5 Things to Do in NYC with Tween Girls

New York City is a favorite destination for families of all sizes and with children of all ages. Traveling to the Big Apple with tween girls though, means being very intentional about choosing what to do especially if you are only staying for a weekend.

Things to Do in NYC with Tween Girls

Broadway
New York City is known, among other things, for the diversity and richness of its Broadway show lineup.  At any given point of the year, there are shows that would be of interest to tween girls and their families.  Whether it is Annie the Musical, Mamma Mia, Wicked, or The Lion King, the songs, dancing, and theatrics will engage even the moodiest of tween girls. Plan for a pre-theater dinner at one of the many restaurants near the theaters and be ready to spill out into a packed but energizing Times Square after the show on your way back to your hotel.

Visiting American Girl Place and Fifth Avenue

Things to do in NYC with Kids - Shopping at American Girl Place
For American Girl doll lovers, a trip to the American Girl Place on Fifth Avenue can be a day-long event.

American Girl dolls have taken over New York City at the intersection of 49th and Fifth Avenue, with doll-crazed tweens lining up to get into to this adored multilevel store. The best advice I can possibly give about this must-see New York City attraction is to arrive early, set a timer, and most importantly- set a budget for how much will be spent.  Afterwards, taking a stroll along Fifth Avenue for window shopping, or stopping in Rockefeller Center for ice skating or snack top off the excursion in style.

Museums
Fans of the book, the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg, will be particularly excited to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, located along NYC’s Museum Mile.  The largest art museum in the United States offers tween girls collections from ancient to more contemporary, touching every part of the globe. The American Museum of Natural History is another museum in New York City that will be of interest to tween girls with a butterfly conservatory, planetary science exhibits and much more.

Bryant Park or Central Park

New York City Ice Skating in Bryant Park - Things to do in NYC with Tweens
Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan comes to life with ice skating in the winter.

For a large and bustling city, New York offers several park choices. Bryant Park located in Midtown offers pop up shops that are perfect for a tween’s attention span.  Bryant Park houses an ice skating rink during the winter season and a venue for frequent concerts or performances during the warmer months. Central Park of course, is an iconic NYC venue that can be seen by carriage ride, on foot, or even from a carousel.  Visiting Central Park can be the perfect remedy for a tired tourist that wants to relax for a few minutes, or for fatigued feet that have been walking around museums all day long.

Historical and Cultural Sites
Although New York City is often thought of as a mecca for Broadway theater, shopping, and museums, there are plenty of historical venues. Visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island appeal to a tween girl’s sense of family and interest in history.  Taking a Staten Island Ferry to get to Liberty Island or Ellis Island offers a unique perspective on New York City that you can only get from the water. The New York Public Library is destination for any reading loving tweens.  This historical landmark contains more than six million books and offers reading rooms that stun the senses.

Hilton Mom Voyage writers receive free night certificates to use at Hilton Hotels & Resorts worldwide. To learn more, visit our About Us page.

Know Before You Go

  • Opt for walking tours instead of bus tours if you want to eliminate the issue of traffic – just make sure to pack comfortable shoes!
  • If you bring your own ice skates, Bryant Park allows you to ice skate for free in the winter.
  • The Bronx Zoo is pay-what-you-wish on Wednesdays.
  • Utilize the New York Subway to travel like a local – it’s also a great way to avoid traffic!

Best Museums in Houston For Kids

Houston has many attractions for all ages. I’ve been there for conferences and business trips. Galveston is close enough for an easy day trip to the beach, dinner on the Strand, a bay fishing trip, or deep sea fishing adventure. There are professional sports teams. There are amazing parks and recreation centers. But with so many options, how do you know which are the best things to do? Here are our picks for the best museums in Houston for kids:

Houston Museum of Natural Science
The one location that we can visit over and over again is the Houston Museum of Natural Science.  There are fossils, gems, minerals, seashells, chemistry, and Egyptian collections.  There is an giant screen theater with some 3D offerings.

Our favorite section of the museum is the Butterfly Center.  It includes an entomology center, an interactive bug learning center, and an enclosed rain forest area where hundreds of species fly uninhibited around a 50 foot waterfall.  While you are not allowed to touch the butterflies or catch them, they frequently land on guests briefly throughout the walk.

