Now and then I like to highlight a location that I have visited and can attest to from my own experience. For Mother’s Day 2018, we (my husband and I) traveled to Charleston, SC to surprise my mother. The following were among the highlights of our trip:

Wentworth Mansion
We stayed at the Wentworth Mansion this year. This historic hotel is likened to Downton Abbey by a guest review highlighted on their site. Daniel G. Waynes designed the ornate Second Empire building that was home to Francis and Marie Rodgers in the mid-19thcentury. From 1920-1940 Scottish Rite Masons were the custodian of the mansion, which received extensive refurbishing in the 1990s under new ownership. The original staircase, inlaid floors and Tiffany glass have all been preserved. It is located within easy walking or driving distance of many of Charleston’s most popular attractions.  I asked the staff to help me with the surprise.  They were customer-service oriented and helped me with everything from beginning to end.

The Surprise!
My aunt knew we were staying at Wentworth Mansion and planning the surprise for my mother.  My mother thought my aunt was touring the hotel because the Pend Upon team was planning a client’s Charleston vacation.  When my mother and aunt arrived, the manager gave them a tour of the hotel.  The final stop on the tour was our room.  When he showed my mother the bathroom, my husband and I came out of the closet.  My mother could not believe it.  She screamed and then began crying.

The Spectator
This Art Deco hotel is also located in the historic district of Charleston near the French Quarter. As Travel + Leisure describes it, “The Spectator channels 1920s glam with accents like hand-painted wallpaper, a gilded elevator, and mirrored ceilings.” They named this hotel as 1st in the US and 2ndin world in 2016, which was the year we stayed there also (Thanksgiving 2016). Their famous lobby chandelier boasting of 1800 hand-strung crystals is remarkable itself, as is the “speakeasy-style bar adorned in vintage artistry.” It is near the City Market and has a great staff.  They are well known for their customer service, which is founded in traditional southern hospitality. I even had a butler!

City Market, Restaurants, & Tours
The Charleston Historic District’s City Market, established in 1807, is one of the city’s most popular attractions. This is the venue for sweetgrass baskets (now decorative, but originally used to winnow rice from plantations), and numerous other certified authentic local artisan souvenirs.

There are numerous great restaurants to choose from—TripAdvisor counts Halls Chophouse, 167 Raw, FIG, and Breizh Pan Crepes among their top selections (price categories range).

I recommend the historical tours—there are several free walking tours available. Ghost & haunted tours are also offered.

Thinking of visiting Charleston? I along with the hotel concierge can help with these events.  From Atlanta, GA, Charleston is a great road trip destination. (See the June 2018 post, “Did Someone Say “Road Trip”?”).

Are you so busy with work that you don’t have the time or energy to plan personal events or even keep up with basic necessities? Is your task list at work expanding instead of decreasing—though you and your co-workers are working constantly? Have you considered a personal and/or corporate concierge? How would you go about finding such a service?

Here are a few tips to get you started in your search:

  • Interview candidates to ensure availability, communications, and descriptions of services are compatible with the items with which you require assistance. Will someone be available weekends?
  • Request price quotes for basic services as well as add-ons.
  • Consider due dates and timelines—can services be delivered when you need them?
  • Will you be assigned to 1 or 2 people who will be familiar with you and your projects, or will you have to explain you requirements anew each time you call, depending on who answers the phone?

A concierge could ease the hassles of your workload and personal chores and goals—but if you do not know what to expect, you could find yourself in the midst of uncertainty that causes rather than alleviates stress. So do your research!

It wasn’t long ago when the question was what to do with kids for the summer. Now the conversation returns to matters of back-to-school.  There are a few components to these considerations. How to approach shopping (probably those brand-new sneakers from spring received significant wear and tear at camp—assuming they still fit), sitting down with the calendar to figure how extra-curricular activities are going to co-ordinate among siblings and friends, ensuring your child(ren) are mentally prepared for the stress of meeting a new teacher, new classmates, and advancement of studies (this is especially important if starting at a new school or if summer activities didn’t include much social integration or scholastic activity.)

But first—how are you going to spend the remainder of the summer?!

The weeks prior to the start of school may be a great opportunity for hikes, biking, picnics at parks, evening games and puzzles, or trips to museums, movie theaters, or sports events. What’s showing at local live performance theaters?

Preparation of Necessities:
School supplies (including wardrobe) are often fairly basic, but usually schools provide a list of required supplies ahead of time.  Stores often run back-to-school specials on pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, crayons, backpacks, rulers, scissors, and lunch containers. There’s the risk of a sudden growth spurt if you start shopping for clothing too soon.

Creating a Schedule & Routine:
Don’t let early morning wake-up calls arrive as a shock the first day of school. Start practicing early-morning alarm setting a week or so before school starts; however, it’s not only the school day to think about. What extracurricular activities will your kids participate in? Music lessons? Dance classes? Art lessons? Soccer? Be sure to check all schedules to avoid double-booking and consider how much driving you want to commit to—if one child has theater group Tuesdays at 4:00, is it feasible for another to sign up for painting across town at 4:15?

