Travel Product Review: Accell Surge Protector Charging Stations

Recently I was sent some power products to try…for home and away power surge protection. Here’s my take on the best features:

ACCELL powersquid Surge Protector and Power Conditioner. I’ve been using power strips for years but they’re old and, maybe, outdated for modern electronics. And, what is a power conditioner?powersquidSo I hooked it up in my home office that supports a computer tower, giant monitor, printer/scanner/copier, sound system, and a small TV. Five electronics plugged into the squid. What I first noticed is the design of the device – because it isn’t a “strip” but has “arms”, all my electronics easily plugged in without cords being bent or stretched. And the surge protection gives me ease in recent days of thunderstorms and strong winds. Also, sometimes when all my electronics were on at the same time, I would get static crackling. The Noise Reduction Filter isolates your equipment from power generated noise for a clear picture and sound. power station travel power station folding plugThe Accell Travel Surge Protector with Dual USB Charging Station is perfect for family trips! The Power Station features three surge protected grounded AC outlets and a folding power plug, providing compact and portable design for maximum storage and travel convenience. The two additional USB ports enable the charging of two items at once, perfect for charging mobile devices such as phones, tablets and MP3 players. Helpful.

More info: Powersquid SRP $24.99. Home or Take Away Travel Surge SRP $19.99.

Posted in Travel Product Reviews | Tagged | Leave a comment

Do You Love the Sun and Water @ Zoombezi Bay?

We fit in a recent visit back to Zoombezi Bay and loved it just as much as before…with a few added notes:

ALL–NEW! Soundsurfer, King Of The Beats: This newly renovated five-person raft ride, formerly Tahitian Twister, now includes LED lights, speakers, a fog machine and a mist filled splashdown. Riders can pick from eight programmable experiences (music genres) featuring these new additions. This 512-foot water ride propels guests through a series of acceleration drops, vortex loops and back-to-back curves in total darkness before jetting into the pool below.

Long Lines? Because the ride lines can be long, consider Zoompass ($14.99). ZOOMPASS allows guests to reserve their spot in line and enjoy other areas of the park until their turn is up.

Meals and Beverages: Due to limited acreage Zoombezi Bay does not offer public picnic areas. Guests are not permitted to bring food into Zoombezi Bay. However, they do provide a cooler storage area for guests located at the front entrance to Zoombezi Bay. Your park admission will allow you to exit the park to enjoy your packed meal at the Zoo and re-enter when you finish. Guests are permitted to bring in bottled water and a small snack. Adult beverages are available to purchase at kiosks and bar around the waterpark and the zoo.

My fav hangout at Zoombezi - the wave pool sea of lounge chairs!

My fav hangout at Zoombezi – the wave pool sea of lounge chairs!

Updates to KIDS LOVE OHIO page 20.

Posted in Water Parks | Leave a comment

Brand New Experiences at the Columbus Zoo

The Zoo is now more interactive. Try the themed experiential areas for a full day of fun. Rides, playgrounds, shows and theatres round out your zoo visit.

The new cub, Nora, was napping when we visited. Best time to catch her (and most babies born at the zoo) is early mornings.

The new cub, Nora, was napping when we visited. Best time to catch her (and most babies born at the zoo) is early mornings.

ALL NEW! Attraction Wristbands. Special wristbands are available for purchase at the Zoo’s entrance or any ride kiosk found throughout the park. (if your kids want to do any classic amusement rides, definitely consider these wristbands)

All-Day-Ride Wristband: Guests can enjoy all of the fun with this wristband for $14.99* each, which includes all Zoo and animals rides, Jungle Jack’s Landing, Stingray Bay, and the brand new 4-D theater.

Zoo-It-All Wristband: For $9.99*, guests can enjoy an adventure through Pirate Island, and splash over to Stingray Bay, ride the Columbus Zoo Train, Grand Carousel, and the ponies as well as all rides at Jungle Jack’s Landing!

*Cost of Zoo admission not included in wristband prices. Individual tickets can also be purchased. Price varies per attraction.

ALL NEW! 4-D Theater

Get ready for an immersive, state-of-the-art 4-D experience only the Zoo can provide. This 50-seat theater is located in the Shores region between Discovery Reed and the new Shores Play Park. Guests enjoy a short 8-minute cinematic adventure that combines high-definition 3-D with thrilling sensory effects that envelop the audience into the story. Admission is $5 after entry into the Zoo, $4 for Zoo members and free for Zoo Gold members and Zoo-It-All wristbands.

