Enjoy the Magic: Attending the 2016 DisneySMMC

It’s hard to believe that it’s time for the 2016 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. In March, a magical invitation landed in my inbox at just the right time. Naturally.

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Chaos and hardships always seem to pop up at the most inopportune times. This year, though I truly shocked and honored to receive another invitation to DisneySMMC. Because it wasn’t our first time, I had to really think about it. We weren’t financially prepared to take a vacation to Disney World, just weeks away. And truly, with all the chaos happening at home, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take a vacation, never mind be with anyone outside of my daily bubble.

And that’s when it hit me: in light of the crazy, I needed to seek joy. So, we pinched our pennies, and the stars aligned, and here we are…

Because joy always balances the crazy, right?

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For my non-social media friends and family, DisneySMMC is an invite-only event hosted by Disney Parks where we, as influencers, are given an inside look at what makes this place so magical. It’s one of the few elite celebrations where families are included and encouraged to join the festivities. Disney hosts meticulously-planned parties and social media strategy lectures and more over the 4-day event.

One of my absolute favorite speakers was from the 2015 event. Eva Smith, Head of Marketing Insights for Pinterest shared a lot of valuable information. In fact, I’ve gone on to use a lot of that info when I freelance as a social media consultant and train small businesses. The lessons and insight I gained from that talk alone was worth all the effort and investment in attending.

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Sponsors such as Hanes, Kimberly Clark, Alamo, GoGo SqueeZ, Joffrey’s and American Tourister contribute to the magic. But it’s the Disney Parks Team that goes above and beyond to provide such incredible experiences for the 150+ influencers and their families in attendance.

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It goes without saying that, contrary to popular belief, DisneySMMC is NOT a “free trip.” I’ve had friends and family members assume that we get to come here for free. Not the case. In fact, we had to scrape to be able to afford this trip. (We’re eating PB&J on the days that Disney doesn’t feed us!) While we pay our way to take part in the Celebration, we do receive some complimentary items (swag), discounts and other cool perks. One of our favorite perks was meeting Olaf last year!

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If you follow me on social media, then you may already know that my family has been in Florida for a few days. With the crazy weather on the East Coast, I’m glad we got the painful traveling out of the way so we can hopefully enjoy the sunshine for the rest of the week.

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Today, May, 4, 2016, my guys and I spent the day at Hollywood Studios in honor of Star Wars Day. May the Fourth Be With You! It was cold, wet and rainy, but we had so much fun checking out our favorite attractions and interacting with Storm Troopers and more.

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Now that we’re all settled into the Beach Club, I will be sharing a lot of info on my social channels. I plan to snap more off the cuff, behind the scenes stuff on Snapchat. Fun visuals over on Instagram. Limited updates and maybe a Facebook Live post from some parts of the conference on Friday, 5/6. And definitely videos over on YouTube. I’ll link up  my channels below, so be sure to follow for more fun updates!

Twitter: @jenrab 
Instagram: @jenrab
Snapchat: jen_rab
Facebook: The Next Kid Thing
YouTube: The Next Kid Thing

 

 

Full disclosure: At DisneySMMC, we receive some complimentary items and discounts, however all opinions on NKT are my own.

We’re going to #DSMM in May

Blogging has afforded my family and me the most wonderful experiences over the years. But, among all the cool experiences, some of the highlights have been being invited to Disney Social Media Moms Celebration (DSMM) multiple times.

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I’ll be the first to tell you: I don’t have the “biggest” blog, I don’t have numbers inflated by giveaways, and I’m almost always overwhelmed by life and how much work needs to get done. Nevertheless, I believe in staying true to myself and to this site I created 8 years ago. I’m proud of having the platform to keep my journalism background at work while creating a site that reaches such a diverse audience. NKT has ebbed and it’s flowed, but through it all, I’m so glad I’ve had an outlet to share all of the cool things for kids that make us happy.

When my littler guy was extremely sick 2/3 years ago, and we had nothing but visits to specialists and procedures on our calendar, I shared a lot of my life on social media as a way to cope. My community rallied and helped me stay sane. Sure, I use social media daily to promote the site and whatever’s the topic du jour, but in the end, it’s truly changed my life.

