SUMMER VACATIONS
Plan Your Next Family Trip With The Booking Truth!

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When you think of Amsterdam, I’m sure that the first thing that doesn’t cross your mind is “great family destination.” I too thought the same thing until my recent trip to the popular European destination and was amazed by all the opportunities that were available for families with young children that included more than just your regular museum stops.

While in Amsterdam, I had the opportunity to explore the city from “beyond the browser” with Booking.com and discovered so many off-the-beaten path gems that included a lovely boat tour through the Dutch countryside of Overleek, visiting the quaint fishing town of Volendam and making my own Dutch cheese at a cheese farm, which was definitely the highlight of my trip. These activities have definitely sparked my interest in wanting to bring my family back to Holland so we can all explore the wonderful laid-back family vacation in quiet and relaxing settings that doesn’t include the hustle-and-bustle that you usually get in major cities, but yet is close enough to one  in case you might crave a little mommy-and-daddy fun time, too!

The great thing about Booking.com though, is that their attentive staff helps you book the perfect hotel experience for your family with The Booking Truth. A collection of these travel insights, it provides the first truly honest look at the factors that drive the American traveler experience in hotels and other properties. “With The Booking Truth, we didn’t want to make biased assumptions about travelers, or put words in the mouths of our customers,” says Booking.com CEO, Darren Huston.

Darren adds, “We wanted to take a completely different approach and look at the picture solely from the point of view of our guests and ask what makes a stay truly delightful. Through big data analysis, crowdsourcing approaches, and advanced visualization techniques, The Booking Truth unlocks the power of verified customer stories, reviews, feedback and social media commentary to provide not-so-ordinary travel insights – and what we arrived at was a much richer, more nuanced guest experience story than we could have ever anticipated.”

So yeah, with the Booking Truth you don’t have to worry about booking a hotel that doesn’t have a family-friendly pool, an elevator under renovation or a front desk staff where no one speaks your language because you get the truth before you close your browser. It doesn’t get any better than that, right?

With so much detail given to helping travelers find great locations for their next adventures, you are almost guaranteed a memorable experience as you and your loved ones discover something new during your travels together. Check out some of my highlights from my Amsterdam trip with Booking.com and tell us, are you planning an overseas getaway with your family this summer?

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The Joovy Groove

joovy groove in blueberryJoovy is a company that always keeps its customers in mind- big and small. The new and improved Joovy Groove is a great example. Joovy recently redesigned their umbrella stroller from the ground up to offer a full set of features for both those who push & those who ride. The Groove offers a very ample seat for an umbrella stroller and a high 55 pound weight limit, which means that even your occasional older rider who needs a spot to rest on that long trip to the zoo will be just as comfy as your preschooler or toddler. The infinite recline to near flat means that comfort can be found for nap time as well. This stroller is rated from 6 mo and up, so it’s not for infants, but it will take you very far once your baby is ready. A very secure 5 point harness with padded strap covers and extendable leg rest means that your child can bee made as comfortable as possible and you can be comfortable as well knowing that even your more accomplished escape artists are secure in this seat. An added bonus, the 600D fabric will withstand abuse of all sorts and clean up nicely as well.

the joovy groove seat closeupSome of my favorite Joovy features are always those little touches that Joovy offers for both children and parents. I love the 2 mesh pockets in the seat sides. These really should be on all strollers, perfect for drinks, snacks or toys, keeping whatever your child needs securely at hand. Not to leave the big guys out- the back of the canopy offers 2 more mesh pockets and a zippered pouch for happy parents. Another feature that Joovy offers is the huge canopy with a viewing window to keep anxious parents at ease. Personally, this is a feature that Always makes me feel better even when my older children are on board. The basket is well sized for an umbrella stroller and the automatic lock and carry handle add to the convenience of this stroller. The newly designed tires are well sized for an umbrella stroller and offer sealed bearings for a smooth ride.  Also new is frame, which is quite snazzy. It’s rectangular aluminum frame is quite unique looking and my favorite part of this stroller (after those in-seat mesh pockets). As with any umbrella stroller, it offers an easy one handed fold that pops right down to a very compact package. Weighing in at 17 pounds, it’s not the lightest umbrella stroller, but it is comfortable to carry and is a great weight for such a large seat and high weight limit. I can easily fold & carry it with one hand while holding my hefty 2 year old in the other hand.

