- Skip-Bo (15% off)
- Uno (10% off)
- Not Parent Approved Fun Card Game for Kids, Teens, & Adults (29% off)
- Kids Against Maturity (25% off)
- Old Maid (29% off)
Who's ready to get that Christmas shopping done early, and save a ton to boot? Here are some of the best Black Friday Deals on Amazon for kids I've found, including tons of classic and trending items - the best toys for Christmas 2020!
Disclaimer: Affiliate links below - we'll receive a small commission from purchases made after clicking. US Japan Fam does not endorse any items below, unless explicitly noted that we've personally tried and love it :)
STEAM Toy Deals:
Tablets & Tech Toys:
Active Toy Deals:
My first pregnancy (singleton) and second pregnancy (twins) were like night and day. From weight gain and how my belly looked to the delivery style and postpartum, it was all quite different. I thought it'd be fun and interesting to take a look back at the differences by comparing my singleton and twin pregnancy! You can watch it in a quick YouTube video or keep scrolling for the pix and details!
*disclaimer: this post includes some affiliate links - we'll receive a small commission from purchases made after clicking*
Note: in all photos below, singleton pregnancy is on left and twins on right :)
Early Weeks & Nausea
Early on, you wouldn't have known by looking at me. But for my twin pregnancy, my "morning sickness" aka all day sickness started much earlier and lasted longer too.
For my first baby, I wanted as natural as possible. I chose a group of midwives who only used the fetal doplar to hear the heart beat at each checkup. I had a sonogram at my initial visit (7 weeks), the standard anatomy ultra sound at 20 weeks, and another scan around 32 weeks because they wanted to confirm baby was breech (he later flipped, thank goodness). Then I used the birthing center to deliver which again was all natural. For my second pregnancy, again I went to a midwife, however as soon as she saw twins I was told I'd continue my regular checkups with them (rotating between the midwives and doctors at the practice, since I would have to have a doctor at the delivery) but also had to see an MFM (maternal fetal medicine) high risk specialist regularly. At those visits, they did a special ultrasound at EVERY visit, which I actually loved. There's such risk of one twin absorbing the other and all kinds of scary things, so it was reassuring to see them in there doing well! They always checked the blood flow in each umbilical cord, the size of babies, and also inserted a lovely probe to measure my cervix. This stopped later, maybe around 30 weeks? I can't remember, but it was a relief to not check that anymore! My MFM wanted me to delivery at 38 weeks but my OB wanted to let me go as far as 40 weeks, to make them both happy we made sure to schedule my MFM scans twice a week for the last few weeks. This meant walking 3 miles roundtrip pushing my son in his stroller. Ouchies! But kept us fit!!
Popped & Gender Reveal
I feel like from about 16 weeks is when my twin belly started to grow a bit bigger and faster than my singleton belly, though it would be many more weeks it REALLY popped. I found out the twins' sexes at around 18 weeks (girls! YAY!!) but for my first pregnancy, we didn't find out the sex! I wanted it to be my husband's big job at delivery to find out and announce it!
Viability & Weight Gain
24 weeks was a pretty big milestone for my twin pregnancy. It marked the point at which the babies could potentially survive if born early. Most doctors and twin pregnancy books also recommend the goal of gaining 24 pounds by wee 24 - this magic number has the best outcomes for twins! In the earlier weeks I didn't think it'd be possible, as I was just so nauseas most of the time. But at week 24, I was EXACTLY 24 pounds up - it was a miracle LOL! Of course, it feels absolutely rotten seeing the numbers go up so quickly on the scale, I had only gained 7 pounds at this point in my singleton pregnancy! But... you have to think about the babies' health - gaining too little or too much can put you all at risk!
Did you know you need at least 100 grams of protein a day when pregnant with twins? 175 is a better goal, that I always struggled to get even close to, despite throwing down protein bars and protein shakes every chance I could get! The cool thing is that your babies get first dibs at the nutrients you take in, and if they don't get what they need, they'll take it out of you like the cute little succubi they are ha! While I'll never know if it was a result of my not getting enough protein or other vitamins, I suspect that my losing my eyebrows (seen below right) was due to this. Thankfully eyebrow pencil worked wonders and they grew back in full shortly after giving birth!!
From about 30 weeks, my twin belly seriously looked full term, and it was from here on out that strangers would think they were so cute with their comments like "Whoa you're about to pop!!" to which I'd answer, "Nah, about 2 more months" hahahaha by 35 weeks I was obscenely large and in charge and they would joke "What are you having twins or something" thinking they're being funny or passively aggressively trying to make fun of me perhaps? But I loved answering blankly, "Yes." So fun! What was not fun were the aches and pains. The varicose veins down under and my round ligament pains in my hips made walking downright painful, yet I still made a point of walking at least a mile a day, and even pushing my son in his stroller 3-4 miles 1-2 times a week when I had my checkups at the maternal and fetal health specialist! It wasn't comfortable, but I think keeping fit really helped me stay fit and keep those babies cooking!!