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At Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, I’ve learned how to hone my craft and how to better understand analytics for platforms such as Pinterest. Speakers have inspired us in storybook ways, just as one would expect Disney to showcase. But most importantly, Disney has brought my family together in the toughest times,—when we’ve been financially drained by medical bills, overcome by worries and consumed by what ifs. As my older son is quickly racing to become a teen and my younger son gets stronger every day, it’s the happy times that elevate us as a family.

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Our life is far from storybook, but we’ll always have our Disney memories to lift us up when we need them most. I’m forever grateful for Disney Parks and BSM Media for making those memories that much more magical.

I’m finishing up some video from last year’s Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, but for now, I wanted to share this recap video of last year’s event that was created for Disney. 

I can’t wait to share our experiences at DSMM again in May. Until then, I’m sure my Pinterest boards and blog posts will be flooded with Disney crafts and ideas inspired by The Mouse.

Best Family Cruises for 2016

 

Many families are in the midst of planning their calendars for the year, including vacations. Since we’re all about families on NKT, I wanted to find out more about the best family cruises. A few weeks ago, along with several fellow bloggers, my friends Audrey and Vera invited me to attend the Cruise Lines International Association media event where I had the chance to meet with various cruise lines. 

According to CLIA, 24 million passengers are expected to sail on a cruise in 2016. Despite that staggering statistic, not every cruise line is the same. As with any vacation, some cruises are geared to the luxe category, some to the more moderate passengers and others appeal to budget passengers. Some ships are oversized, others are smaller vessels that offer a more intimate experience. And as you can imagine, some cruises are suitable for families while other cruises are more appropriate for mature passengers (i.e., not kid-friendly).

There are so many cruise lines worldwide, so based on accessibility, affordability and amenities, here’s what we think are among the best family cruises for 2016.

 

1.  Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival is known for being affordable and accessible with 24 ships operating 3 to 16-day cruises to exotic locales such as The Bahamas, Caribbean, Europe, Mexican Riviera, Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, New England, Bermuda, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Carnival has a brand new ship, the Carnival Vista set to debut in May this year. The Carnival Vista boasts a long list of features, but these certainly caught my eye: the first-ever IMAX theatre at sea; the SkyCourse and SkyRide for sports fans is a sports mecca and zip bike course and Carnival Waterworks, a water park with fun features, including a raft slide for two.

 

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2.  Disney Cruise Line

Disney touts their cruises as combining the magic of Disney with ocean travel. As a family who adores Disney and the idea of cruising, admittedly, a Disney Cruise has been on our must-do list for a few years now. This year, in fact, Disney Cruise Lines will be sailing out of NYC. 

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The Disney Magic will feature sailings from New York to the Bahamas and will include a visit to Walt Disney World Resort, plus a Park Hopper ticket and round-trip transportation between the ship and the resort. All New York to Bahamas voyages also include a stop at Castaway Cay. From their theaters that feature live musicals to spas for the adults to the cool activities with Disney-centric stories, Disney Cruise Lines seems like an idyllic cruise vacation for families in mind.

 

3. Norwegian Cruise Line

Known for their Freestyle Cruising ships, NCL has a relaxed, yet chic vibe to their ships. Their newer ships feature water parks and amazing Nickelodeon themed kids’ clubs. I love the idea of their Splash Academy, which is a youth program geared to 3-12 year olds.


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They even have a cool teen program called Entourage which is ideal for 13-17 year olds. The ships feature Group Sitting which is perfect when you’re hoping for adult time while in port or in the evenings. We were aboard the Getaway for a tour and press event just two years ago when it first arrived to NYC.

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We had a great taste of this fun ship, needless to say! NCL just makes it easy for families to have fun at sea.

 

4. Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean is another cruise that has been on our must-do list. With ships that feature activities such as 3-D screens, rock-climbing walls, ice skating rinks and surfing simulators, RCCL appeals to families who love adventure and fun activities at sea. Their Adventure Ocean Youth Program has activities for kids to 17.

 

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Their Royal Babies and Tot Nurseries offers childcare and actives for the littles cruisers. RCCL goes to 230 destination through the Caribbean, Europe, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Hawaii, Bermuda, the Panama Canal, Asia, Australia and New Zealand and South America. The cruise line also has 2 private destinations: CocoCay, which is a private island in the Bahamas and Labadee, a beach locale on the coast of Haiti.

