Humpbacks, Gray, Pilot and Blue, to name some; and it’s a spectacular phenomenon to witness. The fact that whale watching is amazing to experience without having to put a lot of effort—during peak season you can actually see them from the highway—makes the popular activity very kid-friendly. It’s best to see these beautiful giants from up close so make sure to hire one of the local tour guides.

Paddle Boarding (and Swimming) with Sea Lions

Sea lion in Cabo (Flickr: ian)

Sea lion in Cabo (Flickr: ian)

Paddle boarding in the Sea of Cortez is no ordinary experience. Go on a paddle boarding tour with one of the local tour companies, and they’ll guide you to the areas where sea lions feed and play so you can see these friendly creatures swim under and alongside you. If the guides think it’s safe, you might even get to swim with them. Careful not to get too close or pet them, however; they might be friendly, but they’re still wild animals with teeth.

Deep Sea Fishing

The Sea of Cortez has some of the best sport fishing in the world, so set aside an entire day (and maybe a whole lot of patience) for a deep sea fishing adventure during your visit. Many fishing charters, some of them luxurious, in Cabo and the neighboring towns offer 8-hour fishing experiences in the deep. And many of them offer all-inclusive bookings (lunches, drinks, snacks, live bait and a crew) as well as trips designed based on your preferences.

Snorkeling

The beautiful Santa Maria Bay, one of Cabo's many snorkeling spots (Flickr: Tanenhaus)

The beautiful Santa Maria Bay, one of Cabo’s many snorkeling spots (Flickr: Tanenhaus)

What’s the one thing everyone in the family, including the younger kids, can do to see the vibrant and diverse world underwater? Snorkeling, of course. And the Sea of Cortez is the perfect place to do it. You can go on a tour or opt to do it on your own. Some of the best family-friendly beaches for snorkeling include Santa Maria Bay, which is a part of a marine sanctuary; Chileno Bay, which offers over 80 species of marine life; and Lover’s Beach at El Arco.

Swimming with Whale Sharks

Swimming with whale sharks (Flickr: F Mira)

Swimming with whale sharks (Flickr: F Mira)

While they technically belong to the shark group, there’s absolutely no need to fear the magnificent whale sharks that consider the Sea of Cortez their home. These gentle giants are some of the friendliest marine creatures on Earth, and they simply love interacting with humans. Tour companies can take you on a short boat ride to where they feed and mate in the gulf for an unforgettable encounter. And moms, dads and the older kids can even swim alongside them!

 

Michelle Rae Uy contributed this to MiniTime. She is a travel writer based in Los Angeles and MiniTime’s Head of Content, who spends her free time on adventures and film photography.

 

More from MiniTime:

A Family’s Guide to an Ideal Vacation in Mexico

Top 5 Ruins in Mexico That Families Should Visit

Beautiful Virgin Island Beaches That Few Visitors Know

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Five Traditional Puerto Rican Dishes at the El Conquistador Resort

A big part of travel is sampling the native cuisine of the location where you are traveling. Authentic food is part of the experience. Yet often when you travel to a resort destination, it’s difficult, if not impossible to experience the local culinary culture within the resort walls. On a trip to El Conquistador Resort and Las Casitas Village, in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, we found lots of local favorites intermingled with more traditional stateside fare. Even the Starbucks had a regional sandwich called the Guavate Special, a pork sandwich on local bread with guava sauce, to go along with the iced coffee. Here is a sampling of more traditional Puerto Rican food available at El Conquistador.

Mofongo is a traditional Puerto Rican dish. (Flickr: Arnold Gatilao)

Mofongo: Monfongo is a Puerto Rican staple. It is similar to a stuffing, but made with plantains that have been mashed and seasoned. This is a very popular dish in Puerto Rico and you’ll find it on the menu pretty much everywhere, as a side dish, or main course paired with seafood, beef, chicken or vegetables. You can’t go wrong with the Mofongo.

Acai: Delicious and good for you, this super food is a breakfast favorite and available at Las Brisas restaurant. The acai berry has many health benefits, but forget about that, it tastes wonderful whipped up to smoothie consistency and served in a bowl with fruit and granola. We sampled shot glasses from the breakfast buffet, but the real deal is ordering it off the menu. In addition to being tasty, it was a beautiful presentation with lots of fresh fruit on top.