The Psychology of Social and Academic Preparation:
Organization of parents and children directly impacts school success, and there is no better place to start than your own home. Prior to the start of school, Janelle Cox, writing for Teach Hub, suggests selecting a well-lit (but temperature comfortable) area of the house where your child or children can work on their homework uninterrupted and undistracted—but with a parent available to assist if needed. She also reminds of the importance of parent organization for handouts, permission slips and information notices sent by the school.

Erin Dower provides warnings signs of anxiety disorders to watch for in her article for Family Education:  stomachaches, insomnia, headaches, and obsessive tendencies. Some children develop obvious symptoms in the form of panic attacks, other symptoms are more subtle. Professional help may be required if such symptoms persist.

Are you planning a road trip this summer? Maybe while your kids are at camp? (See the previous post, “How to Find a Great Summer Camp”). We (my husband and I) have been on two long road trips (Atlanta to Canada and Atlanta to Denver). In this post I’ll pass along the advice that these experiences taught us.

Have the car serviced before you leave. It may seem like an obvious detail, but it could be easily overlooked as you are busy with other preparations. The last thing you want on a road trip is car trouble.

Purchase AAA, if you are not already a member. If you do find yourself with vehicle difficulty, this will assist to ensure that you are able to resolve the issue with minimal hassle. If nothing else it may help to put your mind at ease so you can focus on other aspects of your drive.

Do not trust only one source of directions. En route to Quebec City, Canada we were directed by a GPS to drive in/on the water! We recommend (in addition to a GPS or two) that you buy a map and print hard copy directions from MapQuest and/or Google Maps.

Research rest stops. Road trips become quickly uncomfortable when you can’t find an acceptable restroom. I am very picky about bathrooms, and while driving from South Dakota to Denver to St. Louis I was concerned about where we’d find the next rest stop.

Plan a timeline, including accommodations. As a similar continuation of the previously thought, it was preferable for us to create a timeline for our trip and book hotels in advance–this way we weren’t driving around cities looking for “vacancy” signs in neighborhoods we were unfamiliar with.

That’s what worked for us. Other road travelers have slightly differing advice. Ed Hewitt’s tips in The SmarterTravel include:

It’s also worth considering not overplanning your travels. Unexpected weather or road condition delays could mean you are trying to change hotel reservations at the last minute with a cell phone unable to connect to the internet in that location.

Take the scenic routes but do your research! Consider the factor of car sickness on winding roads. Additionally, you might not be headed for scenery so much as outlet malls when opting for the alternative route….

Where will your summer travels be taking you, and how are you preparing?

It won’t be long before school lets out–are you ready for a summer of unoccupied children? Does summer break mean they are unsupervised at home or running back and forth among friend’s houses with little structure or routine? What are the alternatives?

Have you considered camp? The American Camp Association asserts that “camp experiences often increase a child’s confidence, self-esteem, social skills, independence, leadership qualities, adventurousness, and positive connections to nature.” Their website details information about scholarships and financial assistance (seek specific information from individual camps, but the sooner you apply the better!) .

Worried that your child is not ready for such and adventure? Consider these guidelines from ACA’s “Preparing for Camp” page:

  • Is your child 7 or older? If not, look for a day camp in your area.
  • Does your child demonstrate an inclination toward camp? Is she or he excited about the idea? If so, this is a strong indication that camp is a reasonable option.
  • How have other overnight experiences gone with your child?

Simply Afterschool provides addition questions to ponder, such as, how much time does your child prefer to spend indoors rather than outdoors? What are the methods of the camp’s security? What is the child to supervisor ratio and the people to space ratio?

iD Tech suggests that you begin your search with one question: “What do you want your child to gain from the experience?” From there, narrow your criteria to traditional or academic camps. Traditional camps are for those hoping for nature and outdoor activities. Academic camps can be an excellent supplement to the school curriculum and/or a particularly good option for pre-college teens.

Barbara Rowley, writing for Parenting, was a frequent camper herself but her daughters were reluctant. She advocates camps that have been in operation for decades–preferable with the same staff, as the history underscores commitment, tradition, and knowledge. What is the camp’s philosophy? How does it reflect the traits you are looking for? Does it reflect an established community? Do the planned activities offer choice? How are communications handled between camp and parents? Ask the camp if they are ACA accredited (this will give an idea of the standards they have been required to meet.)

If you become overwhelmed in your research and begin questioning why you are sending your child to camp in the first place, read through some of the reasons in Sunshine Parenting. Among their reasoning is the fact that “schools aren’t doing a very good job of teaching kids grit, perseverance, and leadership.”

Where will your kids be going this summer?