The interactive bug centers could easily hold children’s interest for hours.  Where else can you learn so much about bugs – including how to cook and serve them?  I always shudder a little as I walk by, but there are vending machines that sell a variety of bug foods.  I’m not brave enough to try any of them, but my family enjoys (ugh!) the lollipops with meal worms, crickets, or scorpions.

Downtown Aquarium
In downtown Houston, there is an underwater haven, the Downtown Aquarium.  The aquarium is a diverse blend of indoor aquatic exhibits and outdoor adventure.  Fish aren’t the only species inside.  There are huge snakes, birds, and a white tiger.  Outside there is a train that winds through an outdoor 360 degree trip.  As the open air train enters the aquarium tunnel, you are surrounded on the sides and above you with exotic fish and sharks swimming just inches away.

The highlight of our day was lunch in the aquarium restaurant.  We sat steps away from a 155,000 gallon floor to ceiling tank filled with starfish, exotic fish, coral, and sharks.  Our food came all too soon as we enjoyed the sharks sitting next to us!

The Downtown Aquarium is one of the best things to do in Houston with kids.
The Downtown Aquarium is one of the best things to do in Houston with kids.

Houston Space Center
A little bit further out of town is the Houston Space Center, but it is well worth the drive.  With multiple exhibits outside, you could wander the Center for days, but it is completely doable in a single day as well.  The Center has an indoor kids’ space just inside the door that is a perfect place for the children to burn off a little energy midway through the visit.  The negative side is that the kids’ space is the first thing they see walking in the door!

Once you get past the play area, there is a mock-up of a space shuttle to tour, exhibits that include used space vehicles, moon rocks, astronaut paraphernalia, and the history of space exploration.  There is also an interactive element to the Center with space flight simulators (these were lots of fun!), movies, and learning games.  There are also scales to show you how much you weigh on different planets and the moon. (I’m not interested!)  Overall, the Space Center is a great day trip for the casual visitor and could interest the space enthusiast for several days.

For a great hotel near the Space Center, check out Hilton Houston NASA Clear Lake.

There is so much to explore at the Houston Space Center.
There is so much to explore at the Houston Space Center.

With so many family friendly options, you’ll find something for everyone’s interests. What’s on your list for the best museums in Houston for kids?

Know Before You Go

  • Houston is known for its haunted sites. Allen’s Landing is especially popular since it dates to 1836 and is the birthplace of Houston’s business district.
  • One of Houston’s most remarkable features is the Downtown Tunnels, where you can find a long path of restaurants and places to shop.
  • The Houston Museum of Natural Science is an excellent place for entertainment. Don’t skip a stop at the Butterfly Center!

Top 10 Things To Do In Tokyo With Kids

Tokyo isn’t usually on many family-friendly destination lists.  But when we visited, we found a city filled with helpful and gracious citizens and many kid-friendly attractions.  These were our 10 favorite cultural, fun and educational things to do in Tokyo with kids for an enriching travel experience.

1. DisneySea
We explored Tokyo Disney Resort and chose DisneySea over Disneyland.  DisneySea transported us into a water-centric park that became a family favorite.  We loved the park’s seven ports of call’s use of the sea myths and legends for its amazing shows, unique rides and attractions.  A great place to stay if the Disney parks are on your must-see list is Hilton Tokyo Bay, one of the official Tokyo Disneyland Resort hotels.

2. Basement food halls
At the bottom of many large department stores, we found a foodie paradise of enticing aroma, energy and variety that appealed to all family members with diverse taste buds. We frequented them for their generous portions, fresh food and cheap prices with many items reduced close to dinner time. My kids loved the yakitori sticks, noodles and mouthwatering desserts and pastries.

3. Studio Ghibli Museum
We had so much fun at the Studio Ghibli Museum that my kids didn’t want to leave.  Studio Ghibli produces movies from famed Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki.  It’s filled with interactive animation displays, exhibits, gadgets and rooftop gardens with a giant robot.  Don’t miss the huge plush cat bus play area with an adult version.

Kids will be fascinated by the giant robot outside Studio Ghibli.
Kids will be fascinated by the giant robot outside Studio Ghibli.

