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Small ship cruising delivers intimacy and...

(BPT) - Major cruise lines market their ships as all-inclusive floating luxury resorts – a winning strategy for many of the nearly 17 million passengers that the Cruise Lines International Association says took a cruise in 2012. However, a growing number of discerning cruisers are also discovering that it’s not necessary to sacrifice intimacy in order to experience adventure and luxury.

Small ship cruising delivers all the plusses of traveling on larger ships with the added bonus of greater access to a variety of smaller, less-traveled ports. Plus, while large ships commonly carry thousands of passengers per voyage, smaller ships carry just a couple hundred adventurers, virtually ensuring a more personalized, intimate journey. These factors ensure small ship cruising is a world apart from large ship vacationing.

If you’re ready to dive into a smaller ship experience, voyages like Tauck’s Treasures of Southeast Asia itinerary showcase the advantages of small ship cruising. This 16-day passage aboard either Le Soleal or L’Austral (ship varies by departure date) through the exotic South China Sea takes in ports both large and small, and ferries travelers to locales often overlooked by larger ships.

Sister ships Le Soleal and L’Austal host a maximum of 264 passengers. Each 466-foot, six-deck ship boasts elegance, eco-friendly technology and top amenities, including multiple observation areas, a dining room serving French and international cuisine, a casual grill restaurant, three lounges, live entertainment, a state-of-the-art theater, fitness and beauty facilities, and a medical center. Stateroom sizes range from 200 to 210 square feet, suites range from 301 to 398 square feet; all offer ocean views and most feature private balconies.

Two-night stays in Hong Kong and Singapore bookend the voyage, and afford guests the opportunity to savor the wonder of both historic, culturally rich ports. The days between are filled with one-of-a-kind sights and experiences as travelers visit key Vietnamese cities, cruise Ha Long Bay on a Chinese-style junk, and absorb the history and robust development of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

A welcome reception and dinner at the acclaimed Marina Bay Sands Singapore launches the Southeast Asia cruise. On day two, coach and walking tours encompass Singapore’s Chinatown, Little India and Little Arabia neighborhoods. You’ll also visit the Asian Civilisations Museum for a guided tour, followed by a free afternoon to explore and experience this vibrant city. On the third day, you’ll embark on your small ship, but not until you’ve first visited the futuristic Gardens by the Bay, where solar-powered Super Trees of steel and concrete provide the framework for vertical gardens. Bromeliads, ferns, vines and orchids flourish throughout the gardens and climate-controlled conservatories house a plethora of tropical plants.

At sea, a private lecturer will discuss the history, economy and politics of the region, and Tauck tour director briefings will help you maximize your time ashore. Tauck’s yacht will sail from the South China Sea up the Saigon River to Ho Chi Minh City. A visit to the Skydeck of the Bitexco Financial Tower, 49 floors above the city, and a dinner of Vietnamese cuisine will set the stage for your exploration of Vietnam’s most populous city.

Your small ship cruise of the South China Sea will also encompass Vietnam’s third-largest city, Da Nang, where you’ll visit the ruins of My Son, an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dating from the fourth to 13th centuries, the complex was built of precisely stacked bricks, without the aid of mortar.

From Hon Gai, you’ll cruise Ha Long Bay on a traditional junk-style boat, savoring the limestone formations that make up the bay’s 1,600 islands and islets, and encountering floating fishing villages where entire families spend their lives aboard floating homes with quaint tiled roofs and modern-day electronics. Your adventure will also encompass the sights and sounds of Hai Phang and Hanoi, where the city’s Old Quarter boasts a history that stretches over 1,000 years.

To learn more about small ship cruising and Tauck’s Treasures of Southeast Asia cruise, visit www.tauck.com.

How your car's computers can improve your...

(BPT) - Your right foot holds the key to better gas mileage. How aggressively you apply the gas or brakes affects how frequently you have to stop for fuel. And driving style is even more important with today’s cars as the spread between a vehicle’s best and worst mileage may be 10 mpg or more. Here are some tips you can use to improve your gas mileage during the miles ahead, using your car’s technology.

* When you are in the driver’s seat be aware of the vehicle’s numerous computers. “Many newer cars have body, brake and transmission computers as well as engine computers,” says Tom Taylor, engineer and vice president of auto parts retailer RockAuto.com. These computers adjust vehicle systems and performance. Gas will be wasted whenever you do something that misleads a computer into thinking you are not driving to maximize mileage.

* Aggressive steering, acceleration or braking tells your car that gas mileage is not your top priority. The car’s computers calculate you must be having fun, avoiding a hazard or climbing a steep grade. The computer might adjust the transmission so the engine speeds up, activate the brake calipers on one or two wheels to avoid a skid or increase the flow of fuel and air in anticipation of the need for even harder acceleration.

* A hybrid car might turn on the gasoline engine once it receives input that the driver needs performance instead of gas mileage. Many modern engines deactivate cylinders to save gas. Cylinders shut down so a V8 becomes a V4. The computer reactivates all the cylinders when the driver’s foot presses harder on the gas pedal. If the car continues to get mixed signals from the driver, it may remain in performance modes and continue to use more gas than necessary.

* Many drivers also mistakenly believe they can do a better job of saving gas than the computer. New cars frequently come with paddle shifters on the steering wheel so the driver can control the transmission. A driver might decide they will shift the gears manually to save gas. Modern transmissions may have eight or more gears. Meanwhile, continuously variable transmissions (CVT) have no conventional gears at all. The computers will always maintain some control of the transmission. Using the paddle shifters leads the computer to assume the driver wants to have fun or is driving in challenging conditions. While the paddle shifters are in use, the computers may completely turn off engine cylinder deactivation. This means all of the cylinders will be using gas all the time. The computers may maintain higher engine speeds and use more low gears to enhance performance.

* Shifting into neutral and coasting does not save gas. When the vehicle is coasting with the transmission in gear, the computers turn off the fuel injectors until the engine slows to near idle speed. The engine is still turning over but using no gasoline. “Turning off the fuel injectors means the drivetrain is turning the engine rather than the engine turning the drivetrain,” says RockAuto.com’s Taylor. “This actually helps slow the vehicle and slightly reduces brake pad wear when coming to a stop.”

Some common-sense fuel saving tips are still valid. Follow the maintenance schedule outlined in the owner’s manual and avoid hauling unnecessary weight in the trunk. Tires should be kept inflated, but air pressure is something the computers now also help monitor. “Cars in the near future are likely to be able to inflate their own tires rather than just warning the driver if the sensors detect that pressure is low,” says Taylor.

A recent EPA report states that vehicles sold in the U.S. attained a new fuel-economy record of 23.6 mpg for model year 2012. Impressive, but vehicle manufacturers need to more than double that to meet a regulatory goal of 54.5 mpg by 2025. Expect to find all sorts of new technology and materials in future cars. To maximize gasoline mileage, just drive smoothly and let the computers do their work.

Serve your country and explore the world...

(BPT) - It’s no secret that world travel is one of the most exciting perks enjoyed by men and women in America’s Navy. With more than 100 ports of call around the globe and bases in multiple time zones, there’s a great chance you’ll see the world over the course of your Navy career.

On any given day, 600,000 Sailors and Navy civilians are working together around the globe to perform their mission of deterring aggression and, if deterrence fails, winning our Nation’s wars. Even if that doesn’t satisfy your appetite for adventure, during your ample vacation time, you’ll be able to fly standby on military flights around the world for a small fee. You can cross many international and domestic destinations off your travel bucket list during your time of service.

What’s more, you will often be eligible to stay in base lodging around the world. This includes lodging at any military facility that has rooms available for military personnel and their families, and lodging is usually provided at a cost much lower than you would find at an off-base hotel.

These cost savings on travel are a great benefit that isn’t often found in post high-school or college careers. It all amounts to a lifetime of adventure, culture and memories that you and your family can enjoy throughout your time in the Navy and beyond.

Sailors serve around the world on a variety of missions and at many ports. One of the top port destinations is Sydney, Australia, which has an electric nightlife, plenty of beaches and great recreational activities. When on vacation, it’s just a short flight or bus trip to Brisbane or Cairns to explore the Great Barrier Reef, or take a trip along the Great Ocean Road between Melbourne and Adelaide.

Those who prefer a more European experience will love Rota, Spain, which is the gateway to the Mediterranean. This port is connected to the rest of Europe, thanks to an extensive transportation system that gives Sailors plenty of options for their vacations. Another great European port is Naples, Italy, which is just a short train ride from the beautiful and historic city of Pompeii. The city has been rebuilt, but exploring the unearthed ruins is a very educational experience. Sailors can also take the train up to Rome for a one-day visit or even for a long holiday.

While it’s not an international destination, another top port Sailors love to visit is Hawaii, with its rich history and tropical setting. Sailors don’t need to go far to find beautiful beaches and recreational activities in the water, and relaxing on shore is a perfect way to spend some holiday vacation time.

To see where Sailors are serving today, visit navylive.dodlive.mil/category/inside-the-navy/your-navy-today.

For more information about opportunities to serve, visit www.navy.com.

Pamper your feet, now, in preparation for...

(BPT) - With spring break plans in place and summer just around the corner – sandal season is finally here. It’s time to put foot care on your immediate to-do list so your feet will be up to the task of showing off your newest pair of sandals with pride the second temperatures creep into the warm zone. Don’t forget to start these simple foot-care tips now, giving your feet a beautiful new look come spring:

* Spring showers bring softer feet – The dry winter air not only creates deep dry crevasses in the soil, it can leave feet cracked and scaly, which isn’t pretty for men or women. White and flaky feet don’t go well with the latest fashion in sandals. Cracked and scaly feet are also a health concern, putting you at risk for an infection. Use a good moisturizing lotion frequently, concentrating on the heels, balls and toes of your feet – areas where the biggest problems build up.

