Best Holiday Travel Guide For Your Family

Updated:

Holiday Travel Guide – Between the overabundance of family togetherness, relatives who overstay their welcome, and delayed flights, the holidays are stressful.

But you can make your travels hassle-free by taking a few simple steps.

Step back, take a deep breath, and dive into the holidays with these 8 Holiday Travel Tips for a Hassle-Free Vacation.

Holiday Travel Tips for a Hassle-Free Vacation

Check for flight delays before you leave

Call your airline or check online before you leave the house to see if your flight is delayed or cancelled.

If it’s cancelled, you might have a better chance of getting rebooked on the phone than in person — especially if you’re a frequent flier.

Either way, it’s helpful to know what to expect when you arrive at the airport.

Get to the airport (extra) early

Even the smallest airports are incredibly busy during the holidays.

Last year I almost missed a flight in my hometown because I assumed the airport would be less crowded that it was.

Account for things that could go wrong on the way (traffic, late train or bus), leave the house early, and be prepared to wait in long lines once you arrive at the airport.

Bag your toiletries

Save time in line by putting your travel-size toiletries in a plastic baggie before you leave the house.

Keep the bag in accessible spot so you won’t hold up the line while frantically digging through your suitcase in search of your deodorant and toothpaste.

For a green toiletry option, Tom’s of Maine has some great environmentally-friendly travel-size products.

Wear shoes that slip on and off easily

We’ve all been in line behind that guy who wore lace-up boots that took 20 minutes to remove.

Don’t be that guy.

If you want to wear shoes with laces, loosen the laces while you’re waiting in line so you can slip your shoes off quickly when you get to the front of the line.

Know airport screening requirements

Airport security lines are slowed down even more during the holidays by inexperienced travelers.

Being prepared by knowing requirements will help you get through security without a hitch.

In the U.S., you can’t have liquid bottles that are larger than 3 oz, all liquids have to go in a plastic baggie, you must remove your shoes and coat, and you have to take your laptop out of its bag.

Pack snacks

Who wants to wait in line for 45 minutes to buy a bland, $10 sandwich?

Bring snacks from home and you’ll save money and avoid hassle.

For snack storage, a Wrap-n-mat is a fantastic alternative to the decidedly un-green plastic baggie.

Bring a water bottle

Avoid the $4 bottles of water and opt for a green alternative — your own reusable bottle.

The folks at Hydrasip were kind enough to send me a Hydrasip stainless steel bottle, which has become my new favorite.

I like the contoured shape that fits comfortably in my hand.

Pack light

The overhead bins are fuller than ever around the holidays, so be prepared to check a bag if you don’t pack light.

Packing light is better for the environment and easier on your stress level.

Plus, most airlines in the U.S. now charge for checked bags.

Check out our Ultimate Guide to Packing Light for tips and tricks to lighten your load.

5 Holiday Travel Tips for a Stress-Free Trip

Will you be traveling this holiday season?

Check here for last minute travel deals.

This time of year can be busy — and magical — but it is possible to have a stress free holiday on the go.

Whether you’re headed for a family vacation in the sun or Grandma’s house, following these holiday travel tips will help you enjoy your family time away from home.

Spending an Unforgettable Christmas in Europe

Travel before Christmas Day for the lowest crowds and best deals.

If you’ll be vacationing at a beach or ski resort this holiday season, or visiting a theme park, the crowds press in hardest after Christmas Day.

In fact, between Christmas and New Year’s Day is traditionally the busiest time of year for many family resorts.

Book the week before Christmas instead.

Even last minute holiday travel deals can be found, and pre-Christmas bookings usually fall outside of peak season pricing.

We once spent a blissful week at Disney World from December 17-22nd enjoying near-empty parks and discounted lodging.

Near the end of our visit, we could see the crowds coming in just as we were leaving.

If you can avoid it, don’t fly during the Thanksgiving holiday.

Because time off is more concentrated during Thanksgiving (most families only have a few days off), prime time for air travel is more condensed.

The more demand, the higher flight prices soar, and the higher stress-levels rise in busy, over-crowded airports.

Driving during Thanksgiving is usually the better bet: the weather is milder than during the winter holidays, and you stay out of the crowds.

If you do need to travel by air, use the following holiday travel tips for hassle-free flying.

Spend time wherever you are

So many times when traveling, we rush from site to site, city to city.

If there is a way to slow down and spend more time at each destination.

Even when that means visiting less places.

You will better understand and enjoy the culture where you are.

Eat local and spend time at less crowded tourist attractions.

You may even consider renting a bicycle and enjoying a little bit of cycling tourism on your own or with a tour.

Think outside the (gift) box when bringing presents with you.

Taking the holidays on the road can be stressful.

And taking up a lot of space in your luggage or car!

If you have small children, they’ll expect Christmas or Hanukkah presents to be waiting whether they’re at home or on the road, and it is possible to make it happen.

