Trekaroo Family Travel Blog kids. trips. tips. Sat, 30 May 2020 22:13:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Trekaroo Family Travel Blog 32 32 9953755 Top 10 Things to Do in Alabama with kids Fri, 29 May 2020 07:01:51 +0000 Alabama is rich in sites that document the trials and triumphs of our past and offer an unparalleled look at momentous events that have defined our nation. The state is a historic adventure waiting for you and your family from the Native American tribes and Civil War battlefields to the Civil Rights Movement and the birthplace of Helen Keller, there are stories to be told all across the Heart of Dixie. Before you go, a few words of advice- arm yourself with this guide and perhaps more importantly, decide if you’re cheering for Alabama’s Crimson Tide or rooting for the Auburn Tigers. Football is a religion in Alabama. Ya’ll take it seriously now, Ya Hear!

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What are the best things to do in Alabama with kids? Alabama is a state rich in historic sites; sites which document the trials and triumphs of our nation’s past, and offer an unparalleled look at some of the momentous events that have defined this great country.

Historic adventure awaits across the Heart of Dixie, from the Native American tribes and Civil War battlefields to the Civil Rights Movement and the birthplace of Helen Keller.

Read this guide as you plan your Alabama family vacation and  decide if you’re cheering for Alabama’s Crimson Tide or rooting for the Auburn Tigers. Football is a religion in Alabama. 

10 Best Things To Do In Alabama with Kids

1.Live Your Space Camp Dreams at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center

Space camp is one of the best things to do in Alabama with kids
Photo by kelliwhitman

As a kid, I longed to go to Space Camp. I still vividly remember wistfully staring at the posters of Space Camp which were taped around my elementary school. At night, I prayed to attend Space Camp even more than I prayed for a date with Ricky Schroder!

So, as you can imagine, when I first learned that Space Camp is still in existence and offered at The U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, I just about flipped my Alabama biscuit!

 Family Space Camp houses parents and children together includes on-site meals and gives parents a chance to fulfill childhood dreams of space camp’s past. One small step for mom; one giant leap for momkind.

Other science-minded museums in Huntsville include Early Works Children’s History Museum and Sci-Quest Hands-on Science Center.

2. Learn Courage and Conviction at the Rosa Parks Museum 

Top 10 things to do with kids in Alabama Rosa Parks Montgomery
Photo via Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce

At Rosa Parks Museum Children’s Wing, kids go back in time on the Cleveland Avenue Time Machine to discover that things just don’t happen – people make things happen.

Children come to realize that they too can make a difference just as Rosa Parks did on that monumental day in 1955. Park’s bravery teaches kids to stand up for what they believe in and not to let anyone make them feel inferior.

Additional nearby learning opportunities await at First White House of the Confederacy, the Montgomery Zoo, The MOOseum, and the Tuskegee Airman National Historic Site.

If you’re able, be sure to catch Alabama’s National Fair in October. Do not miss these incredible learning experiences when choosing what things to do in Alabama with kids.

3. Life’s a Beach at The Gulf Shore

Visiting Gulf shores alabama is on of the best things to do in Alabama with kids
Gulf Shores Beach | Photo by John W. Tuggle

The beaches of the gulf are what an Alabama family vacation is made of. Escape to family-friendly Dauphin Island. Its campground provides walking trails into the beautiful Audubon Bird Sanctuary, paths to secluded beaches, and is only a short walk to top attractions such as Historic Fort Gaines, and Sea Lab Estuarium.

Nearby, Gulf State Park boasts over 3.5 miles of sparkling turquoise waters and gleaming white sand beaches. Gulf Shores Beach area can be accessed from via a beach pavilion with private showers, a snack bar, plenty of shady spots to sit and eat, and a huge fireplace perfect for warming up on chilly days.

4. Explore and Discover at Gulf Area Attractions and Museums

Photo via Tad Denson

At Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center, young adventurers of all ages can design their own thrilling roller coaster, hold a holographic heart in their hand, and strum and tune a laser harp.

Afterward,  head over to Bellingrath Gardens and enjoy its 65 acres of beauty and floral luxuriousness. Every inch of Bellingrath is exquisite and stunning. Kids will love the butterfly garden where flowers have been planted to attract all kinds of colorful, fluttering beauties.

The ultimate Bellingrath experience comes at Christmas when more than three million twinkling lights turn the gardens into an experience that will always be remembered.

More fun in Mobile and Gulf Shores can be had at Alabama’s Pecan Festival, Hank Aaron’s Childhood Home and Museum, The Environmental Studies Center, and the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. Trekaroo readers agree the U.S.S Alabama is also not to be missed!

Stay at these Family Friendly Hotels in Alabama

5. Retrace Historic Roadways in Tannehill

Tannehill Ironworks is one of the best places to visit in Alabama
Tannehill Ironworks | Photo by Andy Montgomery

Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park has more than 1,500 acres set aside for camping, hiking, and outdoor leisure. Tannehill is an awe-inspiring place where you and your children can enjoy being outside while learning about the history of Alabama.

Hike trails that retrace historic roadways, browse shops that occupy restored pioneer cabins, and visit dozens of other historic buildings dating back to the 1800s. Tannehill’s Iron and Steel Museum displays artifacts of Alabama’s 19th-century iron industry and explains the park’s massive stone furnaces. Children will love the miniature train chugging through the pines.