* Massage away the stresses of winter – Foot care isn’t just about how your feet look – it’s also about how they feel. Massage and moisturizing go together like peaches and cream. Massage the lotion into your feet and toes, helping to improve your blood circulation and easing the aches and stresses caused by long days wearing socks and heavy shoes. Massage also will refresh the skin on your feet, giving them the soft appearance needed to look great once the socks are removed.

* Scrub off the cold – When bathing, soak your feet and exfoliate areas where calluses – caused by the friction of socks rubbing against the insides of your shoes – build up. This often happens on the heels and balls of the feet – those same areas that need the extra lotion. Use a pumice stone to help keep those calluses in check, leaving you with soft feet ready for the beach and playing in the sunshine.

* Yellow is the color of the sun, not your toenails – Yellow toenails are a sign of a fungal infection, which can be treated with Dr. Paul’s Piggy Paste. About 14 percent of Americans have this type of fungus, which leaves nails looking textured with a dark yellow coloring. Dr. Paul Kinsinger developed the gel to treat his patients at his Illini Family Medicine in Washington, Ill. With proper usage, you’ll start to see improvements between two to six weeks, leaving you with beautiful-looking toes by the time spring has sprung.

* Cabin fever? Give your feet a breath of fresh air – You wouldn’t think you’d have to worry about sweaty feet in the winter months, but when confined to socks and shoes, moisture can build up. Wear sweat-wicking socks to help prevent blisters when working hard like shoveling snow or going for a winter hike. And take off your shoes and socks every once in a while to let your feet breathe.

* Surprise your feet with a spa package – This tip is for both men and women. Establishing a pedicure schedule will keep your feet exfoliated and moisturized on a consistent basis, and your toenails will be trimmed to a suitable length, helping to prevent any ingrown nails. And if you are planning a tropical spring break trip, be sure to schedule a pedicure just before you leave, so you’ll be ready to show off your feet at their finest.

It takes time to pamper your feet to be ready for sandal season, so be sure to get started moisturizing and treating any infections immediately. Your feet will thank you.

Crave beyond-the-beach excitement? Four...

(BPT) - Heading on vacation? This year, instead of settling for just sitting on the beach, think about embarking on an experience-based adventure.

“Whether you’re traveling with family, friends or by yourself, there are all kinds of activities to enhance your vacation experience,” says Jeanenne Tornatore, senior editor for the travel booking website Orbitz.com.

Here are four ideas to get you started on planning your trip:

Expand your skillset

They say there is no time like the present. Your next vacation could be the perfect time to cross a lesson or two off your bucket list. The Hawaii Style Surf School offers training in surfing and paddle boarding in the calming currents off Maui’s coast.

Learn something new

Whether you are an expert or casual admirer of a subject, there is always more to learn. Consider vacationing where you can provide an educational experience for the entire family while still having a great time. The Ultimate Space Experience at Kennedy Space Center in Orlando offers an in-depth tour, lunch with an astronaut, and the chance to try the G-Force Simulator.

Travel “back in time”

Who says history can only be taught in school? Many historic sites offer activities and tours that immerse travelers in the sights and sounds of the past. The WWII Pearl Harbor Heroes Adventure in Oahu, Hawaii, allows groups to walk in the exact footsteps of America’s most courageous heroes, see genuine artifacts from the era, and visit the deck of one of the world’s most famous battleships, the USS Missouri.

Pump some adrenaline

For those seeking an adventure in the truest sense of the word, pushing yourself slightly out of your comfort zone can make for some great memories. So while the Grand Canyon is cool, you may want to try something even cooler. Try exploring one of the greatest sites in the world from a different perspective – a helicopter. The Grand Canyon Wind Dancer Helicopter Excursion, based out of Las Vegas, offers the opportunity to see the region like you’ve never seen it before.

Beach vacations can be great, but if you crave something new and exciting, it’s easy to find and book one-of-a-kind attractions, trips and tours – especially if you use online tools. So on your next vacation, why not try something you’ve never done before, and make some memories you’ll never forget?

Simple steps to hassle-free family vacationing

(BPT) - Was your last family vacation a spectacle that would have made Clark Griswold proud? While Clark’s heart was always in the right place, his family vacations often suffered from less-than-stellar planning and unrealistic expectations. Fortunately, your family never again has to live their own version of a Griswold holiday.

A hassle-free family vacation can be had by following a few simple steps:

1. Make a list – Have everyone in the family make a list of “must-haves” for their dream vacation, “would-like-to-haves” and “couldn’t stand it.” Then, compare lists and look for common themes. For example, perhaps Mom wants great shopping, the kids need beach time and Dad wants to play some golf. A beach resort town is likely to have something for everyone.

2. Do your homework – Once you’ve narrowed your list of possible destinations, use online resources to learn more about what each location has to offer. Be sure to consider lodging availability and pricing, dining options, activities and entertainment. Whatever destination you choose, it should have something of interest for every family member.

3. Let professionals do the heavy lifting – Planning a beach trip can be easy, but if your dream family vacation is more complex – say a three-city tour of Italy – it makes sense to turn to an all-inclusive tour company like Tauck. With decades of planning experience and destination knowledge, the tour company takes care of all the details, from lodging and sightseeing to on-tour transportation and special entertainment. Traveling with a tour group can give your family access to unique experiences and entertainment, help you avoid long lines and scheduling conflicts, and get you into must-see attractions that often must be booked months or even years in advance. With everything included in the cost, the only thing you’ll have to think about is airfare.

It’s also important to choose tours designed with families in mind, such as Tauck’s Bridges itineraries. Lodging, locations and activities are all chosen to appeal to multi-generational travelers, so that each tour offers fun and adventure for everyone in the family. Professionals like the team at Tauck Bridges have extensive experience in family travel planning, and they know how to arrange schedules so that everyone stays excited and engaged, while allowing for downtime and relaxation.

If you’re planning a family vacation abroad – be it Europe, Africa or Latin America – traveling with a tour company can help ensure you make the most of your investment. Tour guides know the best locations and sights to see, and how to help you maximize your time in a never-before-visited location. Instead of spending time coordinating the trip yourself, you can focus on enjoying what – for many families – is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Finally, set realistic expectations. Poor Clark often found himself disappointed when things didn’t go exactly as he’d planned, but the reality is that even the best-planned family vacation will have surprises. Traveling with a tour company like Tauck Bridges can ensure your family enjoys more pleasant ones than the Griswolds did!

To learn more about Tauck Bridges Family Travel and to view itineraries, visit www.tauck.com/family-travel.

10 expert tips for an affordable and memorable...

(BPT) - A flurry of congratulatory phone calls, social media announcements and sparkling ring pictures all mean one thing: engagement season has arrived. With approximately 39 percent of marriage proposals taking place between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day, engaged couples are taking note of one of the fastest-growing nuptial trends – destination weddings.

These days, one in four weddings is a destination wedding, giving couples – and their guests – a reason to blend the joy of a marriage celebration with a fun and memorable vacation. Planning a destination wedding suitable for all your attendees is easier than you think, thanks to some key insights from Myrtle Beach-based expert wedding planner, Cheryl Cox.

1. Plan ahead
Cox says nine to 12 months is the optimum planning time, especially for a destination wedding. Many couples start planning a destination wedding as soon as they get engaged. While the summer months are typically most popular for couples, when choosing a date, Cox recommends considering a Friday or weekday wedding, or planning the big day during the less-crowded but still desirable shoulder seasons (spring and fall).

2. Select a destination that caters to all guests
Consider a location with something for everyone. Myrtle Beach, S.C., is the perfect example. The destination offers pristine greens for golf enthusiasts, museums and historic plantations for cultural buffs, delicious Coastal Carolina cuisine for the foodies, fun in the sun with a day at the beach or one of the many water parks, and for brides looking for some quality time with the girls, numerous spas for a day of pampering. Plus, there are plenty of lodging options for your guests including oceanfront resorts, beach home rentals and quaint bed and breakfasts.

3. Research ceremony locations
Beautiful and unique ceremony locations are one of the perks of having a destination wedding. “Research wedding venues, travel and accommodation options, and rates, then rank the venues you like best,” suggests Cox. As a Myrtle Beach wedding planner, she notes that the area’s 60 miles of stunning coastline make the perfect romantic backdrop. Whether you’re looking for a beachside wedding outside a charming beach home or at the Myrtle Beach State Park, or a historic location like Litchfield Plantation or Pine Lakes Country Club, there are countless ceremony locations to choose from. You can even tie the knot 200 feet above the ground on the Myrtle Beach Skywheel. Visit www.visitmyrtlebeach.com for more information.

5. Help guests plan activities
Travel is the foundation for long-lasting memories. In fact, a recent Harris Interactive survey found 62 percent of adults said their earliest memories were of family vacations taken when they were between ages 5 and 10. Help your guests – particularly families with young ones – get the most out of their trip by suggesting activities or even making reservations for dinners, tee times, theme parks, museums, etc., before arrival.

6. Hire a wedding planner
Planning a destination wedding doesn’t need to be stressful – hire a wedding planner. “Wedding planners know the local wedding professionals and venues including the city regulations for beach weddings,” says Cox. The perfect beach wedding can be accomplished with the help of a wedding planner as they know the ins and outs of planning a beautiful beach wedding so couples and their guests can enjoy the true beauty of a beachside wedding.

7. Consider a pre-wedding visit
“If possible, attend a local wedding show to meet wedding professionals one-on-one or plan a ‘wedding planning trip’ to visit venues and meet with wedding vendors,” Cox suggests. “Remember to take notes so you can recall all the details when you’re back home.”

