Pancake, the much loved blue bear, seemed right at home among the oh-so-serious laptop-toting business people. So did his 4-year-old owner, Colin Blodgett. Colin, Pancake and Colin's parents were awaiting their flight from London to New York in British Airway's expansive $60 million Executive Lounges in Heathrow's new Terminal 5
Taking the Kids Weekly Column for planning a family vacation. Search tips for a family vacations and find family friendly vacation ideas.
We sniff the strong perfume that even kids used, since they bathed so infrequently (servants just once a year) and learn that even though royal children had servants to do everything for them (even brush their teeth), they didn't have a lot of time to play because they were expected at court (sitting quietly for hours). Still, our gang decided they'd rather be royals instead of servants.
Searching out those markets and meeting the locals who shop there is all part of the charm of renting a flat in a strange city or a villa in the countryside. We sleep with cherubs over our bed and hear the noises of a city neighborhood -- a baby crying, a couple jabbering in Italian and music playing.
After a morning of white-water rafting (and plenty of water fights) on Costa Rica's Sarapiqui River, and a first-rate burrito lunch made by our raft guides at the river's edge, we stop in the small town of Horquetas, about 10 minutes from where we are staying to visit an elementary school. Some 270 kids attend the ill-equipped school, which is so overcrowded that children must attend split sessions. The students mug for our cameras and giggle.
All around Lost Pines were other families determined not to miss one second of vacation fun -- floating in the lazy river, watching the kids on the water slide or in the baby pool, saddling up for horseback rides or bike rides around the extensive property (405 acres and an adjoining 1,100-acre nature park!), playing "golf" with preschoolers on the lawn and watching them on the playground nearby.
What the kids don't get is that driving for hours with a couple of antsy children (not to mention sullen tweens and teens) is no fun for parents either -- especially not when we're paying record prices for gas. Still, millions of us -- 20.4 million just over the July 4th weekend, AAA reports -- are hitting the road with the kids this summer.
The steep climb up the slick rocks -- 770 vertical feet -- doesn't phase them, nor scrambling without footholds or squeezing between two boulders. "Hard but fun," a trio of 9-year-old boys declare, as they race ahead. "Definitely worth it," their older sisters add, as they trail close behind them.
Traveling with kids, especially young ones, we all know is never easy. They don't want to let go of their "lovey" to put it on the security belt at an airport. They get impatient in long lines, hate to sit still on airplanes and may cry and spill their drinks. And the passengers, restaurant patrons or hotel guests in the vicinity may not be sympathetic to the beleaguered parent's plight.
Not only are destination weddings -- from Orlando (Disney does 1,500 a year) to the Caribbean to Hawaii to cruise ships -- more popular, they account for 16 percent of weddings every year, up 400 percent in the last decade -- but kids increasingly are part of the equation says Milli Martini Bratten, longtime editor-in-chief of Brides Magazine.
We screeched to a halt along the side of the road in Grand Teton National Park. Reggie, 8, was equally mesmerized but 3-year-old Melanie couldn't quite grasp that we were in the moose's house -- and it wasn't a zoo. I still smile years later when I think about the kids' excitement. Forget the Kodak moments. The chance to share something new together -- something you'd never see or do at home -- is what makes those indelible family vacation memories that last forever.