Consider shipping gifts straight to your hotel, rental, or resort (and save on shipping costs and energy consumption by shipping straight from the company, instead of from home).

We also buy travel toys as Christmas gifts: small board games, art projects, and books can be fun gifts to open while driving or flying, and serve a practical purpose, too.

Older kids may be able to appreciate the gift of experiences instead of physical toys.

This year, we’ll be presenting our school-aged kids with gift certificates for a paintball session, which they can enjoy after the holidays during their break.

Consider a family membership to the zoo or children’s museum.

The gift certificates takes up no room, yet are substantial presents they’ll enjoy receiving.

Consider a home rental, even if visiting relatives.

Or perhaps that should read especially if visiting relatives.

You may be traveling to spend time with loved ones, but if you have small children, not having your own space can be challenging.

Renting a vacation home in the same town or city as your relatives affords you your own kitchen and multiple bathrooms, and week-long rentals can be a better deal than multi-night hotel room stays.

Kids and adults have their own rooms, and bedtimes and nap times can be observed.

We use HomeAway for the best selection world-wide.

Rent as much equipment as possible at your destination.

Many baby and toddler gear rental companies now exist in major cities and tourist destinations, saving families the need to lug strollers and high chairs to their resort or hotel.

Now that our kids are older, we still rely on delivery service for supplies like groceries.

We place our order online before leaving home, and enjoy having our groceries waiting for us when we arrive.

Many stores now deliver to local hotels, saving families that harried trip to stock up on food when all they want to do is jump in the pool or get some rest.

Will you be traveling this holiday season?

What are your best holiday travel tips?

Unforgettable Sailing Experience in The Ionian Sea

Spending an Unforgettable Christmas in Europe

When I think back to the winter I spent backpacking around Eastern Europe, I remember the smell of mulled wine, the sight of kids sledding down man-made hills at Christmas markets, and the wonderful feeling of stepping out of subzero temperatures and into a warm museum.

Christmas in Europe is beautiful in the winter and the cold keeps most of the tourists at bay, so you have the opportunity to explore historic cities without the crowds.

I would highly recommend it.

Here’s a look at Christmas in eight European cities.

Europe is a continent that has retained its “Old World” charm and this is, undoubtedly, what makes Christmas in Europe as diverse as it is festive.

From the Christmas markets of Germany to the singing of yuletide carols in Austria, Christmas in Europe makes for a great vacation.

Jena, Germany: Christmas Market

Christmas in Europe is celebrated differently and starts early, too.

The Jena Christmas market, for instance, is held in Germany’s Thuringia region.

Villages and towns begin decorating in November and in a time-honored tradition, Jena’s Christmas market officially opens when the first cut of the four-meter long stollen, or cake, is made.

The market is decorated with lights and the ubiqiuitous Christmas trees where a trumpet sounds off every day at 5 PM to welcome revelers.

Stollen and Glühwein, a.k.a. Christmas cake and mulled wine, respectively, are sold in nearly all the stalls of the Jena market alongside Äpplewoi (hot apple cider), Bratwurst, and roasted chestnuts.

The Jenaer Weihnachtsmarkt, or Christmas market in Jena, runs from November 25 to December 22.

Visitors flock to Thuringia, home to the reformer Martin Luther, the poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe, and the composer Johann Sebastian Bach, for Jena’s Christmas market to buy exquisitely-carved wooden toys and Christmas decorations.

Traditional Christmas music, most of them by Bach, is performed by local musicians and small orchestras and played while shoppers go through colorful marionettes, nutcrackers in various designs, woven baskets, and Christmas cribs of the baby Jesus.

While Germany has a plethora of Christmas markets, that of Jena shouldn’t be missed.

Prague, Czech Republic: Old Town Square

The Czech Republic has one of the best Christmas markets outside of Germany.

These Christmas markets, or Vanocni trh, as they are called there, have colorful stalls that sell fine Bohemian crystal, classic marionettes, hand-carved wooden toys, and handmade jewelry.

Unknown to many, the Czechs make one of the most delicious sweet treats.

These include honeyed gingerbread, the braided, raisin-studded pastry called vánocvka, and the cookies made with rum known as vosí hnízda’ that resemble “wasps nests” made from butter, cream, and firm walnut dough.

The best Christmas market is located in the Old Town Square’s medieval movie-like set. 

Christmas in Prague’s Old Town Square is characterized by its entertainment program which typically features choirs from the country and overseas who sing carols while shoppers and revelers roam the place for a good meal or a bargain find.

In Christmases past, National Theater and State Opera soloists have performed in the Square.

The Old Town Square is famous for the interesting merchandise that its Christmas markets sell.

Embroidered lace, hand-painted ceramics, scented candles, hand-sewn gloves, blown glassware, beautifully-dressed dolls, and bespoke hats are only some of the items that collectors look for in the Square’s Christmas markets.