In use this stroller not only doesn’t disappoint, it exceeded my expectations. It took me seconds to pop on the front wheels, slide the canopy into it’s slots, make a few adjustments and we were off and ready to roll. Out and about, it’s just as effortless. Pushing with one or 2 hands was really easy over every terrain I tested. In fact, those bouncy front wheels did such a good job, that I started pointing the Groove at anything that I though t might stop it and nothing did. There are areas in my neighborhood that have sidewalks that will stop most strollers, but not the Groove. I aimed for broken sidewalks and just popped over, rolled straight through sloggy mud and wet grass without slowing. This stroller was fabulous. My daughter loved it too, especially the green color and the extendable leg rest where she happily rested her feet. At age 2 and 27 pounds, he has plenty of room in the seat, yet the harness adjusted perfectly down to her size. It was also super easy to recline and raise the seat one handed while rolling along, which is usually not the case with strap recline systems. Another great surprise.

The Groove is available in 4 colors Blueberry (a fabulous blue, and my favorite), Greenie, Orangie and Black and retails for $199.99. If you’re looking for an umbrella stroller that will last  with superb features and offers a exceptional value for the price, the Joovy Groove is an amazing option. Please visit the Joovy site for more details and to see the superb line of Joovy products.

* A sample was provided for review purposes

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The New Britax B-AGILE

I just want to start by saying that I love this little stroller. It’s fantastic. The brand new Britax B-AGILE is a perfect all around stroller. It may not take you off-roading through the very worst of terrain, but it will take you anywhere else. This stroller is lightweight, very full of the features you most desire and has a super easy fold that you will love.

The Britax B-AGILE is is very compact, you can stow it, trunk or closet, or carry it easily, up stairs or on public transportation. I can pick up my 26 pound 19 month old in one hand, fold it and carry it up the stairs with the other quite easily. It weighs in at 16.5 pounds, which is really great considering that this is not a bare bones umbrella stroller and you will find umbrella strollers that weigh more and offer less. Despite being compact and very lightweight, it has a very big seat that will hold whatever child you need to stroll and he or she will stroll in comfort. The seat is well sized with a great canopy that offers full coverage with a great ventilation flap and a peek a boo window for checking on the baby. All 4 of my children fit well in the wide seat with plenty of headroom and the fantastic harness is so easy to adjust for each (ages very large 1-very tall 6), that I can quickly fit it perfectly to each one without hassle or re-threading. The back of the seat unzips to expose a knob that you just squeeze and raise or lower to find the perfect harness height which brings the very lovely headrest pad right along with it for perfect placement and comfort every time. The recline is an infinite recline system, so you can position the seat anywhere from all the way up to all the way down, wherever your heart desires. The seat is suitable for birth right up to 55 pounds, so this stroller really can take you far. If you do wish to use a car seat with the B-AGILE, it includes the BRITAX CLICK & GO infant car seat receivers (optional adapters are available for most major brands of infant car seats), turning this already versatile stroller into a travel system.

Not only is the seat very comfortable and generously sized, but this stroller has all-wheel suspension for a super smooth ride, even over bumpy terrain. It doesn’t have huge air tires to take you through the worst all-terrain type spots, but it does do very well over anything you’re likely to encounter on a daily basis. The front wheels can be locked for rougher areas if needed, but we sailed through every spot on our usual test route, which can be rough on even the best of strollers. We rode over cobblestones, (very, very) bad sidewalks, grass and mulch and the B-AGILE  always maintained a very smooth ride for my child and an easy push for me, even one handed.  Storage is plentiful and the steering is great. It’s super easy to maneuver, even when the basket is filled to capacity or a larger rider is on board and I love the handlebar. It’s very comfy and it’s 1 piece design makes one handed strolling so easy. The B-AGILE also has a raised rear axle, so even a long stride is accommodated. The frame is also very well balanced and feels very solid and not at all tippy as some smaller strollers tend to feel.

