Tag Archives: travel

Join me at the 2010 Mom 2.0 Summit

I’m very excited to be attending the Mom 2.0 Summit in Houston, Texas from February 18-20. The schedule of events is chock full of sessions that I want to learn from.

I think this conference is one which really does enlighten all parties – marketers and ‘moms’ –  on how the other operates. I regularly hear complaints from both sides – it seems there are as  many different expectations as there are companies and bloggers. I’m looking forward to  seeing both sides have an opportunity to describe their experiences, and make  recommendations that lead to even better relationships.

I’m even more excited to have been invited to share my insights as part of the panel for the f  first professional session of the conference. In the session we’ll be discussing setting a strategic  path for your blog through creating a marketing plan and SMART objectives that are both trackable and achievable. I’ve been thinking for about a month now on exactly the best way for me to support the session with additional materials – and I’m considering doing an e-workbook for attendees to use in creating their own marketing plans.

I’m about to plan all my travel arrangements and start thinking about what I’d like to achieve from this conference. I have had a number of women tell me that Mom 2.0 was the best conference they’d attended last year. I firmly believe that with the schedule and talented women I’m lucky to be surrounded by leading these sessions, and the amazing array of women and companies who will be attending, 2010 will be just as successful.

I’m looking forward to getting along and meeting all the exciting, inspiring women who will be there. Will I get to meet you?

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Skiing on a budget with kids in Colorado

If you’re looking for a great deal for skiing, then a little preparation is in order. Think it out early, and you’ll save lots. Leave it to the last minute, and you’ll be paying for it – literally. As a grad student mum with extremely limited funds, I have got hold of some great deals, and I wanted to share some resources with you.

The Colorado Gems Card. For a $10 initial outlay per card, you get a whole range of discounts and free ski days at various resorts across Colorado. The card pays for itself after the first one or two times of use – for example, at Eldora it will get the holder $10 off the price of a child’s lift ticket (normally $39 a day), and $15 off an adult ticket (normally $65 a day). (One per person, per card, per day.) The processing takes a week or two, so get it early to make good use of it.

The Colorado Passport gives your 5th grader three FREE days of skiing at over 20 resorts in Colorado, and four days for 6th graders. It’s a really great way to get some good savings across numerous resorts, from Eldora to Aspen. The Colorado Passport is FREE for 5th graders, and $99 for 6th graders. It’s well worth the investment for the 6th grader – look at how much the lift tickets would cost you at the resort you’re most likely to go to, and you’ll see what an impact having the card makes. You need to have a picture of your child to process, and online is the fastest way of doing the application. The site says it takes about 2-3 weeks for processing, but I did it two days ago, and it’s already on its way. Important: You do not have to be a resident of Colorado to get this passport – if you know your family will ski Colorado at any time this season, it’s a great one to get for your 5th or 6th grader!

colorado vail resort pass The School of Shred gives your 5th and 6th graders four FREE days of skiing at all the    Vail Resort properties. There is no charge for this card at all, for either grade – just take   evidence of enrolment to the pass office at any of the included resorts, and they’ll sort   you out with all of it done on the spot. (You can feasibly do this on the day you arrive  to ski.)

Additionally, you can get discount lift tickets through local supermarkets such as King   Soopers (you need to go there, not able to buy online). There the tickets this season      will save you around 5-10% off the ticket office price. Not a massive saving, but    everything helps and this is one option for those who find themselves considering  skiing the day prior to heading up the mountain.

Ski rentals are expensive on the mountain. If you plan it well, you can rent in town for  a cheaper rate. Just be prepared to pick up the afternoon of the day prior to your ski  day, and return either the same day, or early the day after you shred. For the front  range, Boulder Ski Deals is my rental location of choice, with rentals from just $10 a  day for kids skis and even better deals for everyone as the season gets older. You can also  try Crystal Ski Shop and the rentskis.com site. All these have deals for group rates, and extended rentals. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. 🙂

Food and beverages are expensive (and are kind of like airplane food in quality) on the mountain, so if at all possible, take your own lunch and snacks. The best skiing seems to happen in the mornings, with everyone winding down after lunch, so don’t think you need to take a heap of food with you – a sandwich, some juice/water and snacks is fine. Remember your chapstick and sunscreen (irritating to be so prepared and then have to buy them on the mountain).

And one final note: Please, rent a helmet. You can get helmets for $10 a day anywhere (in town or on the mountain). In fact, some resorts will charge $10 for the first rental and only $8 for the subsequent ones. We’re all about saving money, but medical expenses are far more than $10. It doesn’t matter how fast you go, if you’re learning, if it’s your first time, or if you’re seasoned – if you want to keep your head and what it has in it, protect it. Helmets keep your head warm, look good, and if you don’t wear one, you’ll be the odd one out on the slopes.

