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Kid Friendly Cruises & Family Cruising Tips!

7 Mar
MS Majesty of the Seas, one of Royal Caribbean...

Image via Wikipedia

For spring break 2011, my wife and I wanted a “real” vacation vs. visiting family and friends.  Although we absolutely LOVE being back in Chicago and seeing family & friends, it become a circus of fitting everyone in and although its fun, there is no downtime and we return from vacation with no rest achieved (for us and the kids)!  So, last year we decided to take a real vacation, even having considered a trip to Disneyland or Disney World, but for the cost and the fact that our then 15 month old would not enjoy/appreciate the trip, we decided on a Nickelodeon themed cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines.  It was a blast, the cruise departed from New York, so we flew in a day and a 1/2 before and stayed with my buddy from highschool in his Jersey City apartment and we got to hang out in NJ for an entire day.

Now, cruising with a then almost 5-year-old and a 15 month old wasn’t bad at all for us.  Here’s why:

  • The 15 month old could nap anywhere when tired enough, so with the Ergo Carrier, we were good for strolls along the deck and almost any entertainment or activity on the ship!
  • Our almost 5 year-old LOVED the kids camp.  A drop off for children-teens by age range with scheduled

    Bug Party at the Kid's camp!

    activities everyday.  I believe the camp was available from 9am-10pm and this service was provided as part of the cruise.  They had a superhero party, pirate party, prince/princess party, bugs & butterflies party, Blues Clues event, cupcake decorating, bring your favorite stuffed toy party, rated G movie times, attended the magician show as a group, ice cream social, etc.

  • The ‘free’ kids camp usually does not operate when the ship is docked at your ports of call–  something to keep in mind when you are looking at cruise itineraries.
  • For those late night partying parents, the kids camp had after hours service for a fee to keep your child from 10pm till 1am!
  • Our 5 year-old loved kids camp so much she didn’t want to sit with mom, dad & baby sister for the magic show!  Several times after a family meal together the question was “Can I go to kids camp now?” 🙂
  • Norwegian Cruise Lines provides what they call “free style” dining – no reservations needed at the “included” dining options – the “speciality” restaurants which are not included in your cruise fare are separate/ala cart.  The ship had buffet dining and the food was pretty good.  Nice thing is they had the “Kids Corner Cafe” right inside the main buffet and the kids cafe had children height buffet – our older daughter loved the independence this gave her to get her own plate, silverware, food and drink!  The two waitered/seated restaurants that were included in the cruise fare were nice, but you don’t miss much by dining at the buffet as they served similar entrees/food each night!

Here’s what we learned from this wonderful vacation experience:

  • For a 5 year-old, the Nickelodeon theme was NOT necessary.  Yes, we did attend one of the ship’s “Slime Time Live” shows, but my daughter wasn’t “into” it and didn’t want to volunteer in any of the games.
  • The kids camp is the same regardless of the Nickelodeon theme.
  • It was nice to attend the Nickelodeon Breakfast with Dora, Diego, Sponge Bob, Patrick, etc.  $15 per adult and $10 for each kid is reasonable.  TIP – bring your own autograph book vs. getting suckered into buying one for $10-15.  It’s not a real autograph, but a “signature” stamp from each of the Nick characters.
  • TIP – bring your own reusable water/beverage bottles/travel mug to fill up on the included beverages (water/tea/coffee/juice/milk) at the buffet.  A lot of cruisers do this – it’s totally legit!  TIP – If you forget, check the kids camp for sale of reusable plastic cups!  We bought two of them for just $2 each.
  •  When traveling with younger kids – doing excursions was not for us.  This worked out great when the (TIP) ship was docked for the day and 75+% of the people are out shopping or on excursions, it felt like we had the pool 99% to ourselves!  No wait for the big slide – we went on again and again with no wait for like 40 times that day!
  • The entertainment on the ship was great – singers/dancers, magician, comedian, etc.  TIP – The daily publication indicates which events are for adults only.
  • Packing TIP – depending on the age of your kids, minimal non-essentials are necessary.  One stuffed toy to travel/sleep with and 1-2 favorite books to read at night was all that was needed.  Kids camp kept my 5-year-old super happy, busy and safe (parent required to sign child in and out with cabin key i.d.)!
  • For those of you with a stop in Florida, people we talked to said that the land-trip to Disney was not worth it, too little time with too long lines equalled not much bang for their buck.
  • If you can, pick cruise packages that include either free parking during the entire trip or hotel stay and airport transfers – we didn’t have these options and wound up paying quite a pretty penny for them.