I carried both pregnancies full term. My son was actually overdue at 40 weeks and 2 days (I gained 26 pounds and he was 8 pounds 1 ounce). I was so nervous because I was planning to deliver naturally at the birthing center, and you aren't allowed to deliver there if you go past 40 weeks 6 days! I made it just in time! Twins are considered full term earlier at 38 weeks which is when most doctors want to deliver them by (risks go up quickly after that). My team was confident to let me go as far as 40 weeks as long as I was getting twice a week ultrasounds and everything was going perfectly! So at 39 weeks and 6 days they finally induced me. I had gained 43 pounds and my girls were 6 pounds 11 ounces and 5 pounds 9 ounces. So I gained 17 pounds extra for the twins!
For my son, I labored at home for 43 hours (ohhhh the pain) and then spent the final 10 hours of labor at The Birthing Center at Roosevelt Hospital. It's a special unit of just a few beds separate from the regular OB floor. No drugs, just a midwife and a nurse! I thought this was perfect for me, not wanting meds pushed on me, but was just 1 floor away from doctors and surgeons should something scary happen. Thankfully it went perfectly - had him on Christmas Day 2012 and spent just 1 night in the same room where we labored and delivered him, in a regular queen bed (not an adjustable one). (See his full birth story here).
For my twins, we scheduled an induction at 39 weeks 6 days. They started an IV and put me on pitocin, broke my water, and let me labor a few hours (so painful, pitocin is NOT fun). When I got to 9cm I finally broke and got the epidural they had been pushing me to get - my doctor wanted me to have one in place just in case I needed an emergency c-section for the 2nd baby, that way they wouldn't have to knock me out. I got the epidural AND the drugs and it was so wonderful. Pushed them both out painlessly a couple of hours later in the OR - yes, all twins and multiples must be delivered in the operating room, even if vaginal! I believe it's related to the number of people who must attend the delivery, at least 6 (mom, partner, OB, anesthesiologist, a pediatrician or neonatologist for each baby, at least 1 nurse, likely a handful of med students, and more doctors and nursees depending on how many babies ). I was really nervous about what a horrible situation it would be, on a cold flat operating table with bright lights. But honestly, in the moment, I couldn't have cared less! (read the twins' full birth story here).
My son stayed in the room with us the entire time in the hospital - he got cleaned up and got his shots and everything right by my side. My girls were whisked away several times to be cleaned and once because they wouldn't stop crying and poor mama just wanted to sleep! It's funny how different I felt the first time and the second time. The first time, I probably would have fought any soul trying to take my baby away! The next time around, I was like, whatever, please take them for a bit, I need to sleeeeeep!!!
At the birth center, we had a private room, just part of how things were different from the regular OB ward and it was one of the reasons I chose to deliver there! The next time around, we also lucked out with a private room because moms of twins and multiples get a FREE private room!!! Because they need the space for 2+ bassinets! This meant my husband got to stay with me, although not too comfy on a fold out chair!
I was lucky that, while painful at first, breastfeeding was pretty easy for us. The first time around, I suffered through EXCRUTIATING latch, baby overfeeding (like 45 minute feeds), and usually tons of spit up. But he porked up and we just chugged along! I ended up breastfeeding him til he turned 2 years old!! For my twins, it started out alright but Emi didn't gain any weight over 2 weeks after her initial 10% weight loss (which is totally normal and fine for new borns to lose that much right after birth but they're expected to start gaining quickly). I saw a free lactation consultant at our pediatrician and she saved us!! She confirmed my milk production wasn't the problem, it was just Emi was so weak and not able to nurse efficiently. So basically I bought a scale, weight her before and after feeds, and pumped and bottle fed her at least once a day to make sure she was getting enough milk. At the end of 2 weeks of doing this, she had caught up to her sister's weight and was able to nurse well. From then on the girls were within an ounce of eachother for the next 2 years or so!! Now at 5, Emi is about 1 inch taller and 2 pounds heavier LOL! I breastfed them for 1.5 years - at home using My Brest Friend Twin Deluxe nursing pillow, and even out in public single or tandem under a cover!! Oh the stares we would get, never once got a mean comment, I think mostly people were stunned... or I like to think, impressed!