4. Tokyo’s Subways and Trains
Living in car-centric California, we look forward to navigating foreign public transportation systems.  Tokyo’s subways and trains were efficient and easy.  They gave us an insight on how locals travel.  My kids loved the public transport experience and adventure.  We’re disappointed we missed those white-hand-glove people pushing passengers in during rush hour, though.

5. Temples and Shrines
Tokyo’s beautiful temples and shrines, like Sensoji and Meiji, were impressive.  It was fascinating to watch the Japanese, dressed in traditional attire, pay their respects. My kids’ favorite part was the cleansing station rituals before entering the sacred places and seeing all the personal prayers and wishes on ema votive tablets.

Discover Japanese rituals at sacred places like the Sensoji Temple.
Discover Japanese rituals at sacred places like the Sensoji Temple.

6. Odaiba
Tokyo Bay’s man-made entertainment island of Odaiba was a delightful place to visit with a giant Ferris wheel, Marine Park, public beaches and the Statue of Liberty replica (a highlight for my kids). Visit Toyota Mega Web showroom to see cars not available outside Japan and kids can drive a Hybrid electric motor on a course.

7. Tokyo City Hall
Go up Tokyo City Hall’s 45th floor observation deck for a stunning, panoramic view of skyscrapers and Mt. Fuji during winter.  We loved our bird’s-eye view and looking at the action below.

8. Shopping Districts
The Shinjuku, Shibuya and Ginza shopping districts are filled with neon lights and flashy signs that rival Times Square.  Check out the multi-level Sony store for playing and testing out electronics not available anywhere else. Hilton Tokyo is conveniently located in the Shinjuku district.

9. Harajuku
Visit the Harajuku area on weekends to see teenagers in various costumes. My kids were captivated with them.  Walk down Takeshita Dori for shopping and grab freshly-made, delicious crepes which smelled heavenly.

10. Imperial Palace Gardens
While we missed the 75-minute Imperial Palace tour, we loved its East Gardens.  The perfectly trimmed hedges and trees, koi pond and expansive grass areas were perfect for playing, picnics and leisurely strolls.  These old castle grounds still contained guard houses and museums for some history lessons.

Kids love exploring the bridges and ponds of the Imperial Palace Gardens.
Kids love exploring the bridges and ponds of the Imperial Palace Gardens.

Best Things to Do on Hawaii’s Big Island with Your Family

Hawaii’s Big Island offers an abundance of things to see and do, so much so that planning a trip can be daunting. Having just returned, here are some sights and family activities on Hawaii’s Big Island to help you plan and make the most of your visit. They are particularly well-suited for families.

Volcanoes National Park
Visit one of the most active volcanoes in the world, Kilauea, part of Volcanoes National Park. This is a must-do for every family visiting the Big Island. Drive around the crater, take one of many hikes in this vast park area or view the steaming (and at times erupting!) crater from the Jagger Museum. For a particularly memorable experience, drive to the ocean via the picturesque and fascinating Chain of Craters road until you hit the end of the road (literally)… a spot where lava swallowed the road during the last big flow into the ocean. Before you go, it is a good idea to consult the Hawaii Volcano Observatory website for up to date information on current volcano activity and park conditions.

Mauna Kea
For an equally exhilarating experience, drive to the top of Mauna Kea to watch the sunset and stargaze from the visitor’s center through some of the world’s most powerful telescopes set up for visitors. At an elevation of 14,000 ft, it feels like you are practically touching the stars. Combined with an absence of light pollution, you get an almost surreal view of the night sky. You can plan the trip yourself (visit the Institute for Astronomy’s website) or experience a visit to Mauna Kea with one of the local companies offering tours.

Waterfalls and Rainforests
Discover the many spectacular waterfalls and rainforests the island has to offer. Our family particularly enjoyed visiting the majestic Akaka Falls, located just a short drive from Hilo and about a 2-hour drive from the Kona side. In order to reach the falls, you will take a short scenic hike through a lush rainforest, which makes the experience especially memorable. Don’t forget to bring an umbrella or a poncho as it often rains or mists in this area.