The Christmas market in Prague’s Old Town Square is the biggest in terms of visitor attraction and space.

With a shiny Christmas tree in the Square’s central area, this market is surrounded by breath-taking architecture of Gothic buildings like the Baroque-designed St. Nicholas Church that lends classic elegance to the Christmas market.

If you want to taste local honey, buy crystal jewelry or sip hot and spicy mulled wine called Svarák, head for the Old Town Square early to avoid the queues that become longer before lunch.

Take a look at the replicas of the nativity scene after lunch in the Square, which dates back to 1296, and buy an inexpensive version to take back home.

Barcelona, Spain: Solar Powered Christmas Tree

Spend an environmental-friendly Christmas in Barcelona, as this Spanish city plays host to a solar powered Christmas tree, the first of its kind in the European continent.

This Catalan city leads the way in harnessing solar energy to bring light to locals and visitors alike at Christmas with it sustainable, eco-friendly Christmas tree.

With reflective silver and blue solar panels, it is, literally, a bright idea that is not only unique but a reflection of the effort to educate Barcelona residents and tourists of the efficacy of solar power.

The tree, installed in Mercat Santa Catalina square, is powered entirely by bicycles.

It may look like a useless, ugly piece of construction during the day, but the cone-shaped tree lights up at night.

Passersby are requested to pump the tree’s bicycle pedals for several minutes in order to “boost” the tree’s solar energy. But the solar powered Christmas tree is not the only attraction in Barcelona.

The Catalan city has Christmas markets, a magic fountain (Font Magica) which spews a fantastic show of water and light to the cheerful sounds of Spanish Christmas carols, a skating rink in Barcelona’s central square of Plaza Cataluña, and the Copa Nadal, a 200 meter swimming dash to the Barcelona harbor on December 25th, in freezing water.

And speaking of Christmas markets, these have been an annual affair in Barcelona for more than 225 years.

Majority of the stalls in these markets sell nativity scenes, friction drums called zambombas, artisanal treats like native honey, cheese, wine, pastries, and chocolate confectionery, and the ubiquitous handmade Spanish fans.

Vienna, Austria: City Hall

The aroma of baked goods and the scent of fragrant hot punch spike the air from Vienna’s Christmas markets that open at the start of Advent.

Swarming with over 150 stalls, the one put up in in front of Vienna’s city hall is considered a classic, as well as those in Am Hof, Spittelberg, and Karlskirche.

Christmas tree ornaments, ceramics, traditional Austrian sweets such as the Spritzgebäck cookies, roasted chestnuts, candied fruits, and other traditional Viennese delicacies are on sale at these stalls.

The trees surrounding city hall’s park are lit with Christmas lights and provides an almost surreal setting for shoppers and strollers alike.

Inside Vienna’s city hall is an area dedicated to children where they are taught how to make Christmas cookies or candles.

Listen to international choirs sing Christmas carols on Advent weekends or gear up for open-air concerts for free at the Rathauspark (City Hall Park).

And in between performances, enjoy mulled wine, Wiener Schnitzel, roast chestnuts, langos (deep fried potato bread bathed in garlic paste), and the Christmas punch called Weihnachtspunsch.

City Hall Square on Christmas Eve is replete with a spectacle of trees decorated with glittering lights while listening to piped-in carol music.

Rome, Italy: The Colosseum

The Colosseum is one of three major sights – the other two being the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill – that is closed on December 25th (and on December 31st) but there are other activities to be enjoyed around the area.

Like in many parts of the world during the holiday season, Rome has its own unique Christmas markets.

Abundant displays of food, Christmas tree ornaments, trinkets, and handmade crafts are only some of the things in these Christmas markets.

Street performers, Christmas carol songs, and sparkling Christmas lights characterize these Christmas markets, especially at night.

Various sized Christmas trees go up at the Spanish Steps, the Vaticcan and the Colosseum, called Colosseo in Italian, to complement elaborate crèches or the Nativity scene.

The Colosseo has the biggest of these fir trees where it becomes the exquisite focal point of the elegant backdrop set against the starry sky.

Although the Colosseum is more popularly visited during the summer months, Christmas is the best time to be there.

While the Colosseum itself is closed, the Christmas markets around the area will have authentic Italian food, Renaissance-inspired crafts including handmade jewelry, and rare antiques and knick-knacks.

Paris, France: The Eiffel Tower

You can visit the Eiffel Tower in Paris any time of the year but if you choose to visit it at Christmas time, you will see the Christmas markets in the Champ-de-Mars and Quai Branly that sell fresh local produce and handcrafted Christmas ornaments, an open-air ice skating rink, and a recreated Christmas village at the Place de la Bastille.