8. Get wedding insurance
Give yourself peace of mind by purchasing the appropriate wedding insurance. And, Cox notes, “Research to find the best coverage for your wedding – I highly recommend it.”

9. Be mindful of budget
Start your marriage off on the right financial foot by keeping your wedding on-budget. Many couples planning destination weddings find them to be similar or even more affordable than traditional weddings back home. Myrtle Beach offers a variety of wedding venue options at various price points, so you can have your dream beach wedding and still stay on a budget.

10. Enjoy!
This is perhaps the most important step of all. Don’t forget to enjoy the experience of planning this memorable day and enjoying the company of your guests. Take pictures, sample cakes, pick out flowers and remember these moments and the beautiful destination you selected.

Five crazy cruise features you have to try

(BPT) - Cruise liners are no longer just giant ships heading to enviable destinations. They are small, floating cities, destinations unto themselves, packed with unexpected entertainment from on-board planetariums to skydiving experiences.

“As cruise ships add more exciting features to their decks, they can offer a well-rounded vacation experience for the whole family,” says Jeanenne Tornatore, senior editor for the travel booking website Orbitz.com.

Here are five of the coolest cruise features around.

High flyers

Royal Caribbean wants you to pull the ripcord by taking a sky dive at sea. Available on Quantum of the Seas, the RipCord skydiving experience is more floating on air than leaping from a plane. Adventurous passengers step into a wind tunnel that propels them vertically. RipCorders get the benefits of flying high with the sea on both sides without any of the drawbacks of having to pull their chutes.

Starry nights

Home to the only on-board planetarium in the world, the Queen Mary 2 offers multiple space shows daily and courses on celestial navigation for those lucky enough to be on board. If scoping the stars isn’t your thing, the ship also offers a rich array of on-board speakers, wine tastings, golf simulations and a casino to keep you busy.

Tee time

Sports rule on the Royal Princess from Princess Cruises. In addition to the standard workout center-jogging track-fitness class trifecta available on many ships, the Royal Princess also features a full indoor driving range and a laser shooting range so you can blast your travel companions away. Cool off at night by getting a gander at The SeaWalk, a glass-bottomed walkway that hovers above the ocean and offers stunning views of the outside world.

Weird science

Just because your kids are on vacation doesn’t mean their brains have to be. Boasting an on-board science lab for children, Royal Caribbean‘s Oasis of the Seas is as educational as it is relaxing. Winter and summer converge on this pleasure vessel since passengers can choose between fun in the sun in the ship’s pools or cool it off at night by either hitting the on-board ice rink or taking in a chilly skate show.

Make a splash

Most ships have on-board pools. Yawn. Some even come with private pools for the ritziest passengers. But only one has a full-scale water coaster. The 765-foot AquaDuck slide available on Disney Dream cruise ships sends guests plunging down four deck lengths and into a lazy river. But don’t worry, there’s something for passengers who want a more relaxing vacation. Disney Dream also offers an adults-only Quiet Cove Pool that’s scream-free.

Modern cruising now incorporates all the luxury you expect from a cruise experience and spices things up with one-of-a-kind ship attractions that bring the adventure back on board.

What to expect in travel in 2014: Big sporting...

(BPT) - Where’s everybody going? The travel forecast for 2014 points to destinations inspired by a whole lot of sportsmanship and team spirit. Hot spots expected to trend this year include North American ski resorts catering to travelers looking for an Olympic experience closer to home before, during and after the games; and Brazil, inspired by World Cup fever.

Get a lift from North American ski destinations

Due to the 2014 Winter Games, “There will be a ton of interest in winter sport destinations that are more accessible and far less expensive than traveling to Sochi,” says David De Lalio, ski region senior market manager for online travel agency Orbitz. One popular spot, Whistler, Canada, features a dog-friendly ski resort with a bevy of recent Olympic history. Meanwhile, Lake Placid, N.Y., which hosted both the 1932 and 1980 Games, offers both alpine and Nordic skiing in the Adirondacks, as well as a bobsled run. And in Park City, Utah, travelers can feed the need for speed with rocket skeleton sled and bobsled rides on the actual track from the 2012 Games.

Get World Cup fever south of the equator

“Brazil will be the place to be in 2014,” says Yumi Nakayama, Brazil's market manager at Orbitz, citing the country’s role as host for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. The World Cup (June 12-July 13) is considered the biggest single-event sporting competition in the world. Travelers can also experience some of Brazil’s 2,000 beaches, more than 1,000 islands and, of course, Carnival (March 1-4). Meanwhile, Sao Paolo plays host to the world's largest Pride Parade in June and Grand Prix Formula 1 on Nov. 9.

More travel trends for 2014

"While we will continue to see a steady drumbeat of traditional theme park and show tickets being bought, more travelers are expecting a personalized experience,” says Barb Peterson, director of attractions and services for Orbitz Worldwide. Orbitz booking data shows that travelers increasingly crave variety, with helicopter tours, Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas and ziplining among their favorites. Travelers also sought out “Edutainment” trips, or vacations built around learning, such as culinary tours: Barcelona's hugely popular Gourmet Bus Tour includes a 1-Star Michelin dining experience. Similarly, baseball fans visiting Boston and Chicago don't just want tickets to a Red Sox or Cubs game – they also sign up for tours of Fenway Park or Wrigley Field to take in the history.

Visual online travel tools, like the recently launched Orbitz Labs, chart trends and can help travelers pick personalized hotel options as well as discover the best travel prices and most popular destinations.

From carnival to Corcovado, check out Rio's...

(BPT) - Few cities in South America possess the exotic cache of Rio de Janeiro. And whether you go to savor the excitement of a carnival event or to bask in the solemnity of the towering Christ the Redeemer statue that towers over Brazil’s largest city, a visit to Rio is sure to be one you’ll never forget.

There’s so much to see and do in Rio – at any time of year – that it can be hard to know where to begin. As you’re planning your Rio trip, keep these must-see sights and must-do activities in mind:

* Tijuca National Park and Corcovado – Whether you hike or tour by Jeep, visiting the world’s largest urban rainforest (8,300 acres) promises visitors glimpses of exotic wildlife, abundant flora, plenty of activities and amazing views. Corcovado, the highest mountain within the national park, affords panoramic views, and is a breath-taking stage for the 125-foot-high Christ the Redeemer statue. Admission to the park is free, but there is a fee to visit the statue.

* Beach time – Rio is famous for its beaches, and no trip to Brazil would be complete without a visit to the city’s shoreline. Whether you choose to revel in the vibrant atmosphere of popular beaches like Ipanema and Copacabana, or go farther afield to the less-crowded but equally beautiful Grumari Beach, you’ll want to relax in the sand and play in the sun for at least a few hours during your Rio tour.

* Petropolis and the Summer Palace – Snuggled in a valley between the Piabanha and Quitandinha rivers, the “City of Saint Peter” boasts a rich history and lots to see and do. You’ll not want to miss the Imperial Museum, the former Summer Palace of Brazil’s second emperor. While you’re in Petropolis, be sure to take in the Crystal Palace – a glass and steel outdoor ballroom that dates to the late 1800s.

* Enjoy some Bossa Nova – What visit to Rio would be complete without a chance to savor the sounds of Brazil’s iconic musical style? While Elvis was rewriting music history in the states during the 1950s, a group of talented Brazilian musicians was creating this singular fusion of samba and jazz. Whether you attend a Bossa Nova dinner party or enjoy the styling of some street musicians, don’t miss the opportunity to experience this uniquely Brazilian music.

* Sambadrome – When you think of Rio and carnival, you probably imagine bright floats and costumed performers parading down the street. But Rio’s Sambadrome stadium plays an important role in carnival. Built in just 110 days in 1984, the Sambadrome is now the official staging area for Rio’s carnival parade.

* Carnival – Of course, when you hear the word “Rio” your mind immediately conjures images of Carnival, the world-famous festival held every year before the beginning of the Lenten season in largely Catholic Brazil. More than 2 million people participate every year with parades, floats, costumed performers and samba competitions.

Organizing a Rio trip that encompasses all these must-see/must-do opportunities could be a challenge if you attempt it on your own. Leading tour companies like Tauck can make the planning and traveling easier by handling all the details for you. In 2015, Tauck will host a once-in-a-lifetime, six-day Rio event celebrating carnival and highlighting many of Rio’s greatest sights and attractions.

The fully-guided, all-inclusive event takes care of everything for you – hotels, itinerary planning, on-tour transportation and much more – ensuring you have plenty of time to enjoy the trip, without worrying about potential bumps in the road. What’s more, Tauck’s 89 years leading luxury tours ensure you’ll get special “insider” access to unique places and experiences you’d never enjoy if traveling on your own. To learn more about the Tauck Rio trip with carnival event, visit www.Tauck.com.

Head-to-toe tips for picking and packing summer...

(BPT) - Vacation packing is an art-form, one every mother must master if she wants her family to be comfortable and well-dressed while traveling. Running out of clean clothes, having to do laundry, or wearing outfits that are hopelessly wrinkled or don’t suit the destination are all avoidable travel fiascoes. All you have to do is pack smart.

What to pack

Sure, you may be tempted to pack that sassy skirt and heels you bought but never wore, but the reality is family travel cries out for reliable wardrobe staples, like denim and comfortable sneakers.

Summer travel often involves fun in the sun – and sand – and lots of walking outdoors. Choose items that will help keep the whole family cool, such as cotton tops – sleeveless and short sleeves – and denim bottoms. Remember, light-weight knits for tops will not only keep everyone cool, they’ll leave more room in your suitcase, too.

