Printable Activities Make Travel Fun

Olympic National Park, Washington

Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park. Photo by Tammy Yee.

Primeval rainforests, rugged Pacific coastline, alpine forests and glacier-capped peaks, hot springs and tide pools...Olympic National Park has much to offer as a family destination.

Whether you're spending a day or a week at the park, a stop at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles will help you plan your family vacation.

Falcon Guide produces a series of Best Easy Day Hikes, and we've found these useful while touring national parks, especially when we have a limited amount of time and require trails with bathroom facilities, or accommodations for family members with mobility issues.

Sea star at Salt Creek Tide Pools. Remember when visiting tide pools to always have a tide chart handy, and be sure to check ocean conditions with Park Rangers. Never turn your back to the ocean, and always keep children under close supervision. 

Rocks  may be slippery, so have proper footwear. Avoid trampling on plants and coral. Remember that tide pool creatures need to be submersed...return them to their pools, and if you lift a rock or a pebble while exploring, replace it in its original position.

There are a number of short hikes through old-growth forest that are suitable for young families. Sol Duc Falls is a 1.4 mi (round trip) hike through mossy temperate forests. Kids can look for millipedes and banana slugs along the way.
At Olympic National Park, you can explore several different ecosystems in a single day.

We stayed in a rustic cabin at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, which featured two queen-sized beds, a fully equipped kitchen, refrigerator, stove, microwave and (most importantly) coffee maker.

There are no telephones, radio, television or internet connection in the cabins, so tire the kids out during the day and have quiet activities (coloring books for the little ones, cards and puzzles for older children) and books available on hand.

Barn swallows swoop over the cabins at Sol Duc Hot Springs.

The restaurant overlooks the mineral hot springs where you can unwind after a day of hiking, and the convenience store will come in handy when packing for your day trip.

Other lodging is available within the park, some without modern distractions: Lake Quinault Lodge, Kalaloch Lodge and Lake Crescent Lodge. For families who can't vacation without television and wireless internet, there's the Olympic Lodge.  For television and laundry but no internet, try the Rain Forest Resort Village. And for large families who prefer one and two bedroom suites, the Olympic Suites Inn is located within the city of Forks (tween alert: the popular Twilight series was filmed in forks!) along the Calawah River. Check for seasonal specials and make your reservations online.

 Bald eagle over Rialto Beach

On the last day of our vacation we took a whirlwind tour, driving along the 73-mile scenic coast, stopping at Ruby Beach and Rialto Beach where we watched bald eagles soaring above the wind-sheared cliffs; took a short, family-friendly hike on snow-covered Hurricane Ridge, then explored the rich tide pools at Salt Creek, just outside the park boundaries.

Black tailed deer at Hurricane Ridge. Look for Olympic marmots, which are endemic to the Olympic Peninsula.

The Olympic National Park web site has articles and brochures you can download for children, to prepare them for your family vacation. Also, be sure to review the Park Service's Things To Know Before You Come.

Fun Facts:

Kids are chock full of questions you can't answer. Whenever we explore national parks, we always bring along an inexpensive pocket guide.

Our favorites are the boldly illustrated mammal, bird and plant identification guides and cards that turn hiking into a treasure hunt.

Download a list of animals you might see at Olympic National Park, and make a checklist that you can discuss after your family's day hike.

Remember that however cute and cuddly they may appear, the animals are wild and should not be approached, harassed or fed.
Pacific Northwest Marine Mammal and Seabird Word Search

Sea Otter
How much do you know about those lovable, fur-faced acrobats twisting and diving in kelp beds? Sea otters are one of the few mammals, aside from primates (monkeys and apes), to use tools. Floating on the surface of the water, they sometimes place a rock on their chest, using it as a hard surface to smash open shelled food like clams and abalone. Have you ever wondered how otters carry all that stuff to the surface? In their armpits, in loose skin folds! Try that with an urchin--better yet, don't try it.

©2010 Tammy Yee
All rights reserved. 
Fun Stuff:

Visitors in May and early June may be lucky enough to spot a bald eagle nest with new chicks:
American Bald Eagle Origami
Bald Eagle Paper Airplane
Humpback Whale
Sea Otter

One of the many butterflies you may find at Olympic National Park is the Western Tiger Swallowtail. Print and fold a swallowtail butterfly:

Photos: Yosemite National Park

Yosemite in the spring. Photos by Tammy Yee

Travel Tips: Good Table Manners Makes for Enjoyable Family Meals Out

 Submitted by Sarah Morris on behalf of Primrose Schools- preschools emphasizing a balanced curriculum.