Holiday lights deck Parisian buildings, monuments, and streets at Christmas time including the Eiffel Tower, of course, as well as the Champs-Elysées with the most dazzling display of bright lights lining the city’s long boulevard.

Three hundred freshly cut fir trees spruce up the traffic circle Rond-Point’s ring with twinkling lights.

What is Christmas without shopping? Even window shopping is festive in Paris at this time of the year.

Locals and visitors alike queue to department stores a stone’s throw away from the Eiffel Tower like Galeries Lafayette, Bon Marché, and Printemps for some serious window shopping, which the French call lèche-vitrine, or “window licking.”

Kids will enjoy the Christmas carousel, known as Manèges de Noël, which nearly every Parisian neighborhood has.

Practically all the Christmas markets near the Eiffel Tower will have a plethora of pastries, from the traditional Yule log (bûche de Noël) to those chocolate cups with a creamy custard filling called puits d’amour.

The Eiffel Tower is open even on Christmas day itself.

Have Christmas dinner at Le Jules Verne, a restaurant up the famous tower which serves contemporary French cuisine, while gazing at the spectacular display of scintillating lights scattered all over the City of Lights.

Spend Christmas in Europe and experience an unforgettable holiday.

Other countries may celebrate the holidays in similarly cheerful fashion, but nothing beats Christmas in Europe countries which are characterized by diversity.

Where else can you have Neapolitan honey pastry (struffoli) while listening to a Mozart concert?

21 Gift Ideas for Green Travelers
Money Belt Reviews for Every Traveler

Ultimate Guide to Halloween Party Ideas: Drinks, Treats, and Decorations

Throwing a Halloween party, but at a loss for spooky drinks and tasty treats?

Want to find a haunted house in your neighborhood?

Thinking about skipping town with a Halloween travel deal?

Or are you just looking for a few good Halloween iPhone apps?

No matter what Halloween advice or entertainment you seek, we’ve got you covered.

From scary books and Halloween drinks to costumed animals and face paint facts.

And Halloween Creepy Kitchen Decorations too.

If you’ve procrastinated on planning your Halloween party, don’t worry.

It’s not too late.

These Ultimate Guide to Halloween Party Ideas will get you pointed in the right direction.

Green Your Halloween Party
Halloween Drinks (includes beverages with names like Vampire’s Elixir and Red Zombie)
Halloween decorations kids can make (video — watch for the eco-friendly ones)
Hauz Khas Village Pubs for the Party Peeps

Entertainment: From Haunted Houses to Creepy Books

Whether you’re a thrill-seeker or a Halloween homebody, there is no shortage of entertainment for you this Halloween.

Halloween treat: Find haunted houses and events with MapQuest
Five Scary Books for Halloween

Ultimate Guide to Halloween

Costume Tips: Scary and Creative Last-Minute Costume Ideas

Ah, costumes.

They always sound so fun to make until it’s October 28th and you have no idea what you’re going to be.

Check out these resources for some quick and creative ideas.

Still not sure what to be for Halloween?
Ellen’s (Hilarious) Ideas For Kids’ Halloween Costumes
Fast and Simple Costumes: Last-Minute Halloween Costumes You Can Make
Toxins Make Halloween Face Paints Scary

Spooky (and Cute) Animals

I was tempted to make a Halloween costume for my 6 month old puppy, so I can’t judge those people who dress up their pets.

But I still do a little bit.

Nature’s Halloween Horrors: 20 Scary Animals
Halloween Goes To The Dogs: Weird and Wacky Pet Costumes

Just for Fun: Halloween Games and Apps

Get in the Halloween spirit with a spooky new iPhone app and monster mash-up.

GhostCam App: Add a Little Flare to Your Ghost-Free Travel Photos
Top 7 iPhone Apps for Halloween

Make Your Own Monster Mash-Up Musical

When I started planning my upcoming Halloween party, I wanted to strike the balance between spooky-fun and sustainability.

But I found a dearth of resources for green Halloween party ideas.

Planning a fantastic green Halloween shindig, it turned out, was not going to be as easy as I’d hoped.

But a fabulous party is within your reach. Read on for tips and ideas that will ensure your Halloween party is everything you want it to be.

After many hours of planning and scouring the internet for ideas, here are my best tips and ideas for a spooky, sustainable Halloween party.

Green Halloween Party

Invitations: Virtual or Homemade

The greenest invitations are virtual and Evite has some fabulous Halloween-themed invites.

If you prefer print invitations, you can make your own out of recycled materials you find around the house.

Recent newspapers, print ads, and magazines are full of great fall-themed photos that you can use to decorate your invitations.

You can even make your own envelopes out of festive magazine pages.

Or you can design your own invites in Word (or graphic design software, if you’re skilled that way) and print them yourself on recycled paper.

Any of the above options will be greener (and cheaper) than buying traditional invitations.