After a few hours at Tannehill, delight in nearby Birmingham Zoo, McWane Science Center, and Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

6. Follow in the Footsteps of Helen Keller

Helen Keller's home is a good place to visit on an Alabama family vacation
The Famous Helen Keller Well Pump | Photo by TheSeafarer

The celebrated life and times of Helen Keller are preserved at her birthplace and childhood home, Ivy Green. Built in 1820, her home and cottage are available to tour and give children the opportunity to learn about the everyday life of persons who are hearing impaired and/or blind.

Tuscumbia’s historic Spring Park is the location of the annual Helen Keller Festival, where children can watch a play depicting the early life of Helen Keller.

Spring Park features the world’s largest man-made natural stone waterfall with 51 jets all choreographed to lights and music. A water show delights spectators each Friday, Saturday and Sunday night at dusk. Children love Spring Park’s train, carousel, Python roller coaster, splash pad, and playground.

7. Explore Alabama’s Scenic State Parks

desoto falls  Alabama photo
Desoto Falls | Photo by timcorradino

Alabama offers six state park resorts, a nature lover’s perfect destination. Across the state, these resorts provide comfortable accommodations and vacation style amenities coupled with the beauty of the great outdoors.

Desoto State Park Resort showcases DeSoto Falls, a beautiful 92-foot waterfall plunging into a canyon. Nearby, an 11-mile scenic drive allows visitors to view the splendor of Little River Canyon National Preserve from a series of overlooks.

The shores of Lake Guntersville State Park are some of the most pristine in the entire state and its hiking trails were used 200 years ago by Cherokee Indians. Nearby Buck’s Pocket State Park’s panoramic vistas are a must see!

8. Play in Grandma’s Attic in Tuscaloosa

Photo via Flickr/bamakodaker

See the Hodges meteorite (the only meteorite known to have struck a human); view Alabama’s State Fossil, Basilosaurus cetoides; and experience the natural diversity of Alabama through exhibits at Alabama’s Museum Of Natural History.

At the Children’s Hands-On Museum of Tuscaloosa, kids can play dress-up in 19th-century clothes found in Grandmother’s Attic, visit the Lil’ Sprouts Farmer’s Market, put on a puppet show, or climb into a beaver lodge and slide out the other end.

While in Tuscaloosa, take advantage of the opportunity to ride the Bama Belle, a reproduction of a historic paddle wheeler from the 1900s.

9. Discover Alabama’s Caves

cathedral caverns photo
Cathedral Caverns | Photo by Marshall County CVB

Alabama is home to a wealth of caves. In the late nineteenth century, Shelta Cave in Huntsville was the site of parties and underground boating. In the 1930s during prohibition, Blount County was home to an infamous speakeasy in Bangor Cave, where wealthy patrons flocked to enjoy music, drinks, and gambling.

Alabama is so rich with caves that the National Speleological Society, relocated its headquarters to Huntsville in 1971, giving the state a central role in the study of cave environments. More than 4,200 caves have been discovered in Alabama.

Some of these discoveries such as Cathedral Caverns and Sequoyah Caverns are open to the public and provide access to and education about the wonders and beauty of the subterranean world.

Desoto Caverns, a fun and touristy theme park designed around a cave is geared towards children. Plan at least half the day for this beloved kid’s park.

10. Learn Important Civil Rights History

The Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail photo
Photo by Ron Cogswell

The Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail was established by Congress to commemorate the 54-mile route of voting rights marchers from Selma, Alabama to the State Capitol in Montgomery.

Throughout your journey, your family will visit such places as the Selma Interpretive Center, National Voting Rights Museum, and the Lowndes County Interpretative Center.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 achieved the legal right to vote for all Americans and forever changed the political life of the South and the United States as a whole. The Selma to Montgomery March remains one of the most significant civil rights protests in American history.

Experiencing this trail and educating your children on the history of inequality in the United States is definitely the most important thing to do in Alabama with kids. 

Lead Image by: Bigstock/ Darryl Vest

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Grayl Water Bottle Review: The Easiest Portable Water Filter to Use Wed, 27 May 2020 08:17:24 +0000 Are you looking for a great water bottle to use while traveling, hiking or backpacking? So we we! Below is a Grayl water bottle review, which cover water purifying options and why we think the Grayl is the easiest to use portable water filter.  Grayl Water Bottle Review We were standing in the main square […]

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Are you looking for a great water bottle to use while traveling, hiking or backpacking? So we we! Below is a Grayl water bottle review, which cover water purifying options and why we think the Grayl is the easiest to use portable water filter. 

Grayl Water Bottle Review

We were standing in the main square in Antigua, Guatemala. At the very center of this UNESCO World Heritage city is Parque Central. At the center of Parque Central is a beautiful fountain. And that’s where we first put our Grayl water bottle purifier to the test for the first time.

Don’t miss the 20% off code for Trekaroo families below!

Grayle water bottle in Antigua, Guatemala
Using the Grayl water bottle in Antigua, Guatemala  | Photo by: LiLing Pang

We were very curious to see how this ingeniously simple water purifier would perform under all sorts of conditions. We’re grateful that Grayl agreed to send some complimentary water bottle purifiers for our family of five to put through the wringer during our six month trip through Central America.