For my son, I used a Mei Tai Carrier and a Britax single stroller. For my twins, initially anyway, we used the StrollAir MyDuo stroller with the Englacha ride on seat (affiliate link) behind it. My son still did stroller naps so I could throw him into a seat and wear a baby if we needed to. When we had to take the subway into the city, I would usually put Kenzo in the stroller and wear the twins in our WeeGo twin carrier (under 4 months) and later the TwinGo carrier. Later we loved the StrollAir Solo to Tango and Evenflo Pivot stroller with the Buggy Board Maxi+ sit/stand ride on behind it. Reviews linked above and videos below!!
Postpartum Belly & Weightloss
I was lucky that my weight was back to pre-pregnancy within 6 months for both singleton and twins, without any effort of my own. I chalk it up to good DNA and breastfeeding. Did you know breastfeeding twins burns about 1000 extra calories a day!?? The tricky part was weaning them and not gaining a ton because I was used to eating as much as I could through pregnancy and 1.5 years of breastfeeding LOL! They did leave me with the dreaded stretched out wrinkly #twinskin though - come see that here!!
What your belly looks like after twins!!
Tis the season to be jolly, and what better way to be extra jolly than by donning cute holiday wear, hilarious Christmas t-shirts, and drinking from silly holiday-themed Christmas mugs!? Here are some great options below!!
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links - you won't pay more but we'll receive a small commission from purchases made after clicking. Also note, we haven't ordered or tried these personally (except for the Pearhead mug), so aren't able to offer personal review or recommendation - we just found these online and think they look awesome!
Hilarious Christmas T-Shirts (G-rated):
Hilarious Christmas T-Shirts (Not around Kids):
Cute Christmas Long Sleeve Tees:
Cute & Funny Christmas Mugs & Tumblers:
We recently moved from our tiny Brooklyn co-op to a big house in Hudson Valley, but our twins were still sleeping on their crib mattresses on the floor under big brother's Ikea Kura loft. They just turned 5 and were ready for new beds so we did some researching and I am SO excited to give you a tour and let you know exactly what we used in our kids' gender neutral bedroom makeover (so you can easily copy cat your own makeover if so inclined)!! Watch our 2 videos (1 is the loft / bunk build, the other is the rest of the makeover and final reveal) and read on for details!!
It took me a while to figure out what type of beds to go with. I thought about a triple bunk but our (not even 8' high) ceilings weren't tall enough. I also thought it'd be really hard to change sheets, and not enough space between beds for the kids to sit and relax. I also considered a twin over full bed where the twins could share a bed, but thought they should have their own space. Ultimately we settled on a Twin Loft Bed and a Twin over Twin Bunk Bed from AdultBunkBeds.com (by Francis Lofts & Bunks) because:
The beds came in a million pieces, 14 boxes weighing a total of 500 pounds to be exact, and we were completely overwhelmed. Thankfully, they have extremely helpful assembly videos on their website that totally saved us and it took us a few hours to get them all up. AdultBunkBeds.com has a bunch of great add-on accessories including a tray, bookshelf, pull down desk, pillow support, trundle, corner shelf, fire pole (!!!), curtains with stainless steel cable, headboards, drawers, bed skirt, and staircase with or without a hand rail. After speaking with the representative, I felt the traditional ladders would be the safest option for our kids, and was impressed with how securely they latch on! You can attach them to basically anywhere around the bunk - on the side, head, or foot of the bed, which gives you so much flexibility in arranging the room!
The feet of the beds are kind of a rubber foam which makes them really grippy, adding to their sturdiness. However, it means you can't simply slide the beds around to their best location after building them, and the bunk was HEAVY, we couldn't lift it!! The trick we did find was sliding cardboard under each leg and I was able to slide the beds around by myself this way.
Finding 3 sets of matching or coordinating bedding was my next challenge. I focused on black and white and settled on this super affordable but awesome bed-in-a-bag set from Amazon Basics (affiliate link). They have Twin/TwinXL ($40) and Queen ($50) in a ton of designs. I can't tell you how well it'll hold up long term yet but they washed and dried nicely and are really really soft! They also have a little pocket on each side of the fitted sheet which is handy for lightweight things such as chapstick, flashlight, even a phone.