Decorations: Second-Hand

Forgo a trip to the Halloween section at Target and instead hit up your local nonprofit thrift store for festive finds at fantastic prices.

You’ll be amazed by the abundance of decorations.

On a recent trip to my local thrift stores, I found a haunted house candy dish, an unused jack-o-lantern candle, a witch’s hat, and a pumpkin platter — all for less than $2 each.

Garage sales and church rummage sales are also great places to find cheap decorations.

Costumes: Creative or Used

The greenest Halloween costume is one that’s made from materials you have in your house.

It’s possible even if you’re not crafty.

Do you have a long black dress or skirt and shirt?

You can be a witch.

Jeans and a plaid shirt?

A cowboy costume is calling you.

A white sheet and some scissors?

A simple ghost costume is just minutes away.

Need some inspiration?

Check out these 8 Great Green DIY Halloween Costumes.

If can’t find a suitable costume in your house, hit up those thrift stores again.

Many second-hand stores, like Goodwill, even have a Halloween section where they put used clothes that would make good costumes.

When I went recently, I saw dozens of wedding dresses, bold 70s printed bell bottoms and dresses, sports jersey, scrubs, and more.

Just find something that fits and you’re good to go.

Another great place to find a unique Halloween costume is Etsy.

Whether you’re looking for handmade Wizard of Oz costume or a vintage flapper dress, Etsy has something for you.

If you can avoid face paint, do it.

There are toxic chemicals in most face paint and you don’t want to put them on your own skin, let alone your kids’.

If you decide it’s a must-have for your costume, check out this less-toxic face paint by Elegant Minerals.

Food and Treats: Healthy Halloween Recipes

As I’ve been searching for Halloween party foods, I’ve noticed an unsettling trend: food coloring, and lots of it.

And it’s not just in store-bought candy like M&Ms, it’s in recipes for homemade cakes and cookies.

Fortunately, I’ve found ways to avoid artificially-colored food and still have festive treats.

One key is to focus on ingredients that are naturally Halloween colors — orange pumpkins and green bell peppers, for example.

Also, think less about candy and more about seasonal ingredients. Here are some of my favorite Halloween recipe ideas:

Party Favors: Eco-Friendly and Edible

Typically made of plastic and with little prospect for long-term use, party favors are one of the most wasteful elements of a party.

Plastic spider rings are fun for the first 5 minutes, but will likely end up in the trash in a few days.

To come up with a truly green party favor idea, focus on making your party favors useful and memorable.

One of my favorite ideas for Halloween party favors is a cookie or cake mix in a Mason jar.

You can use any recipe, but recipes that are make of appealing layers work best.

Here’s an example of a cute final product (note that you’d want to avoid the M&Ms and go with a more natural candy choice).

You could also bake a cupcake in a jar for each of your guests.

For a kids’ party, you could buy inexpensive wooden toys or make homemade playdough; both will last much longer than plastic ghosts and spiders.

Looking for more awesome green Halloween ideas?

Check out our Top 7 Green Halloween Tips.

What are your best green Halloween party ideas?

For more awesome ideas, be sure to check out our Top 7 Green Halloween Tips for ways to make your Halloween more environmentally-friendly.

Green Halloween Tips: Top Tips to Green Your Halloween

With Halloween less than a week away, are you ready to celebrate a green Halloween?

You will be after you read this.

Here are our favorite green Halloween party tips, recipes, and costume and decoration ideas for an eco-friendly Halloween.

Easy Party Tips & Recipe Ideas for your Green Halloween Tips

If you’re throwing a party for All Hollows’ Eve, be sure to read our own Green Halloween Party: Ideas for a Spooky Good Time, which covers everything from invitations and food to costume ideas and favors, and the Joyful Organizer’s Host your own Green Halloween Party or Neighborhood Bash, another comprehensive guide.

For more recipe ideas, check out Inhabitots 6 Spooky, Healthy Halloween Party Snacks & Finger Foods Kids Will Love.

Awesome Green Halloween Decorations

Make your house festive (but sustainable) with the Top 4 Green Halloween Decorations from MomsRising and 6 DIY Eco-Friendly Halloween Decor Items from Apartment Guide.

Creative Costume Ideas (and a Contest)

Need a great costume idea?

Check out HuffPost’s Green Halloween Costumes: Easy, Free DIY Ideas For Kids And Adults and Top 5 Green Halloween Costume Tips from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

Have a great, homemade Halloween costume?

Enter the Inhabitots Green Halloween Costume Contest for a chance to win $200 in prizes.

More Fantastic Green Halloween Tips

For more awesome ideas on how to green your Halloween, read:

Happy Halloween! What do you do to celebrate a green Halloween?

Top 7 Eco Halloween Tips to Green Your Halloween

Between the candy wrappers, the thrown away decorations, and plastic treat bags, Halloween has the potential to be one of the most wasteful holidays of the year. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Take these seven easy steps to green your Halloween.