Hiking the rainforest trail at Akaka Falls was one of our favorite things to do on Hawaii's Big Island.
Hiking the rainforest trail at Akaka Falls was one of our favorite things to do on Hawaii’s Big Island.

Punalu’u, the Black Sand Beach
Visit the picturesque Punalu’u, also known as the Black Sand Beach for a chance to spot the impressive honus (Hawaiian for turtles). The striking black sand is created by lava flowing into the ocean, which then explodes and cools. The beach is frequently visited by endangered Green Turtles, which you can find basking in the sun on the black sand. For the more adventurous types, there is a stand renting snorkeling equipment…put on a mask and fins for a chance to observe the magnificent and gracious animals in the water. However, be careful, as the surf can be rough and the currents very strong.

Admiring a honu at the Black Sand Beach
Admiring a honu at the Black Sand Beach.

Papakolea, the Green Sand Beach
Another unforgettable experience is a visit of the nearby Papakolea, the Green Sand Beach, which gets its color from olivine (a mineral found in volcano cinder cone) and is one of only two green sand beaches in the world. However, it is much more difficult to get to this beach than the Black Sand Beach. Only accessible by foot and requiring a climb down cinder cone, this adventure is not suitable for families with smaller children.

Swimming With the Dolphins
While not the most authentic Hawaiian experience, swimming with the dolphins was another memorable activity on the island our children enjoyed. You can come face to face with these beautiful animals at Dolphin Quest, located at the magnificent Hilton Waikoloa Village resort. The company offers several different programs depending on age of the children and personal preferences.

Children love playing with the dolphins at Dolphin Quest!
Children love playing with the dolphins at Dolphin Quest!

Experience a Luau
Finally, a great way to experience the island and its culture is by going to a luau. Two particularly good ones are Legends of the Pacific, offered at Hilton Waikoloa Village or Island Breeze at the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel. Enjoy beautiful Hawaiian music, marvel at the graceful hula dancers, and sample authentic Hawaiian food. It is a great way to introduce your family to the local culture.

Last word of advice…
It’s good to have a plan, but be open to spontaneous experiences you will encounter while driving around the island. They are often most memorable and offer the best glimpse of “real” Hawaiian life. On our drive from Kona to Hilo, we saw a road-side sign for Donna’s Cookies, a small local business and decided to make a stop. They sell the best macadamia shortbread ever, and our children loved seeing the production and interacting with friendly staff. Similarly, on our drive south to the Black Sand beach, we stopped and wandered into a vast macadamia nut orchard, which stretched for miles along the road, to show our children where nuts come from (not from Mauna Loa cans…). We also spotted a Punalu’u Bake Shop, a local bakery with wonderful malasadas (famous island donuts of Portugese origin), which made for a delicious (and authentic!) afternoon snack.

Aloha and have fun exploring the island!

Know Before You Go

  • Hawaii consists of eight main islands: Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Kahoolawe, and The Big Island.
  • Hawaii has its own time zone (Hawaiian Standard Time). This time zone is 2 hours behind Pacific Standard Time. Hawaii also doesn’t observe Daylight Savings Time!
  • It is considered rude to refuse to wear a Lei if someone offers it.

Disneyland Hotels – Hilton Anaheim

Hilton Anaheim Near Disneyland

I can’t even count how many times my family has been to Disneyland. A quick drive and two Disney loving kids make it a great vacation. There are many types of Disneyland hotels in Anaheim. The hotels range from the expensive Disneyland Resort properties to the motels across the street. We have stayed at them all, but our go-to hotel is Hilton Anaheim.

Hilton Anaheim is one block from the Disneyland Park. It is one long block, but very walkable. We like to drive in to the Disneyland parking structures and take the tram to the park, or we have also used the Anaheim Resort Transportation (ART). Both forms of transportation are great when you have tired kids at the end of the day who cannot take one more step. I have made transportation errors in the past and ended up carrying children too big to be carried just so I did not have to hear whining.

The amenities at Hilton Anaheim are similar to the Disneyland Resort properties. Park tickets are available at the Disney Desk. Inside the hotel is a food court that includes Starbucks. We loved being able to grab a quick bite before we hit the parks. Our guest room had a small refrigerator for keeping snacks fresh. There is a spacious sun deck and pool for relaxing as well as health classes and spa services. Babysitting services are available if parents want a night out. Many guest rooms face the park so you can have a great view of the new Cars Land or see the fireworks from the comfort of your room.