THE MATTRESS & PAD
Since the guardrails on the bed are completely adjustible, we could go with any depth mattress we wanted. I decided on the Zinus 6 inch gel-infused green tea memory foam mattress (affiliate link) because my son already had one and we like it. It's CERTI-PUR US certified meaning the foam is made without fomaldehyde / ozone depleters / PBDEs TDCPP or TECP ("Tris") flame retardants / mercury / lead / heavy metals / phthalates regulated by CPSC and are low VOC emissions for indoor air quality (less than 0.5 parts per million). It has a 10 year warranty and supports up to 250 pounds. They came vacuum packed and rolled up, and need 24-72 hours to completely expand to correct size. Of course we want to protect the bed from accidents (puke, nose bleeds etc) and protect our kids from allergens, so we also got the AllerEase Waterproof Zippered Mattress Protector (affiliate link) which fully encases the mattress, is waterproof, and protects from allergens, bed bugs, dust mites, and dander!
I wanted to avoid particle board dressers and storage units because of their potential toxic VOC off-gassing, so instead went with a wire frame cube storage unit (affiliate link) with fabric collapsible boxes. The frame was a PITA to assemble, but once together it seems like it'll work out. nicely, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE how it looks!! You have to be careful as the boxes can get caught up on little round disks that hold it together (you can see this in my video) but overall I think it's going to work out fine.
They have a decent sized closet in their bedroom so I added parts of an old hanging / storage unit we had to allow us to make use of the bottom half of the closet. We use it for all 3 kids shirts and dresses. Their pants, pajamas, undies, socks, and other items will go in the new cube storage unit - folded and rolled Marie Kondo style of course!!
Quick & Easy Tutorial - How to Edit Landscape Videos to Vertical for YouTube Shorts, IG Reels, TikTok + More!
Every platform is trying to recreate the amazing success of TikTok, and for good reason! YouTube recently released Shorts (vertical videos under 60 seconds) and influencers are loving the new Instagram Reels. But did you know, you can upload to ALL OF THESE with just a quick edit from basically ONE VIDEO!?!? Even an old landscape video!
There are many ways to do it, but here's what I've been doing on my iMac and it's very simple! Watch my video tutorial below and read on for the detailed steps!
If you're filming something new, simply film with your phone in vertical orientation. You can also use landscape video footage as long as you are able to edit so that the content is viewable when cropped to .56 of the width.
Edit the video as you would normally. I use iMovie on my iMac. You need to edit the video down to the correct length for each specific platform. Then download the file to your computer. You may need to re-edit to a different length and download a few times, for example if you plan to upload to IGTV you'll need it at least 61 seconds, and if going on YT Shorts it'll need to be under 60 seconds. Very slight difference but very important!!
Here's an example of a video I edited to vertical from a landscape video, which was my YouTube channel's best performing video (almost 1 million views). Original on left, YouTube Shorts on right:
3. Make it Vertical (1920 tall x 1080 wide)
I do this by opening up Keynote and dragging the video into it.
4. May need to convert file type
You can simply upload the video right after exporting the Keynote project to movie in mpeg4 format. However, Instagram needs mp4, so you'll need to convert it for that and there are many free options. I usually use Cloud Convert. Then, because you need to upload from phone, on my computer I drag the converted mp4 file to my Google Drive and then download it from there onto my phone.
5. YouTube Shorts Specific Upload Notes
If you have shorts on your YouTube app, you can film and upload without all the above steps. The rest of us (most of us) don't have it yet so have to take above steps. Then, when you upload it, you'll have to be sure to include #SHORTS in the title and video description!!! You can create a landscape thumbnail as usual (I love Canva for this, just click "youtube thumbnail" and your size is spot on!), which will only be seen by people viewing the video on regular YouTube. Those viewing on Shorts won't see the thumbnail. Do your tags and SEO stuff as per the usual.
6. Enjoy the Sweet Smell of SUCCESS!!
Some have been finding IG Reels to be getting TONS of views recently, especially in comparison to regular IG posts suffering the wrath of the algorithm. I haven't noticed mine doing great, but I have had some exciting results with YouTube shorts. Below are the analytics of the first Shorts video I did - I made a quick vertical version of my channel's top performing video (before and after videos embedded above) and it is KILLING it for my channel!! If your channel is monetized, the video will be monetized when viewed on regular YouTube, but not monetized when viewed via Shorts shelf. Since they're so short, they're not likely to bring in any substantial income, but they can get great views and more importantly, NEW SUBSCRIBERS!!!
I hope you found this tutorial helpful!! If you have any other tips, or you found an error, I'd really appreciate a comment below so I can keep this post up to date and accurate!!
Real Estate can be a huge money maker, but it is very hard to understand without lots of experience and help along the way. 3 years ago, I walked into it thinking, no biggy, I can sell our Brooklyn Co-op on Zillow, For Sale by Owner (FSBO for those in the know). Why do I want to spend $30K on commission to realtors!? Am I right? Wrong... I failed. Hired a realtor, and they failed, too (partly because we were both over confident, and also because we didn't follow their suggestions for fixing up the home). Two years later we came into it knowing what we knew, hired a new realtor and finally succeeded in selling it quickly and at a great profit to boot. After all of this, here's what I learned and would like to share with you!