Hopefully this will give you a great start to getting out with your kids on the slopes in Colorado – have fun!

Three tips for the TSA from a mum at Christmas

I have four kids. I believe in Santa. This Christmas, we saw yet another moron decide it was a good idea to try and blow up a plane. At Christmas. Christmas is my favourite time of the year and I’ll be blasted (no pun intended) if anyone’s going to take that away from me. So I’ve decided that I’ll let the TSA in on some key things they could be doing to really make a difference at Christmas.

This is important to me. My 15 year old flies to America from Sydney today, with smoke and mirrors security that I have been unable to prepare him for. The fear level is at orange. I think they’re going to pat him down. He might just enjoy that.

But I digress.

Instead of ramping up their already failing theatre of security, the TSA should just ask mums what the best things to do to keepare, given our Santa expertise and knowledge. So here are three little suggestions from the mum who still helps Santa and has never denied his existence, even to her 18-year-old adult daughter.

1. Warning people that they are being watched. My kids know Santa’s watching them. (Sidenote: Saying the Easter bunny watching you isn’t as effective. He doesn’t have as much power. Santa’s the big guy.) Maybe if the TSA ensured all their security staff were trained in really watching people and their behaviour we’d see some real changes.

2. Keep a list – and freaking well check it. There’s nothing worse than having a list of gifts and sorting them when wrapped to find that one kid has more gifts than the Brangelina clan, and another has 3 tiny boxes – and they all came from the Dollar Store. That happens when you make a list and ignore it. The massive failures of the TSA have been associated with administration stuff-ups. The terrorist watch lists are not shared adequately, efficiently or effectively. You can do cavity searches, but getting the terrorist watch list information shared properly might be a little easier. Just sayin’.

3. Hide stuff that you don’t want them to see. For years, I’ve hidden gifts from my kids in nothing more than a few striped raffia big bags with some sheets thrown over them in the formal dining room. (We don’t live there any more, so if my kids are reading this, sucked in.) It kept the gifts a secret because I knew the kids didn’t look in obvious places. While you TSA people are obviously inspecting our belts and shoes and don’t care who knows it, you’re missing the powdered explosive taped all over the body, and the stressed out guy walking around with it taped to his genitals. If I were a TSA officer I’d rather find out about that explosive from the observation of the sweaty guy than a standard genital frisk of every passenger. Unless they’re all Mark Harmon.

So there you go, TSA. Please ensure the safety of my kid and don’t harrass the 99% of people who really don’t need it. Merry Christmas.

Airlines don’t understand mums and marketing

There’s something magical about arriving at the airport with all your luggage and just two of your kids for the upcoming 28 hours of travel between countries, and reaching the check-in counter to find out every bag comes in just under the 23kg weight limit. Score.

And there’s something even more special about being handed your boarding passes and passports, turning around and seeing the 11yr old has just decked the 9yr old, and he is laying on the floor groaning loudly, holding one leg to an audience of passengers who are surely thinking ‘Oh My God, I hope they’re not sitting next to us.’

5 minutes in, 27 hours, 55 minutes to go.

How to make a flight a dreaded experience

We flew back to the US yesterday on United Airlines. Apart from the following treasured moments, we arrived safely:

a. Wholly inedible ‘food’ which really was probably the worst I’ve ever had on the long haul part, and food that’s more expensive than eating at Spago for the domestic route. (And far less tasty. Yes, I’ve eaten at Spago. Once. It was wonderful. I’m classy. I am. Stop laughing.)

b. Lack of in-seat entertainment which is very entertaining for my spoilt kids who were expecting personal movies and tv, yet had to watch tv shows like Desperate Housewives on the screens in the aisles instead. (I do remember my own childhood flights to the UK when there was just one movie for the whole flight, and the headphones never worked. I tried telling them that but they didn’t care and then they got more annoyed. They did manage very well in the end. But I digress).

c. Being checked into three seats on the US domestic part of the journey which were single seats in equidistant, very distant seats which I find very difficult to believe was accidental because we checked into the domestic flight, getting boarding passes an entire day before (see earlier part about children punching each other). There is no way there weren’t three seats together when I checked in. Mind you, I was easily trumped by a poor woman with five kids under five, who had all been seated all over the plane. That’s just completely stupid. I was momentarily tempted to tell the attendant not to bother reseating the kids, but just to reseat this other mother and myself somewhere and bring us a bottle of bubbly.

d. The lack of real assistance for a woman with four children travelling alone, whose 3yr old would NOT stop screaming for about 3 hours in the last quarter of the long haul flight. She was forced to stay in her seat with that kid because she couldn’t leave the others. I knew that. I’ve got lots of kids and have usually travelled alone with them. One kid will cry, or take a particular liking to the novelty of the plane’s bathroom and insist they have to go constantly, or need something from the one bag in the overhead bin. It’s a drama. Something simple could have made her journey easier. Such as a flight attendant saying, “what can I do to help?” instead of ignoring her.