The very best thing about the B-AGILE might just be the fold. It’s so very easy. If you’ve used a Baby Jogger City Mini, you’ve used this type of fold before, but the B-AGILE takes it a step further making it even easier. All you have to do is push in a button and pull up on the center seat handle, that’s it. It folds right down and even has an automatic lock. No, snaps to open and close, no manual lock, just push, pull and go. I really can pick up my hefty daughter and easily fold the stroller and walk right up the stairs. In fact, carrying the stroller is far easier than carrying my daughter. This is a great stroller for city living, in the suburbs where taking a stroller easily in and out of the car is a must or for travel. The B-AGILE can be a perfect single stroller for birth and up, lightweight and compact enough to take anywhere, fully featured enough to offer whatever you and your child needs from a stroller. Oh, and the price is great too, at just $249.99, you get a whole lot of stroller in a tiny, moderately priced package. I can think of so many strollers that offer less for a much higher price. The B-AGILE is the best all around single stroller that I have tried in awhile, well suited to so many needs, wants and situations.  All, I really, really want, is a double B-AGILE. Again, I say, I love it.

The B-AGILE is available in Black or Red. Optional accessories include car seat adapters, the UV/Mosquito Net, the Rain Cover, the Child Tray, the Adult Cup Holder and the very handy Travel Bag. Please visit the Britax site for more details and to watch the many videos detailing the finer attributes of this very wonderful little stroller. And look for the B-AGILE’s Stroller Squad on Facebook to see how fun the B-AGILE really is.

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The 2011 Maclaren Volo

Maclaren makes some of the very finest strollers in the world. There is a Maclaren to suite every situation and these are strollers that are built to last not just through 1 child, but for generations. The Volo is no exception. If you need a lightweight stroller that will go anywhere with you and still hold a 4 or even 5 year old on occasion, this is the one for you. At just under 9 pounds, this stroller will still hold a 55 pound child, yet is small enough to leave in the trunk, store in the  closet, carry on the bus or subway, throw over your shoulder when needed during a day at the zoo or to easily take on vacation. Suitable from 6 months and up, the Volo offers a full canopy, vey compact, one-handed fold (yes you can easily fold it while holding your child), secure and easily adjustable 5-point harness, aluminum frame, foot brake, nice sized basket and an very handy include raincover. Offered in 4 colors, the Volo retails for $129.00 and can be outfitted with the many handy Maclaren accessories for even more customization.

No need to take my word for how great this little stroller is. Below is a review from a mom who field tested the Volo on vacation.

Mom’s Search for the Perfect Stroller – our guest reviewer, Stephanie Hill, reviews the 2011 Maclaren Volo:


In the less than four years I’ve had two kids and four strollers, does something sound wrong about that ratio to you?! After years of searching for the right stroller we have finally found one that suits us – the Maclaren Volo! But let me back track … when our daughter was born we bought a large travel system. The matching stroller with a car seat, that matched the diaper bag and the pack n play, because of course this is what matters right? Practicality is overrated when you’re a new parent. My husband calls this stroller the “Cadillac,” because it’s large, hard to maneuver and doesn’t fit in tight spaces.

When our daughter was ten months old we found out we were expecting again, so it was time to trade in the “Cadillac” for the “limousine.” We purchased to a Tandem Sit & Stand stroller. Although this stroller served its purpose in that we could bring both kids places and keep them confined to one space, we faced the issue of leaving a wake of destruction in our path. We would bump into people as we tried politely to move around them, we’d pull the clothes off the racks in stores, I can’t even tell you how many times I ran over my own foot trying to back that thing up! Plus neither stroller seemed to ever have enough storage room underneath and squeezing into tight places proved impossible.