Signature by Levi Strauss & Co. has great options for your family. Their Bettina Bermuda Shorts and Naomi Capris are great for women and teen girls. Your little man can go all day and into the night in his Boot Cut jeans, while men will be comfortable and ready for anything in a pair of Vintage Cargo Shorts.

Denim is comfortable and durable, too, which means if the worst happens and you do have to use the hotel’s laundry facilities, your Signature by Levi Strauss & Co. denim items will be able to stand up to some rough and tumble treatment.

Keep footwear practical and comfortable. Most family vacations involve a lot of walking, whether you’re trekking from the hotel room to the beach, hiking through the woods or running around a theme park. Remember, foot health experts say that flip flops are fine for short stretches and beach trips, but not so great for lots of walking.

Finally, if you have a reasonable chance of a nice dinner at an upscale restaurant, by all means pack dressy, but pick something that you know is comfortable and looks great on you. Or, splurge a little and buy something new from one of the many shops you’ll likely explore on your trip.

Maximize suitcase space

No one wants to spend too much time at the airport waiting for luggage to come off the carousel, or worse, pay for an extra bag. Minimize checked baggage as much as possible to save time and money. Often, driving gives you a little more luggage leeway, but it still pays to pack as smart and light as possible.

Once you’ve chosen everyone’s wardrobe for the trip, start by placing extra shoes (no more than one set per family member) in the bottom of the suitcase. Place rolled items that don’t wrinkle, or that don’t matter if they do wrinkle – such as underwear and knits – atop shoes. Next, place folded items like skinny jeans and shorts. Always fold or roll clothes rather than just dump them in. Neatly arranged garments will take up less space and you’ll be able to carry more.

If you’ll be arriving at your destination later in the day or at night, be sure to place night clothes for everyone on the top of the suitcase. That way you can reach what you need without having to unpack the entire bag when you’re tired.

Carry medications, eyewear and basic toiletries like deodorant and tooth brushes with you, never in a checked bag. Slip an extra set of underwear in carry-ons, too, so that if your luggage is lost, you still have essentials.

Every family member has two hands, so everyone can share in luggage carrying. Teens and older kids can handle larger carry-on’s and even smaller children can be entrusted with the family’s snack bag.

With the right wardrobe selections and some smart packing tactics, you’ll be able to easily outfit everyone – head-to-toe - for family fun this summer vacation season.

10 tips to make air travel (almost) comfortable

(BPT) - Let’s face it – cramped quarters, stale air and little leg room are nobody’s idea of comfort. But just because you have to reevaluate the size of your personal bubble as soon as you step foot onto an airplane doesn’t mean your entire flight has to be miserable. Travel inspiration website DreamPlanGo suggests following these 10 travel tips to make your plane ride as comfortable as possible. You’ll arrive at your destination in the mindset that your vacation has already begun:

Ditch the salty food. Are you prone to bloat? Skip the salty food before your flight and you’ll be glad you did. Excess sodium can cause fluid retention (bloat) and make you feel uncomfortable, creating crummy conditions when you are stuck in a small space for hours on end. Instead of the chips, try an apple, grapes or other water-rich, low-sodium snacks.

Plan your seat. If you’ve ever been on a plane before, you know that some spots can be less than ideal if you’re searching for extra leg room or quiet surroundings. Seats in the back of the plane often encounter the highest traffic because of bathroom facilities, while seats over the wings are often louder. Most airlines give you an option to choose a seat for a nominal fee. If you want your peace and quiet (and leg room), the investment is well worth it.

Hydrate. It’s so easy to get dehydrated when you’re on a plane because of the constant dry-air circulation. You don’t have to go into camel mode on the plane. Instead, prepare to fly by drinking plenty of fluids for a few days before you take off, and then make sure you have access to water while on the flight. Some travelers carry mineral water facial spray to feel refreshed during the flight, while aloe-filled saline nasal gel can help restore moisture to dry nasal membranes.

Defend your leg room. What if your legs didn’t always have to be held captive behind the traveler who insists on reclining the seat for the entirety of the flight? Enter Knee Defender. This small, plastic device that prevents airplane passengers from reclining has caused a stir since hitting the market in the 2000s. Although not banned from airlines, many people have balked that this product impedes the right of passengers so you may get some pushback if you try using it. Then again, if you’re tired of your long limbs being squished into small spots, you might want to go for it.

Don’t clutter your foot space. Leg room is pretty important on flights lasting longer than an hour. One of the best ways to optimize your airplane seating space is to pack lightly. Ditching carry-on luggage can open up valuable real estate below your seat. That means extra room for your legs, feet and less chance you’ll develop claustrophobic feelings.

Slip into slippers. Comfort might be hard to find in a two-foot space, but it doesn’t mean your feet have to suffer. Find pleasure in the small stuff by packing a pair of cozy socks or slippers you can slide on after taking off. Slippers with treads on the bottom mean you don’t even have to re-shoe when you need a bathroom break.

Consider compression socks. If circulation is an issue for you, don’t leave home without a pair of compression socks. Medical and non-medical gradient stockings not only help with circulation in your legs, they can prevent serious blood clotting conditions, like deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Compression socks aren’t just for people with circulatory problems, either. A pair of supportive socks can help beat restless legs and ultimately make your muscles feel more invigorated.

Save your seat. Hours in a hard airplane seat can make anyone’s backside hurt. Instead of enduring the ergonomic nightmare, consider a self-inflating seat cushion. It takes seconds to prepare and can offer hours of back relief by alleviating pressure on the spine and tailbone.

Drown out the noise. It’s almost guaranteed you’ll fall asleep if you take a red-eye flight or overseas airplane adventure. One of the best ways to get a good night’s (or day’s) sleep? Noise-canceling headphones. Although some brands can be pricey, the soundless environment it creates and the ability to drift off to dreamland to only the beats of your favorite song might just merit the price tag. Disposable earplugs are a cheap (and slightly less-soundproof) alternative.

Prevent plugged ears. Ear congestion is one of the most irritating and uncomfortable side effects from flying. Even though airplane cabins are pressurized, elevation changes cause minor changes in pressure that are felt in the middle ear (specifically, the Eustachian tube). Some travelers are more prone to “plugged” ears than others, especially those battling colds and sinus problems. To combat airplane ear, try taking an antihistamine or decongestant 30 minutes before boarding your flight. They will help reduce swelling, meaning air will more easily pass through your middle ear.

'Run for the roses' tour taps the...

(BPT) - Nowhere else in the sporting world do natural beauty, heart-racing excitement and gentility meet so perfectly as in horse racing, the “sport of kings.” And no horse race has garnered more fame and prestige than the Kentucky Derby, which, at 140 years running, is the oldest continuously held sporting event in the United States.

You don’t have to be an equine aficionado to appreciate the thrill of thoroughbreds thundering down the dirt track in pursuit of the winner’s garland. Yes, the Kentucky Derby is indeed the first leg of horse racing’s coveted Triple Crown, but it’s also a venerated Southern tradition replete with mint juleps, extravagant hats, and the familiar strains of the classic Stephen Foster song, “My Old Kentucky Home.”  

Whether your interest in the Kentucky Derby is primarily sporting or social, competitive or cultural, a tour celebrating the annual Run for the Roses is sure to please. One such tour is offered by the 89-year-old leader in guided travel, Tauck.  The company’s five-day “Run for the Roses: The Kentucky Derby” event (from April 30 – May 4, 2014) actually offers travelers a choice of two different themed sightseeing programs; “Thoroughbred World” focuses a bit more on the world of thoroughbred horse racing, while “Bluegrass Country” highlights both thoroughbred racing and the history and culture of Kentucky’s famed Bluegrass Country. 

Although the daily sightseeing itineraries vary somewhat, guests on both sightseeing programs reconvene for special gala evenings, and for a once-in-a-lifetime VIP experience on Derby Day at Churchill Downs.  Both programs also embrace two famous hallmarks of Kentucky: bluegrass music and bourbon.

Leading up to the Derby, travelers on the “Thoroughbred World” sightseeing program will get a behind-the-scenes tour of a Lexington-area horse farm, and they will visit the 130-acre Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, where they can sample Kentucky’s signature spirit.  On “Oaks Day” (one day prior to the Derby), guests will attend the 140th running of the Kentucky Oaks race; known as the “Run for the Lilies,” it is the traditional precursor to the famed Derby.  Tauck’s VIP seating lets guests choose one of two exclusive vantage points for watching the race – either the Winner’s Circle or the Jockey Club Suite.

Travelers on “Bluegrass Country” will enjoy guided visits to historic sites throughout the Lexington area, including Ashland, the estate of Kentucky statesman of Henry Clay, who was an early patron of horse racing and a breeder of thoroughbreds. Guests will also visit Thoroughbred Park, Kentucky Horse Park and the International Museum of the Horse.

Both sightseeing programs include a visit to Keeneland, the world-renowned thoroughbred horse racing and auction complex. During a cocktail reception there, guests will have the opportunity to learn more about the sport of kings from a true insider, Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron, who will talk about the Derby and his experiences in the horse racing world.

On Derby Day, all Tauck guests will attend the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, where they will be immersed in the excitement and pageantry of race day in true Tauck VIP style.  Tauck guests will enjoy exclusive seating with unmatched views of the finish line, mint juleps and other libations from a complimentary open bar, catered dining throughout the day, and a live pari-mutuel teller.

Tauck’s all-inclusive Kentucky Derby package includes four nights accommodations at the Griffin Gate Marriott Resort & Spa in Lexington, all meals, all sightseeing and admission to all attractions, all gratuities, airport transfers, and much more. 

To learn more about Tauck’s Kentucky Derby tour and put yourself in the heart of the action, visit www.tauck.com. To learn more about the Kentucky Derby, including the horses in the running this year, visit www.kentuckyderby.com.