Pirate Island

Returning in 2016, Pirate Island invites young buccaneers to climb aboard a seasonal boat tour for a thrilling adventure through the Australia and the Islands region. The ride includes several life-like pirates and animals expertly crafted by The ScareFactory, a Columbus company. Pirate Island is open from 9 a.m. until the Zoo closes, from late-May to Labor Day and on weekends only through October. Admission is $3 after entry into the Zoo, $2 for Zoo members and free for Zoo Gold members as well as those with All-Day-Ride or Zoo-It-All wristbands.


Polar Frontier playground

Polar Frontier playground


Polar Playground: Located in the North America region and is open from early March through December.

Stings, Wings N’ Play Things Park: Located between the Congo Expedition region and the Australia and the Islands region and is open from early March through October.

All NEW! Shores Play Park: This sun-kissed, ocean-themed playground located in the Shores region. Complete with life-sized sea creature sculptures, water features and an interactive game that children can play throughout the space.

Jungle Jack’s Landing

Open weekends in early May and daily from late-May through October.

Stingray Bay: Where guests can touch and feed a stingray for a small fee.

Animal Encounters Village: Where guests can enjoy free, up-close and interactive animal experiences throughout the day.

Several rides are available, including the Jungle River Falls log flume, Sea Dragon coaster, Jack’s Tea Party spinning cups, Journey to Zanzibar swinging ship, Swingin’ Gibbons wave swinger, and many more. (The complete list is available at


The authentic 1914 Mangels-Illions carousel, a historic landmark, is comprised of 52 original horses and chariots as well as a band organ. It is open daily from early March through December. Admission is $1 per rider.

Columbus Zoo Train

This train ride gives guests a unique way to view the North America region. Tours are offered daily from early March through December. Admission is $1 per rider.

Live Entertainment

Animals on Safari: A fast-paced, heart-warming, award-winning show featuring rescued cats and dogs from local shelters as well as exotic animals. Performances are on the weekends from April 30–May 22, daily from May 28-Sept. 5, and again on weekends from Sept. 6 through Boo at the Zoo. Admission is free.

Animal Encounters Village: An amazing educational show highlighting the unique abilities of species found around the globe. These experiences are available on the weekends from April 30–May 22, daily from May 28- Sept. 5, and again on weekends from Sept. 6 through Boo at the Zoo. Admission is free.

Animal Rides

Dromedary camel rides: Available daily from early May until early October and during Wildlights. Age restrictions apply; young riders must be accompanied by an adult. Admission is $7 per rider, or free for Gold Members and Zoo-it-All Wristbands.

Pony rides: Available on weekends in April, daily from May until late August, and on weekends from late August through October. Admission is $5 per rider.

I used to tell folks the zoo was a good half day excursion. I feel differently now. Plan to take a break and play at every playground and add a few fee rides to the mix. I like the food choices in the park but to save money (especially if you’re there all day), pack a big cooler on wheels. There are plenty of shaded areas with benches to grab a bite or slowly consume some Dippin Dots…

Update to KIDS LOVE OHIO, 7th edition, page 19

Posted in Adventure Travel, Nature Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

#HelloNeighbor Give Away for Columbus, Ohio Families!


Staff members from VisitPITTSBURGH, the official tourism promotion agency in Pittsburgh, are in Columbus this week making appearances at family-friendly events, giving away cool prizes and doing good deeds as part of the tourism organization’s new “Hello, Neighbor!” marketing initiative. It’s a cool way to attract Columbus families to Pittsburgh for all the great family fun attractions available.gateway clipper summer 2012


Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood

Follow the fun on Twitter with #HelloNeighbor.

Pittsburgh staff will be at these locations:

Friday, June 24 – Commons for Kids, S. High Street, (11 a.m. – 2 p.m.)

Saturday, June 25 – Easton Art Affair (10 a.m. – 1 p.m.)

Columbus Clippers game that evening, where the first 1,500 youths to enter will receive a free “Pittsburgh is Kidsburgh” t-shirt.

Here’s how my Columbus friends can get involved!

On Friday, the first two people that stop by Commons for Kids, find the VisitPITTSBURGH staff members in red t-shirts and say ““Pittsburgh is Grr-ific, I saw your contest on Michele’s blog.” You’ll win a great prize Pittsburgh prize package of family fun attraction tickets!

#HelloNeighborOn Saturday, the first two people that stop by the Easton Art Affair, find the VisitPITTSBURGH staff members in red t-shirts and say “Hello Neighbor, I saw your contest on Michele’s blog.” You’ll win a great prize Pittsburgh prize package of family fun attraction tickets and an overnight hotel stay!