Image: federico stevanin
Well-mannered children make travel- and especially meals out a restaurants- much more possible and enjoyable. Teaching about table manners from a young age is important in allowing you to dine out as a family without disrupting other adult diners around you.

An ideal time to begin teaching manners is at the dinner table, when the whole family sits down to a meal. Consider the tips below when helping your children with their mealtime etiquette:

1. It is never too early to begin teaching manners. In fact, it is often better to start as early as possible instead of asking a school age child to learn numerous "rules" all at once. Manners should be taught slowly and in stages, so that they become second nature to the child. Very young children and even infants take their biggest cues for behavior from their parents, so a show of good manners will teach them how to act. Toddlers can be taught to say "please" and "thank you," and that they should sit still in their seat at mealtimes. Children of that age are also discovering new things every day, and love performing new activities and learning new skills. Take advantage of this to teach them how to correctly use utensils and set the table. You may even teach them the basics of cutting, using plastic knives and foods that are easy to cut.

2. Let your children know how they are doing, and be specific. Rewarding good behavior with praise will reinforce that behavior, but specific feedback, such as, "Thank you for setting the table. Now everyone has a place to sit," will go a lot further toward teaching your children than just general praise.

3. Always keep conversation at the table polite, and encourage your children to do the same. Even toddlers can learn polite conversation and how to wait their turn to talk, if their parents are there to guide them in the right direction. If everyone in the family engages in polite conversation, it will have the added benefit of increasing the bond among family members, as everyone takes the time to really listen and learn about what is going on in each other's lives.

4. Practice what you preach. Children will imitate their parents, so it is not enough to just teach them manners if you are not engaging in that same behavior yourself. Everything from polite conversation to the proper use of utensils to healthy eating habits can be learned by children watching their parents.

5. Children learn better in an orderly and consistent environment, so set up a routine for dinner every night. Remind your children out loud of polite behaviors, such as waiting until everyone is served before eating. Repetition will make it easier for your children to remember their manners. Be patient, as children may often need reminders and prompting, but a slow and steady commitment to teaching manners will help them the remainder of their lives.

Halloween Traditions Around the World

Halloween festival in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.
Photo by Brian Morrison/Tourism Ireland
On Halloween night in medieval Ireland and Britain the poor went door to door requesting food in return for prayers for the dead. This gave rise to "guising," a tradition in which Scottish and Irish children disguised themselves in costumes as they canvassed the neighborhood for food and coins.

At the center of Irish Halloween customs is Báirín Breac (barmbrack), a yeasted bread baked with sultanas and raisins:

Barmbrack, a Halloween tradition

The Halloween Brack traditionally contained various objects baked into the bread and was used as a sort of fortune-telling game. In the barmbrack were: a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a small coin (originally a silver sixpence) and a ring. Each item, when received in the slice, was supposed to carry a meaning to the person concerned: the pea, the person would not marry that year; the stick, "to beat one's wife with", would have an unhappy marriage or continually be in disputes; the cloth or rag, would have bad luck or be poor; the coin, would enjoy good fortune or be rich; and the ring, would be wed within the year. 1
Other Irish Halloween traditions include na h-úlla ag bogadhál ar bharr an uisce (bobbing for apples) and Snap Apples, a game in which participants bite at apples dangling from strings while their hands are tied behind their backs. The first person to bite into a coin hidden inside the apple wins. It is even more challenging when a lit candle is tied to the hanging stick.

Hong Kong
Hong Kong. Photo by Dorothy Tang,
In Hong Kong, with its long history of Western influence, you're sure to find westernized Halloween-themed costume parties and celebrations. But contrary to what you may have read on the internet, Halloween is not observed in mainland China.

Teng Chieh, The Lantern Festival (also Yuán Xiāo Jié  元宵), is the holiday most often mistakenly identified as the Chinese Halloween.

Held on the 15th day of the Lunar New year to mark the first full moon and the lengthening of days, Teng Chieh is observed near the end of February. Lanterns of many shapes and sizes are paraded through the streets and kerosene-fueled hot-air lanterns are released into the sky to "convey messages to the gods to bestow luck on the people below." In her superb article on the Lantern Festival, Qui Gui Su describes the festival's origin nearly 2,000 years ago during the Han dynasty (206 BCE—221 CE):
"Yuan Xiao (a maiden in the emperor's palace) had a luxurious life, but she missed her family and wanted to see them during the New Year celebrations. This was not allowed. 