Piragua: Piragua is the Spanish word for snow cone. These tasty pyramid shaped treats are served at the Coqui Water Park. It starts with hand shaved ice, then added flavorings like cherry, nutella, pistachio and more. The El Conquistador Resort even has a Piragua Concierge cart to educate guests about the local treat, as it serves up cones.

Coquito: Our trip coincided with the Christmas holidays. Given the time of year, it was only appropriate we sample a bit of Coquito, which is a traditional Puerto Rican holiday drink similar to eggnog. It’s a creamy concoction made with coconut, rum, and cinnamon, and personalized with other ingredients by the person making it. In the states we bring wine to a party, in Puerto Rico, they bring coquito.

Pasteles: During a dinner at Chops, Chef Fabian brought us delicious pasteles from his own kitchen. By own, I don’t mean his kitchen at the Chops restaurant where he works at El Conquistador, but from his home kitchen. Pasteles is a traditional Puerto Rican food, similar to a tamale. It is generally made during the holidays. Everyone has their own recipe, and Chef Fabian makes his with vegetables. Although pasteles aren’t always on the menu at Chops, the resort welcomes food requests and are happy to accommodate your wish for a home cooked meal, with a little warning of course.

Although all of these items are not always on the menu at the resort, it is possible to request any of these or other traditional Puerto Rican dishes during your visit. For those staying at the Las Casistas Villas, chefs are available to prepare a complete traditional Puerto Rican meal (or any meal for that matter) in your Villa.

 

Sue Rodman of Field Trips with Sue contributed this to MiniTime. For more family fun in Puerto Rico, visit Sue’s post on her family travel blog Field Trips with Sue.

 

More from MiniTime:

Romantic Ideas for Family Valentine’s Day Getaways

Sunny Destinations to Visit If You Love Disney World

7 Reasons to Visit Puerto Rico with Kids

Warmest Destinations for Snowbird Families

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Cake Mix Cookies The Monster List of Recipes

Listen. Cookies make the world go round. But the life gets BUSY, so cake mix cookies to the rescue! Most of these cake mix cookies come together with just THREE INGREDIENTS.

If there are more, it’s simply because we got so excited at the prospect of including one candy or chocolate chip variety, that we went buck wild and included, oh I don’t know, TWO.

All of our cake mix cookie recipes are delicious and cook up in a flash. And they are so easy that these all make a great recipe for little kids to help out with.

Want to whip up an after school treat, need something for a potluck, want to do a little weekend baking with the kiddos (without it being a big messy commitment?) Look no further.

I’m not sure I could pick a favorite….they are all so delicious! But my kids could. Because Funfetti cake mix cookies will win EVERY TIME. Nothing better than surprising a kiddo after school with a funfetti cookie, amirite?!

Click through for the full recipe for each of these easy cake mix cookie recipes and go stock up on cake mixes the next time they are on sale! You won’t be sorry.

Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cake Mix Cookies

In my book nothing says “I Love You” like baked goods. Count red velvet cake mix cookies as part of that “I Love You” baking magic. Keep your flowers and your jewelry. If you want to fast-track your way to my heart, come bearing carbs. Preferably chocolately carbs. This recipe for Double Chocolate Red Velvet Lazy Cookie Cake will delight your eyes and your belly. Mostly your belly. Bonus points for being super easy and super quick. THIS is the recipe to turn over to your cooking-loving kiddo.

RECIPE AVAILABLE HERE. 

Cake Mix Cookies The Monster List of Recipes

Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs Cookies

Our obsession with Easter candy continues—and now we’ve found a way to make Reese’s Peanut Butter Cookies by combining the glorious ease of a cake mix cookie with the traffic-stopping deliciousness of Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs. You know how Reese’s peanut butter cups deliver the magic balance of chocolate and peanut butter? These Cake Mix Reese’s Peanut Butter Cookies are the perfect cookie-slash-brownie embodiment of that candy treat.

A candy treat that we’re more than a little obsessed with.

RECIPE AVAILABLE HERE. 

Cake Mix Cookies The Monster List of Recipes

Cake Mix Cadbury Mini Egg Cookies Recipe

When I’m cruising through the grocery store and I see Cadbury Mini Eggs for the first time on the shelves, it’s like a record scratch. When I saw them, I thought, WE MUST make Cake Mix Cadbury Mini Egg Cookies! As impossible as it may seem to improve upon the crispy shelled magic of a Cadbury Mini Egg, I found that adding them to a cake mix cookie was a buttery, delicious way of prolonging my enjoyment of this seasonal treat. Because, if motivated (or left unsupervised,) I can power through an entire bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs in under a day, but would consider wolfing down a whole batch of cookies pretty challenging.