Testing The Grayl Water Bottle Purifier

The Grayl water bottle looks like a pretty ordinary water bottle from the outside. So, as the kids and I fumbled to get it ready to test, we could see the eyes in the Sunday afternoon crowd fixing on us. This is a town that is no stranger to crazy tourists doing strange things.

But even then, to see a family hopping over the knee-high fence and scooping water out of the dirty fountain into a water bottle was almost too much for our audience of street vendors, performers, and locals.

They watched us with intense curiosity as our teen fit on the middle piece and leaned in to press the water through the purifying filter. He then proceeded to lift it to his mouth to drink. You could almost hear the crowd gasp.

Truth be told, I too was nervous. Considering that all the tap water in Guatemala needs to be filtered and boiled or purified, we were definitely putting our stomachs on the line to test this nifty water purifier at the town fountain. While a beautiful fountain, this was no Roman drinking fountain.

Grayl water bottle review
Purifying water from Cueva de Setzol in Guatemala – Photo by: LiLing Pang

I am delighted to report that we all survived the test with no stomach-ache or parasites. After this bold first test, it gave us confidence to put the Grayl water bottle to the test at lakes, rivers, streams, waterfalls, and swimming holes from Lake Atitlan to the Andean streams of Ecuador.

Here are some of our photos of fun places we didn’t just get to swim in during our six months of travels through Central America and Ecuador, but we also got to drink out of. It was so fun to taste our way through these countries, all thanks to our handy-dandy Grayl water bottle purifier we carried everywhere with us.

Traveling with The Grayl Water Bottle Purifier

Anyone heading overseas should always be concerned about the safety of the water supply. Even some towns in developed countries have issues with heavy metals and harmful chemicals present in their tap water. You might not get sick from the water immediately, but drinking it can have long-term effects on your health.

However, if you’re traveling to Central America, South America, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Africa, or the Middle East, clean and safe water becomes a primary concern in staying healthy.

Clean water testing
Photo by: Bigstock/kozorog

Many municipal water sources in developing countries have issues with microscopic bacteria such a giardia, cryptosporidium, and Hepatitis A in their water pipes. Sometimes this is due to the poor quality of water treatment, other times, it’s due to sewage pipes contaminating water pipes.

Once these bacteria are in the pipes, it’s really expensive to get rid of them. As a traveler, you’re likely to be even more sensitive to these contaminates. Not only can it ruin your trip to spend weeks with stomach troubles, dysentery in young children can quickly lead to dehydration, which is a very serious condition. So why even risk it?

Water Purifying Options

Delivering and installing water filters in Guatemala.
Delivering and installing water filters in Guatemala. — Photo by: LiLing Pang

There are several portable options at hand to keep your water intake safe. The one that most travelers reach for first is bottled water. However, bottled water consumed in large qualities (6-8 small bottles per day per traveler), creates a significant amount of waste.

Many many developing countries simply burn their plastic trash or poison the ground by burying the plastic waste. Most disposable bottles have BPA and other harmful plastics in them. Bottled water is an expense that families don’t often factor in while traveling. A family could easily spend $20 a day on bottled water.

Boiling water to purify water for drinking
Photo by: Bigstock/Luca Lorenzelli

Boiling, Iodine, or UV treatment:

Boiling or treating water with iodine tablets or UV light will kill bacteria and viruses in water. However, iodine treated water can taste really strange and your kids might turn their noses up to it. Boiling water can be rather troublesome when you’re on the go. None of these methods will remove heavy metals and chemicals in the water.

Filters with activated charcoal:

To remove heavy metals and chemicals from the water, you can use a filter with activated charcoal in it and the water usually tastes pretty good after being run through one of these filters. However, filters will not remove bacteria that can cause dysentery and completely ruin your trip.


Purifiers typically include both activated charcoal as well as silver ion/chlorine dioxide to kill microscopic bacteria, viruses, and protozoans and will also make water taste quite neutral.

The Grayl Water Bottle Filters and Purifies

Lining up to Purify water using the Grayl water bottle in Leon, Nicaragua
Photo by: LiLing Pang

The Grayl water bottle purifier both filters and purifies! And it does so in such a simple and quick way. Even our kids could filter their own water safely.

Working on the same principle of a french press, you simply scoop up water from your source, fit on the middle cartridge, put some weight on the top of the press, and push down. In 15 seconds, you have clean, great tasting water.

It was fantastic to know we would never run out of clean water wherever we were. It was even more awesome to go on hikes through the humid rainforest and not have to lug a heavy backpack full of extra bottles of water. We carried one bottle each and we were set.

The bottle is water tight when sealed. It is narrow enough to fit in a car cup holder or in your backpack’s side pocket. It is, however, heavier than a regular reusable water bottle.

If you do not think your group is going to be separated often, you could just bring one Grayl water bottle purifier while everyone else carries a lighter water bottle that is easy to re-fill. Then you can use the Grayl to fill up the other bottles.

Each Grayl water bottle purifier has a capacity of 16 ounces. Basically about the size of a travel coffee mug. The filter cartridges are good for about 300 filter cycles (or 40 gallons of water). After you return from your trip, you can store the filter for later use if you store it correctly in an air tight plastic bag.