 

5. Princess Cruises

A well known cruise line and part of the Carnival Corporation, Princess Cruises has a fleet of 18 ships. People may know Princess Cruises from their starring role on The Love Boat in the 70s. In modern days, Princess Cruises focuses on innovation and high caliber entertainment and amenities aboard their ships. I recently had the chance to get a taste of some of their offerings at a media event last fall.IMG 8973 Princess Cruises and Discovery have teamed up to offer some really cool experiences. From Stargazing experiences to Animal Planet shore excursions to my favorite, Shark Week at Sea, Princess and Discovery are tapping into pop culture and educational avenues with their new partnership. 

 

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Having covered the cruise industry in my previous magazine editor life, cruises hold a special place in my heart. As a parent who appreciates adventure and practicality, I love the idea of cruising for families. I love the inclusiveness and not having to drive anywhere after you board the ship. I appreciate that on these floating cities there’s something for everyone. So, if you wanted to vacation with the grandparents, aunts and uncles, you could do so. From food to fashion to kids’ clubs to water parks, there’s truly something for everyone aboard a family cruise.

 

Dora and Diego—Let’s Explore at Liberty Science Center + giveaway

 Just before all the holiday chaos started, we were invited to explore the Dora and Diego exhibit at Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, NJ.

 

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There’s so much we love about LSC, but the educational and interactive exhibits rank pretty high up on our list.

At our most recent trip to LSC we had the chance to explore the Dora and Diego—Let’s Explore! exhibit. If there was ever an exhibit that adequately examines the curious nature of toddlers and preschoolers, Dora and Diego—Let’s Explore is it.  The exhibit features Nickelodeon favorites, Dora and Diego, along with their buddies, Boots, Map, Backpack, Isa, Tico and Swiper.

This exhibit was created by The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis in partnership with Nickelodeon and will be at LSC until January 24th.


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Like the popular Nickelodeon shows from which this exhibit is based, Dora and Diego—Let’s Explore is an exhibit that encourages adventure, curiosity and how to solve problems while engaging Spanish speaking skills for preschoolers.

Highlights from the exhibit include:

The Purple Planet – Kids can climb inside and slide down on the surface of the whimsical Purple Planet

 

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Rocket Ship – Dora and friends need a ride to the Purple Planet. At the Rocket Ship, kids can suit up, pilot the ship and play memory with planets. 

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Constellations – Kids can learn about stars and identify the patterns made out of stars by inserting star shapes to light-up a constellation

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Isa’s Flowery Garden – At the Flowery Garden, Dora’s friend Isa the Iguana helps kids learn the beauty of flowers, plants, and animals. At Isa’s Garden, kids can pick flowers, interact with bird, butterflie, and insect puppets

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 Tico’s Tree and Car – Tico the squirrel needs help picking nuts from the tree for a family picnic. Kids can play along with Swiper to swipe the nuts and watch as they shoot up and over to fill Tico’s basket. Kids can help Tico fill up his car with nuts so he can begin his journey.

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 Pirate Ship – In the Pirate Ship, kids can band together with Pirate Piggies crew and dress like a pirate and sail the ship and share the treasure treasure. 

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Animal Rescue Center – Kids get a hands-on opportunity to care and help (stuffed) rainforest animals in Diego’s Animal Rescue Center. Kids can be an animal rescuer like Diego, as well as diagnose and help treat critters with the Scanner bed, First-Aid Station and fluff their fur at the Care Station. 

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Rainforest Maze – At the rainforest, kids can locate rainforest animals and swing across the Bobo Brothers’ monkey bars, crawl through a fallen tree, climb across Jaguar Mountain, and jump or hop across the River Rocks.

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Though the exhibit is geared to the younger set, both my preschooler and grade schooler enjoyed Dora and Diego—Let’s Explore. The many interactive features, games and activities kept my kids engaged for well over an hour and a half.

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 At the Rocket Ship, both kids loved role-playing and pretending to blast off. Tico’s Tree and Car was a fun activity for both kids, especially my preschooler who was excited to pick nuts and fuel up himself. At the Rainforest Maze, my 8 year old enjoyed climbing and helping his little brother jump and swing around. The Animal Rescue Center was another favorite for my boys, where they were able to partner up and play vet together. I loved listening to my older son read the little signs and share interesting information throughout this super fun experience.