Challenging, not impossible.

RECIPE AVAILABLE HERE. 

Cake Mix Cookies The Monster List of Recipes

Cadbury Mini Egg Cake Mix Cookies — White Chocolate Version!

Cadbury Mini Eggs have hit store shelves! THIS IS NOT A DRILL. It’s time to make the most of those chocolatey jewels and whip up Cadbury Mini Egg Chocolate Cookies. We were first inspired to create a blonde and buttery version of this cookie with regular milk chocolate Cadbury Mini Eggs which you can find here, but never one to be creatively limited in the kitchen, I saw fit to toss a few bags of the WHITE chocolate Cadbury Mini Eggs into my basket to see if my suspicions were true…that a chocolate cake mix cookie and a white chocolate egg could come together for sweet Easter bliss. I WAS RIGHT!

Cadbury Mini Egg Chocolate Cookies have made all of my dreams come true.

RECIPE AVAILABLE HERE. 

Cake Mix Cookies The Monster List of Recipes

Easy Lemon Cookies from Cake Mix

Are you ready for something with a little ZING?! How about these easy-as-pie lemon cookies from cake mix? And because we’re hopelessly devoted to chocolate in all of it’s glorious iterations, we’ve added creamy white chocolate chips to the mix. Of course lemon fans will tell you that this bright flavor is welcome all year round, but Spring seems to be a really fantastic time to break out of the heavy flavors of winter baking.
RECIPE AVAILABLE HERE. 

Cake Mix Cookies The Monster List of Recipes

Funfetti Cake Mix Cookies—Just 3 Ingredients

Having kids in the kitchen is fun and they ask adorable questions and pride themselves on their stellar egg cracking skills. They are ready to tackle some solo projects. These Funfetti Cake Mix Cookies are just the ticket – THREE INGREDIENTS and some low-level stirring skills and you’ll be enjoying a cookie that can’t help but make you smile.

Come on! FUNFETTI. The most joyous cake mix ever invented.

RECIPE AVAILABLE HERE. 

Cake Mix Cookies The Monster List of Recipes

Red White and Blue Cake Mix Cookie Bars

If you’re feeling patriotic, these red, white and blue cake mix cookie bars are for you! They are the perfect treat for a Fourth of July barbecue, Memorial Day Picnic or a kids baking project for a lazy summer day. I’ve been dying to try the blue velvet cake mix and I was not disappointed—it’s light vanilla flavor pairs perfectly with the classic red velvet richness. These red, white and blue cake mix cookie bars are just the best. Like all of our cake mix cookies, these come together so easily and only require a few things!

RECIPE AVAILABLE HERE. 

Cake Mix Cookies The Monster List of Recipes

S’mores Chocolate Cake Mix Cookies

I love s’mores. They are one of the best parts of camping for me—the gooey marshmallow with a crispy outside, the simpleness of graham crackers and of course, chocolate. These chocolate cake mix cookies embody all that I love about s’mores and add on the perk of being a delicious cookie!! The best part about these S’mores Chocolate Cake Mix Cookies? You can totally make them with a yellow cake too if you’re not feeling chocolate that day (I don’t understand how that could happen, but if it does we’ve got you covered!)

RECIPE AVAILABLE HERE. 

Chocolate Turtle Devils Food Cake Mix Cookies

These chocolate turtle devils food cake mix cookies are just what you need as you send your kiddos off to school! Curling up with a few of these, a glass of milk and all the TV you’re not allowed to watch while they’re home is what mom dreams are made of. They are so decadent for how easy it is to make them. Be warned-the caramel goodness is sticky and will cling hours after consumption causing you to look a lot like cookie monster as you welcome your children home for school. That happened to a friend of mine, not me.

RECIPE AVAILABLE HERE. 

Cake Mix Cookies The Monster List of Recipes

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake Mix Cookies

In college my roommate made these amazing pumpkin chocolate chip cake mix cookies. I had never had something so perfectly pumpkiny—this was back before you could find absolutely everything pumpkin spice and it blew my mind! They have been a favorite ever since and a staple at our house every fall. And I’ve recreated it!

RECIPE AVAILABLE HERE. 