Discover adventure, history and beauty in...

(BPT) - When you think of a European vacation, do your thoughts wander to Italy, France or even the United Kingdom? While those destinations all have their appeal, you can find every bit as much adventure, history, glorious scenery and fabulous cuisine in one of Europe’s most-often-overlooked travel destinations: Spain.

Families that indulge in a Spain tour can discover the rich culture, breath-taking architecture, stunning natural wonders, and outstanding cuisine of this Mediterranean country – the fifth largest in Europe. A trip to Madrid and Seville is all the sweeter when you travel on a guided family tour – and leave the details and planning to the pros. Tauck Bridges’ “Spain Ole, Ole, Ole” tour encompasses hotels, sight-seeing arrangements, on-tour transportation and special entertainment for one price.

The first three days of the eight-day tour give travelers the opportunity to fully experience the singular architecture, culture and cuisine of Madrid.

Start your Spain tour with a stay in the palace King Alfonso XIII had built in 1912 to host visiting royalty, celebrities and dignitaries – a grand Belle Epoque architectural achievement now known as the Westin Palace Madrid. A welcome reception evokes the glory days of 17th century Spain with music, tales of swashbuckling heroes, costumed actors and troubadours, and of course, delectable regional cuisine.

Activities on the second and third days in Madrid include sights such as the Caixa Forum Museum, a four-story-high vertical garden that clings to the walls of the cultural center. At the Museo del Prado, a kid-friendly guided tour takes in traditional but equally amazing works of art. Children will also relish a stop at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, the soccer stadium that’s home to Real Madrid, the most successful team in soccer history. (And during their visit, kids will actually meet a retired Real Madrid player.) A puppet workshop later in the day introduces young travelers to much-loved literary figures like Don Quixote and gives them a chance to make their own  puppets. Spend day three like a Madrid native, with a biking tour of Retiro Park, and hot chocolate and churros at the landmark Chocolateria de San Gines.

A high-speed train transports travelers on the next leg of their Spain tour, arriving in Seville, where centuries of Moorish rule have left their mark in ornate architecture. After a barbecue lunch and a walk through the historic district, the day concludes with a hands-on cooking class at Cooking Ole where you’ll learn the art of tapas.

You’ll revisit Moorish influences with a tour of the Real Alcazar, the oldest palace in Europe still in use by its royal family. Seville’s topography is flat, so it’s a great city to tour by bike, and visitors can see the Cathedral of Seville, the botanical gardens and fountains of the Giralda and Parque Maria Luisa, and the jaw-dropping architectural wonder of the Metropol Parasol in Encarnacion Square. The largest wooden structure in the world (held together with glue) was built in 2011 to provide shade in a city where it is rare in public spaces.

On the west bank of the Guadalquivir River, which divides Seville in two, the district of Triana is famous for its exquisite ceramics and pottery. Buy a one-of-a-kind work of art or create your own prized piece at a workshop with local artisans. The Spain tour ends with an exclusive farewell evening hosted outside of Seville at the Hacienda El Vizir, a ranch where bulls are raised and horses are trained for the Spanish “rejoneo” style of bullfighting.  Here you’ll learn about this variation of the sport, in which horse-mounted matadors vie with powerful bulls.

To learn more about the Ole, Ole, Ole tour or to start planning your Spain tour, visit www.tauck.com.

The key to a summer vacation full of amazing...

(BPT) - Summer vacation season will be here before you know it, and to ensure yours is full of family-friendly fun, you’ll need to move quickly and be creative. You need some out-of-the-box thinking, and a location that’s dependably exciting, affordable and amazingly diverse. One word: Texas.

The phrase “Texas vacation” probably conjures images of rodeos, cowboys, dude ranches, and the Alamo. The Lone Star State has plenty of all those things, but did you know it also boasts beautiful beaches and outstanding regional cuisine?

No single concept completely defines Texas – the state is simply too big and diverse to easily sum up its personality and all it has to offer travelers. Seven distinct regions (each served by a major airport) offer a variety of experiences. Big Bend Country features adventure and scenic vistas in Big Bend National Park. The Texas Hill Country offers exceptional regional wines and the Live Music Capital of the World. The Panhandle Plains, Piney Woods, Prairies and Lakes, and South Texas Plains all boast iconic natural landscapes and rich Western history. But for an iconic summer experience, visitors should consider the hundreds of miles of beaches, water sports and fresh seafood along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Consider one of these five memorable Texas Gulf experiences:

1. Bask on the beach in the Gulf Coast city of Galveston. Its location along the Gulf affords Galveston more than 30 miles of beautiful beaches and delectable seafood, not to mention the city’s gulf port, a prime location for cruise ships. Steps away from the beach are some of the city’s most iconic attractions, including Mood Gardens, a 242-acre theme park and educational facility home to a 10-story rainforest and one of the world’s largest aquariums. Visitors will also enjoy the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, which stretches more than 1,000 feet over the Gulf offering rides, games, food venues and more.

2. South of Galveston, Corpus Christi sits at the heart of the Texas Gulf Coast, offering the perfect combination of city life and beachside relaxation. In addition to sailing and strolling along the Corpus Christi Bay, visitors can tour the USS Lexington – famed WWII vintage aircraft carrier-turned museum on the Bay – as well as the Texas State Aquarium, home to hundreds of species educating visitors on the protection and preservation of the environment. You’ll be hard-pressed to choose between spending time outdoors in the city’s parks and wildlife areas, or in one of the many great museums and shopping venues.

3. Just east of Corpus Christi, Rockport, Port Aransas and Mustang Island offer families plenty of fun in the sun.  Visitors will enjoy miles of beautiful open beaches, dolphin tours, and a variety of water activities. Nature tourism is at its best on Mustang Island, which has one of the highest bird counts on the Gulf Coast. Port Aransas has an abundance of birding sites, including the Wetland Park, Joan & Scott Holt Paradise Pond, the Leona Belle Turnbull Birding Center and the South Jetty, all of which are on the Great Texas Birding Trail.

4. Located at the southern tip of Texas is South Padre Island, one of the country’s most popular beach destinations, given its laid-back ambience and beautiful beaches. Encompassing more than 130,000 acres, the island is famous for its fishing, camping and windsurfing opportunities. Visitors will also enjoy a variety of other water activities, from kayaking and beachcombing for shells to kite-surfing, jet skiing, parasailing and surfing.

5. Get outside and get wet! Water parks are a great way to cool down and have some summer fun, and Texas-based Schlitterbahn Waterparks has some great parks along the Gulf Coast. The No. 1 kid-friendly destination in Texas, Schlitterbahn has been named the top waterpark in the world for 16 consecutive years by Amusement Today. Along with locations in New Braunfels, Galveston and South Padre Island, Schlitterbahn will open their newest park in Corpus Christi this summer, offering families across the Lone Star State opportunities to splash their way to a fun summer vacation.

Whatever your requirements for a dream vacation, you can find them in Texas. Plus, ample lodging and transportation opportunities ensure you can find a great deal with a bit of advanced planning. Visit www.traveltex.com to begin planning your Texas beach vacation.

The road to happy: tips to boost happiness on...

(BPT) - Do vacations make you more happy or less happy? The answer, according to new research: It depends.

In theory, vacations should equal happiness. After all, taking time off work and time away allows us the opportunity to share experiences and memories with our families and friends. It gives us the chance to look at the world differently: To introduce us to new scenery, different places, people and customs. But according to new research, theory doesn’t always translate to reality when measuring happiness and travel.

“We know traveling the world can ‘cross train’ your brain to help you see more possibilities in life. And based on this new research, we have also found that travel can make people happier, healthier and more productive when they return from a vacation. But not all travel creates happiness,” says Shawn Achor, positive psychology researcher and international best-selling author of “The Happiness Advantage.” “Travel stress can undo the positive effects of travel. Given this fact, there is a very specific formula needed to make the most of a vacation, allowing us to increase our happiness and overall energy.”

According to the new Monograms Road to Happiness Study, four primary ingredients are needed to enjoy a happy travel experience. In fact, 97 percent of travelers report being very or exceptionally happy when their vacation had these components:

1. Minimize stress. When asked about their best trips, only 4 percent of people reported feeling stressed. Conversely, on their worst trips, stress played a big role for nearly 75 percent. Specifically, the biggest vacation stressors were:

* Wasting time figuring things out

* Being unfamiliar with the destination

* Managing transportation

2. Plan ahead. If you want a happy vacation, check spontaneity at the door. “Our new research revealed that the best – and happiest – vacations for 90 percent of people were those planned more than one month in advance,” says Achor. “Planning ahead reduces stress and increases the opportunity to anticipate the getaway. And anticipation offers a great happiness advantage.”

3. Make a local connection. On their best trips, 78 percent of travelers knew a knowledgeable friend in the destination or met with a local guide. “When you meet-up with a local guide or someone you know, you are better able to connect with the destination,” says Achor. “And creating a connection with people and places, cultures and histories, allows us to open our minds and increase our chances of experiencing happiness.”

4. Go far and away. The Road to Happiness Study also revealed that 85 percent of travelers’ best trips over the past five years were in locations outside their home country. “Staycations just don’t bring the same happiness and meaning that travel does,” says Achor. Ninety-four percent of travelers vacationing far from home found more meaning – and more happiness – during their time off than those who stayed home.

“Traveling the world can be an amazing – and even better – a happy experience,” says Achor. “It should be. You just have to travel the right way.”