 

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Dora and Diego—Let’s Explore is a fantastic interactive exhibit that’s ideal for toddlers and preschoolers, but engaging for the entire family. LSC has been one of my family’s absolute favorite museums in NJ since my older son was an infant. There’s always something for everyone in the family to enjoy. It does get crowded on the weekends and at peak times, but it’s always a lot of fun. And as winter limits family activities, what better way to spend a cold day with family than exploring at LSC.

 

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With that in mind, in conjunction with What’s Down in Town, we’re giving away a family 4-pack of tickets to the Liberty Science Center that includes admission to Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition gallery. This giveaway will end on Friday to give you a chance to enjoy LSC over the long weekend! Please enter below:

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In order to facilitate this review, we received complimentary admission to LSC. Promotional tickets were provided for giveaway. As always, all opinions are my own.

 

 

Enjoy Summer Memories at Jenkinson’s Boardwalk + #JenksMemory Giveaway

As far as summer fun goes, we’ve been pretty lucky this year. Between hanging out with friends at our lake all day, playing baseball, rugby, running a triathlon and riding bikes in the neighborhood, we’re so fortunate to have so much to do this summer.

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However, with all the fun activities and sports, that’s not to say we don’t love a good road trip. Our summer isn’t complete with a few trips to the beach. When heading down the shore, to Jenkinson’s in Point Pleasant is our go-to beach.IMG 0691
At just a little over an hour away, Jenkinson’s is a family-friendly beach that has an attraction for everyone in the whole family. From games to rides to fun food to mini golf to relaxing on the sandy beaches, for us northerners, Jenkinson’s is the quintessential summer at the shore.

This week, we took our friends to their first ever jaunt down the shore. First stop per the kids’ request: Jenkinson’s Aquariaum to say hello to the penguins, Luseal and Seaquin.

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The aquarium, always a hit for rainy days, is super fun to visit mid-day to get a reprieve from the weather and crowds. We enjoyed the aquarium and didn’t have to fight too many crowds on the sunny day when we visited. The sharks, penguins, touch tank and seals are our absolute favorites, but I have to say, the clownfish up front is a runner up.

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Weekday visits to Jenkinson’s Boardwalk is such a treat because, not only do you get to enjoy the beach, depending on the time of summer, you get a reprieve from the crowds.

Since we visited later in the summer, vacationer traffic seemed to be dwindling, so we had the restaurants to ourselves. We had lunch at the Pavillion, one of our favorites. What makes this spot so great is that it’s close to the Aquarium and it has a variety of food for everyone. Even better? It’s an enclosed area to beat the heat. As with any destination type of place, food can be pricey for an entire family. The kids always love the lunches served in buckets that double as beach toys. Portions are big here, which is always a plus.

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Roof Top Mini Golf is another must-do for our family. Last summer, my husband was toting my toddler around as we played, this year, it was fun to see my little dude go all Happy Gilmore on the putting green. Because this Mini Golf area is on a rooftop, there isn’t much shade.
IMG 0642So if you don’t mind the heat, there aren’t too many other people playing in the middle of the day. It’s a fun and clean course, perfect for friends and family to take on a friendly game of mini golf. Do yourself a favor though, watch out for the slippery puddles after it rains! We had a little accident when we missed a puddle and fell hard onto the concrete. Nevertheless, Roof Top Mini Golf is a blast for everyone.

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Perhaps, one of the things that sets Jersey Shore boardwalks aside from other beach towns is the fun amusements! Having grown up in Virginia Beach, we had several amusement rides, but nothing quite as expansive as what you can find at Jenkinson’s.

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The kiddie rides are always in great condition with minimal lines during the week. The big kid rides are fast and can’t be missed. I love that my bigger guy and littler guy could still ride rides together. And hey, I enjoyed hopping on a kiddie ride for good measure, too!

The Flitzer, though, is still our absolute favorite ride. For a mini roller coaster, you can’t miss this super fun attraction.
At a little over an hour away, Jenkinson’s is a fantastic option for a day trip, whether it’s on one of these last summer weekends or on a weekday with the kids. With the very cool aquarium, beach access, plenty of restaurants and treats, mini golf, games and rides, Jenkinson’s is fun for the whole family!

