Parenting On The Road: How To Connect With Your Kids When You’re Traveling

parentingParenting is a tough job. It’s even tougher if you have to travel a lot for work. Being away form home doesn’t mean that you have to be away from your child’s life, however. Here are eight tips on how to keep connected to the rugrats while you’re on the road.

Skype. The greatest aid for the wandering parent ever invented. Why miss story time when you can pack a few of their favorite books and read to them over the computer? One guy I know even puts on puppet shows for his two boys. There’s also a fun coloring tool where you and the little one can paint each other’s faces.

Email. If you want something more old school, get them an email account and send them messages. Attach some photos of yourself on your travels. You can stay current with their schedule too. If you know they have a history test coming up, send them an email the night before wishing them luck (and reminding them to study).

Postcards. Or go classic with postcards! Nothing is more personal than getting a handwritten note from mom or dad with a cool picture on it. Once you’re back you can share your own photos with them.

Studying Maps. Show them where you’re going with an atlas, globe, or Google Earth. My son loves Google Earth and likes to zoom in on the places I am, and he often goes to sleep with his illuminated globe shining Africa or Asia over his bed. You can also use programs like Tripit to show your itinerary so the kids know where you are. One friend also shared that her son has a “huge world map and every time I take a big trip I text him often on the way and he marks my progress. This was a lot of fun when I circumnavigated the globe. He learned about flat maps in a round world!”

Planning for the future. Figure out what to do together once you’re back under the same roof and mark it on a calendar in their room. This gives the kids something to look forward to.

Online Games. Hey, you know they’re playing tons of video games while you’re gone anyway, so why not join in?

Hide things. Gadling’s Chris Owen shares, “I hide things for them to find later, when I am away. Once I folded very tightly a permission slip one of them needed for school and put it in their cereal box..” Libby Zay says, “My mom and I used to tuck notes into each other’s bags/coat pockets/lunch box/purse/wherever. To this day she’ll sometimes put a coat on that she hasn’t worn in awhile and find a note in the pocket from little Libby!” My son does this to me too. I always end up finding one of his toys hidden in my bags. One has even made it onto Gadling!

Put them to work! Give them a complicated puzzle or Lego set to work and challenge them to get it done before they come back. Dave Seminara’s two boys like to be given titles. “Leo, 5, is the man of the house while I’m gone, and James, 3, is the ‘associate’ man of the house. They like these roles and if they do a good job they get souvenirs. Actually, they get souvenirs either way.”

What do you do to stay connected with your kids? Share your advice in the comments section!

[Photo courtesy user woodleywonderworks via Flickr]

Ski Free In Aspen With Killer Hotel Deals

aspenThink you can’t afford Aspen? Think again. Two of the most elite hotels in town are offering can’t-miss winter season packages that include free ski passes.

Did I stutter? Nope. It’s part of a “ski free” promotion designed to draw visitors back to the Rockies after last year’s notoriously dry winter. Happily, this year looks good, as I can attest from an Aspen visit earlier in the week, and the town is buzzing with holiday festivities.

Local favorite The Little Nell is offering two separate packages for skiers. “Ski Free” gives guests who stay three nights or longer up to two free lift tickets (by comparison, a two-day, seven-day advance purchase adult pass will run you $202, high season) per day. The “Ultimate Ski Free” package: Stay four nights, and ski gratis at all four mountains of Aspen/Snowmass (Aspen, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass, and Buttermilk), on top-of-the-line demo equipment. A full-day private lesson is also included.

The newly revamped, groovilicious Limelight Hotel is doing its own “Ski Free” special, in addition to offering complimentary snowshoes to all guests. The ski package includes up to two free lift tickets per day (good at all four mountains), with a three-night minimum stay, based upon availability; some blackout dates apply.

[Photo credit: Aspen/Snowmass]

Travel Gifts To Capture The Moment

travel gifts

Travel gifts that capture a moment when we were with someone at some special place can be as simple as a smartphone photo taken at just the right time. A bar napkin from a time and distant place shared, snuck into a Christmas card, brings us right back to that place. Just one pebble taken from a beach during an enchanting vacation, on our desk back in the real world, can bring a flood of great memories when needed. As holiday shopping season approaches, taking some time now to consider thoughtful travel gifts can make for some of the best gift giving possible.

How about cufflinks that have the exact spot on the planet where we met our special someone engraved on them?