Good luck!

Your Neighbor & Family Travel Mom, Michele Z


Posted in Family Travel on the Cheap, Kid-Friendly Lodging and Dining, Road Trips | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Five summer travel tips from a hospitality expert

Athens, OH (May 24, 2016) – With temperatures climbing, it is time to start enjoying summer vacations. Hospitality expert Sandy Chen, an associate professor in the Restaurant, Hotel, and Tourism Program at Ohio University’s Patton College of Education, offers five tips on saving money while staying comfortable during summer travels.

1. Book accommodation with economy hotel chains. “By doing so, you not only get more value out of the money you pay for the room since these hotels normally offer free breakfast, WIFI, swimming pools and gym facilities, but you also accumulate loyalty points with these hotel chains, which you can use in the future for free or discounted rooms,” said Chen. “If you use a credit card that rewards ‘cash back upon purchases,’ you could save more for future use.”room with double beds and sofa bed suite

2. Book accommodation one or two days before you check into a hotel. Chen explained, “Unlike the airline industry where you can receive low airfare if you book way ahead of time, the hotel industry plays the other way around. Studies on revenue management show that customers normally can get good deals with hotel room rates if they wait until the last minute. But make sure you do reserve a hotel room via phone or website before checking into the hotel. Normally the walk-in rates (without reservation) are the highest rates you could get. However, in the peak season, this might be somewhat risky since sometimes all your favorite hotel rooms could be sold out due to special events. This might mean you would not get the right hotel room in the right location.”

3. Check three major reservation outlets to compare rates and special offers. “Sometimes, travel reservations sites, including the hotel’s website, the hotel’s reservation staff at its physical location, and an online booking website like, offer different rates. When they do offer same rates, they might have different bonus offers, such as government rates, veteran discounts, and loyalty rewards,” advised Chen.

4. Book accommodation in suburban areas instead of urban areas. “Booking hotel accommodations in the suburbs, instead of urban areas, could mean saving several hundred dollars on one trip,” said Chen. “For instance, a hotel room in downtown Washington D. C. is much more expensive than one in the suburb Rockville, Maryland, which is only 35 minutes away by car to the capital city and may offer free shuttle service to and from the city and nearby areas.”

5. Consult customer reviews on hotels if you are interested in booking. “Websites, such as TripAdvisor and Expedia, have customer ratings of hotel facilities and service quality. Many of them give detailed descriptions of hotel experiences, which can help you decide the right hotel in which to stay,” said Chen.

About the expert: Sandy Chen, an associate professor in the Restaurant, Hotel, and Tourism Program at Ohio University’s Patton College of Education, gained hospitality experience at a five star hotel in Beijing, China and at Walt Disney World in Orlando before deciding to continue her education. See her full biography here:

Posted in Family Travel on the Cheap, Road Trips, Travel Tips | Leave a comment

Product Review: Farmer’s Pantry Snacks

Farmer’s Pantry is debuting a new line of foods that take “farm to table” to a whole new level! Imagine a crispy, soulful snack that tastes like the top of a freshly baked corn muffin! Yes, the flavor is that unique, my testers claimed, “unlike any other snack chip out there”. And, fresh and crispy – my fav things to look for in a snack food.

farmers pantry crisps

New York, New York (April, 2016) Farmer’s Pantry, the proudly American new snack brand, debuts the first in its line of exciting new snacks: Farmer’s Pantry Cornbread Crisps. Farmer’s Pantry snacks are always made in America with ingredients you would only find in a farmer’s pantry and always grown on U.S. family farms. These delicious snacks are perfect anytime during the day, for travel, hikes or to pack in your gym bag or purse.

Farmer’s Pantry Cornbread Crisps, available in Original and Jalapeno flavors, are a crispy, savory snack that tastes as mouth-wateringly delicious as the first bite of a slice of corn bread or corn muffin. Made from fresh corn and other whole grains grown on American farms.

Josh Chaitovsky, co-founder and CEO of Farmer’s Pantry. “We believe it’s high-time for snacks to resolve the trade-off between being wholesome, made from natural ingredients and delicious. But to be truly sustainable, we also pledge to give back to our American farmers, and to hungry Americans in need, by supporting important charities such as Veterans Farm, Farm Aid, and The Family Farm charities.”