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Headed to Jenkinson’s later this summer? Be sure to check out Hot Halloween which runs August 25-27th. In September, don’t miss Labor Day Fireworks on the 7th, Grandparent’s Day at the Aquarium, Behind the Scenes Tour at the Aquarium on the 19th and Tea by the Sea at the Aquarium on the 24th. For a full line up of activities, head to Jenkinson’s Events.

In conjunction with NKT, and as part of my participation in the Jenkinson’s Memory Maker program, I’m thrilled to be able to giveaway a weekday VIP voucher to Jenkinson’s Boardwalk that includes wristbands for up to 5 people.
Head to Rafflecopter below or on our Facebook Page to enter. Good luck!

The wristbands include unlimited rides in the amusement area, Rooftop Mini Golf, admission to Jenkinson’s Aquarium, admission to the Fun House, beach access and Jenkinson’s bath house. Not valid for parking. This voucher is valid Monday-Friday only, no weekends or holidays, and expires 12/31/15. This giveaway ends on 8/16/15 at 11:59pm! A random winner will be announced on Monday, 8/17.

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Full disclosure: as a Jenkinson’s Memory Maker, I have been provided with a voucher for my visit. All opinions expressed are my own.

Day Out With Thomas to Pull into The Delaware River Railroad Excursions in Phillipsburg, NJ + Giveaway

There’s never a shortage of fun summer things to do around here. And since we’re always up for a family day trip, what better way to go out and see things than by train—Thomas the Train, that is!

Thomas the Train is pulling into The Delaware River Railroad Excursions on July 10-12 and 17-19 for Day Out with Thomas: The Celebration Tour 2015. In honor of Thomas & Friends celebrating 70 years of friendship, this fun day is expected to be as exciting as ever.

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At this event, little engineers can take a 25-minute ride with everyone’s favorite blue train, Thomas the Tank Engine, and enjoy the day on the grounds doing arts and crafts, meeting Sir Topham Hatt, enjoying storytelling and other fun Thomas-themed events. The rides operate hourly July 10-12, 17-19. Now in its 20th year, will make 42 stops across the U.S. and Canada and is expected to welcome nearly one million passengers in 2015, including Phillipsburg, NJ overlooking the Delaware River.

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And what’s a celebration without a fun giveaway! In conjunction with Nextkidthing.com, we’re giving a 4-pack of tickets away for the Sunday, July 19 3:00 Day Out with Thomas event. Winners will be picked at random after entering below. We will notify winners on Friday, June 10. Winners’ tickets can picked up by will call. It is advised to arrive an hour ahead of departure time to park, pick up tickets and board Thomas The Tank. Of course, feel to arrive earlier and stay later to enjoy all the Day out with Thomas activities. Enter to win tickets below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Tickets for Day Out with Thomas: The Celebration Tour 2015 at The Delaware River Railroad Excursions for July 10-12, 17-19 are on sale now and available by calling Ticketweb toll-free 866-468-7630, or by visiting 877trainride.com  Ticket prices are $21.00 plus tax for ages 2 and up (service charges and fee may apply). Not in NJ? Check and see if Thomas and Friends are visiting a railroad near you!

For more information and directions, contact the Delaware River Railroad Excursions, 877trainride.com.

For information on Thomas & Friends, visit www.thomasandfriends.com or follow along here: @ThomasFriends #DOWT #ThomasObsessed

Tommee Tippee Tableware Streamlines Travel for Families on the go

Like many families, we spend a lot of time on the road in the summer. Whether it’s visiting grandparents out of town or heading to the beach, we’re always on the go, and rely on gear that helps us get to where we’re going. 

 

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I can’t tell you how many meals we have when we’re on the road: granola bars before rugby practice, Go Go Squeeze before swim meets and, yes, even cereal with milk on the road down to Va. Like most toddlers, my 3 year old is still perfecting his eating skills, so he needs tools that help him accomplish those tasks. Tommee Tippee has a great range of feeding tools that work so well for families on the go.