That’s exactly what American Samantha Jenkins gave to Bengali Rham Khandoker to remember when they met and instantly fell in love several years ago. Forbidden by his Islamic religion from being with Rham, Samantha had these cufflinks made as a symbol of their love that can exist only via Skype, email and text, but never in public. It’s about as close of a real world, physical symbol that they may find.Surely that’s an extreme story but not a bad idea for a travel gift with meaning. Skip the tourist attraction bobble-heads, T-shirts, snow globes and other trinkets. With holiday shopping coming up, think about something someone could not buy for themselves. Something unique that will be around for years to come, long after the clothing, gift card or wish list item someone else gave is gone.




[Photo Credit: Flickr user rikomatic]

Convenient Forms Of Communication On Display From World War II

communication

Today, we take for granted convenient forms of communication when traveling, like email, text messages, Skype and others. FourSquare, HipGeo, Instagram and other smart phone apps pinpoint our exact location anywhere on the planet. Those fighting overseas in World War II relied on hand-written letters that could take weeks to arrive at their destinations, as loved ones served thousands of miles away.

In the sixth and final installment of its 2012 Legends & Legacies Symposium Series, “Letters Home: Love, Courage & Survival,” Florida’s Fantasy of Flight, a vintage aircraft collection, will honor the art of letter writing and share the stories of wartime bonds preserved by pen and paper.In World War II, soldiers relied on correspondence from their sweethearts and families to keep up with news from home and boost their spirits. In turn, wives, girlfriends, parents and children relied on postal service delivery of letters from the war front to tell them that their soldier was still alive and well.

Fantasy of Flight is searching for people to share their letters with guests during this symposium coming up in October. Writers or recipients of letters including servicemen and women, family and friends are invited to share their wartime experiences through written correspondence. `

Copies of letters can be mailed to Fantasy of Flight at 1400 Broadway Blvd. SE, Polk City, FL 33868. Scanned copies can be emailed to info@fantasyofflight.com with “Letters from Home” in the subject line.

During the Letters Home: Love, Courage & Survival symposium on Friday, Oct. 12 and Saturday, Oct. 13, veterans and guest speakers will interact with guests in open forum/question-and-answer sessions, followed by meet-and-greet/autograph signing sessions.

Home Front Life During World War II in Stockton, California


[Flickr photo by Gibson Claire McGuire Regester]

Skype Banned In Ethiopia, Punishable By 15 Years In Prison

Skype, EthiopiaA new law passed in Ethiopia has banned Voice Over Internet Protocol services such as Skype, Al Jazeera reports. Use of such services is punishable by large fines and up to 15 years in prison. The law was passed with little fanfare on May 24 but has only just become noticed by international media.

The government-owned Ethio Telecom has a monopoly on telecommunications but the country is filled with cybercafes where people can make low-cost phone calls over the Internet. Ethiopians complain that Ethio Telecom’s international calling rates are unaffordable and Internet calls are their only option. This move blocks such competition.

Another probable reason for the move is to quash internal dissent. Several ethnic groups such as the Oromo and Somalis have armed independence groups inside Ethiopia. These groups get support from abroad and so the government may be trying to cut their lines of communication and funding.

Use of the Tor Project online anonymity provider has also been banned.

Having spent several months in Ethiopia in 2010 and 2011, and being in regular contact with people in the country since, I can attest to the difficulty in using the Internet there. Service is slow, and sometimes gets cut off entirely when there’s a skirmish with one of the rebel groups or a meeting at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa. These cutoffs are invariably called “equipment malfunctions.”

Emails from abroad often don’t make it to people in Ethiopia. Those with business licenses always seem to get their email, but private citizens often don’t. Ethiopians have told me this is because of government security fears. Many people use Facebook for email because the government can’t block direct messages on the site. I myself have resorted to using Facebook for most of my communication with Ethiopian friends and colleagues.

And in case you’re wondering, our emails have nothing that could possibly be construed as a security risk. Emails about archaeology, historic preservation and simple hellos have gone missing. This is a shame because Ethiopia has a growing educated class that has a lot to say and is thirsty for contact and information from the outside world. Opening up the lines of communications could very well bring on an Ethiopian renaissance from which we’d all benefit.

Ethiopia’s government bills itself as a bastion of democratic stability in an unstable region and as an ally in the War on Terror, but laws such as this show that the current regime is anything but democratic.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]