On a side note, with this cruise departing from NY, we meet a lot of super friendly and nice folks from Canada!  They rocked!  Be open to meeting new people, that really helps when your kids can play with each other and you can enjoy some adult conversation with new folks!

So, in closing – the following article from Parents.Com speaks to kid friendly cruises.  My wife and I are total cruise fans!  From other families we met on the cruise, it seems like age 8-10 is when the kids camp magic begins to wear off…

Kid-Friendly Cruises

Taking to the high seas with your kids can be an unforgettable way to vacation. Check out five of the most fun, affordable, and family-focused ships setting sail this year. Bon voyage!

By Kourtney Eidam


Go Wet ‘n’ Wild

Royal Caribbean‘s 7-night Oasis of the Seas Western Caribbean Cruise

This massive new ship is the largest in the world. So big, in fact, that it’s divided into seven different neighborhoods, including the nature-infused Central Park and the bustling Boardwalk. Royal Caribbean has teamed up with Fisher-Price to create unique play sessions — baby gymnastics, musical inspiration, and more — for infants and toddlers.

Fun for First Mates: Your child will want to camp out in the Youth Zone neighborhood, where he’ll have a blast at the arcade and indoor playground. But there’s lots more — from making discoveries at the Adventure Science Lab to taking part in a talent show or hip-hop class at the Adventure Ocean Theater. His other popular hangout will be the H2O Zone kids’ aqua park, which features swimming pools and a larger-than-life octopus whose tentacles double as water slides. For supervised activities, head to one of three age appropriate Adventure Ocean Clubs (3 to 5; 6 to 8, and 9 to 11) for scavenger hunts, ice-cream parties, and more.

Cruise Care: In-room babysitters are offered on a first-come, first-served basis for kids 1 and up (the fee starts at $10 per hour). Kids from 6 to 36 months can stay at the Royal Babies and Tots nursery ($8 per hour).

Ocean Eats: With 24 food and snack joints (a café and pizzeria are open 24/7), you’ll find something for everyone. The ship offers a neat “My Family Time Dining” option — when kids (3 to 11) are done eating, a staffer escorts them to the kids’ club so parents can have a leisurely meal. Sign up during booking.

Port Report: After the devastating earthquake in Haiti earlier this year, Royal Caribbean Cruises provided immediate relief and committed more than $1 million to the humanitarian effort. The ship will continue to visit its private island, Labadee, off Haiti, where your dollars will help contribute to the country’s recovery. Other stops: Cozumel, Mexico, and Falmouth, Jamaica.

Rates: Start at $829 per person for 7 nights for an interior stateroom.

Meet Mickey and the Gang

Disney Wonder’s 5-night Bahamian Cruise with 2 days on Disney’s private island

Get lost at sea with some of your child’s favorite Disney characters, including Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Cinderella. While the ten-deck, designed-for-families ship is jam-packed with one themed activity after another to keep little (and big) fans happy, there’s also exclusive access to Disney’s private Bahamian island, Castaway Cay. To top it off, you can book a special park package to Walt Disney World, Orlando, before or after the cruise.

Fun for First Mates: Head straight for one of the two kid-friendly pools, one complete with a twisting slide. There’s even a Splash Zone play area for little ones still in swim diapers. You can also drop your child o at one of the kids’ clubs for a mix of cool programs that range from an animation class to a Snow White dance lesson to Ratatouille-style cooking (ages 3 to 7 or 8 to 12; day and evening sessions offered). Save time for seeing a stage show — kids will love Toy Story: The Musical. Cruise Care No in-room babysitting is available, but kids as young as 3 months are welcome in The Little Mermaid-esque Flounder’s Reef Nursery ($5 to $6 per hour). The two-room area has baby swings, toys, cribs, and storytime.

Tip: You can reserve a time for your child up to ten days in advance — take advantage of this because slots fill up fast.