Cake Mix Cookies The Monster List of Recipes

Easy Chocolate Peppermint Cake Mix Cookies

Through the fall I love pumpkin and as soon as Thanksgiving is over, it’s time for peppermint. These easy chocolate peppermint cake mix cookies are quick to make and sure to be a hit at your next holiday party! The addition of cream cheese to the batter adds a buttery flavor and makes them soft and fluffy-my favorite kind of cookie.

RECIPE AVAILABLE HERE. 

Cake Mix Cookies The Monster List of Recipes

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How to Score Cheap Flights to the Caribbean

The Caribbean is exotic but paying for a family vacation doesn’t have to be exorbitant. Time it right and you can score cheap flights to many of the Caribbean islands from the Bahamas off the coast of Florida down to Trinidad. Discerning travelers know they can get good travel deals during the Caribbean’s low season – April through December.

But there’s more to it than that. Season, destination and flexibility are just a handful of things to keep in mind when planning a family vacation to the Caribbean. With a little legwork and flexibility, you can score cheap tickets to the Caribbean sooner than you think.

With a little legwork and flexibility, you can score cheap tickets to the Caribbean. (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

 

Consider Alternative Dates and Destinations

Think big picture and don’t have your heart set on one particular Caribbean destination. You may be dreaming of a white sand Christmas vacation in Punta Cana, but most likely Grenada’s powdery beaches are more affordable. The Caribbean low season is from mid-April to mid-November due to hurricane season. But since many families travel during the summer months, look for best deals (and fewer crowds) just before June or after August.

Be flexible with dates and time of day. Sometimes booking your flights one day earlier or later makes a big difference in cost. Also, cheaper flights tend to depart early in the morning (5 am to 7 am) or late in the evening (after 8 pm.)

 

Book Early or Last Minute for Deals

Ticket prices vary day to day, making it hard to find the perfect booking window. But generally, you can score sweet deals when you book several months in advance. For example, you can snag roundtrip air for about $472 from Los Angeles to Puerto Rico when you buy tickets a few months prior to your family vacation.

Last minute deals are less predictable. But if you’re flexible about when and where to go, you have a better chance of scooping up a deal. Look for last minute deals in October up to Thanksgiving. The worst time to buy tickets is within two weeks of your departure day. Studies show that airfares prices increase during this time.

 

Find Deals via Social Media Sites

Follow airlines, tourism boards and travel-related aggregators on Twitter and Instagram for their latest promotions as well as contests for a chance to win free airfare for your family vacation. Some airlines tweet one-day promo codes, flash sales and promotions on Twitter and Instagram.

 

Fly on Holidays

If you don’t mind sacrificing being at home with family for the holidays, you may find good airfare deals on New Year’s Day. (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

If you don’t mind sacrificing being at home with family for the holidays, you may find good airfare deals on New Year’s Day. (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

It may not be the most convenient time to fly, but if you don’t mind sacrificing being at home with family for the holidays, you may find good airfare deals on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Although keep in mind that December – May is peak season for most Caribbean resorts.

 

Book a Vacation Package with Airfare

Buying a hotel/flight package can significantly slash costs. For example, paying separately for a hotel and airfare to Montego Bay, Jamaica can cost $1,200 per person. A vacation package can be had for about $620 per person. The package may not include the specific hotel you want, but you’ll get something comparable at a better price. Even better, book a family vacation at an all-inclusive resort, which usually includes round-trip air, transfers, activities, sports, children’s programs, all-you-can-eat food, wine, and cocktails. Now that’s a deal!

 

Be Willing to Fly With One or Two Stops

If you’re traveling with older kids, you might save some dollars by avoiding non-stop or direct flights (and, yes, there’s a difference. Direct flights sometimes make stops to pick up more passengers). If you’re traveling with young kids, it might be worth the convenience to pay for a non-stop flight (except for non-stop flights to more remote islands when roundtrip airfare can cost over $2,000). Instead, price fares to a major U.S. city, and then fly from there to the Caribbean island. Be sure to cross-compare regional airport hubs to find the best deals.

 

Check Your Booked Flights

Monitor your booked flights for 24 hours in case you find a better deal. Most airlines have a 24 hour cancellation period.

 

Mimi Slawoff of Planetfamilytravel contributed this to MiniTime. She is a Los Angeles-based journalist and a seasoned family travel expert who explores the world with her three children and writes about their journeys.