While the Grayl is very easy to use, pressing the filter into the water was too difficult for our 6-year-old, a little challenging for our 11-year-old, but really easy for our 14-year-old.

Get 20% off with the discount code Trekaroo20

Visit theGrayl website

Pros of the Grayl Water Bottle

  • Removes 9,9999% of all the pathogens (viruses like Hepatitis A, SARS, Rotavirus, disease-causing bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella and protozoan cysts like Giardia)
  • Filters and purifies water in just 15 seconds or (2L/min)
  • Easy to use with no fuss
  • Compact and highly portable
  • Well constructed
  • BPA free plastic
  • Reasonably priced in comparison to other portable water filters
  • Water tastes good and looks clear

Cons of the Grayl Water Bottle

  • The capacity of the bottle is a little small at 16oz
  • Heavy for a water bottle at 10.4oz without water (but light for a water bottle + water purifier)

What’s the Bottom Line? Is it a Yay or Nay for the Grayl?

Absolutely a Yay! This is an essential item to have if you’re traveling to a developing country or backpacking into the wilderness.

No more spending tons of money on bottled water. No more hearing your kids say they want a soda because the water tastes bad. Instead, say yes to reducing your plastic waste as a traveler, and staying healthy and hydrated so you can enjoy your whole trip.

Disclosure: Trekaroo receives complimentary products from companies like the Grayl to facilitate our honest reviews. However, as always, our opinions are entirely our own.

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How to Get Over Jet Lag When Traveling with Young Children Wed, 27 May 2020 07:36:44 +0000 Jet lag. It can be one of the most difficult side effects of traveling far distances, especially with children. The kids don’t care why they are tired, they just know they are and can rapidly turn into little monsters as a result. Wondering how to get over jet lag? use these tips to make the […]

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Jet lag. It can be one of the most difficult side effects of traveling far distances, especially with children. The kids don’t care why they are tired, they just know they are and can rapidly turn into little monsters as a result. Wondering how to get over jet lag? use these tips to make the most of your next big trip!

How to Get Over Jet Lag

What is Jet Lag?

Jet lag is a sleep issue that can affect anyone who travels across multiple time zones quickly, usually by air.

Basically your body’s internal clock gets confused. It is synced with your home time zone and not happy that you aren’t sleeping when you should normally be asleep and waking when you are normally awake. 

People experiencing jet lag often feel groggy, have difficulty staying awake and alert, and may even start having gastrointestinal issues. While jet lag is temporary, it can be prolonged if you don’t actively take steps towards getting over your jet lag.

Kids, who don’t quite understand jetlag and their bodies internal clocks, rely on us to help them get over jet lag. 

Even Us Seasoned Travelers Have Had Our Jet Lag Moments

I remember standing in a corner of a grand stairwell in the renowned Musee de Louvre in Paris, pushing a stroller with a screaming toddler for what seems like an eternity.

I tried to avoid the gaze of kind and unkind stares from fellow tourists wondering who the mother of the screaming child was. In that moment I prayed to developed wings like the Bird Woman statue in front of me so I could to fly back to the comfort of home.

How to overcome jet lag
Photo By: BigStock/Wavebreak Media Ltd

You would think that as a seasoned family travel professional, I would have had more sense then to drag a sleep deprived, jet lagged, and hungry two-year-old to a museum. But, my eagerness to see the Louvre overtook my better judgment.

The following strategies were road tested the following day on the streets of Paris, and resulted in a dramatically more enjoyable day for all. Since children of different ages have different tolerance for lack of sleep, keep in mind that these strategies were road-tested with 2 and 4-year-old.

During this trip to Paris, we learned that we should always give ourselves an extra 2-3 days to get over jet lag. So basically, if you think that you need a week to see Paris, plan on being there 10 days in total. 

How to Get Over Jet Lag Step 1: Start Off the Trip Well Rested

packing suitcase photo
Photo by WordRidden

If you are anything like me, the days before you leave on a big trip is like cramming for finals. If you were not already busy enough, you now have to pack everyone’s bags, clean the house, pay the bills, stop the mail….the to-do list seems endless.

It is tempting to stay up late and expect to catch up on sleep when you go on vacation. That was a great strategy before you had children, but the reality for a lot of parents is that vacations with children and particularly young children aren’t exactly restful.

The best thing you can do to ensure a positive attitude when trying to overcome jet lag is ensuring that you are well rested. That means don’t wait until the last minute to pack and go through you pre-trip “to do” list. Your body will thank you. 

How to Get Over Jet Lag Step 2: Re-Establish a Sensible Routine

stroller walk photo
Photo via Pixbay

The day you arrive at your vacation destination, let the children and yourself sleep as much as you need to catch up from the lack of sleep on the plane ride over. Just go with the flow.

On day two, you want to wake the children and yourself up at a decent time (no later than 9am) even if you’ve all been up a good part of the night struggling with jet lag. Muster every ounce of will power to wake yourself and those dead asleep (finally!) children.

Plan on a very easy first morning. This is very difficult when you are so eager to see a new destination you’ve been reading about for weeks. But your restraint and patience will pay off.

Make sure you get back to your hotel for an afternoon nap at a decent hour. Keeping within walking distance from where you are staying will allow you to avoid feeling stressed out about navigating new roads or public transportation. Just soak in the local area.