Ocean Eats: The ship has three main restaurants, but the Animator’s Palate — which shows Disney movie clips on the walls and overhead — is extra fun. There are also indoor and outdoor quick-service places where you can grab pizza, burgers, and snacks 24 hours a day.

Port Report: A shore excursion to Nassau will give you a chance to explore the city’s colonial charm, but the highlight will surely be the two stops at Castaway Cay. Don’t miss: the snorkel lagoon and the new Pelican Plunge, a 2,400-square-foot platform that floats just off shore.

Rates: Staterooms start at $899 per person (5 nights).

Sample European Style

Norwegian Epic’s 7-day Eastern Caribbean Cruise

Families love the flexibility of the Epic’s “Freestyle Cruising” philosophy: no preset dinnertimes or dress codes and plenty of entertainment choices. The “Freestyle Free Play” program lets kids of all ages socialize and have fun together for designated time slots throughout the day (at other times, kids are assigned to groups based on age).

Fun for First Mates: The Epic Plunge tube slide — it does a major drop into a splash pool — is a thrill, though there are two milder ones in the Aqua Park, which also has a children’s Splash and Play Zone with pools, sprayers, water sculptures, and a kiddie slide. Kids can try out the bungee trampoline or bowling lanes and play Wii on a jaw-dropping two-story screen. At Kid’s Crew, a supervised program, children as young as 2 can run around in an outer space — themed play area, dance on a light-up floor, or watch a movie in the cinema.

Cruise Care: There isn’t a traditional nursery or private babysitting on board. But the ship offers two group-care services for 2- to 12-year-olds: “Late Night Fun Zone” (nightly from 10:30 P.M. to 1:30 A.M.; $6 per hour) and “Port Play” (when the ship is in port, from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M.; $6 per hour).

Ocean Eats: The ship has two main restaurants, but you can choose to dine at 18 others as well, including a family-style Italian place and a neighborhood grill open 24/7. There’s also 24-hour room service.

Port Report: Introduce your kid to European style at the Dutch- and French-influenced island of St. Maarten. In St. Thomas, explore the ocean at Coral World’s underwater observation tower. Take a day trip to Atlantis Resort’s awesome Aquaventure water park in Nassau.

Rates: Start at $879 per person for 7 days in an inside room.

Get Close to Nature

Carnival Dream’s 7-day Western Caribbean Cruise

This new Carnival “Fun Ship” is not only affordable, it’s larger and has more space dedicated to families than any other in its fleet. Yes, the ship is big, but the friendly staff is all about the small details: Each night, your child returns to the room to find a towel shaped, origami-style, into a swan, a monkey, a pig, or another cute creature.

Fun for First Mates: The Camp Carnival kids’ clubs (ages 2 to 11) are focused on making memories — and souvenirs. Sessions teach art, music, and all about the ports you’ll visit on the trip, plus children can design their own custom T-shirts and plush toys. Over in the WaterWorks area, your kid can spend the day at one of the most elaborate (and largest) aqua parks at sea, which includes a four-deck-high twister water slide, squirting fountains, and splash zones.

Cruise Care: There is no in-room babysitting service available, but kids can be dropped off nightly between 10 P.M. and 3 A.M. for group care at the Camp Carnival center (cribs are available; $4 to $6 per hour).

Ocean Eats: The steak house or sushi bar might be calling your name (the main dining rooms offer extensive children’s menus), but kids will get a kick out of The Gathering, a poolside restaurant that serves pizza and ice cream ’round the clock. The whole family will love the “Dining Under the Stars” program that lets kids (2 to 17) eat together with the camp counselors while you and your partner have a romantic dinner for two.

Port Report: The Carnival Dream ups the number of stops to four, including two in Mexico (Cozumel and Costa Maya). But the ports get more exotic from there, with a shore excursion to Isla Roatan (off Honduras) and another in Belize. Little nature lovers will dig all the animal encounters in Isla Roatan, from swimming with dolphins to spotting local wildlife: parrots, monkeys, and Jesus lizards (they “walk” on water). In Belize, you and the kids can explore the ancient ruins and jungle by guided boat, horseback, bike, or foot tours.

Rates: Start at $649 per person for 7 days in a standard room. Suites and a deluxe family stateroom are also available.