Create a Recycled Halloween Costume

Skip the Halloween aisle at Target and opt for creating a costume from items you have at home.

Get the kids involved for a fun weekend activity.

If you can’t find the materials you need at home, visit a thrift store.

They can be Halloween costume gold mines.

Not sure where to start?

About.com has you covered with lots of creative costume ideas.

Rethink Candy and Treats

Instead of buying the big-brand candy bags, hand out fair trade and/or organic chocolates.

Sound too expensive?

Skip the candy and make or buy a reusable treat.

Green Halloween has some great green treat ideas to get you started.

Reconsider Face Paint

What did they have to put in that face paint to make it neon yellow?

Whatever it is, it can’t be good for your health or the environment.

And it’s probably not something you want to stay on your kids’ — or your own — face for 5 hours.

Think about skipping face paint altogether.

But if you absolutely must use face paint for your costume, read these safe face painting tips first.

Green Halloween

Go Natural with Green Halloween Decorations

Don’t buy decorations from retail stores. Who needs all of that extra plastic and paper lying around, anyway?

Instead, make your own reusable decorations from natural materials like pumpkins and leaves, and supplement with handmade decorations.

If you can’t live without a festive plastic candy bowl, visit thrift stores and garage sales for second-hand decorations.

Best Green Home Tips has some fun green Halloween decoration ideas.

Green Your Halloween Party

If you’re having a Halloween part, apply the above decoration tips and think creatively about what you serve your guests.

Instead of giving your guests non-sustainable candy in paper wrappers, hand out homemade cookies or cupcakes.

Skip the paper plates and plastic cups and utensils and opt for reusable ones instead.

Encourage guests to create green costumes by having a “create your own costume from scratch” theme party.

Walk the Trick or Treat Route

Some parents drop their kids off a few blocks away so they can trick-or-treat their way home.

Others drive around behind their kids while the kids walk the neighborhood.

Don’t do this.

Unless it’s 10 degrees outside, there’s no need to involve a car in trick-or-treating.

Walk with your kids around your neighborhood.

They don’t want to be seen with you?

Gotta love that age!

Trail them by foot; keep a distance of 1-2 houses between you and your kids.

The kids get to look cool and dependent, you get to make sure they’re safe.

Everybody wins.

Find a Reusable Candy Vessel

Halloween is all about seeing who can collect the most (and best) candy.

With that focus, the most important quality of the vessel that carries kids’ treasure is that it can hold a lot of candy.

So be creative.

Skip the plastic bags (yes, even if they’re decorated with cute pumpkins) and grab a reusable cloth bag, or even a pillowcase.

For more environmentally-friendly Halloween ideas check out:

Do you have green Halloween tips that we missed?

Share them in the comments.

Happy Halloween!

Top St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations Worldwide: Go Green in March

Originating as a Catholic holiday, St. Patrick’s Day has long been regarded as the party of the year in cities proud of Irish heritage.

Ireland hardly holds a monopoly on the holiday, however: St. Patrick’s Day celebrations can be found worldwide.

Wherever you’re roaming, a parade, festival, or at least a leprechaun is sure to be featured on March 17th.

Below are the top St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in five cities in which you can raise your pint of Guinness (many of which are considered green cities all year round!).

Chicago, IL

Surprised?

The most exciting day-of celebration is not found in Dublin, Ireland, or even Boston, MA (those both come close).

Chicago’s TWO huge St. Patrick’s Day parades aren’t to be missed.

Chicago’s downtown St. Patrick’s Day celebration begins when the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers dye the Chicago River green.

If St. Pat’s Day doesn’t fall on a Saturday, the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade is always the Saturday before.

The annual St. Patrick’s Day parade goes down Columbus Drive and is filled with traditional pipe bands, giant floats, and Irish dancers.

Of course, the party continues all night in Chicago’s many bars and nightclubs.

Chicago River Green on St. Patrick’s Day

Chicago’s second St. Pat’s Parade is held on the south side.

The South Side Irish Parade is another fun family event and has become another tradition since it had been reestablished in 1979.

Boston, MA

Yes, the party is bigger in Boston than in Dublin, with festivities beginning over a week before the holiday.

Almost one million visitors descend upon Boston annually for St. Patrick’s Day, ready to listen to Irish bands and performers, taste food and drink specialties at the many Irish restaurants and pubs, or be among the over 600,000 spectators lining the streets for the day-of parade.

Stay in town after the crowds depart to experience all the many attractions and history that Boston has to offer.

Dublin, Ireland

Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Festival runs generally around March 16-19th each year, and includes a surprising amount of family and kid-oriented programming, not the least of which is a science show by Dublin City of Science and a treasure hunt.

The highlights, however, include the “city at play” fun fairs in the streets and the annual Festival Parade.