Cars Land is just one of the great attractions near Disneyland hotels in Anaheim.
The Cozy Cone at the new Cars Land at Disneyland.

The most important reason for staying at Hilton Anaheim are the terrific rates. I am a bargain hunter when I stay at Disneyland, and rooms at the Hilton Anaheim are usually the same or less than the older motels down the street. Plus, I always feel safe and taken care of when I stay at Hilton Anaheim.

Pack your bags and have a fabulous stay at Hilton Anaheim. The new Cars Land is so much fun and what better way to start the year than with a vacation at the happiest place on Earth!

Hilton Mom Voyage writers receive free night certificates to use at Hilton Hotels & Resorts worldwide. To learn more, visit our About Us page.

Know Before You Go

My Favorite Things to do in Phoenix with Kids

Phoenix - Hiking in Papago Park

Phoenix has fantastic museums, great shopping and terrific dinning. I love all of these, but my favorite things to do with kids in Phoenix are outside! Phoenix has a beautiful and unique landscape that everyone in your family will enjoy.

Hiking
My kids love hiking. It might be because there is somehow always a candy bar at the top of the trail, or that they like racing each other to the top. Whatever the reason, hiking is a fun way to see the desert. Phoenix is a valley surrounded by mountains, so a trail is always just a short distance away. Only ten minutes from Point Hilton Squaw Peak Resort is one of the most popular hiking trails in Phoenix, Piestewa Peak.

Another favorite trail for kids is Papago Park. Papago Park not only has unique rock formations, it is also the location of the Phoenix Zoo. The Hole-in-the-Rock Trail is a must do and is an easy hike for any age child.

Parks
Phoenix is filled with parks that will help you soak up the sunshine. Across the street from Hilton Scottsdale Resort & Villas is McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. My parents brought me here as a child and now I love to bring my children here too. Ride the train, visit the railroad displays or ride the antique carousel. The kids will love the playgrounds and parents will love the surrounding views.

Near the Phoenix airport is Tempe Town Lake. This man-made lake is adjacent to Arizona State University and the park has activities for everyone. You can rent boats or bicycles, go fishing, or play at the splash playground. After you are finished at the park, walk down to Mill Avenue and have a great meal at one of the many outdoor restaurants.

Tempe Town Lake Park is one of the great things to do in Phoenix with kids.
Tempe Town Lake Park is one of the great things to do in Phoenix with kids.

Swimming
If you vacation in Phoenix, pool time has got to be on your list. Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort has eight pools for guests to enjoy. Cabanas are available and are the perfect way to relax in the shade as you view the beautiful mountain area around you. If you are visiting in the summer, pool time might be your only outdoor activity because of the intense heat, but there is a plus! Hotel rates are at their lowest in the summer.

There is so much to do in Phoenix to enjoy the outdoors. If you plan it right, you might wear the kids out so you can fit in a round of golf or a trip to the spa!

Five Ways to Preserve Travel Memories for Your Family

It was fun while it lasted. We’ve all been disappointed when vacations are over.  We’re left with fleeting memories and pictures stored in memory cards and smartphones.  So, how do we preserve those cherished memories or prolong that travel euphoria?  Here are five ways to create vacation memorabilia to preserve your travel memories which will hopefully last until the kids reach adulthood or at least your next trip.

1.  Photo Books
These customizable photo albums created online are our family’s favorite way to remember our travels.  It’s a great way to be organized and creative with vacation photos.  It beats storing pictures in shoe boxes or memory cards.  They can also be shared with family and friends online.  My kids love looking through photo books to reminisce and have worn out our Disney-related books.

One of the best ways to engage kids is to give them a camera to capture their experiences from their perspective. Their work of art can also be published into photo books as wonderful keepsakes.

Use Travel Photo Books to preserve your travel memories.

2.  Travel Journals and Scrapbooks
Journals have always been the traditional way to record our memories.  I wish I had made my kids start travel journals when they were younger to chronicle their adventures but it’s never too late.  For kids who don’t like to write or are too young, drawing a favorite attraction or memory will work too.