After a nap, which can be longer than usual but not so long that it pushes bedtime too late for the children or yourself, drag those jet lagged bodies out of bed and out into the fresh air for a walk to a park and to pick up groceries.

Make sure that you get home that first night at a normal bedtime hour and put the children to bed. Set your expectations for a difficult second night of sleep.

On the third day, repeat the routine of the second day, venture a little further if the night before wasn’t too rough. Even though you may be tempted, don’t pack the day full with activities and make sure to get that nap in.

By day three, the children’s new routine should be established and mom and dad can finally work on getting over their own jet-lag. Once the children are getting some solid night-time sleep, you can start being more loose with their naps and letting them nap in the stroller or child carrier. 

How to Get Over Jet Lag Step 3: Start Slow With the Activities

How to get over jet lag with a stroller walk
Photo By BigStock/StanislavUvarov

After researching all the wonderful things there are to do at your destination, it is hard to think about starting out slow. You are pumped with adrenaline, despite your lack of sleep on the plane, and so are your children. 

While you may have been used to pushing yourself before you had children, with children in tow, pushing it during the first couple of days can be miserable

When you invest a few days to overcome jet lag, keep the most highly anticipated and vigorous activities for later in your trip, it ensures that you all enjoy them fully. When moving from one sight or activity to the next in a day, try not to cover too much geographical distance.

Traveling on public transportation with children with all the extra day gear can be very exhausting for parents and children. If you are planning on walking a fair amount, expect to put even a preschooler in a stroller. It will help you move quicker between sights, and allow your preschooler to save energy for enjoying the sights when you arrive.

On the first and second day, do not plan on doing more than one major site or two small activities during the day. There will be so much extra energy expended as getting your bearings and just absorbing the new environment. 

How to Get Over Jet Lag Step 4: Stay Flexible

Get over jet lag by staying flexible
Photo via Pixbay

Although I do have a tendency to be a control freak, when on vacation with children who are trying to overcome jet lag, I am reminded that staying flexible can go a long way in helping anyone keep a good attitude.

Planning for unpredictability will help parents to go with the flow. Accept the fact that everyone needs time to adjust and that it can happen at a different pace for each person.

But do not assume that flexibility means not setting a routine. It means eliminating activities as needed and readjusting plans in order to accommodate the establishment of a daily schedule.

It helps to plan for the adjustment period and stay in one place for a substantial length of time before moving from one town to the next. An easy pace at the start out the vacation will give you the freedom to be flexible later.

When planning your trip, create a small list of “must do/must see” sights, followed by a list of “nice to see” sights. If you get to any on the second list, treat it like a bonus. This allows you to be flexible and make better decisions on the fly when you are running out of time. 

How to Get Over of Jet Lag Step 5: Arm Yourself With Snacks

toddler with snack photo
Photo via Pixbay

Hungry children are often grumpy children. When children are trying to get over jet lag, they also tend to eat at strange times.

This is compounded when you are visiting a place where the food isn’t familiar to them. It is hard for a young child to settle down for food in an unfamiliar environment because there is so much to discover and process.

It seems that the best place to fill little tummies is in a stroller or car seat when they are sitting relatively still and strapped in. The rhythmic motion also keeps them calm enough to eat “subconsciously”.

Don’t worry yourself with the quality of nutrition in the first few days, especially if the foods available aren’t familiar to the child. A few days of less-than-ideal nutrition will not do a child harm.

The key is to offer snacks often and don’t stress out at meal times if they don’t eat. Their body clocks are adjusting and it’s hard to time meas until the new routine and schedule are in place. Offer lots of water throughout your day. Sippy cups are helpful for drinking on the go. 

How to Get Over Jet Lag Step 6: Encourage Good Sleep Away From Home

Consistent night sleep will help your child get over jet lag
Photo By:BigStock/famveldman

Hopefully your child is already sleeping well in the evenings at home. But, bringing along a few familiar things that help to provide consistency and comfort can go a long way to encouraging good sleep.

I am sure that any sane parent would rather die than not bring along that special lovie. So, that requires no explanation. But there are a few other things you can bring or do to help ensure a good night’s sleep away from home.

Try to get your child used to whatever sleeping environment he or she will be sleeping in ahead of time in the comfort of home. If you are using a portable crib, have the child sleep in it for at least a week before traveling.

If your child is used to sleeping alone, but will be sleeping with others while on vacation, get your little one used to it before you leave to minimize the stress while on vacation.

If your child is used to a dark room, travel with a dark sheet which you can drape over a window where you are staying to get the room as dark as possible.

My family loves the Peapod travel bed. It is not only lightweight, but you can place it on any normal bed for a comfortable but safe place for baby to sleep.

The best thing is that you can drape your sheet right over this tent to create a dark place for baby sleep in. All other distractions in the room are also blocked out from view by the dark sheet.

If you think that noise is going to be an issue for your child who is sharing the same room or a small suite/apartment, get your child used to sleeping with a white noise machine or app. This can help to mask noise, but also sends a familiar cue to your child that it’s time to sleep once they hear that familiar soothing sound of the white noise.

Traveling to new countries with children is a wonderful gift to them. Learning to overcome jet lag is part of the package that comes with most international travel. While it isn’t always easy, giving our children the opportunity to discover new lands, different cultures, and learning about varied human history is hugely formative. Bon Voyage.