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Tommee Tippee’s Easi-Roll bib is my all-time favorite bib for my kid, and as gifts for baby showers. This super-practical bib is softer, yet durable and easy-to-clean after the messiest meals. I love that you can put the bib into the dishwasher after eating. The best thing about this best is that you can roll and tuck it right into your diaper bag or carry-on to have it accessible for road trips or any time you’re eating on the go.

 

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TT’s Section Plates remain a mainstay for all meals at our home. These plates are sectioned off into three compartments, making it easy to portion food for toddlers and keep them from not touching! Unlike other toddler plates, this plate has an ergonomic shape that makes it ideal for little hands to grasp (when they’re not snoozing, that is!)

 

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Pop Up Storage Cups always come in handy for road trips. In addition to Goldfish or Cheerios, we love throwing my toddler’s little collectible toys in the Pop Up Storage Cups. Whether it’s little bouncy balls or crayons for his coloring books, the Storage Cups are great to contain items to keep within reach in the car. Added extra: they fit perfectly in the car and booster seats’ cupholders.

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Easy Scoop Feeding Bowls are another fave for summer excursions. Some mornings in the summer, we start our days early to get prime spots at the beach. This often means we’re eating breakfast in the car, which is where the Easy Scoop Feeding Bowls with Lid and Spoon come in handy. C’mon, whomever thought of stashing the spoon in the lid is a genius!  When we don’t misplace the lids, these bowls are ideal for easy eating at the beach.

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Do you have any favorite gear that helps you when you’re on the road? Whatever you’re up to this summer, I hope you streamline your travels with easy-to-use gear when you’re on the go.

 

Full disclosure: This is a sponsored post and I am being offered compensation for my time and effort. As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

Disney Social Media Moms Celebration is here!

 

It’s finally here! After much anticipation, we made it to Orlando for the 2015 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration! As many of you know, DSMMC is an invite-only celebration with top influencers to engage in all things Disney.

 

After little sleep last night, we had an uneventful trip down to Florida. The kids were great on the plane, aside from Jack’s unnecessary need to hold a barf bag to his mouth every time there was turbulence. haha!

 

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I’m just so glad to be here and can’t wait to relax and unwind with my guys in between Disney Social Media Moms. Both boys are older, and so far, it’s a bit easier to manage them while traveling. As for Disney, the magic is as brilliant as ever. We arrived a day early and were able to travel with ease and relax in the amazing beach-bottomed pool. We’ve yet to hit the parks, but are so thankful to have this family-time together, which is something that seems to be so fleeting these days.

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I’ve had the fortune of being invited multiple times, with this trip being my third rodeo. I’ll share information along the way, but I wanted to be totally transparent about this trip. We were not planning on taking a Disney trip this year, but when DSMMC sends an invite, it’s truly a once in a lifetime opportunity and something that’s hard to pass up. We were able to get the stars to align to afford to go on this trip. With that said, Disney is the host for DisneySMMC, however,  we pay a subsidized rate and are treated to several exclusive events, receive samples and experience unique things to share with our audiences.


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We’ll be learning more about Disney’s latest endeavors, so be sure to listen in on the conversation. Check out all the action on #DisneySMMC, and of course, be sure to follow me @jenrab on Twitter and Instagram for updates throughout our trip. Just a few things I’m excited to learn more about: Disney Springs, Avatar World and Frozen-themed attraction in Norway in Epcot! Unbelievable!

 

 

I can’t wait to endure and share the magic in the days to come!

Hilton Garden Inn Garden Getaway Tour Kicks off in NYC

We have family travel on the brain this week as we’re preparing to embark on a big trip next week. But before I go on about that trip, I thought I’d share some cool family travel news.

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Hilton Garden Inn, a part of the Hilton Worldwide chain, is well known for their upscale, yet comfortable amenities that cater to business travelers and families alike. With the ever-so-slight glimpse of Spring that we’re enduring here in the NYC area, it was a treat to see the that the Hilton Garden Inn is in full bloom with its Garden Getaway Tour.

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Hilton Garden Inn kicked off their Garden Getaway Tour in NYC a few weeks ago by setting up camp at several iconic NYC destinations with their Garden Greeters in tow, of course. The Greeters visited Chelsea, Herald Square and Central Park in their full-flowered regalia. The kids and I shared our travel ambitions, which also hints to where we’re headed soon! We enjoyed meeting the festive Hula, Cowboy and Queen’s Guard Greeters, all of whom not only looked fantastic, but smelled tropically divine.