Sail Like a Star

Celebrity Solstice’s 7-night Eastern Caribbean Cruise

Every guest is a VIP on this ship, which is designed — from the roomy accommodations down to the helpful staff — to introduce all of its guests to the “Celebrity Life.” If you’re a culinary whiz, show off your skills at the “Star Chefs” cooking competition. Spoil yourself with savory food from wonderfully innovative chefs, stroll through an onboard art gallery, or spend a leisurely afternoon at The Lawn Club, a country club-like area with real, growing grass, where you can try your hand at lawn bowling or sip a cup of gourmet coffee on the deck.

Fun for First Mates: Kids also get the star treatment, thanks to an exclusive partnership with LeapFrog. At the drop-off Fun Factory kids’ club (ages 3 to 11), there’s an open house on the first day to walk your child through all the educational games, crafts, music, themed parties, talent shows, and LeapFrog equipment offered. For kids under 3, there are special tot-parent sessions where you can interact with other kids and their families or play with age-appropriate toys. The club is open from 9 A.M. until 10 each night to keep kids entertained. But parents are encouraged to get in on the fun too with family disco, karaoke, bingo, and more.

Cruise Care: A slumber party is offered each night at the Fun Factory from 10 P.M. to 1 A.M. ($6 per hour) for kids 3 to 12.

Ocean Eats: The main European-style restaurant offers swanky food and service for you, with an extended kids’ menu for your child. There are also cafés, bistros, and other eateries for meals, sandwiches, or just a snack.

Port Report: Excursions in Puerto Rico, St. Kitts, and St. Maarten are led by Celebrity’s own guides. Check out the Spanish colonial outpost in Puerto Rico and the Cupecoy Beach cliff s on St. Maarten.

Rates: Start at $699 per person for 7 nights in an inside room.

Originally published in the April 2010 issue of Parents magazine.

This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings and availabilities are subject to change. Please contact each hotel and attraction for up-to-date rates and information before taking your trip.


Budget Christmas Starts from the Heart!

15 Dec
English: Santa Claus with a little girl Espera...

Image via Wikipedia

Be forewarned if you are expecting tips on black Friday shopping and getting deals on toy sales, this is the wrong post for you.  We’re far from grinch-like, yet my wife and I have always thought that Christmas is a little too over-the-top most of the time.  What we have found to work is to keep to the main essence of Christmas that (hopefully) our children will always remember — time together as a family, celebrating the season and creating family traditions!  After having 5 years of family Christmases under our belt, we realized that funny enough – if you make Christmas actually mean something – you actually end up saving more… in short, it is not just about the gifts!

– Create certain activities that you as a family do every year!  Since our kids are younger – we do breakfast with Santa, we buy christmas ornaments together, decorate ginger bread houses, go to Christmas Eve service, drive around in the evening to see other decorated houses and decorate our house together every year.  Honestly, I think the activities done together mean much more than the accumulation of stuff to children.  The hope is when you create an atmosphere of creating memories together the emphasis on “stuff/gifts” diminishes.

– Before christmas it is time to declutter, donate or exchange.  Out with the old before in with the new!  My wife just attended her first toy exchange and it was perfect – we got gently used toys and were able to unload our gently used outgrown toys.  Our kids are still too young ( 5.5 and 2 years-old) to know the difference between ‘new’ and ‘gently used’ and we plan to take advantage of that for as long as we can 🙂  If you don’t have a toy exchange you can join, definitely plan hosting your own – ask your neighbors, parents at your kid’s school, etc to participate.  It can be as simple as everyone bringing one or two toys to exchange.  It’s also a great time to donate gently used toys, clothing and household items to charity for the less fortunate – do something good for others and get a potential tax deduction!

– Gifts beyond toys!  This year we are re-decorating our 5.5 year-old daughter’s room, so her Christmas gifts will include bedding set, curtains, etc. that would go into decorating her room.  I think she’ll be super excited to see her new room unfold as she opens her gifts.  We’re glad to not be giving more clutter-inducing toys and she will still have the fun of opening gifts!  What’s in their stockings this year?  New toothbrushes!  Even Santa wants everyone to have good clean healthy teeth!

