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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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And watching excitement over new discoveries and experiences.

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S’more-making experts by visits end.

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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?

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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.

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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.


Britax Marathon ClickTight Car Seat + Giveaway

When it comes to traveling with our precious little ones, safety comes first.  The safest car seats alongside proper installation and usage are of the utmost importance to us.  I’ve had my share of frustration installing car seats, and when I heard that Britax invented a solution, I couldn’t wait to learn more.  Last summer, I met with team Britax to test out their innovative ClickTight technology in their most popular convertible car seats – The Marathon, Boulevard, and Advocate.

Marino Bambinos

With friend Brianne at the ClickTight launch event.  Image via Margarita Corporan for Britax.

I shared details of the product launch over on Project Nursery – and our four-and-a-half-year-old has been comfortably traveling in the Britax Marathon ClickTight UltimateComfort Series Convertible Car Seat (exclusive to Babies “R” Us).  We’ve had big changes over the past month – I now have my own car for the first time in about 15 years!  As a two-car, two-kid family, it makes sense to keep one car seat installed in each car, transferring the third seat as needed.  Here’s where the Britax ClickTight ease of installation comes in.

Simply press the tab on the front of the seat, turn the knob to open the front compartment, slide the belt through the designated spots, buckle the seat belt and click the seat shut.  It’s straightforward and simple – and definitely the easiest to install car seat that we’ve ever owned.

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Our little guy is as snug-as-a-traveling-bug and I feel confident installing his car seat. The SafeCell Impact Protection technology keeps him cocooned in safety with an impact stabilizing steel frame, complete side impact protection, and other features far exceeding Federal Safety Requirements. I know that my son is secure – and I hope to never install anything other than a Britax ClickTight again!

Britax ClickTight Review GiveawayIn addition to all of the great features of the regular Britax ClickTight convertible car seats, the Babies “R” Us exclusive UltimateComfort Series models also include a layer of soft, resilient memory foam, exclusive fabric options, and a removable cup holder. We’re so excited to partner with Britax to give one away!

Win It: Enter to win a Britax Marathon ClickTight UltimateComfort Series Convertible Car Seat ($339.99 value) via the rafflecopter below. This giveaway is open to US only, and a winner will be displayed on the widget at contest completion. Best of luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sample provided.  Opinions, as always, are my own.


The American Music Awards with Kohl’s and Disney Frozen Sing Your Heart Out {Giveaway}

In a whirlwind trip, I just returned from L.A. to attend the 2014 American Music Awards, at the Nokia Theatre, with Kohl’s, in collaboration with their Disney Frozen Sing Your Heart Out contest.  A surreal experience for Marino Bambinos!

A few days prior, the excitement arose while getting outfitted at Kohl’s. I had a dress in mind but found what I was looking for in pants, a sparkly top, and booties from the Simply Vera – Vera Wang collection. And I completely lucked out with petite sizing! A great moto jacket by Candies and fun accessories from Simply Vera and Juicy helped to pull it all together.

Find full outfit details from Kohl’s here.

Before I knew it, I was immersed in the AMAs red carpet.  And as music’s biggest talents and actors rolled in, I found myself perched front and center in Kohl’s designated spot.  As the red carpet swarmed with stars, I was beyond excited for the performances – and fully swept up with the fashion and glamor.

Gi Gi Hadid, Heidi Klu,, Zendaya Coleman. Meghan Trainor, Ansel Elgort, Becky G, One Direction, Frankie J Grande, Sam Smithiphone capture: GiGi Hadid // Heidi Klum // Zendaya Coleman // Meghan Trainor // Ansel Elgort // Becky G // Frankie J. Grande //  5 seconds of summer // Sam Smith

The excitement inside and encasing the Nokia Theatre was palpable.

The 2014 American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre fans

The spectacular performances were unlike anything I’ve ever experienced – as tunes from our family-car jam sessions performed live before my eyes.  From Taylor Swift’s levitating kick-off in a suspended dining set – and the stunning Lorde in a box and smeared-lipstick ending. To the gaggles of One Direction fans in Olympic-level hysterics. I was simply blown away by Sam Smith’s serenades, Imagine Dragons’ vocals, Fergie’s stage presence, Jennifer Lopez in person and so much more. It was pure brilliance to experience and attend with Kohl’s.  Especially when the collective energy rose for 5 Seconds of Summer, new artist of the year – presented by Kohl’s.