So Yuan Xiao devised a clever plan to sneak out of the palace. She told the emperor that the God of Fire had visited her and told her of his plans to burn down the entire city. She offered this advice to the emperor – 'Make the city look like it is already on fire, then the God of Fire will go away.'

So the emperor ordered lanterns to be lit throughout the city and firecrackers to be set off. During the confusion, Yuan Xiao was able to get away unnoticed and had a joyous reunion with her family."
As can be seen, the Lantern Festival has nothing to do with Halloween.

More likely candidates for a Chinese-style Halloween are Qīng Míng Jié 清明節 (Clear and Bright Festival or more commonly, Tomb-Sweeping Day) and Zhōng Yuán Jié 中元節 / 中元节 (Hungry Ghost Festival).

Qīng Míng (Tomb-sweeping Day)
Qīng Míng, held in April, is when families honor deceased kin by visiting and tending to ancestral graves. I remember Qīng Míng as a time when relatives gathered at the cemetery to pull weeds, trim shrubs and sweep my grandparent's grave. Once the tomb was cleaned a feast of rice, roast pork, chicken, eggs, tea and whiskey was laid before the headstone. "Bai san," Mom would say, prompting my brothers and me to take turns greeting Grandmother and Grandfather, offer food, and bow three times. Paper spirit money, houses and clothes were burned to insure their comfort in the next world, and fireworks were lit to scare off lingering evil spirits. Later, the entire extended family would gather for a feast of remembrance.  

Zhōng Yuán Jié (Hungry Ghost Festival)
Zhōng Yuán Jié, observed in August, is when the gates of heaven and hell swing open, allowing the dead to pass into this world and walk among us. Disgruntled souls of those who died of unnatural causes or who were not properly buried hunger to unleash their acrimony on the living. According to ,
"This makes ghost month a bad time to do activities such as evening strolls, traveling, moving house, or starting a new business. Many people avoid swimming during ghost month, since there are many spirits in the water which can try to drown you."
Sumptuous feasts and elaborate spirit items are offered at shrines and altars to placate the hungry ghosts, and paper boats and lanterns are released on water to guide them home.

Day of the Dead observance.
Although Halloween is celebrated on October 31st much as it is here in the States, with costumes and parties among friends and family, the holiday holds a much more serious tradition as a time when the souls of the deceased return to earth to be among family and friends.

November 1st is Dia de los Angelitos (Day of the Little Angels), dedicated to the remembrance of infants and children who have died, and November 2nd is Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), when friends and family honor adults they have lost.

Catrina figure

Sugar skulls

Dia de los Muertos observances vary from region to region. Oftentimes elaborate shrines are built, and families visit graves and altars to share remembrances and favorite foods and beverages with the deceased. Two areas best known for their Day of the Dead celebrations are Oaxaca and Michoacan. You're sure to see plenty of calaveras de azúcar (sugar skulls) and Catrina figures!

©2011 Tammy Yee

Buon Giorno Rome, Italy!

Arch of Constantine and the Roman Colosseum. Photo by Tammy Yee.

Where We Stayed in Rome

Hotel Teatro Di Pompeo
Largo del Pallaro, 8 
00186 Rome, Italy
Tel: 06 6830 170 

Cost: 160 € peak season, 140 € off season

The rooms here are small and very basic, yet comfortable, and since we spent most of the day exploring the city, they were more than adequate. Jumpstart your day at the free breakfast buffet with a cappuccino and an assortment of cold cuts, cheeses, cereals, yogurt, breads and pastries.
Central location in walking distance to Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Colosseum and more; great price; breakfast buffet so you don't have to think in the morning; air conditioning; VERY helpful staff who gave us wonderful suggestions and advice.

If you want something fancy, the spare rooms may not be what you were looking for. However, we also stayed at the ostentatious Rome Cavalieri (read below), and I enjoyed the Teatro di Pompeo so much more because of its convenience and simplicity. Also, the structure next door was being renovated, so it was a little noisy (not the fault of the hotel, of course).

Rome Cavalieri
Via Alberto Cadlolo 101
00136 Rome, Italy
Tel: 39 06 3509 1

Cost: $400 (average)

One word describes the Cavalieri: decadent. The hotel is what you would expect from a luxury Waldolf Astoria, whether it be in Rome or on Maui. The staff and services are great, the rooms are comfortable and spacious with views overlooking the city. The only reason we stayed here was because we had two free nights through our Hilton Honors Points program.
It's a Waldorf Astoria. It was free (for us).