These don’t have to be limited to hardbound journals. Older kids who carry netbooks and laptops can record their thoughts and memories in digital form.  Give the kids a folder to store keepsakes when traveling – tickets, brochures, postcards.  Scrapbooks make for a fun family project to record your travel memories after the trip.

3.  Postcards
Postcards are still sold everywhere despite their decline in popularity. One of our travel traditions is for the kids to write postcards to themselves.  They love picking out the postcards and receiving them when we get home.  As they get older, my kids enjoy reading what they wrote when they were younger.  Create a photo album for the postcards or hang them on bulletin boards or along walls to display.

Hanging postcards are a great way to preserve your travel memories.

4.  Videography
Many cameras and smartphones nowadays also double as camcorders making it easier to record memories for prosperity.  Interview the kids while at a famous attraction and capture their thoughts.  Recordings of first time adventures are always treasured.  I can’t tell you how often my kids have watched their first zip lining adventure.  Use video editing software like iMovie or Power Director to create mini movies so you can relive your favorite travel memories at any time.

5.  Souvenirs
There’s a popular saying of “Collect memories, not things.”  But, why not both?  Souvenirs can be fun, cheap, functional or educational.  My daughter has an assortment of dolls that almost looks like a Miss Universe stage while my son loves his legion of mini-stuffed animals and both have key chain collections.  They serve as tangible reminders of places they’ve visited, cultural associations and memorable experiences.

Souvenir dolls are fun for children to help preserve their travel memories.

Travel memories don’t have to fade with these different ways to save them for prosperity.  So, what are your favorite ways to preserve travel memories for your family?

Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa – A Family-Friendly Beach Resort

Reggae, rhythms, and gentle ocean breezes draw guests to Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa. The wide array of activities and offerings make those traveling with their children want to stay. There’s something for everyone at this all-inclusive family-friendly beach resort, which is why it is a popular destination in Jamaica.

Activities
You will never hear a child declare, “I’m bored!” at the Hilton Rose Hall.  My kids repeatedly hit the water slides in the Sugar Mills Falls Water Park while their parents floated around in the adjacent lazy river.   We mingled with other families at the resort’s swim up bar. Kayaks and canoes were available to us at the beach front water recreation center .  When we felt the need to dry out for a while, my crew challenged other families to table tennis and chess.  The kids also competed in organized games and contests.  Quite often we opted to do nothing at all.  OK, maybe I was the only one who attempted to exercise that option. Alright, alright, I tried to exercise that option.  I was traveling with high energy kids after all (spouse included in that descriptor).

Kids love the family-friendly beach resort, Hilton Rose Hall, for its wide range of activities and amusements ranging from table tennis to water slides.
Bring the kids! Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa is a family-friendly beach resort with a lot of activities to keep young guests busy.

The Perks of All-Inclusive Resort Dining
For a mom like me, the carefree feeling that comes from an all-inclusive get away is a great perk. Everything is taken care of for you — meals, drinks and snacks — rather than prepared and toted around by you. There are no tabs to sign, no numbers to calculate. If you need something, you merely have to ask. (I did pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.)  If your picky little darling doesn’t like a dish, you simply order something else at no added expense. With seven restaurants on the property, the food choices provided plenty of diversity. Kids, vegetarians and others with special diets or particular palettes will not have a problems finding nourishment at the Hilton Rose Hall.

Nightly Entertainment
Evenings are filled with lighthearted fun, much of it embracing the spirit of Jamaica. We enjoyed s’mores and live Reggae on the beach on our first night at the resort.  We capped off our stay with a  showing of the children’s movie, “Ratatouille.” Every night in between there was entertainment ranging from live music and dancing to a kids’ variety show.

Parent Approved Kids Only Fun
A few kid-friendly amenities not only allow younger guests to gather, socialize and befriend other kids, they offer worry-free opportunities for parents to steal away rare time for themselves.  These include:

  • The Teen Zone: An arcade-style game room where teens can hang out and take some time away from the family, particularly those annoying younger siblings.
  • Kids Club: Complete with playground and art projects, the Kids Club offers fun programs to occupy your youngster’s time and work their imaginations.
  • Babysitting services: The Kids Club closes for lunch and is not open in the evenings. Should you need childcare during those times, babysitting can be arranged through housekeeping.