I was actually relieved when my daughter outgrew the stroller! Chasing her through the store had to be easier than dealing with either of these strollers. So, when she officially boycotted the stroller for good, we went out and bought an umbrella stroller. We decided that since we already owned two strollers, we could get by with an inexpensive umbrella stroller. Well, that was a joke. I mean, sure it was easier to move, but guess what? Small strollers have NO good features. The hood worked approximately once, the basket down below holds, well, practically nothing, not to mention there was no tray, no cup holder, nothing to brag about. Do I even need to mention that small strollers become very top heavy, so if you put bags and purses on the handles and take your child out, of course it’s all going to topple over! It took me, oh, I don’t know, 100 times to figure this out!

Late last year we decided we were going to take our kids on a real family vacation to Disney World in February. As excited as we were, we also faced the challenge of which stroller would be best to bring, the Cadillac, the limo, or the useless one? As you can imagine we weren’t excited about ANY of these options. Luckily, we were approached by Maclaren offering us a 2011 Maclaren Volo stroller to test out on our vacation! Of course THAT was an offer we couldn’t resist!

I know a lot of people who own Maclarens, and all of them are so pleased with their strollers. For some reason we had never tried one, but we learned very quickly that was a mistake! When we are traveling with two toddlers, two carseats, four suitcases and two carry-ons, having a stroller that we could use for both the kids and transporting some of our baggage was FANTASTIC!! The Volo has a nice size seat which makes it comfortable for either my 2 or 3 year old. The hood is very large, so in sunny Florida, we didn’t have to worry about too much sun exposure, and on those days when it rained, it offered nice protection for our little ones. The basket underneath was the perfect size for the bag we brought to the parks every day, and since it’s sturdy, when we put a few things on the handles, it didn’t go straight to the ground.

Although it’s a very basic stroller, I really enjoyed the many features of the Maclaren Volo. There is no recline with this model, but each of my children were able to fall asleep and stay asleep comfortably. When the kids weren’t using the stroller, we were able to put small suitcases or bags in the seat so we had less to drag around with us. It is easy to maneuver and fits nicely through tight spaces, and someone even remarked to me that it is really quiet, which I hadn’t considered, but they were right. The Maclaren Volo has a one hand fold so it opens and shuts quickly and easily, and is really light which is great when you are running to hop on the tram or the monorail. It also has a shoulder strap which makes it easy to carry, and leaves mom’s hands free for the kids. The other thing that I LOVED was that when the stroller is shut and locked it takes up very little trunk space. I certainly can’t say THAT for either of our first 2 strollers. The only thing I wish it had is a tray for snacks/drinks for the munchkins, but it has so many positive features, this is something I can overlook. Maclaren gave us one of the new 2011 colors – called Deep Water. It’s the perfect shade for either a boy or a girl!

But if you don’t believe me, maybe the testimonial of a little Maclaren Volo user herself will convince you.  I asked my daughter what she thought of it, and she answered simply, with a huge smile and a nod “I love it.”

Please visit the Maclaren site for more information and to see the full line of Maclaren strollers

Disclosure: Maclaren provided Stephanie with a Volo for the review, which she was allowed to keep.

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The 2011 Maclaren Techno XLR

There are lots of umbrella strollers in the world, but it’s Maclaren that sets the standard. I am a firm believer that it’s always a good thing to have at least one Maclaren if you have a child- lightweight, portable, easy to carry anywhere and yet sturdy as can be. The Techno XLR is the largest of the single Maclaren umbrellas, but it’s still all of those things and more. I tested the very first XLR when my first child was just under 2. I loved it then and 4 years & 3 more children later I love the newest version even more. This is a stroller that can meet all of your needs for a single stroller for years to come.