Sidebar: I’ll never forget the Qantas flight Jed and I took while I was still nursing Charlie, about 6 years ago. The dinner came, and there was no way I could cut it up – my arm was indisposed with nursing child. I said to leave it with Jed and I’d get to it later. The Qantas attendant decided that was okay and she’d do it if I preferred, but how about if she cut the dinner up, and just left the dinner and a fork (rather than the whole tray), and then I could manage it while it was still hot? She was awesome. I remember that still. Six years later. I even remember what the flight attendant looked like. That’s good branding.

Market your flights to mums

This is a trip that costs about $US1000 a seat return – minimum. There are a couple of hundred people on the plane, who’ve all paid at least that amount. This is not a bus. People are tired, stressed and emotional. Being an attendant on these flights is hard work. But it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a flight attendant go beyond the most basic of service effort and everyone’s flight would have been better if that kid had stopped screaming.

On our trip over another woman was left standing in the queue with her three kids. The flight had been delayed. It was 2am. The smallest kid was asleep. She had carry-on luggage. She was really struggling. And the attendants all ignored her.

Yes, I helped her as I could, and Charlie even offered too. If an 9yr old gets it, why don’t the airlines?

When we finally boarded that flight, the ground staff said the standard “how are you?” I said “good, and you?” His reply was “tired.”

Well stuff you.

My reply? “At least you’re getting paid.” I should have added ‘and don’t have to sit on the plane for the next 16 hours with kids, and haven’t just had a 3 hours flight to get here, and then waited 9 hours for this delayed one.’

Sheesh. I wonder who’s more precious? My kids completely expecting video on demand in their seats, or these airline staff who seem to think we owe them something more than the price of a ticket.

Instead of focusing on leg room, loyalty programs and discount prices, it would be great to see an airline focus on really going beyond the call of duty to make your flight the best you’ve ever had. If an airline marketed to mothers, they’d see these women are the decision makers, who travel with their families (more ticket sales), and to be honest, it’s the simple things like offering a pair of hands when needed that will make a mother like you more.

Or maybe that’s just too hard. Too much to ask.

The Startup Kid

Running a startup isn’t easy on anyone.

The glorious trails of successful entrepreneurs are littered with the scars of broken relationships and bitter resentment of cold dinners and missed birthday parties.

It takes a special kind of relationship to weather the storms of startup life.

At Darling Harbour, Sydney.

At Darling Harbour, Sydney.

It takes a special kind of kid too. A kid who will understand that daddy or mummy can’t make it to every school function. That we can’t afford summer camp.

It takes a special kid who will say okay through his tears as he’s torn from his Australian home, his dogs, his school friends, because he knows that what we’re working on isn’t a normal sort of job like his friends’ parents have.

This week we have begun graduation celebrations for Harry as he completes year 5. I got to make a dedication to him the other day at school, as did all the other parents in his class to their kids.In typical startup style, I did this one alone because Jed’s in Silicon Valley at the moment. The Kleenex was really getting passed around that circle.

Why so much Kleenex? It was his teacher’s fault really. She got us to close our eyes and think of when we were having our child, their infancy, and years in elementary school. And then open our eyes and take our turns to speak from the heart to our child in front of everyone (you could pass if you wanted to, but nobody did – this is Boulder, after all ;)).

Now, I cry at the drop of a hat. I can’t walk into that darned school without automatically tearing up it seems (sigh). But for this dedication, while others were a bit of a mess, I hardly cried at all.

And while it surprised me at the time, I know why.

Harry is an incredible kid. He was made for the startup life. I won’t be a bit surprised if he ends up living it himself. (Good grief, I hope he scores a partner as well as his dad did ;)). Harry’s adaptability is remarkable. Many kids would have resented the move to the US, and that would have been understandable. Not Harry, even though he misses Australia very much.

Harry's idea of cleaning up his room

Harry's idea of cleaning up his room

He’s no angel though. He has a cheeky side and he’s a daredevil. I was told of his decision to ride a waterfall while hiking, stopping just short of a massive drop – nearly giving everyone watching a heart attack. And we will never forget him barrelling down Eldora mountain on a snowboard without a single turn and nearly hitting a bus in the car park – grinning afterwards.