While many families fully enjoy their Jamaican vacations without ever leaving Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa, the activities desk can help arrange tours to nearby attractions such as Mystic Mountain and Dunns River Falls should your family be interested in venturing out.

Hilton Mom Voyage writers receive free night certificates to use at Hilton Hotels & Resorts worldwide. To learn more, visit our About Us page.

Helpful International Travel Apps

Our family of four loves traveling abroad and as a Mom, I’m always looking for tools and solutions to make our travels easier and smoother and our experiences more memorable. I often turn to apps on my iPhone as a cheap (often free, actually) and easy resource. Here is a sampling of my favorite ones when it comes to traveling internationally.

Free Travel Apps

TripAdvisor
In case you are not already familiar with it, this is a very useful tool for planning your trip or looking for great ideas while traveling. Utilizing a vast pool of reviews and opinions (75+ million!) from fellow travellers, this app makes it easy to find the best hotels, restaurants or fun things to do. The flight search function helps you find and book airfare deals, but you can also make hotel and restaurant reservations. You can search by price, location or rating and in case you have a specific question, you are able to post it in a forum to get the inside scoop. A must have for any family Travel Director!

TripIt Travel Organizer
Helps you store and access your travel itinerary in one place for peace of mind when traveling. Forward your confirmation emails to plans@tripit.com and they are instantly recognized and saved to an itinerary on your iPhone or your iPad. A 2011 “Best Travel Mobile App” Webby Award winner.

WhatsApp Messenger
A must-have for quick communication with your friends and family while you are abroad! This app lets you message other smart phone users, who also have the app, from anywhere in the world – for free! Perfect for sending a quick text that you arrived as planned, sending a picture to family members left behind to show them how much fun you are having on your trip, or even finding members of your party in the crowded Louvre Museum.

Skype
This one probably needs no introduction. It is most known for enabling free video calling, but  you can also use it for free instant messaging or voice calling.

Google Translate
Ever found yourself in a foreign country, unable to speak the language and trying to get around to experience the local scene? This app helps you translate words and phrases between more than 60 languages. For most languages it even allows you to speak your phrases and hear the corresponding translations. Worried about cell reception? Look up useful phrases before you leave your hotel and you can access them later, offline. Voila!

XE Currency
Easily convert every world currency whether you are shopping at the elegant stores in Milano or bargaining for a deal on a souvenir on a beach in Mexico. In addition to the converter, the app has live currency rates and charts, which refresh every minute, but the latest updates are stored so you can access them later with no internet connection.

Free Wi-Fi Finder
Helps you instantly find FREE Wi-Fi internet hotspots wherever you are in the world, online or… offline, as is often the case when you are actually looking for an internet connection! Need I say more?

Inexpensive Travel Apps

World Countries ($0.99)
Looking to learn more about the country you are visiting? This great app, actually 19 geographic apps in one, will come very handy! Use it to find all kinds of interesting and useful facts about any of the world’s countries (its capital, population, currency, time zones, calling code, major holiday and much more), maps (current and historical), pictures and lists of famous places. To help you kill time on the plane or relax at your hotel, there are even geography related games such as Guess the Flags or Flags Memory Match.

Local Eats ($0.99)
This Travel & Leisure recommended app lets you type in the city and type of cuisine you are after and then instantly filters results to best match what you are looking for. You can also find menus, book reservation or even a taxi. The only limitation is that the app is limited to major cities.

City Maps 2Go ($1.99)
Can you imagine traveling without great maps? How convenient to have them on your iPhone or iPad vs. the large and vulnerable paper form. This map app allows you to download 7,800 world maps. No network or WiFi required!

FlightTrack – Live Flight Status Tracker by Mobiata ($4.99)
It might seem a bit pricey compared to the three listed above, but this very useful app lets you check flight status, gate information, flight delays or cancellations and more – for over 1,400 international airlines. The flight sharing email lets your friends and family track your flight online. If you upgrade to FlightTrack Pro ($9.99), you can also sync your TripIt itineraries and receive push alerts on delays and flight changes.