Monograms – an international travel company and part of the award-winning Globus family of brands – is providing travelers the “happy” solutions they’re looking for. As part of its all-in-one vacation packages, Monograms offers travelers:

* Hotels in the heart of the destination (no bad hotel stress)

* Transportation from the airport to the hotel and between cities (no logistical hassles)

* A half-day of sightseeing in each city to assist with orientation and front-of-the-line, VIP access into the must-see sites and landmarks (no time wasted)

* An on-site local host to act as a personal concierge (local connection and assistance)

For more information about Monograms or the Road To Happiness Study, visit www.TravelingHappy.com or www.Monograms.com.

Running on empty: How far can you really go?

(BPT) - Whether intentional or purely circumstantial, it’s likely that most experienced drivers have seen the low-fuel light illuminate their vehicle’s dashboard at least once. For some drivers, the fuel light is a source of anxiety as they search for the closest gas station. For others, it can be a bragging right, proudly boasting how far they push their gas tanks to the limit.

It's no secret that an automobile can continue to run after the fuel light comes on, but should drivers rely on the extra mileage it allows?

For traveling musician Chris Jones, 30, of Sioux Falls, S.D., seeing the fuel light on his dashboard usually comes as no surprise. Jones, a professional graphic designer during the week, travels with his band across North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa nearly every weekend of the year.

“I’m constantly driving across the Midwest with my band, and I run low on gas more often than I should admit,” Jones says. “It seems the gas light always comes on when I’ve just passed the last gas station for miles. Considering the areas where I travel, I get pretty nervous about running out of gas on the side of a remote highway. It’s not a good feeling, but I think we’ve all been there.”

It’s likely most drivers would agree that the fuel light often comes on at inopportune times. Stuck in traffic on a freeway; running late for an important appointment; or driving on a country road with no towns or gas stations in sight, is when drivers decide to push the fuel gauge past the ‘E’ signal.

Some popular car models can make it between 30 and 50 miles after the fuel light goes on, according to a study by Pick Analysis. The average Chevrolet Silverado will continue for about 33 miles beyond empty. Smaller cars like the Volkswagen Jetta average about 43 miles and the Toyota Corolla tops the list at 47 miles.

Knowing how far a vehicle can drive with low fuel may be reassuring, but the effects of low-fuel driving can be damaging to the car.

“When you’re running low on gas, it’s best not to push your luck,” says Neil Hoff, a refined fuels specialist with CHS, which supplies more than 1,400 Cenex branded gas stations. “Stopping to fill up before your gas gauge hits ‘E’ could save you stress, damage to your car and time spent on the side of the road."

Hoff explains that by allowing a car to run on empty, dirt and contaminants are more likely to become suspended in the fuel and block the fuel filter. When fuel is extremely low, the fuel pump is no longer suspended in fuel and can overheat. In some cases, low fuel can even affect power steering and brakes.

To avoid an expensive trip to a mechanic, Hoff advises taking a proactive approach to fueling, advising drivers to always keep at least a quarter tank of gas in the tank at all times. Running out of gas in heavy traffic is not only inconvenient but also dangerous, so Hoff recommends fueling up before getting on highways or major roads. Also, becoming familiar with where gas stations are along a driving route will also help prevent running out of gas on long trips. Always keep a gas can in the trunk in case of emergencies.

“Keeping your car fueled is cheaper and safer, in the long run, than driving on empty,” Hoff says. For more helpful automotive information, gas-saving tips and to learn how to nominate someone to win free Cenex gas, visit www.tanksofthanks.com. "I think we all know someone who is always running on ‘E’, so why not make it easier for them and nominate them for a tank of free fuel? They, and their car, will thank you.”

Easy ways to create a home sweet vacation...

(BPT) - After a bitter winter, summer is finally within sight and many Americans are getting into full vacation planning mode. If you’re planning a family getaway or a trip with a large group of friends, it’s a great opportunity to explore staying at a vacation rental. These are often an affordable alternative to booking multiple hotel rooms for larger groups, and access to the additional space and kitchen facilities can be very advantageous.

Follow these tips to find the best deals and locations:

* Start early: Many travelers begin planning their summer vacations right after the new year – but it’s not too late now. For the largest selection of rental homes, start several months before you plan to travel and look for early booking discounts.

* Location, location, location: Book properties further away from popular tourist attractions. Proximity typically comes with a price, so look for places that are away from the tourist hot spots. Cities like Orlando can be quite affordable when staying just a stone’s throw away from the major theme parks and can more than make up for the distance in pricing.

* Consider an off-the-beaten-path destination: You can find plenty of destinations that offer great activities and cost significantly less if you don’t limit your search to major cities and beach locales. Deep in the Ozarks, Branson, Mo. becomes a summer playground with a plethora of outdoor adventures, as well as over 100 live entertainment options. Outside of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Ariz. is much more than just a golfer’s paradise, offering a vibrant nightlife scene and plenty of shopping in a historic downtown.

Tips for the stay:

* Obtain a list of all amenities included in your rental from the property owner or manager prior to your stay. You’ll want to know if you should plan to bring extra towels, a specialty cooking utensil or beach chairs for example. Owners should have a detailed list what’s on hand and the quantity of items that they provide such as hand soap and toilet paper.

* Vacation rentals located in condo communities often have planned daily activities for guests of all ages. These may include family movie nights, scavenger hunts, cooking classes, water aerobics and guest social functions. Obtain a schedule in advance of your stay to plan out your vacation time wisely and take advantage of free entertainment.

While the hope is that you’re out enjoying the scenery and local attractions while you’re using a vacation rental, you’ll also want to be entertained while in the property. Pack your favorite movies, games and even toys if you’re traveling with children to make it as much like home as possible while also enjoying the comforts of someone else’s home.

For the latest vacation rental deals in the U.S., Caribbean and Latin America, check out these offerings from Hotels.com.

Try something new for New Year's Eve: Ring...

(BPT) - The coming of the annual New Year’s holiday is celebrated as a time of new beginnings and fresh opportunities. Why not get an early start on embracing the “new” by welcoming in the new year in a fresh and unique way – by traveling abroad and spending New Year’s Eve somewhere exciting? And what European city is more exciting than Paris?

Spending New Year’s Eve in Paris allows you to experience the many attractions, outstanding cuisine and rich culture of La Ville-Lumiere (the City of Lights). Whether you seek a romantic New Year’s Eve beside the love of your life, want to savor the city’s dynamic night life with a few good friends, or explore its depth of history with other like-minded travelers, a properly planned and executed Paris New Year’s Eve event offers once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Coordinating such a trip on your own could be a challenge, so consider traveling with experienced professionals. Tauck, a premier tour company, has helped travelers enjoy the perfect vacation for 89 years. Tauck’s all-inclusive Paris New Year’s Eve Event takes care of everything for you, including hotels, sightseeing, on-tour transportation, special entertainment and a New Year’s Eve party you’ll never forget.

During Tauck’s five-night event, guests will:

* Stay at the historic InterContinental Paris Le Grand Hotel, a luxury property steps from the Place l’Opera and Rue St. Honore.

* Explore the Roman and Gothic origins of Paris with the themed tour “Lutece to the Age of Enlightenment.”

* Retrace the epic passion of Napoleon and Josephine’s love story.

* Enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at the world of French photographers, fashion designers and celebrities.

* Indulge in meals at spectacular venues closed to the public – a Tauck exclusive.

* Lunch at the Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte, a 17th-century chateau that inspired Louis XIV to build the world-famous Palace of Versailles.

* Learn the art of French cuisine and wine pairing with noted chef Susan Herrmann Loomis, a friend of the late Julia Child.

* Tour Palais Garnier, the Paris Opera and the Impressionist gallery of the Musee d’Orsay.

* Ring in 2015 with a gala New Years Eve celebration in the InterContinental’s grand ballroom, complete with hors d’oeuvres, dinner, music and dancing.

To learn more about Tauck’s Paris New Year’s Eve Event, visit www.tauck.com.

How to protect your diesel in cold weather

(BPT) - As more manufacturers produce diesel vehicles for consumers, owners need to be aware of the issues that may occur during the cold winter months and learn how they can protect their vehicle.


Cold weather can cause starting problems in diesel vehicles because the fuel tends to gel. Most consumers cannot control what kind of fuel they get at the pump. The recommended grade of diesel fuel for passenger vehicles is No. 2 which has some naturally occurring wax that crystallizes when the temperatures drop. The adverse effect is that the fuel does not flow as it should which can lead to filter plugging and cause hard starting. In states that have annual freezing temperatures during the winter, diesel fuel is “winterized” with No. 1 diesel at the distributor before it goes into the pumps.

Anti-gelling additives

One way to combat gelling is to use an anti-gelling additive like Royal Purple’s Max-Tane . Recommended for light, medium and heavy duty diesel engines, using the additive can improve engine start up in cold weather, improve cold flow by preventing gelling and will clean deposits from fuel injectors, combustion chambers, intake valves deposits and piston crowns.

Basic maintenance

It’s easy to forget that basic maintenance can prevent expensive repairs. Change your fuel filter. Using a dirty fuel filter can cause wax crystals to collect, cutting off the fuel.

Change your motor oil and your oil filter. Depending on the climate where you live, consider changing the viscosity of your oil to help flow during the cold winter months. The “w” in the motor oil viscosity indicates the flow during winter months. Engine damage can occur if the motor oil is too thick due to the cold and the flow is restricted to the engine. While modern multi-viscosity motor oils are designed to work over a broad range of operating temperatures, you should check your owner’s manual for the recommended viscosity for winter temperatures.

Check list

Even if you don’t live in a cold climate, if your travels during the next few months take you through winter weather states, check the condition of your tires paying special attention to the tread. You will also want to inspect the condition of your belts and hoses looking for leaks and cracks. Finally,, make sure your windshield wipers are working properly. There is nothing worse than driving in the snow or battling sleet or slush without wipers.

Winter weather shouldn’t keep you off the road but making sure your diesel vehicle is in good working condition will help ensure you arrive safely to your destination.

