Review: Sandy Hook with Kids

Sandy Hook is a great place for those who don’t want the boardwalk experience, and want more to do than just sit on the beach. Plus it’s only $15 entrance for a whole carload of people. Parking is free and the money goes to the National Park Service. Sandy Hook is a “barrier spit” that’s 6-7 miles long, a mile wide at some points, and accessed via bridge.

What to do at Sandy Hook:

Ride a Bike: Bring your  own or rent one (there’s a rental place at Beach B – first right after the pay station). Lots of trails – 7 miles of them starting at the park entrance, out to Fort Hancock at the end.

Fishing: fishing is allowed at all beaches without lifeguards on duty.

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Ideas on Care Packages for Overnight Camp

Yesterday I shared some money-saving tips on shopping for summer overnight camp. Today it’s all about the care packages. You know they love getting things in the mail, especially care packages. Here are some ideas of what to send:

Coke or Pepsi? This book series has oodles of questions the kids can ask each other to get to know them better. It’s more for girls than boys

Origami paper and book – this will provide the kids something to do when it’s raining or rest time in the cabin.

Make paper airplanes (or even Star Wars flyers) with this book and paper set

Disposable camera – don’t want to send the digital camera or rely on camp photos for the memories? Send an inexpensive disposable camera.

Letters from Camp – you might give them some ideas, but the Letters from Camp book series is hilarious.

Picture frame to autograph – this one is for the memories!

Camp autograph book

Mad Libs – the gift that keeps on giving

Camp Bunk Box of Questions – from Melissa and Doug

Bunco dice game – just because you drink when you play it doesn’t mean your kids have to.


Glow bracelets – great to share with the bunk

Misting fan – stay cool!

Sudoku for kids

BrainQuest – good for kids to play alone or together

What do your kids like getting in the mail at camp? Please post your experiences and suggestions below!

How to Save Money on Overnight Camp Supplies

I just finished packing up my kids for overnight camp. Camp isn’t cheap, and neither is the gear. Here are my tips for saving money on overnight camp clothing, bedding, etc.


Sheets: While we have plenty of sheet sets in our linen closet, the camp specified cot-size sheets. Can you go buy those at Target? Nope. You have a couple options. To save money, just buy a fitted cot sheet, and use your own top sheet and pillowcase. You can buy fitted cot sheets for $8-10 each.

If you want the softer jersey knit sheets with fun designs (which of course my kids did), you can either buy the fitted sheet and pillowcase, or for another $10 you also get the top sheet. While my kids took a ton of stuff from the house, we splurged on the sheets, buying them matching sheet sets. I did a lot of internet searching, and the cheapest I found (for the same products) was at Trunk Outlet, where I saved $5/set over the other cheapest sites. I did have to pay shipping, which was around $12 for 4 sets of sheets. The packaged arrived in two days, even choosing the slowest shipping.

If you don’t want jersey knit, the sheets are cheaper. I found this cotton cot sheet set on Amazon for $25.

Comforter: I don’t remember bringing a comforter to camp when I was young (only sheets/blanket), but now the kids do. Much to Continue reading “How to Save Money on Overnight Camp Supplies”

Day Trip: Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

If you can manage to find the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Basking Ridge, NJ, you’ll have a great time there. We’ve been twice now, to different sections. The swamp is one of more than 500 wildlife refuges administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. You’ll find about 8 miles of marked trails, though there’s 3,660 acres of off-trail hiking.

Last weekend we hit the boardwalk area (note: there were restrooms but no water fountain or garbage can). You’ll find maps at the trail head/parking lot. The wildlife observation center is on New Vernon Road (aka Long Hill Road – depending on the address).

I regretted not bringing my better SLR camera with its telephoto lens. In the hour or so we walked on the boardwalks, we spotted baby and adult turtles, lots of birds, dragonflies, chipmunks, though there are a ton more animals we didn’t see.

If you stand still long enough, you’ll see lots of animals in here

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Review: Point Pleasant with Kids

If you’re looking for a traditional New Jersey boardwalk experience, Point Pleasant does the trick. It has rides, games, hermit crabs, taffy, fudge, greasy food, the beach and other things going for it.


For outdoor (shaded) seating, Jenkinson’s has it’s Pavilion complex, with Mexican, sushi, seafood, coffees, burgers, pizza etc. Their Boardwalk Bar & Grill also has outdoor shaded seating. A list of other Point Pleasant boardwalk dining options is here and here. It’s the usual fare, plus many stands like Kohr’s Frozen Custard. Continue reading “Review: Point Pleasant with Kids”

Review: Asbury Park with Kids

copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

I really like the Asbury Park boardwalk. There are no arcades, no rides, and the stores are a bit nicer. It’s not big, and it’s understated. Plus it has the Silverball Museum, where you can play pinball for hours (you pay an hourly rate, so it’s not quite the same as an arcade).

Here are some things you should know if you go to the Asbury Park boardwalk/beach:


The stand food looks good, including a crepe stand, sausage stand, the Mayfair Boardwalk Grill, Ralph’s Italian Ice, and ice cream (pictured below). As for restaurants, there are many to choose from. A friend recommends Langosta Lounge. We’ve enjoyed eating at Siculiana’s Italian Bread and Pizza twice (it’s next to the Silverball Museum). Wonderbar is famous, and you can bring your pets to the outdoor area during Yappy Hours (kids 8-14 are admitted to the Yappy Hour food area).


copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan


WHAT TO DO: Continue reading “Review: Asbury Park with Kids”

Visiting the White House – with Kids

Let’s just say that preparing to go to the White House is worse than flying a plane these days. Not that our president should be unsafe, but…

If you’re planning a trip to Washington D.C., you probably want to go to the White House. It’s free, historical and exclusive! It’s hard to get in.

The Front? The Back? Nah, just one side.

I thought my kids would be SO excited to go into the White House. In the end, they were bored. BORED! What’s wrong with them? When we entered, they gave us a Junior Ranger activity guide, which the kids promptly handed to me and made me hold. But it was interesting.

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Lakota Wolf Preserve – With Kids

Did you know that those magazine photos of wolves in the wild usually aren’t taken in the wild? They’re not, because wolves can smell you a mile away and they want no part of you. Those photos are usually taken at a wolf preserve, like the Lakota Wolf Preserve in Columbia, NJ.

We stopped by there recently for a tour, chock full of interesting information not only about wolves, but bobcats and foxes, which they also have there. I thought the 1.5 hour tour might bore my 10 year old daughter, but she paid rapt attention, possibly because the caretakers told us interesting stories and facts about the animals, and she got to watch them being fed.

Lakota Wolf Preserve. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

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Ocean City – Highlights with Kids

Just got back from a few days in Ocean City, which gets accolades as the most family-friendly town, and best boardwalk on the shore. I don’t have much to compare it to, but we had a great time and indeed, it was a great boardwalk. Thought I’d do a photo highlight of the boardwalk.  Of course it rained while we were there, so the boardwalk photo is gray.

We didn’t make it all the way down the 2.5 mile boardwalk, but we made a dent. Continue reading “Ocean City – Highlights with Kids”