Family Glamping at Firelight Camps

When are we ever going to sleep in a tent, mama?” my seven-year-old pleaded after sifting through shoe-box photos from my New England childhood.  There’s something about the impending end of the school year that stirred up a sense of adventure in all of us –  but I was unsure about my overall confidence in successful family camping. Adjusting rocks under sleeping bags and schlepping all the proper gear perhaps just isn’t my speed anymore.

So when we were invited to go “glamping” (aka glamorous camping) at Firelight Camps, in Ithaca NY, we couldn’t wait to experience this rising travel trend.  We’d get to sleep in a tent with luxe amenities and be immersed in the outdoors – without roughing it on our own in the dirt.

Firelight Camps Safari Tent King Bed Glamping Glamorous CampingGlamping Safari Tent with King Bed Firelight Camps IthacaFirellight Camps Glamping Glamorous Camping

Located on the lower grounds of La Tourelle Resort & Spa, our large canvas tent (#15) came equipped with elevated hardwood floors, a king-size bed with 300-thread-count-linens, a private balcony, personal lanterns, mesh screening, and serious safari style.  A bathhouse, showers, and central lounge tent are just a short walk away with complementary locally-inspired breakfast and wine hour in the evenings. From girls glamping getaways to family summer camp experiences, and primitive pursuits Firelight Camps offers so many ways to experience an unforgettable fill of the outdoors in serene comfort.

We didn’t realize how badly we needed a family escape – disconnected out in nature – until we were in the midst of it.  With a direct path to the picturesque Buttermilk Falls State Park, we spent the majority of our time wandering around the property, and off in the trails admiring the lush forests, waterfalls and gorge-laden beauty of the Finger Lakes.

hikeing with kids glampingButtermilk Falls WaterfallsIthaca Firelight Camps GlampingButtermilk Falls Waterfalls Ithaca New York Trails_edited-1

I suppose that I went into this trip excited to teach the children about my love of nature with experiences gleaned from my childhood and time spent living on Oahu.  But as life often goes the kids are the ones who guide and lead us.

They remind us to stop and look up.

hiking with kids

And take as much time as needed to explore and pause and collect our thoughts.

Glamping Firelight Camps Ithaca NYnature exploring with childrenFirelight Camps glamping  luxury campingexploring with children in natureadventuring with kids IthacaFirelight Camps

The beauty in this trip was found in the simplicity of being together, unplugged.

glamping nature flowersButtermilk Falls Waterfalls Ithacanature kidsFirelight Camps glamping camp groundsfeet in waterfallGlamping with Kids Firelight CampsGlamping campgrounds Firelight Campsbuttermilk falls waterfalls new york Ithaca

And watching excitement over new discoveries and experiences.

firelight camps luxury campingroasting smoars glampingglamping s'mores

S’more-making experts by visits end.

glamping roasting marshmallowsfirelight camps glamping smoress'mores glamping

We had great conversations with our fellow glampers around the campfire well into the evening hours.  Over glasses of local wine, we made instant friends – meeting people who also found humor in my husband’s poncho.

Firelight Camps Glamping Ithaca New York Wine Hour

At night, we returned to our tent with a lantern in hand, admiring nature silhouetting on our massive canvas walls.  We laughed until our bellies hurt after I lost my cool over an Olympic-sized daddy long legs.  While the kids told stories of big hawks, jumping frogs and walking through real-life waterfalls.  Cocooned in our tent, we fell asleep to the tranquil sounds of the wind whistling through the trees and the hum of an epic downpour.

Safari Tent Glamping Firelight CampsGlamping Safari Tent with Porch

Elevated camping indeed.

 Accommodations provided by Firelight Camps.  Content and opinions, as always, are my own.


Traveling With Kids | Tropic Of Candycorn

It never ceases to amaze me how incredible it is to connect with amazing people via blogging. As soon as I met with Erynn from Tropic Of Candycorn during her last visit to NYC, I wanted to know more about her incredible platform and family’s commitment and passion for family travel.  Tropic Of Candycorn’s inspiring website will leave you with a swift dose of wanderlust along with tips and confidence boosting stories to see the world with kids in tow. It’s an honor to appear in her dispatch series, and we’re thrilled to have her share a guest post today.