Five sure-fire steps for planning the most...

(BPT) - It’s no secret that families are busy these days. Between mom and dad’s careers, the kids’ school demands and extra-curricular activities, quality time together as a family is hard to come by. This busy lifestyle is inspiring a new travel movement, and 2014 is positioned for the grand rebirth of the family vacation.

If you want to take an unforgettable family vacation this year, the idea of planning might seem overwhelming. But travel experts agree that planning ahead and researching your options are important steps to ensure your trip is stress-free and full of fun.

Follow these five steps to plan a trip your entire family will love and remember for years to come:

Step 1: Make a travel wish list
Kick off your travel planning by talking to all family members about what they’d like to see and do on vacation. Keep it light-hearted and have some fun – chat with your 4-year-old over breakfast or text your teen after school. As you have these conversations, notice commonalities, such as location and experiences.

Step 2: Research, research, research
After your initial conversations with your family, it’s time to do your research. The Internet has made selecting a travel destination that much easier – or harder because there are so many options. Check out tourism organizations, such as a Chamber of Commerce or Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB). Look up online hotel and travel reviews – these sites can provide invaluable information for travelers. Many sites even have free online travel planners or visitor’s guides.

Step 3: Choose a destination for everyone
Perhaps the most important consideration when planning a family vacation is to select a destination that has something for every person in your group. Myrtle Beach, S.C. is a great example of a location that is great for all ages. The 60 miles of pristine beaches are just one reason to visit – foodies can indulge on the best Southern and low-country cuisine; cultural enthusiasts can experience beautiful art museums and plantations; golfers tee off at a one of the many championship courses in the area. From water parks to natural wonders, Myrtle Beach is a true gem for family vacations. Visit www.visitmyrtlebeach.com to learn more.

Step 4: Select your ideal accommodations
Whether you’re vacationing for a long weekend or multiple weeks, it’s important to choose the right accommodations for your family. For example, if you know you’ll be at the beach daily, stay at a shore-side resort. If you want to save on eating expenses, look into condos with kitchens. For big groups such as family reunions, consider a beach house that allows everyone to stay in their own room within one shared space.

Step 5: Create a fun-filled itinerary
This is a vacation, and while you shouldn’t plan out every hour of every day, having a basic itinerary gives direction to your trip and will help your group build excitement prior to your departure. Plus, planning ahead allows you to seek out deep discounts on tickets to shows and theme parks like the Alabama Theatre or Wild Water & Wheels in Myrtle Beach. You can even explore free activities like festivals and celebrations in the area that would be worthwhile to attend.

If you feel like it’s time for your family to take a break from the stress of everyday life, a family vacation might be just what everyone needs. Follow these steps to select a family friendly destination such as Myrtle Beach to ensure a vacation full of unforgettable memories.

Let the past guide your future travel plans

(BPT) - Using last year’s travel trends and hotel prices is a great way to plan your current adventures and vacation budget. You get the best of both worlds – learning from other travelers’ experiences and visiting up-and-coming destinations before they become overcrowded and expensive.

The latest Hotels.com Hotel Price Index (HPI) lets you explore destinations across the globe to find your perfect city based on your interests and budget by looking at the average prices paid by travelers around the globe at a sample set of more than 150,000 hotels worldwide. Here are some top recommendations for 2014.

* U.S. cities on the rise

Led by Las Vegas, New York City and Orlando, the 10 Most Popular Domestic Cities for Americans remained unchanged in 2013. However, several southern cities increased in popularity last year.

Charlotte, North Carolina’s largest city, climbed up the ranks of the 50 Most Popular Domestic Cities for Americans each year since 2011, becoming the 29th most visited destination in 2013.

Raleigh surpassed four destinations to become the 34th most visited U.S. city domestically in 2013.

Several Florida cities rose in popularity in 2013, including Tampa (25), Jacksonville (37), and Lake Buena Vista, home of Walt Disney World, up five spots to 43.

* Best values

Domestic deals under $100

Lexington, Ky. – $100 – A vibrant southern city that offers an array of activities for travelers – especially those who love bourbon. Known as the “Horse Capital of the World,” Lexington is also home to the second oldest horse racing track in the nation, the Red Mile Harness Track.

Branson, Mo. – $94 – This self-proclaimed family-friendly destination overflows with a variety of attractions and activities that suit the needs of every family member. In addition to the thrilling and award-winning Silver Dollar City theme park, Branson is known for its live performance theaters and historic downtown district.

Raleigh, N.C. – $99 – Not only is Raleigh rising in popularity but it’s also a great value. The city’s $60 million airport renovation project and numerous cultural and sporting infrastructural developments in the pipeline will likely help this city retain its popularity.

Mobile, Ala. – $94 – The birthplace of Mardi Gras in the U.S., Mobile is one of the Gulf Coast’s cultural centers, boasting many art museums, a symphony orchestra and an abundance of historic architecture.

Europe for under $135

For those travelers who have yet to cross Europe off their bucket list, now is the time. As the region recovers following the Eurozone crisis, visitors can expect four-star hotel room prices for great prices in several popular cities if 2013 HPI prices trend into 2014 in this Best Values in the World cities:

Prague, Czech Republic – $124

Lisbon, Portugal – $127

Berlin, Germany – $131

* International hotspots

While London and Paris continue to dominate the list of Most Popular International Cities for Americans, several cities saw a significant boost in American tourism in 2013.

Toronto surpassed Rome as the third-most popular international destination for the first time since 2010. With the Canadian exchange at a three-year low, now is an opportune time for U.S. travelers to cross the border and explore the country’s cultural and entertainment capital.

Mexico City made the most significant stride, jumping into the top 20 as the 17th most popular destination (from 21st).

Dubai surpassed Madrid, Florence and Venice in 2013 to become the 14th most popular international city for Americans.

Other Asia-Pacific destinations that experienced a surge in American tourism last year include Tokyo (6), Hong Kong (7) and Bangkok (11).

For more information on travel trends, destinations that will cure your wanderlust and budget planning, visit http://www.hotel-price-index.com/2014/spring and engage with @hotelsdotcom on Twitter with #HotelExperts. (Note: The price listed beside each city represents the average hotel price paid by U.S. travelers per night in 2013, according to the latest Hotel Price Index.)

Road salt supplies crucial to winter safety

(BPT) - Each winter drivers from Maine to Texas are reminded just how dependent we are on our cars and what happens when snow and ice get in the way. More than 116,000 Americans are injured and over 1,300 are killed on snowy, slushy or icy pavement every winter.

Snowfighters, tasked with the job of keeping travelers safe, know that road salt is the most effective way to treat road surfaces. A Marquette University study examined highway accidents in snow and found that road salt reduced crashes by 88 percent while injuries and accident costs were reduced by 85 percent.

The safety impacts of using deicing salt before and after a snow event on four-lane highways reduced accidents by 93 percent, according to a University of Waterloo study. Untreated roads also carry a significant economic cost. A one-day major snowstorm can cause a state $300-$700 million in direct and indirect costs, according to a Global Insight study.

“Lost wages of hourly workers account for about two-thirds of the direct economic impact of a major snowstorm, says James Gillula, the principal researcher of the study. “Among all workers, hourly wage workers can suffer the most painful economic losses.”

This winter season has been especially harsh even in parts of the country not used to snow or ice. Residents of Atlanta experienced what happens without road salt to keep their streets clear. Children had to spend the night at school sleeping on gym mats when buses could not safely get them home. Workers became stranded in their cars for hours as traffic was completely gridlocked due to ice and accidents. Many vehicles were simply left abandoned. News reports were filled with images of people sleeping on the floors of area grocery stores.

Across the country news accounts are warning of limited road salt supplies and no one wants a repeat of what happened in Atlanta. “There isn’t a salt shortage,” says Lori Roman, president of the Salt Institute. “Salt is in abundant supply, however, some of the country is experiencing a more severe winter than normal leaving some municipalities and departments of transportation with low inventories. While many agencies try to have enough salt on hand in the fall to get them through an entire winter, recent weather is forcing many to order again mid-season which is not an ideal situation as there is a lead time for delivery.”

Today, snowfighters across the country are using advanced technology that guarantees the right amount of salt at the right time, ensuring highway safety, protecting commerce and minimizing any possible harm to the environment. In some areas snowplows and even roadways are fitted with GPS systems and sensors to keep track of road conditions and temperatures, and fine tune the amount of salt and type of salt they need to apply. A recent comprehensive study by environmental researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, and Environment Canada, found that best practices in salt management deliver significantly improved environmental results.

The Salt Institute promotes the latest environmentally-friendly application technologies and management practices with its "Safe and Sustainable Snowfighting" program and award. The institute also partners with other organizations like the Ontario Good Roads Association and the American Public Works Association to provide training and information to snowfighters across the United States and Canada. To learn more visit www.saltinstitute.org.

Healthy happy family travel

(BPT) - Looking to take a road trip but dread hearing the infamous “Are we there yet?” or “Can we please, please stop for fast food?” questions.

Never fear, Registered Dietitian, author and mother, Pamela Nisevich Bede, offers creative ways to keep your family (and you) satisfied and entertained while traveling.

* Who cares if we’re there yet? Avoid hearing “Are we there yet?” by packing plenty of entertaining options for little travelers. In addition to today’s technological offerings, think back to what kept you occupied while sitting in the backseat. Equip your pint-sized passengers with books and travel board games, and play no-equipment-needed games, such as license plate bingo, I spy, or 20 questions.

* Energy to burn. You’ve got their minds exercised now, but what about their bodies? Do a little research ahead of time and plot your stops at rest areas that have green space. When you get there, do a quick round of family jumping jacks or a 10-minute game of tag. It might feel silly, but releasing pent up energy will definitely make the car ride more peaceful.