– Green Christmas Greetings!  Instead of sending hardcopy greeting cards or the ever so popular photo cards, be ‘green’ and send an e-card or photo slideshow card!  A great friend of ours has done the photo slideshow greetings via for a few years now.  It’s great to see photos of their family for the entire year.  You save on the cost of cards and postage if you do the e-card or photo slideshow greetings! 

In the long run, we’re hoping that by starting early and building expectations and a good foundation of Christmas spirit we can avoid the general too-much-ness that can invade the holidays and instead have what the yuletide was really meant to be – a time of happy family memories!

Make it a Memorable & Low Cost Halloween!

14 Oct

Did you know that Halloween is the third most expensive holiday of the year, right after Christmas and Valentine’s Day!  While there are fewer gifts to buy, purchasing costumes, candy and decorations during the fall can add up quickly.  Here are some tips on how to stretch your dollar, while still making the most of the fun of the fall season. 

Make costumes out of what you have!

  • Store-bought costumes easily can run $20-$35 each, or more.  If you have more than one child, buying costumes can bust a Halloween budget very quickly.
  • Home-made costumes will mean more to both you and your children, and will almost always cost less.  Check out FamilyFun.Com for great home-made crafts, treats, activities and costume ideas!
  • Many costumes can be made with supplies found around your house, meaning costumes could be created for free!  Look through your garage for the perfect handyman.  Old sheets can be torn to create a little mummy, or dad’s old shoes and clothes with some of mom’s makeup can create an adorable clown!  If you need an accessory or two to finish off your home-made costume, check out your local dollar store for economical options!

Buy candy – carefully!

  • Watch the sales and circulars, and purchase candy throughout the month – only when on sale.
  • With coupons, candy purchased while on sale can be a simple treat that is also inexpensive.
  • For parties and kid’s gathering, make treats. Often, you have all the ingredients to whip up simple brownies or cupcakes. Placed in individual bags with fun, festive ties, these inexpensive gifts are individual and cost-effective.  Parents.Com has great ideas on cool and creepy decorations as well as spooky cute & yummy treats!

Events and decorations.

  • Every store will have a Halloween decorations and fall décor for sale.
  • Skip the expensive stuff, and step out into your backyard for a basket of fall leaves.
  • For a few dollars, buy a pumpkin to carve with the kids. This inexpensive activity can become a family tradition.
  • Pumpkin patches, corn mazes and fall festivals are plenty this time of year. If you’re not careful, with a $5 or $10 entry fee per person, per event, you can spend a ton before you know it. Visit the event’s website for discounts, and look into what local churches, schools and community centers are offering. Often these community groups will offer events that are free, and they are just as good as the pay events.

For some more cost saving ideas, check out the article on CBS MoneyWatch:

Halloween Costumes: Cheap Tricks for Last-Minute Moms

Have fun, be safe and remember – memories and good times do not always have to cost a lot of money!

Who has time for photo albums?

29 Jun
A classical photo album

Image via Wikipedia

With all the technology available these days, creating an on-line photo album and then emailing the photo album link to friends and family anywhere in the world…who creates a hardcopy photo album anymore???

My wife and I are guilty of using Facebook to stay in touch with family and friends, sharing picture and videos of our family of four with the people we love.  It’s pretty quick and easy and our friends and family can view it at their leisure.

BUT, we still maintain hardcopy photo albums, BUT rather than a simple chronological album of photos, we switched to “themed albums.”  That’s right, an album for annual pictures of birthdays, Christmas, family vacations, etc.  It’s great because:

  1. You don’t feel the pressure to print and place photos every week/month.  Come on, you fellow parents are whipping out that smart phone camera almost everyday just like me, right?!?!!
  2. It gives a great year to year view/comparison of our family members – we can see Julia at her 1st, then 2nd, then 3rd, etc birthday!  My how she’s grown!
  3. It’s nice to pull out the “Christmas” album each Christmas and look back at the annual memories and reminisce on the prior years.  We also keep “special” Christmas cards in the album and especially the photo cards we receive from family and friends!

So, what do you think of “themed” albums?  Leave a comment and feel free to share your photo/special memory saving tips!  Thanks!

Tips to Manage Post Holiday (& Year Round) Clutter!