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Featured photo by: Shutterstock

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Matador Beast28 Pack-Away Technical Backpack Review Sat, 23 May 2020 09:00:27 +0000 From the airport to the beach to the mountain backpacking trail, the Matador Beast28 backpack can do it all. This versatile pack is lightweight and designed for travel. We decided to put it to the test with this  unbiased Matador Beast packable backback review.  The Matador Beast comes with a compression sack that makes this […]

The post Matador Beast28 Pack-Away Technical Backpack Review appeared first on Trekaroo Family Travel Blog.

From the airport to the beach to the mountain backpacking trail, the Matador Beast28 backpack can do it all. This versatile pack is lightweight and designed for travel. We decided to put it to the test with this  unbiased Matador Beast packable backback review. 

The Matador Beast comes with a compression sack that makes this pack small enough to easily fit inside a suitcase for adventure in far-off destinations. A variety of pockets, water bottle holders, and padding make it the perfect pack for any family travel adventure – from a day trip down the street to a far off destination. 

Matador Beast 28 Packable Backpack review
Riding with the Matador Beast 28 Packable Backpack | Photo by Michelle McCoy                                                                                                                           

Matador Beast28 Review

Matador Beast Packable Backpack Features

Matador Beast Backpack
Photo by Michelle McCoy

The Matador Beast28 backpack includes features that are perfect for a mountain backing trail or a casual trip to the beach. Technical and fully compactable for travel, it is an exceptional tool for any adventure. Unstrap the compression sack at your destination and have it ready for adventure.

Matador Beast Packable Backpack Highlights

  • Hydration pack compatible – includes an internal pocket, hangers, hose exit, & routing for tube.
  • Ultra-light – 20 ounces (560 grams)
  • PU Coated ripstop nylon
  • Packable with a compression case for travel
  • 28L capacity
  • Breathable straps, hip belt, and sternum strap. Comfortable wide shoulders straps and adjustable hip straps. Lumbar padding.
  • Compression straps on sides to adjust load.
  • Gear loops

Ready for an adventure? Check out 14 of the Best National Parks for Hiking

Pros of the Matador Beast28 Packable Backpack

Matador Backpack -Compressed
Photo via Michelle McCoy
  • Lightweight – This backpack is so lightweight that it feels like a feather when empty.
  • Versatile – There are many possible uses for this backpack including travel, hiking, adventuring, or anything a parent would want to store in it for a day trip with kids.
  • The water bottle holder is small and tight- which means that the bottle won’t slip out when the wearer leans over.

Be safe when you hit the road! Put together the best toddler or baby first aid kit for travel. 

Cons of the Matador Beast28 Packable Backpack

  • The water bottle pockets are very small and tight which means only a skinny water bottle can fit. Nothing larger than the diameter of a typical soda can will work.
  • There are no hip pouches for convenient access to snacks or stored items.
  • It is not as padded as a typical technical backpack in order to make it more compact.

Take your backpack and head out on the Ultimate 10-day California Road Trip.

Final Thoughts on the Matador Beast28 Packable Backpack


Matador Backpack Beast28-Pack-Trekaroo-Michelle-McCoy
Photo by Michelle McCoy

We were impressed with the features and versatility of this Matador packable backpack. The combination of the technical gear plus the lightweight features made this a perfect pack for our family. 

There are some compromises made to make it packable, such as no hip pockets, but the interesting features make up for it. Despite the water bottle pockets being small, those who have used it found it workable with store-bought water bottles or skinny reusable ones.

We have family members fight over who gets to use this backpack. Therefore I can wholeheartedly recommend it!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary product to facilitate an unbiased review for this article. No other compensation was received and I was not asked to express a certain point of view. All opinions are my own.

Featured photo by: Michelle McCoy

The post Matador Beast28 Pack-Away Technical Backpack Review appeared first on Trekaroo Family Travel Blog.

14 of the Best National Parks For Hiking Tue, 19 May 2020 08:17:55 +0000 National park vacations make for some of the best family vacations, but what are the best national parks for hiking? Our national parks are great places to bond, be active, and enjoy some technology-free time in nature. One of our favorite things to do in national parks is hike. Hiking is a wonderful way to […]

The post 14 of the Best National Parks For Hiking appeared first on Trekaroo Family Travel Blog.

National park vacations make for some of the best family vacations, but what are the best national parks for hiking?

Our national parks are great places to bond, be active, and enjoy some technology-free time in nature. One of our favorite things to do in national parks is hike. Hiking is a wonderful way to really become immersed in these special places.

We asked Trekaroo team members and family travel experts to share their picks for the best national park for hiking with kids, along with their favorite hikes inside those parks. Here are 14 of our favorites.

Best National Parks for Hiking 

1. Bryce Canyon National Park

the best national parks for hiking include Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon | Photo by Sharlene Earnshaw

Towering skyscrapers of sandstone.

My family loved hiking down into Bryce Canyon and walking among the towering hoodoos. We consider it one of the best national parks for hiking because the “wow” factor on trail is high without having to cover a ton of distance.