 

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Spring Break Ideas in the Caribbean and Mexico

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5 Must See Sites in the Caribbean

15 Reasons to Travel More with the Kids

The post How to Score Cheap Flights to the Caribbean appeared first on TodaysMama.

Spring Break Ideas in the Caribbean and Mexico

 

With Spring Break fast approaching, families are combing the web for ideas on how to spend their time off from the flurry of daily life.

Many would probably stay local or within driving distance from home; while others are contemplating jetting off to warm places in the Caribbean or Mexico for an all-out family vacation. If you’re one such family, here are a few traveler-tested ideas to give you and your kids the perfect spring getaway you need.

San Juan, Puerto Rico, coast (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

San Juan, Puerto Rico, coast (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

(MORE: 16 Under the Radar Spots for Families in Mexico for 2016)

 

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico’s capital city is much more than a family-friendly destination. It’s a bustling city with picturesque views, exciting history, wonderful beaches and beautiful architecture, with fantastic cuisine to boot. There are plenty for adults as well as kids of all ages to do during spring break, including historical walking tours, water sports and cultural immersions – all perfect for spring’s sunny yet cool weather. And outdoor adventures like zip lining, rainforest hiking and kayaking to a bio bay abound just short drives away. On Condado Beach, considered the best in the city, San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino is a good base in the city, with kid-friendly amenities such as cribs and rollaway beds as well as rooms and suites with terrific beach views.

Palm Beach, Aruba

Palm Beach, Aruba (Flickr: Salvatore Freni Jr)

Palm Beach, Aruba (Flickr: Salvatore Freni Jr)

In the northern part of the Dutch Caribbean island, Palm Beach’s two-mile strip is a resort destination that draws vacationers and spring breakers from everywhere. It’s easy to imagine why, what with its picture perfect spots that boast white sandy beaches and Caribbean blue waters. These are wonderfully calm, making them a haven for snorkeling, stand up paddle boarding, windsurfing and relaxing swims. There are also plenty of terrific family-friendly restaurants serving Aruban cuisine right on the beach; laid-back dining with a view, therefore, comes easy. There are several hotels right on the beach, but kid-friendly Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino has some of the most spacious guest rooms on the island so families can spread out comfortably.

Cancun, Mexico

Cancun on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. (Flickr: Mike McHolm)

Cancun on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. (Flickr: Mike McHolm)

Cancun isn’t just for spring breakers anymore, and while it is an obvious choice, it’ll always be a good (and safe) one. Gorgeous stretches of beach and clear waters – very warm even in the springtime – aren’t the only things to look forward to. A long list of water sports, blue-green cenotes for refreshing swims, Mayan ruins to explore, tropical islands and aqua theme parks like Xel-Ha are at every family’s disposal. It certainly makes for an ideal setting for an unforgettable family vacation. Sample the cuisines, both local and international, in between activities to enhance the experience. Book a room at family-friendly CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort, and make it your base for an adventure filled vacation.

Freeport, Bahamas

Freeport, Bahamas (Flickr: Jorge Brazil)

Freeport, Bahamas (Flickr: Jorge Brazil)

From shopping sprees at the popular Port Lucaya Marketplace and relaxing strolls in a botanical garden to dolphin and stingray encounters as well as snorkeling adventures at Deadman’s Reef, there are a lot of kid-friendly things to do during spring break in and around Grand Bahama’s main city of Freeport. What’s more, there are plenty of outdoor activities at the nearby Lucayan National Park, which is famous for its extensive underwater caves. If cultural immersion’s your thing, the People-to-People program allows the kids to spend a day at a local school to interact with the local kids. Family-friendly Grand Lucayan just launched its all-inclusive property, Lighthouse Pointe, and is currently offering 45% off room rates for travel from May through September.

 

(MORE: 5 Spring Getaways in Latin America for Families)

 

Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Harbor in Ocho Rios, Jamaica (Flickr: Joe Ross)

Harbor in Ocho Rios, Jamaica (Flickr: Joe Ross)

Jamaica’s popular port town boasts a plethora of diverse attractions. Beaches and beach-related activities aren’t the only draws here. Rainforest, waterfalls and rivers as well as caves and historical sites also offer families opportunities for an active and exhilarating spring break. Explore the Green Grotto Caves, ride on horseback in the Caribbean Sea, swim at Dunn’s River Falls, and many more. And when you’re done with these adventures, you can visit the historic sites then go for retail therapy. At the family-friendly Moon Palace Jamaica Grande, kid-friendly offerings include the FlowRider, the Playroom, and an arcade. The resort is currently offering a resort credit promotion, which will reward guests with up to $2,500 resort credit.