30 Dec

For those that celebrate it, with Christmas over its time to de-clutter and put away the decorations and gifts that have been unwrapped.  My motto is “In with the new & out with the old!”

I find the end of the year and post holidays is a great time to re-evaluate the clutter and get more organized.  Here’s some tips I’d like to share with you to implement now and some to help throughout the year:

  • Kids received a lot of new clothes as gifts?  Sort into two categories (1) Wear Now & (2) Grow Into/Wear Later.  The wear now pile should be placed in the hamper, washed and put in the respective closet/drawers.  The grow into pile should be stored/placed where you will remember it in the Spring/Summer/Fall when the size & season is correct – remember to utilize out of season clothing by layering.  For example, tank tops that my daughter  received last summer for her birthday that were too big are fine this winter as undershirts with PJs or school clothing to layer and keep warm!
  • Kids got a lot of new toys as presents?  This is usually the case with gifts from aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, grandparents, Santa, parents, etc.  At Christmas and Birthdays, we just let our daughter open 2-3 new toys (more than that can be overwhelming and messy) and we put the others away in a closet for later – it’s great to have them select a new toy to open when they are sick and home from school, as a reward for being super good/helpful, during spring break, summer vacation, etc.
  • Time to re-evaluate clothing and toys the kids outgrew.  With all the “new” stuff in the house from the holidays, it’s a great time to start getting rid of some of the “old” stuff.  Clothing that is worn out/faded or a bit outgrown, toys that are almost broken or outgrown for your kid’s age.  What I find super helpful and easy to maintain throughout the year is to keep a plastic tote or garbage bag in each walk-in closet to collect the clothing & stuff that you will sell (Craigslist is great – see my blog posts for tips on using Craigslist whether you are selling or buying) or donate/give away!  When the tote/bag is full you know it’s time to drop it off at church, Amvets, Goodwill, etc.  Also, if a charity makes periodic curbside pick-ups in your neighborhood, you are prepared to gather & combine the bags/totes and donate!
  • Evaluate your own stuff!  Did you get a new robe, slippers, sofa throw, coffee maker, etc. as a gift?  Do you still really need the old one?  Decide to either donate or try to sell the old things that you don’t need and de-clutter your home!
  • Re-gifting?  Yes, I’m going to touch this taboo topic with a 10 foot pole!  A lot of us do it…did you get a gift (with no gift receipt) that’s not useful to you, doesn’t fit, a duplicate of something you already have, etc?  Maybe you maintain a “re-gift” pile in a closet or just donate the item(s) or if you have a friend/co-worker/family member that can use it and appreciate it, just give it to them now so the item can be useful to someone now.

Share your tips by leaving a comment.  Thanks!

Holiday Tipping Guidelines

21 Dec

Tis the season!  This is straight from the Emily Post website:

Holiday Tipping Is Really Holiday Thanking

The holiday season is traditionally the time Americans choose to thank those who provide them with year-round services. In these tough economic times it’s important to remember that holiday tipping is truly about saying thank you. With a little creativity you can accommodate everyone on your list this year without blowing your budget.

Here are some things to consider when you’re deciding how to thank people, who you will spend money on, and how much you will spend:

  • Your budget: First and foremost, you shouldn’t feel obligated to go beyond your personal budget.
  • If your budget does not allow for tips, consider homemade gifts; and if you’re not good with crafts or in the kitchen, remember that words are always a great way to express your thanks for a year of good service.
  • Any gift or tip should always be accompanied by a short handwritten note of appreciation. (Two or three sentences will be enough.)
  • Do you already tip regularly? If you tip at the time of service, you may forego an end of the year tip, or give a more modest holiday thank you. You may also choose to give a small gift instead.
  • The quality and frequency of the service you receive.
  • Your relationship with the service provider.
  • Location: Tipping averages tend to be higher in larger cities.
  • Length of service: The number of years you’ve been using the service.
  • Regional customs.
  • Type of establishment: Is it deluxe or moderate?
  • When in doubt, ask: Call the front desk and ask what is 1) accepted by the company, and 2) typical for what they see from other customers.
  • Common sense, specific circumstances and holiday spirit should always be your guide.
  • Don’t buy into the thought that if you don’t tip you won’t get good service for the coming year. If you think you’ve had bad service for this reason, you might want to consider changing companies.