Tropic of Candycorn

Tropic of Candycorn started before I had kids. Back in the years when John and I traveled alone, we repeatedly heard, “Enjoy it while you can. You won’t be able to travel like that once you have kids.” We didn’t like that idea, and conspired to continue to travel once we had a family. Back then, I was the CEO of an international humanitarian organization. I traveled a lot—for work, and to get away from work. We would save up all our vacation time and beg to take it all at once—up to a month at a time, sometimes without pay. We liked to take our time, allowing the culture and flow of a destination to sink in.

I thought that was the origin of Tropic of Candycorn, but it wasn’t.

The idea didn’t occur even after our first trip with six-month-old Cora when we traveled to Portugal, Spain, and Italy for four weeks.

The real moment TOC was born was in February 2006, 22-months after I became a mom, when my commercial banker husband quit his job to run a luxury travel company. My second child was only a few weeks old, and he was traveling up to three weeks each month. I must have been complaining as we talked one night by telephone—me stateside and he in Brazil. He said, “If you can meet me in Argentina, we can have two weeks together.”

“You want me to bring a 22-month-old toddler and a 2-month-old newborn to Argentina by myself?” I asked. “Sure. You can totally do it!”

His confidence never wavered.

I recall with perfect clarity that I thought, “How the hell am I going do that?” At that same moment, my mouth replied, “I’ll see you there.”

I didn’t have time to listen to naysayers or back out. The tickets were purchased, and I was committed. I dug into parenting and travel books seeking ideas and inspiration. How do you travel with small kids, especially alone? Most of what I found was didactic and less than encouraging. I quit reading.

Those travel stories were like birth stories, which relayed tales of suffering and anguish. I remembered the joy of birth, which far outweighed the pain. I’ll never forget a neighbor who said, “Oh, no one wants to hear my birth story, it was so beautiful.” “Perhaps the same could be true for travel,” I thought.

I think it is. Traveling with children is birth of a different kind. It’s the birth of new ideas, new places, time together, and undiscovered memories. Traveling with children is beautiful. I knew that if we created a place like Tropic of Candycorn for people to share their stories, others would be inspired and encouraged too.

Peru Pisac Fam 2013Peru MP Cora and Hero View 2013

Sure, there are some moments where you may wish for a travel epidural (for me it’s gelato), but most of your child’s happiest moments occur away from home, don’t you want those moments to be with you?

Tropic of Candycorn Costa RicaTropic Of Candycorn Travel with KidsTropic of Candycorn Family Travel Peru

I admit it. I was an absolute spectacle when I arrived in Buenos Aires. I don’t speak Spanish and am unaccustomed to accepting help, even when it’s offered. I brought way too much stuff. A wrap to wear the newborn, a backpack for the toddler, a stroller (mostly to hold the infant car seat I thought I needed for the long drives), another car seat for the toddler that I had draped over the stroller, and one giant bag full of impractical clothing that I rolled behind me.

John was standing right outside customs zone, ready to receive us. His instinct was to snap photos. My instinct, was to shoot him a glance that said, “Put that damn camera down right now and help me with your children!”

But I did it. I made it through 30 hours of airports and airplanes with my daughters. And as I was walking off the plane, the captain stopped me and said something that I will never forget. Something that made me think I was gonna be okay. He smiled and told me, “We’ve been talking about you during the flight. When we saw you coming we geared up for a long flight and started assigning tasks based on what we thought you would need or demand. Thanks for proving us wrong. It was a pleasure.”

Traveling with kids shouldn’t be horrible. I knew John believed I could do it. I want parents everywhere to know that we believe in them too. There is a whole community of families who believe that time and money together exploring the world is time well spent.

Tropic of Candycorn Peru vacationFamily Travel Peru Tropic of Candycorn

Don’t wait for the right time; just go. Make the memories that you will cherish and then come back to tell us about them to inspire others.