* Plan ahead. There’s nothing worse than being buckled in the car for hours with nothing healthy to snack on. For your next trip, avoid feeling trapped by packing all-natural, healthful snacks such as those from Gourmet Nut. They combine great flavor and healthy ingredients in a line of Gourmet On the Go snack mixes, such as Mega Omega and Almond Cranberry Crunch. They are full of protein-containing nuts and antioxidant-packed, fiber-filled dried fruits sure to please the pickiest passenger.

* Drink up. Make sure you and your family stay hydrated during road trips by packing refillable water bottles for the long ride. Visit your local dollar store to stock up on different colored water bottles to assign to each person. If you’re feeling crafty, have your kids decorate their own bottles with markers, stickers, puffy paint and anything creative from the craft store. Your family will not only enjoy drinking water from their own personalized bottle, but everyone will be proud of their handiwork.

* Don’t fight it. As the saying goes, timing is everything. When planning your next road trip, work with your child’s schedule and not against it. Put them to bed at their regular time and feed them breakfast as you always would. For example, leave before the sun comes up so your child is still able to sleep during part of the ride. Once it’s time for a rest stop, you’ll be able to gas up and give your kids a proper, healthy breakfast at their regular time. You’ll be grateful for the quiet moments at the start of your trip and for happier children as the ride continues.

For more information on the snacks listed above, visit GourmetNut.com.

No more road rage: How smart cities and...

(BPT) - Driverless cars, delivery drones and smart buildings: they all seem like things you’d see in a sci-fi movie. But all those futuristic developments could soon roll onto American roadways, and many Americans overwhelmingly support the changes.

According to the “Intel Freeway to the Future” study conducted by Penn Schoen Berland, when asked if they would like to live in a driverless city, where all cars, buses and trains operate intelligently and automatically without people driving them, more than a third of American respondents (44 percent) approved. What’s more, a third of respondents expect to see a driverless city in 10 years or less.

They could be right. The U.S. Department of transportation is developing technology that allows cars to “talk” to each other – dubbed vehicle-to-vehicle communication or V2V. Using this technology, vehicles may share critical data such as speed and position on the road. On-board computers share this safety information 10 times a second so vehicles can travel more efficiently and with fewer accidents. It’s important to note that V2V technology doesn’t take over braking or steering for drivers, but rather provides them with warnings so they can take action to avoid collisions.

V2V technology is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how technology can enhance transportation and quality of life in the United States. Research and development on driverless cars, drones for public services and smart buildings are underway, making the lifestyle of “The Jetsons” closer to a reality every day.

Americans support a driverless society

The Intel study found that, on average, half of Americans desire a driverless society, support public service drones, or want cities to invest in smart infrastructures that use non-personal data from cars and buildings to improve quality of life in their community.

When asked how automated transportation could affect their cities or towns, Americans mentioned reductions in the number of traffic incidents (40 percent), traffic levels (38 percent) and the amount of carbon emissions (34 percent).

Public services and drones

Drones are another technology that’s getting a lot of attention – and not just for military purposes. Opportunities exist for unmanned drones to support law enforcement, public safety, firefighting and fire prevention, and ambulance and emergency response. Nearly six in 10 respondents from the survey believe drones are a smart and sensible way to improve public services.

Research on drone usage at the community level is alive and well. For example, Intel researchers are exploring technologies such as advancements in robotics and drones that would benefit public services by freeing up critical and often limited manpower to focus on important tasks, while improving overall safety for citizens in need.

Personal privacy and smart cities

In addition to driverless cars and drones, smart city technologies are another aspect of an evolving intelligent society. What is a smart city? Technology on buildings, buses and other physical surroundings gathers anonymous information about what people do and uses it to improve the community.

Sixty percent of respondents from the Intel study had initial concerns about privacy of smart cities, but when specific benefits were cited – such as reducing water and energy consumption, reducing city costs and improving air quality – 61 percent of respondents said a smart city would be worthwhile.

Development of smart cities is already underway in communities throughout the world. In Portland, Ore., for example, Intel is working with the local community to get air quality data to help understand pollution risks in real time.

From intelligent transportation to drone-assisted public services, it appears the future will make use of technology to better citizens’ lives. For more information visit www.intel.com/newsroom/innovation.

Traveling? Check out these tips on how to stay...

(BPT) - As vital as vacations are for our mental well-being, many of us find ourselves compromising on nutrition when we travel. Being away from our routines - and our own kitchens - can throw our weight loss efforts for a loop. Eating while traveling with limited time and restaurant choices is often the hardest part of keeping up with a healthy diet. Not to mention the challenges of finding time and a place to exercise.

All that said, you don't have to lose your healthy habits at the next exit. Instead, consider these strategies from Life Time – The Healthy Way of Life Company for maintaining a healthy way of eating even on the open road.

1. Bring your own. Let’s face it: fast food snacks are typically not ideal for those looking to stick to a healthy way of life eating plan. By far, the best choice is to bring your own. With a little planning and few minutes of preparation, you can stock a snack bag full of healthy foods that will save you money and spare your healthy eating goals. Consider snacks such as chopped veggies with Greek yogurt dip or hummus, hardboiled eggs, fruit slices with almond butter, nuts, string cheese or homemade trail mix.

2. Fuel up at the gas station. You’d be surprised at what you can find if you're willing to sift through the aisles of unhealthy items at a gas station. Look for protein bars, assorted nuts and seeds, jerky or snack sticks, canned or bagged tuna, hard boiled eggs, fruit, Greek yogurt and oatmeal. They are all good options that are readily available at most gas stations.

3. Seek out salads. While eating a greasy sandwich and fries may taste good in the moment, an hour or two later you’ll likely feel like the energy was sucked right out of you. Instead of a sandwich or burger, try a fresh salad with some kind of protein such as fish, chicken or beef, but beware of the sweet-sounding vinaigrettes. If a sandwich is a must, ditch the bun and skip the fries or chips, opting for a side salad or fresh fruit instead.

4. Check ahead for available health clubs. If you know you're going out of town for a weekend or longer, look online for a health club in the area. Find out information like location, cost and what equipment is available to use, and ask if they offer short-term or day passes. If you are a member of a health club, such as Life Time, check to see if there are destinations in the city you’re visiting and ask if you can use their location. Even if you’re not a member, Life Time locations across the country often provide seven-day pass access. No health club? Take advantage of travel tools. A heart rate monitor and pedometer are two simple tools that will fit right inside your carry on. Also, there are many “travel specific” resistance bands which have a door attachment that allows them to be anchored on the wall for additional exercises. Otherwise, go for ultimate packing efficiency by relying on your own body weight for exercises like push-ups, crunches, lunges or squats.

5. Be good at the buffet. Many hotels offer buffet-style meals included with your stay or for an incredibly good deal. There is no reason to avoid eating at a buffet, but you do need to be cautious about how you fill your plate. The most inexpensive foods at the buffet are the breads, rolls and other starchy foods so think about getting the most value out of your meal both financially and nutritiously. Eggs, meats, cheese and vegetables will not only keep you from eating as much, they will also keep you full throughout the day.

It isn’t always easy to make the right decision when you’re traveling and the variety of pit stop options make it tempting to indulge, but the satisfaction of making healthy and nutritious choices lasts long after vacation is over.

Exclusive tour hits a home run with...

(BPT) - Baseball’s popularity transcends generations; the great games, players and baseball events of the past still ignite discussion when comparing them to today’s stars and match-ups.

Now you can celebrate baseball’s incredible history and culture at the Tauck Baseball Event: America’s Pastime. This once-in-a-lifetime four-day exclusive Ken Burns event offers you a chance to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. and learn things about the game you never knew before.

Burns himself is a famed baseball historian and the producer of the Emmy Award-winning PBS documentary “Baseball” and its follow-up, “The Tenth Inning.” He has countless encounters, stories and experiences to share about the game’s great players.

This event is built around rotating baseball-themed “innings,” allowing groups of 30 to 35 people to enjoy a more in-depth, hands-on experience. Your visit also includes three nights in the historic accommodations of The Otesaga Resort on Otsego Lake in Cooperstown. But there is plenty to do besides relax in these lush furnishings.

Here are just some of the other insider activities you’ll enjoy when you take part in The Tauck Baseball Event: America’s Pastime:

* Meet Ken Burns during an exclusive private evening at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum following his keynote address; exclusive for the Tauck event.

* Meet and mingle with Hall of Fame players at historic Doubleday Field and enjoy a private session with their coaching. Past guests include 318 game-winning knuckleballer Phil Niekro and 13-time Gold Glove winning shortstop Ozzie Smith.

* Hear presentations from Major League and All-American Girls Professional Baseball League players, baseball historians and other experts to get their take on the game. You’ll learn valuable insights into the game and discover baseball’s origins to find out how a simple stick and ball game became The Great American Pastime. Past speakers have included: author Daniel Okrent, broadcaster, author and former MLB Doug Glanville and former women’s league player Lois Youngen. 

* Take a behind-the-scenes VIP tour of the Hall of Fame Museum and see rare artifacts. You’ll also have time to explore the Hall of Fame after it has been closed to the public.

* Enjoy reserved seats in rows three and four for a once-in-a-lifetime event at the Clark Sports Center: the 75th Anniversary Concert of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This concert will feature the Boston Pops Orchestra, top recording artists, film and television celebrities including guitarist and former New York Yankees All-Star Bernie Williams.

This travel event is limited to 130 guests so don’t delay. To learn more about this event, call 800-468-2825 or visit Tauck online at www.tauck.com.

Articles last updated at Apr 20, 2014 09:34:09am.
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