Features
The Techno XLR is ready to go straight out of the box. All you really need to do is remove all of the little tags, which very politely point out some of it’s finer features. And it does have some great features to point out. First of all, this stroller can hold a rather generous 65 pounds comfortably. My son, now almost 6 and around 45 pounds can still sit in the XLR with lots of room to spare. He’s fairly tall for his age, 97th percentile, and his head hits the top of most stroller canopies and he fills most seats. Not on the XLR.  He has a huge amount of head room and lots of wiggle room in the seat. Very impressive for such a lightweight, compact stroller. The XLR weighs in at just under 17 pounds, so it’s pretty light. I can easily carry it anywhere with a hefty toddler in the other hand. This stroller is suitable for newborns and up and more of its fabulous features include the fabulous, new no-pinch hinge,  6.5” wheels, linked rear foot brake, automatic lock, easy one-handed fold, easy one-handed 4 position recline, included car seat adapter, reversible seat liner, infant headhugger, rain cover, adjustable legrest and handle length, reflective accents, stylish and secure 5 point harness and a huge canopy with a peekaboo window, pop out sun visor, zip-out extension and 2 handy pockets. The XLR is offered in 2 colors for 2011, Black with Champagne accents and the very lovely Persian Red that I tested, and retails for $360.

In Use
I tested the Techno XLR with all 4 of my children, ages 5, 3, 2 and 1. All 4, despite their different sizes and weights, fit well in this stroller. As I mentioned above the large 5 year old, who almost never rides in a stroller anymore, could easliy ride in the XLR for quite awhile longer if we ever needed him to. Which means that this stroller is great for travel or city life when an older, large child is more likely to need to ride. The legrest and straps adjust easily and the recline is quite easy to operate one-handed even with a heavier child on board. The recline is very flat for your little ones to nap and with the included car seat adapter, you’re all set to pop your newborn in straight from the car if needed. The adjustable legrest is nice to keep little legs from dangling or to give a nice flat space to your tinier babies, but allows you to easily drop it down for the bigger kids.

The stroller performed exceptionally well on all sorts of terrain. I rolled it over flat and broken sidewalks, cobblestones, soggy grass and mud without any difficulties at all. The springy suspension and larger tires did amazingly well on even the roughest areas. We really were able to pop over everything fairly easily, not once jutting to a halt on a raised bit of sidewalk or sticking in the soggy grass which often happens with smaller strollers. The ride was very smooth and because it is so lightweight was was really easy to pop up over a curb when we needed to without even slowing down. And because it is so very compact, maneuverability is excellent- tight turns, crowded streets or narrow store aisles are never a problem. The handles are very comfortable and being able to adjust the height is great. The canopy is huge when unzipped and gives my daughter complete coverage plus the nice big peekaboo window is a great plus. I like that I don’t need to undo a flap to see her, yet, because it’s UV protected, I don’t have to worry about sun exposure. My daughter really seemed to prefer that the clear (also UV protected) pop-out sun visor doesn’t obstruct her view either. The one handed recline is very nice too. I can easily pop the seat up or down without having to stop. Oh, and the included accessories are a nice touch too. Not having to buy a car seat adaptor or rain cover is always welcome, but the seat liner and travel tag are really nice extras and attest to Maclaren’s exceptional attention to detail.

The fold is one of the Techno XLR’s most impressive features- easy, one handed and very compact. I can fold this stroller with one hand, carry it up our front steps and stand it up on the top step while holding my quite chunky 16 month old. There’s a side carry handle that makes it very easy to tote, so in and out of the car or on the subway, this is a perfect stroller for those who are on the go in the suburbs, travel often or who live in the city. I love that this stroller can hold a 65 pound child or a newborn, but can easily be folded down into a compact package that can be carried with one hand anywhere you need to go.

The Maclaren Techno XLR is an exceptional umbrella stroller that is more than worth the investment. Versatile enough to be your only stroller or light enough to be a great second stroller too, you cannot miss with the XLR. You will never have to worry about your child outgrowing this stroller and the option to use the car seat adapter is so convenient that you will really be able to use this from birth until well beyond your stroller needs are over. The Maclaren Tecno XLR is a very stylish and sturdy workhorse stroller that will not let you down for as many years, or children, as you need it to to roll along. Please visit the Maclaren site for more information or to see more of the other wonderful Maclaren products.

*Maclaren provided a sample for review.

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