Watch it all in this YouTube video or read it below!
What You Need to Know About FSBO
(For Sale By Owner):
Photography is IMPORTANT!!!
If listing FSBO, you definitely should consider hiring a professional real estate photographer. They know the best angles, how to use wide angle lenses to get the whole room into a shot, how to perfect the lighting, heck they can even edit in blue sky through your windows if it was raining on the shoot day (they did on mine, below right)! HA! Professional photos are almost always covered by the realtor's agency, which is a big plus! I'll show you an example of our home below, with my DIY photos when I did FSBO (on left) vs. the professional photos after decluttering with our realtor (on right). In the 2 years between listings, we replaced the old foggy windows (realtor's suggestion), did a mini kitchen renovation (our choice), put a ton in storage (realtor's suggestion), and removed the gate from our fire escape window (realtor's suggestion). I've seen some listings that were so horribly done, even had dirty dishes or people in the shots!! Just a big no to that guys, no no no!!! First impressions are so important! You don't want to mislead people, which is why I'm not a fan of the virtually staged photos showing what it *could* look like after a renovation, for example, because then they walk into your home and it's a big let down. But you can show it in its best light with great photography, for sure!
My Take on Using a Realtor:
OK there you have it! What I learned from a failed attempt at FSBO, a failed attempt with a realtor, and then finally a great success with a realtor! If you're looking for a great realtor in Brooklyn / NYC, we loved ours - Juliette Pannone, Licensed RE Salesperson with Corcoran, who says "Think of hiring a real estate agent as adding an advocate for yourself to help navigate what is sure to be an emotional, time sensitive, and financially important process."
We're currently renting and will be looking to buy in a couple of years and you can be sure, we'll be using a realtor to help us through that!! If you have any tips or insight, I'd love for you to share via a comment below!!!
Related articles you may find helpful:
The weather is cooling down and you're still "safe at home", so it's time to make sure you're stocked up on ways to be warm and cozy, bonus if they spark a little joy at the same time, am I right!? Here are some items I'm loving this fall, and where you can grab your own!
**disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links, you don't pay more but we'll receive a commission from sales made after clicking**
Cozy Teddy Bear Hoodies & Cardigans
I recently bought the Dokotoo Women's Fuzzy Fleece Cardigan (below left) which is a #1 best seller on Amazon. It's 95% polyester 5% spandex and is about the softest most cuddliest thing I have ever worn. I'm obsessed with it. My kids are obsessed with it. I'm half ready to buy one in every color LOL! Sure I kinda look like I'm wearing a bathrobe but I just don't even care, it's that comfy and warm!!
Fleece Lined Leggings, Joggers & Sweats
If you're running around the house all day in jeans, good for you. But I can assure you, I am not. No way. Jeans and their potential muffin topping discomfort are only for public life. Around the house it's all about leggings and joggers for me!
I've been living in a pair of black sweat pants basically since the start of September when the weather started to chill, and I realized, I need some more color in my life. Just "invested" in the esstive ultra soft fleece joggers in Marled Smokey Blue (below left) and they're great!! Fitted bottom, super soft, great colors to choose from!! I also recently got the Diravo Fleece Lined Leggings in Royal Blue (pictured below second from left) and they are SO comfy, thick, and warm. I can't attest to whether or not they'll pill, but so far so good!
Cozy Slippers & Socks
We've been living the NYC apartment life for many years, where you have no control over the heat and it's like 85*F in there in February! It was wonderful! But now we're in a house and pay for our heat. So... we need to dress warmer!! So I'm all about warm socks and grippy slippers now!! Got the (below left) Fralosha slipper sock and they're super soft!! Was on the fence about getting something with a firmer and more padded bottom, but decided to go for these which are more flexible like a sock so I can keep them on the sofa for lounging!
Tumblers, Mugs & Decor
"Fall Is My Second Favorite F word", I mean, come on, that sparks so much F'in joy in my life! ha!
Keep the Draft Out
You want to stay warm and also cut energy costs (and wastefulness) am I right? Don't forget to block drafts coming from doors and windows! We got this magnetic door draft blocker for our doors and it is doing a great job at keeping out the cold air and also the creepy crawlies (we had a bit of a gap between the door and frame!!