Everyone who knows us as a family will agree that Harry is the one who most wears his heart on his sleeve. He hugs everyone. Repeatedly.

He is honest and open. But he can’t sleep if he’s feeling bad about something – he has to get up and talk it through. And he has a strength of character and self-belief which overcomes every obstacle. He’s never said “I’ve had enough.”  He just keeps going. It’s that tenacity that is so inspiring and awesome.

And I can’t cry about that. I can’t cry about changes at all – for Harry the world is his oyster, and he’s loving the adventure. He doesn’t care that much about stuff he hasn’t accomplished yet – he’s just going to keep trying. And he’s not concerned about being the best at everything. He just wants to give it a go.

Last week his performance on drums at the big 5th grade concert that combined musicians from 3 schools was incredible. He was on time with every beat. He enjoyed it. And he’s such an individual, he wore his lucky hat too 😉

I can’t wait to see what he tries his hand at, and surprises us with, in Middle School. They’re gonna be lucky to have him. As are we.

Congratulations, Harry. We’re so proud of you, and grateful for all you give back to us every single day.

Why my family loves Boulder

I never dreamed I’d live anywhere other than Sydney, Australia.

When you’ve got a good job, a house you’re constantly doing ‘something’ to, kids, dogs, routine… the last thing you think of is moving. Anywhere. Least of all to a country you’ve never been to before. But then I came home from work one day and Jed told me his start-up dreams weren’t done with itechne. He had a bigger one. To go to the US and launch what was to become scribetribe.us.

And I said okay, we’ll Skype and email.

But he had a different plan. He convinced me to take (another) chance.

We packed up and moved to Boulder, Colorado in August 2008.

Now, lots of people have written about the great things Boulder has to offer in terms of nightlife, culture, the outdoors and the tech scene. And it’s all true and fantastic. I am loving being a part of all of those things. But above everything else, I’m a *proud* mum. And Boulder is an amazing place to raise kids.

Harry and Charlie are aged 8 and 11 and have come to Boulder with us. They have swapped their Sydney private school blazers and ties, frenetic life-by-the-clock, mum out teaching three nights a week, no friends within walking distance, and a home where they weren’t allowed to play out the front due to the traffic – for this:

september-2008-002 A lifestyle that is similar to that I remember as a kid. One I thought you couldn’t give your kids any more, because “times have changed.”

They’d never seen snow before we moved to Boulder. Here they love it. december-2008-004

On top of all that, the (public) school they go to has the best educators I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. They have been wonderful in helping my kids move to not only a new home, but a place where feet and inches, and American history are completely different for them. They’ve made the transtition incredibly smoothly – and it’s largely due to the school. (I’ve already celebrated Bear Creek Elementary in an earlier post.)

For me? The start-up widow? I’ve swapped a lifestyle where the drive to work each day took an hour of fume-laden highways, teaching in this college at Granville:

granville-tafe-007

For being a part of the University of Colorado, which is slightly more attractive.

uni-of-colorado1

And on top of everything else, my husband is throwing himself into his life’s dream. He’s happily working on seemingly endless adrenaline, at all hours. But he tries to take a run each day and instead of it being beside a road where it’s simply not safe after a certain hour, it’s up around NCAR where deer graze.

So I guess the thing is, when you think you’re settled and couldn’t think of moving, think again. A bit of unsettling could be the best thing you do for your family. Especially if Boulder is where you end up. If you’re in tech and thinking about moving to Boulder, get in touch with the guys at Boulder.me.

ncar1

Our visit to Vail

Yesterday we took a road trip to Vail. It’s just two hours away. I found a great sledding area in Vail courtesy of a website which lets you locate good sledding runs (free) in your neighbourhood. We entered the address in the GPS, and off we went!

The day cost us nothing apart from the car’s petrol and wonderful pizza we ate for dinner. We’ve discovered the following:

a. I need snow pants. Now. Because when I have a frozen wet bum I get grumpy.

b. Charlie is a daredevil on the flexi-sled. He’s worked out that he needs to keep his whole body off the ground and entirely on the sled for the best run and for speed. He flies and cares little about danger… or direction.

c. Harry seems to be a natural snowboarder. He doesn’t even own a skateboard, but managed to stay upright for a long way on his new snowboard. His balance is amazing and he just loves it.

d. Vail is spectacular. We are definitely going back, and will probably make it at least an overnight trip. The whole place is like a gingerbread storybook land. You can see a little in my video!