Sydney, Australia

Another top St. Patrick’s Day spot is in Sydney.

25% of Australia’s population descends from Ireland and Irish heritage is still alive and well in the capital city.

The Sydney St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Family Day (the only one of its size funded totally by the local Irish community) begins with dancing on George Street, followed by the traditional parade and activities for families in Hyde Park.

Of course, adults continue celebrating in exuberant Aussie style throughout the evening.

London, UK

The annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in London is not to be missed.

Like the above cities, festivities will begin early, with the city in party-mode most of the week.

Visitors will find celebrity MCs, Irish phrase lessons, and dance instruction throughout London.

Bonus pick: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

If you’re looking for a unique St. Patrick’s Day pick, check out the festivities in Dubai, held annually at the city’s famed McGettigan’s Pub.

Here are lots of ways to drink green wherever you are.

There’s more to celebrating St. Pat’s Day than drinking green beer. With these picks for top St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, you will have a great time whether you are Irish or not.

Will you be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in any of the above cities?

Have another favorite pick?

Do tell!

And while you’re at it, share the location of that famed pot of gold!

Green Thanksgiving Tips – Give Thanks

Thanksgiving is Unfortunately, to me, Thanksgiving just signals the start of the endless list of Things To Do over the holiday season.

Shop for gifts, attend holiday parties, decorate the house, eat, drink, travel, repeat.

Thanksgiving is simply a springboard for all of this hustle and bustle. But it doesn’t have to be.

I originally came up with a great list of a large number of things you can do to celebrate a green Thanksgiving.

Volunteer, eat local, eat organic., etc.

If you’re looking for that sort of list see what I’ve compiled below.

But it occurred to me that this would be just another list of Things To Do (or not do) list.

Even the most eco-conscious of people don’t want to spend their Thanksgiving holiday stressing out about how to have the greenest of all green Thanksgivings.

And then it occurred to me, all of these things really boil one down to just one overarching way to be green on Thanksgiving:

That’s right – be truly thankful for all that you have on Thanksgiving and you will be celebrating a green Thanksgiving.

Why?

Because I believe that if you are truly conscious of your surroundings and thankful for all that you have you will more likely to take it slow, eat healthier and less, and not leave anything to waste.

You’ll be more likely to help others in need and not take what you have for granted. And that’s what being “green” is all about.

(Yet, being truly thankful is not always easy.

It requires stopping, taking a breath, and considering all of your blessings.

And sometimes, it’s easier to just follow a list.

If a list is what you’re looking for check out these articles from: Treehugger, EarthFirst, and Earth911.)

Green Thanksgiving Tips: How to Lessen Your Turkey Day Waste

Families across the US will come together to celebrate Thanksgiving.

It’s a time of community and warmth — and it shouldn’t be a time of waste.

Learn everything from what food to buy to what to do with leftovers with our top 10 green Thanksgiving tips.

Buy a Hormone-Free, Free-Range Turkey

If you’re eating a turkey, make sure it was humanely and sustainably raised.

Check out these turkey-finding tips from Wellness Mama.

Go Organic

Opt for organic produce, dairy, and meat over conventional.

Sure, it’s more expensive, but it’s worth it.

When you go organic, you avoid synthetic chemicals and hormones.

Plus, the animals you’re eating are generally treated better so you can feel good about your choices.

Stock Up on Local Ingredients

Buy local ingredients for Turkey Day.

If you’re traveling during Thanksgiving, make a unique Thanksgiving meal using local ingredients.

Check out our Thanksgiving in Argentina post for inspiration.

Pick Seasonal Produce

Most traditional Thanksgiving dishes are made with fall produce, so finding seasonal produce to use won’t be very difficult.

The closer your produce is grown, the smaller its environmental impact.

Our Sustainable Dining Guide has more great ideas on greening your Thanksgiving meal, or any meal.

Gather Locally

Rather than traveling across the country, consider getting together with family and friends who live in your area.

Not only will you avoid the hassle of holiday travel, you’ll decrease your environmental impact by staying close to home.

Use Cloth Napkins

I’m a huge advocate of using cloth napkins at every meal, but at Thanksgiving especially.

It’s much less wasteful and it can add a bit of festivity to the occasion.

You can buy a set of three organic cloth napkins for $15.00.

Compost Waste

Toss any Turkey Day scraps in the compost bin instead of the trash.

You can pick up a kitchen composter for under $20.

Volunteer

When we lived in DC, Elizabeth and I volunteered with a local nonprofit on Thanksgiving.

We delivered meals to people who were home-bound or couldn’t afford to buy Thanksgiving dinner.

It was an incredibly fulfilling way to spend the day.

Save Your Leftovers

If you can’t stomach the idea of eating more turkey, toss your leftovers in the freez

Thanksgiving leftovers freeze really well and you might just enjoy them more later.