Supplements for Fall & Winter
As winter approaches, we get less time in the sun and need to be sure we don't become Vitamin D deficient. So, it's not just time for Pumpkin Spice everything but think also about your diet, and consider adding some extra sources of Vitamin D (but first, talk to your doctor regarding your health specifically, of course)! You might also want to talk to them about probiotics and other immune supporting supplements like these:
For Your Hot Showers
If you have colored hair, you may have been ordered to keep to cool showers, but in winter!? I mean, come on!! So, consider a coloring conditioner to keep it from fading, despite wonderfully hot showers! I've loved oVertone but am gonna give this one by Keracolor a try soon! Also, keep your skin moisturized (I know, hot showers are bad for this too)... be sure to moisturize all skin with a thick lotion or balm right after showering, while skin is still slightly moist. YoRo Naturals Organic Manuka Honey Skin Soothing Cream is an AMAZING one, all natural and safe for the whole family, even babies! And if you have eczema or stubborn dry flakey spots, it's a MUST HAVE!
We've been on lockdown for months, and winter is coming. Time to make sure you have some fun and creative ways for your kids to burn energy and stay fit indoors!! I've been researching for my own family, and here are some that I think look AH-MAY-ZING (no personal reviews on these... yet. I'm still trying to narrow down which items will be a good fit for my kids and home)!!! There's something for every budget here, whether you're in a tiny rental apartment or massive home! Have an active indoor toy you love?? Leave a comment below!!
Disclaimer: affiliate links below, I'll earn commission from purchases made after clicking.
Indoor Jungle Gyms for Big Kids:
Safety first please - make sure to install these properly and put down a sufficiently thick padded safety mat underneath (check with manufacturer for recommended minimum thickness). Falls happen!
Indoor Jungle Gyms for Toddlers:
Indoor Swings for Kids & Babies:
Indoor Trampolines for Kids:
Other Indoor Active Toys for Kids:
Rock climbing, see saws, interactive video games, and more!
Active Nintendo Switch Video Games:
If you're like my family, you've been pretty much locked down staying at home for a good part of the last 8 months. Cooking wayyyyyy more than I was used to, researching endlessly to find safe places to take the kids on the weekend or to dine outdoors. Worried about illness, about school, about our SANITY! When Woodloch Resort (voted the #1 Family Resort in the United States) invited us on a weekend getaway I was a little nervous to be honest. We'd been there twice before and it is one of my all time favorite family vacation spots. But during a pandemic!? Turns out I had no need to worry, and it was just what the doctor ordered!! Sanity restored. Beautiful memories made. It was Heaven on Earth. Watch our video for as close to an in-person experience as I can give you, and read on for details!!
Pandemic Protocols - Safety First!!
Woodloch is on top of the game when it comes to pandemic protocols and covid safety. You're asked to take everyone's temperatures before heading to the resort, and upon arrival your car is directed to their station where you are greeted cheerfully with a masked and gloved staff member who takes everyone's temperatures (still in the car) without contact via one of those temporal thermometers. Once everyone passes, you're provided bracelets which prove you passed the temperature scan and have free rein of the seemingly endless amenities on their 1500 acre property with beautiful forest and a lake! Signs are everywhere asking you to wear a mask, at the front desk they have baskets with clean pens and used pens, in the kid's arts & crafts room they have bins for used items to be cleaned, heck, even in our guest room the remotes were in plastic baggies!
They opened back up in June and are currently limited to half capacity, with the option to dine in or grab a to-go bag from the dining room. They are using a very handy app for menus and to schedule reservations for many activities so they can limit capacity, meaning you no longer have to deal with lines and you feel like a total VIP with private sessions of things like go carts and bumper cars!
No matter what you're into, you'll find PLENTY to do at Woodloch! My family's personal outdoor favorites are the go carts (min 58" to drive, but kids 36"+ can ride with an adult), junior go carts (48"-58" to drive), scenic boat tour, mini golf, paddle boats, bumper boats, 2 playgrounds including one that was brand new for us with simply massive slides, and just walking around the property and exploring the beautiful nature.
If you keep your eyes peeled you'll be entertained by speedy chipmunks, curious squirrels, meandering deer, robins, Koi fish, and more! There are signs to watch out for bear but we've yet to come across any... On Sundays they also have animals brought over for pony rides and petting. During our stay they had bunnies, a 3 day old lamb, 2 month old calf, and 4 week old twin goats (all with their mamas, of course)!!