Farmer’s Pantry Cornbread Crisps are available in Original and Jalapeno flavors, in two sizes: 6-ounce bags of regular size Cornbread Crisps and 2-ounce bags of bite-sized Cornbread Crisps and retail in the $3.99 range for 6oz bags, and under $2.00 for 2oz bags.

Farmer’s Pantry creates hearty, tasty American snacks from freshly grown vegetables sourced on local American farms. Cornbread Crisps are the first of their incredible line of innovative, healthy snacks that are sure to “feed your hunger.” Visit Farmer’s Pantry online at TRY SOME!

Posted in Travel Product Reviews | Tagged | Leave a comment

Travel Accessories (& quick travel tips for road trips with young kids)

A recent spot I did that highlights some quick travel tips with young kids…

With warm weather upon us, it is time to start prepping for annual family road trips and weekend getaways!
The safety of young kids when traveling is always at the top of the planning list as road trips can quickly go from spontaneous to stressful. To keep kids safe and parents sane this year, it’s helpful to have the right car seats and travel accessories and for mom and dad to be organized.


Here are some products I tried on a recent trip:
Diono Radian RXT car seat: Convertible booster, fits 3 across in most mid-size vehicles, reinforced adjustable head support provides additional side impact protection, folds flat for travel and is FAA certified. (Amazon, SRP 359.99)

Diono Stow n Go: Keeps everything organized, seatback organizer has seven full sized pockets and two drink holders in a very sturdy, washable, waterproof fabric. (Amazon, SRP $10.99)

Diono Travel Pal: Deep cargo bin for toys, books and lots of pockets for smaller items, insulated drink holders and entire cargo area is waterproof. (Amazon, SRP $15.99)

Posted in Educational Travel & Games, Road Trips, Travel Product Reviews, Travel Tips | Leave a comment

Travel Product Review: Snyder of Berlin Snacks

Hello cheesy snack lovers! Snyder of Berlin has a new line. These fun snacks are bursting with the cheesiest flavor ever.

snyder products

The “Fun for You” refreshed Cheese Snack line is made from a new cheese formula, and is the cheesiest ever, with 2 kinds of real cheese: Hearty cheddar and Tangy blue specially blended for intense deliciousness.

Snyder of Berlin Cheese Curls & Corn are baked with real cheese, which is a secret blend of two kinds of cheese for an extra-intense flavor; additionally they are Gluten free, with NO preservatives and 0 grams of Trans fat.

Snyder of Berlin Puff-n-Corn with a melt-in-your mouth quality due to the unique “hulless” quality, this snack is available in Original, Cheese and White Cheddar flavors. (note: this is a nice snack for little ones as they have no hulls young kids can choke on)

My favorite part was how fresh the snacks were. They have a saying, “from (factory) floor to store in one week” and you can tell – no stale texture. My second compliment, the flavoring is spot on…cheesy enough to be “cheesy fingers good” but not too powdery.

Kids will love having these for snack time or traveling on road trips.


Posted in Travel Product Reviews | Tagged | Leave a comment

National Geographic Kids Books Highlight US National Parks

Timed to the 100th anniversary of the National Parks in 2016, National Geographic celebrates “The Year of the Parks” with new children’s books designed to introduce young readers to the wonder and beauty of our nation’s parks.

NPS spread 2NPS spread 1National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide USA: takes kids on a journey to National Parks across the United States. Each region is broken down with maps , lists of must-do activities, fun facts, and more.

I liked how a few pages in each chapter are devoted to special interest, such as “spooky” sites like an island prison or a UFO hot spot (example: pg 80-81). Another few pages (50-51) itemize a suitcase checklist with pictures of must-haves to pack.512zXCreQaL__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_PastedGraphic-1

And when you go to a National Park what options do you have? Ride the Rails? Follow the Falls? Bike it? and my favorite, Rock Stars…like Ice Box Cave. Helpful color photographs, checklists, and suggested bicycling and spelunking excursions round out this comprehensive guide. $14.95. Ages 8-12.

Great add-ons for the car ride include: Junior Ranger Activity Book with games, trivia, and jokes inspired by the Junior Ranger program ($14.99) and the Funny Fill-in with goofy fill-in-the-blank, colorful artwork, and wacky bonus facts ($4.99).

National Geographic Kids Books

Posted in Nature Travel, Travel Product Reviews | Tagged | Leave a comment

Spring Break Travel Tips

Click on Spring Break Travel for some quick tips with young kids…

Posted in Day Trips, Educational Travel & Games, Family Travel on the Cheap, Places along Interstates, Road Trips, Travel Tips | Leave a comment