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Rest, Relaxation and Field Testing

After a grueling holiday season, we were ready for some quality time with the kids. We had plenty of frequent flier miles and a wide window of time in January. I started researching (or as my husband calls it, obsessing). I found Tripadvisor.com, which was both completely invaluable and endlessly frustrating. There are literally millions of traveler reviews that cover almost every hotel in existence. The good news was, I could easily get the lowdown on any destination and accommodation. The bad news was, every single property had managed to incur the wrath of at least one jilted customer with a penchant for vividly awful descriptions.

It seemed to come down to a lesser of the evils decision. Should we risk inedible food? Not ideally. Apathetic service? Annoying, surely. Roaches? Absolutely not. Finally, I came to a somewhat zen conclusion, that a good vacation would come from within. If we resolved to have fun, we would. So I booked the trip.

We had a wonderful time. Never mind the glitches (and there were some big ones), we spent three blissful days relaxing with our children and meandering from the pool to the beach to naptime.

As you might expect, we use our vacations and family business trips as an opportunity to field test the newest travel gear. It was a year ago that we fell in love with the Phil and Ted’s e3 buggy on a trip to the Bahamas. This year, we got some firsthand experience with several worthwhile new products.

RadianWe brought along the new Radian car seat, which has been touted as an excellent travel companion, since it folds into a fairly compact (though quite heavy) package. This was a big hit, not only because it was very portable and easy to install on the narrow airplane seats, but also because it was apparently quite comfortable. My normally squirmy 22 month old was not only willing to sit in the seat for the duration of the flights, but she also actually slept for a while, both coming and going. Bliss. Plus, we were very glad to have it when we ended up spending an unexpected night in Miami after a missed connection. Evidently, many taxi drivers won’t take babies without a car seat in Miami – they can be pulled over and issued a citation if they do.

But the winner of my couldn’t-live-without-it award goes to the Skip HopPronto Pronto. It was just so useful to have everything we needed for diaper changes all in one, very well-organized place. It was perfect in the airport and on the plane, and it was equally exceptional in the hotel room, at the pool or in restaurants. We took it everywhere.

Snack TrapA close runner-up was the Snack Trap, a fantastic little cup that holds finger snacks. My kids loved sticking their fingers into the rubber flaps to grab their Cheerios, and I didn’t have to suffer the embarrassment of cleaning up Cheerios everywhere we went.

On the plane, I was really missing my Wikki Sticks (I forgot them – I won’t ever do it again), but my kids were engaged with Klutz Chicken Socks activity books and (yes, please don’t judge me) a whole library of DVDs. The new “Baby Wordsworth” DVD from the Baby Einstein collection was a huge hit. Both kids really liked it. They also enjoyed the Ralph’s World DVD, “Say Hello”, a perennial favorite.

In case you’re wondering, we didn’t bring our e3 on this trip. Both kids are good walkers at this point, and we were headed to a small hotel. We took our Maclaren Quest and a beautiful Oopa Baby Sling, which worked out very nicely. In fact, throughout this trip, I noticed a lot of Maclaren strollers, in airports, at the pool, etc.

This has turned into a long post, so I’m going to wrap it up. If you’re looking for a great family vacation and a break from the cold and snow, I’d highly recommend you check out Turks & Caicos. American Airlines offers direct flights from Boston, and the island is charming and relatively unspoiled. There are a wide range of options when it comes to accommodations, but try to get onto Grace Bay – it has been named one of the best beaches in the world, and deservedly so.

If you’ve gotten this far and you aren’t a member of my immediate family, I congratulate you. I’ll get back to the new product updates tomorrow, I promise.

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