Erynn Montgomery is the ringleader behind Tropic of Candycorn. Before kids, she was the president and CEO of an international humanitarian organization with special focus on South America. She and her husband pinky swore that they would continue to travel with children, but never imaged that kids would make the experience better. In addition to Tropic of Candycorn, they own a boutique travel company and take their four daughters (ages 2, 5, 9, and 11) around their beautiful state of Utah and the world. Erynn continues to travel alone – if you can call being with four children alone – for four weeks of every year. She still doesn’t speak Spanish, but says she’s learning poco a poco. COMMUNITY OUTREACH Tropic of Candycorn is especially interested in the journeys that discover meaning and purpose. After families form personal meaning from family travel, we hope to inspire outreach beyond the family—to communities near and far. TOC recently coordinated a special Mother’s Day Giveaway for a single mother. Single moms are the least likely to travel with their children, but we think they need and deserve it most.  For inquires and to share your family travel experiences get in touch with TOC at


Hilton Garden Inn Garden Getaway Tour

From exciting family adventures far away from home, to romantic weekend getaways and spontaneous staycations – Hilton Garden Inn has set out to inspire travelers to make those vacations happen. They’ve just kicked off a national Garden Getaway Tour offering amazing giveaways, including an all-expense paid trip to Hawaii!

To showcase the vibrancy and garden theme of Hilton Garden Inn’s 600 plus locations, alongside amazing travel destinations – tour visitors will be greeted by Garden Getaway Greeters, adorned in live floral fashions, representing iconic travel spots.  We joined in on the excitement at their first stop in NYC, and the floral garments are impressive!  Intricately comprised of flowers, leaves, seeds and bark – we left dreaming of our next adventure.

Hilton Garden Inn Garden Getaway TourJoin in on the fun and enter to win that luxe Hawaiian vacation by catching the tour in New York City, Dallas, Los Angeles and Chicago.  Simply snap a photo with a Garden Getaway Greeter using #HGIGardenGiveaway and #entry, and share on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to be automatically entered for a chance to win.  Find all details on the Official Rules Page.

Best of Luck!

Marino Bambinos received a complimentary stay at Hilton Garden Inn.


Sesame Place Visitor Tips

I often wonder what specific pieces of early childhood my children will remember most.  Undoubtedly, they’re likely to remember my responses, actions and displays of love (one can hope!).  I’m also pretty sure that some of our adventures will become stand out memories.

We haven’t yet been to Disney World, but we do have a place of childhood magic just ninety minutes away from NYC at Sesame Place.  The kids go absolutely bananas at the prospect of visiting, and we’ve been lucky enough to have attended a handful of media events at Sesame Place.

Sesame Place recently opened for their 2013 Season and we decided to surprise the kids by not filling them in on our plans to visit on opening day.  We arrived to a bambini parking lot freak out (the good kind!) and thoroughly enjoyed watching the immense joy through excited eyes.  Each trip has been incredibly memorable with fun filled experiences.  This time Lucia was big enough to ride her first roller coaster (the vapor trail) and Adrian had plenty of running hugs to give to his favorite furry friends. I even had my own moment of massive public embarrassment when the staff was kind enough to shut down a kiddie ride on my behalf when motion sickness nearly got the best of me (memorable indeed!).

Here are a few of my visitor tips:

Book A Character Meal 
If your children love character interaction than a character meal is the way to go.  You will not be paying for the experience of amazing food, but for the experience of watching your child/children interact with every single one of the characters. The characters also make their way to the tables during the meal, and a Conga line and dance party take place in the end.  It is hands down a worthwhile (and photo worthy) experience.  If character meals don’t fit into the budget, there are still plenty of opportunities to catch characters around the park and at the designated Smile With Me photo stations (just be prepared to wait in a line).

Plan Food and Drinks ahead of Time
For some families, dinning at Sesame Place is part of the experience. You can leave with the BPA-free Elmo plates and character cups to reuse at home as a memory from your trip.  Although Sesame Place has made great efforts to become more healthy with salad options and substitutions of apples for french fries – I find it helpful to pack a small cooler of snacks and water for the entire family.  It’s especially important to hydrate as the day will most likely involve a lot of walking and sun exposure!

Rent a Locker
Lockers are available to rent in the front of the park and renters can visit them as many times as needed.  Locker are a great place to stash an extra set of clothes, towels, and things that would generally weigh you down during your day at the park.

Stay in a nearby Hotel
There are so many affordable near by hotels, and it’s fun to turn the Sesame Place experience into an entire weekend.  In addition, second day admission is FREE with the purchase of one ticket.  I also think that it is exhausting to drive home after a full day in the park. 

