Google The Unplanned Homeschooler: travel
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Best urban hiking in St. Louis

St. Louis may be one of the greatest cities in the world for urban hiking. You don’t even have to leave the city to find a great hike with lots of interesting things to see. One of the great benefits to urban hiking in St. Louis is that most of the best locations have a variety of paths from challenging inclines to flat surfaces, and can provide both cardiovascular and mental stimulation to the hiker. 

Even better than that, you can visit each of the following locations for free. So lace up and let’s go.

Best hotels in Oklahoma City for families of five

Before my youngest daughter was born, traveling was a lot simpler. There were just four of us.  Flying was fairly easy, as my husband could sit with one child while I sat with the other. Booking a hotel was simple, because rooms for a family of four are always easy to find.  Even dining out was a breeze, since we all fit nicely into a standard sized booth made for four. But when our little one came along, our family of four turned into a family of five, and suddenly traveling together was anything but easy.

Recently, my husband had an important meeting in Oklahoma City. We decided to make a long weekend of it and take the kids along. But when I started trying to book a room online, I ran into rejection after rejection as our family of five exceeded the limits of one hotel after another. Inspired, I decided to seek out the best hotels in Oklahoma City for families just like mine. 

Residence Inn by Marriott in Bricktown

My family was invited to stay at the Residence Inn in Bricktown, the only hotel directly on the Bricktown Canal. I let the general manager know that I was interested in trying their hotel because it was very easy to book a room for a larger family and was in the middle of a historic district of the city frequented by many visitors each year. 

We stayed in a two bedroom suite, plenty big enough to sleep a family of eight if needed and more than adequate for my family of five. Our suite had two bathrooms, a kitchen with six, yes six place settings in the cupboard, and a living room with a sofa bed and fireplace. We also had a wonderful view of the canal and the city lights. Single bedroom suites are also available, with two queen beds and a sofa bed and enough room to comfortably sleep five or six.

We were so satisfied with our stay, I wrote to tell the manager that my kids said it was the best hotel we’d ever visited. And that’s high praise, considering my children’s favorite amenity, the large outdoor pool, was closed for the season.

Hampton Inn and Suites in Bricktown

Speaking of pools, the large indoor pool with water features for the kids was definitely one of the biggest draws for our family when I contacted the Hampton Inn and Suites in Bricktown about booking a room there. The manager graciously invited us to stay a night in their establishment during our weekend in Oklahoma City, and I am glad he did.

Besides offering comfortable accommodations for a family of five, the Hampton Inn and Suites offers covered parking, a delicious breakfast and many rooms that overlook the Bricktown Ballpark, home of the Oklahoma City RedHawks. It’s like having your very own luxury box.

Our room included two queen size beds, a sofa sleeper, and plenty of space so that we weren’t falling all over each other as we moved around the room. The kids slept well after enjoying an hour in the pool, which stays open late.

Other area hotels

While these Bricktown hotels offer fantastic amenities and easy access to the myriad of entertainment options in the downtown area, there are other hotels around the city which also offer comfortable accommodations for a family of five. Here are a few that I discovered while poring over ratings on TripAdvisor and checking to see whether larger families could easily reserve rooms online.

Close to the Will Rogers World Airport and just outside the hustle and bustle of downtown, you’ll find the Cambria Suites. This hotel offers accommodations for families of five along with an indoor pool, free Wi-Fi and an on-site restaurant with a variety of Cheesecake Factory desserts. Yes, they had me at cheesecake.

·         Also near the Will Rogers World Airport, you’ll find the SpringHill Suites by Marriott.  Offering rooms large enough to accommodate five or six, including two queen size beds and a sofa bed, this hotel gets high marks from travelers. Want to stay closer to the north side of the city? Check out the SpringHill Suites location at Quail Springs for easy access to Oklahoma City, Edmond and more.  Pets are welcome with a deposit.

·         The Hyatt Place on Northwest Expressway comes highly recommended by reviewers on TripAdvisor, perhaps because of the Gallery Menu of fresh and delicious meals available 24 hours a day. Central to the city and within a short drive of many attractions, this hotel can meet your family of five’s needs in style.

Monday, August 4, 2014

An exciting alternative to the postcard exchange

I've seen a lot of buzz lately about postcard swaps. The idea is to find other homeschoolers from around the country, ideally one in every state, and set up an exchange, so that each child in the group gets postcards from all the other states and learns a little bit about history and geography along the way.

The idea of a postcard swap sounds neat. Kids love getting mail, and postcards from all around the country could spur a lot of interest in learning about our great states. But organizing a swap can get complicated, especially when trying to exchange addresses and other personal information with strangers you've met online. Parents want to be safe, after all.

I figured out another way to fill our mailbox with educational materials from every state, and it was easy and free to do. A few years ago, when I wanted to spark my children's interest in U.S. geography and help them learn more about the 50 states, I sent requests to the state travel and tourism offices in every state to request maps and tourism guides for our family.

Three years ago, I looked up state travel and tourism offices individually, just doing a search by state names. But another homeschooling mom showed me a site that has links for all 50 states conveniently compiled together, so the hard part is done for you.

Some states offered many more resources than just travel guides, free for the asking, including brochures about historic landmarks and battlefields, maps of specific areas of the state, and more. Before long, we had in our hands full color books, from every state, full of information about major cities, state history, natural resources, sports and entertainment, and all sorts of cultural treasures.

So, if you are a little wary about participating in a postcard exchange with folks you don't know, or if you happened to miss out on the sign up, consider this alternative. It might be the perfect way to request educational mail for your child, and to stock up on valuable educational materials like full sized state maps. Who knows, you might even find a great place to take a family vacation!