Our first stop, every time, is the Woodloch Forest Indoor Playground. It's a massive jungle gym structure that my kids are just bonkers for. They also have a cute baby/toddler area for ages 5 and under. Socks and masks required, no reservations needed but the hours are limited so check the app and schedule your day accordingly! We like to give our kids 30 minutes there at least daily! My personal favorite indoor activity this year was the bumper cars, because it was the first year every person in my family was tall enough to drive their own car (min 40"), AND due to the pandemic, you have to make a reservation and get a private session!!! Screaming. Laughing. Racing. Spinning. Crashing. So so so so so much fun!!! Other indoor favorites are the arts & crafts room (no reservations needed and you could use any supplies you want or use their pre-made kits for that day's suggested craft), the indoor pool (with kiddy splash zone, baby pool, family-friendly jacuzzi, adult-only jacuzzi and sauna, and big slide and splash zone - my kids were old enough for the slide but not able to do it yet since they can't swim independently without floatation devices yet).
When staying at the all-inclusive Woodloch Resort, you have the option of the 2 or 3 meal plan. We always go for the 3-meals a day because, quite honestly, they have the best food of any of the hotels and resorts we have been to! SO GOOD!!! As mentioned above, you currently have the option of dining in the dining room (some lunches are outdoor BBQ's) or having them pack up your meal to go (if worried about indoor dining). But, they did have the dining room at half capacity with tables spread out so we decided to keep it simple and eat in the dining room. Our table was right by the windows facing the lake, so, how could we pass that up!? They always have a couple of appetizers and several main entrees to choose from, family style sides for the table, and a couple of desserts to choose from. Food comes out really fast, and portions are HUGE but if you need to order more or something else, no worries, go for it!
It wouldn't be an all-inclusive resort without offering entertainment every night, now would it!? And they have got some great stuff going on!! They do require you get tickets, so they can make sure they stay under the safe capacity max, and we went to the 7pm show both nights and it was nearly empty. Sad for the performers but pretty awesome for us!! The first night we saw a band called Nowhere Slow and they did a medley of top songs from each decade, from 60's to to today. It was SO fun, our girls danced their booties off. Heads up though, it's VERY loud at the front of the house. We realized if you move to the back it was much better for our kids' sensitive ears. The second night was a comedy act which we didn't stay the whole time for, the content was definitely G-rated and kid-friendly but was just kind of above holding our young kids' attention. They were exhausted anyway, so calling it an early night was smart. In past stays, our kids were just too young to stay up for the nightly entertainment though we did make a splurge for a magician show last time and it was awesome. They even had my son up on the stage!
We were provided with an Edgewater Suite in the Springbrook Section of the resort, which is very convenient as you don't have to go outside to reach the indoor pool! It's just a short walk to the main lodge dining area and all activities! 2 bathrooms (1 with a shower, 1 with a tub), 2 queens in the bedroom and a pull out sofa in the living room, a microwave and mini fridge, and large closet / luggage room. It was the perfect size for our family! It did seem like musical chairs the first night with the kids figuring out where they would sleep. They finally settled with the girls sharing the sofa bed in the living room, my son taking a queen to himself, and my husband and I sharing the other queen. It had a balcony with a gorgeous view of the property and lake.
It happened to be the weekend before our twins' 5th birthday so I mentioned it at check in and they said they'd do something special! And they did!! At dinner they announced their birthday (along with several other birthdays and anniversaries) and the girls lit up hearing their names!!! Then, they brought over two cupcakes the size of their heads while singing happy birthday! Such a fun way to celebrate!!
Home Away from Home!!
Once you visit Woodloch for the first time, during a pandemic or not, you'll understand why families go back again and again and again. Some decide to buy a vacation home on the property, others simply book their family vacation there annually. Because, it really does feel like a home away from home. A much more fun and relaxing home, that is! Every single staff member you run across is friendly and goes above and beyond helping you in whatever way they can. On the last morning, after checkout, my husband lost his wallet. They sent someone back to the room with me to check, and then offered to drive me to all the spots we had been to that morning. Eventually we gave up looking and continued on with our day. A couple of hours later I got a phone call that the go cart staff member had found the wallet, and they brought it to us at the indoor playground. We really lucked out that they found it before we left, and were so incredibly grateful!! Friendly and helpful staff can really make or break a resort, and at Woodloch, they are everything!! Of course the grounds are spectacularly beautiful, the food is amazing, the activities are endless. No wonder they've been voted the Best Family Resort in America. You just have to go see for yourself!!! Located in Hawley, Pennsylvania, it's just a quick drive from NYC (they also have a shuttle from the bus stop if you don't have a car)!.