Be Thankful

Slow down and take the time to be thankful on Thanksgiving.

Being grateful for — and aware of — what you have means you’ll consume less and leave less waste.

Plus, you’ll probably enjoy Thanksgiving more.

What are your green Thanksgiving tips?

Best tips for how to take pictures of kids while traveling

Whether you’re a practiced photographer or new to taking great travel photos, capturing kids during a vacation or family trip can be daunting.

I’m not a professional photographer, but I’ve been traveling with kids (and taking thousands of photos of them en route) for over 13 years.

Here’s what I’ve learned about how to take pictures of kids while traveling in 10 easy photo tips.

Get down to their level

I love to take photos of my kids learning something or viewing something meaningful to them while traveling.

To do that, I often need to bend down to ‘see’ what they see through their eyes.

Only then can my camera capture the angel fish in the aquarium or the scope of the Lincoln Monument from their perspective.

Sometimes this takes effort (and risks attracting a few stares) but sitting down on the floor or getting onto my knees for the best shot is worth it!

Use sports mode

Of course, it’s great to have an ideal camera for travel, but it’s not crucial.

Even if you can’t change the shutter speed on your point-and-shoot camera, you likely have a “sports” or a “kids and pets” setting.

This allows your camera to catch action in a way that won’t translate to blurry photos when you finally download them.

And if your travels are anything like ours, they’re filled with action!

Get those iconic shots, but in a natural way

Instead of posing everyone in front of the London Eye, grab a shot of your child on tip-toe, trying to see the city through one of the coin-operated view-finders.

Or bypass the ‘photo op’ line in front of the Roman Colosseum in favor of a close-up of your child touching the crumbling rock wall of one arch.

One of our favorite shots of our family ‘in front’ of the Statue of Liberty was actually taken in-motion on a New York water taxi.

We never thought it would turn out!

Capture the less ‘important’ moments.

Everyone remembers to get their camera out at the big sights, but some of our favorite travel moments with kids occur between the ‘biggies’: playing on the steps of the Louvre, perhaps, or polishing off that ice cream sundae at Ghirardelli Square.

Those photos will elicit stronger memories later. To be successful in capturing these everyday moments, you’ll need to have your camera always at the ready.

It is okay to use your smart phone camera as well. Better to take the picture than to miss the opportunity trying to use the perfect camera.

Below is one of my favorite photos of the light changing as we relaxed on a B.C., Canada ferry at the end of a busy summer travel day.

Shoot video as well as stills

Even if you don’t think you’ll need video of your trip (and yes, you do!), video can capture moments that happen too quickly to get as still shots.

Once the videos are downloaded, it’s fairly easy to isolate frames and change them to still shots with almost all video editing software.

This is especially useful for photographing toddlers and preschoolers who are always on the go.

Hand the camera off to your child

Try to get yourself in some photos too!

A great way to do this is to hand the camera to your child.

Mine love to be in charge of documenting our trip for a few minutes, and I end up with many shots of myself (not all flattering, but still endearing to see how you look from your child’s perspective).

Keep backgrounds simple

Parents try too hard to capture the location in the background of their family shots.

Instead, let the subject of your photo be your child’s enjoyment of the destination instead of the destination itself.

On the shores of Nantucket, our 10-year-old son spent hours combing the shallow bay for shells.

When we wanted to remember how small he looked in the wide sea, we didn’t need signage or buildings behind him to remember where he was.

Get eating shots

Everyone hates it when the camera comes out at mealtimes, but aside from funny faces made mid-bite, food shots can bring back great trip memories.

Get a shot of the clam chowder everyone loved at the pier, or the Mickey bar your toddler mostly wore on her face at Disneyland.

Take photos of your child experiencing an attraction, not the attraction itself

Some of my favorite family vacation photos are of my kids’ backs, as the camera lens follows their engagement in a sight or attraction.

This is another way to capture a kids’ perspective: what did they see, what were they interacting with?

For example, this photo of Manhattan barely shows the scenery, but focuses instead on my six-year-old’s study of the view.

Embrace tradition

If you return to the same beach cottage or mountain lodge every summer, document this in photos with an annual family portrait.

We like to write the year in the sand in front of the kids.

Watching your family grow in a cherished vacation spot is well-worth the time it takes to take a photo in the same place every year.

Be sure to enjoy the moments you experience, not just snap away, taking pictures you may never look at.

Still, be sure to get one or two from each key stop on your travels.

It is easier to appreciate them if you have a few good ones to frame and enjoy instead of shifting through hundreds of them.

Take better quality photos by using our how to take pictures of kids while traveling top tips.

Do you have travel photo tips?

How do you capture those vacation memories with your kids?

Photo credit: HarshLight, jetalone, ReneS, Sashapo, Nedko, Sarah_Ackerman, instructables, see vanessa craft, cristeenq, wwarby,

Happy holidays and safe travels!