When room service for a hamburger is $28, that's gotta be some hamburger (no, I didn't order, just looked). Inconvenient location. With all that luxury, it feels removed and sterile, like you're not really experiencing Rome.
When my husband first told me that we were going to Italy, I asked him to download an Italian-English translation application for his iPhone–not because of a secret desire to perpetuate stereotypes of obnoxious Americans mangling Italian, but because we were making our own travel arrangements which involved side trips into Florence and Cinque Terre, and I thought a little Italian would be handy.

So did he download the app? Of course not. After twenty-one years of marital bliss, I could hardly expect him to turn a new leaf and start asking directions. And in another language, to boot.

As it turned out, barring some minor mishaps, trying to get around without understanding a lick of Italian proved to be one of the many charms of our trip.

By the end of our stay I had come to love private moments stolen in crowded cafes infused with the expressive musicality of the language. The Americans seated at the next table became an intrusion, with their American coffee and pizza, abrasive requests for others to put out their cigarettes, and constant complaining. I didn't fly 8,000 miles from Honolulu to Rome (a 24-hour trip) to listen to a guy moaning about his girlfriend. For all I know, the Italians may have been having the same conversations, but in Italian it sounds so much nicer. Romantic, even.

Getting Around
Every taxi driver in Rome is Mario Andretti, racing on roads with no lines and few rules. Get used to it. I read a lot about taxi drivers supposedly ripping off tourists...however, I didn't get that perception. Maybe I was simply happy to arrive at my destination alive, without having flattened any motorcyclists or pedestrians along the way.

As for trains, here's where a little Italian and a lot common sense would have prevailed.

Our foray into Florence and Cinque Terre was a last minute decision, so we hadn't the time to make sense of the train schedules and to purchase our tickets online–we barely had time to juggle our hotel reservations.

When the Hotel Teatro di Pompeo concierge learned we had a tight schedule and no train tickets, she referred us to an English-speaking travel agent near the Area Sacra Argentina, Jazz Viaggi (Via del Sudario, 24 - 00186 - ROMA), where Marie made our train reservations.
At Roma Termini, a flustered family from Miami were just as lost as we were. However, by our first trip we were able to navigate our way and make changes to our tickets ourselves, despite the language barrier.

Lesson 1: Names and Destinations. You won't find Florence at the train station–Florence is called Firenze. Furthermore, trains are listed by final destination, so our train to Firenze was unlisted because it was really the train to Milan.

Lesson 2: Train Number. Because of Lesson 1, find your train by its number (Doh!). I know that sounds obvious, but hey, even the Miami sophisticates were clueless.

Lesson 3: Platform? Finding your train track at smaller stations that don't have departure information can be a pain. Just remember a few words: binario (platform), biglietto (ticket), treno (train), partenze (departures) and arrivi (arrivals).

Helpful Links:

The attractions in Rome speak for themselves. Everywhere you turn, you are humbled by the grandeur of ancient monuments. The city has done well in preserving their archaeological treasures–walls thousands of years old jut from the facades of more contemporary structures.

What makes the city even more inviting is its walkability—the heart of ancient Rome covered a compact 16 square miles, protected by 11 miles of walls. Small drinking fountains sprout from the sidewalk, and passersby refill plastic bottles or cool off in water that still flows from some of the ancient aqueducts.

Piazza Navona. Photo by Tammy Yee

Avoiding Lines at the Colosseum
The line at the Colosseum was atrocious. People were telling tourists they could avoid lines by joining the guided tours. After standing in the wrong line, we left at 2 pm, discouraged, and had a leisurely lunch just around the block at the Royal Art Cafe Restaurant, with panoramic views of the Colosseum. The pasta with tuna and eggplant was fantastic, and the food and wine refreshed me enough to sketch the Colosseum before once again tackling the queue.

View from the Royal Art Cafe Restaurant across from the Colosseum.

By 4 pm, the line had emptied considerably. We were glad we waited; those who took the guided tours looked rushed, whereas we had time to wander and photograph at our own pace. HOWEVER, after our Colosseum visit, we learned that we could have avoided the lines altogether by purchasing our tickets at the entrance to Palatine Hill, 200 meters away. provides some useful information about purchasing tickets to the Colosseum, and making reservations online.

Vatican City
Here's another lesson in avoiding lines. Make your reservations online, as we did. It doesn't matter how early you arrive or on what day–the line into the Vatican Museum for those without reservations begins to the left of the entrance and winds around the block, and you can expect to wait at least an hour to get in.

The line to the right, however, moves quickly and is for tour groups and those with reservations. However, I did see (and read as well) that individuals with reservations simply walked right up between the two lines, hailed the attention of the security guards, and slipped right in between tour groups.