Don't miss our videos from our previous stays at Woodloch!! Summer 2016 and Winter 2018 (boy oh boy have our kids grown!!!):
In no way do I take this pandemic lightly. I pulled my kids out of school in NYC before schools officially closed, we locked down at home for weeks before starting to slowly venture out to open parks in masks. Heck, I'm even homeschooling them this year!! It's been a LONG six months and it's really not likely to end any time soon (quite the contrary, it'll probably get worse with the 2nd and 3rd waves before we get the vaccine). That said, we've learned alot about how to prevent transmission and it really is fairly simple:
1. Everyone MUST Wear Masks
I'm talking kids trick or treating, parents escorting them, and people handing out candy. Nose and mouth need to be covered properly and masks shouldn't be touched or taken off until you're far from others and able to wash or sanitize your hands. Bringing a baby or toddler along who won't tolerate a mask? Consider putting them in a stroller with the rain cover on.
**Bonus - faces covered in masks = no face makeup this year! That stuff is so messy and gross anyway!!
2. Social Distance with Halloween Spirit
Have you seen this Ohio dad's idea of the Candy Chute (watch video below)!? BRILLIANT!!! We need more ideas like this!! You could also put a barrier or some sort of marker 6 feet from your door for trick or treaters to stop there. You can toss candy into their bags. You could leave a bowl out there for them to serve themselves (even better if you have a scooper so they're not putting hands into the bowl and touching all the candy, bonus if you also put a bottle of hand sanitizer next to the bowl). You could put markers and arrows along your walkway and driveaway to show them how to keep the line moving in a single direction and have kids waiting in line 6 feet apart (think caution tape, halloween luminaries, pumpkins, you name it). Of course, traditionally kids just all rush together in huge masses but I think they're getting used to lining up far apart at school, in the grocery store etc. This won't be anything new for them! But will definitely require chaperones to help them stay organized and safe.
3. Choose Your Group Wisely
The best idea would be to simply trick or treat with only the family you live with. Next best would be with a couple of friends from your child's school pod, since they're together all day anyway.
4. Quarantine the Candy
Most of us are totally over the whole sanitizing your groceries thing, am I right? I mean, to be honest, I never did that. But Halloween Candy? QUARANTINE THAT STUFF!! I'm serious. It could even kind of be fun, drawing out the Halloween Celebrations! They collect the candy, hopefully most being tossed in so they don't even touch it. Get home. Bag goes into a closet for 3 days. Boom. After quarantine you could have a little Halloween Candy Release Celebration! If you want to treat them with some candy on Halloween night or before quarantine ends, open it up for them and put it on a plate so there's no cross contamination. You never know who handled that candy before you. Ick. Not worth the risk IMO.
My family actually gets visited by the Switch Witch (see last year's video below). Traditionally I let them pick out 10 pieces of candy to save as soon as we get home from Trick or Treating. The rest gets left out for the Switch Witch who comes at night and leaves a toy or some sort of prize in place of the candy. It's actually really fun!! Switch Witch can still be done this year (it's probably best if you start when they're young, i.e. 3 years old which is probably the first Halloween they might remember). My almost 8 year old still loves doing it!
5. Avoid Large Groups
Depending on where you live, this may be tricky. It may mean trick or treating earlier than usual. It may mean not staying out as long as usual - just doing your block and calling it a day perhaps, rather than going out for 5 hours and collecting 2 pillow cases full. This year will not be like past years. Make sure your kids know that. It can still be fun, but it won't be the same and the rules aren't the same either. Try to stay 6 feet from other groups. If you start crossing paths with the same groups of kids switch it up and go to the other side of the street or try a different area.
6. Trunk or Treat
If traditional trick or treating leaves you super nervous, organize something different, something you can have a bit more control of. For example, you could do a Trunk or Treat through your school's PTA. Cars have to sign up so it would be limited to only be one per every other parking spot. Kids don't go up to the car but rather stand 6 feet back and get candy tossed. You could have a little dance party too, kids stay by their own car with music blasting from one car. Or get a DJ for the middle of the parking lot. Sounds amazing to me!
So, there are just a few ideas I have. The thought of canceling Halloween and Trick or Treating altogether just really really bums me out. I really have no idea why people are even tossing around that idea, it seems there are plenty of ways to make it safe. If someone in your home is immunocompromised, you could even just do trick or treating at your own house, kids get dressed up and take turns trick or treating and handing out candy to each other. Why not!!
If you have any thoughts on this or ideas for ways to make Halloween special and safe for the kids this year, please drop them in a comment!!
About Me ^_^
I'm a NY mom blogger (formerly of Brooklyn), Influencer, YouTuber, & Entrepreneur living just north of NYC in Hudson River Valley's town of Cornwall with my Japanese husband & our 3 kids (twins plus 1)! My blog is chock full of humor, honesty, family travel & product reviews, and giveaways galore! It's also home to Bay Ridge Families, with weekly local kids' events roundups and annual guides for families here in South Brooklyn!