Our favorite hike was the 2.9-mile loop we created by combining the Navajo Trail with the Queens Garden Trail. This allowed us to walk down into the canyon and experience the famed sandstone walls of “Wall Street”, as well as a marvelous garden of handmade hoodoos created by fellow hikers. The hike is steep in spots but my 6-year-olds handled it like champs.

– Sharlene Earnshaw, Trekaroo Editor in Chief 

2. Zion National Park

Some of the Best National Park Hikes are in Zion National park
Walking Along the Virgin Riveer in Zion | Photo by: Arika Bauer/Zion Adventure Photo

Red Sandstone Cliffs, kid-friendly hikes, and river fun!

With over ten kid-friendly trails, a beautiful river to play in, and plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife, Zion National Park is ideal for families. It is one of the best national parks for hiking, especially in the spring and fall. 

The last stop on the park’s free shuttle is the Riverside Walk. This paved, 2.5-mile round- trip trail parallels the Virgin River with little elevation gain and plenty of places to stop and play in the water.

Other highlights include the 2-mile hike to the Lower and Upper Emerald Pools, as well as the short, .25 mile trek to Weeping Rock.

– Arika Bauer a Nugget contributor and founder of Zion Adventure Photog

3. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

One of the best national parks for hiking is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Kiluaea Iki Trail at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park | Photo by: Sara Wellensiek

Hike across a still-steaming, hardened lava lake.

Home to one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of the most unique parks in the National Park system. With more than ten day hiking trails, there is so much to see!

Our favorite hike is the Kiluaea Iki Trail. This almost 4-mile loop takes you from a lush rain forest environment to the floor of a now hardened (but still steaming) lava lake from a lava flow in 1959. The change in environment is incredible and walking across a lava lake is like nothing else we’ve ever experienced.

– Sara Wellensiek, Mom Endeavors

4. Acadia National Park

Best National Park Hiking can be found in Acadia National park
Climbing on Rocks in Acadia National Park | Photo by Melissa Moore

Climb rocky cliffs overlooking the Atlantic.

My 8-year-old little boy is happiest when he scrambling over rocks, hopping from one to the next. Acadia National Park is his hiking paradise.

The 158 miles of hiking trails in Maine’s signature national park are notoriously rocky. However, these rocky cliffs afford some spectacular views of Maine’s pristine coastline and iconic lighthouses making it one of the best national parks for hiking.

Our family’s favorite hike in Acadia is the Great Head Trail overlooking Sand Beach. At only 1.7 miles round-trip, this hike is possible for anyone in the family who can strap on a good pair of hiking boots and climb moderately difficult terrain. 

After a good hike, cool off quickly with a dip in the Atlantic at Acadia’s only sandy beach.

-Melissa Moore, Trekaroo Destination Specialist

5. Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park | Photo by Tamara Gruber

Majestic mountains and sparkling blue lakes offer jaw-dropping views.

Grand Teton National Park is the kind of park where you want to spend at least a week relaxing on one of its many lakes, climbing its majestic mountains, and finding the park’s prettiest view points.

Jenny Lake and Inspiration Point trails are perfect for active families as they offer a mix of lake views, forest meanderings, and stunning views.

Round trip, Jenny Lake trail is 7.5 miles, but you can always take a shortcut by taking a shuttle boat across the lake and then follow the 1.5-mile trail up to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point.

Families will also enjoy kayaking or paddleboarding on Jackson Lake, watching the bison on the Elk Ranch Flats, and taking endless pictures of the towering Tetons from the serene Schwabacher Landing.

Tamara Gruber, We3Travel

6. North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park | Photo by: Tara Schatz

A rugged, alpine adventure for families.

Not far from Seattle is an overlooked wilderness with more glaciers than any other park outside of Alaska. Rugged peaks, virgin forests, vast turquoise lakes, and sub-alpine meadows make North Cascades National Park  the perfect destination for adventure-loving families.

 From our waterfront campsite at Colonial Creek Campground we explored several hiking trails. We especially enjoyed Thunder Knob, a 3.6-mile hike that is perfect for families.

Total elevation gain is 425 feet, and the views of Diablo Lake and the mountains are breathtaking! Colonial Creek Campground is also great for water-based fun, including kayaking, swimming, and fishing

– Tara Schatz, Freelance Writer and Photographer at

7. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park | Photo by: Lauren Breeze

Hardwood forests and panoramic mountain views.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, filled with spectacular views, natural beauty, and history, is the most visited national park in the United States.

The Cove Hardwood Trail, accessed at mile 6.2 of the Newfound Gap Road from the Chimney Tops Picnic area parking lot, is a 0.9 mile hike through the Southern Appalachian hardwood forest. The loop trail climbs a total of 226 feet with several sets of gentle stairs which my 5-year-old daughter climbed with gusto.

Depending on the time of the year, the trail is covered with a variety of wildflowers and wildlife. We have seen many species of birds, small mammals, and even a snake!

If you have more time, don’t miss the small trails, quiet walkways, and adventure on the Roaring Fork Nature Trail.

– Lauren Breeze,

8. Glacier National Park

Mountain Goat at Glacier National Park
Mountain Goat at Glacier National Park | Photo by: Bryanna Royal

Waterfalls and Wildlife in an Alpine Wonderland

The hardest thing about hiking in Glacier National Park with kids is picking which trails to conquer! You can start with a simple 1-mile boardwalk hike on the Trail of Cedars which takes you to a beautiful, bright blue waterfall.  