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As part of the Garden Getaway Tour, consumers will have the chance to win a getaway to a new Hilton Garden Inn located in Hawaii. To enter for a chance to win, you must capture a photo with a Garden Getaway Greeter and share on Twitter, Instagram, or on the Hilton Garden Inn Facebook page using #HGIGardenGetaway and #entry.

Want to check out the Hilton Garden Inn Garden Getaway Tour for yourself? Be sure to check out the next stops: Dallas on May 15 and 16, Los Angeles on July 3 and 4 and wrap up in Chicago on September 4 and 5.

Full disclosure: I was offered a complimentary stay at a Hilton Garden Inn property in exchange for sharing this contest. As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

 

Penguins of Madagascar is a Smart and Funny Family Flick

The Penguins of Madagascar are back, and this time, they’re stars of their own movie. Produced by Dreamworks and distributed by 20th Century Fox, Penguins of Madagascar is a fast-paced and funny story about four penguin friends.

 

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Penguins of Madagascar, which hits theaters on Wednesday, November 26, sheds light into the backstory of the funny foursome: Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private. The spinoff to the Madagascar franchise, the Penguins’ adventure follows their pursuits in preventing the peculiar Dr. Octavius Brine from taking over the world.

 

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Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private must work together with North Wind undercover agents while keeping their character in tact and eating as much Cheezy Dibbles along the way. Above all pursuits, Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private embrace their brotherhood and prove the importance of loyalty.

 

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Famous names lend their voices to this fun film: John Malkovich is Dave, Ken Jeong is hilarious as Short Fuse and Benedict Cumberbatch is Classified the gray wolf. Like other Dreamwork films, the humor in Penguins is witty and smart, relevant for the parental audience, but still silly and fun for the kid contingent.  With all the action, adventure and fun, Penguins has all the elements for fantastic family film and impeccably-timed for the holidays.

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In honor of the Penguins Movie, we were invited to a press junket in the City. Together with several other bloggers’ families, we enjoyed the day at the Bronx Zoo, where we toured the Madagascar exhibit and watched a private feeding of Magellanic Penguins and were treated to breakfast and lunch courtesy of Residence Inn. 

 

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After our day at the Bronx Zoo and following our screening of the Penguins of Madagascar, we were hosted at the new Central Park Residence Inn. Residence Inn and the Penguins have a partnership promoting the family travel experience, and we were quite fortunate to experience this partnership firsthand.

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Overlooking Central Park from a few blocks away, the Residence Inn is a convenient midtown location that’s close to a myriad of NYC tourist destinations.  The decor is modern and sleek, the complimentary breakfast is expansive and the rooms are cozy and comfortable; the Residence Inn is ideal for families who seek a midtown hotel with ample amenities.

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My kids were in amazement of the unbelievable views of the city from our room at the Residence Inn. As if watching the Penguins movie before anyone else wasn’t cool enough, getting to stay in a really cool hotel overlooking Central Park was certainly a highlight of the weekend.

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Check out Penguins of Madagascar on Wednesday, November 26!

 

Check it

Residence Inn announced a promotion in line with their partnership with the Penguins of Madagascar release. Contestants can enter the Penguins Picture Mission contest on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram by reenacting their favorite “Penguins of Madagascar” pose with the hashtag #PenguinsMissionPromo between now and December 7. Contestants can enter up to six times, once per week. Each image will be generated into an online photo gallery, giving fans a chance to check out the competition.

 

The grand prize includes round trip airfare to Tampa for four, a three-night stay at the Residence Inn Tampa Downtown, four tickets to see “Madagascar Live! Operation Vacation” at Busch Gardens Tampa, two-day admission tickets for four at Busch Gardens Tampa, and more. Every week for six weeks, participants will also be entered to win prizes including a package of Madagascar DVDs and a $150 Residence Inn gift card.

 

Full disclosure: my family was hosted at the Bronx Zoo, Residence Inn and to a screening of the Penguins of Madagascar, with thanks to DreamWorks Animation and 20th Century Fox. A big thank you to Big Honcho Media and the studios for hosting my family on such a lovely event.