Holiday Thanking Recommendations

The table below contains our recommendations for holiday thanking, or tipping. These are not rules. Remember that averages and ranges can vary based on the type of establishment, regional customs, and your own budget. You never have to give cash and a gift, except in a few cases, such as when your child may give a gift to a babysitter in addition to your tip or thank-you. We understand that some people aren’t comfortable picking out gifts for those they don’t know well so there are cash amounts listed below, as a suggestion only.

Service Provider Options Suggested Amount or Gift
Au pair or live-in nanny Cash or consider a gift. This person works closely with your family and you probably know them well. One week’s pay and a gift from your child(ren).
Regular babysitter Cash One evening’s pay and a small gift from your child(ren).
Day care provider Cash or a gift for each staff member who works with your child(ren). A gift from you or $25-$70 for each staff member and a small gift from your child(ren).
Live-in help (nanny, cook, butler, housekeeper)  Cash and a personal gift One week to one month of pay as a cash tip, plus a gift from you.
Private nurse Gift A thoughtful gift from you.
Home health employees Check with agency first about gifts or tipping policies. If there is a no gifts/tipping policy, consider a donation to the agency. A thoughtful gift from you. (If gift-giving is not against company policy.)
Housekeeper/Cleaner Cash and/or a gift Up to the amount of one week’s pay and/or a small gift.
Nursing home employees A gift (not cash). Check company policy first. A gift that could be shared by the staff (flowers or food items).
Barber Cash or gift Cost of one haircut or a gift.
Beauty salon staff Cash or gift depending on whether you tip well after each service. The cost of one salon visit  divided for each staff member who works with you. Give individual cards or a small gift each for those who work on you.
Personal trainer Cash or gift Up to the cost of one session or a gift.
Massage therapist Cash or gift Up to the cost of one session or a gift.
Pet groomer Cash or gift (if the same person grooms your pet all year). Up to the cost of one session or a gift.
Dog walker Cash or gift Up to one week’s pay or a gift.
Personal caregiver Cash or gift Between one week to one month’s salary or a gift.
Pool cleaner Cash or gift The cost of one cleaning to be split among the crew.
Garage attendants Cash or small gift $10-30 or a small gift
Newspaper delivery person Cash or small gift $10-30 or a small gift
Mail carrier Small gift only Please see below for a detailed description of the United States Postal Service’s gift regulations.*
Package deliverer Small gift only, no cash. (Only if you receive regular deliveries.) Small gift in the $20 range. Most delivery companies discourage or prohibit cash gifts.
Superintendent Cash or gift $20-80 or a gift
Doorman Cash or gift $15-80. $15 or more each for multiple doormen, or a gift.
Elevator operator Cash or gift $15-40 each
Handyman Cash or gift $15 to $40
Trash/Recycling collectors Cash or gift (for private) check city regulations if it is a municipal service. $10-30 each
Yard/Garden worker Cash or gift $20-50 each
Teachers Gift (not cash) A small gift or note from you as well as a small gift from your child.
*United States Postal Service Gift Regulations:Mail carriers working for the United States Postal Service are allowed to accept the following items during the holiday season:

  • Snacks and beverages or perishable gifts that are not part of a meal.
  • Small gifts that have little intrinsic value (travel mugs, hand warmers, etc…) and are clearly no more than $20 in value.
  • Perishable items clearly worth more (large fruit baskets or cookie tins) must be shared with the entire branch.

Mail carriers working for the United States Postal Service may not accept the following:

  • Cash gifts, checks, gift cards, or any other form of currency.

Guest Post #2 – Reusing Boxes!

21 Dec

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Okay – I have to give it up for my dear friend @Franxesca on Twitter.  She totally surprised me…  For the holiday’s we sent Franny & her family a goodie box from Harry & David.  She reused the cardboard mailing box and some of the Harry & David gift boxes (now filled with gifts and treats from Trader Joe’s) and the Harry & David ribbon!

Wow – my wife and I were super impressed!  Franny was also kind and joyfully spirited enough to write a special message on the mailing box!  Love it!

Go green! Happy Holidays!!!