 

Michelle Rae Uy contributed this to MiniTime. She is a travel writer based in Los Angeles and MiniTime’s Head of Content, who spends her free time on adventures and film photography.

 

More from MiniTime:

Fantastic Waterfalls to Visit in the Caribbean with Kids

Puerto Rico’s Best Beaches for Families

Five Caribbean Islands to Visit with the Family in 2016

The post Spring Break Ideas in the Caribbean and Mexico appeared first on TodaysMama.

5 Spring Getaways in Latin America for Families

For many reasons, tourism is on the rise in Latin America, making these exotic countries worth considering for a family spring break vacation. English is spoken in many countries like Costa Rica, and the U.S. dollar is accepted in Panama and budget-friendly Nicaragua. More importantly, these laid-back destinations overflow with family-friendly attractions at sun-soaked beaches, lush rainforests and majestic dormant volcanoes. Here are some spring break ideas in Latin America for a quick family getaway.

Casco Viejo Panamá in Panama City, Panama (Courtesy Visit Panama)

(MORE: Best for Kids: Animal Adventures In Costa Rica)

 

Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Playa Manuel Antonio at Manuel Antonio National Park (Flickr: Roy Luck)

No matter which part of this super kid-friendly Central America country you visit, you’ll find an abundance of outdoor adventures. At this small nature reserve on the Pacific Coast, you can trek through the forest, spot frogs, listen for howler monkeys and look for sleeping sloths. The evergreen forest reaches down to white sand beaches perfect for picnics, swimming, surfing, and snorkeling. With miles of beaches and forest trails, it’s no wonder the national park is a popular place for zip lining and other outdoor activities.

 

Panama City, Panama

Best known for the 48-mile Panama Canal, this Central America country has a number of kid-friendly attractions in and near its bustling center. For beach fun and to trek through a rainforest, head to the aquamarine Caribbean waters of Bocas del Toro and the Pearl Islands. More fun things to do with kids include half-day jungle cruises and the Summit Garden & Zoo. In addition to the Panamanian balboa, Panama accepts the U.S. dollar (although some merchants may raise the price for the goods).

 

Granada, Nicaragua

Granada skyline in Nicaragua (Courtesy Visit Nicaragua)

Good value, friendly locals and kid-friendly attractions have made Granada in Nicaragua an increasingly attractive vacation destination for families. Things to do with kids include horse-drawn carriage rides (touristy but fun) through the lakefront colonial town, perusing Masaya Market, guided hikes up a volcano, and boat tours of Las Isletas.

 

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Playa del Carmen in the Riviera Maya (Flickr: Christopher William Adach)

Playa del Carmen in the Riviera Maya (Flickr: Christopher William Adach)

Located on the Yucatan Peninsula, this family-friendly Mexican city offers plenty of activities and amenities for kids of all ages. Families can lounge on pristine beaches, visit Mayan ruins, swim in cenotes (underground freshwater pools) and spend an entire day at all-inclusive attractions like Xel-Ha (a natural water park) that welcome kids and parents with food and exciting activities (think snorkeling, swimming and tubing). At the Crococun Zoo, you can visit and interact with native animals. For a fun side trip, ride a ferry to Cozumel.

 

(MORE: Breathtaking Resorts in Nicaragua to Add to Your Bucket List)

 

Cotopaxi National Park, Ecuador

Cotopaxi Volcano at Cotopaxi National Park in Ecuador (Flickr: Simon Matzinger)

Cotopaxi Volcano at Cotopaxi National Park in Ecuador (Flickr: Simon Matzinger)

Adventurous families can enjoy hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking in this national park in Ecuador, home to one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. Just be sure to acclimate to the high altitude first. But you don’t have to be an avid hiker to trek on trails that meander through the forest and alongside streams and waterfalls.

 

Mimi Slawoff of Planetfamilytravel contributed this to MiniTime. She is a Los Angeles-based journalist and a seasoned family travel expert who explores the world with her three children and writes about their journeys.

 

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Whale Watching in the Tropics for Families

Overrated Caribbean Destinations Worth Going With the Kids

Five Caribbean Islands to Visit with the Family in 2016