Planning a Broadway Show Weekend in NYC

New York City is one of those destinations that everyone should explore at least once in their lives. Brimming with things to do, the Big Apple is full of sights and sounds as the city that never sleeps. Planning a weekend to see Broadway shows in NYC, the home of countless theater performances of all varieties, is the perfect base to build a magical NYC weekend for mother daughter or family trips.

The trick to a mother-daughter weekend in this gigantic metropolis is coming to terms with the fact that you cannot do everything. There are so many things to do in New York City that your best option is to prioritize what sights or experiences you want to have and then plan on returning to the Big Apple in the future for more.

Where to Stay for an NYC Broadway Show Weekend
Our weekend was spurred by wanting to see Annie the Musical, one of the newest Broadway shows in New York City. Perfect for an eight year old musical fan, we planned our weekend with Broadway as our home base, fanning out into the city, so it made sense to make Broadway home base for the weekend.

There is no better place to stay than Hilton Times Square. Located steps from the theaters, this high rise hotel serves up the New York City skyline like it is candy amidst the clouds.

For my daughter who had never been to the city, looking out of our window towards the Empire State Building and beyond was something she could not get enough of. Every window – on the lobby level, getting off the elevator, and in our room – was a source of fascination to see what new perspective could be seen. Particularly fascinating to eight year old inquiring minds are the stunning New York roof top balconies, atriums, or terraces that can only be seen from high above and that only helped solidify the idea of glamour and elegance for a budding fashionista tween.

Planning a Broadway show weekend in NYC - Stay at the Hilton Times Square
The view from the Hilton Times Square over NYC.

Picking a Broadway Show for Kids in NYC
There are so many Broadway shows to choose from in New York City. We started our Broadway trip with Annie. Seeing Annie the Musical lived up to every single one of our expectations. The cast, the music, the experience were everything a girl would think of for her first trip to Broadway in NYC. Right around the corner from the theater, we had a perfect pre-theater meal at Dervish Mediterranean Restaurant and Bar which made it incredibly convenient to eat and be in our theater seats in plenty of time. During our second night we saw Mamma Mia the Musical, another one of our favorites. Certainly, seeing evening Broadway shows with kids makes for a long day, but being able to walk back just a few steps to our hotel made the late night that much easier.

Tip: If you’re not sure exactly which Broadway show you want to see and don’t have tickets that you’ve already purchased in advance, stop by the TKTS booth in Times Square to purchase same-day tickets for up to half-off the regular price.

Other Things to Do in New York City with Kids
If you can pull your daughters away from the view, there is an entire city to be explored easily from the steps of Hilton Times Square. We are walkers, so our pedestrian adventure included window shopping along the iconic Fifth Avenue where we perfected the art of dreaming about jewels and fashion. From the American Girl Place to Rockefeller Center, to each and every store window in between, walking along Fifth Avenue with your daughter is an incredible way to get inside your tween’s brain as they revel in what they are seeing.

Our walking feet took us all the way to Central Park, another must see destination in New York City. Tired feet and a love of all surprises made for very happy passengers as we took a twenty minute Carriage Ride through Central Park. Under a warm blanket, the carriage ride through the park that is large enough to be its own city, we saw the Central Park Zoo, fields, New Yorkers running or cycling and more.

If you're going to see Broadway shows in NYC, why not take a carriage ride, too?
Taking a Carriage Ride Through Central Park.

The good news about our mother-daughter girls weekend trip to New York City was that my daughter loved the city just as much as I do, which means that we will be returning hopefully very soon. After all, we still have more Broadway shows to see and the many museums in NYC that are perfect for a budding creative tween girl.

Hilton Mom Voyage writers receive free night certificates to use at Hilton Hotels & Resorts worldwide. To learn more, visit our About Us page.

Know Before You Go

  • Opt for walking tours instead of bus tours if you want to eliminate the issue of traffic – just make sure to pack comfortable shoes!
  • If you bring your own ice skates, Bryant Park allows you to ice skate for free in the winter.
  • The Bronx Zoo is pay-what-you-wish on Wednesdays.
  • Utilize the New York Subway to travel like a local – it’s also a great way to avoid traffic!