Looking for a challenge? Head out on the 4.5-mile Avalanche Lake Trail which climbs 700 feet uphill to reach a gorgeous lake surrounded by alpine peaks.

Be sure to make time for the the 2.7-mile Hidden Lake Trail in Logan Pass where you may just see a mountain goat and her babies, as well as patches of snow still on the ground late into the summer. Spending more time in Montana? Check out these 5 places to visit for superb hiking.

– Bryanna Royal,

9. Denali National Park

Hiking in Denali National Park
Hiking in Denali National Park | Photo by: Karilyn Owen

Off-trail hiking where the wild animals roam.

Denali National Park is one of our favorite parks due to the spectacular scenery, abundance of wild animal sightings, and the encouraged off-trail hiking. Kids love the excitement of charting their own path and exploring the unknown. 

We love taking the green bus to Savage River- a walk along the river on the 2-mile Savage River Loop is a must for families– or venturing to Eielson searching for grizzly bears on mountainsides along the way. 

Another great trail for families is Horseshoe Lake, a relatively easy 3-mile loop where you will often see beavers hard at work.

Karilyn Owen,

10. Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park | Photo by Jen Dotson

Panoramic mountain views, waterfalls, and wildflowers.

Mount Rainier is an ideal national park to visit any time of year for families with its incredible mountain views of the snow-covered peak, cascading waterfalls, and wildflowers galore. The most popular area is the Paradise side to the south, where you’ll find trails for any age. 

Consider the Myrtle Falls Hike, an easy, stroller-accessible 1 mile trail to a 72 foot waterfall, or continue on the 5+ mile Skyline trail loop with stunning views of the peak (14,411 feet high)  & gorgeous summer wildflowers. 

The northern, Sunrise side of the mountain will provide more opportunities for wildlife viewing (marmots, mountain goats & more) and panoramic mountain views at every turn.

– Jen Dotson, Thrifty Northwest Mom 

11. Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is one of the best national Parks for hiking
Yellowstone National Park | Photo by: Susan Pazera

Mother Nature in all her glory.

My family had the experience of a lifetime walking the Fountain Paint Pot Trail and hiking the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone on our trip to Yellowstone National Park.

Fountain Paint Pot Trail is an easy half-mile trail loop around a boardwalk and is perfect for families with small children. Mother Nature’s wild side is on full display along the trail with fantastic views of the blue pools, pink mud pots, fumaroles (steam vents), and mini-geysers.

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone hike along the North Rim Trail is a bit more arduous with its steep upward climb, but you are rewarded with a magnificent view of Yellowstone Falls and the gorgeous yellow cliffs that blanket the landscape.

Susan Pazera, founder of Mom on the Map

12. Grand Canyon National Park

Hiking at the Grand Canyon with kids
Hiking at the Grand Canyon | Photo by Liling Pang

Hiking through geological space and time. 

The Grand Canyon makes me gasp no matter how many times I set eyes upon it. The immensity of this mile-deep canyon of multicolored rock layers reveals the story of the earth.

There are two hikes that are particularly suitable for kids. The Trail of Time is a flat walk along the South Rim which takes walkers back in geological time by getting up close to rock samples extracted from the canyon.

Bright Angel Trail and South Kaibab Trails descend into the walls of the canyon, offering a feeling of becoming enveloped by the canyon. It’s a strenuous hike back up, so hiking only .5-1 mile down may be best for families with young children.

-Liling Pang, Trekaroo CEO

Headed north? We have a comprehensive guide to visiting the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

13. Rocky Mountain National Park

Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park
Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park | Photo by: Diana Rowe

 Spectacular waterfalls and 350 miles of trails.

With its peaks cresting over 12,000 feet and 265,000 acres spread out over 415 square miles, Rocky Mountain National Park tops our list of the best national parks for hiking. A road-trip-worthy 48-mile drive take families through the park via Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous road in the United States.

One of my favorite family-friendly hikes in this park is the wheelchair-accessible walk around Sprague Lake which offers fantastic views of the Continental Divide and possible glimpses of moose. Another is an easy hike to Adams Falls near the town of Grand Lake which even toddlers will enjoy

Diana Rowe,

Read our full guide to the best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park for families

14. Yosemite National Park

Mist Trail in Yosemite
Mist Trail in Yosemite | Photo via Shutterstock

Stunning vistas, thundering waterfalls, and beautiful trails.

A hike in Yosemite reaps many scenic rewards. Hike the steep Mist Trail for 1 mile to stand atop the roaring Vernal Falls and watch the water cascade over a smooth granite cliff.

Or, take a more gentle 1-mile trail from the shuttle stop to Mirror Lake to gaze at the reflection of Half Dome in the water below. Even the shortest hike, the 1/4 mile trail to the base of Bridalveil Fall is a treat for any hiker.

Get rewarded by vistas of majestic waterfalls, towering granite cliffs, or ice cream in the general store on the return from any trail you take in Yosemite National Park.

-Michelle McCoy, Trekaroo Destination Specialist

Read about thetop 10 things to do in Yosemite with kids

Ready to explore all the Best National Parks for kids?

Best National Parks for Kids

Lead image by Sharlene Earnshaw.


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