As you wander through this vast and spectacular complex, culminate your visit by working your way through the Rafael Rooms and on to the Sistine Chapel. After the Sistine, make your way to the exit on the right side–this will take you out near St. Peter's Basilica. We got disoriented in the Sistine and made the mistake of exiting on the left...this took us through long halls of what looked like endless lockers, and out the front entrance, farther from the Basilica than we intended.
St. Peter's Basilica. Photo by Tammy Yee.

Fun For Kids:
Print and Color the Flag of Italy:

Print and Color Constantine's Arch and the Colosseum:

Print and Build Constantine's Arch and the Colosseum:

©2010 Tammy Yee
All rights reserved.

Photos: Rome

Photos by Tammy Yee

Rome, Italy: Build Constantine's Arch and the Colosseum

Print these paper models of Constantine's Arch and the Roman Colosseum. Cut out along outer solid line, then use tape or glue on tabs to assemble models. Who said Rome wasn't built in a day?

Colosseum. Photo by Tammy Yee.

The Colosseum
The Roman Colosseum, or Flavian's Amphitheatre, reflects the genius and grandeur of ancient Roman architecture and remains one of Rome's major attractions.

Construction on the Colosseum began almost 2,000 years ago during the reign of the Emperor Vespasian in 70 AD. Vespasian never saw the completion of his arena--at the time of his death in 79 AD, construction had reached the third level.

The top level was finally finished and inaugurated by Vespasian's son, Titus, in 80 AD. The inaugural games were a spectacle. 9,000 wild animals were slaughtered to the roar of spectators, and the arena was flooded with water to stage mock sea battles.

Colosseum. Photo by Tammy Yee.

Years later, Vespasian's younger son, the Emperor Domitian remodeled the Colosseum, creating a maze of underground tunnels and cages for gladiators, slaves and animals, and increasing its seating capacity by adding an upper gallery.

In its heyday the Colosseum sat 50,000 people who gathered to watch gladiatorial games, battle re-enactments, executions and staged animal hunts. Rhinos, hippos, elephants, lions and tigers were brought from across the known world for entertainment.

The Arch of Constantine. Photo by Tammy Yee.

Constantine's Arch
Beside the Roman Colosseum is a stately arch, 70 feet tall and 84 feet wide. Erected in 315 AD, the arch commemorates Constantine I's victory at the Battle of Milvian Bridge. Inscriptions on both sides of the arch hail Constantine's military prowess and righteousness:


To the Emperor Caesar Flavius Constantinus, the Greatest,
pious, fortunate, the Senate and people of Rome,
by inspiration of divinity and his own great mind
with his righteous arms
on both the tyrant and his faction
in one instant in rightful
battle he avenged the republic,
dedicated this arch as a memorial to his military victory.

©2010 Tammy Yee
All rights reserved.

Rome, Italy: Color Constantine's Arch and the Colosseum

The Arch of Constantine and the Colosseum. Photo by Tammy Yee.

Print and color:

©2010 Tammy Yee
All rights reserved.

Photos: Florence, Italy

Festa di San Giovanni, honoring Florence's patron saint. Photos by Tammy Yee.

Photos ©Tammy Yee

United States Emblems: American Bald Eagle Origami

Found throughout the continent from Alaska and Canada and south to Mexico, the bald eagle is the only eagle found only in North America. Once endangered, the American bald eagle is still protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act which makes it illegal to import or export eagles and eagle parts, nests or eggs without a permit.

Revered by Native Americans, this majestic bird with its distinctive white head was adopted as the National Emblem of the United States of America on July 20, 1872. Eagles soaring high above the battlefields during the Revolutionary war were said by patriots to be "shrieking for freedom." Since then, the eagle has come to symbolize freedom.


1a. Print your eagle origami:

1b. To fold your eagle origami, follow the same directions as the owl origami: Cut out image along outer solid lines.

2a. Fold in half along diagonal line. Unfold.
2b. Repeat the diagonal fold on other side. Unfold.
2c. Fold down along horizontal line. Unfold.

2d. Your origami should be creased as shown.

3. Carefully fold along creases, forming a "tent" as illustrated.

4a. Turn origami over.
4b. & c. Fold diagonally on both sides, as illustrated.

5a. & b. Form tail by folding diagonally on both sides, as illustrated.

Turn over. You can leave your eagle's wings open or you may fold the wings forward.Your origami eagle is ready to fly!

©2010 Tammy Yee
All rights reserved.