Give Proper Warning
As in many aspects of parenting, it’s important to give kids proper warning about when the day will come to an end.  We always leave after the magical parade experience and sort of assumed that our children would remember our arrangement.  On our recent trip, I only mentioned our exit plans once to the little guy, and he had a serious meltdown when it was time to go.  Make sure to give the little ones warning to keep the excursion fun for all!

As a Sesame Place Sunny Day Blogger, Sesame Place provided Media Tickets and an invitation to a media day happy hour event.  All opinions in this post are strictly my own. 


A Day At Sesame Place

Sesame Street, the quintessential children’s television show, has been loved by generations in our family. As a parent, it’s been amazing to see the show evolve and experience it through the eyes of our children.  With appearances from folks like Feist, India Arie, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show really has appeal to all ages.  It was the first television show viewed by our children and we consider the Sesame Street characters to be among their first loves.  Adrian’s partial to Ernie, and L.P and Elmo go way back to the days of when she called him “ya ya”.  Given this on-going love affair, it’s pretty cool that Elmo and his pals live a mere 90 minutes away from NYC at Sesame Place.

Since Lucia adored her Sesame Place toddler experience, we’ve been looking forward to embarking on another Sesame adventure with both of our children for quite sometime.

Little Lucia and her friend Bert, back in the day.

We were in the midst of trip planning when an invitation to a blogger playdate made it all possible last weekend.  Little ones were literally counting down the days until going to “Sesame Street”.  Their anticipation was sweet and exciting.

I came armed with a Sesame Place iPhone App.  It enabled me to plan our day according to show times, view an interactive map with GPS navigation and search for a restroom (among many other things).

Our kids are still in the height of character adoration and meeting them seemed to be their top priority. Luckily, we had many opportunities to do so.  Upon entering the park, Adrian had the chance to tell The Count that he didn’t like his teeth and give his cape a good tug.  We then headed to Dine with Me for lunch with Elmo and Friends.  I highly recommend booking a character meal, as they are a memorable way to spend time with all the friendly monsters.  We saw so many furry friends, that we didn’t feel the need to take photos at 1-2-3 Smile With Me.  To say that my kids loved this experience, is an understatement.  They were in full on Sesame heaven.  Cookie Monster ate one of our cookies,the kids danced with Elmo and friends and mama cried, (a weakness of mine) during the conga line.  As you can tell, we snapped a lot of photos.
elmo and kids
cookie and adri
fam with oscar abby and lucia big birddancing with elmo and friendsoscar and adri
kids with cookie and abby
count   family with elmo

We then ventured over to the carousel and had the chance to see the amazingly talented  Dan Zane and friends perform. We are huge Dan Zane fans and have been bopping around to his music in our home ever since Lucia saw him play “jump up” on Sesame Street.  His live show was awesome and packed with positivity – encouraging families to start a “family band” and hanging out after the show to talk to fans.  We definitely danced and even had the chance to tell Dan Zane in person how much we enjoy his music.

adri carousel
Dan Zane dancing lucia

We relaxed as the concert wrapped up and then journeyed over to the pool area to cool off.  After splashing around in the water, the kids had a ball playing on the equipment and made sure to watch the parade. Thank goodness Adrian finally had a chance to see his beloved Ernie.

slide climbing adri
bert and ernie

Adrian then took a nap with Daddy and I took my girl to see Elmo’s World Live, where we were excited to score front row seats.  The interactive dance show really appealed to Lucia and I thought that Mr. Noodle’s dance moves were off the hook.


After grabbing a quick dinner I was thrilled to notice that the souvenir cups and plates are BPA free.  I’m so glad that we will be able to reuse them at home.  Right on Sesame Place!

We ended our evening with another visit from Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch, over Elmo cupcakes at a blogger social.  We capped off the night with a Super Grover sighting and little ones were soon sound asleep in their car seats.

cookie and kids cookie
oscar and adri
We then changed exhausted, limp bodies into P.J’s without even waking them.  Can you guess where they asked to go the next day?


What a memorable experience we all had.  We will definitely be back for more.

My family and I were given complementary admission tickets and parking to Sesame Place.  All opinions are my own.