Kohl’s partnership with Disney Frozen – the movie of my kiddos childhood was truly exciting for me.  Beginning with an early Frozen screening with Idina Menzel, to my Elsa Costume tutorial’s unexpected shares, and the kids’ meeting Elsa and Anna at Epcot Center nearly a year ago today.  Kohl’s Frozen tie-in felt serendipitous – and I think I was rooting for every single Sing Your Heart Out finalists vying for the coveted on-air commercial spot during last night’s award show.  The well-deserved sister-duo, Katherine and Kelly, ultimately took the lead with their beautifully harmonized rendition of Let it Go! Congrats girls!

Update: Kohl’s Gift Card giveaway closed. 🙂

Special thanks to our partner Kohl’s for an unforgettable experienceOpinions, as always, are my own.


Family Fun At Morey’s Piers

New York City Public Schools officially wrapped up yesterday and there’s nothing quite like welcoming summer with carnival rides and old-school boardwalk fun on the beach.  We recently ventured to the southern end of the Jersey Shore to visit the famous seaside amusement park, Morey’s Piers & Beachfront Water Parks in Wildwood, New Jersey.


We stayed steps away from the boardwalk at the Doo Wop inspired StarLux Boutique Hotel, complete with retro inspired lava lamps and faux palm trees.  Although the kids would have been content with a hotel stay and pool alone – there was plenty of exploring to do!

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We came with memories of a few family Jersey Shore vacations – but had never experienced anything as expansive as Morey’s Piers which encompasses over 18 acres across six beach blocks. With three amusement piers and two beachfront water parks boasting over 100 rides and attractions – there was truly something for everyone.

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The classic boardwalk vibe along with the pure excitement of a beach amusement park made for incredible fun – and our days were filled with the sort of stuff that childhood dreams are made of.  Wishes on quarters brought home new stuffed friends and rides-galore captured quintessential kid-filled joy.  My littles continue to speak about riding into the sky on the pink elephants at Mariner’s Pier and the whimsical horses on the 44-foot Venetian Carousel at Surfside Pier.  As we watched adventure-seekers on the intense, extreme rides – I immediately acknowledged the simple pleasure in having young children at Morey’s Piers.

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And plenty of attractions brought out the child in all of us.

Morey's piers convoy ride

The adventures continued at the Ocean Oasis Water Park and Beach Club, located on the beach behind Surfside Pier.  The kids couldn’t get enough of the water attractions at the Bonsai Beach children’s themed area.  And I admittedly dreamed of solo time with my husband at the adult relaxation pool – equipped with a swim up bar.  Although we spent our time in the designated kid’s area, the water park includes a thrilling Cliff Drive Slide, a Wipe Out! Slide, a relaxing lazy river and private family cabanas.

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With over twenty food stands and eateries to choose from, we indulged in fresh local seafood, salad and brick oven pizza at Joe’s Fish Co. on Surfside Pier.  We also enjoyed the food and atmosphere at Stubborn Brothers Beach Bar and Grill where we met Morey brothers Will & Jack.  They told us the story of the restaurant’s many name incarnations (previously Oasis Cafe and Soggy Dollar) – and the signature fare and specialty cocktails brought us back the following day.  The boardwalk also has plenty of fun food and treats, including Curley’s Fries – a boardwalk staple since 1974.

stubborn brothers beach bar and grille

One of our favorite activities took place on Adventure Pier, at artBOX, an interactive artists’ colony constructed from re-purposed shipping containers. The kids had fun decorating paper lanterns with mod-podged tissue paper, while the older kids spray-painted street-art inspired skateboards.  The kids really enjoyed immersing themselves in crafts and I had a chance to speak with artist David Macomber, who led the activities. I found it interesting that he created a lot of the park’s signage and I enjoyed his displayed work along with the artistic respite in the middle of a massive amusement park and boardwalk.

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I have no doubt that the children will hold on to the special memories of our long weekend at Morey’s Piers and staying up way past their bedtimes.  Perhaps many of my favorite moments involved watching them point in wide-eyed wonder at towering rides, nostalgic neon signs and boardwalk excitement through a kaleidoscope of colors.

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With a three-hour trip outside our home base of NYC, my family will definitely be back for more. We are grateful for the introduction to a new-to-us part of the Jersey Shore and an incredibly fun-filled family weekend.

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Connect with Morey’s Piers on Facebook //Twitter // Youtube // TripAdvisor.

Special thanks to Morey’s Piers for sponsoring my family’s trip with complimentary hotel, food and attractions.  Opinions, as always, are my own.